Dark Origins – Peter Pan, Lost Boys who are murdered and mermaids who are Sirens.

Most of us know the Disney version of Peter Pan featuring Captain Hook, Mr Smee, Wendy, John, Michael, and the Lost Boys. Oh, and Tinkerbell, of course.

I am not sure how many people have read the original play called Peter Pan or the boy who wouldn’t grow up, written by J.M. Barrie in 1904, but it is a far cry from the innocent tale presented by Walt Disney.

We know from the Disney film that Peter Pan doesn’t want to grow up, but no mention is made of the extreme lengths Peter Pan is prepared to go to fight it.

Consider this extract: “The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out; but at this time there were six of them, counting the twins as two.

To put it bluntly, Peter Pan kills the lost boys to keep them from aging. While the film presents the view that Peter Pan is seeking eternal youth, he is, in fact, obsessed with death. This characteristic is believed to come from J.M. Barrie’s own childhood experience of losing his brother, David.

According to an article in The Herald, six-year old Jamie Barrie was hugely impacted by the death of his older brother, David, at the age of fourteen. David was said to have died the day before his birthday when he was accidently knocked over by a friend while skating, and fractured his skull on the ice. The article speculates that the ‘friend’ was in fact, young Jamie and that he was rejected by his mother as a result of the accident. You can read more about it here: https://www.heraldscotland.com/default_content/12469608.tragedy-behind-neverland-jm-barrie-cause-brothers-death/

And then there are the mermaids…

In the original Peter Pan story, the mermaids who inhabit Neverland all live in the lagoon. They enjoy the company of Peter Pan but are malevolent to everyone else. The are extraordinarily beautiful and have amazing singing voices, but they are vain and unfriendly.

The mermaids spend their days playing in the rock pools and ocean around Marooners’ Rock and they retire to their coral cave homes beneath the waves at night and during high tide.

The mermaids change when the moon is out and transform into darker creatures. They utter and wail strange calls in the moonlight. Captain Hook is terrified of the mermaids, calling them the ‘loreleis’ and saying that the lagoon is the most treacherous place in Neverland. A lorelei is a siren of Germanic legend whose singing lures Rhine River boatmen to destruction on a reef.

Picture credit: https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q5397781

If you are interested in the true story behind Peter Pan and the life of J.M. Barrie, you can read more here: https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2014/12/78880/peter-pan-jm-barrie-true-story

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has 9 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

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Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


Paid Writing Opportunity – Call for Short Fiction Submissions

I recently embarked on the journey toward yet another degree – an M.A. in Publishing at Western State Colorado University – and I am studying under the prolific bestselling author and founder of WordFire Press, (and inductee into the Colorado Authors Hall of Fame), Kevin J. Anderson. For one of the publishing projects that must be completed for graduation is a cohort produced anthology. This will be the third year that the publishing cohort at Western has been headed by Kevin, and the third anthology that they have published.

Each of the previous year’s cohorts have produced an outstanding anthologies featuring stories by reputable author names, as well as new discoveries. You can see my review of Unmasked, last year’s anthology, here. The first year, Monsters, Movies & Mayhem received the Colorado Book Award. Both of these exceptional anthologies are available from amazon, your favorite bookstore, or buy direct at wordfirepress.com/gpcw.

This year’s cohort worked hard to develop the theme and guidelines over the past two weeks, and I’m really excited about this anthology. One of the cool things about this opportunity for writers is that it pays per word, if your story is chosen. Since I am a part of the publishing team, I’m not eligible to submit, but all of my readers are. I strongly encourage you to check out the guidelines below, get the gears turning and crank out an original story to submit for this year’s anthology. Feel free to share with anyone who might be interested.

Tips for getting your story accepted: Read the submission guidelines and follow them.

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MIRROR, MIRROR:

Modern Myths

Executive Editor: Kevin J. Anderson

When you’re alone with your reflection, are you prepared for what you see?

A prince in disguise? A monster revealed? An alien race?

Mirrors can be truth-tellers, wish-granters, face-concealers, illusion-makers, even monster-summoners. Maybe the mirror shows an evil twin, or an echo of the life that should have been. Or a portal to another world. 

What happens when it shatters?

