Monday, October 26, 2015

The Story Behind The Unseen Kingdom by Daniel R. Mathews

The Unseen Kingdom was born from my love of Halloween, the horror classics of the 1970s-1980s and my desire to represent gay teens as positive, courageous, proactive characters in fiction.

Actually, in all honesty The Unseen Kingdom was originally intended to be a straight-forward story placing a group of five friends against a Lovecraftian menace as Halloween approaches. However, the story became something more complicated as the project proceeded.

This became a character driven story. Each boy must battle his personal demons, anxieties and weaknesses to find the strength to save one another and their town. One of the subjects that fascinates me and I believe is vital to young-adult literature is exploring the transition from childhood to young adulthood. In particular, my novels explore the many diverse paths a boy may follow in achieving manhood, and what kind of man that boy might become.

I believe these subjects are especially important for gay teens due to the prevalence of stereotypes and clich├ęs in popular media. LGBT teens, in general, suffer from a profound lack of positive representation in young-adult literature and that more than anything drove my desire to write The Unseen Kingdom.

Each of my characters is a normal boy, struggling with problems any young teen faces in his life, of which their sexuality just happens to be one. One of the boys is dealing with an abusive father, while another deals with the aftermath of past domestic abuse. One boy struggles to cope with the death of his father, while another searches for his identity in a family that will not accept his homosexuality. My main protagonist, Tommy, is a boy coming to grips with his feelings for his best friend and struggles to muster the courage to express those feelings. The plot of novel drives each of the boys to confront these problems, growing and changing as a result. While each boy’s journey occurs within the context of the plot, their individual paths and outcomes vary with their experiences.

As you can imagine, this turned The Unseen Kingdom into a meaty novel. We follow not only each boy’s journey but also the strengthening group dynamic as they struggle to unravel a supernatural conspiracy threatening them and everyone they love.

Of all the various horror sub-genres, Lovecraftian horror is one of my favorites. This allows me to deal with twisted worlds and creatures, science, geometry, faith and a boy’s natural wonder about the universe. In my novel, I posit the theory that an imaginative child might be able to accept and embrace a reality which would drive any normal adult mad. Even in a hellish dimension, love prevails when inhabited by those with open hearts and minds. And for those fans of horror films of the 70s and 80s, quite a few Easter eggs can be found throughout the novel. If you grew up a horror movie fan as I did, hopefully you will be able to identify and appreciate the references.

All of these diverse ideas, interests and messages inspired me to write The Unseen Kingdom. I hope that, whether you’re a young horror fan or an LGBT teen or adult looking for an intense, challenging coming of age story, you will find this novel compelling, entertaining and inspiring.



About The Book



Title: The Unseen Kingdom
Author: Daniel R. Mathews
Publisher: Lost Legacy Press
Publication Date: September 19, 2015
Format: Paperback - 562 pages / eBook / PDF
ISBN: 978-0990710721
Genre: YA / LGBT / Horror / Science Fiction


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Book Description:

A group of friends must band together to defeat an ancient evil in Daniel R. Mathew's terrifying debut, The Unseen Kingdom.

In a small New England town, thirteen-year-old Tommy Wilson's biggest worry is coming out to his close-knit group of friends. All of that changes, however, when the boys discover a dream portal to R'lyeh - home to the Titan god Cthulhu himself.

Inhabited by monstrous creatures and eerie children who have appointed Tommy and his friends their new "apostles," R'lyeh becomes a horrifying yet darkly fascinating world that proves to be increasingly real. 

Meanwhile, the town's population is suddenly overrun with a mysterious epidemic that threatens everyone. As the boys struggle to cope with what is happening, Tommy comes closer than ever to discovering the dark secret that lurks within R'lyeh itself - but will the price prove to be too costly? And, can the boys unlock the link between the secrets of R'lyeh and the devastation of their town's population before it's too late?

A truly unique work of fiction, The Unseen Kingdom is an LGBT coming-of-age novel skillfully infused with edge-of-your-seat horror, resulting in a wildly entertaining novel that will leave you guessing until the very last page.


