Nostalgia Part Two: The Dark Side

My last post discussed nostalgia, and the recurring joy it can foster. Interestingly, over the past few months I have been considering a different aspect to nostalgia. One that I am becoming ever more aware of when browsing social and digital media. Namely, how our feelings of the past are blinded by the passing of time and how nostalgia can cause bitterness in the here and now. 

Perhaps my own interpretation of the word nostalgia is to blame. It is often defined as an excessive yearning to return to the past, with a melancholy undertone. I instead have always personally considered it a recollection of key times or events that brought about a heightened sense of joy or pleasure. This, combined with a willingness to try to recreate or remember those times. Nostalgia to me is being thankful for those times, rather than being disappointed that the now is not as good.

The key trigger for me to consider this in greater depth was the recent release of the Obi Wan series. My friendship group, as could be expected, includes a significant number of avid Star Wars fans. The discourse that followed the release of this show surprised me. Whilst the debate about whether new Star Wars movies are any good has been going for many years, this show appeared to me to be a turning point in how profoundly people who did not like it felt the need to criticise the show.

I believe criticism is a key part of all media forms, and highly important. But what surprised me is that the criticism had at times moved away from personal opinion on content, to being critical of people who decide they liked the content. The discussions I have witnessed on Obi Wan have made me acutely aware of how much negativity now permeates all aspects of nerd culture. Whether it is the trading card, wargaming or board game communities. Or the comic book, manga or pop culture fandom. Forums and social media posts are now more frequently about what is wrong with the current state of these things, or full of judgement and complaints. It can at times feel like saying that you like something will lead to vilification or cause you to duck, for fear of flying tomatoes!

It does at times appear that we have reached a point where I rarely see content discussing the positives of something. Such content tends to generate heated and sometimes unpleasant debate. I recall as a child that to talk about your favourite hobbies amongst like minded kids was a true joy. Back then, being a nerd wasn’t cool, it made you a target for bullying! We banded together and took comfort that we had superheroes, dungeons and dragons and other games to enjoy. Today, most of these things have become highly popularised and no longer hold much, if any, stigma. I am unsure if this has had an influence into why a larger degree of negativity has appeared. But I find it odd that so many of those who would have been labelled nerds as children have become so judgmental of others who attempt to show their enjoyment of pop culture.

I do feel that nostalgia has had an impact. In particular, a belief that the things we loved as kids were better then, than they are now. Whilst this may be factual for some things, the dark side of nostalgia is that the yearning we have to return to the past is blurred by too many factors. In nerd culture specifically I believe a strong factor is that as children we had very limited content to consume. Therefore we were forgiving of flaws. As well as this, I do believe that children will actively focus on the things that they like when watching or reading something. Small problems will be less likely to bother them and are washed out by the moments of joy whilst watching their heroes destroy the Death Star. What this ultimately leads to is those strong feelings of nostalgia when we are adults, which focus on the good aspects and forget the bad. With these thoughts, anything new will always struggle to compete. 

This nostalgia will make it very difficult for modern things to live up to the expectations we have built from childhood. Obi wan may just be a great example of this because it takes such a beloved character and attempts to create a new story for him. Perhaps the nostalgia for this character is so overwhelming in some that seeing a story not to their liking creates a sense of outrage. Thinking about this, I do understand why the show has been so divisive, and led to such strong feelings. But I do think that we might all benefit from remembering that whilst the Dark Side of nostalgia might ruin modern content for some of us, we should never stop encouraging others to show how much they like something. This is what all cultures should strive for.

Let’s be more willing to agree to disagree. Rather than breeding discontent, let’s pivot and talk about the things that we love. Nostalgia can be a tricky thing. Maybe we all need to be a bit more aware of how it influences our opinions.

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Nostalgia

A few years ago, just before my wife and I were heading to Europe for a four month holiday we had been planning for years, the two of us went to Comic-con in Melbourne. It remains the best one we ever went to. The guests were terrific that year, we were able to sit in on so many great Q&A’s and see some really amazing stuff. But the thing that made it extra special to us was meeting Billy Boyd.  