Once upon a time, no one knew the phrase “Once upon a time.” You’ve read the classic stories. Now write the lore you’ve always wanted to read. Explore this creative challenge from your own unique perspective informed by your roots, culture, and background. We want original fables, folklore, and fairy tales for an eclectic anthology showcasing a new dawn of an old artform.

Imagine a canon of diverse characters for today’s readers to love and loathe. Gaze into the mirror, whether literally or figuratively—classic or genre-bending, grim or whimsical, as long as it is new and fresh.

We are looking for original short stories (prose poems will also be considered) to include a mix of fantasy, science fiction, horror, magical, and romance elements. Must be appropriate for a “PG-13” audience. Please, no copyrighted characters. Previously unpublished stories only. Women, BIPOCs, LGBTQIA+, neurodiverse individuals, and other minorities are strongly encouraged to submit.

Length: up to 5000 words (firm limit)

Rate: 6¢/word on acceptance.

Rights: First Anthology Rights and audio rights as part of the anthology; rights revert to author one month after publication; publisher retains non-exclusive right to include in the anthology as a whole. 

Due: We are open to submissions from August 30 through October 15, 2021.  

Submit: A Microsoft Word or RTF file in standard manuscript format to 

https://wordfirewestern.moksha.io/publication/2/3/submit

If you don’t know what standard manuscript format is, review, for example, https://www.shunn.net/format/classic/

One submission per person, please. NO SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS. 

Edited by Kevin J. Anderson with an editorial team provided by Western Colorado University Graduate Program in Creative Writing, Publishing MA students. Anthology made possible by a generous contribution from Draft2Digital.

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Shadowland: Not just another horror anthology

Shadowland

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Shadowland-horror-anthology-Under-Book-ebook/dp/B08P569SY1

Shadowland is the latest release in the Box Under the Bed horror anthology series, compiled and edited by bestselling author Dan Allatorre. Pick up any of the anthologies in this series and the reader will not be disappointed, but the collection of tales featured in Shadowland may have outdone those which came before. From the creative minds of Dan Alatorre, Betty Valentine, Roberta Eaton Cheadle, Christine Valentor, Jessica Bakkers, MD Walker, and Alison Marushka, each story is creatively crafted to fit into the premise of the anthology as a whole, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle fit precisely to do their part in the creation of the picture as a whole. This anthology has the potential to be made into a television series, with each individual story becoming a single, or even multiple episodes.

The mysterious and eccentric Dr. Aumental teaches a very special class, where students are excused from their other classes and sent on all expense paid travels to research dark folklore and legends as subjects for their term papers. The research takes students to the far reaches of the globe, searching for the truth about voodoo magic, demons, spirits of the dead, the cave dwelling Hojimaa, Hookman mythology, the monster under the bed, phantom cannibals, the Jersey Devil, and more. Any legend lurking in the shadows is fair game for the investigative skills of Dr. Aumental’s selected students. Certainly, this class must produce some very unique term papers, but why does the professor go to such lengths and what does he do with the information they contain?

Each of the dark tales in Shadowland easily stands alone on its own merit. Together, they form an anthology collection that goes beyond a common theme to help fulfill an overall premise that leaves itself open to endless possibilities. I give this horror anthology five quills.

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Dark Origins – The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a gothic story by American author, Washington Irving, and is included in a collection of 34 essays and short stories entitled The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.

Cover of The Sketch-Book by Washington Irving from Amazon US

The plot

The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane (1858) by John Quidor

The story is set in 1790 in the countryside around the Dutch settlement of Tarry Town, New York. Sleepy Hollow is a secluded glen which is famous for its ghosts and haunting atmosphere.

Ichabod Crane moves to Sleepy Hollow to be the schoolmaster of the village. As was customary at the time, Ichabod earns practically no money, but is provided with lodgings and food on a rotational basis by the local farmers who are also the fathers of the boys he teachers. This arrangement, and the singing lessons he gives on the side, keeps him employed and also gives him numerous opportunities to listen to the many tales about ghosts, haunted spots and twilight superstitions shared by the farmers wives.

Ichabod is most fascinated by the story of the ghost of the Headless Horseman who is believed to be a Hessian soldier who lost his head when he was hit by a cannon ball during the Revolutionary War. The ghost has been seen riding near the church where he is believed to have been buried.

