The Human Condition

The I' Ra Heru, Spirit Creator of the Ra Cath

The I' Ra Heru, Spirit Creator of the Ra Cath

Why write an epic fantasy novel? Because of the challenge, of course!

As I've previously written - the key to writing a real epic fantasy novel lies in the word epic. But this doesn’t just mean big in scale, scope, and size. It is a vehicle for understanding what life is about. And even though the story may have strange creatures, or perhaps takes place on an unbelievable world that doesn’t exist it needs to be applicable to the human condition.

For The Harrow series we explore some common themes of the human condition: the examination of the nature of good and evil, the many definitions of love and compassion, the ultimate meaning of life, the struggle one has with their faith, the quest to understand oneself, and the challenge of making the transition from childhood to adulthood.

Yet, the exploration of the human condition does not always take place with a human character. This is what is truly extraordinary about the epic fantasy novel. Insights are gained in unusual and wondrous ways! The reader is forced to make linkages as themes are revealed in a slow manner. The reader’s discovery is more rewarding.  

In The Harrow: Shadow in the Flame, we learn more about the divine felines, the Ra Cath. In particular we learn of their faith, and of their struggles in understanding their reality. Here is an excerpt:


The great muscular cat sat alone. Here was the Utine Heru, Lead of the Balor warriors, and a direct descendant of Ra Carathor, the Prime Heru and first Guild Lord. As he looked upon the vast army of the Balor he thought of his younger days, of the great statue of the I' Ra Heru, the mighty feline creator of the Ra Cath. The statue depicted the I’ Ra Heru as a large and powerful feline, with long golden fur, streaks of white and blue, and blackish horns protruding from his massive shoulders. The I’ Ra Heru was a spirit and great stories were written about him. He thought of the stories and of the I’ Ra Heru’s teachings as written by the many Ra Cath clerics. Theirs was a complex faith, one which embodied an understanding of the trials of survival. It was said that the essence of the I’ Ra Heru embodied all Heru felines. But this was something the Utine Heru struggled with.

I look to thee I’ Ra Heru for guidance during these troubled times. I look to you with abundant faith, for the sustenance to help me prevail. I am but your servant during times of war and peace. Your teachings talk of noise and of quiet; of the right choices and of the wrong choices; of the many paths each brings. But I am but your servant.

The Utine Heru looked upon the vast army. A tear came to his eye.

I do not understand why you present such challenges, such noise, the kind that will only bring death and destruction. I do not understand why it must be this way.


An epic fantasy novel is an exploration of the big questions in life. Any writer must produce a work that will enrich other peoples lives by shedding light on the human condition.

Welcome Amazon

Molly, Queen of Ahlgren imprisoned by the Ru Gwaith

Molly, Queen of Ahlgren imprisoned by the Ru Gwaith

I’m pleased to announce that The Harrow books will be exclusively sold at Amazon. It’s a thrill to be published, let alone be associated with such a wonderful retailer like Amazon. And, we have a second edition now in print with Amazon, with a new cover and all!

Becoming an author doesn't happen by chance. It's true. It takes determination, and plenty of sleepless nights working away at your computer. It also takes countless hours of thinking, reflecting, and mentally mapping out what can happen next in your story. I do not write from an outline. Instead, I write various scenes and then think of what ifs and plot out upcoming scenes in my mind. For me, the act of creation is exciting.

Sure, all this sounds like a given. But I never worried too much about getting published; I first focused on writing my story.

Now, to answer some questions:

Who is my favorite character?

Well, I have so many. It is difficult to name just one. I most enjoy those characters at the extreme, those characters who are purely good in nature, or those purely evil. I can take those characters at the extreme and play with their emotions or intentions, and add complexity. In the series you never truly know a character, much like in real life where you never truly know what is in a person’s heart.

The young sisters Molly and Elizabeth are the main characters, yet not a lot of time is spent with them. Why?

This is not unusual especially with an epic fantasy where there are many characters. The story initially centers on Molly and Elizabeth but quickly wraps around many new and unique characters. In From Under a Tree, a lot of time is spent with the two sisters. We learn about each of the girls, we experience how they begin to mature, while at the same time we begin to understand the magical fantasy world of The Harrow. Shadow in the Flame, the second book of the series, reveals more about Molly and Elizabeth, but spends more time illuminating on themes, characters, and mysteries.

You’ve characterized Shadow in the Flame as darker and sinister. Explain.

