How are you doing? Hope you’re all okay in these strange times.
I thought it was time to update my poor neglected blog, which has suffered since May 2019. The last post is a rather dispiriting note about my health, which was very poor at the time. Well, good news, things are much better now!
It ended up taking about six months for me to fully recover from the respiratory infection which knocked me around last year, as there were complications and my immune system took a long time to bounce back. Then early this year I was hit by cluster headaches which made it pretty much impossible to write for a few months. Honestly, I have broken bones and had boiling water poured over my hand, but this pain was worse– like having a wrecking ball through my brain. However, the pain is much more manageable now and I’m back in full swing!
My second Ashes of Olympus novel, The Ivory Gate, was released late last year. I also released the paperback of the Tooth and Blade omnibus, which both got great reviews. Also, I worked with amazing audiobook narrator Jean Mahoney to produce the audiobook, which is now available on all major platforms. Jean’s voice is absolutely perfect as the protagonist Dóta . Sales have been strong and steady, particularly through public libraries.
What’s next? Well, I’m hard at work on the third Ashes of Olympus, which will launch next year. It’s going well. My publisher will be taking the series to the online Frankfurt, London and Vienna Book Fairs to sell the translation rights. After that, in 2022 I have a contract for a brand new Middle Grade series, which is quite exciting. I’ve also started planning a new series which I intend to publish independently.
And– this is really cool– I’ve started writing for television. I can’t say too much right now, but I hope to have some news for you in the future.
Look out for some updates to my blog and my newsletter coming soon!
Basically, things are looking well and truly up. I know things are terribly uncertain all over the world right now… But I can’t help but feel hope that things will get better.
I wish you happiness upon the feast day of St. Valentinus of Hallmark!
I thought this would be a good day to share my retelling of the birth of Aphrodite. I wrote this for the Ashes of Olympus trilogy, but I suspect it won’t fit into the story. However, I’m proud of this little fable and am thrilled to share it with you now…
The world was young then, still being shaped. In those days there were only words and forces. Earth was an empty place, barren and dark—until Mother Earth and Father Sky met.
She looked upon his face, smiled, and took his hand. Music filled their ears, and it came from another place. Earth and Sky became the harmony as they danced together. Light came into the world for the first time, shining from their hearts. Her delight echoed across the cosmos.
Earth and Sky did not know they were being watched with jealous eyes. Sky’s brother Time wanted Earth for his own. Time did not know the sound of laughter. He shunned the light, craving a return to the darkness.
Sky and Earth lay together. And as Sky rested, a thought entered Earth’s mind. Together she and Sky would make life and growth and beauty. The Earth would be full as it had never been before. But what manner of life would they bring? Earth wandered off, seeking solitude to ponder. And Time saw his chance.
He took up a jagged stone and plunged it into Sky’s chest. With prying fingers Time plucked out the heart of Sky, and blood filled the heavens. Time thought to give the heart to Earth and prove his dominance. But when he offered her the beating heart, her eyes filled with horror and she fled.
Across the rocky plains Time pursued Earth, the heart of Sky still writhing in his hands. At last Time gave up the chase, and in anger and shame he cast Sky’s heart into Sea. Into the depths it sank, beneath cruel waves. Sea took pity on Earth as she knelt weeping at the shore. With icy fingers Sea grasped the heart of Sky, and the white foam raged around it. Sea moulded the foam until it took the shape of a maiden.
The maiden stepped forth from the waves, before her mother’s very eyes. And where she stepped life sprang, bright wildflowers curling around her shapely feet. Earth reached forth. With trembling fingers she touched the girl’s face, and Earth named her daughter.
So Love came into the world.
I hope you enjoyed that! I’ve also written a short story in which a young girl must stand before the gods on her betrothal day. The short story is free for all newsletter subscribers.
It has been a little while since my last update, hasn’t it? I’ve been hard at work to reach a deadline. I had to provide a complete draft of The Ivory Gate, the sequel to The Way Home, by the end of January. Good news, I made it! It’s still a bit rough at this point, but helps assure my publisher that the book can be scheduled for 2019. So I’m glad to say I’ve already met my first goal for 2019!
But guess what? That’s not all I’m publishing this year.
Starting from April, I am going to publish my first serial, Tooth and Blade. It’s three short, punchy novellas which together form an epic. I’m really excited about this story. It is historical fantasy based on Norse mythology. Here’s the elevator pitch:
A young woman raised by trolls must find her place in human society. Caught between worlds, Dóta must bridge the gap between man and beast.