Katrina Van Tassel is one of Ichabod’s students and the beautiful daughter of one of the most successful of the farmers in the area. Ichabod comes to believe himself in love with her. He sets out to woo her but crosses swords with one of the other men in the village, Brom Van Brunt or Brom Bones. In order to scare off Ichabod, Brom resorts to trying to prank him.

One evening, Ichabod is travelling home late after a party at Katrina’s home. He is confronted by a rider with no head on his shoulders. The head is sitting on the saddle in front of the shadowy man. Ichabod tries to run away and ends up near the church. Ichabod makes a dash for the bridge where the ghost is said to disappear and not follow, but when he looks back, the Horseman throws his detached head at him. It knocks Ichabod off his horse.

Ichabod disappeared leaving nothing behind but hoof prints and a smashed pumpkin. He is never heard from again in Sleepy Hollow.

Origins of the story

Although one of America’s most famous tales and one the resurfaces every Halloween, Irving did not invent the idea of a headless rider. Tales of headless riders existed in Europe during the Middle Ages, including stories by the Grimm Brothers and the Dutch and Irish legend of the “Dullahan” or “Gan Ceann”, a Grim Reaper-like rider who carries his head.

One theory is that Irving’s headless horseman is derived from Sir Walter Scott’s ballad, The Chase, which is a translation of the German author Burger’s The Wild Huntsman.

Another popular theory is that Irving was inspired by the story of the actual Hessian soldier who was decapitated by a cannon ball during the Battle of White Plains around Halloween 1776.

As a teenager, Irving moved with his family to the Tarry Town area due to an outbreak of yellow fever in New York City. The character of Ichabod Crane may have been inspired by Jesse Merwin, a teacher from upstate New York and who was a mutual friend of Irving and Martin van Burden, America’s eighth president. An alternative theory is that Ichabod was based on Samuel Youngs, a lieutenant from Tarry Town and a friend of the Van Tassel family.

Jesse Merwin 1783-1852.jpg
Jesse Merwin, picture credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Merwin

The name Ichabod Crane belonged to a real army officer, Colonel Ichabod B. Crane who served at Fort Pike during the British-American war of 1812. Irving was also stationed at Fort Pike but there is no evidence that he knew Colonel Crane.

Ichabod B Crane.jpg
colonel Ichabod Crane, picture credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichabod_Crane_(colonel)

Katrina Van Tassel is also believed to be loosely inspired by Eleanor Van Tassel Brush and, possibly, another woman Irving knew.

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

I am a South African writer specialising in historical, paranormal and horror novels and short stories. I am an avid reader in these genres and my writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, the Bronte sisters, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough. 

I was educated at the University of South Africa where I achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. I was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000. 

I have worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and have written seven publications relating to investing in Africa. I have won several awards over my twenty year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

I have been published a number of anthologies and have two published YA books, While the Bombs Fell and Through the Nethergate. I have recently published my first adult novel called A Ghost and His Gold which is partly set in South Africa during the Second Anglo Boer War.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

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Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


“Chatting with the Pros”: Interview with award winning fantasy author L. Deni Colter

Chatting with the Pros

My “Chatting with the Pros” guest today is an award winning epic and dark fantasy author. She may not be as prolific as some writers, but everything she writes seems to shine in the fantasy realms. She is a two-time winner of the Colorado Book Award, and a Writers of the Future winner. That is three books and three awards. She must be doing something right. Please help me welcome fantasy author L. D. Colter.


L.D. Colter

Kaye: Would you briefly share the story of your own publishing journey?

Liz: I seem to have done a bit of everything along the way. My short stories have been traditionally published in magazines and anthologies. My first novel, A Borrowed Hell, was published by a small press that closed only a few months later, but fortunately the book was picked up again almost immediately by another small press. My epic fantasy novel, The Halfblood War, was acquired by a mid-sized publisher, and I chose to self-publish my latest novel, While Gods Sleep.

Kaye: Your books written under L.D. Colter are contemporary and dark fantasy, while your epic fantasy, The Halfblood War, is written under the name L. Deni Colter. What was the reasoning for the change of pen name?

Liz: I didn’t actually change my pen name, just added a second one. I started with L. D. Colter for my contemporary fantasy. When my epic fantasy novel was published, I decided to add the pseudonym L. Deni Colter to make it easier for readers to differentiate my writing by genre. While plenty of readers, like me, enjoy multiple sub-genres of speculative fiction, not everyone does, and I feel I write the two styles quite differently. I don’t separate my work in any other way, though. My website and author sites include my actual name, Liz, both of my pseudonyms, and all my books.

