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Cologne | Magnet | Banana

There it was again–the smell of his cologne–a subtle blend of citrus notes with a mild woody undertone. He had just walked by. His light footsteps drowned by the chatters of the afternoon crowd. If only it wasn’t routinely busy at the hour of his arrival, I could, possibly, point him out. Alas, such was rarely a case in this joint.

Just like me, he frequented the cafe every Saturday. But while I clocked-in in the morning, he visited only by noon. I speculated he enjoyed the midday set meals. My favourite waitress once told me that their lunch sets were very affordable in this expensive city. So perhaps I would give them a try one day. But as for now, I preferred my regular order of plain banana pancake with a side of freshly brewed black coffee–those two made great companions to whatever book I was reading. They were all I needed, until he appeared.

That Saturday, I was pages away from completing The Magnet & The Mouse when I caught his scent. I was drawing close to the conclusion of the acclaimed philosophical book–how the mouse found its magnet after the thunderstorm–but loss all concentration when he walked by. I’m not one to be easily distracted. The noise in the cafe never once bothered me–my focus never disturbed by the yapping children, boisterous students, hollers from the kitchen, and hissing of the coffee machine. The smells of this establishment had not once drew my attention elsewhere–not the homely waft of fresh waffles, and certainly not the deep, soul-pleasing aroma of a dark brew. But, he was different.

What was it about his cologne that stole my senses? Why was his light, almost indistinguishable footsteps so aurally pleasing? I’ve never seen his face nor heard his voice, but I’ve yet to fail at sensing his movement–his presence. Oh, how I wish I knew more about him. The strange desire to speak to him–to learn about his past, present, and future–could not be shaken.

“Is this seat taken?”

There it was again–the smell of his cologne now stronger–as though he was the one who spoke. Then, there were those familiar footsteps as he moved to stand before me.

“No,” I replied, gesturing for him to take a seat.

Was the cafe busier than usual that he had to share my table? Or, did he notice me like I noticed him?

“Good book?” he asked.

“I’ve yet to finish.”

“What’s it about?”

I briefly contemplated about sharing the whole incoherent plot, but settled with, “Life. It’s about life.”

“Life,” he echoed.

“Sounds boring, I know.”

“No, it actually sounds interesting. What is life like for you?”

What is life like for me? Life was once bright, colourful, and beautiful. Then life became dark, lonely, and disconcerting. I didn’t know what to expect the moment I rose from my bed. I could no longer predict what would happen, or avoid–what was once avoidable–misfortunes. I was lost. I had to try harder at discerning the world around me. That was life.

“Ordinary,” I replied. “What is life like for you?”

“Scary,” he said. “How do you make life ordinary?”

I didn’t. I wasn’t. I lied. “I adapt.”

“Do you believe life can be exciting?”

I hoped–I wasn’t reading The Magnet & The Mouse because I enjoyed philosophy.

“Yes,” I said.

“You see, I-” he abruptly halted. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to be insensitive.”

“Words are just words. What do I see?” I prompted.

“You see,” he continued. “I’ve been noticing you for awhile now, and I’ve been wondering how you do it.”

“How I do what?”

“How do you smile and laugh without a care in the world? How do you pardon the intrusive nature of your surroundings? How do you enjoy just that–a pancake and a coffee?”

“I read good books,” I replied with a chuckle.

“I thought so too, but there’s more than that. And I want to know what it is.”

I didn’t know what he was talking about. There wasn’t anything more. “Honestly, I just read really entertaining and engaging books.”

“Or, you just don’t realise how un-ordinary your life is.”

Yes, my life was indeed un-ordinary but in the bad kind of way. Did I miss the memo on how my life should be? Was my current predicament a celebration?

“I know I sound rude,” he added. “It’s just… I find hope in you.” I must have wore bewilderment, as he continued, “I… well… I’ve been told I won’t be able to see for very much longer. So with the days counting down, I’ve chosen to look at what gives me hope. And, you’re one of them–hope.”

“Me?”

“Honestly, I don’t come here for the food. I actually come here for you–the stranger with the book, coffee, and pancake.” He chuckled.

“I… didn’t know I made an impression.”

“Well, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean you don’t.”

I never thought that me being me could ever make a difference in someone’s life. How could someone so broken be a bringer of hope? Was I truly capable despite my disabilities?

“Thank you,” he added. “I truly hope, that one day, you’ll see what everyone else sees in you.”

