A thump, a crash and four dragons of books land at my front door
So, has it been worth it?
Well, difficult to tell at this stage to be honest. I have to admit that having printed versions of Dirt arrive certainly feels important, even if I have had to buy them myself, but it is hard to say whether that actually justifies the year I have spent willing them into existence.
Dirt is one of those books (a lot of books actually) that is probably a completely stupid thing for a writer to undertake. It is huge, takes a vast amount of planning and management to keep under control and possibly breaks a few rules.
When I started writing the first book, I began with a character, Johnson Farthing, who is as poor as you can get. He and his sister live in a broken down slum of an apartment on a ridge overlooking a dirty (appropriately), busy, trading port called Wead-Wodder, on the huge, unruly Prelates Sea.
Wead-Wodder is in Redust, which is a Prelatehood. It is run by a religious leader, called a Prelate and is part of a continent of Prelatehoods called, The Prelates.
Prelatehoods are, basically, countries. There is no federal government and each Prelatehood stands on its own, but all of them are run along similar principles and their laws are underpinned by religious doctrine. Some of the Prelatehoods are very liberal, like Reddust, where Wead-Wodder is. This is mostly because trade is very important, the Prelate is greedy, and does not want to frighten trade away. Some others, however, are very conservative, taxing their citizens with oppressive doctrine as much as with coin.
But in the end, religious or not, these are basically kingdoms, autocracies, and the Prelate rules all.
So, having established where my character lived and the fact that he is deathly poor, what do I do with him?
In High Fantasy, there tends to be a running theme, a rule if you will - if you have a bad king/queen running a country, you need to find a hero who will depose them and become a GOOD king/queen.
So, let me get this straight - we in our western democracies are addicted to stories where the heroes become autocrats?
Well, I decided that was not what I wanted, so the tale I have written is not a fight to become the good king, it is fight for freedom.
"Freedom is the most powerful weapon in the world if enough people hold onto it at the same time." So says Weasel, my magician. Which is the point where I go and break rule number two.
Magicians are idiosyncratic, wise old men who carry huge staffs or interesting wands, and can blast holes into mountains and raise the dead, etc.
Not mine, they don't. Yes, they are very old, though they can be male or female, and they certainly have unique personalities, but, as Weasel says, "my skill, feels very natural. It does not feel mystical or that it breaks any rule of nature. To me it feels a lot more real and logical than the beliefs in gods, which I have never subscribed to. It is not fantastical in anyway. Mostly, it is not even very useful. I might be able to slow down someone’s urgent need for air so they can fly high on a dragon, but when they get hungry, I can only solve that by cooking them something to eat. I can’t click my fingers and magic up a four course meal complete with servants and silver cutlery."
So, my magicians, the very few I have, are not thundering power-houses. They are clever, subtle, and complete pains mostly.
Better break another rule. Dragons. My dragons are big; some of them are very, very big. They are intelligent and talk. So far, so pretty much predictable.
They don't blow fire. Oh. And they don't like damp caves. Double Oh. In fact, being intelligent, cultured, people, they like what other people like - friends, a home, community and roast dinners.
Are my dragons silly then? Well they can be. They can be loud, sarcastic, jovial, playful and idiotic. But they will also grieve, get angry at injustices, feel loss and loneliness and be broken hearted.
So, that is Dirt. It is big, it is complex, it is full of humour and tears, war and hope. It is big enough that I decided that I needed to create a website with a built in encyclopaedia.
More importantly, perhaps, it is out now.
Get Dirt, book 1, series 1, for only 99c/99p
Meanwhile, I am partway through series two....