‘Breaking the Darke Crusader’s Code’: The making of a book that almost wasn’t to be…

Some of the best moments come from the most difficult of circumstances in this funny old thing we call life. In early 2017 when I began to embrace the idea of drafting a ‘second book’ I never expected that journey, laced with internal creative difficulty and even physical health obstacles, to end up producing a book which is now my most critically and statistically acclaimed.

Of course I am talking about ‘Darke Blood’ which on the surface appears to be a vampire story, but in truth there is a hell of a lot more going on underneath the surface of just blood sucking creatures of the night. This post is a deep dive into the making of that story, and yes there will be some element of light spoilering with the intent more to advertise and spotlight the qualities of a book’s success that still fills me still with baffling but swelling pride. I’ve never really spoken about the process that goes into writing a book and they sort of get forgotten after being released. But what I went through to write ‘DB’ should be remembered, because it did not come easy and hence the swelling pride… 

Rule one in all writing: always embrace the good things that comes from it, especially the one’s you don’t expect…

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Before the books that now make up my back list (I have a back list? even that baffles me sometimes…) there was a time where I exclusively wrote science fiction with a hope to query agents, get a book deal, get a movie deal and thank the academy for giving me  this here best original screenplay award. Let’s just say the experience of getting nothing more than a few good people’s attention, none of them rhymed with Spielberg was humbling and as a writer and person, I grew up and started again mostly from scratch.

It’s never too late to start again, or even start. Starting is the first step to anything worthwhile…just start okay! 

The feeling of dropping a project that saw zero success was liberating to say the least and even though I left those sci fi books behind they stand as a testament to how I learned to write. Post writing liberation came my first foray into the world of indie publishing with a book known as ‘Open Evening’ which had some ‘success’ but before even sending that manuscript to my editor, like always I was looking to what would come next.

With 6 months until ‘Open Evening’ would see the pen of an editor I decided to get into another story which eventually became ‘Darke Blood’. My divine wisdom told me after writing a creature feature chase story with heaps of action I needed to do vampires next along with a slower more mysterious and fleshed out pace. Like everything I write, it needed to have some differential concept to the last project and the whole vampire thing would also be a tribute to probably my all time favourite character driven show – Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

What’s in a name?

Okay, so I’m doing vampires, that means the setting would need to be dark and shadowy, perhaps almost black like the night. This would tie in with the title and be both catchy and unique, something only someone searching for your work would find; and that’s a pro tip when coming to deciding title’s, make it stand out

There would be some kind of forest, one with trees where the leaves don’t fall and a town that’s small enough to realistically host vampires. In 2017 I was spending a lot of time in a place known as Iver Heath which is a neighbourhood surrounded by mostly trees and farmers fields. They have two country parks nearby one of them called ‘Black Park’ so in the beginning I just merged ‘Black’ and ‘Heath’ but it turns out Black Heath is an actual place – back to the drawing board but I was set on using ‘the Heath’ I just needed a word to put before it. Next came Dark, but as the history of the town began to spiderweb in my head, perhaps when it was established back in colonial times it would be spelled oldy worldy style and so ‘Darke Heath’ was born. Put the concept of vampires, blood and all that along side Darke, you have ‘Darke Blood’. Trust me this process sounded prettier in my head…

Black Park

Black Park in Buckinghamshire near Iver Heath in the UK

So we have a forest, it’s going to be shadowy and there’s a colonial history to the place. By the time I had reached this point, the Prologue had already been drafted. A page turning chase in the shadows where some not so happy campers are split up, they first find an old cemetery and then a house – the haunted house trope always, always has a place in my heart, it just does. At the very end of that sequence we are introduced to the perhaps slightly condescending main narrator. Open Evening had more of a pessimistic trope busting narration style, this one, straight up insulting, trust me those differences are important…

What’s in their names?

