Saturday, 17 December 2016

Book Review


(The Sentinels of Eden, Book One)

by Carolyn Denman

(Pub: Odyssey Books, 2016)

Firstly, I must confess that I know the author, but this did not affect my review. If I had not liked the book, I simply would not have reviewed it or rated it. 

Initially, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to buy Songlines, let alone review it.  I was worried that I was going to read yet another YA novel involving angels with the usual love triangle thrown in. (Please get me a bucket I’m going to be sick!).

Yet, when I heard the author’s tagline for the book I was intrigued:

“Cherubim, the Garden of Eden, plus a flaming sword and all set on Australian sheep farm.” 

I thought, “Maybe this will be different.” 

You know what? It was - I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Songlines centres around a teenage girl, Lainie, who lives on a sheep farm with her Aunt Lily and their farmhand Harry – an aboriginal elder. Lainie’s best friend is Noah, a boy she’s known since childhood and who lives on a nearby farm. They are both in their final year of high school in the nearby town of Nalong. Lainie’s nemesis, a boy named Ben, also attends the school and his violent outbursts over the years have earned him the nickname Bane. The book opens with Lainie experiencing a troubling premonition about her aunt confronting mining surveyors on their property. Her prescience and feelings of imminent danger escalate and through them she, Noah and Bane discover that the world around them is far different than they believed and their roles in it are beyond anything they could imagine.

What I loved about this book was its characterisations and its setting. It was a delight to read a fantasy novel set in rural Australia and Denman captures what it’s like to be an Aussie kid going to school in a small country town. Having been a farm girl who went to a tiny high school in rural Victoria, these sections resonated very strongly with me and I found myself smiling as I read these passages – they ring true as do the sections depicting life on the farm.

The pacing for the novel is steady, but it doesn’t race along and one of the benefits of this is that Denman has time to develop her characters in depth and as such they are easy to relate to. Their motivations, their hopes and their angst are all explored. Though most of this is written in the first person, from Lainie’s POV, there are sections that are written in the third person from other character’s perspective and this works really well. I normally loathe reading first person stories and if I enjoy them then it’s proof of good writing. The “voice” of Lainie is a blend of naivete, farm girl practicality and confused and hurt teen, but it reads as, or rather sounds, uniquely Australian. Denman does this through clever use of the vernacular and colourful metaphors which made me smile a lot. However, this is not done to such an extent that it will prove troublesome for international readers.

Beyond the religious aspects of this tale, this is a coming of age story for all the teens involved in it and there other messages about personal freedom, environmental protection, dealing with loss and grief, facing fears, taking responsibility and ultimately embracing destiny despite the costs.

The end was satisfying and definitely made me want to see what’s next in Denman’s The Sentinels of Eden series.

4 Stars.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Book Review

The Gift Knight's Quest

(Gift Knight Series, Book 1)

by Dylan Madeley

(Pub:Troubador Publishing, 2015)

Dylan Madeley’s epic fantasy novel, The Gift Knight’s Quest, focuses around two primary protagonists: Derek and Chandra. Derek is a young man serving in the military of his small country and whose family are descended from former nobles. His father is bitter and focused only on what the family has lost and believes that Derek should seek retribution for their losses. Chandra, is the illegitimate daughter of the King of Kensrik. She has been raised within the palace, yet is completely overlooked by most of the people around her, including her father. However, through a quirk of fate she winds up monarch of this kingdom. Both characters have to contend with the complex political scheming going on around them, which aims to destabilise the kingdom and end Chandra’s reign.

The world building of this novel is detailed and one of its strongest assets. Madeley has taken the time to include numerous intricate details regarding daily life, politics, legends and rituals - all of which serve to create a believable world. For the most part I found the novel to be primarily focused around the political machinations of the characters secretly opposing Chandra, some of whom are members of her own government, rather than an action packed adventure story. However, the latter third of the novel does introduce some fine action sequences and the pace picks up.

Unfortunately, I found pacing up until this point a little slow. Part of the problem was that the author introduced a second time stream to the story. One timeline acts within the time of Chandra and Derek, while another timeline follows the fate of Derek’s ancestor, Duke Lenn. When this section began I found myself confused as to whether this really was taking place in the past and I had to reread the scene introduction to clarify this. I can see the point of following Derek and Lenn’s journey, since part of the way their route traverses the same country and they are both subject to political scheming beyond their ken and control and what happens to Lenn helps define the future that Derek and Chandra are grappling with.

