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.

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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

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.

 

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.

My Top Picks – Part Three

What are my biggest influences? There are too many to cover in one post. This is part three of my series of posts to show the key books, movies, music and shows that have influenced me, not only as a writer, but as a person.

 

Star Trek:

We are at a point in time where the amount of Star Trek available for consumption is mind blowing. Not only are there five shows and twelve movies, there are comics, video games, board games, card games and books. I began watching Star Trek because of my mum, who was a big fan. It was almost routine for us to sit down and watch the latest episode of Next-Gen or Deep Space Nine and Voyager in later years. As I child I can recall watching Star Trek IV; The Voyage Home, on a monthly basis.

What is it about Star Trek that captivated me so? Firstly it was the individual characters who became a second family. Every new voyage was like going on an adventure with a band of best friends. But the truth of it is that Star Trek appeals to something in human nature. The desire for discovery, and for betterment. The federation is an almost utopian idea. A world where we have shed all of the prejudices and vices of the past. We have rid the world of poverty, of greed, of war. All that is left is a unified civilisation which strives to spread peace throughout the galaxy and learn all that can be learnt.

Despite this we see the crew of the enterprise go through all of the very same drama’s which are present in the world today. However, they are presented to us in conflicts with alien species or new space oddities. Even though the Earth has managed to find lasting peace, we still find war and avarice in the far reaches of space. Star Trek showed me that no matter what, peace is not eternal.

 

Magician by Raymond E. Feist:

Arguably this is the single most influential piece of art in my life. When coming up with a list of things for this series of posts, the first thing to spring to mind was Magician. It is the one book that changed my life. It was one of the first epic fantasy novels I read front to back and I still recall the feelings I felt when turning those pages.

The story of Pug and his journey to become a magician captivated me like no other story ever has. When reading it I recall the sensation that this was what had been missing from my life. It had everything you could ever want. There were battles, an invading alien army, magic, dragons, dwarves and elves, but most of all it had amazing world building and characters.

There is no doubt that my writing in most influenced by the many books set in Midkemia. There is no doubt my characters are influenced by the characters I grew to love from Magician. I have not recommended a book more than this one. I would never hesitate to recommend it. It is, in my opinion, a perfect example of the emotion, excitement and enjoyment that the fantasy genre is capable of. If I were deserted on an island, it is the one book I would want to have with me.

 

To see my other posts in this series click below.

My Top Picks – Part One

My Top Picks – Part Two

A Blast from the Past Revolutionised – HeroQuest

It came with a simple enough comment. We all have nerd vices.

With regard to the majority of my friends, this is a horrendous understatement. Given time and disposable income there are no bounds to the insane projects we will come up with. You could be financing a space empire in Eve Online, writing Fantasy novels, collecting four of every magic the gathering card, wargaming, or trying to own every single Nintendo console in existence (There are a lot more than you would think). We’ve done it all. And like most people our age we have fond memories of the board game HeroQuest.

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We’ve come a long way. So many late nights. So much Mountain Dew.

For those who don’t know, it is essentially Dungeons and Dragons simplified into a board game. It captured the imagination of young nerds across the world and I am safe to say elicits nostalgic sighs from many people who wouldn’t want you to know they played this as kids/teenagers. Just read this fantastic write up from Rock,Paper, Shotgun. It comes with the original TV spot which cannot be missed.

Now, speaking of nerd vices, Davide Rizzo, a prodigiously talented web designer/graphic artist, who also happens to be one of my Beta Readers, has tapped into his memories and created a web based application which allows you to make your own HeroQuest maps with the click of a button. (Note, you need Chrome Browser for it to work properly) For those non tech-savvy people, it may look simple enough, but the time and effort which has gone into this can’t be underestimated.

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Open source and easy to use. What are you waiting for?

The maps can be saved as text files on your computer to be loaded up again via the map creator at any point in time. At this stage the tool is only for map creation and would suit anyone looking to map out a dungeon for an RPG or even a game of HeroQuest if you still have it. The code is Open Source and available on CodePen, which hopefully provides potential for someone else to pick it up and create some working online games with it.

I encourage you all to have a play around with it and admire the work. There are plenty of projects sitting on peoples hard drives which will never be made public. Here is a great example of someone who has taken the effort to create something really outstanding and then shared it with the online community for free use.

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Hmmm, I wonder what’s behind this door… Probably Treasure …

If you are interested in seeing more of Davide’s work you can follow his blog here and see his website here.