Mark Timmony is avid reader of science fiction and fantasy who has managed to build that passion into a career as Science Fiction and Fantasy (Genre Specialist) Bookseller.
He is currently working on the final draft of his first novel.
The Sunset Lands are broken, torn apart by a war of ideology paid for with the lives of the peasants. Drought holds the east as famine ravages the farmlands. In the west, borders slam shut in the face of waves of refugees, dooming all of those trying to flee to slow starvation, or a future in forced labor camps. There is no salvation.
In the city of Lord’s Reach, Seraphina, a slave with unique talents, sets in motion a series of events that will change everything. In a fight for the soul of the nation, everyone is a player. But something ominous is calling people to Lord’s Reach and the very nature of magic itself is changing. Paths will converge, the battle for the Sunset Lands has shifted, and now humanity itself is at stake.
First, you must break before you can become.
I must admit I found this book a little tough to start with. It is written with beautiful prose but it took me some time to connect truly connect with the characters. Maybe because it is such dark subject matter – and while I have read ‘grimdark’ before I don’t think I’ve read anything as grim or as dark as this- or the Holodomor that Chorn used to anchor her world (an actual real life historical event that is appalling – check it out).
I’ve read Chorn mention that she deliberately chose such vibrant and beautiful language because the subject matter is disturbing and confronting. It certainly makes for a remarkable and intense foil.
But I’ve followed Chorn online for a very long time so I stuck it out – and I am so glad I did. When this story shifted gears, when we reached the cliff – and were pushed off – the story exploded into an epic conflagration. And I am still reeling from the shock-waves.
Seraphina’s Lament is a brilliant grimdark fantasy with lyrical prose set in a world where love is love and same sex couples not a thing, they just are; Chorn also gives voice to the many readers out there who live with a disability but never see themselves reflected in the books they read.
If you enjoy fantasy that pushes boundaries while remaining epic in scope, that delves the soul while reaching for the stars, then I highly recommend you give this book a try.
I can’t wait for book two – An Elegy for Hope – when it’s done.
When I first came upon the Face I was newly raised to the rank of Seer. My cora’stone still uncoloured, though as much a part of me as the air within my lungs.
As an initiate I had not known the depths within the Arleth’taur, nor the secrets we Starbinders kept. I had learnt of the outer world, the stars around Sobia and the history of the realms. As a Seer I was presented to the Probability Matrix and given access to the libraries.
But books are not the only thing the Ardes Libirantus are conservators of. The world within the Cradle of the Stars contains histories as well as prophecies, artworks as well as books, nightmares as well as dreams. And daemons.
And my daemon was trapped in the Face.
I did not know her nature when I met her. The quantstructs of the Shaluay often mimic life, intelligence. I found her in a room of water, alone, staring at a dark ceiling and crying red tears. I was not meant to be here, but I thought I knew better than my teachers.
The levels that were forbidden are the ones I sort out. It was only after I fell that I understood they were restricted for a reason.
Her voice was soft, gentle. She reminded me of the mother I had lost long ago. She enticed me, lowered my defences and dropped the tiniest hints of the knowledge I craved.
There is a reason that the Shaluay keep their initiates sheltered as the Ciralys do those who can see the Light of the Eye. But I was strong, the strongest my teachers had found in a thousand years. I knew better than they my own abilities.
Pride. It is ever the downfall of humanity. She drew her web to coerce me and flew into it willingly. I let her in, and she would not leave. I was trapped, a voice locked in a Face, shut in a dark room, crying red tears while see took my body and her freedom.
I remain here still, waiting for another Shaluay to find me at last. Weaving a web of my own…
The women of my line remembered. We remembered living in peace on the Jade Stone Steppes before the Whisperers came. We remembered fleeing before the sounds that drove men mad and toppled empires.
But the Whisperers had made a mistake in chasing us away from our homelands, our cities of gold and silver and stone. They had forgotten – if they had ever known – that across the mountains lay the godlands, and at their heart rose three great swords that had been thrust into the flesh of the world.
Old beyond measure, pitted and rusted, these gigantic weapons were revered by the plains people as proof of the gods they so slavishly worshipped.
