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A Brief Hiatus and the Wings of Icarus

Do not fear the title! I’m not going anywhere. No, in fact, it is that I have already gone and during my brief interlude I have cruised through three books.

  1. Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing.
  2. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
  3. Stephen King’s On Writing.

After completing my second attempt at reading On Writing, I found myself laughing alongside Mr King, even as he described his near-death experience at the hands of an inattentive driver. It took two attempts (roughly four years apart) to actually get through the first half of his book. You see, as a lover of fantasy, I never much admired his writing. The Dark Tower drew me close, but I never really made any connection to the rest of his works. Horror (aside from Lovecraft) does nothing for me. But on this attempt at reading his memoir or his advice, something had changed. Something big. Something called Jefferson & The Magician’s curse.

Four years ago I shut my eyes, shook my head and spat; I didn’t want to hear what this old writer had to say. Sure, he was successful. Sure, he was published. But goddamnit, I just didn’t care about the story of his youth and his struggles. I know, I am a jerk, but at least I’m honest. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t relate to him as a person, it was him as a writer that I couldn’t relate to. Here he was talking about a thousand words a day and living story to story and at the time I was struggling at how to organise my thoughts into an arrow and aim for the target.

It was hopeless.

Then, somewhere along the line, I smashed out a novel. With a quick twist at the end, one novel became two, then three. The antagonist reared his head, beat his chest and demanded another novel. Four. The world that I was building then gave me the question of what happens two thousand years later? Oh man. Another trilogy. The levy had broken and the world was gushing through my fingers and onto the screen. Magicians ran parallel to angels and demons and all ran alongside a fabricated war that was to bring about the extinction of the human race.

*GASP*

I’d never finished a novel before. Short stories were as far as I’d managed and only one was worth sending out into the world. I realised that I could write a novel, no I could write seven… if only someone would pay me for it. This is what sparked my sudden interest in reading again. I needed to know what others did to get there.

Both King and Bradbury did something I never considered. They both got published in Fantasy or Sci-Fi magazines and much like working at McDonald’s or volunteering for experience on a resume, I’d never considered building a writing portfolio of this kind. When I say “of this kind”, what I mean is an actual resume with references and editions and people to give me feedback. I posted all my writing to this blog and it’s only been a problem once when I went to submit one of my posts from my gaming days for a publication. They loved it and wanted to actually publish it, but refused to because I’d already published it myself. A wasted effort in retrospect as for the blog, it got maybe twenty views, but on their website, they get thousands of hits an hour.

Damn it to hell, right?

Back to Bradbury and King and their magazines for a second though. I started jotting down some notes into a new idea, exclusively for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. King himself has been published in there (with The Dark Tower no less) so my interest has been piqued. For some unknown reason, I decided to go through a bag of books I’d bought at a local book fair and lo and behold, what did I find?!

An actual copy of Fantasy and Science Fiction for July/August of 2016!

Some days, it’s hard enough to put one foot in front of the other to get where you need to go. Other days, such as this, the path literally plots itself out for you. Eagerly, I breezed through its pages and found some writing that was high quality. I also found some that I loathed. Best of all though, I found that I already had a story that fit the style and tone of the magazine.

And the peasants rejoiced.

This is a two-fold win! Number one, I have a great new idea for a story that I can still write and use for perhaps another magazine, perhaps for myself. Really, I just can’t wait to write it. Number two, I can test my editing chops (the story itself is fantastic, the writing… *ahem* has yet to be edited) and use an old story that I love. Some spit, polish and love tomorrow (which happens to be my day off, seriously though, timing and props involved… I couldn’t make this stuff up) and that story may actually be ready to be sent off by the end of the goddamn week!

All in all, I’m feeling pretty good. This year has been huge for me and my lovely girlfriend turned fiancee and it just keeps getting bigger. We are building our dream house (complete with writing room)! We got engaged (at Hobbiton, in New Zealand)! More news I can’t post about for at least ten days that is also fantastic for my partner!

