Friday, October 14, 2011

Update, FREE bonus chapter and a word on names

'Ey up, is everybody?

So, this is just a quick update on where things are with "Part Two" of Book One. (Bit of a mouthful that, really, should have thought it through a bit better in the first place).

Originally, we were supposed to be seeing the paperback version published at the end of September, but numbnuts here procrastinated to such an extent that, as you have no doubt realise, the deadline was missed - doh!

Basically, my problem is that I just keep on changing things, keep on rewriting parts of the book. At one stage, I literally threw away 75 pages because I didn't like the tone of them, and started the whole section again. My agent thinks I'm precious. I think I'm a perfectionist. The truth, as with so many other things in life, is somewhere between the two ;o)

Anywho, work continues apace, and I'm confident the book will be done in the next 4 - 6 weeks. At that point, the second part will be available for digital download, and then both parts 1 & 2 together will be released as a paperback, the cover of which can be seen on my Facebook page. Exciting times!

So, onto the "bonus" chapter...what all dis about den, eh?

Well, it's the third of the four major story strands within the book. The first, and "main" strand is obviously Gillad, the second is about Krome, Gennarbo, Ferg, et al in Shiancoe, the third is...well, the third is about Oly, and what happens to him, but I'm not about to give anything away about that just now. The fourth concerns the tribespeople called the Doman. There are four separate tribes, although they all share a common heritage, and they're scattered throughout the land of Achelos. There used to be 20 tribes, but for reasons that will become clear, they were whittled down sometime ago to the remaining few. The Doman are human, but they are neither Drellak or Swarth, although they MAY share some common ancestry ;o)

We're interested in one particular tribe, the Tlann, who dwell in the mountains that lie next to the East coast of Swarth and border the lands of the Drellak. Initially, this chapter was supposed to be number four, and would sit inbetween the chapter where Gillad says his goodbyes to Evraa, and the chapter where Gillad carries out the "hit" that he's basically been coerced into.

I was 'persuaded' to excise the chapter from the first part of the book as the next chapter to deal with the Tlann wasn't scheduled to arrive until the second part of the book. It was felt that there was simply too big a gap between the two chapters, and that your average reader would lose the "thread" of the plot strand. Gillad, Krome and Oly all get more than one chapter, so to just dedicate one to the Tlann was an imbalance.

Personally, I think that's patronising and demeaning, and isn't crediting the reader with enough intelligence. I went with the decision at first, because I bowed to the established credo, but have since changed my mind. I threw a strop and said that the chapter was going back in, at chapter four, where it was first intended. As a result, all future downloads of the first part will now feature the extra chapter and the paperback will have the chapter order as I first intended.

However, for those of you who have already purchased part one (Ithankyou x), it's only fair that you get to see the new / old chapter for free. So, without further ado - here it is. Enjoy and thank you for your support and belief.

One more thing - a word on names. A few people have asked why some of the names sound so different, and you will no doubt notice that among the Tlann, the cadence of the names are different again. In short, I wanted to give each subset of people their own style of names and language.

Hence, in Drellak, people names and place names are more "traditional" of the sort you would expect to find in fantasy. In Swarth, a population who have developed a more sophisticated and in many ways enlightened culture, place and people names have a Latin influence. For the Tlann and indeed the other tribes of the Doman (see what I did there?) the noun influence is that of ancient Norse. And as for the people in black, the "fire users"...ah, that would be telling, but their names give away a large clue as to who - and what - they really are. 

Enjoy! xxx (any spelling, grammar and plain old stupid mistakes are mine, all mine)

“Let the Swarth fear us. Let them whisper tales of people venturing into the mountains and never returning.”

