Why I Never Grew Up – Part 3 of 3

Self-examination. This compound word has different meanings for different people. For some, it is something to be abhorred and avoided like the plague. For others, this is a literal examination of their physical self. Yet, for those who practice this art, it is a categorical tool that allows oneself to revise their world view as well as revise their self-view. 2016 has been a year of Self-examination for me. In late 2014, I wrote my first novel, by mid-2015 I had written four novels, only two of which I published. By the end of 2015, I had written a monster one-hundred-fifty-thousand word novel that would be the start of a new series, and decided to scrap it. I spent most of the first half of 2016, revising the second novel I published (Atlas) and writing short fiction. I released one short story each month starting in February through November. Then I published an Anthology of those short stories last week.

Yet, for those who practice this art, it is a categorical tool that allows oneself to revise their world view as well as revise their self-view.

During all of this writing, I began to question what kind of writer I wanted to be. I recreated myself several times over the past year. Deciding I would be a purely Fantasy author, I created the world of Vandor and poured all of my darkness into its stories, but in pouring out that darkness, I found light. I realized that I am not the dark person I thought I was. I have dark thoughts, dark moments, like anyone else, but that darkness does not consume me as I thought it did. I mentioned last time that horror had become an outlet for my darkness. That the stories I found as a youth cried out to me regarding their kinship to my mind and heart. I found – as I began to write these dark thoughts down in the very dark world of Vandor – that I am not so dark of a person.

During all of this writing, I began to question what kind of writer I wanted to be.

Fantasy and Science Fiction are therapeutic for me, a release of my inner struggles into print. My own Pandora’s box as it were. This brought me to another realization, I love reading dark things, I love reading about hardship and sorrow, but I also need it to come to a fruitful end. It doesn’t have to be a happy ending, but there needs to be an ending that doesn’t leave me feeling darker than when I began. The same has come of my writing.

I love reading dark things, I love reading about hardship and sorrow, but I also need it to come to a fruitful end.

Science Fiction and Fantasy opened a door for me. The door stood open to a hallway of options. My initial response was to run for the darkest door I could find. I opened it and leaped into the unknown reveling in the excitement and adventure of it all. That led to many stories, settings, and ideas that lay dormant for years. When I emerged to write my first novel in 2014, I decided I wanted to write a Space Opera like Firefly and Star Wars. I’m proud that I finished the novel, but I feel that it is short of the grandiose I reached for. Still, the euphoria of writing a novel, and subsequently publishing a novel, was too good to let pass into oblivion.

I opened it and leaped into the unknown reveling in the excitement and adventure of it all.

I’ve struggled this year, I published my second novel in June, but again it did not have the same feel I had hoped it would. This led me to believe that maybe, I wasn’t cut out for Science Fiction. Which led to my inevitable turn to Fantasy. The feeling of remorse that my first two novels were not as grand as I hoped reignited that dark flame in me and I grasped onto it, holding fast in hopes of having that inspiration originally given to me in my youth. What I found was therapeutic to be sure, but the outpouring of my dark flame reminded me of my love for Science Fiction and the reason I write both Science Fiction and Fantasy.

What I found was therapeutic to be sure, but the outpouring of my dark flame reminded me of my love for Science Fiction

Fantasy is an outlet. It is my go to for short fiction with a dark twist that allows my creativity to flow when I look at the page. Fantasy will always be second though. It is, for me, a place where I can escape my fears and worries about tomorrow by returning to yesterday.

Fantasy will always be second though.

Science Fiction is my light. It is the place where I can speculate about what is to come, what I want to see, and how I will overcome fears of the future. So, why did I never grow up? Because I love the dark, but sometimes I need a little light.

Science Fiction and Fantasy are my two opposing forces that drive me forward and help me to evolve. I didn’t grow up, because growing up means leaving things behind and I’m not ready to leave behind the make-believe. Until next time folks.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Author,

DJ Morand

Why I Never Grew Up – Part 2 of 3

Growing up in the ’90s was tough for me. I know I’ve mentioned before that I am an odd duck, if not in such words. I don’t remember my childhood very clearly, at least those years before the sixth grade. I can remember impressions or moments that were particularly powerful, such as when I received my first Nintendo. However, even then my particular remembrance is more one of of joy and elation than it is a clear memory of events. The most keen memory of years I have are my pre-teen and teen years. This was the time when make-believe died for me.