That narrator just happens to be named Blake Malone. The Blake I can’t recall settling on,  it came after I decided to use Malone which is tribute to the narrator ‘Edward Malone’ from Conan Doyle’s Lost World – a book I first read when I was 12 and then proceeded to get bitten by the literature bug. Blake Malone also shares a light Irish heritage like Edward as they both have a pale complexion and they both are recalling their account of an experience in going into the unknown.

blake quote

The second billed character and creature of the night/ bad ass ‘Caitlyn Turner’ came next. Her inspiration came from the world of video games. One of Fallout 4’s popular and bad ass companion’s is an Irish lady known as ‘Cait’. I gave her a full name and a backstory of depth and history which spans back to those colonial days and is inspired by the many episodes of ‘Angel’ that see’s a younger version of the title character in the past. She has a history of love, deception and fighting along with links to witchcraft. Her story serves as the second part of the first act and by that point should hook most readers in.

caitlyn quote

Another popular face in the lore of ‘Darke’ is the older gentleman known as ‘Angus Greene’ who is a pick up truck driving, helpful and kind country fella who’s family have been taken by the vampire threat in the Heath. His inspiration and name is tributed loosely to ‘Hershel’ from when it was popular TV show The Walking Dead. Although Angus is more of a fighter and perhaps a little more cynical. He becomes more and more of a leader in later books.

The Darke Crusader’s code

Blake Malone has arrived in Darke Heath for a ‘new start’ or so he says but after confiding in the reader only, he is actually in the Heath to investigate the findings of someone known only as the ‘Darke Crusader’ which is in fact an anonymous internet handle who has reported some weird things going on in the Heath before disappearing. This is the central motive as to why Blake has come to town but worryingly his recollection of anything before arriving is blank, and this works as the conflict our MC would overcome later on in the narrative. It also adds a unique psychological edge to the whole deal – so we’re already better than Twilight…

Much of the time during my writing process I will just throw open ended ideas into the mix, and originally what brought Blake to town was most likely going to be dealt with much later on. The Darke Crusader was originally in fact someone external from outside the character loop who would arrive and lift the dramatic lid later on, sort of like a murder mystery reveal. Unfortunately this concept didn’t really line up or work. Bearing in mind I was already 40,00 words into the book at this point and in April/May of 2017 I was suffering badly with sciatica – to the point where sitting, laying and standing hurt. Writing is still painful by the way… always.

The concept of this mysterious internet persona held everything together. After all it’s why Blake is in the town and why the story is happening. The magic word there is motive, which all stories must have, the why.

I just couldn’t find a way to link it all together to reveal this external character and break the Darke Crusader’s code and it started to piss me off.

The recycling bin beckoned…

Frustration loomed, and anger, lots of it. This was my second foray into writing an original story from scratch and I’m stuck. After an angry gym session (is that sweat or tears?) I seriously considered putting that many words into the recycling bin but then, inspiration hit me. Like always while in the car on the open road a solution appeared.

Never underestimate a good drive to clear the mind and find thoughts… sorry environment I need to think!

What if this Darke Crusader was actually already an existing character? What if Blake had no recollection of the past because it was removed in some way? Maybe he was already from Darke Heath in some capacity and then sent out by the evil forces to shut down this crusader. The whole plot began to turn back on itself and unfold into the series of twists and revelations that followed. I’ll admit I put Blake Malone through a Shutter Island level of mind melt hell. But it worked; just about… I was already going down the psychological route anyway so it lined up. There is also just a slice of the Shining in there too.

Big reveals turned into twisting revelations as the Darke Crusader’s code had been cracked in front of my own eyes and imagination. The characters figure out themselves as the story unfolds. Placing this character into an already introduced persona made for a justified twist that the vampiric powers were willing to go to in order to find out who this crusader was because after all they had control of Blake. He also found out where he had come from and it was much closer than he thought. Doing this aligned him with the forces to fight back and so the final act emerged out of such struggle.

Keeping it in the Heath…

Deciding to keep the Darke Crusader inside the confines of just the town made for the feeling of no escape. The world was just limited to that town between the trees. There is an alternative ending to ‘Back to the Future’ where instead of harnessing lightning from the clock tower in Hill Valley, they go to a nuclear power plant instead, out of town and away from where the story takes place. Comparing my stuff to that masterpiece is a little indulgent but keeping everything in the Hill Valley/ the Heath rounded the story perfectly.

