Category: Posts

Dark Fantasy

Dark fantasy is being applied to every genre from horror to romance to sword and sorcery, so is it applicable to vampire fantasy as well? From what I have found so far, the answer is yes. It seems that one of the defining elements, as in Gothic fiction, is a sense of foreboding or grim setting. I have also found that many authors of dark fantasy lean toward the protagonist being a monster or magical creature themselves and not the victim as in contemporary horror.

Personally, I enjoy stories that are told from an actionable protagonist, anti-hero, or otherwise active participant in the drama. That is, it is refreshing for a story to be experienced as the instigator rather than the victim or bystander, and though I realize this is not for everyone, I feel that is why The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice is such a phenomenon. It presents a totally new perspective about vampires, their world, and motives.

Vampire fantasy itself is its own subgenre of fantasy and supernatural or paranormal fiction, however, with the zillion different Amazon books categories, it has become more and more difficult to pin a book down into one genre. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe now that we have more specific subgenres, it will become easier to find the specific kind of fantasy you enjoy.

Vampire fantasy is evocative of the darker side of fantasy elements, like blood and death, but sex is always an integral part of any good vampire tale whether it is obvious or not. The mere act of blood drinking and the powerplay that occurs between a vampire and his victim is indicative not only of mystical power, but also physical and spiritual power over the victim. Since blood itself is representative of the life force and, some believe, the tie that binds the soul and body together, it is conceivable that blood drinking would be equated with darkness since this act is robbing the victim of their life force.

Dark fantasy may well become a broader genre, as much of the work by authors such as Dean Koontz fits into it nicely. Some people label dark fantasy as a mashup subgenre, as well it may be, but that makes for all the more interesting storylines when magic, politics, religion, and sex combine against a supernaturally brooding backdrop. It suddenly becomes poetic and moody and Gothic, which brings it full circle to writers such as Lord Byron, Edgar Allen Poe, and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. (My personal favorite is The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis.)

Perhaps dark fantasy is anything that is not easily explained by contemporary reasoning and that appeals to our fascination with the unknown. Vampire fantasy certainly fits that bill, as the vampire is an ever-evolving shapeshifter that may mirror the darkness we fear to face in ourselves.

There Is No Magic Formula

Add a headingI LOVE the Rival Sons. Yes, the caps are necessary so strongly it is I feel about this band and yes, I am too old to fan girl, but I do over them. Have you seen Jay Buchanan perform? Ahem, anyway, they recorded a song called “Keep on Swinging” and it is the perfect anthem to what our work ethic should be. The lyrics say, “Gonna keep my head down, and keep on swingin.”

To me, this symbolizes the man praying and hoping, but continuing to work toward his goal. And no matter what we do, this is how we should go about it. I feel like some of us are being taken to the cleaners for stuff that promises some kind of miracle or secret formula that if we can just perform correctly, all our wildest dreams will come true. Not so. Where I come from, they used to call these people snake oil salesmen, which reminds me of a Steve Earle song I dearly love called Snake Oil, but I digress.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re trying all this stuff and it’s not working, just don’t quit! Pray, meditate, visualize, set your intentions, whatever it is you do for your soul, and work hard, keep learning.

Incidentally, Rival Sons have been recording kick ass music since 2009 and only just this week reached number 1 on the Billboard charts. The only other time they even made the chart was with Keep on Swinging in 2013. There’s a lot to be said for hanging in there.

Get Up and Get Back On


As children, we rode on bicycles with no helmets and sailed downhill on paved surfaces as fast as we could possibly go and even when we crashed and came to a sliding halt face first, we didn’t quit. We got back on.

We got back at each other by seeing who could stay on the merry-go-round the longest and not hurl. Or else who could stay on the longest with twenty people pushing it and not die. And we got back on.

We did penny drops from the highest freaking bar on the death trap they liked to call the monkey bars. We fell face first into the gravel and broke our nose and bled all over ourselves. Guess what? WE GOT BACK ON!

Are you seeing a theme, here? You get knocked down, knocked off, dragged through the mud. You get up and you get back on. 😉

But how? How, when you are hurt, or you are embarrassed or afraid?

You talk hard to life. You get competitive with it and tell it that it’s not gonna beat you. It may get the upper hand once in a while, but you are the freaking master!  Because it’s us against life, my friend, not each other, and we’re all out here just trying to stay on.

The Challenge…Reading Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian

Fortitude is Reading Cormac McCarthy's Blood MeridianThis book is kicking my ass. You know how some books in your life test your will to the point that at every turn, you want to quit, but you can’t quit because you’re just in too deep? Things are tough and bloody and dark and you’re wounded, maybe, almost dead, probably, and you’re watching people descend into madness or worse, an inhuman insidiousness that you meet with wide-eyed terror.

Yeah, it’s like that. Pheww.

