A Project Fueled By Tea

Before I begin to recount the story leading up to The Ancestral Odyssey, the new fantasy epic due for release next month, and this being my very first article, I feel I should say that this site is for those of you who are interested in this project. By reading this article and other articles to come, you will learn a little bit more about the up and coming book and books to follow whether they be prequels or sequels. You will learn more about me as the author and how I write such large intricate stories. This is the first article of many to come, it’s taken a long time to get to this stage and this site is still under development. I look forward to hearing your feedback, I hope you enjoy it.

A long time ago, back in 2004, when I was sixteen, I remember a beautifully hot summers day in Pembrokeshire. Pembrokeshire is a little county in Western Wales where I grew up for the majority of my life. The county has some of the most remarkable landscapes I have ever seen, and I have seen much of Europe after having been traveling for the last six months of 2015. Pembrokeshire has green forests, open fields, long rivers, tall cliffs and some of the most stunning coastlines in the world. I am truly privileged to have grown up in such an area, on the outskirts of a small village called Saundersfoot, close to the beach. For anyone reading this who hasn’t been, I implore you that you go and see some of the sights, for it is geographically a wonderful place. I think the best way to describe it is that it’s very similar to The Shire from J.R.R Tolkien’s Middle Earth, in The Lord of the Rings, at least that’s what I say to people whenever I am asked where my home is, it does save a heck of a lot of time detailing everything.

During this hot day, my parents decided to have a barbecue. My mother, Sara being a teacher, my father, John a self employed carpenter were all too familiar with what my interests were, having to listen to me prattle on every day an night about anything and everything that came to mind. While my Dad was cooking up some chicken on the grill, I was talking to him about some of the ideas I had for this project, a project I wanted to undertake someday, bare in mind it wasn’t a book, it was just a collection of thoughts. This conversation had been one of many with him during the last few weeks, me constantly going on and on about this imaginary world and the creatures therein. Honestly, Sara was tired of hearing about this crazy world of mine, and was indulging in the wine every time I mentioned it, so to save my mothers wallet and liver, I focused my attention on John. I was so excited about this project, eager to begin but not knowing where to start or how, I just loved talking about it. After about an hour of talk with John under the sun, he stopped me mid sentence and said “Duncan, this all sounds very thrilling but how about next time we talk about this, you actually show me some of your ideas, maybe you should draw out some of these creatures and entities you describe?” After a brief moment of silence I said “Okay, maybe I will.” I made a decision that day that I would start something. Twelve years later, March 2016, I’m now a month away from publishing the first Volume of three, of The Ancestral Odyssey: The Utopian Dream. I have built a grand world full of different kinds of cultures and creatures. I’ve designed my own language and have a few others in the making. I’ve crafted and understood the workings of my very own magic, given it a source, an origin, intricacy and complexity. Currently I have hundreds of charismatic characters, protagonists and antagonists to move around my world of Equis, a diverse landscape to say the very least, packed with every environment you can think of, and a few more which I guarantee you haven’t heard of at all. I’ve filled a folder full of descriptions and artwork, utilized five memory sticks, a spare hard-drive, CD’s and the odd floppy disc believe it or not, yes they still exist. I’ve scribbled every thought and idea from good to bad throughout half a dozen notebooks, large and small. Before we talk about the end results however and the future of this massive project, which will be in development for another decade at the very least, let me tell you about how it all came to be. It started that very same day, hours later after the barbecue, when Sara made me a cup of tea, and brought it up to me in my room, a room which I shared with my little brother at the time, Oliver who was thirteen, now he is twenty five, a father and we live in Oxford. I have another brother, Tom the Manager of Tarifa, a cocktail bar along Cowley Road, he lives with us too and we have a bloody good time playing computer games, watching movies on a massive TV and drinking enormous amounts of tea.

