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  • Julius Eks

An Unprecedented Analysis of a Fucking Pocket Watch

(This blog post was first published by Bold Strokes Books, UK. Link Below)


How many times have we heard this lately? — “We are living in unprecedented times.”


In the midst of a devastating pandemic, an historic election across the pond, and…Brexit…we are frequently reminded how unprecedented these times are. It has started to lose its sparkle, as overuse and exaggeration have hollowed out the precarious fruit from within the unprecedented shell. Are we to believe that next year will be better, or will it be as ruthlessly unprecedented, too?


For now, it may seem as though the world is on hold. Somebody hit pause on the global remote, and falling short of the planet ceasing to spin, we have little choice but to sit and wait in limbo. Will we ever return to work as normal? Will we ever hug each other the same way again? Will Christmas be cancelled? So, here we are, suspended in an unprecedented state of timelessness. And how aptly timelessness has presented itself in my writing of late.


Pandemic aside, 2020 was an exciting year for me with the release of my debut novella, Le Berceau. Unleashing my stories onto the world has been more thrilling than I ever imagined it would be, and already I am tracking my evolution as a writer with every word.


Le Berceau, a contemporary erotic romance between two young men, was written with timelessness in mind. Of course, it is a contemporary telling, but I was careful to displace it from particular bonds of time in living history. There is a distinct lack of modern-day technology—the exception being the boat the story is set on, bobbing away off the Mediterranean coast, somewhere between France and Italy. No mobile phones, no laptops, no tablets, no internet. Just the simple life—books, uncomplicated dishes of pasta, a bottle or two of wine, and good company.


At sea is the perfect place to set a timeless tale. The surroundings—distant, endless, and oh so blue—are eternally unchangeable. One can gaze out at the horizon and see the same flat line Columbus chased. No telling architecture; no cultural markers.


And what of dialogue? Well, fortunately my characters are both nerds who would prefer to discuss philosophy and art history. No pop culture here! Leo, the younger of the two, is the oldest soul onboard. And Ben, who becomes expeditiously obsessed with the thoughtful adolescent, has a fascination for languages that transcends words and embraces the culture and history of its peoples.


Timelessness suits Le Berceau well. A lifetime of events happen in a single day spent at sea. A single day where Ben and Leo become lost in themselves and the endless haze of an insistent Mediterranean summer.


Following on from Le Berceau, I’m currently working on further writing projects that deal with time in their own way. I am now finalising a final draft of a very meaningful book to me. Set in the early nineties, it is the story of a fifteen-year-old boy from rural North Yorkshire who runs away from an oppressive home in search of London’s famed gay community. What does he want—love? Sex? Hampstead Heath? But what does he find? A family.


Taken off the street by a fabulous drag queen, this young country boy finds acceptance within the most colourful rainbow family. His found family includes an anarchistic, Irish, transgender punk; an effeminate, black, Senegalese teen from a conservative African family; an octogenarian widow who used to make costumes at the Royal Opera House; and, of course, the mother of the house, the outrageous drag queen saviour. Quite a cast!


But along the way, the trials of growing up gay in the nineties begin to surface. Homophobia, transphobia, homelessness, harassment, drug abuse, and of course, AIDs, are never far from sight.


This is the reality of life in our community in such times. I am astounded when I look back and see how much we are progressing. It seems like centuries-worth of exposure, protesting, and insisting have crammed themselves into just three short decades. And yet, it is so clearly in recent history that I had to write with great care. People still remember the nineties so vividly. They remember the clothes, the music, the attitudes. They remember and they care, as if they owned time itself. Everything that happened can be recalled first hand, and if it isn’t recalled, it is probably very clearly documented in film, photo, and internet searches. On this occasion, more than any other, I felt a duty to show time some respect!


Now on the final draft of editing, I also started another project set in an entirely different place in time. A time which calls for differing levels of research, detail, imagination, and consideration. A queer, historical fiction novel set in Medieval Occitania—a land so far removed from public consciousness that it could almost qualify as fantasy.