The first short instalment, Foundling, will be available for pre-order soon on Kindle.
After that it’ll be time to get ready for the release of The Ivory Gate in August! I had been working toward a publication date of October 2019, but due to some shifts in the schedule the book has been moved up. There is much to be done—edits, illustrations, cover design, the whole shebang.
Squeezed between these projects I will contribute to an interactive fiction project, Magic in the Mail, edited by the fantastic Felicity Banks. Remember me telling you last year about Murder in the Mail? This is a similar concept in that it’s a mystery told through letters and art which you receive in the post, only it’s a fantasy and aimed at kids. I get to write in character as a dragon. How cool is that? I’m also thrilled that Murder in the Mail will be published as an illustrated book—it’ll be slightly surreal to see my handwriting in a published book!
That’s the first half of the year pretty much taken care of. After that, I’m going to shift my focus to some academic research, the translation of the early sources related to St Nicholas. This will hopefully be submitted to an academic publisher by the end of the year.
Throughout 2019 I will continue searching for the right agent for my Middle Grade fantasy. It would be wonderful to see it in print.
I’ve also been invited to be a panelist at a couple of cons, which I’ll update you on soon.
That’s… a lot. However, The Ivory Gate is largely done, and I’ve got the first Tooth and Blade finalised, and I’ve made a very good start on St Nicholas. So it’s achievable, so long as I can keep my focus.
It’s good to have a lot of irons in the fire! That’s what having a creative career is all about. There’s no such thing as a ‘big break.’ It’s about doing a lot of little things until they lead to big things.
Until next time,
PS. I’m offering a free short story exclusively to followers of my newsletter. Sign up here for your copy! Fear not, I won’t give away your email address and you can unsubscribe at any time.
I was really grateful that I could include illustrations in The Way Home, as Greek mythology lends itself to visual story-telling. The nine lavish illustrations enrich the story and give the book a unique character. I’m telling a tale of gods and monsters and magic… Why would I not want to see that fill the page? It’s the next best thing to having my book adapted for film. And given that The Way Home is intended for both YA and adult readers, it also felt right to include illustrations. In the age of the graphic novel, visual literacy is more important than ever. I didn’t want the illustrations to simply complement the story, but to be an essential part of it.
Every illustration functions like a panel from a comic book. Some things are better conveyed visually than through prose, which meant that I could be sparer with exposition. For example, I felt more comfortable leaping into the action with the fall of Troy because this was the first thing readers saw:
The image of the Trojan horse at night, wreathed in flames, instantly tells readers everything they need to know about where we are in the story. I didn’t need to tell the reader about the horse because it was all there to see. At my editor’s suggestion, I even ended up changing the first chapter because the illustration made some of the description redundant.
One of the most powerful images in the story is actually from a moment which isn’t conveyed through prose at all, but occurs between chapters.
The illustrator Matt Wolf is an old friend of mine, a Queensland-based artist. What I love about his work is that it evokes the numinous, the mysterious and the epic. Check out Matt’s Instagram here! He has a great ability to conjure other worlds with his artwork, and when I discovered that I would be able to include illustrations in the Ashes of Olympus trilogy, I instantly knew he was the one for the project. Matt took the idea of handling it like a comic book with gusto, creating vivid, dramatic and startling images which bring the story to life.
It was a pleasure to collaborate with Matt, who was easy going, professional, and transparent in his communications. I suspect I was more involved in the process of creating the illustrations than most authors. Initially I gave him the synopsis along with a set of extracts from scenes which I thought would make for good illustrations. I also provided notes on character appearances and photographic reference materials for him to use as a starting point.
In choosing the reference materials, I decided to go with artefacts from the Hellenistic or Classical ages of Greece, rather than stick too closely to the bronze age. Not historically accurate, perhaps, but instantly recognisable. If readers can recognise certain icons, it makes the story that much more relatable. However, I tried to do so in a manner sympathetic to the past. For example, in the illustration below the warriors are kitted out in hoplite armour with Corinthian helmets, but their swords are taken straight from the Myceneans. A case of gleeful anachronism! You can get away with these things when you are writing fantasy.
