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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!

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Read ‘The Key of Alanar’, Chapter Three: “Aftermath”

The preview of The Key of Alanar continues! If you haven’t already done so, be sure to read the Prologue, Chapter One and Chapter Two first. Following some life shattering revelations and a failed attempt to flee the island, David must now deal with the repercussions of that fateful day–and his own actions.

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Chapter Three
AFTERMATH

Just as the storm clouds dissipated, things outwardly appeared to settle down in the wake of that traumatic day. But the shockwaves continued to reverberate and in many respects the most painful blow was yet to come.

David’s concussion lingered for several days, which he spent in bed as Janir had advised. But whilst his body recovered, his mind was far from rested as it replayed events over and over again. The light of truth had altered his world in a way that could never be undone. He now had to come to terms with the truth of his origin and the mystery that surrounded his very existence.

His parents hadn’t mentioned it again. In a way it was almost as though the revelation hadn’t slipped out at all. Part of him was annoyed by their evasiveness, but another part was relieved. The events of that day had taken their toll and exhausted him both physically and emotionally. He needed time to recover.

Daily life soon resumed and David returned to school a week after the incident, albeit with much reluctance. It was virtually impossible to keep a secret on such a small island and he knew that just about everyone would have heard about the storm incident. From the moment he set foot outdoors he was acutely aware of having been a major topic of conversation. He disliked being the centre of attention at the best of times and so he detested the self-consciousness that he now experienced. But after a few days interest in him began to subside, much to his relief.

One person he particularly dreaded encountering was Dahn. In his mind he’d envisaged numerous scenarios in which he carefully planned out what he would say to his tormentor, but none of these encounters transpired as he’d imagined. When he did see Dahn it was on his way home from school and they merely exchanged frosty glances. The next time they crossed paths, Dahn ignored him altogether. Evidently now that Dahn had done what he’d set out to do, to hurt him, he’d lost all interest and was content to seek his sadistic pleasures elsewhere.

Back at home, concern soon shifted to David’s father. Jon was not as resilient as his son and was still suffering the after-effects of being out at sea amid the storm. He had developed a cough that had spread to his chest and was steadily worsening. Sania, the island’s head physician, had tried administering several remedies, but they had failed to help. Although loathe to admit it, she was at a loss to help further. Though Sania was proficient at treating minor ailments, this was a problem that far exceeded her expertise. Much to Sania’s chagrin, Jesanda sought out Janir, the mysterious stranger who had helped rescue David. Janir appeared to possess a medicinal skill that Sania, for all her good intentions, lacked. At Jesanda’s request Janir agreed to examine Jon.

David was excited to see him again, although he wished that the circumstances were different. By the time Janir arrived, Jon’s condition was deteriorating. He was now bedridden, having difficulty breathing and was coughing up large amounts of fluid. As Janir examined him, Jesanda and David waited outside anxiously. When Janir emerged from the bedroom, David noticed the solemnity of his expression and immediately realized that things were bad. “He has an acute infection of the lungs,” Janir said. “It appears to be a bacterial infection. I would guess he contracted the infection when he was out at sea in the storm.”

David felt a sharp pang of guilt, for he knew that he was responsible.

Janir went on: “It is possible he ingested some form of bacteria from the water. His body is doing its best to fight off the infection. All I can do is to aid it in its struggle. I can try giving him some herbs and extracts known to have anti-bacterial properties.”

“Do whatever you have to do,” Jesanda said, her voice filled with desperate resolve.

Janir immediately set to work preparing several remedies, including a salve that he applied to Jon’s chest, a compress to reduce his fever and three different tinctures made with ingredients he claimed to have obtained from far-off lands. Jesanda was fired with the determination that with Janir helping, Jon would soon recover.

