Writing my truth…

Silence isn’t always golden…

For me, writing fiction wasn’t taught, it’s something I’m learning. It’s an ongoing process of revision, trial and error – in fact, too many errors. While I’m sure there are other paths out there, in my experience, the best thing any teacher ever did for my writing was get out of the way, and let me stumble along to the finish line.

The American educational system, such as it is, doesn’t excel at teaching new writers. They may be good at the mechanical aspects of grammar, they are even good at curating good books to read, but building worlds populated by original characters is beyond the scope of any class I ever sat through, including creative writing classes.

I’m sure there are many fine MFA programs out there that could have made a difference in my development. That was not my path, and I can’t speak to that. What I can say as one of the, botched and bungled” writers without that background is that I have learned to write without it. The torture I endured on my path was all self-inflicted, and it left marks I still carry in my prose.

 Writing what’s on my mind, even when it’s unpopular.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with writing what’s on my mind. Not my imagination, but my personal opinion. The characters I breathe life into are a reflection of me, but they seldom share my opinions to any great degree. Even the most noble or heroic thoughts in my stories are lofty ideals that I’d hope to embrace if the situation arose.

But that isn’t what I’m getting at. An outlook on life is one thing, choices in the heat of the moment are another, but cherished opinions unchallenged by time and circumstance are where most humans live. How I feel about race, sex, and creed are vital parts of who I am. I don’t write about any of them.

Or at least, I don’t go out of my way to share that. I should though, even if my opinions aren’t especially controversial. Not that every story needs every bit of who I am in it, but someone who reads one of my stories should have a good idea of where I stand. Up until now, I’ve used the iceberg method to imply my opinions. Avoiding expressing my opinions to avoid offense is itself offensive. I have to stand for what I believe in, and it should show on the page.

A lesson from Huckleberry Finn

When I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in high school, I’d recently moved from North Carolina to Iowa. Scenes and subjects in the story felt markedly different to me than the other kids in my class. That didn’t stop me from pointing out those differences, and I hope everyone around me benefitted in some way from hearing a different perspective.

Writing now, in light of memories like Huck Finn, has taken on a more urgent meaning. The subjects I want to tackle in my work are more complex, and those nuances weren’t something I felt confident I had the skill to articulate. But I can’t wait forever to write uncomfortable truths. Sometimes, writing them out helps me untangle my emotions and express my opinions more accurately. No matter what those opinions may be.

Words can make a difference!

On smaller US Navy ships, commissioned officers eat their meals in a wardroom, senior enlisted officers eat in the Chief’s mess, while everyone else eats in a common messdeck. The last ship I served on, the USS Connolly, was no different. But one day, a few sailors decided to carve out a section of seating in the messdecks that only paygrade E-6 could sit at. They called it the First Class mess, and wouldn’t let anyone else sit there.

This didn’t go over well with me. So, I wrote a satirical story about the grumpy old men who wanted to sit alone. One of my friends thought the story was better than I did, and passed out a few copies, one of which went under the Captain’s door. He also didn’t think much of the arrangements and summarily canceled the First Class mess citing my story while he made the announcement to the crew.

I should have kept that grumpy lesson in mind.

Since I got serious about writing I’ve concentrated on world building, memorable characters, and craft (too often leaving craft for last). Along the way, while developing my unique voice, I decided on more than one occasion to avoid topics that were controversial. Limiting any need to address ideas that might alienate my fledgling audience. That sounds foolish even as I write it out. That voice on the page isn’t authentic if I avoid controversy for fear of offending people.

Not writing what I believe drained some of the life from my writing. Learning to include my opinion, even if it’s unpopular, only aids my clarity and composition. I’m the only voice like mine in the wilderness, stifling it hurts me and my tribe as they search for a voice that resonates with them. It’s easy to forget others will read my work and be inspired (or revolted) by what they read. Both are legitimate responses and writing to limit the one is a detriment to the other.

I’m doing my best to write my truth, but it might be messy, just like life.

The Gods no longer walk among us…

nativity painting of people inside a dome

So much like the world we know…

Eliantha is a world similar to Earth. In our world at the end of the last ice-age, humans banded together in larger and larger groups to form urban centers supported by agriculture. None of that happened over night, and geographically it was spread out over hundreds (in some cases, thousands) of years. Eliantha also saw people band together, but it was far different for them.