    “There’s a storm coming.”
  Freyi nodded her agreement, and adjusted her footing on the outcrop. She loved the feeling that being perched on top of the World gave her; it was a thrill like no other. The whole World was ranged far, far below, her blonde hair whipping about her face in the strong cross winds, and she felt so alive. She rocked back on her haunches and tucked her goatskin coat into her breeches – leaving loose clothing billowing about you wasn’t the smartest move when you were this high up.
  Next to her, Baldir chewed on an oakroot and stared off into the distance, where black clouds could be seen gathering and rolling towards them.
  “Best get to lower ground,” Baldir said, spitting a stringy piece of the root out of his mouth and watching it arc out into the air before plummeting hundreds of feet. “This high up on the mountain t’ain’t the safest place to be when the storms hit.”
  “I know,” Freyi replied with an irritated tone. The older she became and the higher her place with the Tlann tribe grew, the more Baldir seemed to make a point of treating her as a child.
  She began to make her way down the mountain face, picking her hand and foot holds as carefully as she could. The feeling that ran through her when she was this high up above the World was almost indescribable. It was pleasure, contentment and a slice of fear, all mixed into one, and she loved the way the sensations coursed through her, surging and roiling, charging her head, her heart and her limbs with energy and  excitement.
  Your average Swarth or Drellak dweller would balk in terror at scaling a hill, let alone climb a mountain and trust in just the security of your limbs and the steadfastness of the rock you were clinging to, but for the Tlann, and the other three tribes of the Doman, climbing was something they were born to.
  “I see a goat,” Baldir called quietly to her from just below. Freyi followed his gaze, and saw the mountain animal on an outcrop thirty feet below, grazing on a threadbare patch of grass.
  Freyi checked her hands, made sure that the ledge she was holding onto was strong, and let go of one arm. She reached down to her side, and eased a small shaftbow from her belt. The modified crossbow was high tensile and very light, ideal for hunting on and around the terrain they occupied.
  Taking a deep breath, and shuffling slightly to make sure her body was angled correctly, Freyi gave a quick prayer to the Sky and squeezed the trigger.
  “Good shot!” Baldir laughed, scrambling down towards the ledge. The goat lay on its side, the bolt buried deep in its neck, and its breathing was shallow and laboured. Freyi could see it was in pain and suffering. She felt the usual flush of regret and sadness at what she’d done, but balanced out the feeling with the knowledge that she did what she had to in order to feed the tribe.
  “Finish it quickly!” Freyi called after Baldir. He didn’t acknowledge her, but as his feet touched down the ledge, he drew a dagger from his belt and knelt down to slit the goat’s throat.
  Satisfied, she moved down as quickly as she was safely able to, and joined Baldir on the ledge. He slapped her on the shoulder.
  “Amazing!” he laughed, “You never miss a shot, do you?!”
  Freyi shrugged, uncomfortable with the praise. She’d killed a living creature, had taken an innocent existence to serve hers – and the Tlann tribe’s – ends. Knowing it was necessary didn’t have to mean she was proud of it.
  Baldir pulled some twine round his back and trussed the animal’s legs together. He stood back, and frowned, stroking his chin.
  “Not sure we can get it down the rest of the way in one piece.” He looked at her, “Half each?”
  Freyi pulled a face, and shook her head. “No. Strap it to your back, or roll it down.”
  Baldir laughed at her and peered out over the ledge, gauging the drop.
  “I roll it off here, and it will be in more than two pieces when it hits the ground.” Turning back, he hefted the goat and weighed it in his arms.
  Over complicating things again, Freyi thought, irritated. She hated going hunting with her brother to find food; it always turned into a battle of wills between them.
  “I think I can carry it down on my back if you use the twine to tie it to me,” Baldir said, nodding to himself.
  “It’s a lot of weight to carry down,” Feryi replied, reaching for the twine coiled on her belt as she spoke. She’d be in this position enough times to know that when her brother decided to do something, her opinion was given scant attention.
  “No, I can handle it,” Baldir replied. “Tie it to me.”
  Freyi wound the twine as tightly as she could around the carcass, binding it to her brother’s back.
  “That should do it,” she said, giving it a final sharp tug. “You sure you can carry the weight?”
  “Come on,” he replied with a wink, “It’s me.”

