The 4 am Creative Battle Starts Here

Why the hell would anyone get up at 4am?

The loud purring from Steve (named after Steve Rogers of course) the Cat is normally the first thing I hear. I fumble for my mobile on the bedside table, hoping I’ve remembered to dim the light so I don’t wake my wife (a fate worse than death) and check the time. I would fist punch air in happiness if I wasn’t so knackered so instead I drift back to a blessed half sleep.

“You’re not good enough.”

My eyes snap open and before I check my phone again I know it’s either 4am, on the dot, or a little after. I know because I hear the voice, my very own personal alarm clock.

“You’re not good enough and you never will be.”

The voices continues to berate me while I throw on the clothes I left by the stairs last night, in preparation for this morning. I head downstairs to the kitchen and as I make a cuppa the voice gives me a few choice words of inspiration.

“Go back to bed Barry. This is a waste of time mate you’re just not that good. Your mind’s blank mate, you’ve got nothing. I should know I’m the one in here putting up with your delusions of grandeur.”

I settle down in front of the laptop. A mug of tea is clasped in one hand, like a warm liquid barrier against my inner critic. I hit the power button on the laptop and launch my word processor of choice.

“Why are you doing his mate? You could be asleep or playing on the Xbox or something.”

My hands hover over the keyboard. I take a deep breath and I start to type. The voice is still screaming obscenities at me but they lessen with each word I type until it is more white noise than the deafening cacophony of negativity it has been.

So this how my day starts (well some days Steve the cat leaves me alone) and has done for the past three decades. The days when I don’t hear that voice I worry that it’s lurking at the back of my mind plotting a massive attack, which it is. It will then hit me with the deadliest weapon in its critical arsenal – writer’s fear. Now I don’t really believe in writer’s block anymore but I am a paid up member of writer’s fear. This condition hits when my inner critic has been so scathing, so relentless, that for a time (and sometimes, for me, it can last years) I see the world through its eyes. Every time I force myself to sit down at the keyboard to look at my work all I see is a jumbled mess of nonsense.

“You were right. What the hell was I thinking?”

Not content with savouring the victory the voice conjures up other voices, ones from my past to batter me into submission. The English teacher who wrote in my school report ‘Barry has an overactive imagination which he needs to learn to control’ (she put in something like this year). The art teacher who told me ‘drawing comic characters is not what we do here Mr Nugent so stop doing it… here we do fine art (I lost that war)’. The computer studies teacher who told me ‘You’ll never amount to anything in life Nugent’ and to round it off that well known writer who told me ‘Self publishing is for vanity writers and writers who just aren’t good enough.’

This cheery pick me up normally ends with me pouring my cuppa down the sink and heading back to bed or numbing myself with some early morning TV or gaming.

All of those comments haunt me every time I sit at the keyboard and stare at a blank screen at 4 am.  No writer works in insolation. Those, early morning, whispered voices join forces with my own inner critic, like some Marvel villain team up, telling me I’m not good enough. The 4 am battle I call it and I believe it’s something every creative person, at every level fights (yes even the JK Rowling’s of this world). It is the one constant, the one thing that makes us all equal as creative people.

When I’m asked why it’s taken me seven years to write a novel it’s mainly down to that creative battle and the truth that I don’t always win.

Unfortunately the only strategy I have for winning the battle is just showing up. Even when I am caught in the hurricane of writer’s fear on an instinctual level I know it is a phase that will pass. So everyday I continue to get up at the crack of dawn and drag myself, word by word, to the eye of my inner critical storm.

Why the hell would it take you seven years to write a novel?

I like to think that every creative person fights this battle on a daily basis. The methods the enemy uses on my fellow creatives may differ but its goal is the same. It wants to stop us writing, acting, painting, lettering, colouring, sculpting and dreaming of new worlds and new adventures. It wants to stop us doing that one thing we love to do more than anything else.

Knowing that there are people out there fighting and winning that battle (#amwriting I’m looking at you) always helps me to stand up to myself and type that next word, complete that next sentence and finish that page. I know if I keep doing it that one day I’ll look up and I’ll have written a book.

After watching Creed (great film by the way) I have now adopted one of Rocky’s training mantras taught to the young Creed and giving it a little creative make over.

One word at a time. one page at a time. one book at a time.

Yep I know chapter would have made more sense than book but book quite frankly works better when you’re using it in time with typing…try it. It also works very well with a punch bag.

So in conclusion, to all our inner enemies, I’ll say this.

