7 Dec 2014

Hey Ho! I Got Words

Hello faithful followers! I say faithful—you’d have to be, if you’ve managed to get through that ridiculously long lull in the posting. But rest assured: I have good reasons. Here; I’ll tell you, so you don’t stick my head on a pike.

Blog Book Tour (BBT)

With the help of the wonderful Sage at Sage’s Blog Tours, the Necromancer shall find its way to interesting blogs—and interested readers. That’s the plan, anyway. (We all know plans have a tendency to go... in surprising manners.)

I shall be quite busy with this. In addition to providing numerous materia (cover, bios, etc.) I shall be writing answers to interview questions and perhaps even doing some blogging on... other venues. (‘Traitor!’ you call; ‘do not abandon us; for we are not merciful.’)

The tour will last 8 weeks. If things go to plan, that will probably be prolonged. Hopefully I can get some excitement from you lot. Hopefully...

Tests

My lovely school does so love tests. Math tests (several of those—and hard ones too); mechanics tests; physics; philosophy; econ. Rinse and repeat. I have finally realised not to bother giving my all on them. Their true purpose is to identify weaknesses—and urge you to address them.

It’s not a pleasant way to go through education. Not only that, but; the tests themselves have some questions to answer. Heck, the entire damnable education systems need be asked questions! For one, they seem to prioritise memorising the (pedantic, absurd) mark schemes, over, you know—actual learning, passion and talent. And to top it all off: it has the effect of sticking us in a rat race.

As you can see, an essay on education is to be written. But let us move on...

Life

We’ve finally started to get some winter weather. We’ve had frost; we’re hoping for snow. Alas, nature is a fickle beast. She ought not be second guessed.

Additionally, there’s the cliched old being-with-friends excuse which I won’t bother you with.

What About Blogging?

Once the tests are over, I’ll be writing my (perhaps rather annoyed) post on education. And I shall also—surprise!—be releasing some more poetry.

Finally: I’ve made good my promise. Here’s a link to the first chapter of the Deathbringer—the prologue has also been included, in case you haven’t read it.

I am concerned with this sequel. I have... difficulties, with Linaera and Derien’s relationship. Frankly, it was an accident; a chance meeting of chance personalities. Then again—isn’t that how so many love tales begin?

If you’ve any questions or suggestions, feel free to contact me. (Hint: head over to the contact page.)

Read The Deathbringer: A Taster

19 Nov 2014

An Important Announcement...

‘Alex! What have you been doing this past week?’ you ask indignantly. Well, Readers: I have been busy. (Yes, I know everyone says that. Shoot me.)

I have successfully managed to finish reading my 800-pages-when-printed history book (over a hundred pages were dedicated to miscellany, thankfully) and I have gotten announcements in my school, and I am waiting for a marketing firm to help me do marketing. (My initial choice proved unsuitable.) What’s more: I’ve got school work. Like, big pieces of engineering coursework and regular revision for regular tests.

But enough of that. To begin with, I have a message you might be interested in hearing...

The Sequel

There will be a sequel. Yes; I’ve hinted as much, and it’s true. Her name shall be the Deathbringer; and she shall stand freely, and bequeath far worse than that sad genius.

You needn’t read the Necromancer to experience the Deathbringer. That said—it’s not a bad idea. It’d be especially auspicious if you were to read the bonus edition; for that contains a new character that shall be making an appearance.

‘Alex! A teaser?’ you plead. I cannot give you one just yet—though I am working on it—but rest assured that it will be quite a different book; and a damn better one too. (Not that the Necromancer is bad, or anything; it’s just... this’ll be better. I think.)

Anything Else?

I have to revise for a supposedly very difficult math test coming up. That merits a post on education (in which I shall educate you). Don’t worry: I’ll make it interesting. You’ve read this far, right? Hello? (Poor Mr Stargazer: he never did believe the invisible to be, well, not there.)

Okay. Keep followin’. In fact: you can entertain yourself with the rest of the blog. There’s a book (duh), poetry, and all sorts on art, and stuff.

(Mr Stargazer is now away in Stargazer Land; please come back at a later date. I’ll make sure to knock. Loudly.)

11 Nov 2014

The Artist and the Art

Art. It is all around: in the breathtaking magic of nature’s own beauty; in poetry; in music—and, you could say, in life itself.

I consider myself an artist. Perhaps it is foolish of me. Perhaps, even, art is an illusion; a veil of colourful perception over grey reality. But that’s a terribly depressing thought, isn't it?

Whatever may be said for art (much; I have written another essay on it) so too there is much to be said for the artists themselves. For they—we—are strange, wonderful people: devoted and dedicated (often seemingly beyond reasonable limits), intelligent—for the most part at least—and, in a way, quite special.

I don't believe we experience life in the same way. Where you see emptiness, we see possibility; where you give up, we soldier on; and where you see banality, we see magic.

I am not certain as to whether we merely interpret the world differently, or whether we do indeed create beauty and power where there was none. I suspect the truth lies somewhere in between. But regardless: this piece will focus primarily on what it feels to be an artist, not on art itself. (The aforementioned essay will serve as a primer; and for more, well, give me some time...)

How Does It Feel?

In a word: intoxicating. In a few more: liberating, but difficult.

Allow me to elaborate. The first thing you need to understand: art is hard. Writing in particular I believe to be very difficult—though of course that’s debatable—but all art is, to a degree, tough.

You can’t just sit down and write a book. You can’t just grab a brush and start painting. To create something worthwhile, more is involved. You need a kind of tenacity that is beyond all too many; you need belief in the self, fire in the heart, and the power to create.

You need magic.

That said, art is a blessing as well as a curse. Sure, it can take—boy it can take—but you must think of it like this: imagine your favourite work of art. It could be a book, a song, a drawing; it doesn't matter. What does: the feeling. Think of the time when you experienced it—when you felt something akin to discovery, to meeting a new friend; to finding love.

Now imagine how it would be like to have created it. To have experienced those passions—those melodies, those greens of newfound life—not as an observer, a spectator; but as the magic behind it all.

Can you imagine that? I wouldn’t blame you if you couldn’t. Imagination is, after all, a power great in few.

My Art

It is said that artists create what they most desire in art. There is truth in this: I desire magic, and worlds of possibility; I write fantasy.

And yet, my art contains a great deal more. It does, for one, contain love. It is also distinctly ‘literary’ in nature. But I don’t see the merit in words for the sake of words; nor do I crave the things that so define the word ‘literary’: the meaning of life, hardship, friendship; the human condition. In fact, I tend to dislike such works.

Is it a paradox that my art resembles both my most loved works, and the works which I find wholly execrable?

‘Your art attemps to correct the perceived problems in other works,’ you opine; but the question is really a different one: why does my art—my most personal, most cherished labour; my opus magnus in life as a whole—express itself in many of the same things I find utterly devoid of merit?

I'll admit this isn’t the case for all of my ‘literary’ themes—I'm a teenager, so it's only fit that I write on love, for example—but what exactly makes me question the paragons that are said to lie at the end of the road? What exactly do I find so compelling about a life troubled by vicissitudes, or the bonds of strange other creatures?

Some answers may be found in my own life; others elude all but my subconscious.

‘What are we to get from all this?’ you ask. I shall admit that I have no definitive answer. What I can say: who you think you are—and who you really are—is not a question with a straightforward answer. Art may give you an idea. I do not think to say that it will illuminate the answer in bright glory; for art is a strange thing, prone to misinterpretation and governed by forces mysterious.

What is the Point?

Art can bring succour in desperate times; it can bring answers—difficult ones, but answers all the same—and it can give you a whole new purpose in life.

Perhaps it is but an illusion. I do not think so; and, anyway, that’s a topic for my other essay.

The question of the art for the artist is a different one however. Even if we are to accept that art is a wonderful thing, to be nurtured and cherished in full; questions remain. Can art destroy a person? And what about bad art?

Bad Art

You could argue that there is no such thing. Even the most childish drawing—even the poorest poem, even the most dischordant, disharmonious melody—still bears a kernel of the being that created it.

And that’s true. But art is more than that: it is about inspiring those around you to do greater; it is about discovery—of self and of existence—and it is about beauty.

Beauty is a strange and fickle beast. Some would even say that she doesn’t exist; that she is a mere flicker in the mind—an illusion subtle and perfidious.

I am not of that persuasion. To me, beauty is something that transcends ordinary experience. It is a jewel that need not justifiy its master’s profligacy; for she is freely given, and requires only that we appreciate her.

Bad art does’t have beauty. It has emotion, correct; but it does not entrance the mind, or give pleasure to the senses. Not in the same way. A piece of well reasoned, empirical argument can interest the intellect; emotion can instil visceral fire in the body; but only art—good art—can bring you to a place you didn’t know existed.

So: should bad art be practised?

Yes—But...

Even if bad art does not charm with its tales of mighty heroes; even if its colours blur and swirl without meaning—it still brings its creator a pleasure. An altruistic direction in a life that so often seems confused.

So yes. Even bad art has something to give.

It does not, however, deserve to be brought to the limelight; nor, indeed, must one dedicated a life to it in some vain hope of future glory; for life, too, is a gift, and must not be wasted.

Even so, bad art is worth some attention. It can, for example, reveal the flaws in better art. And, maybe—just maybe—you’ll find a jewel in need of polishing...

The Destruction in Art

I do not believe dark art should be reprobated. Nor do I believe art can sow the seeds of destruction, or add fuel to hungry flames.

Nevertheless, I do not say that it is unable to harm; for if not, it would have no power.

Art is too abstract a thing; too beautiful a thing. Even its dark side cannot bring about terrible fate. That said: practise caution. The poisoned book can make many a man sick...

To Conclude

This has not been a long post. I still have much discover on this journey to places unknown and far away. But this is what I am sure of: art is a gift. Embrace it, and you will find fire in cold ice; fight it, and you will curse yourself to eternal regret.

8 Nov 2014

Elf Boy

Dear Reader:

I have a poem for you to read. Although I am quite busy with promoting my book (it’s got flying zombies!) and doing my homework, and a few other things which you’ll find out in due course; I still feel compelled to write poetry. Perhaps it is something that will be with me for the rest of my life. And for that I’m glad—few things are as great as art, especially one so personal.

But I digress. The poem is called Elf Boy. It’s about a creature of the forest—the Elf Boy—and it’s about love. It a poem short, with a meaning clear; you only need read it.

Read

1 Nov 2014

The Dead have Risen...

Hello Reader:

Mr Stargazer’s book is now out! It’s called the Necromancer. It is—as you may be able to guess—about a guy who raises the dead. But not just any old mindless zombies (though there are plenty of those too); rather, Mr Stargazer delights in the Dragethir (flying zombies), the Aêgland (really fast zombies), and of course: the Wraiths (you don’t want to know).

