Welcome to the Heroes and Villains blog hop. To enter the draw for a free digital copy of my epic fantasy novel, The Best Weapon, please follow me on Twitter (@Bo1_tan) or if you’re not on Twitter or already follow me on Twitter, just follow this blog. Please also leave a comment below saying you want to enter so I don’t miss anyone out. This blog hop runs until 23:59 GMT on Monday 6 May, on Tuesday night I will post the names of two lucky winners here.
Don’t forget to check out the links at the bottom of this blog post and tour the other participating speculative fiction, sci-fi, fantasy and historical fiction writers and their blogs. All these talented authors are giving away freebies so don’t forget, the more blogs you follow and comment on the better chance you have of winning prizes.
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My thoughts on Heroes and Villains and how this has affected my writing, and indeed how writing has affected my thoughts on heroes and villains.
Heroes and Villains. This can be a contentious subject. Life is full of heroes and villains. You see them in the street every day. You see them on the news, in the media, running governments, evening singing shit songs badly on crap talent shows (and judging said singers). Opinion is nearly always divided. Someone I might see as a hero or heroine, you might see as a villain. Apart from in extreme cases, it is usually subjective. One might say there is a fine line.
When I was still an eighteen month old baby my brother Tony was around twenty one (I can’t even remember his exact age, but it doesn’t seem important any more). He rented a caravan down in Cornwall not far from where I lived with my parents. Sadly the owner of the caravan had installed a gas fire and neglected to ensure there was proper ventilation. Tony went to sleep and never woke up.
I learned about Tony as I grew older and felt aggrieved that I was too young to remember him living and breathing. My mum is still angry about it. When I was thirteen my brother Paul was killed by a policeman in Ohio. I won’t go into the details, but needless to say the man who did it was a villain in my mind, even though I never met him and doubt I ever will. Yet this was a man I held responsible for all the stupid and downright wrong things I did for years after. My own anger and hatred ate me up and a lot of things and people got broken in the process. One day I realised I hated myself more than anything or anyone. At times I think I was a villain in the truest sense of the word. I wonder what my dead brothers would think of that.
The heroes in my life have been the people who have forgiven me for the things I’ve done. People who have have been through more pain and grief than I could shake a shitty stick at and still maintained a quiet dignity. Sometimes I think the heroes are just the people who live their lives and manage not to make complete c*unts of themselves, which firmly rules me out. Some people say everything happens for a reason. I’m not saying I believe that necessarily but having found myself in a very dark place struggling to find some light within me, and eventually found it, I think I now find it easier to see it in others. Every cloud.
So, how does all this affect how I write? I’ve learned that there is rarely a human being who can be all bad or all good. Everyone harbours some bad feelings – jealousy, greed, selfishness, anger – and everyone does bad things sometimes. I can’t think of many people I have met who didn’t, deep down, just want to do the right thing – it just isn’t always easy to see what the right thing is. Sometimes I think the truth is in life you’re lucky if you get the chance to do anything heroic, and when you do it nearly always passes you by before you can do anything about it.
Frankly, my opinion changes depending on my mood. Mostly, I don’t think there is any such thing as a hero or a villain. The world is just full of people. I’ve seen people do some terrible things, people I had grown up with and seen them raised and treated like dogs – worse than dogs. I never saw them as villains, I saw them as people with so much turmoil inside them that they just lashed out. It is easy to judge someone until you put yourself in their position, live their life and you might form a different opinion. It is not my place to judge anybody.
When I wrote the character called Naiyar, the young Djanki in The Best Weapon, I based him on myself. Naiyar discovers he is half demon and realises he has powers beyond his belief. He has to learn to control those powers while his family are murdered, his world is turned upside down and everything he believes crumbles away before his very eyes. He has to take control of his destiny and do the right thing. Naiyar feels lost, isolated, alone, angry, but with the help of a friend he is able to master his situation and his powers, as I mastered my hatred and rage. I remember how powerless I felt myself – powerless to control my anger, powerless to see past my own feeling that I was somehow the victim. Naiyar is one of the two main protagonists in the book, but I don’t think he is a hero, he is just a person caught up in life’s inexorable ebb and flow, doing his best to keep his head above the surface. Like Naiyar, I’ll never be a hero, but I’m not a villain either, I’m just a person. Maybe when you read about Naiyar, you will get an insight into my own psyche, and maybe you will discover you have felt the same way.
Being creative has always been my anger management. One thing I didn’t expect was that writing about a character like Naiyar actually taught me a lot about myself. It was as though empathising with him was therapy for my own state of mind, it brought up a lot of deeply buried feelings and he even has some similar dreams. Apart from my own life experiences, I think creating and writing about people makes you try harder to see why they do things and how they really feel, and that has helped me grow as a person.
