Writing Versus the Writer

Can we still love a book even if its been written by an author who’s hate towards others is loud, both in social media and other avenues? Can we separate the art from the artist, or the writing from the writer? Should we? And if so, why? If not, why not?

These are important questions. And questions I’ve been wrestling with a lot lately. I can’t speak for others, but when someone is vocal about their hate, especially if it affects a minority group, then I have to question why I may have liked their work (if I ever did).

History has proven time and time again that there have been many writers who have been less than exemplary when it comes to what they think of others. Many authors who wrote the classic literature we still enjoy today were racists, bigots, homophobes, sexist, and sometimes just downright nasty people. Did it matter though? Should it matter?

More recently there has been an author of a very famous series of books (of which I adored) who has become increasingly vocal about the hate they have towards a minority group. Not only that, in their latest novel (under a pen name), they even showcase their hate as a model for the book’s plot.

The thing is, I loved the Harry Potter books this author once wrote (some 20 odd years ago now). They gave hope and light when both were needed, not just for me but for many, many people, young and old. Then, and I suppose after this author had gained millions of sales and fans, their true colours began to show. They are now using their platform to spread this agenda. I have no idea why. What purpose does it serve other than to validate their own hate? Why say anything at all? Are they just attention seeking? Unaware? Or are they being clever with their hate to manipulate others for their own gain?

Sure, this author has succeeded in dividing people, but don’t all hate speakers do that? Because that’s what this author is. A hate speaker. I can’t put it any more plainly. Also, the author of the Harry Potter books is a criminal (because hate speech is a crime, no matter its forms). It is senseless and unnecessary. If you look at this author’s tweets, there’s proof enough there of this crime.

I believe this author has issues. After all, they wrote one of the most popular series of books for children in modern times. Are they worried their fame isn’t enough? That it was waning? Now, instead of continuing to spread light and hope, they have turned to other methods to remain in the spotlight. For continued attention perhaps? For what purpose? Money?

I have watched horrified by what this author has been doing over the past couple of years and have become increasingly worried. Not for myself. But for the group of people they’ve attacked. I’m reluctant to say, in the case of this author, I can no longer separate the writing from the writer. I can no longer, in good conscience, support this author in any way by remaining a fan of the Harry Potter books. It’s sad when someone we thought was good turned out to have a rotten core. When indeed the author became the villain from their own story.

And as such, I can no longer speak their name…

The Lonely Road

Writing is frustrating, joyous, heartbreaking, exciting, but above all, it’s a lonely activity. Sure, one can join writing groups such as those on social media (Facebook, Twitter etc), or become a part of the various writing communities in real life. But at the end of it all, despite the interaction with others, the job of writing is down to only onto one person. The writer. And that’s the best and most difficult part, as wrestling with yourself, your greatest and worst critic, is 24/7 and every day of the year. It never stops.

Sure, getting advice, interacting, having an alpha reader, critique partner/s, beta readers/s is a good thing. A needed thing, these days, really. Even sensitivity readers are becoming more an more important. But that doesn’t stop the constant flow of emotions, doubts, and dread when it comes to writing does it?

So this week, I’m tackling the query letter and synopsis for “Immortal Whispers” by myself. Me. Alone. I’m sure my impostor syndrome will come to the fore on many occasions as I do so. Yes, I have people who I can show the result to for feedback, but as I said, it’s a lonely road writing. In all forms. I feel like I’m taking on a dragon by myself with the synopsis. I mean, I wrote a 97k word novel, but writing a 500 pages synopsis of said novel seems daunting. Even the query letter doesn’t bother me as much as a synopsis.

The synopsis, by its very nature, is dry and dull. Sure, they point out the plot arc, but really the thing I find hard in doing them is to not add too much flourish. Or get carried away with minutiae. I’m a fantasy writer, after all. I love details and world building and describing things in length. Adding characters. Intrigue. Monsters. The synopsis doesn’t allow for this (nor should it). Therefore, as I walk another step on the lonely path, it’s time to really get my logical editing brain into gear as I tackle the synopsis this week.

