Monday, November 30, 2020

Where Does My Inspiration Come From?

Greetings to all!  This past Thursday was Thanksgiving in the U.S. and it sure was different from any Thanksgiving I had seen in my lifetime.  During the time of Covid-19, everyone has had to change their daily routines and come to know what the term social distancing means all too well.

I have been blessed (and admittedly annoyed) at times that by the nature of my job I was less severely impacted by COVID-19 shutdowns than others.  However, and I have dealt with this issue my entire adult life, often I find myself exhausted or too drained to write or research after a long day of work or school.  Though I am certain countless other would-be authors have experienced that same issue.  So, I am doing my utmost to maintain my promise to the three people who read this blog to post every two weeks.

Now to the meat and potatoes of this blog.  Where does my inspiration come from?  Well, that question requires a little bit of back story on myself.  One side of my family is from Louisiana and I myself have lived in southeast Louisiana and the New Orleans area my entire life.  Where someone has been raised and lived influences their personality and worldview, and that is certainly true for me.  Though I have travelled all throughout the U.S. and parts of Canada as well, I have always lived in Louisiana.  Additionally, though three of my four grandparents were born in the U.S., each was of a distinct Old-World ethnic group. 

With a Bachelor’s in History degree from the University of New Orleans, I have maintained a lifelong interest in the study of history.  The nature of my job allows me to listen to audio books and podcasts most of the working day, and I generally listen to a program about some historical event or a fantasy book. 

My hometown, family story, and study of history have given me ample inspiration for creating my own fantasy world and creating believable characters.  But do not get me wrong and believe that I copy and paste from either world history or my own background in my writing.  I like to view my fantasy world more like an echo of our own earth.  When a reader reads my books, I want my world to feel familiar and yet alien at the same time.  There are empires, countries and continents that will look and sound very familiar to places in the real world.  For example, I have the Gallanese Kingdom that will echo some aspects of both ancient Greece and Rome, and I have incorporated cultural and linguistic qualities from the real world into this creation.  However, it is not a carbon copy and I have gone to great lengths to create a unique geography, culture, and history for this kingdom.  This technique will be featured throughout my entire series, with characters that and places that will shadow and echo the real world.  In many ways, George R. R. Martin is an inspiration for me to follow.  The Song Ice and Fire Universe is completely fictitious, yet Martin has been quoted that his works are historical fiction because he borrows heavily from the history of the British Isles, the City States of the Renaissance, and general Eurasian history.

One of the most common pieces of advice given to authors is to write what you know.  I take this to heart, especially since I do not feel comfortable presenting information I am not familiar with.  Most of the time when I am describing a scene, I have either an image or something akin to a movie playing in my mind and therefore my process is in essence the description of that scene.  But those images and scenes I am seeing in my mind, where do they come from?  Many come from the landscape of southeast Louisiana or of people I have come across in my life.  In my travels, especially within the last decade, I have been to national parks either in the U.S. or Canada and have more than once paused and “filmed” a scene in my mind within the surrounding landscape.

Quoting author Craig Martell, the goal of writing is to entertain and teach.   My goal in writing my stories is not to preach or be on a soapbox, but I do feel there has to be an emotional attachment to the story and characters for the reader to have a connection to the story.  At least that is how I become invested in a book or series; the characters must mean something to me.  In my previous blog, I go into detail as to why Tam al’Thor fits this very role for me. 

I began creating my fantasy world and writing within it almost 20 years ago.  I was attending high school in New Orleans and like many kids that age, I thought I knew everything.  Now don’t get me wrong, I think I have a decent amount of intelligence, but I am thankful I never got around to publishing those first stories.   I could have read all the books or watched all the movies I dreamed of to help build my perspective on how people live their lives, but life experiences I believe have helped to shape how I view the world and given me perspective that a sheltered high school kid would never have.  To experience joy, loss, friendship, love gained, love lost, and new love are experiences any book would have a hard time teaching what it really means to feel.  However, have you ever read a book when you can feel the very emotion of the author written into the characters?   In Tam al’Thor’s final scenes, I felt Jordan’s and Sanderson’s emotions as Tam bid good bye to his son.  That scene could only have been written by someone who had lived a full life and knew what in meant to feel love and loss.  Writing is a way for us to experience emotion in a unique way with a degree of separation between ourselves and the story.

We are in the holiday season and I hope that even in these strangest of times, you can experience joy and love with those you hold most dear. 


Sunday, November 15, 2020

Well...This is Embarrassing


Well…This is Embarrassing

Greeting to all the 5 people who might possibly read this blog.  Well, like the title suggests, I have not been that successful in posting regularly.  Though this may be my second posting for 2020, it will not be the last.