On one occasion David happened to walk into the room and saw Janir sitting by the bedside, his hands placed upon Jon’s chest as he slept. He was chanting a strange incantation and David thought that for a fleeting moment he saw Janir’s hands glow. David slipped out, not wanting to interrupt whatever Janir was doing. But he found his curiosity piqued ever more by the enigmatic newcomer and felt compelled to learn all that he could about him. Currently, however, everyone was too preoccupied by Jon’s illness, which despite Janir’s best efforts was not improving.

David tried to help his mother as much as he could, assisting her around the house and trying to bolster her resolve whenever she succumbed to the intense fear and vulnerability bubbling beneath the surface. He shared that same fear and looming sense of loss, but it was confounded by another emotion: that of guilt. It was his fault that his father was ill. If it hadn’t been for his disastrous attempt to flee the island, Jon would never have contracted this infection. If his father died, it would forever be on David’s conscience.

A week passed, with Janir a constant presence in the house as he tended to Jon day and night. But it was becoming increasingly evident that while the treatment was helping to make Jon more comfortable, the underlying illness was resisting treatment, and was in fact worsening.

That evening Janir gathered Jesanda and David in the main room. The moment he asked to speak with them, David saw the fear in his mother’s eyes. As they sat down, Jesanda’s hands trembled as she placed them in the lap of her blue dress. David sat beside her, fidgeting nervously. The last rays of sunlight filtered through the circular window, shining on the sparkling stone floor. “As you know,” Janir said, “I have done everything I can think of to cure Jon’s illness. I have given him various medicines, but his condition is not responding to treatment. The infection is spreading throughout his body and though I have tried, there is nothing I can do to stop it…”

The silence cut through David as the implications of Janir’s words sank in.

“No,” Jesanda gasped, shaking her head. “There must be something more you can do.”

Janir knelt by her side. “Jesanda,” he said gently. “There is nothing I can do. His zhian is weak.”

“His zhian?”

“His life force. When the life essence starts slipping away, there is nothing anyone can do to prevent it. If his zhian has decided it is time to withdraw from the physical sheath, then any measures taken to counter that will merely delay the inevitable.”

“What are you saying?”

“You have to be willing to let him go. His time is nearing and there is nothing we can do to change that. We can only accept it and in so doing help ease his passage.”

“How can this be happening?” Jesanda cried, pulling back from Janir. “He’s young, healthy—he’s never been ill like this before! What if it’s you that’s done something to him? How do we even know we can trust you? We know nothing about you! For all we know, you could have…” She trailed off and broke down into sobs.

Janir reached out and placed his hand on her trembling arm. “I know the pain you are feeling. I too have lost people dear to me. But you have to be strong; for your husband and your son…”

As if suddenly just remembering that David was still there, Jesanda reached over to him and held him tightly. He felt her teardrops falling upon the top of his head. David was too shocked to cry. His mind and senses felt numb.

“How much longer does he have?” Jesanda asked, her voice but a whisper.

“There is no way to be certain, but I do not believe very long. Perhaps a day at most. Take this time to be with him. Talk with him. Sit with him. Make the most of this time together. It is more than many people ever get.”

An ominous silence descended upon the house as they kept a deathbed vigil. This was David’s first real experience with death. Although he had lost his grandparents several years earlier, he had been too young to comprehend what was happening. When his parents had explained to him that they were ‘gone’ and that he wouldn’t see them again, he had assumed that they had simply left the island to live somewhere else.

He recalled a time when he was perhaps five years old and had found a dead bird lying in the forest. The bird looked as though it was asleep, but despite his best efforts to nudge it awake, it wouldn’t move. His father had to explain that at some point, when a person or animal is very old or ill, it simply falls asleep and never wakes up again. That was death. Like most children, David had countless questions, most of which his parents were unable to answer. Upon realizing that, like the bird, he too would one day fall asleep and never wake up, he was terrified of going to sleep for months, despite his mother’s assurances that he wouldn’t die “for a very, very long time”. The notion of death horrified yet morbidly fascinated him. He had often wondered what would happen if one of his parents died. Now he was about to find out.