Wish me luck…

The Skull Throne

I have to say, for me, these books are getting better and better. The depth, detail, and richness of the world is amazing. And of course, this one features my favourite character on the cover! Rojer Halfgrip! The fiddler with the magical muse who kills demons in the naked night.

Speaking of covers. The cover artist, Larry Rostant, has not only created beautiful, memorable covers, he has also created another version which did not see print, but lovely all the same. Here it is.

If you noticed (with a keen eye) in the last cover image, Rojer is missing fingers of his right hand. That’s when a demon got him and bit some of his fingers off. In the alternative cover pic above, those fingers haven’t been photo-shopped out yet, and I imagine it’s because it wasn’t used for the final version. Still, would have made an awesome cover, that’s for sure.

And here is the cover minus the title/author’s name. Lovely costume work. Would make a great cosplay outfit, that’s for sure.

See? I told you my reviews would be different. I’m now onto the last book of the Demon Cycle: The Core. I also ordered the short novel, The Great Bazaar and Brayan’s Gold, which should come next week and is a part of the Demon Cycle universe. I can’t wait!

The Things That Inspire

Many have asked me what inspires my writing. I’m quite prolific, on average writing 1500 words per day, everyday. Where is all that inspiration coming from? It’s been a long process to become so organised and prolific, but I have to boil down the reasons I get inspired into two main things.

Reading: Now, I know this sounds trite, but really, reading does inspire creativity for me. Reading other authors helps hone my own voice and aids me to tell my story in my own way. How? Because I can see what works and what doesn’t. Many have said, especially in writing community forums/social media, that you shouldn’t read while you’re writing as it will muddy your own processes. I’ve never felt that. And besides, I’m always reading and writing, so if I waited until I wasn’t doing one to do the other, I’d get nothing done. I’m not just talking in the genre I write in, either. I read a wide variety of genres, from historical fiction to detective/mystery to science-fiction to autobiographies to non-fiction books. I simply love reading.

Pictures/photos/artwork: This one is a huge one. Nothing inspires me more (aside from reading) than seeing a picture which gets the creative juices flowing. I’m a very visual person and love flicking through books or websites for images to inspire. The ‘ah-ha’ moment when I see something that brings a story to life in my head is the best moment ever. Some photos have indeed inspired a thousand words (and many, many more).

Take the picture below. This photo inspired my biggest novel to date and the current work I’ve just completed: “Immortal Whispers.”

As soon as I saw this image I had to tell this young man’s story. Had to. Who is he? Where is he from? What’s he going to do? How would he react if…etc, etc? This photo then inspired the character of Wymond in my story. Yes, he went from what you see here to an oblate in a monastery of monks that can hear the whispers of universe, but still, the roots of who he was came from this photo. I love when that happens. I hope this have given you a little insight into what inspires me.

The other thing I noticed over the years is to just write to become inspired. Writing inspires writing. If ever I got stuck on something, I’d walk away from it (by literally going for a walk), coming back to it later. 9 times out of 10 inspiration struck while I was on that walk. And you don’t have to write on your story. Writing a blog post is writing. Writing a letter. An article. Whatever. Just write. And read. And be inspired by the things that inspire you.

More Map Fun

After yesterday’s rather serious post, I decided to share all the lovely maps and inspiration I’ve used for my world within the pages of “Immortal Whispers”. Enjoy.

This first map is the Kingdom where the majority of the story takes place, Suvanwold. It’s not 100% where I wanted things, and as the story progressed, some things changed. For example, the Silver Tower would actually be farther away and within red-rocked ravines. But for what it was, this map sufficed to help me imagine where things were in relation to each other.

Above is a more detailed map of Dragon Lake and the monastery of the Whispering Monks within the Steps to Heaven mountains. I rather liked how it turned out and it helped me immensely when it came to picturing the scale of things and where things were.

The underdark city of Gethrene is my next map. This is the city of the enemy, dark magical Elves known as Drows.

And finally, the Silver Tower. This is where I changed things to make the tower within a ravine, which isn’t represented in the regional map above. Hey, I’m a writer and my muse likes to mix things up.

As I said before, all maps are made using Inkarnate

Emotional Gatekeepers

According to Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths are: the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering.

