fairytale, fantasy, Indie Publishing, Life, magic, paranormal, promotions, Reviews, The Immortal City, The Magicians of Venice, Upcoming Projects, Writing

December Update and a 2018 Roundup

Hey Everyone

It’s December already… how did this happen?

I’m feeling a bit off track after having two weeks holidays and a digital fast in November but I am back and (mostly) refreshed and ready to go again.

KINGDOM is out! Hurray! Thank you to everyone who is buying and reading The Blood Lake Chronicles at the moment, it was such a fun series to write. Make sure you leave a review so I know how you liked it.  If you haven’t checked it out, and you love gothic fae stories with a dash of Arthurian myth you can grab book one for free right here.

 

As I mentioned above I’ve just come back from a holiday in Venice. I say holiday, but I was really there to put in some immersive research time for my next series The Magicians of Venice. I have to tell you, walking around the physical streets where I have spent so much time in my head was a surreal and special experience. I’ve taken a bunch of videos of key places in the story so that I can share them with you once the book is out. Venice is as incredible as people say, especially in Autumn when it wasn’t hot and there was next to no tourists. It was the perfect time for me to wander and write and chat to locals – and of course consume ridiculous amounts of delicious local cuisine, wine, espresso and pastry! If you haven’t already guessed I’m ridiculously obsessed with the new series. It has everything I love best; myth, magicians, murder and mystery.Here is the blurb for book one, The Immortal City :

In the heart of Venice, a woman is sacrificed to a forgotten god, sparking a mystery lost for thousands of years.

Dr. Penelope Bryne is ridiculed by the academic community for her quest to find the remnants of Atlantis, but when an ancient and mysterious script is found at a murder site, she flies to Venice determined to help the police before the killer strikes again.

Penelope has spent her entire life trying to ignore the unexplainable and magical history of Atlantis, but when she meets the enigmatic Alexis Donato, everything she believes will be challenged. Little does she know, Alexis has spent the last three years doing his best to sabotage Penelope’s career so doesn’t learn the truth—Atlantis had seven magicians who survived, and who he has a duty to protect.

As Alexis draws her into the darkly, seductive world of magic and history, Penelope will have to use her heart as well as her head if she is to find the answers she seeks. 

With the new MOSE system due to come online, and Carnivale exploding around them, Penelope and Alexis will have to work together to stop the killer and prevent dark magic from pulling Venice into the sea.

Eeeek! Can you see why I’m so pumped?? I’m currently polishing off my final edits to book two and getting it ready to send off to my editor, as well as finishing off my structural plan for book 3. I have seriously never micro planned a book series like I’ve planned this one. Every series and book is different but oh boy, has this one pushed my writing, planning and research to new and exciting levels. I really can’t wait to share it with you all.

While away in Venice I also went on a digital fast and tried to get some valued headspace to think about the ‘Big’ things surrounding my writing goals and career. It’s easy to get swarmed by all the THINGS  that you are meant to do as a writer that has nothing to do with the actual act of writing. As an Indie, I’m also a publisher and a marketer and have that business arm to deal with. Next year, BHC press will be taking some of that responsibility with my next series but I still have my business to grow and market and you can bet your ass I’ll be doing everything I can to make sure The Magicians of Venice is a success.

2019 is going to mean less deadlines for me, so I’m going to be focusing on completing marketing for authors courses and hopefully throwing some university units into the mix. I’ve got some other writing projects I’m also working on; I’ve almost finished the first draft of the Aramis and Soren spin off book and then I’ll be jumping into the third Magicians of Venice book. Then there is a fun fantasy based in Melbourne that’s kind of like a cross between Chocolat, Night Circus  and All the Crooked Saints, aswell as a new epic fantasy that’s growing in my brain ether that will hopefully be a bit like the love child of Game of Thrones and The Black List. They are exciting projects, but are big, ambitious ones that will require me to carve out a lot of space to work on so I’m going to try and implement some changes around time management and self care.