  “How many?”
  “About 100…all armed.” She turned to face him. “Some are wearing armour, but not all.”
  “No. They look…raggedy.”
  “Not a professional army then,” Baldir replied, “Not Swarth.”
  The thought of a Swarth army invading the mountain pass sent a shiver through both of them. When the Doman had first come down from the Blackmount and into the lands of Achelos, Drellak and Swarth had not long existed as two separate countries. In their abandoned lands, the Doman were used to a warm climate, as a result, the vast majority of them migrated south, settling in the new lands of the Swarth. At first the 20 tribes of the Doman were welcomed and embraced, their customs and mannerisms a source of fascination and amusement. 
  Until, that is, the day when the Shivering had broken out. A horrific way of dying, characterized by the victim bleeding from the inside out, every orifice weeping blood, whilst the sufferer shivered uncontrollably.
  The Doman had been open about the fact that they had fled a “great plague” in their own lads over the Blackmount, a plague that had meant it would never again be safe to return there. The people of Achelos leapt to the conclusion that the Shivering was the very same plague the Doman had referred to, a plague that they had evidently bought with them.
  Some of the tribes, such as Freyi’s very own Tlann, had retreated further into the mountains as soon as possible, isolating themselves from the ever increasing anger and resentment closing in on them. Other tribes had moved into the icy wastes of the North of Drellak, putting as much distance as they could between themselves and potential danger.
  Over a period of months, the clamour grew ever louder, citizens demanding that some sort of retribution be visited on the Doman in revenge for the plague they’d bought with them. The end result was an event that saw the Doman shrink from twenty tribes to just four. A massacre, an attempted genocide perpetrated by the Swarth, lasting just a few days but leading to the almost complete destruction of the tribes and their way of life. It was known in Doman lore as the Days of the Red Rivers, due to the bloodshed turning the waters by the various tribal settlements a deep, crimson colour as they ran with blood.
The few surviving tribes were either too remote or, in the case of the Llmachet, too problematic. Most Doman tribes shunned the use of tools as weapons, they had a tradition of unarmed combat amongst themselves, but the Llmachet had no such compunction. Every Swarth detachment sent to wipe them out simply never came back, and eventually, the Swarth simply gave up, content to let the Llmachet live in peace and isolation on their rocky outcrop by the Endless Sea.
  “They could be something to do with the travelers we’ve had in the passes recently,” Baldir said, scratching the back of his head. He pushed past Freyi and took a closer look for himself. “They look similar.”
  “Yes, they do,” Freyi nodded, “But there’s only been a maximum of six or seven of them before, never this many.”
  “I was there when the last group came through – they were taken care of.” Baldir said, moving back away from the cleft.
  “If you mean were they massacred, then yes they were.” Freyi replied with a wrinkling of her nose. She accepted that since the day of the Red Rivers the surviving tribes of the Doman had every right to be wary of strangers, especially those who ventured so high into the mountains, but she was uncomfortable with the extreme measures they sometimes took to safeguard their territory.
  “Everybody knows the rules,” Baldir told her, crawling across the ledge. “We told both Drellak and Swarth how things would be - this is Tlann land; we’ll defend it to our last breath. They shouldn’t have come through the passes, and they shouldn’t have come armed.”
  “They way I hear it,” Freyi snapped back, “They died with their blades sheathed.”
  “Of course they did! You think we’d give them a chance to use their steel on us? They broke the rules; they set foot on our land.”
  “And now there’s a bigger group right here – coincidence?” Freyi risked one more glance over the top. “They’ve probably come looking for their friends.”
  “We let one go.” Baldir said.
  “We let one go. Told him to take a message back, to stay away from our lands.”
  “Then I think we’ve solved the mystery!” Freyi laughed, “The survivor has gone straight back to where he came from, told his story, and instead of running scared, they’ve returned with four times as many men as before!”
  “It wasn’t my call. I was all in favour of killing them all. Let the Swarth fear us. Let them whisper tales of people venturing into the mountains and never returning. We should create a climate of fear, make it so they’re too scared to even enter the foothills.”
  “We shouldn’t kill anybody,” Freyi replied. “That makes us as bad as them.”
  “You’ve forgotten about the genocide?”
  “Of course I haven’t! But if commit the same crimes as they did, then that makes us no better than they are – and we have to be better, we have to aspire to something more than the Swarth, more even than Drellak.”
  “I’m going to fetch Njall.” Baldir said, “He’ll know what to do.”
  Freyi nodded to herself, and turned back, watching the progress of the column of heavily armed men as they made their way through the pass.