Back To The Future Review | Movie - Empire

Overcoming it all to tell one heck of a tale…

The struggle I went through in both back pain related and story related issues may have made for the reason why Darke Blood stands out as probably my better books. The whole tying together in the penultimate act either turns people away or grips them more. It’s decisive and carries weight. And this is before the awesome editing and cover art work that tops off the whole deal. It didn’t come easy, and much like those difficult second albums, it felt like an uphill fight to tell a story that I desperately wanted to be different from Open Evening and so it was, but they are connected…

The Open Evening Connection…

Open Evening banner with DB and ch

In order for the past elements in Darke Blood to work (Cait’s story and the main antagonist), it made sense for the creatures seen in Open Evening to exist in the same universe. And so after all of that struggle and part of it was making the whole deal fit, I managed to tie it into a wider universe which is still growing today.

the order symbol (weathered with title)

Final witchy thoughts…

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This deep dive is in fact just more of a shallow swim into the complex but satisfying tale that is Darke Blood: You’ve never known true darkness. There is a whole segment of the book that is probably best described as ‘Light Witchcraft’ which I haven’t really mentioned here but later on becomes ever so important. This is also galvanised by the Sisterhood theme that runs beside the second billed character of Caitlyn Turner who turned out to be way popular than I thought. Her journey continues in the next Darke coming this September.

Looking toward the wider ‘Darke Series’

In what is hopefully going to define my work as an indie author Darke Blood works as a stand alone but can also be delved deeper into a trilogy which will continue this September but the Open Evening side arc is very important to that. They are tied together and will culminate together.

Have you read Darke Blood? Not many have but those who left reviews, thank you. 

Darke Blood banner with OE and ch

Weekly Writing Inspiration #2

Did somebody say Friday? We made it folks, even though the meaning of days have kind of faded – I’ve been working 2 shifts every six days which has been fu**ing fantastic but still the weekend is nigh… so let us celebrate with some mostly meme related inspiration…

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Truly wise words…

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Truly wiser words….

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When the crap I’m writing is literally propped up by the crap I’ve written…

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It’s never too late.

Never

Too

Late

FB_IMG_1594277838835shameless promo….

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And finally…

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Have a good weekend folks. See ya in the next one!

Weekly Ramble #75

I’m approaching the finish of my current WIP. Ten to fifteen thousand words remain for a trilogy and wider pentalogy that has defined my indie author efforts. This time around there is no urgent rush to finish, I have taken the slower approach, a gradual effort in taking in every sense that I wish the reader to experience. It’ll be done when it’s done (in a months time worst case…)

Marketing and sales is still a constant struggle. Whether or not the whole covid thing weighs on that, it’s still difficult keeping these books afloat in the deep waters of so many other writers trying to do the same. Sales are few and far between albeit better than last year and the year before. I’m in need of a new tactic to move books.

My efforts will soon move to the next release. ‘Darke Awakening’ a cross over that ties Open Evening, Darke Blood and Cemetery House together – the Order of the Following series and that pentalogy I talked about. At the moment I’m either reading, running or writing. It could be worse I suppose…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Ramble #69

From every shit-uation there are positives and good eventual outcomes. People have a lot more time now. The hustle and bustle of life’s busyness has slowed down and even I can feel people are taking their time to do things they didn’t before.

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These are the best sales I’ve ever had outside of Book promo

Book reviews are up. Book sales are up. And social media engagement is up. I’m even writing new stuff. I’ve always tried to justify my place in the arena with both books and a presence and it’s times of struggle like this that people look for reads and people who are carrying on in the face of adversity.

Writers and artists are needed even more so and while the social media socialite types who produce nothing are being starved out of attention, people are looking to genuine content creators and it gets no more genuine than a book or a blog.

We’ll look back on this time as one of invisible pressure and hardship. But take those away and you’ll find it was a period where we all had time to read that book, watch that show or paint that wall. 

All of a sudden this will be over and we’ll be back in the arms of friends, family and even co workers. We’ll forget what it truly means to be isolated and away from groups. We’re a herd species, until recently anyway.  The rat race will resume and it will all be forgotten. Humans have a fickle way of carrying on. Whether it comes from a vaccine or even medication, we’ll beat it, we’re too resilient not to I salute all of those carrying on in the face of this adversity – by carrying on I mean, writing a few words a day, speaking to friends over skype, cooking that meal, staying busy; we’ll get through, we always do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Ramble #66

Solitude is difficult. Even as an introvert myself human interaction with strangers plays a part in my my life. Just seeing other people gives comfort that none of us are alone in this. For a world that is so well connected there’s a deep sense of loneliness in all of this and some are going to struggle. Those who live alone especially so. 

