Notes from the writing den.

Hello, and thank you for taking the time to read this page. My aim is to keep you up to date with the various goings on with my life as a writer, and hopefully pass on any hints and tips as I go along. Happy Reading.

 Chapter 1 - Why writing?

One question I get asked a lot is why did I choose to write as a career? This is always a fun one for me to answer, so bear with me whilst I take you back to where it all started.

I wasn’t always a writer, nor did I ever think that I would become one, so I was surprised when someone asked me the question, “If you could do anything for a job, what would you do?” Without thinking, the first word to fall out of my mouth was “writing.” I had never considered this as an option, as, like most people often think, I didn’t think I would be any good at it. I certainly didn’t think people would want to read it.

My background was always based in jobs that were hands on, active work. I started in Theatre at 16 years old, sweeping the stage and making cups of tea. It wasn’t an easy job being one the youngest backstage crew members, and it came with the obligatory banter that comes with that style of job. I stuck with it, and soon found I had a knack for the theatre malarky. I spent 15 years working my way through the ranks, and it is a time of life that I will always hold close to my heart.

I met my now wife in 2007, which is when life changed for the better. We settled down in Lincoln, and between us, we produced two beautiful children. It was at this stage that working within the theatre industry became more difficult, as the hours were long, and took me away from my family. I was also extremely exhausted (I’ll come back to this), so took the step into the unknown. I moved into the building industry.

This wasn’t the natural environment of an ex-theatre technical manager, especially as it involved earlier mornings, something I have never been brilliant with. It was an eyeopener for me, and a steep learning curve, but I eventually found my feet, and settled into my new job role. It was around this time I was craving some form of creativity, and I penned my first words, though at this stage it was nothing close to being a book, nor I a writer.

It wasn’t long before I picked a trade and trained up as a Tiler. In 2017, I took the plunge and set up my own business. It was hard starting from scratch again, but it wasn’t long before the work came in, and I had a full diary. Working on my own gave me plenty of time to think, and the words “the raindrops fell against the windowpane,” kept repeating in my head. One day I decided to write them down, and before I knew it, I had written a whole paragraph. Little did I know then, that this little seed would become Firestone, though writing still wasn’t a career option in my head.

Sadly, at this point in time, my head was in a different, much darker place. My energy was failing me daily, and I was slowing down in my work. Each day was a struggle, and I was finding it hard to concentrate on the jobs I was doing. I was on the precipice of what would be one of the lowest points of my life to date. Some call it a breakdown, the doctors called it a prolonged depressive episode, either way, you get the picture. If I could give any advice to anyone going through something similar, or anyone who feels close to this, it would be to seek help, and talk to anyone who is willing to listen. Don’t do what I did, and attempt to keep on working, hoping that it would go away. As you can imagine, this did not happen, which only made things worse.

Luckily, I have a very supportive family and friends. I will be forever grateful for the support they gave to me in those awful days, and it was with their help and support that I got back onto my feet again. I struggled to get back into the tiling after this period, and it was whilst talking to my counsellor, that the question was asked, “If you were not a tiler, and if you could do anything for a job, what would you do?”

At this point, I knew nothing about how to write a book, the processes needed to put it together, or how to promote it. I was still tiling, but the writing had picked up pace. Whenever I had free time, I found myself typing away at the keyboard; the words seeming to flow out of me. I found the book was becoming a sort of therapy in its own right, and I would crave escaping to a different world. It is like a carpet is rolling out in front of me, and I follow the characters through the world, seeing, smelling and tasting the environment around me. I can sometimes get to the end of a session and not know what I have written.

It was in late 2019 when the next bombshell hit. I was slowing down with the tiling, finding it increasingly hard to concentrate on the jobs in hand. Another trip to the doctors would reveal that I had ME. The exhaustion I was feeling, and had felt throughout my working life, wasn't down to the job(s). It also explained other random symptoms that I had experienced, and still experience. It was on the advice of the doctors, and those supporting me, that I had to hang up my tiling hat for good.

Knowing I couldn't sit still, and wanted to do something with my time, I made the decision to write. It’s one of the things that I can still do, which isn’t affected by the ME, though I can’t explain why or how this is. So, I sat down and wrote. All was going well, until March 2020, when the world ground to a halt, along with any chance of writing. Now I know you are probably thinking, “but with all that free time, with nothing to do, you should have easily finished the book, right?” Well, with two children at home, looking to be educated and entertained, there wasn’t enough time to focus on the writing, so it had to go on the back burner.

