Beneath the Yoke

Beneath the Yoke

A lot of worlds I’ve read have a huge range of settings and peoples, but I wanted to add a different flavour to Viredia as a fantasy setting. I think everyone’s read the ‘haves and have nots’ in many different iterations, but I’ve not often read of a difference in tech level the way I have written it – as far as I know! I admit, my TBR pile is far, far too large and there could be many gems I am missing out on at the moment.

Image of a leather tanning complex. A row of hanging leather sheets are drying in the sun from a balcony.

In March of Last year I mentioned the Stratus Cities, specifically Lia, the capitol of the Lian Empire.

The Stratus Cities of the Empire are filled with wonder and splendour in equal measure, but equality is far away for many within its borders. Those without the gift of magistry find citizenship out of their reach, barred from living within the various Stratus cities except as servant peasantry. For most, this means they are relegated to the world far below.

Those living on Viredia’s soil beneath the yoke of the Empire often toil night and day to provide the luxury goods used by their masters high above…

Chimneys belching smoke, factories packed cheek to jowl full of exhausted workers, row upon row of tiny, cramped houses on cobblestone lined streets choked with smog; this is the life of the hidden and ignored that serve beneath the watchful gaze of the Empire.

Ardux is one such place, a hive of industry lurking directly below the Archon Institute, the greatest university in the Lian Empire. Sitting abreast of four roads and a great river fed by the infinite falls raining down from the Institute above, it grinds away day after day to feed those above, sitting comfortably in their splendour and ignorance.

I hope that you enjoyed delving a little more into this world I’m building. I’d love to hear your feedback! Please do comment below or reach out to me on Twitter!

Talk soon,


Taking the Next Step

It’s been a while since I’ve written here, which is pretty bad. A lot of things have happened, some good, some bad, all life. Even so, I wanted to set out my vision for the next steps here and what it will look like:

One day, I hope to make this site a fully interactive, dynamic lexicon of all things Viredia, with schwifty graphics, animated maps and databases filled with the errata that sits behind the books I’ve planned and one day will bring to life.

Until then, though, there are a few things I can do…

I’m working on that map myself and may even be able to show some sneak peeks over time before the full reveal in the final novel! I’ve lots of ideas to draw from and am excited to see if my idea of a multi-layered map is of interest to you all; let me know what you think in the comments!

Putting some of the world bible into hidden pages, ready for future publication. I know, it’s mean to say it and not pony up the goods, but think of it as a carefully planned reveal. Much more fun!

It all rather feels like a walk down a road shrouded in mist with a hand-drawn map as a guide! XD

I’ve also thought about posts talking about writing itself, my methods (such as they are), how it feels as an autistic writer to travel on this path and even the odd post on autism. If any of these interest you, please let me know and I’ll explore them.

Lastly I’m going to (slowly) start to post the odd review here and there about books I’m reading or have read, simply because I need to talk to people about the incredibly rich and vibrant worlds people craft that let me just tumble in and become enraptured.

So, I’ll leave it there, but I truly would LOVE to hear from you! Comment or use social media to spread the love!

G’night, Legends.

Walking the Tightrope

I’ve spoken before about being an autistic writer, but perhaps spoke more about it in the past tense, here. The reality is, is that it’s like walking a tightrope all the time. The fall isn’t failure, but more succumbing to the draw of every grasping interest vying for my attention.

I’m a bit like this ball to the left here, propelled hither and yon by the hundreds of things I want to do; represented by the crowd. For most people, they can easily duck into and out of their various interests and stay focused on their primary goal.

For me, though, things are trickier. Currently I want my primary goal to be to write , but to do that I have to properly outline the core draft, research and read about how to outline and what techniques to use, add to my world bible, read to expand my understanding of contemporary speculative fiction in the same genre and also continue my other endeavours with writing being the cherry on top.

Other areas I need to continue learning include understanding the publication process (from editing the first draft, revising, querying for an agent – and the query process as a whole through to submissions to a publication), the writing community, marketing myself as a brand and product and putting more content here. It’s dizzying.

I’ve not even touched upon the map generation, or balancing down time and family time on top of all of the above. Part of me is desperate to just sit down and gorge on reading, another to watch TV and let my batteries refill. But I’m worried that doing so will drag me back into that cosy bubble-wrapped procrastination day-glo land where nothing is wrong and things are easy.

Because writing is hard. Oh the creativity and story is there, but balancing real life and painstakingly building a novel, piece by piece, is something I am now realising is no simple task at all.

But I will persevere, I will wrestle with my neurodivergent obsessions to stay on course and I will forge this beautiful piece of art I see within my soul into a manuscript.

Then the fun really begins.

Challenges of an Autistic Author

If I could go back in time to speak to myself in my twenties, I would probably shake him half to death and continually scream, “WHAT’S STOPPING YOU?!” in sheer frustration that it’s taken me this long to get to where I am today. But the truth is that I’ve had to go on a monumental paradigm shift over a number of years to reach this point. (Spoiler: I was diagnosed with Aspergers when I was 11. Surprise? Did the title give it away?)