However, in a couple of scenes with Chandra the pertinent history of Duke Lenn was revealed. I found in light of this that this past history arc was superfluous. As such it served to slow the pace of the current timeline and to always “take me out of the story” and distance me from the arcs revolving around Chandra and Derek. Thus, I never fully empathised with either of the main characters or became deeply engaged with the story. Judging from other reviews, though, this was not the case for all readers.

Three stars

Tuesday, 15 November 2016


I've got a giveaway happening! 

The lovely Lauren Dawes (she writes great books) is hosting a book spotlight of my series and there's a great giveaway. 

1st Prize is a signed paperback copies of both Altaica & Asena Blessed,along with full colour character charts and bookmarks. 

2nd Prize is the ebook versions of both books! 

This is open WORLD wide!

Click Below

Thursday, 10 November 2016


Book Review: 

Starchild: The City of Souls by Vacen Taylor
(Book 2 in The Starchild series)

(Pub: Odyssey Books,  2013) 

Contributor: Jordan Sayer
Jordan is a Melbourne middle grade student who is developing an obsession with fantasy books (and good on him!) In this segment I'll share his books reviews and from time to time other pieces of writing.

The Star Child - The City of Souls by Vacen Taylor is yet another action packed, thrilling adventure with many more imaginative creatures which were more easy to visualise than those in book one because the descriptions were more detailed. 

The characters acted like modern kids, but I would have thought they should have acted differently - perhaps more old fashioned. I still liked the different personalities of each character. 

Just like book one the novel consists of sections of dialogue that still extend longer than I felt they should. The story is a little more faster paced so there is more action. The story flows well together from book one to book two - it almost literally starts off where the last book finished. Taylor keeps the storyline going and the subplots intwine together nicely. 

It is just as interesting as book one with even more interesting creatures, weapons and mystical places. Again the book is breathtaking and worth the time reading! 

Four and a half stars!

Book Review: 

Starchild: The Healing Stone by Vacen Taylor
(Book 3 in The Starchild series)

(Pub: Odyssey Books,  2015) 

The Healing Stone by Vacen Taylor is the third action packed, thrilling adventure in The Star Child series. After the four kids find the Silvershade they escape the Wilder Forest city just before the underworld unleashes its power and burns down the forest. The three kids then have to help Long, when a demon tricks him and possesses his body. From then the four kids race against time to reach the Ice city and the Healing Stone in order to save Long’s life. 

There were creatures that were pretty much all the same, except a few new ones were introduced to the characters and the reader. As in book two, they were still easy to visualise because the descriptions were detailed. Vacen created a few new weapons and mystical places which helped make the book more interesting. I still liked the different perspectives of each character. 

The story sometimes felt slow moving because of too much dialogue. Although the story was a little faster paced than the other books. The story keeps flowing from book to book well, the storyline going and the subplots interlink together nicely. 

Four and a half stars!

Reviews Published Challenge Participant Professional Reader

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Book Review

The Opposite of Life

(Lissa and Gary, Book 1)

by Narrelle M. Harris

(Pub: Pulp Fiction Press, 2007)

Prepare to have all your favourite vampire myths debunked! In The Opposite of Life by Narrelle Harris, you’ll meet a plucky librarian, Lissa, and Gary, a vampire whose fashion sense goes no further than garish Hawaiian shirts.

Harris’s novel is set in Melbourne and it’s lovely to read her depiction of a town she obviously knows so well. The detail she includes about the Melbourne streets will appeal to Australian readers and particularly those from Melbourne, but I wondered if it would hold the same appeal to non-locals – I suspect in the end those details will necessarily be glossed over by them but the settings will still be very effective.

“The night I went dancing with Evie I found two girls on the floor of the ladies’ loos, with their throats ripped out.”

This is a great opening line and what follows will make you laugh as self-absorbed Lissa bemoans how this is just typical of the stuff that happens to her – get dumped, mope, go out and find dead bodies. Harris’s depiction of Lissa and her turn of phrase had me laughing a lot. There is a really appealing dark humour to this novel blended with some lovely poignant moments.

Lissa has the wondrous fortune of getting over being dumped by meeting a young goth guy and the potential is there for “true love” – or at least that's her hope, until he is killed. Determined to find out who is ruining her life (it’s all about her at this stage) and who is killing people around her, Lissa undertakes her own investigations. This is how she meets Gary – the "daggy vamp" with a penchant for Hawaiian shirts. The development of both these characters is excellent.

