Making Sense of the World Through Fantasy & Sci-Fi

We live in overwhelming times, although I suppose people always have. Tiny bodies caught in a massive gravitational pull. Cause and effect, strangeness, beauty and choice all wrapped up together. Each individual seemingly at the centre, capable of being a hero or villain. Perhaps this is why fantasy and sci-fi have risen to the forefront of popular culture; the scale and scope of these living legends resonating in our consciousness.

We sense the vastness, the grand scope, the great threat and dreaded task. We seek direction and inspiration. For humanity, since the beginning, it appears that we have looked to story to provide meaning, to help make sense of our own role in this complex existence. A story has pattern and rhythm, rise and fall, beginning and conclusion; a world contained. A vehicle offering an objective view, a way to safely make connection, as well as providing opportunity for reflection.

Books have the particularly subtle quality of encouraging the reader to place themselves inside the story; an invisible sort of give and take. Individual perspective works with the words to shape a unique experience. This is magic. Technology not fully understood, even today. True whether you live in the Shire or Mordor, Smallville or Gotham.

Some readers prefer a more optimistic outcome whereas others revel in the darkness exposed. Each have their merits, but I believe that a balance of both is required to create a fully realized story. Because humanity is messy, terrible and wonderful, and so is the reader. As is the writer.

There are voices for everyone, what with the ability to self-publish. Categories and characters that probably never would have made it past the gates of traditional publishing. Seems as though people and tastes are more diverse than what a few executives in tall buildings decided.

I leapt at the chance afforded by indie publishing and wrote a trilogy (discovering afterwards that it could be classified in the fantasy sub-genre, Grimdark.) Grimdark is a foreboding title that doesn’t really mean anything, except maybe to stride forward and meet the challenge headfirst, blade at the ready. Anti-heroes and likeable ruffians that are sometimes more relatable than the knight in shining armour and the ridiculously evil dark lord. Because we live in confusing times and not everything is as it appears at first glance, despite how loudly some people shout.

Everyone is evolving on their own journey, empowered by hidden motivations, born into a world of rules and systems not of their choosing. Grimdark, despite its name, does as good of a job as any genre of revealing this struggle, this desire to discover personal truth.

So I encourage you to try a walk down the many paths of fantasy and sci-fi. Maybe Grimdark isn’t your cup of stale beer, but there are plenty of other categories to choose from. Try a self-published author if you’re feeling saucy, why not? Be bold and see where the story takes you.

Book Launch: Gods of Rua


Gods of Rua, second novel in The Spiritbinder Saga, is officially out in the big wide world! The cover art is incredible and the stakes have been raised across the board as the story continues from where Daughter of Shadow ended.

GoR_Back Cover

In preparation for the launch, I ripped these stumps out of the ground and attached old, rusty horseshoes to make a pair of book stand displays.

Stump and Table Display

Not too shabby.

Book Stump

A celebration was in order. I don’t mind an excuse to throw a party. So we organized with a great venue, booked some talented musicians, brought in a cask of a limited edition beer from a local brewery, and invited the best people we know.

And the artist even made the trek.

Tyler and Jeff

*I’m not short. He’s that tall. Comparative shortness is a byproduct of being friends with former college basketball players.

A fun night and the beginning to the next chapter of the journey!

Author Credibility in the Age of Alternative Facts

All authors face an uphill climb to credibility and none more than independent authors. In this digital era, the internet is like the wild west and author after author enters their book into the mix, hopeful as a gold miner looking to strike it big.


Advertisements saturate our devices, turning choice into a chore. Netflix is nailing the streaming game, making it acceptable to binge entire seasons in a sitting. Individual time is eaten up quick as movie popcorn (handful after handful smashed into the mouth until life is chewing, butter, and previews). And that’s not including work to pay off the debt that floats the economy. Everyone has a side hustle these days. Hopefully your side hustle doubles a passion project.


The best route to credibility as an independent author is likely to garner a multitude of positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Having champions in various genre forums and subreddits to sing your praises is crucial. Getting on a powerhouse mailing list like Bookbub is also a solid boost to the reputation. Paid advertisements get the author’s name out there, but what is the point if no one knows the name? And then there are competitions.


Many competitions exist for independent authors, some more legitimate than others, yet all offer potential glory. Note: these competitions tend to cost $50-150 USD to enter and usually require that the author mail multiple copies of the book, so factor extra postage into the expense.

After carefully researching the available competitions, I entered Daughter of Shadow into four this past summer. DoS was a finalist in two competitions and two were never to be heard from again. The 2017 IndieReader Discovery Awards gave this fine review, even though DoS didn’t end up placing.

“In DAUGHTER OF SHADOW, a must-read for all fantasy lovers, the world is splintered into light and dark and a young female warrior struggles to choose a side. Author Tyler Sehn takes great pains to lay out a richly detailed realm of magic, monstrous creatures, and political upheaval. ”

The Colorado Independent Publishers Association chose DoS as a finalist for the EVVY Awards. 2017 was the 23rd annual CIPA EVVY Awards, which in independent publishing is practically prehistoric.


*Turns out illiteracy killed the dinosaurs*

DoS finished with Merit. Not #1, but not bad. Not bad at all. That’ll do book.


Plus I got these neat stickers to slap on the cover for the next little while. And THAT is what makes the competition worthwhile. A literal seal of approval. A symbol of authenticity to instill trust. An image to catch the perusing eye and make the hand pick up the book.


What say you, reader of blogs? Have a success story about entering a novel in a competition? A not so success story?