In addition to this, Mr Stargazer’s book contains elves (sexy, deadly ones—not the garden variety) along with mages, ghosts, basilisks, faeries and talking trees. And no: they’re not nice talking trees. In fact, they can crush your mind like glass, rip you in two with their roots, or—as Mr Stargazer cheerfully reminds us—teleport you to the clouds.

What can I say? They’re nice really. I mean, they give you plenty of time to scream...

Go ahead. Buy it. Below are some links—there’s a discount at Google Play, giving you the Necromancer for a bargain £2.70. You can also get your hands on a print copy, via Lulu. Who says I don’t cover all the options?

30 Oct 2014

The Day Before All Hallow’s Eve

Readers! Welcome to the Magical Realm of Alex Stargazer. Mr Stargazer’s book—the Necromancer—will be out tomorrow at Witching Hour. He will now try to convince you to pre-order it. Please nod attentively while he talks—he’s a bit long-winded, is Mr Stargazer, but he has found that you lot do (for some reason; the world is a baffling place) like his ramblings, so here we go...

Okay, Mr Stargazer: What’s It About?

The plot is much too complicated for poor old me to adumbrate. Mr Stargazer is very long-winded, you see; and he always did take KISS far too literally.

Since Mr Stargazer would feed me to a basilisk if I don’t write anything about this (yes, there are basilisks in it) I’m going to say that it has magic (plenty of that), undead (far too many of those), Necromancers (yes, plural), along with elves—cool, sexy, dangerous ones, not garden variety stuff—and ghosts (who’d have thought?) and faeries and dragons and... did I mention the flying zombies? No? Well, it has those too.

Most of all though, the Necromancer is about losing yourself to power—the power to change, the power to be eternal, and the power to kill.

Why Should Buy this Instead of... Fifty Shades?

Well, Fifty Shades doesn’t have flying zombies and talking trees. Also, all the other stuff tends to be written by adults (booooring!) instead of crazy teenagers. Did I mention that? Well, Mr Stargazer is sixteen. But don’t despair! He got the top grade in English. (Quick, change the subject: he’s muttering profanities...)

Anyway... are you listening? I don’t write for nothin’ you know. Mr Stargazer pays me with star dust. Worst employer in the world...

Anything Else?

The Necromancer is available for pre-order on Amazon and Smashwords. And it costs just three quid (five bucks for you Americans) so it’s not like you’d lose much. If you didn’t like it, that is. And you will like it, won’t you?

But I digress. If you like magic, elves,—and even a little romance—buy the Necromancer. You won’t regret it. Here: read an excerpt.


AN INTERVIEW WITH THE NECROMANCER

He enjoys fear, I think. He enjoys it: no man would dare surround himself with the things if that wasn’t the case. Once, he might have thought them macabre; but now, he arranges them in artful circles, as if to mock the Creator’s hand.

Perhaps there’s practicality, too, I think; for what better way to defend against his (no doubt numerous) foes?

And yet, I don’t believe it. We’re too far, here in these mountains forsaken by the he; and no one would be stupid enough to attack him in this Castle of the Damned.

There is a certain grandeur about it, I admit. There is something... majestic, in the way it cradles that giant of a mountain; a child enmeshed by motherly love. It is a tall thing, too: its roofs hang in seemingly impossible angles, daring those who would intrude; its windows are easily taller than Herculean heroes, and its tower—well, let’s just say it might be a very long flight of stairs.

I wonder why he bothers with the gate. Made from what can only be steel—though it drinks the light like the wraiths he undoubtedly has hiding—it is capable of withstanding (with adroit ease) anything a catapult can throw at it. (Not that you could ever get a catapult up here—those ravines would eat you and keep the bones.)

Speaking of bones, he does have a propensity for skeletons. I see them holding bows on the roofs, by the gate, and hidden carelessly behind rocks. Dragethir would have been more practical—flying is a useful ability here besides a drop into nothing—but skeletons did have a knack for defence which no other creature of their kind really possessed.

It’s a good thing I don’t have to fight them; for if I did, my plangent wails would find no solace among these inhuman giants of rock and ice. The wind would laugh as it buried my remains into forgotten memories.

(Assuming, of course, that the Necromancer wouldn’t turn me into his pet.)

I began walking. The wind promised me release from its inhuman embrace, though I was not foolish enough to believe it. Ice crunched under boots hardened by years of use. The cold battled against clothes enured in its merciless grip.

Dusk was falling; night was approaching. Then the dead shall rise.

A smile pulled against an alabaster face. My eyes—bluer than the streams which would gurgle here in summer days—twinkled with irony. The dead have already risen. It is now merely a matter of meeting their creator.

*

With every step, the dead parted. With every thought, their hunger strengthened. With every imagining of grisly ends, they seemed to smile all the wider.

Stupid creatures, I think; they know not what life means. Their master’s rule is absolute. (Or so I hope.)

I would have knocked, but I was spared the triviality; the door invited me in. The Necromancer knew I was coming. Of course he did: he knew everything. He was the master of these dead forests and lifeless rocks. That was part of his curse. He was the master of those who wielded no thought—he was, in a sense, master of nothing.

The castle wasn’t fully complete yet: there was a wall halfway through the right corridor, which lead to the pit. The Necromancer had strategic sense. No point in building the least vulnerable parts first.

Granite lay underneath; it was fashioned into large bricks, with a white cement in between. They were aligned perfectly (the dead were good at that), though they were ever so slightly curved upwards—it was more comfortable that way. Who says Necromancers don’t live the high life?

The doors promised entry to places unseen; the ceiling was made from a dark winter wood, and had engravings of deer... and other, less natural beasts. I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to how good the craftsman must have been. The Necromancer’s tastes are stunningly well-developed; and the fear of death has spectacular purchasing power.

“Necromancer, where art thou? Your home is too vast for poor me to comprehend.”

“I’m in the throne room. And don’t be so theatrical—I’m the Lord of Histrionics here.”

I smiled. He sure did have a sense of humour. Narcissistic, too; even kings did not meet in their throne rooms for such personal matters.

The door—made from a single oak that must have taken a half dozen undead to carry—opened silently.

Black granite—cut to perfection—comprised the floor; rough granite the roof; and dark rimmed windows shone cold light onto the throne. It was a beautiful thing: a base of (you guessed it) granite held a carving of ancient trees. Gargoyles—posing as if to scare away admirers, though redundant in the face of his awesome power—gripped elegantly curved armrests.

When he rose, I saw enamelled red and gold on the backrest. It was an almost... modest feature. Who hid their gold? (Hint: those who have more than they can ever find use for.)

The Necromancer himself, of course, was the real pièce d’resistance. Robes of the night’s dark hand enmeshed unblemished skin; writer’s hands held an artefact of war; and hair forged of wrathful shadows graced crystal blue eyes. He has the stark beauty of Winter, I think; he is the envy of lustful men, and the terror in tremulous hearts.

I do not lie to you: he inspired desire. And I preferred the fairer sex.

“Not looking too shabby for a hundred and eleven, eh?”

“Indeed.”

“Oh, don’t be a bore. You don’t want me to get bored. I might feed you the Dragethir—they enjoy their snacks, the big hungry bastards.”

This provoked a laugh. Even the wielders of unlife must have some from time to time. Raising all those undead is a tedious business.

The stronger ones are more fun.

Can you read my mind?

No, you are merely transparent. Come.

“Do you have less... vainglorious quarters?” I asked, reverting to speech.

“Naturally. This place does get a bit overwhelming.”

I followed him. We passed the main door (the only point of entrance—the stairs led up the tower) and then did the same with several smaller ones. Eventually, we stopped. Telekinesis was the Necromancer’s choice of opening doors; undoubtedly, pure physical means would have been indecorous for one of his power.

“You go first; I think you’d like exploring this room.”

“I don’t want the lion behind me.”

“The lion can jump you anytime he wants. Besides, if I let you go after, you’d have to close the door. And that’s not as easy as it looks.”

The door was indeed made from steel. It was difficult to notice everything in such constant darkness; a feature which the Necromancer probably felt added to the atmosphere. As if it wasn’t disturbing enough.

This time, he closed it with his hands.

A metallic smash. A ringing of unyielding steel against indefatigable stone. The Necromancer had used too much force—accidentally, it seemed. He is not in full control of his body, I realised. I knew why: he was Lichtr. A lich. And a recently transformed one at that.

It would have been a weakness, if it wasn’t such a damn strength.

*

I can see why the Necromancer wants me to explore, I think; for these books—with their minimalist covers of gold on black—would surely tempt those who have lived for as long as I.

But he does not know me. Four hundred years of tenacious life has taught me this: tempt the devil and he shall come. Enter a realm of darkest magic, and their seductive promises shall forever fester in your heart.

The rest of the room was beautiful too. Shelves of dark wood—now plated in silver by the light of a full moon—lay on a stone floor decorated by Northern warriors fighting deathly figures. They weren’t winning.

The windows were in the form of a triangular ark; a style perpetuated by ancient fortresses of the north. (They were deemed too overwhelming for lords these days.) I could see little more—I had not nearly the same capabilities of sight as he.

I had started to notice a chill. And I wasn’t talking about the one of death. (That would forever remain indelible.)

“Is a fire in order?”

“Yes,” I admitted without preamble. He may be dead, but he still remembers the plight of the living. Maybe he can be saved. I doubted it, but one could only hope. Certainly, he will not be salvageable once his magic truly eats into his soul, I think.

The Necromancer walked towards the fireplace. He attempted smooth elegance, but succeeded only in appearing unnatural. Once, he might have rivalled the most magnanimous of monarchs; but now death had inculcated a sense of... other. No amount of good looks could change the fact that his heart no longer beat.

A flash of blue. A taste of ionised air.

The fire was lit.

“I would have used fire, but you know…”

“That your kind no longer has that ability? Yes, of course I know. You are not the only Necromancer I have met; one finds many in four hundred years.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Four hundred? And capable of only telepathy and that dream power of yours?”

“Who says I was not merely being polite?”

“Oh please. Whatever you are, you must be very powerful to have lived so long; and clearly if that power could translate into fire… you’d have burned us all down by now.”

A clever one, I thought. I have met only one other like that, and he didn’t build his castle so big. Or maybe this one just has a bigger ego.

“Necromancer, we did not discuss about interviewing me. We talked about interviewing you.

“Indeed. Let me begin by telling you by name: Neshvetal.” He smiled, ever so thinly. The orange glare of those flickering flames held no sway over the coldness that lay in his eyes.