It’s no surprise that I am a massive fan of the LOTR movies and Billy’s performance of Pippin is flawless. In person he really does seem like the exact same character! His laughter is infectious and his take on life is so refreshingly wonderful. Lining up to get his autograph, my wife and I were watching the people before us step up, say a few words, get his signature and move on. As our turn approached, my excitement grew. Honestly, I was more excited than any other star I had met at a Comicon, including William Shatner.

We stepped up and handed over the picture of Pippin we wanted to get signed and I decided to ask Billy a question. The first stop in our four month trip was going to be Scotland for a few weeks, as we were flying into Edinburgh. So I told Billy this and asked if he had any particular recommendations for two travelers visiting his homeland. Well…

Billy’s eyes lit up, he looked up with a gleaming smile and turned the picture we had given him around. The excitement with which he talked to us about his favourite spots and recommendations will stay with us forever. As he explained where to go and what to see he drew us a tiny map that sits in the frame right above my computer, a little easter egg that you would only see if you took the picture out.    

Billy’s Map

Whilst the people in line behind us were clearly peeved at us spending close to 5 minutes talking to Billy, it is a moment that has had such an influence in our lives. On our trip we stopped off at his recommendations and drank the whisky he claimed was the best. Scotland remains one of our major highlights and we have BIlly to thank for that. To this day we almost always have a bottle of Balvenie Doublewood in our cabinet and each time we have a glass we remember that day and the joy he brought us.

Has it really been over two years?

I’m pretty sure I blinked and it’s 2022. My last blog post was in August 2019! So a quick catch up. My son is a few weeks from turning 3. There has been another addition to the family with my daughter, Liliana, who is already 8 months old! Oh and there is also a pandemic … Guess that is probably where a lot of the last two years went.

Liliana. She is definitely going to be the boss of the household!

Living in Melbourne we endured the longest period of lockdowns anywhere in the world. And whilst it saved many lives, I look back at all that time spent confined to my house and ask myself, how did I not write even a single sentence of a new book? So much wasted opportunity! Turns out that writing is substantially more difficult when looking after kids and having a busy job.

But all hope is not lost. The endless days of moving from living room to bedroom for a change of scenery weren’t completely wasted. I have new ideas! And what I believe are good ones (Fingers crossed). Specifically, I have the concepts for two completely separate and standalone stories. One which will be a full book, and another that I suspect will be more of a Novella. It is this Novella that I am hoping to start writing in the coming weeks. 

My new year’s resolution this year is very specific. I am not going to allow my Rheumatoid Arthritis to stop me staying fit and, more importantly, from writing. I have battled with joint pain in the last two years and as a result have too frequently stopped exercising. I have also hesitated to spend too much time at a keyboard after work. But I am now finding ways to manage this. I’m determined to get back to telling my stories.

I am also setting myself the goal of posting on my blog at least once a month for 2022. I’m hoping to expand this into some of my other hobbies and look forward to sharing those with you. I am lucky enough to be at the start of 3 months paternity leave and, though my days are full of chasing after two wee-ones, I am aiming to fill my nights with the clatter of my keyboard.

Hope everyone has been staying safe in this turbulent time and I look forward to bringing you more of my content in the next 12 months!

2019 – Writing, Fatherhood, MS and More

Back in 2013, after I published my first book, if you asked me what I would be doing in 2019 I would have said something along the lines of, ‘hopefully writing and publishing my fifth or sixth book and spending my free time in a comfy leather chair in my multi-room library’. Flash forward and I’m still working on getting that library and though I’ve published four books I have to say that the last six years flew by faster than I could have imagined.

Good intentions aside, everyone knows that real life can be tough. I have never shared a great deal of my personal life through my website but I hope that by doing so I can provide you with a greater insight into my world and hopefully inspire others to share more of their own personal stories.

