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.

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.

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

The illustration below is a cropped image of a scene from the book. Click on The Forest of Blood Battle  to see the full depiction also by Daniel Johnson.

Planet the pixie
Planet the pixie

 

To purchase: Kingdom Come – Hardcover

Kingdom Come – Softcover

Kingdom Come – eBook

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

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.

Are Fairy Tales Relevant?

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And they lived happily ever after.

What do those words call to mind?  If you said “fairy tales,” you would be in the vast majority of people.  At first blush, fairy tales are innocent, childhood stories meant to instill right and wrong virtues in children before bedtime.  More recent scrutinization of fairy tales have uncovered gruesome plots and disturbing subtexts which has fed the dark literature craze.  A quick check of IMDB shows us everything from multiple G-rated to a few R-rated Snow White offerings and everything in-between.

Fairy tales are undergoing a revisionist take in modern times.  The most basic revision is switching the genders of the main characters—the little Merman, anyone?  Some are wonderfully executed as in Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, and some…less than wonderful.  Why are people attracted to fairy tales, why do we feel the need to change them, and does any of it matter?

If someone wrote a straight fairy tale story or produced a high-budget fairy tale movie in modern times, they would be thrown out on their ear.  The closest we have to an original fairy tale in the classic sense is The Princess Bride.  There have been a lot of good fairy tales written, but have there been any that will stick around for centuries?  As good as it is, even The Princess Bride winks at the audience where Snow White or Sleeping Beauty never would.  We know we shouldn’t be attracted to one-dimensional characters, tried-and-true plots, and thin backstory, but we can’t help but seek them out.  Why is that?  I think it has to do with a back-to-the-basics approach that a story, told well, is always successful.  A tale that fires the imagination is always welcome, if not by critics then by the paying audience.  It’s why summer blockbusters with the thinnest of plots succeed.  We want a simple world.  We want a chiseled jaw hero or heroine.  We want to see evil defeated soundly.  Every so often we like to see a dark hero (Batman), a complex world (the Matrix), or evil slip through our fingers (any horror movie that set up a sequel).  Yet a steady stream of the opposite does not do our psyches well, and then we long for Rapunzel to let down her hair.  Why?  Because it’s about time someone saved that poor girl!

And as an aside, I am fine with women saving men or boys too.  We’ve gotten into our heads saving a woman is sexist.  Heck, if I’m being held captive in a bank and a woman police officer charges in, I say “Thank God!  Please save me!”  The idea we can all save ourselves is a lie, and possibly a topic for a future blog.  “Saving people” is a great theme and shouldn’t be dismissed because there are male chauvinists in the world.

If these are such good stories, why do we change them?  Because everyone knows them and no one wants to see the same story played out once again.  Cue the revisionism.  I’m not against revisionist stories if they’re clever, but, quite frankly, they are often mishandled.  After reading one, I long to reread the original and, when I do, I realize why it was so fantastic in the first place.  Revisionist tales, whether they be fairy tales, superheroes, science fiction, fantasy, classic literature, whatever, often start the wrong way.  They start with a taking an existing idea and twisting it around.  Instead, it should start in a writer’s mind with a complex character, an arc, plot points, setting, etc.  After this story is coming together, the author should say “Hey, this is a lot like so-and-so, but changed a little.”  For example, someone has an idea about writing a story about a man who has been kidnapped and out of society for a number of years.  The writer wants to explore the man’s disassociation and re-integration with the modern world through the help of a secondary character.  The main character is locked in an impenetrable prison, one filled with traps and other challenges.  Cue a second main character, a female black ops agent who feels her career is over for some recent failure.  Her supervisor assigns her this task.  Suddenly, the author says “Hey, this is a little like Rapunzel” and then starts to assemble the pieces to mirror the classic fairy tale.  Note the idea didn’t start as “Let’s do Rapunzel as a spy story.”  There are too many missed opportunities with this approach and too much winking at the audience.  You can almost hear the author say “How clever I am” as you read the novel.

Please note that revisionist is not the same as extending or providing backstory to a fairy tale.  Stephen Sondheim’s excellent Into the Woods is not revisionist, but an extension of the fairy tales we know.  He builds on characters we know and love and puts them in uncomfortable, modern situations to see how they fare.  This story is first and foremost a reflection on parenting, on successes and failure, on viewpoint.  I don’t know how he came up with the idea, but the themes are universal and don’t need fairy tale settings and characters to make its point.  The fact that it uses fairy tale conventions is genius.

So why change them?  Because we want to retell them, but we also want to put our own spin on them.  This is fine and follows a long tradition of oral telling.  Grimm’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was not the first version of the story.  Many people told the story and added or subtracted from it.  There’s nothing wrong with that.

Whether original versions or revisions thereof, do we really need fairy tales?  What can Snow White tell us in our jaded world of terrorism levels?  Is Sleeping Beauty a passive female character waiting for her prince to wake her up?  And what relevance does a story like the Little Mermaid, in which she gives up her true prince because of his love for another, have with today’s message of “take what you can get?”

The answer is “you betcha they can teach us a thing or two.”  If you believe fairy tales as childhood bedtime stories, you’re sadly missing out.  A fairy tale is a short story, and if short stories still have relevance then so do fairy tales.

Let’s pick on Rapunzel.  Oh heaven help us, the stereotype.  Brought up by an evil stepmother, stuck in a tower, waiting for her prince to come.  The prince climbs up the tower by her hair, and then what?  Do you know the story?  Do you think that he rescues her and carries her off to his castle?  Why don’t you to read it again?

The story of Rapunzel is fascinating in many ways.  Is the witch so bad?  She asks for Rapunzel from her parents who willingly give her over.  She tries to keep her “child” sheltered from the world until the prince hears her, and they bond over the sweet songs she sings.  The prince visits her until Rapunzel lets it slip the prince has been there.  The witch, in a rage, beats her, cuts her hair and sends her into the desert.  The prince returns, the witch lowers the hair, the prince climbs it and is frightened by the witch.  He escapes but loses his eyesight and wanders around aimlessly for years until he hears Rapunzel again.  When he does, she comes to him with his two children by her side.  She cries into his eyes, heals him, and they live a long and happy life.

Is this an irrelevant tale?  Oh probably.  We don’t have parents who want to shelter their children by locking them in their houses, hoping their electronic devices will entertain them instead of the world.  Boys and girls don’t bond over music anymore.  Thankfully, teenage girls don’t rebel against their mothers and let it slip they’re seeing a boy behind their backs.  Fortunately for us, we are a patient world—we don’t need to hear about people wandering around for years in search of their true love—because we don’t have get-rich-quick schemes and road rage anymore.  We also have eradicated teenage pregnancy.  And a family reuniting?  Phhht.  That never happens anymore.  Lucky for us, all of this is in our past and Rapunzel has nothing left to offer us.

Is this a sexist tale?  Here again, we have a young woman pining for a handsome prince and being rescued by the same.  My version states this when the prince enters Rapunzel’s room.  “Rapunzel was greatly terrified when she saw that a man had come in to her, for she had never seen one before…”  Not pining, but reacting as an intelligent woman should when a stranger invades her house.  You object.  She’s still a fairly passive, modest maiden.  There’s no strength to her you say.  I say you try raising two children in the middle of a desert.  This doesn’t sound like a faint-hearted woman to me.  But, you say, the prince saves poor Rapunzel.  Can you tell me exactly in which way he accomplishes this feat?  Rapunzel, because of the prince, is beaten, her hair is cut, and she’s abandoned.  The prince blinds himself in his escape and he wanders around.  And then what happens?  “…Rapunzel knew him, and fell on his neck and wept.  And when her tears touched his eyes they became clear again, and he could see with them as well as ever.”  Who saved who?

But then he whisks her away to his castle and makes her a princess.  Granted!  And if I were a prince and this maiden was the mother of my two children, raising my kids against the odds and restoring my sight, you bet I would whisk her away to my castle and marry her.  Let a woman like that get away?  Not on your life!

To me, Rapunzel is the heroine of this tale.  And if you distill the relevant points in the tale, you’ll see the story is just as good, if not better, than most modern short stories, and a whole lot more entertaining too.

I submit, and will stand by this final point.  Namely, the world would be a better place if we all took the time to read more fairy tales.

All the way from Kingdom

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Welcome to the blog celebrating genre stories of fantasy, horror, and adventure.  We are currently examining a parallel world known as Kingdom.  Click around the site to learn more about Kingdom, read about its inhabitants and its first exciting novel – Kingdom Come.