I met Neil through my friend Franz. He is a hard working young man, striving to do the best he can with a smile on his face. I got this impression from him immeditadely and I look forward to getting to know him better along with his work. Welcome to Aspiring Author Spotlight, Mr. Neil Cartujano.
Aspiring Authors Spotlight Questions
- When you wake up in the morning, how do you see life?
A challenge. First thing in the morning, I wake up to an alarm clock screaming at me and jump off the top of my bunk bed. After a quick bath, I run to school and take the exam that’s probably waiting for me. Right now my life is moving so fast that it feels like I’d be roadkill as soon as I let my guard down. I just try to hang on until it slows down or I can match it’s pace.
- How did writing find its way into your life?
I’ve always liked stories but I never had a chance to write my own until a year ago. I started out by writing poems. No fancy ones, just a way for me to work out my feelings. That was when I discovered I enjoyed writing. After a while, a few ideas for a story cropped up in my head. At first, I had no clue how to start writing a story so I just wrote down my ideas in a notebook. Eventually, I just threw caution to the wind and started to write.
- What does writing do for you?
I can’t sing without making it rain, dance without tripping or draw a straight line with a ruler. Writing is the one thing where I can be creative. More importantly it gives me a strange sort of freedom. Having lived my whole life with very strict parents, writing is something I don’t do because I’m told to or because I have to, but because I want to. Writing is the one thing I can say that I did by myself and for myself.
- What sort of genre or type of writing do you do?
The genre of my writing is definitely fantasy. I like the freedom it gives you. I like how you can make whatever world you want and how you make the rules. Fantasy can be anything, it can be romance, comedy, horror, thriller or whatever else you can think of, but in a world of your own making. I also write poems sometimes, but these tend to be more personal and act as an outlet for my emotions.
- Do events in your life or people you know affect your writing?
Absolutely. I get a lot of inspiration from stuff that happens in my life. All my poems are about stuff that happened to me personally. In my stories, I have a few characters that I’ve based on my teachers and friends. There was a time when I had a really bad toothache and I could barely stand. As soon as I got back from the dentist, I wrote down the feeling in case I needed a vivid description of pain in the future. Sometimes I’d listen to a song and get an idea, so I’d take my notebook and write a few paragraphs or so.
- What are you currently work on or what was the last thing you wrote?
The story I’m working on is the idea that I had, but it took me a year before I could start writing it. It’s set in the same world as my other stories and I’m enjoying finding ways of connecting the various plots and characters. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to spend as much time on it as I want to because Med school has been keeping me pretty busy, but I do my best to write whenever I have the time.
- Can you tell us a little about it and its inspiration?
The story will be from multiple perspectives, but will focus on a young warrior named Ysira and her cadre. After completing their training, they are inducted into the Greymail, an ancient and very influential order of warriors who are the self-proclaimed protectors of man. They struggle to defend the world from the threats of unsanctioned magic and rampaging monsters as well as keeping the peace between the many kingdoms that are always on the brink of war. In the midst of the all the conflict, her brother Alphos joins a conspiracy that seeks to keep their order from being torn apart from within by the various factions and fraternities of Greymail, each with their own beliefs on what the order should become.The setting is a late medieval/early renaissance fantasy world. The lore is inspired by history such as the Knights Templar and the Teutonic Order as well as video games and authors like Andrzej Sapkowski, John Flanagan, Will Hill, Angus Donald, and of course J.R.R. Tolkien.
- What are your goals for the future?
I want to finish Med school and be a doctor, but I also want to get my novel published. I hope I’ll be able to balance studying and writing. After passing the board exams, I’d be able to spend more time writing. I have a ton of stories already in my head, I’ve written a rough outline for most of them in my notebook and I want to have the chance to flesh out those stories.
- What are your interests or hobbies?
I’m in my first year of Med school so I spend a lot of time with dead bodies, staring at long words and not sleeping. I really enjoy it though, and the instructors always have great stories to tell and are a great inspiration for my characters. I love to read and play video games. I also like movies, TV shows, comics(Batman FTW!), manga and anime. Basically, I enjoy anything with a good story. I also like keeping myself fit, so I work out and I even play sports sometimes. I love animals, my family owns 20 dogs. Last year, I’ve started collecting knives. Also, pizza. One of my interests is pizza, because pizza.
- If you could be a superhero, what are your powers and how would you use them to help the world?