The second book is darker in its tone. It begins by unraveling the mystery of the evil Szard’s mentor, and then moves to the first of several battles between good and evil. More characters are introduced and we discover some dark motives and secrets of others, some close to the girls. Molly and Elizabeth’s journey to confront the evil brood begins while the land boils in turmoil. There are several elements of political and cultural intrigue as well. I’m not going to provide  spoilers, other than to say that all is not always what it appears to be. Finally, the reader begins to understand how the magical land came into existence.

What you will find is that the interplay of characters who share some familial relationship proves a microcosm of what is being acted out in the book. The ravages of war that hold the fate of kingdoms in their grasp are made most poignant in the lives of the characters, who are likely seeing those they love, suffer or die. And sometimes, a character becomes a sacrificial lamb to the ravages.

Enjoy!

I Write Because I Can

Young Miragrin faces the Orc Master, Drogur Vorn

Young Miragrin faces the Orc Master, Drogur Vorn

I’ve been asked: Why do I write, and especially why do I write an epic fantasy?

Well, the answer is simple: I write because I can.

Writing is the act of creation using words; it is a release from reality. More importantly, writing is a process of connecting with others.

Words, those wonderfully interwoven, at their best can build bridges that span gaps between genders, cultures, biases and generations. In short, words can connect people, mind to mind, spirit to spirit. Words communicate to relay ideas, emotions and opinions. And they continue to do so; well after they’ve been put to paper.

So I continue to write with the hope that somewhere someone has connected with my words. And in that moment, that instant, a blink of an eye, there’s a feeling of recognition, a widening of perspective, a shared experience.

As it regards the epic fantasy genre, it is the one genre that truly focuses on heroes taking on challenges of epic proportions and overcoming obstacles that are seemingly impossible to overcome. It is a complex process of weaving together patterns of characters, plots, cultures, and themes.  

I never tire of falling in love with new characters and watching them grow and change. I never get bored watching them interact with each other—whether it's a page of witty dialogue or an argument that ends badly. There's something truly incredible about creating characters people care about, and writing a story people want to read, and devising a world with just words that fascinates me.

There's something about creating something out of nothing, something about having words strike wondrous images of a time and place that does not exist, that I absolutely love. It gets me over and over again.

Of Ajatars! Meet Tura Mori Mengel from Book Two!

In Book One: From Under a Tree I introduce the ajatar, a mythical creature akin to a dragon. The ajatar is actually an evil spirit that manifests itself in the form of a large, winged serpent. As with a dragon, the ajatar can fly and emit fire from its breath. Additionally, it spreads disease and pestilence. The history of ajatars in the Harrow is only briefly mentioned in the first book. In fact a good ajatar, Moondancer as he is called, is introduced as the last of the En’ Carad. But in Book Two: Shadow in the Flame, more time is spent on these creatures. Much more is revealed and learned.

The Tura of the Lok Tumu, Mori Mengel.

The Tura of the Lok Tumu, Mori Mengel.

These creatures have been a storytelling staple for ages, and it’s easy to see why we keep coming back to them. Regal yet terrifying, these mystical creatures create instant conflict, with their fire-breathing and evil ways. Some of the more popular fictional characters include Smaug from The Hobbit, the Jabberwocky from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, Falkor from The Neverending Story, the space dragon called Sir Isaac Newton from Heinlein’s Between Planets, and Saphira Bjartskular from Christopher Paolini’s The Inheritance Cycle series. Oh, yes, and there are such creatures in George R. R. Martin’s books as well.

But then there is The Worm Ouroboros, written in 1922 by E.R. Eddison. It is a classic epic heroic fantasy written well before Tolkien’s trilogy, a story of good versus evil. Eddison's 520-page tale was an inspiration to Tolkien, who wrote in a letter that he enjoyed his books "for their sheer literary merit," and CS Lewis was also a fan, judging that "no writer can be said to remind us of Eddison." For those who have not read Eddison’s novel, be warned the language is rich and is based on Tudor and Jacobean English. It takes some getting used to, but is well worth the time. Of interest is that Eddison refers to his world as Middle Earth in the book on several occasions.

The Worm Ouroboros is a classic tale. Yet, even though its title refers to the Norse mythology, the dragon named Ouroboros that swallows its own tail, no such creature appears in Eddison’s tale. The title is symbolic of the cyclical nature of the fight between good and evil, of war and battle, of death and re-birth.

Book Two: Shadow in the Flame begins to reveal the history of the Harrow’s ajatars. We learn of the two races of ajatars, the En’Carad and the Lok Tumu. We learn that each race was born of the fire of creation, the Ay’ Panul, that moment in time, or as Tollen Popperdock states, “that one instance, that one blink of an eye, when all that was suddenly became all that is.”