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Liz: I didn’t consciously decide to write with a view to publishing until well into adulthood, but I’ve been a daydreamer all my life—I nearly flunked out of 5th grade due to it—so I was hard-wired from the start to create fiction. I started toying with the idea of writing during high school but stayed too busy through college and for a long time after as I pursued of different interests, more school, and many different careers. Finally, I found myself with a seasonal job, a rainy winter off, and my first computer. I started a novel that winter and wrote 10,000 words in the first week. I’ve never looked back.

Kaye: Your first book, A Borrowed Hell,won the 2018 Colorado Book Award for Science Fiction/Fantasy. Were you surprised? Can you tell me a little about that book?

Borrowed Hell.ColterLiz: Yes, I was very surprised and honored to win. When I wrote A Borrowed Hell, I set out to write a contemporary fantasy with literary themes about a man forced to face his difficult past in order to move forward in life. To receive an award for this book, and especially one from Colorado Humanities—an organization dedicated to the humanities and the ways in which the human experience is documented—was very rewarding.

The story follows my protagonist’s challenges, which take place in both the real world and an alternate world. I think this last bit of the back-cover copy sums up the plot pretty well. “July is willing to do anything to end his world-hopping, right up until he learns the price: reliving a past he’s tried his whole life to forget. He’s not sure his sanity can take it. Not even to get back to his own world, a woman he’s falling in love with, and a life he finally cares about.”

Kaye: While Gods Sleep won the 2019 Colorado Book Award for science fiction/fantasy. Where did you get the idea for this story?

While Gods Sleep.ColterLiz: As to the origin of this, I’ve loved mythology ever since discovering a fascination with ancient religions and cultural myths in high school. Greek mythology was my first passion, and it seemed the natural place to start when I decided to write a set of fantasy novels based on different mythologies. It was great fun to finally write a book rooted in the Greek myths I love, but better still was getting to play with them in completely unique and original ways that were entirely my own creation. It was a goal of mine from the start to avoid the more common tropes and to take this in unexpected directions, beginning with setting it in an alternative 1958 Athens ruled by conjoined queens. From there, I threw a mortal man into the eerie underworld of Erebus where he becomes entwined with sleeping gods, the factions that seek to control them, and an enemy powerful enough to destroy them all.

Kaye: Your latest release from Wordfire Press is The Halfblood War. What can you tell us about that book and the inspiration for it?

The Halfblood War.ColterLiz: These days I read widely across speculative fiction genres, but I grew up reading epic fantasy almost exclusively. Those books shaped my love of reading and were a huge part of my life. I enjoy the current directions epic fantasy is taking, but it was very fulfilling for me to get to write my own traditional epic fantasy and mold it into something unique and, hopefully, compelling. This novel took me longer to complete, by far, than my others. It was a true labor of love and I’m grateful to Wordfire Press for acquiring and publishing it. The premise revolves around Tirren, heir to the ruler of Thiery, who is raising his half-Elven bastard son in a land that hates and fears the Elves. It’s a stand-alone novel, written with an adult audience in mind, and weaves themes of prejudice and acceptance with love and betrayal, capricious and dangerous elves, and epic battles.

Kaye: What do you consider to be your biggest writing accomplishment to date?

Liz: I have to laugh, because my answer is always the same: my latest project, whatever that may be. Right now, that would be an unpublished novelette and my work-in-progress novel.

Kaye: In my review of the Undercurrents anthology, I refer to your story, “Songs to Sing and Stories to Tell”, saying that it explores saying good-bye. Can you tell me about this story from the author’s point of view? Did I get it right?

Liz: Yes, absolutely, I see that story as being about letting go, or as you put it, saying goodbye. Not my protagonist letting go of her past or her memories or her love, but trusting her instincts to let go of fear of change and false security and to embrace the unknown. That said, though, once a writer publishes their work, it belongs more to the reader than the author so different readers might see different themes.

Kaye: Which type of writing do you prefer, short fiction or novels? Why?