“We see you. We know there’ll be times you’ll win a battle or three but never the war. As long as we keep showing up you lose. As long as we keep writing, keep dreaming you lose. So we’ll see you bright and early tomorrow at 4am. You bring the negativity and we’ll bring very sharp pencils.”

And yes I did start writing this post at 4am today…well ok it was 4:20 but Steve wanted Tuna.

“This is it. The darkest day. The blackest hour. Chin up, shoulders back. Let’s see what we’re made of, you and I.”
The Doctor

Forgotten Warriors is out in September.

Forgotten Warriors is finished and gets a new official synopsis

So earlier this week I received the final draft of Forgotten Warriors from the editor. The novel is now complete.

It is very hard unless you write to understand what it is like to finish a novel. The sheer emotional weight that hits you is something I don’t think you ever prepare for. As I sit here a blubbering mess trying to type this I have over seven years of emotional weight and memories of working on this novel settling on my shoulders. The times when I felt like a failure. The times when all I saw was a blank screen for hours on end, laughing at me. The times when I thought this was the best work I had ever done. The times when I lost my brother, my father and felt like I would never write again. Always in those times, both good and bad, I would hear my mum whispering to me to keep going, to just do one more word Titch, one more page.

To say writing is a rollercoaster of highs and lows may sound cliche but it is as good a metaphor as any.

Some writers would have you believe that writing is a solitary profession, it is not..at least not for me. The amount love and support and ‘kicks up the ass’ from friends and family can not and will never be underestimated.

So thank you all for your love and support, some more than others (you know how you are).

And lastly… Mum…still here, still trying to save the world.

The plan is to launch the novel at the Thought Bubble Exhibition together with The  Chimera Factor graphic novel. The comic is stand alone, in many ways, but it also acts as a prequel to Forgotten Warriors.

TheChimeraFactorCover

Look out for a post of how to pre-order your copy soon. It will be doing a limited edition special edition copy in the first instance..more details on that soon.

In the meantime if you’re a fan of Fallen Heroes…thank you for your support and sticking with me all these years..not much longer now. If you want to pick up Forgotten Warriors and want to read Fallen Heroes first you can still pick up a copy from Amazon.

Here’s the new story blurb to give you an idea what’s coming.

Hold your breath.

Stand your ground.

The worst is yet to come.

Three years ago, on the eve of their greatest triumph, the Book of Cademus instead suffered their greatest defeat.

Today the leaders of this apocalyptic cult are hunted across the globe as their followers lose faith in their gods.

Reduced to striking out from the shadows in petty acts of vengeance, the cult hatches one last desperate gambit to regain all they have lost.

The Icarus Foundation, ignorant of the danger, has become locked in a political power struggle. The United Nations believes Icarus are too dangerous to be left unchecked and take drastic measures to bring them under control.

With Icarus’ focus turned elsewhere the burden falls on those scarred survivors to stand against the Book of Cademus once more. If they can…

 

The Chimera Factor: The first act is all inked

Page 33 is a great point to have an update on The Chimera Factor. This stunning page (which is pretty epic) from Plwoods signifies the end of the first act of this story.

What better way to end a first act than with a potential fight about to kick off between our two Heroines.

Looks like Steph and Victoria are having a little disagreement

The creative team are working flat out to get this ready for launch at this year’s Thought Bubble so please keep your fingers and toes crossed!

Final Draft for Forgotten Warriors is Complete

“And now the end is near and now I face the final curtain…”

I could not have said it better myself Frank.

The final draft of Forgotten Warriors is now complete. Now there’s nine words I was beginning to think I would never say. The story is now in the capable hands of an editor to proofread and sense check. The copy will then be returned to me to go over the changes and send back for a final edit. Hopefully after that Forgotten Warriors will be ready for publication.

It’s been a long, fun, painful, soul destroying and soul uplifting process, getting to this moment but finally the end is finally in sight.

In celebration of this milestone here’s a sneak unproofed peek at the some of the opening prologue, featuring two familiar faces from the climax of Fallen Heroes.

Prologue

The Holy Lands, Anatolia 1097

The battlefield was a tapestry of nightmares, woven from torn flesh and shattered bone. At this distance the thousands of bodies strewn across the blood soaked earth were little more than dark specks.

So this is victory.

At the head of the battlefield, where the main body of fighting had taken place, a few specks moved. These, Oliver guessed, were looters seeking food or coin in the clothing of the dead.  He wanted to hate them but in this unforgiving land he had learnt faith alone would not fill an empty belly.

