Category Archives: Inspiration

Dreamers of dreams

Dreamers of Dreams

The late Gene Wilder quoted the first two lines of Arthur O’Shaughnessy’s poem Ode in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Google happened to use that line in the audio for their Year In Search 2016 video (see below and bring a tissue.) Inspired, I decided to share the full poem. It’s fitting for the ending of a tumultuous year and anticipation that always builds with the beginning of the new.


✷ Ode ✷


We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.


And as promised, the video…

So here we are, one year ends and another begins. Keep loving. Keep fighting. Keep dreaming. And above all keep creating. The world needs your voice.

Have a safe and happy New Year.

#My5: The Bell Forging Cycle

Welcome to #My5, a project that I’ve started, with a few of my fellow authors, across the internet. In this and other posts, we’re going to delve into five things that had influenced our current projects: it could be five people, five books, five songs, five comics or a mixture of some or all—you never know. Why five? It’s an arbitrary limitation, but it’s digestible and prevents these posts from running away from us. If you’re an author and you’re interested in joining us, you can read the introduction post or check out the info at the bottom of this post. So, without further ado, here’s #My 5: The Bell Forging Cycle.


Inspiration comes from everywhere and anywhere, and it’s different for each writer. For me, there are key instances that trigger something in my mind that inspired me to create the world of the Territories.

I tend to pitch The Bell Forging Cycle as “Lovecraftian Urban Fantasy,” which is a relatively narrow descriptive. In my article for Fantasy Book Critic, I described the series as a “dark cyberpunk post-post-apocalyptic dystopian weird western cosmic horror urban fantasy adventure,” which, yeah, was a mouthful. Instead of explaining how all that works, I figured it’d be fun to use #My5 in a way that lets me share how all of those pieces come together.


Five Influences, #1 - The Lovecraft Mythos1. The Lovecraft Mythos

This is the obvious one, but it’s important enough that I need to mention it first. I didn’t start reading H.P. Lovecraft until I was in my early twenties and attending college. While Cthulhu, Azathoth, Yog-Sothoth were on my mind, it wasn’t until a conversation in 2007 with my friend, Josh Montreuil, that I had the idea of mixing the mythos with a story like the one I wanted to write.

Longtime readers of the Lovecraftian mythos can see the signs in the world. The books are set in a world rebuilt after Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones returned, caused an apocalypse, and once again faded into myth. Their influence has a fundamental impact on the world. Landmasses have been reshaped, and humanity is no longer alone; exotic species lifted from the mythos now inhabit the world alongside us. Dark cults from stories like The Call of Cthulhu, The Haunter of the Dark, and The Shadow Over Innsmouth have risen to become large organized religions. While a knowledge of the mythos isn’t necessary to enjoy the books, there’s no denying that Lovecraft’s influence is scattered through everything.


Kowloon Walled City2. Kowloon Walled City

It’s probably no secret that I’m a cyberpunk fan. Books like William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Neil Stephenson’s Snowcrash, and movies like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner are seminal works in my life. Cities of cement and chrome, coupled with the compression of humanity, were a draw for me. In each of those worlds were millions of stories. So, when I discovered a real world example of those strange, stacked cyberpunk cities, I was fascinated.

Kowloon was a densely populated neighborhood that existed in Hong Kong during the middle of the 20th-century. Thirty-three thousand people lived within 6.4 acres of space stacked atop each other up to a height of 140 ft. The result of this mass was an isolated, multileveled community, filled with all manner of individuals, organizations, businesses, schools, and unique cultures. (Check out this fascinating cross section map or this detailed illustration to see how dense it was.) Kowloon’s existence became the spark that eventually became Lovat. It was the real-life example that triggered my concept of the vast megalopolis by the sea.