2020 as a year needs no introduction.  Covid-19 and the U.S. Presidential Elections are each too much of a dumpster fire to require my commentary.  All I care to say about Covid is that as a student of history, in my wildest dreams I never envisioned living through a situation like we now see.  As for the presidential elections, every election I have ever voted in, the candidate I voted for did not become president.  So, I have voted for democratic as well as republican candidates.  And it is a shame that those are the only real options that are given to the citizens of the U.S.  But enough about the apocalypse.

In previous blogs, I have mentioned how Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series (WOT) has had a lasting impactful influence on my view of the fantasy genre and my philosophy as a writer.  (Even though the last book of the WOT, A Memory of Light, was published in 2013 I feel the need to put in a SPOILER ALERT) I began reading these books while I was in high school and immediately became captivated with the intricately detailed world Jordan had built.  Not only are there dozens of main characters, but dozens if not hundreds of supporting characters.  And it is my thesis that one of these side characters or arguably main characters and not Rand, Ewgene, Mat, Perrin, Moiraine, or Lan are the most important.  Who is this character who is responsible for the saving and redemption of all of humankind?  Is it a king, a queen, a great general, Aes Sedai, or even a wealthy merchant?  No, try an unassuming, hard-working, family man from Two Rivers, a small town in the west of Andor.  A farmer and sheep herder by profession, Tam al’Thor is the unsung hero of the entire WOT.

Jordan was the master of allegory and metaphor, and so it is now coincidence that Rand al’Thor The Dragon Reborn, a Christ-like figure, would have a shepherd as a father.  Tam’s background in the few several books of the series is vague.  However, as the series progresses, the true greatness of Tam fully emerges.

Tam is an unassuming man who years after the death of his wife, Kari al’Thor, remains unmarried and forever faithful to her memory and to the son they raised together.  Everything Tam knew about life, farming, archery, living off the land, and the Void Tam taught to Rand without reservation.  Most of all, Tam raised Rand to be a good and unselfish person.  Countless times throughout WOT, Rand reaches into his inner being for the lessons that Tam had taught him with unwavering love.

 As the main characters make it out into the wider world and as that same world descends into chaos and destruction, Tam is a foundation of stone for all who encounter him.  With each book we learn more about Tam’s background.  The young man who left the Two Rivers to find adventure would become a soldier and hero.  A man who would find love and personal tragedy and become a heron blade master.  And on the slopes of Tar Valon, in the carnage of war and death, find a lone babe and give that child his own name. 

Tam’s exploits in the later WOT books are nothing more than heroic.  At every fork in the road or dire circumstance Tam always rose for the occasion.  Fight Trollocs to save his son, sure.  Lead the Defense of the Two Rivers, certainly.  Give counsel to Rand in his darkest moments, what else would you expect a father to do?  How about being a general for the forces of Light for The Last Battle?  Is he not Tam al’Thor?

By all accounts Tam was a real badass before WOT and during the series.  His role was indispensable for the forces of Light.  Tam’s pre-fatherhood exploits would make for a fantastic epic series in their own right.  But Tam’s greatest contribution was not being a stoic warrior or general. 

I would argue that the outcome of Tarmon Gai’don (The Last Battle) was decided long before the first pages of The Eye of the World (First WOT book).  Tarmon Gai’don was decided when the unassuming blade master found the orphaned babe in the snow on the slopes of Dragon mount and brought him home to the Two Rivers.  Isolated from much of the world, Tam and Kari al’Thor gave Rand a loving home and instilled in him the virtues of truth; honesty; hard work; and most of all love.  Rand even admitted himself, as the Dragon Reborn, he had to come back this time and “do things the right way.”  That right way was instilled by Tam during long days in the fields tending to herds and living a simple yet honest country life.  Rand knew what it was to work hard for something and what it meant to love and be loved.

Despite all that occurred in the WOT, Tam never waivered in his love and devotion to his son.  Even if Rand happened to be the Dragon Reborn and was practically speaking a King of Kings, he was still the son of Tam al’Thor.  The battle of Light over the Dark One was not won by skill of arms, but because a righteous man taught Rand what love really meant. 

I apologize if I gave too much away in this post.  However, the WOT is 14 very large books long so there is plenty I have not gone into detail here.  If you ever decide to read WOT, I promise you will not be disappointed.  It was as I read the final pages of WOT that I truly realized my appreciation for Tam al’Thor.  As a man he endured and lost much in his life.  But he never wavered in his love for his son.  And that love was the salvation for the world.



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