My Fantasy Blog

The Train Keeps Rolling!

March is already upon us. My, how time marches on. If you can forgive the pun, all I can say is, I am thankful the train keeps on rolling!

Last Sunday, my wife finally got me to take down our Christmas tree. I turned the lights off for the last time, undecorated it, said farewell to the intrepid symbol of life, and dragged it out of the house. What a mess it made. Pine needles were everywhere. Needles came off in clumps as I took the lights and decorations off of it. The worse of it was when I dragged the little sucker from our living room to the outside. My wife said it smelled and looked like some monster puked pine all over the house!

As usual, my wife was right. The tree was well past its prime, but I hate to say goodbye to Christmas. I'm a clinger in that way because Christmas is such a jolly time of the year, where everyone is in a good mood. As with all good things, it can't go on forever, but that doesn't stop me from hoping that the jolly feeling couldn't and wouldn't be everlasting. I guess that's the optimist in me talking. 

On another note, over the past day or so, I had quite the adventure with The Cold. Friday around eleven or twelve, the furnace in my house decided to take a break. I discovered the occurrence around 1:00 A.M. Saturday morning, when for some reason, my house was cold. Now, I live in an old house that was built in the late 1800's, so it has lots of drafts, but what I felt was more than those usual drafts. Upon inspection, I discovered the radiators were all stone cold to the touch, and the inside temperature was fifty-nine degrees, although the thermostat was set at sixty-five. 

I turned up the thermostat and went into the basement to check on the furnace. Going into the bowels of my home by the light of a flashlight, I felt like Sherlock Holmes, conducting an investigation into some devious scheme. My basement has a dirt floor and looks like it could be the lair of some arch villain, or at least a serial killer's dumping ground. Alas, after winding my way to the back of the basement, all I found was a water heater and the object of my search, the beast of a furnace. I refer to the hot box in that way because it sounds like a beast roaring, especially when you're up close and personal to it in the dark of night.  

Sure enough, the beast was running, but the pressure gauge on it read zero. Without pressure, water cannot course through the pipes to the radiators. That explained my problem, the beast's arteries were empty. I called the property manager, who said someone would be out as soon as possible to fix the problem. Obviously I had awoken the man from a deep slumber, and he sounded groggy on the phone, but I had hoped he would've called someone to come fix the problem sooner than later. 

You might have thought someone would've come out first thing in the morning, but you would've been wrong. The property manager called me around 8:00 A.M. to see if someone had come to fix the beast. I told him, "No such luck."

The man apologized, told me he'd get someone right on it, and hung up. Noon was when the repairman finally arrived to do his magic. The only saving grace was the fact it didn't get any colder outside than the low twenties, and it appeared the new day would fall in line with that. 

By the time the repairman had arrived, the temperature in the house had dropped to fifty degrees. It got so cold, my wife and I joked about warming the house up by opening the refrigerator. By mid-afternoon, the heat was pumping again. Good thing it wasn't in the single digits outside, or we would've really gotten cold. Thank you, Jack Frost, for keeping it relatively balmy for us! 

Events like this serve to remind us not to take what we have for granted. It is The Cosmos's way of forcing us not to let our humility go by the wayside. I look at it this way:  You can either be angry at what isn't anybody's fault, or laugh and learn what you can from incidents like this. I choose the latter because the former is far too negative an outlook on life for my liking. 

Well, I guess that's all the news that's fit to print. Until next time, I'll keep the train rolling at the speed of thought, and hope you keep the fires of your imaginations ignited! 

Free Our Minds!

Recently, I have read much about rules of fantasy from authors and fans of the genre. To me, that is all much ado about nothing. Isn't fantasy supposed to be about stretching the bounds of the imagination? Don't you read fantasy to explore what can't be sensed, felt, and understood in the real world that surrounds you with every breath you take? 

Once you buy into the idea you're engrossed in a world that isn't real, then why confine yourself to what has already been written? Do you really want to read another Tolkien, Stephen King, or Anne Rice ripoff? Why is there a need to confine your imagination to arbitrary boundaries of fantasy, science fiction, and horror? 

I say free our beloved fantasy from the bars and shackles that authors who came before have placed upon this genre we all love and adore! We should expect newly written fantasy to be different than what we have read before. After all, isn't that all part of the exploration? Aren't we exhilarated when we don't know what will happen next when we turn the page, or is the comfort of knowing what will come next more important? 