In one chapter, we meet the master of the Lok Tumu, the one named Mori Mengel, and we learn more of the race of ajatars.

“The mountain ‘Ksh Nierwes was a hive of fire and evil and its master was Mori Mengel, the oldest of the black ajatars, the one the others called the Tura. It was said that the malevolent Mengel was born of the fires of the Ay’ Panul, with a soul as black as the darkest place in the night sky, and it was he, Tura Mori Mengel who led the onslaught of the En’ Carad during the Age of Fire. Mengel was massive, towering over other ajatars. He was left with only one eye, which blazed a fiery orange; the other eye, lost in battle, was replaced with a large onyx stone. His scales were dark brown, lighter shades at the edges which were dulled with age, yet they still formed complicated patterns. His talons remained long and somewhat sharp; his wings still enormous and powerful, yet with gashes and holes. The aged ajatar remained dominant, ruling over ‘Ksh Nierwes, still mating with female ajatars, and intermittently fighting off younger males.”

We love dragons because dragons are more than just a creature; they represent everything we want to believe in as humans. They represent magic, wisdom, power, and most of all a notion that anyone can be a hero, the one to slay the dragon. 

Why Cats?

T.S. Eliot wrote a poem entitled the Naming of Cats. It is a bit longer than what follows, and I’ve made a few modifications, but it goes something like this . . .

From Book Two - Morna Anya and Delotha Sil'

From Book Two - Morna Anya and Delotha Sil'

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have three different names.

First of all, there's the name that the family use daily,
Each a very sensible and everyday name.
Next, there are fancier names that may sound more gaily,
Most which are rarely ever, ever the same.

Yet, above and beyond, there's one name that's left over,
And this is the name you never will guess.
The name that no human research can discover,
But the cat itself knows, and never will confess.

I’ve been asked why I selected cats as lead characters in my novel. For those who know me I frequently use the phrase “Cats are divine creatures.” Oh, and they are!

From Book Two - Shamma, Grand High Priestess of the Tar Shor

From Book Two - Shamma, Grand High Priestess of the Tar Shor

You see, when writing an epic fantasy tale, it seems reality is fantasy’s best friend. We, the audience, and the writer, all live in reality. The problems we understand are real problems. Genuine conflicts. True drama. The drama of families, of lost loves, of conflicts, of trying to discover what reality is all about and where one fits into reality’s massive puzzle. Cruel neighbors and callow bullies and loved ones dead. This is the nature of write what you know, and the fantasy writer’s version of that is, write what’s real. So, you see, a fantasy writer uses fantasy to highlight the reality. You grab the core essence of a true problem and swaddle it in the mad glittery ribbons of fantasy — and therein you find glorious new permutations of conflict. Reality expressed in mind-boggling ways. Reach for fantasy. Find the reality.

So, where do cats fit in? Well, they are no different than the Harrow’s elfs, dwarfs, ajatars, firbolgs, fenri, cu sith, or for that matter humans. For me, cats are a bridge of sorts; they are creature embedded in our reality that everyone understands, yet they are fanciful and mysterious. The cat is a bit of fantasy in our reality.

What lies in the heart of a character is what we understand — and, in fact, relate to — most. Yes, the battlefield is a muddy bloody place of flesh and bone, and magic is used, but those two forces are clashing based on the motives of characters — characters who feel betrayed or vengeful, who send realms to die to rescue peace and freedom, who risk it all because of some real or imagined slight ages before.

For you see, the human heart — even when encased in a cat’s chest — drives fantasy fiction.

Tu kai a’ kai!

 

Announcing The Complete Harrow Companion to Book One

Cover: The Complete Harrow Companion

Cover: The Complete Harrow Companion

I am pleased to announce that The Complete Harrow Companion for Book One: From Under a Tree is now underway. The cover jacket has already been designed and is included in this blog. The cover jacket is itself a teaser to Book Two: Shadow in the Flame as it highlights Morna Anya and Delotha Sil'.

Many readers have asked for more information about the Harrow, its characters, places, and history. So, I’ve been hard at work to categorize the Harrow’s massive legendarium. It is planned to be a neat little book whose title says exactly what it is: The Harrow from Adhara to Zheu Zhullus. I am told there will be black and white illustrations and maps.

A unique insight into the evolution of the story will also be included. Foremost will be the telling of the Ay’ Panul event, the creation of the Harrow, as documented by the great historian Tollen Popperdock. There will be concise explanations of the history of the various realms, the Wizards of the Edainar, the races, the brood, the Uakor Turg, ajatars, and so on.

