New Trailer Release: Star Wars, the Force Awakens

Possibly the biggest thing that happened in the fantasy/scifi world this weekend is the release of the teaser trailer for the newest chapter in the Star Wars saga – if there was something bigger, fill me in.

Star Wars, the Force Awakens (episode 7, for those who are still counting) occurs 30 years after Return of the Jedi where the Death Star is taken out once and for all by the Rebel Alliance and Luke confronts Darth Vader and learns of his true lineage.  It ends with the big party in the Ewok forest and life is good, or is it?

No real spoilers have leaked about this newest chapter but there are tons of theories floating around.  Obviously there is some threat that requires the Jedi to return in force to handle it, most likely the Sith, since they are they only bad guys from the first six movies that could exist and grow stronger over the thirty year gap in the story. To face this threat the Jedi are going to need to do something to be sure they are strong enough to win.

Some of our favorite players are returning to their respective roles including: Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Anthony Daniels (C3PO), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), and Kenny Baker (R2-D2).

This episode is both directed and written in part by the illustrious and trend setting J.J. Abrams who brought new life into the Star Trek universe with his work on the movies Star Trek and Star Trek into Darkness. Let’s hope he can do the same for the Star Wars universe as well. And hey, who doesn’t love more lens flares?

Thankfully, John Williams has been enlisted once more to create the awesome music that has always been a part of the Star Wars saga. I’d be angry if they had found someone else, although I would love to see what Hans Zimmer or James Horner would have come up with.

Here is the link, enjoy!

Official Teaser Trailer #1:

 

 

 

Fun With Pinterest: Fantasy

Sometimes it takes work to get my fantasy on, and this morning was no exception. My youngest decided I needed to be pulled out of bed five minutes before the alarm for his morning bottle, and that I needed to hang out with him while he snuggled in his blanket on the couch. Today also marked the start of school for my older two kids after being off track for the past two weeks, which means a school morning, which means rush and hustle and arguing and all that stuff that we’ve avoided for two weeks.

After all that I needed a little escape from reality.

This is where a short foray on Pinterest is very helpful. I put “fantasy” in the search and allow the software to deliver hundreds of examples of fantasy art and places. You can also follow the fantasy boards of pinners you like for a more customized experience.

Here are some of the gems I found today, the notes on the pins are from the pinners themselves and not me:

Anything inspired by Lord of the Rings, and especially the art of Alan Lee is bound to get my attention.  I love the attention to detail and the fantasy armor.

I liked this one so much I followed this pinner’s board “Elemental Fire.”

Again, the attention to detail here is remarkable. There is a story here, he is protective of her, she trusts him. A little romance is good for the soul. Love it!

Where do you find your inspiration?

 

Fantasy Anthology 2015 by Xchyler Publishing

I am excited to announce that my short story Breath will be included in the yet to be named 2015 fantasy anthology published by Xchyler, a fun and unique Indie press. These guys know their stuff and it’s been a pleasure working with them. Their past anthology titles include:

TerraMechanica

Terra Mechanica, a Steampunk Anthology: In an alternative past with an unrealized future, trek around the world and beyond in nine separate adventures, in the ships locomotives, and flying machines that power the Steampunk universe.

MomentsInMillennia

Moments in Millenia, a Fantasy Anthology: Travel with seven talented authors as they glimpse through time into Humanity’s future. Will mankind blossom and flourish, conquering the stars and time itself? Or, with selfishness, greed, and just plain bad luck send us all to the brink of destruction?

ShadesAndShadows

Shades and Shadows, a Paranormal Anthology: In the dead of night, you sense something other beyond your sight, out there in the darkness. You feel a breath upon your neck, cold and clammy, fecund with mold and decay. Your hair stands on end from no random chill. The air is still. No one is there. Travel with nine talented writers into their paranormal world, but don’t disregard that inkling that niggles somewhere in the pit of your stomach to leave the light on, to shun that dark room, and to pull the covers over your head. Whatever you do, don’t look under the bed.