On that note…if you are on Twitter, you might have noticed my account has pretty much been in an admin mode for the past eight weeks. I’ve deleted my Twitter app and I’m only putting up the occasional update. This is because I’ve found Twitter to be a time suck that usually makes me feel shittier for going onto it. I’ve met some great people on there but for my own mental health state I’m letting it go and will keep it in its current admin mode. I always tell people to subscribe here on the blog for all the super important information but I am still very active on Facebook because I find the community more positive and I can do more with it as a platform, so if you really want to catch up with me on social media that’s the place to find me.

Okay, okay. Let’s talk about some other books, specifically what I’ve been reading since I was last here. 

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty has been on my TBR for a while and it rocked my fucking socks…this is probably the BEST epic fantasy I have read in a long time. I love, love, loved this story and world that it actually undersells it by saying its a reworking of an Arabian Nights stories. I’ve always loved djinn and King Solomon stories and this book delves into both, and recreating a fabulously rich take on them. Dara is by far my fave character but I can’t gush on the character and world building enough. I’m hanging out for book 2, Kingdom of Copper because the cliffhanger was an absolute kick in the ovaries. Check out The City of Brass here…but be warned you won’t be able to move until it’s done!

And because The City of Brass kick my ass so completely and left me with the worst of book hang overs ever, I went in search for more djinn / Middle Eastern mythology fantasy to try and soothe my RUINED heart and found these gems:

A Dead Djinn in Cairo is a the kind of novella that is so crazy good, rich and wonderful that you instantly want a six book series based in the same world. This is an insanely good story that’s a detective mystery based in a magically alternate and terrifying Cairo. Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi is such a BAD ASS of a character as she navigates bloody crimes and patriarchal bullshit with grace, wit and a well cut suit. P. Djeli Clark is a fucking amazing writer and I can’t wait to consume the rest of his catelogue. Grab a copy  and settle in for a glorious ride.

In honorable mentions, and because I’m still hellbent on my Middle Eastern fantasy love at the moment…I’ve just started The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh.  It’s a new take on the Shahrzad story from The Arabian Nights and and even though I’m only a few chapters in, I know I’m going to enjoy the hell out of it.

 

 

One of the few books I’ve read that has been a departure from the above obsessions, is Make Me No Grave by amazing writer and editor extraordinaire Hayley Stone. I was lucky enough to be given an ARC of this beauty of a weird west novel and this is what I wrote about it…

“Filled with morally grey characters this story has it all; mistaken identities, bank heists, mayhem and magic. Stone’s storytelling is in turn lean and lush, as this adventure of violence and revenge is played out through the eyes of Apostle, a marshal fighting his demons while trying to be the last decent man in the West. Tough as nails, flesh magic wielding,anti-heroine, Almena, gives Apostle a run for his money as the unlikely pair get thrown together in an attempt to enact their own ideas of justice. Apostle’s moral judgement is challenged every step of the way as he begins to realize that doing what’s right and obeying the law isn’t always the same thing.

Make Me No Grave is a rollicking Wild Weird West adventure perfect for fans of Red Dead Redemption, the Quick and the Dead and Wynonna Earp.” 

If it sounds like your jam, I can’t recommend it enough for a good Christmas read when the relatives are driving you crazy. Get a copy here!

This blog has gotten huge so I’m going to  get out of here and continue tinkering with my draft of Book  2 of Magicians of Venice and try and get over my post-holiday cold.

Have a great Holiday period, read lots of books and drink lots of nice wine,

Ames x

 

 

 

 

 

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fantasy, Indie Publishing, Life, magic, paranormal, Upcoming Projects, Writing

April Update #Iamdying

Greetings from crazy writer land,

I am on the last 10-15k words of KINGDOM and I am super fried but trying to end strong. It has come together in a weird and wonderful way that I didn’t plan for but somehow works better. This always seems to happen, my writing structural plan more or less hits its original high points but how I get to them always happens in a random organic fashion. I’ve learnt not to stress too much when things go a bit haywire but I tell you, sometimes its hard to relinquish control. It’s fairly different from the other two of The Blood Lake Chronicles as most of the action takes place in Faerie, where we learn HEAPS about the Seren Du family origins and all sorts of shenanigans happens. I’m going to be a little bit (a lot) nuts by the time that it is done but I’m feeling good about it so thats a good sign. I do have plenty of the usual impostor syndrome voices going on but trying to do my best not to feed that troll.