His mother never left Jon’s bedside and David spent long periods sitting with her, as his father drifted in and out of consciousness. When he was awake they would talk (although the conversations were distinctly one-sided, for he was too weak to say much) and when he slept they sat quietly by his side. Janir remained in the house, keeping a discreet distance but available should he be needed.

David couldn’t bear the pain that was tearing him apart. His father was dying and it was his fault. How could he live knowing that? Confused and racked with guilt, he sat huddled in his room at the foot of his bed. He heard someone enter the room and turned around to see it was Janir. “May I come in?”

David nodded reluctantly. Janir walked over to the bed and knelt down beside him. “This is not your fault you know,” he said. “You are not to blame.”

David was startled that his feelings were evidently so transparent, and to a stranger no less. “Yes, I am. If it wasn’t for me he wouldn’t be ill.”

“You do not know that, David,” Janir said. “If it is our time to die, if we have reached our journey’s end, then the event that triggers it is merely the catalyst. This is the end of your father’s journey and nothing can alter that. If he had not contracted this infection, then something else would have happened sooner or later to send him on his way.”

David said nothing, but listened as Janir continued. “Death is a part of the great wheel of life: birth and death, death and rebirth. I am curious, David. On New Haven, what do you believe happens to the individual after death?”

David looked up, confused. “What do you mean? When someone dies, that’s it. They fall asleep and never wake up.”

Janir shook his head. “That’s not entirely true. David, I want you to know that no one ever truly dies. They leave behind their body, yes, but their zhian, their life essence, lives on. The zhian is not of this world and therefore nothing in this world can harm it. It was never born and therefore it will never die.”

“How do you know that?”

“Let us just say that I have some experience in these matters. If you like, we can talk about it another time. But for now I want you to be strong and to know that although your father is now leaving his physical body, he will live on in a different way; and in a sense he will always be with you.”

Before David could think about this, there came a call from the other room. It was his mother, urgently calling for Janir. Both he and David hurried through to the other room, where Jon was uncontrollably coughing up blood.

“Please, do something,” Jesanda cried.

Rushing over to the bed, Janir propped him up and asked for David to pass him a cup sitting on the bedside table. It contained a dark colored liquid with an astringent smell. Janir held the cup to Jon’s mouth and helped him drink it, amid much coughing and spluttering. Almost immediately Jon’s coughing fit subsided but he was still having difficulty breathing.

“You can help him, can’t you?” Jesanda pleaded.

Janir shook his head slowly. He got up and indicated that he would leave them alone now. David understood the subtext: that these might well be Jon’s last few moments.

Somehow Jon himself also seemed to sense this. Still gasping for breath, he motioned for David to come closer. Jesanda, trying to compose herself as much as she could, put her hand on David’s shoulder as a gesture of support as he sat down by the bed. She then stepped back, allowing father and son one last moment together.

“David…” Jon rasped, struggling for breath. He looked pale and weak; so unlike the strong and vibrant man that David had known. David hated seeing him like this, for he was clearly in great pain. “I want you to know…that…I love you.”

“I know. I love you too, father.”

Jon used what strength he had remaining to clasp his son’s hand. “I want you to…look after…your mother for me. Promise me…you will look after her…”

“I promise,” David said, tears spilling from his eyes, one of which landed on his father’s pillow. After a moment, David lent down and gently kissed him on the forehead. Without a word, he stepped aside to let his mother do likewise.

“Jon,” she whispered into his ear. “I love you. I always will.” As she bent down and gently kissed him on the lips, Jon drifted out of consciousness. His labored breathing continued until he made what sounded like one, last exhalation. All went silent. David looked up at his mother. Was that it? Was that the end?

Not yet. For Jon struggled to draw yet another breath. He wheezed, his whole body contorting as he struggled to breathe. David and his mother sat by his side, holding his hand and whispering occasional words of comfort.

Every so often there was a pause between breaths and each time David thought this to be the end. But Jon’s body continued clinging to life, oblivious to the uphill nature of its struggle. It was bad enough that his father was dying, but for him to linger in such agony was almost more than David could bear. It wasn’t much longer however before Jon finally breathed his last breath; emptying his body not just of air, but of life.

