Tag Archives: writing

The Long Winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Art by Mar-ka on Deviantart

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


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

A changing landscape

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

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

Have writers lost their way?

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

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

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

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

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

The ancient power of storytelling

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

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

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

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

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

Art by Josephine Wall
Art by Josephine Wall

We tell stories for a reason

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words and ideas can change the world

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

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

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Visionary Fiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read ‘The Key of Alanar’ Chapter Four: “The Gift”

This is the final chapter in an extended preview of The Key of Alanar! If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out the PrologueChapter One, Chapter Two and Chapter Three. Set ten years after the events of the opening chapters, this opens with a disturbing vision and sets up the core events of the book. It’s David’s nineteenth birthday and a gift is about to forever change his life–and the fate of an entire world…

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Chapter Four
THE GIFT

Year of Alejan, 15,009

David knew he was in mortal danger. The darkness was impenetrable and smothering, the air thick, musty and cold; the silence broken only by the drumming of his heartbeat and the uneven motion of his breath as it passed in and out of his body. 

Although now a young man on the verge of adulthood, David felt as vulnerable and defenseless as a child as he crouched down low, praying that he would remain unseen by whatever it was that pursued him. He could feel its presence all around, an ancient, primordial evil, lurking amid the blackness; reaching out, sensing, searching—for him. There was no escaping it. It was too strong, too powerful, and it was getting closer by the second. Closer and closer…

Overcome by desperation, David realized that he couldn’t give in to it. He had to do something: he had to try to escape. He picked himself up from the ground and began to run. Squinting in the dark, he could barely see more than an arm’s reach ahead, but he relied on every other sense, not least his intuition, to guide him. He got only a fleeting sense of the environment around him as he ran: cavernous, cold and forbidding.

The moment David started to move, he had made himself visible. Behind him the enemy’s minions gave chase. Demonic shadow men, they were little more than soulless husks, like corpses animated by whatever dark force was pursuing him.

Hastening his pace, David raced as fast and as far as he could until he was forced to stop dead in his tracks. The path ahead was obscured by a gaping abyss. There was nowhere left to go.

Staring ahead, he saw a figure appear on the other side of the chasm: a girl, illuminated by a pale white light. She was around his age, perhaps seventeen or eighteen, dressed in a blue-violet tunic and trousers, with dark locks of hair falling to her shoulders. She reached out her arm and called to him from across the abyss: “David!”

He didn’t know why, but she seemed intimately familiar to him, as though he’d seen her face a thousand times before. But where? Struggling to process his memories was like trying to piece together a thousand half-forgotten dreams. Whoever she was, he knew that she was there to help him. If he could just get to her…

But almost the moment he stopped his pursuers were upon him. He felt their nails digging into his skin, drawing blood as they grabbed hold of him and reeled him back. With deformed faces contorted with malice, their was skin pale, thin and blistered, and their eyes sunken, reddened and leaking pus. He tried to fight them off, to break free of their grasp, but they were too strong and they quickly overpowered him. A pair of bony hands grabbed his throat. He struggled as they tightened their vice-like grip.

As he choked, David felt a wave of darkness crawling over his skin, penetrating his body and mind, seeping into and overwhelming him. It consumed him from the inside out, like a cancer devouring him until there was nothing left but a void of blackness.

* * *

David sat bolt upright in bed, his skin covered in sweat and his chest heaving for breath. Disorientated, it took him a moment to realize where he was and what had happened.

A dream…it was only a dream. It had felt so real, the images and sensations so intensely vivid. His pulse racing, he felt nauseous and his throat was tight and constricted, as though someone had indeed been trying to strangle him.

He crawled out of bed, feeling as though he’d been mauled by a wild animal. Wiping a band of sweat from his forehead, he pulled back his curtain and peered out the window. It was still the middle of the night; the velvet black sky punctuated only by the twinkling of distant stars.

David lit an oil lamp and carried it through the house to the washroom. He set the lamp down by the basin and poured some water from the ceramic jug. Splashing his face with the cool water, he tried to wash away the nauseating sense of terror.

