A Journey: the creation of a trilogy

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Today marks the release of the last book in my fantasy trilogy The Valerious Chronicles. The original idea for the story was sparked over fifteen years ago, whilst sitting on a bus through central Australia. Since then it evolved many times before finally being put together as a published trilogy of books. And in that time there have been many things I have learnt as a writer that changed my outlook on life. It has been a long journey, one that was difficult but fun. It was rewarding, daunting and trying. But I made it and now is the perfect time to look back and share my thoughts.

 

1) Don’t undertake something this big unless you love it:

Without fail the question I am asked the most is, how do you find the time to write these books? I work full time and write in the hours between my everyday life. At times it can be difficult to fit the writing in, but I have found that as I got further into the trilogy I was able to make time whenever I could. And the only reason I was able to do that was the fact that I absolutely loved writing.

Everybody has hobbies. We all have things we do when we get home and have a spare half hour. Whether it’s watching TV, reading books, baking, painting, playing games or sport, we make the time to fit these into our lives. Mainly because we enjoy them. Writing gives me the most enjoyment. It excites me. If it didn’t I would have never succeeded.

 

2) Start small:

I look back now and wish I had started with a single book. A trilogy was a tough project to begin with as a new artist. I have had the chance to speak with a lot of new writers and one thing I say to all of them is start small. Write a single book, or a novella to begin with. Write a blog, short stories, articles. Do anything to build your skill and learn the ropes first. I jumped straight into a fantasy trilogy and in a way bit off a larger mouthful than I was ready for.

I believe this is reflected in my writing, which most readers will noticed progressed and improved over the three novels. I have had readers say to me that the third book actually feels like it is written by a different writer. I think that this is a natural occurrence for new writers/artists, as with each piece of work we build on our skill. In hindsight starting with a single novel would have let me iron out some of those early creases.

 

3) You will always be critical of your own work:

It is hard for me to go back and read my own work without feeling I could have done better. I do not think I will ever be 100% happy with something I produce. That is not to say that I am not pleased with my books. And no matter how many great reviews and positive feedback I receive I will always doubt my own work. The key, I believe, is allowing myself to be comfortable with the fact that I will never ever be fully happy. I will always feel that I could have done better. In a way, if I didn’t feel that way I wouldn’t be improving as a writer.

 

4) Success is subjective:

Let’s be honest, to become a household name is every writer’s dream. If you go out with the mentality that the first book you write is going to fill the shelves of every bookshelf from Sydney to Washington, then you are likely setting yourself up for failure. However, success can be defined in many ways. When I self published my first novel I did so with the goal of having a single random person in the world buy and read my book. I measured this by awaiting an online book review from someone who I had absolutely no connection with.

The day I received my first review from a complete stranger, I felt an enormous sense of relief. I had achieved what I had set out to accomplish. And the fact that it was a highly praising review made continuing my writing all the easier. I knew that by finishing the trilogy there was at least one person out there in the world who wanted to know how the story ended.

That allowed me to set achievable goals for each book. I never believed that I would become a New York times best seller with these books. But I was able to celebrate my success by having realistic goals. My long term goal may be to hit the bestseller list, but I will be doing it one small step at a time.

 

5) Publishing is difficult:

The world of publishing has changed so much over the last decade it is almost impossible to predict where we will be next year. It has never been easier to publish your books. Arguably as a result of this there has also never been more competition. The market, in particular eBooks, is overflowing with content and having yours noticed is an unbelievably daunting task. I am still amazed every time I see my books in the top 100 of an Amazon category. I think to myself, ‘How in the world did people find my book in the ocean of available books out there?’

I approached multiple publishers with Dawn of the Valiant before opting to self-publish. I have no regrets that I didn’t try harder to get traditionally published. I personally believe that I wasn’t ready to be published by a traditional publisher. I still consider myself a writer who is learning the ropes and hope that one day I will write a novel which a publisher will like and be willing to support.

However, I am under no illusion as to how difficult it is to find success in traditional publishing in today’s market. It is a combination of talent, the right idea, right contacts and luck. It can be depressing not hearing back from a publisher. You spend thousands of hours working on a novel, pouring your emotions into it and then do not even get a reply to say, thanks for sending us your synopsis. It would be enough to cause many artists to give up. But in the end it is all about what you have set out to accomplish. The answer will be different for everyone.

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Writing these books has changed me as a person. I have a different outlook on life, a different opinion of myself and those who helped me along the way. I will always question the path I took, but I will be thankful for the lessons I learnt along the way. For now I will take a deep breath and celebrate. And I know it won’t be long until I set my next goal.

 

The Valerious Chronicles are complete!

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Today is the release day of The Fleet of Sinsai. After years of writing, editing and publishing, the Valerious Chronicles have finally come to a close. It is with a great sense of relief and excitement, as well as an almighty exhale that I can present the epic conclusion to the tale of brothers Christill and Thibalt.

I hope you join with me in celebrating the end of an era. No series of books is ever completed without the efforts of many. I want to thank all those who were involved in the creation of the Chronicles. My wife Melina, who suffered through all the revisions and allowed me to lock myself in my study for countless hours over the last years. To Tom and Steph who showed so much enthusiasm and went through my writing with a fine comb. To all the beta readers who gave up their time to help. To everyone who encouraged me along the way.

And finally to those who have picked up my books and read them. Without you there would have been no Valerious Chronicles. Thank you all.

You can find the Fleet of Sinsai at Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, the Book Depository and Smashwords.

The Fleet of Sinsai Pre-orders are up!

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The release date is set. June 20th is the day the Valerious Chronicles come to a close. The conclusion of the trilogy is complete and I hope you all join me in celebrating what has been an amazing journey in bringing this world to life.

You can find the book to pre-order at amazon and smashwords.

Blurb

The Shrine is destroyed. Yet, Christill’s quest is not at an end. He must now find a way back to Feldom, and quickly. Kahnustus is hunting and soon he will find the last of the guardian gods. For even they may not be powerful enough to protect Kovi.

Across the sea, Thibalt fights for the allegiance of the Miirvkin, with the hope of a dying nation on his shoulders. Here, in the shadows of his childhood, he will endure his greatest test as he battles his past to protect his future.

Back home, the Fleet of Sinsai sweeps down the coast and the shattered remnants of Feldom gather for one final stand. They are surrounded, outnumbered and fragile. But by the courage of a few, they will stand together and face extinction united.

The final chapter in Thibalt and Christill’s journey will see them meet their destiny and, through their sacrifice, forever change the fate of a world.

Review: Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

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Yes, I should have read the book first and then seen the movie, but when Starship Troopers was released in the cinema I was only eleven years old. And at the time my reading list wasn’t quite as extensive as it is now. But I have finally managed to get to this one and let’s just say it wasn’t what I was expecting after having watched the over the top action movie more times than any person really should over the last fifteen years. The names are the same. That is pretty much the extent of the crossover … Thankfully I will add.

I will say this to begin. I fully understand why this book is so highly rated. The ideas, especially when put into context of when the book was written, are thoroughly thought provoking. The battle scenes are presented like a scene from a blockbuster movie and really put you in the driver’s seat for the action. The philosophical questions posed in this future earth have not dulled with age.

Reading this I constantly found myself stopping to think that the arguments Robert A. Heinlein is presenting are very convincing. His characters talk of our time with disdain and even mock our system of government. And although the world they are living in seems so utterly ridiculous, you end up nodding along as they discuss why the way we do everything is wrong.

There were a couple of times when I actually thought I was sitting in a classroom myself hearing a lecture/debate on morality, civil service and the best way to govern a country. Those bits of the book were the highlight for me; the discussions and thoughts conveyed regarding personal sacrifice for the greater good. And when that is wrapped up in an action packed military fiction, you just can’t complain.

The description of boot camp and life in the mobile infantry is so gritty and thus, to its core so real. I have never served in the military but I imagine that anybody who has could relate to this book. The story follows Rico as he joins the mobile infantry and travels the stars to battle the Bugs. In many ways this book didn’t need to be science fiction. The Bugs could have been replaced with foreigners from another country, and the spaceships with planes. But it wouldn’t have been the same.

Heinlein’s words are a pleasure to read and have you drifting through pages with ease. Some classic works of SF can be a tad dry. This was vibrant, full of slang which helped to make it feel like our society and, most of all, believable.

If I had to point at something I did not like I would say that I wasn’t the biggest fan of the way it ended. However, I cannot in any way suggest a better ending, so I will say he ended it well. I feel that this book could easily be one that students should study in high school. I know that many of the books that I read in my schooling did nothing to get me thinking differently. Yet, this book achieved just that, and all the while had marines splattering aliens across distant planets. What more could you ask for?

 

Rating 5/5

Reading, Reading and More Reading

My blog has sadly seen little activity over the last months. But thankfully this has allowed me to get the final book of the Valerious Chronicles ready for publishing. At this stage we are looking at a June release so stay tuned for more information very soon.

In the meantime if you haven’t read ‘The Name of the Wind’ by Patrick Rothfuss, get onto it. Just finished it and can’t praise it highly enough.

Autumn

The last weeks I have had the rare opportunity to set my sights on something other than the Valerious Chronicles. I’ve rekindled my love of comics, found much more time to read books, caught up on a few shows I’ve been meaning to watch and even gotten back into video games.

But I have finally gotten my manuscript for ‘The Fleet of Sinsai’ back and am going to be putting my head down to perform the final edit and read through. I am excited to be on the cusp of releasing the final book, and so far the feedback from my Beta Readers has been outstanding. I hope you are all looking forward to seeing how the story ends, as much as I am looking forward to seeing the journey of my first Trilogy come to a close.

In the meantime if you are looking for some insights into how I am spending my free time you will find that I am busily flipping through the following comics and can’t recommend them enough.

– Locke & Key

– Star Wars 2015

– Batman (The new 52)

– Ms Marvel

– Saga (OMG Stop everything you are doing and go get this!)

– Guardians of the Galaxy

– Lumberjanes

– Darth Vader 2015

One of the next updates should hold the release date for the final book! So stay tuned.

Review: The Twelve by Justin Cronin

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Like many I am a fan of Zombie flicks. Pure popcorn entertainment. I haven’t read many books in the genre. And though Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy is more a post apocalyptic vampire tale, the overarching story to me is very reminiscent of the classic Zombie ‘end of the world’ story.

I will set the scene and say that I really enjoyed this book. It is a change from my usual genre and I find that often it takes me longer to read non sci-fi/fantasy books. The Twelve didn’t present that challenge. I couldn’t stop reading it. It has a fast pace, with plenty of action, several different interwoven stories and characters that you can relate to, but also feel like they are from an alternate earth.

I read The Passage many years ago and when I started reading The Twelve I had no idea what was going on. Honestly … 50 pages in I stopped, had to hop onto Google and read a synopsis of the first book, to remind myself of what exactly had happened. If it’s been a while since you read book one, I highly recommend you do this. Otherwise it can be a little difficult to keep track of what’s happening and which characters you should know, and which are new. Once my memory was jogged I got right in and loved it.

The book introduces some new characters straight away and takes you back to the beginning of the viral plague. I was actually surprised not to take off with the character from The Passage. For a little while I was actually wondering whether the book was going to have a completely different cast all together. But Cronin does a wonderful job of bringing the story of the new characters together with those from book one. It is actually the highlight of the book to see new and old join together. The Twelve builds to a terrific finale which made me glad I stuck with it to the end.

Overall this trilogy is about modern humans. A good post apocalyptic tale with zombies, vampires or any other creature should be exactly that. The time jumping and shift from character to character at the beginning gets a little confusing, but by the middle of the book you are thoroughly caught up in humanities struggle for existence. Cronin has a wonderful style of writing which is easy to read. It never feels heavy or mentally draining. It flows page to page, with breaks at just the right spots to keep you engaged.

With the movie rights having been purchased for The Passage I hope more people will be encouraged to pick up these books. They are a hell of a read and a great window into a world that could be.

Rating 4/5

The Fleet of Sinsai draws near

Over the last few months my posting has been less frequent than usual. In that time I have been receiving a wealth of great feedback on books one and two of the Valerious Chronicles. I stand humbled by the response I have had for my first books and can only hope that the last book in the trilogy will live up to the hopes of my fans.

The good news is that there is not long to go. Some of my beta-readers have already finished reading and I will be compiling their feedback soon. The others will be completing their work over March and then the final round of editing begins. I am hoping to have the Fleet of Sinsai released late May early June and can’t wait to celebrate once the trilogy is complete.

Stay tuned for more updates in the coming weeks and thank you for reading!

The End of an Era

Today marked the final day of writing for the Valerious Chronicles. Once I typed the last words for the epilogue of book three, I sat back and couldn’t move for a few minutes. How do you sum up an undertaking which has been such an enormous part of your life?

I am mostly happy. But a part of me is sad, knowing that my time with this saga is at an end. Sure, there is plenty of editing to come, but the main part, the writing, the part of this which is my true passion, is over.

I can’t begin to imagine what it must have felt like for someone like J.K Rowling, when she finished the last line of the Harry Potter series. A sense of achievement yes. But also a sense of loss.

By pure coincidence, as I finished the very last line of book three, my music playlist began to belt out “The Last Goodbye” by Billy Boyd (The final song for the Hobbit Trilogy). It was a fitting moment to mark the last day of an era.

I move now to preparing the book for its release in a few months. But before I begin I’ll make sure to take the time to really appreciate this moment. The Valerious Chronicles have come to an end.

Review – The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bollard

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Batman & the Joker. Enough said. No point in reading any more of this review … But if you do choose to, I would actually suggest you go out and get yourself a copy of The Killing Joke instead, and read that.

I have loved comics for a long time, but for most of that time my allegiance has been to Marvel. You can thank the X-men and Wolverine for that. But in recent years my interest in DC and other publishers has risen (Image, IDW, Dark Horse etc.). I don’t know whether it is due to the Dark Knight films or the Arrow TV show, or whether I am looking for something different, but I have found my recent foray into DC to be enthralling.

The Killing Joke was the most recent graphic novel in my long list of ‘to read’ comics. It is a standalone story, never published as individual comics and created by the legendary Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta) and Brian Bollard (Judge Dredd). It truly feels like Batman. It is gritty, dark, and gripping. Everything we have come to expect from the Dark Knight.

What sets this apart from other Batman comics I have read is the emotion. Comics have their own ability to create atmosphere. The merger of text and illustration provides a different insight compared to a regular book or movie. I haven’t read a comic in years which had me stopping at frames to think, “Whoa, intense!”

The Joker is a classic villain. In The Killing Joke he is at his best. His dialogue is terrific. It was a joy to read. Batman really takes a back seat in this and it is a good thing, because this is a story about the Joker. We are provided with the Joker’s backstory. And this is what the graphic novel is about. The turning point which transformed an ordinary man into the Dark Knight’s most famous adversary.

Make sure that you get your hands on the deluxe version in which Brian Bollard has re-coloured each panel to ensure the story is told as it was originally intended. The artwork is immaculate. Every scene draws your attention, making you study the figures and items in the background. I had to read it twice straight away to make sure I didn’t miss anything! That’s how good it is.

I recently read the Dark Knight Returns, consider by most to be the single greatest graphic novel of all time. As great as it was, I enjoyed The Killing Joke more. I actually can’t really flaw it. I was sad when it ended, that is the only thing I can say. I wanted it to keep going. I don’t want to spoil anything but I highly, highly recommend.

Rating 5/5

Image credit: The Killing Joke; Alan Moore and Brian Bollard (Deluxe edition, 2008)