I’ve had entirely enough of career politicians. It would be a simple thing to segue from that statement into a discussion of term limits, which I heartily support at both the state and national levels, but that’s not the purpose of this missive. Instead, I want to explain why I’m voting for Bob Lyons in the upcoming special election for the Congressional seat left vacant when Don Young passed away. Now if he wasn’t an example of a career politician, then I guess I don’t know what one looks like.
There are currently forty-eight (!) individuals vying for Young’s former seat, and I only recognized a few of their names when my mail-in ballot arrived. (Mail-in balloting needs to be eradicated nationwide, by the way.) I glanced through the list of names and immediately discarded all Democrats. I’m currently reading The Gulag Archipelago by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn and am nearly finished with the second of its three volumes. If you haven’t read it, you should. And if you believe Marxism, Socialism and Communism are the way to Utopia, then you really should read it. Since the current Democrat party is so enamored with these incestuous, destructive and murderous ideologies, and since I’m so diametrically opposed to them, then, mirabile dictu, I simply can’t vote for anyone affiliated with the donkey party.
So who does that leave? Why independents (on the ballot they're marked as "Undeclared" and "Nonpartisan") and Republicans, of course. I haven’t voted for a Democrat in any election since the Clinton administration. (Back then I was largely undecided in my political opinions and voted based on criteria I’d rather not reveal; I’m slightly ashamed of my one-time ignorance and less-than-logically-sound former voting methodology.) Information on all forty-eight candidates was not provided with the ballot. Which is as it should be. If one is going to cast a ballot in an election in the United States of America, then it is incumbent upon that individual to educate themselves concerning the candidates and issues. And that’s exactly what I set out to do.
The State of Alaska’s Division of Elections features a Candidate page where one can find contact information for each person running for office. It also displays a link to a website, should a candidate choose to create one for their campaign. This is where I started my research. Many candidates did not have a website listed, and I simply skipped over those. Everyone has a website these days, even me. If you’re going to run for the lone seat in the US House of Representatives from the state of Alaska, and you can’t be bothered to create a website describing yourself and where you stand on the issues, then I can’t be bothered to vote for you. And sorry, but I’d rather not devote any more of my time and energy to Facebook or Twitter, for reasons those who agree with me politically will, I’m sure, understand. So if you’re a candidate with a presence on either of those platforms but who doesn’t have a website, I’m probably not going to find you. Nor will I go looking for you on either of them.
I spent probably an hour looking at websites of candidates whose party affiliations were not Democrats, and eventually whittled it down to three. Instead of making a decision right then, I went to bed and looked at those three candidates again the following day, then made my decision. The person I will be voting for is Robert “Bob” Lyons. Now let me tell you why.
He’s like me – a political outsider. I have no friends in politics, no connections, no influence. And that is the kind of person I want representing me. I’ve had my fill of the establishment, of career politicians who know nothing more than the ways of the swamp, be it in Washington D.C. or Juneau. These people have been in office for years, in some cases decades, and has anything gotten better under their stewardship? Bob Lyons, according to his website, operated trucks and equipment. So have I. His father was in the service. So was mine. He built his cabin, where he still lives, by hand. I can’t do that, but I admire those who can. Our opinions on issues are also very similar. But what I really liked about him were the pictures of he and his family that he posted on his website. He’s not afraid to show himself having fun, smiling on an amusement park ride, or making a funny face and giving a thumbs up in front of a Trump sticker pasted on some vehicle. That’s the kind of representative I want – one who has opinions that align with mine on the issues, which Bob’s appear to do, but who also doesn’t take him or herself too seriously. Too many politicians are more concerned with the optics of things, how they are going to appear to the public. ‘Oh no! My tie is crooked and has a spot on it! What will my polls look like in the morning?!’ Bob seems to be more interested in showing the voting public who he is instead of who he thinks they want him to be, and I respect that.
I’ve never met Bob Lyons, had no idea the man even existed until a couple days ago. It’s also possible that my conjectures about him are completely wrong. But I don’t think they are. At least, my gut tells me they aren’t. I really did look at several candidates' websites, and there were a few whom I could have voted for and been content, but I went with my gut as I always do. So when it comes time to cast my ballot for the person to replace Don Young, I’ll be casting mine for Bob Lyons.