He dried off his face and hands and filled a large glass with water. He was about to take a sip when something caught his eye. It was his reflection in the mirror. Somehow drawn to it, he gazed into the mirror as if seeing his own reflection for the very first time: his tousled shoulder-length dark hair framing a tanned, square-set face, illuminated by the flickering lamplight. His glistening dark eyes seemed to draw him in, as if they were a gateway to a whole other dimension; a hidden world that seemed to promise answers to questions he hadn’t yet dared ask. He snapped out of his strange reverie when he inadvertently tipped his glass and spilled the water.

By now he felt calmer and the specifics of the nightmare that had so disturbed him slipped away like grains of sand through outstretched hands. Returning to the warmth of his bed, he was soon overcome by a wave of sleepiness and any lingering thoughts pertaining to his dream were dispelled as he drifted into an altogether more restful sleep.

* * *

David awoke to the sound of birdsong and rays of sunlight streaming through his window. As he got up, washed and dressed, he could recall vague fragments of a disturbing dream he’d had during the night. But before long it was relegated to the back of his mind as he began to anticipate the day ahead. It was a special day, for it was his nineteenth birthday, and it would be a busy one too. As it was harvest season, he’d spend the morning laboring in the fields. It wasn’t a job he particularly enjoyed, but all the islanders worked together to assist the farmers, such being the ethos of life in the community.

It was the afternoons that David truly lived for. That was when he worked with Janir, training as his apprentice. From the moment he’d first met Janir all those years ago, David had been determined to spend as much time with him as possible and to learn all that he could about him. He was delighted when Janir had accepted him as his apprentice and his training had begun about a year ago. Thus far his lessons had been fairly rudimentary. Janir had educated him in the uses of various herbs and roots in medicinal application and given him lessons in physiology, nature and methods of healing. All of this interested him, but David was certain that the truly fascinating lessons were yet to come. He was convinced that Janir’s knowledge extended far beyond the mixing of herbal remedies.

Letting out a yawn, David put on a sleeveless white shirt, buckled the belt around the waist of his black trousers and reached down to lace up his boots. Ready for the day ahead, he went through to the kitchen where his mother was preparing first meal. She looked up, the corners of her eyes creasing as she smiled. “Good morning David, and happy birthday!” Arms outstretched, she reached out and gave him a warm hug.

“Thank you.”

“Nineteen years old,” she said proudly. “I can hardly believe it.”

Of course it wasn’t his real birthday, for that was as much an unknown as the place of his origin. Rather it was the anniversary of the day his father had found him on the mainland. “What are we having for first meal?” he asked.

“Your favorite, of course: junjat with olak. But first, I have something for you.”

Jesanda picked up a wooden box from the table. David looked at with curiosity, wondering what could be inside. Jesanda opened the box and held it out for him to see. It was an amulet: a turquoise crystal shaped like a half moon, attached to a silver chain. The smooth, transparent stone was engraved with a symbol: what looked like half a star, suggesting the amulet was incomplete, that it had been broken in half. “What is it?”

“When you were a baby,” Jesanda began awkwardly, “when your father found you in the forest of Senrah, this was the only possession you had with you aside for the blanket you were wrapped in. You were wearing it around your neck, although of course it was far too big for you at the time.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about it before?”

“Your father and I decided to safe-keep it for you until you were old enough. We both agreed that on your nineteenth birthday you’d have come of age to receive this part of…your inheritance.”

David didn’t know what to say. He was fascinated by this missing link to his past. He was also a little annoyed that it had been kept from him all these years. It was his, after all. Yet another secret kept from him. But he could see how difficult this was for his mother. She had never been comfortable when it came to discussing his true origin and this was clearly a difficult occasion for her. Deciding not to make it any harder on her, he set aside his grievance.

“Maybe I should have given it to you sooner, I don’t know,” Jesanda said, as if having read David’s mind. “It’s been difficult knowing how best to deal with things. But you’re nineteen years old. You’re a young man now. And this belongs to you.”

Jesanda held out the box. David reached over and picked it up. The moment he touched the amulet a jolt of electricity surged through his body. He yelped and staggered back, dropping it to the ground.

“What happened?” Jesanda gasped, reaching out to steady him.

David looked down at the amulet, lying upon the floor at his feet. “I don’t know. When I picked it up, I felt this…surge…”

“That’s never happened before.”

He reached down to pick it up. At first he was cautious, testing to make sure it wouldn’t shock him again. Fortunately it didn’t, but as he lifted it he noticed something strange. “Look! It’s changed color.” The stone had changed from its original turquoise to a deep violet with dashes of sapphire.