The question that remains now though is, do I tempt fate? Everyone has heard of the story of Icarus, the boy who flew too high and his wax wings melted from the sun’s warmth. As we fly high, do I dare push higher? I’d like to think there’s no risk in doing so, but with so many great things going on, it really feels like something has to stop this year from being so incredible.

Or maybe… just maybe… this is our year.

I should make the most of it.

 

Blog Of Writing +1

Forgive Me Bradbury, For I Have Sinned

Not unlike a devout Catholic heading into confession, today I returned to the place where I find my way. To the place where my writing sins can be wiped clean. My holy book.

Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing.

Strangely, I’ve never been particularly drawn to his particular writing style or his stories. I enjoy more in the fantasy vein than science fiction and this has always led me away from his compilations, however, I do have a compilation from Barnes & Noble, bound in leather.

The above book though, Zen in the Art of Writing, is a sort of pallet cleanser. Whenever I am feeling as though writing is too hard, perhaps I should give in, there he is in all of his zest and gusto. Each page is soaked in his passion and as I flip through it for the tenth time, it affects me all the same. A kindred spirit. Someone bound to writing and writing bound back to him. I read of how he wrote, day in and day out. A thousand words minimum. A short story on a Monday, revised each day before being sent away to a literary magazine on a Saturday. Each of these things I want to do, but ironically as things appear easier than ever to accomplish these things… the information seems watered down and less consistent.

I read of how he wrote, day in and day out. A thousand words minimum. A short story on a Monday, revised each day before being sent away to a literary magazine on a Saturday. Each of these things I want to do, but despite it appearing easier than ever to accomplish these things… the information seems watered down and less consistent. More contests require a submission payment while others require you to have a subscription.

Today, I set a challenge.

I have searched up a few free magazines to submit to and have chosen one to attempt to get published in. My choice? Fantasy & Science Fiction. They appear to have a need for Science Fiction and Humor, perhaps I’ll try my hand at both! My plan will be to have a completed 25000 word (or less) short story by the end of the month and then sent away for July. By that goal, I should have my first draft pumped out by Friday (16th of June) and then revised at least three times, in full.

Tuesday just passed, my fiancee and I completed the lighting plan for our new home. As we walked around the perfect floor plan for the top level, I stopped in my writing room for a moment and considered how it would be organised. The thought of a room explicitly for writing is beyond exciting for me as even now I am writing nearest all of my distractions on a comfortable lounge. Not the ideal place for work to get done, but it will do for now. I’ve been trying to nail down a perfect time for my routine and as of now between eleven and twelve at night will be the most consistent. Mornings will not work, as somehow I do not run on coffee.

So, in summary: Forgive me, Bradbury, for I have sinned. I have not written with zest, nor gusto. I have not written consistently. I have only dreamed the dream. Now, I hunt that which is dear to me, with renewed vigor and passion! I lust after publication not just for my back pocket, but because I need to know if I’m there yet; If I’m ready to pursue a career in writing. I want people to join me in my imaginary universe, filled with my imaginary friends!

I want to be an author.

After all, I am already a writer.

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Investing… In Writing?

We all love spending money, don’t we?

I have probably been a bit frivolous in my spending than I should be, especially with a house being built as we speak.

I love movies. I love games. I love books. I love food. I love pop vinyl figures.

All of these things above cost money and I have absolutely no trouble dropping a tonne on any of those in a heartbeat. Leatherbound book sale? Take my money! New Lord of the Rings pop vinyls? Savings be damned! Favourite restaurant Fridays? Can’t go without!

Then suddenly, my partner’s favourite author recommends a book for a budding writer such as myself and I take one look at the price tag. Fifty dollars?! Is it really worth it? But in the same breath, the Lord of the Rings Balrog pop vinyl is thirty-two dollars and I didn’t even hesitate to buy that.

Why?!