But these were not the swords of gods, though they might as well be. These were the swords of the Argonath. The Titans who had brought order from the chaos when the world was new.
Yes, the women in my line remember. And we remembered that these swords were left here as a promise, that if called, the Argonath would come again. We remembered the words, we knew the way of smoke and bone, of blood and spirit. We knew the sacrifice required to gain the Argonath’s attention. It was a price I had never thought I could pay.
Then the Whisperers took everything from me. They took my home, my husband and my son. And now they have taken my daughter. The future of my line, the inheritor of my legacy. They left me with nothing and I have found that now, now I can pay the price of the Argonath’s.
The knife burns as it enters my chest, positioned to slip between my ribs. The pain that explodes within me as it pierces my heart , but I hold on. My lungs strain to move and my throat tightens, my voice a whisper as vile as those who have destroyed us. But I have enough breath for the word. And as my hearts blood wells over the fist that holds the dagger pressed against me, dropping to the altar with the Circle of Swords, I voice it before the darkness claims me.
Centuries ago, the murder of a beloved king tore apart the Kingdom of Caledun. The land was plunged into chaos and thousands perished in the aftermath. A new order was established in an attempt to return Caledun to its former glory. It failed, but in its place rose the beginnings of the Code.
During this same period, the mystical caretakers of the Great Wood retreated from the world of Kal Maran, their disappearance an ominous harbinger of the suffering that was to follow. The Great Wood now grows out of control. Cities, towns, and villages have fallen before the relentless march of the forest. Without the former guardians to keep her tame, the wood has become a place of peril, and dark creatures of legend now hunt beneath its leaves.
The summer season is now a time of armed conflict. The fall of the old monarchy has brought about a ceaseless cycle of combat. Grievances are settled by the strict tenets of a binding Mercenary Code and the men who would die to preserve its honour.
However, change is in the air. Political rivalries have escalated, and dire rumblings of a revolution abound. Thrust to the forefront of the shattered land’s politics, a mercenary fights for more than just riches. In the north, a borderland soldier wrestles with his own demons and looks to find his true purpose. And in the shadow of the Great Wood, a young man’s chance encounter with a strange visitor gives hope to a land divided.
Some of you may remember I posted about this book when it was released a couple of weeks ago, it’s still on my TBR pile but I have read the prologue and started peeked at the first chapter and I like what I have seen. So much so that I decided to email Emmet and see if I could trick him ask him to submit participate in answering Ten Terrifying Questions!
And he said ‘Yes!’
To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
Born and raised in Canada. I am a proud Canadian.
What started you writing, and is it the same thing that still inspires you today?
A love of reading. A love of telling stories. I read every night before I go to bed and have been doing so since I was a kid. The stories I read absolutely inspired me to write. Some early authors in the fantasy genre left such indelible impressions on me. I connected with their characters and worlds and felt invested in the stories they were telling. I still fondly remember reading Tolkien, Weis & Hickman, Brooks, Wurts, Williams and McKiernan. As I grew older the reading never stopped although in part the authors began to change. I found myself engrossed with Guy Gavriel Kay, Erickson, Jordan, Abercrombie, Cameron, and Eames to name a few.
How many novels/stories did you write before you published?
There was a time when I could confidently write short stories, this doesn’t really interest me anymore. I prefer to plan out sweeping epics as opposed to smaller tales and have made peace with that. Before completing the first three novels in the Shattering series, I did write the first in a trilogy that I will certainly revisit one day. The Mercenary Code makes mention of people and places from that old work, a homage for the time being.
What has your publishing journey been like?
To be honest, I saw a great opportunity with the option to self publish. I think the stigma around ‘indie authors’ has changed. If your work is professional and you’ve taken the time to polish and refine your craft, there’s a huge opportunity in self publishing. The ability to maintain creative control over my work played the biggest part of my decision in releasing my work independently. That my books can so easily travel to so many corners of the world is exciting. So the journey… well it’s just beginning.
Please tell us about your novel, The Mercenary Code.
A lost race. A broken land. A motley company of mercenaries, and trees… lots of trees.
