If you haven’t already downloaded my latest short story, the provocatively titled prelude to my new novel, now is your chance! For a limited time, Kill the Past, Destroy the World is available to download for FREE on Amazon Kindle. If you have read the story, then I do hope you will share it with anyone else you think might enjoy it.
Kill the Past, Destroy the World tells the story of Mailyn, an embittered sorceress who returns to her homeland, determined to settle some old scores and seek revenge for the sins of the past. Guided by mysterious beings she believes to be ‘angels’, Mailyn is part of a dangerous plot that could spell the end for an entire world. With Mailyn determined to set Alanar alight with the fire of the angels, only one man, the High Priest Ardonis, can stand against her and prevent her from unleashing a planetary apocalypse.
Leading right into the opening pages of The Key of Alanar (which is now available to preorder!) this is one of the most morally ambiguous pieces I’ve ever written and I loved exploring the backstory that leads into an incredibly epic tale that spans 10,000 years and multiple dimensions. The adventure now begins…
I’m excited to be relaunching my Dreamlight Fugitive blog in addition to my main blog, Beyond the Dream! My first new post is about something that affects everyone in any creative field: the arch-enemy of creative expression…self doubt!
Yesterday, having finally finished my new novel after a year and a half of work (and the rest! But that’s another story!), I was clobbered over the head by an attack of self doubt. I’d just ordered proofing copies yet I found myself going back and picking away at random sentences, trying to find better ways of stringing the words together in order to reach that most elusive of writerly goals: the ‘perfect sentence’!
One thing led to another and I soon started to question the entire book. What if it wasn’t ready to be put out into the world? Feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction quickly turned to feelings of anxiety and dread. What if I was in fact one of the worst writers ever to pick up a pen or hammer away at a keyboard? I’m safe at the moment, but the moment the book is published it’s a target and as the one-stars reviews come flooding in, I’ll be revealed as the terrible hack I am! I even very briefly considered binning the entire book and starting again from scratch.
That’s how self-doubt works! It’s a vicious, pernicious and potentially crippling little monster. It hides away in the darkest recesses of the mind and is prone to jumping out at inopportune moments and letting rip with its penchant for woeful catastrophising. It’s something that every artist and writer must learn to live with and it does get easier with time.
Most of the time I have it under control. But coming to the end of a project, when you are actually taking the steps to releasing that work into the world, makes the self-doubt monster terribly antsy. Stirring from its slumber like a cat that was only really half-asleep the whole time, you know the meltdown is inevitable.
“You’re thinking of publishing THAT? Are you crazy?! It needs at least another year of work. The critics are gonna tear it to shreds!”
Now, a little self-doubt is healthy. It gives us a certain objectivity about our work, which is useful in the editing stage (and throughout, really). It becomes harmful however when it degenerates into an overwrought, mud-slinging, anxiety-ridden neurotic monster, determined to convince us that nothing we do is good enough and that we’d be better off setting it aside and slumping onto the sofa and firing up Netflix. So pervasive and persuasive is the self-doubt monster, it’s almost certainly destroyed countless artists’ careers before they’ve even had the chance to get in the game. Left unchecked, this inner censor will not only hinder your creativity, it will completely destroy it and leave you a blubbering and, above all, blocked wreck!
The self-doubt monster is actually pretty easy to deal with it however. And here’s how.
First of all, take the ‘self’ out of self-doubt. It has nothing to do with who you are. It’s simply a thought and that thought’s corresponding emotion. It’s actually completely impersonal. We all get it — everyone, in every walk of life! It’s certainly not unique to us. Self-doubt is basically fear. It’s a defence mechanism designed to somehow keep us safe, even if it is a little misinformed and ultimately wholly counterproductive. Depersonalising it immediately takes the sting out of it.
Secondly, once I’ve depersonalised it, I personify it. This might make me sound utterly crazy, but I find it helpful to give it a name and form. I call my self-doubt monster Fred. Fearful Fred. He looks like a big, fat and slightly ungainly grey caterpillar. Most the time he just wiggles about in the recesses of my mind, doing whatever it is caterpillars do. Occasionally however, something gets Fred riled and he gets all worked out and inflates in size, becoming a gargantuan blob full of his own hot air. This happened last night when I somehow convinced myself I was the worst writer in human history.