Why did I choose this land, situated around the mystical landscape of the French Pyrenees? Well, can you think of another Medieval European society that showed equality to women and probably tolerated homosexuality? So much so that Rome sent a colossal Catholic crusade to crush it? Neither can I! So, I wanted to write stories in this land. I wanted to increase awareness of its existence. I wanted to fantasise on what might have been.


The research was very fun! Thankfully, I have a Masters degree that focused intensely on Occitan studies, so many of my notes were already written…I just needed to find that box I stored them in and re-read them.


I started writing this book with a lot more freedom, knowing the farther back in history I traveled, the more scope for interpretation I could allow myself. However, I wanted more than ever to do this time and place justice, while also allowing my imagination to run riot. I wanted to be accurate and exact, without compromising a great story and potentially fanciful characters. Time was not necessarily on my side, but I felt a sense of duty to it, if not to the years of personal study that preceded the first draft.


I tried not to banish the constant fear that sat on my shoulder saying, “Would they have eaten that?”—“Would they have worn those shoes?”—“Would they have gone to bed at that hour?”—“Would that historical street have looked like that?”—“What material was that house made of?”—“How do I translate that word from Old Occitan to Modern French to Modern English, and should I use the original word here or the translation?”—“Is this even all making sense?!” The fear of these details spurred me on, and hopefully I managed to craft a gripping story around it. Indeed, the historical knowledge set me free. My devotion to the time laid the foundations for my imagination to walk in and say, “I got it, sis. I’ll take it from here.”


But now I am looking ahead to the next story and, I must admit, I’m feeling rather historically drained! So much work and detail has taken its toll, yet I’m still craving the fantasy of olden times for another queer book. My solution? My first dip into pure fantasy!


I never thought I would dip my toe in the fantasy genre, but oh my goodness! World building! I’ve never had so much fun in all my life! I felt like a kid again! What a wonderful experience it has been, crafting a foreign land filled with incredible creatures, plant life, potions, spells, histories, cultures, traditions, geographical markers, cities, islands…but, oh no! What is this? The detailed historian in me has also come out to play!


Why is that? Well, one of the first questions I asked myself was, “How do I name this place? What will I call these cities and these people?”. I chose to base them off extinct civilisations and historical societies. The place names take their roots from the languages of those times, since lost. Old Norse words inspire the elven cities. Ancient Greek words inspire the dominions of men. But then, I fell down a rabbit hole, which I am still trapped in. Ancient Greek just wasn’t enough!


How did man arrive in this world, filled with elves and other such magical creatures? Well, I had to find a way to bring them here, somehow. An apocalyptic event in our existing world, perhaps? I got it! The Minoan eruption! A catastrophic event in a far, distant history, in which a volcano wiped out the entire Minoan civilisation! Okay, so now I need to research the entire Minoan civilisation to create a cultural thread to modern-day men and women in my newly-imagined world. Easy right? Oh no. Because I also foolishly created another society of men who arrived in the same, newly-imagined world, at a different time, via a different apocalyptic event. The tsunami that wiped out the Mesolithic people of Stone Age Doggerland? Sure, why not! Let me start watching a few documentaries.


If I’m not making my point clear, time has once again crept up on me and demanded differing levels of attention and detail. It’s been fun, though. I love historical research, and through the fantasy genre, I feel much more inclined to be fanciful about it. I can be much more timeless, if I choose to be. My imagination can take the wheel.


And so, with time on hold in our present lives, I will allow myself to be lost in others. Time can move as slow or as fast as I want. I can surely make life more eventful than it currently is. It is something I would recommend to anyone, especially children, if they are feeling a little lost or confused about what is going on in the world right now. Build your own worlds, whether fantasy or fact-based. In these unprecedented times, it might just keep us sane until we can return to our ordinary lives again.


https://boldstrokesuk.wordpress.com/2020/11/22/an-unprecedented-analysis-of-a-fucking-pocket-watch-by-julius-eks/




Le Berceau by Julius Eks is available now on: The Bold Strokes Books Website:

https://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/books/le-berceau-by-julius-eks-3201-b


Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Berceau-Julius-Eks-ebook/dp/B084QHF72Z/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=le+berceau+eks&qid=1587303539&sr=8-1


Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/le-berceau-julius-eks/1136577200?ean=2940162744467


And other major retailers!





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