Category Archives: Fantasy

Fragments of Mind: Excerpt from “A Day in the Life of a Dark Lord”

~A Day in the Life of a Dark Lord~

 This new day wasn’t particularly dreadful, it actually started out rather wonderfully. Though the sun had still not peaked above the horizon, the birds had already begun to chirp and sing as they congregated in the trees and there was a general air of things being well and truly right.

However, there was a prevailing notion within the castle that it would turn out to be one of those days. Gordon’s bunny rabbit slippers slapped against his feet as he walked through the cold, stone hallways of the castle. He scratched at the small of his back, his eyes barely half-open. The kitchen was now twelve leagues away from the bedroom, up from ten leagues just last year. Or so it seemed.

He arrived in the kitchen after just over five minutes, a new record for most time yet taken. The coffee pot was swept up and piping hot coffee was poured into Gordon’s favorite mug. Something plopped into the mug. This happened several times. Gordon picked up the cup and examined it closely, his brows tightening into a scowl. Several wads of something dreadful bobbed to the surface. The coffee went down the drain and the coffee maker went out the nearest window, making a sound exactly like that of a coffee pot crashing through an antique stained-glass window. Gordon didn’t care.

A distinct odor filled the air in the kitchen, but Gordon couldn’t locate what it was. Something burning, perhaps? A thin wisp of smoke rose from the toaster. He ran over to it and tried to pull out the flaming slices of toast, but only succeeded in burning his fingers. He growled and pressed the release button. Nothing happened. He pressed it again. The toaster sat motionless as more wisps of smoke rose from its metallic depths.

He grabbed the toaster and lifted it above his head. The toaster also went out the window, which was, fortunately, open this time. It flew through the air and landed out on the lawn, where it sat motionless for a time. With a dull click, the tiny springs ejected two pieces of burnt toast onto the ground.

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This is definitely the most light-hearted of the short-stories in this collection. The basic idea here was to explore satire, focusing on Gordon, who is meant to be frightening and horrible but who simply comes across as mildly amusing to the locals. Mostly its a satire of the fantasy genre, although I do throw in a few nods to role-playing games, as well, just for good measure. It was easily the most fun to write and, even for myself, to reread again. The tone really let me go a little wild here, just break loose from some of my darker and more serious works and see where these characters led me.

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Filed under Fantasy, Fragments of Mind, Satire, Writing

Fragments of Mind: Excerpt #1 [The Blasted Lands]

~From out of the Desert~

 “It’s rare to see a man foolish enough to brave the desert alone, rarer still on foot,” the merchant noted as he urged his team forward.

“Something urgent came up that needed tending to,” The Traveler said. “There was no time to arrange proper transport.”

The merchant snorted. “Nothing could be so urgent as to make a man risk such a journey. Not two weeks ago, a caravan of nearly twenty men was attacked on its way to Iron Town. All but one was killed, and that one allowed to live only so he could spread the story. And the fear.”

“I heard,” The Traveler said simply.

On the dawn of his third day with the caravan, The Traveler at last caught sight of Iron Town. It was a large city, a strange city, and there were a great many, both human and not, who called it home. The distant towers shimmered in the heat, writhing on the breast of a crystalline sea. For the weary, sun-parched traveler, it was a blessed haven.

Yet it was no less dangerous than the desert surrounding it. The caravan guards would be even more watchful there than they had been out amongst the dunes. For in that place even the cobblestones were haunted by nameless and formless evils that had existed since the foundations of the world were laid. Iron Town was the meeting point between the world of man and the world of darkness, where things crawled and slithered that had no name and no mortal had ever laid eyes upon. It was no paradise to soothe the weary who’d come in from the wastes, rather it was merely a different sort of Hell.

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This may be my favorite of the short stories I’m including in Fragments of Mind. There’s just something about the darkness of this place, the surrealism of the images and characters, that perfectly encapsulates the kind of story that I like to write the most. I’m very proud of how this story turned out and I’m really excited about being able to let other people read and experience it, too. Over the next week and a half or so, I’ll be posting an excerpt from each of the stories to give you an idea of what it’s about.

