Category Archives: Karl Taylor

Footprints

This is a flash fiction I wrote in response to a picture prompt in one of our groups. I hope you enjoy it.

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Jamie had followed his footprints since he’d left the road. It’s not like she was a professional tracker but there was a path and once in a while she’d spot where he’d stepped in a wet spot and left a print. The forest here was sothick, overgrown and tangled that if he chose to leave this track he’d need a machete and maybe a chainsaw. The track ended.

Jamie was standing in the middle of a tiny clearing, maybe ten feet across. She looked all around her but all she saw was an impenetrable wall of trees, brambles, and bushes. “Grandpa! Where are you? Grandpa!” Jamie stood and listened for a minute but all she could hear were normal forest noises. She walked to the center of the tiny clearing and found where her Grandpa had stood but couldn’t find any sign of where he’d gone next. “Grandpa?”

A coyote began to howl. Jamie hated coyotes. She’d had a nightmare once where a pack of coyotes was hunting her and she’d been afraid of them every day since. She was frustrated and tears began to well up in her eyes. She stared straight up above her. The sky was beginning to darken. It would be pitch black in a few minutes. “Grandpa? ‘What do I do?” She looked down at the ground and tears streaked down her face.

A twig snapped. Jamie felt the panic swelling up inside her. Someone had followed her and now she was trapped. There was nowhere to run! She could see dark silhouette of a man but couldn’t make out his face. She looked around for a tree branch or something to defend herself. The figure stepped into the clearing.

“Stop!” Jamie yelled. My grandpa will be right back and he’s got a gun!”

The dark figure clicked the flashlight he was carrying and pointed the beam at his face. “It’s me honey.“

“Dad?”

“Yes, Jamie. It’s me. I thought I saw you. What are you doing out here honey?”

“It’s Grandpa. He’s wandered off again Daddy.”

“Jamie? Your Grandpa isn’t out here honey.”

“Yes he is! I followed his footprints!” Jamie ran over to where she’d seen the footprints before. “See Daddy?”

Her dad pointed the flashlight where Jamie was standing. “Honey?”

“But Daddy! They were there! They really were!”

“Jamie, your Grandpa is gone. I know it’s hard, but he is gone.” He put his arm around Jamie and gave her a gentle squeeze. “Let’s get home honey. Mom will be getting worried.”

“I miss him Daddy.”

“I know Jamie. We all do.”

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Karl Taylor: A Tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett and the City Watch

Sir Terry Pratchett was undoubtedly my greatest inspiration. He’s not as well known in the US because he is British but the man was a master of his craft. In his lifetime he sold more than eighty five million books in thirty seven languages. He was best known for his Discworld series which included forty one published works. His style was often called parody but I think it was much more than that. His wit and wisdom were unparalleled. His characters had the feeling of being real people. He had a knack for weaving multiple plotlines together seamlessly.  Finally, beneath all the humor and the silly characters, he knew how to tell compelling stories.

For me, the books that highlighted The Watch stood out from all the rest. They combined my favorite two genres, mystery and fantasy. I couldn’t get enough of them. Since it was a series of books, I got to see the characters evolve over time and it felt like I really knew them. They were much more than just characters to me. They became family. “The Watch” grew from a ragtag group of misfits to a large force that struggled to reclaim the streets of Ankh-Morpork. It felt like I was actually there, experiencing those changes myself.

There are many interesting characters that fill out this world. Ankh-Morpork, the city these stories are based in, is a character in itself. Lord Vetinari, the ruler of the city, reminds me in many ways of the vampires in the old black and white movies. Commander Vimes, the primary character, is cynical and jaded but he lives to uphold the law. Sergeant Colon, an old war horse with a military past considers himself the ideal sergeant. He spends the majority of his time avoiding trouble. Corporal Nobby Nobbs, is a man so ugly and small that he has to carry papers that prove he is actually human. The wizards of Unseen University often make appearances as does the head “man” of the library. The Librarian was accidentally transformed into an orangutan and found that he liked it so he refused the wizards when they offered to correct the mistake. His characters feel like real people, having all the character flaws you can imagine and they make his books come alive. The thing is, no matter how oddball the character might be, Pratchett creates characters you can still identify with. I even identify with the orangutan librarian. I hope that someday I can create at least one character like that.

I don’t even remember where I first heard of Terry Pratchett but he changed the way I think about writing. I love the way he intertwines humor even in the most serious situations and I often laugh out loud while reading his works but the biggest thing is that I find it near impossible to put them down. I do my best to emulate him in my own writing. I’ll never be a master of it the way he was but I will never quit trying. It would have been my fondest wish to have met him face to face but I am too late. On March 12, 2015, he passed away due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. It pains me to know that the “City Watch” died with him.

 

Creating Your Fantasy World

Not everyone will want to do this, but for those of you who do, I thought I would share my experience with it, with you. I wanted to create a world that would be the home base for all the fantasy stories I had rattling around inside my head.

 I know there are now online websites where you can now go to create a map for your world but when I created my map, home computers were pretty much non-existent and the internet was nothing I’d even dreamed of yet.  Even if I were creating it today, I would probably still start out the same way.

I ordered some hexagonal map paper (roughly 32in X 16in) and created my continents. I made the land masses fill most of the map since the vast majority of my stories would take place on land. I did place create an ocean that surrounded all the land masses and a large bay to provide an obstacle to overcome. I then placed mountain ranges, deserts, jungles, swamps, and plains. I then started placing lakes and a network of rivers.  Lastly, I created islands in the bay and the surrounding ocean. I then looked at maps of earth and the individual continents to compare them to the one I created. I wanted my map to be consistent with earth’s as far as the layout of mountains, deserts, jungles, plains, etc… It was my own creation but it still had to make sense to my future readers. I adjusted the map until I was happy with it and then moved on to the next step.

I took another hexagonal map and copied the outline of my previous map onto it. I think bought some map colors, created a color code for the different terrains and colored in all the different regions. I had just a couple more steps then I could start creating stories from my own world.

My next step was to create a list of the creatures that would inhabit my make-believe world. I was excited about it so I may individual index cards for each creature. I used the traditional fantasy creatures I grew up and created some of my own.  I bought a couple of index card boxes and organized them as intelligent, domestic, sea dwelling, etc… I made a list of all the creatures and then I got another hexagonal map and copied the outline of my world onto this map. I went down the list of my creatures and used this third map to place each of my creatures in its proper terrain, making sure to spread the intelligent creatures out so that each would have its own little nation to populate. I made sure to put the races in proper relation to other races that they have relationships with, good or bad.

Now that my general home world was set up, it was time to get down to writing my first story. I wanted to begin with one of my intelligent races that I created. I chose the Swads as they were one my favorites. The Swads were a peaceful race that lived in the plains, alongside a river. They created cities made of stone and they used canals to move around the city.  They redirected water from the river to fill their canals with gates on either of the city to control the water level. Then I chose another of my races that were warlike and had them invade the Swad territories.

I was all set to go except for one thing. I had no idea how to write. I was twenty years old with a vivid imagination but no writing skills at all. At first, I didn’t let that phase me. I had to use a notebook since computers and word processors were still years away. I got up to about forty-five written pages and made a major mistake. I went back and reread it. I rewrote those same pages so many times I lost count and I was never happy with it. That was a very long time ago but I still have what I’d written. I may go back someday and give it another shot. Who knows? Though I never finished that story, I kept the map and I still use it as the setting for my stories even today, over thirty years later. There’s nothing else I’ve ever had that I got so much use from. If you write fantasy, I would suggest you get a pencil and let your imagination soar.  

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