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Welcome to the Offical Site of
Author SL Dooley

If you were traveling through a moss-ladened forest surrounded by majestic pines, thick with overgrown fern and came to a fork, would you take the wide, well-worn road or follow me on the narrow, overgrown, off-shoot?

The adventure, the thrill, the discovery of what's just over the hill will always spur us onward. A two-day jungle hike, or a quest between the pages of a book, both delight and inspire imagination. So join me on the journey. We’ll search for the secret path or the hidden cove.  But more than that,  I believe we’ll discover the wondrous parts of ourselves along the way.

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Alnok Histories
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What if You Told the Story?
BY Michael Freeman

The Chauvet cave in France is the oldest representation of storytelling, dating back some 36,000 years ago. The cave depicts images of a volcanic eruption, including several animals and people. These were painted by firelight tens of thousands of years before Egyptian hieroglyphics began blending immersive imagery with written language. Storytelling is the inherent medium to share, create community, grow, dream, and believe.

Humans are unique in our imagination. It motivates us to use our most valuable skill: creating something new or innovating something to be better. We ponder what life would be like if we could fix this and change that. For some, that’s all the encouragement we need to summon those imaginations into existence.

Storytelling is an art, hobby, academic skill, and so much more. It falls perfectly on the blended line of imagination and creation. Everyone reading this article likely has at least one or maybe many stories that significantly affected your life. Storytelling is so intrinsic to the unique perspective of human existence; some say it has been around since ‘The Dawn of Time’. That phrase alone tells a story, much like “In the beginning.” The opening line to existence.

Dungeons & Dragons and other Tabletop Roleplaying Games (TTRPGs) can be some of the best outlets to satiate the drive to create, change, and impact the people and world around us. Let’s dive into the multiverse of fantasy where this feeling comes alive.

TTRPGs are the newest format of storytelling taking pop culture by storm, and it’s even possible TTRPGs will be heralded as a turning point in the art of storytelling in the millennia to come. What makes the creative process unique when using a TTRPG such as Dungeons & Dragons is that storytelling is best enjoyed when collaborative. There is typically a Dungeon Master or Game Master (otherwise known as DM or GM) that serves as the narrator, the referee, the guide to the story with a group of friends as Player Characters (PCs) within that story setting.

The role of DM in D&D vastly differs from traditional storytelling because the PC’s of your story have their own ‘player agency’. Ideally, they should be allowed to play and improvise as they please with no script of how to act or what to say. They can just be themselves, or in most cases, be someone they wished they could be. I could go on for a rather uncomfortable amount of time about the DM’s responsibility of curating acceptable behavior at the table under these circumstances, as some players believe that ‘player agency’ is a great excuse to behave poorly, but that’s a subject for another time.

This relationship of collaborative storytelling between the DM, and the PCs, in an ideal situation, allows everyone sitting at the table the chance to leave their fingerprints on the shaping of the story. The job of a Dungeon Master is to lay out the skeletal framework of what the story could develop into, make sure the Players understand what their Characters’ perceptions of the world are, and to actively listen to the players’ desires while maintaining the illusion of a living, breathing story. If this sounds both like a lot of responsibility with a high potential for creative twists in the plot, you’re absolutely correct on both accounts. Taking the role of the DM is incredibly demanding. Some duties include:

  • Writing a plot frame.
  • Knowledge of the vast game mechanics.
  • Who the Player Characters are by motives and backstory
  • How to properly time manage both in and out of the game.
  • How to create tension in the environment as well as be a fair referee...

It can be a daunting task and takes commitment.

On the other hand, we do not expect the DM to know everything 100% and the mark of a truly skilled DM is one who knows when it’s time for the PC’s to shape the world. A DM won’t always know what to do in every situation. When and how the PCs interact with the game and each other, that’s truly where the story comes to life.

A novelist may wrack their brains trying to storyboard the events of their plot involving multiple characters’ perspectives, whereas in a TTRPG those writer’s blocks are constantly being challenged, broken, or altered by the players’ choices. The wisest DMs learn to embrace their players’ proclivity for adding their mark on the world. It is such a rewarding feeling as the DM to sit back and listen to players make choices, come up with theories, and roleplay amongst themselves because they are immersed in the sandbox world you set up for them. For me, it’s akin to setting up several fun activities for a birthday party and then sitting back to watch the joy being shared, even when I’m not directly involved.

Another important distinction to highlight is between TTRPG and video games. Many people see them as the same. While there are similarities, they differ even more than from novels. Videogames are co-authored by a production team, and despite how large and ‘open world’ the game claims to be, they can virtually never be as limitless as collective human imagination. This truly ties back to PC agency and how much or how little is allowed by the DM. If a DM were to run a game the same way video games are run, it would be referred to as ‘Railroading’. Railroading is when the players’ choices have little or no influence on the world or plot of the story. The DM might discourage or even punished players. This is generally unacceptable in the TTRPG community because the heart of collaborative storytelling is to encourage whatever creates the most fun for the entire group.

