Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Wounded Guardian

A haunted man, war hero Martil -- now derided as the ‘Butcher of Bellic’ -- leaves his beloved homeland in search of peace. Set upon by bandits, he is tricked into taking a small child, Karia, to her uncle. But the village has been gutted of its people ... except for one ex-bandit who has the Dragon Sword, a magical relic belonging to the rulers of Norstalos.

Martil and Karia find themselves being swept up in the struggle for a country. Norstalos’s first-ever queen is trying to keep her crown while her cousin, Duke Gello, wants it and is prepared to do anything, even make a deal with dark powers, to get it …

Martil finds himself caring for a child, fighting for a queen and discovering that even a magical sword is no guarantee of victory …

Well, that is the back page blurb of The Wounded Guardian but here is a more detailed description…
The central character is Martil, a warrior who is sick of war. He has seen too much, been forced to do too much. He struggles to control his anger, his drinking. The final straw is when his King and country turns on him because he was part of an army that sacked a city, the last act of the vicious Ralloran Wars that saw Martil fighting for half his lifetime.
In search of peace, he leaves his homeland and heads north, to Norstalos, the largest, richest and most peaceful country on the continent.
But by mischance and due to the attack of some foolish bandits, he is forced to look after Karia, a small child with an attitude problem and strange magic powers.
Karia has many problems of her own. An orphan, she was raised by a priest before being claimed back by her father – a vicious bandit – who beat her and ground down her spirit.
The pair of them are forced together and must learn to rely on each other – particularly as they are heading into the middle of a civil war.
Merren is the first-ever Queen of Norstalos and her cousin, the ruthless Duke Gello intends her rule to be the shortest in history. He believes a man should be on the throne – himself – and is prepared to do anything, even stealing the country’s symbol of kingship, the fabled Dragon Sword.
But his plan goes wrong when Martil ends up not just with the Dragon Sword but as the Queen’s Champion and her last hope of taking back her country.
Lurking behind all this are the Berellians, the men Martil has spent half his life fighting. For while they were defeated in the Ralloran Wars, their dreams of blood and conquest are undimmed. They have made a deal with the Dark God Zorva and his foul minions, the Fearpriests, and believe it is only a matter of time before Gello turns to them for help…
While books do not carry a rating, I consider this to be an ``M-rated’’ book, in that it is written for those aged 15 and above. Younger readers may still enjoy it but I would recommend they only read it after a parent has read it first, to make sure it is suitable for each individual child.
There is a fair amount of blood and gore and I make no apologies for that – to see how Martil has been so badly affected by war, the reader needs to graphically see how brutal sword-fighting is. Hit another man with a sword or an axe and there is none of the ``clean’’ kills made popular by semi-children’s films such as Narnia or even Lord Of The Rings, where the hero swings the sword and the baddie falls to the ground instantly and bloodlessly.
Also, there are concepts within the book that some younger readers may struggle to appreciate.
I have tried to write this on two levels – for teenagers there is an adventure story, as well as plenty of humour. For the older reader there are also issues such as redemption, how children can change adults and the nature of good and evil. I hope older teenagers could enjoy it now – and then re-read it years later and appreciate different aspects, on deeper levels.
But principally I hope it is enjoyed!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thanks to Gemmell and Feist

These books would not exist without two of fantasy’s top writers – David Gemmell and Raymond E Feist.
Like most teenagers, I had read Tolkein and thought fantasy consisted of endless description, long passages of verse in other languages and a healthy dose of elves, dwarves and orcs. While I enjoyed it, I had no plans to read more.
Then a mate of mine presented me with David Gemmell’s first novel, Legend, and insisted I read it, over my protestations.
Long story short, I read it, enjoyed it so much that I have every one of Gemmell’s novels and began to read fantasy – Eddings, Brooks, Feist and more.
I loved the gritty, realistic fantasy, as well as fantasy with great characters and intricate plots. Gemmell had begun a fascination with fantasy, opened the door into that genre for me.
I tried to write my own fantasy – plots were no problem but characters were and I had zero success in interesting people with them.
Flash forward a few years and I was – like so many others – a frustrated writer, while working as the editor of the Hornsby Advocate, a paper serving the far north of Sydney.
I had no more plans to write fantasy but was trying to write a contemporary Australian novel – and getting nowhere.
HarperCollins (one of those quirks of fate/destiny/whatever) brought out Raymond E Feist for his Talon Of The Silver Hawk tour. Feist was one of my favourites and I lobbied to get him to visit Borders at Hornsby, where I could interview him.
Success! I met him at Starbucks and spent a fascinating 45 minutes chatting to him – so much so that the publicist had to call a halt to our interview!
But I had enough time to talk to him about writing, and we discussed how he works through his books, how his characters sometimes take him off into subplots or on entire arcs that he never imagined when he sat down to write.
As he put it, he knew the characters have to get from A to Z – but they don’t go via B, C, D, E etc etc. They might begin that way, then jump to M, N, before darting back to J.
I listened, fascinated. For that was exactly the way I like to write.
Inspired, thinking that I was, unwittingly, emulating Feist, I began work on fantasy once more.
Seven years later, The Wounded Guardian will be on the shelves.
Incidentally, after I signed the contract, I tracked down Mr Feist. He was generous enough to reply to my email.
It said, in part:
Don't go blaming me, mate, if you got the storytelling bug. And if you somehow manage to get rich and famous doing this, it's not my fault!
Anyway, continued success to you and if I played even a small part in motivating you to live your dream, thanks for letting me know.

So thanks to Mr Gemmell and Mr Feist, I am about to become a published author!