“That’s never happened before either…”

David was baffled and intrigued by the object. It was almost as though it was alive. He wanted to know everything about it; what it was, what it symbolized and why it had been left as his sole possession in the world. Jesanda however seemed unnerved by it. It was alien to her and served as a pointed reminder that so too was her son. It represented a part of him that she’d spent many years trying to forget, perhaps for fear that she might one day lose him. “Do you want me to put it somewhere safe for you?” she asked, holding out the box.

David shook his head. “No, I want to wear it.” He undid the clasp on the silver chain and handed it to her.

“Are you sure? What if it shocks you again?”

“I’ll take that chance.”

With a barely concealed frown, she took the amulet and fastened it around his neck. David looked down at the crystal hanging over his heart and felt a measure of excitement. It was as though he’d been reunited with a missing part of himself.

Swept up in the moment, he failed to heed an ominous feeling deep inside. On some unconscious level he knew that the moment he’d taken possession of the amulet, some kind of danger had been stirred: a danger that would soon catch up with him, with devastating consequences.

* * *

By the time David left the house, the suns were already blazing against a clear lilac sky. The air was fresh and invigorating, scented with the late-season blossom of the tuanya trees lining the streets of this, the island’s east side. Proudly wearing his amulet, David made his way to work, passing through the centre of town and taking the road leading off to the farm.

“David,” he heard a voice call from behind. Turning around he saw his friend Darien. Darien was about four years older than David and was one of the most popular young men on the island, a fact largely accountable to his roguish charm and lithe good looks. Taller and more muscular than David, Darien had long black hair tied into a ponytail, mischievous dark eyes and an air of confidence and self-assuredness that people found either endearing or arrogant.

“You’re actually on time for once?” David laughed mockingly. “What’s farmer Doran going to think? Something must be terribly wrong with the world if Darien’s on time for work.”

“I wouldn’t want to get myself a reputation for being predictable now, would I?” Darien shrugged as he caught up with David. “So birthday boy, how does it feel to be nineteen years old?”

“I don’t know, it feels good.”

“What’s that?” Darien motioned to David’s amulet.

“A present from my mother.” David held up the amulet. “Apparently, this was the only possession I had when I was found in the forest of Senrah as a baby.”

“Nice,” Darien said, raising an eyebrow. “You know you’re bound to attract the girls’ attention with that. Even if it’s only because they’ll be jealous of it.” As Darien laughed, something caught his attention. “Speaking of girls…look.” Ahead of them, a young woman appeared from  one of the side-paths leading from the farm house, carrying a wicker basket. Darien’s eyes lit up. “It’s Janna!”

Janna was the life-long object of Darien’s affections and it wasn’t difficult to see why. Even when wearing only simple overalls she had the ability to turn heads, for she possessed a captivating, exotic beauty. With wavy blonde hair, she had a tanned complexion that accentuated her alluring blue-green eyes. David didn’t know that much about Janna other than the fact she was around Darien’s age and worked in her father’s bakery in the town square. David recognized some traits in her that he could relate to himself, particularly from his childhood. She seemed quite shy and spent most of her time alone. While she was friendly and polite, she clearly disliked being the centre of attention and spent much of her time trying to fade into the background. Perhaps she would have been more successful had she not been blessed by a beauty that drew attention rather than deflected it.

“I’m going to ask her,” Darien said.

“Ask her what?”

“What do you think? If she’ll go to the Festival dance with me!”

“I’ll believe that when I see it. You’ve been saying you’re going to ask her for weeks now.”

“And I will. I’ve just been waiting for the right opportunity,” Darien whispered. He grinned boyishly as Janna approached. “Good day, Janna!”

“Good day,” she replied with a slight air of nonchalance.

“Beautiful day, isn’t it?”

David smiled politely and, taking Darien’s lead, stopped to talk to her. Janna didn’t seem particularly keen to engage in conversation, but nonetheless felt obliged to stop. “Yes,” she replied, looking up at the cloudless purple sky.

“So what are you doing this morning?” Darien asked.

“I’ve been doing some deliveries for my father. And you?”

“David and I are just on our way to the farm. We’re working in the fields again today. It’s been really busy with harvest and all.”