 

The writer brain and anxiety has been a lot less this time around because I am simply managing my shit better. ‘My shit’ being my mental health in this case. I’m pretty new to yoga (only been practicing for about 10 months) but its seriously helping me keep calm and also provides a good way for my to untangle plots while I move. Sitting still is really hard for me so the concept of a moving meditation has done me wonders. I highly recommend Allie- The Journey Junkie on Youtube if you are a newbie and want to learn some yoga. Shes a great teacher and the online community is a good support. I also have had my first go of a sensory deprivation tank this  month and I can’t recommend it enough. I love a long bath and this was the bath experience heightened to perfection. I’m big on meditation and this gave me the deep calm of a really good meditation session. It helped clear a lot of the screaming in my head and general feelings of being over whelmed that comes with tying up a book.

Speaking of books (and this is SO overdue) but I have decided that I am going to do a relaunch of my Western Wars series. So, some of you might remember last year I ran a promo through Kindle Scout for a YA fantasy called ‘Eastern Gods’…it didnt get picked up and I did release it as per the Kindle Scout rules, but then I took it down again after a month. WHY you might be asking? Well, a few reasons, some professional, some personal, but mainly I wanted to get it re-edited with US grammar (I’m Aussie so our grammar is different) and also I wanted to release it with the second book. The second book needed to be edited heavily and when I came to do it last August I was just too burnt out and wanted to throw the whole lot into a fire. Last year, I was mentally and emotionally burnt a lot and its taken me nearly 8 months to bounce back. Anyway, book  2 has sat there until the last month when I got some sound advice from a friend who really believes in the series (hey Kathryn) and convinced me to suck it up, do the work and get it released. As a result of this lecture, I have been doing edits on the second book when I’ve needed a break from KINGDOM. It’s come together in a way that I’m finally happy with which is great, and while it does need to go off to the line editor, both books are scheduled to be released digitally this year. For a paperback edition I’d like to combine the books as it is one continuous story, but I’ll keep you all posted on that. They are written in a different sort of style to my other books (they are epic fantasy after all) but I hope you will enjoy them if they sound like your thing.

The good news is it means you’ll definitely get three books out of me this year; Eastern Gods, The Golden Queen, and KINGDOM.  I don’t know if the Mychal spin off book will be ready to go as it still needs a bit of re-writing and perfecting but I want to try and do this work as a palate cleanser between KINGDOM and the starting of book 2 of NEW SECRET PROJECT.

I’m sure there is other stuff I’m forgetting to add in this update, but I’m too off in writer land to remember everything at the moment. I’m sporadically on social media but mostly hiatusing until the book is finished.

See you on the other side,

Amy x

 

Art, fairytale, fantasy, Life, magic, Novels, paranormal, Upcoming Projects, Writing

Bad writing day and advice- via Chuck Wendig

There are days when being a writer makes you feel like you are a Creator God, Designer of Worlds, Breaker and Maker of Destinies. But some characters, like man, are prone to do, they turn around and say, “Fuck you Creator God, I’m gonna do what I want!” and they destroy that perfectly structured PLAN that you lovingly designed for them. I guess what I am trying to say is.. “Fuck you, Merlin! Do as you’re told!….please?”

Note: My Merlin is nothing like the above Merlin character. My Merlin is a temperamental lovable psycho like Alucard from Hellsing crossed with a magical reprobate. It’s just therapeutic for me to watch ANY Merlin get slapped today.

Whenever I am having a bad writing day, I go back and read THIS by Chuck Wendig… but this paragraph in particular is resonating hard with me today:

“Consider: the act of telling a story is you CONJURING AN ENTIRE UNIVERSE INSIDE YOUR MIND and then using words as knives to CARVE THAT UNIVERSE INTO REALITY SO THAT OTHERS CAN VISIT YOUR IMAGINATION. “Today I am going to make a world out of my brain that you can go to in your spare time,” you say aloud, hopefully realizing that this is far more significant and far more bizarre than tying your shoes or blowing your nose. Creating whole worlds is pyroclastic. It is volcanic. It’s heat and fire, it’s molten rock, it’s lightning inside black smoke amid the nose and clamor of thundering earth and boiling air. It is an astonishing, generative act.