Me too. “I hope so too.”

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Cologne, magnet, and banana were words given by Wei Keat on Facebook–I never knew one could actually bring these words together in a story until I actually tried. And boy, was I surprised at what came out of them.

Now, it’s your turn! Write a story of your own with the three words given. And, if you’d like to throw a challenge my way, leave your 3 words in the comment section below! To be honest, I’ve almost used up all the past comments, so your 3 words will help keep this streak alive.

*To download the banner, left-click then right-click to save.

3 Words, 1 Story © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)

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Posted by on June 28, 2018 in Original Works

 

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5 Ways To Become A Bad Writer

Why do we strive to be a good writer, when we can be a bad one? Here are five things for you to work on if you want to become a bad writer in no time!

#1 Don’t Write, Just Talk About It

Go ahead, talk about the stories you want to write but don’t actually write them. Tell everyone you want to write a book–that you have this fabulous idea– but don’t bother with taking it one step further. Don’t actually sit down and try to devise a good plot. Don’t turn on your laptop for anything other than non-writing activities. Buy a fancy, overpriced notebook but leave its pages blank. Don’t write, just talk about writing!

#2 Always Blame Your Lack Of Talent

You suck because you have no talent. You’re not gifted with words, thus you’re a bad writer. So why bother trying, am I right? If your story needs improvement, it’s probably your lack of talent. If your characters are dull, it’s probably your lack of talent. If your world-building is flat, it’s probably your lack of talent. You don’t have talent, thus you’re a bad writer. The easiest way to excuse your shortcomings is…you know it… your lack of talent!

#3 Hate On Your Critics

These people don’t deserve you or your work. After all, their mission in life is to critique you and everything you do. So, in return, you should hate them . Discredit everything they’ve done because they say your story is boring. Curse at them because they criticise your writing. Take it one step further and hunt them down, because the only way you can change their minds is to make them actually dislike you.

#4 Give Up Because It’s Taking Too Long

Wow, it’s been a year since you started writing and you haven’t accomplished anything. What are you doing? Clearly, writing isn’t for you. You should stop doing it all together. Go and find something else to do. But, if that new thing is taking too long for you to see success, make sure to stop doing it too. After all, time is of the essence! You need to be gratified like… right now! So if you don’t see immediate success, it’s a waste of time.

#5 Play It Safe

Do you have a crazy idea that may ruffle some feathers? Don’t you dare write it! Always play it safe–always write to please the masses. After all, you’re not writing for you. Your goal in life is to write stories that makes everyone but yourself happy. Your words are not yours. Your words are dictated by what your readers want to read! So lest you offend them with unconventional characters and controversial plots, it’s better to stick to what they ask of you.

There you have it–five easy ways to become a bad writer! But just in case some of you think I’m actually serious, I should clarify that I’m being sarcastic. No, I don’t want you to become a bad writer. In fact, I want you to be the best writer you can be! I want you to believe in yourself–yes, you do have talent. I want you to actually start writing, because your story is actually worth telling. I want you to be kind to your critics, because criticism will help you grow. I want you to be patient–to keep persevering because the journey brings more fulfillment than the end. And, last but not least, I want you to write without restraints.

Don’t let these five points dictate your future, your dreams, and your passion. Rather, stay clear of them because, by default, you have the ability to be an amazing writer! Remember, the only person that has the power to sabotage your greatest achievements is yourself.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2018 in Writing Journey

 

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Trappist | Baby | Aubergine

“We have to travel thirty-nine, no, almost forty light-years for an eggplant?” he asked in disbelief.

“Aubergine,” I corrected.

“Aubergine, brinjal, eggplant, whatever you want to call it–forty light-years for a vegetable?”

“Aubergine.”

“And you said ‘yes’ to this mission?”

“It’s important. It won’t take long.”

“It’ll take us at least three years if nothing goes wrong.”

“No other ship can take the job–it’s government commissioned.”

“What does the government want with an eggplant? We have plenty on home planet.”

“It’s not an eggplant. It’s an Aubergine.”

My friend of ten years cum second-in-command wasn’t a bright person. He was courageous, ambitious, and zealous, but had no skill in deciphering hints no matter how obvious they may be–everything had to be spelled out for him. Unfortunately in this case, I could only insist on ‘Aubergine’. I was sworn to keep the nature of this mission a secret. And, as silly as it might sound to Gregson and my entire crew, we would still have to travel to Trappist-1 to retrieve the said vegetable.

