Tag Archives: high fantasy

Monday Morsel: Doors to Nowhere and Everywhere – an excerpt from BECOMING THE DEMON

Wrong Way Around

I know this is supposed to be a Touring Scotland post–in fact, last post was supposed to be a Touring Scotland post, and you got a new cover reveal instead–but I’m in the throes of writing the last few thousand words of the first draft of Becoming the Demon, and I really don’t have the headspace to write it. Sorry! Here, have another Monday Morsel instead.Be warned, it’s a long one!

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Wrong Way Around

In the brilliantly lit main Hall, a circle of doors stood end-to-end around the room. They looked innocent enough, if strange—they were doorframes with no doors, standing on their edges: doorways to nowhere. Except they weren’t. They looked like a step through the doorway would take you one step deeper into the room, when in reality it would take you, maybe, millions of miles across the world. Some of them led to similar rooms in other citadels, where there would be a door you could step back through to your origin. Some of them deposited the user in locations without doors—and no way home, except the long way, unless the user was a wizard capable of building his own permanent or temporary portal.

This room had been Alloran’s original inspiration for the hell-gates, when he was younger. What if the door didn’t just lead somewhere else on this plane? What if you could step through to another plane? What if you could step through time? The ‘what-ifs’ made him twitch, especially the last one—he never had gotten on to that question, and now that he was researching again, that old thought made him twitch like a rabbit scenting the hawk.

The Hall was empty, though of course at any moment that might change, due to someone stepping through a Door, or entering from outside the Hall. His use of magic to open the lock might go unnoticed, since the Hall was a constant epicentre of magic, or they might send someone to investigate. He could enter a false name in the log on a small table by the door to coincide with the time he used magic, but then he had no way of knowing who was currently within the citadel. A false entry might be more suspicious than no entry.

He turned away, brushing past Gisayne to close the door to the back hall, and locking it again against detection. Then he took the right hand passage, counting the racks as he went. One, two, three… At the fourth, he stopped, and counted the second door along. Its frame was metal, and pressed cold against his palms as he got a good grip and slid the door from the rack.

Portals were lengthy and complicated spells, requiring much preparation. A dormant portal spell could be started, and then suspended at a certain stage, to give a wizard quick access to a portal to anywhere at any time, but they could be volatile around other magic, and they weren’t portable—they had to be fixed to a certain location. The portals in the Hall were permanent, and portable, and thus designed to solve that problem. They could also be recalibrated to new destinations, although that was a specialist field currently practised by only a handful of wizards.

The doors were of a uniform height and size, but their frames were as per the taste of its maker. This one had a shining silver frame, though the exact metal was indeterminate in the blue shadows, in straight, simple lines, with no decoration. It was a common design for makers of portals who were practical and fuss-free, who attached no sentimentality to their doors, and therefore a design shared by the majority of portals. The only ornament was the rows of polished stones, five each on the left and right frames, their facets reflecting shards of light from the glow on Alloran’s finger.

He frowned, leaning closer to examine the stones. They looked like a random combination of precious jewels, rubies and diamonds and sapphires, but the stone was actually a rare mineral mined from the far western mountains on the main continent. Chakrin, or sorceress stone as it was sometimes called, was sensitive to magic, and so in high demand amongst wizard artificers like Alloran.

“How do you turn it on?” Gisayne leaned closer, blocking the light.

“Illiterate barbarian.” Alloran rolled his eyes and pushed her back so she wasn’t crowding his space, but the fact was most wizards would ask the same; they didn’t see the point in knowing how to do for themselves what they had specialists to do for them. Short-sighted. There was value in knowledge for its own sake, although sometimes too much knowledge was equally dangerous.

Then he straightened abruptly. “This is the wrong door.”

“What do you mean, the wrong door?” Gisayne didn’t so much as twitch, but there was tension in her voice, and her hand dropped to her sword. Uneasily, she glanced behind her, towards the exit. “Then where is the right door?”