I isolated the emotion in my body (it seemed to be around my belly, or solar plexus) and I decided to have a chat with Fred (as the personification of my self-doubt). He was beside himself with fear, anxiety and dread. So I made him a cup of tea, sat him down and explained that I’m grateful he’s so diligent in looking out for me, but there was no need for such stress and worry. Yeah, it’s always a little scary releasing a new piece of work into the world, as it probably is for a baby bird being pushed out of its nest in the hopes it will fly for the first time. But I reminded myself the importance of keeping everything in perspective.
I wrote an article last year about the power of karma yoga. Karma yoga isn’t a sequence of physical postures as you might expect, but a mindset with which we approach life. As it says in the Bhagavad Gita, we have the right to act, but the fruit of those actions is not up to us. So the karma yoga attitude — which is the greatest antidote to stress that I know — is simply to do our best and let go of the results. Once an arrow has been fired it’s no longer up to us whether it hits the intended target. Chances are we’ve done our best to ensure that it does, but it’s now under the control of a set of natural laws and dynamics that are completely outwith our sphere of influence. All we can do is relax, take it easy and endeavour to take whatever comes with good grace.
The self-doubt monster can be an implacable and relentless foe to any creative person. It’s probably cost me years of my life. I’m certain I’d have more than one novel published by now if I hadn’t spent years under the sway of Fred, bless his heart. Now I’ve learned to master my mind and emotions a little bit more. This doesn’t mean that self-doubt and other self-limiting thoughts vanish forever. But it does mean that when they come up I can put them in their place and simply get on with things. As the Tao Te Ching says:
Mastering others is strength; mastering ourselves is true power.
Self-doubt and anxiety are defence mechanisms generated by the unconscious mind to keep us safe. But we are safe! As artists we follow our calling, we write the stories and paint the pictures that our muse is kind enough to share with us. We learn and grow and improve our skills all the time. We make mistakes, but mistakes are an essential part of the learning curve. Never be afraid to make mistakes! And never allow yourself to be held prisoner to the tyranny of other people’s opinions. Some people will love what you do, and some people won’t. Some people are fair in their criticism and some people are jerks with clear psychological deficiencies (I now refrain from reading comments sections on youtube and other websites because of this!).
Learn to wrestle with your self-doubt monster. Or make it a cup of tea as I do. Usually once I’ve had a firm but loving chat with Fred, I imagine sending him off on an all-expenses paid vacation to Tenerife where he can just relax in the sun all day drinking Pina Colada while I get on with what I have to do.
Self-doubt is ignorance masquerading as truth. Don’t let it cripple you. Take charge of it and educate it. You’re doing fine, let it know that and these lagging parts of the mind will eventually catch up. When we no longer give fear or doubt power over us, when we educate them and put them into perspective, we give ourselves the greatest gift of all. Freedom! And freedom is the ultimate goal of all creative — and moreover, all human — endeavour! So dance with your doubts and allow yourself to be free.
This fantastic song and video by one of my favourite artists, Bat For Lashes, is about just that. This was the song that Natasha Khan wrote after a long spell of creative block, and it’s very much about learning to tame and dance with the monsters of self-doubt, despair and fear. Enjoy.
“Everything that has ever happened in the entire history of the universe, every cause and effect and chain of events, has led you here — now.” — The Guardian, ‘Eladria’
I’m really pleased to announce that today is the official release date of my first published novel, Eladria. Although Amazon has dispatched preorders early, today is the day it’s finally available not just in paperback format, but in a very affordable ebook edition (on Kindle, iBooks, Nook, etc). If you enjoyed the first three chapters which I’ve posted this week, I’m certain you’ll be eager to find out what happens after that cliffhanger ending, and now you can!
The Story Behind the Book
This has been quite a journey. I began writing Eladria almost 4 years ago, in the Summer of 2009. It took a whole year to complete the first draft, then another 2 years to complete countless successive drafts. It wasn’t always an easy task writing this book, I came against some stumbling blocks and almost gave up on it more than once! But I’m glad I stuck it out, because it eventually paid off big style.
