Serendipity in Chillicothe

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Last Saturday, my wife Laura and I spent the day in the beautiful city of Chillicothe, Ohio. We went down there as day tourists, and so that I could delve a little into the history of Ross County, and breath the air of the region. I thought that the time spent down there might aide me in writing more Tall Tales of Tucker, Ohio stories–a series that I am slowly building.

Upon hearing that we were from Columbus, a barista asked if we were in town for the festival, and then handed me a brochure for the Southern Ohio Storytelling Festival. I was shocked to see that a writer friend of mine was in town. Tim Tingle–a Choctaw author and storyteller from Texas–was in Chillicothe, Ohio. There I was, on a day trip to Chillicothe, and a good friend of mine from Twitter–whom I had never met–was in town, and for a Storytelling Festival nonetheless!

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Tim Tingle, storyteller and author

I messaged him, gently chiding him for sneaking into my state without telling me, and he invited us out to the event. My wife and I headed out to the Majestic Theatre, a beautiful building that was first built in 1853 as a Masonic Hall, but is now America’s oldest continuously operating theater. I was hoping to see the interior of this treasure of a building, however they were actually hosting the event in a large tent inside a grassy lot beside the building.

I got to meet Tim before he went on to tell some of his beautiful stories. I marveled at his ability to pull the audience in, and hold their attention–and sway their emotions back and forth over the spectrum. It seemed incredibly empowering.

It was a really comfortable and perfect day, and the organizers of the event did an amazing job. The audience was warm, and listened intently. Even the children in attendance were on the edges of their seats as each storyteller told their tales.

It was later that I got to speak with Tim again, and we talked about his life as a storyteller and about our writing. He even encouraged me to consider giving storytelling a try, and I am strongly considering it. It would be amazing to have the chance to tell my stories with the voice I imagine as I write the words.

It was wonderful to finally be able to meet Tim. It was like speaking with an uncle that I had never met before; he is one of the warmest people that I have ever met. We stood there in the cool night, and listened to the other storytellers.

Mike Anderson told some funny and heartwarming stories, as well as playing some beautiful songs on the Dulcimer as he continued to talk. He was extremely inspiring, with all of his talent that seemed to flow so easily through him. I spoke with him a bit, as well, and he was as friendly as he seemed on stage and laughed just as easily.

Another performer that I saw that night was Joe Herrington, a self proclaimed “Cowboy Poet”. He spoke softly, with a deep voice that matched his cowboy exterior. The poem he recited was terrific, and his storytelling was in the same league. I felt like he would be right at home on a prairie, singing by a campfire and telling a story about Pecos Bill.

I wish I could have seen more, however it only got later and I had to get going. Other performers that were in attendance included Geraldine Buckley, Andy Offut Irwin, fellow Columbusite Frank McGarvey, and Kevin Coleman, a Ross County native.

I left the festival that evening feeling extremely grateful for this chance encounter. It opened my eyes toe possibility of traveling the country and telling my stories, and showed me that it could be possible. I was mostly thankful for the Universe, gently tapping me on the shoulder … and guiding me to a friend.

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A Writer’s Nook

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I always wanted to be the kind of writer that had a big oak desk to write upon. Perhaps keep it in a dimly lit room that smelled of leather, and had the gentle sound of a ticking clock–a metronome, tick-tock-ticking with each syllable I type out on an ancient typewriter. Sadly, that is not the kind of writer I became, and perhaps it is for the best.

Typewriters are finicky machines that require may care and attention then I care to give them. It would be like having a very clingy cat that smeared ink on you each time it rubbed against your leg. I tried using a typewriter once, and while enjoying the feel of it, the whole experience lacked in the superior offerings of a laptop.

I tried writing on a desk once, too … not a great, large oak one, but a desk. Not my thing either. I found myself sitting there, staring at the laptop and thinking, write, damn it … write something.

Also, it was too quiet. It was almost like my own private mausoleum, and the shadows kept growing up around me. Perhaps that’s why Plod On, Sleepless Giant took me so long to write, it began on a table top computer on a desk in my room. It wasn’t until I got my own laptop that I was able to get the book out of my head.

A place to write is important, just as a place to sleep, a place to bathe, a place to eat … all those things are important. But the truth is that it is a very subjective thing. I’ve done some great writing while standing up, hunched over a counter.

I’ve heard some writers say that they have the most perfect place on earth to write, and that it is there, and only there, that they can write. As if some, slim bolt of lightening comes tumbling off the fingertip of a god and strikes right through them, but only when they sit just so. People that say that are either lying to you, or themselves.

I, myself, simply need the perfect amount of distraction–or better yet, white noise. I need the gentle goings-ons of life to tip toe around me as I tap out my words on laptop. I’m a bit of a people watcher too, which makes a quick break from writing all the better.

I can’t write at home, as the cats–both of them relatively new to our home–seem to be waging war against each other. Occasionally, it appears if they have struck some sort of seize fire, like the Christmas Truce … but then it quickly reveals itself as more of a Tet Offensive. It is then that nothing is sacred, not even the toes of their doting master.

