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The Long Winter

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It’s been a long Winter. Not just outwardly, in terms of cold temperatures, grey skies, wind, rain and occasional snow, but also inwardly too. I’ve felt myself stuck in a kind of inner Winter; physically, emotionally, creatively and professionally. Aside for commissioned work, I’ve struggled to write a single sentence. My third novel, which I initially had hoped might be completed and published this year, has stalled in the initial chapters. My two blogs have been frozen, with no new content in months. I engaged in a pre-scheduled blog tour to promote The Key of Alanar in January, and that was both fun and difficult. Fun because I love that book with all my heart, and I enjoyed sharing the process behind it, but also difficult because I really just felt like retreating from the world and hiding away.

I actually reached a point where I didn’t think I would ever write another word again. I just didn’t know if I could. The Key of Alanar totally exhausted me. I’d put more into that book than anything in my life, ever. I actually didn’t know if there was anything more I had to say, or even, sadly, any great burning demand for more. I began to second guess myself creatively and even personally. There’s nothing more toxic to any writer or artist than the horrifying thought ‘what will they think?’ It paralyses and chokes the life out of genuine creative endeavour. It instils a certain level of fear and pressure that makes it very hard press forward. This fear is always there in artists; the fear of failure, or maybe even the fear of success; of criticism or even worse, being ignored altogether. It’s always there as a kind of low level background rumble. But the moment we give into it, it becomes a deafening wail. It disrupts and paralyses and, if we happen to give into it and lose our momentum, it can be very very hard to overcome. Creative block can last for not just days and weeks, but months and years. Some truly talented artists never recover from it. In some respects they lose a part of their soul. There are few creatures in life quite as miserable as a blocked artist!

Perhaps this Winter season is a necessary one, however. Everything in life flows in cycles. There is a time for flowers to bud and bloom, for the sun to shine and for life to flourish, and also a time for things to wind down as the life force retreats inward. There is most definitely a time for dormancy, and maybe creativity cannot flourish without that. It’s the space in which new visions begin to take shape and new ideas start to form.

The last few days I’ve felt the first stirrings of Spring; not only outwardly in terms of seeing flowers bloom and small buds on certain trees, but also inwardly in terms of my own creativity. I think I’m ready to start writing again. In fact, I’m determined that I’m ready to start writing again. Every day I will sit and type words. I have no idea how those words will turn out, but at least I’ll begin to create a momentum once more. I have something to share with the world again, and now is the time to do it. Here’s to the Spring!

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The Power of Storytelling and Mythology

Art by Josephine Wall

Stories have power. Whether in the form of a novel, short story, film, TV series–or even a video game–a good story story has the ability to transport us from our everyday reality to whole other worlds. By engaging our mind, imagination and senses, stories can bring us excitement and wonder, making us laugh and cry, feel, dream, love, hope and think. They have the power to encourage, motivate, educate and heal–and they can help us better understand and relate to others and this world we’re all a part of.

I’ve always been aware of the power of storytelling. I knew that I wanted to be a writer from the time I was 6 or 7 years old. I could often be a bit of a precocious and unsociable kid. While everyone else was out playing I would be sitting in my room, paper and pen in my hand, creating new worlds and characters and setting them off on all kinds of epic adventures. I actually came up with the idea for my first novel when I was still in primary school! I was a born storyteller. I always knew that I had stories inside of me; stories that I wanted to be able to tell and share with the world.

As I grew up and started learning the craft of writing, I was determined to find of exactly why stories matter to us. Why do human beings have this innate compulsion to tell stories and why do we love hearing, reading and watching them?

An aspect of human nature

What I came to realise was that storytelling plays a vital role in human culture, and it always has. You might even say it’s part of our very nature. According to cognitive scientist Roger Schank:

“Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.”

So storytelling is basically hard-wired into us. It’s one way in which we understand and process reality.

Stories aren’t merely for the purpose of entertainment. They actually have the power to change the world and change us. The art of storytelling has been a key part of human culture as far back as we know. As Ursula Le Guin says:

“The story is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind for the purpose of understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.”

Ancient stories

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Ancient cave paintings are believed to be the earliest records of mythology. They were essentially narratives created by early man in an attempt to understand and explain the nature of life, the world, animals, nature and the mystery of existence.

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Language is a relatively recent development in human evolution, so the earliest stories weren’t spoken or told in words, but most likely enacted and danced. In fact a number of cultures still do this such as Native Americans and other indigenous tribes. The cave paintings weren’t just created for the sake of it or to make the caves look decorative, but were believed to have been records, reminders and prompts to keep the tribe’s stories and myths alive.

Myth and mythology is the world’s oldest form of storytelling. Today the word ‘myth’ has come to mean something that’s false or untrue; a fabrication or lie. But the word stems from the Greek word ‘mythos’ which means story or tale. Myth is a story or set of stories holding significant symbolic meaning for a particular culture. As language developed, myths were generally delivered by word of mouth through speech, conversation or song. It’s only comparatively recently, in the past few centuries that they came to be recorded in the written word.

The purpose of myth is to help us make sense of the universe and our place in it. These myths might be based on factual accounts of events, discoveries and realisations, but were more often deeply metaphorical and filled with symbolic meaning. In other words, myths aren’t literal accounts of truth, but are stories with lots of hidden meaning. To understand them, you have to look beneath the surface and peel away the layers of meaning.

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The ancient myths often featured various gods and goddesses, demigods, supernatural heroes and ordinary humans, as in the ancient Greek myths. The Greek and Roman myths in particular had an enormous effect in shaping their respective cultures. The exploits of the gods and their adventures were almost akin to a modern day soap opera. The people were enthralled and spellbound, and the myths themselves served a number of important societal functions.

I first learned of these functions when I came across the work of Joseph Campbell, an American scholar and world-renowned expert in comparative mythology. As a young man, Campbell was fascinated by the legends of the Native Americans, which began a lifelong fascination and passion for mythology. His most famous work, “The Hero With A Thousand Faces”, which I came across when I was about 21, was a book I found fascinating on multiple levels. It not only changed the way I looked at writing and storytelling, but it changed the way I looked at life.

The Four Functions of Myth

Campbell outlined four primary functions of myth. Bearing in mind that myth is the origin of storytelling as we know it today, this has relevance and can even be applied to some extent to literature, art and media in our culture too.

1. Metaphysical

The first function, which Campbell also believed was one of the most important, was what he termed the metaphysical. This refers to the ability of mythology to awaken a sense of awe and wonder about the very nature of existence.

