Category Archives: books

A Writer’s Journey – And Finding Courage to Write From the Heart

Young funny man in glasses writing on typewriter

I dreamed of being a writer from almost the time I was old enough to pick up a book. As a child, my head was always brimming with stories, adventures, far off lands and an assortment of characters that were almost like invisible friends to me. I would spend hours in the garden playing by myself, letting these stories unfold as I roamed about, engaged in mortal combat with fearsome enemies and endeavouring to save the universe as we know it! I still think there’s nothing in the universe quite as magical as a little kid’s imagination.

As I grew up I knew I wanted to find ways to share my stories. Just about every medium of storytelling fascinated and inspired me—whether novels, comic books, films or television. It was very much an innate love—not something that was instilled in me, or something I consciously developed, but something that was as natural to me as breathing. Having said that, although the urge to create may be a natural one, the journey of a writer is rarely an easy one. It can be, I suppose. All one technically needs to do is find an idea, sit down and start scrawling words on paper. But it was never quite that easy for me.

My apprenticeship as a writer was a long and arduous one. My new novel, The Key of Alanar, is a story I began developing when I was quite young. I can’t even remember where the initial idea came from. I do remember that I was compelled by a deep desire to create a book that I hoped would eventually become a film or TV series. My style of writing is quite visual, and many who have read my books have remarked what wonderful movies they would make. I began actively working on the ideas when I was about fifteen years old. At a time when I should have been working hard at school, going to parties and chasing girls, or boys, I spent much of my time dreaming up the world of Alanar and envisaging the characters and plot that would eventually become the framework for The Key of Alanar. I had a vision and I was committed! Those are two of the most important steps in any creative endeavour.

Perhaps if I’d chosen a less ambitious concept for my first novel I’d have finished it a whole lot sooner. But I didn’t. I wanted to tell the best story I could possibly tell; a story that captivated and enthralled me. I wanted it to be a story about life; about the human journey from loss, pain and lack to some kind of peace, redemption and wholeness. I admit, even as a kid, I was always a bit of a deep thinker—a natural born philosopher and mystic. I set out to tell a story that meant something; a story that would hopefully inspire and challenge the way people see themselves and life. I wanted to write a book into which I’d put so much love, attention and effort that even if I were never to write again, I would be satisfied.

I had nothing if not ambition! I spent many years working on the initial drafts of The Key of Alanar, and eventually brought it to completion in 2007. I was delighted to have finally completed a project that had been with me for so long. Looking back, however, I’m not surprised I didn’t find a publisher for it. It was a good book, but I was as yet unskilled as a writer and hadn’t really done it justice. It takes significant time and practise to become a good writer. It doesn’t happen overnight; as nice as that would be. A writer’s apprenticeship is beset with frustration, self-doubt, failure and rejection. The obstacles, both inner and outer, are many and often overwhelming. Although I was committed to being a writer, I experienced enormous self-doubt and there were times when I simply wanted to give it all up. But I found that I couldn’t. The desire to create is like an itch that, unless scratched, has the potential to drive one insane!

The Key of Alanar is more than just another fantasy adventure about goblins and dwarves. It’s a story about a boy learning to deal with the painful things life throws his way, heal his past, discover who he is and realise the gifts he can bring to a world in desperate need. It’s a human story; a story about the journey we must all take through life. With some subtly woven metaphysical elements it’s also an inquiry into the very nature of reality, consciousness, life and death. While ensuring I was still writing an accessible, action-packed novel, I wanted to delve deep and incorporate my love of philosophy and metaphysics. I wanted to push the boundaries of storytelling and see how far I could take it. I knew I had to write from my heart and tell the story I always wanted to tell, the way I wanted to tell it.

I rewote The Key of Alanar from scratch following the publication of my first novel, Eladria. In retrospect, I can see that in order to write a book about life, I first had to experience life. I had to experience pain and loss; to lose people extremely close to me; to fall in love and be heartbroken; to feel lost and alone; and to ultimately find my place in life, and to begin to understand the nature of reality. My journey through life as a person is paralleled in the characters, particularly the protagonist, David. Similarly, the metaphysical aspects of the book are not simply an arbitrary afterthought but are based upon in-depth study of many spiritual and philosophical texts; and my own experiences after twenty years of meditation and exploration of consciousness.

With this book, I found the courage to write from my heart, to share my journey and experiences, as well as ideas and knowledge that I hope will stay with the reader and benefit their life in some way. The journey of a writer is not an easy one (we just make it look easy as we sit sipping our latte, fingers elegantly dancing across the laptop keyboard!). But it is a worthwhile one, so long as we have the courage to write from a place of love and integrity. The world doesn’t need more mindless distraction and diversion; the world needs stories that challenge and provoke, stories that explore the way we live our lives and the problems we face along our way; and stories that offer the promise of hope, inspiration, healing and wholeness.


Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00050]This blog post was originally written for The Key of Alanar book tour. The Key of Alanar is now available in both paperback and ebook format! Click here for more details, including a synopsis, video trailer and free sample chapters!

The Visionary Fiction Revolution – And How Words Can Change the World

magic_book_by_mar_ka
Art by Mar-ka on Deviantart

This article was originally written for The Visionary Fiction Alliance and posted on their website in two parts. It’s one of the most important and, for me, most cathartic pieces I’ve ever written. It helped clarify why I’ve always wanted to write, why I’m passionate about the power of storytelling, and why I will probably still be churning out words when I’m 90! I hope you find it interesting!


It’s estimated that nearly 130 million books have been published in modern history. 28 million books are currently in print in English alone. When contemplating writing a book, I can’t help but reflect on these staggering statistics, as indeed I think all authors should. Does the world really need another book to add to those 130 million others? In what way is writing a book going to benefit the world and enhance the lives of its readers? Is there a reason for telling a new story – a need, and a purpose for doing so? If not, then why invest the substantial time and effort in writing a book? If it’s just to make money, then there are certainly easier and less labor intensive ways of doing so – particularly with the market as saturated as it is, with more books published than any time in history and an apparently downward trend in readership.

A changing landscape

shutterstock_112499642smThe publishing industry is in the threshold of a transformation comparable to the advent of the Gutenberg print press over 500 years ago. The way we read is changing substantially, and the way writers release work is also changing. The advent of digital publishing has resulted in an explosion in the number of books being published. I’ve heard it said that we are experiencing an overproduction of books. The scarcer a commodity the more valuable it is, and indeed vice versa. There are more books to choose from than ever before, and to compete in this wild new literary world, authors and publishers must keep prices rock bottom and increase their output to compensate.

Our 21st century civilization is guilty of the crime of excess, if nothing else. In the current information age, we have more information than we’ll ever know what to do with, all readily available via magical little devices we keep in our pockets. Whether this unprecedented access to information has made the human race any wiser is a matter for debate. As far back as 1984, John Naisbitt famously remarked that our culture is “drowning in information, but starving for knowledge”. This clearly extends to the literary world. We’re drowning in a sea of readily available books; ours to download at the press of a button. Upwards of 4,000 books are being published a day. But of these 4,000 books, how many are adding something new, something necessary to the world?

Have writers lost their way?

The issue of social entropy is something I find interesting and a little disturbing. It’s a basic law of physics that any system will, over time, veer from a state of simplicity and order to ever greater diversification, complexity, chaos and eventual degradation.

I believe the writing world is, like many other things in society, experiencing a degree of entropy. There’s greater diversification than ever before and an immense volume of literature being pumped out. Anyone can be a writer now. You could theoretically write a book this morning and have it ready to download on Amazon by suppertime. Heck, if you’re lucky it might even sell! Some of the bestsellers of the past few years haven’t even been particularly accomplished in a literary sense. This ‘democratization’ of publishing is in many ways a good thing but it does have many implications. Although anyone can now be a writer, perhaps only a few of those writers are likely to spend the time learning, developing and honing the skills and craft of storytelling.