Aeneas’s appearance is modelled upon that of Alexander the Great. Alexander’s look brings to mind the idea of kingship in antiquity, partly because so many subsequent monarchs emulated him. But given that Alexander so consciously styled himself to look like a Homeric hero, I thought it was acceptable.
From there, I was happy to let Matt run with it. I made the conscious decision to give him the space to make his own decisions. It isn’t easy to hand over the story to another creative person and let them play, but its worthwhile. Matt did consult me and provided me with running updates, but for the most part I let him tell the story his own way. Sometimes his interpretation does differ from the way I picture things, and that is a good thing. Sometimes when you let other people into your world, the result is better than you could have possibly imagined. The illustrations turned out so well, in fact, that my publisher printed the book on white paper rather than cream to maximise their effect.
Matt, mate, if you’re reading this (and I know you are!!) I just want you to know from the bottom of my heart how grateful I am for all of your efforts. You helped to define the book and it stands out from the crowd because of you.
And if you would like Matt to illustrate your work, he is available for commissions.
I thought I would share the first chapter from my debut novel, The Way Home, Book I of the Ashes of Olympus trilogy. I hope you enjoy it!
Illustration by Matt Wolf
‘Aeneas, for the love of the gods, open up!’ cried Sergestos, pounding on the front door.
Aeneas ran to the door and wrenched it open. ‘Stop yelling, would you? My father will flay me if you wake him.’ He stopped short as he realised Sergestos’s round face was covered in soot and reeked of smoke. The scholar wore a studded baldric over his tunic. ‘What’s happened?’
‘It’s the Greeks, they’re here.’
Aeneas swore. ‘Let me get my gear. I’ll be at the main gate in—’
Sergestos shook his head. ‘Aeneas, they’re here. Inside the walls.’
Aeneas staggered. The sea god had built the walls himself. They stood over forty cubits tall. No mortal power could break them.
‘What? How can that be? They sailed home yesterday.’
Sergestos shrugged. ‘Something to do with that horse. Point is, half the city’s in flames.’
Aeneas rushed upstairs to see for himself, and Sergestos followed.
All his life Aeneas had loved to look down upon the city, to gaze at the twinkling lanterns in the streets. Now thatched rooftops were alight, the flames glaring like eyes in the night. The fire was spreading from the outer city, where the peasants lived. The screaming echoed heavenward. He blinked sweat out of his eyes, straining to peer past the flames. Far off, the city gate gaped like an open wound. Column after column of Greek warriors passed through, hungry to pillage the defenceless Troy. They were making a beeline toward the palace, marching up the main road. The bronze of their helmets and armour glistened in the burning.
What in Hades was going on? Somebody should have rung the warning bell. This wasn’t a battle. It was defeat, the end of everything. The thought twisted in his belly like a knife.
‘Daddy?’ Little Julos waddled out of his bedchamber at the foot of the stair, rubbing his eyes. His curls were tousled with sleep.
‘Hey, little man,’ said Aeneas. ‘Where’s Mummy?’
‘I’m here,’ said Kreusa. ‘Has something happened?’ She emerged from the bedchamber opposite Julos’s, tying her hair back with one hand. Looking up, she saw the embers spiralling into the sky. ‘The city,’ she breathed.
Sergestos swallowed. ‘Gods help us, our training never prepared us for this. Troy has fallen.’
Aeneas shook his head and jutted his jaw. ‘Not yet. Not if we save the king.’
Sergestos glanced from Kreusa to Aeneas. ‘Right. See you shortly, then.’ He clapped Aeneas on the shoulder and bolted down the stairs past Julos and out the door.
Tightening her lips, Kreusa beckoned Aeneas downstairs and into their bedchamber. ‘Julos, wait in your bedchamber, please. I won’t be long.’
‘It’ll be fine, son,’ said Aeneas.
Kreusa passed Aeneas his sword belt, her hands steady.
He buckled it to his side, put on his leather jerkin. Aeneas glanced up at his polished helmet and breastplate mounted on the wall. Father had given them to him for his eighteenth birthday last year. No self-respecting warrior would go into a fight without full armour, but there was no time.
Father gave a snore from down the hall.
‘I’ll get him up,’ Kreusa said, reading Aeneas’s mind. Julos padded into their bedchamber, slurping on his fingers, and she scooped him into her arms. ‘Go on. We’ll be fine.’ Kreusa looked him in the eye, resolute.
Aeneas had always loved Kreusa for her ability to take charge, right from their betrothal day. He reached for her and Julos.