If you have ever thought while watching a show or playing a video game, “it would be better if . . .” chances are, you would love playing TTRPG’s!

Fantastical Trees
BY SL Dooley

Trees that could whisper, talk to each other. Even move.
– Meriadoc Brandybuck, LOTR

Merry hits close to the mark. Except for the moving part . . . maybe. Trees play a big role in the fantasy genre, even if they don’t all talk. From tree-dwelling elves to tree-healing wizards, trees either serve as the backdrop or the center of hundreds of stories. But talking trees aren’t entirely the construct of fantasy worlds. Trees do, in reality, whisper and talk through the mycorrhizal network.

Without getting too technical (you can find a basic explanation here) they transmit messages through fungi connected to their root systems. They send warnings to neighboring forests when nutrients are low, or infestations are spreading. They even fancy species similar to their own. Like tree cliques.

Trees of varying ages make up forests, both ents and entlings you might say. The oldest trees are called “ mother trees.” These matriarchs scuttle off the fungi to the younger trees so they are connected to the network. (Are you thinking “ Borg” too?) It’s fantasy and science fiction combined!


So the next time you are strolling through the woods and you think you hear a whispered chatter, it might not be your imagination. Or you find a gathering of seedlings beneath a giant oak, you can be assured the oak is seeing to it the new sprouts are healthy. We haven’t always been kind to our forests, but it seems they’ve been given a means to take care of their own.


In the book Portal Slayer: Path of Deceit the forest of Alnok has been corrupted. Most avoid the nearby land altogether. You can find out how the forest weaves into the story here.

QOTD: What’s your favorite fantasy forest or tree? Leave your answer in the comments.

12 Suggestions For Life
BY SL Dooley

1.) Get off social media. Ironic, huh? But we all know by now, it’s at best a waste of time and at worst toxic. Set a time limit. And then cut it in half. Decide you’re main purpose for being there, do what you came to do, and then get back to real life.

2.) Stop giving advice. You don’t have someone else’s answer, and you’re probably making it worse. Give insight, suggestions, anecdotes, but let others come to their own conclusions. It may not be the way you would have done it, or even the right way. But as Gandalf said when speaking about Pippen’s pilfering the Palantir: “ The burned hand teaches best. After that, advice about fire goes to the heart.”

3.) Every work of fiction is fantasy at heart. You’re entering someone’s made-up world, whether it contains elves or espionage or friends who become lovers.

4.) Keep a notepad handy. Even if you’re not a writer. Your best thoughts often happen when you’re not trying. (Most of this list came to mind whilst ironing.)

5.) Write in pencil. Erasers are a good thing. Jesus has a giant one. You just have to ask him to use it.

6.) Every story idea has been taken. Sorry. But the good news is you can re-tell them in beautifully unique ways.

7.) If you can’t do something, let someone else. You’ll never really get that good at something you’re bad at. Allow someone else to use their gifts. Everyone will thank you in the end.

8.) Make space. In your schedule, your relationships, your kitchen cupboards. This can be done by following suggestion #1. Those in marketing know the benefits of “ white space” when it comes to designing ads. Take a look at this list and see how many principles you can apply to your life.

9.) Don’t waste time. If there is wisdom in the old adage: “ When on your deathbed, what activities will you look back on with regret?” wouldn’t the opposite also be true? What would you look back on with contentment? Satisfaction? Pride? Make sure you know what those things are and do them. This is not the same as a bucket list, more of a one-and-done wish list. I’m talking about the every day. The small things that make a big impact over time.

10.) This is not all there is. Hence, why I wrote my book and created the universe from which most future books will be set. There’s more to what our five senses can discern. It’s a mistake to behave as though this life is the pinnacle of existence.

11.) Give more. Fear less. The two are in direct opposition. Whether time, love, or money, giving is risky. But fear is paralyzing. *Advice is not included in this suggestion. See #2.

12.) Forgive. Always. This includes yourself.



X Marks the Spot
BY SL Dooley

Have you ever considered using a map to get lost? Yes, counterintuitive but hear me out. I’m not talking about turning off GPS during rush hour through an unfamiliar city. In fact, just the opposite. No cities. No appointments. No insistent Siri voice recalculating your next turn.

Just you and Rand McNally.

Close your eyes, put your finger on the map and hit the road. The goal? Enjoy the journey as much as the destination. With no specific end goal, adventure becomes the objective.

With a desire for discovery balanced with sensible discernment, you might find your next favorite hideaway. Following are just a few suggestions to get you started . . .

Fantasy-inspired eye-spy:

Dragon nests

Fairy gardens

Haunted houses/barns/structures

Cosplay the car:

Milennium Falcon

The Tartis

Gypsy caravan

Steampunk carriage


Inspired playlist:


Star Wars Remix

Fantastic Steampunk


Nerdy snacks:

Lembas bread

Thermos of Raktajino

Berties Every Flavour Beans

Let your imagination take over and enjoy the ride. It doesn’t much matter where you end up.


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