“Ah, it’s because we’re a small ship, isn’t it?”

“It is,” I replied.

“Making us run errands–pointless missions,” he muttered under his breath.

I shrugged.

Despite the fact that our size–a spacecraft of only one hundred men–was the reason for being chosen, it had nothing to do with being sidelined from expeditions of seemingly great importance. Far from it, our size had put us on a hazardous path. A path Gregson would be excited to embark on if only he knew.

“Can you call for a crew meeting?” I prompted.

“When do we depart?”

“Tonight.”

Sighing, Gregson nodded and excused himself from my cabin. Shortly after he left, I headed to the main deck where my men had gathered. They donned their dark grey and ocean blue uniforms–their ranks marked by the number of stars on their shoulder pads. As I stood on the balcony overlooking the excited crew–ready for an adventure after months on the bench–regret swept up my shore.

If only I didn’t answer the call. If only I wasn’t as courageous, ambitious, and zealous as Gregson. If only I didn’t accept the mission out of a desire for some action. Even after hearing what the Excalibur had to do, I still said ‘yes’. If only my conscience pricked me then and not now–not when I had to keep a secret that could possibly cost lives.

“We will be heading to Aquarius,” I announced.

“McLaughlin, set course for 2MASS J23062928-0502285,” Gregson ordered.

“It’s a simple mission,” I said. “We are to locate Destiny–a cargo ship that last pinged near Trappist-1–and retrieve the Aubergine on-board.”

“A brinjal?” McLaughlin asked, as he tapped on his tablet.

“Eggplant,” Gregson said.

“Aubergine,” I replied.

Murmurs rose from below. My men didn’t raise their voices, but the disappointment on their faces betrayed them. Should I tell them the truth? I had sworn, but they deserved to know. After all, they were putting their lives on the line. Still, would knowing guarantee their safety? I chose not to the tell.

“Yes, it may seem like a pointless mission,” I stated. “But as part of this ship, you have taken an oath to go where no man will go. This time, it’s Trappist-1. Next time, it might be the Magellanic Clouds. The Excalibur has never chosen the adventures–we let our adventures choose us.”

It was a lie, but a lie worded to cloak their reality. Yes, my vessel and the men within have never chosen their adventures–I chose them for them. But this time, it was important. We had to successful return the Aubergine to our home planet. It wasn’t just a vegetable of seemingly little importance, it was a child–a baby in cryosleep that needed to return to earth. For if we didn’t save this child, leaving it to the wolves out for its throat, humanity would face complete annihilation. Home planet would cease to exist. And it would be the end of adventures… for good.

“We will depart tonight,” I said. “If any of you wish to sit out on this mission, you can disembark and leave your uniforms behind.” That was the least I could do.

“None of our knights will surrender their swords, Arthur,” Gregson said. “We shall all go!”

Many cheered. Some chuckled. A few shrugged.

“To save a vegetable,” Gregson whispered to me.

“Aubergine.”

“Aubergine, brinjal, eggplant–who cares?”

I did. I was the only one who could.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Trappist, aubergine, and baby were words given by Vincent Lim on Facebook. Honestly, trappist set the direction of this story–if not for what I found on Google, I wouldn’t know where to start. Talk about random words!

Now, it’s your turn! You have until the end of April to write a story of your own with the three words given. A shout out to Vincent for making this even more difficult than it already is.

*To download the banner, left-click then right-click to save.

3 Words, 1 Story © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2018 in Original Works

 

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The One Time I’m Never Good Enough

The one time I’m never good enough… is when I write.

“But, you’re a writer,” you say.

Exactly. I’m a writer. Yet, I feel like I’m never good enough and never going to be good enough when I write. No matter what people say–no matter the reviews I receive–I find it difficult to believe their words. It’s not that I think they’re lying. It’s just that I can’t see what they see. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this to fish for compliments. I don’t need compliments. More often than not, I have no idea how to respond and react to compliments. The only thing I can say is ‘thank you’. And though I might add a few exclamation marks and a heart emoji, I’m not actually jumping with joy. I might smile, but only for a while. Because the glimmer of hope, that I’m finally good enough, often vanishes within minutes.

Why is this? Shouldn’t I be proud of what I’ve accomplished? Shouldn’t I be confident with what I bring to the table?