Book Excerpt: 

CH A P T E R 1

The dust covered yellow school bus rumbled down the cracked asphalt road, shaking the children inside. Tommy’s body was inclined back against his seat, his feet planted at the top of the green vinyl covered seat in front of him. He alternated between glancing at his best friend Brian and peering out the window at the blur of the fading autumn colors along the road. Kevin was sitting rather imperiously at the back of the bus, grimacing down at his cell phone that he removed from his pocket every couple of minutes.

Unable to resist commenting, Carlos leaned across the aisle. “Alright, what’s the deal, Kevin? You got a hot date or something?”

Kevin’s face flushed slightly. “Uh…yeah! Jealous much?”

Despite his retort, his hands were shaking. Sunlight streaming through the windows revealed a rather puffy ring of black and blue flesh underneath his right eye. Tommy spotted the clumsy attempt to hide the bruise with makeup. For an instant, the two boys’ eyes met but Kevin cast his eyes downward, looking ashamed. He looked at his phone again, and Tommy knew why.

A smirk curled across Carlos’ lips as he quipped, “Yeah, right. Your left hand isn’t a date!” A chorus of chuckles emanated from the kids sitting in front of the group of boys.

Kevin turned to face him and punched the boy in the shoulder with a dull thwack. Before he could say anything, Kevin leaned back in his seat and said, “Just FYI, it’s my right hand.” The children in earshot giggled at Kevin’s assertion.

After rubbing his shoulder, Carlos looked back at Kevin. “Seriously, dude, what’s up?” Tommy looked over at him and discreetly touched his own face, to draw Carlos’ attention to Kevin’s bruise. After Carlos had realized what he meant, the group became quiet.

Kevin put his phone away, leaned back against the window facing his friends and forced a smile. “The only problem I have is your ugly face.” Carlos flipped Kevin off, and poked Jacob who was giggling at his expense.

Tommy glanced at Brian and smiled. When he returned the smile, Tommy looked down, his face brightening. Carlos and Jacob nudged one another and pointed at the pair. Carlos was dozing in the sunlight, while Jacob leaned against him listening to music on his headphones, watching Tommy and Brian with bemused interest.

Kevin shook his head and grinned knowingly back at Jacob. Tommy caught the boys’ conspiratorial glances and turned his head to the side. He felt he was the punch line of an inside joke sometimes, but wasn’t quite sure why. His curiosity was interrupted by his cell phone vibrating in his pocket. He dug the phone out and read the text message from his mother.

“Yeah! It’s here!” Tommy exclaimed as he pumped his fist in the air excitedly.

His voice rousted Carlos from his slumber. “What’s here? Another My Little Pony?” he asked.

“Your birthday was last month, dork. No, my Halloween costume,” Tommy responded matter-of-factly.

Kevin spun his hand around in a circle. “Uh, and...”

“It’s a surprise!” Tommy said with a mischievous grin, staring into Brian’s grey eyes.

Carlos huffed with annoyance. “Dude, if you wear the same costume as me again this year I’m going to kick your ass.”

“You’re still going as the red Master Chief, right?” Tommy asked with sudden concern. Carlos nodded affirmatively. “You’re going as a Templar, right, Brian?”

Brian responded affirmatively, “I got some chain mail, and Mom bought me a historically accurate tabard and helmet to go with it! Now if I could use Dad’s old sword, the outfit would be perfect.”

“Even with the sword, I’m still going to own you,” Carlos said confidently. He looked over at Kevin. “You decide on an outfit yet?”

Kevin shrugged, breaking eye contact with the others. “I don’t know if my father’s going to let me go.”

“He’s gotta! There’s going to be ten thousand dollars in prizes. This is going to be the best Halloween ever!” Tommy said exuberantly.

“And, you know, nobody does Halloween better than us!” Brian proclaimed proudly.

“Alright...alright. I’ll come up with something, I’m sure,” Kevin assured his friends.

“What about you, Jacob?” Kevin asked.

Jacob smiled. “It’s a secret.”

“I’ll take care of this,” Carlos said, poking him mercilessly in the side, causing him to squeal. The bus driver cleared his throat loudly, glaring at the boys through the rear view mirror.

“Quit it!” Jacob protested, his face turning red enough to mask his pale freckles. “I’m going as a vampire,” he surrendered begrudgingly.

