My inspiration and muse

Many writers have different sources of inspiration, be it music, reading other books, people watching, their life experiences etc.

I have been heavily influenced by David Eddings- I read and reread the Belgariad and Malloreon sooo many times as a kid, the Belgariad especially. This was my first immersion into fantasy, and it helped shape who I am today.

When I started writing The Lowest Realm 17 years ago, I had the drive and inspiration, and managed to write what was, at the time, a decent prologue and first chapter.

But something was missing. My friends who read it said that I left them hanging, they HAD to read more. The problem, though, was I had run out of steam. Already, my story was headed towards every fantasy trope that writers try to avoid today: stranger in the lands gets drawn into a quest, completes said quest, gets the princess and becomes a mighty king, and they live happily ever after. Yawn!

I finally shelved the project, threw out all of my backstory notes, and just kept the word doc and maps. I didn’t touch it again until April 19.

I had been talking to my mother-inlaw, and she had expressed interest that I had been writing a novel. I finally fished out the original files and dusted them off, but I still wasn’t happy with where the story was headed. My narrative was a bit off too, it needed a lot of work.

And then one day, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, and came across a random post that evoked some sort of powerful reaction in my brain, and I realised the missing link to my story. I cannot express enough, how electrifying this moment was, it was like I’d been zapped in the stomach on an electic fence back on the farm.

This post may not mean much to you, the reader, but this image started a fire in my brain, and for the first time in 17 years, I started to write.

There was still one key thing missing though. I draw a lot of inspiration through random songs here and there which get my creativity flowing, but I realise now that I was missing my muse. Inspiration is one thing, but a muse that magically helps me get the story on the page was another thing altogether.

I found that muse in the form of a simple cover song. I had been listening to Mumford & Sons on YouTube, and one day I was in the mood for a bit of Springsteen. I typed in ‘I’m on fire’ and there, staring me in the face, was a cover of that song by Mumfords.

This song gave me a similar reaction to the above post, and I think I wrote like 6 chapters in a week just from listening to this song.

Mumfords have pretty much gotten me through writing The Lowest Realm, and who knows, I may even dedicate a book to them.

These things that inspired me may make the next person roll their eyes and smirk, and that’s ok. There is inspiration and a muse out there for everyone, we just have to find it.

May you forever hold Am in your hearts x

Growing the map

Book 1 was only ever going to be a stand-alone novel. As I wrote, however, I found that a number of twists and turns had naturally reared their heads, and I ended up with more story than I could ever fit into one book. Sure, I could squeeze it all into one and have a big fat book, but I know a lot of publishers won’t touch a debut novel of that size.

And so I had a predicament. Book 2 requires my heroes to leave the Eastern Isles where book 1 takes place, and head over to the mainland.

Easy peasy, only I hadn’t created a map for that. So I set out to enlarge my map.

I have created plenty of kick-ass maps in my time, but I have always hand drawn and inked them. For the Eastern Isles, I had drawn this map 17 years ago, and at the time, had painstakingly converted it from lead pencil to pixels in a very old version of paint. It took forever and I only filled in half of the assets.

This time around, I tried Inkarnate, and was very happy with my map. I don’t have the early copy of the Eastern Isles on my device, if I can find it later I’ll add it in.

So anyways, I have this kick-ass map for the Eastern Isles, but no world.

I purchased the program Wonderdraft and experimented with generating landmass, but it just didn’t do it for me. I like to draw my maps by hand with my own brainpower. After several failed hand and program attempts, I went back to basics and did it ‘the old way’. WASD20 does some great vids on this too.

I started with an A4 sheet of paper, and lightly penciled in where the Eastern Isles are situated in relation to my landmass. I made them tiny, to show the scale of the world.

Next, I used some Fluffy Sand that I bought from Smiggle, and randomly dumped it on my page. You can use rice or beans or whatever, so long as it doesn’t destroy or mark the paper.

Once I was happy with the rough shape, I used a retractable pencil to outline the landmass. I realised afterwards that the continent on the left looks like a bunny, and the one on the right almost looks like an angry genie.

Once the sand (or rice or beans) has been removed, you can make any changes if needed, or jump straight into inking. Usually I’ll make a heap of changes as I go, but for now this will do. Time to ink it.

I shortened the bunny ears, and included the natural holes in the sand as lakes. To ink it, I used a very fine tipped marker, and made my coastlines a little rough. I don’t get hung up too much on natural looking coasts, it’s a map not a photo.

I haven’t started adding assets yet, this will come after I finish editing book 1, and all the other things I need to do first. But I feel like this is a good exercise to do now; being a visual person, I need to ‘see’ what I’m working with. Now that I have this basic outline. I have already started formulating the transport system to get my heroes from A to B as quickly as possible.

I have 9 days to finish editing book 1 before I send it to my beta reader, and I’m nowhere near done, so right now all of my energy is focused on fixing what needs fixing before it’s sent out.

May you forever hold Am in your hearts x

Here we go again

As I lay here in bed on a Sunday morning, I finally bit the bullet and decided to start a blog. I have started so many of these and never maintained them, so hopefully I stay motivated this time.

17 years ago, at 17 years of age, I started writing a fantasy novel. After writing the prologue and first chapter, I ran out of steam. It was heading in the same direction as every other fantasy novel I had ever read. It was not unique.
In April this year, I picked it back up, and dusted it off. I reworked my main characters and plot, and breathed new life into my world.
On the 20th July, I typed the final words I never thought I would see myself type:

The End
190 pages
104207 words

There is still lots of editing and refining before it can be published, but the hardest step is complete. So, what now?

I am already planning, somewhat slowly, book two, while I am editing my first draft. I have booked in with a beta reader for 11th September, who will read it and provide honest feedback. I have 10 days left before I send it off, so I need to get my backside into gear.

In my next post, I’ll show you how I designed the world map for book two.