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Inspirations and history of an urban fantasy saga

Spike Lee studied under Martin Scorsese. Tarantino devoured Grindhouse movies. No creator creates in a vacuum. They have an original voice, but they also find inspiration from other works of art — even outside of the urban fantasy genre.

It’s time I gave props to the inspirations behind my urban fantasy saga. I hope my journey can help you complete yours and give you some insight into the creative mind.  

It’s all George Lucas’s fault

Every child of my generation watched Star Wars and immediately wanted to be a part of that world in a galaxy far, far away.

We grabbed every “Starlog” Magazine with George Lucas on the cover and watched every Lucas documentary to see what had inspired Lucas. Maybe it would inspire us too.

I made my epic with the “Shadowdance” urban fantasy saga. But Star Wars is space opera. Where did all these horror and action elements come from?

The first book of Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series
The first book of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series

How the “Shadowdance” urban fantasy saga began

Picture it: 1995.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the good one with SMG) was two years away. Wesley Snipes was still Nino Brown and not Blade, the day-walking vampire hunter.

We did have a series of books from author Laurell K. Hamilton — the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series.

I read the first novel, Guilty Pleasures, and became enthralled with the world of supernatural creatures in a modern-day setting. I also loved the idea of a female protagonist.

(Yeah, women lead adventures all over the place now. In 1995? Not so much. Progress!)

The terms “urban fantasy” and “paranormal romance” weren’t even a thing then. Hamilton pretty much started it.

Before Anita Blake, I read a steady diet of “G.I. Joe,” “X-Men,” and “Batman” comic books.

I loved horror in all its forms, knew every James Bond theme song. Alfred Hitchock, Martin Scorsese, and Francis Coppola were patron saints.

And, of course, there were Saint Lucas, Saint Prince, and Saint Elfman.

Writing in this emerging urban fantasy genre was a means to combine all my favorites.

The 1989 “Batman” theme by Danny Elfman, my generation’s Hans Zimmer. (C) Warner Bros

The world catches up to my urban fantasy idea — and makes me roadkill

The first “Shadowdance” story came from a screenplay entitled Requiem for the Lonely.

There was Adrienne, a vampire assassin and the female protagonist. I had a rock band, bringing the musical influence. The movie was action-packed, using supernatural creatures like werewolves and demons as stand-ins for comic book heroes and villains.

Blade a Marvel comics urban fantasy
The first big Marvel movie, “Blade” (C) Disney (hurts to write that)

Then the rest of the world caught up with Ms. Hamilton and me.

Did I mention I also had zero Hollywood connections and no way to get the estimated $30 million to make a movie?

Buffy, Blade, Underworld, all those paranormal romance novels with the female protagonist torn between a world of violence and the love of either the vampire or werewolf prince dumped like a river over my little idea.

“Shadowdance” in transition

In the interim years (roughly 1998 to 2012), I tried the comic book thing.

I set Requiem aside and wrote a different story, Welcome to the Dance. This story greatly resembles what would become By Virtue Fall.

Dance was a four-part comic book series (they were all the rage when I was a kid). I even found an artist to draw a few pages. I’d show that stuff to you, but I got robbed in 2006, and that data went the way of the dodo.

Coincidentally, I would have lost all of my “Shadowdance” work if not for an intuitive nudge that got me to take my laptop with me on a family reunion trip.

After that, I figured “Shadowdance” was meant to be.

Then a dear friend made the suggestion that changed it all: “You’re a writer; why don’t you write a novel?”

…but that requires…writing!

I’d shied from writing a novel because, well, I’m lazy.

For a script, you’re told not to get too descriptive. You get the story established; production designers, cinematographers, actors, directors, etc., flesh out the rest.

In a comic, you plant ideas, maybe send the artist reference pics, but somebody else does the heavy lifting for the visual descriptions.

With a novel, you’re on your own.

But with no other way to go, I buckled down and got to work.

Turned out having total control of the senses wasn’t as much trouble as I’d imagined.

The Modern-day “Shadowdance” urban fantasy

Old cover for "By Virtue Fall" urban fantasy novel
The original cover for By Virtue Fall.

Nearly two decades after I first dreamed of the Shadowdance, By Virtue Fall was born with its new/ old female protagonist, now Adriana.

I tried the literary agent route; after piles of rejections, I bagged that idea for self-publishing.

Back in 1995, we called it “Vanity Publishing” and crapped on it for being ego-driven.

By 2013, self-publishing was all the rage. Using the internet to find guidance, I got By Virtue Fall on Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble.

Full confession: BVF was a stunt.

The story I’d written was so long that I broke it into two books, that one and For Her Sins.

That decision came when researching price points for the paperback version. Why buy a $25 book from an unknown author when you can get the latest Gillian Flynn for $7-12?

To compete, I split the book and dropped the price way down. Still not at that $7 price point, and people still didn’t buy the book, but at least now I had a one-two punch of releases.

Inspirations for an urban fantasy saga inspire others

Somewhere in there, a friend who used to work in Hollywood approached me about the movie idea. I wrote a separate story, Wake the Darkness, and tried to onboard a production manager.

That didn’t pan out, but the story’s still solid. I probably will turn it into the fourth song in the series. (Song? What do I mean by that? Go read “Music inspired my urban fantasy!”)

The Wake the Darkness title alone inspired some friends to make a “Shadowdance” saga theme song.

The way forward

The “Shadowdance” saga works in a fit of bursts and lags.

Sexy goth female vampire pop star
Valentina Lorena, vampire pop star

BVF dropped in 2013 (though it didn’t get its best version until 2016). For Her Sins came soon after that.

The third novel, Illusion of Love, has kicked my butt with its complexity. I will not bow, I will not break; I intend to press on like a pair of fake nails.

Curiously, what was Requiem for the Lonely is largely becoming Illusion of Love.

There are tweaks due to my completed works, but I will not let this story die.

It’s also turned into a three-book monster. But it will give us a great arc with my vampire pop star Valentina Lorena, so it’ll be worth it!

Revised website, renewed creativity

Living in the age of pandemic has ended my live events career. I won’t get all doom and gloom, but let’s say I’ve had a good amount of time to focus on a writing career.

I’ve put Illusion aside for now and am focusing on a prequel to the two other “Shadowdance” novels. When I get it done, I’ll probably rebrand the novels into a trilogy in their proper order.

Meanwhile, I’ll be more active on this site, posting my inner creative workings with “Writer Commentaries,” how-to posts on building a series of novels, and noting other inspirations.

If I get some beta readers through the upcoming newsletter, I’ll provide an even deeper dive into my musings on the battle of creativity (hint hint).

So please sit back, grab a stake, and prepare to kick it up a notch for the ride that is an action/ urban fantasy saga! I recommend starting your journey with the Initiated.

I’ll see you around. Stay safe. Wear a mask. Vote out Agent Orange in November.

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