“God, another sparkly vampire!” Carlos teased.

“No way, dork! A real vampire!” he retorted. Tommy and Brian laughed and applauded.

Tommy leaned back and peered out the window again. The bus sputtered to a stop, letting a few children out. He sang under his breath, “Eight more days to Halloween, Halloween. Eight more days to Halloween, Silver Shamrock.” Brian’s reflection in the window beamed at him while Carlos and Kevin simultaneously rolled their eyes.

As the bus rounded a bend adjacent to the swamp that surrounded much of the town, Tommy caught a glimpse of a boy wearing filthy blue denim overalls and a wool beret. However, the boy disappeared behind the veil of swirling white smoke left by the bus’s exhaust. There was something inherently disquieting about the boy.

The bus ride grew progressively quieter as the bus approached the end of its daily journey. His eyes widened when he saw the same boy from earlier emerging from behind a row of wild hawthorn bushes. This time he made direct eye contact with the mysterious boy. A wicked smile danced across the child’s otherwise emotionless face, causing Tommy’s body to shudder involuntarily. There was something terrible in the child’s visage, forcing him to look away from those hollow, soulless eyes that invaded his consciousness. Tommy looked up to see the bus driver staring intently at him through the rear view mirror. The rest of the group had fallen into their own little worlds, lulled into virtual slumber by the constant droning of the engine and swaying of the bus. He sank down in his seat, trying to avoid the bus driver’s penetrating stare. He glanced over at Brian, who was playing with his phone.

Tommy felt some relief when the final stop was reached and it was time to offload. Carlos, Jacob and Brian were already halfway down the aisle before the bus reached a stop, leaving Kevin and Tommy as the last passengers to disembark. As Tommy descended the stairs, the bus driver reached out and grabbed his hand. “You’ve seen them, haven’t you?” he asked.

A startled Tommy gave the bus driver a bewildered stare as he struggled to withdraw his hand from the man’s tight grasp. “Seen who? What are you talking about?” he asked, growing fearful of the man’s narrowing eyes.

“The children of the Great Unseen have revealed themselves to you, and now it’s your turn to hear HIS call,” the man whispered in a raspy voice. He tried to back away as the man’s eyes darkened, much like the boy he had seen earlier.

“You’re hurting me!” an increasingly flustered Tommy stammered, trying to pull away from the man’s grip.

Like a passing summer storm, the man’s face brightened, and he released Tommy’s wrist. “Well, what are you waiting for, boy? It’s Friday night. You got the whole weekend ahead of you. Now git!” He smiled warmly at the astounded boy. Tommy stepped off the bus, confronted by Kevin and Brian.

“What the hell happened?” Kevin demanded.

Tommy could do little but shrug his slender shoulders. “I don’t know. He was mad about something; it didn’t make any sense. Whatever it was, he got over it quickly.”

Kevin watched with concern as the bus disappeared down the road, before turning his attention to the dilapidated two-story greyish white house in front of him. “Well, I can’t stall any longer,” he said with a sigh.

“What are you doing guys doing tonight?” Tommy asked.

Kevin shifted his weight. “I think I better stay in and work on homework.”

Brian said, “I promised Mom I’d clean up around the house tonight, but I’ll have the rest of the weekend free after my homework is done.” Tommy looked a little dejected, but at least this afforded him some time to check out his Halloween costume.

“We’ll see you tomorrow morning, right?” Tommy asked Kevin expectantly.

Kevin forced a smile and gave him a playful push. “Yeah, Bro, I’ll see you guys tomorrow. We’ll go into town or something.” Tommy and Brian said their good-byes and the boys parted company for the day.

Tommy’s house was a little larger than Kevin’s, painted a similar weather-beaten white although clearly more care and maintenance has been put into his house than Kevin’s. He bounded through the front door, his eyes scanning the entranceway and hallway for any signs of his package. He poked his head into the kitchen, spying the nondescript brown box sitting on the table between his mother and father.

He made a beeline for the package before his mom intercepted him. “Not even an acknowledgment of us being in the room?” she mockingly admonished him, wiping the curly locks of blonde hair from his face.

