Hello friends! Since you seemed to enjoy my last post focused on my character profiles, I decided to do another similar posting. Instead of focusing on my leading cast of characters (though I'll probably do another such post, but focused more on the supporting cast, as they are just as diverse and important to the story), this post will be focused more on some of the images I used to help build and shape the land of Selkirk. These images can be found on my Pinterest account in the boards dedicated to Selkirk and the costumes, but not all those clothes belong in Selkirk, or the first two books, so I wanted to share a few of the more prominent images of the scenery and outfits you'd most likely run into in the first book!
First, I want to introduce you to some of the elves. Now these aren't your Tolkien elves, they wear tattered rags for clothes, seem impervious to the weather, and some even look like walking trees if they get old enough! They have glowing yellow eyes, and most have filed their teeth into fangs. While none of the images are 100% spot on, images like these really helped me shaped the elves currently plaguing Tallis and her friends:
It's no secret that I based most of Selkirk off of a medieval version of Scotland with a smattering of Ireland and England in there for good measure. The names of the towns and cities, the food, the language, and the attire are all inspired from those places (but mainly Scotland). So of course, as I was envisioning the forests, the towns, and the other places Tallis found herself traversing, images like these were instrumental in capturing the feel and the mood of the landscape, as well as the feelings Tallis and her friends had while going through the areas:
If you've read the book, you may have noticed that every once in awhile, I put on my Tolkien and George R. Martin hat, and get really descriptive about clothes and armor. I know not everyone is a fan of that, and is often seen as just a trope of fantasy novels, and if it is, sorry? But I honestly like getting detailed about that stuff every now and again, I think it helps complete the sense of you being there, of being able to really visualize the different characters and their personalities based on the clothes they wear, or the armor they choose to put on. I won't do it for every single outfit change, usually just once or twice to complete the image of the world, and then after, it's on you, dear reader, to make sure the characters aren't running around naked, unless you're into that kind of thing, then go for it! Regardless, I spend a lot of time looking for clothes that fit the world and characters, and the ones below fit that well for the first book, though if you have visited my Pinterest boards, you'll know the costumes vary wildly from book one to two, and beyond. These are just a few that inspire the looks I talk about in "The Duality of Nature":
You may want to click on the images in order to get a clearer view of the detail in each one, but I hope this little teaser was interesting, and if you've read the book, the details from some of the locations or clothes now make more sense to you. I'll post more of these as we get closer to book two's release date and beyond so you can see even more of Selkirk, and the things and people Tallis and her friends encounter along the way. Let me know what you think of the images, or if there are certain characters you'd love to see the character profile for. I'd love to hear from you all!
Now that the first book in “The Monster of Selkirk” series has been out for close to five months, I wanted to do a character feature on the four main characters so you can get to know them and (hopefully) move Book I from the “Want to Read” pile to the “Currently Reading” pile. I have also taken the liberty of collecting images of costumes that inspired everything from their clothes to their armor, as well as actors who I’d love to see play my characters. Of course, if you’ve read the books and have a different opinion on the leading roles, I obviously want to know! But first up, let’s take a closer look at my leading lady, Tallis.
Tallis has never felt comfortable in her own skin. She has always felt out of place and the teasing she endures has only exasperated that feeling of alienation, and the isolation that comes with it. She struggles with finding her place in the world, a place that is uniquely her own, and not thrust upon her due to the “station” she was born into. She yearns for knowledge, to do the things that people say she can’t do, and to never feel like others are leaving her behind. She knows, deep down, that she does not belong in Kincardine, and should leave the place she has called home her entire life, but the fear of the unknown has always held her back despite the animosity she receives at home with her father. She hates having to hide how she feels, and who she wants to be, but until she figures out what she wants for herself and her life, she bottles up her desires, and continues with the simple monotony of her day. The only people who can say they truly know Tallis are Donovan and Rosslyn, though Tomas is eager to learn more about her, Tallis never seems to grasp why… Regardless, once Tallis feels like she has found a true friend, she’d do anything to keep them safe—at any cost.