Kreusa kissed him once, hard, on the mouth. Then she pushed him away gently. ‘There’ll be time later. You need to go,’ she whispered. ‘Please, love. Just go. And if you run into enemy gods, stay out of their way.’ Kreusa turned, but it didn’t hide the tear streaking down her cheek. She swept out of the chamber, holding their son tight. Julos peeked over her shoulder at Aeneas, eyes wide and green as his father’s.
Aeneas stared after them for a moment, then shook himself. Kreusa was right, he’d wasted enough time already. He snatched up his gear on his way out, found the weight of his spear a familiar comfort. The leathery smell of his ox-hide shield reassured him it was ready to protect.
Taking a deep breath, he passed over his doorstep.
My debut novel The Way Home has finally been released worldwide and is available in a variety of online stores as both an e-book and paperback. Cue the confetti and balloons! Nothing can beat the chemical high of knowing that after months and years of hard work, the story is finally out there for the public to read. This is a moment which I have looked forward to since I was a teenager and decided I wanted to be a writer. And after working on the manuscript so long, it is surreal to know that there is literally nothing I can do to make the book better. It’s out there now. However, I also know I would never have made it this far without the amazing support of many people. A great big gigantic thank-you for sticking with me, everybody. Your marvellous support and encouragement makes all the difference to me.
The paperback actually snuck onto Amazon a little early, which was a nice surprise. To my amazement, it actually started to attract sales before the official release date! But I decided not to announce it was ‘officially’ available until both the e-book and paperback were released, hoping that this would attract a rush of sales which would be looked upon favourably by the gods of the algorithm. To my delight (and relief) it paid off. I was watching anxiously—after all this preparation and planning, what if the whole thing flopped? So much of this industry depends on luck. However, it didn’t take long for the novel to reach the number one spot in its little niche on Amazon Australia. The highlight came last weekend, when my little book reached the top 50 books selling on Amazon overall. Not just in its niche, but for the store overall. I documented its steady rise through the charts the only way I knew how… with terrible cartoons I drew using Paint!
Just assume that cartoon-me has feinted in that last pic and is thus out of shot.
It was such an honour to see my book ranked alongside those of Rick Riordan, even for a moment. For me, as an unknown Australian author published by a small press, that was the best feeling in the world.
I was overwhelmed by the amount of support I received via social media during the release week—I had to switch off my phone at work because it kept pinging through the day. People liked, shared, retweeted, and declared they had bought the book. I was taken aback by the warmth shown by not only friends and family, but also the classics community, fellow Australian authors, teachers and librarians. And, of course, listeners of The Bestseller Experiment! I have done a few podcasts with them over the last few months, and I’m profusely grateful for the way listeners took the book into their hearts. One of my goals throughout this process has always been to reach a community of readers, and I’m glad to have achieved it.
Then came the big moment when my copies (30 of them!) arrived. Believe it or not, this was the first time I had held the book in my hands. It’s a scintillating sensation—seeing the cover on the screen of my laptop could never convey the richness of the red and gold cover. And I cannot get over how handsome the illustrations are by artist Matt Wolf!
And so, what started as my nerdy little ambition to adapt an ancient epic has turned out to be one of the greatest moments of my life. And I’m so very grateful. It’s time to get cracking on the next book, of course, and I have a few other projects in the pipeline. I shall admit that I’m tired and could probably use a rest. But still elated and so ready for the next step. As always, I hope you’ll join me for the journey.
PS. I’m offering a preview and a special short story exclusively to followers of my newsletter. Sign up here for your free copy to read on a Kindle or any other e-reader! Fear not, I won’t give away your email address and you can unsubscribe at any time.
My debut novel The Way Home officially launches in just a few days. The pre-order also has found its way to Amazon early, both for the paperback and the e-book. It’s actually doing pretty well already, given that I haven’t officially announced that it is available! It is a little bit surreal, seeing it in the top ten of its little niche, alongside Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books. It’ll be properly available next week, and you can bet I’ll let you know when it’s out. In the meantime, a few people have asked me where I got the idea to write the Ashes of Olympus trilogy, a YA adaptation of Virgil’s Aeneid.
Check out some of the amazing illustrations from Matt Wolf!