This is something that we’ve lost in our culture. Young children naturally possess this innate sense of awe, but as we grow up we generally lose it. We get bogged down in the physical, our everyday mundane existence, taking everything for granted–least of all the fact we’re alive, that we exist!…which is a miracle in itself.

The conditions necessary for Earth to sustain life are innumerable and exact. The planet has to be just the right distance from the sun. It needs to spin precisely the right way and have the right amount of gravity, oxygen and various other elements in perfect combination before it can support life. The fact that we exist at all is beyond amazing, yet we totally take it for granted.

This Einstein quote sums up this function of myth perfectly–and it’s a great quote to live by:

“There are two ways to live your life: You can live as if nothing is a miracle, or you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

And one of the most important functions of myth–and all the great stories–is to get us to remember how incredible, wondrous and precious life is.

2. Cosmological

The second function is cosmological. Cosmology is the study of the Universe and its components, how it was formed and evolved. Cosmology was born of questions such as “what’s going on around me” and “how does the universe work?”

For millennia mankind used myth (specifically creation myths) as a means of explaining and understanding the physical world and universe. These myths were created to help early man make sense of nature, weather, the passing of the seasons and the cycle of birth and death.

For example, to explain the functioning of nature and the elements, cultures often assigned different gods or deities that controlled for the rain, sun, fire and water. Nature itself was personified, usually as woman–indeed, there are countless variations of the Mother Earth, Gaia, or Earth Goddess archetype across many different cultures.

3. Sociological

As a sociological device, myth and storytelling have the ability to validate and support the existing social order and promote social norms, customs and beliefs. Shared stories can create a social bond between people, enabling them to share the same beliefs, outlook and understanding of life, which brought about a sense of social cohesion and community. In ancient times, mythology was part of the glue that held tribes and societies together.

4. Pedagogical

The pedagogical aspect refers to mythology’s ability to guide the individual through the different stages of life–from childhood to adolescence, adolescence to maturity, maturity to old age and from old age to death.

As we go through life we encounter many psychological, emotional and even physical challenges. Mythology provided guidance and signposts, often reflected in rites of passage and initiations. People weren’t left to struggle through these life changes on their own. They were given clear guidance through ceremony, ritual and myth and they knew clearly what was expected of them. Ancient India for example divided life into four stages: the student stage, the householder stage, the elder adviser stage and the renunciate stage where the individual leaves behind all worldly ties to seek final enlightenment.

Without this kind of guidance, confusion and psychological suffering usually result, as this is widespread in today’s world. We grow up in an unsettled, constantly shifting world, pretty confused and unclear about what’s expected of us and how we’re supposed to ‘make it’ in the world. In many ways we’ve got more choice than ever before, but this can actually make things harder and more overwhelming than if we have clearcut guidelines about what we’re ‘meant’ to do in life. Myth gave guidance, encouragement and motivation and a sense that we weren’t alone in life; that we weren’t on this journey without a map and compass.

Campbell described myth as being an outplaying of the various parts of ourselves that are in conflict with each other: our desires, hopes, fears and ambitions; the conflict between what we want in life and what we can get; between who we are and who we want to be. The mythological battles between heroes and demons–all the sacrifice and bravery, love and cruelty, victories and defeats–are metaphors for the conflicts of the human psyche. Myths originated from realisations of some kind that were then expressed in symbolic form to guide us. Many of them deal with the maturation of the individual, growing from dependency to adulthood, maturity and old age; and they explored how we relate to other people, society, our culture and the world at large.

The form of the myths change with the passing of time. To remain relevant to the culture they’re part of, they must evolve, adapt and transform as the world continually changes. If they don’t, they become obsolete. They lose their meaning and become dumb, irrelevant stories that confuse and mislead.

krishna-playing-fluteThe song of the universe

Joseph Campbell was astounded to discover extraordinary similarities between the great myths from vastly different cultures across the millennia. In fact there was a distinct and definite pattern that most of these myths seemed to follow.

He found that all stories, regardless of the time, place and culture in which they came from, tend to share a common structure. They are essentially the same story being told in an infinite variety of ways. Campbell had evidently cracked a secret code, the pattern behind all the greatest stories ever told. The whole human race, he believed, could be seen to be reciting a single story…a story with immense psychological, sociological and spiritual importance. Myth, he said, was the song of the universe, being sung by a thousand different peoples and cultures.

The way in which this story is delivered can be infinitely varied, but it has the same basic structure. Furthermore, when stripped down, it is always a story about universal human themes and questions such as: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? What am I here to do? Is this all there is to life?

This story helps us explain the universe and our place in it, dealing with themes of identity, meaning and purpose. As science is discovering, humans aren’t wired to understand logic directly. Instead, logic is best grasped through the use of narrative and metaphor–and this is why stories can be so powerful.

As this universal story evolves through time, it takes different forms depending on the context of a particular culture. The story is told in an infinite variety of ways, but the fundamental elements remain strikingly familiar. Campbell called it the monomyth…or the hero’s journey.

The hero’s journey

The hero’s journey is basically the journey of every human being as they go through life. It’s relevant to all of us, because we’re each the hero of our own particular story. The hero’s journey is a guide to life; a map to help us along the challenging road we all have to take through life.

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The hero’s journey has a distinct structure. If you analyse great myths, epics, novels and even many films and television dramas, you can often see how they fit into the pattern basic of the hero’s journey, even if the elements are significantly rearranged or modified.

The basic structure is that the hero must undertake a journey, leaving their comfortable everyday surroundings and venturing into a new, challenging, unfamiliar world. They face all kinds of challenges and then return enriched by the experience, learning or bringing something of value to aid the world.

There’s always an emotional component to the journey. In any satisfying story, it’s necessary that the hero grows and changes in some way; that they go from one state of being to the next–from incompleteness to wholeness, from lack to gain, weakness to strength, ignorance to wisdom. It’s the emotional journey of the hero that captivates the reader and keeps them hooked and engaged.

Campbell outlined the Hero’s journey as having 17 distinct stages, but others have streamlined the model. The one I’m sharing was adapted by Christopher Vogler and is a bit simpler, using less archaic language.

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Here’s a simple breakdown of the hero’s journey.

1. The Ordinary World

The hero starts off in their ordinary, everyday world. It’s a world that might be considered humdrum, or uneventful. Often there’s a sense of restlessness or incompleteness experienced by the hero. Everything’s ticking along nicely, but the hero somehow doesn’t quite fit in. On some level they know that they’re destined for something different.

2. The Call to Adventure

The story begins with a call to adventure. Something happens that initiates the story. The hero is called away from their ordinary existence into the unknown. A problem or challenge of some kind befalls the hero.

