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.

The Art of Reinvention

I’m coming to my 50th birthday soon. A milestone I thought would be one filled with celebration and good times with loved ones. Then 2020 happened and we were all placed in lockdown. Still are as of writing this. And even though I feared the worst for what lay ahead, I decided to reinvent everything I was doing. Go back to my roots of what I loved the most when it came to my writing, because let’s face it, being stuck at home has been no joy. I needed to do something for my own mental health.

I began to write and read a lot more fantasy. Before now, I was writing and reading contemporary fiction and a few other genres as well, from historical fiction to detective stories. I love to read widely. But my first love has always been fantasy. And fantasy has come a long way since my youth, that’s for sure.

So here I am. At the end of my first true fantasy novel “Immortal Whispers”. For this one I will also reinvent the way I do things as I’ve honed my craft. I’m going to submit it to agents/publishers instead of self publishing or going the small press route. I believe, deep within me, I have a career in writing and as such I need to take what I do to the next level.

As I approach 50 I’m starting all over again. And I love it.