The room fell silent. David looked up at his mother. Her eyes were glazed and she seemed quite oblivious to his presence. She continued holding Jon’s hand as she buried her head in his chest. David, sitting beside her, was frozen to the spot. He felt as though his heart had been carved out of his chest. It was over. His father was gone.

From that moment on, David’s life changed. Every day that followed would be profoundly different in that a large part of his old life was forever missing. Life went on, of course; the suns continued to rise and fall as they always did, all the while oblivious to the joys and suffering of those upon whom they shone. The grieving process took its toll as David and his mother struggled to accept their loss and move on from it.

They had support from their fellow islanders and Janir played a big part in helping them come to terms with Jon’s death. He was adamant that a person never truly dies, a notion that intrigued David, and he wanted to know more. Janir explained that knowing was insufficient, for one had to experience the truth for oneself. And there were moments when in the subtle embrace of silence, David could almost feel his father by his side, guarding him and guiding him onward. Whether this was his imagination or not, it was nevertheless a feeling he relished in the fleeting moments in which it occurred.


The story is only just beginning…

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!

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Read The Key of Alanar, Chapter Two: “The Storm”

The preview of ‘The Key of Alanar’ continues. In case you missed them, you can still read the Prologue and Chapter One. Picking up where the first chapter left off, young David had decided to flee the island that has been his home as far back as he can remember, in search of his true home and true family. Storm clouds are gathering, however…

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Chapter Two
THE STORM

Had he not been blinded by the impetuousness of youth and the emotional turmoil that clouded his judgement, David would have known to heed the warning signs and at the very least postpone his departure. But instead he turned a blind eye to the ever-darkening skies and the imminent storm that was brewing.

The rain fell lightly at first, but it wasn’t long before it lashed down in torrents, filling the bottom of the boat, stinging his skin and soaking him from head to foot. He wasn’t far from the island when the storm swept in and a blanket of cloud enveloped him, obscuring visibility. The wind howled and the waves took on a nightmarish life of their own, thrashing against the boat and further drenching the panic-stricken boy. He clung to the wooden hull, frozen by fear as the boat lurched from side to side. He didn’t know what to do except hold on tight.

The storm intensified. The wind screamed its howling wail as waves pummeled the boat. Nauseous and dizzy, David could barely see anything as the oars were snatched off the boat. He was helpless and entirely at the mercy of an opponent he could never have imagined would pose such a virulent threat: nature itself.

As the boat filled with water, David knew that it would only be a matter of time before it sank, capsized or was ripped apart by the waves. Whatever happened, he would surely drown, for there was no way he could hold his own against the might of this foe.

Please. Someone help me…!

Wave after wave crashed over him. He choked, coughing up the salty water, still clinging with all his might to the battered vessel. Though unable to think clearly, one thought flashed through his mind and it was a thought of disbelief: This can’t be the end. Can it?

David was uncertain how long he spent clinging to the boat, eyes closed as the waves and rain lashed over him. Time blurred; each moment stretching into an eternity. He veered between hopelessness and desperation, praying—to who or what he didn’t know—that he’d be okay. Pleading, begging, willing to do anything just to survive…

Perhaps someone or something was indeed listening to his prayer, because something remarkable happened to change his fortune. At first he thought it was his imagination, but he became aware of a light, some way off, piercing the veil of darkness. Yes, it was definitely a light of some kind and it was getting brighter! It was soon accompanied by a voice, shouting above the roar of the storm—a voice calling his name. “David!”

He could barely believe his eyes when he saw a boat emerge through the screen of rain, mist and water. It was one of the island’s fishing boats; a vessel larger and sturdier than his rowing boat, but still taking a beating from the storm.

“David!” This time he recognized the voice. It was his father, Jon. His father had come to rescue him! But how? What was he doing out here? Squinting to see through the dim light, he could make out a handful of men on deck, frantic in their efforts to steady the boat. Two men stood on the edge of the deck, one brandishing a mysterious light that cut through the darkness like a knife. The other man, who David quickly realized was his father, called out to him: “David, can you hear me?”

