Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Friday, November 10, 2017

to find out what happened - By Fire and Starlight by Michael DeBuer

Youth fantasy with anthropomorphic characters that are caught up in a magical and mystical world of sorcery and search of their identity.


Published: September 2017
Illustrator - Matt Marini 

This story is about a giant intelligent mouse who has lost his memory and is trying to seek his true identity. Through his journey’s he is pursued by a sorcerer and meets many friends who to have lost their identity. Together they join forces and try to find out what happened to them.

Youth fantasy with anthropomorphic characters that are caught up in a magical and mystical world of sorcery and search of their identity.


I originally came up with the idea of this story from a dream that I had in my early thirties. In my dream I had a vision of being in a prison of some sort. It was very dark and damp. There were torches on the walls and to my amazement I saw a ram that was mostly a skeleton with tufts of fir here and there, and there were small birds inside the skeleton. The ram began to walk towards me and stopped in front of me. The birds flew out of the skeleton and departed through a window down the hall chirping all the while. The ram crumpled to the ground in front of me and disintegrated. 

This dream stuck with me and I had been an avid reader of fantasies aimed at youth, such as the E.Nesbit series, and the Chronicles of Narnia, as well as Madeleine L’engle. I thought to myself perhaps I could expand on the dream and turn it into a story. I also wanted it to be illustrated as most of the fantasies I read were. This would add a dimension and draw the reader into the story by visualizing the characters and environment. 

I had been told by my teachers when I went to grade school that I had a talent for writing and story telling. This was encouraging to me so I decided to try my hand at writing my own fantasy. 

I was also encouraged by a biographical documentary about the writer and illustrator of the Wizard of Oz. 

I began to write. I had just been laid off from a job where I worked as an Electrician and 

Millwright. This gave me the time to go ahead and write By Fire and Starlight. I did not come up with this title to begin with though, that came many years later when the story was completed. 

It was not an easy task to write this story and I had to make many revisions and found that my method of writing was kind of hap hazard. So I changed my approach. I created a flow chard of the entire story in pencil and made changes where needed. I guess some of the computer programming I learned in school was coming in handy. 

Finally I had the outline of the entire story laid out and I began to write again. This time it worked out better and their was order in the story. I finished the first version of the story about twenty five years ago. But I had a problem. I did not have an illustrator and I did not have the money to pay an illustrator. 

So I waited. My sister gave me an original copy that I had sent to her in the mail for copyright reason a few Christmas’s ago. I asked her why she was giving it back to me. She told me that I should do some more work on it and try to publish it. I was still without an illustrator though but I began to edit the story and make a few changes. 

Where would I find an illustrator? Well I had an idea: I put an add last summer in the local paper asking for an illustrator. I received several replies. One was from Matthew Marini who’s art would suit the style of the story. I integrated the illustrations into the book and finally “By Fire And Starlight” was born. 

The development of characters in this story was quite a challenge. First I had to decide who the main character would be. I chose a mouse because it is one of the weakest and most fearful of animals. Yet in its fear a great amount of courage arose. I have no particular reason for choosing Arni as his name. Perhaps subconsciously it may have something to do with Arnold Schwarzeneger? 

Since sorcery was involved in the story it was not hard to make a tiny mouse into a human sized mouse. I decided to remove any memory of his and some of the other characters because that would allow me to add an element of mystery to the story, which would allow me to add detail and depth to the story. 

I chose the name Grumbacher for the giant ape because I was searching for other names and I had a color pencil set made by a company called Grumbacher. I decided to have him be an ape because of the strength that apes have in comparison to other smaller animals. 

Aryane’s name was chosen for no particular reason it just had a nice ring to it. To make her a giant cat though was another matter it to gave her power like the ape but also speed and the ability to see in the dark as well as intelligence. 

So all of the anthropomorphic characters had a quality that ultimately would serve them all well in trying to solve the mystery of their state. 

The character of the girl Velina’s name came from a dream I once had where I met a girl with that name. I decided to make her a juvenile because this story is primarily directed at young people but older people should enjoy the story too. Velina for me was quite easy to work with as a character. Many of the things that happened to her were actually mirrored from my own experience’s when I was younger. I thought it was important to focus on the abuse element because it happens so often today. 

In regards to the locations and geography these are based on actual places that I had traveled to when younger in the Rocky Mountains. The forest at the beginning of the story was inspired by a park not that far from where I lived as a young adult. It is called Glen Haffey Conservation area. 

It was late fall and a blustery day. The leaves were being blown off the trees and were moving wildly in the wind. This memory stuck in my head and I thought it would fit well in the story.The flats where Arni and Grumbacher passed through was at the foot of Mount Rainier in Washington state. The hut where Arni was trapped in was inspired by a run down stone hut just outside of the town I live in which is Orangeville Ontario 

Canada. The cliff and glacier scene was inspired by the ice field in Jasper National Park in Alberta Canada. 

The town was inspired by a small town I had been in many years ago, and the town hall was inspired by some beautiful stained glass windows in an old church I had toured many years ago. I also wanted it to be clear that good would ultimately triumph over evil. 

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About the author:
I wrote this story about 20 years ago and over the last year have edited it and have had it illustrated by Matthew Marini. Many of the situations in the story are from personal events that took place in my life and places that I have been. Some of the situations were also formulated from dreams that I have had in the past. I have always been interested in youth fiction and fantasy with morals included in the stories that I have read. I have been influenced by E. Nesbit and the Narnia series of books. I have also written poetry in my younger years and a few other short stories that had an element of fantasy in them. This is my first attempt at a short youth fantasy novel and thought by having illustrations in the book the story would come to life.

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