The man’s a genius, no doubt, but it’s heavy.

10 Epic Ways to Kickstart Your Brain

10 _PIC WAYS TO KICKSTART YOUR BRAINLet’s face it, sometimes your brain goes on hiatus. Whether it’s from stress, not enough sleep, or because you dropped too much acid in ages past, sometimes you need a little something to get the juices flowing. (I mentally slapped my hand for that one. 🙂 )

Here are some tips to wake that creative monster and get him/her back to work.

1.GO OUTSIDE WHEN IT’S STORMING. Now, please don’t get struck by lightning, but if you do, WRITE IT DOWN!

2.LISTEN TO AUDIO BOOKS WHILE YOU SLEEP. There’s a great website that has all the classics for free! Here’s the link LibriVox.

3.LET YOUR HAIR GO CRAZY. I swear sometimes, the crazier my hair is, the more creative I get. Einstein was onto a lot of shit, man.

4.GO FOR A DRIVE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. There’s something mystical about country roads on a moonlit night and if you play your cards right, you might get rewarded with more than a boost in your creativity.

5.TAKE A NAP. I don’t know anything about sleep states, but that dreamstate you get in when you’re just a little sleepy but not tired enough to get into a deep sleep, is gold! Whenever I just barely nod off, I have all kinds of dreams and I can remember them in vivid detail.

6.GET DOWN TO IT. If you can, as soon as you get out of bed, go write or paint or whatever it is you do creatively. Sometimes, this is THE prime time to be working. (DON’T SHOWER FIRST, GET COFFEE AND GET TO IT. WHO CARES?)

7.BUILD A FIRE. Campfires make me wax nostalgic and I’ll be the first to admit that a fire is a hypnotizing element that makes you slow down and think.

8.MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF. Being alone is not always a bad thing. Unplug and go for a walk all by your lonesome. The quiet can help you sift through the noisiness of everyday life so you can get to the good stuff.

9.PRETEND THAT NOBODY’S LOOKING. If you can convince yourself that no one is ever, never, ever going to see what you’re working on, then the monster will come out to play. I think sometimes, we get so scared of what others think that we are afraid to be ourselves and that’s just sad. It’d be a boring ass world if we were all the same. DO YOU!

10.KEEP A SECRET BOX. Or file or notebook or whatever. Keep snippets of ideas, dialogue, locations, photos, character names, cool titles you come up with, bits of descriptive narrative you jot on napkins, lines of internal monologue that come to you when you’re vacuuming, you know, EVERYTHING. Then whenever you’re dry, you can sit down and play with your box. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. Put these ideas in random order and see what happens. I think you’ll come up with something brilliant!


The Greatest Strength

Text placeholder (3)I want to tell you that you are going to make it through the rough times. Bad shit happens. There’s no way around it, might as well call a spade a spade. I’m not sure who started the rumor that life is perfect every single second, but it ain’t. It’s not a Facebook or Insta photoshopped layout, it’s up and down and around and getting your head wrung out. Remember that you are not alone in it. Somewhere, someone is going through bad times, too. We all do. And somewhere, someone cares that you are suffering. There is still good out there! Good, great, beautiful also happens. Every. Single. Day. Everybody has scars. Scars heal and fade away, but remain visible as a reminder that you are strong enough to make it through to see the good times again.


Psst…I Want to Touch You

Text placeholder (2)Now before you go and insert some kind of subtext into that, let me explain. As a writer, my whole goal is to reach inside your mind, your heart, your soul…and touch you.

I want to make you love and hate. I want you to be afraid and escape with your life. Nothing makes me happier than for your heart to race, wondering what’s coming next, and then take you to places you might not go on your own.

Trust me! I don’t want to hurt you…I only want to make you afraid that I will break your heart into little bitty bits and walk away, leaving you breathless and alone. But, I wouldn’t do that. Would I?

Fear Can Suck the Life Out of You

Text placeholder (1)I would recommend writing to anybody and everybody. It provides a way to deal with things that we sometimes don’t like to think about as being directly related to ourselves. I have found that if you write about it, you can remove yourself from it and look at it in a more objective way.

Sometimes, in order to be able to deal with things, we just need to see them in a different light. You don’t have to write a novel, unless you want to. Journaling or keeping a note app on your phone for thoughts that come to you when you’re doing other things can work great. I derive some kind of inner strength from this exercise.

It’s like you can create your own personal dragon in the story world and then slay it, even if you can’t necessarily do that in the real world yet. And that can sometimes give you that little ounce of courage to try it for real.

The Rise of the Introvert (Or Circumventing the Meth-Head Apocalypse)

Text placeholder (15)Amazon now delivers groceries. I already have Prime for dog food, coffee, and shampoo, so with Amazon partnering with Whole Foods, I shouldn’t have to leave the house for like, a year. Even if I do, Wal-Mart now has curbside service and we all know that Wal-mart is the portal to hell. Who’d wanna go inside? Curbside is close enough, thanks.