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Filed under Fantasy, Fragments of Mind, Short Story, Writing

Sneak Peak: Fragments of Mind

While digging through my folders, I rediscovered a batch of short stories I wrote a few years back. Some of them are really quite good, too, so it would be a pity to see them go to waste. I’ve decided to go through them again, punch up any sagging sentences or paragraphs and put them together into a collection. I’ll probably be ready to go on them sometime in late March, so they’re still a ways out, but today you can catch a peak at the stories that are going into this collection.

A Day in the Life of a Dark Lord – Fantasy and satire collide with the least-evil Dark Lord ever.

My Mechanical Soul – The story of the world’s first robotic detective

Pollen – A mysterious pollen has spread across the world, leaving Jace [who is allergic to the pollen] completely isolated

The Blasted Lands – A mysterious traveler is on the trail of his quarry through a bizarre, twisted world

The Box – A box containing something so desirable that people will kill for it

The Watchers – Two scientists are forced to leave the confines of their research station and venture into a world they know little about

These Tattered Dreams – Two synthetic humans meet after the end of the world

Two for the Money – Lister is ripped from his comfortable life by a girl who loves adventure

Public Security – One man’s insanity infects the entire city, or is it the other way around?

I’ve also got a few others short stories that are finished or close to being finished that I may put some work into if I feel like they’re good enough to make it. I’ll drop some more information, and a cover, in the coming weeks.

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Filed under Fantasy, Fragments of Mind, Horror, Science Fiction, Short Story, Writing

The Importance of Setting

It turned out that my mention of setting in a previous post, and about how I like to draw up a map before writing, proved to be quite interesting, I’ll go a bit more in depth on the concept of setting and how it’s important to the overall work in this blog post.

To put it simply, the setting is the place where everything happens. Easy enough. But that could be a single room, a town, or even an entire world. It could be place that exists now, a place that once existed, or a place that has never existed. I usually like to employ the latter, since it gives me a great deal of flexibility to pick and choose the aspects that I want it to have. The port town in Murder at the End of the World is a bit of a fusion of HP Lovecraft’s dour early-20th century Northeastern port cities with late-19th century Britain. Then I worked with the details to make the city very unfriendly and very, very isolated. The city almost begins to take on a life of its own as a character in the story, shaping the events that take place and molding the central mystery by its very nature. If the setting is moved to a much nicer, more open, and friendly city, then the central mystery changes dramatically, as does the overall tone.

However, this does not mean that using a brighter, friendlier setting must necessitate a brighter, friendly story. Such a setting might actually be used as a contrast to the darkness present in the story. If the purpose of the story is to showcase the dichotomy between expectations brought forward by the nature of the setting and how the story actually goes, then such a setting can work with a story of a darker tone. Strangely enough, I don’t usually go for the bright, friendly setting. I’m more likely to create something positively dour and unfriendly. Not exclusively, as some of the settings I use are much more “normal.” However, you’re more likely to see a vast, featureless desert or the ruined remains of some ancient city than anything else. Those are the locations I like to read about, so I just naturally gravitate towards them in my own writing.

So what makes a good setting? That’s a hard one to answer, but there are many different kinds of settings that can all work very well, settings that may have nothing at all in common. The only thing I can offer here is to say that a good setting is one that works with the kind of story being told. A dark, paranoid port city works well with my murder mystery and a dangerous, bizarre desert land works well with my story of a young man’s desperate search for his missing sister. There’s no one setting that will work every time, either you must tailor the setting to fit the story or tailor the story to fit the setting. The key is in understand how those two aspects of your novel work in tandem.

In the story I’m currently finishing up, The Eminence of Bardon Roket, makes use of a city that bears a striking resemblance to New York City just after the turn of the century. Steam power is prominent, airships are common, and gasoline autos are first making their appearance. It goes well with a story that pokes fun at corporate and political culture, but by avoiding the use of a real city from a real time I have the flexibility to tweak things just a bit for the purposes of the story. It’s not a real city, but it feels like maybe it could be.

The price of creating your own unique setting is that you must come up with everything from your own imagination. If you’ve got a very vivid imagination, this can work out very well for you. However, that doesn’t mean that you can just slack off and spit things out when you feel like it. The real world has cohesion and small details that work towards crafting the bigger picture. The old city of New York grew naturally over time into the current city of New York, all sleek and modern. It didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t happen by accident. The city has a long history. That doesn’t mean that your unique setting must have several centuries of detailed history, but inserting some history here and there can make your setting that much more alive and that much more realistic.