ADashOfMadness

A Dash of Madness, a Thriller Anthology: One man’s crazy is another man’s norm. Inside, eight bizarre stories explore twisted perceptions and challenge conceptions about right and wrong. With a fascinating dive into several unstable minds, the authors examine different avenues for exposing warped cognition and mutilated logic. Each delivers a disquieting glimpse of reality.

MechanizedMasterpieces

Mechanized Masterpieces, a Steampunk Anthology: Amid a cacophony of cranking sprockets and cogs, in chuffs of steam and soot, comes the expansion of classic literature into alternative Steampunk masterpieces. Follow nine skilled authors as they lead old friends and new acquaintances through Jamaica, Singapore, Cape Town, Denmark, Paris, London, and Geneva on a phantasmagorical Steampunk World Tour.

ForgedInFlame

Forged in Flame, a Dragon anthology: Forged in flame, wrought in blood, bone and steel, from the bowels of the earth and the inner most chambers of the heart, dragons arise. Fired by their passion, inspired by legend, six talented storytellers delve into realms of myth and fantasy as they explore what it means to be human.

What is Cosplay?

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Brilliant cosplay of Princess Mononoke based on the Miyasaki film of the same name.

photo credit: Anna Fischer via photopin cc

Cosplay, or costume play, has been around for ages.  As long as there have been iconic characters who inspire, there have been people who want to dress up like them. As children we used to dress up and pretend to be princesses, cowboys, and fairies to name a few. Every year for Halloween we celebrate our alter egos and indulge in a bit of self indulgent dress up. It’s fun, harmless, and a chance to pretend we are someone or something different than our ordinary selves.

Cosplay gives players both old and young a chance to enter this alternate persona and escape the pressures of the real world for a while.  I imagine it is not unlike the escapism of reading a really good book that pulls the reader into the pages and doesn’t let them go until it’s over, or that awesome movie that is so appealing in its story and artistic imagery that you can’t help but sit riveted to the chair.

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Xena, the warrior princess, with one of her macho friends.

photo credit: fabiogis50 via photopin cc

The holy grail for cosplayers is Comic Con.  Not only are cosplayers allowed they are encouraged to come in their most elaborate costumes for a chance at prizes and photo ops.  When Comic Con comes to town it is not uncommon to see the casts from popular sci fi and manga riding public transit and wandering around downtown.

These costumes can be as simple as one or two items worn casually over normal dress or as complicated as full body suits of hand crafted armor.  Those devoted to their cosplay spend hundreds of hours creating costuming and props. Some will spend a small fortune in creating the perfect look.  It is a passion.  If you have a friend who is into cosplay expect to see lots of pictures and hear some pretty cool stories.

I love the idea of cosplay. Having the chance to be part of a different world and spend time with fascinating people is very appealing. That’s the reason I write fantasy, it gives me the chance to be a part of a different world and meet fascinating people, both real and imagined.

Cirque du Soleil – “O”

o02There is something other worldly about the performances of Cirque du Soleil.  It is as if you’ve stepped into another world where the performers aren’t quite human.  They contort and fly and float through the air and make it seem as easy as breathing.  It is no different with Cirque’s “O”. From the minute the curtains open there are performers entrancing and enticing the audience to step away from reality for a time. cirque-o-flying-bargeFor me, I crave a story; something to tie together all the elements into a cohesive whole. All of the Cirque performances have traces of story woven throughout. A touch here of a love story, a trace there of an adventure.  The thing that sets Cirque apart is that the pieces do not need to join. All the different sights and sounds contribute to a dreamlike experience that leaves the watcher open to interpret what he sees however he chooses.  Cirque du Soleil - O - Eugen07_Veronique_VialBetween the performance of the artists, stunning set pieces, costuming, and of course the signature white face makeup; there is plenty to see and to think about, especially for this writer.  The Cirque du Soleil world is one of fantasy come to life.

The Man in the Cupboard, pt. 19

Poor Mike survived the first round of meetings to meet all the she tinkers at Willow Keep and now must endure another set of more personal interviews. While he should be thrilled to finally be coming closer to his goal of finding a wife to take home with him, the one she tinker he wants to get to know better won’t give him the time of day.

To read the previous episode, click here!