Oliver ignored the cheers from those around him. There was little to celebrate save that, by God’s grace, they had been spared to breathe this cursed land’s foul air for another day.

It had been here the Turkish horse archers had attacked, their arrows slicing through Oliver’s men with gruesome precision.

Sir Thomas, a friend of Oliver’s father, had fallen in that first skirmish, taking an arrow to the eye. Oliver had tired to reach him but the old knight’s screams were silenced by a second volley of arrows.

Oliver gently ran his fingers through his horse’s mane. It was a ritual he had perfected to keep the horse calm. The beast snorted and shuddered beneath him, its hooves stamping the earth in frustration. Oliver shared the beast’s desire to be away from this slaughterhouse.

The stench of rotting flesh, cooked by the noonday sun, was everywhere. However it was not the smell that made Oliver want to retch it was the sheer absurdity of it all. Where was God’s love in all this reckless slaughter?

On this account I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ’s heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends.

Trapped here, in this crucible of heat and death, the honeyed words of the Pope brought little comfort to Oliver. Did his holiness think the Turks would see the love of the one true God as they cradled their dead?

After a year of war Oliver Cademus had seen little holy in this crusade. He had answered a blood soaked call to arms to further the ambitions of powerful men. His father, Nicholas had warned him he did not have the stomach for war.

In the holy lands Oliver learnt the truth of his father’s words. Every night those he had put to death would visit him, whispering curses in the darkness of sleep.

Oliver gripped the reins and spurred his horse forward, his thoughts turning to England and home. He used to see his old life as stagnant and unfulfilled but now he would give anything have it again and to see his mother.

“Thinking about home again my Lord?”

Oliver stiffened and turned to the newcomer, who now rode beside him,

“Oh it’s you Jacob,” said Oliver, his hand moving from the hilt of his sword and back to the reins.

Jacob Covenant was tall, his features hawkish in appearance, though his thick beard helped to give the hard lines of his face a softer edge. He was not dressed in knights’ garments but rather those of a common solider.

“I was thinking about my mother,” said Oliver. “She’s a painter and a fine one at that.”

“What does she paint?”

“The last thing I saw her paint was a portrait of me before I set out on this fool’s errand.”

Oliver’s grumbled response had come just as the he and Jacob rode past a detachment of men.

“Choose your words with care my lord.”

“Forgive me,” said Oliver, rubbing his eyes. “I did not mean to speak ill of our faith.”

But rather those who would smother it with their own desires.

“You are a knight, you have no need to seek my forgiveness,” said Jacob. “It is I who should seek yours for forgetting my place.”

Oliver was certain Jacob knew what his place was in the world and it was not as anyone’s lackey. It was one of the reasons Oliver respected the man. Jacob had also saved Oliver’s life, a fact Jacob was embarrassed to be reminded of.

“You never did tell me if you had any family Jacob?” asked Oliver.

“You never asked my lord.”

“Well I am asking you now.”

A vacant expression settled over Jacob face as he spoke.

“I had a wife and two sons.”

The word ‘had’ was meaning enough to Oliver. He stumbled over his words as he sought to sooth the wound he had opened.

“Bear it no mind my lord,” said Jacob, waving away Oliver’s dismay. “It was a lifetime ago and I have made my peace with it.”

“Nevertheless I am sorry for your…”

The sounds of screaming tore the rest of the sentence from Oliver’s mouth. Looking ahead he saw several columns of thick black smoke curling upwards, invoking images of some giant terror unfurling its dark wings.

“Is there no end to this madness?” bellowed Oliver, turning his horse toward the smoke.

 

Playtesting Starts on ‘Napoleon Stone and the Army of Set’ Gamebook

While in Paris, Napoleon Stone is dragged into a mystery that will see him uncover a sinister secret society. It will take all his knowledge, skill and strength to try and stop them before they can carry out their nefarious plans…
Napoleon Stone and the Army of Set is a choose your own adventure – so all of this is up to you!
Good luck, Professor Stone!
So work on our first choose your own adventure starring Professor Napoleon Stone is progressing well.
We have just finished working on the final draft of the book and it now moving into the play testing stage. I will be ordering a proof copy of the book, getting my hands on a pair of dice so I can work through this brilliant adventure created by Richmond Clements, Anthony McGarry Thickitt and myself with Alex Moore handling the interior illustrations.
Fingers crossed the book will be out later this year.