I believe it is essential for a writer to have a clear understanding of the basic function and purpose of storytelling. We need to understand why human beings have a compulsion to tell stories, and how these stories have the power to shape our culture, society and our views, beliefs and our very experience of reality.

bigstock_story_2226743

When writers lose touch with the purpose of storytelling, stories lose their power. They become merely a form of superficial entertainment; distraction and escapism, bereft of meaning and depth. Oh, we keep telling stories, but without an understanding of whywe’re telling the story and what it’s actually about, the stories become mechanical and lackluster, often relying on gimmicks, clever marketing and shock factor to grab our attention. Otherwise it’s a case of, as Dexter Palmer wrote in his novel The Dream of Perpetual Motion: “Stories? We have no time for them; no patience.”

If the storytellers have forgotten why they even tell stories, beyond the obvious material gain and the desire to be creative, why should the readers and audience care?

The ancient power of storytelling

The greatest writers do not write to entertain the world. They write to change the world. And the very best of them actually do.

Truly classic stories have a timeless power to them — which is why they can endure for hundreds, even thousands, of years. They are not just a succession of meaningless events interwoven to distract, entertain and amuse, no matter how cleverly written. They have a meaning to them; a purpose, a message to impart and questions to explore.

Modern society provides us with every luxury conceivable, but it comes at a price. We are all cogs in the capitalist-consumer machine, and for all the latest smartphones and smart watches and smart TVs we have to distract us, on some level we are crying out for something more: greater wisdom, greater meaning to our lives, and some kind of inner nourishment to counter the relentless stress and struggle of modern life. What we yearn for is to be free — and, at heart, all the greatest stories are about freedom of the human mind, heart and soul.

Human beings are born storytellers. The story was invented long before the wheel and we’ve been sharing them since possibly before the advent of linguistic communication. Cave paintings are believed to be the earliest records of storytelling, in which the history, myths and narratives of ancient tribes were set, literally, in stone. As I explored in my article The Power of Storytelling and Mythology’ storytelling is hardwired into the human brain, as one of the ways that we interpret and make sense of reality. Mythology, one of the world’s oldest forms of storytelling, was a way of understanding the universe and mankind’s place in it. Whether as creation myths or tales of heroes battling gods and demons, mythological stories were deeply symbolic and metaphorical, holding significant meaning for particular tribes and cultures.

It’s often said that there are no new stories, only the constant recycling of various plot elements in different combinations. Indeed, Christopher Booker wrote a book in which he claimed that there are only seven basic plots, which can be reconstituted and adapted in various ways. Comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell believed that all stories and myths at their basis were in essence variations of a single story, which he called the monomyth, or the hero’s journey, “the song of the universe” being sung in different ways by various cultures and people throughout history. Is it possible that all stories can be boiled down to one essential story?

Art by Josephine Wall
Art by Josephine Wall

We tell stories for a reason

Mythology, which is storytelling at its most essential level, was not purposeless. It played an important role in shaping and sustaining society and, according to Campbell, had four primary functions. The first was to open the eyes of the individual and awaken a sense of awe, humility and wonder about the very nature of existence; to become aware of an interplay of tangible physical and elusive metaphysical realms.

The second function was cosmological; using stories and metaphor to help people understand the universe around them, making sense of time, space and biology. On a sociological level, mythology was also used as a means of forming and maintaining social connections. Having a shared narrative enabled tribes to stick together, supporting the social order and maintaining customs, beliefs and social norms.

On a more personal level, the tribe’s stories provided signposts for navigating life, sometimes reflected in ritual and rites of passage. The individual was not left to muddle through life without guidance. The epic tales of mythology were used as metaphors for dealing with the challenges and conflicts we face along life’s journey. These stories, properly understood, contained great wisdom and guidance.

Mythological tales were reflections of the human psyche and the conflicts and desires that drive it. The catastrophic battles between heroes and demons, the sacrifices, betrayals, jealously and love were reflections of the forces powering the human mind and heart. Furthermore, as stated before, Campbell believed that they could all be reduced to the same basic pattern, the same essential story: a story of trial, transcendence, rebirth and redemption. It was always a story of overcoming great adversity and conflict and finding that most cherished of all things, the true goal behind all human endeavor — freedom, whether a literal freedom or freedom of mind, heart and soul. Adversity and emancipation were therefore the themes of this ancient monomyth.

The basic motif of the mythological hero’s journey is repeated endlessly throughout time and across widely different cultures. It still has relevance to us today, for it is a universal story that transcends any particular cultural context. It is the story of the human condition and our striving to overcome conflict and adversity (both inner and outer); to know ourselves, to find our place in life and to be all that we are and are capable of being. It is a tale of redemption and the quest for power through transcendence and self-knowledge.

This message is needed as much today as it ever was — perhaps even more so. We live in precarious times. Economic and social structures are eroding, political and religious conflicts are rife, and through exploitation and greed we are in danger of irreparably damaging the environment that sustains us. We are essentially destroying ourselves–a long, slow suicide caused by human insanity on a wide scale. If we as a species are to survive and thrive, we clearly must change our trajectory.

Campbell was adamant that we need mythology: for “when a civilization loses its mythology, the life goes out of it.” Without a functioning mythology to make sense of reality, to provide meaning, self-knowledge, inspiration and social cohesion, society begins to break down. Mythology must continually adapt itself to stay relevant to the ever-changing society, or else it becomes not only obsolete and irrelevant but maybe even dangerous — as might be seen with some religions. When our stories no longer serve us, we must invent new stories that utilize the same monomyth framework but which work for the age, culture and context in which we live — reinvigorating the ancient wisdom for a modern age, sharing the same essential tale of redemption and emancipation in new and accessible ways.

Words and ideas can change the world

Writers have a responsibility. As Robin Williams’ character in the film Dead Poets Society said: “No matter what anyone tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” While it’s perfectly permissible for writers to write and sell trashy fiction (and there is a sizable market for it), writers have a higher calling.

Words can set people free. The greatest novels have always been about the emancipation of the human spirit. That is why books such as Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol are still celebrated and immortalized centuries later. By exploring the nature of human suffering, writers can offer solutions, answers and new paradigms of thought. Like the shamans of ancient times, writers have the potential to be healers in some way, offering a way out of pain and suffering by presenting new ideas, new interpretations and new ways of understanding and relating to life.

2941691931_dbabec0f53

Visionary Fiction

Amid the increasing diversification of the literary world, a number of writers are pioneering a new genre called Visionary Fiction. Really this isn’t a new genre at all, for writers have been producing visionary works for thousands of years, from the Indian epic The Mahabharata, to Milton’s Paradise Lost, Hesse’s Siddhartha and Coelho’s The Alchemist. There is now a growing recognition that words have the power to heal, to inspire and to change our experience of reality from a mindset of lack, loss and disconnection, to one of wholeness, connection and power.

Visionary Fiction echoes the best of ancient myth, utilizing the functions of mythology as elucidated by Joseph Campbell, by reinventing the great monomyth for a modern age. If we’re essentially telling the same great story, the story of human adversity, struggle and transcendence, then it has to continually be told in fresh, engaging and relatable ways.

Many books can have a visionary element. Such stories draw attention to the power and potential of the human mind and spirit; our inherent struggle for identity, wholeness and freedom from limitation. The story is driven as much by the internal journey of the characters as by external events, exploring the expansion of mind and consciousness. Following the timeless pattern of the hero’s journey, the characters face adversity, challenges and a symbolic (or perhaps even literal) death and rebirth. These stories may question the nature of reality and consciousness, opening the reader to new ways of looking at life. Some of the most famous authors whose work includes a visionary element include Richard Bach, Herman Hesse, Aldous Huxley, Paulo Coelho and James Redfield.

Visionary Fiction is not about getting the reader to share the author’s same beliefs and ideas, but an invitation for the reader to explore for themselves, to question, think, dream and push the boundaries of what they previously thought possible. An entire life can change in an instant with a simple change of perspective. As Marcel Proust said, “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.” The best stories enable us to see with new eyes; taking the reader out of our ordinary, mundane existence, and presenting new ways of understanding and relating to life.