I remember saying to Sara “I don’t know where to begin.” Sara simply told me to start at the very beginning, but to keep in mind what happens at the end. It sounds logical enough, but when you have so many ideas floating around inside your head, ideas wanting to get out onto the page all at once, nudging you day in, day out, when you are at work, out with friends or studying in College, where does one actually know where the beginning is? To this day I still don’t know. When and if you come to read my first, second and third installments released throughout this year, you will understand why this is, even the characters in the book do not know exactly when time began. Where does one begin to measure it exactly, in this world or from within a fantasy story? I don’t know. Regardless of where the beginning is, I decided at the time to set up the stage, I had not even decided to write a book at this point, I simply wanted to shape this doughy, ill formed, hazy vision of mine into something meaningful. I started with the platform, the platform for which my characters and creatures would eventually inhabit, the world map of Equis. I stayed up all night drawing it with a fine pen on an A4 sheet of paper, drawing every little tree, every wave, every triangular shaped mountain, every tiny detail. Little did I know that this would be the first of dozens upon dozens of drafts of Equis, my stage, my world. The next day I kitted myself out with a box of stationary, a few small notebooks and a pad of paper, over the next few months I stayed up later and later, listening to music, watching movies from a steadily growing DVD collection, drinking my body weight in tea each night, writing and drawing everything that came to mind, perfecting my world and various other sketches I had done of certain (now favourable) characters. I was in College at the time, studying in my first year in an Intermediate Art and Design course among a class full of young women, this I had no problem with, some of which I am still in contact with today. When the year had ended and I had passed, I enrolled in a two year Graphic Design course, which introduced me to photoshop and illustrator, tools I started to use every day on a Mac. In my spare time however, (and occasionally during assignments) I experimented with all the drawings and doodles I had done over the past year or so, at times I stayed late in College so I could just be in silence with my ideas and my own choice of inspiring music, music that many students my age would not even dream of listening to. I work better when alone and I didn’t want people knowing what I was up to, I just wanted to see what my material would look like when enhanced, when mixed with colours, shadows and light. Using a very basic knowledge of photoshop to deepen my work, I started to accumulate a hefty stack of papers. Sara would pick me up late from College every now an then, and I’d show her some of the work I had mustered together on the drive home. Don’t worry, she did not crack open the wine during the drive, the wine would be brought out the moment we got home.

Over the two year Graphic Design course in Pembrokeshire College, following my daily routine of late nights, lone movie sessions, gaming and lets not forget the endless tea chugging, I had kept this project a secret from everyone, besides that from my immediate family no one knew what I was working on, a friend of mine, Lewis ‘Fenix’ Waters had a suspicion, but he had his own projects to focus on. To tell you the truth, I too had no idea what I was actually doing or knew where this was going, I just loved developing it every single night, as it occupied my thoughts everyday, usually on long car and bus journeys. By the end of my three years at College, I had amounted sketch books and folders of material and research, you could lift’em like weights they were so heavy. The work described each and every location listed on the map. I had detailed biographies of my main characters and had done many drawings of them. Loose descriptions of the magic (Glyph) had been noted, the religion (Starillia) I had designed was sketchy at best, and the creatures also took up a large portion of the work, yet still it felt like filling in a massive jigsaw puzzle and only a few of the pieces were available to me, those pieces I had weren’t fitting together very well and I was growing tired. I found myself becoming frustrated that I couldn’t rush this project, it needed time to develop into what it was, an epic, truly its an epic. It needed the time and care to grow. The project was rough, it was poorly written, the drawings weren’t great and it was yet to take any real solid shape, but it had been given a name at least, and this name would remain so for a decade, it wasn’t until very recently (during my travels of Europe) where I changed it to The Ancestral Odyssey, a fitting name, but the project was once entitled, Mythology. I left College with a fine display of my incomplete vision. I had decided to present my fantasy world to the real world, presenting it as if it were a trilogy. Mythology:Seeds of War was to be the first episode to this epic adventure and two more were to follow. It was a good decision, though it was very daunting for me at the time, for I had no idea how people would take this idea, but I worked relentlessly and I mean relentlessly on this project, some nights I didn’t sleep at all, turning up for work or social gatherings as pale as a ghost, scruffy hair, (I’ve always had scruffy hair but this was ridiculous) shadows under the eyes and utterly exhausted. People did often wonder what I got up to in my spare time, my response to their questions usually was “I’m working on something big.” This lead to other questions but I refused to comment afterward, remaining mysterious was the card I felt safe with at the time, I didn’t want anyone tearing my confidence down before I had properly begun. The amount of tea I drank building up to Pembrokeshire College, Final Art Exhibition was uncanny. I worked right up to the point where they let the public in through the glass doors, I had to run from the Mac room in my smart, black, suit jacket which was a little too big for me around the shoulders, all the way to the main hall. I placed the heavy folder down stuffed full of papers, onto a wooden pedestal (a piece of furniture John had let me use) before my posters, my character portraits, the world map itself and the notebooks. Then the first guest arrived, viewing the work as I was catching my breath before my display boards. I went to get a free cup of coffee, to neatened myself up in the process while the guests and my College friends were arriving, they having had all gone home earlier, to change and to prepare for the evening, while I had stayed and worked right up to the very last second.