“I don’t know!” Alloran shoved the door back into the rack, too hard. It clanged against the shelving, sending clamorous echoes rolling through the storage unit. “It might have been moved, or destroyed. Doors destabilise over time, and then they are dismantled.”

“Can you change the destination of another door?”

“Not these ones.”

Cover Reveal: Makeover for CONFRONTING THE DEMON

For some time now I haven’t been especially happy with the cover art for Confronting the Demon, my debut novella. If there was something letting the book down, it was the cover. Not that the art is bad, per se–just not right.

People would mistake the book for a romance, when it’s high fantasy, or a fantasy mystery. And then, of course, there were the people asking me if the protagonist was based on Matt Bomer. He wasn’t–not on my instructions, anyway–but when it was brought to my attention, I realised there was a striking similarity! I’ve not officially changed the cover on Amazon or elsewhere on this site, so you can still go check it out if you want.

But now, here, we have new cover art, brought to you by Worlds Beyond Art (who also did Stalking the Demon and who will do the upcoming Becoming the Demon).

About CONFRONTING THE DEMON

For Alloran, who practised the fine art of frivolity for decades, life just got serious.

Framed for the heinous crime of demon summoning, he is forced to flee his comfortable life of silk sheets and nightly carousing in the wizard’s citadel for the stinking back-alleys of the city of Ehsan. There he poses as a common labourer to hide from his lover, his best friend and the wizarding authorities.

But beneath the garbage of the backstreets he discovers a new horror: a trail of gruesome bodies, gnawed on by hellcats, and left gift-wrapped for him to find with taunting ‘love notes’ attached. Someone is brutally murdering people from Alloran’s past and threatening all those close to him.

As the body count rises, Alloran must confront his personal demons and risk losing himself to a powerful addiction in order to expose the true villain. Failure means the destruction of the city at the hands of the deadliest demon to inhabit any of the seven hells – or worse, Alloran himself.

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Monday Morsel: You Have To Run – an Excerpt from BECOMING THE DEMON

What Price A Lie
What Price A Lie

“Did you hear me, Alloran? You have to run. The first thing he did after his confirmation was label you a public menace. If he can’t kill you, he will have you silenced.”

Her words broke the paralysis gripping him, and he gasped at the cold shock of this pronouncement. He spun to start gathering together various item.

“There is no time!” Ashraque hissed. “I saw the guards halfway here, and I had to run to beat them.”

Alloran froze. “But I—”

Ashraque followed his desperate glance to the next room, where his private texts, some of them containing damning research, were hidden.

About BECOMING THE DEMON

Not all doors lead to places a man should go.

Desperate to rescue Dek from the fifth circle of hell after abandoning him, Alloran’s task is complicated when he is forced to go on the run again. Bereft of all resources, Alloran enters into the shady world of loose morals and stitchers—black wizards hiring out their services to the highest bidder. When a strange woman presents him with a lucrative but criminal opportunity, he must ask what Dek’s life is worth to him — or is it the chance of a challenge he cannot defeat that tempts him into the criminal underbelly of the city?

Gisayne is fixated on avenging her father’s murder, but Alloran, consumed by his need to rescue Dek, will not help her. Alone, she hunts the deadly wizard Ladanyon, but when the trail leads her back to Alloran, she must fight to save him—but is the greatest threat to Alloran from the black wizard or himself?

Blinded by his determination, Alloran risks crossing a line to become the very thing he fights against.

Monday Morsel: Not All Doors Lead To Places A Man Wants To Go

What colour is your magic
What colour is your magic

I’ve been quiet a long time, I know — getting On the Edge of Death finished nearly wore me out, more than I had realised, and for almost two months I wallowed in doing nothing except reading Scottish crime fiction — yes, tarton noir is this fantasy writer’s secret vice.

But I am back writing, if not as consistently as I’d like, and what I’m working on now is Becoming the Demon, part three in The Seven Circles of Hell. In fact, it’s almost half done. So I’m going to start sharing bits with you as part of my Monday Morsels series again, and I’m going to try to get back to finish telling you about last year’s trip to Scotland. If I’m honest, I’ve avoided that because I’m homesick for Scotland, and thinking about it, about how long it will be before we go back, makes my chest tighten up painfully. It will probably be 2021 at the earliest.