Liz: I enjoy both. There’s a lot of reward in completing and polishing short stories more quickly (faster for me, anyway) and getting them out in the world. If writing is going to be a career, though, conventional wisdom says it’s going to be based on producing novels. I’m not a fast writer—if I manage one book a year I’m doing well—so it’s a huge commitment for me to start a new book, but there’s also the fulfilment of really delving into story and character and the pleasure of wrapping up multiple storylines in a satisfying way.

Kaye: What is the strangest inspiration for a story you’ve ever had?

Liz: That might be my short story that won the Writers of the Future contest, “The Clouds in Her Eyes.” I had no notion what I was going to write when I began and went to my odds and ends file, where I toss all my passing and partial story ideas. I was trying to choose between three different prompts: a title idea (The Clouds in Her Eyes), an image of an old windmill on a dry and barren farm, and an image of a ship’s wooden figurehead. When I challenged myself to combine all three, the story was born.

Kaye: Are you a plotter or a pantser? Why?

Liz: I have to side with the pantsers on this. That said, though, I don’t really see pantsing and plotting as black and white options, but as a continuum. People who outline in the thousands of words still have to let go of the outline at some point and wing it. Likewise, most pantsers have some level of plotting going on, even if it’s at a scene-by-scene level as they get there. For me, I usually start with atmosphere (dark, humorous, gothic, whatever), an idea of the main character, sometimes a theme, and then an opening scene. While all that’s coalescing in my head, I usually get a sense of the ending, which gives me a rudimentary arc. At that point I start writing and figure the rest out as I go.

Kaye: What do you think is the single most important element in a story?

Liz: Wow, that’s a tough one. Tomorrow I might have a different answer, but today I’m going to say detail. Not excessive detail, but those sharp, specific details that bring stories to life. The level of detail in a story enhances so many other elements: character, setting, emotion, pretty much everything except plot. And a good plot, poorly told doesn’t make for a good story. Evocative writing is what engages me as a reader.

Kaye: What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Liz: A local author was kind enough to read an early draft of the first novel I wrote (the epic fantasy). She gave encouragement but advised me to seek out workshop opportunities to get detailed feedback for the many things I now realize were very novice mistakes. It was hands down due to her advice that I started on the right road to becoming a professional author. I followed her advice and joined a 10-week online workshop led by a well-published author. I’ve been a part of critique groups in one form or another almost constantly since that time, as well as attending conferences and workshops when possible, especially during my early years of writing.

Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Liz: Don’t write in a vacuum. Along the same lines as the advice I was given when starting out, I feel it’s hard to be objective about what you’re writing without some external input and feedback. Find fellow writers who are genuinely invested in helping to improve your work and, hopefully, at least some who are further along the career path than yourself. We know how we intend our work to read, but without a sounding board, it can be difficult to know if we’re succeeding.

Kaye: As a fantasy writer, what kind of research do you find yourself doing for your stories?

Liz: As a reader, I’m a huge stickler for logistics so it’s very important to me in my writing that I get details right in my own books. Not just big things, like avoiding plot holes, but small details, too. You never know what expertise your readers might have and, as a reader, I hate having my suspension of disbelief suddenly ruined in the middle of a story by a detail that’s blatantly wrong. So, yes, I get lost down research rabbit holes all the time. I research online mostly, but I’ve been known to read multiple textbooks for a novel as well as reaching out in person to experts or sensitivity readers.

Kaye: What can your readers look forward to in the near future? What are you working on now?

Liz: My current work in progress from L. D. Colter is the next in my mythology-based novels, this one centered around Slavic paganism. It’s a contemporary fantasy (working title: When the Winds Sing) set in far Northern California, near where I lived for 12 years. There are many wonderful settings and inspirations in that area, and I’m looking forward to playing with them all. The book is about 1/3 written and I hope to have the first draft completed before too long.

I hope, in time, to get back to an epic fantasy set I started and set aside some time ago. I had other projects needing attention, but it’s well started and has a concept and characters I still love.


Liz has followed her heart through a wide variety of careers including draft-horse farmer, field paramedic, Outward Bound instructor, athletic trainer, and roller-skating waitress, among other curious choices. She is a two-time Colorado Book Award winner in Science Fiction/Fantasy, a Writers of the Future winner, and her short stories have been published in a wide variety of magazines and anthologies. She writes contemporary and dark fantasy as L. D. Colter and epic fantasy as L. Deni Colter.