It would seem the supposed rules of fantasy came from the stories we all love. Before Bram Stoker wrote "Dracula" in 1897, there were no rules for vampires and how to write about these creatures of the night. That's what makes this story a classic. Bram Stoker created the rules, and others followed in his wake. He had to because until he wrote his famous story not much had been written about vampires. Before Stoker, vampires were mostly the monsters told in stories around the hearth, used to explain strange occurrences the eighteenth and nineteenth century mind couldn't explain.

Bram Stoker brought the vampire into prominence, and many others followed in his wake. These subsequent authors elaborated upon what Stoker started, probably seeing no need to reinvent the wheel. Anne Rice with her famous story, "Interview With The Vampire," relied upon what readers knew about vampires from "Dracula" and charged forward, creating a whole subculture of vampires. Her vampire stories had their unique qualities. Had she worried about sticking to the rules created by Bram Stoker, her stories wouldn't have been as rich and flavorful. She didn't change the rules as much as adding to them and giving vampires her unique twist. 

Before reading Anne Rice's stories, readers had an idea of what vampires were. After reading her work, readers came to a new understanding of what vampires could be. Anne Rice changed the face of vampires forevermore. Did she worry about breaking the established rules? I would guess not, or her stories would've been different and thus, less interesting. 

The best authors charge forward without worrying about what rules to stick with or to break. They just write a story worth reading. That takes guts. It also takes a readership willing to explore something different. All I know is:  The most memorable stories are written about something different by authors who don't fear rejection, and these stories linger within us long after we've turned the last page. Don't we wish every book had that affect on us? Getting to the "yes" answer to that question relies on a willingness to follow authors into uncharted waters. 

My next pet peeve about fantasy is the categorization of genres. I don't like them, and that's all there is to it. I feel fantasy is about expanding the mind. Isolating high fantasy, science fiction, and horror into separate jail cells, preventing all interaction between them, is the opposite of expanding the mind. In fact, this notion confines the mind. These arbitrary classifications may be of comfort, but they limit our understanding and enjoyment of what we love; fantasy. 

Imagine a fantasy universe where some worlds or star systems are primitive, some have magic and dragons, others are technologically advanced beyond our understanding of technology, and still others have ghosts, vampires, and other terrifying elements that go bump in the night. Now, imagine all of these worlds exist within one fantastical universe. If they do, then we have the three main genres of fantasy existing within the same fantasy framework. What happens when these worlds or star systems of high fantasy, science fiction, and horror interact with one another? 

Now, the author of this scenario could keep these situations separated from one another. He or she could write stand alone novels or three separate series of books, or the author could write one epic, kick-ass anthology. This epic work could integrate the high fantasy, science fiction, and horror elements in a never-seen-before tapestry of inspired fantasy. Such a work would break the known rules of fantasy, but wouldn't such an anthology be richer, more interesting, and just set your mind on fire? 

If you're curious about how such a fantastical tapestry would look and feel, you need look no further than my work in process I call, "Dances Of Deliverance." I am in the process of creating such an epic anthology. So far, I have five stories finished and available on Amazon. My quest to liberate fantasy from the shackles placed upon it requires readers to expect something more and exciting from fantasy.

Although you may love the work of Tolkien, Azimov, Stephen King, and Anne Rice, delving into something different doesn't change or denigrate the quality of any of their work. It opens your heart and mind to the possibility of feeling what you felt when you first read any of their stories. You should expect authors to deliver that feeling to you, not some semblance of a fantastical experience. Remember that fantasy is all about freeing our minds from the confines and rules of our mundane reality by vicariously experiencing something we can't within our everyday lives. Whatever you read, expect the author to deliver you that feeling you felt when you read your first fantasy novel. Otherwise, you're just reliving past glories, rather than experiencing new ones.    

With that all said, I bid you all farewell for the moment. Until we meet again, keep it dark and fantastical! 

Something's In The Air!

Hard to believe. It's already the middle of February. My how time flies when you're having one helluva good time! 

I have five stories published on Amazon and five more in the works. Once this year is done and in the can, I'll have only one-hundred forty more tales to scribble. Hard to believe it was only four years ago when I started on this writing adventure, and what a fascinating trip it has been!  

Most folks take stock of where they've been and where they intend to go in the year ahead around New Year's Day. I love Christmas too much to take time out for that sort of thing during that wondrous holiday, which for me, the festivities don't stop until after my birthday on January second. Hell, I still haven't taken my Christmas tree down, and Valentine's Day has just passed. I guess I'll get to that sad task sometime in the next week or so. Decorating for Christmas is so much fun. Turning the lights off and packing up the jolly trinkets until next Christmas, not so much. 

