The Colors of Fantasy

For the longest time, the Fantasy genre has been dominated by protagonist that do not represent most of the world’s demographics. Often male, and almost always white. The roots of this are easy to see. The modern Fantasy genre was birthed out of the Epics and Romances of Europe. Fantasy settings were often just Medieval Europe with magic. And when you needed your villains, why, you just looked to the east where the swarthy and exotic races of Fantasy Asia lived.

All writing is influenced by the era it is produced. Once It was perfectly acceptable to have your protagonist be white and your antagonist not-white. Luckily, we do not live in one of those close-minded eras. I grew up believing the color of your skin doesn’t matter. The capacity for heroism dwells in the hearts of all of us, and the siren’s call of evil sings in the depth of all our souls.

So why do you still see Fantasy dominated by White protagonist? Is it because the majority of authors in the field are White? Perhaps it’s because the largest market for English literature is (in no order) USA, Canada, Australia, and the UK? Is it a subconscious act. Do these authors look at the Fantasy stories they were raised on and propagate what they read? Or is it a limitation of imagination that locks them into a Eurpoean-centric fantasy world?

Fantasy is an amazing genre. It doesn’t have to be limited to knights, castles, and wizards. You can set your world in a Victorian era, a bronze-age, a tribal landscape. You can conjure worlds that could never exist in reality, the work on principals of physics or theorems of magic that are impossible in our more mundane universe.

And the races you populate your world in can be just as creative. You don’t have to limit yourself to the constrains of the old. Why couldn’t the courtly intrigue of a seventeenth-century France be populated with Black-skinned aristocrats as they scheme and plot for power? The center of culture and learning could be a society inspired by the Indian subcontinent. And the fierce barbarians pressing at the edges of a might civilization could be White.

Or you can get really creative. Why limit yourself to the races that we have on Earth? Create your own. Take elements from different cultures. Let your imagination populate your world with a diverse mix of fleshed out societies. There are a rainbow of skin-tones, eyes, and hair colors to paint the canvas of your Fantasy world with. So create a world that wholly unlike our own, and share the amazing depths of your imagination with us.

And the most important thing to remember is that any human is clever. Regardless of how technological their society is, how learned their scholars are, how civilized their nation appears, even the most primitive of humans had the intelligence to grasp new concepts, to adapt to new circumstances, to innovate. That’s who we are as a species. So let’s celebrate our diversity in our writing.

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Favorite Screen Characters Blog Hop

Susan Kicklighter invited me to participate in the Favorite Screen Characters blog hop. It’s a simple, fun hop. Name your ten favorite TV or Movie characters, then nominate ten friends to do the same!

So here’s mine. I’ll have to admit, this wasn’t easy. Lots of great movies. Lot’s of great TV shows. I jotted down my favorites, attempted to rank them, and here we go:

  1. Londo Mollari, Babylon 5
    Londo’s character arc is one of the most complex you’ll ever see in a TV show. He starts out as a buffoon, rises to power, realizes the depth of his crimes, finds redemption, and ends as a tragic hero. His relationship with G’Kar is one of the most powerful you’ll ever see.
  2. Madmartigan, Willow
    Madmartigan is simply fun. Brash, wild, the classic mercenary with a heart of gold. I loved Willow as a child, and the movie still holds up. There are plenty of characters like Madmartigan, but there are none I’d rather watch more.
  3. Vic Mackey, The Shield
    A complex character in a complex cop drama. Watching Vic Mackey lead his Strike Team proves the old adage, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. What starts out as a shortcut to get the bad guys off the streets ends up destroying the lives of Vic and his Strike Team. Vic is such a charismatic guy, you can almost forget what a bastard he is.
  4. Samwise Gamgee, Lord of the Rings
    Lord of the Rings is the reason I write fantasy. Without Tokien’s work, I’m not sure I ever would have fallen in love with the genre as a boy. There are a lot of great characters, but Sam rises above the rest. Solid and practical, and loyal to a fault. He walks into a literal Hell with his friend, and when Frodo can’t keep trekking, Sam carries his friend up Mount Doom.  And while the Peter Jackson adaptation weakned Sam’s character slightly (the brutal character assassination on the steps of Cirith Ungol), Sean Astin captured the essence of Sam and brought him to life.
  5. John Locke, LOST
    I am a big LOST fan. Unlike many, I wasn’t incensed by the ending. There are a lot of great characters. I could have built the list with characters just from LOST, but my favorite is John Locke. At the beginning, he’s this engimatic, and even a little creepy, individual. And then episode four comes around. Walkabout is one of my favorite episodes of LOST, and the depth of passion John Locke possess is astounding.
  6. Buffy Summers, Buff the Vampire Slayer TV
    Buffy is my favorite Joss Whedon character. She smart, sexy, and strong, throwing one liners while fighting the big bad. There’s also a great deal of depth to the character. The show puts her through the crucible, and she bears every last emotional wound over the course of the series.
  7. Walter Bishop, Fringe
    Walter Bishop is an amazing character. He’s the quintessential mad scientist. In his past, he performed some pretty unethical experiments in his drive for knowledge. Now, he’s an old man suffering from mild dementia, fearfully retreating from the horrors he caused and forced to confront them over the course of the show.
  8. Valeria, Conan the Barbarian
    The first Conan movie (the Arnold one, not that terrible remake they did a few years back) is the best sword and sorcery. And it has one of the best, kick ass women in movie history. Valeria is so badass she comes back as a Valkyrie to save Conan’s rear a second time in the movie’s climax. She’s as capable a fighter as Conan, fighting at his side as an equal.
  9. John McClain, Die Hard
    Of course the hero of the best action film of all time made my list. John McClain gets beat up and still keeps going. He didn’t ask to be the hero. He just wanted to try and patch up his relationship with his wife. The everyman hero is a great character, and John McClain is one of the best examples of this archetype.
  10. Ellen Ripley, Aliens
    Ripley is an amazing character. She is tough. She survives one of the most terrifying horror movies. And in Aliens, she’s forced to confront it all over again. And she steps up. Her confrontation with the Alien Queen to rescue Newt, her surogate daughter, forever cements Ripley as the best female action heroines of movie history!

Well, that’s my top ten. It was hard to choose them all, but some runners up are: Ben Linus (LOST), Hurley (LOST), Dean Winchester (Supernatural), G’Kar (Babylon 5), Abed (Community), Dwight K. Schrute (The Office), Betelgeuse (Beetlejuice), Hermione Granger (Harry Potter), Snape (Harry Potter), and Claudette Wyms (The Shield).

Check out Susan’s post to read hers and others!

Now, I’m tagging these great people! I can’t wait to hear yours!

Jane Bled, janebled.wordpress.com

Q.S. Khan, qs-khan.com

Jess Alter, indieimprint.com

Tim Hemlin, timhemlin.com

Tamara Ferguson, sbpra.com/tamaraferguson

Mindy Ogg, mindyogg.com

B.B. Blaque, www.bbblaque.com

BSM Stoneking, www.bsmstoneking.com

Leslie Moon, moondustwriter.com

M.I. Jean, www.mijean.com

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Review: The Wastelanders by Tim Hemlin

The Wastelanders

by Tim Hemlin

Reviewed by JMD Reid

 

In the future, ecological disaster has struck the world.

51xGYBugSbL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_The US has survived by building domes to protect their city and desalination plants to provide water. The great President Litz kept the country from sliding into chaos by bending the Constitution. The Cartel, the company that owns the desalination plants, is the greatest political power in the country.

Those that disagree with the direction of the US, who yearn for political or religious freedom, or have fled the rules of society  dwell in the Wastelands of the central United States. These Wastelanders are a diverse group of cults, opportunist, and criminals.

When Bernie Hawke, a former cop turned security officer, had a bad bout of food poisoning, his life was saved. Desalination Plant #23 in the Houston Bubble was destroyed and Bernie becomes the suspect. He was conveniently sick and, worse, his son Joseph had left the Bubble to join one of the ragged groups existing outside the control of the country.

Now Joseph is wanted for the terrorist bombing.

Bernie has to deal with the suspicious HomeSec while trying to discover if his son really is a terrorist.  As he searches, he stumbles onto a vast conspiracy that will change the direction of the country.

Tim Hemlin weaves the lives of multiple characters into his SciFi, political thriller. The plot twists and turns in a fully realized world. Tim has a varied and vivid cast, each with their own motivations and goals colliding together. If you’re a fan of Sci-Fi, thrillers, and a fast-paced plot, then you’ll enjoy this story.

You can pick up The Wastelanders for  from Amazon

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Hovering

Hovering

by J.M.D. Reid

 

Awake now.
Trembling.
Trying to forget
the inky shadow
hovering.

Hovering
Above
Swirling with hate.
Smothering darkness.

Unable to move,
Unable to breathe.
The shadow
hovers closer.
Voices whispering,
death nearing

I just want to scream,
to cry out for help.
But my body is frozen
and the shadow draws
closer!