But even if the most dire of situations you’ll find opportunity. There is only one agreement about this rather mystery illness that’s sweeping the world; it’s contagious. What can you do to fight a contagious disease; stay healthy. Use the time given or lent to you for exercise, catching up on sleep and for cooking good healthy food. All three of these register as self care in my eyes and in times where you cannot physically socialise to feel better, find other ways.

This distancing deal might be around for a while to come. Standing in two meter lines at checkouts and only going out every ten days, my grandparents had it worse and I’m not comparing because I know the impact this is all having. The economy is going to fall to shit, jobs are going to get lost but if you have your health, your body will look after you throughout whatever tough times lay ahead trust me.

The world needs you to take care of yourself so do it by any means necessary. 

 

Weekly Ramble #60

The bravest people amongst us are the ones who realise that they need to reach out for help. To seek a solution for whatever problem you face means deep down you care. And self care is so damn important in this life.

It’s okay to not be okay sometimes and admitting that is a victory in it’s own right. The truth is I have the highest regard and respect to those who talk about it in any way, shape or form. It’s alright to express your emotion in whatever way that helps process feeling. By all means cry, laugh, growl, sit in silence or even blog about it; hell I’ve processed stuff by writing whole novels (my poor readers…).   

I can only speak from experience when times have been tough in life and although it may appear you are falling down branch by branch landing between your own legs each time, trust me when I say eventually life does give you a break (from the nut shots).

Some things aren’t forever and this includes the suffering our minds can go through; just think of it as another stage in this journey called life. As much as it’s easier said than done coming from a guy in a ‘good’ place currently, these days we’re all not far from spiraling.

You could feel like that one in one thousand kid roaming the school hallway knowing and feeling that this place isn’t where you fit in; I’ve been there and some day soon that sensation of not belonging, much like school will fade. You’ll find those who are like-minded, that’s a human instinct to find others like yourself and school; it’s a public place, you have to do it for now but not forever.

You could be working a shitty job for a shitty boss just trying day in day out to prove your worth; some folks will never understand or appreciate that worth; by all means work hard and gain experience but not everyone deserves your energy and graft.

Remember that your own mind well being comes first and there are numerous ways to overcome rough patches; take a social media break, binge watch an entire series on Netflix , and personal favourite; keep a diary of how you feel and then look back on those days gone by to see how strong you’ve become. Lean on your friends, those who are true friends will be there when you are in need.

Life has a funny way of getting better eventually and whatever storm your in now, will blow over, trust me, even though I don’t know everything…

Do what you have to do to take care of yourself in this life.

What quote gets you through life?

I shall close with my go to quote from one of my true heroes…

 

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Weekly Ramble #57

Seeing your own writing come to life and put onto a stage in front of an audience is something I am still getting used to. It’s an incredible and rewarding feeling. As writers, bloggers and creators many of us don’t ever get instant applaud for our work. Books can take years to ever gain any type of gratification so most of you can imagine when an audience member approaches me and say’s that I did a good job, it’s probably the pinnacle of being a story teller. And I wont lie, even after the past weekend which now seems a lifetime away; I’m still rather high from it all and perhaps I should be. 

The truth is I am damn proud of the stories I have created but the plays, they are truly special because they are made by the performances and the production. My writing is a mere first step, or even a suggestion of an idea; the rest is in the hands of everyone else. Those performers and everyone else involved should be proud, not only because they have brought a fantastic show into this world but because there aren’t many good  moments in this life to be proud of. Life can be bitter sometimes and it can bite you hard and bring you down. You must find things to be proud of to cast light over the shadows of hardship and that’s up to you. Taking pride in one’s work is probably more important than any other type of praise or reviews; the fact that you did it and it made a difference; a positive difference in your life is all that matters when it comes to story telling.

Be proud, all of you!