Rather than an ice-age, Eliantha experienced the arrival of Gods from the Heavenly Realms. These immortal beings brought knowledge, civilization, and magic with them. They found mortals living in the world already, but found them sadly lacking the traits they wanted. So they meddled. New peoples arose and were cast off, as the Gods sought out better subjects. While most of these people perished, some managed to survive without the succor of the Gods.

All that glitters…

After the arrival of the Gods, came the demons and devils who had pursued them. Clawing their way into Eliantha from the Nether Realms, the most foul beings assailed the mortal world. They were cast back into the hells they came from by the Immortals who had adopted Eliantha as their home. But there was great suffering from the war the two forces waged. Some of that suffering went unheeded, but the remnants of mortal tribes rebuilt their shattered world.

For their part, the Gods ruled Eliantha, and many wonders flourished. Demi-gods rallied mortals to their causes. Many different tribes spread out across the world and prospered. Grand cities and wonders sprang up in testament to the influence of Immortal grace and power. But not every heart thrilled at the glory of the Gods. Often capricious or uncaring of mortal woes, the Gods allowed suffering and injustice as often as they relieved it.

Power comes in many forms…

The great equalizer was magic. Mortals learned to wield magic, and taught their children. Generations passed on what they had learned and grew stronger than the ones who came before them. While no mere mortal was a match for the power of a God, a hundred mortals could stand against them, and they did. Mages all over the world found ways to bind their deities from interfering in mortal affairs.

Many ages came and went, but eventually, the Gods power waned, and they were banished from Eliantha altogether. Their influence is far from what it once was, but they can still make their presence felt. Gone are the days of maidens taken by a lustful immortal, cities no longer cower from threats of doom from their impiety, but gone too are many of the gifts once bestowed upon thankful worshippers.

Magic glitters, too…

Now the Gods are all but silent. Humans have pushed back or outlived most of the magical creatures from ages past. Those few who remain are incorporated into the very fabric of daily life. Magic in general, has lost its luster. But still, magic, and the Gods themselves are not so distant as many wish to believe. Nor are the immortal enemies of the Gods, demons and devils still plot and scheme in the Nether Realms.

These ancient foes have launched a new campaign against a world that hardly believes Immortals exist. The danger has never been greater, but those who would stand against evil have few of the tools that once held the Nether Realms at bay. Eliantha will need new champions, new weapons, and long forgotten knowledge to defend their world. Will the demons prove too powerful, or will the Gods overcome their banishment to intercede? Can the poor misbegotten mortals find any other option?

Evil in mortal form may be the deadliest kind of magic.

Introducing my newest setting: The Crossroads of Eliantha

brown tomb

Eliantha is a world much like ours, but in our history myths of the Gods interfering were only stories handed down to explain things our ancestors didn’t understand. In Eliantha, the Gods were very real, and very dangerous. They introduced the people of Eliantha to a wide range of knowledge, from survival skills and agriculture, to writing and the arts. They also introduced them to magic and making war.

This world has seen incredible beauty, and tragic brutality. Great cities and vibrant cultures have developed and been toppled by incomprehensible forces. Gods have raised up mortals and immortals alike. While more malevolent forces have broken and twisted countless lives to feed their fiendish desires. But all that was in the past.

The Golden Age is long forgotten…

Magic is in retreat. The Gods no longer walk among the inhabitants of Eliantha. All over the world, creatures of magic have diminished, died out, or disappeared. Humans have adapted to this changing world, and prospered. Now, something has unsettled the Gods once again, despite their tenuous connection to the world.

While many humans scurry about learning the natural world, there are still those who delve into the mystic arts. Magical lore is far from extinct, and ever-curious humans scour the globe for remnants of magical power. Their searching has led some of them down forbidden paths, some relics and arcane knowledge was meant to remain undisturbed. Now there will be a reckoning even the Gods tried to avoid.

Eliantha is no longer home to Immortals

This is the backdrop for the stories of the Heralds. Chosen to represent the remaining Immortals who still care for their worshippers, as they make one last effort to save Eliantha. For all its faults and tribulations, it remains a world so like ours, but so utterly different. The Heralds must reach the Crossroads, where the Gods went into exile after their last war. But there are many obstacles between them and their goal.

Not everyone wants the world to go on. A diabolical conspiracy is afoot to sacrifice millions of souls to see a new Eliantha born from the ashes of the old. The unsuspecting Heralds have no idea these conspirators await them. The chosen ones scramble towards the crossroads like lambs to the slaughter. The Gods may never get the chance to intervene.