“Yes!”

“David! You have to listen to me! I’m going to throw you a line. You have to catch it. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” David spluttered, spitting out a mouthful of water as another wave crashed over him.

But what sounded like a simple task was altogether more complicated in the eye of the storm. The first attempt to pass the rope was a misfire. Despite Jon’s best effort to throw the line, the wind and rain deflected his aim and the rope doubled back and smacked against the side of the fishing boat. Taking heed, Jon tried to coincide his next effort with a lull between gusts of wind. Sure enough, it was a more successful throw, but he still missed his aim and the rope landed in the water. Jon reeled it in and made several more attempts before David successfully caught it. “I’ve got it,” he shouted to his father, keeping a tight grasp of the rope with one hand, clinging onto the hull of the boat with the other.

“Tie it to the mooring ring at the bow! Make it tight!”

David edged his way to the metal lock at the front of the boat. The waves continued striking the boat, rocking it precariously, forcing him to struggle to keep his balance as wall after wall of ice cold water crashed over him. By now the bottom of the boat was full of water. David knew the vessel wouldn’t withstand much more of this assault.

In these conditions, a simple task like tying a rope to the boat was anything but easy. His hands were numb and he could barely see through the stinging rain. He fumbled desperately as he tried to tie down the rope. He eventually managed to tie a knot, which he doubled up and checked and rechecked. “I’ve done it!” he called back to his father, still incredulous that his father of all people had come to rescue him.

“We’re going to pull you in,” Jon shouted. Aided by the other men on deck, Jon was about to reel in the boat when the storm struck out with its most brutal outburst yet.

David bore the brunt of it. Although it happened at dizzying speed, time somehow splintered and David experienced it in agonizing slow motion. An immense wave exploded over the boat. Losing his grip, David was swept back as the boat split in two; his body slamming hard against the hull. As the boat lurched again, David was rammed forward, his head colliding with the edge of the bow. The last thing he was aware of was a sharp pain and choking as icy water filled his lungs. His consciousness ebbed away and everything went dark.

He awoke with a sense of drowsiness and disorientation. His head was throbbing and his body aching all over. He had no idea where he was or how long he’d been unconscious. He found himself on an unfamiliar bed with a blanket draped over him. His water-soaked clothes had been removed and he was wearing an oversized shirt.

Despite the struggle to move, he propped himself up and looked around. The rocky walls were those of a cave, but this wasn’t just any cave. Tapestries and fabrics of shimmering rainbow color adorned the craggy walls, bringing what would otherwise have been a dank cave to entrancing life. An assortment of potted plants and flowers lined the chamber, providing dashes of green, blue and red. A stack of unpacked crates lay against the far wall alongside an old wooden table. David’s eyes were drawn to the tabletop, which contained a number of exotic-looking artifacts including crystals of varying sizes and colors and a collection of glass jars containing herbs and liquids. A dozen or so white candles illuminated the cave.

“I see you are awake.”

David jumped, startled by the unfamiliar voice. A man stepped out of the shadows and into the flickering candlelight. David stared at him in surprise. It was someone he’d never seen before. Carrying himself with dignity and elegance, the man was perhaps in his mid to late forties, tall and of average build; his face rugged yet kind, a tanned complexion accentuating his emerald eyes. He wore a neatly-trimmed beard and his long, greying hair was tied back in plaits. His style of clothing was different to that of New Haven. He wore a navy tunic and trousers with a long dark grey cloak fastened at the neck by a gold broach. Whoever he was, he exuded gentleness, power and a foreignness that intrigued David. “How are you feeling?” the stranger asked as he drew closer.

“A bit dizzy…my head hurts,” David croaked in response. “Where am I?”

“Somewhere safe,” the man said as he pulled an empty crate alongside the bed and sat down upon it. “Do you remember what happened?”

