Kingdom Come Promise

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In 2018, my novel, Kingdom Come, was published, and it is now available for sale (see links below).  To celebrate the launch year, I will publish new content every month of the year — a short story or other media pertaining to the novel — on this site every second weekend.  You are welcome to read these stories.  If you like what you see or read, please purchase the book and tell others about the site.  The novel is the culmination of the stories you’ll find here.

To purchase: Kingdom Come – Hardcover   Kingdom Come – Softcover   Kingdom Come – eBook

The stories so far are Do not Save the Princess , The Dwarf’s Report (Part 1), Oh Well , Neither Fish nor Fowl , Aeron’s Choice ,  Rose and Coal and Gooseberries. Read the Kingdom Come timeline too.

The illustrations below are cropped images of scenes from the book. Click on The Forest of Blood Battle  and Fare Thee Well to see the full depictions also by Daniel Johnson.

Fare Thee Well illustration
A Special goodbye.
Planet the pixie
Planet about to go into battle.

For a colorful illustration of Kingdom, please view Mount Voyle also by Daniel Johnson.

So welcome to Kingdom and enjoy its famous and little-known characters, its fantastic locales, and its bumbling and absurdly-named heroes and heroines.

Please send me feedback at jim.doran.author@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you.

Modi Ind0rum

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Modus Indorum

Modi Ind0rum is an adult mystery suspense novel by Karma Lei Angelo, the first in a series. In it, a new detective, Ameena Jardine (AJ), former civil engineer turned geomorphologist, is called in to investigate a potential murder on September 2019. When she investigates the corpse, an overdosed drug user, nothing seems out of the ordinary except an item in his hand — a seashell with the number 55 engraved on the inside. From its suspenseful, opening scene to further murder scenes and flashbacks, we come to understand that AJ is in a cat-and-mouse game with a mysterious serial killer and an equally shadowy informant. Meanwhile, she struggles to maintain a decent home life with her new job as well as a partner who is strongly attracted to her.

I won’t reveal more (though the back cover describes more than I have) but the book proceeds in multiple directions from two detailed sequences in Jardine’s life before she became a detective, to politics in an office environment, to investigating multiple crime scenes. The book isn’t limited to the narrative. It also contains maps, surplus front matter, and a number of appendices of information. I love this concept. Despite the seriousness of the subject matter, it brings a fun-filled experience to the ordinary business of reading a book. It’s a puzzle plot so the author has hidden puzzles everywhere.

Please realize this novel is described as both part one of a trilogy and book one of a series. The ending will not wrap everything up with a bow. I did hope the book would’ve taken the traditional trilogy arc where the first book feels more conclusive (think V. E. Schwab’s Darker Shade of Magic) leaving the second novel as the cliffhanger. Instead, it serves the role of the first part of a three-part narrative.

I have a soft spot for puzzle-style mysteries and stories with serial killers who use patterns. From Agatha Christie’s ABC Murders to David Fincher’s Seven to Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders, mysteries where the killer utilizes a pattern are the best. As the author was a civil engineer herself, she uses her math and engineering background in the story effectively. Who knew a driveway could contain a clue to a mystery? But one of the best aspects of the story is the presence of a certain numerical sequence. The serial killer keeps score of the body count in an inventive and original way. Additionally, a enigmatic octopus tattoo plays a large role in what unfolds halfway through the book, opening up the story to more than the typical serial-killer-on-the-hunt plot.

While Karma subtitles her book as a mystery suspense novel, there’s a lot more going on than the murders.  There are a number of family and office scenes interwoven with the main mystery. Some come together into the main plot in a surprising yet logical way. A few others seem extraneous to the plot, but understand I haven’t read the second or third book. Nevertheless, the pacing is solid.

The author did her homework on this novel. From geomorphology to tattoos to police procedures, she convinced this reader the experts were really experts in their field. I spent a summer as an intern in a civil engineering office which means I know 1% more than the average of the population on this subject, but all the engineering terminology rang true. I mentioned before the use of engineering-specific knowledge to solve mysteries was a welcome surprise. There’s no doubt AJ is highly intelligent and dedicated so it surprised me that she and others miss the connective tissue of the murder scenes. I wanted to enter the scene and yell at the detectives at one point, proving how much the novel drew me into its world.