Finding the Spark

Writing is an amazing activity, as a few thoughts or concepts can spiral into a story that is grander and more beautiful than the writer ever intended.  Editing is crucial to the process because it cleans up mistakes and smooths out the instances when the writer got carried away.  Lately I’ve been doing much more editing than writing.  Important work, no doubt, but much more on the analytical side of things.  Not much in the way of free-flowing creativity.  Getting back into the groove of writing can be surprisingly difficult.


Self-doubt creeps into the corners of the mind, whispering that your ideas are weak.  How did I even write this story in the first place?


Distraction is everywhere.  For me that means the NBA and NHL are starting up.  Wooo sports!


But I did it—I cranked out some new chapters.  And it felt great.  Momentum is a crazy thing, it wants to move.

Every writer knows about “the spark,” that lightbulb moment of inspiration that seems to provide limitless motivation.  The instance when those fingers dropped whatever they were doing in order to spin straw into gold and create a work of art.  The spark—initially bright as a beacon—dwindles, then goes out completely.  How to attain another spark?  Most people don’t know what they did to get the previous one in the first place.  Sitting around waiting for another spark simply doesn’t work because inspiration is a dynamic phenomenon.  Chances are that you actively found that other spark, perhaps unknowingly, so now it’s time to find the next one.  What sparks your imagination?

Everyone loves a good story, but writers may be guilty of being borderline obsessive.  Writers dig deep into the material by rooting out underlying themes, savoring nuances, and imparting themselves into the story.  This type of reading is an intimate act, providing the kindling for emotions, and has the ability to light the fuse of inspiration.  The same goes for TV and movies.  All are stories, the only difference is the mode of reception. 

On the intellectual side of things: stories spark questions.  The same stories that are setting fire to your emotions are now starting to activate the grey-matter gears in your brain.  Ask questions.  Questions are a powerful tool for discovery.  Follow these questions down the rabbit hole.  And this part is vital: take notes of what you discover!  Documenting these musings, thoughts, queries, and ideas establishes a stockpile of material for the eventual story.  With enough building blocks, dependent on one’s own particular style, the construction can begin.  Time to write.


What are some activities, TV shows, movies, books, etc that inspire you?  Please leave a comment.

Why Fantasy?


At first glance fantasy seems like a ridiculous genre to read, let alone write, yet it has never been more popular than right now. Big books, modern day tomes, filled with swords, mythical beasts, magic, and outrageous adventures have became mainstream. People eat it up—old rehashed stories and modern innovations alike. Why?

I think this phenomenon stems from the ability of a fantasy novel to transport the reader into an exciting, foreign world controlled by the same, but accentuated, rules that govern the world we inhabit. At some point in our lives we all have epic fantasies and such fantasies appear as commonplace in a fantasy novel. The desire to become better than we are through diligent training, to rise to (and overcome) all challenges, to selflessly make the personal sacrifice when required, to shape the world with our own unique power. To be a hero.

I’m referring to an archetypal hero. The champion, the ultimate victor, an individual saturated with glory. In the stories these heroes come to believe, trust—no it’s even more than that—they know, deep down in their bones, where the spirit may or may not reside, that there is something other than themselves. That this something needs their aid. All well and good for an ancient musclebound Greek blessed by the gods, but what about the rest of us?

In many fantasy stories this schism of good and bad is clearly developed—light vs. dark, life vs. destruction, order vs. chaos, love vs. hate. This dichotomy works well within the confines of book covers but has difficulty spilling over into the day-to-day reality of our lives.

People are complicated, we’re bundles of contradictions. Rarely does a wise wizard appear to tell one that he/she is The Chosen One, and if you happen to find yourself in this situation DO NOT GIVE OUT YOUR CREDIT CARD INFO, because that elderly bearded gent is likely playing you for a sucker. And yet, wouldn’t it be easier with this magical system? To run off on a quest and triumph over the baddies—but in our world who are the baddies? We’re all just humans after all.

I’ve yet to encounter a rabid horde of trolls (late night scurrying to pizza shops after the bars close notwithstanding) and I’ve never faced the wrath of a Dark Lord hellbent on subjugation (personal debt is much subtler). So, if you were Señor or Señorita Chosen One, who would you do battle with, conquer, slay? What quest is worth the ultimate dedication?

Your answer is yours and yours alone, a completely subjective decision influenced by your own beliefs, age, societal affiliations, and motivations. Not right, not wrong, just yours. This is why I believe fantasy is a useful tool, because it allows for self-reflection by plunging the reader into a mirror-image of our world populated by characters battling with universal dilemmas. The large scope of fantasy is an attempted portrayal of an all-inclusive (not the kind with tropical drinks) struggle faced by individuals. One problem at a time. Page by page. The basic is expanded in order to be accessible, which is then interpreted through subjective experience. On some level the reader questions, “what would I do?” and this leads to the more important question of, “what do I believe?”

In a world without trolls and dragons (all we have are camera shy Sasquatch) where does one make a stand? What cause does one champion? There is no black and white answer, only a muddied grey full of choices. Choices that you must make for yourself.

Some people choose to make as few choices as possible and that’s fine I suppose, a kind of net-zero, not influencing positively or negatively, but I think that readers of fantasy are different. They’re dreamers. Hope filled idealists. Passionate explorers. Seekers of a quest. Not to burst any bubbles, but you’re already on a quest whether you realize it or not. A choose your own adventure where you can’t keep your finger on the page and read ahead to see if you like the outcome. No going back, no wizards or talking animals (besides a few species of canny birds). Only people.

We’re all we have. And as individuals, families, cultures, and societies we’re stranger, better, worse, more beautiful, uglier, weaker, and more powerful than anything imagined in fantasies.

Stories have the capacity to deeply affect us and from an early age I connected with the themes in fantasy stories. But that’s my subjective experience. Read a fantasy novel, put yourself into the story, allow the story to sink into you, and decide for yourself.