3. Refusal of the Call

Many times the hero hesitates. They’re reluctant to leave their home, their friends and their familiar, safe world. The unknown is terrifying–especially when the stakes have been revealed. Often it’s a life and death quest they’ve been called to embark upon.

4. Meeting the Mentor

By now many stories have introduced what Campbell called the ‘supernatural aid’ which simply means a guide or mentor; someone who imparts information or guides the hero in some way, setting them in the right direction. The mentor might be a wise old man or woman; a veteran of some kind; a wizard, a teacher, a hermit or wanderer. The mentor helps prepare the hero for the journey into the unknown.

5. Crossing the First Threshold

The hero has committed to the journey and is ready to step into what Campbell called ‘the belly of the whale’: the special world! This is the moment the story really takes off. The hero sets off on their quest.

6. Tests, Allies and Enemies

Campbell called this the road of trials. The hero begins to learn the rules of the new world through much conflict and challenge. There’s usually a series of events and conflicts in which the hero begins to learn how to navigate the special world. Along the way they meet new people, good and bad, and make new allies and new enemies.

7. Approach to the Inmost Cave

The hero has been tested repeatedly. He or she has learned a lot about this new world and made allies and adversaries. Now they near the inmost cave, a dangerous place, sometimes a dark place underground, perhaps the lair of his or her greatest enemy, where the object of the quest may be hidden. The hero often has to overcome significant danger and barriers that prevent them entering the inmost cave.

8. The Ordeal

This is the hero’s darkest moment so far. They must face their toughest challenge where, for a time at least, all seems lost. In the myths this was a moment of death and rebirth. The hero dies a symbolic death and is reborn as something greater–with greater courage, greater power, or greater wisdom and understanding. It’s a brink of death moment; a moment in which everything really looks like it’s going to fall apart.

9. The Reward

Once the supreme ordeal is overcome the hero emerges stronger for it. They’ve come into their own power and are ready to seize their destiny. They take possession of the treasure (whether literal or figurative; the treasure, the ‘object’ they’ve been seeking, could be many things: a magical sword, a healing elixir, the object of their romantic affections, or perhaps knowledge or wisdom of some kind).

In ancient traditions, the tribe’s shaman didn’t get his supernatural powers until he’s experienced a death or sorts; a terrible illness, accident or hardship that almost kills him. His life is set in flames and only then, as he rises from the ashes, does he acquire the powers and wisdom of the shaman. Rebirth can only come from death.

The worst has now passed, the quest may have succeeded, but usually it’s not over yet…

10. The Road Back

The hero now has to deal with the consequences of confronting the dark forces during the ordeal. There’s usually a retaliation of some kind; they may have gotten away with the reward, but the villain isn’t going to give up so easily. There’s often an element of chase as the hero, having achieved his or her goal, attempts to return to the ordinary world. This is a turning point. It may involve a change in the aim of the story; a story about achieving some goal might become a story of escape, or a focus on physical danger might shift to emotional risks. It’s another moment of crisis that launches the hero on a new road of trials.

11. Resurrection

This stage is a second ordeal, almost a replay of the life and death struggle of the ordeal. It’s one last, final test for the hero in which they must face their greatest challenge and face a symbolic death and rebirth. Everything is on the line and the hero must use all they have learned during their journey.

In ancient times, hunters and warriors often had to be symbolically purified before returning to the tribe because they had blood on their hands. The hero therefore must undergo a transformation–a final life and death struggle–in which they emerge reborn prior to returning to the Ordinary World. The hero has been transformed in some way; they have grown, changed and learned. There has to be some element of change or growth in the hero to make an emotionally satisfying story.

12. Return with the elixir

The hero now returns to the ordinary world. They’ve come full circle and are back where they started, but they bring with them some kind of elixir, which may be a treasure, a gift, a piece of needed information or wisdom; or something that will solve whatever crisis had originally initiated their departure from the ordinary world. The journey is complete and the hero has come full circle, but is changed and can never be the same again.

A key theme of the ancient myths was the hero departing, going through literal or figurative hell, and then returning with new powers, new wisdom and new understanding.

This basic hero’s journey structure can be found in many of the greatest myths, fairytales, legends and in more contemporary stories–in literature, films and sometimes television. These are our modern day equivalents of mythology. But the hero’s journey isn’t just something that’s just applicable to stories. Recall that myth is a reflection of life; a symbolic means of navigating our way through life and understanding the nature of ourselves, others and the world around us. We’re each the hero of our own story. Our daily life is our hero’s journey and we go through those 12 stages all the time.

So the hero’s journey is a great tool not just for writing and analysing stories but also as a guide and compass for managing daily life. Whatever situation we’re in and whatever stage we’re currently at, we can know that it is all part of an ongoing process; a journey toward wholeness, healing and redemption–and that every stage is a step closer to our ultimate goal.

Hollywood takes notice

Joseph Campbell’s work became more and more influential through his lifetime. By 70s and 80s his work came to the attention of certain Hollywood screenwriters and producers, including George Lucas who created Star Wars. Lucas openly acknowledged that Star Wars was greatly inspired by Campbell’s monomyth and this can be seen quite clearly. Like the greatest myths, it follows the structure of the hero’s journey perfectly.

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A Hollywood screenwriter and producer named Christopher Vogler wrote a 7 page memo that outlined the practical applications of the Hero’s Journey and this inspired a whole generation of screenwriters.

The influence of the Hero’s Journey can be seen in a great many films, including The Lion King, The Matrix, Harry Potter, Avatar, Back to the Future, ET, Pirates of Caribbean, the Batman series and numerous animated films such as Finding Nemo, Shrek, Wall-E and Kung Fu Panda.

Films like those, which are popular entertainment for a modern audience, have a structure that echoes that of ancient myth, something that’s hardwired into us and which perhaps explains some of their enduring popularity.

There were criticisms at one time about writers using the hero’s journey too indiscriminately, adopting it as a kind of lazy formula without fully engaging their creativity. Upon its release, George Lucas’s fantasy film Willow was cited as one such example. There’s always a danger of stories becoming rigidly formulaic when they are built according to a set blueprint. So the hero’s journey is best applied not as a rigid framework, but a diagnostic tool for ensuring that all essential bases are covered to provide a satisfyingly coherent and structured story; a story that captures the transcendent power of the greatest of myths and stories.