Shortly after publishing Dawn of the Valiant I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. It was a diagnosis that as you could imagine shocked me profoundly. Nothing can ever prepare you for something like that and it doesn’t matter how strong you are it takes a long time to come to terms with life changing news like this.

Thanks to the support of my amazing wife I was able to focus on the good parts of our life, of which I am eternally thankful there are many, and quickly decided that I wasn’t going to let this disease stop me from doing everything that I loved. I continued to write my books and finished publishing my trilogy in 2015. I kept my diagnosis quiet for over a year before sharing it publicly and, looking back I’m glad that I didn’t stay quiet about it for too long.

If I’ve learnt anything it’s that facing challenges is only made easier with the encouragement that you receive from friends and family. Being diagnosed with MS initially made me feel isolated and after sharing it with my friends I quickly learnt how much they are willing to support me and also how many other people go through similar experiences.

After finishing my trilogy, I had grand intentions to continue to write further books, but my career in finance became increasingly busy and my home life similarly so. I have started another book, but my usually strong discipline around locking myself away to write faded as other distractions rose.

A few years on, I was further diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and at that point I found myself surprised at how easily I took the news. I’m not sure if my initial MS diagnosis used up all of my ability to be shocked, but I recall literally shrugging when the doctor told me the news. My reaction was, ‘No worries. I’ll deal with this. Life goes on.’

Despite these life-altering events I consider myself to be extremely lucky. Earlier this year we welcomed our first child into the world. My son, Thorin, is everything we could have ever asked for and has once again changed my perspective on what is important in life. My diagnosis of MS seems like a distant memory now thanks to his cheeky smiles every morning.

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Thorin

I find that with being so busy with my work and home life I often forget that I was able to follow my passion and publish my books. I also regularly look back and think that I could have done better, or feel guilty that I haven’t posted to my website for a long time, or think that I really should have written another book by now. But time really does flash by and I have begun to tell myself that there is no guidebook to life. You do what you can when you can. You prioritise what is important to you and your family as it arises. The most demanding expectations are most often set by yourself, so don’t be too harsh a critic.

My passion for writing has never disappeared. But it has now been complimented by my passion for raising my son and being the best father and husband that I can. The last six years of my life taught me resilience and that sometimes life isn’t fair. But everyone has the power to focus on the positives and make the most out of what they have. Its not easy, but nobody ever said life was.

I will write another book. I will build that library. It may not be tomorrow, but it will happen. And as long as I keep believing that and roll with the punches I’ll be a happy man. I look back and see the people around the world who have read my novels and said kind words and remind myself that you need to sit back every once and a while and acknowledge and, most importantly, be proud of what you have managed to achieve.

Gog & Magog

Some time ago I wrote a short story for a friend who was asking for tales based in the city we live in, Melbourne. This struck me as an interesting request as, for those who have visited Melbourne, Australia, you will know it is a city which is diverse and rich in cultures from all parts of the world. Rather than try to capture all of what makes Melbourne what it is, I attempted to pick just a small element of that, and splash in what I love the most; Fantasy.

As a child I always had fond memories of visiting Royal Arcade in the city center and having the statues of Gog & Magog look down at me. When I think of Melbourne I also always picture the vivid street art which covers our alleyways and side streets. So I hope you enjoy this short tale as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Gog & Magog

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Royal Arcade – Melbourne

“Only an hour till it begins,” said Sal, scratching the heat rash on her neck.

Her new partner spun around in shock. He wiped the hair from his sweaty forehead and gulped over the lump in his throat.

Sal caught his eye and then noticed the wet patches all over his grey shirt. “Relax mate, they’ll come through. At least they have in the past.”

He swallowed once again, though this time it caught in his throat and he began to sputter.