Donovan is Tallis’s older cousin, and raised even poorer than she was! He’s learned from a young age how fragile life is, losing his mother when he was a toddler, leaving his father to raise him alone. Donovan feels very strongly for his family, and will do anything for them, or to make them proud of him. This goes for Tallis as well—who he treats as a little sister—though he would never tell her that he trains as hard as he does so she will be proud of the man he is becoming. He’s always been a serious man, without a dishonorable bone in his body, making him closer to the kind of knight Tallis reads about in the monastery then any of the other young knights in Kincardine. Donovan lives for his duty, and does his utmost to keep those he has vowed to protect from any and all harm, even if that means following them into the forest to battle feral elves!
Rosslyn is the ultimate free spirit. She was born in Selkirk’s version of a Gypsy clan, adhering to a code of life where you follow your desires and live how you want to live, shunning anyone and anything that tells you otherwise. The clans do have to do what is best for the clan as a whole as dictated by their leaders, and when that meant putting her mentally challenged brother “out of his misery”, Rosslyn’s parents decided to give the clan life up in order to save their son, and Rosslyn would never want to be apart from her baby brother. Despite her free thinking ways, Rosslyn is extremely attached to her family, so even with the call of adventure always tempting her, she never leaves home for very long. Rosslyn’s disregard for the laws of the land often puts her at odds with Donovan, but she enjoys Tallis’s company far too much to let the knight’s disapproval deter her. Unlike Tallis and Donovan, Rosslyn does not know how to fight, she can defend herself in a tavern brawl just fine, but she is no match for the vicious elves, making her choice to follow Tallis into the forest strange, until you realize that the same fierce love Rosslyn has for her family is also given to her closest friends. Rosslyn would do anything for Tallis, just as Tallis would do anything for her.
Tomas has lived in the monastery his whole life, having been abandoned there as a baby by—according to the brothers—his wanton mother. The only life Tomas has ever known has been a cloistered one, one where he initially struggled with coming to terms with why his parents did not want him, and why Wodan (the human’s god) would not speak for Himself and explain why he was abandoned. Once Tomas accepts his situation and his place in life, he devotes all his time to studying everything he can get his hands on, feeding a keener mind than any in Kincardine have seen before. He never imagined that his life would deviate from the course it was on since infancy, until he meets Tallis. While his sharp mind often paints him as an intellectual outcast by those in his order, Tallis is genuinely interested in the contraptions he has been thinking up. Tomas hadn’t realized the difference between a friend and an acquaintance until he met Tallis, which has him imagining a different path in life, one where Tallis is a fixture. He knows that he cannot—and should not—act upon these confusing feelings, but Tomas doesn’t fully appreciate her pull upon him until Tomas is presented with an opportunity to lead a different life, and his curiosity about the world will not allow him to let such an opportunity pass him by!
And that’s it! Those are my four leading characters in a nut shell. Or, rather, it’s everything about them I felt I could share without the fear of spoilers. I hope you find them fun and interesting, like people you’d want to hang out with and get to know better, as that’s how I felt writing them. If you read the book and envisioned the characters or outfits a bit differently, I’d love to hear/see it, so please share in the comments!
This is going to be a short little blog post. But you see, I killed a character today. I was simply going to say “I killed someone” and leave it at that, all cryptic and scary, and faintly psychopathic, but given my Google search history already when I'm research things like combat or medicinal herbs that would have been common in a kind of medieval era, I didn’t want to chance putting myself on any more watch lists. Anyway, back to my point. I killed a character.
Normally, this isn’t a big deal. I’ve killed lots of characters and as more of the books in “The Monster of Selkirk” series come to light, you’ll see that it’s not uncommon for me to kill off or maim the people you and I love most in this fictional world of mine. But I am writing the very last book in Tallis’s journey, yes, that’s right, “The Monster of Selkirk” does have an end and I am almost done writing it. There is something so bittersweet about this, something that I’ve never experienced before as a writer.
I’ve spent about five years with Tallis, or it’ll be about that when I’m done editing the last book. I’ve gotten to know her, her friends, and her world so intimately, that it’s odd for me to say good-bye. It’s time, they are ready to be “normal” in the world I have left for them, because I do like to think of it a bit like “Toy Story” where, even though I am done shaping their world, they still live and have lives. Still, I’ve spent a lot of time with these characters and I’ll miss them. I can visit them alongside everyone else who is discovering them for the first time, but it won’t be the same.