“It is a harsh name,” I say.

“I had a smoother name, once; and I despise it now, for it fooled those who should have known better.” No fruit could temper the bitterness in his voice.

“You have talked about… your loss. In your dreams.”

“I don’t remember.”

“Perhaps not. Few do. Dreams are like that.”

“I shall have none now that I am Lichtr.”

“Everyone dreams, Neshvetal. Every time you gaze off into the distance; every time you see not the world around you, but something… different. Strange. But somehow beautiful.”

“You see beauty. I see death.”

“There is beauty in death.”

“She wasn’t pretty when I found her.”

“Tell me more.”

Again that bitter smile.

“Would you enjoy a drink?”

“You have drink out here? And for that matter, can you even taste it.”

“A little,” he replied; “and I have everything out here. I have my own flying footmen.”

Ah, the Dragethir. I have never seen a Necromancer with as many and as large. He has truly mastered their creation.

I wondered if he was lying about the drink. Liches weren’t supposed to taste anything. Then again: he was recently turned. And he was probably even more powerful than Anathós, who was rumoured to have enjoyed drinking the blood of his victims before Raising them. (One wonders if vampirism and Necromancy can coexist. I couldn’t say. I’ve only ever met two vamps. And they didn’t exactly want to chat.)

“Here’s the Amarús. I think it’s ten years old.”

He poured me the drink in the crystal he brought along. Its dark brown veneer made warm fusion with fire light; and if the Necromancer hadn’t been with me, I would have felt cosy.

“It tastes as good as it looks,” I complemented.

“There is... a mellow taste to it. I am reminded of those yellow things—what were they called? Fudge, ah yes!”

So he wasn’t lying, I realise. And the world of the living still has a place within.

“Did you know about the baby?”

He froze.

“Of course I did.”

“Do you know if he still lives?”

“My wraiths have been trying to find out. It seems so. Though it’s a she.”

“Do you want to see her?”

“I am dead now. Fathering is an instinct long gone.”

A hundred and eleven, I think, and still not a perfect liar. And such a classic giveaway, too: a twitch of a mouth.

“Would you live again for Araya?”

“Who wouldn’t? But even I—greatest of all Necromancers—have not the power to bring her back.”

“You’re very modest.”

“Do you know of any other Necromancers?”

“Fair point.”

“She died fighting, you know. The silvers tried lying to me... but they were a little too afraid of joining the dead to pull it off.”

“Do you keep them around?”

“I don’t like being reminded of past things. The future is what I want to see; I want to taste the sweetness of possibility, and to possess the knowledge... that I will be lord.”

“I don’t think Araya would have wanted you lord. You’ve twisted her memory into ambition; and now your own lies are fooling you.”

Blackness surrounded me. Snarling faces of utter hatred barred teeth of a thousand lost souls’ pitiful wails. Ice seduced my soul; death promised release in the servitude of evil.

“They say the wraiths devour souls,” said the Necromancer. “I think they really devour your mind, and leave your soul here to fulfil my wants.”

“I speak the truth, Necromancer,” I replied. Of course I feared the creatures—I knew the one closest saw his sister raped, and wanted me to feel that—but somehow I knew the Necromancer had taken enough criticism in his long life to rise to a little bait.

I am a prescient being; and rarely am I wrong. Though if I am, now sure is a bad time to die. (Isn’t it always?)

“Get rid of them, Neshvetal. Or put out the fire. No point wasting wood.”

He laughed, and the creatures vanished.

“It seems you can predict the actions of even the most fickle beings.”

“You are fickle, yes; but predictable, too.”

“I never could tell what Araya was thinking.”

“And that, my dear man, is the source of all this madness.”

“Begone, oh silly fool.”

“I have a better idea. Come with me.”

I never moved a muscle in that fateful time. Dreams are subtle in their awesome power.

*

We stood on the highest peak, on the coldest lake, and in the grip of most inclement howling storms.

There was no sun. There was no moon. There was only the perpetual light of imagined possibilities; a veil from which fear and wonder sprung as equal partners.

“Where are we? And for that matter, how the hell did we get here?” asked Neshvetal.

“I think you know.”

“Dreams.”

“It seems you’ve managed to learn something over all these years.”

Iridescent fire burst from dead hands. They caressed with teeth that could never bite.

“You do not control the dream; the dream controls you.”

“Wise fallaciloquence from the one who controls the dream, oh Master.” Yes, sarcasm was a favourite of his. And he was definitely mad: only lunatics don’t fear for their mind.

We gazed across the peak. It was a pointless exercise. Impenetrable mist obscured what could only be infinity. It was the arbitrator of existence; the incarnation of being; and the bequeather of knowledge.

I almost did not notice when it began to part. But it was there: in the eddies of wind; in the slowly approaching light; in the feel of a presence.

What a fantastic memory, I think. How perfectly he recalls those eyes of gold—and that unblemished shade of peach that is her skin! How truly she smiles; how utterly believable it all is!

“Neras.” She spoke little, but said much. No word could match for disapproval or longing; no utterance could convey the million contradictory emotions of a being like her.

“Araya, dear, do tell me more. I haven’t heard you in a while. Dying is so inconvenient, isn’t it?”

“I see you’ve kept your sense of humour. I can almost envision falling in love with you again. In fact... I still love you. I really do. But I hate what you’ve become.”

“I killed only the criminals. The rapists, the murderers... the monsters.”

“So that you can make them the monsters they could never become?

“Don’t answer me. You think you are right now, and maybe you are; but in time, you shall forget me. You shall not remember how I reprobated murder. How I always believed the ends do not justify the means.

“It shall consume you, Destres.”

It was with his truest of names that we left the dream world.

*

“And so the interview is over,” says he, while pouring himself another glass of Amarús. (I don’t why he bothered: the whole bottle couldn’t make him drunk.)

“Indeed, oh Lover,” I replied.

“You know too much for your own good, you know,” he says, before proceeding to down another glass.

“In all the ages that I have lived—in all the crimes I have seen, all the destruction that has been wrought upon this fateful continent—danger found me when I knew least.

“You do not know how very doomed the path you walk is, Neshvetal. No Necromancer has ever retained full sanity; no wielder of the dark arts could be called a hero and not a villain. Are you arrogant enough to think you will be different?”

“Perhaps I want to be bad. To wreak havoc and fear among those who did the same to me. Perhaps I am tired of being that hero.”

“Or maybe you’re no better than those Wraiths.”

“Leave, oh Master of Dreams,” he commanded.

And so I did. I would meet him again, that I was sure of. Question is: would he be on the side of the light, or the dark?

27 Oct 2014

The Necromancer... In Print!

My book is in my hands. I would say it’s my baby, but that would be silly. It’s a book about flying zombies and centenarians with God-like powers—it’s hardly the kind of thing you’d call your baby. (PS: it’s my baby.)

Anyway, I’ve got some photos for you to look at. They’re not very good (I’m a writer, after all) but I think they’ll do in a pinch.

I’m also going to give my humble opinion on the quality of Lulu’s printing.

But, the photos!

Mr Stargazer is a Very Bad Photographer (Yes, He’s Said that Already)

On Lulu’s Print Quality

On the whole, suprisingly good. The pages are’t too thin (a common complaint with ‘budget’ printing), the construction feels solid, and there are no misprints or washed out ink—a problem I regularly experience with mass-market paperbacks. It’s also surprisingly heavy: whether that’s a good thing, or not; I don’t know. Perhaps I shall ask Lulu support.

Is the Printer Finnicky?

Yes. All printers are finnicky to a degree (no printer wants to make thousands of books with critical flaws, even if it isn’t their fault) but Lulu’s seems particularly egregious. Here’s what happened: LibreOffice (my word processing/quasi-DTP program) can’t embed OpenType fonts as OpenType in a PDF; instead it embeds it in the format known as Type-1, which tend to be quite basic—and problematic. I’m not sure if they prevent good printing outright (I can get my home printer to do it) but it does tend to make printers nervous.

What’s faux pas about Lulu is that their printer only gives general "Font error" type error messages—it doesn’t tell you which specific font is making it complain. This was so problematic, in fact, that it took 3 days to eventually figure out why it wasn’t printing. Make no mistake: the self-publishing biz ain’t easy.

How Do You Feel Alex?

Authors often speak of how it feels to get their first physical book. Euphoria, excitement and giddiness are the most commonly cited emotions. I didn’t expect to feel that, and I don’t. My dreams are bigger than that. And anyway: the idea of trying to sell it en-masse is... pretty daunting.

That said, I do feel a certain... satisfaction? Closure? Something like that. I’ve reached the end of this road. But there’s still plenty more to go. Plenty more monsters to slay, magic to be casted, and dreams to be made.

This is just the beginning.

22 Oct 2014

Poem: Love

Check out my latest poem—Love. The title is pretty self-descriptive; nonetheless, there are some subtleties and additional messages that aren’t.

First of all, take a look.

Like simple, forthright folk (of which I can hardly be said to be one, but hey ho) I shall start with the first stanza:

I have often wondered
If the sea is not merely the gleam
Of emerald hues and lonely blues;
But that in its soulful countenance
Lie the secrets of the earth.

This is actually a pretty simple descriptive paragraph—ostensibly—but it does act as a metaphor for some of the themes. The sea is, of course, an element of nature; and the fact that it reflects is also pertinent. The narrator is seeking meaning in nature. Thing is, nature can be pretty obtuse.

Moving on to stanza two (surprise surprise) we now get:

‘Do you believe in life?’ my lover asks;
‘Do you believe in the plangent cries of merry birds
‘In the fuchsia gleam of awakening suns – and in
‘Hope?
‘Is this real, or but vacuous imaginings?’

As you can see, our poem poses some solipsistic questions. Do we, indeed, know that the world is real? For I, of all people, know the power of the imagination. And yet: the lovers believe in reality. Why?

‘Perhaps,’ he concurs: ‘Perhaps you would imagine
‘Facsimiles and lies
‘With greater power than ought befit ephemeral souls;
‘But you would never capture me.
‘You would never believe the power of my kiss.’

The power of a kiss. Delusion, or enlightenment?

Ponder that, and other questions. The poem raises many. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to promote...

19 Oct 2014

The Calm Before the Storm...

Readers:

The Necromancer is coming out on Halloween! Pre-orders are available on Amazon and Smashwords; see the page entitled ‘The Necromancer’.

As of now, I am calm. My proof copy should be coming in a couple of days—upon which I shall evaluate whether any changes need be made, and shall also publish a brief review of Lulu’s print quality—and once I give the go-ahead, marketing will begin.