Five Influences, #3 - The Dark Tower3. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower

Stephen King’s opus is an early forerunner of genre mixing; an intense blend of western tropes, fantasy locations, and science-fiction problems, mixed with a post-apocalyptic road story starring gunslingers. I started reading the series in high school and quickly devoured what I could until it finally ended in 2004. Up until The Dark Tower series, most of the sci-fi and fantasy I read was fairly conventional.

Seeing this strange new world presented in such a way opened my eyes to what fiction could become. I can still picture walking with the Ka-Tet of Nineteen throughout Mid and Endworld. There is so much to love. The Lobstrosities, Shardik, Blaine the Mono, the city of Lud, the plains of Mejis, the Wolves of Thunderclap, and Devar-Toi are all vivid in my mind, and I continually find myself revisiting the series to this day.

And, if you’re wondering, I absolutely remember the face of my father.


Five Influences, #4 - Bas-Lag

4. China Miéville’s Bas-Lag

I love worldbuilding; I love seeding the potential of new locations and stories throughout prose. If it was King who showed me my first glimpses of weird fiction, China Miéville refined it. Perdido Street Station constructed a world that proved to me that fantasy didn’t have to be elves and dwarves, hobbits and men, orcs and dragons.

His Bas-Lag series—my favorite of which is The Scar—takes those ideas to a whole new level. Strange species crawl through Mieville’s books: bug-headed women, vampires, half-machine hybrids, sentient cacti, tiny gargoyles, disembodied hand-shaped parasites, scabmettlers—the human-like creatures who’s blood congeals to the point that it can become a sort of armor—and that’s just the start. That same approach is applied to everything from governmental structure to economics. Each book opens up new lands and strange new species, and throughout it all, Mieville does it right. He mixes and blends and creates a profound concoction that still stick with me.


Five Influences, #5 - Hellblazer5. HellBlazer (In particular M. R. Carey’s run)

One of the granddaddies of urban fantasy, the Vertigo comic series, follows the magician for hire, John Constantine as he drinks and smokes his way through England, America, Hell, and all parts in between. There is something about his wisecracking ways and indifferent attitude that I love. Constantine is relatable; he isn’t some all-powerful superhero; he isn’t some wealthy playboy; he is a working class stiff who is more clever than good and more determined than heroic.

Constantine is relatable. He is Walter White, a man doing bad things for good reasons. While Waldo Bell isn’t Constantine, there is a similarity between the characters. Both are dogged and driven men who would stop at nothing and go to any lengths to defeat what they see as evil. Heroes don’t always need to be golden paragons of humanity. They can and should be flawed.


So those are #My5, my collection of properties that influenced The Bell Forging Cycle. Each has had a profound impact on me creatively. You can check out my series at bellforgingcycle.com or hit up any of the specific books at the links below to read excerpts and learn more about the world of the Territories.

The Stars Were Right – Old Broken Road – Red Litten World

I’m not alone in collecting #My5! Other authors have joined me and written their #My5. You can find their articles by following the links below. Make sure to look for links at the bottom of their posts as well.


Are you a published (indie or traditional) author who is interested in joining in the #My5 fun? Write your article following the format above (remember, the limit is five), link to your work and others’ posts, and shoot me an email at hello at kmalexander.com, and I’ll add you to the list above and the official #My5 page! You can download the #My5 logo at any of the links below.

Download the #My5 Logo600×600 PNGs: White | Black
1200×1200 PNGs: White | Black
(Vector version available upon request.)

“But life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant to last.” —Prince, 1999

Parties Weren’t Meant to Last

“But life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant to last.”

Prince, 1999

Prince passed away yesterday; he was fifty-seven. Between the fan tributes, listening to the nonstop playlists on KEXP, and watching buildings lit in purple as tribute around the world, I’ve found myself musing over his loss and how I handle the death of someone like Prince.

2016 has been a rough year for music already; we have lost some incredible titans: Maurice White, Merle Haggard, Phife Dogg, the indomitable David Bowie, and more. The internet as a whole allows all of us to share in moments together, and following each loss comes an outpouring of love, respect, and sadness. It’s beautiful to see how many people are touched by the creations of a single individual.