I want to thank Liz Colter for joining me here today and sharing so much about writing in the fantasy genre. You can learn more about Liz and her books on her website or her Amazon Author page. Join me next month, as we celebrate Superheroes and Supervillains, and my “Chatting with the Pros” author guest will be fantasy and science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson.


You can catch the monthly segment “Chatting with the Pros” on the third Monday of every month in 2019, or you can be sure not to any of the great content on Writing to be Read by signing up by email or following on WordPress. Please share content you find interesting or useful.


Journeying into the Worlds of Fantasy in April

Fantasy

In April, Writing to be Read celebrates fantasy. That area of literature and visual media where fantastical elements become possible, and maybe even expected. Fantasy is as old as the fables and fairytales which birthed it centuries ago. In fantasy, anything is possible, and readers journey to worlds beyond their own imaginations, allowing effective escapes from reality, which is why it is such a popular genre.

Although in fantasy, anything may be possible, each story world must have its own set of rules which should never be broken. And it’s the author’s job to be sure those rules are clear for readers and ensure that they are never breached. To ensure this, authors go to great lengths, drawing up elaborate story bibles and creating maps of their worlds in order to keep everything straight.

There are many subgenres of fantasy, including dark fantasy, which carries readers into evil realms; high or epic fantasy, which ventures into magical worlds on the hero’s journey; low fantasy, which magical elements mingle in the real world; magical realism, which takes place in worlds similar to ours, but where magical elements are common place; urban fantasy, where legends come to life; sword and sorcery, with sword weilding heroes who thrive on gallentry; space fantasy, which takes place in the imaginative worlds in the far reaches of the universe; western fantasy, where magical or supernatural elements invade the landscapes of the old west; fantand superhero fiction, where protagonists use supernatural powers to manipulate the elements of the real world.

The hero’s journey originated with fantasy, and that is where writing instructors turn to provide examples of the way that journey progresses for their students. Bilbo Baggins’ hero’s journey in The Hobbit is exemplary, but it is only a prelude to the ultimate hero’s journey Frodo embarks upon in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. J.R.R. Tolkien paved the way for fantasy writers right up to those of present day.

Stick with me this month for a great line-up of fantasy reviews and interviews with authors of the fantasy genre. My “Chatting with the Pros” author guest is L. Deni Colter, and my supporting interview is with J.B. Garner. I’ll also be reviewing the X Marks the Spot anthology, edited by Lisa Mangum; Severed Wings, by Steven Elliot Altman; and Indomitable, by J.B.Garner. I do interviews on Mondays and reviews on Fridays, so drop in and find out what is happening on the fantasy scene.


Like this post? Let me know in the comments. You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribe to e-mail or following on WordPress. If you found this content helpful or entertaining, please share.


“Severed Wings”: A Mythological Urban Fantasy

Severed-Wings-temp

Severed Wings, by Steven-Elliot Altman is an urban fantasy of romance and new beginnings, where creatures of myth live and miracles happen. Skillfully crafted to weave together past and present to create a captivating storyline that kept me guessing.

When an accident leaves Brandon in a wheelchair and unable to persue his acting career, he thinks his life is over. He walks away from everything and everyone connected with his past life, searching for something or someone to give meaning to his life again. What he finds is a couple living across the hall who behave a little oddly. When he uncovers the secret which they carry, he doesn’t know if it’s his curse or his salvation, as he suddenly finds himself with supernatural abilities, in a battle for his life, and those of his friends, with a creature of myth and legend.

Severed Wings will make you believe in angels and demons and everything in between, at least until you turn the last page. I give it five quills.

Five Quills

Severed Wings will be available June 3, 2020


Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Jeff’s Movie Reviews – The Invisible Man (2020)

Jeff's Movie Reviews

The Monster You Know

by Jeff Bowles

It goes without saying that the new Universal Studios reboot of the horror classic, The Invisible Man, offers a uniquely compelling movie experience for our hyper-political, hyper-aware post-#metoo era. The year 2020 is a very different time from 1933, the year Universal released its classic Claude Rains iteration. We understand the world in a startlingly different fashion, and complex psychology, trauma, abusive romantic relationships, and violence against women are all very much at play in the stories our culture has begun to tell.