I am to contact some printing companies in order to get banners printed. Here, take a look:

I have also contacted a couple of reviewers prior to this. Their response has been... lackadaisical. Therefore, I shall also be busy sending out review requests to interested parties.

Finally, I am also considering some paid options. This does, of course, involve some risk—money is money, and you don’t always know exactly what you’re getting for it—but I feel that marketing is far from my expertise; and this book does need a bit of that, if it is to succeed.

In short: publishing is a lot of work. I wasn’t kidding about that.

Is the publishing situation as a whole in bad shape? Absolutely. But that’s something for another time...

I shall also be doing a book signing and a launch in my local libraries—if you live near me, take a look!

Okay. Back to work.

PS: I have also created a Facebook page for the Necromancer. Check it out!

9 Oct 2014

Poem: the Mirror

I have not been very active in my blogging as of late; indeed, one can say that I have not done very much blogging at all.

But rest assured that I do not idle or waste precious time. I am expecting my print copy to come in a couple of days—then marketing will begin in full. I have been occupied getting a bank account, requesting tax numbers (which still hasn’t come—phone calls needed), and corresponding with the various professionals needed to really put a book out there.

In short: publishing is a lot of work.

But today I have new poem. I have written it a couple of days ago, actually; and now I have time to present it to you, dear reader.

I have quite a few things coming up as well: I have a map to reveal; the Necromancer will be getting a page; and I’ll even be making a Facebook page. Except that it won’t be mine. No: it’ll be the Necromancer’s.

Poem: the Mirror

So what’s my latest concoction?

It’s about war. But it isn’t one of those eligies, with all their contrition and reminiscing of things no more. No: this poem is very much about the future. And of course, it’s metaphorical—life is never so simple.

The Mirror is Truth. It reveals our weaknesses, our strengths; and our delusions, both in beauty and in purpose.

The narrator is War. She is a strange creature: beautiful aesthetically; ugly at heart; and persuasive with illogic.

After all, war seems sweet until you taste its bitter reality.

Read The Mirror.

8 Oct 2014

The Dead are Rising...

Faithful followers,

The Necromancer is available for pre-order now! Please see links at the bottom of the post. There are two versions: one contains bonus content and is available exclusively via Amazon; the other is available at Smashwords and (hopefully!) more eRetailers to come.

The Cover

Behold the eBook cover! And now, gaze upon the printed face...

Do you think one is better than the other? Do tell!

What Next

I am preparing for Halloween. I am busy getting looking for a company to print out banners, posters and bookmarks; I have some phone calls to make (the taxman); and this blog will be getting an Extreme Blog Makeover, so keep followin’.

Okay. Back to work!

Pre-Order the Necromancer

I have not forgotten!

Bonus Edition on Amazon

Smashwords Edition

15 Sep 2014

Goings On

Faithful readers:

This will be a short post. My designer and I are working to perfect the final cover drafts; my cartographer will hopefully be finished soon; and I have been most occupied with my A-levels—they are proving remarkably fulfilling—as well as with reading the Picture of Dorian Gray.

I shall review it as soon as I am finished. If you are not aware, the novel is considered a ‘classic’; though, in this case, the title is merited: the prose is spectacular, the characters absolutely fascinating (and subject to no small mystery) while the plot is unexpected and engaging (though not thriller level).

More shall come once I am done with it. To truly do it justice, the review would have to be long; for the novel is indeed more than most: it is innately philosophical, and poses some rather difficult questions for me.

But enough with all that! Stick with me. Once the cover is finalised, everything will quickly follow.

Very well. Until next time!

6 Sep 2014

Alex! What Have You Been Doing?

Dear Readers:

Apologies for the lack of blogging. I have been busy with about a million things: sorting out a bank account; getting an NI number (waiting for it to arrive!); and trying to get some ISBNs (still sorting it out). This is on top of, of course, communicating with the cover artist—there’s one more draft coming up!—and the cartographer. Maps are a tricky business, it seems.

Nor have my marketing ideas languished. I have permission to put up posters (those will be so cool), and I may get some assembly time! It’'ll be scary talking to 500 people—but boy I hope I get their attention.

I have also started sixth form. For those of you not aware, Sixth Form is the English post-16 education which gets you into university. You study only four subjects—not a dozen like I used to—and those are in much greater detail (and difficulty!) than the wishy-washy GCSE stuff. The teachers are also crazy with giving out homework; poor me will have to manage his time.

Okay, I have rambled enough. Hopefully you will have figured out that I’m going to be busy until Halloween—that’s publishing date—and so it is probably a good idea for you to entertain yourself with whatever’s here while you’re waiting. There’s a rather nice short story in wait. It’s called the Sandman. It’s about a being that can change your life forever. And it’s free; so take a look!

30 Aug 2014

The Necromancer... Covers

Hello Blogosphere:

I, Alex Stargazer—writer extraordinaire and not-so-extraordinaire poet—presents to you five possible covers for my book, known as the Necromancer.

If you are unfamiliar with it, know that it is a High Fantasy novel with—surprise surprise—a Necromancer (that is, a person who raises the dead) and flying zombies, and magic, and stuff. Oh: did I mention our Necromancer is trying to take over the respective world?

Well, he is. That’s what people with 50,000 strong undead armies tend to do. Right? (Note: those 50,000 undead happen to be really fast, and strong, and fearless and all that. He’s kinda difficult to stop. That’s kinda the premise of the book, ya know?)

In any case, here are some descriptions of him:

Neshvetal permitted himself a small smile. It was not a pleasant one: it revealed teeth that were inhumanly white, and a twinkle of madness within those cold orbs of sight.

His eyes are balls of azure light, glowing with deep, unnatural power; his hair is darker than the darkest of nights, yet it reflects the scant moonlight like some fantastical lake. His form is tall – his posture, arrogant. A cruel smile lights up his long, aristocratic nose and handsome (if rather dark) features. He knows he has won.

As you can see, our Necromancer looks as scary as he is.

And without further ado, I present to you these covers. (Thanks goes to Kit Foster for providing them. Yes, I am paying him. Yes, it is still polite to thank those who enable your success.)

You can share them with whom you think may be interested. And please make sure to rate them on the comments below. After all: a good book needs a good cover to get you lot to read it.

22 Aug 2014

Why I Followed my Dreams, and the True Cost of Self-Publishing

A few days ago, I drafted my budget and wrote up the basics of my marketing plan. When the current sum came up, I wasn’t at all shocked; in fact, I was pleasantly surprised. Having made a few hard decisions, I was looking at £660 to effectively bring to market; previously, that figure would have been around £1200.

For those not in the business, this can sound like a lot. But rest assured: it isn’t. Because of some hard decisions, I can get away with spending less than most successful self-pubs—and certainly a lot less than what your typical publishing house pays. (Hint: it’s usually more than £2000, for shorter books than this. Obviously, it varies; but I’ve heard typical figures quoted in the £5000 area for this.)

Some of the decisions that had to be made included editing. At the low end, it would have cost me £650–800; but more likely it would have cost me something like £1200 (to properly work one-on-one and collaborate). I have seen editing firms charge in excess of £2000 for this, and some even more (the latter was a questionable proposition though...)

Editing is considered a necessity for most works. Certainly, it would have improved the Necromancer and given me some much deserved help.

Unfortunately, it was not something I could realistically afford. I have a fortuitous sponsor right now—my grandfather—but since he has worked and continues to earn in Romania, I cannot expect to ask large amounts of money from him.

Let’s put it like this: for every bread you can buy in the UK, you can get five breads in Romania.

And publishing is a risky business. While I don’t seriously believe I can’t sell at least 3000 books—a writer must believe to succeed—it is nonetheless a risk involving non-trivial amounts of money.

‘But Alex: why didn’t you go the more affordable editing route and do all the marketing yourself, plus some of the design?’

It is ultimately a question of value. Editing will improve my sales outlook in the long term—and even in the short term it may pay off—and it will have the priceless value of making my book the best it can be.

But I would end up with a great book nobody will find. Through this method, I can both save money; and I can have a good book people will find.

Nearly half of my budget will be spent on marketing—this will involve hiring a professional and possibly buying some ads (still playing with the possibilities). The other half is concerned with design. I am purchasing a print-ready cover, plus promotional art; in addition to this, I am going to hire out an illustrator for a map (stay tuned!) and also likely buy better wallpaper for this blog.

(I’m thinking of getting an Extreme Blog Makeover...)

Some of these expenses sound frivolous, but upon closer thought you will realise this is not the case. A good cover is a requisite for selling books in real numbers. As it is, there are higher end artists out there; though, unsurprisingly, they charge too much for me at present time.

Promotional art is also very important.A key part of my marketing is going to be physically done by me. I am going to work with libraries, bookstores, and I may even do a school assembly. But to that, I need two things: physical books, and something to tempt passing readers.

A good blog appearance isn’t really important in the short term but will build my name in the long term. And as for the map, well—it’s useful to understanding the book, which means it improves my product. (Yes, my book is a personal work of art but in business terms it is a product.)

So there you go: publishing—even done with saviness and some compromises—isn’t a cheap proposition. To really sell books self-pubbing, you will probably need to pay something in the order of £2500+ for this. If you want to make mega-bucks, well: Little Brown and co. spent about £150,000 marketing Elizabeth Kostova’s the Historian—which went on to sell two million copies.

(Quickly opens up Wikipedia... we can’t be wrong on this Alex... these readers of yours are too clever for their own good...)

And apologies for not posting in so long. I have been busy getting a bank account to fund my endeavour, and still need a UK bank account in addition to an NI number, US tax number, and possibly a pair of ISBNs (I can get them free from Romania’s ISBN office).

I have also received my GCSE exam results. They’re good, but can be better. (I do have a lot of them, and I did move in the middle of year 10 and had to catch up on half a year of Drama.) That said: I will probably request a remark for two of them—one is close to a grade boundary, the other looks suspiciously low—and may resit one RE exam in order to get a top grade.

Enough about that, though. I have started to see a terrible vacuousness in all of these mark scoring and results grabbing that I do. Frankly, if I don’t go to Oxford (or Cambridge, but they’re not as bothered about GCSEs) I will probably be in a better financial situation because I’d be studying abroad and won’t be paying £9000 a year. I’ll be paying anything from £2500 (inclusive of health insurance) to £0.

And yes: lots of Oxbridge alumni don’t make that much more than other Russel Group guys or even less prestigious universities. Frankly, going to Oxford is a matter of pride.

And really, I want to succeed writing books. Books bring me a personal satisfaction unmatched by anything else; and financially they can put me in a far better situation than even newly minted bankers. Which brings me on to part 2.

