Plugging my book

Hi all, just a little update for any US Residents out there. My book is on Amazon and I’m doing a little giveaway!

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/768adbf8c530c5b1

Two books are up for grabs, and it’s a 1 in 100 chance for you to win, give it a try!

For those outside the US, you may be able to get it shipped to you through a US Proxy-Address company in your country (e.g. for New Zealanders that would be YouShop) although I’m not 100% sure on that.

Giveaway will be expired after September 21,2016 11:59 PM PDT

Thoughts On: Writing a Novel

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Hello strangers. It’s been a while, again… Anyways, I supposed you might think life had whisked me away to such a place as I might never have been able to come to this blog, the truth is that I’ve been the same since my last post, and had plenty of time to write blogs, but I didn’t feel the need to. You see, the reason is because I’ve not done much beyond: university work, games, and a lot of reading. Along with these, I’ve also done some writing.

Writing a book to be exact. You might notice (if you frequent my blog, which I’m certain no one actually does) that the ‘My Creative Writing’ page has disappeared. That’s because I deleted it. I did this because it contained only four entries: one was an old high-school story called The Bus Stop at the End of Millennium, which I’m not happy with, and the other three were drafts of what now constitute chapters in my book. By the time this blog post is published, my novel should be published as well. The name of this novel is: All Besides I.

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(Forgive the low quality and artifacting, I had to optimize this for the web)

 

 

It’s a strange story, and there’s not really a genre I can place it in. Others who might come to read it might consider All Besides I a piece of Science-fiction or Fantasy. It’s a view I can see and won’t object to anyone using, but for me it’s a product of spiritual reflection. In the story, you will read the memoir of a being as he ventures the continent of another world; interacting, assimilating, fighting and breathing among its populace. There’s a pivotal aspect in the character that occurs within this chronicle, and I don’t wish to spoil it here so I won’t detail it, but it’s what I believe subverts an expectation  in most ‘discovery narratives’ of the protagonist appearing as an enlightened form on the ‘discovered’. Beyond this, in a greater sense, All Besides I acts as a form of introduction to the narrator of what will become The Tomes & The Reflections, my planned collective of independent narratives told by this same being. The idea of this is to offer a change from the standard in many Fantasy/Sci-fi narratives being but one installment in a grand series of 10+ books. All Besides I is not ‘Book 1 of the Uber Galactic Star Warrior Saga’, it is its own story, as will be any of the other books in The Tomes & The Reflections, you will be able to read each at any point – all independent of each other barring the bare reference or nod.

In regards to  size, it’s a fairly small book, totaling roughly 47k words. Wow! you might be wondering, that’s tiny! Maybe, but I didn’t want to stretch out the story longer than what was needed. I’ve written this much before. As I’ve mentioned somewhere in a previous blog, I’d written a 50k word draft in 2012 for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and it was shit. That story is still collecting dust in a vault on Google Drive, which I will one day come to cut down to the short story it is deserving of. With All Besides I however, I was very careful to craft the story as was appropriate to the development of the character in it. Everything that is written is there because it serves a purpose (yes, even the fantasy-esque name-dropping of Houses, Kingdoms and names). It took me a period of roughly three years to write the book, which  – considering the size – is very slow, but I don’t regret the pace, as it allowed me to work at my own pleasure on it. Since publishing this, my ability to write has quickened and improved, and already I have plans for three more books to write: one will be an addition to The Tomes & The Reflections; one will be a compilation of short stories; and the other will be a totally independent book which I am fairly confident will be labelled as Fantasy.

I suppose the main question to ask at the end of it all is: was it worth it?

My answer is: definitely. There’s a great pleasure in being able to transmit your innermost feelings to the written word, and to compile all of them together into a narrative that is (what I hope to be) both enjoyable for the reader and reflective of the maelstrom of experiences, reflections and feelings that constitute my own being. Writing, and creative writing especially, is one of the only ways I’ve found that can clearly present my thoughts. If any of you have talked to me personally, you might find the way I talk isn’t as ‘eloquent’ as  the way I write.

One last thing I’d like to do is share some advice, to anyone reading this, that wants to start their own journey into the novel writing world.