That is the gift of a great story. That is why storytelling is still immensely relevant to our lives and why, if they choose to accept the challenge, writers have a whole lot more to offer their readers than simple escapism. They can offer people the tools they need for dealing with life’s inevitable pain and suffering. Joseph Campbell stated, “If you want to change the world, you have to change the metaphor.” Changing the stories we tell changes the way we see life, which in turn changes life.

There tends to be a great focus on darkness and human dysfunction in modern literature, film and television; a fascination and almost glorification of the very worst distortions of human nature. Many excellent writers are adept at exploring the darker side of the human psyche and its reflection in our culture, but visionary writers take us beyond the darkness into the light at the end of the tunnel, revealing that which is highest and best in us, and highlighting our endless capacity to grow, reinvent ourselves, and rewrite our own faltering narrative. Literature needs this. The world needs it.

Writers are not just here to entertain the world. Writers have the potential to change the world, and they should be content with no less than that. More and more people are waking up to the reality of 21st century life — that we have to change the way we are living in order to survive and create a sustainable future for our children. As this continues, I suspect that Visionary Fiction will come to the fore as a means of awakening our collective imagination and our capacity to live, dream, love, and change our cultural paradigm for the better. A good story can change lives. A great story can change the world.

Read Chapter One of ‘The Key of Alanar’: “The Stranger”

If you missed The Key of Alanar‘s darkly dramatic Prologue, you can still find it here! This, the first chapter of the book, is set 10,000 years after the apocalyptic events of the Prologue and the fall of Lasandria. Set in a completely different time and place, the story shifts gears as we meet David, the book’s central protagonist, on a day that will change his life forevermore.

If you are eager to read more, The Key of Alanar is now available to buy on Amazon and multiple retailers in both paperback and ebook format. Visit the official launch page for buy links, background information and much more.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00050]

Chapter One
THE STRANGER

Year of Atahl, 14,999

Standing on the edge of the riverbank, David gazed into the trickling water. A fragmented, ghostly reflection stared back at him: that of a nine year-old boy, lost and utterly alone. Reaching down, he picked up a stone and threw it at the water. As it hit the water surface, his reflection shattered and vanished. He felt a strange sense of envy. Why couldn’t he too simply blink out of existence? After all, what did it matter; and who would really care?

David had lived on the island of New Haven his entire life. It was therefore his home and the people he lived with were his family. Yet although it pained him to admit, he could feel no real connection to them and no sense of belonging to this place. Even from an early age he had known he was somehow different to everyone else. His parents cared for him deeply, and he them, but he had long known there was something about him that made them uncomfortable. But what was it? What was it that was wrong with him?

Today he had finally learned the truth; and he now knew why he felt so innately like a stranger in his own world.

Sitting down upon the grassy riverbank, the sunlight shone through the swaying trees, the light sparkling upon the water in a rhythmic, strangely hypnotic dance. But the distraction was only momentary, for again his troubled mind returned to the events of earlier.

It had happened after school. A chance encounter that brought his entire world crumbling down.

David had never much liked school. He preferred spending his time alone and hated being forced into social situations that only reinforced the awkwardness he had interacting with others. But he nevertheless endeavored to behave in the ways that were expected of him and was always polite and courteous. He certainly wasn’t one of the more popular children, but he gave no reason to be unpopular. Not that such a reason was always necessary.

Situated on the edge of the Sharedo forest, the island school was just a short walk from the main town. Classes were finished for the day and David was making his way home. While the other children gathered in groups to talk and play, David usually walked alone, often trailing behind everyone else. As he passed by a grove of blossom-heavy fruit trees, the path forked to the right and he found the way ahead obstructed by three boys playing an aggressive game of tagball. David’s heart sank upon recognizing them. Their ringleader was the notorious Dahn, a burly blonde-haired boy from two years above him, known throughout the school as a vindictive bully.

Over the years David had developed the knack of blending into the background, avoiding drawing undue attention to himself. While it seemed to work most of the time, there were occasions when it didn’t—and he had very much become an object of Dahn’s attention. Several weeks ago he had come across Dahn beating up one of his classmates, a short, skinny boy called Antan. Dahn had chased Antan into one of the farmer’s fields, pinned him down and bloodied his nose. He twisted the boy’s arm behind his back as he cried out in pain. Unlike the other children, who knew better than to get involved, David found himself unable to turn a blind eye to someone in need of help. Mustering a courage that he never even knew he possessed, David intervened, squaring up to Dahn and demanding that he leave Antan alone. Dahn, clearly astounded that someone had the nerve to challenge him, released Antan and thereafter David became the focus of his attention.

A loner with no real friends, David was a prime target for a bully and Dahn subsequently initiated a campaign of intimidation against him. He hadn’t resorted to physical violence but had adopted a subtler, more insidious form of bullying, repeatedly trying to unnerve him and undermine  his confidence. Whenever they crossed paths at school, Dahn would fix David in his sights and glare at him menacingly, pointing him out to his thuggish friends; making jokes and jeering at him. David knew that this was merely the warm-up to a looming confrontation, and today, the moment he laid eyes on Dahn alone in the forest, he knew that his adversary was ready to move in for the kill.

Upon catching sight of David, Dahn and his friends stopped their game and circled around him like flies over a slab of meat. Dahn’s two henchmen, Gerdan and Robb leered belligerently and made a grab for his schoolbooks. David pulled back from them, clutching his books to his chest. Surprisingly Dahn wasn’t joining in, but was watching with a dark glint in his eye.

“So where d’you think you’re going?” sneered Robb, his rounded and unpleasant face permanently flushed, accentuating his reddish freckles.

David said nothing, keeping his face neutral yet defiant.

“School’s over!” Gerdan cried, reaching out and snatching the books from his arms. “You won’t be needing these.” The tall, stocky boy threw the books to ground and kicked them across the path, sending the pages flying. Robb leapt over and kicked them even further, until they landed in a puddle.

David looked around helplessly. The other children were far ahead, out of sight. There was no one to help. He felt his heart pounding in his chest as he struggled to hold his own against Dahn’s minions. They began pushing him around, passing him to each other as though playing some kind of bizarre ball game in which David was the object of play. David tried to break free but they were far stronger and easily overpowered him.

“Let him go,” Dahn suddenly barked.

Somewhat surprised, Robb and Gerdan did as he said and released David, who pushed himself free and took a step back. He watched as Dahn stepped toward him. “Don’t mind them,” Dahn said slowly, motioning to Robb and Gerdan, who looked on, puzzled. “Their mothers obviously never taught them any manners.” As Dahn continued, an insincere smile played across his lips. “We’ve never really had the chance to get to know each other, have we?”

David was initially taken aback by this inexplicable change in Dahn’s behavior. He might even have believed this façade of friendliness had it not been for the malicious glint lingering in his eyes. “I think we’ve been too hard on you,” Dahn continued. “I mean, it must be difficult for you. I don’t know how I’d cope in your situation.”

David eyed him suspiciously. “What situation?”

“You know, not having a real family. Not having real parents. Not belonging here.”

“What are you talking about? I have a family. I have parents!”

“Yeah, but they’re not really your parents, are they?” Dahn smiled and shrugged. “They just took pity on you. You don’t have a real family.” A moment of silence followed. Dahn was clearly enjoying every second of this. “I mean, how could you? You don’t even come from the island.”

David stared at him blankly.

“They found you on the mainland when you were just a baby. You were abandoned and they took pity on you…”

Unable to respond, David stood still, numb with shock.

“You did know that…didn’t you?” Dahn asked in mock surprise. “I mean, surely they told you all this? After all, everybody knows it: that you’re an orphan, an outsider, that you don’t belong here…that you’re only here out of pity…”

Dahn’s words cut through him like a blade. Unable to speak, David was overcome by a barrage of conflicting emotion: shock, anger—and sudden, blinding clarity. All he could remember next was the sensation of something exploding inside him. He lashed out at Dahn and knocked him to the ground with such ferocity that his friends backed off in alarm.