In terms of my own writing, I never consciously set out to use the hero’s journey as a template. But when analysing my novels Eladria and The Key of Alanar , I discovered that they matched the pattern of the hero’s journey quite extraordinarily. Any times I have struggled, I found it helpful to read up on Campbell’s work and explore some of the ancient myths. This gave me an understanding of how stories work. The best stories have a clear beginning, middle and end, and a basic pattern and structure they follow, even if that structure has endless variations. One of the most important things I ever learned about writing is that there’s not just an art to it–there’s a science too. Taking some time to study not only how stories work, but why stories work, is an essential part of learning the craft.

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The true power of storytelling

The greatest stories, from ancient times right up to today, aren’t just a means of entertainment and passing the time. They’re a means of understanding life, exploring ideas and learning — learning about ourselves, the world and our place in it. When a writer or storyteller of any kind begins a story, they’re asking for an investment of your time; they want to take you someplace, and it helps if there’s a payoff to that; a reason for telling the story.

Like many things in our culture, most books, films and television are simply churned out to make money, to fill a demand, and there’s perhaps not much depth to them or thought goes into them. Stories like that don’t last. Myths, legends and fairytales have endured for centuries and millennia because they touch upon some core human themes–they speak to us about life, albeit in the language of metaphor.

Some people believe that the ancient stories don’t have much relevance in our postmodern age, but I’d disagree. We’re not ostensibly any different to the way we were thousands of years ago. Our culture has changed a lot, but human beings are the same . We go through the same stages of life, we all want to be happy, to find love and meaning, fulfilment and joy. We still ask the same questions about life, about why we’re here and what it’s all about.

As Campbell says, all mythic narratives–and all the truly great stories–are variations of a single great story: a story about transcending our limits, overcoming adversity and becoming all that we’re capable of being. These stories give us hope and guide us.

A culture without mythology is doomed

We explored the functions of mythology and why it has importance to society, acting as a kind of glue that binds us together as well as providing guidance for our journey through life. But what happens when a society loses its mythology?

Campbell believed that without a functioning mythology to make sense of ourselves and reality, society degenerates and breaks down. We’re arguably seeing this throughout the world today. Campbell warned that:

“When a civilisation loses its mythology, the life goes out of it.”

The mythology we tend to hold as a culture is a materialistic one that puts consumerism above all else. We’re trained to think that the purpose of our lives is to make as much money as we can so we can buy as much stuff as possible. We’re taught to believe that we have to buy our way to happiness. We’re not even people anymore, we’re just consumers. This mythology is causing widespread suffering and destruction of the planet, because it is an unsustainable way of living.

So we desperately need new, healthier mythologies to give us a greater vision of who we are and what life is about. What we’re really looking for is deeper meaning and a more vibrant and vital experience of being alive.

They had that in ancient and premodern cultures. In order to move forward we sometimes have to look back–and if we’ve strayed off the tracks, retrace our steps a bit until we find ourselves back on the path.

Campbell said that the goal of life is to make our heartbeat match the beat of the universe. We save the world, he claimed, not by trying to rearrange the world, but by saving ourselves–by coming fully alive and “following our bliss” (a famous quote attributable to Campbell, summing up his philosophy of life). He said that the influence of a vital person has a vitalising effect on others and the world.

He warned us not to just become consumed by the system, but to follow our own way, to be a maverick and to align our personal nature with the essential nature of life and to be in harmony with that.

“But if a person has had the sense of the Call — the feeling that there’s an adventure for him — and if he doesn’t follow that, but remains in the system because it’s safe and secure, then life dries up. And then he comes to that condition in late middle age: he’s gotten to the top of the ladder, and found that it’s against the wrong wall.If you have the guts to follow the risk, however, life opens, opens, opens up all along the line. I’m not superstitious, but I do believe in spiritual magic, you might say. I feel that if one follows what I call one’s bliss — the thing that really gets you deep in your gut and that you feel is your life — doors will open up. They do! They have in my life and they have in many lives that I know of.”

Living in this way changes our mythology! And the modern myth-makers, the writers, storytellers, artists, musicians, songwriters and all kinds of creative people have an important role in society and one that might even save our culture, by providing us with new, healthier mythologies by which we can understand and make sense of life.

Campbell said that “if you want to change the world you have to change the metaphor”. This is what takes us from a place of lack, loss, suffering and confusion to a place of wholeness, aliveness and redemption. That is the true power of storytelling.

 


 

(This article is based upon a talk I gave to some high school classes a couple of years ago. An accompanying Prezi presentation is available to view online here.)

I’ve just published a brand new story (and it’s yours for free!)

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This week I released my first short story in over two years!

The provocatively-titled Kill The Past, Destroy The World is a prelude to my upcoming novel, The Key of Alanar. It 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. 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.

I found it a fascinating story to write, allowing me to explore the darker side of human nature, questioning what exactly makes a bad person ‘bad’. As a social science graduate, I learned years ago that human nature is largely shaped by environmental factors; there’s really no evidence that genes make people bad. It’s usually traceable to the formative years where something happens that shouldn’t happen, or something doesn’t happen that should. The story also paints the picture of a society in deep decline and teetering on the brink of its own demise; a society in which corruption and greed have caused an immense divide between the rich and poor, the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. I found this a very timely theme!

While it might all sound a tad bleak, the ray of light in this story is the High Priest Ardonis, who is determined to stop Mailyn from unleashing a terrible horror upon the planet. And that’s where the shocking opening pages of The Key of Alanar will take off! This is the start of an incredibly epic tale that will span 10,000 years and multiple dimensions!

The short story is now available to preorder on Amazon, but because I’m a nice guy, I am offering it to you for FREE! All you have to do is click here to sign up for my newsletter (it takes all of 2 seconds) and you will be lead to a page where you can download the story immediately in Mobi, ePub and PDF format! It’s a pretty good deal if you ask me, and I’ll be able to share more exciting free content in the coming weeks and months.

So grab your copy now, and be sure to let me know what you think! I look forward to having you along for what I promise will be an extraordinary journey!

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My Tao Te Ching book is now available to buy!

Hi everyone! I’m pleased to announce that the paperback version of my Tao Te Ching book is now available on Amazon and is currently on sale at cost price. The Tao Te Ching is a remarkable gift, and I wanted to be able to share it as such.

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Five years ago I set myself the challenge of creating my own version of this ancient text. I wanted to encapsulate the best of my favourite translations, retaining the text’s integrity and poetic flourish while making some of the more cryptic statements (of which there are a great many!) a little clearer and easier to understand.

I spent time reflecting on each verse and pondering the meaning of Lao Tzu’s words and then wrote a commentary on each one. I did this for myself more than anything, but decided to share it on this and my prior blogs. A lot of people have really enjoyed my take on the Tao, which has subtly evolved over the years as my own understanding has grown. Here is my introduction to the text.