Following my Dreams

When I say ‘and the true cost of self-publishing’ I am in actuality referring to the emotional cost. Self-publishing is like trying to go through a very thick, very hard wall. For that matter, traditional publishing is like trying to get a very fearful, very covetous individual to believe in something he sees as little more than a product.

And book-selling? It’s like trying to shine in a sea of fake jewels. (Or not-so-fake crap.)

But let’s leave all these metaphors behind. The basic idea is: publishing a book is hard whichever way you take. And indeed self-publishing has that extra difficulty of marketing and outsourcing to design professionals and editors... but trad publishers don’t do a whole lot of marketing for most authors these days, and the latter is merely a question of logistics, money, and a little patience.

(Patience, as you can guess, is a virtue every writer comes to possess.)

No: what I am trying to say is that my dreams are no longer that of great university prestige or being some CEO of something or other. Granted, I still dream of that quintessential erudite writer, with charms and a lot of money. But really, it’s the pleasure of being an artist that is my greatest dream.

I do not proclaim to say this book is the culmination of this dream because, frankly, it isn’t. It’s a beginning. It’s a way to earn some money, inspire some trust in those who would fund me, and ideally provide a comfortable budget for the next book.

I am learning how to publish, and will soon learn how to market. I am learning monetisation. Even if this book doesn’t succeed, I will have gained valuable skills (and indeed already have)—skills that can be put to good use in my next books—for there will be more, a great deal more—or, if need be, in earning some cash freelancing.

If this book does gain some success, it won’t be the money that’ll be the biggest pay off. I do not crave wealth, and neither do I want to spend this money on anything constituting a ‘luxury’, or a frivolity. I see money has far better uses than in buying jewellery or designer clothing.

Honestly, the biggest use I’d have for the money is in buying a house. The only houses that are mine are in Romania—a country which no longer interests me, if ever it did.

But even better than a house would be the feeling of knowing I succeeded. It would be... the euphoria, the taste of future possibility. For what greater a quest is there than to live your life the way you want to live it?

‘Alex: what if it bombs?’

This is a question I have thought over carefully; it is, after all, why I am not spending large amounts of money.

But it doesn’t worry me. My writing is getting better and better; my stories are getting greater, more powerful... more defined. If this one don’t succeed, I’ll write another! And it will be so much better. And I hope—perhaps a little naively—that, through indefatigable effort and determination, somebody would believe it in like I do.

The most difficult part is over. I wrote the book, and improved my writing skills until I could turn it into something worthy of attention. I got over my self-doubt and fears. I learned the important skills that any writer must have these days—perspicacity, professionalism, research skills, marketing—and with that the rest will be a matter of continued determination, belief in myself, and lots of hard work.

The wall is in front of me now. But it is a wall that can be broken through so much more easily than the one I couldn’t see.

All I need to do is to continue believing, and to continue hoping.

16 Aug 2014

Why Modern Poetry... Sucks

A contentious title, is it not? But unfortunately, I believe it a true one. Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against modern poets (I mean, I technically am one) and indeed some—like Carol Ann Duffy, to name my favourite—produce some excellent works.

And yet I cannot deny the fact that, reading most of today’s poetry—be it online, in a few books, or in literary journals—I have the powerful impression that there really aren’t many real poets out there. What gets classed as ‘poetry’ today possesses a certain… vacuousness, that would make poets—even those of a few decades ago—turn in their graves.

I’m not trying to be hyperbolic. Allow me to elaborate…

A Look Into Today’s Poetry

I shall not be naming and shaming; I don’t consider that kosher. Mostly, I shall be using examples created by myself. Take this one:

In my house
The song of radiators
Echoes into television dreams.

Actually, that’s a little too good for what I’m referring to. Let’s try again, this time with a poem by Anonymous:

So I want
To leave
A deep scratch
Of my mind
On the screen
Of the world
And walk along
With all bards
After my death
Hundreds of years
On soiled paths
And metal streets
Without my limbs
Blood and flesh
In haunting houses
And Joyous classes,
Make them feel
My hovering spirit
In emotional moments
In acts and deeds
Soothing souls
And agitated minds.

This actually isn’t bad, in the general standard of things. It’s biggest mistake is in being too long, having overly short lines, and overly bulky stanzas. (Let me paraphrase: it’s god awful hard to read.)

Closer examination, however, reveals a deeper problem. It’s meaningless. It has neither rhyme nor reason; and with that it no longer becomes a work of art—an expression of emotion, a creation of inherent desire—and instead becomes a vapid caricature.

Let’s delve into some specifics:

On soiled paths
And metal streets
Without my limbs
Blood and flesh
In haunting houses
And Joyous classes,

Does the adjective ‘soiled’ have any impact whatsoever on the meaning of the poem? Does it even create imagery? As far as I can see, it doesn’t. Nor, for that matter, does ‘metal’ in streets; for there are no such things, and neither is it metaphorical or used to evoke imagery.

‘Blood and flesh’ literally has no meaning whatsoever. You could remove it, and nothing would change. ‘Haunting houses’? Really? I know alliteration is effective, but this really is very forced. As for ‘Joyous classes’—why the capitalisation, what exactly is ‘Joyous’ supposed to mean in this context, and what type of ‘classes’ are we referring to exactly?

Perhaps Anon is referring to school classrooms? In which case, he is being: a) terribly vague; b) unrealistic; and c) not evoking of the image.

Basically, six entire lines are devoted to nothing at all.

Harsh? Yes: But Not Without Reason

You may think I am being harsh on the author. And indeed, I am: the idea of leaving an indelible mark upon society through art is certainly an interesting and powerful idea.

Trouble is, modern poets seem—on the whole—obsessed with joining words together instead of writing meaningful prose. Turgour is even worse of a problem than it was in the eighteenth century; for now that turgour is devoid of meaning.

And remember: this is actually pretty good for the ones I’ve seen. Most seem to have little relation to anything at all.

The Poet has Killed the Poem

That’s my final message, at the end of it all. There was a time when a poet could bring his work to the masses… and the masses could be expected to listen. They may not have understood everything; but still, the poem would have connected. They would have seen something of their lives, and of themselves. Perhaps they would enjoy life. Perhaps they would reform something of themselves.

At the least, they would feel something.

The killing began with pretentiousness. Poets began writing ever longer and more turgid works. The references to gods became too many and too obscure for the ordinary working class citizen to know or understand. And the structures! Complicated, twisting; difficult to read; harder still to speak.

At least poetry was still read (and enjoyed) by the academics and those of a literary disposition. Now, even writers pay them little attention; and poetry seems mainly to belong to a few niche circles.

This new fall came from the modern era. Poetry is no longer a an art form worth practising: it is now merely a way to express musings. Little snippets of words that just happened to be passing through your mind are now considered serious prose.

At first we stripped poetry of general appeal; then we stripped it of meaning; and now we condemn it to the work of the untalented and poor.

I am giving you two poems of mine to read. They both carry a message—one dramatic, the other subtle. I would submit them to literary magazines, but no one will read them even if they get published. (Which is easier said than done, considering hw pretentious and closed-minded they are.)

I would voice them; but who would listen? The organisations relevant—LGBT rights advocates, reason and science foundations—don’t do poetry. I wonder why. And good luck getting anyone on the street to listen.

Perhaps you, dear reader, are willing to give them look. And maybe you’ll take my message to heart. Don’t pretend they’re any good. Don’t pseudo-analyse and write praise that would seem fake even in an ad.

Repudiate. It’s bullshit, and you know it.

Read The Lover’s Curse—a dramatic fusion of rhyme and hexameter, on false social practice and oppression.

Read God the Sun: a subtle attack on the notion of an omni-benevolent god.

10 Aug 2014

The End of an Era

If you’ve been following my various musings on this blog, you may be wondering: what happened to the Poem of the Week? Is he back from his trip yet—or has something eaten him?

Well, I am not writing this in the stomach of some creature, rest assured; and I am back, too.

The Poem of the Week will restart itself after the Necromancer has been published. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy writing it, and I have no intention to stop altogether; but I have other priorities now. I should begin working with my cover artist from tomorrow. I have a publication date planned—though I won’t be revealing that just yet. And honestly? I need to publish everything, and begin working on something new.

I am a writer of novels before one of poetry. I feel... so much more alive and empowered when writing a book than a poem. I won’t deny the commercial allure—I’m not rich—but writing novels is just more fun and ultimately more satisfying.

That said, I have written two of my finer works while on my retreat. Those, however, I will try to get into higher visibility places. One in particular would be of interest to the likes of Stonewall, though the other may please a great many atheists...

But back to the point. The Poem of the Week won’t come until after the Necromancer’s publication date. I am working with a cover designer; I have planned a date; and most of all: I need to build up some buzz.

That is of incalculable importance. The Sandman has taught me that. It is so important, in fact, that I am not going to be publishing any essays or theoretical works until that date.

You can still, of course, read the poems that I’ve written thus far—there are ten of greater interest, and five more minor ones too—and go through past work using this blog’s archive utility.

This is not to say that I will not be writing anything at all on this blog. I am merely prioritising other venues (for I have decided this venue too crowded to try and gain attention at present).

I will be writing about me. This novel has practically changed my life—in scope and direction certainly, and perhaps even in wealth too (one can only hope). It has altered me as a person. I was a very rational creature before; I saw things too much in terms of goals and logic.

Now I see the subtler things in life. The things that can be, the fullfilment of living the life you desire; and all the small, emotional aspects of this existence. To put it short: I have realised that much of our life does not revolve upon objectivity and logic. We are more than that.

I do not believe my personal tales will garner this blog great attention—but that’s okay, because it means something to me. And I do have other ideas, as I’ve hinted.

When—hopefully when—readers start coming here (and I have taken great pains to tempt them) I will start releasing material pertinent to the Necromancer. Trivia; cuts; previous drafts. Indeed, I have written an entire short history on Arachadia, which I may expand further. So: do stick around—I have no intention of remaining unheard.

But now: to the title of this post.

The Necromancer: The End of an Era, and the Herald of a New Age

Think of me—at fourteen, on a grey October day—and understand my thoughts: I want to write a book. I have been a bookworm since I was five, and books became my life from age eight.

Some history is in order, is it not?

At age five I moved from Romania to England. I had been taught English... but not nearly enough. I struggled—at least for the first year. I was a difficult child. My teacher was... less than congenial. And honestly? I don’t think I would have liked myself then. I was spoiled, in many ways unpleasant, and very, very ignorant. Not stupid—I recall finding a colleague’s inability to correctly write ‘8’ immensely amusing—but ignorant.

Being in what was then a foreign country shook me a little. A lot, even. I had learned of a more difficult reality—and eventually I was forced to accept that, improve myself, and become a better person.