It started when I was an undergraduate in Latin class. My lecturer’s enthusiasm for the Aeneid was infectious, and I was not immune. Just about every lesson he would put a passage from Virgil on the board for us to decipher with the air of Santa Claus pulling a toy from his sack. Determined to know more of the story, I picked up a translation of the Aeneid and read it cover to cover. I had encountered Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey before, but the plight of the Trojan prince Aeneas spoke to me on a level I had not really expected. Perhaps the desire for a place to belong spoke to me in my late teens. On a more superficial level, I loved the sense of adventure. I had always been a reader of fantasy and historical thrillers, and here was a classic quest with monsters, gods, and epic battles. More than that, I adored the sensitivity of Virgil’s characterisation, particularly of Dido. Though I sometimes found the character Aeneas difficult, it helped me to understand that when we are reading classics we are dealing with the ideals of another age. Discovering the joys of Latin scansion helped me to find the music in Virgil and gave me an appreciation of poetic language which I had never really found before. Every time I returned to the poem, the same thought would occur to me: this would make such a great novel!
Later in my degree, when I came to translate the poem itself, I decided to translate it into the prose of an adventure novel whose language echoed the historical thrillers I had always enjoyed. Something along the lines of Valerio Massimo Manfredi, Conn Iggulden, or Bernard Cornwell. There was just one problem: the translation was awful! For some reason, dactylic hexameters didn’t gel with the direct language of a thriller or fantasy. I hated what I had written, and so would anybody with sense, so I shelved it and moved on.
Several years passed. I wrote a lot of terrible stories which will never see the light of day. I married and became a young dad. I did a postgrad research degree, worked for a museum, and immersed myself deeper into the classical world than is healthy. Eventually I went to present a paper at the Classical Association conference at the University of Reading. This was the first time I had travelled overseas on my own, and I felt very far from home. It was worth it though. One of the themes of the conference was the reception of Greek and Roman culture in children’s and young adult novels. There were a lot of great panels on Caroline Lawrence and Rosemary Sutcliffe. But the key moment didn’t come until I was on my way home.
At Heathrow I met a young woman who was struggling with her luggage. I offered to help, and we got chatting, and I casually asked where she was from. At this point she started crying—she was from Bosnia, but she was effectively homeless, a citizen of nowhere. Neither side of the civil war wanted anything to do with her. One side rejected her because of her heritage, and the other side because of her father’s religion. The war had been over for years, but she was still a refugee. She had endured horrors as a child which no human being should have to go through. I was sitting on the plane home, reflecting on what she had said. And that’s when it hit me: the Aeneid is in its essence a refugee’s tale from a world of gods and magic. It’s a tale for anybody who has felt there’s no place in this world for them. A theme which, two thousand years after the Aeneid was written, is still sadly relevant. And somehow this idea connected with the panels on YA literature I had seen. By the time I got off the plane, a plan was forming.
I wasn’t going to translate the Aeneid. I was going to adapt it, tell the story in my voice. I wasn’t going to put Virgil up on a pedestal. Instead, I would write an original work which captured something of what made the story significant to me. It would still be a rip-roaring adventure for young readers. Yet it would focus on the deeper theme of the refugee crisis. My goal was to make it a great story in its own right, not edutainment. And I would infuse it with something of my own experiences, make it personal. And you know what? This last part was actually really scary. But for the first time, I felt like the writing worked. It was real.
Five years and many drafts later, here we are. The book will be in readers’ hands very shortly. I’ve done all I can to make it the best story possible.
I hope you’ll join me for the journey.
Until next time,
PS. I’m offering a preview and a special short story exclusively to followers of my newsletter. Sign up here for your free copy to read on a Kindle or any other e-reader! Fear not, I won’t give away your email address and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Publication day for The Way Home, Book I of the Ashes of Olympus trilogy is just a few short weeks away. In the meantime, I’ve written a short prequel, which I’m giving away to newsletter subscribers for free!
Betrothal introduces the characters of Aeneas and Kreusa, whom we here meet as children. The story takes place ten years before the events of Ashes of Olympus. On the eve of the Trojan War, a young girl must find her voice to stand before the gods… As an added bonus, you’ll also get a first look at the first three chapters of The Way Home.
I’m offering the e-book exclusively to followers of my newsletter. Sign up here for your free copy to read on a Kindle or any other e-reader! Fear not, I won’t give away your email address and you can unsubscribe at any time.
This was an absolute blast to write and I’d love to hear your feedback!