The most keen memory of years I have are my pre-teen and teen years.

I was eleven years old and getting into my Mom’s car. It was my sixth grade year, but I don’t remember at what point in the year. I have always loved the realm of imagination, the world just seemed more magical when you have the naivety of youth. As I got into the car and closed the door. I asked my mommy a question. I asked her if Santa Claus was real. I saw that look on her face. That look my mommy has when she doesn’t want to tell you something, but knows she needs to tell you. I am sure I’ve had this look on my face a couple of times with my daughter. My mommy answered me truthfully. Then proceeded to tell me about the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy as well. To that last I reacted with child-like innocence, “THE TOOTH FAIRY TOO!?”

“THE TOOTH FAIRY TOO!?”

It was a moment of incredulity. For some reason my mind could not fathom that all the magic in the world could suddenly vanish with such a simple explanation. It was not my mommy’s fault. She answered the question I asked, because when you are old enough to ask, you are old enough to know. My Mommy has never denied me an answer to a question I’ve asked. It is her openness and honesty that I admire about her.

It is her openness and honesty that I admire about her.

Through no fault of my mommy’s, her answers broke something in me. The belief that magic was real and alive had been crushed. In my family we often refer to the years between child and teenager, specifically 11-16 or so, as the Dark Years. I think the reason for these years is simply that wonder and magic are placed on a sacrificial altar to make way for wisdom and responsibility.

The belief that magic was real and alive had been crushed.

That moment is a harsh transition. It was especially so for me. I am a dreamer, I love the world of make-believe, fantasy, what if?, and all that comes with them. In the dark years I found a love of the horror genre. I think this is because I needed to fill the void that the loss of wonder left. I searched for the darkness that I felt inside.

In the dark years I found a love of the horror genre.

I read Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Dean Koontz. I tore through RL Stine in my Elementary years so I was not a stranger to scary stories, but the novels from the adult authors were darker and more mature. I gave up a love of Oldies and Classic Rock for Death Metal and Hard Rock. I seeped myself in darkness so much so that I couldn’t find myself. I grew bitter and angry.

All of this I am sure had more to do with puberty than it did with the loss of belief in magic. I wasn’t sad or depressed all of the time, I had long periods of wonder and child-likeness. However, the darkness was there and it was consuming me.

I am a dreamer, I love the world of make-believe, fantasy, what if?, and all that comes with them.

I grew to love Science Fiction in these years, I had always watched Star Trek TNG with my dad, but new shows were emerging. Shows like Earth 2, Space Above and Beyond, Starship Troopers, and Stargate SG-1 became weekly doses of the make-believe that rejuvenated me. Movies like Total Recall and Robocop renewed my thoughts of What If? I can safely say that the support of my family helped me out of the Dark Years, but I would be remiss if I did not mention the love of Science Fiction that came out of that time.

Shows like Earth 2, Space Above and Beyond, Starship Troopers, and Stargate SG-1 became weekly doses of the make-believe that rejuvenated me.

It was around my Sophomore year in High School that I met a good friend. Jeff and I attended church together and he introduced me to several other odd ducks, as they were. One Saturday in November, I don’t recall the exact year, Jeff invited me over to play some table-top role-playing games. It was Jeff’s altered system from Advanced Dungeons and Dragons that he’d rewritten, but it was essentially D&D. I formed some seriously strong friendships with these guys over several years of weekend gaming.

Jeff introduced me to authors like David Eddings, RA Salvatore, and Terry Brooks. I came to love Fantasy through these stories, ironically I did not read the Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings until I was in my 20’s, shortly after the first LOTR movie debuted.

Science Fiction and Fantasy became a gateway for me, setting me on a path to writing which I’ll talk more about next week. Until next time folks.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Author,

DJ Morand

Why I Never Grew Up: Part 1 of 3

I was inspired by a writer friend’s (CS Wilde) posts about why she writes romance. It was a lovely story about how she and her beau came together. You can read the series by starting here. I love a good story, especially ones with happy endings. Although, I am a fan of the tragic ending as well. I have an appreciation for Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, and Stephen King. I don’t mind the dark alleys and forbidden corners, sometimes I feel most at home in such places.