The Complete Harrow Companion will be a comprehensive guide to Book One: From Under a Tree that ventures behind the scenes to explore the history, the people, the places, the major events, and, of course, the magic of this very strange world I've created. But, don't think for one second the many secrets of the Harrow will be divulged! Not happening!

This companion book will look to tantalize fans and newcomers alike. Now, while some writers may grumble about the pressure to write at such a pace, I look at it differently. I don't know that I have an imagination that would allow me to write better than I do now, even if I had all the time in the world.

As Shaer Thol says: I do what I do and that's the best I can do!

 

 

 

 

The Big Questions in Life

Morna Anya, Wizard of the Edainar

Morna Anya, Wizard of the Edainar

Shaer Thol, Tar Malal

Shaer Thol, Tar Malal

The key to writing a real epic fantasy novel lies in the word epic. But this doesn’t just mean big in scale, scope, and size. An epic fantasy novel doesn’t have to be a thousand page door-stopper. It has to be epic in its ambitious reach for finding answers to the big questions in life. This is the true and hidden goal of epic fantasy. It is a vehicle for understanding what life is about. And even though the story may have strange creatures, and take place on an unbelievable world that doesn’t really exist it needs to be applicable to the human condition.

Chumsey, Warrior of the Balor Guild

Chumsey, Warrior of the Balor Guild

Every epic fantasy author knows of and understands the works of Tolkien. Tolkien’s various accounts of his fantastical land, called Middle-earth, have enjoyed widespread popularity for decades with different audiences, from hippies in the ‘60’s to science-fiction geeks, gamers to renaissance fair enthusiasts. But the very first Middle-earth fans were members of an informal group of Oxford literary enthusiasts known as the Inklings, a group that included C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, Roger Lancelyn Green, and Tolkien himself. The Inklings would meet and read passages from their individual works; they were a discussion group of literary enthusiasts; readings and discussions of the members' unfinished works were the principal purposes of meetings.

Glaeynd, Lady of the Mists

Glaeynd, Lady of the Mists

Tolkien honed his manuscripts through this process and in doing so brought to his readers themes about friendship and self-sacrifice. His stories told the tale of survival and courage, about a touching last stand that paved the way for the ascent of humankind. Tolkien dealt with big questions, and ultimately, so too must all epic fantasy writers.

The Harrow series as any epic fantasy is no different, and beyond the imagery and wondrous descriptions there are core themes – the lust for power and its corrupting impacts, the battle between good and evil and how it rips at the fabric of the soul, altruism and the understanding of the importance of a greater good, harmony between those who are different, the challenge to understand this reality of ours, and determining the validity of faith in something greater.

The Great Erol Carrick

The Great Erol Carrick

In From Under a Tree, the reader begins to not only explore the land of the Harrow, but also begins to explore the struggles of its characters. For example, we learn of the great struggle our feline protagonists Lil’ Man and Chumsey face as they run to the Harrow to escape the certainty of death in their real world. We learn of Glaeynd and how she struggles to understand what has become of her father and her beloved city of Mistmere, a conflict between the past and an unknown future. We witness the courage of Ras Amon who dares to bring the outcast Shaer Thol, a Tar Malal, into the sacred Kaer Taraedar, and in doing so faces the Ra Cath Guild Lords. We bear witness to the maturity of Molly as she grapples with a leadership role. And then there is the great Erol Carrick who must contend with his inner demons as he attempts to prove himself unstained by the evil of death and war. Later, in the second book Shadow in the Flame, the young wizard Morna Anya struggles with her faith, as her attempts to define herself become difficult in a world suddenly complex.  

An epic fantasy novel is an exploration of the big questions in life. More importantly, it is a slow unraveling of truths, a revelation of the hidden reserves of inner strength within characters that they cannot even begin to understand. It is about the big questions in life.

Hemingway, Cats, and Key West

A polydactyl cat in Hemingway's Key West writer's studio

A polydactyl cat in Hemingway's Key West writer's studio

The hold of winter is not broken in one swift stroke of a writer’s pen. Trust me. I have tried. From my window, the depths of winter remain, with snow thick on the ground. A few written words of gentle sounds of birds singing or a warm summer breeze blowing through the trees will not change reality.

Yet, one can close their eyes and dream of warm sands and the splendor and glory of the sun as it sets over Key West. Indeed, even though winter abounds, so too do thoughts of Key West.

Key West is a special place. My wife and I visit it annually. Many of my creations within The Harrow have been inspired by our Key West visits. In fact, one of the lead characters, Glaeynd, came to me on one Key West morning as a soft, silvery mist floated over the ocean. Mistmere was born on that special morning.