Among the characters, AJ is a complex character who has lived through an alarming event before we read about her on page one. We learn early on she has switched careers and she’s stressed out as the newcomer on the force. This builds multiple dimensions to her personality as well as sympathy from the reader. AJ is both unpredictable and believable throughout the story, and we root for her from the beginning. Karma’s love for her characters is on display here, and her descriptive passages are detailed and intriguing. She includes a number of playful details such as AJ has a daughter with a feather collection, and AJ calls a defect in her boss’s desk a “desk scar.” The author’s dialog is snappy and engaging. I enjoyed when AJ’s mother calls her “saffron in a parsley bundle.”

I purchased the paperback and all the technical details of the book are great. The interesting front cover, the binding, the layout of the end product are all spot-on. This is an author who went above and beyond to bring a quality product to the reader.

As mentioned, I haven’t read the second or third book, but the first is everything I love in a mystery novel and will pick up the other two in the future. Overall, Karma Lei Angelo has put together a memorable novel with Modi Ind0rum.

 

The Lucifer Ego

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The Lucifer Ego is an adult novel by author T. M. Doran. Full disclosure — I am the author’s brother so I won’t rate it or extol it as if I were a disinterested party. You wouldn’t believe me no matter what I write, but clearly I think highly of the novel and believe it’s worth purchasing.

So why the review? My goal is to let people know what the novel is about and what’s on its mind without spoiling it. As an author myself, I know all novels aren’t for everyone. If this book sounds like something you might enjoy, you will not be disappointed.

The Lucifer Ego is tough to categorize. It deftly combines elements of an action adventure, an espionage tale, a mystery, and a dash of speculative fiction. The protagonist’s name is Frodo Lyle Stuart and his name is neither a mistake nor a gimmick to cash in on a famous fantasy trilogy. At the core of the plot, the various characters are in search of a missing artifact which has been stolen from a monastery. The object in question could turn history on its head and would be a holy grail of anyone who studies prehistory. Turns out Frodo, who goes by Lyle in the novel, happens to be an archeologist.

The novel shifts narratives from Lyle’s search to flashbacks of others connected to the quest. It fills in gaps left by the book before it, Toward the Gleam, which support the sequel’s narrative. Tautly written, the novel has more on it’s mind than an adventure to find an “Ark of the Covenant” level relic. It deals with the question of evil in the world and how it subtly invades into our culture. One of the best aspects I found in the novel is how we accept what we hold are truths and how fiercely we argue against so-called scientific facts which are still, in fact, theories. The belief the world was flat was relatively changed a short time ago if you look at the entire timeline of human history. Another key theme is evil in our world. Some nasty characters appear like weeds across the narrative. The novel treads deeper and deeper into the darkness of the heart, the frailty of life, and the profane disregard of the value of a person.

Well-written, tightly plotted, and evenly paced, I want to highlight one element above others. This is a well-researched novel. I bought Lyle was an archeologist and, if I didn’t know the author, would’ve thought he had background in anthropology. His other characters have backgrounds in similar specialized disciplines, and the research serves the book well. It elevates a fantastic plot to a modern world with believable people.

 

The Lucifer Ego is a sequel to T. M. Doran’s novel — the acclaimed Toward the Gleam. However, the reader doesn’t need to be familiar with the first novel to enjoy this one. It had been a number of years since I have read Gleam and I followed the plot without a problem. Toward the Gleam was set in the past and this novel is set in the present. Furthermore, the main characters are all new. If you read the first book, you will enjoy the references to the first, but the sequel stands on its own merit.

