The Novel Approach welcomes back author Devon McCormack on his “Forget Me Not” blog tour. I’m excited to share Devon’s article with you because it’s such a fun and unique post, and I’m also pleased to share his giveaway with you–a signed print copy of one of his books (reader’s choice) to a US winner, or a reader’s choice e-copy of any of his books to an international winner–which you can enter by clicking on the Rafflecopter widget below.
Imaginary Games and Storytelling
Thank you so much, The Novel Approach, for having me on the blog. Today, I thought I would delve into the beginnings of my writing career: my childhood. Hope you all enjoy. Also, check out the giveaway at the end of the post for a chance to win a signed copy of one of my books.
“I don’t want to be a warrior,” my brother whined. We chased red and orange leaves that blew in a gust of wind down our street. In that moment, they weren’t leaves, but an army of alien creatures we had to vanquish from our suburban kingdom.
I delayed our attack, a little perturbed knowing the wind might not continue creating a realistic fleeing effect. I turned back to my brother, who cringed and pouted. It was a familiar expression that suggested if I didn’t hear his request, he might ditch the game.
“What do you want to be?” I asked. But I knew what he was going to say.
“I want to be a king, too.”
“You can’t have two kings.”
I could have made us both kings, but I was a greedy kid. Whenever we made up imaginary games, I wanted to be the most awesome character—whether that was a king, a wizard, or an alien (and more often than not, all three). We never had this issue when we played Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. I would be the Red Ranger, and he would be the Green Ranger. The Green Ranger was technically the more popular of the two, but I didn’t care. The Red Ranger was on the show before the Green Ranger, so he was better. My stubborn alliance with my Power Ranger probably had to do with some resentment I held toward my younger brothers who, like the Green Ranger, once they came onto the scene, stole the show. Although, the actor who played the Red Ranger was really cute, so I’m sure that had something to do with my allegiance as well.
With all games unrelated to Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, though, I insisted on being the best character. I made the games up, after all, so surely I deserved to be whatever I wanted.
“No, the warriors are really the most awesome,” I lied. When it came to playing with my siblings, manipulation was essential.
“They’re more powerful than I am. I’m just a king.” A king with supernatural powers, but I didn’t have to mention that right then. I could always bring them up later. Of course, my brother was quick to call me out on these sorts of deceptions.
“Okay,” he said, surrendering. I could tell by his tone he didn’t believe me. I’m sure he only surrendered because he wasn’t interested in fighting about it.
“Then charge!” I exclaimed as I chased back after the leaves, which continued blowing down the street. Together, we stepped on our enemies, grinding them into the asphalt.
Victory was ours! Well, definitely mine.
My nine-year-old games usually involved battling leaves, tree branches, and bushes—representations of the many monsters I conjured up in my childhood brain. They were heavily plagiarized from my favorite shows and movies. In one game, we landed on an alien planet and went to a neighboring spaceship to rescue the passengers. But we discovered monsters that latched onto our faces and impregnated us with their alien babies, which ran amuck and tried to destroy our ship. Sound familiar? I don’t know why I’d seen Alien and Aliens at nine, but those movies left quite an impression on me. When we played my plagiarized version, it was always hard to get everyone to agree on who would be the first to get impregnated with the alien, so eventually we settled on creating an imaginary victim. Or in some cases, I would play the victim as well as another character on the ship.
There comes an age when kids aren’t as willing to play these sorts of imaginary games—when they start acting as if they’re too old for this sort of nonsense. When this happened, I began writing a story about kid superheroes. It wasn’t one continuous story. Just bits and pieces of various adventures I jotted down in a notebook. I typically wrote during school when I was bored or right after I got home when the daydreams I’d conjured up during class were fresh on my mind. There was no discipline behind my writing, and I only worked on it occasionally. When I did take the time to craft a few sentences here and there, I was surprised to discover I found even more fulfilment in these little stories than I did in the imaginary games I had played with my siblings and neighborhood friends. I didn’t have to argue with anyone about their characters. And I didn’t have to deal with the arduous task of transforming the world around me into something different. The trees didn’t need to be ninjas, and the bushes didn’t need to be tentacled monsters. I could create an entire world from the ground up. If I wanted to battle an alien, I would describe our struggle. If I wanted to have a conversation with a troll or a dragon, then I would write the conversation. These early stages of writing were empowering, because I realized within this notebook, I had the power to create anything I wanted. Before I wrote them down, they were daydreams—fragmented ideas that I would ponder every once and a while. But something about putting them down on paper made them real. And sharing them with my friends and family made me feel as if they were playing the game with me.