At first, books were a way to learn English. That proved extremely helpful, which instilled in me a great respect for them.

At eight I moved to Holland.

Again a foreign country; and though I now knew English quite well—most of the Dutch speak it, in case you didn’t know—life was difficult all the same. At first I couldn’t participate in the Dutch lessons; and those constituted half the day.

Commence the library. I lost myself there. I read books in a quantity that was really... awe-inspiring, for someone my age. I think I must have gone through 200 books—most of them non-fiction. For an eight year-old, I was the apogee of erudiation.

But more than the facts and the acumen and inalienable logic—books inculcated a wonder in the world. So much I did not know; and so much I wanted to know.

I experienced a personality change too. I was somewhat spoiled, proud and even a little vindictive before. I am still a little spoiled, proud and slightly vindictive—but I am also much more kind. That’s the crux of it all, at the end of the day. Children can be cruel. I said no. I had experienced some of that cruelty firsthand—you get that, being unable to speak a language at such an early age—and most importantly: I had seen its effect on the world.

And yet despite my new self, I still did not know the power of a story. I wouldn’t until two years later—once I’d spent my final year of primary school in England, and entered Secondary.

The Love of that Other World

I read 123 books in year 7—a yearly amount that surpassed even that of Holland. Most of those were fiction.

I believe my most impressive completion time for a book had been picking it up one morning and finishing it in the other. It was about 400 pages. A year later, I would beat that—I read a 500 page book within a day.

My most beloved book was Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights. To this day, I still think it the best book I’ve ever read (though Narnia did come awfully close).

I had come to love the other world in which books talked of. My life was terribly troublesome—I had some detentions, problems at home, financial concerns—but in that world I saw a better future. A place far more exciting; a place of wonder, and magic. I had reached the peak of escapism—and boy it changed me.

Tales grew in my mind. They were the most detailed, elaborate fantasies: animal kingdoms, magicians, worlds of myth and magic; and even a certain being of powers infinite, whom I identified with. I have given it a name. I shall not speak of it now; but know that I have been keeping its tale within me for a very long time. I shall write it, eventually. Right now I have less challenging and (almost) equally interesting ones to tell.

Basically: by age ten I was a dreamer.

At fourteen I started to become an artist. A writer.

Writing the Necromancer

My first draft was terrible. You’ll get to see it, after the Necromancer is published.

Why, do you ask? Well, the answer is simple: I was totally unprepared. My teachers had taught me only the most basic of writing techniques; but worse was the fact that I did not know all the rules of punctuation, dialogue, paragraphing, etc.

I didn’t really plan it, either; a grave mistake. And I was a writer inchoate. I hadn’t truly discovered myself, my talent needed experience to grow; and I found it difficult, having not been enured in the difficulties of book writing.

But I didn’t stop.

Don’t get the wrong idea: I thought of doing it. I wondered how and if I would ever finish it. But I didn’t want to stop. I could no longer contain the ideas that bounced around my head—could not deny that itch in my fingers. Honestly, I had to do something about it.

To get an idea of what I’m talking about, imagine this: me, the sunless sky above; and me, not seeing the cars, the houses, or the people. Not hearing. Not knowing. Alone in my own world.

Somedays, I’m still like that.

In retrospect, I wouldn’t have written a full size novel. I would have created a novella: that would have been a more manageable endeavour, and still rather satisfying. (Especially compared to just writing poems.) And I would have planned it: that makes things so much easier, you know?

At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t matter. I wrote it. And I began to feel myself... growing.

I’m not certain exactly where in the book it became not a struggle, but a natural extension of my consciousness. My writing started to improve noticeably by about chapter twenty, but especially in chapter twenty one—an ironically minor one.

But it was not until chapter twenty nine— nearly three quarters of the way through—that the worlds really started to flow. The relationship between the mage whose life was upside down, and between the elf whose life was to be changed irrevocably... something about that really harmonised together.

The setting helped too. I’ve always been captured by two things: mountains, and forests. The Elven Forest has both. I had always wondered of the elves, too: of the beings unique, in tandem with nature; possessed by the allure of magic, and so different from us... yet so similar.

Not that I was in any way a master of my talent. I still aren’t... at least for now. Maybe I never will, for it is a gift fickle and mysterious and impervious to my acumen.

But I could write stuff people wanted to read.

I wonder if I should have stopped there, and wrote something else instead. The Necromancer was to prove a huge amount of work—and I knew that, deep down, though it took a while to accept. Maybe I was just too enamoured by my first work. It doesn’t matter, anyway.

What matters is that I rewrite most of it, and used my skills—which were improving by the day, having started writing poetry and seeing the extent of my competition—to better it. I dreamed, once more; and this time of the possibilities. I was imbued with a determination, and fire.

I still am.

The End of an Era

I am no longer a child. I have gained ambition that I never had.

It isn’t all because of the Necromancer. I’ve matured, read more books, and experienced the feelings of adulthood. I know of people unpleasant—all must learn of them eventually—and I have started to see that a future other than writing would be both less oportune, and not able to satisfy my imagination.

By age eight, I became a being of that wonderful blessing. By age fourteen, I tried to make it real. At fifteen, I became ambitious. A being of fire.

I am now sixteen. I am more realistic. I know that this work probably won’t make me a best selller, or particularly well off.

But it has given me more than that. It has awoken my talent. It has given me a skill. It has promised a future.

And most of all, it has defined me. Knowledge was an aphrodisiac; logic a comfort; dreams a better existence.

This is my purpose.

1 Aug 2014

Poem of the Week: The Necromancer

If you read the title and thought: ‘Isn’t the name of his upcoming book?’ then you’d be right. This poem is, indeed, related to my upcoming book; and, unsurprisingly therefore, the Necromancer of which it speaks is the one (and only) Neshvetal.

This is a poem about him. His tragedy. His loss. For he, dear reader, is the saddest of them all.

I think I shall be including the poem in the actual book. I believe it captures the Necromancer’s emotions with total perfection—and that reading it will give you a real view into who he really is.

Here is the link.

Analysis

Let me start, funnily enough, with the beginning. Take:

In a castle
Enmeshed in frozen flakes
Of mountains clear and tall
A Necromancer lyeth thinking.
He sits on the throne of a king forgotten
Of which granite is the only known companion.

Structurally, the poem is a hexameter with lines of increasing length. I like this structure: I feel it reflects the way my imagination works—a spark (a premise) in the beginning, leading to several trees of thought; until, finally, it arrives to some sort of ‘chapter’ (for lack of a better word) in which the next section begins.

The poem also makes heavy use of enjambment—lines unseparated by punctuation, for those of you unfamiliar with literary nomenclature.

This means that the lines flow into one another; a fact which, I believe, is helped by the use of some rhyme and a lot of alliteration. There’s even a bit of assonance, though it rarely occurs.

Now that the structure is out the way, we’ll get onto the story. You’ll have noticed that most of my poems have a strong narrative: I believe this is due to the fact that I am (surprisingly) a logical person with a very linear mind.

Moreover, I think that… I don’t like poems written purely for the sake of words. The best written creations are made in the presence of the best stories, if you ask me.

Neshvetal’s Tale

His eyes
Are the colour of Winter’s
Wind-blown kiss; and his lips
Are firm like unyielding ice, but
Bright, as neon hues. His hair—ruffled
By Northern winds and distant cries of basilisks

—Leaves many an
Autumn’s caress upon
Those who gaze surreptitiously.

I begin with some description. Description in this poem is important: the poem is a most graphical one—that’s how it was created. That’s how most of my poems are formed, actually. I find it strange that I am so unable to convey that through drawing or painting; but so much more easily through words. Perhaps those are not meant to be my calling.

(You’re wishing I would leave the philosophy by the wayside, now aren’t you?)

Regardless, the poem is set in winter; fittingly, therefore, the Necromancer’s eyes are described in terms of such. This incidentally portrays him as a cold character—which he is, ostensibly.

Instead of attempting anything foolish (such as trying to assassinate his lover’s killer) he lay in wait, and so became poisoned by her caricatured memory.

His firm lips reveal his character: a tough one. He did not cry when she died. The alternative—unbeknownst to him—is far worse.

The quote ‘bright as neon hues’ reveals a degree of liveliness to him—but not a natural one.

Also: I hope you’ve noticed my little reference to ‘Leaves many an / Autumn’s caress’.

Some More ‘Interesting’ Quotes

How cruelly
Her life was taken:
By a bitter man with accrued ambition

Now for those of you unfamiliar with us writer’s various odd words, ‘accrued’ means ‘to silently accumulate—especially with regards to finance‘.

Aside from making some nice alliteration, the modifier (that’s the proper term; we don’t use ‘changer’ or even the posh adjective) reveals an aspect of ambition: how very cold, inhuman and… financial it is. (Indeed, how finance is very anti humanist—but that’s an entirely different kettle of fish…)

Life! He thinketh; such foolish tomfoolery!
Only death knows the truest hearts of undying lovers.

The last line reveals what sad parody his love has become. Oh, and did you notice my little archaism? I love archaisms: they make me sound all clever and posh.

(‘Yes, but Alex; you’ve used them inconsistently. And they’re not terribly imaginative.’ Moi: ‘It’s called effect you idiot.’)

Did you even notice the extraneous foolish on tomfoolery? There’s a fancy name for that, but I think I’ll just leave it at ‘it’s cool cos it’s stupid.’

And so love’s evil doppelgänger form
Crowns herself queen of a puppeteer.
The Throne of Puppeteers! How fitting.

Love’s evil doppelgänger form is of course a reference to the madness that plagues him now—a madness that truly invaded him once he became a Lichtr. (That’s the Proto-Zaelic—Old Arachadian—word for Lich, which is forgotten in the time period at which the Necromancer is set. I shall be writing a hopefully succinct intro on the Arachadian language soon, which shall be part of the book.)

(PS: a lich is an undead being; but a conscious, empowered and very much sentient one at that.)

The ‘puppeteers’ is a mockery of Necromancers. They puppet their undead; but like the evil puppets that they are, the undead also puppet him. (Geez, that’s a lot of puppet isn’t it?)

Also, I am making reference to the primary antagonist of the sequel, if I ever get to that.

Oh, and an earlier quote I forgot to mention:

His hands play idly with the toys of tyrants.

The ‘toys of tyrants’ refers to his knife and his spellbook. This is relevant to tyrants because their power is in fear and in political success; their knives are just toys.

His spellbook is less obvious—doesn’t he need it to Raise his undead? Well, he does, but only the more complex ones. And it is the Revenants—the many and the mindless—that form the bulk of his army.