I’ve been posting the content of this book in this blog for almost two years now, and will continue to do so until I have posted all 81 verses. If you’ve enjoyed it and want to have the complete work to hand, then this is for you! It’s been available to download on Kindle and Smashwords in ebook format for some time now, and the paperback edition looks beautiful I have to say. It’s a book that’s great for keeping at your bedside and dipping into for a little inspiration and insight.

Click here to view the book on Amazon US

Click here to view the book on Amazon UK

It should also be available in most other territories. The Smashwords ebook edition (which includes Kindle, ePub and many other formats) can be found here)

Hope you enjoy!

I’ve also just finished my second novel, which follows on from ELADRIA. It will be published in the Spring, along with a whole range of surprises. It’s a work I’m very proud of and a story that has been with me most my life. I can’t wait to share it with you. Hopefully now this major project is out the way, I will be able to get back into a more regular blogging routine!

Chapter Three of ELADRIA: “The Long Night”

Hi folks, following on from chapter one and chapter two of my novel Eladria, here is chapter three. Things are about to take a twist and the action is well and truly underway. You can download all three chapters in PDF format by clicking here.

Eladria is officially published tomorrow, and you can buy/preorder it from multiple places in both paperback and ebook format. Click here to visit my website and order. Incidentally, this chapter also features a music video with music from the Eladria soundtrack which will be available to download as a FREE GIFT for all readers. I have posted it below. Enjoy!

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Chapter Three

THE LONG NIGHT

 It was ironic that what was to be the last night of Eladria’s life was also the longest.

She lay upon the cold metal bench and, although physically and emotionally exhausted, her frenzied mind kept her awake the entire night as the hours slowly ticked by.

Again and again her mind replayed the murder of her father, the massacre in the control room and the destruction of the royal city, which now lay in smoldering ruins.

This shouldn’t have happened…

Her thoughts turned to the Ha’shon, the perpetrators of these atrocities, and she felt a searing hatred rising in the pit of her belly, filling every cell of her being with rage. That they considered themselves to be acting upon some kind of Divine decree made the Ha’shon all the more despicable to her.

By now her tears had dried and she felt numb and hollow.

This is it, she thought to herself as she gazed vacantly at the wall. There won’t be an official coronation, but I suppose I’m now Queen of Tahnadra. As sole heir to the throne, Tahnadra was now her world and those upon it were her subjects. Such a thought seemed strangely amusing to her. The shortest, saddest reign in Tahnadran history: a single night spent in a prison cell…

And, as with her father before her, it would end in her murder at the hands of Ha’shon terrorists. Perhaps that was just the way it was meant to be.

Her main regret was that there was nothing she could do to help her people. They were about to be subjected to tyranny under the Ha’shon. The Ha’shon Liberation Army would no doubt ravage the planet and kill countless people in their crusade to supremacy.

She shed a tear for her people, for the millions of innocent men, women and children that would die at the hands of the Ha’shon. She wished there was something she could do for them, that she could somehow save her world. If only she could stop the Ha’shon and make her father’s death at least count for something.

But it was hopeless. She knew that. With a sigh, she lay back and endeavored to accept her fate. Perhaps one day someone would rise up and defeat the Ha’shon and overcome the ignorance and hatred that had destroyed her world.

She vividly recalled her father recounting the ancient legends of Tahnadra. She would be tucked up in bed at night, perhaps only seven or eight years old. Her father would sit by her side and tell her all kinds of incredible stories.

“There was a time when Tahnadra was a paradise, a land fit for gods,” he had once told her. “There was peace, unity and a shared sense of purpose among its people. All worked together for the common good. These were gifts bestowed upon our world by the Lasan, travelers from beyond the stars. They had come to Tahnadra in the beginning times and brought civilization, culture and a rich sense of community and spiritual unity.”

“What happened to them?” she had asked.

“For a time the Lasan ruled with great benevolence from the land of Atukaare. They later left this land to their children as they returned to the stars.”

But over the generations, without the guiding hand of the Lasan, the wisdom of the Old Way was corrupted and two new religions were born: the Ha’shon and the True Way, two opposing ideologies that sought complete dominance, paving the way for millennia of war.

Atukaare was destroyed and the royal family, who were descendants of the Lasan, fled to the third moon. There they could rule the planet in safety and provide neutral ground for the two religious factions to attempt to reach some kind of peace.

Even from a young age Eladria had been cynical about such an endeavor. It seemed to her a wasted effort. Neither side wanted peace; they only wanted to win, to crush their adversaries. And why? Just so they could be right. It was pathetic and childish, yet the suffering that had been wrought by these self-proclaimed holy men was beyond imagining.

Centuries of unrelenting war had all but destroyed Tahnadra. It was an empty husk of a world, stripped of its beauty, freshness and life. The people were jaded, bitter and filled with hatred for the opposing side. All they wanted was victory and vengeance for the losses they had incurred.

The more she thought about the state of her world, the more she realized that she didn’t want to be its queen, because no matter what she tried to do, she knew there was nothing she could do to save it.

Perhaps the Ha’shon were right: maybe these were the ‘end times’. Maybe there simply was no hope and the whole planet was spiraling to its annihilation. And maybe that was the fate it deserved. All that her father, grandparents and forebears had strived for had died along with them.

Eladria lay in a state of defeat, resigned to her fate. If she was to die, then there was nothing she could do about that. There was no way out of this cell. Not without help.

It was at that moment that something caught her eye.

A creature scurried across the hallway. It was a yunpa, a small furry rodent, scuttling along the corridor that bridged the holding cells. It stopped in front of Eladria’s cell and peered in. It was staring directly at her, its whiskers twitching wildly.

Eladria had the sense that this was no ordinary yunpa—and she was right, for it promptly began to change shape! The little creature grew larger and larger, its fur-covered body expanding and dissolving into an amorphous, shimmering mist.

Eladria leapt up from the bench. She stared in astonishment as the mist coalesced into solid form, with two arms, two legs, an abdomen, chest and head rapidly taking shape before her eyes. As the mist-like substance dissolved and the human form became clear, Eladria cried in amazement as she realized that she recognized this person.

Zinn! That little yunpa had just transformed into Zinn!

Eladria ran to the bars and cried out in delight. “Zinn! I don’t believe it. Is that really you?”

Zinn stepped forward and smiled enigmatically as she smoothed down her tunic. “Yes, it’s me, my dear,” she said.

“But…how?” Eladria gasped, so utterly amazed she had to struggle to force the words out of her mouth.

“You’ve just learned something that I’ve kept secret for many, many years,” Zinn said. “I’m what your people call a metamorph.”