I was talking with a friend of mine this morning about how I handle moments like this differently. I didn’t know Prince personally, so I don’t cry, and I don’t generally get emotional. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care. My emotions just go in a different direction. As I reflect on Prince’s life, I find myself inspired.

The quote I pulled from the lyrics of 1999, really resonated with me this morning—like a party, life doesn’t last. We are here on this earth for a finite time, and we’re lucky enough to live in an age where we can pursue whatever we wish. Often people squander this. I know I have. I can’t begin to calculate how many hours in the past I’ve wasted.

For me, the death of a titan like Prince doesn’t depress me. Sure, I will miss seeing performances like the halftime show from Super Bowl XLI, but looking back on his life and seeing what he was able to do in only fifty-seven years leaves me in awe. Prince’s life shows us what can happen when you are willing to put aside distractions and pour 100% of yourself into your creations. Look at his impact on music. Look at his influence in songwriting. Look at how he inspired so many generations of performers. A skinny kid from Minneapolis, Minnesota profoundly changed music forever. We won’t forget that, and that’s incredible. That energizes me, motivates me, and it makes me want to put aside all distractions and do the same.

The party of life may not last, but if you throw a good one, the memory will never fade. Rest in peace, Prince. Thanks.

David Bowie

David Bowie on Stardust

My friend Emily shared this Blank on Blank and, after watching it, I knew I’d need to post it here. Some wonderful and amazing thoughts from David Bowie. I especially like his reasoning around art and audience and the artist’s relationship to their work. Watch it below.

“You should turn around at the end of the day and say I really like that piece of work or that piece of work sucked. Not, was that popular or wasn’t it popular?”

Rest in peace, Mr. Bowie. Thanks for being one of the good ones.

WoodyGuthrie

Woody Guthrie’s List of “New Years Rulin’s”

In 1943, American folk legend, Woody Guthrie wrote down a list of promises he wanted to keep for a good year. Not unlike the New Year’s resolutions people make today. The list is an interesting read, and I have a few observations. But first, check it out:

Woodie Guthrie's "New Years Rulin's"Click the Image to View It Larger

Here’s the full list:

  1. Work more and better
  2. Work by a schedule
  3. Wash teeth if any
  4. Shave
  5. Take bath
  6. Eat good — fruit — vegetables — milk
  7. Drink very scant if any
  8. Write a song a day
  9. Wear clean clothes — look good
  10. Shine shoes
  11. Change socks
  12. Change bed cloths often
  13. Read lots good books
  14. Listen to radio a lot
  15. Learn people better
  16. Keep rancho clean
  17. Dont get lonesome
  18. Stay glad
  19. Keep hoping machine running
  20. Dream good
  21. Bank all extra money
  22. Save dough
  23. Have company but dont waste time
  24. Send Mary and kids money
  25. Play and sing good
  26. Dance better
  27. Help win war — beat fascism
  28. Love mama
  29. Love papa
  30. Love Pete
  31. Love everybody
  32. Make up your mind
  33. Wake up and fight

I am sure Guthrie never meant any of us to see this list. It’s intently personal and covers things like simple hygiene, financial decisions, and maintaining family relationships. However, I found it interesting how even Guthrie, who was a musical genius who inspired a generation of folk singers, has to encourage himself in his art. We can see how he wants to keep working hard, how he wants to continue to improve his craft. He mentions working on a schedule and staying productive. This from the father of folk music.

Many creatives struggle and get depressed when they see someone else celebrating their victories. Why does it seem so easy for them, but so hard for ourselves? We wonder why we can’t get something done or why it feels so difficult. But the truth of the matter is its hard for everyone. Even a genius like Guthrie struggled. We can see it in this list.

I think my favorite “rulin” is also some the most important advice we can take from this list and I believe it was the reason Guthrie was so successful with his music. Number thirty-three: wake up and fight. Every day.