The evening was a success, I had many compliments that night, received a good number of handshakes and congratulations. My College friends had all worked hard on their chosen projects, especially Lewis who had done a remarkable job of portraying the seven deadly sins, using our classmates faces (including mine) to show the sins. I was wrath, I’ve yet to ask him why he chose me for wrath? I always thought I’d be sloth, as busy as I am, I do love to do nothing on occasion, accompanied with a huge pizza and a selection of good horror movies. Once the dust had settled, when my family and all the guests had left, including my College friends who were out celebrating (which they deserved), I stayed a little longer, staring at my display boards, a project I had worked on for three and a half years. I cannot remember how long I stayed there, reading some of the information, flicking through the folder of work, re-reading some of the segments that had gone unread and unnoticed. Until Lewis had to come and get me, I remember saying to myself “I cannot leave it at this.” This was when I wanted to turn this project into a series of books, a trilogy called Mythology. Under the title would be three books, the first would be called Seeds of War, the sequel would be called Roots of War and the finale would be named Flower of War. At the time I thought this would be a great idea, but these titles would be developed and would inevitably change into something more meaningful. Once this conscious decision had been made, I needed a drink, a drink stronger than tea or coffee this time. I was on the whiskey that night, I do love a good glass of whiskey, Johnny Walker Black being my favourite.

Glamorgan University, 2007, October, at around 9:15pm, I started writing. However, I had not started to write Seeds of War, I had binned that idea due to the fact that I had far too many established characters, they had not gone through a journey to get to where they were, so there was a very real sense of lack of characterisation. I decided to go back not one whole book but two! I was to write two stories building up to the events of Seeds of War. I had gone back twenty years in story time, I was essentially writing a historical piece to my original trilogy. I had no idea what I was in for. The amount I learned over my time in University, the experiences I gathered and the situations I found myself in is in itself an article for another time. During my time in University, I followed the same method I had perfected in College, when not working on assignments, I worked on my book as often as possible, whenever I could. It became an obsession, something I could not stop thinking about and could not stop doing. Everything I saw, everything I read became an inspiration, even some of the people I met became layouts for certain characters that would appear in the current book or books to come. My skills in Graphic Design were also increasing, improving the quality of my artwork. The vision was becoming more opaque, every day I was handed more and more jigsaw pieces and it was up to me to fit them all together. The three years of University flew by, the time is still missed and reminisced every so often, particularly with Lewis over the phone, say for the months I spent in hospital undergoing a procedure that could have killed me or left me forever changed. By the end, I had almost finished what I had set out to do, to write my first installment of the Mythology pentalogy, yes, it had grown into a pentalogy, meaning a series of five, I have looked it up before you start to wonder what this word means, took me some time to find the correct word.

In 2011, I finished off the tea I was drinking, and typed in those two words most writers long for…The End…But this story was so, SO far from over I did not realise how much more had to be done. How wrong I was in thinking that writing was half the battle, the project was quite literally, just beginning. A good way to describe Volume One’s significance, would be best described using my ‘Full Course Meal Analogy,’ what do I mean when I say this? I’ll explain because it does sound a little weird. If you think about this story as a whole, as one big meal served to you in a restaurant, starting from the first of seven prequels, (historical short stories) all the way to the very last Volume in book five. Volume One would be the size of the biscuit you get with your tea or coffee, or the mint at the end. Hopefully, this analogy puts things into perspective. It was now time to find a Literary Agent, work on a front cover, condense the book into a synopsis (no small task) and begin the massive feat of perfecting my craft as a writer. I wanted quality and quantity, I was not going to settle. From my experience, at this stage in the process, I’ve learned that writing the book is easy. Editing your book, proof reading, checking grammar and punctuation not to mention enhancing every aspect of the story as you go along, from descriptions, dialogue and character development, is the hard part. Over the years of rejection to follow, from countless Literary Agent and Publishing Houses, I remember missing the actual writing part. Reviewing the content over an over, sifting through The Writers and Artists Yearbooks every year as I went (a book which I do recommend to any aspiring writer), sometimes felt like another job. I learned that if it were not for my passion, my devotion to my characters and to the story, I would have left Mythology behind long ago. If you do not love your writing, you will not succeed, whether it be by crushing rejection e-mails and letters, people who want to pull you down or if life gets in the way, if the love, the excitement and passion is not within you to push you forward, then you will inevitably cease to continue.