To start from the beginning, click here! fiction friday banner An elaborate water clock trickled and ticked against the long wall facing the narrow windows in the engineering room. Mike couldn’t help but be mesmerized as he watched its movements from his perch next to the workbench where Mistress Maybelle worked. Five minutes passed, then ten, then fifteen. Mike began to worry that they would come find him before he even had the chance to say a proper hello.

Finally she set down the file and pick, stood and stretched, and turned to look at him. “What did you want to ask me about?”

Mike cleared his throat, stood, and extended his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I wanted to know if you were the one who made all the wonderful locks and other things around here?”

She ignored his hand. “Some were the work of my mother, some me, she taught me everything I know. Listen, I’m very busy and apparently you have nothing better to do. What’s the real reason you came?”

Mike shuffled his feet, his mother taught him that honesty was always best.  He prayed she was right. “I would like to get to know you better. I was hoping you would come to one of the meetings, but when I didn’t see you there I asked to come talk to you.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Really? And you didn’t assume that because I didn’t come I wasn’t interested in being courted.”

“I had hoped that there would be another explanation. That’s why I wanted to ask you.  It’s dangerous to assume anything about anybody.  I might be wrong.”

“Why me? There are dozens of women that want your hand. Wouldn’t it make more sense to get to know one of them better?”

“That’s the thing.  I don’t think half of them have really thought this through.  Most seem desperate for a change in their life, not a personal connection. I’ve lived alone for so long I don’t need a prize.  I need a friend.  I can’t risk returning to my home with someone I can’t feel connected to.”

She picked up the file and hung it in its place. “And you feel that sort of connection with me?”

Mike sat back on the stool. “When I first came here they locked me into a room. They were scared that I would become violent like the other men had.  I must have been in there for hours.  While I waited I examined the lock on the door. It was then I decided that I had to meet whoever had created it.  I fell in love with the hands that would take the time and care to create such a beautiful device.  Now that I’ve met you and seen you work, I can’t deny my desire to spend more time with you.”

Maybelle smiled and shook her head. “You are proving to be a truly interesting fellow, Mike Finnegan.”

Someone knocked at the door. Sali, the Queen’s attendant, stepped inside. “Pardon the interruption but Mike is needed elsewhere.”

Before leaving Mike turned back to Maybelle. “Would it be alright if we met again?”

“I’ll see if I can find time in my schedule, but don’t get your hopes up.  Like I said before, I’m very busy.”  The sternness she had shown before had vanished and was now replaced with a kind laugh.

Mike couldn’t help but smile back. “Please do, I’d very much appreciate it.”

To be continued…

The Man in the Cupboard, pt. 17

In the previous episode we learned that a vile curse had caused all the other he tinkers to turn violent against their own kind, forcing the she tinkers to kill them in order to protect themselves.  Mike, having shown no sign of being affected by the curse, has been invited to dine with the Queen of the Keep.

To read the previous episode, click here!

To start at the beginning, click here!

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The tunnel-like passageway bent and twisted its way through the roots of the great willow tree as Mike followed Izsel. As they turned a corner the tunnel opened into a spacious room.  Blue, white, and green tinted light streamed in through two lines of bottle glass windows that ran along both sides of the room. Four long tables laden with platters of food stretched across the room, each seating at least thirty she tinkers who were all laughing and talking, filling the room with sound.

A ample bosomed tinker with a thick brown braid shrieked in surprise when she saw him, causing the whole room to turn and fall silent.  Every eye in the room watched as he stepped forward, some with fear, some with anger, and a few with eager curiosity.  At the end of the room was a shorter table set on a raised platform.  In the center sat the queen wearing a deep green dress and a simple crown that she hadn’t been wearing when they first met outside the tree. Three women sat at the table alongside her, including Nessa who had come to his room earlier, leaving two empty chairs.  Mike’s stomach sank when he realized that they were for himself and Izsel.

Mike crossed the room to take his seat and a wave of whispers followed behind him.