Conclusion

My musings on my poem have been very literary and clinical. The poem, on the other hand, is very emotive. Honestly, I think its meaning is abundantly clear. I am merely drawing your attention to some of the subtleties; there are more, though, so do pay attention.

And I do hope this poem has drawn you in. You don’t think the Necromancer is boring, right? Hello? Are you there?

(Echoes of the uncaring ring emptily, leaving yours truly to work on his book. Thank you for reading.)

26 Jul 2014

Essay: The Essence of a Good Tale

PART I: The Forms of Art

I shall begin by saying that, although this will be an essay, it cannot really be called that; for it shall include elements of art, and—therefore—a more apt description would be ‘philosophical fiction’.

Such semantics aside, the purpose of this essay/tale/enter-what-you-think-is-right-here is not merely to ascertain the purpose of a good tale (contrary to its title); rather, it is to determine what art is, why it is important—and to make some (hopefully) humorous comments on all of it. Let us begin with an anecdote.

(Clearly, I am already committing a faux pas. Mea culpa.)

The Anecdote: Dutch Paintings

Recently, I was in the Netherlands. There, I had the pleasure of examining some of the works displayed in the Groninger Museum (named after the town I was in).

I saw some wonderful things there: abstract forms hinting of nightmare imaginations (ironically); capturings of strange, crazy artists; and landscapes—so many landscapes!

They were vast, awe-inspiring things; and they seemed filled with both the timelesness of nature, and the tenacity of the humans that lay upon them, and the very spirit of Holland: of the tiny, utterly flat country that yet seemed so imposing, and so full of the feats weaved by its inhabitants.

And yet—despite all of the myriad of colours, the range of expressions, and the intangibility of the forms—I felt there was something missing. I felt that it was somehow… incomplete.

One does not think such of paintings. After all: they are our most tangible sense—sight. We can easily tell that the man is decimated by a crushing sadness that pervades into every aspect of his world; and we can quite comfortably recognise the need for a rock in the children’s expression. Everything is clear. And yet so much is missing!

Paintings in Further Detail

Let me use another example: the smiling Dutchman. You can perhaps tell from the warm, brown eyes (bordering a shade of orange) and the strong, leathery hands, wizened by years of exposure; you can perhaps tell that his voice is powerful, and strong—and that he would move in confident, reassuring strides; and that, even, he would smell of freshly cut hay and angrily uprooted tulips and orange carrots.

But you would not really get all that. You wouldn’t get it straight from the artist’s imagination—that strange otherworld that seems to reveal itself only to a chosen few (and rarely then).

You would have to imagine all of these things yourself. Create them, if you like. To truly experience, a painting (or a drawing, or a pastel, or a photo)
requires that you fill in some of the blanks yourself.

In a way, this is a good thing: for the purpose of art—or better put, one of its purposes, for it has many—is to inspire its receiver. And art that requires this emotional and intellectual investment will invariably inspire you more—because it makes you think.

But writing—to take the personal example—does this too. The writer must never attempt to cover every possible minutiae of a scene. And writing can give you those other senses directly; those feelings of loss, and confusion, and fear—or the wonderful euphoria of falling in love.

Likewise, writing can make you feel the deadly caress of the assassin’s blade. It can make you smell death, and taste its bitter aroma. Writing can be everything.

But this comes with a cost.

Investment, Difficulty; Two Foes of an Artist

There is no question of the fact that a painting is immediate. You can instantly see the blackness of malice and the white of puerillity. And this means less work, for you as a viewer; and so a painting can be gazed at by so many more (for we all know that not many take the promise of a large, heavy book easily).

We can argue idealism all day. Why, you say, should a greater art form be confined to less? Heresy!

But this does not take into account the realities. (I shall refrain from discussing the relevance of said ‘realities’, for to do so would drive this off on a tangent.)

The best art is also experienced by the many. It is why a bestseller may be the better art than the niche tale, despite the fact that it uses less of the greater language and may employ some simplifications. While it is true that a more refined, upper-class work of literature may give those equipped to deal with it a greater short-term enjoyment (and inspiration), it does so at the cost of alienating many more.

Moreover, inspiration and enjoyment is also drawn by the reader when they are able to communicate (read: discuss) the work in question with others. Such a feat is much more difficult in the case of the latter. Furthermore, it will relegate such discussion to a small strata of people. There would be less variety, and less understanding.

Allow me to elucidate. Let us assume, briefly, that a story follows the life of the most quintessentially poor man in history. I shall say no more on this; for no more need be said.

A reader from more fortunate echelons may scoff and laugh; but the working woman—whose life revolves around the 9-to-5—would quite easily comprehend the true difficulty of the opprobrium faced by the poor, poor man.

But to go back to the point: writing requires greater Investment from the reader; and this isn’t a good thing.

What’s more, there is always the question of difficulty.

Oh no…

I have no doubt this topic has been debated before. To some of you, it has even been debated ad nauseam.

But perhaps the viewpoint of a writer and hobbyist pianist may be of interest to you.

Writing is hard. You will see this mentioned, but very few outside the literary circle really understand the scale of it.

Pay attention now. What does a writer do when they are writing? (This isn’t about what writing and other art is, though, mind you; but we’ll get to that.)

You cannot write if you do not have something to write about. Firstly, therefore, you must create.

And now understand this: you must create the kernel of the story first. (In much the same way one does for an operating system, to use a rather oblique IT analogy.) What is the plot? What is the premise of all of this? What makes you want to know more?

And who is involved? Why? What motivates these people; what do they cherish—and what terrifies them?

When you begin, you will start with a character and a scene. Thus begins the creation of sense 1: sight. You must describe the tower that your character is looking from, for example.

She lay in a tower—a terrible thing it was: embittering the clouds in envy; deterring any climber with its perfectly sculpted, gleaming bricks (of which no man had made); and imprisoning her.

You must describe her thoughts—and more.

Once, she had been angry; then an all-encompassing loneliness had made its den inside the confines of her mind; and then she had been sad, so sad. She could have made the tower cry, had it not been as lifeless as its master.

Now she was empty. Emptier than the damnable walls that so cruelly immured her.

A husk—but one with a purpose.

To kill the man who put her there.

You must describe touch, and smell, and even taste.

The floor underneath was hard, unyielding, and totally impenetrable. The air lay still; it seemed to mock her, she thought, with that stillness of it. There wasn’t much in the way of smell: rocks lacked that little human feature.

But she could definitely taste the power of the magic that bound her there. It was like drinking acid, bile and poison in one fatal gulp. (But it was not fatal; that would have been merciful.)

It was almost as bad as the taste of meaninglessness that was forever imbued in her mouth. She had no meaning now.

She was shattered.

And she would be the shard that could finally kill him. If only one thing went into place first: the birth of a mage foretold by a mad woman.

Yeah, it wasn’t much to bet on.

The final paragraph leads me to my next point: not only must you imagine all this, but you must transcribe it—you must give it form, through the medium of words, grammar, and punctuation. Indeed, not only is this aspect alone difficult (for children take years to master them to the point that they can produce something intelligible), but it is actually an art in and of its own.

And did I mention plot? Or direction? Or any of the numerous techniques that are employed (subconsciously, it seems to me) by writers in order to really take their prose into the next level?

I admit to not being able to paint or draw much. I can, however, create music. Making a song requires inspiration, technique, and a great deal of effort taken perfecting the song to the point that it becomes what it can be. (Hopefully.)

But song writing feels more raw, and turning it into a conglomerate of sounds is considerably easier for me than writing is. (And I am a much better writer than musician.) And of course, writing also necessitates some revision—quite a lot of it, often times.

Now you’re thinking: ‘Geez, Alex, but shouldn’t you be proud that you’re the toughest kid on the block?’

Well, if only it were that simple…

The Quality of Art

A lot of art isn’t very good. There, I said it. But it’s true: many ideas are never realised. Many books that could have been written, are not. Likewise many paintings go… unpainted, and many songs unsung.

Humans are fallible creatures, and we can’t always do an idea justice. Nor, indeed, are our ideas fit for the big, bad world.

Easy art is good. Easy art means an easier time for the artist (and artists go through much dolour in their quest to become who they are), and it means more art to go around. This is also good. Art brings to us inspiration, emotion and carries with it meaning—detail into which I shall be going into later on.

That said, a difficult art form can forever challenge and develop the burgeoning artist. It is why so many move from the pencil to the brush, and from the marimba to the piano to the violin. (Please appreciate that I am making some simplifications here for the purposes of illustration and brevity.)

Music…

I have thus far made little reference to this popular art form. Which is quite strange, considering my background.

This is because I think music to be a little… different, from other forms of art. Music is not something concrete, and easily tangible—it is, after all, based on a weaker sense. While all art is to some degree intangible (why does one particular shade of vermilion remind one of death, while the other reminds one of lazy days spent basking on the beach?) music is especially so.

This is not to say that being so is a bad thing, or a good thing. It is merely the way in which these artists express themselves.

The beauty in a less tangible art form is that it brings the most unique emotions and inspiration to each particular listener. This is also its curse. While a certain melody may remind one of vast arctic plateaus imbued with the light of the cold, white pearl that is the sun; for another it may remind them of alien electronica playing to the tune of dancing club-goers.

This aspect of music can also present Difficulty for the musician. The musician may be able to apply some of the principles that help music—rhythm, harmony, or even simple intuition—but the true nature of the song will always seem impervious to analysis.

And yet again, this confers an advantage: for if the subtleties and feelings, and meanings, of the song are conferred not through didactic telling—as plagues certain writers and storytellers—but through the true medium of the art itself, then the essence of the song shall be carried, specifics be damned.

Concluding Part I

I have made numerous comments on the forms of art, their difficulty; their weaknesses, and strengths—and on why this is so, and what this means for the art.

The perfect art form would require the smallest amount of Investment and Difficulty while producing the greatest amount of Utility, Emotion, and Inspiration. Clearly, this is impossible: Investment is usually a requirement for all of these three, and likewise Difficulty can enhance the artist themselves—again improving the desired qualities.

There are other concerns for the art forms, naturally: commercial success, let’s take. Once more, the idealistic may espouse the arts in lieu of any financial considerations; but the realities cannot be ignored.

It is possible—though difficult—to make a lot of money with a book or a song. For a painter, however, the tale is different: it is generally easier to gain attention for their work (this being particularly troublesome for writers, but posing problems to musicians also) but to become commercially successful is very much easier said than done.

The problem with much of the visual arts is that they typically pose high financial value only to an elite class of the wealthy—meaning that there is less money available for those artists as a whole, and that what money there is usually gets thrown on an even smaller artist elite.

This is not to say one should condemn said artists. It isn’t their fault, now is it?