Key West was, and always has been, a small town. Its major street, Duval Street, can be a mass of tourists strolling up and down partaking of the numerous shops and bars. Otherwise, Key West can be a sleepy tropical island. In the past, the island was known as a remote place where artists and writers could find quiet, isolation, and escape from the conventions of regular life. Tennessee Williams, for example, was one of the island’s more famous citizens. And then there was Papa Hemingway.

Hemingway spent several years in Key West. His island home is now a tourist destination. The house is enclosed by a high wall that enfolds the landscaped premises. The home itself is a Spanish colonial structure with big, shuttered windows and beautifully kept tropical gardens. It was within the confines of such high walls that Hemingway wrote some of his best novels including Death in the Afternoon and For Whom the Bell Tolls. His writer's studio in the second floor of a free-standing carriage house was once connected by a second story walkway to the master bedroom.

Glaeynd, Lady of the Mists

Glaeynd, Lady of the Mists

In his studio Hemingway was surrounded with things he had collected over the years, and sitting in front of a typewriter would attempt to write at least 700 words each day. His studio was his sanctuary, and he was always joined in his sanctuary by one of several polydactyl cats wandering freely about the compound.

I’ve come to appreciate Hemingway’s writings late in life. The essential characteristic of Hemingway's style is simplicity and precision of word choice. More than the action of his stories, more than the characters, it is the way the characters and the action are presented that matters. It is fair to say that the very spirit of the stories — their mood, tone, and world view — could not exist except as they are embodied in Hemingway's style and creative spirit.

The creative spirit is nourished by novelty, by uniqueness of thought, by inspiration of one’s surroundings; each fresh experience provides wider outlooks and more breadth. Once the creative spirit is found, it becomes as a muse to lead you to wonderful ways to express it. It must become free of the weight of all obstacles, from the shackles of reality.

Hemingway found his creative spirit on the streets of Key West, on the clear ocean waters, in the beautiful gardens within his compound, and in his studio most likely with a cat nearby.

As someone who dabbles in the art of writing, I appreciate different styles and genres. But more importantly, I appreciate those who realize that felines are divine creatures.

Oh, and as it regards the bitterness of winter - just simply close your eyes and feel the warm ocean breezes of Key West!

Welcome New Characters - Book Two: Shadow in the Flame

Well, the cat is out of the bag, as they say.

This week, new graphics were posted to the web site, graphics of two characters that appear in the second book, Shadow in the Flame.

Both characters are very intriguing and I truly enjoy writing about them.

Morna Anya and Delotha Sil'

Morna Anya and Delotha Sil'

The first is Morna Anya, a young wizard who is forsaken to the darkest dungeons of Blackstone Keep for these simple reasons: she is young and she discovered an evil presence. The Wizards of the Edainar are distrusting of youth; they fear that which they cannot control. Early in Shadow in the Flame, Morna resides in her dungeon cell with her friend, a black cat and Tar Malal called Delotha Sil’. Morna Anya later becomes a key figure in the battle waged against evil. Does she become a Dark Wizard? Does she side with the forces of the righteous? What internal struggles will she face? Time will tell.

Here is our first glance at Morna Anya, the dungeons of Blackstone Keep . . .

Continuing through the dark and dank labyrinth of stairs and passageways, the wizard Argannon came upon a cell, one he visited most often. He peered through the small slit in the metal door, into the cell’s darkness. With a gentle wave of his hand came a slight glow to the darkened cell revealing a young female on a stone slab, a black cat cradled in her arms. The woman was Morna Anya; the cat was called Delotha Sil’, a Tar Malal. Both were sound asleep, and they looked so peaceful. But the wizard knew that under the calm appearance both were experiencing his nightmarish spells. Singularly lovely she appeared, her slenderness sheathed in a black robe whose clinging and sheen highlighted her shape, delicate curves, her long black hair fallen over the sides of her stone bed. Argannon stared at her face. He studied its contour, narrow and high cheekbones, full red lips. He remembered her eyes, soft, green and sparkling, almond-shaped, hidden under long, black lashes. Her neck was thin and elegant; her skin smooth and clear, and flawless. And upon her neck was the Mark of the Tree, only slightly faded. Ah, Morna Anya, my Morna, the wizard thought. If only you had kept your secrets to yourself. Some secrets are best left in the mind of their keeper.  