 

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My secret love of Beastie Boys bustin’ out…

 

Some piece of me thinks I am a huge fan of self-sabotage. I can literally justify a piece of plastic over something that will not just improve my craft, but also my understanding of the publishing industry. Even today, I was sent an email in regards to an incredible amount of savings on the Writer’s Market 2017 guide (regular fifty dollars, down to thirteen… even in US dollars, that’s huge… even with shipping) and I had to stop and think about it. I forwarded the email to my fiancee, who has been patiently listening to me talk about this book for the past six months while I toiled over the prices. Finally, I took the plunge (a deep plunge, I bought five books, roughly twenty dollars a piece).

It shouldn’t be this hard. In fact, I’m not sure why I can justify collectables over the books. I have been staring at this book for so long and have read the sample on iTunes, I could probably write it nearly word for word. In a few months I will have invested the most into my writing life that I ever have; A writing room. Originally it wasn’t a part of the house we are building but when my fiancee changed the size of our ensuite, our builder asked if there was anything else I hadn’t asked for. For roughly an extra five thousand dollars, I now have an incredible space fit for only one purpose.

In the meantime though, I am filling in many of the gaps in my world. Building a map. Creating new lore. Tying novels from different times, all together. The unsuspecting character in the prequel? Yeah, he’s suddenly an antagonist in the final novel of the next trilogy.  The protagonist from the first trilogy? Mythological figure in the second trilogy. These ties are not only something that is exciting for me as a reader, but also as a writer!

 

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Me looking for an editor…

 

The worst part is that fear we all have; That we aren’t very good at writing. I’ve sent samples of my work to a few editors, hoping that my novel would resonate with them, but to no avail. Well, at least as of this post I still haven’t heard back from any of them. I’m starting to get desperate for feedback, so much so that I’ve enlisted a guy at work to give it a crack. I’m also considering starting up a Writer’s Group once I move as there is a free community room available and I want to get feedback and get better as a writer. I’d also love to meet some local creative types, but that is all less than half a year away. So close, yet so far.

At some point, I’ll have to actually get an editor. I’m also going to have to seek out a literary agent. After that, I’m going to have to try and get published (preferably with HarperCollins). For now, I’ll just enjoy the whole creative process and wait for my Writer’s Market books to come. After all, Orson Scott Card’s book on writing Sci-Fi and Fantasy may prove quite useful before I go too far!

How’s your writing going out there in the interwebs? Also, are you published? Any thoughts and ideas would be greatly appreciated and thanks for stopping by!

Blog Of Writing +1

Edit or rewrite? What would you do?

After spending what was left of my afternoon reading articles on getting published and how apparently I need an agent for traditional publishing, I began rereading my story. First came the joy of reading what I wrote… I mean, this was my story! My characters!

Then I stumbled over a sentence where I had to change a few words around to give it a better flow.

Suddenly I was whisked away again, on my journey through the nighttime atmosphere of Villenoire. As I followed Jefferson, my protagonist, away from his orphanage and toward the silken tents of the circus, I grew proud of the world I was creating. The funny thing is, the world is still evolving. That portion of the story is very well thought out and my writing is of a commercial quality.

Further along, however, not as lucky.

My descriptions are farther apart than the beginning. The story begins to get dialogue heavy. Suddenly, there are more locations and I begin to wonder… where in the world is this place?

For all of you pantsers out there, take note. This is exactly the problem writing with no plan will get you into. You see, writing with no plan is very liberating. You write one word after the other and for me, I let my characters guide me. I’ve spoken of my method before; Five plot points, and the direction was dictated by the actions of the people. This worked well to get the whole idea down… but now it has left some gaps.

This has left me with the title question: Do I edit or rewrite? Both have their benefits.

Editing would keep the completed story as its current version. As good as that is, it would take quite awhile to fine tune it to the point where everything fits together like a puzzle. For Tolkien, his world included the map, which made everything tangible. If I edit, there could still be some lingering piece of description that I miss. As a perfectionist, that would definitely frustrate me.

Rewriting would carry the benefit of having the story’s plotline in such great detail that if I broke the current novel into points, a rewrite wouldn’t take as long as the initial copy. Also, cohesion would be at its best this way as once the world is fleshed out, I can ensure from page one that everything will be the same and work together. On the other hand, the idea of a rewrite seems daunting… especially when I have seven novels stirring in my brain.

