Humans, man… Humans.

We’ve had this planet to ourselves for so long, we take for granted how fragile our hold is on so many things. Humans have long been at the top of the food chain, masters of natural resources, founders of empires, creators of art, inventors, scientists, and builders of civilization. We’ve patted our collective back for our dominion over the Earth, smiled as we bent nature to suit our needs, and been content that everything we see belongs to us for our children to inherit. We’ve forgotten how quickly that can change.

Fantastic America, and Midwestern Magicians shows just how humans would react to a sudden change in our collective circumstances. If we were no longer the apex predator on Earth, no longer the only master of forces that can contend with nature, or science, or faith, how long would the modern civilization we take for granted survive? Humans may not be a universally pretty species, we stumble and fall far too often, but the one trait that has saved us from collapse so far is our adaptability. If we can adapt to ice ages, desertification, and overpopulation, maybe we can adapt to a a world of magic, monsters, and miracles.

What if…?


Possibilities and questions about what could happen inspire most of my work. Fantastic America and Midwestern Magicians examine what would happen if magic returned to our modern world. Other stories I’ve written (however poorly) examine other questions. Like, what does it mean to be human? What do we share in common as a species (like food, sleep, and death) and what differences (cultural, religious, and technical) are there besides that? Sometimes especially in a novel length work, several questions come up through the narrative. What is the right thing to do in a given situation, and how do you choose when there is more than one ‘right’ choice? How does the toss of a coin, or roll of the dice change what could happen into what does happen? Choices my characters make and the repercussions from those choices are one of my favorite topics to explore. Not making a choice at all is great to explore, though it can be tough to show how restraint is the best choice of all sometimes.

While in the Navy, I was once put in charge of firing a missile at a drone off the coast of Crete. We spent weeks preparing, days arming the missile before the firing event, and the whole ship was expecting to see a launch and explosion. On the day of the exercise I was ready to shoot. Tension was high, other Naval vessels were taking part in the exercise as well. My ship lined up to fire and everyone on board expected me to shoot down this drone. (Drones were new and untested in the Navy back then.)

I had the drone lit up on my radar, but it kept drifting out of the safe firing zone. When I finally locked on again, it had drifted too close to a trailing ship. My finger was on the launch button, but firing would endanger the ship behind us. The firing range reported seconds later that they had lost control of the drone. They recovered what was left of it on the shoreline later. If I’d shot that day, I would have put over three hundred fellow sailors in harms way. I chose restraint, but that is hardly as sexy or exciting as Luke’s run on the Death Star.

Readers (and authors) want satisfying endings…

thick strong rope on deck

I don’t mean that every loose end must be tied up, or every mystery solved, but the main points have to have some resolution, even if it’s temporary. More important from a writer’s perspective, whatever premise, plot device, character flaw, or question asked in the inciting incident (Act I of the three part structure) needs a definite resolution in or near the climax (Act III’s pivotal moment). The best stories see the main character triumph not just over the antagonist, but over whatever held them back from heroism to begin with. Luke lets the force guide him, Frodo gives up the ring (and a finger), After defeating Shaddam IV, Paul Muad’Dib sees the bloody Jihad unleashed in his name.

Okay that last one sets up the rest of the Dune series, but the resolution still ties up the majority of the plot set up in the first Act. Each of those examples feels fulfilling because the problems encountered along the way, Frodo’s Journey, Luke’s battle with the Empire, and Paul’s confrontation of ‘The Outer World’ satisfies the readers desire to finish what Act I sets in motion. Catharsis in each of these stories comes from the resolution of the immediate conflict, the main character and their companions survival is an added bonus that makes their victories even more satisfying. Look for that same idea in one form or another in Fantastic America, not that all the loose ends will be tied up, but that Ashley Monahan will resolve the issues she struggles with through the climax.

Characters come to life on the page…

cheerful multiethnic girlfriends taking selfie on smartphone on sunny day

Some of the best dialogue I’ve ever written comes from the characters I’m writing about themselves. Of course all the ideas, words and thoughts are coming from me, but it doesn’t feel that way sometimes. In moments of pure creation, I’m more of a court scribe, recording a conversation for posterity than a writer pecking at a keyboard. When my muse is fully invested in my work, the words fly from my fingers like Lachesis weaving destiny for mortals long ago. It’s heady stuff, and other times without divine intervention can feel cheapened in comparison. I have to write through those scenes too, and wait for the next tie lightning strikes. The best part is writing enough that those times don’t feel so far apart!