With The Stone that Disturbs the Water, the first entry in a fantasy series that I’m writing, I sat down and spent some time coming up with the history of my world. I came up with previous cultures that no longer exist, the sad history of a country that now lies in ruins, kings and rulers from the past whose contributions to the world helped shape it into the form it’s in now. Little pieces of history scattered around, nuggets of information that give just a bit more life and realism to a world that exists only in my mind.

Coming up with the setting on my own saves on research, but that doesn’t mean its an open invitation to throw everything into a big pot and hope it cooks into something worthwhile. Work is still necessary, even work that your readers may never know anything about.

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Filed under Between Sand and Sky, Fantasy, Murder at the End of the World, Mystery, Satire, Science Fiction, The Eminence of Bardon Roket, The Stone that Disturbs the Water, Writing

A Personal Comparison Between Then and Now

Everything changes over time, that much is certain, but how much? Let’s find out.

Then:

After about 20 minutes she reached the top. She walked over to where here telescope sat and began to search an area to the south-west of the city. Nothing. Whatever, had been out there was gone now. Either it had been moved by someone, or something as was more likely, or it had been covered by the shifting sands of the desert.

It was already beginning to get dark so she hurried down the stairs to her jeep. She drove about a block to where there was a building whose front had been blown off. She parked the jeep inside the building and walked across the street to where her house was. It was a small house, consisting of two rooms. The living room in the front opened into a small kitchen area. A door on one side of the living room led to the bathroom.

It wasn’t much, but it was home. She sat down her bags in the coffee table in the living room and then walked into the kitchen to get something to eat. The cabinets held a wide variety of canned foods, all of which tasted basically the same. She chose a can of corn and then as an after thought grabbed a box of dehydrated potatoes.

There had definitely been something out there, of that she was sure. She had clearly seen sunlight glinting off of something metallic out in the desert, but what it was and where it had gone were a mystery. She got up and turned on the radio. Most of the news was the same as everyday, which was to say just about nothing interesting, but there was one story in particular that got here attention.

A Martian cargo ship was schedules to land at the Dallas Spaceport. Martian ships didn’t come to Earth very often, but when they did, they paid high price for anything dug up out of the ruins. Kara got and marked the date of the ship’s landing on her calendar. She hadn’t been making much money recently, but she had been saving a few things and now would be a good chance to get some money for more supplies. She switched off the radio, put up what was left of the food, and promptly went to sleep.  

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That’s right, bask in the shame of it all. There’s certainly enough of my personal shame present in these five paragraphs for everyone to suitably wallow in. In a word…it’s bad. Very bad. This was something I wrote about 8 years ago. I wasn’t being particularly serious back then, but I was trying. It wasn’t fanfiction, so that was something that I could feel a small measure of pride about. That’s about the only thing I can feel pride about. It was a start, a beginning. Not the first thing I’d ever tried to write, but the first stab at doing an actual story with chapters and a plot that extended beyond a few events tossed together in a blender and then spilled out on the carpet.

Stiff writing, repetition, and way, WAY too much passive voice going on here. Some of those sentences are rather convoluted, as well, in part because of lackluster use of commas. I still get tripped up by commas. How do they work? I don’t understand! But it was far worse here. Missing words, too. Misspelled words. Sloppy. Some of that did eventually get fixed over the course of the next few years, but not enough of it. The Martian Empire trilogy is best left as an object lesson and no more.

Now:

Kalis shifted his pack, relieving one shoulder at the expense of the other, and then came down from the outcropping, moving slowly along the exposed rock. It was well into the afternoon when he reached the village. By then, the inhabits had come out of their shelters and were milling about, seeming uncertain as to what they ought to be doing. Many of them cast sidelong glances in his direction, others ignored him entirely. None spoke. The creak of a wooden sign, painted in garish colors, drew him towards what roughly approximated the center of the rude village.

A large tent had been set up there and the sign informed weary travelers, through crudely-drawn pictures, that food and drink might be purchased within. Kalis expected nothing beyond the bare essentials and was not surprised to find that the merchant’s supply consisted mainly of dried camel flesh and stale rainwater, collected when and where it could and then stored in large, wooden barrels.