  It took Baldir half an hour to return with Njall, and during that time, Freyi followed the progress of the soldiers. The mountain passes were a maze, a warren of twists and turns, some that led to dead ends, some that led to a sheer drop, but only a small handful of ways could lead you safely deeper and higher into Tlann territory. As impossible as it seemed to her, the soliders were following one of those paths, drawing ever closer to the village where the Doman resided. It was as if they knew where to go, but she couldn’t ascertain how.
  Only the people of the Tlann knew the way, it was their greatest and most closely guarded secret. Something wasn’t adding up about all this, somehow, someway, whoever these people were, Freyi had an awful, gut wrenching feeling that they knew where they were going, and they were heading straight for the village itself.
  “Hey,” a deep voice whispered in her ear.
  Freyi jumped slightly as Njall appeared silently next to her. He was a tall man, with sunken cheeks and a shaven head, he had small eyes set too far into his head that made him look emaciated. If it wasn’t for the wiry, solid muscles that rippled and strained against his taut skin, you could be forgiven for thinking he was ill. He always moved with a lithe and sinewy grace, and when he spoke it was in unhurried, deep tones that belied his slender frame.
  “How long since you first saw them?” he asked, tapping a long finger against his chin, staring at the column as it marched.
  “Fourty minutes or so,” Freyi replied, feeling the familiar sense of unease that always seemed to accompany Njall. He was known as the Conscience of the tribe, a title he earned by annually besting all comers in a hand to hand fighting tournament. As the Conscience, he was seen as second only to the tribal leader, and carried the responsibility for the martial safety of the tribe. It was Njall’s responsibility to ensure that the village was safe and secure, that the members of the tribe, both male and female – for the Doman made no distinction between sexes when it came to duty – were well trained and competent enough to defend their home.
  It was also believed that so long as the Conscience of the tribe was alive, the Tlann would never die, their tribe would continue on in perpetuity. Hence, when a Conscience became too old or too infirm to perform his duty, he was willingly sacrificed, his blood given as an offering to the Lord in the Sky, and a new tournament held to decide a new Conscience immediately. In this manner, the Tlann held firm to the belief that they would never vanish from the surface of Achelos.
  “They’re headed for the village.” Freyi said. “I’m convinced of it – we need to warn them, need to get the defences prepared.”
  “Patience child,” Njall replied, shifting his weight so that he could lean behind and check out the territory further down the pass. “We’ve got no reason to believe they’re headed towards the village.”
  “Where else CAN they be headed?!” asked Baldir, gesturing around him. “Nobody comes up this high into the mountains – nobody except us. They’re looking for us.”
  Njall nodded, but stayed silent, his eyes never leaving the column. Freyi began to tap a foot, impatiently, annoyed that the Conscience didn’t seem to be reacting. The recent interlopers who had been at first driven off, and later killed, had been lower in the mountains, making their way from one side to the other, where the border existed between Swarth and Drellak. These men, however, they had climbed higher, used the well worn passages to reach a point further up, and that surely left only one place for them to be headed.
  “You know these people better than we do,” Baldir offered, giving Njall a small pat on the shoulder. “You’re the one who likes to walk among them.”
  Freyi nodded her assent. Njall was well known among the Tlann for his habit of stealing down from the mountains and visiting the nearby settlements of the Swarth. The nearest town was a few miles from the foothills of the mountains, a coastal settlement called Parthalan Jar. It was a strange affectation of the Swarth that they designated their dwellings in such ways – if a place was named as ‘Jar’, it was viewed as a large town, whereas cities bore the name of ‘Tor’.
  As far as she was aware, based on the tales that Njall had to share with them when he returned from his forays, Parthalan Jar was one of the larger settlements, a bustling, lively seaport. There was a part of her that longed to see if for herself, but she was afraid that the noise, the smell and the crowded streets that Njall described in such detail would panic and scare her.
  “This is true,” Njall nodded. He stood, and walked to the edge of the ledge they were on.
  “They seem to know where they’re going,” Freyi offered.
  “Don’t be so stupid!” Baldir scoffed. “How could they?”
  “I’m telling you, they do! I’ve been watching them, they’re following a defined path – look! That one at the front, he’s got a map!”
  Baldir frowned and stepped forward, straining to look, then stepped back again, his hand covering his open mouth. “How…?”
  “Somebody told them, may they be cursed by the Lord in the Sky.” Freyi said, spitting onto the floor. She turned to Njall. “Somebody told them where to find us, drew a map.”