After that, he ran. His mind numb and his senses blurred, David didn’t even consciously know where he was going and was oblivious to both his surroundings and whoever he happened to encounter along his way. As if pulled by instinct, he found himself in the depths of the Sharedo forest. The forest was in a secluded part of the island; a safe haven where he spent many hours enjoying the peace and solitude. Once certain that he was safe and alone, he collapsed against a tree trunk. His knees buckled and he sank to the ground, engulfed by the storm of emotion he had thus far managed to hold at bay. He was only nine years old and his entire existence had been revealed as a lie.

Initially he wondered whether Dahn’s words were to be believed. It could have merely been a cruel joke on his part, yet something deep within him knew that it was the truth. He’d finally been given the answer he’d sought his entire life. Everything made sense: his nagging, life-long inability to feel at home, the way other people treated him, and his yearning to be somewhere else; to find a place that he could truly call home.

He sat alone for what seemed like hours. He now had to accept the truth that he really was different to everyone else on the island. It was something he’d pretty much known his entire life and yet in spite of this, the eventual confirmation was no less painful. How many times had he wished and prayed that he could just be like everyone else? Fitting in and feeling as though he belonged here had been an elusive dream that was now forever dispelled by the light of truth. He had to accept that. And yet, if he didn’t belong here, where did he belong? Basically it came down to one simple question:

Who am I?

He threw a large stone at the water with a force fueled by the depths of his desperation. The stone landed with a resounding splash, drops of water splattering onto his face. Wiping his face with the back of his hand, he looked upward. Judging by the position of the suns in the mauve sky, he guessed it was now early evening. His parents would be worried about him. Although what did it matter? They weren’t really his parents.

David stood up, brushed himself off and found himself wandering through the forest. Birds cawed and cooed and the tree branches danced in the breeze as he climbed over fallen logs and tromped along the uneven terrain, his footsteps crunching in the twig-strewn undergrowth. He passed through a thicket of dense evergreens, scraping the skin on his arms as he pushed his way through.

He soon found himself at the edge of the forest. Ahead of him a steep drop gave way to the rocky shoreline. Across the turquoise ocean he could see the faint outline of land on the horizon. His eyes settled upon the distant landmass. He felt a pull toward it, a deep yearning, for he now realized that his home was not here on New Haven but was out there, somewhere across the waters. If he ever truly wanted to know who he was and where he belonged, then that was where he had to go.

In that moment, he made the decision. He was going. He was leaving here and setting out to find his true home. He had been lied to and deceived his entire life and he now wanted the truth.

He looked down at the shore. On the edge of the cove was a jetty with a small rowing boat, bobbing up and down on the water. While the main port and harbor were on the west side of the island, there were a few boats moored along the circumference of the island. As this was a secluded spot, rarely used, he should be able to leave the island unseen.

His mind was set; the decision was made. Tomorrow he was taking the boat and leaving here. Tomorrow he was going home.

Bolstered by this grandiose conviction, he decided that it was time he went home and faced up to the wrath of his parents. He would need a good night’s sleep, for he knew that tomorrow’s endeavor would require as much strength as he could muster.

As he turned to leave he saw something out of the corner of his eye: a man standing at the edge of the forest, watching him. Yet the moment he turned in that direction, the figure was gone. Whoever it was, he’d vanished! Or had he just imagined there was someone there? Puzzled, he nevertheless dismissed the incident and set on his way.

As expected, his parents, Jon and Jesanda, had panicked when he hadn’t returned home from school. Despite being relieved to see him when he eventually turned up on the doorstep, they were angry at his ‘irresponsibility’ for having wandered off without notice. “Where were you anyway?” Jon demanded.

David didn’t want them to know what had really happened. “I just went to play in the forest after school,” he mumbled in response.

“Well, in future you’re to let us know beforehand. Is that clear?”

“Yes,” David sighed.

It was dark by the time they sat down to eat evening meal, and there was an awkward silence around the table. David wasn’t at all hungry, but he knew that he had to keep his strength up for tomorrow, so he ate somewhat laboriously, then excused himself and went to bed.

In spite of his tiredness, sleep eluded him. His mind continuously went over his plans for the morning. The day would begin as it always did: he would get up and leave for school, only he’d head for the edge of the Sharedo forest and set out on the boat. He knew it would be a long and difficult row. He had been to the mainland before and it was at least a half day’s journey from New Haven, and that was with adults at the helm. There was no telling how much longer it would take him.

He did feel a pang of remorse at the prospect of leaving his parents. He knew that they loved him. Yet they weren’t his real parents. They’d lied to him his entire life. Maybe it was a lie born of kindness, but that was beside the point. He needed to know the truth. The thought of setting out into the world alone was daunting and he knew he’d miss them, but it was a choice he was willing to make. He had to. He’d never been more certain of anything.

Morning came and he could only have slept for a couple of hours at most. With a yawn he pulled back the covers and climbed out of bed, the floor cold on his bare feet as he stepped over to the window. He opened the curtain and looked out, disheartened by what he saw: an overcast sky, churning with rain clouds. The island had enjoyed a long stretch of fine weather, which made this sudden shift all the more frustrating. But unfortunate though it was, he decided it wasn’t reason enough to call off his plan.

He wasted little time in washing and getting dressed. His mother had laid out clothes for him: a pair of dark cotton trousers and a sleeveless grey tunic. He tied up his boots and ran his hand through his short brown hair as he made his way through the hall into the kitchen, the smell of cooking wafting through the house.

The atmosphere had eased considerably following the previous night’s drama. It was with a sense of sadness that David realized this would be the last meal he would share with his parents. He took his seat at the wooden table and sipped a glass of freshly squeezed olak juice as his mother served up some stewed apples and spiced oats. His mind was elsewhere as his parents discussed the day’s plans. “We’ll be leaving before you again, David,” Jon looked over at David, who was absent-mindedly staring into his bowl. “You’ll be okay to lock up, right?”

David looked up. “What?”

“We have to leave early,” his mother said as she joined them at the table. “It’s been so busy on the farm this week. It’s always the same during planting season. Hopefully after the next couple of days it’ll settle down again.”

“Uh, that’s all right,” David answered. In fact that would work to his advantage. When they left the house he’d have the opportunity to grab some supplies before heading off.

After they’d eaten and cleared up the dishes, Jon and Jesanda readied themselves to leave while David pretended to prepare for school. As she was about to leave, his mother reached out and hugged him goodbye as she always did, her wavy brown hair tickling the back of his neck as she held him. It was with a great sense of sadness that David said goodbye to his parents. As far as they were concerned they were just parting for the day, but David knew he might never see them again. Such a thought being too painful to reconcile, he made a pledge that someday he would return to New Haven to see them again.

The moment the door clicked shut, he sprang into action. He packed several changes of clothing, filled a large water-skin flask and, raiding the pantry, stock-piled enough food to last several days. For sentimental reasons he also included one or two personal items, such as an engraving that his mother had created depicting the family. He stuffed them into a leather bag and slung it across his shoulder. Exiting the house, he locked the door and left the key behind the base of the purple luveria bush.

He could feel a sense of apprehension as he walked down the street and crossed the wooden bridge leading across the Jaran River and onto the outskirts of town. The air was cool and heavy and the sky thick with ever-darkening cloud. Rain seemed imminent. Groups of children made their way out of the town thoroughfare in clusters, sauntering along the path to school. David kept his head down, hoping to avoid running into anyone he knew. Fortunately he knew a detour by which he could bypass the school lane and slip into the heart of the forest unseen. He followed a dirt track round by a series of warehouses and crossed a grassy field beyond which stretched the dense woodland of the Sharedo forest. As he traipsed along the forest path, the trees waving back and forth in the wind, he felt a knotted sensation in his stomach. He didn’t know whether it was a feeling of excitement or trepidation, but he tried to dismiss it and kept on going.