125 Years Of Weird

Today marks the 125th birthday of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, grandfather of the weird fiction genre. If you’re a regular reader of this blog or my books then it’s no secret that the Lovecraft’s mythos was a major influence on me and my Bell Forging Cycle. I’m not alone, there is a growing subculture of weird fiction aficionados and writers and it’s awesome to see.

There’s a lot that has been said about the man. So, instead of waxing poetic about Lovecraft, his work, the controversy around his personal beliefs, and his influences on horror, I figured I’d link to some of my favorite articles that help paint the picture of the man, expand on his influence, or delves into the legacy he left behind.


H.P. Lovecraft: Fear Of The Unknown

This 2008 documentary by director Frank H. Woodward is the perfect primer on everything Lovecraft. Using interviews with prominent writers, directors, and artists the documentary explores Lovecraft’s life and how his experience help shaped his beliefs and ultimately his work. It doesn’t shy away from anything and everything is presented in an open and candid way. I’ve mentioned it before, but for this post I figured it’d be a good starting point.


It’s OK To Admit That H.P. Lovecraft Was Racist

Using Lovecraft as the example, author Lauren Miller asks the question, can we appreciate a writer’s work while disdaining their offensive beliefs? It’s something every fan of Lovecraft reader must confront and it’s something the Lovecraftian fan community cannot ignore. It’s important that we reflect on the negative aspects of the man and allow ourselves to analyze why Lovecraft was a racist and how it ended up influencing his work.


H.P. Lovecraft And His Lasting Impact On Cinema

From Directors like Guillermo del Toro and John Carpenter, to screen writer’s like Dan O’Bannon. It’s clear that Lovecraft’s influence has impacted the silver screen. In this post from 2011, Den of Geek explores some of those connections and  celebrates Lovecraft’s lasting influence.


H. P. Lovecraft: The Science of HorrorPart 1 & Part 2

In this extended essay, CDK explores Lovecraft’s origins. Starting with the events around World War I and how they influenced him and shaped his reality. Then moving onto the man himself and how his work would go on to influence others, extending from short stories into books, film, comics and beyond. It’s a long essay, but worth the time if you’re interested in a deep exploration of Lovecraft’s influences.


Jason Thompson’s Illustrated Lovecraft

A while back I stumbled across the detailed work of San Francisco-based illustrator Jason Thompson. His work is highly detailed and amazingly rendered. I feel like I could spend hours exploring each page. I highly recommend checking out his illustrated take on some of Lovecraft’s stories:


The Shadow Over Innsmouth

Since we’re reflecting on Lovecraft’s weird fiction today, I wanted to pick my favorite Lovecraft tale. For me, that’s easy: The Shadows over Innsmouth has action, adventure, a strange sea-god worshiping cult, and a pretty intense final sequence. It’s a fun read. If you’re so inclined to listen to the story I’d recommend checking out the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre’s production.


Cthulhu The Wimp

Earlier this year I wrote a lighthearted guest post for Michael G. Munz poking a bit of fun at Cthulhu, Lovecraft’s most famous creation. He’s the de facto and beloved mascot for the mythos. But, what if all this love and terror is based on false presumptions? What if I was to tell you that Cthulhu wasn’t all that terrifying. That he’s more a product of good marketing and overzealous rumormongering? What if Cthulhu is, in fact, a wimp?


There’s a lot happening to celebrate the 125th birthday of grandpa weird. Today marks the kickoff for the NecronomiCon in Providence, RI and there are discussions happening all over the internet. One of my favorite sites, Art of the Title, even did a feature for the opening credits of the 1970s Lovecraft B-movie The Dunwich Horror.

How about you? Is there any Lovecraft related link you love? Is there an artist you adore working in the weird? What’s your favorite Lovecraft story? Has Lovecraft impacted any of your favorite authors? Why not leave a comment and let me know!