Though David was by no means an expert on girls himself, he knew that such banal small talk was not the way to win a woman’s heart, especially a woman who posed as much of a challenge as Janna. Darien was going to have to try a lot harder than this. “It’s the Festival next week,” Darien blurted. “I was wondering if you would…if you would like to go to the dance with me?”

There was an awkward pause as she considered her response. “Thanks for the offer,” she said with a genuine smile. “But I never go to the dance.”

Darien however was not going to give up without a fight. “But you really have to make an exception this year. You’ll enjoy it! I promise you.”

“Is that so?” she said. “What makes you so sure?”

“Because I’ll be with you!”

Janna smiled and rolled her eyes, which probably wasn’t the reaction Darien was hoping for. “You never give up, do you?”

“Oh, I give up. Just not when I’m so close to achieving victory.”

For a moment, David could see that Janna was actually considering Darien’s offer, as if part of her was tempted to say yes. But ultimately something stopped her and whilst her final answer was delivered gently, it was nonetheless resolute. “I appreciate the offer, but the dance isn’t my kind of thing. I hate big gatherings. I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding someone else to go with.” She paused for a moment. “If you’ll excuse me, I really have to get back to work. Have a good day.”

“You too,” replied a crestfallen Darien.

Janna smiled apologetically and set on her way. “Don’t worry,” David tried to console his friend. “She’s right, you will find someone else.”

“But I don’t want anyone else. I want her. And I haven’t given up on her yet.”

“Come on, we’d better be going.”

“Have you found a date for the dance yet?” Darien asked as they started walking.

“Didn’t I tell you? I asked Cara yesterday and she said yes.”

“So what do you have that I don’t have?” Darien frowned.

David shrugged. “I suppose I just don’t set my sights on impossible goals.”

“I don’t believe in impossibility. I’ll win her over in the end, you’ll see. I guess I just need to readjust my strategy.”

“You don’t have a strategy…”

“Yeah, and what would you know about it?”

“What would I know? I’m the one with a date.”

“Let’s just get to the farm, all right?” Darien huffed as they continued down the road. “My day’s off to a bad enough start without you making it worse.”

* * *

The morning passed quickly, with David in high spirits. His thoughts kept returning to the amulet. It was a link to a world he had long dreamt of as a child. As he’d grown up and made a life for himself on the island, it was a dream he’d more or less abandoned. The practicalities of day-to-day life and his responsibilities on the island had served as a barrier to his dream of setting out into the world and finding his true home. And after all, he’d come to accept where he was and what his life was to be. His romanticized childhood fantasies had long ago been set aside. Yet this amulet served as a reminder of who he really was and had reawakened an old yearning to unravel the mystery of his existence.

Farmer Doran provided refreshments at midday, after which the morning workforce finished up and left to attend their other duties. All able-bodied islanders had a job; a person’s vocation usually determined by the family line of work. For instance, Darien came from a family of fishermen and it was a job he loved; indeed, he wasn’t truly at home unless he was out at sea. Most people were happy to follow in the family tradition, although some opted for a different line of work. David was one such example. When Janir arrived on the island he quickly became renowned for his skills as a healer and following the death of Sania some years back, had been appointed the island’s head physician. David was honored to be have been accepted as Janir’s first and so far only trainee.

After making plans to meet up at night for his party, David said farewell to Darien. He hurried through the Sharedo forest and down to the eastern shore of the island, where Janir still resided in one of the caves. Although the island council had offered him a ‘proper house’ on several occasions, Janir had stubbornly refused, insisting that he was perfectly content with his current dwelling. The cave suited him well and was a home that he had made quite his own. He’d explained to David that it made him feel connected with nature and also provided him with a solitude he relished.

“Janir,” he called as he entered the cave, eager to show Janir the gift from his mother, wondering if he might recognize where it came from.

Janir was nowhere to be seen. As David surveyed the cave he was again struck by what an alluringly otherworldly and mystical place it was. Lit by a number of oil lamps and candles, the shadows of the furniture and decor danced across the stone walls, which were draped with tapestries and the rainbow silk that had always mesmerized David. Alongside various trinkets and ornaments from far-off lands, crystals, geodes and bouquets of flowers provided vibrant bursts of life along the tables and shelves.