No, I shouldn’t. In fact, I can’t. Because in this field, I will always be my own worst critic.

I know I cannot please everyone. I know I cannot produce flawless pieces of work. I know not all my ideas will be good. Yet, in every occasion, I wish I was better. And, I often tell myself that I can do better. But when I compare my work with the more established authors around me, I find myself falling short every time–as though I can never be good enough. And honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever be. Still, in the tug-of-war of finding the worth in my work, I do not stop writing.

It’s strange, isn’t it? Not all my stories will be worth reading. Not all my characters will be loved. Not all my worlds will be captivating. And, most certainly, not all my plots will be exciting. But… I’ll still write them. I will invest my time and money into my creations, well aware they’re flawed. It’s a risk I’m willing to take. Because the only time I’m good enough… is when I accept my abilities and my flaws.

Despite the imperfections and horrendous mistakes, I’ve learned to accept what I can do in every season of my life. Yes, I’m not good enough at writing–I’ll never be good enough in my lifetime–but I can do my best. I may not achieve great success, win awards, and have my works widely read, but I can strive to be better. I won’t see myself as a good writer–only decent at most–and I’m OK with that. Because being good enough isn’t reflected in my work–being good enough is loving myself and the shortcomings of being me.

So, if you’re like me and you feel you’ll never be good enough at your art, don’t beat yourself up. You’re already good enough when you’re chasing your dreams and working on your craft. It’s the perseverance that counts in life, not your popularity score. Even if you’re your own worst critic, you can still choose to be good enough at being you. We can always strive for perfection in our work, but we must also strive to love our imperfections too.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2018 in Writing Journey

 

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Sorbet | Curtains | Farewell

It was the best sorbet in town. That was what he told me. I didn’t believe him but I said, ‘sure’. From two weeks of messaging, he didn’t seem like the kind of person who would know much about desserts. The sudden ability to name a cafe–after I called myself a sweet-tooth–was obviously aided by the internet. Still, I wanted to give him a chance. He could be the one after all.

“I’ll have the Tangy Tangerine,” I told the waiter.

“Just black coffee for me,” he said.

Out of the variety of treats on the menu, he ordered ‘just black coffee’. No cake, pie, or sorbet caught his attention. As I suspected, he was as boring as the curtains against the red brick walls–patternless and grey.

“Just coffee?” I asked, after the waiter left.

“I don’t do desserts.”

“Not even chocolate?”

“No.”

What was I expecting? Right as he walked in, in his plain deep-blue shirt paired with black jeans, my assumptions were right. He wasn’t dressed to the nines nor was he sloppy, but he was dull. A straightforward and no-frills-attached kind of a guy–the kind I was actually looking for.

“So, how did you learn about this place?” I asked.

“A friend.”

“Oh, I thought you looked it up on Google,” I admitted with a chuckle.

“I didn’t. I’ve actually been here. It’s a nice cafe,” he stated.

“I see.”

It was a decent joint, but oddly quiet on a bustling day. Despite it being an easy place to find–nestled in the heart of the city–there was no other customer in sight. How does a place as such survive? That thought baffled me, but only for a brief moment.

“It’s a gem–this cafe–unlike any other. There’s no free wifi. The service is fast. And–this might surprise you–it isn’t listed on the internet,” he added.

“But… is the sorbet really good?”

“The others say so. I’ve never tried it myself.”

“The others?”

He nodded. I contemplated asking about the number of people he had previously invited to this hidden gem. But when our orders arrived, I decided it was better not to know.

“So, shall we begin?” he prompted.

“Sure.”

“Let’s start easy: how long have you been on this quest?”

“Quest?” I chuckled. “Long enough.”

“And how many have you met?”

“Before you?”

He nodded. Unlike me, he chose to be informed. But, I didn’t hold it against him. In this game, more wasn’t always better. At least from his perspective, more could mean danger.

“Three,” I answered.

“How much did you divulge?”

“Just the picture.”

“That’s good to know. I would tell you how many people I’ve met before you, but I don’t want to scare you.”

“I don’t want to know–ignorance is bliss.”

“Then in this case, you shouldn’t.”

“But if I did want to know-”

“You can trust my profile,” he interrupted. “I’m not an open book, but what I say is the truth.”

Challenging his confidence, I dipped the metal spoon into my melting sorbet. I had forgotten about it–preoccupied with the purpose of our meeting.