I guess my power would be super luck. I’m tempted to mention other powers, but I always thought that luck would be an awesome power to have. I’d always ‘luckily’ have the solution to the problem and I’d ‘luckily’ find that old hat I lost. Best of all, it would help me ‘luckily’ win the lottery and pretty much everything else. Super luck would be like plot armor or a cheat code. I could be like Batman, but more helpful since I’d put money into charities and stuff rather than dressing just dressing up and punching super villains.
- What advice would you give people who want to write?
Write. A good way to do it is to just get on with it. It doesn’t matter if you think you have no idea how do it right or what to write about, just pick up a pen/pencil and a piece of paper or sit in front of a computer or even stone slab with a hammer and chisel, as long as you can use it to write or type or carve words it’s good to go. Just write whatever comes into your head and you might be surprised at what you get.
- If you could be remembered for one thing or thought, what would it be?
That I made good use of my life. That I wasn’t ‘just there.’ I want at least one person to remember that I was alive and I did something worthwhile in my lifetime.
Example of Work:
Ulfr Halbior’s grip tightened around his massive war-hammer as he watched the fiery hues of the sky in the distance. The towering volcano at the center of the continent that lay before him cast it’s shadow over Ulfr and the ship on whose deck he stood upon. At the edge of his vision a silvery blue flash caught his attention. Below him, standing in three circles at the lower deck of the ship, stood a dozen robed figures muttering what sounded like gibberish and waving their arms in elaborate patterns around their bodies. With every sound that came from their lips and every wave of their arms, the blinding patterns of dancing lights around which they stood grew brighter and slithered like gilded snakes on the weather-worn wood of the deck. The swirling lights crawled to form three rings of pulsing magical power, each filled and surrounded by glowing glyphs that Ulfr couldn’t even hope to decipher. Even so, he knew just how much power was crammed into every single one of those arcane symbols. A strange scent invaded his nostrils, a scent that he imagined what burning lighting would smell like. He glanced to the growing darkness of the continent they call the Isle of Sleeping Fire, in the distance he could glimpse the shimmering of light reflected on the restless waters of the sea. “They’re almost ready.” He turned to see a tall silhouette framed against the darkening sky. It was Keiser, one of his most trusted men, he had served the Frostedge chapter of the Greymail for more than half his lifetime. He had began life within the dark stone walls of the great fortress that sat upon a cliff of the Frostedge, overlooking the frozen expanse of the Bladed Sea. He stood pointing to the dancing figures that surrounded the glowing circles that spread even as he did. New lines of swirling runes burned across the deck, twisting forth to link the first three circles of arcane symbols and out into the far edges of the deck. The shimmering lines climbed over the low rails, searing it’s way down the hull. As Ulfr watched, they carved themselves into the sea, tossing and turning with the churning waters. They stretched further into the distance, to the Isle and to the other ships of the blockade fleet from which more lines of runes snaked over the waves. They disappeared from sight as they followed the ring of innumerable ships that ringed the entire continent. Ulfr had seen arcane configurations before, but never had he seen anything even approaching something of this scale. The runes crawled up the sky, burning it self into the air. Radiant beams of arcane power climbed into the sky, merging to form an unnerving dome of unfathomable magic force over the plagued and war ravaged continent.
Ulfr barely acknowledged his second-in-command’s word as he strolled down to the lower deck and faced the robed figures. The magi looked drained and exhausted, as if they had spent months marching through a desert. Constructing the configuration had obviously taken it’s toll on them. It had been centuries, even millennia, since a magical configuration of this scale had been attempted, much less completed. Even with the glowing tendrils stretching into the skies to add their light to the constellations that were just beginning to appear, Ulfr could barely believe that they had done this. But even more unbelievable to him was what he was about to tell his men to do.
Evidently, Keiser shared this disbelief and with furrowed brows, asked, “Are you certain this is what must be done?” He spoke with a tone to his voice that, at first, confused Ulfr. It took him several moments to realize what it was and when his mind had finally deciphered the uncertainty and quiver in Keiser’s voice, confusion turned to surprise and perhaps even a small twinge of anger.
It was fear. It something that he had not seen or heard in years, at least among the Greymail. They were trained to understand fear and use it to their own ends, but never to feel and succumb to it. It was weakness and irresponsibility at it’s highest for a Greymail to show their fear. With the duty they carried out, they had no time for petty and self-destructive notions such as fear. Now, looking closer he could see the beads of sweat on his protege’s forehead, the way he clenched his jaw tightly and the near imperceptible shake of his hand as he laid them upon the hilt of the sword at his waist.