And I can’t end this “review” without a callout to the wonderful cover art by Daniel Johnson who I have used on my novels (more disclosure). It is an engaging illustration and reflects elements of the novel, catching the eye and drawing people in. The layout of the book and technical elements are all professionally done. This is T. M. Doran’s fifth published book and he’s been published in various publications you may have heard of like The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

The Lucifer Ego is available as an eBook and paperback. Purchase The Lucifer Ego on Amazon.

 

In Defense of Maligned Fairy Tale Characters

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Fairytale characters get a bad rap. The heroes and heroines are looked at as weak, sexist, fetish-minded, duplicitous, and superficial. The current trend is to glorify the villains in these stories because, as the saying goes, the villains are the most interesting characters. Interesting, maybe, but I think people give short shrift to fairy tale characters. I’m going to take three popular and maligned fairy tale characters and present them in a light perhaps originally intended by their authors to show there’s more on their minds than hoping “one day my prince will come.”

Snow White

Poor Snow White. The modern world overlooks and harshly criticizes her. Disney hardly promotes her except when hawking merchandise and hides her behind the banner of “the first fairy tale princess.” One of the latest depictions of her in the television show Once Upon a Time makes her out to be a Robin Hood type character in its early episodes. In other words, she’s a badass survivor.

Snow White's woodsGoing back to Grimm, Snow White has one unique quality. She’s beautiful. It’s because she’s lovely that the huntsman takes pity on her. One of the seven dwarfs asks “What beautiful child is this?” and then they set her to work on the house in exchange for her lodgings. Of course, her stepmother hates her for being fairer than she.

Not a ringing endorsement of feminism.

But then again, she’s not supposed to be. We aren’t all assertive or bold or badass. Some of us, men and women, are shy, reserved, and introverted. This is how I picture Snow White. More importantly, Snow White as a symbol I think belongs to the Bible verse “And the meek shall inherit the Earth.” Meek does not equal weak. The older definition of meek is “gentle, kind” and this is what the Bible verse meant. It applies to Snow White as well. Her beauty alone stays the Huntsman’s hand, but after he decides to help her, my version says “…and it was as if a stone had been rolled away from his heart.” This is why he kills the boar and presents its heart to the queen. Snow White represents the downtrodden, the ones on the edges of society that rely on the help of others because she’s going through a bad time in her life. She’s the homeless woman on the corner, she’s the cancer patient who doesn’t know how to pay the bills, she’s the single mother living in her car. She didn’t put herself in this situation and she doesn’t plan to milk it or stay there. She’s temporarily reliant on others until she can land on her own two feet. In this way, the prince doesn’t “save” her, he’s a symbol of her re-integration into society.

Cinderella’s Prince

We’ve all heard the accusations. Cinderella’s unnamed prince is deviant, idiotic, and disturbed. What sort of a prince can’t recognize the girl he swooned over and danced with three nights in a row, and relies on a shoe to “find” her anyway? Again, on the surface, this seems to be the case, but don’t discount this character yet. Let’s look at the story behind the story. Cinderella, like Snow White, represents a marginalized person. In Grimm, her own father looks the other way at her mistreatment, and it takes her dead mother (not a fairy godmother) to provide her glamorous clothing.

Cinderella asking her mother to go to the festival.
Cinderella asking her mother to go to the festival.

She is a symbol of all of us who are treated like a number, who are discounted, who are overlooked. But suddenly, she’s in the spotlight. This is what we call a Cinderella story, right? And what does the prince symbolize? He represents us as a society in a different way. He’s the other side: the adoring fans of a famous person, a person of power sincerely listening to another person’s story of hardship, the patient parent forgiving a wayward child. He’s the benevolent power figure. Because of a paternalistic society when it was written, power is male and downtrodden is female, but as symbols, gender doesn’t matter. An empathetic female senator listens to a male farmer who has lost his land represent Cinderella’s prince and Cinderella just as much. The final symbol is the slipper. The slipper is not a token of deviant sex–modern society’s newest take on the story. It’s far deeper and significant. The slipper represents the restoration of the dignity of the human person. When the prince places the slipper on Cinderella’s foot, it signifies society saying to the human person “you matter…you are heard…you count.” The prince is anyone who believes their family and friends are important and make a difference, and Cinderella is no less than the story of the value of the human race.

Glinda

Am I talking about L. Frank Baum’s Glinda, the Good Witch of the South from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, or Billy Burke’s iconic representation “bubble” Glinda from the 1939 movie version of The Wizard of Oz, or Gregory Maguire’s Galinda of Wicked? They are really three different representations. We all think of Burke or perhaps Galinda, but we tend to forget Baum’s original Glinda. For those who haven’t read the book for a while, Glinda does not greet Dorothy at the beginning, and she’s from the south, not the north. She’s not a bubble character.  She’s closer to an empress of the south, surrounded by female soldiers. She’s wise and powerful, an interesting counterpart to the humbug wizard, and she provides the solution to Dorothy to get home (like the movie). When the book was written circa 1900 and women couldn’t vote, Baum wrote about a woman leader. To demonstrate how radical of an idea it was for this time in history, it’s over a hundred years later and the United States still doesn’t have a woman president.

GlindaIn the book, the reader gets the sense that Glinda is far more powerful than the Wicked Witch of the West. She’s not a crusader, running around Oz righting all wrongs. Rather, she’s a person who knows her power and doesn’t abuse it. This makes me respect her even more. Where was she when Dorothy was trapped in the witch’s domain? Why doesn’t she stomp out the witch before Dorothy arrives? Most of us know that, just because you have power, doesn’t mean you always use it. We instinctively understand the saying “choose your battles.” There’s a reason Baum chooses to have Glinda sometimes interject herself (e.g. when she chases after Mombi in the sequel to Oz) but most of the time refrain. She’s an admirable and complex character in my opinion. And while I love both the movie and the play, the version of Glinda in them serves a different role. The original Glinda is a moral compass for all world leaders today.

So the next time you read a fairy tale, take a fresh look at the characters and see if you can spot how the author originally intended them and compare it to how they are represented today.

 

Writing a Fantasy Sequel – 4 Dos and 1 Don’t

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When writing fantasy sequels in a series, there are some basic guidelines to consider when putting your second together. Your first sets the tone of the world you’ve built, but your second sets the tone of the series. First, let me talk about what I mean by “series.” It’s not the second part of a longer story. While both are truly sequels, one is a standalone story that doesn’t require reading the first book. It has a beginning, middle, and end – a true end – one in which the reader could walk away without the main characters experiencing anything else and that’s fine. In other words, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings are not what I’m talking about. I’m describing Indiana Jones movies and the Chronicles of Narnia.

To illustrate my points below, I’ll refer to a few fantasy novels but I’ll use the Harry Potter series in particular. First, because J. K. Rowling inspired this blog and therefore (obviously) her novels follow these points. Secondly, it is so popular I can safely assume everyone reading this has likely read her seven books.

Do expand your world

Self-obvious but it’s tempting not to keep world-building and focus on continuing a narrative. Though introducing new elements may not move your plot, world-expansions are the spices in your dinner. When a reader uncovers one, it sparks her imagination, and the rest of the details of the book become more vivid.

Expanding your world may not simply mean geography but also new and exciting characters. Add new customs that weren’t in the first book. Go into detail on politics, culture, religion, or art. Have the characters find new corners of a setting they visited before.

For example, HP #2, Chamber of Secrets, includes the actual Chamber of Secrets, Lucius Malfoy, Knockturn Alley, spiders in the Forbidden Forest, Mr. Weasley, and a little diary that becomes important in later books.

We visited Hogwarts in #1, but there’s a new secret room in the castle in #2. We visited Daigon Alley, but not Knockturn Alley. We went into the Forbidden Forest in HP #1, but didn’t know about the giant spiders. And we didn’t know about the fathers of two of the main characters, Draco and Ron. The contrast between Lucius and Mr. Weasley is great in the second book and helps us better understand Harry’s #1 enemy and best (male) friend.

