So Much To Do, Not Enough Time to Be Too Depressed to Do It

Sometimes, I think I do too much.

My wife would argue this isn’t the case, and she’s probably right, for the most part – in general, in life, I really don’t do much at all. I’m actually pretty freaking lazy most of the time, which is why it feels like there’s always so much to do – I never really get around to any of it.

No … what I really mean is that, in my creative endeavors, I overstretch myself frequently. The common trope of the writer is that they’re always writing – anything except their story. Sad, but true. I always have at least two trains of creative thought going at any given time: writing and music. Within that, my writing is split between fantasy (The Redemption of Erâth), which I haven’t touched in a long time, and young adult novels, one of which I most recently completed earlier this year. Music-wise, there’s always so much going on, including three nu-metal albums to accompany said young adult book, as well as grandiose orchestral suites and metal operas. I want to write a goth rock album, and who knows what else as my musical tastes change and evolve.

The problem is time. As in, there just isn’t enough of it. I started work on The Redemption of Erâth almost ten years ago, with the idea to write a seven-book series; so far only three have seen the light of day. I took time off to write two young adult novels, both of which were extremely challenging in their own right (mentally and emotionally draining), and for the past few months I’ve been working on a metal/orchestral suite of songs that I just completed on Friday. Still, I don’t think ten years ago I thought I’d still be trying to write my fantasy series.

To top it off, I’m not getting any younger. I’m not really old enough to be terribly concerned about my mortality (nor am I famous enough that I worry about leaving unfinished works behind to torment my adoring fans), but it does cross my mind that in almost forty years I’ve failed to make a career out of anything creative, and if I died tomorrow, I really wouldn’t have much of a legacy to leave behind.

The worst part is that, when I do have time to create, I’m often too depressed to be able to focus on it. This affliction that’s lasted my entire adulthood is truly a blessing and a curse – it gives me the inspiration to create dark and gloomy worlds, and at the same time prevents me from actually getting any of it down on paper. I want to write; I want to create music; and I don’t want what I’ve finished so far to be all that I ever make. I just find it so impossibly difficult to actually get any of it done.

If I think back on everything I’ve ever started, I’ve actually done pretty well; three fantasy novels, two young adult stories, three nu-metal albums and two metal symphonies are all under my belt, and I definitely didn’t think I’d have been able to finish any of them when I first started (in fact, my first young adult novel, 22 Scars, dates back to 2005 in its earliest iterations). But there’s still so much more to do.

With that being said, I think that now my second YA book is published, my metal symphony is complete, and I’m not overly concerned about writing more nu-metal, it’s time to return to Erâth. I started working on the fourth book in the series almost two years ago, and so far only have six chapters written. I need to clear my schedule, knuckle down, and get the rest of The Redemption of Erâth finished. And not just the fourth book; the fifth, and the sixth, and the seventh one, too. From here on out, this is what I’m going to try to complete.

After that … well, we’ll see. I don’t have any other raging ideas just at the moment, but I’m sure they’ll come along eventually; they always do.

For now – onward and back into the world of Erâth!

Revisiting The Lord of the Rings

It’s hard to think that The Fellowship of the Ring first came out in theaters nearly nineteen years ago. It’s even harder to think of a world in which these masterpieces of cinema didn’t exist, and nobody knew what they were in for before their first-ever watch. It’s particularly difficult to imagine that Peter Jackson et al had the most immense difficulty getting these films green lit, filmed, produced, and realized, in an era where CGI was only just starting to take hold of blockbusters and our only experience of motion capture was Jar Jar Binks.

I want to revisit these films in light of their imminent release in 4K, as I am (like many fans the world over) simply dying to see scenes such as wandering the halls of Moria, or the battle of the Pelanor Fields, in even higher quality than ever before. I’m even more excited for the news that remastered editions are coming next year, but 4K will have to do for now.

Like the best of cinema, The Lord of the Rings trilogy is an epic visual feast, from the bright and colorful renditions of the Shire to the overwhelming sight of ten thousand soldiers on horseback running down an even greater number of orcs, and every scene and shot is filled with visual magic – both practical and CGI.