A few weeks ago I promised that I would share my experience of meeting legendary author Terry Brooks at Supanova on the Gold Coast. Well, here we go! Terry gave me some great advice which I’m sure will stand me in good stead as an author. It was an important moment for me and I’m thrilled to share it with you.
I was full of nerves as I approached the table. Brooks is among the first big-name fantasy authors after Tolkien. People mention him in the same breath as Ursula K LeGuin and Lloyd Alexander. He’s written about 40 books. His Shannara series has been adapted for TV and his Magic Kingdom series has been optioned for a film by Warner Bros. Heck, he worked with George Lucas himself on the adaptation of The Phantom Menace and was partly responsible for the lore surrounding the Jedi and Sith. His writing had a big impact on me as a teen. I was meeting one of my heroes and a veteran of the industry, but I decided to be polite and not act like a fanboy. He probably gets that all the time.
He and his wife Judine were both at the table. The tension in my chest dissipated as they smiled and waved.
‘Hi, there!’ said Terry.
‘Hello! It’s great to meet you both,’ I said.
‘What’s your name?’
‘What have we got here, Julian?’ Terry took my book—I’d brought his memoir on writing. He and Judine exchanged a glance. ‘Sometimes the Magic Works?’
‘You’re the first person to ask Terry to sign this—for this trip, anyway,’ said Judine.
‘Oh, really?’ I said. ‘It’s the first book I ever read about writing, followed by Stephen King’s.’
Terry’s eyes twinkled. ‘The thing about me and Stephen is that we’re polar opposites. There’s an important difference between us, though.’ He leaned close. ‘I’m right, and he’s wrong.’
‘Are you a writer?’ he said.
‘Oh, well, yes actually…’ I hadn’t intended to give him a spiel but thought it would be rude not to answer properly. I rummaged around in my bag and pulled out one of my promotional post cards.
‘My first novel is coming out later this year. It’s an historical fantasy based on Greek myths.’
‘Oh really?’ he said. Maybe he was just being polite, but he seemed genuinely interested. ‘Is it just coming out in Australia, or will it be in the States too?’
‘It should be available world-wide.’
‘Oh, great! I’ll keep an eye out for it. But what you should really do, and I’m sure you’re doing it, is read lots of different books about writing and come up with your own ideas.’
‘Oh, yeah,’ I said. ‘I try and make the most of every learning opportunity.’
‘Good on you!’
I noticed there was a chapbook on the table. Street Freaks? What was this book? I had never heard of it.
He tracked my gaze and his eyes lit up. ‘Street Freaks! Now, this is my last chapbook, but I’ll let you have it if you prove you’re worthy.’
‘Oh, um, okay.’
He opened the chapbook to an illustration. ‘What do you notice about it?’
I blinked. It featured a young man climbing out a skyscraper window, a futuristic cityscape in the background. ‘It’s kind of similar to the poster for Ready Player One?’
‘Well, yes, it is. It isn’t gaming lit though. But what else do you notice about it? It’s science fiction!’
‘Aha! You’ve always wanted to write a science fiction novel, right?’
He nodded. ‘Right! I wanted to try it out. And I wanted to know what it was like to have total creative freedom and oversee every aspect of the publication process. The edits, design, marketing, the whole deal. It’s coming out through a small press later this year.’
‘Oh wow,’ I said. ‘I really admire the fact that an author as advanced in his career as you are is trying something different.’
He grinned and grabbed my shoulder. ‘I’ll give you some advice that you should keep in mind throughout your career as an author. If you have an idea, and it scares you because it’s different, that means you should go for it. Because you never want to lose that creative energy, that spark, and if you just do the same thing over and over, it’ll die out.’
‘That’s good advice. Thank-you.’ Oh what the hell, I can be a little bit of a fanboy… ‘Look, um, it’s such an honour to meet you. I read The Sword of Shannara when I was fifteen, and I loved your books as a kid.’
Judine smiled. ‘That couldn’t have been that long ago, surely?’
‘Oh,’ I say. ‘Well, half a lifetime ago.’
Terry’s eyebrows raised. ‘No! Really? You are not in your thirties?’
I shrug. ‘I, ah, hope it means I’ll age like Clooney.’
They chuckled, and he signed my book. ‘All right, you’ve proven yourself. The chapbook’s yours, but can you do me a favour?’
‘I’d like you to read it, and let people know what you think of it—on your blog, your Facebook page, whatever you got. Will you do that for me?’