I wrote stories and short scripts off and on until I was fifteen, when I decided to write my first book. It was an unoriginal fantasy novel about a kid who was transported to another dimension. In a carbon copy of the most stereotypical fantasy world you can imagine, my main character battled monsters while befriending various magical creatures. It took me beyond anything I’d ever experienced in my early game-playing with my siblings. There were moments when writing that book where I became so invested in the adventure, so absorbed in the characters, that I briefly forgot about the real world entirely. It was as if I had really been transported into the places I had imagined. These experiences were intoxicating and largely the reason I continued writing. To give you an idea of where I was in those early years, here’s a sample from my third full-length unpublished novel. I would have provided samples from my first and second, but I’ve had a hard time finding them on my computer:
The Witches of Lukesoil Excerpt
A Naïve Little Boy
Thomas’ eyes shot open. Darkness was all he could see as he rocked back and forth. His back scraped across what felt like rocks.
That was impossible, though! How could it be so dark and how could he have been scraping against something so rough while he was lying in his comfy bed. Thomas reached his hands out and moved them along a thick cloth that surrounded him on all sides.
He felt a jab in his side.
“It’s wakin’ up,” snapped a hoarse voice.
Thomas froze. His eyes grew as wide they could. His heart skipped two beats.
He was being kidnapped!
“Shut your mouth and hurry up!” insisted another voice.
The voices sounded like women.
Thomas opened his mouth to speak. Nothing came out (not that it really mattered, because if he could have spoken just then he wouldn’t have known what to say).
“I’m going as fast as I can,” griped the first voice.
One of the kidnapper’s legs bumped into his side.
How could this be happening to him? Where were these crazy people taking him?
His imagination went wild. What if there were fifteen cult leaders dragging to their vile lair of evil in the sewer-system underworld so they could devour him one limb at a time? Or what if it was a gang of madmen that had just escaped from an insane asylum and were planning to throw him off a cliff?
Thomas felt one of the kidnappers legs bump into his shoulder.
An agitated groan came from outside, followed by an intense blow to his head–like he’d been hit with a brick.
He fell into a trance.
This is all just a nightmare, he thought. That’s all it is. I’m just lying at home, having a bad dream, trying to wake up.
Of course he knew, deep down, that was no more than a fantasy.
–––––End of Excerpt–––––
Please forgive my sixteen-year-old writing for its apparent flaws. I could write a textbook on everything that was wrong with this scene, but it was where I was at back then. Being a very naïve and ambitious kid, I set out to publish some of these stories, but with no luck. It hardly discouraged me, because the process of writing was so pleasurable that it was a reward in and of itself. It wasn’t until many years later that I wrote what would become my first published novel, Clipped, which featured my own take on angel and demon mythologies. After that, I published several young adult novels: Hideous, When Ryan Came Back, and The Pining of Kevin Harding. In Hideous, I was haunted by a demon with my main character, a boy who was brutally disfigured by his demon-possessed father. In When Ryan Came Back, I worked to solve the mystery of my main character’s best friend’s death. And in The Pining of Kevin Harding, I helped my main character, a young vampire, escape the clutches of his sadistic master.
Through my stories, I’ve had the most incredible of adventures with the most fantastic of characters. As I look back at those formative years, I realize that storytelling is just like the imaginary games I played when I was little. I’m still chasing those leaves down the street with my little brother. Only with writing, I can have my cake and eat it, too. I can set out on the precise adventures that I create in my head and work with characters that intrigue me. This is what writing and reading is all about, isn’t it? They give us opportunities to escape every day and be a part of something fantastic. We get to be adults and play like kids. So whether you are a writer or a reader, as you pick up your next adventure, I hope you enjoy the ride and take pleasure in those transcendent moments where you forget, even if for only a moment, what is real and what is fiction.
Thank you so much for taking a moment to read this post. I’m running a Rafflecopter giveaway below. US participants can win a signed copy of your choice of one of my books, while International participants can win an ecopy of the book of their choice. Thank you so much, The Novel Approach, for having me on the blog today. Your team has been so supportive of all my work, and I am incredibly appreciative.
About Devon’s Books
Though mortals have been convinced that God cares about their souls, nothing could be further from the truth. He created the world as a gift for his lover, Satan. But when Satan left him, he decided to end what he saw as his most grotesque creation.
Satan and his army of demons are man’s only hope…
The demon Kinzer and his lover, Janka, have been sent by Satan to spy on The Raze, a gang of rogue demons who are working with God to bring about Armageddon. When someone exposes their true allegiances, the Raze clips Kinzer’s wings and murders Janka. Kinzer manages to escape. He tracks down Satan’s allies to warn them about a mole in their midst when he learns that they’ve located the Antichrist—a powerful weapon that could prevent the apocalypse. Now, he’s on a mission to protect the Antichrist and avenge his lover’s death.
HIDEOUS: Eight years ago, Luke Retter witnessed the brutal murder of his mother and sister at the hands of his demon-possessed father. He survived but lost a hand and an eye. The demon also burned its emblem into his skin. Those marked by a demon are called curseds and are at risk of becoming possessed themselves, so they are monitored and enslaved by the state-run UCIS. Working as a slave is hard, but Luke prefers it to the possibility of being controlled by a demon.
Then one night, he wakes to find his worst nightmare coming true. His father’s demon has come for him. He runs to the only person who might be able to help him: Zack, a cursed who ran away from the state and created an underground community to protect other fugitive curseds. Zack helps him suppress the demon. But as the UCIS closes in on Zack and Luke’s demon crafts its own, nefarious plot, Luke realizes that he must take a stand.
WHEN RYAN CAME BACK: Steven’s life changes forever the day he discovers his childhood friend and lifelong crush, Ryan Walters, standing in his bedroom. The problem? Ryan Walters committed suicide just days earlier.
Ryan tells Steven that he didn’t kill himself. He believes he was murdered and that his death is linked to an article he was working on for the school paper. Steven sets out to solve the mystery, but as the story unfolds, so does Ryan’s secret life of sex with guys and depression. Steven realizes suicide is more plausible than Ryan’s conspiracy theory, but he struggles to convince Ryan of the real cause of his death. And despite revelations of his friend’s closeted life, he must face the truth that Ryan doesn’t–and never will–love him.
THE PINING OF KEVIN HARDING: Kevin Harding wanted an exciting life. Now, he’s a vampire and wishes he could go back to his average, boring one in the suburbs. His master is furious that he refuses to hunt, but Kevin knows it’s only a matter of time before he caves. The longer a person is a vampire, the more compliant they are to their master’s will.
When Kevin decides to give the hunt a try, he’s kidnapped by vampire hunters. Rather than endure their severe torture, he agrees to help them kill his master. The hunters’ plan goes horribly awry, and they flee the scene with Kevin. But they have to restrategize quick. The longer he’s away from his master, the more painful his life becomes. He craves his master. He hungers for him. He pines for him. And as they get close to enacting their plan, Kevin isn’t sure if he’ll be able to follow through.
About the Author: Devon McCormack spends most of his time hiding in his lair, adventuring in paranormal worlds with his island of misfit characters. A good ole Southern boy, McCormack grew up in the Georgian suburbs with his two younger brothers and an older sister. At a very young age, he spun tales the old fashioned way, lying to anyone and everyone he encountered. He claimed he was an orphan. He claimed to be a king from another planet. He claimed to have supernatural powers. He has since harnessed this penchant for tall tales by crafting whole worlds where he can live out whatever fantasy he chooses.
A gay man himself, McCormack focuses on gay male characters, adding to the immense body of literature that chooses to represent and advocate gay men’s presence in media. His body of work ranges from erotica to young adult, so readers should check the synopses of his books before purchasing so that they know what they’re getting into.