Assuming that he was in the back compartment of the cave, David peered through and found Janir sitting cross-legged upon the ground, cradling a spherical metal object in his hands. It was the arcane timepiece he had been working on for several weeks. Janir seemed entranced by the rhythmic swing of the pendulum. Sensing David’s presence, he looked up. “David,” he said. “Forgive me, I must have lost track of time.” He stood up, placed the timepiece upon a nearby table and took a deep breath.

“Is everything all right?” David asked, noticing that Janir seemed out of sorts. For a start, it was most unlike him to have lost track of time. Janir was ordinarily a man two steps ahead of time.

“I don’t know,” Janir said, narrowing his eyes. “Something isn’t right. Something has changed…”

“What?”

“I can’t tell yet. But it’s something important. I could see it in the stars, I could sense it in the darkness and I can feel it in the air. It’s subtle as of yet, but even the subtlest of changes can yield the most far-reaching of consequences…”

David had no idea what Janir was talking about and he knew that he wasn’t likely to be more forthcoming anytime soon. So he opted to change the topic of conversation. “Do you notice anything different about me today?”

It took Janir a moment to refocus his thoughts and notice the crystal around David’s neck. David watched as Janir’s eyes fixed upon the amulet. He remained silent as he moved closer to inspect the talisman, cautiously lifting it up, drinking in every last detail. “Where did you get this?” he asked in a hoarse whisper.

Janir listened as David explained the story behind the object. “So what do you think? Do you recognize it?”

“I don’t know,” Janir said, still unable to take his eyes off the amulet.

“Have you seen it before?” David pressed. “Or anything like it?”

“No. No, I’ve never seen craftsmanship of the like.”

But David knew that he was holding something back. Janir raised his hand to his forehead and ran it over his greying hair, which was tied behind his neck in tight plaits. David studied his face, desperately trying to gauge what he was thinking. His forehead was creased and his eyes distant. “How could I actually have forgotten?” he whispered to himself before turning his attention back to his young protégé. “David, I need some time to meditate on this. We will discuss it later.”

“Why not now?”

“It is not the place of a student to question his mentor. I need some time alone. I must find the answers before I can possibly hope to share them.”

David nodded in reluctant compliance. “When will I come back?”

“Shall we say tomorrow afternoon, same time as usual?”

“But you’ll be at my birthday celebration this evening, won’t you? It’s in the town square. Everyone is coming.”

“Oh…yes. Yes, I shall try to make it,” Janir responded. But David could see that his mind was elsewhere.

Without another word, David bowed before his teacher and departed, confused and discontented by his reaction. Trudging his way back through the forest, his eyes were drawn back down to the violet crystal. He hadn’t known what Janir would have to say about it, but he hadn’t anticipated such a strange reaction. Janir seemed shocked, even scared by it—and David had never seen Janir scared by anything.

* * *

The taste was bitter. Nevertheless Janir chewed and swallowed the perota root. It had been many years since he had last traversed the inner planes and he felt the need of a medicinal aide. He soon felt the effects of the drug as it coursed through his nervous system. He assumed his meditative posture and, closing his eyes, tried to focus his mental energy upon reaching the gates of Shanadon.

And, soon enough…

His mind became the universe…

And the universe became his mind.

“Welcome back, Janir,” he heard an echoing voice.

Janir found himself on an endless stretch of beach. Beneath the cloudless lilac sky the tide was far out, the water a glorious cobalt blue, the sand luminous golden-white, each grain shining as though it was a whole world of its own. In front of him appeared Delei, his guide. She looked just as he remembered her: radiant and ethereal, draped in flowing white robes, her silver hair cascading over slender shoulders. Yet there was something different about her. She exuded anxiety and concern, two emotions he would previously have thought as being antithetical to her very nature. “It has been a long time,” she said.

“It has. For which I apologize…”

“You tried to ignore it. You tried to forget. Only now you can do so no longer. The time has come, Janir.”

“For what…?”

“The endgame: the final battle in a war that has been waged for countless eons across innumerable universes. The end draws near. Victory or defeat will soon be decided.”

“Then it’s true, isn’t it? The prophecies were correct. He is the one…”

“You already know this to be true.”

