Monthly Archives: October 2014


This close to Halloween, I thought I’d dwell on monsters for this post. I’ve always been drawn to bizarre and dangerous creatures of the imagination–vampires, werewolves, extraterrestrials. You name it and if they are part of the science fiction, fantasy, horror and supernatural canons, so much the better.

However, I once read an article which stated the most frightening monsters are those that are the most human-like. Giant insects, rampaging dinosaurs, deadly viruses, killer tomatoes–yeah, those are all scary but, the point of the article was, basically, the more the menace looks like us, the more frightening it is. Because those kinds of monsters remind us of ourselves. Or a darker version of ourselves.

I tend to agree with that. The Blob was horrifying. The cursed, mobile tree of “From Hell It Came” was scary (albeit goofy). Godzilla and King Kong made you scream in terror. But those monsters which have more human qualities or appearances that exist in the dark tend to be the most interesting to me, as well as the most frightening.

Take zombies, for example. I may have ranted here before how I’m not a big fan of zombies, although I’m writing what I call an “alternative zombie” novel. Go figure. But most, if not all, zombies can’t talk, they can’t reason, they just shamble or (these days) run around eating people. Yawn. Imagine, though, if a zombie could talk, make plans, try to outwit you by its intelligence. The idea of a monster being on our intellectual and creative levels (or beyond) is far more interesting than just a slobbering beast. Although slobbering beasts are fun once in a while too.

An example is from the recent remake of The Time Machine starring Guy Pierce. In H.G. Wells’ book and the in 1960 movie version, the morlocks were just primitive, ape-like creatures although driven by a hive-like mind. Sort of like ants. In the 2002 version of The Time Machine, there are “uber-morlocks,” who are intelligent, can speak, and direct their bestial minions. Jeremy Irons played such a morlock in the movie and it really added a whole other level of complexity and interest to it. Of course, it’s Jeremy Irons, so any role he plays is bound to be good. He looked great too, with long white hair, pale skin, and piercing blue eyes. Yikes.

What’s more scary–the creatures in the Alien movies or the Predators? That’s a toss-up, I admit, but I vote for the Predators, again because they look more human-like, at least their bodies. Their faces–ugh. Remember when Charlton Heston’s character, Taylor, said his first words to his ape captors? Their reaction? See what I mean?

Of course, there are human monsters as well. Serial killers, child molesters, terrorists, etc. They’re compelling when used as fictional characters in novels and short stories, I admit, but to me, they’re way too real, brutal and disgusting. They’re in the news all the time, unfortunately. Give me a fantasy or supernatural monster (human or otherwise) any time. They’re not real. Or are they?

In both my novels, I’ve created monsters of all types. The Sixth Precept, being an urban-fantasy, has many Japanese mythological creatures running amok. Using artistic license, I’ve changed some of the attributes described to them to create more human-like characters. And, I’ve created a human-canine hybrid called a shadow-tracker, which, although it’s like a werewolf, can talk and think for itself. And, in the end, it can change and evolve.

In my upcoming fantasy novel, Blood of the Daxas, a dragon is one of my main characters. But, again, this is a dragon that is intelligent and can communicate. That’s been done before, I realize, but I’ve added a couple of different abilities to this dragon, one of which I hope comes as a surprise to the readers.

The ebook release of Blood of the Daxas is scheduled for next Thursday, November 6. I’ll post more info next week.

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A couple of recent experiences has moved me to return to discussing “real” magic. One was a trip to southern Colorado and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The other took place much closer to home.

Earlier today, I was sitting in the dogwood meadow of the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden ( No one else was around, the sky was a light gray overcast. A slight breeze blew through the surrounding trees, some of whose leaves had turned their fall colors. Beautiful, peaceful spot.

I’m not a very religious person but I knew there was a presence there, a power, an unseen, mystical resonance that was all-encompassing. Even though the sun was mostly obscured and there was a slight chill in the air, I felt as if I was in another world.

It was real magic.

It was like the powerful sense I got when visiting Stonehenge and Avebury Circle in England and sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon at twilight. More recently, I felt the same sort of supernatural force, if you will, at the Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde in Colorado and the Native American ruins at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. The landscape of that part of the country is so defining, so monumental, so elemental, that it takes the breath away. And, despite civilization’s encroachment, its brutal and ruthless intrusion, the magic still exists there. I could feel it all around me.

Oh, I know the idea of magic being displaced by non-belief and modern culture has been batted around countless times before. And I certainly can’t write as eloquently as John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, Rachel Carson, or Tony Hillerman when they describe their natural worlds. Yet, here’s how I felt

Simplistic as it sounds, what I’m saying is one’s mind has to be kept open, the smart-phones put away, the preconceptions buried. You have to turn yourself into a “receiver” in order to detect and pick up on the forces of nature, the cosmos, the supernatural, of magic, whatever you want to call it.

It’s all there. I’m not saying we should all abandon our lives and “go back to nature” but there’s absolutely a place for every one of us to think and feel like we’re really a part of the energy that holds everything together. We all just have to find it and those places are closer than you think. Humankind hasn’t destroyed everything yet.

In my novel, The Sixth Precept (, medieval Japan evokes spiritual and supernatural elements with its religions, myth, and culture. I tried to get that as correct as I could, to bring out those mystical forces, to make them characters in the book themselves.

In my upcoming new novel, Blood of the Daxas (, the secondary world of the Imperium is attuned to magic, its lands soaked in it. There exists different kinds of magic in this world and different kinds of magic-wielders–magic of the mind, of nature, of religion, of blood.

But a new “magic” has arisen to challenge those–technology. In an ultimate battle, which of those types of magic will survive?

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