When he again came to the edge of the forest, he stopped and looked across the choppy grey waters to the horizon. Visibility was poor today. He couldn’t make out the headland at all. Indeed, the clouds across the sea were about as dark as he’d ever seen them. Ignoring this, he scrambled down the embankment onto the shoreline. The wind was picking up, blustering in gusts, forcing him to lift his arms to keep his balance as he stepped across the uneven rocks and onto the jetty. Below him the water thrashed against the wooden stilts, sending a mist of salty water spraying upward, wetting his skin and clothes. He climbed into the little red boat and laid down his bag. The boat lurched back and forth in a relentless rocking motion, banging against the side of the jetty. David felt his stomach lurching along with the boat, but he ignored his discomfort and prepared to depart. He awkwardly untethered the boat from its mooring, casting off the line as he sat down and took hold of the oars.

Continually buffeted by the tide, it took him a number of attempts to maneuver the boat away from the jetty. At one point he almost rammed into an outcropping of rock. Clearly this was more difficult than it looked. He eventually managed, with considerable exertion and a large measure of luck, to row the boat out of the cove and into the open expanse of the ocean.

It was a moment that was in equal measure exhilarating and terrifying, and one in which he knew there was no turning back. He looked across at the island, the only home that he’d ever known, and with mixed emotion silently bade it farewell.

ad1

ad1

Read the Prologue of ‘The Key of Alanar’

I’m delighted to share the Prologue of my novel ‘The Key of Alanar’! You can download it as a PDF file here. In addition, over the next few days I’ll be sharing the first FOUR chapters of the book. Don’t miss it. If you can’t wait and are eager to read more, the book is now officially published. You’ll find it on Amazon and multiple retailers. Visit the official launch page for buy links, background information and much more.

shutterstock_55092658small

THE KEY OF ALANAR

Prologue

The End

Year of Atania, 4999 

It took only seconds for an entire civilization to perish. 

Ardonis watched as the shockwave tore through the city in every direction. The golden metropolis was laid to waste with devastating ease: the buildings collapsing into smoldering ash, scattered by the wind; the crowd of thousands incinerated in the blink of an eye.

Fire and cinders spiraled from the rubble as a rising cloud of smoke devoured every last trace of daylight. The only illumination came from the object of the city’s destruction—the gateway. Towering above the ruins, its metal pillars stood miraculously unscathed, at the centre of which the pulsating whirlpool of blue-violet light continued raining down sparks of electrical charge.

His city was gone, but Ardonis knew that the worst was yet to come. He watched with a sense of dread as an object emerged through the portal: an airship puncturing the thin membrane between universes, shooting into the sky above the rubble. Closely followed by another, and then another, the black metallic craft soared over the ruins like carrion birds in search of prey.

A stream of ground troops followed; wraithlike reptilian creatures with gnarled, distorted faces, armed with rifles and blades. The metal-clad soldiers marched through the gateway, spilling into the dead city like an infestation. 

Ardonis knew it was no coincidence these demonic creatures had arrived in the aftermath of such carnage. He watched them feed off the destruction around them; ingesting it as though death itself was a vital nourishment. He could sense their hunger. Finally freed after eons of captivity, they were ravenous and would not stop until their hunger was satisfied.

It wasn’t just Ardonis’s beloved city that had fallen. His entire world had now been thrust into an unending age of terror. 

Alanar was dead.

* * *

That morning Ardonis decided that his day would begin as it always did. Wrapping a blue cloak around himself and placing the golden headdress of the High Priest upon his crown, he made his way from his chamber, through the temple and onto the rooftop. The air felt cool against his skin and birds chattered contentedly as they welcomed in the new day. He stood, hands clasped behind him, gazing across the horizon, where the first rays of sunlight streaked across the indigo skyline. Watching the sunrise from the rooftop was a ritualistic start to his day and something that he had done for more years than he’d care to count. But today was a day unlike any that preceded it. Today, he realized, would be the last time he would ever see the sunrise.

As the twin suns of Alanar made their ascent above the mountainous horizon, Ardonis looked down into the valley. Surrounded by forestland and a winding river, the City of El Ad’dan glistened in the morning light. From this vantage point, the houses, towers, spires and domed temples of the city almost looked like little golden trinkets. Even from this distance Ardonis could see signs of activity as the city began to stir. In just a few hours the procession would commence and people from all across the kingdom would congregate at the central plaza for the activation of the gateway. A new era, the king had promised; a new dawn for the people of Lasandria. It was a time of excitement and jubilation across the land. But while the gateway promised all the glories of the cosmos, it was about to unleash a force of evil beyond imagining.

Ardonis knew, for he had seen it, over and over again. For days now he had been unable to close his eyes, much less sleep or meditate, without being bombarded by visions of annihilation. Each time the visions grew ever more intense and vivid; as though he was actually there, being forced to witness the destruction of his home.

It came as little surprise, for he had been aware of the shadow looming over the land and its people for many years now, possibly as far back as the day he was initiated into the Priesthood. He knew what it was and what it meant. It meant the end—the end of an entire civilization. It was an ancient, advanced civilization at that; a people whose work and achievements, whose art and culture spanned millennia. Alas, all that they had striven for, all of their hopes and dreams, beliefs and fears, now faded into irrelevance; consigned to imminent oblivion.

The hour drew close. Ardonis had accepted as much. But what he couldn’t accept was that he was powerless to prevent this catastrophe. He was the High Priest of Lasandria. His people, at least those still loyal to the Priesthood, looked to him to guide and protect them. In the past that was exactly what he had done. But this time was different. This time he was powerless to act. Or was he?

“Ardonis.”

Startled by the sound of his name, Ardonis turned to see his senior aide Jarado standing behind him.  There was a noticeable look of urgency upon the old monk’s lined and careworn face. “Please forgive the intrusion, High Priest.”

“You bring news, my friend?”

The monk nodded. “The Council of Elders has sent word. They wish to see you now.”

Ardonis felt a tightening in his stomach. “I see.”

“You think they will agree to help us?”

“That I cannot say,” Ardonis said. “But I pray they will heed my petition, for it is the only hope we now have.”

Joining the High Priest at the edge of the rooftop, the old monk glanced down into the valley as he draped his indigo robe across his shoulder. “What about the king? What if you spoke to him again and tried to reason with him?”

“You were there yesterday, Jarado. I did everything I could to get him to abort the project. The harder I tried, the angrier he became. In the end all I did was make matters worse.”

“Then you really believe he will disband the Priesthood as he threatened?”

“Of that you can be certain. Dua-ron has been waiting for the opportunity to strike me down for years and I finally gave it to him. The Priesthood is dead, Jarado. Not that it even matters, for so too is our kingdom.”

Jarado looked up, desperation in his voice. “The Guardians will surely listen. They have to!”

“I wish I shared your confidence. But as you know, the Guardians play by their own rules.” Ardonis paused. “Either way, it is time to find out. I will make my way to the portal chamber. You go attend to your duties, Jarado. I will join you shortly.”

With a bow of his head the monk departed, leaving the High Priest alone once more. Ardonis took one last look at the golden city in the heart of the valley. Rays of sunlight shone upon its towers, peaks and rooftops as the suns climbed their way above the rugged peak of Mount Alsan, suffusing the dawn sky with vibrant washes of gold, red and orange.

El Ad’dan. A place of beauty, power and history; a place of destiny. It was here that their civilization had been born all those millennia ago, and here that would see its demise. Unless, that was, one man could now change its fate and alter the destiny of an entire world.

Ardonis hurried through the temple, his footsteps echoing as he strode along the corridors and through the main hall. In keeping with the rest of the temple, the hall was constructed of ornately carved sandstone and lined by statues of saints, sages and prophets of centuries gone by. Ordinarily a place filled with monks, initiates and devotees, today it was tellingly empty. Passing under an archway and down several flights of steps, the High Priest entered a torchlit passageway apparently leading to a dead-end. Marching to the end of the corridor, he stopped and placed the palm of his hand against one of the bricks. Uttering the words “shada daban norine,” he removed his hand and took a step back. A section of the wall shimmered and dissolved, revealing an enchanted doorway accessible only to high levels of the Priesthood. Ardonis passed through the opening, the wall reappearing behind him.

