About Owen Elgie

I'm an author who likes to explore strange ideas. The world is a very strange place filled with very strange ideas. Maybe make believe is the only way out?

BIG THEN SMALL

There’s lots going on in the world at the moment.

Horrors in New Zealand and Holland force themselves to the front of the worlds consciousness while Brexit and the surrounding nonsense of that shambles stodgily lumbers onwards, spewing filth all over Europe, and not forgetting the circus taking place in government in the USA.

It’s easy to think that the world is spinning out of control with huge forces crashing into each other but maybe we should, rather than see nothing but terror, remember that we all have some good things taking place.

I see the conflict in the world, the discord and anger, but seeing that and only that can cause more problems because of the one sided nature of the news, and mean that we end up having our own view dragged to the same levels. Indeed, it could be argued that the nature of the headlines and stories in so very much of the UK press over the last forty years is directly responsible for the Brexit situation as the public are treated to the slanted stories which make the EU the enemy.

Regardless of the world at large, I bring things down to a smaller point and there’s a huge balance to offer a some light in the dark.

I’m an uncle again.

My sister and her hubby welcomed baby number two last week. Ryan Thomas John Kennedy weighed 8lb 3oz and is awesome. He farted on me when I first met him and today he had a little sleep on my chest.

No matter what’s going on, no matter the darkness attacking us all, good news is out there somewhere, just don’t forget to look for it.

 

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THEY’RE COMING BACK

It’s been a while, I know, but the wait is almost over.

I’ve been working hard on the next book in ‘The Circle’ series, having rediscovered my creative mojo, and I’m very nearly finished.

My Dragons are preparing to take flight again very soon so everyone watch this space.

The third book in the series, ‘The Circle of Stars’,  is close to completion.

Are you ready to dive back in?

In for a penny ………………………

HOPE

Last week I wrote about how differences could split apart peoples and really we’re all the same deep, deep down. This week I want to keep a grip on the same point and deal with it in another way.

On the news, in the papers, on the internet and in almost every possible instance, we’re being bombarded with the call to be suspicious of our neighbours, to be isolationist or to be powered by an ‘us and them’ ideology.  There are battles to be fought all over the place from armies marching forward to the smaller scale of not letting a car cut into the traffic in front of us. It’s so easy to start seeing the world in terms of people trying to stop you at every turn because we’re perpetually bombarded with calls to do just that.

So we’re all doomed.

The world is being steadily manipulated by the very few at the top and the rest of us are the puppets that dance to their tune.

Well, not really.

The world is being pointed in specific directions by leaders but these leaders aren’t always the Prime Ministers or the Presidents. Fox News is a great example of guided outrage, spinning every story to hit the same issues and often misrepresent things to serve an agenda. The Daily Mail in the UK does the same, often running headlines designed to horrify despite the truth of a story not fitting that assessment, resulting in Wikipedia and Microsoft Edge openly calling them as being unreliable and unworthy of belief.

Religions through time have called for death to those who don’t follow so it’s not as if the concept is new to the modern world but today I saw something which reminded me that maybe we’re not as doomed as it would appear.

Walking through town with my mum after our weekly lunch trip, we were heading to do a little shopping before I took her home. She didn’t quite lift her foot high enough as we approached a single step and she fell forwards, landing hard on her left knee and her left elbow. Now my mum is a very active and healthy person but, she’s a very active and healthy person who’s well over seventy years of age. She also had her left knee replaced a few years ago. She hit the ground pretty hard and the expression on her face was one of obvious pain.

My mind flooded with awful possibilities. All manner of fractures at all the most important parts of her body. Possible surgery. Months in hospital. I stood over her as fast as I could and gripped her coat to make sure she didn’t move anywhere, even by accident. I couldn’t risk that she could make things worse.

And then it happened.

People rushed to us, enquiring after her, offering help, asking if we needed anything. People of all ages, men and women, all saw that someone had fallen and they didn’t hesitate to offer any assistance. All they saw was that someone was in need.