May 10, 2022
I pondered long and hard whether or not to write this book, and once it was done, whether or not to release it. The modern cancel culture is something that more and more of us are concerned with, and while I've never been particularly vocal in my opinions outside of my family and friends, I ultimately decided to publish this book because I don't like the direction in which the country is headed. In other words I decided to make my own contribution to the fight. When someone exercises their right to free speech and criticizes some segment of society or political movement and their personal information is publicized by someone who disagrees with them, that's a problem. Or when a public figure who has taken a stand on an issue is accosted in a restaurant by a group of chanting and screaming morons, that too is a problem. The silencing of dissent, no matter what side of an issue you are on, is one of the most insidious dangers our nation faces. No one should be silenced for voicing an opinion - ever. If someone's words offend you, debate them, challenge them, or quit fucking listening. Walk away. Change the channel. Read a different blog or news website. But stop with your cancelling.
Bryce Ingman doesn’t know anything different. His entire life has been spent under the steel-shod boot of oppression. In this, the Federated Territories of North America, freedom and self-determination are forgotten notions from a dusty past. But there are those who still remember. Follow along as Bryce discovers what it means to be free, how absurd and self-aggrandizing tyrannical governments actually are, and how much politicians and the institutions they create deserve to be ridiculed. At turns poignant, tragic, sarcastic, parodical, and philosophical, Society’s House of Intractable Tension is cautionary tale of what has been and what could yet be if certain elements in society aren’t opposed by those who believe in true freedom.
When I began writing The Blackfire Chronicles, I made a vow to myself to try my damnedest to create a world that was as original as I could make it. There are so many fantasy stories these days, most of which I haven’t read. The big ones for me are The Wheel of Time and The Sword of Truth. I love them both! My thanks and admiration to the late and lamented Robert Jordan, and to the still-writing Terry Goodkind, with a special thank you to Brandon Sanderson for finishing TWOT. He did a masterful job!
Stories are by nature derivative; there will always be similarities between new stories and old stories. Basic themes will repeat themselves, characters will have similar or identical traits or personalities. Writing something that is comparable to something else is an inescapable fact. Its going to happen, and as a writers and creators, we just have to accept it. Of course each one of us has his or her own identity, as it were. That’s what makes a reader either like or dislike a writer’s work. I’m speaking really broadly here, and these statements could be applied to almost any artform – music, painting, cooking, etc.
I’ll never criticize anyone who takes the time to sit down and write a novel or short story. The simple act of writing, whether it gets published or not, is difficult. Anyone who writes (or creates things in general) has my respect.
Now that the introduction is out of the way, here’s what I really wanted to say. I will never use a real name in a fantasy story. In fact every name, every creature description, and a host of other things were completely fabricated by me specifically for the BFC. I tried very hard to make this story as original and unlike any other fantasy story as I possibly could. But as I said before, I’ll never criticize anyone for creating something. What they create and how they do it is completely up to them. I’m speaking here strictly of my own notions about writing, and specifically about the BFC.
Here’s the paragraph where someone out there will surely decide that I’m arrogant. I hope that isn’t the case, because I don’t think of myself as arrogant, but I do have definite ideas about my story and the things I created for it. That said, here goes: There are no dragons, elves, orcs, wizards or any other race/creature/monster/thing in this story that was created by someone else. All those things have been done by others far better than I ever could. If you are a fantasy writer and you want to put a dragon in your story – do it to it! If you’ve got a good idea and can work a dragon(s) into it in a way that’s engaging and new, then have at it! I totally support that! What I don’t support is not even trying to come up with something original and just using someone else's creation because it sold books in the past, is recognizable, or you had a picture/poster of it on your wall as a kid. I picked up one fantasy book recently, and within the first three pages I read about dragons, dwarves and elves. I put it down less than twenty pages in. The writing was fine; the author seemed to have a solid voice, but it was so derivative I just couldn't read it. I refuse to use the creations of others in my story. Even the names of creatures, people, places and things are completely my invention. Obviously I wasn’t going to come up with a new name for something like a castle or a river. Although I did strongly consider doing just that for a minute. But in the interest of clarity, I used words for common things that any reader should/would recognize.
