Author Archives: Darrick Dean

A Hobbit, A Wardrobe and a Great War

Check out the trailer for the upcoming series on J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis:

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Awakened, Uncontrollable Power

Kat Bloodmayne was experimented on by her father.  Now her soul is dying and an uncontrollable power within her threatens all around her.

When we last left Kat in Tainted, she had learned of the darkness infecting her father.  He seeks to capture her and take her power for an insidious Frankenstein-esque goal — and is willing to sacrifice his daughter in the process.

Now, in Awakened, Morgan L. Busse continues Kat’s trials as she seeks a cure for what is destroying her from within, while her father’s bounty hunters chase her to the ends of Austrium.

Awakened is set in a steampunk era that almost was: Victorian style, merged with the industrial age, and one of airships and mechanized war.  So are you ready to enter this world where the Darkness is rapidly descending? Will Kat control her power and restore her soul?

Or will she destroy all those around her, even those she loves?

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Templars of Fact and Fiction

The Templars played a part in the history of Among the Shadow‘s origins.  This was years ago,  when the Knights Templar became the central focus of novels, revisionist history books and films.  Suddenly, the medieval Knights were everywhere, from being in control of secret organizations, to being the key to finding lost treasures and solving religious mysteries. A new History Channel drama, Knightfall, may soon bring the Knight Templars back into the limelight (check out the trailer here).

The problem with many of the Templar books is that they are based on fake history , or create their own.  Partially thanks to medieval fake news and propaganda spread by the Templar’s enemies, the Templars are easily abused by those with imaginative views of history.

In spite of this onslaught of fake history, the real history has always been largely available.  There are the classics Dungeon, Fire and Sword and The Knights Templar, which give a complete picture. Others like God’s Battalions and The Templars and the Shroud of Christ address many of the claims of revisionists.

So how does this apply to my writing? Years ago, during the height of Templar mania, I was reading The Knights Templar, and came to chapter on the battle at the Horns of Hattin. During this battle, the Crusader army had brought with them what they thought was a relic of the True Cross. The battle was a catastrophic loss.

Instantly, though, I had an Inspiration Moment that would from the basis of Among the Shadows: Epic battles, legendary warriors and powerful relics. This would merge with my new found fascination with the fantasy genre and help define historical fantasy.

Ultimately, the Templars and the Battle of Hattin would recede into the background of the novel. The lost relic would remain prominent, as would threads of history — history that I wanted to remain accurate as opposed to how it was being handled by other writers. Of course, being fantasy, the fantastic is dropped against the historic backgrounds. Blurring the lines a bit, but leaving history intact, leave readers wondering what  in myth and legend may be hints of forgotten truths.

Maybe the Templar connection will be explored again in future novels, but for now, their history remains part of our own all these centuries later.

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#FakeRules & #RealRules of Marketing

As Tim Ferriss wrote a few months ago:

Now, the bad news: no one “trick” will do the job. Marketing isn’t about hacks.

As renowned venture capitalist Ben Horowitz says: “There is no silver bullet. We’re going to have to use a whole lot of lead ones.”

There are a few hard and fast rules, but there is one you may have heard that isn’t true. It goes like this: “You have to get your advertisement in front of someone X times before they notice it, X more times before they click on it, and  X more times before they buy it.”

Baloney. #FakeRule. If it takes that long, one of the following is wrong:

A. You aren’t getting your book (or other product) in front of your market: The people that are actually interested in the genre you are writing.

B. Your ad isn’t good, or not connecting with people (or maybe, especially if you’re an author, you don’t get branding).

C.  A combination of A. and B.

I have wrote about how everyone has access to marketing tools on-line, and everyone is using them, so you are competing with thousands for potential readers. At the end of the day, however, the above points still apply. Many have seen the promises of easy, cheap ads on Facebook and forget how advertising works.

It comes down to money. Continue reading

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Lost on Nan Madol

The mysterious Nan Madol is in the news, due to attention from a television show. These ruins of a forgotten city on the island of Pohnpei have long been the center of myth and legend. In one of the opening scenes of Awakening, sequel to Among the Shadows, Ethan, Milena and Kyra, are vacationing on the ancient isle, but they find something unexpected in an empty tomb. A brief excerpt from the forthcoming Awakening

Next to Ethan, Milena put her hands on the boulder. She closed her eyes, and cleared her mind with the box breathing she learned when training with her katanas. The energy began to surge within and she felt it intertwine with Ethan’s.

“On three. One…two…three.”

She opened her eyes, lit green from within, her husband’s burned blue.

“It’s moving!” Kyra yelled…With a little help from gravity, and more from their strength, they rolled the boulder out of the way…

Kyra turned the light on the darkness, chasing it away. “There are steps going down into another chamber.”

“Let me have one of those.” Kyra handed her father his flashlight and he started down. As soon as Ethan reached the last step, the light reflected off a crystal pyramid, twice the width of the boulder, but no taller. It sat dead center in the room, nearly filling it. The low ceiling added to the claustrophobia as Milena and Kyra joined Ethan. Krya approached the pyramid and reached out her hand.

“No, wait!” Milena yelled, running for her a moment too late.

Kyra’s palm pressed on the crystal and light swirled within it, illuminating the room. The walls shimmered and vanished. The tomb, the ruins, the island — all of it — had been replaced by a dusty, vast plain under a blazing sky. Haze obscured the jungle covered hills rising in the distance. Shadows passed over the ground.