What’s really getting me now is killing my characters this close to the end, more so than the other books where someone has, in the words of Shakespeare, “shuffled off this mortal coil”. There are some deaths that are more meaningful, more long lasting to my characters then the one that I just finished writing, but given this is so close to the literal end, it stings a bit more.
What, you didn’t think I felt NOTHING when I killed a character? Every death is deliberate and has a purpose, I want those deaths to hurt, because it hurts me to let them go. But this moment feels different. Feels a bit more like choking at the last moment. This character got so close to the end but, as I’m writing, I realize they can’t go on. These characters are guiding me to their end and it’s weird, and beautiful, and sad.
This is 100% a writer problem (probably an actor problem too, actually, when they are done performing a certain character or play, I’d imagine), and I just needed to air that out because I’m in a weird place right now. I’m about to write the climax and I am not mentally in a place where I can do that because of this character. Which is phenomenal! But weird, very weird.
Tell me friends, am I alone in my feelings? Is it weird that I feel this way (or, too weird rather)? Does this even make sense? Please make me feel like I’m not crazy. And no, I won’t tell you who dies, I will never reveal those kinds of spoilers! I’ll be fine in a few days I’m sure, but until then, tell me your thoughts on the matter, I’d love to hear from you!
Hello friends! I think it’s about time I talk about book reviews (again). I did a post a while back about it, but I think it’s time I clarified how I go about giving some of my very humble opinions about books. A lot of that comes down to my standards for books especially between those that are published in the “traditional” way (i.e. by the “Big 5” in New York), those published by indie or small press publishers, and then self-published.
I’ve been reviewing a lot more indie and self-published books lately because reviews are the crux of the book industry regardless of how you get published. Even if people buy your book, if no one reviews it, then fewer and fewer people will read your work. It’s just a sad fact of the business, and the big publishing houses have access to more resources that can get books in the hands of early readers to guarantee those reviews on day one of sales and get books into more retailers etc. For everyone else, you usually have to give your book to someone in exchange for an honest review. I do that for my own book as well as offer to do that for others in hopes of earning good karma. Plus, there are some great stories that just get overlooked and I'd like to help people find them. But I do review those smaller authors’ works much differently than books that come out of the traditional publishing houses and there is nothing wrong with that and I think (or hope) that more reviewers take that stance.
Typically, I am a harder reviewer for a book that comes from a big publishing house because I expect more. I don’t think that expectation is wrong either. These authors are fortunate enough to have a large team work with them and their book AFTER their initial beta readers have finished with it. They’ll have multiple editors and resources to use in order to make their book the best it can be. So, if the plot is weak or the research wasn’t put into the work, I find that disrespectful to the reader. That’s not to say self-published writers can’t do all of that, they can and should, but reputable editors are expensive. Publishing houses will provide that service to their signed writers for “free” (they do get paid from book sales, but there’s no upfront cost) whereas self-published writers have to pay upfront and out of pocket for that so often times they can only really afford one editor and then they cross their fingers and hope its enough.
Even indie and small press publishers are in a similar boat. They provide cover art services and editing services for their writers, but usually it’s not a team of editors and early readers, just a handful of people. So a few more things slip through the cracks and maybe sometimes the cover or the printing of the book isn’t as good as the books on the New York Times Best-Selling lists but their stories are good. They have character development and a hook and they are usually just as fun as a traditionally published book, or they can be.
So, that’s why I rate those books differently even if the star system remains the same (can’t get around that, thanks Goodreads and Amazon). But it’d be like rating a B movie, or a film students class film, as the same as you’d review a big Hollywood blockbuster. It’s unfair to everyone involved. When you have more resources to lean against, you owe your fans and readers to make good on all that publicity and those promises you make. For small press and self-published, I look at it and see what they had to work with and if they respected my (and other readers) time by doing everything they could before releasing their book into the wild and then I rate their stories accordingly.
But, at the end of the day, for me at least, it’s all about good characters. If you can give me that, I am willing to forgive a lot, no matter who did or didn’t publish the book!