And it’s sometimes hard.

Sometimes what we do is stage magic. Sometimes the magic is sacrificial.

Stage magic requires hours of practice where you get it wrong.

Sacrificial magic requires blood on the altar.

In both cases, the magic — be it trick or spell — is hard as hell.

As it should be. As it must be.” 

I love writing, and if it wasn’t hard, it wouldn’t be fun OR worth it.

Okay, bitching over. I’m off to be a vengeful God. xo

 

fantasy, Indie Publishing, Life, magic, Novels, paranormal, Reviews, Upcoming Projects, Writing

March Update

I’m running a bit late this month with the update but I am here! Finally!

Last month was HUGE both professionally and personally. I spent time as no #1 in respective Amazon categories for both Wylt and Cry of the Firebird which has brought many more readers into the Firebird Fairy tales world – Welcome! As always, I’m crazy grateful for everyone who buys, reads and reviews my books. I wouldn’t be doing this without you!

Okay, to the stuff:

  • Work on KINGDOM is progressing at a fast pace. Now that I’m on a uni break and have locked away other projects and distractions (social media has been cut WAY back), I’m really hitting the word count hard. I’m about to hit the half way mark which is exciting and nerve wracking as I tie up a bunch of story arcs. It’s been fun refreshing myself in Celtic myths and experimenting with different gods and characters. I’ve always found writing the Blood Lake Chronicles to be so therapeutic to my writer brain and this one is shaping up to be no different.
  • While I cant say anything too much, my SUPER SECRET UNNAMED PROJECT that I spent most of last year working on is almost ready to announce. SO much exciting stuff happening that I cant wait to tell you all about. I can say that it is based in a different ‘world’ to the Firebird / Blood Lake books which is exciting and nerve wracking but omg guys, I am so in love with it and I hope you will be too. At this stage its got three books planned (yeah I seem to move in threes, I know) and once KINGDOM is wrapped up I can really throw myself into it. Eek.

What I’ve been reading:

  • L.H. Cosway!! Guys. Why didn’t you tell me the HEART series existed?? I mean illusionists and fire eaters? Hot romance? Engaging plots? GUYS WITH TATS. I read the first one Six of Hearts in a single sitting and consumed book two Hearts of Fire straight afterward. They were AMAZING and highly recommend if you are after a romance.

Check them out HERE.

I had to ‘rest’ the series because I seriously wasn’t getting anything done. Definitely an author I’ll binge read as soon as KINGDOM is sorted.

 

  • The Cruel Prince by Holly Black – Okay. I will be the first to admit I’m not on a YA fantasy bender at the moment (I tend to go through stages) but I’ve waited ages to get my hands on this one. Holly writes incredible dark fairy worlds and this reverse changelings of humans raised in Faerie is no exception. There were things I really loved about it (the Court, general world building) and things that I felt a bit meh over, namely the many bullying scenes and highschool vibe in some sections. I fully understand its target market is YA but as someone who hated school and was bullied a lot it got old for me quick. The main story arc and character development is really great and you can tell that the series is gearing up for something BIG which will ultimately keep me reading. Definitely in the ‘introduction to a bigger story arc’ book category for me because I was only really getting into it before it was over.

Next on the reading list is Elizabeth Hunter’s new one INK, which might have to wait til next weekend because she is a writer I DON’T STOP READING once I start. A book store and tattoos in one book? Yeah I’m so not going to put it down. Also, this is clearly a sign I need another tattoo…Right? In all seriousness, give her a shot if you are after solid storylines with awesome world building. Her Irin Chronicles? Seriously don’t even get me started on how much I love them.

Check her out HERE

Okay so that’s all for me for the moment, go watch Black Panther if you haven’t already, it was fantastic. Also, expect me talking about Tomb Raider next update because I CAN’T WAIT for the new film to be released….Amy x

Demons, Exorcist, fairytale, fantasy, Indie Publishing, Life, Upcoming Projects

New Year Update

Hey Everyone,

I had grand plans to write a full Christmas/New Year blog but have only just managed to get to it – MY BAD. In saying that, I hope you all had a relaxing as possible Holiday season and read/drank/ate lots of good things.