Straya, Captain of the Shyr Shar

Straya, Captain of the Shyr Shar

The second is Straya, captain of the elite Etinian fighting force called the Shyr Shar. She wields the sword named Megil En’ Gur, or ajatar killer, for it was used by her mother to slay the wicked beasts. Straya is a powerful young woman who is feared by both sides of the confrontation. Her temper and anger sometimes gets the best of her and she easily provokes others.  Straya becomes a pivotal character in the story. She is a complex person who never fails to amaze.

We first meet Straya on the battlefield, of course . . .

Roundthaler turned to the Shyr Shar and motioned for its captain. There amongst the fierce warriors upon a chestnut-colored horse was an Etinian female named Straya. She was a beautiful and powerful woman, with a finely-chiseled face, large, deep-brown eyes and flowing brown hair woven into a single long braid which ran down her back. Her body was lean and golden, and it glistened under the hazy clouds, her muscles rippled like the water in a mountain stream. She wore a short brown leather dress with attached steel armor parts and a short metal overskirt. Her boots were black leather and came up to her knees.

The captain of the Shyr Shar was known as a ferocious warrior who showed no mercy to any rival and who killed, as it was said, for the pure pleasure of the act. On her neck lay a necklace of teeth and small bones strung on braided threads of her own hair, the artifacts of those she had killed in battle. The sword she wielded with such deadly skill was called Megil En’ Gur, Ajatar Killer, as it had been used in past battles by her mother to slay the deadly beasts. The sword was magnificent and long, its handle highlighted with protruding steel carvings of ajatar wings and heads. Its blade sparkled as if it had been wrought with the dust of a hundred diamonds, and even though it had been through countless battles there was not a single blemish or hint of deterioration on its surface. Megil En’ Gur was a true work of beauty, a weapon, it was said, that fed from the emotions of its keeper.

Many authors of epic fantasy fiction have long neglected female characters, placing female characters in plots absolutely pivotal to the story. This was a trap I wished to avoid. Both Morna Anya and Straya are not only key to the story, they fulfill specific roles that hold true to their very nature. They are not flat or static, they have flaws, they each excel at what they do, they have a set of values that help or disrupt their decision making,  and they face monumental challenges.

I am having so much fun with the second book. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another ten years!

Writing the Harrow, Part One

I’ve been asked how I write. How is it that you’ve been able to come up with so many ideas, a different world, and even a language?

Well, there’s no magic formula for novel-writing. Every novel demands its own structure, its own pace, its own way of looking at the world. Writing a novel, or any piece of fiction for that matter, isn’t just a head-banging exercise in utter frustration and despair, although at times it can sometimes be just that. It's about how the journey is taken.

For those who know me, they know my wife and I love Key West. And for those who have visited Key West, you know what I am about to say. Writing for me is like being in Key West. It’s a deep swim into your own head space, a really fun adventure, and one of the most thrillingly things a person can do. It’s your own separate world; it’s what you get to make of it; it can be relaxing and soothing; it can be exhilarating and breathtaking.

For the Harrow series, my writing style has been and remains different than others. With the Harrow and any epic fantasy, I get to make it, populate it, cultivate it, and bring all of the pieces together. I do not write from an outline; I allow the story, the characters, and the place to take me where I need to go. Next, I have the setting lead me. A perfect example of this is with Ian McEwan’s chilling novella, The Comfort of Strangers.  The story derives much of its tension from the setting of Venice - the convoluted streets and hidden alleys are essential to the feeling of disorientation that leads to the protagonist’s undoing.

For me, the author is on the same journey as the reader during the act of writing or creation. She or he simply is the first to experience it all.

Tu kai a’ kai!

More and More Readers

Well, thanks to The Post Standard we’ve received some nice publicity.

You can visit the recent article here.

We’re getting more and more readers and those who have read From Under a Tree are asking about the second book. As I’ve stated previously, the second book will be darker and deeper, will reveal so much more about the Harrow and its characters, and hopefully will not take me another ten years to finish. I already have several chapters written.

My appreciation to everyone who has helped me along the way. I am thankful that so many have enjoyed From Under a Tree.

As the ancients of the Harrow say . . . Tu kai a’ kai!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

It’s now been more than ten years since I started the first book in The Harrow saga, From Under a Tree.  And yet, the story of two young sisters trying to save a magical land refuses to fade.

In moving forward the tale continues to grow, along with Molly and Elizabeth, and a host of new characters, plots, and mystery. The second book features backstory about The Harrow, some history that was never been revealed in the first book, and includes some frightening events related to the Edainar, the Order of Wizards and part of the Harrow’s protectorate. The second book, Shadow in the Flame brings forth new encounters with political, history, and religion or spiritual aspects.