  “I’m getting old now,” Njall sighed. He leant back against the outcrop, slouching against it. “My time will soon come. I will be forced to give up my blood in order to placate the Lord in the Sky and allow another to become the Conscience. Perhaps you, Baldir?” he said with a sly smile. “You nearly bested me last year in the Leader’s name day celebrations…I would imagine you are the first among candidates.”
  Baldir allowed his chest to swell with pride, but Freyi tensed, her senses becoming alert. Something wasn’t right here. Why was Njall talking in this way, why wasn’t he rushing back to the village to form the defences, as was his duty?
  “Problem is,” Njall continued, “I’m not ready. Not ready at all. I don’t think I’ll be ready tomorrow, either. Or next year. Or the year after…in fact, I don’t think I will ever be ready to sacrifice myself.”
  “Conscience,” Freyi said softly, wiping suddenly wet palms on her tunic, “We should warn the village – the soliders are almost out of sight. It won’t be long bef…”
  “So what to do?” Njall sighed. “What to do.”
  Suddenly, and with a speed that took her breath away in surprise, Njall uncoiled from his slouched position and slammed an open hand into Baldir’s throat. Her brother’s eyes went wide with pain and shock, and he staggered back, hands going to his neck, as if he could heal himself by his own touch.
  Njall leapt forward, bringing one foot up high, swinging it in front of him, aiming it for Freyi’s scalp, but she twisted, instinct taking over, already anticipating an attack, and Njall’s foot, instead of caving in her skull, merely glanced off and sent her staggering back to the outcrop’s edge.
  “No!” Freyi gasped, “Conscience…”
  “I won’t say sorry,” Njall told her. “Because I’m not.”
  The Conscience shaped to kick, but suddenly, at the last second, changed his stance, and lunged forward with both hands extended. Freyi backed up, her senses numb, hardly able to comprehend what was happening. She threw an arm up, more in hope than judgement, and pushed aside the attack.
  Njall jumped back, anticipating a counter strike from her, and smiled. “You’re faster than I thought.”
  “Stay away from my sister!” Baldir cried, spinning on his heel and snapping a kick towards Njall.
  The Conscience moved quicker than Freyi thought possible, half turning to palm aside the attack, pushing Baldir off balance and sweeping his standing leg out from under him.
  As Baldir crashed to the ground, Njall smashed the ball of his heel down into her brother’s face, crushing it, the sound of blood bursting forth mixing with Baldir’s agonised scream.
  Freyi shook herself, as it to rouse from a dream, and took a fighting stance, spreading her weight, balancing.
  “You did this,” Freyi said, as they circled each other. She could hear Baldir’s agonised cries; hear his wheezing, rasping breath. “You gave them the map, you showed them the way.”
  Njall jabbed forward, and Freyi moved to block, anticipating the blow. He was too clever for her, though, quickly transplanting his weight onto his other foot, and bringing his other arm round, sending into her unprotected side. She gave a gasp as the air rushed out of her, doubled over, tears coming to her ears.
  A second blow hammered into the side of her head, sending her crashing to the ground. Hands grabbed her, hauled her to her feet, and she was shoved back, staggering, barely keeping her feet, felt another blow connect with her chin, knocking her down again. And down. And down. And down.
  She was falling!
  She barely had time to register the thought, to process what has happening, before she hit solid ground, hard – hard enough to force the remaining air from her lungs and leave her on her side, not even able to whimper, mouth opening and closing in a desperate attempt to breathe.
  Everything hurt; every single part of her was drenched in pain, a physical torrent of agony.
  Freyi raised her head slightly, tried to open one blood caked eye, knew without touching it that the bruised flesh was starting to swell, starting to close up. She forced herself into a sitting position, gingerly checked herself, winced as she felt some broken ribs, but pleased that the didn’t appear to be any worse damage.
  Looking to her left, she realised she was lying on a ledge, a short way down the face of the ridge. The ledge had broken her fall and saved her life.
  Freyi raised her head and checked how far she had fallen. It was a fair distance, and there didn’t seem anywhere to go, either up or down. The Lord in the Sky must have been watching, and guided her fall to the one place where she could have landed and lived. She waited, quiet and still, waiting for her breathing to return to normal, wincing as her ribs delivered a sharp stab of pain with every gasp.
  Above her, all was silent. Nothing moved. She silently prayed to the Lord that she would see Baldir’s face peering over the edge, looking for her. After a few hours, as the sun began to set and the temperature began to drop, she even began to say a prayer or two in the hope that Njall might appear.
  Night drew in around her, and Freyi fought to stay awake, determined that however she died, whenever she died, it would not be not be like this, not on this day.
  The wind picked up, and rain began to fall. The oncoming storm had broken.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's here...