Queen Caliee rapped a small gavel, bringing the room back to silence. “Ladies, as you have all noticed we have a guest here tonight.  This is Mike Finnegan a fellow tinker. Mistress Nessa has determined that he is safe from the curse and therefore free to go about his business while here at Willow keep.” A volcano of excited voices erupted at the news, filling the room. A tinker wearing orange with hair that reminded Mike of copper pennies openly stared at him with a wistful smile.  It had obviously been too long since any of them had seen a man. Then again, it had been a very long time since he had seen a women of his kind either.

The queen turned her attention to Mike. “I suppose some introductions are in order, you’ve already met Mistress Izsel, commander of our soldiers, and Mistress Nessa, head of our order of healers.  Also, here is Mistress Maybelle, our head engineer, and there at the end of the table Mistress Annette, our head historian.” They each nodded in turn as they were introduced.  “I never did ask you what your business was in coming here, forgive me.  Precautions had to be taken first, you must understand.”

“No apology necessary, I’ll admit I was a bit angry about being stuck in that room. But now I know why I can see the wisdom in it.” He spooned a pile of roasted beets on his plate, inhaling the heavenly aroma. “Besides with food like this no tinker can stay mad for long.”

“So, why are you here?”

Mike felt strangely self-conscious blurting out that he was looking for a woman, especially now he was surrounded by so many. He knew he would have to answer her question, it would be rude not to. He took a bite from his plate and chewed it with care to buy himself more time. “Delicious. I could die happy right now.” Judging by the queen’s gaze, and the impatient looks from the other four ladies at the table he decided he better just answer the question. “Oh, yes, why I’m here. You see, I’ve been a house tinker for several decades on my own and lately I’ve thought how nice it would be to have someone else there with me.”

“Are you trying to say you’ve come looking for a woman to court?”

“Well…” He scooped up another bite, and immediately thought better of it. “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m trying to say. You see when I left my comfy home I didn’t know how much everything had changed here in the park,  I had hoped to find a few she tinkers in the gardens tending the flowers with their cozy tinker homes like it used to be.  I never imagined finding all the she tinkers hiding away inside a fortress. You can’t imagine what I had to go through to find you.”

Izsel took a sip from her cup and cleared her throat. “When you have enemies like we do, being well hidden is the best first defense.  I’m surprised you found us at all. This park is a dangerous place.”

Maybelle, a sensible looking tinker with thin pencil tucked behind her ear, leaned forward. “Now that you’ve found us, how to you intend on going about deciding which woman you will court?”

“I’m not sure.  I’d hate to hurt any feelings. I suppose I’ll have to spend time getting to know everyone.”

The historian at the end of the table set down her fork and adjusted her glasses. “Since there is only one of you and many of us it might be wise to come up with some sort of plan to make it fair for everyone, perhaps a series of tasks that the ladies who are interested in being courted can complete and Mike can judge.”

The queen gave a nearly imperceptible sigh and Mike thought he caught her rolling her eyes. “Do you mean to turn this into a contest? Don’t be absurd.”

“Do you remember the story of Cassandra and her twelve suitors, and how her actions ended up dividing a whole kingdom against itself?  If that could cause years of feuding and war, who’s to say what might happen here?” She tapped her fork against the plate as she spoke, emphasizing key words.

“I agree that whatever we do must be fair, although I don’t think we risk the division of Willow Keep over one man. What do you think Mike?” the queen asked.

“I’m just a humble house tinker looking for the right lady, she doesn’t have to be the best at anything, just the best fit for me. Everyone should have a chance who wants to. I’d hate to hurt feelings.”

“That settles it, starting tomorrow morning we will organize a series of meetings where you’ll have the chance to meet the ladies of the keep.  Should you find a few you’d like to get to know better we will arrange more personal visits.”

Mike glanced over to Maybelle who was busy sketching something between bites, and wondered if she had been the brain behind the intricate locking systems that he had seen. He hoped he would find a chance to talk to her about it and maybe even be allowed to see her workshop and tools.  “Will everyone be coming to these meetings?”

“Only those who are interested in being courted, naturally.” the queen answered.

“Of course.” Mike replied and secretly hoped that she would be there.

To be continued…

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Thank you for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Man in the Cupboard, pt. 15

In past episodes Mike has survived challenge after challenge and now has arrived at the base of the willow tree and met his first she tinker.  Will he survive this challenge?  Let’s find out!