Now I understand that this doesn’t mean that, oh the world is saved and we’re days away from some kind of commune of peace and love, but what it does show, and I choose to cling to this as a spark of the good of the human race, is we all, deep down, don’t want to see suffering. We can recognise that we should offer support in time of need and that despite our politics, or race, or religion, or whatever, we all know that we have to help those in need and that when we see it, we do.

My mum was on her feet again after about two minutes of gathering herself. She has a graze on her knee and on her elbow but was more worried about any possible damage that may have been done to her jeans. They were fine too. My mum is made of tough stuff but no-one else knew that. They just rushed to her aid. No-one wanted to know how she voted in terms of Brexit beforehand. Not one person asked if she was a Christian or not. There wasn’t a single enquiry about how much money she had before they offered support. Everyone just offered.

Even if it is just a single instance at a time, maybe we can all start to realise that despite the powers out there trying to divide us, no-one wants to see anyone else suffering.

BEST OF ENEMIES

Did you see the game at the weekend?

As a Wales fan, I’m clearly over the moon but I’m also happy as a rugby fan. I was at work for the game but watched it on a recording when I got home, and I think that it was the most ferocious battle on a rugby field I’ve ever seen Saying that, we’ve all seen more violent matches, where players from both sides just seem to have decided that they’re going to have a fight and lay into each other for as long as they can before they get caught and sent off, but this game was far from that.

There was a study done by the IRB a few years ago which showed that there was an average of twenty penalties conceded per match but in the game at the weekend, there were a total of twelve. The two sides looked as if they were going to do everything in their powers to destroy the opposition such was the brutality of the collisions that were happening over and over again but that they were going to be doing it all within the rules of the game. There were no brawls, euphemistically called ‘hand-bags’, no extreme violence and a consistent appreciation of the law.

Yet, at the final whistle, after the initial explosion of emotion from the Welsh players and the despondency from the English, all of the players made their way around all of the others and shook hands, some embraced, but a great many were smiling and talking as friends. At one point, Alun Wyn Jones, the Welsh captain, could be seen smiling and talking warmly with Kyle Sinkler, the English prop who’d given a penalty away but holding the Welsh captain by his throat in a maul.

Now watching the exchanges after the game had finished, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the madness which preceded it can’t have been all that bad but I felt that it came down to shared experiences.

A great many of the players on the field that day had toured together with the British and Irish Lions to New Zealand in 2017. Alun Wyn Jones and Kyle Sinkler had been a part of the same team when they’d gone into battle in the land of the long white cloud. They’d worked together and had shared the ups and downs of a tour to the home of the best team on the planet and they’d fought side by side. They may have been adversaries but on that tour, they’d worked together against a common foe and they will forever share a bond because of it.

How many stories include the idea of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’? The idea has been in existence for almost as long as the human race in one form or another but working together against a common foe means that everyone gets stronger. In the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher, there are different races of fantastical beings, all warring against each other and telling tales of the horror that the others will visit on any and all who cross their path. This continues for generations until the arrival of the Vord, a new race of monsters who don’t care for the issues between the other races, they just want to conquer everything. Every race then has to work together in some way or at some time to be able to drive back the shared enemy and a great deal of forward movement in terms of diplomacy grows from the efforts.

Working together highlights that we all have similarities, rather than just highlighting the possible differences. We all have to face the same things really but it’s so very often easier to show that if there are differences, that means that they must be bad.

School yard bullies have always picked on the person who’s different. People clamour to ‘fit in’ for fear of the eye of judgement turning on them but we all know that we’re all going through the same things.

In the UK, during the whole Brexit debate, we’ve all been treated to the almost unending torrent of ‘they’re coming over here’ and ‘they aren’t like us’, yet deep down, we know that they, whoever they are, are actually very much like us. There may be different languages or religions but deep down, we all want to look after our family and make sure we have food and shelter. Outside those facts, that’s where the differences can be poked at and highlighted as somehow wrong.