Eladria is the first instalment in a series called ‘The Alanar Ascendant’ which I’ve been working on for years…and years…and years! It’s a supremely epic tale and whilst Eladria can be read as a more or less self-contained book, it also leads into the next book in the series, The Key Of Alanar, which will hopefully be published next year. Maybe sooner, who knows…
The Writer’s Journey
I’ve always been a storyteller. I’ve been writing since I was a teenager, and even before that I spent most my spare time drawing comic books and creating all kinds of stories. When I was a kid I used to walk my dog after school, a boxer dog named Cleo, and while I was walking I’d be imagining and playing out all kinds of adventures in my head, and there was always an overarching storyline, with distinct sets of characters. I loved retreating into my imagination, for I found the worlds in my head far more interesting than the comparatively drab ‘real world’. In time I learned to balance the two a little more, and appreciate all the richness and beauty of this world as well! Part of this ‘bridging’ of worlds was finding the means to share these stories with others, and to refine them and be clear about the purpose and meaning behind them.
I studied the craft of writing, learning how to properly structure stories, to develop characters and to weave narratives, with depth, meaning and themes. I realised that the true purpose of literature is not just to entertain, but to raise questions, explore ideas and help us make sense of ourselves and our journey through life. A good story shouldn’t just entertain you, it should inspire you and change you in some way. That sounds quite deep, and may be off-putting to some, but I hasten to add that Eladria is a fast-paced book that’s written in a highly accessible and readable style. It’s up to the reader what level of depth they wish to take from it. For some it’ll simply be an adventure, with a solid emotional core and some startling twists and turns (as far as I’m aware, no one has managed to predict the big twist at the end yet!).
Over the next week I’m doing a BLOG TOUR! Lots of interviews. I’ve been given some really cool and thought-provoking questions and I’ve done my best to provide interesting answers. I’ve gone into some depth about the creative process and why and how I write. I’ll be posting and reblogging them here. It’s been a crazy busy time, but immense fun 🙂 I look forward to sharing this with you.
Free Soundtrack Album!
Last but not least, I have just released my first music album! It’s the soundtrack to Eladria, an hour of original music based upon key sections from the book. It’s an epic, very atmospheric electronic/ambient/orchestral album, which I think captures the balance of the book very well. Incidentally, you don’t really need to be interested in or know anything about the book in order to enjoy the album. It’s a free gift to everyone, so check it out.
It’s now available as a FREE MP3 DOWNLOAD! Click here for more details and to download now. I’ve also created music videos featuring music from the soundtrack, which I will be posting soon (you’ll find them on the page I just linked to).
I worked very hard designing the entire site myself and I think it’s one of the most comprehensive and full sites for a book I’ve ever seen. It has information about the world and its characters, the entire first three chapters, music videos, artwork, reviews, free short stories and an online media kit. Have a look and let me know what you think 🙂
Incidentally, here’s the book trailer. Someone asked me today who did it and how much it cost. I actually did it myself, but I guess that means I must have done a pretty good job 🙂
I’ve now finished and uploaded my second short story. It’s free to download in multiple ebook formats from Smashwords here. It’s also available on Amazon Kindle, although it’s surprisingly difficult to give away stuff for free on greedy Amazon, but from tomorrow for five days it will be for free! And you can always freely download it in Kindle format from Smashwords at any time.
“The Royal Runaway” is a direct prelude to my novel “Eladria”, set during the eponymous heroine’s childhood. It’s a short, character-driven tale about coping with a devastating childhood loss and learning to face your problems head-on. I hope you enjoy it. I’d love to hear what you think of it.
Princess Eladria is devastated to learn that her mother has been officially listed as missing. Extensive planet-wide searches by the Royal Military have failed to yield a trace of the queen. Shocked that her father seems to think she won’t be coming back, the wilful seven-year-old sneaks out of the palace and prepares to embark on a desperate quest to find her missing mother. It’s a quest that’s fated to end badly, but a chance encounter with a mysterious stranger could mark a turning point in the princess’s life…