When you’re coming up with the conception of your novel, think first why you want to write it: what will this novel give to the reader, from you as a writer – what are you passing onto them? This doesn’t have to belong the high-school textbook definition, i.e. you don’t need to a have minimum of 3 themes to express. You’re sharing what is a part of you. In the purest of its form, this could merely be an expression of aesthetic, or emotion, that one might find in poetry. It’s not even something you have to explain, it’s just something to guide your writing, otherwise, you may find that your story about the Vampire Princess conquering the Squid People and making love to the dashing Raven Prince might in itself be a pointless exercise of pure pulp or – dare I say it – fantasy. He he, look at me, not even published my first book and I’m already acting the guru. Ignore me if you like, I’m just excited. To those who are in the midst of writing their book, good luck. I can’t help you, but I can cheer you on!

This post was written on the 9th of September, 2016

P.S.
Here are some links you can currently buy the book from:
Amazon
Amazon (eBook)
CreateSpace

Lastly, it’s also on Goodreads, if you happen to use that site. Please, feel free to rate it if you’ve read it!

Thoughts On: Michael Kirkbride & The Elder Scrolls

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Now here’s a topic more people may know about – Bethesda Softwork’s The Elder Scrolls: a high-fantasy video game series set within the world of Nirn and its main continent Tamriel, in which nearly all the games take place. Now normally I’m a bit picky when it comes to video games I find exceptionally interesting, especially amongst the circle of the Role-playing game genre, but The Elder Scrolls stands out to me because of mainly one thing: the lore. Now since their first title, –TES: Arena – the initial world was laid down by the old Bethesda team members such as Ted Peterson,Vijay Lakshman, Julian LeFay and Chris Weaver; later members would come as the development for TES: Daggerfall, TES: Battlespire and TES Adventures: Redguard called for larger staff, but it wasn’t until TES: Morrowind that the scope really began to take off into the popular franchise that it is today. And it’s from Morrowind we come to encounter the work from Michael Kirkbride.

Now I can’t stress enough for fans or people who have played a TES game that Kirkbride isn’t the sole reason the games are as they are, that’s far from the fact, as video games are immense team efforts rivaling that of film production. So to praise one member for the result of the game would be unfair on all the other team members who toiled away on the project. No, Kirkbride’s work is more of a personal interest to me because of the way he brought a serious ambiguity and almost esoteric attitude to the meta-physical aspects of The Elder Scrolls universe. Don’t worry, I’ll try not to use those words too much.

Concept Sketches from Kirkbride - The God-King Vivec

Concept Sketches from Kirkbride – The God-King Vivec

What I like about Kirkbride’s approach to the world building of TES is the blending of mysticism and spiritual philosophy into the outer fringes of the seemingly concrete fantasy world. It works well for the kind of players – like me – that seek to explore the deeper aspects of the game, because with the physical depth, we are able to enjoy the richness of the open world setting alongside its plethora of characters and conflicts – but beyond that immediate presence we might begin to wonder about the world itself; the history; the science; the creation, why? This is where Kirkbride’s writings begin to entice us towards ‘the deep end’. Throughout much of TES:Morrowind, TES:Oblivion and TES:Skyrim you’re able to access a lot of in-game lore through characters, quests and especially books. And it’s these books that are an exceptional look into a world beyond the one you’re playing; books like Spirit of the Daedra and N’Gasta! Kvata! Kvakis! present to you a greater underlying narrative that is constantly being laid down into the foundations of the Elder Scrolls universe. Kirkbride takes this further with his development on some of the sketchiest parts of the universe: for example, the book Where Were You When the Dragon Broke?  that was written in TES:Morrowind, was on part a response to the events of TES: Daggerfall in which multiple endings occurred due to Bethesda’s desire to facilitate player outcomes of the story, normally one of these endings would be declared canon and the rest dismissed, but what instead occurred was an in-game explanation known as ‘the Warp in the West’ in which all of these events occurred simultaneously. Where Were You When the Dragon Broke? is a development on this concept; the Dragon referring to the God of Time, Akatosh, and how the ending events of TES: Daggerfall were so powerful they disrupted the authority of Akatosh, momentarily breaking linear time. Now some of you would start to wonder that all this begins to feel terribly convoluted, it’s not what you remember in the main quests! And you’re probably right, delving into these texts probably invites a lot of confusion, and starts to undermine the solid foundations of the series’ universe. But to me that’s where half the fun is, because those who seek out these concepts will begin to see their presence within the surface levels of the game. Perhaps the most memorable concept of Time present within TES is within TES: Skyrim: in which you must expel the Dragon Alduin; if you had further done your research you would begin to recognise the terms ‘Dragon Break’ and ‘World-Eater’, that had been present in one form or another within the texts of the earlier games.