Clawing
Desperate
Fearful
Panicked
I just want to move,
to cry out for help.

But I can’t.
I’m frozen,
staring up
at the shadow
hovering above.

Drawing closer,
pressing down,
wanting to
consume.

Awake now.
Trembling.
Trying to forget
the darkness
above while I
lay helpless
below.

Written 1/15/15 2:10 AM after waking up from the most terrifying sleep paralysis attacks I have ever had.  I wrote a guest blog about the Insidiousness of Sleep Attacks based off this experience.

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Why Apple iTune’s program for PC is the worst.

I like to buy my mp3s from Amazon. Not only are they usually 30 cents cheaper, but Amazon has a very user friendly interface and design. Sometimes there is a song I want, usually from an indie artist, that you can only buy on iTunes.

Yesterday, the amazing Peter Hollens releases Song of the Lonely Mountain on his youtube channel. it’s an amazing a capella song. when I heard it, I had to buy it. Usually, Peter releases his singles on loudr as well as iTunes, but not this time. So I clicked on the link that took me to the iTunes website.

This is where the first problem comes in. Every other site that lets you buy mp3s (Amazon, Loudr, Bandcamp) allows you to buy the song off their website, but iTunes forces you to load there buggy software and buy through that. Why? No idea. I’m not on a phone, I’m not on a tablet, I’m on a PC. I don’t need specialized apps to do what any website can do on a PC.

So I clicked on the “View in iTunes” and the iTunes program opened. Only the store didn’t appear, just a blank screen. I haven’t used iTunes in probably six months to a year (the last time I bought a song from iTunes). So I figured I had to update it. But there was nothing in the menu to check for updates. In the option menu there was a check boxed marked “automatically check for updates”. It was selected, but no matter how many times I opened and closed the program, it wouldn’t check for the update.

My next step was to try and download a new copy of iTunes. I clicked on the big, blue button labeled “download iTunes” and it would pop up a download prompt. I save file. No download would start. Firefox wasn’t blocking any pop-ups. It just didn’t want to download. I tried several times. I closed Firefox and tried again.

I’m getting really frustrated at this point. I went back into iTunes and looked through preferences. I found one labeled “show menu bar.” With that clicked, I was able to browse the menus and found a update now button.

The update took forever to install. I don’t know what it was doing that required 121 mb to take over ten minutes to install (I’ve installed massive games faster). It messed up the resolution on my second monitor. Once it was finally installed, it wanted to restart my computer.

I don’t get this part. The only software that ever asks me to restart my computer after installation or updating is my antivirus program and Windows itself. Games, music programs, word processors, graphic design software, ebook software. None of these requires a restart to work. But iTunes does. So I restarted my computer and when I booted up, my resolution on my second monitor was still messed up. I had to mess with that for another few minutes to fix that (why iTunes found it necessary to mess up with my monitor resolutions or why the software wasn’t programmed well enough to not mess up my setting is another question).

I thought I had smooth sailings. I clicked on the link. The iTunes software loaded. I had to agree to the terms and conditions. Then the store loaded correctly and I hit buy. A prompt appeared: “Do you want to buy this song.” I clicked yes. A second prompt appeared, asking if I wanted to buy this song. I clicked yes again. Then the software asked me to verify some credit card info. So I re-entered the expiration date and security code of the card and clicked buy. The software crashed.

I reloaded the software. I had to click both “Do you want to buy this song” prompts, re-enter my credit card info. I clicked buy, my fingers crossed hoping it wouldn’t crash, and got another terms and conditions pages. I agreed to the second terms and conditions which then pulled up another “Do you want to buy this song” prompt. The third prompt. One is fine. Two is excessive. Three tells me Apple thinks there customers are complete morons.

I clicked yes and, to my utter surprise, the song downloaded.

This is unnecessary. Being forced to use their buggy software, which I have zero plans on using to listen or manage my songs, instead of their website required a half-hour of annoyance on my part. Peter Hollens is lucky this song is amazing otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered to give him my money.

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World Building: The Little Details

When you’re writing speculative fiction, you have to create a world. For some that means building on what already exists in our world, but for others (particularity in the Fantasy genre) that means creating your own, unique universe from your imagination.  It can be a daunting task and you can be tempted to take short cuts.

imagesMy beta reader for my WIP, the amazing Valerie Hemlin, gave me a wonderful bit of advice: readers want to “feel, smell, breathe, and taste the world he’s in.”