So, instead of dwelling on that, here is the opening page of Becoming the Demon.

Monday Morsel

The diagram appeared to delineate a gate, the stark black lines innocent in their simplicity; but not all doors lead to places a man wants to go.

Alloran hunched over it at the central worktable in his laboratory, sketching in a new line, with Gisayne peering over his shoulder.

The laboratory door banged open, the sound of the wood striking the stone reverberating through the room’s small confines. Gisayne jumped, jerking away from Alloran like a guilty lover, even though they’d only been huddled together over the diagram.

Alloran straightened, casually covering the image with a hand. Then his brain caught up with his reflexes; it was only Ashraque. He let out a long breath, and moved his hand away. Even if Ashraque had not already known what he was about, the planned out lines of sulphur and magnesium for a hell-gate were disguised with a code. The diagram instead spelt out the use of certain woods for its construction; ash for magnesium, oak for the sulphur. Concealing it, even casually, had been the stupid act of a guilty man.

“You scared the hell out of me, Ashraque,” he said.

“You should be scared.” Her words came out a gasp, and she paused, leaning against the door, winded. Her usually immaculate platinum blonde hair was falling from its pins, and her white pillbox hat was askew.

“What’s happened?” he asked.

“You have to run.” She straightened, jamming a pin back into her hair before the hat fell free. Her amber eyes were alight with intense anger. “Valgon has been elected to the position of Lord Wizard. The guards are already on their way.”

About BECOMING THE DEMON

Not all doors lead to places a man should go.

Desperate to rescue Dek from the fifth circle of hell after abandoning him, Alloran’s task is complicated when he is forced to go on the run again. Bereft of all resources, Alloran enters into the shady world of loose morals and stitchers—black wizards hiring out their services to the highest bidder. When a strange woman presents him with a lucrative but criminal opportunity, he must ask what Dek’s life is worth to him — or is it the chance of a challenge he cannot defeat that tempts him into the criminal underbelly of the city?

Gisayne is fixated on avenging her father’s murder, but Alloran, consumed by his need to rescue Dek, will not help her. Alone, she hunts the deadly wizard Ladanyon, but when the trail leads her back to Alloran, she must fight to save him—but is the greatest threat to Alloran from the black wizard or himself?

Blinded by his determination, Alloran risks crossing a line to become the very thing he fights against.

More News

I don’t have time to write twice weekly on this blog anymore, so for the time being the blog schedule will be Monday Morsels on the first and third Mondays of the week, and Touring Scotland posts on the second and the fourth. If there are five Mondays in the month, that fifth one is mine 🙂 Also, watch out for some more Seven Circles of Hell news coming up soon!

Do You Want To Contribute to a Fantasy Heist?

Wrong Way Around

I’m writing Becoming the Demon, the third installment in The Seven Circles of Hell. This one’s a heist story, where Alloran finds himself contracted to steal from the world’s most secure magical vault.

What magical security do you think he should face? What puzzles must he solve? What traps imperil him?

Write your suggestions in the comments and I’ll consider them for inclusion!

About Becoming the Demon

Not all doors lead to places a man should go.

Desperate to rescue Dek from the fifth circle of hell after abandoning him, Alloran’s task is complicated when he is forced to go on the run again. Bereft of all resources, Alloran enters into the shady world of loose morals and stitchers—black wizards hiring out their services to the highest bidder. When a strange woman presents him with a lucrative but criminal opportunity, he must ask what Dek’s life is worth to him—or is it the chance of a challenge he cannot defeat that tempts him into darkness?

Gisayne is fixated on avenging her father’s murder, but Alloran, consumed by his need to rescue Dek, will not help her. Alone, she hunts the deadly wizard Ladanyon, but when the trail leads her back to Alloran, she must fight to save him—but from the black wizard or himself?

Blinded by his determination, Alloran risks crossing a line to become the very thing he fights against.