The portal chamber stretched before him; a crystalline cavern around which the entire temple had been constructed. Quartz clusters of varying size lined the chamber, jutting out of the ground, walls and ceiling. Self-luminous and pulsating with blue-white light, they illuminated the cavern in a turquoise glow. A low level hum permeated the chamber: an almost subliminal sound, like the music of a thousand different realms coalescing at a single point in space and time. The hot air tingled with faint electrostatic charge as he advanced through the cavern.

Ardonis approached a towering crystal upon a raised platform at the heart of the chamber. Rising to a pointed peak, a hexagonal mirror had been set into the base of the crystal, cast in a gleaming silver frame. Far from an ordinary mirror, this was the Portal of Arazan, a device built by the ancients with the ability to create inter-dimensional gateways, enabling instantaneous travel throughout the cosmos. Clearly such technology carried with it great responsibility, which was why the portal lay buried deep within the temple, where it had been safeguarded by the Priesthood for millennia. Until recently, that was. Some time ago the portal chamber had been violated and nothing had been the same again since. In a sense, this was where Lasandria’s downfall began.

Ardonis climbed the steps onto the platform and came to a stop before the mirror. His crystal-clear reflection stared back at him: that of a bronze-skinned man with pale turquoise eyes and long dark hair. Beneath a blue cloak, his muscular body was clad in a loincloth and sandals, his neck and arms adorned with beads and talismans. Replete with the customary golden headdress, he had all the regality and power befitting a High Priest. Yet his soul was heavy and the strain etched upon his ageless face. Eyes fixed ahead, he inhaled deeply, bracing himself for the encounter ahead.

“Bala’naron ista kar’on!” The moment the words left his mouth, the portal exploded into life. The amethyst crystal lit up from within; discharging waves of surging electricity. With a whir, the mirror surface dissolved into a pool of blue-violet energy. Ardonis could feel the waves of kinetic force passing through him as he stood at the mouth of the portal. He had turned the key and opened the door, now all he had to do was state his intended destination. “Take me to the Court of Shanadon.” Mustering all his fortitude, he then stepped through the portal, disappearing into the vortex of light.

Had he not travelled through the portal many times before, he would likely have found himself disorientated, for he had stepped from the dense physicality of the third dimension into the ethereal realms of the fifth. Here the constraints of physicality loosened: solidity gave way to fluidity and form dissolved into pure energy.

Exiting the gateway, Ardonis found himself again in the realm of the Guardians. Although he had often been asked by his initiates to describe it, he found it hard to convey in words the beauty of a world so unlike that of the physical realm. Everything was brighter, lighter, and pervaded by a fluidic sense of unity and interconnectedness. Before him stood the Court of Shanadon, a cathedral-like structure built in multiple tiers at the heart of a crystalline city. Far from solid, the walls, colonnades, terraces and archways were translucent, swirling with an interfusion of rainbow color. A cloudless pink sky arched high above, amid which a single golden sun shone down, infusing the entire city with dancing rays of light.

The gateway disappeared behind him. Entering the Court, Ardonis was met by a man in a flowing white robe. One of the administrators of Shanadon, the man’s face shone with a light from within, his body noticeably less solid than Ardonis’s, as though made of wispy vapor rather than flesh and blood. Ardonis stated his business and with a nod, the man guided him along the opaque glass-like corridors.

The corridor terminated in an arched doorway leading into the immense, cylindrical Council Chamber. A pillar of white light dominated the chamber, reaching down from the high ceiling and plunging beneath into a bottomless drop. Waves of luminescence danced out from the static beam of light, rippling through the air and merging into the blue crystalline walls. The administrator ushered Ardonis into the chamber and quietly departed.

Ardonis stepped forward, the quartz walkway beneath his feet leading to a platform at the heart of the chamber, encircling the pillar of light. There, gathered around a semicircular table, sat the Council of Elders: the twelve Guardians charged with overseeing the mortal realm. Six men and six women, all clad in white robes, their faces were shining and luminous, as though they were rays of sunlight that had merely assumed the visage of human form. The High Guardian Malkiastan sat at the head of the Council: an imposing, regal being with long locks of silver hair, glowing with a radiance that almost obscured his corporeal form.

Ardonis bowed before the Council as waves of energy from the pillar of light passed through him, making every cell of his body tingle. Malkiastan acknowledged his greeting and motioned for the High Priest to come forward. Bracing himself, Ardonis came to a stop before the Council. “Thank you for agreeing to see me.”

Though none of their mouths moved, the Council spoke with a single, unified voice: a harmonious intermingling of all twelve of their voices, emanating from all around and echoing throughout the chamber. “You are always welcome here, Ardonis.”

“I am sure you already know why I am here. Indeed, I have a feeling it is you who are responsible for my visions…”

“The visions were granted for a reason. It was necessary that you know what is to transpire.”

“Then things will happen as I have foreseen?”

“It is inevitable.”

Ardonis shook his head. “No, there must be something you can do.”

The Council said nothing.

“You cannot allow this to happen. You must intervene!”

“We cannot stop what is now to happen.”

It was as he had feared. The Council could not—or would not—do anything. But Ardonis wasn’t going to stand by and accept this. He would fight to save his people, and if that meant taking on the Council of Elders then so be it. “I mean no disrespect, but how can that be true? You have the power. You could stop this from happening in an instant!”

“These events were set in motion by the free will of the Lasandrian people. As you know, the Council is forbidden from direct intervention in mortal affairs. To do so would violate universal law.”

“I do not care about universal law,” Ardonis cried, ignited by a flame of indignation. “All I care about is the fate of my people. You yourselves have shown me what is to happen. Millions will die—an entire civilization annihilated! Please, I implore you, you cannot sit by and allow that to happen.”

“This chain of events cannot be halted. It is simply too late.”

Ardonis cast his eyes to the ground. “So this is how it ends?”

“There are no endings. There are no beginnings. All that is, has been and ever shall be.”

Ardonis looked up. “That is easy for you to say as you sit here in the Court of Shanadon, fearless and omnipotent. You are immortal! Nothing can touch you here. But what of those in the mortal realm? Such words are meaningless in the face of impending annihilation.” Ardonis immediately regretted his words, which were disrespectful and ill-befitting a High Priest. Yet he was the one link between Alanar and the cosmic realms. It was his duty to bridge the two worlds and to speak for those that could not.

The Council appeared to let his outburst pass without response. “What is to take place cannot be stopped. But with regard to the future, all is not lost. The Council has conferred at great length and has agreed to offer a dispensation.”

“A dispensation?”

Malkiastan rose from his seat at the centre of the Council and addressed Ardonis directly. “We cannot change the rules,” he said, his voice deep yet soft and melodious. “But we can bend them.”

“Please, tell me what you have in mind.”

“It is twofold. You must return to your world and gather as many people as possible: all those who remain loyal to the Priesthood and anyone else willing to listen. You are to take them through the portal. A place of safety has been arranged. They will be spared the impending upheaval.”

Ardonis had considered this himself, although he was uncertain how many would be willing to leave Lasandria. It was a sad fact that the days when people paid heed to the Priesthood over the government and monarchy were long gone.

As if sensing his concern, Malkiastan continued:  “Although your civilization may be lost, if even a handful of your people can survive and keep their spirit alive, they will endure throughout time. Their legacy will continue. And there will come a time in your world’s distant future when they will have the chance to rise up and reclaim all they had lost. Thus will the circle complete itself.” The High Guardian paused before continuing. “Darkness is coming, Ardonis. You know this. What you have foreseen will inevitably come to pass. But your people, and your world, have been granted the chance of a future…a future that now lies in the hands of another.”