I’ve been reminded that “there are no new stories, just new ways to tell them.”

Just know that The Harrow saga is the telling of an epic and mythic story in a very new way.

The Harrow - A Different Epic Fantasy

I am pleased that we’ve had over 100 digital down loads of From Under a Tree, many from around the world. Wow! Can you believe that? Google Play has picked up the book as have other retailers

Meanwhile, I’m off again and onto the second book, Shadow in the Flame.

Yet, as I move forward with The Harrow I am reminded of the true nature of the epic fantasy tale. It is a genre about heroes taking on challenges of epic proportions and overcoming obstacles that are seemingly impossible to overcome. For the most part, the genre has produced multi-volume cookie cutter novels that follow a specific formula, a formula following the great epic fantasy novelists of recent times.

I believe The Harrow is unique in many ways and breaks this trend.  Two of the major differences are striking. First, with The Harrow the heroes are young girls who garner courage in the face of insurmountable odds, simply by maturing, by discovering their purpose and how they fit into the strange world. Molly is truly on a journey of self-discovery, battling internal conflicts, trying to understand how best to go about things. Secondly, The Harrow has the courage to tackle some big questions and the big themes in life. You will begin to see this as the tale continues to be told. As many of the story’s secrets begin to unfold, the major themes will be revealed, some of which are bold and frightening.

The Harrow is an epic fantasy with many embedded secrets.

It's All About Time

In today’s world, we often feel a rush to everything. Sometimes, though, it is best to take your time. I was asked the other day why it took so long to write From Under a Tree, ten years to be exact. My quick response was “It’s all about time, isn’t it?”

Yes, I took a lot of time. Over the years I would write passages each month, and there were a couple of years where I did not write a word. It was in those years I thought of things like what a bobbin would look like, what it might do and why, and how groups of creatures would govern themselves. And, of course, to write an epic fantasy you have to develop a history from which the story is born.

So, I would write, and not write; I would think and edit, but not too much editing. I wrote and considered the back-story. I drew maps and even wrote poetry, songs characters might sing. And, I’ve fussed over many things: had I gotten it all right, had I been consistent throughout.

Over the ten years, From Under a Tree has improved. There’s not too much I would change, of course, already having changed many things in the tale. For me, success lies in the skill of those revisions. Writing is rewriting. A story can get better, with sufficient time to set it aside, rethink key passages, connect more dots, build the back-story, and deepen the thematic elements.

One of the best things I ever did was to set From Under a Tree aside to let it cool, before returning to revise with a fresher eye and ear.

A Lonely Craft . . .

Writing is a lonely craft.

It has taken me ten years to write my first novel. For you see, I write for such a small audience - myself. The characters and the story must first please me; I must be the one compelled to turn the next page in excitement and anticipation.

My inspiration comes first and foremost from a single thought, a solitary idea. And this single thought, this solitary idea comes from answering a basic question: what can happen next? My inspiration comes from the countless answers to that one question that is asked countless times. It comes from on high and fills me like fire.

I continually entertain myself with fragments of narrative, dialogue and plot twists and as soon as I’m in front of a blank page, they come to life.

So, welcome to my world - the Harrow. As you read From Under a Tree you will fall in love with the characters and imagery, the story lines and various plots. At the same time, the twists and turns will be put you on edge, wanting for more.

Even though writing may be a lonely craft, it is only lonely at the start. For you see an author soon begins to invite others into his world.

As Hemingway once said: “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now.”

ePub Version Now Avalable

I am so excited to announce that my book is now available in epub format!

How thrilling is this? You can purchase the digital version directly from this web site! I am told the download link, when purchased, will be available for a 24-hour period.

Now, truth be told - the epub version was slated for a January 2015 release. Regardless, it is so exciting to see my book in all three formats - hardcover, trade paperback, and now digital.

Already, I've had one reader write me and ask a series of questions about From Under a Tree, and related to story lines in the second book. Well, all I will say is that the second book will answer some questions but not all, and that the story lines run deeper and darker.

As I've said before, I am having a blast now that I'm into the second book, and yes, of course, there will be new characters and places to explore.

In the words of Halbierd, the Dominar of the Edainar: "One cannot hear an answer if the question has not been asked."

So, keep the questions coming and enjoy From Under a Tree!

Buy Now: From Under a Tree

The first edition is in print now!

My first novel is finally here and the web site store is now open. Two editions are available. Over the next 8 weeks it will launch with distributors and go online with the large e-retailers.

