Here’s a preview from my upcoming short story collection, “I Never Meant to Start a Murder Cult and Other Stories.” Two of the stories will be illustrated by one of my favorite artists, Brian MacGregor from Savannah. Here’s one of Brian’s awesome illustrations! The collection will be a chapbook of horror and crime fiction: four short stories and five flash-fiction stories. All of the stories have been previously published except for one, a brand new ghost story set in the Victorian era. The collection will be available in paperback as well as eBook. I’ll post links as soon as the book is available (sometime before the end of August).
My latest flash-fiction story is all dialogue. This is my second appearance at the crime fiction site, Near to the Knuckle. Check it out here: “Gun, Hypothetical.”
My flash-fiction crime story “I Never Meant to Start a Murder Cult” is now online at Shotgun Honey. I’m proud to say that this is my second publication on this esteemed crime fiction site, following “The Bag in the Corner” from May 2016. Thank you to friend and author Bobby Nash for creating this cool graphic!
My macabre semi-autobiographical story “What My Family Should Know in the Event of My Demise” is now online at the flash-fiction site, Daily Science Fiction! Be sure to click “Display Entire Story” to see it all!
My first author reading went extremely well! The reading was on February 4, 2018, at the Days of the Dead convention in Atlanta. The two stories I read were very well received, and it was an honor and pleasure to share the panel with Jeff Strand and Nancy Collins. I read my ghost story from Mad Scientist Journal (Summer 2017) and a macabre humor piece that recently sold to a major sci-fi market and will be published soon. Several people took my author business cards and said they look forward to reading more of my work. We had a much larger audience than we expected, especially for the very last time slot on the last day of the con.
Many thanks to friend and filmmaker Lynne Hanson for this pic of the reading (L-R: Nancy Collins, me, Jeff Strand)
and this pic of (L-R) me, Jeff Strand, Days of the Dead Blue Track director Nathan Hamilton, and Nancy Collins:
Here’s my favorite photo from the con! Jeff Strand, me, and Lynn Hanson with a giant Yeti!
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
When the priest makes the sign of the cross, with ashes, on my forehead, I find these words, this reminder of my mortality, not morbid, but comforting. I am dust. I am earth. I came from the stuff of the earth and to the earth I shall one day return. I am made of the same elements as my fellow human beings, my fellow non-human beings, my fellow cats and trees and sunflowers and stars. I am connected to the Whole. I am earth, and fire, and water, and air, and spirit.
As I receive the Eucharist, the sign of the cross newly imprinted on my forehead, I feel my spirit remembering my connectedness to God, my sacred origin. The opening words of the Ash Wednesday prayer, “Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made,” remind me that the feelings of self-hate I sometimes feel, those moments of self-denigration when I forget my origin in the Divine Beloved – those moments do not come from God. God hates nothing God has made.
As children of God we all have what the Quakers call “the divine spark” within us. We are all connected to God. We are all connected to God’s creation. We are all connected to each other.
Playlist for Ash Wednesday:
Harry Connick Jr.: Ash Wednesday (jazz instrumental)
Grateful Dead: Throwing Stones (“ashes ashes all fall down”)
Mumford & Sons: Dust Bowl Dance
The Low Anthem: I’ll Take Out Your Ashes
Matisyahu: On Nature
Rage Against the Machine: Ashes in the Fall
Chagall Guevera: Violent Blue
David Bowie: Ashes to Ashes
Steve Earle: Ashes to Ashes
Bruce Cockburn: Lord of the Starfields
Leonard Cohen: Anthem
Kansas: Dust in the Wind
The Byrds: Turn Turn Turn
Photo: Sunlight through stained glass window at The Episcopal Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta
What’s new and exciting in your life as an author?
My debut book, This Gladdening Light: An Ecology of Fatherhood and Faith, came out this past summer with Mercer University Press. It’s kind of a memoir/essay collection/spiritual journal hybrid. It won the Will D. Campbell Award in Creative Nonfiction and has been featured in ArtsATL and the AJC, and is the subject of a recent Literary Atlanta podcast. I was just nominated for a 2018 Georgia Author of the Year award in the essay/creative nonfiction category for this book.
As for individual pieces, I have some fairly recent essays published at New Southerner.
I’ve got plenty of other irons in the fire. My full-length poetry collection is done and I’m just trying to find a publisher for it. I might be self-publishing a chapbook soon. I’m working on a book about R.E.M.’s Fables of the Reconstruction. And I’ve always got individual poems or essays or satire pieces floating around.
And while this isn’t publication news, I’m excited to share I’ve been invited to lead a monthly writing workshop at Reformation Brewery in Woodstock, Georgia. The first one, which will focus on creative journaling, is set for February 11 at 3:00. It’s free but space is limited to 30 participants, so anyone interested can reserve a spot here, and the FB invitation is here.
