In the beginning …
Where would we, true believers of fantasy and sci-fi, be without the worlds we live in? Whether you’re talking about life on Middle Earth, Pandora, or Tatooine, each one of these wonderfully created planets help to take us away from the mundane and into the spectacular. Who among us didn’t imagine sharing a pint with the hobbits at The Prancing Pony, or joining Luke and Han in the Mos Eisley Cantina? I know I certainly have. The only difference was that when I was there, I was the dashing hero, getting drinks on the house, and turning down advances from all the ladies, err hobbits, and space aliens, but I digress. The point being, without the creation of these truly imaginative worlds, there would be no fantasy.
Imagine Harry Potter, not going to Hogswart, but to Harvard. Instead of taking a train departing from platform 9 ¾, he’d pull up to school in an old Volkswagen Beetle. Or imagine how you would feel if I told you that Batman didn’t drive the bat mobile and he didn’t have a secret bat cave. No, instead he drove a Hummer (he still is Batman after all) and his secret lair was a warehouse somewhere in Newark, New Jersey. Does this work for you? If so, you’re reading the wrong type of novels. It certainly doesn’t work for me. When I look to escape, I don’t want to see something that I can find right outside my window. I want to be taken to a world of mystery and explore the unknown.
One of the things that inspired me to write my novel, Mayhem’s Fountain, was being able to create a world of my own. Now granted, I kept my world on good old mother earth, but I placed my world undersea. Inspired by the master originator, Plato, I decided to tackle the mythical city of Atlantis itself. In creating my world, I wasn’t interested in trying to create some lost ancient civilization that perished ‘in a single day and night of misfortune’. No, I wanted to create a living, thriving civilization filled with mermaids and mermen that not only existed, but also dominated the seven seas. I devoted myself into taking you into the lives of the Atlanteans as they live and breathe, (yes, they breathe). I did my best to bring you into their world, to show you how it would feel to cross an Atlantean.
Who am I to take such liberties? Why, I’m just like you … a fan of the genre with a wild imagination. As a matter of fact, most of my stories originate from my dreams, and boy do I have some wild dreams. No, I’m not trying to imitate the great J. R.R. Tolkien, George R. R. Martin, or even J. K. Rowling, although I do admire them all greatly. I’ll be the first to admit that I was truly inspired by their work. That stated, I’m just another fan of the written word trying to do his best at capturing an audience that has an interest in the lost city. A tale, in my opinion that has been long overdue of a remake for quite some time.
Well, I guess I put it off long enough, but over the weekend, I finally decided to go and see the fourth edition of Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides starring Johnny Depp, Ian McShane, and Penelope Cruz. Why was I so resistant to see this movie? Hmm … how should I put this? In almost one hundred years of making films, I have never seen, or heard of a movie that combined, pirates, mermaids, and the fountain of youth all in the same story line. Surprise, there is now.
Why should this bother me you ask? Well, it just so happens that my novel, Mayhem’s Fountain, (released in November 2010) also shares those exact same elements. You could imagine my despair when I first saw the trailer to this movie. At first I was intrigued. I thought another Pirates film, okay, big fan of Johnny Depp. I certainly enjoyed the first movie Then, I saw the mermaids, and thought, damn, someone else is finally tapping into this long forgotten market. Finally, I saw their pursuit of the Fountain of Youth and I thought, are you kidding me? I mean, what are the odds?
Okay, I admit it, this was quite a blow. My initial fear was that anyone who heard of my novel would assume that I took a page out of this movie and I felt devastated. Then I thought, you know, just because we share the same elements, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Look at the vampire market. Anyone who’s seen Twilight and True Blood would have to agree with this assessment. Let’s face it, same elements, but a completely different feel. If this is the case, then my novel should be all right. I consider my story more like True Blood and consider Pirates 4 more like Twilight. Now, since I’m a fan of lists, I give you my top five reasons (10 is too mainstream) why my novel Mayhem’s Fountain is nothing like On Stranger Tides.
Mermaids: This was the element of biggest concern for me, because it is the essence of my novel. I’m very pleased to say that our image of a mermaid was significantly different. While I try and portray the Atlanteans as almost super-human beings who live under the ocean, they are exactly that – human beings. The fins they wear while in the ocean are no more than swimming aids. They live, eat, and breathe as any other human would, just with more capacity. The mermaids portrayed in the pirate’s movie views them more as vampires than sea creatures. There aren’t any mermen, just mermaids, and they thrive on eating humans. My mermaids don’t eat humans, they may detest anyone from the upper world, but they would never eat them. Not cannibals – check.