Kyra looked into the sky and screamed.

Read how their adventure began in Among the Shadows and look for Awakening coming in 2018.

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Does History Matter?

“Does studying history matter?”

This is often asked by students and adults alike. There’s the oft quoted response from George Santayana that goes, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This is certainly true, but let’s go deeper. In The Well-Trained Mind, Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise write that when Ken Burns was asked why history is important, he responded, “History is the study of everything that has happened until now. Unless you plan to live entirely in the present moment, the study of history is inevitable.” Bauer and Wise continue with:

History, in other words, is not a subject. History is the subject. It is the record of human experience, both personal and communal. It is the story of the unfolding of human achievement in every area — science, literature, art, music, and politics. A grasp of historical facts is essential to the rest of the classical curriculum.

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Where are our Sages?

Being a “mentor” or “life coach” appears to be a popular career choice. I don’t know if it’s a generational trend, or a sign of some underlying needs.  I tend to think it’s the latter, but I do know that our fiction is full of these mentors, or Sages, that seek to pass on their guidance. The role of the Sage is not a new one, it’s part of the ancient tradition of one generation passing on to the next their wisdom.

Perhaps a lack of that transfer of wisdom is the cause of the growing trends. Fiction, though, has been reminding us all along of this lost responsibility of each generation. John Eldredge, on writing on the stages of a man’s life in The Way of the Wild Heart, explores the Sages of fiction:

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“Want to Write a Book? Then Write Every Day or Quit Now.”

Stephen Hunter, author of dozens of novels including Shooter, writes:

…The most difficult test of the author isn’t his mastery of time or dialogue, his gift for action or character, his ability to suggest verisimilitude in a few strokes, but his ability to get back into the book each day. You have to enter its world. It demands a certain level of concentration to do so. You have to train yourself to that concentration. The easier it is to get there, the better off you’ll be, day in and day out. In fact, if you skip a day, much less a week, the anxiety you unload on yourself doesn’t increase arithmetically but exponentially. If it’s hard after one day, it’ll be hard squared, then cubed, ultimately hard infinite-ed. And that’s only by Wednesday!

Want to maintain your writing momentum? Then put off the research:

You can do the research later. You cannot use “more research” as a crutch to justify your sloth. You are selling narrative not background. The most important truths you tell involve what you know about human behavior, not what color the Obersturmbannfuhrer’s epaulets are. If you don’t know it, just bull on through and keep going. Make it up. Jam it with placeholders. It’s OK. At that stage you need momentum, not precision. That’s why it’s a first draft; that’s why there’ll be a second draft.

So sit down and write until you reach the two most important words:

The End.

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The Untamed Find Their Story

Jason Clark writes in his book Surrendered and Untamed:

When I was a kid it was possible for boys to kill evil giants and men to walk on water. When I was a kid it was possible to live inside a whale, a raging fire and a lions den. When I was a kid it was possible to pray for the sick and watch them recover. Shadows could heal, and the dead could be raised. When I was a kid I believed that with God, all impossibilities were possible.

But now Clark, as an adult, finds that this wonder has been turned into “tamed three point sermons.”

Even if one isn’t theistic in their beliefs, most will understand what Clark is writing about. No, it’s more than understanding. They feel it burning within them. We grow up searching for purpose, our story. Grand plans are made and lofty thoughts pondered. Nothing is impossible. The wonder of life and creation is still with us. Then, one day, we wake up in a land that looks nothing like what we imagined.

Reality, some people call it. Life.

These are excuses. And not very good ones.

Sometimes it takes time to find our part in the Story. Everything conspires to put a stop to uncovering what we were meant to be or do. Forces in the world want us to give up, throw in the towel. Every once in awhile there are glimpses of where we should be.

Memories. The sunset. The stars. Children who have yet been trained to give up, forget and not see.

Here’s to never giving up. Being revolutionary. Standing up to the status quo and those who say you cannot or should not, or won’t ever be.

Find your story. Don’t stop until you do. Not ever.

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Imagination and the Doorway to Reality

Writers often draw us into the worlds and characters that burst from their imaginations.  These “made-up” worlds are reason for some to shun this or that genre because they are imaginary. The truth, though, is that authors aren’t writing imaginary stories. Alister McGrath, in his biography of C.S. Lewis, explains:

Narnia is imaginative, not an imaginary, world. Lewis was quite clear that a distinction had to be drawn between those ideas. The “imaginary” is something that has been falsely imagined, having no counterpart in reality. Lewis regards such an invented reality as opening the way to delusion. The “imaginative” is something produced by the human mind as it tries to respond to something greater than itself…to “communicate more Reality to us.”

Lewis would use his imaginative world to explore serious themes like “origins of evil, nature of faith, and the human desire for God” — not unlike most writers have grand ideas of deep thoughts woven through their narrative.

Quite often their starting point to accomplish this is surprisingly very simple. Narnia started with “an image of a faun carrying an umbrella and parcels through a snowy wood.” Tolkien scrawled on a paper, “In a hole in he ground there lived a hobbit,” after the idea popped in his head and he “did not know why” it had. From these humble origins, grand tales came to life.

What lives in your imagination, ready to inspire, entertain and challenge?

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