And then I stammered my thanks and quietly slipped away from the table so he could talk to the next reader.
I read the first couple of chapters of Street Freaks that night. It’s a YA thriller set in a dystopian cyberpunk future. Here’s the blurb!
It begins with a dire call-right before his father disappears and his skyscraper home’s doors explode inward. It is the kind of thrilling futuristic story only Terry Brooks can tell.
“Go into the Red Zone. Go to Street Freaks,” his father directs Ashton Collins before the vid feed goes suddenly silent. The Red Zone is the dangerous heart of mega-city Los Angeles; it is a world Ash is forbidden from and one he knows little about. But if he can find Street Freaks, the strangest of aid awaits—human and barely human alike. As Ash is hunted, he must unravel the mystery left behind by his father and discover his role in this new world.
The writing whizzes like a bullet from a gun. It’s a definite departure for Terry Brooks, who normally eases the reader into the story. This one grabs you and doesn’t let you go. It sets up a mystery which hooks you with the first line. In spare prose, he conjures the setting of an LA whose air is poison and where androids hunt down the innocent. It promises to be a really fun read. It comes out in October 2018 and I can’t wait to see what happens next—I really can’t pay a higher compliment to a story-teller.
P.S. Sign up to my free monthly newsletter for news and previews, as well as an exclusive prologue chapter to the Ashes of Olympus series! In the meantime, check out the image below for a sneak peak at one of the illustrations by Matt Wolf… The Way Home will be released July 31, 2018.
I finally finished the Netflix/BBC retelling of the Trojan War. It has taken me a while as I like to take my time when I’m watching a show I find interesting. ‘Interesting’ is probably the word for Troy: Fall of a City, in a good way for the most part. It’s a rich, complex adaptation with some amazing production values. It takes its time to convey the plot, but the characterisation has the chilliness of a Greek tragedy. Which makes sense, because that’s precisely what it’s meant to be.
Mild spoilers below.
I was amazed by the sheer scope of the show’s storytelling, and was surprised that it drew not only upon the Iliad but also the Odyssey and Aeneid, as well as Sophocles and Euripides. I get the sense that the show-runners wanted to convey the full sweep of the Trojan War and approach it from as many angles as possible. This ambition is simultaneously the show’s strength and its weakness. Though the cast is enormous and the story is rich with intrigue and tension, we never really spend enough time with any of the characters to become overly invested. I seldom had the sense that it was anybody’s story in particular, or a sense of the characters’ development or growth. The difference between this story and HBO’s Rome is striking. I think casual audiences would prefer to cheer on a likeable viewpoint character whom they could follow through this sea of names and faces. Troy: Fall of a City really needed an everyman character like Lucius Vorenus or Titus Pullo to work as a straightforward heroic narrative.
That said, the show plays with a lot of the tropes of Greek myth in a really clever way which absolutely drips with irony. A good example is a scene where Achilles slices an enemy’s Achilles tendons before he kills him. Another is where Hector declares that he would rather a short life with his family than a long one alone– a brilliant inversion of Achilles’ choice to have a short life as a warrior than a long one as a family man. The show also manages not to make the Trojans look like idiots for bringing the horse into the city, and that is actually quite a feat. The writers included gods in the story and succeeded in invoking a sense of the numinous rather than high camp. I’ve never seen that before.
Troy: Fall of a City differs greatly from the 2004 film Troy in that it doesn’t glorify war, and perhaps you’re not really meant to like any of the characters. There’s no honour or love to be won on this battlefield. Instead, the show captures the brutality and pathos of a Greek tragedy. It doesn’t have any of the warmth or human moments which fill Homer. One of my favourite scenes in the Iliad is from Book 6, where little Astynax interrupts an argument between his parents by crying at the sight of his father in a crested war-helmet. Andromache laughs and sniffles at the same time as Hector whips the helmet off and cuddles his son to calm him. It’s a tender scene, simultaneously sad and funny. You won’t find many such moments in Troy: Fall of a City. It’s mostly bluster and blood.
There’s no talking horses, either. But whatever.
It isn’t meant to be Homer, but a tragedy staged for the screen. It differs from most sword and sandal epics in that it’s a meditation on the horrors of war, told in a thoughtful and unrushed manner. The characters could be more approachable, but then, you don’t necessarily go see a Greek tragedy because you want to cheer on the heroes as they rush toward their doom.
Until next time,
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