So what does that mean?  When your characters are having a meal, describe it, put little world-building nuggets into their meal. When they’re riding down a road, describe some wildlife, the landscape,. What colors are the flowers and the trees? What sort of wildlife populates your world? It is mundane or fantastical? Are there unusual sights or smells? Bring to life the world your characters are walking through.

MB_worldbuildingIf you can make it feel as vibrant as our world, your readers will fall in love with it. Half the fun of reading Fantasy, at least to me, is the world building. Worlds that could never exist in our universe can be brought to life by a skilled author.  People read fiction for entertainment, to escape whatever problems they face in their world. So take them to fantastic places, wow them with your creativity. Get them excited and talking about what they read.

Caliborn_worldbuildingSo don’t skip the little stuff. Don’t get too caught up in the grand plot that you’re unfolding. If people don’t care about the world you’re putting at stake, then why are they going to keep on reading? Make it real, make it believable. Let your readers “feel, smell, breathe, and taste” your imaginative universe.

Thanks to Valerie for sparking this blog post. Follow her on twitter @VHemlin, she’s very supportive of authors.

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Writing Tips: Sayings, Expressions, Curses

Sayings, expressions, colloquial phrases, and curses are all a part of a culture’s rich history. They can change from country to country, city to city, and sometimes even between neighborhoods. We use them without thought, peppering them into our speech.

colWhen your writing speculative fiction set in different worlds, whether it’s Fantasy, Alternate History, Sci-Fir or any other genre of fiction where you are creating a brand new world out of whole cloth, then you should consider how the inhabitants of your speculative world speak. How do they curse? How do they insult each other? What terms of endearments do they use? What colloquial phrases color their speech?

The fun of writing speculative fiction is creating new worlds and trying to make them as real to your readers as you can. So writing dialog that feels real, inspired by the tapestry of your world’s history and cultures, can enhance the verisimilitude of your world and help to draw your readers into the fantastical world that you have created.

COLLOQUIALISMSI am writing a Fantasy novel called Above the Storm. It is set in a world of floating islands above an ever churning Storm. The inhabitants travel by sailing ships that soar through the skies and upon flying beasts of burden. Some animals don’t exist in this world. It’s populated more by flying birds and fish, than by more terrestrial mammals. Weather is very important to the inhabitants. Both because a dark storm lurks below the that spawns dangerous Cyclones that ravage their lands, and because sailing is such an integral part of the universe. So the inhabitants use a lot of wind metaphors.

Be creative. Delve into your history. And don’t feel the need to explain your sayings. For instance, if a character, talking about her deceased mother says, “My ma weren’t no golden feather while she lived.” The context can tell a lot about what the character is saying. In the previous line, the character she is talking to mentioned what a terrible mother he had. The reader can infer that “no golden feather” means her mom wasn’t that great of a person either without me explaining the origin of this colloquial expression. Though a careful reader could notice earlier in the book when a story is told about the first Dawn Empress who lived two thousand years ago. She was a Luastria (bird people) and was hatched from a golden egg laid by the primary deity (Riasruo, the sun goddess). She had golden feathers, painted like the sun, and was considered a paragon of virtue.

collCurses and swearing can be even more fun. You might not want to drop a lot of f-bombs and s-words. For some fantasy worlds, they can work (GRR Martin), but if you’re not wanting to have such an R-rating work, you can uses curses and swear words drawn from your world building. Most curses relate to bodily functions, sexual metaphors, blasphemy (twisting something revered), and fears. If your world is populated by an ever turning Storm created by an Evil Goddess called Theisseg, your characters can say words like “Theisseg’s scrawny feathers” or “storming” or “storm-cursed.” Instead of having a character say go F yourself, they can say, “go jump into the Storm.”

Be creative. Have fun with them. Make your world feel alive with a history and culture that didn’t just start when you wrote chapter one. Half the fun of reading speculative fiction in all its fun and myriad forms is for the world building. Entering new worlds that you can get lost in and set your imagination on fire. When your readers fall in love with the world you created, you’ll began to grow the loyal fans that will want to read more about your world.

Author Nathaniel Sean Crawford has added his own ideas and examples of this idea from more popular sources than my writings. Click here to check out his article!

 

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New Release: The Assassin’s Remorse

The Assassin’s Remorse

by J.M.D. Reid

 

I am proud to say I’ve published my first short story on Amazon! The Assassin’s Remorse is a tale close to my heart, drawing close to some of my personal beliefs. You can buy the Assassin’s Remorse from Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, and Amazon AU for $0.99. And for those who have subscribed to Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free!

