Category Archives: Reflections

Why Did I Want to Write This Book?

No update on the publication process. I’m still looking for an agent. Who knows how long that will take. So, I was thinking: while I wait, I’m going to keep blogging. But I asked myself, what should I blog about? Then I realized that I have not really discussed the reasons why I want to write and to publish.

As I have mentioned before, I have always been an artist—a creative thinker, a storyteller. But once I graduated high school, my creative expression took a turn. I no longer wanted to write a story that simply dove into a fantastical universe; I wanted to write a story with some deeper purpose—a story that had something to say, something to teach. Altogether, my purpose in writing is not only to tell a story but also to reflect upon such ideas as what it means to be human and what does it mean to have a relationship with God.

For the last decade, much of my life was devoted to what some would call a “spiritual journey.” I was raised in a Christian household, went to a Christian high school, and attended church. I was passionate about defending what I believed to be the truth—I loved getting into arguments with people. However, I entered into a crisis of belief when the people I started arguing against were other Christians. Growing up, I had thought that all Christians believed the same things, as far as doctrine is concerned. I came to learn that there have instead been many differences and disputes in the church. This pushed me to not only identify but also argue for what I considered to be correct doctrine. Long story short, this pursuit led me to more and more questions, and the beliefs that I grew up steadily began to deteriorate. I started to study religions and mythology of the world. I then turned to the psychology behind belief. I increasingly considered spiritual truth to be more subjective. In fact, I more or less stopped believing that there was some kind of clear, objective truth that we humans could understand, let alone have a relationship with.

Perhaps it was my fear of leaving the familiar that kept me associated with Christianity. Aside from that, I do know that my appreciation and respect for the Christian lifestyle kept me from abandoning Christianity altogether. Even if I could not be certain about what I should believe in doctrinally speaking, I did believe in the importance of a holistically healthy lifestyle. Some close Christian friendships at the time also inspired me to keep giving Christianity a chance, to learn more about what made Christianity what it was. Thus, recognizing my limited knowledge on theology and church history, I went to seminary to work on a masters degree in theology.

The experience at seminary did answer a number of burning questions that I had, but it also opened the doors to many more questions. However, at that point in my life, the pursuit of truth was less of a stressor like it had been before, and I began to enjoy exploring the mystery—it is a beautiful activity. I still continue to seek out authentic belief, but I am more at peace with the fact that there is so much that I will never understand. Do I consider myself Christian? Yes. Am I traditional? No. In a future blog, I will explain what I do believe.

Anyway, as I went through this journey, I expressed my feelings and ideas through writing fiction. The characters and worlds I developed reflected my own inner conflict. The world of The Nether Breed was solidified when I was studying mythology and depth psychology, but I personally needed to go to a dark place and emerge with a sense of peace before I could create genuine, relatable characters. Ultimately, The Nether Breed Saga is a story of my own journey as well as a discourse on what I came to learn and understand about life, about being human, and about spiritual truth.

A huge theme of The Nether Breed Saga is the journey of the human being from a state of ignorance to a state of harmony. We can learn much through storytelling, for stories take potentially very abstract ideas and make them relatable through human experiences. For example, it is difficult to define what love is with mere words, but we can understand it as it emerges in the relationship between characters. Throughout the book, I utilize a number of personally meaningful archetypal symbols that represent to me the journey that we as humans may take throughout our lives. These symbols include the human body, the dichotomy of male and female, snakes, trees, water, fire, and more.

Having this in mind, I have decided that, as I continue to look for an agent, I will start blogging about this symbolism and what it can teach us. Through the blog, I will tell a story and analyze it too. I will tell an alternative story of Adam and Eve (who will represent human beings in general) and the suffering they went through after leaving the Garden of Eden. Through this, I will explain what I have come to understand about being human. Aside from this, I will discuss a number of philosophical issues that may naturally arise as part of this exploration. Perhaps this series of blogs will help you as the reader to answer some hard questions and understand difficult concepts about existence, living, and even God.

My plan is to write at least one post each week, so keep an eye out!

Manuscript done! Now the hard part…

Hello friends! It has been a couple months since I have posted anything. I have been working hard to finish the editing and, as of today, have finally begun to query agents! Big step! This will probably be the hardest stage in the whole writing/publishing process. Sure, writing the thing took a few years; editing took about half a year. But as tedious as editing was, writing a synopsis and query letter (which took two days) was the most difficult thing I have done in a long time. How do you condense an epic tome into two pages? Rough.