“A metamorph?” Eladria echoed, pressing her hands against the bars as she leaned forward. “But I thought they were extinct?”

“Nearly, but not quite.”

“I can’t believe it…”

“The only person who knew my true identity was your father.”

“But why conceal it?” Eladria asked, eyes still wide in amazement.

“There are very few of my kind,” Zinn explained. “Because of our ability to change shape, we’ve always faced distrust, suspicion and persecution. Six hundred years ago, during the Last Reclamation, a law was passed outlawing my kind. Countless numbers were hunted and slaughtered. We learned to survive by carefully concealing our true nature, by endeavoring to pass ourselves off as ‘normal’.”

“But my father knew?”

“That’s a story for another time, my dear. For now, time is of the essence. I was imprisoned in an adjoining cell. Emotional distress hampers my ability to change form. It’s taken me all this time to muster the power to change shape. But once I did, I easily slipped through the bars, and now I must get you out.”

Eladria’s mind was galloping like a crazed rhastopod as she sought to reconcile this unexpected revelation. Having spent her entire life in Zinn’s care, Eladria had assumed that she’d known everything there was to know about the kindly old maid. Yet it appeared she knew nothing about her at all.

Zinn began studying the control pad that operated the lock mechanism. “We need the code,” she sighed. “I don’t suppose you happen to know what it is?”

“No,” Eladria shook her head. “But I do know the general override code for all palace systems. Unless, of course, it’s been changed.”

“Well, at your convenience,” Zinn said, her body rigid with urgency.

“I think it’s…nine seven eight four three…six?”

Zinn input the code but nothing happened. The console simply bleeped in error. Zinn shook her head.

“Four three…seven?” Eladria suggested.

Zinn input the code, but again it was to no avail.

Eladria sighed in exasperation and leaned against the cell wall, bringing her hand to her chin as she struggled to recall the correct code. As princess and heir to the throne, it was her responsibility to know the security override code in case of emergency. Every few months she was required to undergo a security briefing, during which she was expected to memorize a new override sequence.

Oh…what was it? It wasn’t six…or seven…

“Nine!” Eladria exclaimed. “Try nine! Nine seven eight four three nine.”

Zinn input the code and the lock clicked open.

Eladria pushed the door open and stepped out of her cell, relishing the sweet taste of freedom.

“We have to get you out of the palace and off this moon, your Highness,” Zinn said gravely. “The palace is under control of the enemy. I don’t believe there’s anything we can do from here. We have to get you to safety.”

“Then we have to get to the hangars,” Eladria nodded. “If we can get to a fighter, I can take us down to the planet.” Eladria was a trained pilot. She had been obsessed with flying since she was a small child and her father had reluctantly consented to flying lessons upon her fourteenth birthday. It was hardly customary for a princess to be piloting fighter craft, but then Eladria was anything but customary.

Eladria strode to the weapons locker and surveyed the firearms. She appropriated two electro-pulse pistols and quickly checked to ensure they were operational. “We can assume there are guards standing watch outside,” she said as she strapped a holster around her waist.

“It would stand to reason.”

“Your ability to change shape can be used to our advantage.”

Zinn nodded.

“I want you to do what you did before,” Eladria continued. “Change shape into something small; I’ll open the door, you go through it and distract the guards. That’ll give me the chance to catch them from behind.”

“Just be careful, my dear,” Zinn warned.

Without hesitation, they put their plan into action. With a look of concentration upon her face, Zinn began her transformation. Her form dissolved into a diffuse mist-like substance, which sparkled and glistened like sunlight upon dewdrops. Eladria marveled that even Zinn’s clothes dissolved into the mist, suggesting they were merely a facsimile that could likely be altered with a single thought.

The mist swirled and coalesced in mid-air, decreasing in mass and gradually taking the form of a glitter-bee, a brightly colored insect with tapering wings that sparkled red and gold as they flapped. The insect circled Eladria’s head with a melodic hum.

Eladria approached the door and stood with her back hard against the wall. Reaching up to the door control, she gestured for Zinn to ready herself as she mouthed a countdown. Three….two….one….

Eladria activated the door control and kept still as the door slid open.

Although she couldn’t see them from where she was standing, she was nevertheless aware of two guards standing outside.

“What was that?” whispered one of the guards.

“There’s no one there,” responded the other.

Eladria held her breath and stood rigidly still. She had a pistol in each hand and she clutched them tightly, her fingers wrapped around the cold metal triggers.

She was aware of the insect form of Zinn, buzzing through the open doorway and circling the two guards.

“It’s just an insect,” grunted the first guard.

“Insects can’t open doors,” said the second suspiciously.

Eladria could tell that the guard was about to enter the security station, but that was when Zinn intensified her diversionary tactics. The glitter-bee buzzed around the guards, diving at their heads. The guards tried to swipe the insect away but Zinn wasn’t going to let it end there. She began to transform herself in mid-air, the insect form dissolving into the sparkling mist as she initiated her metamorphosis. She had succeeded in getting the guards’ full attention.

“What is that?” cried one of the guards in confusion.

Eladria realized that now was the time to act.

Her hands tensed as she gripped the guns and sprung into action, spinning round to face the Ha’shon guards. They had their backs to her as they gaped at the bewildering sight.

She had them in a clear line of fire. Their weapons were aimed at Zinn’s coalescing form, and they made a motion to fire. Eladria pre-empted them. She pulled both triggers and felt her body lurch as the pistols discharged blasts of energy that slammed into the backs of the Ha’shon guards. The two men fell into the ground.

Eladria felt a wave of nausea as she looked down at their smoldering bodies. On one hand, she was repulsed at herself for having taken two lives, even if they were Ha’shon. But another part of her was simply relieved. There would be time for recrimination later.

Zinn had now resumed her usual form and Eladria stepped over the bodies and handed her one of pistols. Zinn reluctantly took the weapon. She was a gentle woman with an innate distaste of violence, but she knew the desperation of their situation overrode all other concerns.

“We have to get out of the open,” Eladria said as she marched down the corridor, her blue dress swishing behind her. “The palace must be swarming with Ha’shon. Our advantage is that we know its layout, and they don’t. If we take the next corridor to the right, we can access the maintenance crawl-ways and follow them down to the hangar level.”

Zinn nodded as Eladria led the way. They cautiously crept along the corridor and managed to reach the maintenance hatch without incident. Once inside, they clambered through the innards of the palace, crawling down air vents and edging their way past power distribution stations, careful not to touch any of the buzzing wires. It was hot, the air was thin and the conditions cramped, but they kept on going regardless. Arriving at an intersection bridged by vertical ladders, they stopped briefly to rest, before continuing downward.