No, what I hope this work will do to artists reading is to make them better aware of their strengths and weaknesses. It is a great strength to be able to make someone gasp with wonder at a brilliant painting; for the musician—and especially the writer—more time is required.

It is also a great strength to be able to give viewers a powerful view into your imagination, without requiring a great deal from them; again, this is not the case with writing.

But the power of a painting is so often ephemeral. One becomes used to the curves of the arches, and the strange hue of an insouciant sky; until, eventually, the painting becomes no more than a commodity—a crude fashion accessory.

Getting around this requires some creative business thought. I shall leave you to it, dear reader, if you are so inclined; for I have concerns of my own as a writer, and because only the artists themselves can truly empower themselves.

Also, this section is getting long. There is much to be discussed…

PART II: The Essence of Art

I am reminded of the phrase ars gratia artis. For those of you unacquainted, it means art for the sake of art. And that is part of my view: art is by its own merit a reward; a gain for the one fortunate enough to have completed it.

Of course, gain can mean anything at all. For a deeper understanding, I believe we should examine what art is—then its purpose shall become clear.

So: What is Art?

Is art the precisely engineered camera, capable of revealing the reality behind the world—as per the likes of Aristotle? Is art an illusion?

Or is art an expression of emotion, imagery, tale, sound and scent and taste?

Is art the heightened form of our experiences? Or are those experiences, in a way, beyond what we normally experience—and is that why art is valuable?

So many questions. I am of a clear opinion on this matter, and through my cogent writing (‘Alex, let’s not get too cocky…’) I shall convince you of it.

Art—Not Engineering

I like engineering: I enjoy the challenge brought about by real world situations; I enjoy the difficulties of research, experimentation and calculation; and of course I enjoy perfecting the final solution—and making life that little bit easier.

Art could not be more different for me.

I cannot engineer art. I cannot force it to follow my wishes, or to include things that—from a casual perspective—would improve it.

Because they don’t.

Art is not like an engine, where the problem is clear—and the solution is achievable by logic and fact. Art is not solving a problem. And there is something about it that defies logic: it is emotion and idea and it resonates in a way that cannot be measured by a microphone.

I do not invent a story in the way that I do, let’s say, a tablet: there is no thought of why consumers would like such a device (the story), or why it will have an USP over the rest of the market (rest of the stories), or how I should go about building said tablet.

Art comes to me. I did not come about the idea of a tower that puts the clouds to shame, or a Necromancer whose plight is so powerful I cannot deny it, or a about a ship that could save two lovers from extinction—I did not come about it by analysing markets.

Perhaps some of them are, to a degree, reflections of other art. Towers are a common sight in mediaeval tales; and there is a lot of work done on zombies, for example.

And yet, every story is unique. Clearly, we are not regurgitating the work of others. (Which would in itself be a logical fallacy—where did those artists get such a wealth of different ideas?)

I still think some art is inspired by and altered in the presence of other art—and that’s not a bad thing. A populated subconscious means ideas can grow, and meld with other ideas; the power of both can be combined.

The word subconcious is key here. I did not smash these ideas together consciously; instead they formed together, naturally, the way birds and bison collaborate after being together for a great deal of time.

And remember: the subconscious never sleeps…

The greatest proof of this, I think, is not from the art—but from the artists. If you were to put Aristotle to try and create a novel, what would you get? Even if he were to learn every writing technique known to man, and toil away at it for hours on end; his work would still seem to lack alacrity, and soul.

It would be nothing more than empty words.

Okay, Al; But What Is Art?

I must admit to not being of clear opinion. It is difficult to make an analysis on the nature of art: for art is something unique to each artist, and even unique to many of those who experience it.

I shall, therefore, contain my analysis to the things experienced by myself. References to the aforementioned shall only be made when they are suitably clear.

For me, art is… an experience.

It seems vague, but the word is the best one available in the forever limited vocabulary of language.

I suppose I could say that art is the culmination of feeling, thought and imagination amalgamated into artistic form.

I believe imagination is most important here. When writing, I have always felt there was something more to things—the glimpse of a deeper reality becomes visible when producing art.

Perhaps an example would better elucidate my thus far vague assertions.

Let us take my aforementioned excerpt: the woman in the tower. For some reason, many people would find her plight of great importance—they would wish for her escape almost as surely as she would herself; and, moreover, their hatred of the captor would be powerful, despite never having met the man.

There is a certain amount of emotion related to this. It is emotion that makes bestsellers, bestsellers; and likewise it is emotion that reaches out to grab the hearts of art admirers, and it is an emotion that makes a tune’s last echoes reverberate forever in our memories.

So there you go. Art is emotion.

But it is also an unusually powerful form of emotion—a dramatised version, you could say.

Still, part of me denies this. Many books do not dramatise the experiences of their characters. Indeed, this is considered a bad thing: feeling that seems forced or out of proportion becomes… unnatural. It alienates, rather than draws in.

So what do we end up with? Is art just true emotion?

Well, to a degree yes. True emotion is important; a lot of our behaviours in daily life show false emotion. The forced smile at coworkers who need not deal with concerns of your own. The faux interest in a boss’s ideas. Even, perhaps, the ostensible enthusiasm at a child’s new toy.

Humans do a lot of pretending. Much of that is unavoidable; for the realities of life cannot be ignored, as I have stated all too often now.

If art is true emotion, then art is who we really are.

So Why Is Art Important?

Why are we important? For if art is the expression of our true selves, then it would not matter if we had no care to find that out. Perhaps some of do prefer a life of unjust pretense and patinas devoid of meaning.

But for most, art brings happiness, and truth; art is a gateway to a better, truer world.

That’s the real crux of it all, isn’t it? By seeing who we really are, we can improve ourselves; and so we attain greater.

I suspect the above will lead some to debate the merits of various genres. No doubt some of these arguments will be rehashed, but allow me to present cursory reasons for the power of each genre:

  1. Fantasy. By creating worlds and characters with features beyond this one, we highlight the very importance of the human characters in an alien world. Additionally, Fantasy is the truest genre; for art is fantasy—as well as an expression of emotion—and this allows Fantasy to truly bring art’s greatest purpose to life: building a better world.
  2. Science Fiction. Again, syfy is a fantasy and humanity is all the more apparent in a world full of non-humans and tech. Syfy also shows us a glimpse of the future, or of a different place (a la fantasy). Thus current mistakes are revealed: the cyberspying, to take a popular example.
  3. Crime. Humans do evil things, at times. It helps to see the whys and the maybes. Additionally, a crime can shatter a person; and through this harsh punishment, their inner self is revealed.
  4. Romance. Love is one of our best creations, but it can also poison with verisimilitude. Romance can reveal these fallacies. Furthermore: it is good to learn of another’s love. It may show what you’re doing wrong.

Who Are Artists?

The gifted and the cursed. A most literary description, is it not?

But it’s true. Artists are… emotional people, for one. They’re people who feel, and who aren’t dissuaded from making that clear.

Artists do have a gift. I do not pity those of you who wished for egalitarianism in this regard; there isn’t any. Artists have a talent, and not all are as equally talented as one another. Nor, however, is the difference as great as some claim; truly, it is practice and dedication and determination that makes a good artist.

What is their gift?

I believe—and not without some uncertainty, mind you—that our gift is to be able to… not visualise; rather, imagine,
emotion that is not our own, people unmet, and places unseen.

We have imagination.

But imagination is also a curse. After all: you can imagine the empowerment of a poor farmer boy—his rise to power; fame; glory.

Likewise, you can imagine the terrible downfall of a great leader; or the decimation of a beautiful city; or the crumbling relationship between two highschool sweethearts.

And as I’ve also stated, we have emotion. The two seem follow one another. Emotion is a wonderful thing—who would abandon all happiness, love and excitement just to avoid sadness, loneliness and depression?

But this does mean we have unusually sensitive emotional antennae. Not necessarily thin skin though—just greater heights (and lows) of emotion, and smoother transitions between the two.

Sounds Like I’m Missing Out

Thankfully, it is not a selfish gift which we have. In fact, we feel a great desire to spread it as far and wide as possible; to make it the beautiful butterfly, seen and spotted—called to the many.

The others need not work to experience art. But they never experience it fully; an advantage and a disadvantage. You decide which is better. I suspect the artists will always choose art, and the non-artists will be too afraid to want it. Such is the way of things.

Finale: Good Art

And now we arrive to where this essay started: good art.

We’ve talked of the what. We’ve talked of the why. You cannot create good art without understanding those first.

You could say this is the how. It isn’t. This is not a guide to writing fiction, or any other form of art. There are other things for that.

(And if you do desire a comprehensive guide into my art written by me, email me at alexstargazerwriterextraordinaire@outlook.com and maybe I’ll think of making one.)

No, this final section is about recognising the things that produce emotion, produce the truest emotion, and which shows us—ultimately—of a better world.

Being specific is impossible. I shall try to keep my ideas confined to the literary medium; although many of these should apply to any other form of art you care to consider.

  1. Write for yourself, not for a ‘market’. Art is your emotion, your imagination, and your creation. Be true to yourself. If you try and write what you think x will like, x will not like it; for people are unique (and cannot, therefore, be taken as a whole and used to construct art) and also fickle. More importantly, you would have created a piece of art that… really isn’t one. It would be devoid of anything that would make anyone want to experience it.
  2. Prepare yourself. It isn’t easy.
  3. Understand yourself. Or in other words: don’t force your art to try and conform to a set of ideals or preconceptions. Your art is a reflection of yourself. Unless you’ve forced it. If you understand yourself, you can tell. The danger, of course, is that you do not understand who you are—or that you’ve changed. Always give art a long look before making major alterations. You might not like what you get if you don’t.
  4. Know that not all art is created equal. And don’t despair: you can improve.
  5. Practice. A lot.

‘Alex!’ you say; ‘but what about the features of good art?’

Alas, dear reader, this is where I leave you. Not that there aren’t techniques which can help polish and improve a specific art medium—for there are—but the real problem is: art is subjective. To a degree, at least.

While one may objectively ascertain the skill at which a novel is written—or a painting painted, or any other axiomatic example you care to think of—the final product produces what I have said uniquely for each person.

That said, a reviewer may make comments on how well they believe a piece of art accomplishes its purpose for the general audience.

But ultimately art is emotion and fire and the imaginings of strange irrational beings: cherish it, criticise it, and let it make you a better person.

This essay is finished. I am contradicting myself by writing that, so please don’t make me repeat myself. If you desire (for reasons unknown to me) to discuss it, email me at the aforementioned address. If you are reading this on my blog, comment. I don’t spy. (Google does that for me.)