To read the previous episode, click here!

To start at the beginning, click here!

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Mike brushed off the twigs and dirt from his sleeves and tugged his jacket straight. His tumble landing from his ride from the crazy blue jay had left him shaken, disheveled, and in no way prepared to meet the woman he might marry. He had envisioned so many things differently.  If he could have done this again he would have been brushed and groomed and come bearing some sort of gift.

The chance to make that sort of good impression was gone and it was all he could do not to curse at his bad luck. Especially not with a she tinker eyeing him while holding a spear.

“Answer me! What are you?” She demanded.

“The name’s Mike Finnegan, and I’m a tinker, like you,” he answered, holding his cane between himself and the armed she tinker. From above in the canopy of the willow Mike heard a gasp and the low hiss of several voices whispering back and forth.

“Impossible, all the he tinkers were killed with the curse.” She lowered her eyes ground the butt of the spear in the dirt.

Now it was Mike’s turn to be surprised. He knew that there had been some sort of calamity ages ago, but only hearing fragments here and there from sparrows visiting the house, he never had learned enough to put the pieces together. The shock of her statement startled him, he had to know more.  “Listen, I am what I say. You have to believe me, I never knew about any curse. Could you tell me more?”

She pounded the spear against the ground and her face twisted in anger as she once again stared him down. “How can you claim to be a tinker and not know this? Are you a spy for those filthy leprechauns?”

Mike stepped back. “No, I swear it!”

Another tinker stepped out from somewhere behind him without a sound.  Her hair hung in two dark braids over either shoulder and she had the air of importance about her.  “Enough Iszel, I’ll take it from here.” The honey haired tinker bowed and stepped back a few paces.

“Well, well, what have we here,” she muttered to herself as she stepped closer to Mike. She looked closely at his cane, being careful not to touch it, and then into his eyes.  With an outstretched finger she traced a line along his brow. “What you say is true, I find no deceit in you.” She smiled and the gesture sparked a warmth within him. “Welcome Mike Finnegan to Willow Keep, the last home of the tinkers. I am Queen Caliee.”

She turned to the other she tinkers who had assembled. “We shall show our guest every courtesy while he is with us.  Iszel, if you will show him to a room, I’m sure he’s weary from his travels.”

Iszel turned to the queen, never taking her eyes from him. “Are you sure he can be trusted?”

“I know you have sworn to protect me and this keep. I trust him to be what he says. Now show him into the keep.” She glanced around. “The longer we linger out here the more notice we’ll attract.”

“Yes,  ma’am.” Iszel nodded and bowed before turning back to Mike. “Alright, come with me and take care to stay on the path. We’ve taken measures to ensure our safety, I’d hate to see you caught in one before hearing what you have to say for yourself.”

“Yes, of course,” Mike agreed and followed her steps carefully.  He knew what he was capable of as a tinker in terms of creating traps and he’d hate to trigger any by accident. Iszel marched on ahead, head high, back straight.  He thought finding the she tinkers would answer all of his questions, not bring an avalanche of even more questions.

Iszel led him to a hidden passageway concealed by an outstretched root of the tree.  From within he could see an elaborate system of pulleys and gears that would raise and lower the root to allow entrance. Whoever had created all of this was surely a genius that he wanted to meet.  The passage slanted down toward a tall door flanked by two armored tinker guards who eyed him with curiosity.

Inside the doors was a great hall with pillars arching overhead formed from the roots of the tree.  The floor was set with smooth polished stones. Several she tinkers in the hall stopped what they were doing to watch him as he passed by.

They traveled down several different corridors before arriving at a door. “You should find everything you need in here, rest and get cleaned up.  Someone will come for you in a while.” Iszel said as she ushered him inside.

As soon as he entered the room she shut the door and he heard a key turn in the lock. “Hey, what’s the meaning of this?” he shouted and banged on the door. There was no answer.

To be continued…

To read the next episode, click here!