Sal shook her head and looked up. Staring down ominously from beside the clock were the statues of Gog and Magog. The arcade was silent – eerily so. She had watched the shoppers drift by, stopping to buy macaroons and deliciously overpriced chocolate, before spending all their money on jewellery. By the time the sun set, the shoppers had left, including a bunch of acne-scarred adolescents who had reluctantly stumbled up the stairs from the Dungeon of Magic.

“What’s going to happen?” he stuttered.

Geez, where did they find this kid? Sal shook her head. Twenty years she’d been with the Bureau. Twenty years of keeping the world safe with no credit but a pat on the back from her superiors. “What’s your name again?”

“Russell.”

“My dog’s name is Russell,” Sal replied, not taking her eyes from the statues. “I’m going to call you John.”

Russell’s mouth opened but then quickly shut.

They’re making them with less backbone than ever. She pulled out a pistol and handed it to him. “Our friends up there are going to wake up and help us make sure that tomorrow we have a city to live in.”

He hesitantly took the gun, gripping it loosely as though it might bite. “And what exactly is going to happen?”

Sal sucked her lips and let out a frustrated breath. “Blighters,” she replied curtly. “Been appearing for over sixty years.”

Russell looked even more confused than before. “Appearing? From where?”

“Who knows? Since mankind decided to go and split the atom we’ve had to deal with them.”

“Why didn’t they tell me any of this?” he asked.

“Can’t trust you. Who’s to say you won’t go spreading state secrets to the public?”

“But I could go tell them now,” Russell replied incredulously.

Sal smiled. “After tonight, you won’t want anyone else to know what really goes on in the shadows.”

“But-“

“John, stop talking. Only fifty five minutes left.”

 * * * 

It didn’t happen slowly. It happened all at once, catching Russell unaware and causing his heart to leap to his mouth. The two statues began to move, their pine carved bodies springing into action and scaling down from their perch beside the famous Gaunt’s clock. 

“Cutting it fine this time, gentlemen,” Sal called out.

Gog and Magog stretched out their muscles, patted the dirt from their red and cream outfits and shuffled over to the front of the jewellery store.

“Good evening, Miss Sally,” said Gog. “And may I say you look very fine this evening.”

“Thanks, G. You’re looking pretty handsome yourself. New paint job? Or have you been working out?”

Gog blushed, “You are too kind.”

Magog let out a cough that sprayed dust onto the floor. “Forgive my interruption, but how long do we have left?”

“Ten minutes,” answered Sal.

Russell had taken on the colour of spoilt milk.

Gog eyed him with suspicion. “Is this young man quite himself? I suspect he may faint. We would not want a repeat of last year.”

“I remember last year,” replied Magog grumpily. He turned his hip to show them a dent in his rear end. “Bullet nearly took off half my arse!”

“This one’s got more pedigree,” Sal assured them. “Don’t you, John?”

Russell was still staring at the statues with the queasy look of someone who was sorting through rotten fish.

“Talkative, this one,” said Magog.

“Yep, well come on, the city isn’t going to save itself.”  Sal turned and began to strut down the arcade.

Walking past a shopfront full of babushka dolls, Gog and Magog shuddered and let out curses. “What kind of nightmare graveyard is this!” cried out Magog.

“Relax, M,” replied Sal. “They aren’t Sleepers like you. Just dolls.”

“That’s what you say. Took your people twenty years before they realised we were here.”

“Can’t blame us, M. You only show yourselves once a year. How are we supposed to know?”

Magog grumbled. “Bloody humans. Don’t know why we bother helping you.”

“Because, old chap, the alternative would be a life with the Blighters,” answered Gog.

“No more time for reminiscing,” said Sal, pulling a second pistol from her holster and cocking it. “Time to dance.”

Russell stared down at the gun in his hand and the fake police uniform they had forced him to wear. He should have just finished his arts degree.

 * * *

The alley was a teenager’s paradise. Graffiti covered the walls, spreading out onto three huge dumpsters standing to the side. Russell followed Sal and the two statues, eyes darting around nervously at every shadow. A couple of pools of rainwater dotted the asphalt. There was no one around. 