I’m not going to pretend to know anything about Buddhism and its teachings. Far from it. But lately, and especially because I have been unwell and isolated (except for being with my partner), I’ve started to contemplate what my truths are and how other people’s truths affect me.

Let me explain.

I know who I am and what I believe in–I have faith. I know my likes, my dislikes, and what upsets me and what makes me happy. I know my sexuality. I know who I am through my own thought processes and experiences. Through my love. These are my truths and only I can experience and deal with them.

The thing is, they will be completely different to what other people’s truths are. Every one of us have their own path they must travel to understand and ofttimes overcome or embrace their truths. We are all valid. Our experiences are all our own. How we treat ourselves and others because of our truths is up to us.

A lot of people don’t seem to understand this, especially lately (it seems). They try and erase other people’s truths (even identity) by demanding their experiences are ‘better’ or more ‘important’ than anyone else’s. They’re usually insecure/jealous people who do this. Or they could be people who think what they’re doing is ‘right’ according to their own truths, but in fact are not. These people then try and erase your experience to validate their own.

I call all of these people – from the jealous to the self-righteous – emotional gatekeepers, as they try and deny you access to your own self through their words (and sometimes actions). They make you question yourself. Or worse, make you think who you are/what you’ve experienced isn’t valid.

For example, they’re the kind of people who will say: “I had X and it didn’t hurt/worry/concern me, so why are you hurt/worried/concerned?” or to take that further: “I have a gay/POC/disabled friend and their life experiences have been good. Your life is good too because things are better for minorities now.” and then the ultimate: “I hear you suffer from depression/anxiety, but you look fine to me. What are you complaining about?”

Denying someone else their truths, even passively, isn’t good. Words are weapons and can be wielded cruelly. As I’m sure a lot of people do, especially behind the anonymity veil of the internet. But the thing is, because I’ve come to recognise myself and my own truths, I’ve now also come to recognise the types of people who try and emotional gate keep me in all their forms. How do I deal with it? Easy? I stay true to myself.

All images on this website/blog are purchased from iStock.

The Lands of the Eleven Kingdoms

Every fantasy novels needs a map (or three…or ten). I mean, how else would you know where the dragons lived? Because as readers, that’s darn important information.

The world I’ve created for my novel “Immortal Whispers” is known as Landmere. The particular section of Landmere where things take place is Suvanwold (just above the middle bottom part of the map shown), a kingdom within the Eleven Kingdoms, ruled by King Hurald. And yes, you can see there are dragons there.

I’ve used Inkarnate to draw my vision as you see it. Over the coming weeks I’ll show you the other maps I’ve come up with. No, they won’t appear in the novel itself in this form, as I’m sure a publisher will get their own artist to do the maps for the story. See? I’m being positive in saying that. Because yes, I’m determined to get published. Determined.

The Daylight War

I’m going to start posting my thoughts of books I’ve read. But first, let me be clear. These posts will not be traditional reviews, because the books I talk about will not be rated. I won’t reveal spoilers either: no, “Oh look, Darth Vader is Luke’s dad” here, folks. I’ll also only write my thoughts about the books I enjoy or admire.

The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett is a massive tome (800 pages) and the third book in a series. Before this, there was The Painted Man (750 pages) and The Desert Spear (780 pages). But don’t let the page counts worry you. The read is easy, clearly written and well crafted, and for me the story is flying by. I became so immersed within the rich world building that includes two opposing cultures (one loosely based on a Western society, the other taken from Middle Eastern cultures) and the characters who tell their stories as they struggle to fight off powerful flesh-eating demons. These demons, coming from a place called the Core (underground), rise after the sun goes down to own the night, returning before dawn. Prompted by Arlen (The ‘Painted Man’ of the Western-type culture), and Jardir (‘The Deliverer’ and of the Middle Eastern-type one), the people of this world now want to get their night back.

They begin to fight the demons instead of cowering from them.

Along with Arlen and Jardir, to help the people’s cause against the demons, there’s protection magic. This magic is created using symbols or ‘wards’ (as they are known in the story) written on the ground/on posts/walls etc to create a magical shield around homes and buildings. The fighting wards were lost long ago after the last great demon war. Now they are being discovered again. I won’t go into detail about this as that will go into spoiler territory.