We all have shared enemies of hunger and loss but we’re having the ‘real’ enemies painted as each other. To come together and work together will mean that we all prosper rather than there being the haves and the have nots. Maybe we all need to have a more overt shared enemy.

Alien invasion could unite the planet but, then, the aliens could just be looking for a place to raise a family too. It really is just easier to all get along.

FACELESS

I’ve been listening to podcasts and various news reports quite a bit recently, hoping that the Brexit shit-show which lurches from one disaster to the next will finally be put out of its misery or how the US is in dire need of a giant wall as an edifice to the hubris of the president. I watch the news but I’ve also just started watching the Luther series that was on at the beginning of the year and it’s something that pops up regularly in the whole lot of them, is the how any story can create a monstrous enemy simply by making them faceless.

How many superheroes and super villains wear masks or cowls of some shape or description?

Batman wears a mask to protect his ‘real’ identity of Bruce Wayne, Superman wears the disguise of Clark Kent, putting his glasses on to obscure his true identity. Spiderman does the same. Darth Vader and all of the stormtroopers become more unsettling because we only get to see them as suits of armour which has been animated.

If you see someone’s face, you have a way to orient yourself to that person as a person. You can recognise their humanity and bring them more into line with who you are. Darth Vader becomes more tragic when we see beyond the suit and Batman is ‘just’ a man beyond all of his tech.

The bad guy in the first episode of Luther was running around with a clown mask of sorts on, not only obscuring his face but also presenting the image of something that isn’t supposed to be scary.

In the news, the faceless enemy is something which has been employed throughout time but is thrown into stark relief today thanks to the far reaching media which is showing it all to us.

Faceless hoards are sweeping through Europe to come to Britain, intent on taking everything that we have, or so some sections of the media would suggest. The same applies to the US and those faceless masses of the travelling caravan.

It’s possible to create fear, to create hate, when the people on the other side of the equation are viewed as being somehow less, or indeed not, human. We don’t see those identification points and they can be sold as the invading army that everyone needs to be scared of.

Salem Witch Trials. McCarthyism. The Satanic Panic of Southern California in the 1980’s.

All of these things came about because there was fear whipped up about faceless threats around any corner and everything just grew and grew from there. They were all also based on nothing more than fear, that there was something, and it never seems to matter what the something is, that was going to end our way of life.

To weave a story about a threat which isn’t there is a tough call but if there are no faces to actually see in these cases, you have to work with what you have, and what’s scarier than an enemy that you can see and understand than one for which you can do neither.

FOUND IT

Have you seen the Austin Powers films?

They’re great fun, with the not even slightly subtle jokes about sex (nudge, nudge) and every bodily function you could imagine but it’s the second film in the trilogy that came to mind recently.

Dr. Evil’s scheme to defeat Austin Powers involves travelling back in time and stealing the most vital ingredient of the man he hates. He wishes to remove the very core of what Austin is and by doing so, render him helpless. He’s after his mojo.

In the film, the mojo is depicted as a physical thing which can be removed, fought over, and then returned, but I’ve been finding out first hand that that’s so far from the truth that it’s painful.

First things first. I didn’t recognise that I’d even lost my mojo until I started to rediscover it. There I was, hitting at keys and doing all I could to be creative but no matter how hard I tried, it always felt like a false start. I’ve written reams of words over the last two or so years for the opening of my latest novel, The Circle of Stars, only for them all to wither the second they appeared on the page. It didn’t seem to matter what it was, how I created, where I went about my work, every effort just returned more and more rot.

We’ve all experienced the loss of mojo along the way.

You continue as best you can, all the time recognising that something’s stuck, but it never seems to matter what angle you attack at, your mojo eludes you. And it’s not as if there’s a clear sign that your mojo is missing. It’s only after you begin to climb back up and out of the pit that you can see what it is that you’ve been in the midst of.