“This is it,” said Sal. “Five minutes.”

“What am I supposed to do?” asked Russell.

“You’ll see,” replied Magog, taking his flail in both hands and swinging it about. His hand slid familiarly along the chain, making sure the spiked ball on its end was secure.

Gog stood to the side, peering down the alley with a frown. His hands were hidden behind the wooden shield in his grip.

Their anxiety grew. A tram rattled past. Pigeons fluttered from between the dumpsters and out of the alley. Russell’s palms were so sweaty he worried the gun would slip from his grip.

They heard a faint whistle. Sal lifted her gun and Russell hesitantly followed, though he had no idea what he was pointing at. A gust of wind swept into the alley and hit them square in the face, throwing their hair up and causing them to gasp. The whistling grew louder, more high pitched, then – silence.

Russell’s finger twitched on the trigger, eyes scanning the alley for any sudden movement. Gog and Magog slowly began to step forwards, marching further into the alley.

Sal, noticing Russell’s unease, broke the dreadful silence. “Alright, listen up, John. I’m going to fill you in on what you are risking your life for.”

Russell listened intently but kept his gaze on the two walking statues.

“Every year, at the summer solstice, Earth gets invaded.”

Russell swallowed. The lump in his throat had grown.

“Bureau still doesn’t know jack about the Blighters,” she continued in a hushed voice. “Everything we throw at them only slows them. There’s no way to put them down for good.”

“That doesn’t sound good,” Russell replied under his breath.

 Sal smiled. “But we can block off their gateway and send them back to whatever hell they came from. That’s where our friends come in. The Sleepers popped up same time as the Blighters and thank god because we’d be screwed without ‘em.”

“Huh?” replied Russell.

Sal sighed. “Doesn’t matter.”

“Why here? Why Melbourne?” asked Russell desperately

Shrugging her shoulders, Sal said, “Who knows. Maybe they really like the coffee.”

A shrill noise interrupted them, like an angle grinder tearing through concrete. Russell shoved his fingers into his ears.

Long lines of white and blue light shot across the alley walls. The light ran along the walls in jagged patterns, splitting apart the graffiti like a jigsaw and illuminating the wet asphalt in a harsh glow.

“Get ready!” shouted Sal over the high-pitched squeal.

Russell’s jaw dropped. The Blighters were graffiti. No, not graffiti, copies of the graffiti! The colourful tags and pictures had come to life.

They were peeling themselves off of the wall, ripping free from the bricks and stepping into the alley. Then a mouth opened on each of the Blighters, revealing a horrible maw full of sharp teeth.

Russell’s hands shook as moving, breathing copies of the graffiti shrieked and turned to charge at them.

Gunshots rang as they both pulled hard on their triggers. The bullets found their marks, tearing holes in the multi-coloured pictures and words heading their way.

“Don’t let them touch you,” shouted Sal. “They’re called Blighters for a reason.”

Even the two stubborn pigeons who had been devouring an old waffle took to the sky in fright. Russell watched as one of the Blighters caught a fleeing birds in its mouth. It exploded in a puff of feathers, replaced by a small picture of a pigeon which floated to the alley floor. The bite of the Blighter had just turned the frantic pigeon into a paper cutout. Panic gripped him. He fired more shots at the oncoming creatures.

Gog and Magog were standing by, ignored by the Blighters peeling themselves off the wall.

“Why aren’t they helping us?” yelled Russell.

Sal leapt backwards, dodging the gaping mouth of a Blighter that had taken the form of a sour faced rapper. Her gun jumped up, sending a bullet right between the rapper’s eyes. The Blighter crumpled to the floor but was still moving. “They are waiting for the right moment.”

More pictures were filling the alley. A group of names had sprung from the bricks and were advancing on them with as much of a snarl as moving words could muster. Those that were shot yelped in pain and slowed their advance, but Russell could already see some of the earliest targets recovering. Sal was right, they couldn’t stop them, only slow them down.