“Yes.” He finally told the young warrior. In truth, there was no way he could be ever certain, not of something like this. Certainty, had never been a choice for him ever since this bloody war began. In the face of all the anger from both his enemies and his distant allies, certainty had been thrown aside and trampled. No, he had no certainty. Only conviction.
It was all that was left that he could trust himself to rely on. It was the same conviction that had brought him up the ranks of the Greymail until he rose to become the commander of it’s Frostedge Chapter. It was also the very same conviction that held his hand steady as he brought his warhammer down upon the head of the Amisveryn ambassador, the spark that lit the fiery blaze of the war that he was about to end. With the same conviction.
Sadly, his second-in-command did not appear to share his convictions.
“I know that my words may be too late, but surely we may be able to find another way to end this war.” Keiser implored his commander, his fears bringing his unspoken words to the surface at the point in time where they were of no use or consequence. Ulfr was sorely tempted to strike Keiser, but he clenched his fists tightly at his sides and restrained himself. There was no point in it. There was already enough violence as it was.
“This is not about ending the war.” He began, cutting off Keiser with a sharp glance to keep him from interrupting. “From the beginning it was nothing more than a nuisance, whether it ends or not, we will keep our eyes to the true enemy. Ending the war comes second to ending the Corruption.”
The Corruption. The mystical plague that had been the catalyst for all of this had already slipped beyond any way of control. In the less than a month since it’s first discovery, it quickly proved without a doubt that it was the most devastating disease to ever take root in the world. Like nothing that had ever been seen or imagined before, it became a force of unparalleled fear and destruction, sweeping across the cities at the base of the Feriynir, the gigantic volcano that the Amisveryn believed was home to their Sleeping God. It was the volcano’s shadow that cast the first darkness of the night upon them.
“Every person on that island is already doomed for death.” He continued after a large intake of breath, like the ones he took when he prepared for a rousing speech. “The Corruption will take them, sooner rather than later. For any of those men to scatter to the mainland, would be surely be a death sentence for the world.”
Keiser nodded urgently, but there was still the doubt in him. “But the Greylords-”
“Are cowards!” Ulfr snapped quietly but forcefully. “They argue back and forth about necessity and duty, yet they have no backbone to do what must be done. They bluffed and blustered, raising their objections and doubts as to the effectiveness and so called morality of the plan. In the end they had still done nothing against the use of a configuration and instead of taking the responsibility, they leave me to do their dirty work while they sit in their silver tower. All they want is result and not the blood that comes with it. They-”
He stopped his tirade abruptly, reigning in the rage that lay within him, consuming him slowly since the day his son died. Keiser looked at him warily, taking an unconscious step back as if his commander would turn the warhammer on him. For a manic moment that very thought crossed Ulfr’s mind. It would take no more that a single motion. A well-practiced swing that would force the man’s head violently into his own torso. Fortunately for the young Greymail, Ulfr stayed his hand, restraining the anger boiling in his heart and poisoning his mind. It was fear. Keiser’s reflecting his own. The fear on Keiser’s face showed him the fear within him that he tried so desperately to hide.
A flash of white cloth caught his eye and upon turning his head, saw one of the magi beckoning him to come. The time had finally arrived. Ulfr regained his composure and strode past his nervous protege who quickly followed him as he made his way down to the lower deck.
“It is done.” The mage told him in an exhausted voice. The man’s forehead was beaded with sweat and his eyes were red. At a glance Ulfr saw that the rest of the magi were no better, they all looked dead tired. Most were sitting on the deck or leaning against something, most were drenched in sweat and had dark rings under their reddened eyes, some where wiping away the blood that flowed from their noses. What Ulfr couldn’t see was any sign that the configuration had done its work. He stared uncomprehendingly at the various lines and circles of runes at their feet. While all Greymail learned a great deal about magic, only a few chose to study it in depth and Ulfr was not one of those.
“And?” He asked impatiently. “Why isn’t anything happening?”