So, why do I write Science Fiction and Fantasy? First, because reality is boring. Fiction is a gateway into something different, something that doesn’t have to play by the rules. Fiction is the boundless seas of impossibilities made possible. However, Science Fiction and Fantasy go even further beyond those boundaries, they don’t just bend the rules of reality; they break them.

Fiction is the boundless seas of impossibilities made possible.

I’ve never been very good at ignoring the What If? question. As soon as someone says ‘what if …’ my mind begins to reel. Possibilities spring up and grasp my coat strings, taking me on an adventure where the end is justified by the experience.

Science Fiction embodies the question, What if the year were #### (pick a date in the future), or What if aliens invaded now? There are many what ifs for Science Fiction, but that is the beauty of it, it is speculation. If you breakdown Science Fiction into all its wonderful sub-genres each and everyone of them begins with a What if?

What if Zombies were real?
What if we had Time Travel?
What if Corporations took over government?
What if Space Travel were possible?
What if Aliens were real?

The list could go on and on. It is the beauty of speculation that draws me to Science Fiction. The plethora of possibilities, the bounty of experience and adventure are what I seek – like an addict. Every Science Fiction book I’ve ever read left me wondering and wanting more. Books fit for consumption always reach for the what if? question.

It is the beauty of speculation that draws me to Science Fiction.

So what about Fantasy? Fantasy sneaks into my heart and mind with a different purpose altogether. There is still that what if? question that speculates on what might have been, but its allure is altogether different.

There is a place in history where technology was finite and far simpler than it is today. Throw in the spice of magic, elves, dwarfs, and goblins aplenty creating a fantastical element that sparks the imagination.

I write Fantasy because it is a doorway into the world of make-believe like no other. From Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to Rowling’s Wizarding World, Fantasy is a place for the inner child to leap for joy and take a ride on the back of a dragon through a Neverending story.

I write Fantasy because it is a doorway into the world of make-believe like no other.

So, why then, do I have these feelings towards Science Fiction and Fantasy, what inspires me to write in these genres? Well, that’s another story, that I’ll touch on next week in Why I Never Grew Up: Part 2 of 3, until next time folks.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Author,

DJ Morand

Gaudium Occupare Scribendi

As I am wont to do, I allowed my negativity to disillusion me to the idea and process of being a writer. I’ve made it no secret that I’ve struggled with book sales and advertising. I’ve tried several different methods, all while trying to maintain an insane pace. However, I have this tendency to get discouraged (depressed) when I cannot see the results of my laboring. Oh, I am sure that there are fruits, even if they have yet to bud, but I am, sometimes, a victim of my own optimism. I realize I have directly contradicted myself in talking about being depressed and negative, then turning around and espousing my optimistic attitude.

Oh, I am sure that there are fruits, even if they have yet to bud, but I am, sometimes, a victim of my own optimism.

See, that is the conundrum that is me. I have bouts of excited idea development and joy at the conquest of writing a good story, but I also wear my heart on my sleeve. I begin to envision what is going to happen and how great it is going to be, but when that image is shattered by the cruel mistress of reality … Let’s just say I lose my optimism and delve deep in the opposite direction. So where does that leave me? Well, first it leaves me questioning the anecdotes of my youth.

You can be anything you want to be.
You can accomplish anything you set your mind to.
Winners never quit, and quitters never win.

These are great anecdotes, but they can fall short and hollow if they’re not tempered with realistic expectations. I am a victim of the millennial generation’s eternal optimism and verve, but I am also a victim of Generation X’s disillusioned outlook. I was born in the ’80s and I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s. I know technology better than the back of my hand, but I also understand people (individual persons rather than people as a whole). I am an artist, but I understand the value of hard-work and a steady income. I am a dreamer, but I am rooted.

I am a victim of the millennial generation’s eternal optimism and verve, but I am also a victim of Generation X’s disillusioned outlook.