It was a long and exhausting climb down eight entire levels, but they eventually reached the hangar level. Breathless but relieved, Eladria and Zinn took a left turn, edging along the claustrophobic maintenance shaft in the direction of the aircraft hangars. The hangars comprised a vast network encircling the lower region of the palace and housed a variety of aircraft, from diplomatic transports to the trans-atmospheric fighters used by the Tahnadran Royal Military.

They came to an air vent above one of the hangars. Peering through the metal grates, Eladria was relieved to see two D-12 fighters sitting stationary in the middle of the hangar. In another stroke of luck, the hangar itself was deserted.

“What do we do now?” whispered Zinn.

“We get down there, take one of the fighters and leave for the planet.”

They climbed down a thick metal pipe to ground level. Eladria knew her way around these crawl-ways and ventilation shafts better than most, for it was here she had escaped to when she was a child and was fed up with having to ‘act’ like a princess, when all she had wanted was to do her own thing. Here she would sit for hours, watching the military craft as they came and went from the palace, dreaming that one day she too would pilot them. In more recent times, she had sometimes met Narat here. It wasn’t the most romantic location imaginable, but it was a place they could be together, away from prying eyes.

Eladria ran her hand along the inside of the wall, fumbling for the hatch that would open the access point. It was dark and there was barely room to move, but she persisted and eventually found it. With a heave, she cranked it open and climbed out of the ventilation shaft.

She stepped onto the concrete hangar floor, as Zinn followed behind her, and surveyed their new surroundings. She’d never seen the place this empty before. Normally it would be filled with engineers and maintenance personnel. Something wasn’t right.

Regardless, she proceeded with haste to the main control booth. Her hands flicked across the control panel as she initiated the mechanized launch program and input the instructions. She set a four dessick countdown: that should be more than enough time to get the fighter ready to depart. Ordinarily there was a list of checks that had to be done prior to take-off, but there was no time for that. She marched over to the nearest fighter, which, to her great relief, was already prepared for take-off.

Just as she was about to climb into it, the sudden sound of the hangar door opening stopped her in her tracks. Her heart skipped a beat as she turned to the door and reached for her gun.

It was Narat. He was alone and unarmed. He approached her slowly, hands raised in a gesture of surrender.

The very sight of him elicited a potent reaction in the young princess. She felt a wave of hatred pulsing through her blood. He was the cause of all this; he was the reason her father was murdered. She raised her weapon and tightened the trigger. She had loved him so much, but her passion had turned to an inextinguishable rage. Her eyes narrowed and she felt her face tighten as he came to a stop before her, hands held aloft.

“Give me one reason I shouldn’t kill you now,” she said darkly.

“Please just listen to me, Eladria,” Narat said evenly.

“What are you doing here? How did you know I’d be here?”

“Because you were under surveillance the entire time. We knew you’d escaped the moment it happened.”

“You were tracking us?”

Narat nodded. “We were ahead of you every step of the way. When I realized you were on your way here, I had the place cleared. I convinced Estaran that I would deal with you.”

“How kind of you,” she growled, raising the weapon.

“Eladria, listen to me,” Narat pleaded. “I came here to talk. I have to explain what I’ve done. I have to make you understand.”

“I understand that you betrayed my father and everything he believed in,” Eladria shouted at him, her body shaking in fury. “You betrayed the monarchy and government. You betrayed me. You’re responsible for my father’s death and all the other deaths.”

“No,” Narat shook his head. “That wasn’t part of the deal. Estaran said nothing about killing the king or destroying the city. You have to believe me. I didn’t know it would come to this.”

“Then you’re a fool. If you make a deal with the Ha’shon, you’re guaranteed of bloodshed. They speak about their religion, their beliefs, their Divinely-inspired ideals, but they’re nothing but insane killers—and you’re one of them now. I can’t believe it, Narat. Why? Why would you ally yourself with those fanatics?”

“I may not agree with everything they’ve done, but I agree with their philosophy. They promise a new and better era for our world. I mean no disrespect to you, Eladria, but the royal family have done nothing for Tahnadra. They’ve sat up here in their little bubble, isolated and protected from the chaos down there. You’ve never lived on Tahnadra, but I have. I grew up on the streets and I experienced the violence, brutality and poverty—and the war. You’ve never tasted war, Eladria, you’ve never had to endure it. But I was there. The things I saw, the things I had to experience, the people I saw slaughtered, the towns and cities I saw laid to waste…”

“It wasn’t us that waged that war, Narat,” Eladria countered. “We’ve done all we can to bring peace to our world, to get the leaders to sit down and reach some kind of resolution. That’s what my father worked for his entire life: peace and an end to the violence.”

“Yes, and his father before him and his father before that,” Narat responded. “And where has it got us? There can be no peace between the Ha’shon and the True Way. The only way for the war to end is for the victor to emerge triumphant. That victor is the Ha’shon. It has to be! They promise to transform our world from one of suffering, violence and struggle to one of peace and prosperity.”

“You mean to say you actually believe their lies and propaganda?”

“You never asked me about my past. Well, I’ll tell you why I had to side with the Ha’shon and why I’ve spent most my life a secret follower of their teachings. As you know I’m from the neutral land of Tamaru between the Ha’shon and True Way territories. When I was a child, my family lived in the northern province of Rakata, where we experienced such poverty that it was a daily struggle just to put food on the table. There were constant raids by both Ha’shon and True Way soldiers, both determined to claim the province for themselves.”

“That’s why my father stationed a TRM garrison there,” Eladria intervened. “To secure those disputed territories and prevent incursions by either side.”

“The garrison was a joke, Eladria,” Narat objected. “The military sent only a minimal detachment of troops, just enough to secure the borders. But they turned a blind eye to the suffering of our people and did little to stop the abductions.”

“If you have a point to make, I suggest you make it,” Eladria growled, taking a step back and keeping her fingers coiled around the pistol trigger.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but I later learned that the Ha’shon care about liberating people,” Narat began. “One night, during a raid, they rounded up fifty of us and took us back to Ha’shon territory, where we were offered a choice: the choice to embrace the Divine Father, or to die. Most of us repented and accepted the Ha’shon path. Some resisted and in so doing, accepted death. I pitied them. Having spent my entire life suffering, I could see that the Ha’shon offered us redemption and lives of purpose. My family and I were initiated into the Ha’shon and pledged to serve the Divine Father in all endeavors. They offered me something no one else had ever given me: belonging, purpose and the opportunity to help create this glorious new dawn.”

“Then you actually believe the poison they spout?” Eladria asked in disbelief.