I spent majority of my holidays reviewing the blur of a year that was 2017 on both personal and professional levels. I studied what worked for me and really, really didn’t. This year I am hoping for stability and more organisation than last…I say this and try not to laugh because shit will always happen. Last year I had a lot of it, but you know what? Shit fertilizes and it’s important to remember that.

In December it was my 3 year publishing anniversary. Publishing six books, and writing 4 books, in 3 years is kind of mental when you think about it. I am insanely proud of myself over it and I’ve learnt some TOUGH lessons. Indie publishing is a roller coaster and I don’t think it’ll ever stop changing, you kind of just got run with it and do your best. I’ve tried to map out a loose plan for 2018 because I never know how things will pan out between writing/publishing/uni/day job and one of my goals this year is to take more time to self-care and hell, the whole point of me publishing indie is so I can write and publish at my own pace. Right? Right.

So..loose goals/ Scheduling in 2018:

  • I’ve submitted a new secret project to a bunch of traditional publishers. GASP! I know. I can’t believe it either. It’s really different to the worlds I’ve been building on my indie platform so I will probably publish it under a pen name, either trad or indie depending how the luck runs. I am insanely proud of this book. It’s the biggest book I’ve written since Rise of the Firebird, and it was ALOT of research as I tied it together. Because of its size and complexity it is the only book I finished last year but I am so proud of it.
  • KINGDOM, Book 3 of The Blood Lake Chronicles, is currently being written. I had some time over the holidays to really sink my fangs into it. These characters are so much fun to write and its coming along nicely. Depending on drafting and editing etc I am hoping to get this out in 2018 so you guys arent waiting too long.
  • Speaking of Spin Offs…remember how at the end of Rise of the Firebird I mentioned I would be having drinks with Eldon Blaise and Mychal soon? WELL. For those who are in the know, The Blood Lake Chronicles is an  Eldon/Merlin spin off that explores his family and mythology. Mychal’s story is still continuing..but its been a BITCH to write. I actually wrote the first draft from Mychal after the Rise of the Firebird but it wasnt right. To count it has been re-written four times…from scratch. Last year I realised a vital person and female voice was missing and needed…so I wrote a story about a female exorcist. This story is currently being edited and I realised at 1am this morning that the reason why the exorcist story and Mychal story have been not working separately is because they are part 1 and part 2 of the SAME book. Yeah. It was a punch in the guts that the answer to a question that has been plaguing me for four years was staring me in the face the whole time. If I can get this book to work, you will also see it released this year. For those who are familiar with Mychal as a character you know that his story and mythology revolve around angels and demons and other aspects of Judeo-Christian stories and theology. Because of this I know its not going to be a book for everyone and as always that is totally cool. I mash up stories from all kinds of fairytales and mythologies (my thing) so if you aren’t keen on angels and exorcists but are  for other stories in my Firebird world I have GREAT news  cos….
  • BOOM. I’m structurally planning a new spin off novel about our favourite Alfr bros, Aramis and Soren. This book I am going to start flirting with the Norse Gods pantheon (that I adore) so I’m super pumped. You probably won’t see it until 2019 but you will be hearing me gushing about it when I start writing it.
  • I’m currently going through the process of getting my paper backs up and running through Create Space as well as my usual Ingram Spark so I’ll keep everyone posted on that too.

Annnd that list gives me chest pains.

See what I mean? I gotta keep these plans loose because I also want to do shit like release a short stories anthology, and maybe my secret project under a pen name and  do more uni. Oh, and like, work my day job. There is ALWAYS something. I literally have thirteen books structurally planned to write so who knows when I’ll get a chance to reach all of them. Fingers crossed my degree will be tied up in the next year or so, that way I can re-purpose that time just for writing.

I’ll get there, I promise, and as always I will keep you all posted.

Amy x

Amazon, Art, Demons, fairytale, fantasy, Indie Publishing, Life, magic, Novels, paranormal, promotions, Reviews, Upcoming Projects, Writing

An Update and Sexy Second Editions

It’s been a while guys…I know. I always feel a bit guilty about leaving it so long between drinks but when you’re working, doing uni, writing books and publishing, shit is bound to get a bit hectic.