A vampire in Hawaiian shirts – yep Harris chucks several vampire stereotypes out of the window and I love it. There are no tall dark and handsome, brooding vampires to take your breath away and romance you. They range from creepy stalker types, arrogant toffs, through to your ancient predatory (utterly unappealing) ones.

Occasionally I wanted the pacing of the novel to pick up, but really those moments were few and far between. There are no plot surprises about who is the bad guy or where the plot is heading. However, I found that neither of these mattered, because what I was enjoying was the development of the friendship between Lissa and Gary. Gary's friendship with a human makes him different to other vampires and sparks some fundamental changes within him.

There is an underlying theme with the work about the importance of social connections and what it means to be human - it was this that really carried the story for me.

Four Stars

Reviews Published Challenge Participant Professional Reader

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Special Feature

Artist: Katie Stewart

Katie is a writer, illustrator and book cover designer. She lives in the Central Wheat belt of Western Australia.  Katie has illustrated many books and has authored four novels - all of a fantasy bent including The Dragon Box for children through to the wonderful Treespeaker series for adults. (I've read the latter and thoroughly enjoyed it.) Now Katie has embarked on a fun project for kids - the beautifully illustrated  Famous Animals series.  

What inspired you to create your Famous Animals series?

I was taking part in the 52-Week Illustration Challenge on Facebook and the theme was “Italy”. I couldn’t get past ‘opera’ when I thought of Italy, but I didn’t want to have to try to draw a real opera singer, so I drew a fat little mouse in tails singing his heart out. Looking at the finished piece, I decided it wasn’t a mouse, but a rat and then I thought, “It’s Pavaratti!” I couldn’t sleep that night, because my head was full of other animal puns of famous people…and so a book was born.

How did you choose which famous people / animals to include in the series?

For Volume 1, I did a general book of famous people from all walks of life, with no particular theme in mind. I just wanted to see how it would go really. I kept to people who were no longer living, because I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be from living people, but really I just kept going through the list I’d made until I had a good collection of both males and females. When I say ‘the list I’d made’, I should add that quite a few of the ideas came from people on the British ‘Kindle Users Forum’. Being British, they loved puns and came up with some really good ideas.
When I did the Famous Animal Leaders calendar that I’ve just put out (available from Redbubble – adaptable to any starting month so you can buy it all year round), I stuck to pre-twentieth century leaders. If I’d chosen modern leaders, people might have wondered why I chose one politician over another and I didn’t want to get into politics.

With Volume 2 of Famous Animals, I have done some modern characters as well as the historical ones. It has a musical theme and you can’t really cover music if you don’t include some modern musicians. So it covers composers, singers, instrumentalists and dancers from Mozart to Lady Gaga. I’m trying to get this one published by a mainstream publisher though, in the hope it might reach a wider audience.

What medium did you use to create the artwork? How do you go about commencing these drawings? Did you have a clear vision in your head of what you wanted each to look like once you’d decided on which character you were going to draw?

I work entirely on the computer, using a Wacom Cintiq 13HD tablet. They’re all done on a 12in x12in canvas, though in hindsight, I wish I’d used a different shape. I love the Cintiq because I can see what I’m drawing on the screen, or I can look up to my big computer monitor and see more detail. I start with the blank white canvas and a whole lot of reference photos/paintings around it (in Photoshop). I draw the basic idea in black on a transparent layer and then build the painting up in layers underneath that, until I don’t need it anymore and then I turn the drawing layer off. I generally decide on a background when I’ve finished and slip it underneath the character. That’s the joy of digital art. You don’t have to think in order. You can completely change your mind on something without ruining the painting, you can erase without damaging the canvas and you can experiment to see how things look and then go back to the original if you don’t like it.

I don’t always know what I’m going to do with a character before I start and sometimes I have to restart a few times before I’m happy. Often though, especially with the historical figures, there’s a painting that I can see as an animal straight away, so I use that as reference. Sometimes the image I come up with is a collage of ideas from different images I’ve found. 

Sometimes I finish a painting and I just don’t like it. I haven’t deleted any of them because I might later on see a way to fix it, but they don’t get used if I’m not entirely happy with them. 