It wasn’t until late 2020 that I could return to my computer full time and finish the book. In May 2021, I was happy to announce to the world that Firestone was ready for release. I had done a thing, and not only that, people wanted to read it. I never expected to have the success that I have had over the last year, and I certainly didn’t think I would have book two, Orbis, out within the same year.

I can certainly say that I enjoy being an author. Yes, there are hard days, when I am so tired I can barely get out of bed, let alone string a sentence together, and there will always be some parts of the job that are tedious, but that’s what makes the fun parts better. I am now halfway through the first draft of Tempus, and I hope to release it later this year. I don’t know what the coming months will bring, but fully intend to enjoy it to the best of my ability.

That’s about all for now. Please don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t done so already, so you can keep up to date with this blog and other announcements. As always, if you have any questions and subjects you would like me to cover in these blogs, or would like me to go into more depth, you can contact me on the details below.

Chapter 2 - Ideas

It’s been a year since I released Firestone, the first book in the Lore of Tellus series. If I had known then, how much of a success it was going to be, I wouldn’t have believed it. I have been overwhelmed by the positive responses I’ve received so far, from the readers that I met at the book fairs and markets, to those who bought copies of the book online, and I thank everyone for taking the time to purchase and read the book.

It’s always a concern when you accomplish something as big as writing a book, whether anyone will enjoy reading it. I went into this with my eyes open, knowing that the books I have written, and plan to write, may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But my aim was, and still is, to always produce something that most people would enjoy reading, and give the reader a place to escape the real world, even if it is just for a short while. One year on, the second book in the series has been released, and I am halfway through writing book three. Not only that, I have have also started planning the World of Tellus, which will be other stories set in the same world as the Lore of Tellus.

I get asked all the time about where I get my ideas from, and how I found the inspiration to write in the first place. In my previous post, I mentioned I had the words “the raindrops fell against the windowpane,” which kept repeating in my head, but I still didn’t know what to write about, only that I had to do it. I decided to pick a subject I was interested in, which was Steampunk and fantasy. This is where the researching began and still continues to this day. It wasn’t long before I was knee deep in books about magical beasts, folklore and myths, and began building a world to set my story in. I continued to stick with the steampunk theme, then built from there, letting my mind go crazy. It was around this time that I did a course in writing, “How to Write Best-Selling Fiction,” by James Scott Bell, which certainly helped me to plan out where I was going to go with all of my ideas. One of the main lessons I learned from this, was that planning was key to getting this right. I had to know where I was going in order to progress. There was a lot more to writing than just typing away at the keyboard, so with this in mind, I put the writing on hold to set out where I was going with it all. This was one of the best steps that I have taken so far, though it didn’t mean I had to set my ideas into stone, but it did mark out a course and direction for where I was heading.

I have each book roughly mapped out, so that I know where I am going to start and finish. It does not mean that I have to stick rigidly to the plans that I have made, but I do have certain way markers set out ahead of me to aim for to keep me on track. Between those markers, my mind is free to roam wherever it wants. This is the hardest part to explain, but for me it’s like a carpet rolling out in front of me, and I join the characters as they go through the world. I can see it, smell it, taste it, and all I have to do is write it down as I go along. There are some days that are better than others, depending on how I’m feeling health-wise, but on a good day I can reach over 6000 words. As I mentioned before, I’m not always aware what I have written, and it can be a nice surprise to read over the day’s work. 

Along the journey through the world, I will meet new characters, and visit new places, all of which will need researching and creating as I go along. I try to take inspiration from places that I’ve visited in person, to help create the world of Tellus, but again, my mind will build on this to make it fit the world I am creating. Carrying a notebook and pen with me is important, as this is where I can write down all the ideas that come to me, some to be used now, some saved for later. Either way, I always write them down, otherwise I will forget, and the ideas will most probably be lost forever.

Where I get my ideas from is not an easy question to answer, especially when my brain races ahead of me for a majority of the time, but I hope this has gone some way to explain how and where I get my inspiration for the Lore of Tellus. I will park it here for now, but look out for my next post, where I will talk about the characters in further detail. Please don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t done so already, so you can keep up to date with this blog and other announcements. As always, if you have any questions and subjects you would like me to cover in these blogs, or would like me to go into more depth, you can contact me on the details below.