The Dragon God of Time - Akatosh

The Dragon God of Time – Akatosh

I really appreciate this sort of work on a universe like TES, where the scope is so daunting that to experience it all is only on the whim of the player. But the reward for undertaking such efforts enriches your experience with the game. The only issues I started to see, were with these lore texts written by contributors – including Michael Kirkbride – who had left Bethesda Studios, and the validity of their canon beginning to become a matter of preference and developer approval. I think the most glaring of these texts has to be the project, C0DA: an intended comic written by Kirkbride that takes place in the far future of the TES universe. The ambiguous and downright cryptic attitude to the narrative has led many people astray in terms of looking for an explanation (I personally haven’t given a read yet, as I was hoping to wait until I could enjoy it in the comic book form he had intended for it), however what I believe many have concluded is that it tries to explain the non-canon nature of the universe, making it easier for those to decipher their own reasonable interpretations of how the grand narrative is. This is something I find pretty interesting, not so much for the content but the idea of so much work and effort going into the narrative, I could dare even say it’s almost in reference to the grand religious texts of Abrahamic or Vedic traditions – the contribution of many to the greater narrative.

Anyways, I think it’s time to tone down. The short line is, I think the universe of The Elder Scrolls is a vast and complicated creation, and this in part can be attributed to the efforts of Michael Kirkbride and his many mystical revelations in the writing. I suppose I can only hope for those who played the series to maybe come back into it with a new appreciation for the world Kirkbride and Bethesda made. Also, for those who are familiar with the TES canon, be sure to check out some of his work on The Imperial Library, some of the extra writings on VivecTiber Septim and Cyrus the Restless are quite interesting.

Thoughts On: The Man in the High Castle

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Since I’m easing into the method of sporadic posts, that are usually unrelated, I thought I’d jump away from the bigger pictures to focus on some more specific thoughts I’ve been having as of recent. I suppose the first thing that came to mind was this book: The Man in the High Castle, by Phillip K. Dick. For those of you who are a fan of science fiction you’ve most probably heard of him. But for those who haven’t, Dick is one of the most renowned sci-fi authors from the twentieth century. Most – if not all – of his books have had a huge influence on succeeding authors in the genre, as well as figures within other aspects of the artistic medium, such as television and music.

Now the reason I focused more on this particular book more than Dick himself is because I actually haven’t read most of his work, and to make a thought on him as a whole based on the few books from him that I’ve read, seems a tad misguided. But from his work I found The Man in the High Castle resonated the most with me.

The thing that I think interested me in this title was its premise of alternate history. Before this book I had always personally been interested in history and – even more – the concept of alternate historical scenarios. It started off young with computer strategy games: like Creative Assembly’s Total War series, or Bohemia Interactive’s Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis. Apart from them being enjoyable, the premise of history being changed because of the events you partook in through the game really sparked some interesting concepts. Later on I would go on to discover some of the books from Harry Turtledove, specifically Opening Atlantis  and Ruled Britannia, which further developed on the concepts of changed history and how it would affect the lives and narrative of this different world.

However, once I had read The Man in the High Castle, I discovered something profound about the book. And that was Dick’s ability to make his strange world seem so alien, yet at the same time as real as one could get it. This book went beyond the concept of what if? It put you within the mundane lives of its citizens, it put you in a personal circle of characters that you could care about – even though deep down you knew you’re weren’t supposed to sympathise. There’s this immense shifting in tone that occurs both physically and meta-physically within the book, that leaves you torn and lost; the entire premise, the climax of the concept – this alternate universe – it doesn’t actually matter. You read along with multiple narratives from characters of varied backgrounds, and it’s their perspective that is made to feel important, despite the fact that you as the reader are focusing on the ghastly yet infinitely intriguing concept of an Axis ruled world. I feel like the book portrays a message of infinite possibility without meaning, and to accept the placement of one’s self within that structure; this may be the reason for the book heavily featuring the I Ching, a Chinese text on cosmological philosophy that one uses in conjunction with a hexagram to randomly produce a guiding path. The idea of an alternate history in which an unspeakable enemy were the victors, could be the reason it’s used with this concept, as it provides an exemplary setting in which we must come to understand that which we normally wouldn’t. And I think that is a deeply profound way of thinking, and a masterful way of executing this thinking on the author’s part.