“Stop, Mom! Hi, Dad!” he blurted out as he reached for the box.

“So, remind me why you needed to spend six months of your allowance for this?” his father asked while Tommy tore open the package excitedly.

“It’s a surprise for...” Tommy cut himself short. “I mean, I’m just looking forward to Halloween.” The boy delved into the contents of the package, procuring large sheets of fine brown fur wrapped in translucent plastic.

“Is there something you’d like to talk to us about?” his father asked softly, casting a glance at his wife.

“You know, you can talk to us about anything,” Tommy’s mom said soothingly.

Tommy pulled out the lower jaw of the werewolf costume, running his fingers along the jagged teeth as he looked up at his parents with confusion. “What are you talking about?”

“Well, we thought maybe you’d like to talk about someone,” Tommy’s father said.

Tommy thought for a moment, unsure where his parents were going with this line of questioning, though admittedly he felt embarrassed as a sloppy grin crossed his face imagining Brian’s reaction when he sees the costume. Before he could assemble the pieces in his mind, he blurted out Kevin’s name.

“Kevin? What about him?” his mother asked, casting a confused gaze over at her husband on this unexpected subject.

“I think his dad beat him up last night. He was wearing makeup to cover up a black eye, but he didn’t have it yesterday,” Tommy said, looking out the kitchen window toward Kevin’s house. “I’m worried about him,” he added.

“That’s a serious accusation, Tommy. Has Kevin given you any indication of this?” his father asked, looking troubled.

Tommy shook his head. “No, but he acts afraid to go home. Every day on the bus you can see him start shaking the closer we get.”

“That’s a worrying sign, Tommy, but we need to know the whole story. Kevin is lucky to have you as a friend. I think the best thing you can do right now is be there for him, and let him know that when he’s ready to talk, you’ll listen,” his father instructed.

“Is there anything else, anything Kevin’s said that would make you feel there’s trouble with his father?” his mother interjected.

Tommy thought for a moment. “Kevin’s mentioned his dad drinks a lot. I think that’s when he gets in trouble.”

His mother rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Isn’t it always?” she whispered to no one in particular. “Your father is right, Tommy. Let know Kevin that you’re there for him. There is a counselor at your school trained for this kind of thing, so Kevin has options if he’s in trouble.”

“Couldn’t you talk to his dad, make him stop?” he asked his father.

Tommy’s father leaned back in his chair and sighed. “It’s not that easy, kiddo. Nobody likes to be told how to raise their child, and I’m afraid if we stick our noses into his business, he might take it out on Kevin. It would be best if the school became involved in this.”

Disappointed, Tommy knew this was a problem that couldn’t easily be solved. He pulled out the remaining mass of soft brown fur and the upper jaw of his werewolf costume. “Some assembly required,” he moaned, pulling out a plastic bag full of plastic claws.

“I hope you’re not expecting me to do all the work,” Tommy’s mother warned.

“Uh, no, of course not, Mom!” he replied, his bright, blue pleading eyes belying his underlying intent.

“Well, if you like I can take the measurements and help you get started this weekend,” his mom offered diplomatically.

His face brightened. “Thanks, Mom, that’d be awesome!”

“Alright, go get started on your homework. Dinner will be ready in about an hour,” she concluded, sending the Tommy and his costume out of the kitchen.

His father shook his head and laughed. “I have a feeling this is going to be an unforgettable Halloween.”

Tommy bounded into his room, and spread all the individual components of the werewolf costume across his bed. The macabre mass of soft fur, jaws and claws melded naturally with the horror movie posters hanging on the far wall, above the shelves filled with rows of horror movie DVDs and a couple dozen similarly themed novels. He plopped himself down in his wooden desk chair and rummaged through his backpack for his homework assignments.





About The Author


An avid reader of science fiction, horror, and fantasy, Daniel R. Mathews is a novelist and nonfiction writer whose books feature LGBT youth braving danger with honor and dignity, including his personal memoir, The Demons of Plainville, and debut horror novel, The Unseen Kingdom.
For the past two decades, Mathews has worked as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified ground instructor, meteorologist, and a member of the web development and Internet technical support community. He currently lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.

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