Find Katie on:

Twitter      Blog      Instagram


Thursday, 22 September 2016

Book Review

Yea Though I Walk

by J.P. Sloan

(Pub: Curiosity Quills Press, 2016)

Yea Though I Walk is genre blending fiction: it is a mix of the western, horror, and paranormal fantasy genres. From the opening sentences, “It’s the smell that hit me first. That sickly-sweet smell of greasy meat and burning hair puts a hook in my gut and drags me awake.” - I had a feeling I was onto a winner with this story.

The plot follows the path of Linthicum Odell, an Army deserter and would-be member of The God Pistols - a band of gun toting vigilantes who clear the west of demons, vampires and other hell spawn. Linthicum has been sent to a town known as Gold Vein to procure silver bullets from the smithy there. On his way he is waylaid and captured by a group of wendigo. His path is now inextricably woven with the complex problems of the ever diminishing citizens of Gold Vein. He finds himself faced with not only an army of cannibals in the hills, but also vampires (strigoi or striggers). It’s all fun from there onward.

Sloan sets the scene wonderfully in first paragraph - I could visualise what was going on extremely well and this opening scene turns out to be an action packed one. In fact there are only a few places where the pacing lags a little in this novel, otherwise it rockets along and I really did have trouble putting it down. Those slower sections are the travelling to and from the homestead to the town; these become a little repetitive, but in hindsight I think there are some clues in there - however I missed them at the time.

The characters are diverse. Some of them typical of what you would expect within a western style novel, but they’re not one-dimensional. Their voices throughout are convincingly different - you'll understand what I mean by this when you read it. Sloan writes that stereotypical western drawl/slang that we expect to see from some of the characters and yet the dialogue for Folger who is from the east coast and Katerina who is from Eastern Europe also seemed to me to be well done.

Part of the way through the novel I thought the plot was going to twist in a particular direction, but discounted it because it simply didn’t seem feasible. There is also cute, but brief, section of dialogue dealing with existentialism and vampires. So when the plot twist, that I thought impossible happened, I was momentarily angry, thinking that the author had pulled an elephant out of his existential hat and was expecting us to ignore it. I was delighted when the plot took yet another twist, wholly unexpected, that left me smiling and saying to myself, “Thank you.” (Then, of course, I went back to the book trying to find the clues I had missed.)

I really did enjoy the blending of some of the classic vampire mythos into a new world / western environment. I thought this was not only different, but interesting. Yea Though I Walk rollicks along for the most part and is a highly enjoyable read.

4 Stars.

Reviews Published Challenge Participant Professional Reader

Friday, 16 September 2016


 Guest Post by Felicity Banks

Ever wondered what interactive fiction is? Felicity Banks, author of the recently released Heart of Brass - a steampunk adventure set in colonial Australia, and a swathe of interactive fiction stories, will fill us in & tell you how you can get started in interactive fiction.

What is interactive fiction?

Choice-based interactive fiction (as opposed to Parser interactive fiction, which has puzzles) is exactly like a normal story except the reader gets a say in where the story goes. That can be as minor as choosing how to feel about an event (does the hero panic? Do they worry about their friends? Do they wish they were stronger or smarter?), or as major as travelling to a completely different country for part or all or the story.

A lot of choice-based interactive fiction is similar to Choose Your Own Adventure novels, except modern interactive fiction is usually 100% digital and released as an app rather than an e-book. This has led to a culture in which a lot of IF lets the reader choose their own name, gender, and even sexuality. Suddenly every character is a strong female hero!

How is it different to writing straight novels?

It's all about choices, and there is an expectation that the reader has a lot of control. That means shorter, punchier scenes and often writing in second person and/or present tense. The more choice the reader has over the personality of the main character, the more the character feels like a blank slate at the beginning of the story. There's also an innate frustration for both the writer and the reader, because interactive fiction gives the illusion of total freedom... but the only true freedom is a blank page. An interactive fiction story should also be able to be "replayed" meaning that a reader should be able to get a completely different experience of the book by making different choices. That means that most or all of the possible endings leave the reader thinking, "But what if I'd done such-and-such? Was it really worth prioritising my marriage over my career?"

When did you realise you wanted to write interactive fiction?

January 2015. My health was declining and I realised I wasn't going to be able to go back to work in child care. A friend told me about Choice of Games offering a $10,000 advance based on an outline, so I sent them my writing CV. We sent my pitch and outline back and forth a few times before they rejected it—but by that time I'd already written most of the book!

