Fantasy books to escape
Fantasy books provide an escape. When I was younger, I struggled with reading. More than that, though, was I didn’t want to read. Reading was boring, and I’d rather be doing other things. I would rather be doing anything other than reading. Normally that other thing was Mortal Kombat, but that’s neither here nor there.
In seventh grade we were tasked with reading a set number of books for half an hour every day. I loathed that half hour and would often drift off to sleep until my teacher put me in remedial reading. She instructed me to choose any book off her bookshelf and read it. She didn’t care what the book was so long as I read something.
This was a magical moment, though I didn’t know it at the time, walking through the aisle with cooler kids snickering at me and no doubt making fun. But that was the moment I realized fantasy books existed, and the rest is history.
The book I chose was Pawn of Prophecy, by David Eddings, and it changed my life. That year, I became a stronger reader, and I refused to go anywhere without a book in my hand. I tore through Pawn of Prophecy, I devoured A Wrinkle in Time, I soared with dragons in Dragonlance, and I became an outcast with A Spell for Chameleon. But if reading fantasy books made me an outcast, it was a badge I wore with honor.
Riding the bus to school, I couldn’t wait for the first light of morning to light the landscape enough for me to read. It was my escape before school. On the way home, I read until the bus stopped at my house. Schoolwork suffered because I had more important things to do. I had to read.
All of that changed
But as happens when we grow up, that changed. My love for reading remains, but life circumstances changed how I read.
My first serious relationship was with a mentally abusive partner and my love for reading suffered. Any activity I did that wasn’t giving him my full attention got derailed. When I read, he would interrupt me to get my attention focused on him. When I wrote, he thought I was cheating on him with a virtual partner, and would storm into the writing room several times, breaking all concentration. My mind couldn’t devote itself to reading my fantasy books any longer. Those books fought for my attention while half of my mind listened for his footfalls down the hall, wondering what he would choose to pick a fight about that night.
The relationship finally ended, but by then the damage had been done. My mind was split, and I worried it was irreparable.
Then my mother’s health began to fail, and the string of heart attacks began. Each time I watched this strong, independent woman slowly cripple because of a genetically bad heart. The amazing doctors saved her each time, but each time she came back, some of her strength slipped over the precipice of death. In time she could no longer do the things an independent person should be able to do. She needed round-the-clock care. I cared for her for four years. I cooked for her, cleaned for her, and did all the other things that caregivers do gladly, but don’t get enough credit for.
I was constantly listening for the thump, psssh of my mother’s oxygen machine, waiting to hear the alarm that it had gone off and she was without air.
At night I lied awake wondering how I would make bills since I wasn’t able to work. I worried about making sure my mother had medications and didn’t run out of the ones she desperately needed for her breathing and her heart.
During the day, I tried to keep some semblance of a routine. I would work on my own fantasy books. I would exercise. I would try reading.
But Amazon and other writers were happening at the same time. You had to write, and you had to write FAST to be anything in the book world. You had to publish every single month to keep yourself relevant or you would fall into oblivion and never be found again, and then what was your dream? Wasted. You were nothing. There were wordcounts to keep up with, editing to be done, covers to be bought, and constant writing with little time for things I enjoyed, like worldbuilding and research.
In 2014 my mother passed away from a heart attack she couldn’t be brought back from. To say it was the hardest period of my life is an understatement. I was so devastated that I still haven’t fully recovered, though it’s going on six years now.
Things weren’t the same for me. I began to think things would never be the same again.
And then, something happened
I’ve always been a strict advocate for following your dreams. So many other people have demands on your time, requirements for you, expectations. Days quickly become about processes and procedures. They get maddeningly busy with customers, with quotas, with planning dinner after dinner after dinner.
If we aren’t indulging our dreams, are we truly living?
For me, the answer was no. I wasn’t living. In fact, day after day I was slowly dying. My dream slipped further away because, like my mind, life had broken my dream. My fantasy books lacked the depth I knew they had potential for, and I hated it. I hated every book in my catalogue for that. More than that, I hated myself for getting caught up in the Amazon machine of constant production that I lost sight of my love for the written word and bringing worlds to life.
I’ve been gone from the writing world for two years now (give or take) and I’ve desperately missed it. During those two years I wondered every single day if I would get back into writing, if I would find that love for fantasy books once more. If—in my own eyes—I would ever amount to anything, or if I was okay with dying a little bit each day until I was finally six feet under and my mind could rest.
But quarantine has taught me two powerful phrases: “Fuck it” and “fuck you”. I said “fuck it” to the publishing world. Releasing a book every single month is not how writers have ever done it in the past, and many of them did just fine. It’s impossible for me to write quality books in such a short amount of time, and the pressure to constantly write and publish killed my love, so fuck it. I refuse to live by that model.
I said “fuck you” to the constant, debilitating word counts—though I still love super productive days. I said “fuck it” to following trends and publishing books that I wasn’t one hundred percent in love with.
In short, I feel like the past two years have been a time of reinvention. I realized what wasn’t working for me, and I gained the courage to say fuck it. I’m doing this my own way, as I always wanted to, and that way is going to be amazing.
A new chapter
You may have realized—or not, because I’m not JK Rowling—that most of my fantasy books have been removed from retailers. That was my decision. Why? Because they didn’t make the cut in their current form. Their current form followed the “OMG you absolutely have to, must write and publish every month!” In that form, they’re essentially first drafts and lack all the depth, research, plot twists, mystery, and things that I love in my fantasy books.
They’re getting a face lift. I love the stories, just not as they currently are. So, while I putter away on new works, I’m also reinventing my old fantasy books to be the great reads I expect from myself and that I expect to see whenever I pick up a novel that calls itself a fantasy book. They will be out once more, and I expect—though don’t hold me to it—that you’ll see books from me once more in 2021.
I’ve also taken to blogging. I used to blog in the past, but my short stories followed the same model as my books: first draft, edit, publish. That’s not the first impression I want to make, so my short stories are also being reworked. Some of the old ones I had published didn’t make the cut. Some of them did but need extensive work to be something I’m proud to put my name on.
There is one series I will not take down, because the only thing it has wrong with it is that it was my first series, and I had a lot to learn. Everyone must start somewhere, and The Revenant Wyrd Saga was my introduction into indie publishing my fantasy books. While the last few books read faster than the beginning, I’m happy with how it turned out, and I will not change that.
So, with that extremely long introduction: Hi, I’m Travis Simmons. Let’s go adventuring together, shall we?
My Mission Statement
To find my love for writing again and to write what I'd love to read. To remember who I am and help my readers discover parts of themselves they have lost touch with or forgotten about; to remind me and them that there's a reason we're alive, and that reason is worth living for. To rely on emotions that all people feel to help create well-rounded characters and conflict. To meet new people and discover new worlds I will never be able to see outside of my own head. To give up the mechanical writing and the sense that "this next book will be a great seller," and to relax and enjoy each new character and story I put into print. To be present in each scene I write. To create a body of work that sells and that can support a comfortable life for myself.