Chapter 3 - Characters

It’s been a busy and productive couple of weeks, and I can report to you I’ve reached the halfway point of the first draft with book three, Tempus. It’s a great milestone to reach, but I normally aim for 120,000 words for the first draft, so there’s still a way to go yet.

As I ended last time, I promised I would talk about how I come up with the different characters in the books. This is something that I find fun, not only because I get to come up with what appear to be random names, but also because each character requires a backstory, and therefore, more research. When I started Firestone, I didn’t have a clue where to start with names, let alone what those people might do for a living. I already knew at this point that I was setting the book in a steampunk world, so I used that as a base, and looked at the characters from that perspective. I soon concluded that I would like my protagonist to be an alchemist, so I went down the rabbit hole that is Google to do some background research. The first name that sprung to mind for me was Nicolas Flamel, but that name comes up in many stories, including those written about a famous wizarding boy, so I chose to go in a different direction. 

With  a bit more digging, I found the name Geber was linked to Alchemy, and chose this as a starting point. The name derived from an older name, Jabir (Abū Mūsā Jābir ibn Ḥayyān) whose work is linked with the Jabirian corpus. The works were translated into Latin as the language became popular across Europe, with the name, Jabir, being Latinised into Geber. This got my mind working, and the idea of the Old World and New World came about. Now I had a surname, I needed a first name, a much easier task, and I chose the name Hugh, as it seemed to fit the character forming in my head, and Hugh Geber came into being within the realms of my grey matter. 

Now I had to come up with a past for him, give him a job, and a reason for being where he was. It made sense that family trades would pass down the family line, and that the eldest sons and daughters would follow in the family line. All characters in the New World would have their roots in the Old World, so the names and occupations would have to link back there one way or another. 

For Hugh, this meant he would need to follow in his father’s footsteps in being an alchemist. I came up with the University of Science and Progression, a place where the Old World subjects are taught and practised within the New World, and chose this as a place to start the book. Hugh was to be the last in his family line, and being the youngest child left standing, would have been woefully under-educated for the job. In his formative years, he had more freedom over his life, and made the most of it. He was given some lessons in the art of alchemy, and there was always pressure on him from his father to keep the family bloodline alive, but he had an older brother for that. This all changes for him when he becomes the last child after the death of his brother, and therefore, the sole heir to the Geber lineage. This is something that he struggles to come to grips with, especially after the sudden death of his father. He has deep feelings of being lost in a world he doesn’t know, and often feels like he has been robbed of his former life. His troubled past has always plagued him, including a fear for heights, the reasons for which become more apparent as book one progresses. He had to have a good friend and confidant, who I called Barrington.

Barrington Delphin, an ex-navy officer who left the industry for reasons unknown to most, only referred to as ‘the incident’ that he is ashamed of. Sticking with the Latin theme, I looked into words that would link him to the sea, so chose dolphin. His family links to the old world through seafaring/watery ways, and the name seemed to suit the character. He runs a travel shop in Portis-Montis, with the help of Thomas, his shop assistant/surrogate child that he took under his wing. I thought Barrington came across to me as a very proud man, who had never lost his authoritarian naval mannerisms. He’s also there to kick Hugh into action, and get him to face up to reality.

Every good protagonist needs an antagonist to make their life a misery, and this comes in the form of Robert Smithson, the Chancellor at the University. I made him a staunch enemy to the Old World, and since taking the seat of power, he has dismantled the university’s old subjects and departments, in order to make way for those based in the New World. He had to have a reason for not liking the Old World, and I decided his father would be part of the link to this. His father spent most of his free time with Hugh’s father and became an uncle figure for Hugh. Robert becomes jealous of this, as his father is never there for him. His mother also ran off with someone linked to the Old World, which only intensifies his disgust for the old ways. He now has his sights on the last remaining subject of the old world, alchemy, and it is from this point that Firestone starts.

Those are some of the characters that formed the basis of the books, but there are some that I meet along the journey through the world. These often come as a surprise to me, as I’m not expecting them to appear, and they can become more of a main character if the role works with the story. This also means I have more research to do and create a whole new backstory. 

Hopefully that will give you an insight into how I create the characters within the Lore of Tellus series, and hopefully some will go on an adventure of their own in the future. Next time I will cover timelines, and how I try to keep things in order. As always, if you have any questions and subjects you would like me to cover in these blogs, or would like me to go into more depth, you can contact me on the details below.


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