The Fountain of Youth: This was another area of great concern, because both of our stories are centered around the Fountain of Youth in some way. In Mayhem’s Fountain, the Fountain of Youth is represented as a well, centered in the middle of St. Augustine, being used daily for healing purposes by the locals in order to cure whatever ails them. In Pirate’s IV, the fountain is almost placed in another dimension, and the only way to get there is by way of some ancient ritual involving mermaid tears, and silver goblets. Once there, the only way to consume the water is to use this ritual and sacrifice humans. I don’t sacrifice humans. I share the water equally to anyone who cares to imbibe in its healing powers. No human sacrifice – check.
Pirates – This is where your characters define your story. Captain Jack Sparrow, played by Johnny Depp, is an icon that could never be duplicated. He’s aloof, whimsical, and certainly very entertaining, but is he a true captain? Sure, he’s entertained millions of followers over the past 8 years, but does he have the qualities you would expect to find in a captain? Me personally, I think Ian McShane’s portrayal of Blackbeard was far more on point. Regardless, this is Disney, and this is Hollywood, therefore Captain Jack is the hero of this trilogy plus one. My novel’s protagonist, Captain Cornelius Mayhem is nothing like Jack Sparrow. He cares for his crew like his family, has a moral compass, and tends to want to do what’s right. Is my version of a pirate captain what you would expect to find, probably not, but my captain doesn’t wear eyeliner. No woman’s make-up on captain –check.
The New World: As mentioned earlier, both stories take you to the Fountain of Youth, and if history tells us anything of this myth, the Fountain was discovered in St. Augustine. In the pirate’s movie, you go to the new world, with its lush vegetation, huge waterfalls (are we in Florida), and of course an abandoned ship on top of a cliff. How it got on top of the cliff I have no idea. In my novel, I give you a land filled with the natives of the land, fighting to take back what was theirs from the invaders. You meet the inhabitants, see into their lives, and feel their pain. I too bring you into the jungles of Florida, but I make you feel the heat. Granted, I don’t have any abandoned ships hanging from a cliff, but I do have Sasquatch. No ship hangers – check.
Story Line: Finally and most importantly, you get to the story line. Disney is Disney and they’re so successful because they have a formula that works and they stick to it. While I may not think the storyline to the latest pirate movie was that great, my son appeared to have enjoyed himself, so mission accomplished. My story on the other hand was not written to entertain children, it was written for the adult fantasy fan; therefore I can’t make an apple to apples comparison.
Bottom line, I think you have the elements for a great story in either case and the beauty of using these elements are that they are universally known. I’m pleased to see the Atlantean, or mermaid come back to glory, and frankly I think it’s a myth that’s been long overdue for an overhaul. If you’re looking to spend some time with your child and like be entertained by the big screen, go see On Stranger Tides, it’s an enjoyable movie. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to be entertained by the written word and have an interest in the subject matter stated above, give my book a try. I would love to hear your comments.
Showtime recently wrapped up their first season of the The Borgias (created by Neil
Jordan) and I thought it was an intriguing show. I had to admit, either through lack of education, or ignorance that I was not all too familiar with the Borgia family history. I am though a person of faith, so I was quite interested in watching Showtime’s version of how they portrayed the history of the papal office back in 1492.
Considering that Showtime recently concluded a very successful series in The Tudors (starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers) back in April of 2010, I’m sure they were anxious to get involved in another historical piece involving a controversial family. I was a big fan of The Tudors therefore I was eager to watch this new series. As to my opinion, I’m still on the fence. I thought the series started off a little slow, but it certainly picked up some steam along the way.
The main character in the story is based off of Pope Alexander VI, or Rodrigo Borgia, played by Jeremy Irons (1990 Academy Award winner for Best Actor in Reversal of Fortune). If this story is factually correct, then this was a very corrupt person. To think that a person of this caliber could rise up and become a Pope is very disturbing. Then again, thinking about the number of scandals involving priests and politicians these days, it’s not that hard to imagine.
Long story short, Showtime portrays Pope Alexander VI as a man who (to name a few) was guilty of adultery, greed, lust, nepotism, simony … I could go on, but I think you get the picture, not very Pope like. This was a man who desired power and riches more than any other trait, and from what I recall in the good book, not good qualities to have. ‘It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle‘, etc. His children appear to lust after one another, if not everyone else, and the family of cardinals despise him. If not for his effective diplomacy and political skills, his reign would have been short lived.
Showtime does a superb job in creating their series, whether it’s their detail to historical accuracy, or their musical scores, you immediately feel drawn into the program. The scenery is spectacular and captures the appropriate time period and of course, the costumes always appear authentic. I also applaud their effort in introducing new actors (to me at least) into production, from Holliday Grainger, as Lucrezia Borgia, to Francois Arnaud, as Cesare Borgia. Very capable actors who truly get into their roles and make their characters believable.