I do have some places that I can go and write; a couple of them are coffee shops. One of the shops is a local place with eclectic wall hangings and interesting people trickling through the door at all hours. The other is a chain coffee shop, that provides more quiet and less distraction.

My favorite place, however, would be the screened in porch. I have a nice, old chair there, sturdy and comfy. I can sit there in the shade and write, as I hear the sounds of birds or children playing, or even the far off song of a lonely lawnmower. It is most definitely a comfortable place to let my mind wander.

Sometimes little Nerwin–the youngest kitty–would be sitting near the sliding glass door, plotting her next military strike against the other cat, Prudence.

All you need to do is find a comfortable place that fits your needs. My needs, apparently, consists of a place that is night deadly quiet, nor completely bat-shit crazy … with a comfortable seat.

Do you have a special place to write, or perhaps to simply think? Tell me … where is your special place?

I Have Audio Books to Give Away!

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It has been a while since I have posted to the blog, and partly it was due to trying to finish a book that I have been writing. I say partly because I certainly cannot say entirely. I am a victim to time, as are all of my fellow humans.

We are only given so many minutes in a day to do with what we will–and when you think of it in minutes, it appears to be a lot less. There’s only 1,440 minutes in each day … only 86,400 seconds. There may have been a time, when I was really young, that I might have made a claim that I could possibly hold my breathe for that many seconds. That’s how short a day seems in seconds.

But now I am distracted, which is why you do not get as many of these terrific posts as frequently as you may or may not want them … Better to get right to it!

I have free Audio Books to Give Away!

You read correctly … I have free Audible promo codes, to be used to get a FREE audio book copy of my first novel, Plod On, Sleepless Giant.

But you won’t get them too easily, oh no … smiles are free, but these you must work for. I am not saying you have to come to my house and wash my car, or mow my lawn–though that will work, too. I want you to be a little creative, and help me with the NEW book.

Below is the Introduction to the new novel–working title being “Through the Wicked Wood”. It is a Fairytale Fantasy, telling a story with other stories. It is full of magic, and monsters, and unicorns, and wizards and witches. The idea would be to create a meme using a part of the Introduction.

Take part of the written Introduction, and make a meme however it it that you would make any other meme. Some use computer programs, while others use a handy, dandy mobile app. Draw your own picture, or simply find a picture you feel fits the words … let your artistic side out for a stroll! However you wish to complete the task is completely up to you!

Simply create a meme, and post it to Facebook, and tag my Facebook author page. I will select the very best of the entries in a month’s time–April 22nd–and declare them a winner! That winner will receive a FREE AUDIO BOOK!

Who knows … maybe I’ll give a few away. That all depends on how many people participate.

So please enter! And please share!

Of course, I will keep all of the entries, and will more than likely use them for promoting the new book, when it comes out.

Good Luck!

 

Fairytale Intro pic

The Speculative Basement: Alternate History

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It should come as no surprise that writers are ferocious readers. They devour books and the ideas they contain. It’s the books they read that jumpstart their imaginations, unlocking their creativity to be spilt upon the blank page.

And Tolkien, arguably one of the most inspiring authors, taught us all that histories are important.

Perhaps that is why Alternate History is such a fascinating subgenre. We not only look at the history of our world and those that live in it, but we also spend time wondering to ourselves, What if? Speculation … pure and simple.

What would happen if the US didn’t join the fight in WW2 when they had? What would the world look like today? What if there never had been an America to begin with?

These are the kind of ideas that sparked those late night conversations I used to have in my early 20’s … the talks I couldn’t justify staying up late for today. This is where we let the deductive reasoning kick in, the theorized thought process that Sherlock Holmes is known for.

Some of the best writers have dabbled with this subgenre, including Stephen King, Ayn Rand, and even George R.R. Martin. Most of the books center around politics and war, making these books perfect for those that love to talk about conspiracy theories.

But then again, it’s not a conspiracy if it’s true, right?

The Man in the High Castle – by Philip K. Dick 

Fatherland: A Novel – by Robert Harris 

 11/22/63: A Novel – by Stephen King 
Atlas Shrugged – by Ayn Rand
Anything written by Harry Turtledove 

 

SpecBaseFantasy Mystery    

The Speculative Basement:

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Sword & Planet

sppicPicking up a new book to read, is a lot like a deciding on which candy to eat. Much like books, when I was a kid … there wasn’t much of a selection. But now there is so many types to choose from … ones with peanuts or almonds, coconut or caramel, dark chocolate or white chocolate.

Luckily, there is the perfect subgenre for those of us whose book preferences tend to straddle between the worlds of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Sword and Planet combines all of the allure and brute force of a traditional fantasy story with the imaginative, endless potential of a space drama. Who doesn’t like the idea of a human barbarian decapitating aliens and rampaging around inside a space station? The short answer is no one!