“Our world is dying, Eladria,” he said. “What I did, I had to do. I served in the Ha’shon Liberation Army from the moment I was old enough to pick up a weapon. I fought the True Way and the Royal Military knowing that this was a holy crusade, that they had to be defeated, for only then could we save our world. I passed through the ranks and became noticed by the Ha’shon military hierarchy. Because I was a skilled fighter and wasn’t of Ha’shon ethnicity, I was chosen to infiltrate the royal moon and serve as an operative here. This day has been planned for many years and I willingly laid the groundwork and brought as many Ha’shon sympathizers as I could into the palace where they could fight by my side.”

“So this was all part of some plan,” Eladria said, shifting on the spot. “What about me—about us? Was that part of your plan? Was I just some kind of pawn, an instrument to help you betray my father?”

“No, of course not,” Narat said. “I couldn’t have planned that, Eladria, I couldn’t have planned falling in love with you. In many ways I wish I hadn’t, because it’s made all of this so much harder.”

“You never loved me,” Eladria stated. “If you’d loved me you could never have done this.”

Narat moved closer, and Eladria raised her pistol to his head.

“You won’t kill me,” Narat whispered.

“Don’t be so sure.”

Narat stopped.

“Why did you come down here, Narat? What do you want from me?” Eladria asked.

“You’re not going to escape, Eladria,” Narat said. “Estaran won’t let you. He wants you to join us. If the last of the House of Chaldeen joins the Ha’shon, it will hasten our march to victory. Instead of opposing us, those loyal to the monarchy will join us. It’ll save thousands of lives, Eladria; lives that would otherwise be lost. Whatever happens, the Ha’shon are now in control of Tahnadra. If you join us, you can save so many lives and prevent untold suffering.”

“Then what?”

“Then we can be together, as we’ve always wanted. Nothing will stand in our way and no one will oppose us. Just think of it, Eladria. You won’t have to worry about those royal duties you so dreaded. We can live simple lives, doing whatever we want. We can be together.”

Narat stepped closer. Eladria remained motionless, still pointing the pistol at him. Undeterred, he reached out, placed his hand upon the weapon and pushed it down. He stood directly in front of her. “You have to get over your anger, Eladria. You have to move beyond your grief,” he said, looking into her eyes. “You know that I love you…and I know that in spite of all that’s happened, you still love me too.”

Eladria said nothing. She was letting him make the next move. All the time she was aware of Zinn in her peripheral vision, looking on in concern. Oblivious to Zinn’s presence, Narat moved closer to Eladria and put his hand on her shoulder, angling his head toward hers. He closed his eyes and kissed her gently on the lips. Eladria let him. After a moment, he pulled back and looked into her eyes, seeking some kind of response from her.

Eladria dropped her gun and it landed on the ground with a clatter. She took Narat’s hand and, without a word, gently led him a few steps back, until they were both standing alongside the hangar wall. Her face softened as she put one hand on Narat’s shoulder and the other on the back of his neck. She leaned over and returned his kiss.

As her lips locked with his, she could feel him let down his guard. With great suddenness, and mustering all the strength she had, she smashed his head hard against the metal-plated wall. His head collided with the wall with such force that he immediately lost consciousness. His body drooped in her arms. She withdrew her arms and he fell to the ground.

“I’m glad you came to your senses,” Zinn remarked.

“Part of me wanted to kill him, Zinn,” Eladria admitted, horrified by the admission as the words left her mouth, her eyes stinging with held-back tears.

“But you didn’t. The fact you felt that way simply means you’ve been hurt; hurt more than anyone ever deserves to be.”

Eladria looked down at the man she’d once loved, the man who had so cruelly betrayed her, who had helped destroy almost everything she’d ever cared about. Realizing that she had little time to lament her losses, she gathered herself together and made for the nearest fighter, motioning for Zinn to follow.

“It’s likely they’ve been monitoring all of this from Central Control,” Eladria warned. “In which case, they’ll have a security force here in moments. We have to leave now, Zinn.”

They climbed up the landing steps and boarded the stationary craft with haste. Zinn took the passenger seat, while Eladria sat in the pilot’s seat on the right side of the cockpit. As they strapped themselves in, adjusting the seat belts in preparation for launch, Eladria activated the vehicle using voice control.

She readied the craft to leave and manually initiated the departure sequence. She fired up the engines and activated the launch pad, feeling the cylinders clicking into position as the launch pad beneath them rotated and ascended to the ceiling.

The ceiling hatch slid open and once they were on level with the exit shaft, Eladria disengaged the safety lock and took to flight. The vehicle lifted off the launch pad and shot toward the exit. With a flick of her console, she opened the exit door and the fighter sped out of the palace. She set course for the perimeter of the bio-dome, beyond which was open space. From there, she would take the craft into the atmosphere and down to the planet surface.

But this wasn’t going to be easy. The moment they exited the palace they were surrounded by Ha’shon raiders. Ignoring them, she navigated toward the bio-dome exit and initiated full throttle. The fighter screamed ahead at full speed, piercing through the veil of black smoke rising from the dead city.

The Ha’shon raiders gave immediate chase. Although trained as a pilot, she had never been in a combat situation. Any analysis of the situation would have concluded it hopeless, but Eladria wasn’t going to give up. She knew there was only one possible outcome now: she would escape, or she would die trying.

Music video for this chapter!

ELADRIA is published May 31 by Cosmic Egg Books, an imprint of John Hunt Publishing. Available to buy in paperback and ebook format. Click here for more information and to order.

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Brand new short story “The Royal Runaway” – FREE to download!

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I’ve now finished and uploaded my second short story. It’s free to download in multiple ebook formats from Smashwords here. It’s also available on Amazon Kindle, although it’s surprisingly difficult to give away stuff for free on greedy Amazon, but from tomorrow for five days it will be for free! And you can always freely download it in Kindle format from Smashwords at any time.

“The Royal Runaway” is a direct prelude to my novel “Eladria”, set during the eponymous heroine’s childhood. It’s a short, character-driven tale about coping with a devastating childhood loss and learning to face your problems head-on. I hope you enjoy it. I’d love to hear what you think of it.

Synopsis

Princess Eladria is devastated to learn that her mother has been officially listed as missing. Extensive planet-wide searches by the Royal Military have failed to yield a trace of the queen. Shocked that her father seems to think she won’t be coming back, the wilful seven-year-old sneaks out of the palace and prepares to embark on a desperate quest to find her missing mother. It’s a quest that’s fated to end badly, but a chance encounter with a mysterious stranger could mark a turning point in the princess’s life…