This presents for me a place of pained speculation. What If? Has always been my favorite thought. It leads to so many possibilities. However, when that What If? is applied to my lack of results for my efforts, I am led to questioning why I put in the effort in the first place. Take this blog for instance, I enjoy sharing my thoughts and feelings. It is shared through Facebook, Twitter, and through WordPress in general. I have many followers, and I am proud of that mind you, but I am looking for the results, I am always looking for validation. That’s the problem.

However, when that What If? is applied to my lack of results for my efforts, I am led to questioning why I put in the effort in the first place.

See Validation does not come from comments on a blog, Facebook likes, book sales, or book reviews. Validation has to come from somewhere though. Is it in knowing that I have given my all and given forth my best effort? For some it is. Does it come from others’ voices telling me I have done well? For some, maybe. If it doesn’t come from these sources, how then can I get the validation I need to continue putting myself out there? Book sales should help right? No, they don’t, because it isn’t about money. It is about telling a story. So the validation can only come from myself, because the encourage from others is encouragement, but they cannot tell my heart and my mind what to believe.

It is about telling a story.

For me, I need to validate my own adventure by giving myself permission to fail. Fail in book sales, fail in reviews, fail in feedback, and in general fail. If I do not, I have learned nothing. It is my experiences that shape my perceptions. However, I have been letting my perceptions cloud my judgment. I think it is time that I returned to enjoying telling stories and stopped worrying about being validated that I am a worthy author. I have accepted that I will always be a writer, but it is up to me what kind of perception I generate of myself. No one else can give me that piece of mind, so I must instead seize it and hold onto it dearly. Gaudium occupare scribendi, seize the joy of writing. Until next time folks.

Gaudium occupare scribendi, seize the joy of writing.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Author,

DJ Morand

A Letter to Calexit/Califrexit Supporters

Dear Calexit/Califrexit Supporters,

This is a letter to you, from a former Californian. If you want to secede from the Union, more power to you. However, I think you should think about the issues involved with making such a decision. I’ll bullet point them below, then I’ll break each of them down:

• A secession has to be approved by the Union (USA)
• You will have to establish your own currency
• You will have to establish your own relationship with the Federal Reserve
• You will have to establish your own military
• You will have to establish your own national defense
• You will have to establish your own coast guard
• You will have to establish your own air force
• Big Business will likely leave to be a part of the Trump America
• You will need to have a passport to enter the USA
• You will have to pass customs to enter the USA
• I am sure some of you have families in other states
• You will have to establish your own energy infrastructure or negotiate to still obtain energy from non-California sources
• You will have to establish your own embassies in the 193 other countries
• You will have to establish your own trade deals with the other 193 countries
• You will lose federal funding and will have to establish your own

Those are just the problems that come to mind immediately. So let’s break it down.