“Go ahead,” he prompted. And just as I had my first taste of the not-overly sweet, fine-crushed ice, he said, “I told you.”

I chuckled–he was right.

“Now, can I see the picture?” he asked.

For the past few months, I had been carrying the picture with me. It was taken by a beach one summer ago, framing two friends about to be sisters–I was in a yellow, floral sundress while she donned a frilly blue top, as the sun dipped into the horizon behind us. But the day that picture was taken, she disappeared. If only I had suspected, I wouldn’t be spending the afternoon with another stranger.

Placing the picture on the table, he swept it up and slipped it into his pocket. Then, he asked, “Name and age?”

“Bethany, twenty-seven. Do you need her full name?”

“No, Bethany would do.”

“Are you sure you can find her?”

“I’m sure. But I’ll only start searching once I see the money.”

“My father is preparing the cash. I’ll be able to get it to you by the end of this week.”

“You can drop it off here.”

“In this cafe?”

He nodded. It was only then I understood why the cafe was barren. But while I hesitated to take another look around, he asked, “What do you want me to do once I find her?”

“I…well… I just…”

The answer was easy. I wasn’t able to request my desire blatantly, but I knew what needed to be done. If only she didn’t betray my trust. If only she paid for her crime. As much as I didn’t want to take justice into my own hands, I had to. If not for her, my brother would still be alive.

“I want to say goodbye,” I said.

“Well then, enjoy your sorbet,” he replied. “It’s on the house.”

As he rose from his seat, leaving behind an untouched cup of black coffee, I knew I would never see him again. And just like my silent bid to Bethany, I wished him farewell… and good-luck.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Sorbet, curtains, and farewell were words given by Patty Uy on Facebook. I remember Patty asking for a romance story with her previous three words. So, I decided to give her another but with a twist.

Now, it’s your turn! You have until the end of March to write a story of your own with the three words given. Anything can happen with these three words. Hopefully, yours isn’t about revenge too.

*To download the banner, left-click then right-click to save.

3 Words, 1 Story © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2018 in Original Works

 

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Square | Exhausted | Populate

We all have stories to tell–stories of adventure, love, grief, and misfortune. Stories that shape who we are and the decisions we make in life. In every galaxy–on every living and dying star–stories flood the cosmos. This is my story, on a planet I call home, Bevattna.

Bevattna nestles in the Andromeda galaxy. It doesn’t belong to any solar system–static amongst many others. It has four moons orbiting its cobalt blue surface. And yes, the blue you see sweeping across this planet, from your expensive telescope, is indeed water.

Bevattna is a beautiful place covered by a great ocean–so I’ve read. No one knows how our people were able to populate–how we even began civilization–but we do know we’re a thriving race. It’s amazing when you think about it–being supported by an air bubble system beneath our concrete, man-made surface. How did we come so far? But my story isn’t about my sun-kissed countrymen and the advancement of our technology. My story begins in a square room I live, eat, sleep, and breathe in–the room I’ve never left since birth.

This room is white–blinding white. The white walls reflect the single fluorescent lamp hanging two feet from the white ceiling. A white, rectangular table sits at a corner by the white door, accompanied by a white chair. A white bed frame, nailed to the white concrete floor, cradles a white mattress covered in white bed sheet. All is white, and the only other colour in the room is me–the absence of light. So, why am I here? I don’t know.

Every day–breakfast, lunch, and dinner–a hand, in a white glove, will slip through a flap at the bottom of the door. The flap locks immediately after I receive my food tray, often bearing the same meals daily–a sandwich and a glass of milk. What do people eat beyond these walls? I don’t know. It’s a wonder I’ve yet to find myself exhausted by the lack of variety. It’s odd, don’t you think–I have no complaints.

After my last meal, I find the highlight of my day. It’s the most anticipated hour because I get to leave this room. Three knocks will come from the door. The knocks are an order to face the opposing wall. Once I position myself, I’ll hear the click of the lock and the faint grind from the hinges of the door–you have to really listen. A series of footsteps will then make its way toward me–one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight–before a pair of hands slip a blindfold over my eyes. The same hands will guide me out of the room, along a pathway I imagine to flank more white walls, before I arrive in another white room. When the blindfold comes off, it looks like I’ve never left.