All that being said, it is definitely a relief to be moving on to the next step. What makes it a hard stage, though, is that I have to send out many queries and wait weeks possibly before getting a response—if I even do get a response. This is the stage where the work is leaving my hands. Hopefully, as it flies, someone will grab onto it, and, I imagine, the process will get easier. I could be wrong.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you all know that the manuscript is done, and I am now in the process of seeking publication. Thank you all for your support and encouragement!

What is a Satyr really?

The Satyr is an important mythological creature in my book, but it is likely that my depiction of them might be unfamiliar to the reader. When one hears the word “Satyr” nowadays, one usually thinks of a half-man, half-goat creature of Greek mythological origin. However, little do most people know, that image is a Roman invention—what the Romans, generally speaking, called a Faun. As it happens with many ancient Greek myths, stories are borrowed and renewed with new Roman color, and, often, the ancient Greek versions are forgotten. What we have inherited, when we look at a modern portrayal of Greek mythology, is a combination of Greek and Roman tales. Such has happened with the Satyr. Certainly, there were creatures in ancient Greek myth and art that resemble half-men, half-goats, but these are either depictions of the rustic god Pan or one of Pan’s offspring, usually referred to as “Panes.” The Romans would have taken these images alongside of what was said of Satyrs to develop the new understanding of the Satyr. But what was the Satyr originally?

In ancient Greek art, the Satyr does not look anything like a half-man, half-goat. Rather, he looks like a man with either a horse’s or ass’s ears, a small, pug nose, and a horse’s tail. Basically, rather than looking at a half-man, half-goat creature, we are looking at a half-man, half-horse creature. However, the Satyr is not to be confused with the Centaur which is the creature with the head and torso of a man placed onto the body of a horse. That being said, some research has shown that the Satyr and the Centaur may have had a common origin. As time passed, they began developing their own unique features (as seen in art)—the Centaur retained most of the horse features whereas the Satyr appears to be more human with diminished horse characteristics. Altogether, the Centaur/Satyr was a frightening wild man who raided and pillaged human settlements. Eventually, the Centaurs and Satyrs became treated as distinct creatures. The Satyrs became more strongly associated with the god Dionysos, being his drunk, lecherous traveling companions or else fertility gods.

The Satyrs in my book are very much inspired by the ancient Greek vision, but I have also made them into something of my own. I do describe the Satyrs, for the most part, as they appear in ancient art. However, I am less specific on the details of the ears and nose, for I say that the ears are pointed and the nose is misshapen, resembling some kind of animal’s. Otherwise, they are completely human in form, if not hairier, with the addition of pointed teeth and a horse’s tail. They also bear the barbaric characteristics of the Centaurs as well as the debauchery of Dionysos’s troop. They are powerful, savage, and usually fearless warriors with a mind to seize, ravage, and destroy. Like their ancient counterparts, they are symbolic of the untamed wild, or the untamed human for that matter—everything that makes the wilderness terrifying to people. More specifically, in my book, they are symbolic of everything I don’t like about men and “male nature.” There is also a part of Satyr lore that suggests they are jealous of normal humans because of their “perfection.” Much of the Satyrs’ rage stems from this envy but it also makes them more and more into animals. I can also note that, just as images of Satyrs and Fauns contributed to the medieval imagining of the devil and demons, I do play on the relationship between the Satyrs and their perceived association with the demonic. I say “perceived,” because it is how other people view the Satyrs, not what the Satyrs actually are. While, for the most part, the Satyrs are treated as sinister beings, I also move to draw out some sympathy for them. Maybe the reader may feel some compassion for their state of being.

Almost Done!!!

I haven’t posted anything in a while. That’s because I have been spending most of my free time editing. Now, I am pleased to say that I have finished the book. After taking into account what my beta readers have told me, as well as reading through the 181000 word manuscript several times, I am satisfied with what I have produced. The book is now in the hands of my editor, and I will make the finishing touches as she instructs. After that, hopefully by the beginning of 2017, I will be starting the publishing process—however long that may take.

Up to this point in my life, I have written many early drafts of different stories. However, this is the first time that I have gone through the editing process, so it was a new experience for me. At points, it was fun coming up with more creative and effective ways of communicating an image or idea. Most of the time, though, I found editing to be tedious. Besides tweaking seemingly minute details, it was exhausting reading the book over and over again, making sure everything was consistent. The story is one that unveils key information in stages, leaving the reader to wonder at the truth of a given situation as much as a character would. Because of that, I had to make sure that I didn’t say anything out of order or say too much early on or leave a question unanswered. That was probably the hardest part. But now it is done, and I am ready to move forward!