Given that we’re discussing these films in the context of their technological improvement (upscaling, re-rendering, etc.), it’s worth noting that the timing of these films was perhaps a key to their visual success: the burgeoning rise of computer-assisted imagery was vital to Peter Jackson’s vision, yet an enormous number of shots were achieved through much simpler – and much cleverer – practical effects. When comparing these films to later blockbusters – including The Hobbit prequels – it really is the seamless blend of practical and digital effects that allowed this movie to achieve the visual successes that it did. When we see great panning shots around the stone city of Minas Tirith, or witness the breaking of the dam above Isengard, we’re actually watching 100% practical shots, achieved with excessively large miniatures (‘bigatures’, as Jackson’s team would come to call them), enhanced only by the subtle CGI addition of things such as people wandering the streets, or orcs being thrown into cascading rivers.

At the time, audiences were used to CGI being used for very obvious, impossible to visualize effects; think the liquid metal of Terminator 2, or the tracking shot of the bug in the opening to Men In Black. Most other blockbusters of the time – even huge visual-effects-laden hits such as Independence Day – relied primarily on practical effects, sometimes superimposing multiple practical shots with green screen. It was much less common – and at times disastrously obvious – when CGI was used to render entire landscapes, create inhuman characters, or add dazzle to otherwise normal shots.

This means that Jackson was, at the time, at a crossroads of technology; anything was possible with CGI, but it still wasn’t alway the best choice. To create creatures such as Gollum – which, as opposed to Jar Jar Binks, was necessitated by the original source material – Jackson had no choice but to rely on motion capture and an army of digital artists to create his vision. But to create many of the epic landscapes and cities, he relied on something much simpler: the majestic and wildly varied countryside of his native New Zealand. So much of the grandiosity of The Lord of the Rings comes not from CGI, but from the real-life locations in which he chose to film. When we watch Gandalf, on the back of an eagle, soaring high over snow-drenched peaks, we’re watching a small blip of CGI against a completely real world.

In some ways, these are the scenes I’m most looking forward to seeing in 4K: not the crazy, CGI-laden battles of ghosts and oliphants, but the sweeping, majestic landscapes that deserve to be seen in the highest possible quality.

Of course, style is nothing without substance, and whilst there are small moments that detract from the overall interpretation of Tolkien’s original vision (I’m looking at you, Legolas-surfing-down-a-staircase-on-a-shield), the faithfulness of the adaptation, and the clear love Jackson had for the source material, make for one of the most thrilling, and emotional, stories to be put to film. When The Lord of the Rings first came out, many people were concerned at its runtime, and what seemed to be incredibly slow pacing. And arguably, they are a long, slow set of movies; it’s nearly forty minutes into the film before we even leave the Shire, and there’s still half an hour of film to go after the destruction of the One Ring. But this pacing reflects the detail of the film, which in turn reflects the detail of the world-building that Tolkien put so much effort into.

Die-hard purists will complain that the reluctant king trope Aragorn plays in the films is contrary to the original story, or bemoan the loss of Tom Bombadil in the opening chapters, but the other thing Jackson had an uncanny knack for (which he has yet to replicate to such a degree) was knowing what worked well, and what wouldn’t work well, when translated to film. As slow as the films are, they are a masterpiece nonetheless in tension, character- and world-building, and even in the extended editions, nothing is present without reason. Sure, Aragorn doesn’t set out from Rivendell with Andúril in hand, knowing he is to be crowned king, as he does in the books, but this would have worked against the audience’s empathy for him had Jackson stuck hardcore to the text. Modern audiences expect character arcs, and arguably Tolkien was less a master of character-building than he was world-building.

Even when Sam (albeit temporarily) abandons Frodo in the passages above Cirith Ungol (a thing that never happens in the books), it works to the emotional tension of the film, serving as a breaking point, and moment of darkness before moving into the final climax of the film. These changes, I would argue, are for the better – at least in the telling of the story cinematically – and these three movies remain to this day my favorite works of art ever committed to film.

I can’t wait to see them in 4K, and when the remastered versions come out next year, I’ll be first in line!

What are your favorite moments from The Lord of the Rings trilogy? Do they stand the test of time, visually and content-wise? Let me know!

The Redemption of Erâth: Win Free Books!

So it begins – the third volume of The Redemption of Erâth is now officially available for sale on Kindle, Apple Books and in print, and I’ll be hosting a week-long launch party over at my Facebook page! I can’t wait to see you there, where we’ll be discussing fantasy, fiction, literature and more.

To begin with, I want to announce that I’ll be hosting giveaways all week long, but most importantly, you can win a free copy of all the Redemption of Erâth books to date in print – just by participating! Everyone who takes part in the Facebook launch event, whether by commenting, posting, sharing or otherwise, will be entered to win a free print edition of all four books – ConsolationExileAncients & Death and History of Erâth!

So head over to Facebook now, drop me a line, and let’s get started!