If you’re looking for a convincing historical portrayal of another contentious family, this series is for you. As they say in the promos, sex, murder, etc. If you’re hoping to capture The Tudors Part 2, you may be a bit disappointed. I know it’s hard to make an apples to apples comparisons (only one season vs. four), but for me, at least, it hasn’t measured up to my expectations just yet. Granted, I’m only basing this on eight programs (seems a bit short), but compared to season one of the Tudors, it lacks that punch. King Henry was quite the character and a tough act to follow. That said, I’m looking forward to seeing season two of this series to see if Pope Borgia can push me over the fence.
Well, I’m back from California. What a journey, what an experience. As many of you know I recently attended the L. A. Times Festival of Books, hosted by the University of Southern California (USC). The event was a tremendous success and I wanted to thank each and every one of you who came out to visit with me. I truly enjoyed speaking with you all. You only helped to confirm my belief that the Fantasy Fan is the greatest fan of all.
Where to begin? Without boring you with all the minute details, I will only highlight the specific experiences that came to mind. My trip was pleasant. The flight arrived on time (thanks Continental …err United), I got to watch 2 movies during the flight (The Tourist, and Gulliver’s Travels … eh and huh), and the weather was gorgeous. This was my first trip to Los Angels in more than thirty years, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had high expectations, but granted, I come from Tampa, so it’ll take more than palm tress and beaches to impress me.
Well, we didn’t start off on the right foot. Now maybe I caught the terminal on a bad day, but from where I arrived, the place was a disaster. LAX was kind enough to say ‘Sorry, please excuse our mess’, but man did they understate our mess. It looked as if the place was stripped bare – walls, floors, everything. Okay, no problem, trying to better themselves. Don’t judge a book by its cover and all.
We got our bags and hailed a cab. The man hailing the cab appeared nice enough until he opened his mouth, cursed like a sailor. Am I in the city of angles? Maybe he was just having a bad day. Beyond the cabbie that thought he was Jeff Gordon at the Daytona 500, this was the worst of what I experienced on my journey.
The morning of the event I couldn’t sleep. I woke around 5:00 and thought about everything wrong that could possibly happen. What if it rained? What if the people didn’t like the idea? Dread the thought … what if nobody showed up?
I eventually went to get some breakfast with my wife. No rain, not even a cloud in the sky. Check that fear off my list. I sat outside on the balcony and sipped coffee as I stared out at the boats docked in the marina. I wished I could sail away. No, stay focused. I have work to do. After a quick bite and some pleasant conversation, I had to admit, I started to feel a little better about the day.
We hailed a cab and drove to USC. The first song I heard as we pulled away from the hotel was the Beatles, ‘And I Love Her’. Awesome, my favorite band! This is a good sign. The weather kept true to form and there was no traffic on the way to the campus. Yes, this would be a good day. We were dropped off at the entrance of the festival and you could feel the excitement in the air.
We arrived an hour earlier than anticipated (concierge over exaggerated the time and distance), but that was okay. I didn’t want to chance being late, and I wanted to get the lay of the land. By then there were already hundreds of people at the festival with many more arriving. My confidence grew, but that was short lived.
The first thing you realize when you enter an event like this is that there are hundreds of booths in attendance, and everyone in those booths are trying to sell you something. To make matters worse, the gentleman who occupied the booth before me had no one visiting him. Panic started to set-in. What did I do? What was I thinking? Why did I come here? Thank God for my wife. She saw the doubt grow in my eyes and she took control. She simply told me to do what I had to do and she would take care of the rest.
It was now 11:30, show time. I went into my booth and felt despair for the author departing, as he carried away two bags full of books. I looked at the table in front of me and saw seventy-five books sitting there waiting for me to sign. My first thought was, seventy-five books? How was I going to carry home seventy-five books? My wife looked at me and told me to have fun. She grabbed a handful of books and started working the crowd.
It wasn’t long before the first person showed up. Thank you, God! One down, seventy-four to go. Another person then showed with a few friends … okay, this is getting a little easier. The next thing I knew, there was a line of people waiting for me to sign their book. I was blown away! They were very respectful, asked wonderful questions, and were true fans of the genre.
In the end, I signed all seventy-five books in less than an hour and I didn’t have to twiddle my thumbs. I actually had to apologize to people looking for a book. Now I wished the publisher had brought more – regardless, great relief. That in a nutshell was my experience.
What’s next? Well, for starters, it’s time to stop marketing and time to get back to writing the next novel. For all those who received a book, I hope you enjoy. To those others who spoke with me and didn’t receive one, please visit my sight, I will try and accommodate you the best I can. As for the experience, I will simply say to anyone considering doing this – do it. All you need is a willingness to take a chance in life, and some loving support. You may be pleasantly surprised.