The mage raised a shaky hand and pointed to a fourth arcane circle drawn exactly between the three circles that formed the corners of a triangle. Unlike the other circles and lines that surrounded it which were of a bright silvery blue, this one was a black so dark that it seemed to suck in the glow of the runes around it. What extended from it looked less like lines and more like tendrils or veins stretching out to the three bright circles. It was the same magic that covered the Nilvein weapons used by the Greymail, Nether runes. Magic that could dispel all other kinds of magic.
“We placed an inhibitor on the configuration.” The mage explained. Glancing at the dark veins of Nether magic etched into the head of Ulfr’s warhammer, he said, “I believe you understand what must be done.”
Ulfr nodded without answering. He understood clearly what had to be done. In fact, he understood more than that. He understood that these magi were cowards just like the Greylords. They were washing their hands clean of any blame, of any blood. Scowling, he strode forward and stopped just at the edge of the dark arcane circle. Keiser and the magi watched him apprehensively, their eyes looking as if Ulfr was walking on quicksand.
“Commader.” Keiser called to him. He did not bother to turn and look at this second-in-command. He continued staring at the circle of Nether magic in front of him. “The blood will be on your hands.”
Smiling grimly, Ulfr nodded saying, “Of course. It has been for long time.” In one smooth motion he hefted his warhammer and brought it crashing down right into center of the circle. A sound like a thousand glass panes shattering a thousand times in the space of a second filled the air around them. Some of the magi covered their ears, desperately trying to shield themselves from the noise, to no avail.
The three arcane circles began to glow almost violently and with a horrifying shriek, the light shot up into the sky. It coursed through the skies, bathing the men below in a dazzling display of arcane power. Beyond them a thousand other beams streaked upward from the decks of the countless other ships the armada. When the glow consumed the dome over the Isle, there was a moment of absolute silence. As suddenly as it had come, the magical glow disappeared along with every line and circle of the configuration.
All the occupants of the ship shared a look of wonder as the last of the runes faded, leaving behind the sky and the Isle untouched. Ulfr stomped over to the edge of the ship, looking out into the distance. He scanned the shoreline for any sign that the configuration had done it work and saw nothing. He rounded on the mage beside him furiously, grabbing a handful of his robe.
“What went wrong?” He growled with a manic look in his eyes. He held his warhammer half-raised in his other hand, the threat clear. The mage glanced fearfully at the weapon and back at the Greymail’s face contorted with anger.
“I-” Whatever it was that he was about to say was interrupted when they were blinded by the second sun that engulfed the Isle. Ulfr unconsciously loosened his grip, the cloth slipping out from his fingers as he gaped at the demonstration of true raw power. The scent of magic, something almost undetectable under normal circumstances, now filled the air. It became so thick that they almost choked on it.
The Isle had completely disappeared from view. Only the silvery-blue glow that turned night into day filled their vision.
Then, it was gone. The black of night returned completely as the light vanished all at once. It left behind the dark silhouette of the Isle exactly as it was before. With his eyes blinded by the sudden light and shrouded by the instantaneous return of the night, Ulfr had no way of even attempting to discern what the configuration had done. The configuration was nothing like anyone had created before and there was no way knowing for sure what it would do. The answer came when the mage fell to his knees, cradling his head and saying in a voice of utter grief, “I can’t feel it. The Soul Weave. Nothing. Nothing.”
“What are you talking about?” Ulfr asked in confusion.
The mage stared up at him with eyes that seemed to be looking into the far expanse of the sky.
“Shattered. The Weave, shattered. There is nothing there. They’re just gone.”
Ulfr gazed out into the dark distance as understanding dawned on him, staring at the now lifeless pile of rock that was once home to hundreds of thousands. He had done it. The war and the plague was gone. And so was the kingdom of the Amisveryn along with every soul on that sundered isle. All by his hand.
From Neil: I was born in raised in the Philippines. My family is very ‘professional’, for lack of a better term. While growing up I never had much chance to be exposed to art or music and the books I had to read would either be my school textbooks or my dad’s five inch thick medical books. The first time I read a novel was when I found my dad’s old Sherlock Holmes book which started my interest in literature. Now, I’m a twenty year old medical student, gamer and aspiring author. I have what looks like a caffeine addiction. I’m pretty handy with screw drivers and pliers, so if you have a simple electrical or mechanical problem, I might be able to fix it. Probably. I spend most of my time cramming for tests and not doing what I should be doing. As of now, my goal is to survive med school while being able to write my stories (And maybe impress that girl I like while I’m at it).