From these brief points, rewriting seems a better way to go… much to my dismay. I mean, no one ever wants to start from page one again. But with that comes the ability to add in further detail to make the world I’m creating a real place. Not only that but if I factor in the other trilogy I have in mind… if it was ever made into a movie it would be awesome for people to point out the ruins of a 2000-year-old Villenoire or other prominent locations from Jefferson’s story. This idea is exciting for me, almost more so than the stories themselves. It’s that world building that got me interested in fantasy novels and video games in the first place, so this is no surprise to me!

Now… as is always the problem with us writing types…

When do I start?

Blog Of Writing +1

Story Genius & Author Accelerator

A few months back I was standing in an independent bookstore, staring at the plethora of books that are always both inspiring and demotivational to a struggling writer such as myself. I was searching for Writer’s Market 2017 (which I now realise I still haven’t bought) and stumbled across a little gem called Story Genius by Lisa Cron. First, I must admit… I hate getting writing advice from someone I’ve never heard of. Secondly, reading the writer’s memoirs from the likes of Stephen King and Ray Bradbury always had the same inspirational/crushing effect on me. Not sure why.

I slid the book from the shelf and weighed it up for some odd reason. It felt light; Could it be that there wasn’t enough printed in it to be worth it? Who knew what I was actually thinking, perhaps this was just some sort of ritual, like two dogs smelling each other. My writing at home was begging for me to come back, the dozens of novels I wanted to read and reread groaning at the idea of another book entering the fray. I flipped through the first few pages, read the blurb and returned to staring at the cover.

Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere)

Ironically not the most concise title for a book on writing, but it was catchy and got its point across. At this point, I’d already finished Jefferson & The Magician’s Curse and was avoiding it like an ex-girlfriend. It needed editing desperately and I simply wasn’t the man to do it. Not then… and not now. You see, the problem I have is one of experience. Of writing? I have roughly two decades of story writing behind me. Of novel editing? Well, roughly three weeks of it before I got fed up and started writing something else.

My biggest problem (aside from editing) is that I was very disorganised when I began writing Jefferson. I broke it down into five parts (Intro, Journey, Antagonist Reveal, Climax and Conclusion) and let the characters take me on a journey between points. There is a lot of dialogue. A LOT. Not as much description though, which removes the reader from the world. That being said, I need to work on introducing those things. I’ve travelled a fair bit since then and hopefully, that will help my writing.

So now, as of today, I’ve submitted my application into Author Accelerator. I’m actually unsure of why I’ve done it or what it will actually entail. I saw pricing on there that was $199 for a 10-week class and I wonder to myself if I’m ready to start spending money on that sort of learning for my writing. Not only that, but 10 weeks will take me straight into the build of my home and I wonder if I will have time to devote to it properly.

For now, I’ll simply wait, for tomorrow is a new day where we will choose the kitchen for our house. Maybe tomorrow I’ll do a bit more editing on my novel. Maybe.

Maybe.

Blog Of Writing +1

The Struggle Is Real

kermit

As you can see, my writing progress has been slow coming this year. I’ve read plenty, but I’m starting to go a bit crazy from not writing… but on the other hand, leaping back in has been overwhelming, to say the least. I’ve been doing a lot of research on how some of the best writers have created their worlds as I’ve been looking for some sort of organisational system I could use. What I’ve really learned is that writers are very disorganised even when we try to be.

Imagine my surprise though when I found out that the current way I’m building my world is close to how Tolkien crafted Middle-Earth. As you’ve seen in some past posts, I’m a bit of a Tolkien fan, so this news was a revelation! I decided to focus all of my efforts (and a few dollars) into finding out as much into his creative process as I could. With books like The Art of the Hobbit and The Art of the Lord of the Rings in my hand, I skimmed them briefly hoping they were the holy grail I’d hoped for. They seem to be not far off!