I finished Attack of the Clockwork Army, and Choice of Games put it on their Hosted Games label, meaning that I'd get royalties only. No-one had heard of me and I'd never sold an interactive story before, but it earned me about $2000 anyway. I was stunned that there was such a market for interactive books, and I had an excuse to write more. I now work for Tin Man Games, which is a truly fantastic and internationally-famous Australian game company. They're also a lot of fun to work with.

Do you have a favourite author of interactive fiction?

I like Brendan Patrick Henessy (Birdland), Eric Moser (Community College Hero 1), Kevin Gold, (Choice of Robots), and anything by Emily Short (except for Galatea, which is probably her most famous work).

What advice would you give beginners to interactive fiction?
If you've written a few novels and you want to earn money, start by sending your writing credits to Choice of Games. If you're fascinated by the form, jump into Twine and have a play (Birdland was written in Twine). It's free and takes about ten minutes to get started. If you'd like to test the waters, try entering a contest: The Windhammer Prize entries have to be both short and printable rather than digital. Introcomp is specifically designed for unfinished games. The Spring Thing welcomes beginners (they even have a "Back Garden" so critics know to mind their manners and be gentle with new people). The IF Comp is so huge a large number of reviewing blogs organise their year around it.

Be warned that the IF Community has an extremely deep (sometimes bruising) tradition of reviewing. It's normal for even the best games to draw both praise and criticism, and for some games to be roundly condemned (especially in the IF Comp). On the other hand, I placed 7th in the IF Comp in 2015, and was offered three different paid jobs as a result!

If you want to learn about the world of IF, then read blogs and games (most of the competitions above are publicly judged, so go play!)

Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?

Choices: And Their Souls Were Eaten is a serialised story that releases a new section each week (the first week is free, and continuing the story costs a few dollars). Readers can choose to turn the music and sounds on or off. If they have an apple watch, it can play a crucial role in the story (spoilers!) or they can switch off that function.

The main character has the magical ability to carry the souls of the deceased (a form of magical last rites). They have a duty to face dangerous training, which they've avoided for some years. The story begins when the main character is on the cusp of adulthood. A powerful woman guesses they have magical talent, and demands their help. At the same time, an immortal white bear is stalking them. One way or another, they have to face their fears. Their life changes forever as a result.

They're soon swept up in an international war between the living and the dead.

It's a steampunk story set in the same magical steampunk universe as my novel Heart of Brass, but without any overlapping characters or plot (so no spoilers). Choices: And Their Souls Were Eaten is set in a steampunk 1830s Europe, when Queen Victoria was a teenage princess and the power of steam was changing everyday life forever.

Is it a deliberate marketing strategy to have a novel and an interactive fiction app that use the same fantasy steampunk world?

Yes and no! People usually stick to what they like best—people who like novels are often bewildered by interactive fiction, and people who like interactive fiction often have a specific style or platform they're addicted to. So technically, writing in the same universe on different platforms is a terrible idea.

At the same time, it amuses me—and I think I'm doing the interactive fiction world and the world of novel readers a favour by spreading the world about interactive fiction.

In fact, I have five different stories set in my magical steampunk world, and all of them are on wildly different platforms! 

In chronological order by setting:

Choices: And Their Souls Were Eaten - subscription story app on itunes or android.

Heart of Brass - novel

After the Flag Fell - short interactive story (a printable document)

Stuff and Nonsense - currently a Live Action Role Play; will be converted and entered in the 2016 IF Comp.

Attack of the Clockwork Army - interactive novel that has an option to play as a character from the novel

Click here to Find Felicity's interactive fiction

Friday, 9 September 2016


Author: Chris McMahon

Chris McMahon is an Australian writer of fantasy and science fiction (You can check out my review of his book The Calvanni (The Jakirian Cycle, Book 1) here)

Tell us a little about yourself

I am a Speculative Fiction writer based in sunny Brisbane, Australia. I have a lovely wife, Sandra, and three children, Aedan, Declan and Brigit.

Being able to escape into the realm of the imagination was handy growing up as the youngest in a family of eleven, and that grew into a love of fantasy and science fiction, storytelling, and the written word.

There is a special satisfaction in being able to share the worlds I create with my readers and have them enjoy the journey. For me, as a writer, that's the ultimate destination.

To have people allow you that special place in their minds is truly a privilege.

Also an engineer, I am lucky to be able to apply this specialist knowledge and mindset to my writing. When it comes to technology and the mechanics of world building, I can bring an obsessive thoroughness that pays dividends in the depth and texture of the worlds I create, and in the scientific credibility of the concepts integral to my science fiction.
What I create definitely has an edge of unique inventiveness.