Ardonis felt his brow crease. “Another…?”

“Behold.”

The fountain of energy at the heart of the chamber intensified. As the light grew brighter, an aperture formed at its centre, sending rays of dazzling light shooting outward. Ardonis watched through squinted eyes as a figure emerged through the cascading light, coming to a stop beside the Council. It was a man. No, barely a man at all—it was a boy; an adolescent boy.

“Behold Arran, the timeless one,” Malkiastan said as he approached the boy. “He is your future, Ardonis. He alone has the power to save your world. Only he can safeguard your future.”

Ardonis stared at the boy in astonishment. Who was he? Where was he from? And why had he been chosen to shoulder such a burden of responsibility?

He was about to speak, when Malkiastan raised his hand and Ardonis suddenly felt his body and mind engulfed by a wave of golden-white radiance. His eyes closed and he promptly lost all sense of space and time. Linearity dissolved as he became aware of flashes of insight; moving images flooding his mind…

He was back on his world, several hours from now, standing amid the streets of El Ad’dan.

The central plaza was filled with people, rife with excitement as they gathered to witness what they were promised was the crowning glory of the Lasandrian people. Whereas the few that still followed the ministrations of the Priesthood had retreated to pray for salvation, the rest conceitedly celebrated their ingenuity, believing the king as he spoke so rousingly of this glorious new dawn for Lasandria.

The countdown had begun. The countdown to annihilation.

All looked up in wonder as the gateway powered up. Towering above the golden buildings of the city centre, the gateway comprised an enormous metal obelisk supported by two smaller pillars and connected by a metal wheel. Amid much excitement, the device was activated. The spinning wheel exploded into a vortex of blue-violet energy, stretching from the rooftops to the ground as it spewed out lightning-like sparks of electricity. The entire plaza lit up in a blue glow as the crowd reacted in awe.

“Behold the gateway,” King Dua-ron called as he stood before the magnificent portal. “The gateway to our liberation!”

Ardonis knew what was coming next, for he had been forced to witness it so many times before. Moments after the gateway opened, the portal exploded; an explosion the likes of which the planet had never before seen. A shockwave shot outward, pounding what remained of the city to rubble and killing every man, woman and child in a blinding flash.

Blackness pervaded, the only illumination now coming from the open gateway; all that remained of the Lasandrian people.

In the aftermath of the blast, the invasion began, just as he knew it would. Air craft and ground troops stormed through the portal; driven by an unending thirst for death that would lead them to consume this entire world.

But there was more; more that Ardonis hadn’t previously seen. He now realized that all was not lost. All hope now rested with a single boy: the one known as Arran. Ardonis saw the boy racing through the rubble of El Ad’dan. Sent by the Guardians, he had been spared the destruction; his sole purpose to close the gateway and seal off whatever other horrors it would yet unleash. No matter the cost and no matter the sacrifice, he had to succeed.

Time had somehow fragmented and the fate of multiple timelines—past, present and future—all seemed to converge upon a single moment in time. A moment that would determine the fate of not just this world, but possibly an entire universe.

The images subsided and Ardonis opened his eyes.

As he again became aware of his surroundings, his gaze fell upon the teenage boy standing ahead of him. The boy watched him with equal curiosity, his brown eyes betraying a weary knowingness that intrigued Ardonis. Whoever this boy was and wherever he was from, he had obviously suffered a great deal. It saddened him to see such pain in eyes so young, yet beneath the surface Ardonis could sense a reservoir of unfathomable inner strength. Moreover, there was something unspeakably familiar about him. He didn’t know how or why, but Ardonis somehow knew this boy. He knew his thoughts, his dreams and his pain as intimately as he knew his own reflection.

Malkiastan placed a hand upon the boy’s shoulder and motioned for Ardonis to come forward. As Ardonis approached, Malkiastan smiled. “It has been decided,” he said. “The future now rests with you. And it is time. You must go forth. Go forth and fight for it.”

* * *

“Run! We do not have much time!”

Ardonis ushered his people down the torchlit corridors of the temple and into the portal chamber. Upon his return, he had done as the Council directed and gathered anyone that would listen and told them of the need to leave the city immediately. This was the third and final group of evacuees: men, women and children who had gathered as few belongings as possible and had been taken into the heart of the temple.

“Quickly now!” Ardonis shouted as they passed through the wall and entered the portal chamber. He directed them toward the gateway at the centre of the cavernous chamber, which was already activated in a blaze of cobalt light. Initially the evacuees hesitated, having never seen anything of the like. But one of Ardonis’s monks led the way, climbing the steps to the portal and disappearing into the vortex of light. At the behest of Ardonis, the evacuees began streaming into the portal one by one, assured that they were going to a place of safety.

So little time…

The last of the escapees had now entered the portal. Ardonis ensured that his remaining monks and initiates made it to safety.

That was it! He had done it. They were safe. With a sigh of relief, the High Priest climbed the steps and was about to enter the portal himself—only it was too late.

A wave of fire blasted through the temple. With a force of unfathomable fury, it consumed everything; tearing through stone, metal and flesh alike with devastating ease.

Before Ardonis even realized what was happening, he was gone—his body instantly incinerated. All that remained of both he and his beloved temple was a wall of ash, and even that was soon dispersed by the wind.

The kingdom of Lasandria had been destroyed, and the world of Alanar plunged into an abyss of darkness.

* * *

Drifting. Ardonis drifted upon the oceanic current of Infinity; an endless sea of light, calm and rhythmic.

His journey was not yet over. His physical body was gone, cast off like a worn garment; and yet he remained.

There was no end. There could be no end. Such had it been throughout the timelessness of Infinity.

* * *

Following his ordeal amid the final moments of Lasandria, Ardonis rested, his consciousness dormant.

His death had been sudden and violent. It took him much time to recover from his abrupt departure from the mortal realm.

Yet he soon began to regain his strength. Awakening to a whole new world, he retook his place in the realm of the Guardians. 

It became clear to him that his role as overseer of his people was not yet over. The only difference was that he now served from a new and higher vantage point, unconstrained by previous limitations.

* * *

Looking down upon the mortal realm, Lasandria was gone. The once-great civilization stood in ruins. But it was not the end. The cycle of life continued unabated and eternal. 

The years passed into centuries and the centuries rolled into millennia.

All the while it was clear to Ardonis that the mortal realm had yet to release him from its grip. His role in the grand unfolding was not yet complete. In truth, it was only just beginning.

‘The Key of Alanar’ is Officially Released Today!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00050]

Hi everyone! It may be Monday morning (ugh!) but it’s also 14th September, a day I’ve been looking forward to for some time now! I’m delighted to announce that The Key of Alanar is now available online from multiple stores in both ebook and paperback format. You can also order it through your local bookshop or library, too!

My website has been updated with full details about the book, including information on the characters and setting. You can also order a SIGNED COPY directly from me. All you need to do is select your region and click ‘buy now’ and your payment will be processed via Paypal. It really is as simple as clicking a button. All orders will be promptly dispatched and will include a free bookmark. Click here to visit the Key of Alanar launch page!

Here are the direct links to Amazon and Amazon UK. There are more purchase links on the launch page.


Synopsis

Lasandria. An ancient civilization, consigned to oblivion by the greed and power lust of its own people.

The coming apocalypse heralds the arrival of a new evil that will ravage the world of Alanar for an entire age. Yet on the eve of Lasandria’s destruction, the ethereal overseers of the mortal realm grant a dispensation—a promise of hope for the future.

That hope lies with an orphaned teenager named David, born some ten millennia later; a boy whose isolated and uncertain existence leads him on a journey upon which hinges the fate of not just his world, but countless others.

On the run from a brutal military force, David’s quest is one born of shattered dreams and tainted by the thirst for revenge. As an inter-dimensional war that has been waged since the beginning of time threatens to consume his world, the dark force that destroyed Lasandria lurks in the shadows, ready to take possession of the one thing that will either save Alanar or destroy it: David.