Do pay off teasers from the first book

All authors know more is going on in their book than what is printed on the page. Most of us edit out beloved passages, but that’s the way it goes. It doesn’t make a bit of difference to the first book, but maybe it will to the second one. If you’re like me, you can’t help but drop a sentence or two to hint at something to come. You should kill your darlings, but you’re also allowed to hide some of them in the sub-cellar until the next book sees the light of day.

It’s referenced in the first book that Hogwarts can’t keep a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, and while that remains true in the first book, it continues in the second. Did Ginny really need to be mentioned in the first book? No, but having another Weasley go to Hogwarts the next year is key, right? It wasn’t a “Oh by the way, Harry, I never told you I had a younger sister. Her name is Ginny and here she is.” Kind of a lousy way to introduce a key character to the series. And Hermione’s magical prowess starts paying off with her casting an advanced spell in year 2.

Do deepen your characters from the first novel

You spent a lot of time on your main character in the first novel, and presumably she or he has had an interesting character arc. You’ve laid the foundation, time to build the house. Just like we are all works-in-progress, your main characters are also changing. They can progress or regress, or learn something new. As the author, it’s your job to bring the reader deeper into what makes your main character tick.

With the introduction of Lucius Malfoy, we get a glimpse into Draco’s life and suddenly his behavior starts to make sense. Rowling does a great job describing the Malfoys through another newly-introduced character. For his part, Harry draws the sword from the Sorting Hat. He’s no longer a kid with a stone in his pocket. He’s more active, more brave than ever before. We find out about what scares Ron the most, and yet he sticks with Harry. His loyalty is more tested in this novel than ever before.

Do bring the reader into the world in a different way

I find this pointer to be most effective in portal fantasies where your character has to cross into your fantasy world in some way. For Harry Potter, this is traveling on the Hogwarts Express. Even though the journey isn’t intended to be magical, it has the feeling of transporting to another world.

Start the novel in a unique and interesting way, and don’t repeat what you’ve done in the first novel. This is especially hard in portal fantasies, but it makes for an exciting read. As an example, Harry doesn’t ride the train to get to Hogwarts in book #2. The Pensevie children do not go through a wardrobe in Prince Caspian. For non-portal fantasies, start with a different character. V. E. Schwabb starts “A Gathering of Shadows” (book #2 of her Shades of Magic series) with Lila instead of Kell.

Don’t always think bigger is better

Every time I see a movie sequel with more explosions or more car chases, I sigh. More is not always more and, in fact, usually it’s less. People fall in love with your characters and their quirks more than your action scenes. I’ve seen successful sequels have less at stake than the first novel.

The adult Voldemort, in all of his glory, is not bigger and more alive in the second book. He doesn’t even appear in the third book. While the basilisk is more of a threat to Harry personally, the ending doesn’t feel like it’s bigger and better. Hermione isn’t even present at the end of Chambers. Rowling wisely knows, to build her Voldemort character into the force he becomes, Harry can’t keep defeating him year after year and expect us to believe Voldemort is a real threat by the fourth novel.

 

These are but a few elements to keep in mind as you outline or draft your next novel. Now go out and extend your characters and world.

 

Like This Try That

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I thought I would post a different type of blog this time. Did you ever watch (or watch again) a great movie and say to yourself “I wish there was another movie like that one?” For some great movies, I suggest a similar movie. Perhaps you’ve never seen my suggested film or have forgotten about it.

It’s a Wonderful Life – Yes, that “It’s a Wonderful Life,” ZuZu’s petals and all. What movie could match that? Well none, actually, but if you like Jimmy Stewart, Frank Capra, and plenty of Capracorn, check out You Can’t Take It With You . While not as sentimental as Wonderful Life, it has its share of cooky characters, surprising warmth, and a suddenly serious third act. Jean Arthur’s entrance into the room with Jimmy Stewart’s parents is a classic in my book.

Rear Window – Maybe you don’t know, but Rear Window itself was a rediscovered classic. How about a little seen Hitchcock gem called  Stage Fright ? This one is controversial because it’s rumored that Hitch himself didn’t like this movie. I liked it. A brunette in the lead role, a clever plot twist, and plenty of what made Hitchcock famous makes this film one to watch (or watch again).

Airplane – No movie…ever…is as quick-witted as Airplane. Mel Brooks movies come close, but even they take a breather every once in a while. Airplane never lets up. What could be comparable? Try Murder By Death. One of Neil Simon’s earlier efforts, the plot is a classic. One of the first mashups, all of the world’s greatest detectives spend a weekend at an eccentric inventor’s mansion trying a solve a murder that hasn’t happened. The quips come so fast you may find yourself rewinding. And the stars! Not only are the detectives are famous, so are their sidekicks, and so is the victim and the servants!

Say Anything – John Cusack’s classic coming-of-age story. What could be as fun as this movie? Actually, I’ve always preferred an earlier film by John Cusack directed by Rob Reiner – The Sure Thing . When I saw it, the rage was movies attempting to be Porky’s but just offering lowbrow insults. The Sure Thing looked like another one of those. John Cusack’s character is traveling across the country to hook up with a “sure thing” while on the road with Daphne Zuniga, a fellow college student he cannot stand. The Sure Thing has heart, teen angst, and a good deal of humor.

Captain America – Like superhero films? How about another one set in the past like Captain American by the same director, Joe Johnston. The movie is The Rocketeer , and is a great popcorn film. Johnston made some truly fun movies and is currently working on the next Narnia movie (I hope). The Rocketeer stars Timothy Dalton, Billy Campbell, and the ageless Jennifer Connelly. It was clear why Disney wanted Johnston to make Captain America.

 

My Reason for Writing

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A few years ago, I was at a crossroads. I enjoyed writing, but what should I do with it? Should I continue writing novels and short stories and pass them around my family, or should I try to reach more people? I always wanted to publish a book and be an author, but I’m not a young man and I’m set in my career now. I have people relying on me at home and work, and I cannot let them down and give it all up. Besides, my full-time job gives back to the world, and that’s important to me.

But a question plagued me. Was this a hobby…or was it meant to be something else?

It is generally agreed that this is not a parable about greed, but about not using your God-given abilities. I get the sense that even if the third man had invested it and lost it all, the master wouldn’t have been so displeased.

This question especially haunted me whenever I read or heard the Bible passage about the talents. If you are unfamiliar, the story is about a master who entrusts three servants with his money. (All images courtesy of Arabs for Christ/FreeBibleimages.org).

The first two take a risk and make more money, but the third buries his meager coin and restores the exact same amount back to the master.

The master is furious with the third man and takes the money away from him, and berates him for not attempting to make more money. He gives the man’s money to the most industrious servant.

Whenever I encountered this Bible passage, I felt uncomfortable. Did God give me a talent and I was meant to do something with it? Or am I worthless hack and it would be best to let sleeping dogs lie? Praying over it, there was no clear answer. But I figured if I tried to write and failed, God wouldn’t be displeased. Maybe amused but not angry.

So I thought about it a long time and I came to a conclusion. If God wants me on this path, then I entrust God to lead me. In return, I promise not to use my stories to direct my readers away from God. This doesn’t mean all my stories end happily, or that everything at the end of a story is wrapped up in a bow. It means I want my readers to walk away with a deep sense of purpose. Personally, I don’t believe in a random, meaningless universe. I’ve experienced too many coincidences to subscribe to a philosophy of accidental origins. When people view the world with their soul, they see hand of God in all acts of purity and benevolence.

There is purpose even in the darkest of tales. Orwell’s 1984 shows us what could happen in a world without mercy. I realized many of my horror stories that left my protagonist in a hopeless situation were now off-limits. I’m grown increasingly tired of these stories anyway. Conflict is my favorite part of the books I’ve read. Conflict requires some balance. When done well, the tale is both exciting and believable.  This is not to say characters won’t die or suffer, or bad things won’t happen to good people. Quite the contrary. My favorite characters always suffer in some way. While they live, they never reach complete self-fulfillment. They struggle with the questions that matter to all of us. Who are we? What are we doing here? Why was all of this created and what is our role in it?

I write fairly light entertainment, but never without this perspective. My stories are reflections on the human condition, on the natural and preternatural, on purpose and destiny. For all of us are living stories, wrapped up in a book cover, with a wealth of words inside.

Fairy Tales for Adult Readers

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As my novel Kingdom Come is categorized as an adult fairy tale, I naturally read adult fantasies. There are the traditional swords and sorcery stories, offbeat fantasies, and then the ones like my novel, transporting fantasies. I’ve come across two adult fairy tales recently that I’ve enjoyed.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly tells the tale of a young boy who transports into a fairy tale world of Red Riding Hood’s ravenous and savage wolves and Snow White’s union-like dwarves. I won’t give away the plot other than to say it works a lot like a transporting fantasy with the main character going to another world and encountering heroes and villains there. I was impressed with the no-holds-barred approach to the inhabitants and situations Connolly describes. He achieves a magic trick of both grounding his world in reality, and at the same time, creating this fantastic world with unbelievable creatures. The book is episodic with some of his scenes remaining in my mind long after I finished it. There are a lot of horrifying images here. And yes, there are nods to famous fairy tale characters as well. I read it after I had written Kingdom Come, partially fearful our stories would be similar, but happy to discover they are quite different.

Other Kingdoms by Richard Matheson is reflective of the fairy tales of yore but populates its world with standard fairy tale archetypes. This is a story of a soldier who finds out witches and fairies are real and attempts to live with each for a period of time. The main character doesn’t transport to another world. Instead the magical world exists within ours, protected from discovery by powerful magic. The plot here is less episodic but more meandering and goes into more detail about the nature and rules of fairies. Matheson engages in more world building than Connolly, but less narrative.

Kingdom Come, The Book of Lost Things, and Other Kingdoms all present a fairy-tale like world but one in which people suffer and die. There are familiar archetypes in all three and all three have conflicted main characters with evil antagonists.  If the characters aren’t black and white, they are definitely black and gray, meaning the main villains in all three are loathsome people.  All contain creatures grounded in legends – always fun to read when one of those pop up.  And all tackle the subject of loss and how we process it as human beings.

But this is not a book review, or it’s a poor one if it is. I wanted to use these books to reflect on where Kingdom Come stands in adult fantasy and fairy tale literature. I’m not comparing one to the others to say which one is better or worse as that will remain a matter of taste. A fiction novel, no matter how grounded in reality it is, is a story that reflects our world back to the reader. Fantasy presents unreal archetypes to get you to understand other types of people. Dwarfs are the rowdy bunch of people you know, the stereotypical man’s man or tomboy. An elf may be more honorable, reserved, and mysterious. It’s not hard to imagine people I know as fantasy races. Kingdom Come is a reflection of our world as much as the other two, but slightly more political. It asks questions about destiny, the nature of our leaders, how we treat the poor, how the world can hurt us, and how we heal from it.

If you like fantasy with a fairy tale touch, I’d recommend the following:

Into the Woods (Play first, then movie) – Stephen Sondheim

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (book first, then movie) – C.S. Lewis (and all of Narnia)

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles) – Marissa Meyer

The Chronicles of Prydain – Lloyd Alexander (less fairy tale here, but still great)

An Unusual Threat to Utopias

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One of the themes of Kingdom Come is to examine what our culture takes for granted and look at it in a new light.  When someone gives their word in Kingdom, because they are often poor, it is the only way they can be trusted.  Your word, then, is your life.  Fail to uphold your promises and you find yourself ostracized from the community into more dangerous territory.

There are so many novels about dystopias these days that I decided to write an utopian story instead.  Dystopias, if they end positively, are often about hope (Fahrenheit 451).  If they don’t end well, they are about warning of what could happen (1984).  So what are the famous novels about utopias?  Quick think of one.  It’s a little harder, isn’t it?

In an utopia, you must have a threat to an idyllic setting whereas in dystopias, the setting itself is the threat.  In an utopia you are brought to the edge of losing everything its members hold dear.  My Kingdom Come and Shadow Oaks novels are both set in utopias.  In the first Shadow Oaks novel, it’s an arsonist who threatens to burn the town down and destroy the midwestern Shangri-La.  In Kingdom, the threat is far more subtle.  The world is slowly losing its charm because of an ineffective king.  It’s a lesson that, in order for something to remain healthy and viable, one must work at it.  Whether it’s a home, a job, or a marriage, one element of success is to avoid complacency.

I find complacency to be an agent of evil that people ignore.  The villain in Kingdom is not the traditional characterization on purpose.  Often an antagonist is angry, strong, loud, overbearing (Voldemort in HP).  The opposite type is cunning, subtle, sneaky (Wormtongue in LOTR).  Most famous villains have one of two faults: anger or pride.  The other five deadly sins are not often used.  When was the last time you saw a lusty or a gluttonous villain?  I decided my villain was going to exemplify sloth.  This doesn’t mean he’s so lazy as not to be a threat.  Sloth is a difficult sin to define, but in this case, it is the avoidance of doing the right thing – even when, and especially if – the right thing is difficult to do.  Sloth is the silent majority who watch their society crumble around them.  Sloth is the person who chooses to say what people want to hear not what people should hear.  Sloth undermines the brilliance and creativity of mankind.  It whispers into one’s ear: “It’s not worth the effort.”  “You can’t fight City Hall.”  “Nothing good ever comes from sticking one’s nose into matters that don’t involve them.”  “Keep your head low and you won’t get hurt.”

That’s sloth, and I find it fascinating that people uphold these sayings and this mode of thought as truth.  Kingdom Come is meant to be a mirror to society, to challenge the negative behaviors we uphold as truths and ask the questions.  Are they really true?

 

Thank You for Purchasing!

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I wanted to thank everyone who has purchased my novel Kingdom Come.  It was on my publisher’s bestseller’s list on the third week in January.  The hardcover was #1 and the softbound was #3 on January 24.  I know many of the people who purchased are friends and family. I am so grateful.  As your copy arrives, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I loved writing it.

The publisher launched the book’s website on Friday.  Check out Kingdom Come Book Website

If you are an Amazon Primer or a Barnes & Noble Booklover, you can order the book through them as well.  Either search on “Kingdom Come Fantasy” or try these links.

Kingdom Come on Amazon Prime

Kingdom Come on Barnes & Noble

So thank you all!  While we strive to make our dreams come true, we don’t do it alone.

 

What type of novel is Kingdom Come?

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I’m often asked, “What kind of novel is Kingdom Come?  Will I like it?  If it’s a fairy tale, is it for children?”

Kingdom Come is officially classified as a new adult, high fantasy novel.  The target audience is men and women in their late teens and twenties and thirties but it can be enjoyed by anyone older as well as a mature teenager.  It contains little profanity, sexual situations or erotica, or violence.  As fairy tales are the inspiration and they can be gory, the violence in the book is as matter-of-fact as one would read in a Grimm story.  I have purposely avoided graphic descriptions.

That said, the themes in the book deal with subject matter that I believe more interesting to adults than children.  While the typical fairy tale themes of virtue, patience, and courage all exist, they are presented in the context of adult situations.  Bereavement, temptation, and death are major themes, and characters deal with them in a way that may puzzle a young reader.

Readers who enjoy fairy tales or high fantasy adventures should like it.  The novel is closest in tone and subject matter to the play Into the Woods and is also inspired from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Stephen Donaldson’s first three Thomas Covenant novels.  And if you’re not a fantasy fan, note that there is a healthy dose of skepticism running throughout.

Finally, Kingdom Come is a complete novel.  It doesn’t require you to have read any other novel before it, and it has a resolution at the end.  If you haven’t read a lot of fantasy novels, or have never read fairy tales, you won’t be lost.

If you read it, let me know what you thought at jim.doran.author@gmail.com.