Netflix and CNN are there to remind me of some of the reasons why I’m an introvert. I mean, with meth-head zombies roaming and having visions of the dark lord, who needs to go out? It’s another Wal-Mart situation.

So, my question is this: if I can work online, shop online, and socialize online, why the hell would I even approach the door? I mean, I can see from my doorbell cam that it’s like an all out apocalypse out there.

Sure, Fed Ex and UPS may have to be militarized, but hey, being an introvert isn’t for everybody.

So why would I go out? Why would I go all Mad Max and venture out into the wasteland?

I can tell you why: to take the dogs out.

That Time I Saw THEM

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That Time I Saw THEM

I have always had strange things happen to me. Maybe I’m a magnet of some kind, I don’t know.

What I’m about to tell you is not something I have told even my closest family or friends. It’s the reason that you’ll find so many references to Native Americans in my work. I’m minorly obsessed with them.

My great-grandmother was a Blackfoot Indian. I remember her coal black eyes and her waist-length hair. She always wore it in a bun, tucked up on top of her head with two large bone combs. Grandma Kate, we called her. I’m told they gave her that name when they found her, an orphaned child alone and dirty, cast aside by the movements of the Indian removals through our area.

There was a silent grief she carried, and I was fascinated by her. That was what started my obsession with them. When I was nineteen, I had an experience that would forever change the way I see the world, the way I see them.


High up on the bluff above the wilds of a river bottom, there was a clearing where the trees gave way leaving the stony ground flat and barren.

It was a cold November morning when a photographer friend asked me to accompany him to the shadowy bluff. He had positioned a tree stand at the top of one of the gnarled oak trees at the edge of a ravine he found and would perch himself up there, taking shots of the sunrise and the various creatures that inhabited the woods there.

When we first arrived, it was with all the gloom and chill of a typical November day, the light of the dawn only beginning to flow over the horizon and spill out onto the tops of the trees. One red squirrel followed us as we navigated the paths to the hollow in the bottom of the ravine. He had one eye. One overlarge, watchful eye. It seemed to us he was the guardian of those woods and had taken it upon himself to keep his one bulging eye upon us.

The sun shone spokes through the grim forest and there was a chatter among the animals as the warmth stirred them. Not having the inclination to climb to the tree stand nor to spend the day sitting so high above the forest floor, I left my friend to his work and climbed the hill to the top of the bluff to watch the sunrise.

I situated myself on a stump that overlooked the clearing. I sat drinking coffee from a thermos and enjoying the time away from pavement and cars and civilization in general.

I had been there an hour or so when a small fox trotted across the meadow and then made her way to me, stopping directly in front of me. Her red fur fiery against the grey of dead grasses and pale stone, she looked at me for several seconds with her strange cat-eyes, and then moved along.

The same thing happened a few minutes later with two does. While I thought the behavior of the animals odd, I did not connect it with any danger or disturbance, and went about my revelries in the bright, clear sunshine.

I had gotten warm and still and, despite the coffee, sleepy. My head was nodding, and I contemplated lying on the ground and taking a nap. There was a moment when I thought I may have been dreaming.

I heard its loud breath, it could not have been more than a few feet from me. Coming to, I opened my eyes wide and saw the large rack of a buck just in front of me. He snorted and pawed at the ground like they sometimes do when challenged or frightened.

Having no place to go, I sat frozen on the stump, hoping he might get wind of the does and move along. His head swung the half-velveted antlers, along with bloody peels of tissue, back and forth in front of me. I could not understand why he was trying to intimidate me. Whiteless eyes bore down on me and I realized that I might be in real danger of getting gored with the tips of those bloody, peeling antlers.

The deer slung his head around, watching for something behind him which I could not see, and taking advantage of his momentary distraction, I slid off the stump and moved to the relative safety of a tree. He soon spun back around, and running toward me, dug his hooves in, and charged.

Wild-eyed and running at full speed, the buck passed me by and charged ahead down the hill away from the clearing. I breathed a silent sigh of relief and resolved to find my friend.

I made it to the center of the clearing before I noticed them. The old chief went before all of them. He was adorned with breastplate and headdress, walking out to meet me before his tribe.

Stunned, I watched as the rest made their way up the hill to the bluff. There were braves with leather breeches, women in their dresses, children, dogs, painted horses. There were so many. The woods were filled as far as I could see. Every eye was on me.

No bird chirped, no squirrel chattered.

Irrevocably tied to the past, they appeared as real as anything living in those woods. Their silence was profound. Though there were no words, an exchange of understanding passed between us, and my heart felt fuller having been in their presence. We stood facing each other for ten minutes or more before I decided to leave them be.

Now, each time I go out to the woods, I scan the trees knowing that they’re out there, somewhere.