My wife is a peach for putting up with my eccentricities regarding Christmas. When we started dating over thirty-two years ago, I still had my Christmas tree up in May. Of course, she decided it was high time to call it quits for that tree. The needles had just about all fallen off of it. If you asked me, it still had a some something about it. Saying goodbye has never been a strong suit of mine. 

Over this past year, I've made great strides, and more than met every one of my goals. Like I already said, five of my tales are out there for human consumption. I'm still a million dollars shy of being a millionaire, but the E-Books are selling pretty well. Somebody is liking them because the reviews have all been stellar. So far, I haven't received any bad ones. My brand of dark fantasy isn't for everyone, and I'm sure someone won't like what storms through my mind and will let me know all about it. You can't please all folks all of the time. So far, that's a bridge I haven't had to cross yet. 

Last May, I got this website up and running. Since then, I've made some fifty posts to my Thought Train and this fantasy blog. Surprisingly, I've found the time to post pretty darn regularly to this website, and still have been able to write more stories. I don't know who's coming to this site and reading my posts, only that lots of people are landing here each month. 

I just added a link to my Store Page, which will cycle through on the Home Page as well, for the free Kindle App Amazon offers. Although the App is free, many have asked how they can read my stories when I don't offer them in a paper format. I thought I'd make it easy for those who are Luddites like myself, and made the link available with the click of a button. Before I embarked on this writer's journey, I had no clue about digital books either. Except for a couple of magazines I still receive by mail because I'm too lazy to cancel the subscriptions, I don't read anything not available in a digital format. My phone has become my library, among other things. Technology still baffles me, but I'm learning to appreciate it as late to the game as I am. It turns out, after all, you can teach an old dog new tricks! 

When you don't have a publisher to inform the world you exist, as a self published author, you need to market your work. That was a trip to wrap my head around. I'm still learning how to market effectively, but have made great strides in that regard as well. 

After trying out each of the social media platforms, most I gave a few months to understand their quirks, I settled on Twitter because people who use that platform seem to be the most open to new ideas and products. Twitter is also the most user-friendly. Since opening my Twitter account a little over a year ago, my Twitter following has grown to more than twenty-two thousand followers. Most every day, another one hundred followers jump on board, with many of them Retweeting my Tweets and making comments and queries about my work. Things are looking good for me on Twitter. 

At root, marketing is about cutting through all the noise to get the world to know you exist. There are literally millions of books out there, many of which are simply unreadable. Getting people to understand your stories are worth their time is what marketing in the digital age is all about. This is especially so in my case, where my books can't be plucked from a shelf in the local bookstore and perused. Twitter has become my link to both this website and my Amazon Author Page, where my books are always waiting to be discovered and bought. To that end, my experience on Twitter has been most fruitful. 

The last piece of what I accomplished last year was opening an account on Patreon and setting up a Creator Page on that platform. Now, what in tarnation is Patreon? That is a platform that links artists with those who wish to support the arts in an intimate way. I began that leg of the adventure last August. So far, it hasn't grown much, but I know it will. My posts on Patreon are longer and more involved than what this website was designed to handle. My Patrons(those who commit to a pledge of at least a dollar a month) get to read stories and articles I post just for them. These posts delve into the goings-on in my fantasy world that most likely will never make it into any story I will publish, but are nonetheless interesting tidbits and tales. 

Now, for the juicy stuff. Much is in store for the coming year. I plan to continue my regular posting to this website. There's no need to fret about that point. Since I'm not one to screw around with what's working, I'll continue to do everything I've set into motion. 

This year I plan to see what my stories will look like in a video format. I'm looking into getting people to act out some scenes from my stories. The video will be far from a professional quality, but the experiment should be interesting nonetheless. My Patrons will probably be the first to view the finished product. If all goes well, I'm contemplating putting some of these clips as extras in the backs of my future E-Books. An exciting proposition. Digital technology does have its advantages, and I see the digital revolution creating possibilities never before possible with standard paper formats. 

The other thing I'm working on is putting out there a Puzzle of The Month for my Patrons to solve. I've already devised several puzzles, some fairly easy and some, much more difficult and involved. The idea is to create a trap to be disarmed or a crime scene to be solved, similar to the situations with which the characters in my stories have to contend. At the end of each month, I'll post the answer to that month's puzzle. If all goes well, March should be the first installment. You will be able to check out the first two or three month's puzzles because those will be Public Posts and will be able to be viewed by anyone and everyone. I expect this endeavor to be a linkage between my stories and role-playing games I so love and adore. 

Something's definitely in the air. Something really good. Hopefully, you can catch some of it because it's got my creative juices flowing. Until next time, let your mind wander through all manner of fantasy realms, especially the dark ones!