 

 

An Argument for Fantasy Fiction

MV5BMTA1NDQ3NTcyOTNeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU3MDA0MzA4MzE@._V1_SX640_SY720_ twilight poster_9I’ve run across several articles that argue that fantasy fiction does not have the same merit as the classics and therefore children should be discouraged from reading them.  They use examples such as the Hunger Games and the Twilight Series, comparing their worth against what they consider to be the true classics, like Jane Austen.

Their reasoning? Since fantasies are generally set in a parallel world and not the real world children will not be able to see the similarities in their own lives and therefore not be able to learn anything from reading them.  In their minds children need guidance and reading 19th century authors like Austen and George Eliot will give it to them.

The books that are going to do children the most good are the ones they are willing and hungry to read.  If a kid won’t read a book, any book, for whatever reason, perhaps the vocabulary is too antiquated, or they can’t identify with the characters or their problems; they won’t learn anything.  Even if they do struggle through a classic, and kudos to those who choose to, there is no promise that they will find any more solutions or guidance than they would have found reading any other book.

I’ve read my fair share of both 19th century classics, fantasy novels, and contemporary literature.  The books that influence me most are the ones where I can identify and find resonance with the story or the characters.

Let’s face it, today’s youth aren’t being raised in polite society.  The days of cotillion, formal dinners, and chaperoned activities are essentially gone.  The problems that today’s children face have changed as well.  Sure, there will always be the quest for popularity and the unending uncertainty of who likes who; but now there are lots of other, more sinister problems that our kids face.   The books that they prefer reading reflect this change.

This is where fantasy fiction can triumph.  By setting a story in a parallel world, the author is free to explore their character’s problems in a different and new way.  They are not limited by the confines of reality or society and therefore have more liberty to reach into the depths of a problem in a way that’s not feasible in standard literature.  Readers are then free to make parallels to their personal situations in the way that suits them best.

Will our children have to deal with sparkly vampires? No, but they might have to figure out how to handle a relationship with someone who is considered different.  

Will our children be forced to fight to the death in gladiatorial combat? We hope not, but they might be being forced into doing something that they know is wrong and need the courage to speak out.

Will our children have to go to space to fight an intergalactic war? Probably not, but they might have to fight against a bully and need to know that there are ways of winning.

Saying that today’s children cannot learn anything from reading fantasy books is absurd and narrow minded. If you ask me, they can learn just as much, or even more from fantasy because there are more possibilities for abstract connections between characters and problems that would be hard to find in literal fiction.  The nature of fantasy is to allow readers to question reality and view their own world in a new light.

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Here’s one of the articles that sparked this post:

Children need classics not Fantasy

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Let’s discuss!  Do you agree or disagree that children should be reading more of the classics for guidance?  What is your opinion on fantasy/speculative/contemporary novels?

Talk about it in the comments!

An Anthem for Post Apocalyptic Fiction

For most of you it won’t come as a surprise when I say I’m a musical gal.  I love a song that gets the heart pumping and the body moving. With that in mind, most of my writing has a particular type of music that works best with it. This summer I heard a song that I immediately fell in love with, Radioactive by Imagine Dragons.  It’s got huge heavy drums, great vocals, and cool lyrics.

Every time I hear this song it conjures up memories of great scenes from my favorite post apocalyptic movies and books and captures the darkness and struggles found there. I have yet to branch out into writing this type of fiction, but one day perhaps I will as it’s one of my favorite genres to read. Post apocalyptic fiction includes such series as, The Hunger Games, Maze Runner, and The Uglies.

Cool, huh? Now I want to come up with a great story to go with this, but I’m told I first have to start completing a few projects. Until then I’ll have to keep this on the back burner, collecting ideas and concepts.

I’ve matched my epic fantasy novel project with a different type of music, symphonic metal; which is best described as what would happen if Mozart and Metallica had a baby. The result is an odd but appealing cacophony of screaming guitars, drums, strings, and keyboard, all with a great soprano at the helm.

For me symphonic metal epitomizes the juxtaposition of darkness and light, of beauty and brute strength, making it perfect for epic fantasy, at least the variety I write.  There is always the battle between good and evil, the hero’s journey to overcome his villain. The story must be as beautiful as it is chilling and must stick with the reader long after the book is closed.  At least that’s what I hope will happen, I have to finish it first!