A blue tag spelling ‘Frizbee’ launched itself at Russell. He screamed and fell backwards, just avoiding it’s snapping teeth. The letters loomed threateningly over him and he lifted his gun. The Blighter wrapped its teeth around the weapon and Russell found himself holding a paper cut out of a pistol. He threw it down and scrambled away on all fours. 

Sal saw his desperation and put a bullet right into the ‘B’ of Frizbee, sending it stumbling to the ground. “Anytime now guys!” she called out to Gog and Magog.

The Blighters now filled the alley, snapping at everything they could find. Dumpsters and beer kegs turned to paper pictures and drifted to the asphalt. The two statues shared a quick look and nodded.

Russell watched as the flail soared through the alley. Magog twirled around, pummeling the Blighters with satisfying crunches. They parted before him, smashing against the walls, lifted from the ground by his powerful strikes.

Gog waited until his companion had cleared the area and then reached behind his shield. His hand came out in a triumphant gesture, holding a thick brush that was covered in gooey paint; paint that swirled with different colours.

Russell was standing beside Sal, furiously swinging a milk crate in front of him. She was running out of bullets. Two spent cartridges lay on the floor by her feet and the Blighters kept coming.

Gog looked around. The walls were quiet. New Blighters had stopped entering. He smiled. It was time to save the day.

He leapt to the closest wall and began to run the paint over the graffiti of a zebra. The paint made no mark on the wall, but as he spread it, the zebra shaped Blighter in the alley faded away with an angered scream. He moved to the next section; a bright yellow tag spelling out the artist’s initials. His paint brush moved back and forth over the graffiti and the corresponding blighter disappeared, its link to Earth severed by Gog’s mystic paint.

Now the invaders were aware of Gog and Magog, and knew their peril. Forgetting Sal and Russell, the Blighters all turned and ran at the Sleepers.

“Just try an’ stop us!” Magog growled, swinging his flail around and knocking the colourful Blighters away from Gog.

Sal grabbed Russell. “We need to keep them off Gog. He’s the only one who can remove their link to this world.”

Having no idea what she was talking about, Russell ran after her with the milk crate in hand. Sal continued to fire, each shot ringing in their ears. Gog ran about frantically, covering the graffiti in his gooey paint, sending more and more of the Blighters back.

Russell smacked away with the milk crate, pushing the Blighters away from Gog. A face with a long trunk and tusks hanging from it appeared before him. It came with a rampaging mass of swinging arms that reached for him. He swung out with the crate. The Blighter caught it within its mouth and Russell saw his milk crate shrink into a picture and float slowly down to his feet. He gulped as the imposing figure of Ganesh bore down on him. He saw the mouth open to suck him in and was paralysed with fear. Then the Blighter shuddered.

Gog ran his brush over the wall covering the spray-painted Ganesh as quickly as possible. Exhaustion lined his wooden features. The Ganesh thrashed furiously, trying to hold onto its link to Earth, and in its final throes dived at Russell.

Russell closed his eyes and screamed but was saved by the swift stroke of Gog’s brush.

 However, the act placed Gog in danger. The panicked Blighters all shifted attention to him. A snarling Frankenstein head moved perilously close to Gog. Gog looked for the matching picture on the wall. It was too far away.

The Frankenstein opened its mouth and moved in for a bite, only to find Magog stepping in to block it. Gog dived out of the way, running towards the Frankenstein on the far wall to aid his friend.

 With a defiant growl, Magog sent his flail at the Frankenstein. The head dodged the attack and darted in to bite him across the shoulder.

Russell heard Sal scream and watched as the grumpy little statue turned into a paper cut out and flopped lifeless to the asphalt.

The sight sent Gog into a frenzy. He sped along the wall, scattering paint with rage over every inch of colour. Sal lifted her pistol and emptied half of her clip into the Blighter that had killed Magog, slowing it down long enough for Gog to paint over the Frankenstein on the wall.