Back then, if you’d walked up to me and said you’d heard I wanted to write and you would pay me a million quid for a finished manuscript, even a first draft one – warts and all – aside from the truly insane reaction I would have utterly failed to deliver. Not through lack of trying, but through sheer inability to focus on anything.

Photo by Nsey Benajah on Unsplash

Even now, I still struggle to focus a lot of the time. I am lucky, I have a very strong preference for sci-fi and fantasy – that’s it – which obviously is such a wide net that it covers books, comics, video games, TV and film plus dozens of other things besides. But back then I was dipping and diving into all of it. Over and over in a continuous cycle.

I would get surges of confidence and inspiration to write, but suddenly would see a book I liked and start to read it cover to cover, only to then get distracted by something else like a giant humanoid squirrel.

All of this is complicated by the fact that when I read or play I am THERE and can practically touch the things I see in my mind. Writing, while the same, was competing. And losing.

Photo by Ian on Unsplash

The above image may seem dramatic, but with so much input available – both then and now – it’s a bit like drowning in a sea of opportunity. I usually pendulum back and forth from several different types of content – gorging myself on one before flopping into another in an endless cycle. It’s pleasant, don’t get me wrong, but ultimately means I am horrifically unproductive.

Twenty years is a long time. Within that time I’ve grown and began to recognise the signs I was due to switch my focus to a new medium again – usually following a kind of fatigue from glutting myself until I couldn’t stand it any more. Honestly the birth of my daughter broke me out of that a little, but it still is hard and I definitely struggle when I cannot satisfy my need for that immersion.

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

I’m rambling slightly, but it’s hard to truly encapsulate just how slaved to my needs I have been, even if I am able to exercise some measure of control now. With all of that cyclical consumption and immersion, my ideas continually rose and fell like a seasonal flower, poking up, briefly flowering and then withering away to go back to a bulb wintering beneath my subconscious after I had feverishly scribbled them down into a notebook or app. I’ve mentioned that I mind map before, I think (hopefully) and I believe when I started to mind map that was the slow tipping point to accumulate enough concentrated, tangible information to get me to where I am today.

Everything changed when my daughter was born, for sure. But the birth of my son kickstarted another evolution of my sense of self again. I was in the kitchen, and imagined a conversation between both my son and daughter.

I wondered to myself, what advice I would give their teenaged selves if they came to me and said they wanted to work in a challenging, competitive industry – like acting, music or…writing. I thought about what I would say:

“Do it right. Research, dig, talk to people in the industry until you know what you’re getting into and what you need to do.”

I realised that I wasn’t doing that. It made me feel a hypocrite, ashamed that I had truly had the tools to do what I wanted to do, but I had not used my neurodiverse gifts. Instead I had hidden away inside them, used them as excuses and distracted myself away from my dream. But how could I look at my children and say that they could work for their dreams and make them come true when I wasn’t doing so myself?

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

So I set out to do what I had imagined telling my children to do. Research, talk, commit. I set my lunch times as my writing time so that evenings are still family time with my children and wife. I set small, manageable milestone goals (micro goals, if you will) that I could achieve if I actually knuckled down and wrote.

And it’s working. For the first time, repeated success and discipline is working hand-in-hand with my ecstatic imagination. I feel the thrill of achievement and know that I can do it. I will get there.

The struggle was not in vain.

Soul Singing

Seeing the world of your imagination coming together on paper is an incredible feeling. It makes the hair on my neck rise and tingles to shiver over my skin, like my soul is singing inside and making my whole body quiver.

Do you remember what it’s like being a child, having that sense of wonder and joy? I think being a writer is a little like trying to capture that feeling and infuse it into the page for a reader to breathe in and light up.

How does writing make you feel?

I would love to know. That and why do you write? What does it bring to you to send the words out into the world? Do you covet what you write and only share it when you have hammered, chipped and polished it to perfection? Or do you bring it, cracks, warts and all to people to show its raw form?

The Stratus Cities

Sometimes ideas come in a trickle, or fits and starts. Today I had a waterfall of them tumble out of the depths of my mind, teasing, tantalising and exciting me. I felt exhilarated, energised and eager to scribble them down and hammer them onto my mind map. I want to share some of Viredia with you today, so that maybe you can share in my excitement, too.

So, I want to introduce you to the first of the Stratus Cities; immense city-islands floating high in the skies of Viredia and the seats of power for the Magisterium, the Lian Empire.

Imagine gleaming spires of metal, stone and precious metals; gold, silver, platinum. Connected by intricate arched walkways, meticulously kept gardens, bridges and waterways snaking around grand temples, stadiums for sport and entertainment – all resting beneath a glittering white palace thrusting high up from a titanic mountain and floating like a beacon of sophistication and elegance in the skies.

Welcome to Lia, capitol of the Lian Empire and home to the Imperial House Rhon.

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my imagination. I look forward to sharing more with you as time goes on!



A fresh coat of paint

Well after seeing how some other aspiring author’s sites were all shiny I knew I had to up my game. So here it is, unveiled and rolled out. I hope that you like the fresh coat of paint I put up.