Making an effort to gather his thoughts, David cast his mind back. “The storm. I was caught in the storm…” It all came back to him. “But my father was there. He was trying to rescue me…I can’t remember anything after that. What happened?”

“You lost consciousness. We managed to pull your boat in. By that time the storm had begun to subside and your father managed to get you aboard.”

“So you were on the boat with my father?” David asked. The man nodded. David could stave off his curiosity no longer. “Who are you?”

“My name is Janir.”

“Where are you from? I’ve never seen you before. And where are we?”

“This is my new home,” Janir replied. “I arrived on your island only a few days ago. Your island council granted me sanctuary. I came from a land far from here.”

David felt as though he’d been struck by lightning. Could it really be true? Could he finally have met someone from the outer lands? What was he doing on New Haven? Where was he from? What was life like out there? He had a thousand questions…

As if sensing David’s racing mind, Janir smiled and held up a hand. “There will be time to discuss everything later. I am a healer. We brought you here so I could treat your injury. Your parents are waiting for you outside. I imagine they will be eager to see you.”

Janir stood up and was about to leave, when David stopped him. “Wait. It was you I saw yesterday at the edge of the forest, wasn’t it? You were watching me. I saw you out of the corner of my eye but when I turned a split second later, you were gone.” He narrowed his eyes, his forehead creasing as he stared up at the stranger. “What were you doing there? Why were you watching me?’

Janir paused a moment, as if considering how to respond. “Yes, I happened to be in the vicinity,” he admitted. “And I noticed you standing on the hilltop. You seemed upset. I was concerned about you.”

David knew that there was more to it than that. As if piecing together a puzzle, he was struck by a sudden realization: “You knew—you knew what I was planning! That I was going to leave the island. It must have been you that told my father and brought him to rescue me…?”

Janir said nothing. An enigmatic smile played across his lips and his eyes twinkled in the candlelight. “Your parents are here to take you home. You have a concussion and will need to rest for a few days, but you will be fine.”

“Will I see you again?”

“Yes, I will drop by to check on you,” Janir said as he disappeared back into the shadowy tunnel.

“Wait,” David called after him, but he was gone. There was still so much he wanted to know. He couldn’t believe it. Aside from the the Alazan merchants that traded with the island, Janir was the first outlander that David had ever met.

“David,” he heard his mother’s voice. Looking up, he saw both her and his father entering the cave. Jesanda raced over to the bed and embraced him with such force that it almost knocked the breath out of him. “Oh David, thank the twin suns,” she exclaimed as she continued to hold him. He relished her embrace; it was almost as though he could feel her love and affection washing over him as well as her elation at seeing him unharmed.

“David, we were worried to death,” his father said. It showed on their faces too. His father looked particularly strained: his broad-set face pale and drawn and his sandy-brown hair disheveled and damp.

David felt a surge of guilt at knowing he had been the cause of their pain. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

His father, who had also changed his clothes and was wearing a tunic and trousers similar to the clothing worn by Janir, reached out and wrapped his arms around his son. “I thought we were going to lose you,” he said as he pulled back, a slight wheeze in his voice as he spoke. “You’ve no idea how scared we were.”

“David,” Jesanda began awkwardly. “What were you doing? In the boat, I mean. Where were you going?”

Part of him was tempted to lie. He didn’t know if he had the strength to deal with this particular confrontation right now. Yet it was something that had been ignored, denied and repressed for too long. Now was the time to finally get it into the open and deal with it. “I was leaving,” he said bluntly.

“Why?” Jesanda’s eyes widened.

“Because I don’t belong here.”

It was his father that responded, perhaps a little too defensively. “What are you talking about? Of course you do.”

“No, I don’t,” David said, his voice rising. He could feel the fire in his belly as he looked up at them. “Don’t lie to me! I know…

Silence followed. David averted his eyes, shifting his gaze to the silk tapestry on the wall across the from the bed. There was nothing more he could say now. All he could do now was wait for them to respond. It was Jesanda that spoke first. “David…” she whispered, her eyes welling with tears.