The Final Ramble 2019

Life is too short not to care about the future of our environment. Even if the majority of us have adult problems in an adult world those problems will be minuscule compared to what’s coming if we don’t all do something. You can say what you like about Greta; she’s just a kid and what does she really know? That’s an unfair question to ask simply because it puts someone at a disadvantage due to age. I only know what I know because I have lived longer than her and even then it isn’t much. I’ve been through that early twenties phase of thinking I know everything and having an answer for everything. Now when somebody asks me something I think about it first before realising I don’t know. Trust me when I say this; I’ve spent the majority of my life figuring out I don’t know a lot, but the answers, I know where to find them. And what exactly are we going to do about this girl who is just trying to spread a message? Give her a break, put what you think about her and the way she delivers her message aside, but embrace the message that we need to do something about the future of this world.

Life is too short for grudges and hatred. That person you think you ‘hated’ for years upon years is a person also. They feel just like you, inside they might actually be willing to let go like you and I’ll tell you now, hating long term is bad for everyone’s soul. Of course there will be situations where forgiveness may never see the light of day and I understand that too but it’s important to move away from a grudge. Time has a way of moving a lot of water under that bridge we call life.

Life is too short to be unhealthy. This is a serious one for me because over the past few years I’ve had my fair share of ‘health stuff’ to deal with and I still am. This doesn’t just refer to physical health but mental health also. Do what you have to in order to help your own mind – it is our greatest wonder and our greatest feature. The heart comes in at a close second, it’s a muscle so use it, walk, run, yoga, take the stairs, do what you’ve got to do. Eat well but eat healthily and wisely. I’ve taken the majority of meat from my diet in recent times and spent over 100 days of this year alcohol free. The whole meat thing may even help the environment and well no booze equals more smiles trust me.

Life is too short not to help others like you. This year I have read some incredible independently published books. I’ve travelled to different lands and worlds via those words, met many characters who have faced many diverse adversities and I don’t regret reading even one word of it. People have been thankful for my review efforts and I’m only doing what I would want others to do for me.

Be safe, be healthy and have fun this festive season. To paraphrase Doc Brown; ‘your future is what ever you want it to be, so make it a good one…’

To everyone who has ever graced this blog with their eyes and taken in just a few of my words; Thank you. See ya’ll next year! (I might have one last book review before the year is out) 

 

‘The Ghost Beside Me’ Official Cover Reveal!

‘The Ghost Beside Me’ is coming next week and well I should probably share with ya’ll the rather spectacular looking book cover which was literally finished today!

Scroll down to check it out. If you ask me I think it’s incredible and Design For Writers have yet again done an amazing job!

So what is ‘Ghost’ about? Well in a few words, it’s about a lot of things. It’s first and foremost a ghost story and a love story combined. The book is dedicated to the memory of my Grandfather whom when I was quite young told me and my brother a ghost story which I still think to this day is true. With that dedication comes a story inspired by that and an opportunity for me to deliver an important message that the people we have in our live’s may leave but their influence never goes away and they are always with us.

The story is also about overcoming the adversities our own mind can create such as anxiety and loneliness which is such an important thing we must all talk about more. For quite a short book there’s a lot going on and I do hope you will all join me for it’s release hopefully next week! 

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Weekly Ramble #47

Blog Post 301. Not a bad milestone to reach. I originally put this blog together to display my writing prowess and the ironic thing is my 300th post wasn’t really about my writing as such, it was about sharing my book promotional efforts to help other authors. 

Things only really start to move when a writer decides they are no longer an island. I mean I could go on and on about my books but between me and you and it isn’t the most riveting of subjects. It’s self centered to constantly talk about one’s stuff and the only real way we learn in life is by reaching out and listening to the trials or errors of others. My writing does the talking for me and how the reader interprets what I have to say is down to them.

My default philosophy when I have any writing ‘success’ is not to celebrate and wave it like a flag but to think how I am going to share with others how it happened. There is a historic reason why people help each other and it’s not for the recognition or for the spotlight; people help each other because it makes the individual feel good for doing so; I guess this only applies to the honest amongst us.

And when someone is honest they are representing the truth and the truth is something real and when something real it is something you can feel.