“Yes, I suppose I’ve known it all along. As I settled into to life on the island it became all too easy to forget; to forget the things I’d been told and to ignore what was standing right before me. But when I saw him with the Key, I knew I could no longer deny the truth, or hide from the inevitable. Please, Delei, tell me…tell me what I must do; tell me what I need to know…”

“Ten years have passed since you left the outer lands behind. In that time much has changed…”

Janir saw images flash before him: images of places and lands he had once known, including Taribor, his homeland. A spiraling black cloud engulfed the cities and towns in a pall of darkness. He saw the soldiers of the enemy—bleak, terrifying and inhuman—marching across the land…armies numbering in their tens of thousands…massive airships looming over the cities, obscuring the suns…processions of troops trampling through the towns, weapons in hand, killing anyone who stood in their way. A feeling of terror accompanied the images: stark, primal fear, exacerbated by the helplessness of defeat…

“The Alliance has continued its conquest of the inhabited territories,” Delei told him. “Its power has grown exponentially in terms of territory, military strength and technological advancement. They stand on the verge of world domination. But as you know, world domination is not enough; and the Alliance is but the instrument of a much darker force. Alanar is being torn apart, Janir. There is only one hope…”

“David…?”

“Yes. The Key has been awakened—and they know it has. They have been silently lurking in the shadows for centuries, waiting for this moment, watching for this signal. Now they know that the Key exists they will find it…and soon. Danger stirs and it will not take long for that evil to find what it seeks.”

“What must I do?”

“Prepare. Events have been set in motion to assist you along your path. You must wait until you receive the appropriate signal and then follow the directions you are given. You must trust us implicitly, Janir. Everything depends upon it.”

* * *

David relied on the moonlight to guide him along the darkened forest path. His birthday celebration was now over and everyone had gone home, their bellies full after a hearty meal and their spirits satisfied following a night of song and dance. Not every birthday was celebrated in such a manner but one’s nineteenth was considered a significant occasion, marking the true onset of adulthood. It was therefore customary for family and friends to gather for a big celebration: one with plenty of food, drink and merriment.

Jesanda had pulled out all the stops to ensure that the party was a success and David had thanked her for such an enjoyable evening. He had eaten all he could manage, drank perhaps a little too much wine, received a number of wonderful gifts and had fun sharing stories and laughter with his friends and fellow islanders. No so long ago he’d have found being the centre of such a social gathering uncomfortable and awkward, but the fact he had enjoyed it so much highlighted just how much he’d relaxed into island life.

His only disappointment was that Janir had failed to turn up. David had mentioned the party to him several times now and he had agreed to attend. It was unlike him either to forget or to go back on his word. Given his puzzling behavior earlier that day, David was concerned. So, as his mother and the others headed home, David decided to go and check on him. Something wasn’t right; he could sense it. Janir’s mysterious behavior and cryptic comments began to play on his mind.

All around him the trees stretched up like tall sentinels, the canopy of leaves waving in the evening breeze. The stars sparkled like static fireflies in the sky, alongside the moon, a silver orb that bathed the forest below in a translucent glow. Aside for the rustling of the trees and the cooing of a distant owl, silence pervaded.

Striding through the forest, David began to feel as though someone was watching and listening amid the silence; straining to catch every last whisper in the breeze. It’s just because it’s dark, he chastised himself. Don’t be such a child.

But rationale failed to placate the uneasy feeling in his belly. As he quickened his pace, he heard a noise. There was someone here. Their presence was unmistakable. He could feel eyes drilling into the back of his head. He spun round, but there was nothing to see. Hastening his speed, he again heard a noise behind him: footsteps crunching on the fallen leaves carpeting the forest floor.

Someone was following him.

He began to run. But in the darkness he could barely see where he was going and, his senses dulled by one too many glasses of wine, he tripped on a stray log and came crashing to the ground.

As he looked up he caught sight of his pursuer: a man, unrecognizable in the shadows, bearing down on him. David recoiled, but his assailant reached down and grabbed his arm, yanking him off the ground.

Unsteady on his feet, David tried to free himself, but the man held him firm. A wave of dread swept over him as his eyes settled on the man’s face. David had never seen him before. Whoever he was, he did not belong on New Haven.


It doesn’t end there! The story has only just begun. 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! ad2

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‘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.

Archetypes in Fiction and the Hero’s Journey

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

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

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

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

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The hero

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

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

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The shadow

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

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Mentor

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

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

The Herald

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

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Threshold Guardian

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

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Trickster

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

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

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

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