I discovered fantasy stories when I was very young. It was probably in third or fourth grade when someone at school introduced me to The Lord of the Rings. My mom bought the books for me (including The Hobbit) and I read them in a state of wonder. Even still have those old paperbacks somewhere. They were far above my ability to comprehend, and I admit that I’ve not read them since, but it was too late – that totally invented world had me enthralled. It was also around that time that I discovered Dungeons & Dragons, probably from Kevin, who I think is the person who first turned me on to LOTR. But it could have been anyone; there were a bunch of kids at my school back then who were reading it. At any rate, D&D had me under its spell (didn’t realize I’d written that pun until editing this; I’ll leave it in, cheesy as it is), and my little group of friends and I played it vigorously. I will admit, for those of you who know anything about D&D, that we most definitely did not play strictly by the rules, but followed them in a very general manner that was completely malleable and capricious. What can I say – we were kids! And if you’ve ever tried to actually read the Dungeon Master’s Guide, you’ll know that it probably can’t hold the interest of the average ten year old for more than about seven seconds.
This was the early 1980’s, and we had Showtime at my house. That was back when you actually had to get up out of your chair and turn a knob on a little box in order to change the station. The first remote I ever saw was part of a VHS machine my dad brought home from one of his overseas military jaunts. It was a massive top-loading affair, and the remote was actually attached to the machine by a cord! But I digress. Showtime (and maybe HBO), back then, played movies like Excalibur, Hawk The Slayer, Conan the Barbarian (the original with Arnold, of course), and Dragonslayer. These films, in addition to D&D, and to a lesser degree LOTR, planted within me a love and fascination for fantasy stories, which still exists today.
I’ve always been a reader, losing myself in books for hours on end. (I just finished chapter 24 of The Count of Monte Cristo before writing this missive.) The dedication to my mother in Blackfire Volume 1 is true – she did read to me a lot when I was little, before I could read for myself. I credit that more than anything with instilling in me my love of stories. Maybe there is some genetic mutation in my DNA that causes me to love stories as much as I do, who knows. The fact remains – I have always, and always will - love stories.
As I aged I discovered other authors and genres. I read Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers right after it was released, and have read lots more of his stuff. He’s amazing! Dean Koontz is another favorite whom I’ve been reading for a long time. Sometime in early adulthood I discovered non-fiction, and that’s where I discovered my love of history. I’d always enjoyed documentaries, particularly about World War II, and I’ve consequently read several books on that conflict. So when I started college, at age thirty, I took almost all of my electives in either History or English Lit. I was going to major in Computer Science, but realized early on just how inept I am at math. Pre-Calculus almost killed me! My mind just doesn’t work that way. There was a break of several years between the time I finished my Associates degree, and before I went back to get my Bachelor’s, and when I finally did, I ended up majoring in History.
The idea for the Blackfire, as it is now written, did not come to me early in life. I’d wanted to write a fantasy series for many years, even sat down a couple times and typed some garbage that I threw away. But the notion, the desire to write something akin to all the great fantasy series I’d read was always there. I’ve got to name a few authors who were instrumental in either kindling that desire or helping to keep the idea going: Terry Brooks, Stephen R. Donaldson, Robert Jordan, and David Eddings. Thank you to all of them!
Images of Kuparuk, AK - where ideas started to materialize for the Blackfire Chronicles Series I had been thinking about for years.
The idea for the novel that ended up being published on Amazon came to me one day when I was working in the Alaskan oilfield known as Kuparuk. I think it was sometime in the fall of 2017. I’d gotten the Kindle app on my phone and was reading, if I remember correctly, The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. He is an author whose work I absolutely love, and whom I respect tremendously. The guy is dyslexic and created that world – wrote those books! Astounding! I’d discovered him in the early 2000’s, and had read the first four or five books in the series, but life took me in other directions after that. When I found him again, the Blackfire idea occurred to me. I was just reading away and there it was in my head, popped right out of the ether and into my skull. It happens like that with me. The ideas just show up happily unannounced.
I was pretty amazed – I finally had the idea I’d wanted for years. That night, maybe even right after the idea occurred to me, I don’t actually remember, I told my amazing, wonderful, beautiful wife I wanted a computer for Christmas because I had a book to write. She got me an iMac, I acquired an ergonomic keyboard because I can’t type for shit on a standard one, and here it is – The Blackfire Chronicles!
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Mark Sowers, author of works of fiction. He writes fantasy, action/adventure, loves life in Alaska.