The book is here - you can purchase it from Amazon. On the same page, you'll find links to download the FREE kindle reader for Mac, PC, iPhone and Android.

30 Pence from every sale is going to Cancer Research UK, so you'll be helping others as well as (hopefully!) enjoying the read.

PLEASE take the time to leave a star review and a few words when you've read it, your feedback and advice is really apreciated.

Thank you so much to everybody who has believed in and supported me so far, hopefully we can all continue to share in this journey.



Friday, July 22, 2011

Today's the Day!

This is a big day for me. A very important day. The book is out, on Amazon, for download.

It's coming out WORLDWIDE, that is to say, you can buy it from the UK, US and European Amazon stores, which is very, very exciting. Ok, maybe I'm getting excited far too early and making a much bigger deal out of it than I really need to, but this is important to me, dammit! Let me have my moment, and then, in a week's time when the full disaster sinks in, I'll go quiet. And then never I'll mention it again. Promise.

So, what are you going to get for your money, and what do I get out of it? I suppose it's only fair, as I'm asking you to hand over your hard earned, that I give full disclosure. It's the first part of the first book, you're talking about 150 pages as written on a word processor - I honestly don't know how that equates in terms of Kindle size. I've got the free Kindle app from my iPhone, and you don't get very much on each page on a screen that size - so let's estimate about 500 pages for a phone app, 300 or so for the Kindle? Sounds a lot, but it's not THAT much. It also ends on a cliffhanger - well, TWO cliffhangers to be honest, about two of the main characters. There's also a third story strand that starts directly after the end of the first part, which will feature Freyi, a lovely young lady who is part of a group of mountain tribes people. Her story arc is the most tragic of the lot; nuff said about that at the moment, though. You can look forward to meeting her in part two.

