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© The Secret War, characters, names, and all related indicia are owned by Keith James

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I'm writing my own book series I titled "The Secret War". Honestly, I never thought I'd be writing, I've always been more interested in illustrating someone else's stories... I mean, just look at the rest of this website. But circumstances came about causing me to give it a try and I'm glad I did. I've fallen in love with it the way I love my favorite books. I don't mean to say that in a conceited way, it's just the only comparison I can think of to describe the feelings I have for it. I can't wait to share it.


I grew up with a love for Star Wars movies and comic book superheroes. The Secret War utilizes those aspects of myself, among others, producing something new, yet familiar. Nevertheless, thanks to the story's foundations, I believe it goes beyond its genera. It's more than just sword fights and magic, it speaks on deeper issues of love and life.


This page is to (of course) share the art I've (obviously) done for the story, introduce the characters and provide some background and reason I'm writing it.


The series is going to be 5 books long. The first has been professionally edited and I'm currently looking for a literary agent to hopefully be farming it out for publication before the end of the year. That's the hope anyway. I've already finished the rough draft of the second book and begun writing the third... not to mention a handful of chapters for both the fourth and fifth books as well.


But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's talk about book one:

This is my current working teaser for the story:


     When Jack Waramond, one of the greatest soldiers in the Kingdom of Idoless, went AWOL five years ago after (rumor has it) trying to kill the Prince, he knew the army would come looking for him one day. But the unit that tracks him down, led by Commander Mike Church with Jack's brother, Lieutenant Frank Waramond, aren't there to arrest him, but ask for his help.


     They've discovered a powerful weapon is hidden inside the confines of the hellish region known as Death's Province; a place no one has ever been to and survived. No one—except Jack. Determined to retrieve the weapon to protect the Kingdom from a threat he refuses to reveal, Church wants Jack to guide a team of soldiers through the Province, find the weapon and get out.


     Jack's tortured past gives him cause not to, but he reluctantly agrees to help. The adventure begins before even reaching Death's Province when Jack has a run in with a mysterious outlaw known as the Cardinal, the team encounters a pack of enormous grizzly bears and there's a battle between all five nations of Terra Firma.

     The grander story for the series is set when Idoless discovers there is more to the weapon than they originally expected.

     Jack's return home continues a parable of discovery about himself, his brother, their nation, and the world they live in, and it's only the beginning of a much larger adventure.

For a time I'd considered doing "The Secret War" as a comic series or graphic novel. But the story was just going to be too long. Maybe if it was my full time job, and I had all the time in the world, it could be done. But since I currently have a day job and other life responsibilities, it's going to be in traditional book format. Maybe if the book does well, I'll do a comic adaptation later.


Anyway, originally, I did artwork of some of the characters in my comic-style. And while I retained that I was going to use that style for any artwork I did for the series I did this cover illustration for the first book.


But ultimately, I decided I wanted a more realistic look for the series. I wanted the cover to look like a poster for a movie. Hence the image above.

Let's Meet the Characters

Jack is the one of the two main characters of The Secret War. He and his brother are the heart and driving forces of the story. I know it's a tad cliché, but Jack is one of the greatest warriors of the nation of Idoless. It seems the lead characters in this kind of story are always "the greatest/best ___ of whatever" and so on. But I tried to show how and why he became so good. There are reasons, and those reasons also play into some of why the story elements that happen to him, do. Much of his success is influenced by his love for Eliza Nickolie; she is his reason to survive and beacon home from any mission.


"Return to Death's Province" picks up 5 years after Jack has run away. There are stories he'd tried to kill the prince just before disappearing. He's now living in the remote town of Oakmoor Cove, as far from the castle as he can be when soldiers of the army he used to be a part of show up to collect him and bring him home. He's the only known survivor of a perilous region known as "Death's Province" and they need him to go back.

Click on an image to see it larger

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Almost all the characters are somehow a part of me, but Frank is probably the closest. I made him an artist and gave him a number of my own personality traits. Don't get me wrong, he's not me. In many ways, Jack's every bit as much "me" as Frank is. But Frank is my gay character in the story and is taken on a similar life journey as it relates to being such.


Frank is a Lieutenant in the army his adopted brother Jack left and accompanies the team on the mission into Death's Province. He doesn't get to show it in the first book, but he's an excellent pilot and is restoring an old airboat to live out of when he retires from the army.