Rest assured, though, The Invisible Man is not an overtly political movie. More like a chilling and subtly “woke” product of its times. Gone are all the old monster movie affectations—silly white mummy bandages covering a mysterious face, wired monocles and burning cigarettes floating in mid-air—replaced by psychological horror, emotional and physical torment, circa 2020 big-budget computer generated special effects, and a pretty nifty concept for a military-grade invisibility suit. Not to spoil too much, which really is a challenge with this movie, but the monster in this Universal monster picture is still very much a science fictional prospect. He’s also slightly reminiscent of a bad guy you might find in any average modern video game, which is how you know you’re in for one hell of a boss fight.

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Elisabeth Moss, who is just as excellent here as she is on Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, plays Cecelia Kass, the traumatized victim of a seemingly abusive relationship who is desperate to escape her wealthy tech developer husband. Cecelia gets free of his post-modern rich dude Dracula castle in the opening sequence of the film, only to learn a couple scenes later he’s ended his own life and left her his fortune. Which, you know, is really just a springboard for some invisible-man-ish fun and mayhem.

What kind of tech does her husband, Adrian, develop? Optics, of course, the kind that can turn someone… well, you know. I say Cecelia is the victim of a seemingly abusive relationship because while its clear Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) has done some truly terrible things to her, we’re never really sure what they were. It’s sort of a narrative issue, a lack of basic context, because as the action and suspense ratchet up, certain story beats become less formidable. Again, spoilers are easy to drop, but how did this guy get this way? He’s not just a monster. His exists solely to watch you realize your most intimate fears. The film insists on hints and allegations, relies too heavily on stereotypes, but only as it applies to Adrian and his brother, Tom (Michael Dorman), who may or may not suffer from some intense form of younger sibling Stockholm Syndrome.

Realistically, if this movie were called The Wolf Man or Frankenstein, I doubt I’d question how insidious the villain is, but we’re dealing with issues of domination, psycho-sexual violence, and truly, more emotional clarity is called for. Not to put too fine a point on it, but simply tossing around terms like narcissism and sociopathy doesn’t really help fill in a backstory. Lot’s of people are sociopathic and narcissistic, and not too many invent invisibility suits and murder-stalk their exes.

The good news for audiences, however, is that none of the above matters much, because The Invisible Man is a focused and frightfully suspenseful film, full of unexpected twists and a finale that is less cliché good guy, bad guy showdown than morally ambiguous coup d’état. At times, the movie is downright ingenious in its concoction of more and more elaborate and devilish scenarios. The supporting cast is excellent, and thankfully, exist as more than simple horror movie cannon fodder. The real unease and dread of The Invisible Man comes down to a basic relatable fear: if I tell them what’s really happening to me, they’ll call me crazy and put me away.

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Which isn’t to say the movie readily offers up easy explanations for all it entails. As the credits roll, it becomes clear writer/director Leigh Whannell wants us thinking hard about what we’ve just seen. Sharp-eyed viewers will spot the answer to the penultimate question posed by the film within its first few tense opening moments, but some audiences may leave dissatisfied by the ambiguity of it all.

Ultimately, The Invisible Man is about desperation and bare-knuckled survival in the face of victim-hood and victimization, an unavoidable totem of an age in which the sins of very powerful, very sleezy men have been outed in spectacular public fashion. Truly, the film is an intimate and personal take on the classic Universal Pictures series of old. It both loves and understands the need to update its source material, and though the final product is uniquely contemporary, its essential nature remains the same. Imagine an enemy you can’t see, who’s watching you in all your most intimate and private moments, who’s obsessively calculating new ways to make your life a living hell. It’s still a great concept for a horror story, which H.G. Wells must’ve recognized when he published the original novel in 1897.

The most frightening monster is the one who knows you best. Abuse at the hands of a loved one is a horror unlike any other, and in real life, more and more, the world is waking up to the fact that this phantom, this particular invisible man, has plagued us since the very beginning. Ultimately, the conscious approach filmmaker Leigh Whannell and his excellent cast take toward the subject is timely and clear-eyed. This invisible man is a beast of a human being. He’s been in your home, your bed, and he will do whatever it takes to possess, consume, and destroy you. Now that’s scary. And not a single floating cigarette or mummy bandage in sight.

Jeff’s Movie Reviews gives The Invisible Man an 8 out of 10.


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative short stories are collected in Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, Nashville Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, is available on Amazon now!

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You can keep up on what Jeff’s been watching and catch all of his great movie reviews the third Friday of each month on Writing to be Read. Subscribe to email or follow on WordPress today.