What did you read as a child?

Everything I could get my hands on, which wasn’t much. For most of my childhood — apart from what I read at school — it was television movies that were the storytelling medium I absorbed.

Reading was not encouraged by my parents, and I was given no books as a child. It was only when I was old enough to get myself to a local council library that this world opened up to me, and I found myself drawn to speculative fiction and adventure novels, including historical fiction. So I guess I am a late starter to literature, not to storytelling though. I absorbed the elements of storytelling quite early through film, and my imagination leapt to fill the gap. As a young child, I was always in some adventure in my own mind, filled with rich variety of creatures, characters and challenges of my own invention.

What writers or films would you say have influenced you the most?

My favourite writer is David Gemmell - a British Heroic Fantasy author that unfortunately died way too young in 2007. I love Gemmell's books, and continue to return to them again and again.

Last year I read through all of David Gemmell's novels in publication order (around thirty books), then ended by reading White Knight Black Swan - the only one I had never read before. 

Getting hold of White Knight Black Swan has been a personal quest for me. Over the years, I have spent many hours hunting through second hand book stores here in Brisbane hoping to come across a copy. Eventually I realised this was pretty much nigh on impossible, since WKBS had such a low publication run (and only in the UK I believe). So I bit the bullet and purchased a copy from a rare book dealer, then put it away until my birthday. It was not cheap, but it was worth it. Waiting each year for his new book used to be one of my greatest pleasures, and I knew this would be the last time I read a new David Gemmell book. The time came, and I read it as slowly as I possibly could. It was a bittersweet pleasure.

Tell us a little about The Jakirian Cycle.  How did the idea for the Jakirian Cycle come about?

The Jakirian Cycle is a three-book fantasy series – The Calvanni, Scytheman and Sorcerer. It’s Heroic Fantasy set on the world of Yos, with unique ecology and twin suns, where all metal is magical and control of magic is the basis for power. The series follows Cedrin and Ellen as they face deeper and more hidden threats. Pursuing them is Raziin, a vicious renegade who seeks to claim the ultimate power of the Spear of Carris for himself. Eventually they must face a final challenge as the most ancient secrets that bind their three bloodlines are revealed.

In The Calvanni, first of the epic Jakirian Cycle, the cavern-dwelling Eathal have emerged to wreak their vengeance on mankind. The fate of innocent thousands rests on finding the Scion – lost heir to the fallen Empire. The Temple has outlawed the ancient practice of Sorcery. Its Druids dominate religious and secular power, but are ill-equipped to resist an unknown evil once contained by the Emperors.

The Jakirian Cycle has gritty, fast-paced action with strong themes of Heroic Fantasy. The setting includes fantastical magical artefacts such as glowmetals; ceramic weapons and an array of new creatures. The characters travel through both urban and rural landscapes, with both a depth of history and a layering of cultures.

The Calvanni starts during Storm Season on the world of Yos, when the twin suns eclipse and the planet is plunged into bitter cold. It is usually a time of quiet, when the wise lock their doors, praying for the demons of the red sun-Goddess Uros to pass them by. Yet deep in the Caverns of Maht, Hukum, the Sorcerer-Lord of cavern-dwelling Eathal, plots his vengeance.

Cedrin, a street-wise calvanni (knife-fighter), is summoned to the secret underground tunnels of the Brotherhood of the Night. There, Cedrin is forced to join in a rebellion against the rulers of his native Athria. Caught between the threat of death and his suspicions that all is not what it seems, he must try to keep his friends alive and escape.

Ellen, daughter of the assassinated Athrian Sarlord, is named as heir before his death. She struggles to assert herself as the new ruler, little suspecting the civil war that will be unleashed on Athria within days.

Ellen’s father warned her never to reveal her hidden powers of Sorcery, but as Hukum’s minions close in, it seems she has little choice.

How much time did you spend planning The Calvanni / The Jakirian Cycle?

This is a difficult question to answer. The project has been boiling away in various forms for decades. My work on it has been sandwiched in between study and my engineering career, so it’s difficult to pin it down. I’ve also given the books a number of major rewrites. But if I added it all up, end to end, and included the time I spend imagining the world and the story? Probably at least a year of solid work in planning, if not years. Scary really.

Was there a particular inspiration for the magic system you devised within the novels? How much of this aspect did you plan before writing and how much evolved as you wrote?