From the official press release…

SCOTTISH AUTHOR RELEASES LIFE-CHANGING NOVEL 20 YEARS IN THE MAKING

Sometimes perseverance really does pay off. Scottish author Rory Mackay has spent two decades working on a single novel: The Key of Alanar, an ambitious fantasy/science-fiction thriller with a metaphysical twist. Originally conceived when the author was still in high school, it’s a story that has been with him most his life—and a story that has changed his life.

While Rory spent years developing the ideas behind this and subsequent books in the planned series, little direct progress was made on the book as he focused on education and work. A chronic illness brought him to a crossroads in life and enabled him to rediscover his true passion as a storyteller. Determined to pursue his dream in spite of all challenges, Rory continued working on the book through countless drafts, rewrites and edits. In the meantime he had another novel published in 2013, Eladria, a critically acclaimed prelude to The Key of Alanar (available from Cosmic Egg Books – and currently on a 99p / 99c sale!).

Finally released this month, The Key of Alanar marks the completion of a 20 year project—and one that helped the author through some difficult times. Rory’s work reflects his interest in the potential of mythology and fiction to elevate mood and consciousness: to make people think, to inspire, provoke and ultimately to heal.

An action packed, emotionally charged adventure, The Key of Alanar has an element of philosophy subtly woven into the narrative, serving as an exploration of life, death, reality and how, on a personal level, we can move beyond grief and suffering to become all that we are capable of being. A tale of transcendence and redemption, The Key of Alanar is a book that will likely stay with the reader long after they have read the last page.

Watch the official trailer! It truly captures the epic, cinematic scope of the novel:

Click here to visit The Key of Alanar launch page, for order links and to purchase a signed copy!

IMG_7964

Stay tuned for exclusive extracts in the next few days and some cool behind the scenes information on the making of a book!

‘Kill the Past, Destroy the World’ – Short story ebook now FREE on Amazon Kindle for 72 hours!

kill the past01

If you haven’t already downloaded my latest short story, the provocatively titled prelude to my new novel, now is your chance! For a limited time, Kill the Past, Destroy the World is available to download for FREE on Amazon Kindle. If you have read the story, then I do hope you will share it with anyone else you think might enjoy it.

Kill the Past, Destroy the World tells the story of Mailyn, an embittered sorceress who returns to her homeland, determined to settle some old scores and seek revenge for the sins of the past. Guided by mysterious beings she believes to be ‘angels’, Mailyn is part of a dangerous plot that could spell the end for an entire world. With Mailyn determined to set Alanar alight with the fire of the angels, only one man, the High Priest Ardonis, can stand against her and prevent her from unleashing a planetary apocalypse.

Leading right into the opening pages of The Key of Alanar (which is now available to preorder!) this is one of the most morally ambiguous pieces I’ve ever written and I loved exploring the backstory that leads into an incredibly epic tale that spans 10,000 years and multiple dimensions. The adventure now begins…

Be sure to grab your copy now!

DOWNLOAD FROM AMAZON.COM

DOWNLOAD FROM AMAZON.CO.UK

The story is also available from every other Amazon region, be sure to check it out!

Archetypes in Fiction and the Hero’s Journey

drama-society

My last post, ‘The Power of Storytelling and Mythology’, explored the work of comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell. Campbell identified a distinct and cohesive pattern running through countless myths, legends and stories throughout time. He called this the hero’s journey–the “song of the universe” being sung by a thousand different peoples and cultures.

In addition to exploring the different stages of the hero’s journey, which is a metaphor for the human journey through life, Campbell, who was heavily influenced by the work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, also identified several character archetypes that feature in these myths and stories.

untitled-1

Archetypes are recurring human patterns or personality types that reside in what Jung called the collective unconscious. As universally occurring character traits, there are certain archetypes found in myth and all kinds of stories throughout time. Archetypes should be seen as flexible character functions rather than rigid character types. Characters might actually switch between archetypes as the story progresses.

Here are some of the main archetypes prevalent in storytelling throughout the ages.

article-0-004965D300000258-639_638x785

The hero

The hero is usually the central figure in stories. This archetype represents the human search for identity and wholeness. The hero is the audience’s window into the story; the person the reader or viewer wants to identify with, to share their adventure and experience their highs and lows. The hero typically starts off in a state of lack and incompleteness and as the story unfolds, ends up in a state of wholeness and completeness. All good stories are essentially about a journey of transformation.

The role of the hero can vary wildly. They can be almost anyone from any walk of life. They might be a willing or an unwilling hero, they might be a group-oriented hero or more of a loner. Sometimes the protagonist is a tragic hero or an anti-hero–perhaps an outlaw or villain of some kind, but with whom the audience develops sympathy.

Sauron-2

The shadow

The shadow is represented by the villains and antagonists, or perhaps an internal enemy such as the hero’s inner demons–the darker aspects of their psyche–qualities they’ve perhaps tried to repress or renounce, but which still lurk within; such as anger, hatred or violence. The function of the shadow in drama is to challenge, threaten and oppose the hero; to create conflict and force the hero to find and bring out the best in him or herself and to become all they are capable of being.

tumblr_inline_nqvwkjI9Az1s8wp3s_540

Mentor

The archetype of the mentor is found in many myths and stories. The mentor is usually a guide to the hero; someone who aids or even trains the hero. The mentor is related to the image of a parent. Often heroes seek out a mentor because their own parents are inadequate role models.

The mentor helps train the hero for the adventure/ordeal ahead of them. They might provide the voice of the hero’s conscience, offer motivation or share important information. The mentor might be a ghostly figure, or may be someone with a dark secret or nefarious past–a fallen mentor, someone who’s been broken in some way but who still has wisdom they can impart to the hero.

The Herald

The herald is the character or event that initiates the call to adventure. They issue a challenge or announce the coming of significant change. The herald is usually the element that gets the story rolling. It might be a new character, a change of circumstances, or a piece of crucial information that changes the hero’s life, forcing them to embrace the adventure that lies before them. Any character can adopt the herald archetype at any time. The herald might be a positive, negative or neutral character. It might simply be someone with vital news or information, or someone who challenges the hero in some way, forcing them to get involved in a situation.

e0868a4fcd0f4dd995fc028c8afbf56e

Threshold Guardian

Threshold guardians are the forces that stand in the way at important turning points, opposing the hero and trying to prevent him or her from moving forward. They’re usually not the main villain but might be the villain’s henchmen, guards, gatekeepers or mercenaries. They might even be creatures of some kind–wild animals, monsters or even a force of nature that has to be overcome. They might even take the form of the hero’s internal demons: their fears, doubts, emotional scars or self-limiting beliefs. Any time the hero encounters a threshold guardian, they face a puzzle, test or obstacle that must be overcome in order to move forward. Their function is to temporarily block the hero’s way and force them to test their powers.

9989

Trickster

The trickster is a clown and mischief-maker…perhaps a comic relief sidekick. They inject an element of unpredictability into the story, cutting egos down to size, and bringing the hero and audiences back down to earth. The trickster might be a loveable rogue, or someone whose motives and allegiances are unclear. The trickster might be allies of the hero, or perhaps servants of the villain. As with the other archetypes, any character can embody the role of trickster–including the hero and villain. “Spreading strife is my greatest joy” said one trickster god in an old Nigerian story.

There are many more archetypes that can be found in stories and myths. Understanding the use and application of archetypes in storytelling can be very helpful. Archetypes reflect core human personality types and social roles and can help us understand how character dynamics drive the plot forward.

They are not rigid and set in stone, for at any point in the story a character might embody the archetype of trickster, herald or threshold guardian, or perhaps even mentor or shadow.  In my new novel, The Key of Alanar, my protagonist, David, actually moves between hero and shadow archetype! It can be fun to push the boundaries of storytelling and mix things up. If nothing else it keeps life interesting.

For more information on archetypes and storytelling, I highly recommend investigating the work of Joseph Campbell, Christopher Vogler and Carl Jung.