So, if you find the time to spare and you’re looking for a more intellectually stimulating novel to burn through, I highly suggest this book. Despite my most probable incoherent rambling, the actual book is relatively easy to read: the prose is simple and the size of the book is relatively short. It’s the overall idea rather than any numerous themes that lend to a powerful concept, and that idea is what makes The Man in the High Castle one of my personal all-time favourite novels.

Thoughts On: Creative Writing

When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.

I always loved that line, it might not be the most insightful or evocative opening piece to a novel, but it has an elusive tone to it – something that grabbed my attention straight away: the first thing I felt was, what the hell do you mean by that? And so I had to continue. I think sometimes it’s the little things that make for a good piece of creative writing, and that line was an example of such a thing. As for where it’s from, I’m sure a quick google search will give you the result if you’re interested. So yes, it has not been long since my first post, I’ve been thinking over many of the topics brewing away in my noggin, and I thought why not do one on the topic of Creative Writing? It was something I mentioned in my first blog, so I believed a bit of continuity was in order.

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As I’ve mentioned, I enjoy Creative Writing. One of the main things that I think explains my feelings towards it is the way my mind works: I dream a lot – both during the day and at night, I’ve always dreamed, even when I was young. Being a kid you see things that aren’t really there, like when you’re sat in the car imagining Spiderman web-slinging from each streetlight you zoom past, or convoys of soldiers and tanks marching through the fields adjacent to the M61 motorway, or my favourite being when you and the family are on a stroll through a forest: you imagine cheeky goblins flitting between the bushes, the birds tweeting in the canopy like there’s a secret stash of goodies up there they’re hiding from you. Of course you never really tell people these things, they’d think you’re away with the fairies. That’s because as you get older you tend to be a bit more cynical about the way your imagination works, you tend to anchor wild thoughts or concepts back into the real world, especially if you’re the sort of person who lives by wanting things to exist in a concise and logical order. However I’m not like that, as I get older my mind conjures up bizarre thoughts and ideas, and I’ve learned that if I can record down these snippets and further develop them, I’d have the workings of an interesting creative piece on my hand. And this is something I find I really enjoy.

Creative worlds: The Hush of Dawn by Clare Reilly

Creative worlds: The Hush of Dawn by Clare Reilly

But with the joys comes the woes. For all the amazing ideas I might have in the memory bank, I find it’s actually quite a challenge to put them to paper. This is most apparent when you want to turn an idea into a story with quite a measurable length. In 2012, around the start of November, I entered into the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge: where I was challenged with writing a fifty thousand word novel within the month of November. Now to start things off, it didn’t help that I started five days after the challenge had started, so I was pushed to doing an extra thousand words per day. I remember starting with a great idea: a far-future odyssey of a young New Zealand man, striving to survive in the pre-industrial style country of the North Island, with all the urban life concentrated on a super futuristic Auckland, it was the working of some sci-fi fever dream and I thought it would be fantastic. But then, I found that as I was writing – pushing to meet my daily quota of 1,000 – 2,000 words – I was losing that creative spark, I regularly kept getting the dreaded writer’s block, I was writing more and more filler, the story felt like it was losing momentum, losing impact. I did finish it however, and in a way it is a completed story, and I’m happy I found I was capable of writing a fifty thousand word story. But, I knew straight away that it was in dire need of editing, probably so much I could shear off a good twenty or thirty thousands words to keep it close to the direction I want. Thing is, the moment I opened up the document to start editing, I just thought, good God where do I start? And so, I have that very story stored away until I’m able to muster up the courage to edit it.

But don’t let this put you off, all I’m saying is, don’t compromise. If your idea needs to be written as a poem, then that’s what must be done, it doesn’t matter how many obscure poets you can claim inspiration from, if that’s the way it makes sense to you then write it like that. If you feel your idea must be written as a novel, yet you know you’re not capable of writing one, hold onto that idea until you can. That core creative spark is at the heart of your writing, and will make it stand out from what would otherwise be perfunctory filler.