Characters can surprise me when the scene unfolds in unexpected ways. Dialogue is only one example of characters putting their stamp on the pages of a story. Actions, reactions, plans and mistakes all push characters and their responses in different directions. Sometimes I have to reign in the impulse to let them roam free to keep the narrative on track. It’s easy enough to lose my way with the plotting I do for a scene compared to the entire act or over arching plot, but a willful character can send me off the rails and make me question (sometimes for the better) the plan I had to begin with. I’ve rewritten more than a few times because the idea I came up with while exploring a character was better than my first thought without consulting them. 🙂

The distant past still impacts the present day…

ancient architecture art cosmos

Magic has flowed into our world before, and whole cultures lost in the distant past relied on magic to function. I’ll leave descriptions and notes about those cultures for future posts. Those cultures perished without a trace when magic failed and the bleak times began. People from these cultures were either scattered to the winds or died trying to find a way to survive a world without magic. For us, the bleak times were normal. Civilizations have risen and fallen for over six millennia without magic to sustain them. The people who lived through the end of the last magical age adapted to an Earth much different to the one they new. Just like modern inhabitants of the Magic Unleashed series have to adapt to the changing environment in Fantastic America and Midwestern Magicians.

Just the same, those cultures left a legacy that survived their demise. All over the world, people will rediscover traces of these civilizations lost to the bleak times. In addition to ruins never explored by archaeologists, some of those traces take the form of relics from that forgotten age. Scattered around the globe just like the people from those long gone cultures, these relics still hold power and pose dangers to those who find them now that magic has returned to the modern world.

Ghosts are real in Fantastic America…

art fingers foggy hand

But they are not the only spirits loose in the world. Ghosts have lingered in the world of the living after death for thousands of years, but since the winter solstice of 2012, they are now few and far between. Those left behind share one common trait, a strong attachment (sometimes involuntary) to the world of the living. Other spirits that go bump in the night were constrained by these free roaming apparitions are now free themselves. Wraiths dark parodies of human ghosts left over from the last magical age now scourge the living. They seek to corrupt and consume the essence of the living. Other even more alien spirits linger in places far from the living and the dead. The purposes of these lonely spirits seldom ever coincide with either the living or the dead. They have granted boons and curses through hastily agreed to bargains. These spirits and more now populate the changing Earth in Fantastic America and Midwestern Magicians, the first two books in the Magic Unleashed series.

The research I warned you about…

assorted books on shelf

Has taken me to some really amazing places. I do worry how deep in the rabbit hole I am from time to time, but following those trails is still rewarding. Since I’m not on anyone else’s schedule right now, I don’t see the harm once in a while in following a particularly meaty subject. I tend to dive into historical topics more than anything else, the older and more mythical the records are, the better. My absolute favorites are mythical founders of dynastic traditions, Romulus and Remus, King Arthur, Pharaoh Narmer (or Menes) of Egypt, and Qin Shi Huang of China for a few examples. Weird stories about these folks, strange portents around their births, lives, or deaths also intrigue me. If there are ruins or preserved landmarks associated with them on top of that, I’m hooked. I can spend day or hours tracking down information on any of this, but ultimately it all has a purpose. I end up using what I find to model characters, back stories, or plot threads for my books. Sometimes my characters have to follow clues I discovered in my research, or uncover something of that sort in their story. Ultimately even my dives into obscurity wind up on the page. (I spent a whole summer researching New Orleans!)

Ready or not…

I’m making the leap to my new domain name! I’ve copied over all the blog posts here, all the media files from this site and I’m hopping over to – – If all goes well, this will be the last post I make from this domain. I’ll keep Renegade-Galaxy online for now, but expect my next blog post to be from the new, Fantasy oriented pages. I’m excited, nervous about the change, but always hopeful this will help more people find my content ahead of my debut novel, Fantastic America. The editing is ongoing for that project, but I hope to wrap it up and get back to Midwestern Magicians next month! I see exciting times ahead – Happy New Year!!!