Right. I’ve been underground finishing off a great Ancient History unit on the Later Roman Empire, getting inspired and fuelled for a future book I’m researching, and trying to keep my head above water. If you follow my social media you’ll know Cry of the Firebird was a no 1 best seller in September in the Amazon store – holy shit guys what a moment. Which brings me to my next topic.

In September, the reason why I managed to sell as many books as I did was my exclusivity period with Amazon finished and I launched Cry of the Firebird across all e-book platforms. I’ve been getting messages from a whole swathe new readers about the other books and I can safely say, at the beginning of December Ashes of the Firebird and Rise of the Firebird will be universally released. At the moment they are still under exclusivity so sorry, we have to wait.  I’m not sure if I am going to do a pre-order for them as there is some behind the scenes tweaking that needs to be sorted before that can happen. Also, I have just (literally in the last 30 minutes) finished sexy second editions of all of the Firebirds and damn, that’s a shit tonne of words to edit and format. I’m waiting on proofs of the new paperbacks to arrive but the digitals are up and looking gorgeous. I wanted to do second editions for a whole bunch of reasons. Mainly, because no matter how many editors you use, and eyes go over your work to check and re-check, pesky mistakes still seem to get through. Also, I am an Aussie and I wanted US spelling and Grammar editions as most of my readers are currently in the US. It was a huge undertaking (I’m so dead all I want is vodka and Lord of the Rings movies) but I am really happy with the results and I hope you are too. I’m super blessed as an indie publisher that I can make these changes and be so much happier with the end product.

In Blood Lake Chronicles news, WYLT has also been released universally and I’ve had HEAPS of messages about WHERE THE FUCK IS BLAISE. I can tell you finally that it’s currently with my kick-ass cover designer, Fiona, who is making something truly fucking amazing. This series, this character, is super important to me so I want the cover and story right. It’s a tricky time of year for freelance editors and designers which is why I haven’t announced a pre-order for it. As soon as I have all the pieces in my hot hands you guys will be the first to know. I am aiming for mid-December but I won’t make promises without all those pieces. It is coming soon. Writing on book three, KINGDOM, has started slowly due to the mad fucking rush to get second editions of the Firebird Fairytales completed but it HAS started and damn is it gonna be a ride. Now that most of my publisher’s workload is sorted I can put my Writer Hat back on and get stuck into it. It’s a lot more Celtic Myth and I’m loving how the beginning is shaping up.

What else?

I have been reading some holy shit amazing books lately. I won’t leave reviews for them because there isn’t enough time but the ones that have really blown my shit out of the water (and made me get FULL Imposter Syndrome) are as follows:

All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. Vampires, Witches, Daemons, Alchemy, Oxford…This series hit EVERYONE of my weaknesses and damn, like if you need your faith restored in incredible vampire books, seriously look no further. It’s not a snack though, these books are MEALS. The writing is rich and incredible and you can tell Harkness seriously knows her shit. They are currently making the TV series with a whole cast of power house actors (Matthew Goode holy shit!) and I seriously can’t wait.

 

The Sarah Weston Novels by Magnus Flyte.Prague, Beethoven, Alchemy, Prodigies and Princes. After suffering from a massive book hangover from the All Souls Trilogy, this duology City of Dark Magic and City of Lost Dreams, was the perfect soloution. It’s still keeping with alchemy and magic themes but tying in history and music aswell. It’s not as heavy as the Harkness books but they were still a great series. The magic in it is awesome.

 

 

 

   The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. Mysticism, Art, lost loves, reincarnations, historical romance, medieval scriptoriums… this book has it all. You know how you have those books that you think ‘that looks great I really want to read that’ but it takes you forever to get to them? This was such a book. It’s been on my radar for years but like most books that fall into this category, it found me when I needed it most. I was suffering from a massive creative burn out and it was EXACTLY what I needed. It is an incredible book that ripped my heart clean out while re-building it at the same time. It’s structured like a modern-day Dante’s Inferno, that I am ridiculously obsessed with, and it just…no words. Still. It’s a hard one to explain but worth the time.