This room is white too, except that there’s nothing but minute–almost unnoticeable–holes in the walls, ceiling, and floor. I can’t remember who taught me this, but in this room I’ll remove my white gown and place it over a hook on the door. Then, the hissing begins. Two seconds after, a burst of water escapes the holes–first clear, then foamy, then clear again. This room provides me my daily bath and dries me with a blast of warm air. It sounds fun, doesn’t it? But that’s not the reason why I’m telling you this. My story, up till today, has always been the same. Day in, day out, I write the same words on a blank piece of paper. But today, my story changes. Because today, when there was supposed to be three knocks, there was none. Instead, I heard the click of the lock.

All I’ve done since is write and wait. I’ve been waiting for my bath. I’ve been waiting for the person to arrive. I’m not sure if he or she is late. I don’t know what happened and why the schedule changed. I’m contemplating about going to sleep. But will the light turn off at the same time today? Will I receive my meals tomorrow? Something isn’t right and I don’t know what to do about it. Is this where my story ends, or is this where it starts over?

I’ve considered leaving this room, but I’m afraid the walls outside won’t be white. What if they’re black? That’s not how I’ve imagined them to be and it scares me. I’m not sure why I’m scared to leave. I only have one piece of paper and a pencil that is now blunt–I cannot write a list of why I think I’m scared. The only thing I can do, once this page is filled, is wonder and wait.

Perhaps if the light don’t turn off tonight, I’ll peek outside. Maybe if the meals don’t arrive tomorrow, I’ll leave this room. If you–whoever you are–are reading this, without me by your side, it means I’ve started a new story. But if you find me with this paper, clutched to my chest… well, my story–amongst a great many others–is over.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Square, exhausted, and populate were words given by Matthew Lok on Facebook. Like a majority of my 3 Words 1 Story pieces, I started with no idea where the story is heading–forcing me to leave the dull white walls I often find comfort within. Though I’m not sure how well a story as such will sit with you, I can hope some find it enjoyable… or, at the very least, intriguing.

Now, it’s your turn! You have until the end of February to write a story of your own with the three words given. If you choose to take on this challenge, be sure to link your work in the comment section below!

*To download the banner, left-click then right-click to save.

3 Words, 1 Story © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2018 in Original Works

 

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Mapping My Universe ft. John Robin

One of the most enjoyable phases, during the production of The Slave Prince, was having two maps cartograph-ed by my author friend, John Robin. Now, if you’re an author, having your fictional world realised on paper is an amazing feeling. It takes the publishing experience to a whole new, fantastical level. It makes your work feel legit, as though it’s ready to play with the big boys! So truly, I am very grateful for the work John has done. And today, I’m giving him the spotlight.

Having worked with him, I believe John can give great insight on world building from a writer/cartographer standpoint. As a writer himself – authoring A Thousand Roads – he is able to approach this facet of ‘creation’ from a unique perspective. So whether you’re a writer, an artist, both, or neither, what he has to say will certainly make an interesting read. But… before we get to the Q&A, let’s take a look at what he has done for the realm of The Slave Prince.

FROM DOODLE TO ART
*Click image to enlarge*

CHATTING WITH JOHN ROBIN

Me: So John, let’s start with how you begin mapping a universe?

John: This is actually the hardest part for me. I always need a starting point. Usually, when it is my own world, I will begin one map by expanding another, or drawing beyond the boundaries of others where I have been curious about what lay beyond them. I just need a starting point, then my pen tells me where to go.

I find it much easier to draw someone else’s fantasy universe because I can always ask for a sketch. In your case, with The Slave Prince, the two sketches you provided me were excellent because I was able to begin translating your vision into something produced by my own hand.

Me: Do you incorporate your own imagination into the maps?

John: Absolutely. Most of the flourishes that end up in the final map are discoveries that happen in the process of doing. For instance, the forest south of Alpenwhist on the kingdom map wasn’t in the plan, but our work developing the world map beforehand reminded me there are woods south of Alpenwhist. So, I drew the woods. I didn’t expect there to be so many details in the forest, but the process of drawing revealed surprises, as it always does for me when trees are involved.

I cannot explain how this happens. It’s a bit like writing a book I suppose: one might see many plot points, but there are the surprises that come a few paragraphs from when you write them, and they radically change the story. Aragorn in Lord of the Rings was a character like this, apparently – just walked into the story, but what an important player to the whole trilogy! This is much like how I’d describe my imagination at play when I draw a map. Be it my universe or someone else’s, the map is a drawing and it has a life and a story, much like a book. The lines are the storytellers, and I am their obedient scribe.