TheAssassinsRemorse2“What had she tried to say to him at the end?”

Cerena’s face transformed in the last moment’s of her life, the fear fleeing, and a strange, calm serenity overtook her. Her lips moved, whispering three words.

The Assassin was forever changed.

A decade of blood stained his hands. None of his victims had ever weighed down his conscience. He was merely the tool, the living weapon wielded by his employers. His victims had begged for their lives, had cursed him with their dying breath, and stared in uncomprehending disbelief.

But none had ever been calm in their final moments. None had ever stared up at him with such serenity.

Cerena’s blue eyes and her final words haunted the Assassin. Three simple words plunged his soul into torment.

Could a heart that had long been dead and desiccated beat with remorse? Can the Assassin survive against the crushing weight of his crimes?

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Review: The Universe Builder: Bernie and the Putty

The Universe Builder: Bernie and the Putty

by Steve LeBel

Reviewed by JMD Reid

 

What if God got a C- in Universe Building 101?

UntitledThis one sentence blurb captured my imagination and I had to buy this book. Steve LeBel has created a unique world were Gods work for the Company building universe for reasons. The reasons don’t matter, what matters is the fascinating why they build their worlds as they try and create new and interesting realities.

Enter Bernie. He’s wasn’t the best student in school. He has some difficulty with ethics (he foolishly believes higher life forms shouldn’t be snuffed out at the whim of their creators). But he is the son of the famed builder, so Ezrah (head of HR), with the urging of his secretary Suzie, decides to gamble on hiring young Bernie, assigning him to Shemal’s department.

Only there’s one problem. Bernie’s childhood rival and bully, Billy, is Shemal’s nephew, and Billy is looking to get payback on Bernie. As Bernie tries to build his first universe and pass his probation period, Billy begins to sabotage him to get Bernie fired.

With the help of his friends Suzy and Lenny, Bernie fights back against Billy’s attacks on his Universe. But unbeknownst to Billy, higher life had formed on his Universe and the inhabitants, led by Alcandor struggle to understand the cataclysm befalling their world.

Steve has created an absolutely interesting world. The Gods exist in a world not unlike ours. They go to school, they have jobs, they get married and have kids. But they also create universes and its fascinating reading about Bernie and Billy’s war as Bernie has to fix every problem Billy causes.

And while there war is going on, he explores how primitive people attempt to explain the events beyond their understanding as Alcandor’s people are afflicted by Billy’s attacks. The characters are great, and Bernie and Suzy have a cute relationship that grows so slowly as the dense Bernie finally realizes Suzy is more than just his friend.

You will not be disappointed by The Universe Builder. You can buy it for $4.99 on Amazon.

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Drawing On Your Own Experiences

When writing, drawing on your own experiences are important. I have been going through my rough draft of Above the Storm, organizing my notes and figuring out what the story needs when I start my rewrites, and I came across the scene where two friends fight and their friendship is ended, and I realized where this scene had come from.

When I was in the seventh grade, I wasn’t very popular. I read a lot and was picked on for being a nerd. Yes, I know, shocking. I had one friend at the time. We had met over the summer between elementary school and Junior High (my school district had K-6 elementary, 7-9 Junior High, and 10-12 High School). His younger brother and my younger brother where in cub scouts together and I was dragged to a meeting. He lived only ten blocks away and we became friends.

Up until the start of my ninth grade, I thought he was my best friend. We hung out must weekends, playing RPGs, D&D, Magic the Gathering, Warhammer. And while I had made other friends by the ninth grade, he was the one I was closest to. And then, out of the blue, he told me that he had never really liked me and he didn’t want to hang out with me anymore.

It was a bitter experience. Two years of friendship turned out to be a lie. After that, I didn’t really see him until my Senior year in High School where we shared a class and pretty much ignored each other. I never knew why he hung out with me so much.

I channeled this relationship into my novel without even realizing it. Writing is such an interesting exercises. You have to reach into your soul, pulling out the pain that’s been heaped on you and putting it down on paper, sharing it for the entire world to read. You dredge events you had hoped to forget, unbottling emotions long buried. I can still feel that hurt, bewildered day.

Experiences shapes you and you can draw on those experiences to shape your characters, to add conflict to their lives. Draw on your life for the colors you use to paint the canvas of your story. So don’t be afraid to dredge the good times and the bad from your life and used them to create something that moves your readers to joy, to sadness, to fear, to anger.

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