We've agreed a price point of $2.99 in the States, and the cost in pounds and euro's will be directly linked to that. At today's exchange rate, that's about £1.89. I've agreed that 30 pence from each sale will go to The UK Cancer Trust. Sadly, me and cancer are a little too close for comfort, so this is a charity that's close to my heart. 30 pence might not sound a lot, but when you factor the costs taken by various other mediums, it's about 25% of my total earnings per book, so it's a fair sum, I think.

The purpose of this isn't to make a great deal of money - not at this moment in time, and not in this format. The purpose is to gain a foothold in the market place, a presence and slowly start to build what will, hopefully, become a full head of steam in the future, hence the low price point. Also, it's not right to charge full price for just the first part, dontcha think? ;o)

Which leads me on to the obvious point - why just release a first part and not the whole thing? Simple - I'm not happy with the rest of it yet, and it needs more work. I also think it's kind of fun to release it in two parts (maaaaaaaaaybe three, depending on size). It will, hopefully, create a sense of community, where "fans" can be a part of an on-going and developing story and will be eagerly awaiting the next installment.

The Price of Paradise is with Amazon now - I fulfilled my part by getting it to them as per the agreed deadline this morning. They're now just converting it to the correct formats, and making sure the whole thing is neither full of plagiarism or libel, and also making sure that correct DRM is added to it. Once that's all done (will be SOME point today, so I'm promised) then it will be available on their store.

I promise that as soon as it happens, I'll be back and will let you know - scout's honour. 

Thank you so much for everybody who's been asking about it, and also spreading the word, I hope you won't be disappointed when you finally get to read it :o)



Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Four Days and Counting...Birth of a Series

Hola mi amigos

Here we are, then. You, me, t'internet and a blog. Cosy, isn't it? Hope you're comfortable and ready to go on a walk together.

So, where to start? Well, the purpose of this is to talk some more about the new book and how it came to BE the new book, so I guess I should get cracking. Firstly, the obvious question is what's it all about? Well, lookie here - see if it floats your boat.

War and worse is coming…

The continent of Achelos. Once a single, prosperous Country, it has long been divided in two following a bitter and brutal civil war. After years of sporadic peace, things are about to change. In the South, the zealous Penitents of the Swarth prepare to invade Drellak in the North, where religion itself is outlawed. Their invasion is backed by powerful and enigmatic new allies from across the Unending Sea.

At the same time, a survivor of a mountain tribe massacre will embark on a personal quest for vengeance, an army scout will find himself unjustly imprisoned and under a virtual sentence of death, and a drug addicted assassin will be manipulated and betrayed. Each of their destinies is linked to the oncoming storm, and unbeknown to everybody, something far, far worse than anybody can even comprehend, is watching, and waiting…

From the desert wastes of Etain Jar to the heights of the Blackmount, from the frozen tundra of Todmoor to the Island of the Dead, where the ghosts of ancient Kings linger and the dead feast on the living, The Price of Paradise is the first part of a sweeping new fantasy epic in the tradition of George R R Martin and Robert Jordan.

Yeah, ok, I know what you're thinking. Comparing myself to RJ (God rest his soul) and GRRM is a big reach and a pretty egotistical thing to do. I should clarify it by saying that I'm not, even for one second, suggesting that I'm in their league in terms of the quality of their writing (who is?) but in terms of scope and ambition, I'd like to think I'm certainly aiming for them, if not getting pretty damned close.

So why am I writing a book, and why in the fantasy genre when it can be seen as very "niche"?

I have an over-active imagination, a very VIVID imagination, and I needed to do something with it - it really IS that simple.

And why this genre? Because I love it. I adore it. I embrace it.