Russell could only run. He dodged between the frantic creatures and ran away from the fight.

 Once far enough away he swung about and saw Sal Gog fighting off the final few Blighters. The last Blighter faded away with an angered scream. Then an eerie silence again filled the alley.

  * * *

Sal had been quiet since they’d saved the city. They talked for a bit afterwards. Sal had wondered whether the agents protecting the NGV had pulled through.

He watched her say goodbye to Gog, whose eyes were downcast. The statue glanced over at Russell and nodded. Russell moved to wave, but then decided it best not to. They then watched him climb back up the wall of the Royal Arcade, to take his position next to the clock.

Sal joined him and said, “We did our best.”

“Won’t people notice Magog’s absence?”

“The Bureau will put an ordinary statue there. Not a Sleeper … Just a statue.”

Russell sighed. “Can I ask, why didn’t you just paint over the alley walls earlier?”

“They would’ve showed up somewhere else, and we wouldn’t have had enough time to figure out where,” Sal replied.

“I still don’t unders-”   

“Russell, stop talking,” she interrupted. Sal walked out of the arcade.

Russell smiled and followed.

Time makes fools of us all!

The frequency of my blog posts gave me a bit of a slap in the face today. It was mid 2015 when I released the last of the Valerious Chronicles and mid 2016 when I released The Storyteller’s Chest. Prior to that I had released a book each year, and was trying to keep my blog updated every quarter or so. I now find myself in mid 2017 and am sad to say there is no exciting new release to announce. Why? As Fry from Futurama so aptly put it, time makes fools of us all.

They tell you when you are young that the years just seem to go faster and faster as you age. I can now fully appreciate that. I look back and consider myself to have been very productive over the last twelve months. Unfortunately, this productivity wasn’t in the form of writing.

I once again travelled across to the British Isles, to immerse myself in English culture, and in particular English Ale! I also found the time to engage in those hobbies which, during my time writing the Valerious Chronicles, suffered from serious neglect. I’ve allocated more time outside of my day job to playing cards (Magic the Gathering), reading, war-gaming (Warhammer), reading comics and even binge-watching TV shows.

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My writing may has been neglected due to time spent on projects like this.

The truth is that, as a result, Project Isles has progressed very slowly. Do not fear, I will continue to write and finish it. But the truth is that when I wrote my first trilogy, it was difficult to find the time for my other hobbies. And it has been fantastic being able to dedicate more time to them, as well as seeing my friends.

The other unfortunate truth. Writing has done a real number on my body. Ask any writer and they will assure you that neck, wrist and back pain resulting from hours upon hours at a keyboard are no thing to be shrugged off. No really, sometimes it is impossible shrug from the muscle strain. I have been working to strengthen my back to make writing a less strenuous task. But it is slow progress.

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I have found the time to paint some of the older models in my collection.

So what now? 2017 and no new book to release. I almost feel ashamed! But then I would not want to release something unless I truly believed it was ready. And Project Isles still has a long way to go. My next task is to set myself some small goals to work towards. I fear once again, my other hobbies will need to be understanding and allow me to return to my keyboard. But for the last two years they have had my full attention, and it’s time to share the love. Writing has brought me so much joy. I just need to jump start the engine a little.

P.S Please take advantage of the current sale at Smashwords.com. The entire Valerious Chronicles series is free until the end of July! Hope you enjoy and share them with your friends and family.

Project Isles – A Snippet

You may notice that my Blog and Website have been a tad quiet of late. Do not fear. This can only bode well for those waiting for my new book. I have now begun the actual writing on Project Isles, with the bulk of my planning and world building completed to a satisfactory level. I try never to do too much world building at the beginning, as my characters and places naturally develop as I write. Most of my best ideas come when I am in the middle of a chapter and can have a profound change on where the story is going.