Me: What do you find challenging in each project?

John: The hardest part for me is usually the final touches, especially the labeling. I prefer to write my own labels in a styled script by hand, but as I learned in our work together, these don’t translate well in a smaller map on page. I learned a lot about incorporating fonts and spaces in Photoshop after the drawing was complete. However, I do want to develop my own fonts based on my handwritten letters for future. It was liberating working on the second map (Alpenwhist kingdom map) knowing I could draw it without placing any labels. In the case of the world map, which I drew first, I wrote in all the labels by hand, then had to meticulously erase every one to replace them with a font. The advantage of this was that the space for the label was created. What this taught me was to leave space for labels on future maps, and hopefully begin my own carefully crafted letters for future use.

Me: What do you enjoy about cartography?

John: Drawing a map tells me the story of a world. Seeing how mountains span, rivers bend, forests arise, coast lines bend and shape, lakes appear on empty page, islands dot the seas – all these things tell me a story. Not just in the shapes. Often I will see a stand of trees and know it has an important history or should have a name. Or, I will label a territory and the story behind it comes to mind just in how the name sounds once I write it down. Drawing maps is what, for me, makes a fantasy world feel truly alive. In fact, when I go to the fantasy section and look for new fantasy books, it’s the maps that I turn to right away and tell me whether I want to enter this new world or not. It was, after all, the map of Wilderland in The Hobbit, on my grandmother’s bookshelf, that I would flip to many nights before I knew how to read, that eventually pulled me to fantasy and my own map-making.

Me: Does cartography help you in your own writing endeavours?

John: Yes! There is a storytelling that augments the narrative form I experience when writing. It sharpens world-building in ways that listing details alone would not do. In a way, drawing a map is a third level of engaging with a fantasy world beyond writing and world-building. A bit like M.C. Escher’s drawing hands, one feeds the other, and the other feeds it, and it circles on and on into deeper levels of imagination.

… 

What did I say – it takes someone who can channel both of his amazing gifts to be able to build worlds from a unique perspective. I’ve found myself trusting John in the decisions he has made for my world and I have no regrets. Thanks again John, for playing such an important role in the production of The Slave Prince! You the man!

I hope this post has given you some insight on cartography and how it can build a fantasy world. I’ve learned a lot from working with John, and I’ve learned some more just from this ‘interview’. If you’d like to know more about John and his works, take a peek below! I’ve included some extras for those who’d like to give this man and his talent a chance.

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MORE ON JOHN ROBIN

John runs a blog at TheEpicFantasyWriter. He’s also the senior editor of Story Perfect Editing Services and founder of Dreamscape Cover DesignsIf you’d like to get in-touch with John on social media, he’s on Twitter and Facebook!

A Thousand Roads 

Release Date: October 31, 2018 (eBook) / January 19, 2019 (Paperback)
Genre: Dark epic fantasy

Disclaimer: this novel is intended for adult readers. It contains sex, violence, coarse language, and dark subject matter.

Azzadul, the god-king, the Lord of Light revered by many. When the darkness corrupted him, he became the Dark Lord, feared the world over. His magic, once a gateway to immortality for his people, delved instead into horrors as he sought ever deeper levels of mastery. Children were stolen from their beds, coveted for his blood-rites. When he vanished, it all ended, and the people of the world tried to forget, to move on…

Jak Fuller has always wanted a home. An orphan born ten years after Azzadul’s disappearance, he has wandered far and wide, trying to forget the memory of a burning woman. When he comes to Fort Lasthall, on the outskirts of the Dark Lord’s former kingdom, he hopes to finally settle into a peaceful life. Instead, he finds himself unnaturally compelled by a dark, terrible voice, a voice that knows him, calls to him. A sense of destiny that fills him with fear.

New powers are rising in the dark places of the world. A master of fire-rites called Talamus the Red, arch-foe of Azzadul, seeks to enslave the world with a magic he has been developing for the many centuries of his life. Ready at last, there is only one weakness in his plan, an obstacle he is determined to destroy: a boy, bound to an old magic that just might resurrect the power of Azzadul.

The very power bound to Jak, before he was even born…

PRE-ORDER JOHN’S DEBUT NOVEL NOW!

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2018 in Writing Journey

 

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