Jon put his arm around her and looked down at David. “Who told you?”

“It doesn’t matter. It’s true, isn’t it?”

Jesanda reached out to take his hand. “David, we never intended you to find out, not like this. Not until you were older.”

“But I had a right to know. And in a way I always have known. I’ve always felt like I’m an outsider, like I’m not really welcome here…”

“That’s not true. You’re our son and we love you.”

“No.” He pulled his hand back from her. “I’m not your son—not really. I need to know the truth. I need to know who I am.”

Again there was a long silence in which the only sound David could hear was the beating of his own heart. It was almost a relief when the silence was broken by his father. “Very well, David. We were going to tell you this when you were older. But it seems the time has come sooner than we’d anticipated…”

“Jon,” Jesanda interrupted, turning to him pleadingly. There was fear in her misty brown eyes; the fear of losing her only son. But she knew that the truth could be withheld no longer so she acquiesced, letting Jon continue. There was no going back now.

“Eight years ago I was part of a trade expedition to the mainland,” Jon said as David listened intently. “We met the Alazan traders at our rendezvous in the forest of Senrah. Everything went as planned and we the exchanged goods as usual. Afterward, when we were on our way back to the shore we heard something in the forest. At first I thought it was the call of some forest animal, but as it got louder we realized it was the cry of an infant. We followed the noise to its source and found, lying in a clearing and wrapped in a golden shawl…a baby.”

“Me,” David whispered.

Jon nodded. “Yes. To this day we don’t know who left you there or why. We spent hours searching, but there was no one within a radius of several miles. Eventually darkness began to fall. We knew we couldn’t leave you alone in the forest, so we took you with us back to New Haven. We returned to the mainland for the next few days, looking for signs of whoever might have left you. But there was nothing. It was a mystery.”

“So someone abandoned me…? Why would they do that?”

Jesanda sat down on the edge of David’s bed. “We asked ourselves that a thousand times, David. But the truth is we may never know.”

“What happened then?”

“Well, obviously someone had to take care of you,” Jon said. “Your mother and I longed to have children, but we were unable…”

“Until fate delivered a beautiful little boy into our lives,” Jesanda said, her face lighting up with a proud smile. “It was the happiest time of our lives. We adopted you, pledging to take care of you and to raise you as our son.” She paused, carefully considering her words before she continued. “And David, in every way that matters, you are our son. I never want you to forget that.”

David didn’t know what to say.

“We knew this day would come,” Jon said. “We dreaded it. Maybe we should have told you sooner. Maybe that would have made it easier. We know how confusing this must be for you. We know that part of you will probably always be curious about your origin. And when you’re old enough, if you still want to set out and discover the truth for yourself, if that’s something you really have to do, then we won’t stand in your way.”

“But for now,” Jesanda said, “you have to know that we love you. That’s all that matters. You mean everything to us.”

David’s vision blurred. A teardrop tickled his skin as it rolled down his face and dripped off the edge of his chin. He didn’t know what to think anymore. But as his parents embraced him, he began to wonder if perhaps he’d been wrong. Perhaps this was his home after all, and he just hadn’t realized it.

It had been a fateful day and would take time to integrate what had happened and all that he had learned. In spite of this, he somehow assumed that life would return to normal. He was wrong. Life would never be the same again, as he would soon discover.


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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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

An author in the spotlight: Rory Mackay answers 4 questions!

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Nothing beats the power of a good question. Questions make us think, reflect and explore things in different ways. I’m all for questions, and I always endeavour to give good answers! So here I am taking part in a challenge I saw online several months back, in which an author answers four simple questions. Well, I’m an author, and without any further ado, here are the questions…

When did you begin writing?