I feel like at some point I will have to write down my own beginner’s process with the hope that someday it will prove helpful for some budding writer. I mean, originally all of my story ideas were in unique worlds; Some set in fictional histories or futures, while others in fantasy lands. It was the choice to adapt them all to the one world, that began to shape it into much of what it is today.

  • A world where demons live in an alternate dimension tied to the very same world we walk upon.
  • A world where people can pass between the two, only of a particular bloodline but they are hunted by an Inquisition.
  • A world where people are starting to grow older than normal because Death himself has disappeared.
  • A world where a single kingdom is creating a massive, magical army in an effort to unite the kingdoms under a single banner.
  • A world where magic has evolved and flourished for nearly two thousand years.

My favourite things about my world thus far are the characters in it. Jefferson’s trilogy and his story arc has been an incredible journey (book 1, 1st draft complete). His mentor, Gabriel, and how he came to the power of magic in the first place has been fun to figure out (5 chapters in). Lastly, the Tartarus trilogy would be my Lord of the Rings epic with multiple viewpoints and very grey characters (good or bad, who knows?) (50k+ words written into book 1, Pandemonium). I’m enjoying discovering the world I’m creating, but also I’m torn.

Having written nearly two full novels worth of things in the same world, despite them being 2000 years apart, I am struggling to maintain the consistency of the history of the world. I’ve begun compiling the lore and the history (complete with timeline) into its own document so that I can keep tabs on what’s been said. The only problem there is that when you’re on a roll with writing the novel, you barely stop to update the notes. My memory is shocking, but I’m going to try so hard not to leave any massive gaps that people will judge later.

That all being said, I thought I’d pop by here to see how everyone else’s writing is going and reassure you all I’m still alive! Anyway back to editing/writing for me and let me know how you’re going so I can help you procrastinate a little bit more!

Blog Of Writing +1 · Moments In History

The One Ring (AKA The Engagement)

Oh?

Hmm, yes, it seems as though it’s that time again. Another fun blog post!

In case you hadn’t seen the previous post, catch up here, otherwise… read on!

Where was I…? Right! I finally had the ring and had to keep it secret, keep it safe. Well, for at least six days. What could possibly go wrong?

After showing everyone at work the fruits of my labour in helping to choose the design and explaining the meaning behind every choice, I felt ready. The holidays were fast approaching and Katie still appeared to have no idea. Only one big problem.

I was soooo tired.

This was an issue because for anyone who knows me they know I have a fake accent which is mostly an unconscious effort to not sound like “a complete hoser eh” and when I become tired it lets loose. That’s because my brain falls back to what comes naturally. In this regard, after every shift, I come home and fill Katie in with all of the goings on of my day. When I was that tired, I managed to catch myself on no less than three occasions ready to tell her some part of my day involving the ring. “Everyone wanted to see the ring.” “So and so asked about the wedding band.” “The ring arrived today.” Luckily, the part of my brain that was trying to keep this a surprise would catch me just as I was leading into the phrase and I would literally stop speaking. Katie would look at me and ask if I was okay, to which I simply replied, “I’m just tired.” Never a lie really.

After that we were roughly two days out when Katie’s lovely Nana, Joan, fell ill and she looked to me for advice. “TJ, we might have to cancel the trip.” She said, much to my inner dismay. I managed to keep cool, calm and collected, considering all the scenarios at hand. “Well babe, what do you want to do?” I swallowed my plans and my feelings, not wanting to be selfish and waited for her answer. “I don’t know…” She was definitely conflicted, but I couldn’t weigh the scales in my favour. If she knew or had an idea of what I had planned, she’d probably be all for New Zealand. “Well, this is a decision you’ll have to make. She’s your Nana, just be sure no matter what happens that you’re fine with your choice.”

The next day she spoke with her Mum, who told her she was in the hospital but in very good hands. Then she decided we should go. “She’s bounced back so many times before, I’d hate to cancel the trip and lose so much money if she did.” I breathed a sigh of relief, but only for a moment. “But what on the off chance that she doesn’t? Are you prepared for that option as well?” She nodded with a smile. “We did see her just the other day, so it wouldn’t be as bad as it could be.” “So long as you’re sure.”