While there is still much to do before my book may appear on shelves, at least I can say that I am happy with what I have accomplished. I spent three years writing and revising this book, after having spent two more years developing the story and the world, and that is still excluding the decade of even coming up with a story I was devoted to. I am both anxious and excited about what could happen next. In the meantime, I will probably work on some specific illustrations for the book, and I look forward to putting more energy into the sequel (which is mostly written) and outlining the subsequent books!

Developing the World

Creating a fantastical universe is a multi-faceted endeavor. In all honesty, it has probably been one of the harder aspects of the creative process for me. In the past, when putting together a story, I would spend more time making maps or designing armor and weapons than I would writing anything. A problem that emerged from building the world first was that the characters had to be fit into it and the plotline had to accommodate the geography that already existed. This became frustrating when it came to characters needing to cross a mountain range or a river or a number of other obstacles to get from point A to point B on the map. Certainly, I adapted many maps, but I found it more tedious than fun.

When I began to work on The Nether Breed, I took a different approach. Rather than create a world and put my characters in it, I started with the characters and the plot and then formed the world around them. This allowed the world to develop organically. As I thought about the direction of the entire saga of seven books, I drew up a tentative map. I is certainly not a final product, but it does help me to visualize where all the different people groups that would show up were located. You can view this map by clicking on The World of Yddra.

Like the map, everything that had to do with the world and setting were developed by necessity. I would inquire of the characters that the started the whole thing: why do they do what they do? What motivates them? Is it personal, or is there an environmental influence? If the latter, what culture do they belong to? What is that culture—that people all about? Where did they come from? Why are they at war? What do they believe about life? How does this belief influence the character(s)? In trying to answer these questions, I was able to imagine people groups and their distinct cultures and histories. Naturally, I borrowed from real history and real people groups, but I mixed them together to create something new. In doing so, I also had to think of what earthly time period I could compare my world to—not to mention people ask this kind of thing. I would answer, generally speaking, the Dark Ages of Europe, roughly the 11th century to be more specific. But I would not at all be limited to that as I have also pulled influences from time periods like the Roman Empire and places like Central and Eastern Asia (Siberia and Mongolia). For example, the Borayns appear like Normans and behave like Teutonic Knights. The Kaidans could be considered a blend of Celtic and Mongolian peoples. Learn more about these peoples by visiting The People of Yddra.

The most interesting part of creating the world, however, has been the figuring out each peoples’ and even each characters’ philosophical and religious worldviews. As I have a background in religious studies and theology, it is only natural that so much of the plotline would be centered on this facet. Moreover, the theme of the saga—“the reconciliation of opposites and the rediscovery of beauty and harmony”—has obvious spiritual overtones. So much of The Nether Breed’s original storyline surrounded a disagreement involving belief. I sought to expand on that, once again drawing from philosophies that already exist: Neoplatonism, Mysticism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, Vedanta, Buddhism, Taoism, and Pauline thought, to name a few of the more ancient ones. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I have also been inspired by a variety of myth systems like Greek, Hebrew, Norse, and Indian. As one reads The Nether Breed, one may be able to pick out various nods to myths and legends, as most of the characters and places are named for some ancient figure. Also, one might be able to pick out the references to different religious and secular philosophies. Some are more explicit while others are brought up in passing within dialogue. In the near future, I intend to post more reflections on the influence of religion and philosophy on my writing as definitely is pivotal to more fully understanding the world that I have created.

Illustrating a Story

Even as a child, my imagination was always flowing with new ideas, new worlds, and new stories. Because I had not yet developed the ability to express myself in writing, I did as much as I could to share what I imagined in art—namely pencil drawings. I was especially fond of drawing fantastical creatures and different people groups, each with their own cultural flair. I would draw major characters over and over again in order to better understand their appearance, their posture, and their mannerisms. When I began to put my ideas into writing, this practice of exploring the imaginary world through art did not stop.

Anytime that I came up with a fresh concept, I would begin by drawing many pictures first. It was my way of deciding if characters were worth exploring or not. More often, I would do a couple sketches and lose interest in the character. That was a sign to move on. Every now and then I would flip through old sketch books and find those abandoned concepts, chuckling to myself as I remembered the short-lived ideas. I have found pictures of a mad scientist looking for monsters, a warrior of light fighting a warrior of darkness, a brother and sister out for revenge, a trio of magic-wielding assassins, and a werewolf. Granted, many of the characteristics of those heroes did influence later developments, some of which transformed into the characters of The Nether Breed.

