This collection has all the best of Lovecraft’s horror tales, and each story is introduced with a blurb by famed Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi. This is a great collection to own for any fans of the weird yarns of H.P.L. My personal favorites are The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Colour Out of Space, and The Whisperer in Darkness.
One of the earliest projects I remember envisioning was a story written using Rush album tracks as chapter titles. I eventually focused this idea into a short story inspired by the song The Necromancer off Rush’s Caress of Steel album. Music has never stopped influencing and inspiring my writing projects.
After my freshmen year of college, I was hurting from my first major breakup. Like every young artist before me, I channeled my feelings into a project, The Village Green Preservation Society. This evolved into my first novel, and I completed it over the course of my last teenage summer. Music aficionados will recognize the title as belonging to a classic album of the same name by The Kinks. I listened to the album on repeat as I harnessed its themes and characters to contribute to my growing world.
Years later, I’d find myself in graduate school pursuing my writing popular fiction degree, and I’d return to using music to help my writing. This time I didn’t use the music to help me create though. Instead, I created a Spotify playlist of fantasy songs that evoked my love for the genre. I pulled in music from The Lord of the Rings soundtrack, the Game of Thrones soundtrack, Harry Potter’s score, some Led Zeppelin, and of course, a little Rush. This helped me get into the right headspace while finishing my first draft of The Swords of Fellowship and editing its subsequent drafts. I’ve been using that playlist to help me write every fantasy story I’ve penned since.
This past weekend, I started a new novel. This one is horror, and it concerns my hometown. So, my playlist is filled with songs that remind me of that location. You can check out the, tentatively titled, Homeless Problem Mix here. Growing up, I’d hear The Pennsylvania Polka almost every night as I flipped past the local channels, so I had to include that. Then there were bands I was into while I lived in Hazleton, and I had to include them. Finally, I pulled in some songs that speak to my antagonist and to the mood I’m trying to achieve with this project. That’s where Father John Misty (pictured above) comes in. I got to see him live in Philadelphia a few years ago, and the experience helped kickstart my ideas on this project. Overall, my new playlist is an eclectic and strange mix that perfectly orients me to write about the world I’ve already dreamed up.
I know many people have already thought about using, or already used, music to help their writing, but I wanted to share my experiences on the subject. My father is a musician, and my family members are all deeply into music, so using it for my artistic endeavors has always been second nature to me. For those writers or artists out there who are new or just haven’t thought about this idea much, I hope this post gives you some ideas of your own. If you have a different type of muse, don’t be afraid to tell me about it in the comments below.
This novel has a great premise, and Emrys does impressive worldbuilding on top of Lovecraft’s existing canon. The protagonist was relatable and interesting throughout. I did feel there were a few too many characters though, and many of them seemed to serve similar roles in the story. The two standouts were a mind swapped professor and the protagonist’s employer. I also wished the novel had a slightly more exciting climax. The stakes just never felt very high. That said, I would certainly read the other books in this series because I enjoyed the world Emrys detailed.
I first discovered A Song of Ice and Fire when I was twelve. My father and I used to go to Barnes and Noble almost every Friday. On one of these trips, I found George R.R. Martin’s work. I was drawn to the cool cover art (pictured above), and the excellent back cover blurb. Sadly, I only made it a few chapters in before I put the book aside. My young mind couldn’t keep up with all the different characters introduced in the first chunk of the tome. I made it roughly as far as half of the first episode but what I’d read stuck with me.
When Game of Thrones made its way to television years later, I found myself loving the story I’d been too young for on first exposure. I identified heavily with the show’s honorable protagonists defeated by their good nature in the face of morally flexible foes. I lived a watered-down version of Game of Thrones while serving on the executive board of my college fraternity. You wouldn’t think the power of a fraternity’s rule would drive men to madness, but in a few cases, it did. That’s fodder for a future novel though; this post is about a fantastic fantasy story.
*Minor Spoilers Below*
Sadly, my love of Game of Thrones was impeded in the last three seasons by its diversion from the books, and its occasionally sloppy execution of plot points (I mean…are we really supposed to buy Sansa not telling Jon she had an entire army coming in Battle of the Bastards? How many lives could she have saved!? And don’t get me started on my issues with Beyond the Wall). But I’m not here to complain. I’m here to celebrate and prognosticate.
After completely reading all the books and diving into Martin’s lore in the middle of the show, I, like many, discovered the total delight of A Song of Ice and Fire Theories. My favorites tend to revolve around Stannis Baratheon’s fool, Patchface. He’s basically cut from the show, but you should read up on him if you aren’t aware of the character. So, before the final season, I wanted to lay out a few of my own predictions, cobbled together from years of drinking too deeply of Game of Thrones and its lore.
1. The Night King will skip Winterfell and fly to King’s Landing.
In Season Two, Dany saw a vision of a destroyed Red Keep covered in snow. Why show that if it’s not going to happen? Having the Night King save Winterfell for a later death would be a perfect surprise for early in the season. It would also be great to see Cersei go down unexpectedly amid all her schemes because she didn’t take the White Walker’s seriously.