The merchant himself, a tired-eyed man moving past his prime, accepted a few small copper coins in exchange for refilling Kalis’s canteens. Kalis asked his usual questions, but the merchant barely seemed to hear. Even the prospect of payment couldn’t roust his interest. The merchant didn’t know, didn’t care. The canteens returned to the pack and Kalis left.

A gaggle of children, laughing now that the storm was over and gone, ran past him. One child carried a brightly-colored bit of paper with a long, thin string attached and the others chased. They were carefree, unworried by storms or desert sun. A faint gust of wind tugged gently at Kalis’s long cloak and then caught the colored paper, pulling it high up into the air. The children laughed all the harder and the one child struggled to control his drunken bird as it bobbed and weaved. Soon enough it came crashing to the ground as the wind subsided, but the children did not mind. They retrieved their paper bird and continued on towards the other side of the village, full of energy. How many years now since Kalis had laughed as those children laughed?

But the sun would not wait for him to reminisce of better days. Kalis left the little village behind and traveled deeper into the desert. By his reckoning, he was less than twelve leagues from Sirtan, one of the desert’s few cities. He hoped to find some information there, but Sirtan, like the other cities he’d already visited in the past year, would likely yield a similar result. And he would be left to wander further, deeper into the desert, deeper into that sun-blighted wasteland. How many more days? How many more weeks? How many more months? The answers he sought could come tomorrow or never.

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Much better, no? Years of writing will do that. More variety on sentence structure, less of all that passive voice nonsense, better descriptors, less mistakes. Those lines are probably about a year old, written during a second attempt at writing a storyline I had in my head. The first? Went far afield, I’m afraid. Poor story choices doomed it to a swift death. Best forgotten, as well. But I get better and I get better because I keep writing. Right now we’re looking at seven years of progress, of making attempts and failing spectacularly. Each failure was a lesson learned, each success was a mountain climbed. I wish it could all have come easier, but it never does. You work and work and work and eventually you get there.

Have I finally reached that magical nirvana where every sentence I spit out is solid gold? No. Far from it, in fact. My writing is still too stiff, still too plain, still too filled with mistakes. I still want to get better. So I keep writing.

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Filed under Between Sand and Sky, Fantasy, Science Fiction, The Martian Empire Trilogy, Writing

Coming Soon

Just thought I’d give everyone a little head’s up about what I’ve got going on. First and foremost is Murder at the End of the World, it’s not my first novel but it will be the first that anyone actually has the chance to purchase and read. It’ll be going up on Amazon and Barnes & Nobles e-book stores very soon, likely within the next seven days unless something wild comes up. But what else have I got? Well, here they are:

~Almost Ready~

  • Murder at the End of the World – A mystery novella tinged with the dark, isolated paranoia of HP Lovecraft
  • The Stone that Disturbs the Water – The first part of an epic fantasy series
  • Between Sand and Sky – A dark fantasy odyssey through a very strange and cruel land

~Needs More Work~

  • The Eminence of Bardon Roket – A satire of business and politics courtesy of a twelve year old genius with delusions of grandeur
  • Dead Eye – A scifi-western that takes place after the end of the world

~No One Will Ever Read This Ever~

  • The Martian Empire Trilogy – A scifi trilogy that was the first full-length story I ever wrote, but you’ll never read it because it’s really quite terrible. Sorry.

~Rough Ideas Yet Unwritten~

  • Arthur Ronix: Hero for Hire – Fantasy satire in the vein of Terry Pratchett
  • Beyond the Far Horizon – A woman goes in search of lost treasure
  • Dark Science – A young genius uncovers a bizarre plot in a steampunk world
  • Winter’s Eve – Another Allison Newberry mystery, strange things are happening in a farming town
  • That Place We Dream Of – Scifi detective novel
  • Prison in the Sky – The inhabitants of a space station are trapped when nuclear war erupts
  • Military-Industrial Complex – Political satire

As you can see, I’ve got a lot on the docket for the coming months. Hopefully you see something in here that interests you, and keeps you coming back to see what I’m working on next. Personally, I’m excited about how things are going. I’ll finally be able to have people actually read what I’ve written, even contribute a tiny bit of money for the effort I’ve put in, and hopefully I can take that and write even better stories in the future.

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Filed under Between Sand and Sky, Fantasy, Horror, Murder at the End of the World, Mystery, Science Fiction, The Stone that Disturbs the Water, Writing