The Harrow: From Under a Tree is the first of three novels set in an imaginary world of beauty and darkness. It centers on two girls, sisters, Molly and Elizabeth who upon visiting their Aunt and Uncle on a summer day venture under a sycamore tree and find themselves in a fantastical world known as the Harrow. 

The girls know little of this new world but follow their Uncle’s pet cat on a great adventure. Along the way they meet with various friends of their Uncle. At the beginning, they meet with an order of wizards and learn that a long dead evil has been reawakened and is plotting to destroy this strange world. A most powerful weapon against this darkness rests on a necklace given to Molly by her Uncle. It is the Lia Fail stone, which could only be used by the Queen of Ahlgren. Over time, the stone’s magical powers change Molly as Queen. She begins to mature as she realizes that all hope rests with her.

Soon storms from the east bring the worm brood and the Uakor Turg, dreaded minions of evil, while ghost demons and dark wizards wage war across the lands and capture the sacred tree of peace, the Aina Dur.

The Harrow: From Under a Tree is an epic fantasy, combining adventure, suspense, mystery, humor, sorrow, joy and much, much more.

But it is just the beginning . .

From Under a Tree to be Published . . .

 

Well, it is finally over. Final edits have been made and submitted and soon the first book in a trilogy will be available. The book will soon be for sale from the book’s web site and should hit the major dot coms in January.

Now, it’s time to focus on the second book. Yet, one has to remember that each book must stand alone, on its merit as a good piece of fiction. The sequel, Shadow in the Flame, is a whole new story! It’s another chance to test my characters and develop them further. Trust me when I tell you the second book will grab you with a new story, new characters, new twists and turns, a seamless flow from the ending of the first book.

It seems that my books have fallen in between the planned and the unplanned. I didn’t know originally that I’d be writing a trilogy. I started out writing one large story. So, I didn’t start thinking in terms of a multi-book plot arc until I was well into revisions of the first book. Then, I mentally sketched out a sparse framework for the next two books which allowed me to see where the story was headed.

The process of creation and character development has definitely been fun. It fuels me.

Yet, more fun awaits those who show patience. I will tell you this: where From Under a Tree is a starting point and a great story on its own, Shadow in the Flame takes the characters and plot-lines to a another level.

As I’ve always said, take a deep breath and put your trays in the upright position. You’re in for a bumpy ride!

Resonance of words . . .

Everyone has heard the old montage “Show, don’t tell” so many times that it’s become stale. And, what does it mean, anyway? It’s an easy phrase to say, but how does an author achieve a resonant, meaningful description that will make his words come alive?

This is especially important when writing a fantasy novel. More so than any other genre, the fantasy novel must invite the reader to experience the fantasy world using a pallet not of colors, but of words.

In From Under a Tree, I provide the reader with rich imagery that will hopefully have readers clamoring for more. For me, it is important to show the reader what I am envisioning. Here is an example, a description of the city of Mistmere.

“Mistmere was quite a sight to behold, built from the white sillar rock tossed out by a volcano that overlooked it, one of many mountains in the eastern and desolate rim of the ancient mountain range known as the Old Hills. The city’s name was inspired by the fact that the sun shined upon it every single day, a sunlit city almost lost at the end of the severe mountain range, and for the magnificent whisks of clouds continuously feathered through the top of the valley. It was a city of cycles, a city of layers, and a city of rings; and as it grew outward, the city accrued rings much like a tree. Unlike other Harrow cities, Mistmere’s corners and towers were not geometrically even. The circumference repeated the ups and downs of the hills, forming a picturesque wavy line, as though a necklace had been thrown onto a hillside, with the towers representing the largest white stones. And within its rings were fascinating villages with stepped terraces, ornate fountains, and hanging gardens from the terraces and almost every rooftop. Streams of water emerged from elevated sources and flowed down sloping channels. These waters irrigated the whole of Mistmere saturating the roots of plants, keeping the whole area moist, and providing a veil of mist that blanketed the city throughout the day.”

Still, Almost There . . .

Writing a book is a long process that often spans over years. For me, it has been ten years. So, it shouldn’t matter too much if it takes just a few more weeks for final publication!

Writing this book has been a long, exhausting struggle, sort of like an illness that keeps recurring. Yet, at the same time, as every day passes, as I continue to make final edits and move onto the second book, writing becomes a victory against transience. I have created a world and need to see the stories through in my mind’s eye.

A book, a story if you will, is an event in consciousness. The author’s goal isn't to replicate reality, but to change and recreate his sense of it. It is as if the author is putting on a performance in his or her brain and inviting the reader to watch.

Soon, you will be able to watch my performance!