2. Dany and all the dragons will die.
Unless the show leaves the White Walkers alive at the end of the series, I fully expect the forces of ice and fire to die out in their clashing. Jon is the balance between the two. There’s also the Azor Ahai legend that says the great hero who previously beat the Walkers needed to sacrifice his love to vanquish them in the Long Night. Jon’s current love is Dany.
3. Jon will be the final ruler left standing.
For the record, I actually like Dany more than Jon (at least in the show), but Jon is the namesake of the series (the song of ice and fire) so I think it’s all leading up to him being the great hero and final ruler left standing, but I don’t think he’ll choose to be king. See my next point.
4. The Iron Throne will be destroyed.
I think it’s obvious that the ultimate irony of the show will be having watched people fight for the right to sit there for years only for the final winner to discard the thing. It’s a chair for a conqueror, not a righteous ruler. If Jon wins out in the end, I expect him to move on from monarchy along with its greatest symbol in favor of a new form of government.
5. History is repeating itself. The protagonists have done all this before.
Okay, this is just my crackpot theory that I wanted to mention, but it feels like too many things that were discussed in Westeros’ history are coming back up. The mythical last hero’s story lines up with Bran Starks. Dany came to Westeros with three dragons and started her conquest from Dragonstone, like her ancestor. There are a bunch of other ones, but I’ll leave it there. I hope that this one remains a crackpot theory because it would make things weird if we found out in the last season that the characters are just stuck repeating an already established history, like Groundhog’s Day.
The first time I got really “into” board games was in 2003. I received Risk: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition on Christmas Eve, and I made my Dad play it with me that night on my Pap Pap’s dining room table. Over the next several years, I warred with my family while the One Ring marched its way across the board to Mount Doom and the game’s end. We kept track of our battles with little pieces of notebook paper that calculated points for the winners (18 of these survive to this day). These sometimes also collected little notes from the game, such as, “I wish to destroy Don because of his betrayal,” and “I only fought three battles in this war and won through intimidation.” This game was fun for many reasons, but the biggest one, for me, was the narrative. Yes, Risk games may not have a traditional narrative in the vein of some games today (which I’ll get to later), but in our Risk: Lord of the Rings games we built our narratives throughout our ongoing conquests.
Initially, the game served a different narrative purpose for me. It was a vehicle that allowed me to replay the epic battles of Middle-earth. After that, I created new conflicts across Tolkien’s maps by putting different spins on the existing tales. What if good’s last stand against evil took place in the Shire instead of Minas Tirith? What if Sauron’s forces overran the southern defenses? These were just some of the questions I tried to answer via Risk. My fascination with board games has always been in their ability to create and tell stories.
I was first introduced to the new wave of board games around 2013. I’d just graduated from college, and I found myself back in my hometown. Me and two of my friends went in on buying a game called Mansions of Madness. It sounded interesting because I’d read and enjoyed Lovecraft intermittently since high school, and the game put you in a Lovecraftian world. One person played the role of a keeper (storyteller/master of monsters) while the other players were investigators (who tried to survive long enough to figure out what was going on in the narrative). After playing through many of the scenarios that came in the box, I even created one of my own. Unfortunately, the game had an insanely long set up time, and I moved out of town for work in 2014.
Fast forward to 2016. I’m enrolled in my first semester at Seton Hill University, and I discover the Game Table Café in Mechanicsburg, PA. Through the Game Table, my fiancée and I meet up with two amazing friends for the first time due to our shared love of Game of Thrones: The Board Game. This game, much like Risk: Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition, lets you recreate the war for the Iron Throne portrayed in the Song of Ice and Fire novels. Not long after that, I discovered Mansions of Madness Second Edition. In this updated version of the original game, the keeper is replaced by an app which allows everyone to play through a story together. This was a huge leap forward for me, and I went gonzo for this game. I’ve bought every expansion to date, and I’ve spent hours upon hours playing it.
Fantasy Flight, the publisher of Mansions, is a company that knows how to take advantage of narratives for its board games. It produces games based on Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, as well as various others, but I’m most drawn to the Arkham Horror Files (of which Mansions of Madness is part) because I love horror, specifically Lovecraft’s brand of cosmic horror. While other board games use the Lovecraft theme to great effect, the Arkham Horror Files are special because Fantasy Flight has built its own connected universe using their characters and the Cthulhu Mythos. If you play any of their Arkham Horror File games, there is a crossover between the gameplay, characters, settings, and monsters. It creates an immersive narrative experience, and many of their games directly feature narrative as a gameplay component. Progression in the board (or card) game leads to revelations in the tale you and your fellow players are participating in. It’s a great formula.
As a writer, I am actively inspired by board games such as Mansions of Madness. I use the feelings and narrative surprises to fuel my own twisted tales. However, it’s not just horror writers who can gain some inspiration by playing a good board game. There are games that allow you to immerse yourself in practically any kind of world. Writers can colonize Mars, run breweries, build their careers as stage magicians. Take advantage of this fun way to jumpstart your imagination as an author. Just don’t start neglecting the writing for the board gaming.