When I create a new character I start with myself, because I know how a villain feels and I at least aspire to be a hero (although the paparazzi would probably get a bit much, I already have to contend with the bears – always watching, waiting, waiting for the right moment). A character, even in a fantasy novel, must be based on real life to be believable, and no-one is black and white – there is an interesting and unique grey area inside everybody (though it isn’t grey, it is vivid and multi-coloured).
So next time you look in the mirror, ask yourself – am I a hero or a villain?
Heroes & Villains taking part are:
#1 Nyki Blatchley
#2 Adrian Chamberlin
#3 Mike Cooley
#4 Karin Cox
#5 Joanne Hall
#6 Jolea M Harrison
#7 Tinney Sue Heath
#8 Eleni Konstanine
#9 K. Scott Lewis
#10 Paula Lofting
#11 Liz Long
#12 Peter Lukes
#13 Mark McClelland
#14 M.Edward McNally
#15 Sue Millard
#16 Rhiannon Douglas
#17 Ginger Myrick
#18 David Pilling
#19 Kim Rendfeld
#20 T L Smith
#21 Tara West
#22 Keith Yatsuhashi
And to see you out, here is a short story you can also see at the 900 Club.
The Beam of Light
My earliest memory is of my grandfather’s craggy face, illuminated by flames. His deep set eyes twinkling as he gazed at me across the fire. His expression gave nothing away, the only clue to his thoughts lay hidden in the darkness beneath his brow. That visage reminded me of a cliff face; stark and uncompromising, changed only by the fullness of time and the relentless song of the wind.
I can hear his words now as though we were still sat in his hut, either side of that fire.
“Boy,” he said, “you know the customs of our people because you have been taught them every day since you were able to sit upright. And you know that you can only be named once you have killed, that is how you earn the right to exist. You are but a shell until you take the soul of another and claim it for yourself. Your father must name you for your acts of courage. I named your father Redmist, because when he beheaded his first enemy he did so with such ferocity that his victim’s blood sprayed into a fine mist before it fell into the mud. Do you know why I summoned you, boy?”
Of course, I didn’t know why I was there. I was seven harvests old and my grandfather terrified me. I stared silently across the dancing flames and slowly shook my head as he drew from his pipe, never taking is black eyes from mine.
“You should also know,” he continued, “that if your father should die before you have killed, his soul is yours and you become him, and your name will be his name.” He paused again to smoke his pipe.
“Your name,” he said as he let out a thick cloud smoke into the flames, momentarily obscuring his face, “is Redmist.”
That is how I learned of my father’s death, and of my own doom.
There is a beam of light shining through the tiny window, far above me in the slimy stone wall of my dungeon. It is the last light I will see in this world. It seems fitting that, as I gaze at it, I am reminded of the my earliest memory. They say that when you die, your life flashes before your eyes. Perhaps that is the way if your death is quick, but during the past months as I lay in the darkness, mine has trudged past me painfully slowly on a daily basis. But I always end up staring at that beam of light and remembering my grandfather’s words.
“You must now become everything your father was,” my grandfather’s face remained impassive, “because you will be judged against his achievements. You are young now, and you may not fully understand, but you must live up to the memory of your father or be cast out. In the eyes of your people you are Redmist, the same man, and if you fail to emulate him, you will be regarded as an imposter, an abomination, a walking corpse. Do you understand?”
I did not understand, but I nodded anyway.
The beam of light moves each day. It journeys from one side of my dungeon to the other, even as my life runs through my mind. So, each bloody and barbaric event in my life time has its own spot on the dungeon floor. Every act of rage and violence I have perpetrated is marked by some stain on the stone or a rat carcass or a finger bone, each with its own harrowing story. And every day it starts and ends with my grandfather before the fire.
“You must live your life without remorse, without pity, and never show weakness. Every moment of your life will be hard, and every choice you make is etched forever in the annals of time, and burned into the memory of your people. In the end you will not be judged by your actions but by your conviction. The world is full of fools who are certain about every mistake they make, and geniuses who could have the world in the palms of their hands if they were only cruel and ruthless enough to take it. Let other men doubt your decisions, let them deliberate over right and wrong. Yours is to lead, and they will follow a certain fool over a reluctant genius. Are you paying attention, boy?”
I nodded again, my wide, watery eyes not daring to look away.
“Every decision you make will mean life for some and death for others. And every fleeting moment in life is gone in the blink of an eye, never to be retrieved. So live your life in each and every moment and never look back. Never doubt what you have done or will do. Die as a man, die as Redmist, with no regrets. Now go.”
So I lie here, physically broken, watching the beam of light and reliving my life each day. I see the faces of the people I killed. Men, women and children. I see the villages I burned, the people I enslaved and disfigured. I see the babies I blinded so that they would become oracles and tell me the future. I see all this as I await the moment when I pass from this life to the next.
I will die as a man, as Redmist, with no regrets.