After that scare, I was happy we were going but worried about Joan. I knew Katie would love the engagement but was worried that she would regret her choice if something bad happened. Pushing it out of my mind, I focused back on ensuring I had everything packed and ready to go for the trip. Nothing worse than trying to propose with the promise of a ring I forgot in Australia.

After a short forever, the trip was here and we made it to the airport without a hitch. The ring was stowed safely away in my carry-on luggage and I clutched onto it as we made our way through security. Luckily we were meeting a friend at the airport which distracted Katie from my bags as they went through the x-ray machine.

The plane ride to New Zealand felt shorter than expected (I slept) and finally we were at the start of our Middle-Earth pilgrimage! My bag never left my sight, even through security and when I went to the washroom. Upon collecting our bags and making it through the baggage scan, two security officers walked up to us, happy as could be.

“Can you come with us, you’ve been selected for a random bag check!”

I think we were chosen because I was probably being protective of my bag and Katie was too busy staring at the airport sniffer dogs who were, and I quote, “too cute”. So I feel as though random wasn’t quite the word for it. I thought for sure the person checking the bags would simply pull the ring box out (as it was made of wood and ask what it was and ruin everything. Luckily for us, the guy checking the bags was somehow (in New Zealand) a French-Canadian so we all had a lovely chat. Katie was distracted with the conversation so that when he was checking my bag we made eye contact as he pulled out the clothes on top of the ring and I glanced at him, then to the bag, then to Katie and then back to the bag and back to him with a simple head shake. I saw him pull the ring box roughly halfway up, flick it open quickly and then close it and put it all back the way it came. He wished us well on our travels and winked at me as we walked away. Needless to say, I thought the surprise was done. Another sigh of relief.

The first night of the trip was in Auckland (or New Zealand Sydney as I call it) and I’m glad we didn’t spend too much time there. Although Katie tried to give me another heart attack when she decided she’d shower first so she could straighten her hair. I thought to myself, who brings a straightener on a trip and why for tomorrow in particular?! Immediately my stomach dropped and I felt like she knew. The exchange went a little like this:

“Why do you want to straighten your hair?”

“I want to look good for the photos.”

“What photos?!”

“The ones at Hobbiton.”

“Why?”

“Because I want to look good?”

Convinced the gig was up, I gave in and let her go shower and straighten her hair. She knows… she definitely knows. I thought to myself as she showers. Why else would she want to wear her hair down on a hot day while we are travelling? She came out looking lovely, and I went for my turn to wash away the thoughts.

The next day was on the road to Matamata and Hobbiton! It was an early drive amid lots of traffic, but the cars were lined up way worse heading into the city. Felt like we drove by cars for thirty minutes or more before eventually breaking out and into the rolling hills of the North Island.

Arriving in Matamata we swung by our first taste of Lord of the Rings country when we found a green sign saying welcome to Hobbiton. The town information building was designed to have the signature round entryways and looked like it would have fit into a scene from the movies. From there we went to actual Hobbiton where a bus has to take you out to the actual location where they did the filming and you take a walking tour from there. Our tour guide was quite the legend (as you’ll soon hear) and we were beyond excited to start our journey!

Hobbiton itself is straight out of the movies. Sam (the true hero) had his house still there, among many other relics from the movies such as little props and clothing here and there. Eventually, we made our way to the house on the top of the hill, Bag End which apparently no one is allowed to go up to as it is still owned by the movie company itself. We were at the very front of the group (being as keen as we are) and Katie was starting to pull ahead. “Come on! Let’s get a photo before everyone else comes!” While she waited patiently for the previous group to finish up (her eyes locked ahead) I managed to get into my bag and retrieve the ring and box and shoved it into my back pocket. I could feel my palms getting sweaty, but not from nerves, more so the idea of dropping the ring down the drop in front of Bag End.

“Come on! Let’s get a photo before everyone else comes!”