 

Okay so that’s all from me, for now. I will keep everyone posted on the BLAISE front and make lots of noise when all of the Firebirds are available universally. If you are doing NaNoWriMo, you are my hero and keep your chin up.

Amy x                                                  

 

Life, magic, Research, Writing

We humans are the stories we tell ourselves -The Narrative Ape

Source: The Narrative Ape

A great blog today via Curtis Craddock for Tor/Forge Blog!

Written by Curtis Craddock

I am.

It’s the shortest story in the English language. It’s really the root of all stories and, by extension, the act of being human.

Biologists, archaeologists, and anthropologists like to argue about what makes humans people. How did we progress from planting crops to build cities, go to the moon, and build smartphones?

I put my money on storytelling.

A lot of biology underpins storytelling. There’s the evolution of the tongue and the palate. The adaptation of the brain and the developing capacity for language. But humans aren’t the only creatures to communicate with sound and symbol. Bees apparently do a bit of geometry in their hive dances, and whales have dialects of calls.

Yet even these sophisticated methods of communication lack the essential element of a constructed reality, the understanding that something can be true without being real. Ask anyone who has ever read the Lord of the Rings who Frodo is, and they will be able to describe him and his adventures in some detail, and will have opinions on whether his actions were good or bad, reasonable or not. At the same time the reader aware that the story is constructed purely from imagination and not a factual accounting of anything in the ordinary world. Even animals that are known to lie such as chimps and gorillas don’t seem to construct a persistent fictional narrative.

Thus while humans may not be the only ones with at least a rudiment of language, we do seem to be the only ones to tell stories, to communicate about things that never happened and never will, to dislocate ourselves in space and time, or to picture the world from behind another person’s eyes.

To be sure, the habit of spinning yarns probably developed over an extended period of time. It required the concurrent development of unique cognitive and physiological capacities, so there was no first storyteller in the same way there was no first dog. Humans just messed around with wolves for a few dozen generations, culling the undesirable and breeding the useful, until what had been recognizably a wolf was now recognizably not a wolf without any pup in the progression being a different species than its parents.

At some point, or rather span of points, the human mind expanded into something much larger and deeper, like a fresh water river emptying into the great saline sea. The abstract space of imagination gathered unto itself the greatest share of mental resources, burning precious, hard won calories, it provided us with an inner voice, a personal narrative, explaining the world and the mind’s place in it. Our ability to invent the world rises above the expectations of experience.

Scientists from disciplines as far apart as anthropology and neuroanatomy have speculated that this internal voice may have been perceived as an external intrusion, the voices of spirits or gods.

Regardless of how the source was perceived, humans now had storytellers inside their skulls. Experiences, emotions, and reason were translated into words, and every person became the narrator, however unreliable, of his or her own life.

So why is it so important to have a narrator? What’s the big deal with narration?

Narration is everything.

When I come home at night, after a hard day’s slog, I walk into my house, sit down on my couch, and get mugged by my dogs: two small, furry, lap-seeking missiles.

If you visualized that, it has become part of your story.

But the analysis goes deeper than that. How do I know this is my house? Yes, there’s a record of the purchase in my filing cabinet, but I haven’t looked at it in years. Nor am I merely expressing instinctive territoriality. I didn’t go around with my trousers down marking out a boundary. I know it’s my house because of the story I tell myself about it. My friends and family know it’s my house because of the story I told them. By and large, nobody questions the story of my house. Nobody demands to see the paperwork proving my ownership. More broadly, other people who don’t even know me understand the backstory of our civilization, and are aware of the common trope of home ownership.

In fact, if you back up far enough, it becomes clear that society itself is a narrative, something we collectively imagined into existence. Laws, customs, mores, and borders are things only humans perceive and only by virtue of their narrative we’ve built up inside our skulls. There is nothing outside of us to supply those concepts, no force compelling us to this end.

Terry Pratchett expressed it succinctly in Hogfather, when Death says, “… take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder and sieve it through the finest sieve and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy.”

We impose on ourselves by means of a narrative what it means to be good or bad, morally right or wrong, ethically acceptable or not.

We humans are the stories we tell ourselves. More to the point, we wouldn’t be fully human without them.

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