I have to admit, my favourite character is Rojer. For me, when he’s on the pages they light up, he has that much presence and interest. We’ve seen him go from a frightened little boy (of 4 years old) to a confident, caring young man (18) able to mesmerise/kill demons with the music he plays on his warded fiddle. I loved this take on magic. He also marries outside his culture, to bring a better understanding between the two. But really, all the characters are well drawn, and have their own unique stories to tell. In The Daylight War, we even get to see how those in the opposing culture are also people with their own beliefs and struggles, and that’s what really made this book special for me. The world is rich and the characters are alive. What more could one ask for in a fantasy series?

The next book in the series is The Skull Throne and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into it.

The Lockdown Muse

Times have been tough, there’s no doubt about it. I’ve struggled with many things since the pandemic began in March (where I live). The most devastating was not being able to see my family, friends, and clients. My mental health suffered a lot. I spiralled. Not into depression, but I was in a dark place for a long time.

My physical health also deteriorated. I used to swim and gym 3-5 times a week. Being limited to only an hour of walking a day isn’t enough exercise, and because of my Hayfever wearing a mask outside (during Spring) for an extended period does take its toll (note I didn’t use my Hayfever as an excuse to not wear a mask). I always wear my mask outside.

Anyway, long story short. I wrote my largest novel ever, coming in at a shade over 97K. It’s a fantasy epic that I hope will become a trilogy. But we’ll see how that goes. Suffice it to say, my lockdown muse was dirty, swear-y, and wanted lots of blood and gore. I even killed characters! I had a ball writing the story, and no word of a lie, it really saved me from going deeper into darkness. Yes, I now have to be on medication for my blood pressure, but seriously, it could have been a whole lot worse according to my doctor. I had an outlet I used effectively, and for that I’m lucky.

So now that I’ve finished editing “Immortal Whispers” I’m resting from writing for a couple of weeks. I’m going to read and try and exercise a lot more because restrictions are slowly easing here. Thank goodness! Also, the story is now in the hands of my wonderful beta readers. My baby is out there in the big wide world. I wonder how others will take this dramatic difference in my writing from my lockdown muse?

The Demons Within

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about the identity of the author and what they’ve written–and indeed if they are qualified to write them. What’s this all about I hear you say? Let me explain.

There was an incident a week or so ago where the community took exception to an author and their work. As it goes, this author pitched during DvPit (a pitching game for underrepresented groups to try and get agents/publishers for publication) because they wrote a story of a native Hawaiian girl who becomes a hula dancer/fire knife thrower.

The thing with this, and here’s the crux of it, the story about the Hawaiian girl was pitched as an own voices story. In other words, the author stated they were native Hawaiian and used an event for underrepresented groups to get their story out there. This turned out not to be true. The author was a white woman who later claimed they only ‘lived’ in Hawaii. Not only that, this white author appropriated the Hawaiian culture incorrectly. I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say, the author lied about who they were to get their story out, riding on the back of an indigenous culture to do so.

This then led to other authors ‘coming out’ to the community to justify what they’ve written. Becky Albertalli was one example (author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, adapted to the movie Love, Simon). In a heartfelt blog she outed herself to let others know she was ‘qualified’ to write LGBTQ+ stories.

To me, stealing another culture’s identity and using it as your own is wrong. Wrong on so many levels. But an author’s sexuality is their own and NEVER needs to be justified. Becky’s outing in such a manner should never have happened. We need to focus on the real issues. And white people stealing from other cultures for their own financial gain is the issue here (and I’m accusing the agent/publisher here too).

In my case, I’m not out and I never will be because of my job and my own safety. Does that mean I can’t write LGBTQ+ stories? Of course it doesn’t. My own personal journey and sexuality is no one else’s concern but my own and those I love. So, as I reinvent myself, my personal life will always remain personal. If anyone has an issue with that, then that’s their issue not mine. I will write the stories that speak to me. Always. I am a writer. A cis white guy who doesn’t steal other people’s culture to try and get a publishing deal.