And that brings me to the reader portion of this confession. If you don’t like my stories because of these unfamiliar things – I get it, truly. People like things that are comfortable, known. Its easier to form an image of something in your mind if you’ve already seen it in movies or on tv, or read about it in another book(s). There is a lot to be said for familiarity. For the BFC, I sometimes wish I’d kept track of how many minutes I sat at my desk, staring at my computer screen, while I imagined and discarded ideas for a new character name or the appearance of a new creature. That shit is hard! I mean try it yourself – imagine a creature that looks nothing like some creature you’ve seen somewhere else. Or at least try to make it as unique as possible so as to differentiate it from that creature in the horror movie you watched on Netflix the other night. Does it have tentacles? Five hundred eyes? Is it enormous? Small? Is there more than one row of teeth? No teeth? Is it green, brown, black, red, purple, polka dot? Hard to do isn’t it, to come up with something that you can’t think of and say, “Oh, that thing was in that one movie”. Of course the creatures I created for the BFC will bear some resemblance to something else. I couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t have features that already existed on some other creature. What I did do is try to arrange and combine those features in a new way. Or at least a way that was new to me. And the names are complete fabrications. Most of them are based on nothing other than combinations of letters that I put together in my head.
And that brings me to the ‘other authors’ part. As I said toward the beginning, I haven’t read most of the fantasy series out there. In total I’ve probably only read ten or twelve fantasy series in my life. So to all the other authors who’ve written a fantasy story, or any other story for that matter, if I’ve duplicated a name in the BFC that you’ve already used – I am truly sorry. Every item in my story that required a name got one that I came up with myself. If one of mine is the same as one of yours – it was completely unintentional.
After I purchased and read Mark’s book, The Blackfire Chronicles, Volume 1 I was so eager to leave a review on Amazon. I wrote my heart out. I carefully examined my obvious bias and tried to write from the heart and with truth and honesty and to be as objective as humanly possible. Needless to say—I had no idea my review would be rejected due to my relationship with the author.
So, I figured I would just write it here since I cannot for Amazon, but also share some of my obvious bias and a perspective that is not often seen from just any reader.
I gave Mark a computer for Christmas a few years ago. As with everything in our married life, we tend to support each other 1000% once one of us decides to do something. I couldn’t afford the best, but I got the best I could get. I was so excited. I found him a desk and surprised him with that. My son and I met a lady in the Fred Meyer parking on a extremely frigid and blustery night. We set it up for him and were even more excited to see him sitting at it.
This book has been rolling around Mark’s head for years. The first time he told me about it I was intrigued. I will say the first thing that attracted me to Mark was his mind. Sure he was a long-haired handsome man who played the drums, but it was his command of written language that snared me.
My best friend is responsible for us finding one another. I recall the very moment I read to him Mark’s reply to me. I was floored. I told Phillip—“He has brains! My God it’s all grammatically correct! AND he uses big words, all spelled correctly in the RIGHT places!” I tend to write like I speak, and Mark—he is encyclopedic in his vocabulary but his ability to write right---was stellar. I had seen too many “I will write you tomarrow” emails or “Wear are you going to go later?” and here was this guy. Needless to say, we fell for each other.
Mark’s passion for writing is so apparent. I loved being a tiny part discussing some scenes, mostly affirming him, but sometimes being a tiny spark of inspiration and then he was off. Writing like a man possessed. The tale he is weaving is done with intention, with care and meticulous notes. I am impressed with his ability to create a world from the synapses in his brain, each thing carefully woven into another and some of it I swear flows like a manna from heaven through his fingers and the keyboard clicks quietly and furiously. Mark has often said when he is in the groove it flows from his mind and is almost like watching a movie unfold. I know though, that it is his talent and creativity unleashed. And I am proud of him.
The process of writing a book is not always easy. It has bumps and hurdles. Editing and more editing, nurturing and cajoling. I liken it very much to one giving birth to a child. It is a mind child. A baby that you have gestated, carefully brought into this world and wrapped in a cover. As a first-time author finding the cover art is as hard as a new mother trying to clothe her baby for the first cold outing. Is it good enough? Is this or that right? And then---it is time. For the baby to be exposed to the world. We both watch the sales, the reviews and I get a tremendous warm feeling seeing the smile on his face with a good review.