“Writing for a Y.A. Audience”: An Asylum for Inspiration

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

On the way to my parents’ house, I pass an insane asylum.  It has all the key characteristics to making it creepy.

abandoned ancient antique architecture

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Abandoned? Check.

Broken windows? Check.

Overgrown, crumbling porch? Check.

Mysterious past? Check.

By “mysterious,” I mean that everyone I talk to has a different story about it.  Most people say that one time “long ago,” the inmates rebelled and its been closed ever since.  Of course there are stories about those inmates still trapped inside.  Not sure how they could still be trapped with broken doors…

Some people tell me they used to sneak inside.  Some say evil things happened inside.  There is a huge chain-link fence surrounding the rambling building right now, so no one can sneak inside anymore.

When looking it up, there is very little information about the abandoned psychiatric center.

Driving by it so often inspired so many thoughts for a story.  Did I want to write about an inmate?  Would it be a work of historic fiction or a mystery?

A ghost story took form, and along came HAWTHORNE HIGH.  What happens if an old psychiatric center is transformed into a haunted high school?  Find out in this young adult novella.

Hawthorne High

Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult author who is obsessed with history and ghosts.  You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com


“Mind Fields”: Hitler’s Afterlife

Mind Fields

Arthur Rosch Copyright 2019

A Guest At The Eternal Passover Seder

“Avraham, give our guest some more gefilte fish.” Mother Rachel spoke in Yiddish and gestured towards the man seated at the place of honor on the long holiday table.

Evidently the man couldn’t speak. His eyes bulged from his head, his arms went this way and that. Some hidden force seemed to glue him to his chair so that he could not even rise.

Adolf-Hitler-1933

“He looks funny,” Avraham, eldest son, tried to conceal a giggle. The man was indeed a comical figure. His little mustache, his hair combed over his forehead, these were unusual accoutrements at the Eternal Seder. In the Spirit World the Eternal Seder was just that, an unending celebration of Passover. It occupied an archetypal place in the Cosmic Order.

“Why is he doing that?” asked Sipporah, younger daughter. The guest was thrusting his right arm out, almost straight, but bending and sagging from the fatigue of eons of attempting this salute.

“It’s supposed to mean Victory,” Zeyda Moishe said skeptically.

“I think he is perhaps deluded,” Baba Zifnah decided. “Don’t let him spoil the Seder.”

“There is always a guest at Seder,” said Cousin Frankl. “They are not always so unpleasant.”

The candles glistened, filling the chamber with soft light. More light, soft but differently colored, emanated from the spacious double windows.

“It is our tradition to welcome everyone, from all the Worlds and Spheres,” Mother Rachel declared. “Even the Hell Worlds.”

“Do you think he’s from one of those?” little Micah interjected with excitement. His eyes gleamed with ghoulish fascination.

“It is not ours to judge.” Zeydah Moishe said. “Sins are put aside during Passover. That is the whole point. The Angel Of Darkness passes over our house.”

There was a sound entering the chamber, a sound as of a colossal wagon loaded with tons of lead. It groaned with a sound so deep that most of it was felt rather than heard. Shadows covered the windows. The light was attenuated. Little Gavril, the toddler cousin, rose with curiosity to look out.

“Don’t!” commanded Mother Rachel. “Sit down! Our Guest’s crimes are rolling past our house. Praise God they don’t stop here.”

The grinding sound continued as if forever. Sledges pulled by immense demon-steeds yanked them forward a bit at a time. At last peace was restored. The Guest seemed to sag. It was possible to see a hint of remorse in his countenance. Then he straightened and attempted his rigid arm-salute.

“I thought for a moment that he might regret his crimes,” said Sipporah.

“For a moment, perhaps.” Zeyda Moishe replied. “But look: he is again celebrating his imaginary victory.”

“Too bad.” Baba Zifnah commented quietly.

“Without regret, without an accounting,” said Zeyha Moishe, “Crimes cannot be forgiven. It will take this one some time. Perhaps twenty eons, perhaps a thousand. Regret and remorse will come to him, but not for a very long time. Let us say a special prayer for his soul.”

Those at the Seder, all but the one who glared impotently, bowed their heads and began the traditional benediction. “Baruch Atah,” they intoned, “Blessed Be You.”