While she waited patiently for the previous group to finish up (her eyes locked ahead) I managed to get into my bag and retrieve the ring and box and shoved it into my back pocket. I could feel my palms getting sweaty, but not from nerves, more so the idea of dropping the ring down the drop in front of Bag End. Her patience was wearing thin and she was beckoning me to come over to her. She offered her phone up to a lovely older Asian lady (or Indian lady if you believe Katie’s version of events, hotly contested to this day and most likely to our graves) so that she could take a photo or two. The ring wasn’t coming out of my pocket and Katie kept going, “TJ, come on, hurry up!”

Finally, my jeans let the box go. I clutched onto it for dear life and stepped forward a few steps. The Asian (Indian) Lady was poised. Katie was beckoning. My heart was pounding. Now or never, I suppose.

I got down on one knee with a smile. A whole year of planning, finally coming to fruition.

“TJ, what are you doing? She’s going to take our picture!” Katie scolded me.

I had to laugh, half nerves and half the absurdity of her ignorance, and smiled. I produced the box before her and she quickly became very aware of what was happening as she stabilised herself on Bilbo’s mailbox. “Will you go on this next adventure with me?” I asked nervously, very aware of the tour group before and after us. I opened the ring box and the answer was quick and everything became a blur. We were hugging, people were cheering, congratulations were coming from every direction. I slid the ring on her finger and she marvelled at it. I explained quickly that the ring was actually from the same people who designed the One Ring for the movies, so it only seemed fitting that she should receive her own “One Ring” at the same place as Frodo, and then I explained about the Canadian diamond.

With the burden finally passing from my hands to hers, I felt relief. I was never worried about the yes, I knew that. But two other things happened at the same time. The Asian (Indian) Lady handed over the phone with roughly four dozen photos of the engagement (what luck!) and then our tour guide asked us to stick around as everyone else passed by. Once they’d all left he grinned. “No one has ever gotten engaged on my tour!” He laughed and looked around quickly. “Would you like to go up to Bag End?” Both of us leapt at the chance. “That’d be awesome!”

He let us go up, he took some photos and we peeked in and then came back down really quickly since we didn’t want him to get in trouble. Next thing we knew, he was at our side with two of the fake leaves from the tree atop Bag End. “These things fall all the time but it’s a nice free souvenir for you to take from here.” We thanked him so much and went onward to the Green Dragon Inn where we shared a pie, tried the stout (hints of coffee and chocolate) and the cider (alcoholic apple juice, so delicious) and it all began to sink in.

“So how long have you been planning this?” She asked.

“Roughly a year.”

“But you can’t keep a secret!”

“I know. Not too shabby huh?”

Then I told her of all of the deceptions and fibs she’d been told over the months. Stories came forth of how I tried to measure her finger, then had to rely on her friend Emma to get the size. “So she’s not getting an infinity ring?” I laughed. “No, she’s not getting one at all.” (This she didn’t believe until we met up with them today and they laughed at her with a resounding no) Katie looked at me. “How many people knew?” As I told her the list she was blown away. “Mum and Ray don’t know though?”

I shook my head. “I wanted to tell your Mum, but I was worried about her giving it away… and then I was going to tell Ray, but then your Mum would be mad that he knew before her… so for the sake of the surprise no… are you mad?” Katie laughed. “Nope, that makes sense. She’s hopeless at keeping secrets.”

The rest of our pilgrimage into Middle Earth was fantastic, but not without some ups and downs. A few days after our engagement, Katie’s Nana passed away. Then we had an incredible time in Wellington! But then we found out her Grandad’s partner of a few years passed away. Then we took the ferry across to Picton, drove to Nelson and met the owner of the business where the engagement ring was made! Then I found out a family friend passed away at a young age. Then we found out the first-floor frame of our house was up! Then I found out my grandmother was going into surgery. Then we had an incredible time in Queenstown! Then it was time to come home.

It still doesn’t feel too real sometimes, a bit of a blur, but every once in awhile I can see Katie from the corner of my eye, staring at her ring and I know that it all was worth it!