Not really. I wanted to create something different, and I spend a lot of time staring into space imagining all the possibilities. In the end, I came up with a system that had three branches of magic, each with its own core magical essence.

The Druids, who follow the suns and moons, gather essence from the heavenly bodies, so their power varies by time. Each different druidic essence has its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, Moon Druids are good healers, but have no power during the day. Uros Druids, who follow the red sun, are very powerful during the time of Storm Season when the red sun, Uros, eclipses the yellow sun, Larus, but their powers are tuned to destruction. The talent to draw on druidic essence is fairly common, and pretty even to both men and women, although the Druidic Temple is male-dominated.

The Priestess’ (and Priests’)  use Earth essence, which is drawn from sacred sites. They can be awesomely powerful, but only within the precincts of their own temples, or in special places. The talent to draw on Earth essence is almost exclusively feminine, with some exceptions.

Then there are the Sorcerers, the most powerful and most feared of them all. They have innate power they draw from the realm of Fire. Their power does not depend on time or place, and they are almost always stronger than either a Druids or Priestess’. The power of a Sorcerer though, is granted through bloodlines, so it is a recessive, inherited trait, and quite rare.

At the time of the Jakirian Cycle, the world of Yos is coming out of a period of a magical Purge, during which the Druidic Temple came to dominance by hunting down and destroying those with the power of Sorcery.

I pretty much worked out the whole magic system before I started writing, but then again that’s what I do. I tend to plan the story before I write.

What was your inspiration for the variety of exotic creatures in The Calvanni?

From the outset, I wanted to create something different with the world of Yos, something unique. Not just another neo-European fantasy world of swords and sorcery — not that there’s anything wrong with that, I love reading those novels — I just wanted to make my world stand out as unique.

When I was putting the world of Yos together, I happened to be reading David Attenborough’s Life on Earth. That book really opened my eyes up to evolutionary influences. So I began to think how the environmental forces of my new world might shape and direct the evolution of its life.

The world of Yos has two suns and two moons. The planet itself orbits the two suns (or more correctly the centre of mass of the binary pair). Because they are all on the same orbital plane, it means that the two suns will regularly eclipse. When they do, the amount of solar radiation hitting the planet decreases dramatically, causing a regular cooling period. How life on the planet deals with that is the major driving force for evolution on Yos. Basically there have been two approaching to surviving the sudden cold, either taking shelter and getting out of the weather, or an adapted acceleration of metabolism that is designed to counteract the cold. The humans on Yos evolved with the second approach, having a mechanism called the Heat, which burns reserves to counter the cold. Whereas humanity’s cousins, the Eathal, took the first approach. The Eathal, like many other creatures, took to the vast caverns beneath Yos’ mountain ranges (carved out by drakons over long time periods), where an entire ecosystem took hold.

I also played around with the idea of a whole branch of evolution descended from six-legged creatures, leading to birds with arms and wings, as well as an intelligent avian species.

I spend a lot of time of the worldbuilding of Yos, and the setting just grew and grew. I think it helps to have that depth of background, as it adds to the texture of the story.

Can you tell us about your next project?

My SF novel, The Tau Ceti Diversion, has pretty much been my labour of love for the last two years, and I’m excited to say that it’s just been released through Severed Press! The launch will be here in Brisbane on 22nd September.
The Tau Ceti Diversion is an action-driven mystery in a science fiction setting.

The first interstellar exploration vessel Starburst sets out from Earth in 2157, but this is no NASA science mission, it’s funded by the mega-corporation ExploreCorp. A planet suitable for colonisation means not only massive profits, but a chance for Commander Janzen to restore his family’s exulted position. But is the executive turned space-explorer, Janzen,  equipped to deal with a real crisis?

On approach to the planet Cru, the Starburst is hit with a surge of deadly radiation that kills most of the crew and disables the ship. It’s a fight for survival as sub-Commander Karic struggles to get control of the fusion drive before the ship turns into a giant hydrogen bomb.

Karic rises to the challenge as he takes command and leads the survivors to the planet Cru. The thirst for exploration and the quest for alien first contact soon go head-to-head with corporate greed and the need for profit at any cost, as Janzen and Karic clash.

As if surviving on an alien planet wasn’t hard enough, they soon discover that Cru is already occupied . . . and its once vast civilisation is on the threshold of a momentous change.

The story has been with me for a long time, so I’m really excited that this novel will set sail into the big wide world later this year.

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