My Saturday mornings as a kid were spent watching what is arguably the best example of Sword and Planet available on television. Of course, I’m speaking of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

It’s a flawless genre, truly. Take a character(perhaps even from earth, misplaced on another planet) and have them battle it out on that strange world against a technologically advanced race of people that are native to that planet. It’s such an entertaining platform, that can completely overlook the numerous questions that pop up.

How can a human, use to Earth’s atmosphere, possibly survive the foreign environment of a different planet?

…. I have no idea!

You really expect readers to believe that a guy with a sword could really take one numerous opponents with weapons that are FAR superior in a technological sense?

Sure … why not?

Why’s the sky green there, and the trees purple?

Does it really matter?

How does all that alien technology work, anyway?

WHO GIVES A SHIT!

Sword and Planet is a fun subgenre that is unapologetic, and feels no need to explain itself. It’s alien technology … if we understood it, then it wouldn’t be considered “alien”. They’re fantastic stories that shine a light on spectacular characters doing the impossible.

I recommend just picking up a copy of one of the many examples of the subgenre … and enjoy!

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Transit to Scorpio by Alan Burt Akers
The Book of Skaith: The Adventures of Eric John Stark by Leigh Brackett
The Swordsman of Mars by Otis Adelbert Kline

 

 

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Alternate History

 

 

Speculative Basement:

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Apologies for not having an edition of Speculative Basement last week, but I was a bit busy. I was in that hazy faze in which nothing but that one thing you are focusing on can get through to you. And for me that one thing was getting married!

Laura and I tied the knot in a small, outdoor ceremony in front of close friends and family. It was a beautiful celebration–though it was dimpled with small, technical difficulties and sprinkled with bad luck. Everyone seemed to get lost on the way, including the pastor, who ended up being pulled over while trying to off-road his way to the site.

But now the ceremony is done, and we can get back into our normal routines once more. And that includes my blog … which leads us to!!

Grimdark Fantasy

I’m sure the title alone leaves little to the imagination. Grim … dark … so it must be a pretty bleak, and sour world for our fantasy stories. If that is what you are thinking, you are completely correct.

Grimdark Fantasies are dark stories told in the shadows, whose characters are questionable, and their behaviors deplorable. Set in worlds that are ultra violent and overly graphic, the characters are vile, self-serving creatures. But all of that is what makes it all so entertaining!

We have enough soft, beautiful worlds where the good stand tall. Grimdark sets a scene “where nobody is honourable and Might is Right”–or so says writer Adam Roberts.

Want to read stories where blood spills easily, and the hero smirks at the misfortune of others? Do you love a good–well, not so good–anti-hero that cheats everyone, even his friends? Then check out these Grimdark Fantasy titles!

The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One) by Joe Abercrombie
Gardens of the Moon (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 1) by Steven Erikson
The Steel Remains Paperback by Richard K. Morgan
The Darkness that Comes Before: The Prince of Nothing, Book One by R. Scott Bakker
Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover

 

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Sword & Planet

The Speculative Basement:

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20050509_narniaThrough the Wardrobe

C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll.

I always got the two confused when I was younger, with the Lewis’s and the “C” names … but they actually had more in common than just slightly similar names. First off, they both wrote fantasy stories that were geared towards children … and they were both British. They both, however, also fell into the same sub-genre … Portal Fantasy.

In Alice’s case it was a rabbit hole–then later a mirror–that helped her pass from our more normal world, into the magical realm of Wonderland. And for those poor Pevensie children, it was a wardrobe filled with coats that transported them to Narnia. But in both we see children escape their troubles, and stumble across a hidden world.

Sure, Alice was mainly escaping a boring afternoon and the Pevensie kids were escaping war torn England, but both are pretty dreadful in the minds of children. Escapism is the key here, and the idea that mundane things could actually be camouflage, hiding the most fantastic of things of all. A hole in the ground … a smelly, old closet.

It’s quite literally one of the first fantasies I ever had, sparking my imagination as a youngster. I use to pretend that my stuffed animals, when they fell through the gap between my bed and the wall, would come to life. I use to pretend that they would call to me … ask me to follow them into their world.

The grass is always greener, or so they  say … and even children believe it to some extent. And portal fantasy is the easy fix to that. Simply put … you live here, in the boring world as we know it … and there is a secret opening, a crack that lets us through into a more magical land.

Lewis and Carroll certainly didn’t invent the sub-genre, but they certainly are the best examples to lay out. A more recent example of Portal fantasy, would be the dark story of Coraline, written by Neil Gaiman. In that example, the main character actually passes into a world that’s a bit like a darkened, mirrored version of her own … spooky, but also still meant for children.


Check out these great examples of

Portal Fantasy!!

The Mirror of Her Dreams (Mordant’s Need, Book 1) by Stephen R. Donaldson
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia) by C.S. Lewis
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
Coraline by Neil Gaiman

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Grimdark Fantasy!