It’s still a WIP (I have too many of those!), but I hope to polish it up and really get it smoothed out soon enough with plenty of information. It’s quite fun, working out how it all hangs together. I’m looking forward to it, and I hope you are too if you are interested in my scribblings (is it scribblings if it’s digital? Digitings doesn’t have the same ring to it…) Please let me know what you think of it in the comments!

It also occurs to me that I have been talking about what I have been doing to get writing…but nothing on what I’m actually writing about. That will change soon, I assure you, though the new branding and look may give you a hint! Stay tuned for more.

Lining Up the Ducks

Well I somehow managed to get 100 Twitter followers without having a damned clue how, but it was a lovely little milestone that made me smile. Speaking of which, I have now joined the ranks of the #2amwritersclub and #5amwritersclub thanks to the little man. Helped me pop in some extra words yesterday and keep the ball rolling!

As the title alludes to, I feel that I am now lining up the ducks to get things done. I am writing (here, on Twitter and actually on my WIP) and also managing to bring into play a range of tools to help track what I am doing, need to do and want to do from an aspirational standpoint. So, what exactly am I doing? Well, I use mind mapping to hammer down ideas and block things out for one. There are great free ones out there like Coggle or Ayoa, but I use MindNode (iOS/Mac I’m afraid) and it has been an absolute godsend.

With a mind map I can get down ideas, related thoughts or details and group them together – perfect for world building or plotting. I’ve clustered countries, regions, magic systems. Little notes and thoughts all get to roll together. It’s fantastic. But the temptation is always there to world build instead of write, so I’m being careful now that I am building momentum again!

To stay organised I also created a Todoist board to help me focus on the background things I need to do, like research, editing and querying and also to put in recurring writing tasks. The awesome thing about Todoist is that it’s on all platforms, so I can update it on the laptop, iPad or phone and it will sync perfectly. Also useful to remind me to take the bins out or order the shopping.

Pulling it all together gives me a nice little suite of tools that I can use. But I would be interested to know, what tools do you use to keep yourselves on track and keep writing? I’m always interested in something better than what I’ve found currently works for me.

With all the planning, writing and everything else, I’ve somehow managed to find time to eyeball a couple of short story competitions with reasonable windows that I could submit to as well, so that would be wonderful if I managed to pull that off and get featured. And Camp NaNoWriMo is coming up for April as well! I will definitely be going for that.

Lastly, for those going for #PitMad this quarter: GOOD LUCK!

See you tomorrow.

Twitter Game

So I’ve had a busy 24 hours! Changing nappies, writing, blogging…oh and upping my twitter game. There are so many different levels to this writing thing. Including but not limited to:

  1. Joining writing communities, such as, FaceBook groups and probably hundreds of other great places that I’ve not even found yet. If you know of any, let me know in the comments, please! I’d love to check them out.
  2. RESEARCH. Holy cow the research. What’s popular out there in books at the moment, what sells, what doesn’t, what’s classic (but no longer interesting to Publishers and agents). What Agents, Agencies or Publishers rep your style of writing. Are they open for submissions? What to avoid with Vanity Presses, how to (and not to) self-publish. It goes on. And on. It’s a bit like a Wonderland where your TBR (to be read) pile just grows by the thousands every minute until it’s reached critical mass, self awareness and has somehow connected to the Infinite Library of the Discworld. Possibly also stolen your TV remote control. If I dared to buy even a quarter of my suddenly expanded TBR pile my wife would kill me. I’m not kidding. I could probably buy a new car for that many books. sigh…
  3. Read published literary books on writinge.g. Plot, etc. To get a solid understanding of the mechanics of writing. (Try not to freeball it unless you’re a natural, apparently! There are mechanisms and styles for a reason. Who knew?)
  4. Have an internet presence for fans (and publishers/agents) to look you up. Well…tick? I definitely need to polish this place up a lot. Or get my own proper website. But I think I’ll start here and then link this up when I really get the ball rolling or I’m running before I can walk!
  5. Follow established and popular writing blogs – I admit I’ve not really got dug into this yet but it could be interesting. I am expecting another rabbit hole a la Wonderland for this one.
  6. Follow Agent/Agency Blogs – Again I’ve not got close yet. It’s been 24 hours and even I, who am usually dauntless, am pretty daunted. Places like on how to write Queries to agents etc. Absolutely shedloads to look into here.
  7. And finally…Twitter (and other social media – but currently Twitter for that is what I can comprehend). Oh boy. Twitter. I seriously have to up my Twitter Game by a LOT. Hashtags on #WritingCommunity, #WriterLift and Networking by the bucketload. Capital ‘N’ there, by the way as you can get so much support out there very easily just by following, commenting and retweeting. I’ve only just begun to dip my toe in to it all but it’s a deep, deep and intricate web that looks incredibly useful.

So yeah, it’s been a mad 24 hours. And I even got in some midnight (read: 2-4am) writing! Thanks little guy. Work on my WIP and some on a short story I came up with. Wh00t!