Ultimately, I hope people read my work with a similar lens. Not to say that I don’t think my work belongs on the USA Today or New York Times Best-Selling list (it’s not but that’s mostly because I went with a small press), I put a lot of hard work and effort into my stories and the small team I have has been incredible with helping me along the way. But that’s just it, it’s a small team. More eyes, more hands, means I have to answer to more people (which I’d rather not do) but it also means that more people catch mistakes or can offer diverse opinions about characters and scenes.
This is also why my reviews are so detailed. For the smaller authors, that kind of feedback can be really valuable as they move forward and create more stories they look to publish. So my reviews will always be long, but hopefully they are helpful to the author and potential readers!
I can’t stop other reviewers from reviewing however they want to. I just thought it was important to share the filter I put over my reviews and why books with thousands of four or five star reviews will get a two or three from me and a similar self-published book with no reviews may get a four or five.
What do you think of this system? Do you agree? Or do you go about reviewing books differently? Let me know!
Ok friends, time to get a little personal. Again. Not many of you know this about me (well, some of you might but hey, I’d love it if you stuck around anyway) but I am a big supporter of mental health. Why you may ask? Well, I have some family members and dear friends with mental health issues and/or who work in the profession so it’s something near and dear to me and one day, I hope the stigma that surrounds going to see a therapist and the general misunderstandings that telling someone who suffers from anxiety or depression to just “get over it” isn’t how you make things better. It’s why I love my flawed characters in books and other media. So, I invite you to come with me on this journey if you will.
There’s something about “hero” characters that suffer with anxiety, depression, or have panic attacks that I really resonate with, and that’s probably because I recognize that I deal with those issues personally, as well. But to me, it just feels so real. Sure, everyone loves the hero to swoop in and save the day and make it look easy. It gives us hope that no matter how crappy the world gets, that someone somewhere can just make it all better. They have a clear path, know exactly what they need to do and just… do it. There’s never any uncertainty about what they need to do, they never falter or feel overwhelmed. But that’s not real.
And I know, I know, it’s fiction, it’s not supposed to be real. Fantasy books and movies are the places we escape to when we want to forget our troubles in the outside world. That’s why there’s nothing wrong with a hero who doesn’t have problems, it can be gratifying and I totally get it! But you can’t relate to those guys either. I mean, I have yet to meet someone who didn’t get scared or freaked out when they found themselves in an unexpected situation. So imagine, if you will, that all of a sudden you are the chosen one and the fate of the world rests on your shoulders. That is a lot of responsibility and pressure. I’d expect you to freak out because well, anyone else would.
That’s why Tallis has anxiety and panic attacks in my books.
Tallis is a strong, badass woman, but the responsibility and the weight of the world that gets thrust on her when she was never looking for it and certainly didn’t want it, is a lot to handle. Especially for a young adult who’s never needed to be 100% responsible for themselves let alone just one other person. Can you imagine having to save a whole country? Being freaked out would be natural and, hopefully, make Tallis feel more relatable even in a fantasy setting.
Same goes for Tomas and Rosslyn. Tomas is a brilliant introvert trying to learn how to fit in. I challenge anyone to tell me they have never felt that way or known someone who’s struggled with trying to find their place in a new group of friends. And Rosslyn may be carefree and live by her own rules, but she’s a bisexual who, at least in the main cities, cannot openly love the people she wants to. All of my characters have interpersonal challenges because the end goal, the goal of saving the world, is not and never will be the entirety of their, or even my, stories.
At the end of the day, I wanted to craft characters that people who are struggling with doing their jobs or living their lives because they feel overwhelmed, scared, or depressed can maybe get inspiration from. I wanted to give a kind of hope to those that don’t believe they are strong enough or don’t know how to manage the things their feelings. I wanted to create characters people could look at and say: “Hey, if they can find a way, so can I”. And all because when I encounter characters in books or movies that have these issues and find a way to still be badasses, It gives me hope and makes me feel a bit better myself.
Tallis will always feel like the world is sometimes just too much for her to handle, but she finds a way to deal with it in a healthy way and, usually, with help. I want others to see her example and not feel small or helpless, but like they can do anything. Because they, and we, absolutely can!
That’s why I love my flawed characters, and I hope you do too.