Of Dinosaurs and Magic Swords – Joel Cornah
I’ve been writing stories about the fantasy world of diyngard for about fifteen years, ranging from children’s stories to near-apocalyptic adventures. It’s been something of an obsession of mine, complete with family trees, maps, and a complicated history of dragons, penguins and dinosaurs.
In all that time, it has mostly been a private affair between me and my siblings, one of whom would often draw illustrations for me.
My brother, Josh, had to suffer years of my constant changes of mind about this character or that building, the occasional change of gender for other people, and the change of species for others. Patiently, he endured it all and drew what I asked of him most of the time.
Having grown up with dyslexia, the idea of writing for enjoyment was something I was steered away from a lot of the time. Too difficult, it’ll never be up to standard, you’ll only end up disappointed; those thoughts rang in my head a good 99% of the time. I did, and still do, struggle. The shadow of the thoughts lay upon me wherever I went, weighing as a cloud of doom that brought me into darkness, paraphrasing Morgoth from the Silmarillion. Please do not sue me.
However, I did write things. Telling these stories was a part of me before my diagnosis and it remained. I never seriously considered it anything but a piece of private entertainment. I never seriously believed anyone would want to read the work of a fantasy obsessed dyslexic who spelled his own name wrong on an exam sheet once. But I wrote anyway.
The Sea-Stone Sword began as a throwaway mention in an old, old tale I had written called The Dinosaur Prince (which remains hidden in the recesses of my computer for now). But the sound of it, the name and image it conjured in my mind plagued me for quite some time. What sort of sword would be made of stone, and why? Why was it famous? Why had the main character donethat to it (sorry, spoilers)?
Years passed and my attempts to get The Dinosaur Prince published floundered and failed. The Writer’s Workshop offered me help in the form of editors and writers’ conventions, but I was growing more and more discouraged as the years went on. “It’s too long,” they told me. “You’ll struggle to get a story this big published as your first work.” The 200,000 word tome was, to put it bluntly, never going to happen. So in September of 2012, I put it aside and moped around for a bit, feeling defeated.
But this Sea-Stone Sword the characters mentioned. There was something in that
By now I had put together a vague idea of what it was and why the characters had done what they had done with it. I thought it could work as a shorter story, one that could stand alone. On the train back home from the York Festival of Writing I started writing it; Rob Sardan was going to be a hero. He knew it in his bones.
It ended up being around 150,000 words by the time I finished it. My day job was not advancing very well, and I was generally in the middle of an emotional breakdown – this is apparently the perfect time to start a savage campaign of cutting and editing. By the time I thought it was ready to be read by others it had gone down to about 80,000.
I called up the services of friends to proof read it, one of whom was a teacher and scolded me harshly for my abuse of commas. Once it had been hashed to pieces and re-forged from the fires of its demise, I set about looking for a publisher.
Many submissions went out. And, in a Hunger-Games-esque climax (that was totally not written here just to make a topical reference), only one survived! In July of 2013, the brave and legendary people of Kristell Ink decided it was good enough to take a look at.
It’s difficult to really nail down exactly how this affected me. I had been in a pretty bad state for a long time at this point, but I remember being at work and having my phone tell me I’d received an email. I checked it and stopped walking mid-step, staring at the message which said something impossible, something absurd and ridiculous. I mean, this wasn’t supposed to happen, surely? People don’t react positively to my work! That’s not how the world is… Or so I had thought.
Fast forward to yesterday, December 2013, and I am now looking at an official front cover for my first novel. The Sea-Stone Sword has never looked more real.
The artwork is amazing, a breathtaking image that took me completely by surprise. My younger brother’s illustrations have been tied with my imagination for so long that to see another artist’s take on it has awakened an intense desire for more artwork! But I mustn’t be greedy!
Now comes the long process of line editing and the increasingly nerve racking wait for the release date. Summer 2014, just in time for your birthday, if your birthday is in summer; if it’s not, just pretend it is and buy yourself this as a present!