As I grew and matured, as my ideas evolved into something more, so did my writing style. People who had read segments years before hand, noticed the steady ramp of improvements. Mythology was transforming from a narrow minded, young, cocky nineteen year old’s vision, into a wiser, more mature twenty eight year old’s intricate story. Finally, after a decade, the pentalogy was forming into something recognisable, a grand fantasy epic I proudly held high. I do not wish to share with you how many times I have been rejected or what I have been through to get to this point, this again is an article for a later date, all will be revealed, but what I will say is that its been an incredibly hard, unbelievably stressful and at times, scary journey. Writing a story this large, this complex is similar to being in a relationship, you go there to give, to share your experiences, to make each other happy and there are times where you find yourself miserable, wandering the neighbourhood, jumping into bars and awful late night kebab houses, wondering if this will work long term, asking yourself what you are actually doing with your time? And if you should pour your time into a steady job rather than indulge in a dream that may not even happen? As I have said before and I will say it again, if you love doing it, if you really feel like you have a story worth telling, you’ll pull yourself out of that bar, you’ll get yourself away from that kebab house. Mix this devotion with hope that people will read it, that this stories message is important, and that some people will be excited about it as much as you are, I think separates good writers from great writers. I do it because I feel like I have to, I cannot go long without feeling the need to write something down or draw something I think would look cool. I am not saying that I am a great writer though, I am not saying that my work is the best out there or that its without its flaws, because I am sure it does. Of course people will bring to my attention errors, of course people are not going to enjoy or like it as much as I had hoped, their criticisms will hurt, but will ultimately strengthen my craft. That being said about the haters, there will be some out there who will love the material, and there will be many who will want to know more. This is why I am writing this article, for those of you who are interested in what is to come. Allow me to share with you a taster of my project, let me invite you to learn a little bit more as to where this story is going. If you have read this far, you are obviously intrigued, so I wish to reward you. Make yourself a cup of tea before you begin reading, because tea or coffee is essential as you probably already have guessed by now.

The kindle release will be in April, followed shortly after by a paperback edition. The book I hope you will read, is called The Ancestral Odyssey: The Utopian Dream. This book has been separated into three Volumes, its simply too big to be published into one. I will look into publishing all three Volumes into one book, but more than likely it will have to be each Volume to its own bind. Three Volumes make up a whole. Volume One will introduce you to a world, a world called Equis with a variety of environments and a lengthy, mystical history. The two main protagonists you will follow is a male, and a female. Both characters are striving toward the same goal, their destinies are entwined though their adventures are parted. The males way of achieving the goal is through physicality and strength, wielding two blades, wearing hard armour and cutting through enemies who get in his way. The females approach is somewhat different, less bloody but still brutal on occasion especially toward the end in Volume Three, her story being that of a spiritual and magical one. I thought it were important to have two separate themes running through the book, one with the use of a classic sword an shields, the other with magic and spirituality. This gives readers a mix of styles to learn about. I will not reveal any spoilers in this article, I will not sit here and tell you what is to come word for word, all I will say is that what you think you know about epic fantasies, will soon change. This pentalogy will cover an array of topics, will ask questions and go to places you never thought it would go. If you are still not convinced after having read Volume One, Two and Three of The Utopian Dream, then I have failed to meet your standards, but the first book is only a taster in comparison, just wait and see where it is heading, because I promise you, it gets much, much more intense. The sequel is already underway and I can tell even at this early stage, from simply writing the first few chapters of Volume Four, that it will be even bigger and better than its prequel, and so on and so on until its over. Epic fantasy will never be the same once I have finished this project, a project fueled by glorious tea.

Thank you for reading. I am aware this is a particularly long first blog post, but I felt it necessary. Twelve years in the making give or take is a long time to work on something and I am excited about its release in April. Its March now, next month I will be giving part of my vision to the world, to be reviewed, made fun of, criticized, torn apart word for word but hopefully, loved and enjoyed by the majority of readers. Remember, I am too a student, I am still learning about literature and will always be trying to improve my story telling skills. I am aware that there may be some people coming away from this book disappointed, that is perfectly fine, I am grateful that you took the time to read it. The greatest gift you can give an artist is your time and opinion on it. If you choose to pick up and read my work, I will thank you. What I can say with complete confidence however, is that I believe The Ancestral Odyssey (TAO for future reference) has an underlying important message, a message I feel the need to share to you in disguise of a fantasy story. I hope you enjoy it if an when you read it. If fantasy is not your thing then please, pass the title on to those who do like this stuff, I would greatly appreciate that.

If you have enjoyed this article, I thank you for reading. Know that I will be planting trees to replace the paper used to help create my project. If you have any questions, if you feel the need to get in touch to ask for some advice on your own novel, or have a suggestion for a topic you’d like me to cover on this site, please drop me an e-mail at taotome@outlook.com. Find me on Twitter under @MegasTeque, leave me tweet or two sometime. I do receive a lot of messages, I do have a busy schedule and only so many hours in the day to respond, so please be patient and I will try my best to respond to you. Thanks again.

D.W.Gill

 

 

 

 

 

 

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