Unsurprisingly - he has had some awesome reviews! I know that if you give his book, The Blackfire Chronicles, Volume 1 a chance you will no doubt be captivated, enthralled in a world entirely of his creation, and like I was---want to know what happens next. You find yourself rooting for his protagonist. He doesn’t sugar coat the world, part of it ---even in his made up world, is ugly. Yet it allows one to appreciate the small things, the good things, the just things. As I was reading this book, chapter by chapter all I could think was—wouldn’t this be an awesome Netflix series? I said to my self---geez I know I think he's a great writer (yes I am kind of biased, I married him), but when another person read his book and left a review and wrote the very thing I had been thinking it was a total affirmation that he’s as good as I think he is! I believe in my husband’s talent. It is a gift that not everyone has. I invite you to join us on this journey. I hope you become a dear reader. I hope you follow him all along in his career as an author, book to book, with anticipation for the next book, and the next just as I do. I think you'll find yourself cheering with me.
Please read all self-published books to the very end, as authors only get paid full royalty if you do. I have realized that I purchased some books, and only read a few pages and gave up. I will admit with Mark’s book I couldn’t just not read it. I had to scroll to the end. So now for every author I truly enjoy I read it to the end and leave my number of stars and a review. I just can’t bear to pay full price for a book and end up giving some of the authors cut to the publishing company, regardless of whether I liked it or not.
The time and investment is so huge for most authors that I believe each one deserves the full royalty regardless of how much I read, and sometimes it's just a matter of timing. Why should they wait until I have time to scroll through to the end? But I get it, but having understood how royalties are paid I am much more inclined now to get to the review page on all books I read. And maybe now you are too.
So yes. I am biased. But it has made me a more thoughtful reader of other books. I care about the authors that I enjoy reading and want them to succeed. Share the good books you love with others who could use a break from the insane world. Our imaginations are something that can be a balm when everything is crazy and I think The Blackfire Chronicles, Volume 1 will have you cheering for Revan and pulling for him and maybe, just maybe believing that there is magic in the world.
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!
Here is a teaser of what's inside
We are offering a tiny bit of Mark Sowers The Blackfire Chronicles, Volume I © in image format. If your interest is piqued, please read it on Amazon. It is available in Kindle edition and Kindle Unlimited. Please leave a review on Amazon and Facebook.
The first reviews are in!
These reviews were shared with the permission of the individuals who wrote them. Thank you so much for your encouraging words, the insight and amazing support! These are the kinds of reviews a brand new author dreams about receiving and here they are-better than imagined and as real as life!
We hope these reviews help you decide to give Mark's book a try! You can purchase it here!
A birth one might call beautiful. This is the first of many in a series that will captivate and enthrall. Learn for yourself the mysteries and adventures of Revan and his friend as they toil away for much of their young lives to unearth a behemoth monolithic structure. Will you join Revan on the journey?
We sure hope that you will! Please leave a review as you get to the end of the book, every bit of encouragement, insight and commentary help authors make their works exactly what the readers want! Released today in Kindle Edition and available for Kindle Unlimited on Amazon.com! The paperback edition will be released soon.
It is almost time!
The Blackfire Chronicles
After years of rolling around in Mark's brain the first book in a series of many is about to be published!
The artwork is finished and we are giving a sneak peak of his cover!
Follow Mark on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to get updates on his latest works.
The Blackfire Chronicles, Volume 1 will be available on for purchase on Amazon in Kindle edition and Kindle Unlimited.
Thank you dear friends, family and fans! Mark has had a lot of support from family, friends, co-workers, and other professionals to get this far.
And thank you in advance if you choose to purchase the Kindle edition even if you have Kindle Unlimited. Every new author hopes to have their work successful in captivating readers! This saga is one that strives to be different from the rest. Please join us on this journey with Revan and it's ultimate culmination. Welcome to the world of The Blackfire Chronicles!
Mark Sowers, author of works of fiction. He writes fantasy, action/adventure, loves life in Alaska.