Friends and family, though well meaning, will attempt to give you advice to negotiate this relative emptiness but mojo is a very personal thing. Using someone else’s mojo is likely to give similar results to putting diesel in a petrol engine, so no matter the help everyone around you is trying to pass on, your engine won’t fire and you’ll be just as stuck.

Each one of us will always be prisoners to our own minds and then spectres it conjures. The human condition is one which seems to designed to confuse as much as it explains and our mojo, our X factor, our spark can be a fickle thing.

I’m a writer and taking away my mojo for the stories I had in mind left me stuck on the far side of a chasm with no way to cross, but it also left me there thinking that the bridge I’d used previously was fine but that it just wasn’t working.

Now I feel that the light is coming on again.

Over the last month or so, I’ve found myself writing things that make sense but also, I’ve found that my mind is again firing with rolling ideas that want to come out to play. The words are flowing again and the mojo that had seemed so far away, was again bathing me in its warmth.

It won’t be long before the third novel in my Dragon series is finished and ready to be released into the world.

The Circle of Stars is moving pretty fast again.

CONFIDENCE

Well the Six Nations started this weekend and the annual international rugby championship brought up the expected mix of vibrant fervour and enjoyment. Wales won so I was happy but the match really was a game of two halves.

In the first half, the French side were ferocious, accurate and clinical. Everything they wanted to do was working and they all oozed confidence in everything they were doing.

Wales, not so much.

Half time team talks must have been very different between the two teams so when the second half started, there had  been a change of gargantuan proportions.

Wales were back and the way they played showed more composure. France in comparison, all had the Teflon gloves that the Wales players had in the first half. Nothing was sticking. It was the Welsh who were able to benefit from French mistakes and swing the game in their favour.

In the post match interviews, Warren Gatland, the Wales coach made the interesting statement of Wales have “forgotten how to lose” and went on to describe France as “a team searching for some confidence.” Ultimately, so much of that game could be boiled down to confidence.

I watch loads of sport and it seems that you can’t go a week without one team or another having confidence thrown around as a reason for their situation. If you’re confident, if you exude that certainty of purpose, you can carry yourself a huge distance. Linford Christie, the former British sprinter, used to stand out around five metres in front of the rest of the field before races and just work on his own mental preparation. This put everyone else behind him, both in reality, but also in his preparation. It also meant that everyone else would be confronted by the image of him ahead of them. They’d see him whenever they looked up and he was showing them that he was already winning the race.

If you have confidence in yourself, it’s remarkable what can come.

When I passed my driving test, I’d had a particularly bumpy road to getting behind the wheel due to an accident when I was eighteen but over the years of the work of getting over my fears, I learned and learned until it came time for my test. Failure wasn’t an option. It wasn’t that I was saying to myself that I was good enough, that I could do it, that I was going to be able to pass; instead I was saying to myself that, as Jo and I planned to make the move from Kent to South Wales, that I’d do the final lessons, I’d take the test, I’d pass, and then I’d be packing up a car with our belongings to move.

For me, there was a chain of events which was going to play out that went from one to the next thing seamlessly. I hadn’t even considered the idea of failing. I was going to pass. I took the test and although nervous, ( you’d have to be some kind of psycho not to be a bit nervous ) just went about my business and passed.

Confidence, or the lack of it, can empower or cripple a person. Doubt that you’re up to the challenge is a powerful force in the minds of each and every one of us so is something which makes up a vitally important element of a characters development in storytelling.

Having a character be able to examine internal conflict and show that it’s far more than just being able to complete tasks in the correct order that makes them into the people they are can remind us that the same goes for us.

By all means, have doubt, but don’t let any doubts chain you to inaction. Know that everyone has doubts but having a confidence in your ability can help you along a few steps further than you may expect.

If in doubt, fake it ’til you make it.