Being a single book I am also blessed with the ability to chop and change a lot more than I was able to with the Valerious Chronicles. There I had to ensure all foreshadowing was 100% complete when publishing the first or second book in the trilogy. Writing Project Isles is a less structured task, with only a brief outline required before I dive right into putting the story to pen.

I foresee it being a lengthy project. So I will endeavour to keep you updated. As a little taster, here is a tiny excerpt from the Prologue, fully unedited and raw. It will give you an insight into what my first drafts generally look like, before they go through the meat grinder.

Until the next time, I hope your nights are full of wonderful stories and great company.

FIRST DRAFT EXCERPT: Project Isles:

Eva could smell her prey on the wind. It swept through the leaves up to her perch and smelt heavily of old sweat and dry mud. She crouched snugly between two of the larger branches, left fingers gripping her bow tightly, right fingers holding her arrow’s feather fletching, the string of her bow stretched fully.  

Middle Earth

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Bag End

So let’s face the facts. No Fantasy writer could go through life without a visit to Hobbiton. I have visited New Zealand before, but this was in 2009, pre-production of The Hobbit, after which the Hobbiton movie set was left standing. For any fan of the movies this is a must see place. I had high expectations and these were utterly blown away.

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The view from the Green Dragon

The detail is mind blowing and having re-watched the movies since returning it has only made me appreciate them even more. You even get to have a cup of ale at the Green Dragon!

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Sam’s House

I have previously visited the London Harry Potter Studio – which is also amazing, I might add – but Hobbiton actually feels like a real village. Most likely because it practically is, with the exception of there not being anything behind the doors.

I have never been to a place so motivating to a Fantasy writer. I felt like purchasing a Hobbit Hole to live in for the rest of my life, with a pen and paper and nothing else.

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The Dead Marshes

I also spent a bit of time seeking out other locations used in the filming of the movies such as the Dead Marshes, and Fangorn Forest.

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Fangorn Forest

And this doesn’t even cover the unbelievable beauty of the rest of New Zealand. Everywhere I went I had to stop myself from wearing out my camera.

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Bay of Islands

I am continuing to work on Project Isles, though the going is slower than when I was working on the Valerious Chronicles. My blog posts may be less frequent than before, but rest assured I am still writing and hope to have something new to present to you in good time. For now, enjoy the photos of Middle Earth.

P.S. No trip to New Zealand is complete without a picture of Frodo made out of jelly beans.

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Bean Frodo

The Storyteller’s Chest

I am very excited to announce the release of a new book. The Storyteller’s Chest is a collaboration between my wife, a close friend and myself and collects a series of Fairy Tales to delight readers of all ages.

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There are new friends to meet and wonderful places to discover. Whether it be in the depths of the ocean or a castle in a magical kingdom, our heroes are waiting for you. So pack your bag and get ready. It is time for you to join them on their adventures. And maybe at the end, you’ll have a story or two of your own to tell.

You can purchase the hardcover through lulu here.

The Valerious Chronicles are available in hardcover.

I have several projects on the go at the moment. It’s with great pleasure I can announce that one of them is complete. Since finishing the series, I have been wanting to release, what I would consider, the special edition of the Valerious Chronicles. Now the dream has become a reality and the hardcover editions are available for purchase.  

 
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I think the benefit of finishing a trilogy is that, from a creative perspective, you are feel as though you have just come out of seclusion and are able to see the rest of the world again. Whilst writing the Valerious Chronicles I rarely had time to work on anything else. So I am making sure that I take advantage of this time and work on different things.

I’m really happy with how the hardcover versions of the trilogy have turned out. For me it is a fitting end to a project that took up such a large part of my life. You can find the hardcovers for purchase here.  

I am sure that in the future there will be some more tales to be told from Kovi, but for now I am pleased to move onto bigger and better things.

In the next six months I will be releasing another book, something quite different to the Valerious Chronicles, but at the same time with a hint of the same flavours. I look forward to sharing it with you all soon.