Click on the image to see it larger

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Eliza is strong willed, a champion for social justice, and she's the love of Jack's life. The feelings they share and their history are a large part of the story, but she's far more than just "the love interest".


Women's rights are restricted in Idoless, which frustrates her greatly. However, she'll be in a position to make change in the nation when she becomes the queen; the only woman in Idoless who has any kind of power - and she intends to use it. Of course, the fact that she's the Princess is because she's married to the Prince. More specifically, she's not married to Jack. How and why this all came to be is one of the more significant mysteries of "Return to Death's Province"


Her shoulder is the common perch for her grumpy faced pet mini-core (like a manticor, but smaller; a cat with wings) Oliver, who can't be bothered to "meow" fully. "Meh."

Eliza Nickolie-HawthornWEB.jpg
Eliza Nickolie-HawthornWEB.jpg

Click on the image to see it larger

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Peter's past is a bit of a mystery. The Idolessians needs him to get inside Death's Province, which is contained by a magical barrier, with only one entrance that moves around regularly. Since he lives in the wild, Peter happens to know where the door currently is.


He's kind of like Tarzan or Mogli from "The Jungle Book”. He was raised in the wild by enormous bears called Kodiaks. He's closest with the one who found him, named Terrie. Peter is familiar with humans and human ways but he's not conditioned by society on the "proper" way to interact. He calls things as he sees them, and due to his unique upbringing, has a way of reading peoples body language and can often tell what someone is thinking, even if they won't vocalize it.

Peter & Terrie WEB.jpg
Peter & Terrie WEB.jpg

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Mike Church is the commander of the Idolessian military. He's a determined and at times a rather harsh man. His father is a powerful wizard and has passed on to him a little bit of magic. Jack has worked with him in the past but struggles to trust him now... and not without reason.


There are some details about Mike that are too complicated to explain here, but there are reasons I made him black and it's similar to the reasons I gave him the name "Church". Neither of these issues are explained anytime soon. I'll just say this... know there is more to be learned about the black man named Church.

Mike Church WEB.jpg
Mike Church WEB.jpg

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I can't tell you too much about the Cardinal right now, because he's a bit of a mystery. He's an outlaw, akin to Robin Hood; steals from the rich and gives to the poor. But he's also been around for much longer than a single person's life span. Some think he's a ghost, while others wonder if it's a mantel that gets passed down through the ages. No one knows for sure because no one has ever gotten a very good look at him.


But Jack has a couple of run in's with the Cardinal in "Return to Death's Province" and learns an even larger, more personal mystery about the bandit.

Cardinal BlackWEB.jpg
Cardinal BlackWEB.jpg
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This is Sarah and her identical twin sister Sophie. Yes, sister... identical.... I was hesitant to reveal the tall figure was Sophie, because I want to save the surprise for those who end up reading the book. But the secret is exposed so quickly in the story, I feel it's safe to talk about them a little. Sophie has been altered by magic, giving her the masculine form, but that's all I will say about that for now. The sisters are mercenaries from the nation of Lithostone, there to get to the weapon of power before the Idolessians do, but they get involved  more than even they expect.

Sarah Sophie WEB.jpg
Sarah Sophie WEB.jpg

Click on the image to see it larger

Click on the image to see it larger

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More Character bios to come as I finish the illustrations of them!

The Story Behind the Story

     First, you need to know I grew up in a conservative Christian family. But as it turns out I'm gay, which has put a major strain on my relationship with them.


     It hit me pretty hard - that up until I finally accepted myself for who I am, I had blindly agreed with them on the subject. It bothered me that it took being gay myself to force me to really think about it. I worried what other issues I hadn't thought about, causing me to question my faith and beliefs entirely. After a lot of thought and prayer, I found my way back to faith, but it was balanced by a new outlook.


     Now, please understand, my family and I don't hate each other; quite the opposite actually. My family loves me very much (as I do them) and they only want what's best for me. We just disagree on exactly what is “best” for me. I could bore you with details of the countless conversations and letters my family and I have exchanged on the finer points of the Bible and homosexuality since I came out, but I won't bother because the end result has always been the same – nobody changed the others mind.


     But that makes sense; no person changed my mind. I believe I'm where I am now because I was blessed with my sexuality. Yes blessed. I'm glad I'm gay. Having to deal with these feelings confronted and forced me to question everything I'd been taught. Even if it turned out that homosexuality is a sin, at least now I can claim my beliefs for myself. And yes, I try to stay open minded enough to concede that it could be a sin. I try to treat people the way I want them to treat me and I've found it frustrating when the “other side” isn't willing to extend the same courtesy… but I digress.