• Approval by the Union means a majority vote to put in an amendment to the United States Constitution allowing California to secede. To get an amendment into the Constitution it requires a majority vote from both congress and the senate. If the vote is not passed, the secession is not legal. The last time there was an illegal secession we called it the Civil War.
• Establishing a national currency requires a national reserve of some sort, sure you can use American Dollars, but you would first have to establish the currency exchange from the American Dollar to the Californian Dollar. Seeing as you have three major exports Milk, Almonds, and Avocados that’s going to prove to be difficult to give a proper valuation to a Californian Dollar that is approximate to the currency of other countries. Look to Mexico for what happens when the national currency valuation is lacking.
• Establishing a relationship with the Federal Reserve might seem like an easy task, but how often have you dealt with a bank to get a loan? Banks work off of risk, California as a new nation would carry a good deal of risk. No military, no established allies, etc. Remember that the Federal Reserve is not a national bank, it is a bank independent of the United States and holds loans globally, it is a part of a world bank as it were.
• The United States will pull all of their troops out of California, along with the resources that support them. Military bases will become ghost towns. The communities supported by those military bases will quickly lose revenue and business.
• The national guard will leave, because guess what? They’re the United States National Guard, not the National Guard of California.
• See above, the United States Coast Guard will relocate up the coast, to Florida, the East Coast, and the Gulf, but they will not remain in California.
• Remember what I said about the military? Guess what the Air Force is the military, all the military airplanes, helicopters, and personnel would be withdrawn from California. At this point you have no defense against the world, and if you think that China, Russia, or any other country keen on invading wouldn’t do so, just so they had a foothold in Northern America, you’re dead wrong.
• Now, even if you survive all of the above, you’re still going to lose Big Business, Restaurant Chains, National Banks, Construction, Movie Producers, etc. You name it, you will lose it, not all of it, but a good chunk will pull up roots because they either have obligations or incentives to remain with the United States. The USA has itself a big reputation and that holds sway in other countries. Not to mention the new President-Elect is looking to make changes to improve business in the USA.
• You will no longer be a citizen of the United States, you will have to have a passport to even enter the USA, and you would risk being deported if you overstay your welcome. Yeah I know we haven’t been so good at that so far, but I think that’s going to be changed if CA secedes or not.
• Along with needing a passport, any goods you transport have to go through customs. Car inspections, border stops etc.
• What about family you have in other states? Are you okay if your secession causes a war with the USA? Are you prepared to be at war with the country your family lives in? Do you even have guns? California has some really tough gun laws, the closest neighboring states not so much. Which brings up another whole can of worms, establishing your own government.
• Remember that reputation I spoke of? The USA has embassies in many countries, a fostering of international relationships, you’re going to have to establish those relationships yourselves and don’t expect all the countries to deal so nice with you, especially if this causes a war with the USA.
• Along with establishing relationships you will have to establish trade agreements with those other countries, who can you trust to deal fairly with you, you don’t have the power to enforce any deals either. No military, no arms to bear?
• Now here is where it gets really scary, you have a huge economy sure, but many of your funding for schools, social programs, etc. come from the US Government. All of those programs go away when you secede from the USA.

I believe in having the freedom of choice, I am an American and I called California my home for 23 years, give or take. However, the suggestion that California just cannot live with Donald Trump as president is as silly as Texas saying they can’t live with Barrack Obama as president. They did, and you will. Life does not always go the way we want it to, but we still press on. If you think that a Calexit is still the way to go, keep pursuing it, but I think the majority of the state would rather avoid the trouble. Until next time folks.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Author,

DJ Morand

Words … Actions … Weight

I know I have taken this platform to discuss politics in the past, usually in regard to ethnicity and equality.

Note that I use ethnicity versus the word racism. That is because it speaks to a species, the word racism is such a hot-fire topic no matter who you are. I prefer not to use it because of the connotation it has for me as a lover of words and the root of said words. If I look at the term race, this denotes to me a species of the same kind, ie. The Human Race. In order to call someone racist, I think that definition then depicts that person as thinking of those they hate as less than or different than human. I feel that the word race, when used in context with the color of one’s skin or demographic, is a misnomer. Thus I prefer the more appropriate term ethnicity. However, I am greatly digressing to express why I used a word.

My choice of specific words does play into what I wanted to discuss, though.

You see, we live in a society where one’s words are more condemning than their actions. The old adage “actions speak louder than words” has passed into dust. Now, you might think that, as a writer, I would be well pleased that words have more power than they did even twenty years ago. However, I am not well-pleased. The reason for this is because words have become the standard for which we judge a person’s character, ability, judgment, and ideals. Words have become so powerful in our sensationalist media that they are used in such a way to hook readers into an article with little relation to the actual title. I’m looking at you Huffington, Cracked, TMZ, and many others.

However, I am not well-pleased.

So what is the point of all this? Well, the point is that we have just voted for a new president. A president-elect, who by all means has a terrible way with words. His voiced opinions have caused controversy, physical violence, and hatred in other people. I want to ask, though, what weight do those words really carry? We can fear, we can speculate, we can cheer, but we do not know the weight of a person(s)’ words until they are supported by action.

As with the elections of the past, we cannot judge President-Elect Trump by the words he has spoken, either the good or the ill (depending on your point of view). We have to wait and see. I think that the promises he has made to clean up Washington, or to bring back American jobs, need to be supported by action in that direction. Even if that action is not what we expected it to be.

Even if that action is not what we expected it to be.

Whatever your feeling with regards to the new president-elect, he will be the 45th President of the United States of America.

Protesting the election will not persuade the government overturn the results, rioting in the streets will not change the minds of those that voted, nor will it have any effect on the vote itself. Attacking your friends, or unfriending them on Facebook, does not speak to a political resoluteness, but instead points to self-righteous immaturity. Many Americans voted for Trump out of a desire to prevent who they perceived as a criminal from being voted into office. Many made that choice because of the actions of Mrs. Clinton. Actions that had nothing to do with her gender and everything to do with the perpetual governmental corruption of our nation.

Instead of worrying about the things that were said, the words that were used, I am going to be watching the actions. I still believe that actions speak louder than words.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

Well, I think President-Elect Trump is about to have his character tested. I hope, for all our sakes, that he will not be found wanting. I leave you with the words of another of our presidents, because I believe his actions and the power which he held proved his character, no human is perfect, but we can all strive for excellence.

Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.
– Franklin D. Roosevelt –

This is just a reminder that this was us folks. We put Hillary and Donald in this election, we voted for who we wanted. Based on the way our government works, the majority of the vote in each state, based on that state’s population, garnered the electoral votes needed for the win. True, Hillary may have won the popular vote, but the electoral votes are what get counted in making the decision. I am no more happy about the electoral college than anyone else, but it is the law of our nation and what has been designed to ensure that no one faction of persons can ultimately control the vote. Until next time folks. Be kind to one another. Be better.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Author,

DJ Morand

A Strange Review

Marvel has been using the best actors, directors, and stories they can come up with. Doctor Strange is no exception. Let me warn you, this may contain spoilers. I’ve only just started writing so we’ll see where this goes. First let me start with a synopsis.

Doctor Stephen Strange is a neurosurgeon. A damn fine surgeon at that. He recognizes ailments like House and has a similar demeanor. Cocksure and arrogant, Doctor Strange both saves a patient from another doctor’s mistake and humiliates the man in the process. Even though Doctor Strange has long been one of my favorite Marvel characters (along with Deadpool, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Ghost Rider, and Captain America), I could not care less for Doctor Stephen Strange the neurosurgeon. I felt like they tried to make it appear as if Strange were the best of the best, but they only exceeded in vilifying him for the first quarter of the movie.

In typical cautionary fashion, the movie depicts Strange driving his fancy sports car down a winding mountain highway, while trying to read information on his phone. He clips another car and has a horrible accident. While I am all for the don’t text and drive mantra, can we stop trying to put this into every movie and television show? If people haven’t gotten the point by now, they’re not going to. Cliched (overused) drama aside, the accident had plausible consequences for Stephen Strange. Suffering severe nerve damage in his hands, he could no longer be a surgeon. This is an excellent example of a tragedy to befall a character as his hands (and his mind) are the tools of his trade. In losing his hands, we see Stephen drawn into a melancholic despair, which inevitably causes him to take leave of his senses as well.

For me, this is where the movie started. The first quarter of the movie was about backstory, nearly vilifying the Doctor, and giving a tragedy that sends him on a quest to be healed.

Unable to regain full use of his hands, Doctor Strange ends up in Nepal, seeking help from mystic forces.

Insert ’70s psychedelic acid trip.

Insert typical ’80s action hero training montage.

By the second half of the film, I was smiling and rooting for Doctor Strange. His rebellious fly by the seat of his pants is toned down slightly, but you can see it evolve when he begins to delve into the magical arts. There are some witty one-liners and a serious/funny fight scene with the film’s main baddie, played by Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal). It’s clear from the start of his training, Doctor Strange is not the average Joe, on the contrary he is contradictory, sassy, and at some points downright rebellious. However, it appears that he learns his true purpose by the climax of the film. Challenging an entity by entering its realm and forcing the entity to feel the effect of time (you’ll have to see it to understand that) thereby forcing the entity to make a bargain with Strange.

Overall, I recommend seeing Doctor Strange, it is an excellent addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and introduces a great character.

I give Doctor Strange a 4.5 out of 5 rating. The only thing keeping this from being a perfect score is the somewhat cliche of genius doctor who’s arrogant and the now ritual PSA for all movies with any type of technology or motor vehicles. Until next time folks.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Author,

DJ Morand