What is your connection to the American South?
I’ve lived in Georgia all my life. I’m originally from Gwinnett County, spent a short but significant time in Newton and Jasper Counties, and ended up in northwest Cobb. Both sides of my family have been in this general Georgia piedmont area for a while. My wife is from Washington County so we also have a deep connection to rural east Georgia. My sisters now live in Atlanta, which has become a meaningful place for me, as well.
In her essay “Home,” the late Melissa Walker writes, “To most Southerners, home is the place where they were born and grew up. Like many people my age in the South, I lived in one place until I left to go to college, and that place is the center of a larger geographical area extending from the Georgia Sea Islands and the Okefenokee Swamp in the south to the Appalachian Mountains in the north.” She goes on to call her house in the Atlanta area “only one of many linked elements that all together comprise home.” While I didn’t live in one place growing up and don’t feel rooted to any one particular location—even for the relatively small range of places I’ve lived, we moved around a lot between parents and grandparents within that range—I get what she means and more or less feel the same. The northwest Georgia piedmont is about as close to home as it gets for me—places like Kennesaw Mountain and the Etowah Mounds make up my spiritual terrain. But places like Jekyll Island and Blood Mountain inform my sense of home and my connection to this region, too.
It’s hard to think of any one place as home but I’m always haunted by the idea of home (which is a somewhat redundant thing to say given the etymology of haunted). The suburbs, often soulless, probably have something to do with that, as well. I guess the title of your blog got me thinking along these lines. But I’ve always been here in Georgia, and my family has been here for a long time, and this is the American South, so…
How has that connection to the South informed your work as a writer?
I like thinking about open-ended questions but I’m not that good at answering them. I start to ramble. Though I am a Southern, place-based writer, “Southern” isn’t a label I’m particularly interested in claiming or reclaiming, though I don’t disown it, either. I just let it be what it is. It has too many associations—positive and negative, romanticized and demonized, documented and caricatured, and everything in between—that vary far too widely to meaningfully talk about in a general sense in a short space. I guess the best answer to this question is the work itself. I could say, for example, that the Confederate flags flying in downtown Kennesaw inform my work as a writer, in the sense of making me angry, and I wouldn’t have that basis anywhere but here. But I could also say the diamorpha on Arabia Mountain informs my work as a writer, in the sense of giving me peace, and I likewise wouldn’t have that basis anywhere but here.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I mentioned the poetry book and the book on R.E.M.’s Fables of the Reconstruction. I have tons of poems in progress; I’m particularly proud of two unpublished drafts called “My Daughter Refuses to Smile” and “Crawling Out of Christian Psychology.” Maybe they’ll be out soon. I’ve got some notes for children’s books. I try to get a piece of satire into McSweeney’s once a year (I guess my time’s run out on 2017, though it happened in 2015 and 2016). I’d like to write some kind of manifesto on Christianity and unicorns. That sort of thing.
My book is available at all the big online outlets, though I encourage folks to order directly through the publisher, Mercer University Press, or to ask your favorite local indie bookstore to get a few copies for its shelves (and maybe hit me up for a reading or signing while they’re at it).
My website is christopher-martin.net. Anyone interested can find most of what I’m up to through links at the site, which I try to keep updated as much as humanly possible.
Author photo (above) by Cannon Martin (7), taken at Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden
In the American South, evangelical Christianity is a looming presence. Drive through any small town in the South and you’ll see more churches than restaurants. And it’s not just churches: many of us have relatives who watch televangelists and other Christian programming on a regular, sometimes daily, basis. It’s almost impossible for a politician to get elected, even for a minor office, without at least doing lip service to evangelical Christian beliefs (even if their actions do not match up with their words). What Flannery O’Connor said back in 1960 still rings true today: “I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted.”
That continued haunting is due in large part to the influence of televangelism. One of the early pioneers of modern televangelism is Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), whose daily TV show, The 700 Club, broadcasts in 138 countries and claims a million weekday viewers and 11,000 daily callers to its prayer line. A new book, The Gospel of Self: How Jesus Joined the GOP, is by Terry Heaton, who worked side-by-side with Pat Robertson for several years during the 1980’s, becoming the executive producer of The 700 Club. This is a fascinating inside look at the inner workings of CBN during a time when Pat Robinson and others made a conscious effort to move evangelical voters closer to the Republican Party – and the GOP itself further to the right.
Starting off the new year with a new story publication! My dead-body-in-the-trunk story, “Moonlight Sonata, With Scissors,” is now online at Story and Grit: Southern Fried Crime. Check it out!