I’ve been writing since childhood. Creativity was an innate and essential part of my nature as far back as I can remember. When I was younger I was more visually focused, as I loved drawing and painting. What I did was always connected with storytelling, however. I created characters, worlds and adventures and made my own comic books from the time I was about 7 or 8 years old. My longest running series was called King Croc, a quirky and comical fantasy series about a reptilian anti-hero whose job was to conquer the galaxy but who really couldn’t be bothered. He would rather sit at home eating doughnuts that conquer planets. Who wouldn’t? I still have some of those comics in a drawer.

When I was in my teens I began work on a very different project; laying the groundwork for what would eventually become the novel I am about to publish, The Key of Alanar! This was originally intended as a serialised television series or series of movies, but not knowing how to even begin with such a lofty project, I decided to make it a series of novels instead. Having worked on this for the best part of my life, and invested so much time, energy and love in it, I’m truly excited that I am finally able to share this creative vision with the world. (The Key of Alanar is already available to preorder on Amazon for a 14 September release!)

What inspired me to write my first books?

I grew up with a great love of science fiction and fantasy. Already something of a dreamer, it really stirred my imagination and I loved nothing more than to transport myself to other worlds, times and places. But for me the genre was far more than simple escapism. Even in my early teens I really loved that sci-fi and fantasy could be used as a means of exploring ideas, themes and human potential. I was always a bit of a deep thinker, and I loved when books, films and television had a little depth; a purpose behind telling a story.

As I grew up, I became fascinated by mythology and archetypal tales of heroic quests and journeys. Initially my first series of books was called ‘The Journey’, as a reflection of the journey we all take through life, in search of happiness and wholeness. I wanted to explore what makes us tick, and why we live as we do. I didn’t just want to entertain people, I wanted to make people think and say something about life. The development of my books ran parallel to my development as a person as I grew up, learned, experienced many things, and ultimately devoted myself to the pursuit of spiritual knowledge, truth and understanding the nature of life and who we are. I like telling fantastical stories that fire the imagination, stir the emotions and, above all, make people think. In my view, the greatest stories inspire, challenge and enlighten. They are stories that heal. They leave people the better for having read them; a kind of gift shared between author and reader. That is why I wanted to write and why I still keep writing.

How do you write?

I need to be clear about what I’m writing before I start the first sentence. I learned early on the necessity of starting with a blueprint, or at least a firm plan of how the novel will begin, develop and end. My stories are quite complex and multi-layered, so I need to make sure I’ve worked everything beforehand or else I would be liable to write myself into a sticky corner and waste significant time on something that just doesn’t work out. One day I’d actually like to just start writing with no idea in ind how it will end, but it certainly won’t be for my current series, which requires forward planning. There are simply too many balls to potentially drop otherwise!

So, I wait for the ideas to start flowing. It’s almost like my mind is working on the story even when I’m not consciously thinking about it. There comes a time when I can feel the creative energy flowing and I just sit down with paper and a pen and allow the ideas to spill out. I get them structured into a clear framework, and then, when I’m satisfied with what I’ve got, I start writing away. First drafts are usually best written as quickly as possible, to keep the creative momentum flowing smoothly. Then I’ll write three, four or more subsequent drafts and spend a long time editing. With my first published novel, Eladria, I spent one year writing the first few drafts and then another 18 months or so editing and polishing it. As Phyllis A Whitney said: “a good book isn’t written, it is rewritten.” The key is really in taking that mud-covered diamond and scraping and polishing it until it gleams.

Do you have any writing advice you would like to share?

Yes. Write because you love to write. Have no expectations. Follow your passion and pour your heart and soul into it. Don’t expect anything back; even if you write a complete masterpiece, there are so many books being written and published right now that it’s hard to get anyone’s attention. Have no expectation, but stay true to your own unique creative vision. Write a story you feel needs to be told. Share ideas, share experiences and dreams and thoughts. Write a book that will make the world a better place for your having written it. Think of it as part of your legacy, which it is, and make it as wonderful as you can. Don’t rush it necessarily, take your time and let your heart guide you. Whether you then sell ten copies or ten thousand, you’ll have contributed something special to the world. And that why being a writer is one of the coolest things in the world.