As for it being niche, and at the risk of sounding hideously pretentious, it IS true that most fantasy novels (and films) are part of an exclusive and often rather geeky club. Orcs, Elves, Dwarves, etc inhabit far away lands and talk in ways that your average reader finds quaint at best, completely unintelligible at worst. However, the success of Lord of the Rings and (although I accept that's sci-fi and not fantasy - but the two are not mutually exclusive) Star Wars, dear old Harry Potter, and not forgetting the recent television adaptation of Game of Thrones; suggests that there is a mass audience out there for these sort of stories, it's just finding out WHY the aforementioned achieved wide spread success when others haven't.

Personally (and, to be fair, you could say what I don't know about marketing a successful fantasy novel could fill a warehouse) I think it comes down to how people can relate to the characters. Lets be honest, in "real life" very few people are moustache twirling villains or square jawed heroes, and the closest we get to a quest is trying to find that elusive birthday or christmas gift. I strongly believe that if you take identifiable, likable characters and put them into situations and scenarios that resonate, then even people who wouldn't normally read and enjoy a fantasy book can lose themselves in it.

I started writing it about five or six years ago, but the story as was had a different feel to the one that's going to see the light of day on Friday. Originally, the story began about 20 or so years into the war between Swarth and Drellak, and dealt with the dying days of the war, when one side (not telling which, ner ner ner) is mere weeks from a decisive victory. I wanted to explore to what lengths a people would go to in order to prevent their total conquest - would it be a scorched earth policy similar to the one the Russians adopted in WWII, or would they roll over, show their belly and accept their fate, in the hope that they and their lands would be treated with a kindness that might not be so forthcoming in the face of resistance (Finland, I'm looking at you)?

As I wrote it though, I found myself becoming more and more intrigued by the unwritten backstory that I'd created. People in positions of power, how did they rise to that place? Heroes who had long since died but left a legacy that inspired those that followed, what sort of people were they in reality, and what did they do to write their names in legend? What motivated and drove both sides not just to go to war but to sustain it, even in the face of death and suffering on a massive scale?

It occurred to me that there was a potentially gripping and fascinating story to be told there, and handing out small portions of it in flashback wasn't satisfying my need to explore the past I'd created. So, I started to write a small scale, limited "prequel" to the main story, a novella that would explore the start of the war and the people involved. As these things often do, it soon spiraled out of control, and what was intended to be a short story to satiate my need to expand on the past soon turned into a full blown book in it's own right.

So, here we are then. The original first book, "Siege at Jahngar" will now be the second book, and the original prequel short story "The Price of Paradise" is now a standalone book in it's own right. For those that care, I intend to make "TPP" (as it shall now be known for brevity's sake) the first in a sequence of six. Yes, six. We're talking a timescale of a hundred years from the first book to the last, and there is one over arcing plot that will flow from start to finish, although each book will have it's own self contained story. There will be a handful of characters who will feature in the majority of the books, some characters will appear in just one book, and others will feature sporadically from one to another, but hopefully, everyone will find someone they can identify with and want to know more about.

I'm trying to avoid cliched fantasy tropes whilst still bringing those facets to the genre that means fans will recognize and enjoy what they're reading, and although I'm not naive enough to think that a whole legion of people who have never picked up a fantasy novel before will suddenly jump head first into the series, it would be nice to think that it will be accessible enough for "newbies" to want to give it a try.

I'm in email dialogue with a couple of specialist fantasy and sci-fi mags regarding the possibility of a review and a plug, and I've also bought to the table what I feel is a unique marketing idea that could benefit all of us, but, as is often the way of these things, I'm thinking that very little will come of it. TPP will start slow, and small, and the price will be reflective of that, but who knows where it can go from there. Some guerilla marketing, some creative advertising, and, hopefully, an ever increasing loyal fanbase, and the sky's the limit.

Watch this space, folks. This could be the start of something very special, and you're here at the start. It's a great place to be, and if you let me, I'll take each and every one of you with me.