However, for concepts that did fascinate me, there was no shortage of illustrations. Before I would even have a story flushed out, I would constantly play around with ideas in pictures. When I began to work on what I would called The Nether Breed, I had more fun than ever. The process of inventing the world of The Nether Breed started with reflections on certain symbols. An underlying theme of the saga is the reconciliation of opposites and the creation or restoration of harmony and beauty. What better way to show the tension of opposites than by portraying a man and woman at war with each other? Thus, the earliest sketches unveiled two characters who I can definitely say are my most favorite ever. I was intrigued by their conflict, and it drove me to ask why it happened and how it would be resolved. The plot of The Nether Breed unfolded in an effort to answer these questions, and, meanwhile, I kept on drawing them. Moreover, because part of the theme deals with the rediscovery of beauty, I decided to include an extra venture in the illustration process. Throughout history, the beauty of the human body has been explored through art. To continue the tradition, I made an effort to improve my own understanding of the human figure. Therefore, most of my earliest illustrations for this endeavor portrayed the characters as nude or partially clothed. Certainly, my desire to illustrate my ideas has come with a desire to advance my own abilities as an artist. Because of this, I am sure to study different aspects of the human face and figure every time I begin a new series of drawings.

Illustrating those two characters—the man and the woman in conflict—of course led to the development of many more characters. Since I care to improve my technique, I began using more source material than I used to. Part of creating a new character involved thinking of not only their appearance, but their expressions and mannerisms. To help me with this, I considered a number of different actors and actresses who had a particular feature or expression that I liked—whether it be facial structure, eyes, nose, hair, etc. I would use the portrait of the celebrity as a model, draw it, and tweak it in a way that made the character distinct from the actor or actress. Nonetheless, funny enough, some people have been able to figure out which celebrity’s face inspired a character’s appearance.

Art has always been a personal pastime for me. Until now, only people who knew me well knew about my passion. I never liked to advertise my ability, lest people start making requests. At one point, I was an art major, but I decided that I would not like to do art as a career. To me, art is a creative outlet; it cannot be an obligation, and I will not try to do art unless my imagination demands it. All that being said, it is my pleasure to share what I have accomplished. Take a look at some featured drawings that go back as far as 2010 by clicking here!

Imagining a Scene

In my previous reflection, How I Came Up With a Story, I said that I started telling stories from an early age, sharing them through art. But how did I come up with these stories? How did I imagine the scene that I would put on paper? Answer: music—namely instrumental music. My father used to collect a variety of cassette tapes (remember those?) and CDs (how about those?) and would play certain ones for me to fall asleep to. He eventually learned that I was not falling asleep at all. Rather, certain pieces evoked strong imagery, and I let these images flood my creative mind. Pieces like Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring were written to capture a scene, so it makes sense that the music would create images in my head, as if I was watching a film. The earliest stories were completely dictated by the pace of the music. In retrospect, there wasn’t any fluid plotline, but the characters that the music inspired were indeed fascinating. It is hard to explain how it happened; certain tracks would make me think of a battle. Others would make me think of the characters traveling. There was something organic about it that I would not recognize until I was more purposeful in my writing.

When I was determined to write down a story, music was still a huge influence. But, instead of listening to an entire piece, I would select specific tracks that were particularly effective. By my high school years, movie soundtracks were becoming more epic (Howard Shore’s work with The Lord of the Rings score for instance). I would spend hours listening to tracks of various soundtracks over and over again until a scene was fully formed in my mind. As I think back, though, the problem that I ran into was that the music would help to create only scenes, not whole stories. I became so attached to how I imagined a scene because of the music that it was hard to change something that did not fit or was inconsistent.

The Nether Breed, however, was constructed differently. I developed the story independent of music, but, when it came to developing a scene in more detail, I would search for music that would help to inspire the mood and tone. There were times were I probably listened to the same track a hundred times as I was writing. Sometimes, if I wasn’t already playing it on a loop, I would automatically restart the track without realizing that I had done so. The music put me in a zone that was indeed hard to break. My sister once told me that I listened to music too loud in my earphones, but I like to do that because it drowns out all other sounds around me, so that the only thing that exists is the creative space. As I said above, the music helps to create enough images that I might as well be watching a movie in my head. Because of it, I am able to write some scenes that readers have commented are so detailed that they can picture what is happening too—as if it were a film.