At its core though; it’s a story of redemption. The main characters are on a journey to save a broken land but insofar as they are ‘heroes’, they are also flawed, as well as full of regret and indecision. The Mercenary Code is not just about the battles, magic system and hidden secrets (although there are plenty of those), It’s about the journey of the characters and the impact they have on you (the reader) as you follow them throughout the series.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
The biggest challenges I faced revolved around my ability to focus on those sections that I was less enthusiastic about tackling. It took time for me as a writer to understand the importance of all aspects of the story, not just the ‘exciting’, ‘revelatory’ or ‘cool’ parts. Taking the time to put the same attention to detail and care in all aspects of my writing continues to be a challenge but it is one I am keen to defeat. I also realized that a break now and then didn’t need to weigh on me. I wasn’t being lazy or abandoning my craft if I needed to step back and recharge at times. There was a time when I was younger that I would have dwelled on any missed opportunity to write. I believe I’ve come a long way in that regard.
What is your work schedule like when you’re in writer’s mode?
I did take a substantial break from writing at one point because of life demands and work. It was frustrating and sometimes mentally exhausting to plan out my stories and yet be unable to find any traction with the writing. So now it’s all about balance. I write every day, although I do take days off sometimes simply to mentally recharge. It isn’t easy, but I find my best work is accomplished when I keep a rhythm going.
Do you use an outline when you write, or are you more of a discovery writer?
I have about a dozen outlines for the Shattering series in several different notebooks. They might have subtle changes, but the core tenets of the entire story are still there, just like I have always envisioned. I do however, leave room for my characters to breathe. The story has changed for the better in many instances, so I’m not married to any exact idea other than a few key moments and events.
How do you balance what you’re reading against what you’re writing?
That’s a difficult one. In part, I read some stories that touch on similar fantasy conventions. In that sense I need to always remember to try and keep my story my own and not allow other influences to bleed too much into my world. With that being said, it’s impossible not to be influenced by the sheer amount of pages I read in a given year. Again, paying homage to those who have created such incredible tales is important, but finding my own voice is just as significant to me. I want people to read The Mercenary Code and feel that it stands on its own. As the series continues, having readers excited for the next book is always the goal!
What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Read. Read. Read. Then read some more. Reading has had such a profound effect on my skill as a writer.
Develop a thick skin. Unfortunately, not everyone is going to connect with a story or character the way you might desire. Some may even find your work boring, awful or simply unreadable. Writing is no less subjective than art, or cooking, or TV shows. People can love or hate many different things.
Write because you love it, not because you feel forced to. On one of my substantial breaks, I had to remind myself that it shouldn’t feel like work. I write now with a joy that was missing for a long time. I still have struggles, don’t get me wrong, but I find I’m better equipped to ward off those frustrations because I’m telling the stories I want to tell, the way I want to tell them.
The words always come with the rain, for that is my curse. To have the opportunity to speak so rarely and wait for the whim of chance that there might be an audience to hear them.
Why do I speak now? Because the rains have come, blessing these barren mountains and giving me to chance to break the bonds laid upon me – if only I speak the truth. If I tell the tale as it was, not how my pride and your folklore wish it to be. For stories change with the telling, whether spoken aloud or not. And while my voice is only granted to me when the heavens cry, I have recounted her story again and again in my mind. And my part in it.
You who come in pilgrimage for the chance that the rains might fall when you visit, seek only the wisdom of an oracle; for was that not my role in her court? Was I not a seer and advisor? Was I not a liar and traitor? Ah, you do not know. But then you do not know who she was either. Hero or tyrant, virgin or whore, mother or daughter, queen or peasant, villain or fool? She was all these things, and none of them. She was a gift of the gods, the last female of my kind.
For centuries I have stood upon these broken hills in my eternal vigil, the ruins of a once mighty empire crumbling behind me. My only company the winds. And her voice within them. Her words torment me and entice me, for they are just an echo, and a key.
“When the immortality you prize weighs too heavy upon your shoulders, elder brother, tell the world what you did to steal the Dragonthrone. Tell them true and you will find your freedom.”
But what will happen when I do? Will this stone fall from this vile human form I have been trapped in? Will I spread my wings once more? Do my kin who survived the Doom still prosper? Would they accept me? Do I want them to?