     The point is, I stopped trying to convince or persuade my family to my way of thinking. My new goal was, and still is, just to get them to understand me and why I believe what I do. What God does in their hearts with that understanding will be between them and God.


     The idea of writing a story to achieve my goal had been brewing in my mind for some time. I thought by taking them on a journey with a character so they can “experience” the world through that character… well, it might be a more personal way to accomplish my objective. However, while I came up with some of the characters and specific events, I could never come up with a proper story for those ideas to be incorporated into. There was no framework. No outline as were.


     Then one day a family member and I were having one of our many arguments discussions, when the subject of marriage came up. They of course maintain marriage is between “one man and one woman” while I argued that gender shouldn't dictate who we're allowed to love. There are certainly the legal aspects of marriage - rights so many are fighting over these days. So that was another thing my family member leaned on; at that time, it wasn't legal. I tried to challenge them with questions about what makes a marriage a marriage and in a heated moment I created a quick scenario asking, “So, what if…?”


     “What if a man and a woman… I'm taking the gender issue out of this, and using a coupling we can both agree on. So a man and a woman get stranded on an island. They live there together for years and fall in love. Even though there is no legal system in place and no papers to sign to show them wed. Even though there is no religious institution to have a ceremony through. There is no priest or pastor to declare them man and wife. If these two people committed themselves to each other, in your opinion,” I asked my family member, “are they married in God's eyes?”


     The answer I got was frustrating. They skirted around the issue and got locked up on unimportant details, but ultimately settling on, “Well, that would never happen.”


     And with that, I had my outline. There wasn't even a gay character to argue over (yet).  A man whom I named Waramond (it was an odd name, but it just came to me and stuck) and a woman named Bella (my favorite feminine name) get marooned on an island. There they fall in love and commit themselves to each other. Then there was a third character marooned with them. I didn't have name for him yet, but knew he was the prince of their nation. He also falls in love with Bella and while she likes the Prince, she doesn't love him. Eventually the trio are rescued and brought home. Waramond and Bella are not legally wed and no one knows about their commitment except the Prince who now “claims” Bella as his own.


     That was the basic setup I had in my head before I even wrote a single word. The story was going to be short and sweet; a “trial run”. Ironically, I was using it to understand my family instead of expressing my own feelings for them to understand me. But it was worth the effort. If it even remotely worked, I could try the story format again. But for now, the question I wanted answered was, in their opinion, who was Bella married to? The man she loves or the man who legally wed her.


     In my efforts to specify all the details my family could possibly get hung-up on, the story grew and that is when it turned into a novel. See, I made Waramond and the prince friends to explain why they were both there. But in doing so, I also created a conflict between them. So the island story became something that happened in the past before the events of the main story.


     Around that time I had to reject the name Bella to avoid association with the teen-vampire-romance “Twilight” books that had become quite popular. I opted to give her the name Eliza; after Eliza Dushku, one of my favorite actresses. So when the book begins, Eliza is the Princess, wed to the Prince.


     Even though the marriage question still applied, I now had an opening for a gay character to address homosexuality more directly. I didn't want this character to be a side character. If I was going to have him there, I wanted my family to really get to know him. He had to be another lead. So I split Waramond in two… into brothers… Jack and Frank and their last name would be Waramond.


     Once I finally began writing, the story exploded. Scenes practically wrote themselves and while writing one of those scenes… truly, I didn't even mean for it to happen... suddenly I found myself setting up a much larger adventure. I didn't question it. It was too perfect. It offered me more time to do things than I could in just one book. I could ask and challenge my family with more questions but also do what I'd wanted from the beginning; express myself in a creative way, hopefully helping them to understand what I believe and why.


     As I worked on it, a day came when it occurred to me, “You know… this story isn't half bad. It might even be kind of good.” I shared chapters with some friends and all of them liked it. I shared more with others and the response I got was universal; they loved it. And so, while "The Secret War" is ultimately written to and for my family, I've decided to try and get it published.


     It should be said, despite everything mentioned so far, I do think the story is quite a bit of fun. Even if you don't want to focus on the religious, social or political commentaries, you don't have to. The adventure, mysteries and the twists and turns can still entertain.


     At the risk of sounding melodramatic, the story ended up becoming a labor of love that I've poured myself into. And now, I can hardly wait to share it with the world.


The adventure will continue in: