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The Torcian Chronicles

Enter The Kingdom of Torcia

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5 Minutes with P.J. Reed

Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?  

I write speculative fiction based on fantasy worlds filled with magic, intrigue and adventure. My writing spills into dark fantasy worlds of sword and sorcery, magic and mayhem. I also write very slowly, this five-minute interview actually took me over an hour!
I live in Devon, England with a handful of teenagers, one feral cat and a dog called Fizz.

What do you like to do when you're not writing? 

When I’m not writing I like to read. I particularly enjoy books on abnormal psychology, fantasy, physics, and forensic science. I also train at the gym about 4 times a week, and I love obsessing about Star Wars.

What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author? 
The books that defined me were – Lord of the Rings, all books by Kathy Reich’s, and Stephen King. The TV programs/ Films I found particularly interesting were Star Wars, Firefly, Blake’s 7, Andromeda, Dr Who, Supernatural, Ghost Wars, and 12 Monkeys. 
 
How would you describe your writing style? 
Rather dark, full of adventure with lots of action and real characters that you can identify with. 
 
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you? 
People either love or hate my work. Some people think dark fantasy means ‘Twilight’ with love struck teenagers and a lot of teenage angst set against a fantasy backward.
  ’The Torcian Chronicles’ is deep, dark fantasy with flawed characters fighting for a flawed system. The humor is dark too and sometimes a bit naughty for those of a sensitive disposition. The world of Torcia is dangerous and all magic comes at a cost.  
One negative review I am quite proud of was from a guy who stated, he hated all fantasy and my book was as bad as Lord of the Rings and that - 
 
‘The world of Torcia is under attack by Mivirian raiders. The Torcian king sends out a warlock to aid in its defense. A captain, Sicam (the only character I liked) is in charge, and along the way they pick up a young royal warlock, Shadral. Scenes of war unfold from the opening page and it never lets up. If you want continuous action, it is all here, relentless and unforgiving. In the darkest kind of way, the world of Torcia overwhelmed me.
 
PJ Reed presents an arena in which every sort of creature, both evil and benign, romps through some of the most distressing and oppressive landscapes in fantasy lands. Perhaps that's the point. Nothing in this world seems friendly or safe; the trees of the forests watch and wait, the soils creep and smolder, the cave walls and rocks threaten with jagged points, even the water and snow is dangerous. A world in which you wonder that only warlocks can survive. Death and debris and lingering horror is everywhere. Not a bright glen or valley to be seen, not a rainbow in the strangely torn skies. And that is just nature. Hordes of warriors and ghouls are all over the place.
 
To be fair, Reed has a powerful skill at colorful description and for the horror fan there is never a dull moment. She makes even the moss on the rocks come alive. Not a doorway or stony edifice or city-scape goes unbrushed with bleakness, corruption or menace. Rot and decay and stench bury this world to the hilt. It reads like dungeons and dragons on fast forward. Even magic swords and wizardry are unable to keep it all at bay for very long.’
 
I’ve also had lots of super reviews which I am very grateful for and want to thank everyone who posted such kind reviews. For example-
 
D. Stanley wrote, ‘This book is exactly what fantasy should be. Lots of fantasy is cliched and predictable, let's be honest, but this book was anything but that.
 
The first chapter is the perfect opening. It's tense, it's exciting, and the tone of it couldn't be better. The tone is just one example of the quality of writing, but the other is the characterisation. Mesham is a fantastic character -- funny, believable, but flawed too. I wanted him to succeed. Unlike most fantasy heroes, he wasn't protected. He suffered more than anybody throughout and that made him more likeable. In fact, the characters were so consistent that they all felt like real people, even the villains. The Mivirians, while terrifying, didn't feel like the faceless monsters that most fantasy fighters are, which was a refreshing change.
 
The worldbuilding was good too, and the author obviously knows her stuff. The spells were fascinating and diverse, and the story was full of action to the very last page. It's clear that PJ Reed has been writing for a long time. She's good at it, and this book shows not only this, but how fantasy should be done.’
 
While K. Belight said, ‘I thoroughly enjoyed this fantasy book. I am an avid fantasy fan and have read many. Excellent in-depth perfectly imperfect characters. Believable other world. Dashes of humour and humanity (good and bad) plus of course great magic. I can’t wait for the next book. Well done.’
 
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult? 
The editing. I find it a painful, soul destroying process.
 
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? 
Yes, animal cruelty.
 
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? 
The names in my book have names based on Hebrew, Viking or Anglo-Saxon words to indicate their properties e.g. their characters or vices.
 
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers? A laptop, a writing pad, and a pencil.  You must also have good observational and listening skills.
 
What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing? Write for yourself. Write what you want to read.
 
Getting your worked noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject? 
I attend lots of wonderful ComicCons and give talks to various groups.
 
To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least favourite to write for and why?
 I like writing for all my characters – the bad ones are fun because you have to slip into the mind of a psychopath and work out their thoughts and feelings I am enjoying writing two protagonists at present. ‘The Grey’ a psychopathic warlock and ‘Gaol Captain Dimhusir’ an anally retentive bureaucrat who is worrying about the amount of prisoners dying incorrectly in his dungeon. I also like the nobility and kindness of Captain Sicam the battle-hardened warrior with a heart of gold, and Mesham the warlock who never quite gets things right no matter how hard he tries. 
 
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
 ‘The Torcian Chronicles’ Book 1 ‘Defiance’
 
 
For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why? 
‘The Torcian Chronicles’ Book 1 ‘Defiance’ because it is a total immersion book. Even though its dark fantasy its characters represent actual people you meet, and they have real emotions and flaws. The book is set in a whole new world with plenty of places for the reader to explore. There are different cultures, languages, races, and a completely new magic system. It offers people a chance to escape from the mundane and enter the extraordinary. 
'The Torcian Chronicles' is available from Amazon.com & Amazon.co.uk  
 
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?  
And what would be the answer? There isn’t one I get asked many, many questions about my writing!
 
Thank you for reading!

The Saturday Sizzler

Cosplay at the Mansion!

This week took a rather surreal turn which resulted in some most unexpected actions.

As a member of the EAA fantasy department, we sometimes do events in costume or ‘drag’ as I like to call it – for maximum shock appeal!  The idea was meet at Costa plan future events and then go to Knightshayes, our local National Trust mansion to take some photos of us looking slightly abnormal.  

Things never go as planned.

The Costa manager wanted a photo of us glammed up and obviously no author in their right mind passes up a photo opportunity. So, I was there in Costa dressed as a Medieval lady with slight witch leanings, next to a Medieval woman, a sparkling elf, and a Steam Punker, having our photo taken in a crowded Costa trying to look cool. A feat we have yet to ever achieve but I live in hope.

 Then we had to walk to the carpark to drive up to Knightshayes through the busy streets of Tiverton and no one seemed to notice… which was slightly unnerving.

Knightshayes was ablaze with the delicious summer sun, so we sat on the benches outside the stables waiting for our photo shoot to begin. The national press photographer, one Richard Lappas had been taking pictures of a famous government minister the day before, so it must have been a little bit of a culture shock for him to be taking pictures of fantasy creatures in a tree. However, as always, his pictures were stunning. Obviously, they would have been better if I looked more like Helena Bonham-Carter, but writers are meant to be kept in dark places to scribble their manuscripts well away from the bright lights and spot lights. There is a reason for it…

Anyway, I was sitting on the bench with Richard Dee (Steam Punk author) and Tracey Norman (Elvish storyteller) and one man in a Northern accent approached us and said,

‘I have to ask you, what are you doing?’

We replied we were in fact authors and not members of some strange Friday fetish club, which seemed to satisfy him, and he wandered off content.

The shoot went fine. I managed to vaguely understand the instructions from the photographer – the interesting command of put your eyes here did cause a slight confusion, however.  The most amusing thing was how visitors took photos of me being photographing by a photographer which was slightly bizarre as I don’t even like photos of me!

The final shoot was the humorous (authors do have a sense of humour shoot) with us standing behind a tree and our little faces appearing around the trunk. The bottom face was the elf kneeling on the floor, then we had the Medieval woman leaning over the elf. Next, we had me -  basically leaning over the back of said Medieval woman looking like we were doing something slightly inappropriate and being watched by the Steam Punker who was standing peering around the tree. From the front it might have looked like a cute, cheeky author picture, from the side view it looked like something completely different…

I am slightly worried about the pictures the onlookers took from the side view but at least they will not forget the fantasy department authors for some time.

Exmouth Festival Report from a Tardis

Well, for the first time Exmouth Festival decided to let in authors. I do not know if this was a good or bad sign, but we are here and we are staying. Gradually we are colonising every festival in the south-west from food to music like a plague of Magog – only less furry and active. Instead of implanting eggs we hopefully implant ideas into people which hopefully does not prove to be lethal.

The Festival literary side was based at Exmouth Library – the third biggest library in Devon, with five rooms of book-inspired activities for young and old alike. Beatrice and the amazing library staff worked tirelessly throughout the day and the library was filled with over 400 visitors. Special guests at this event were several local Exmouth authors including David Bazell, former editor of the Exmouth Journal and the Fleet Street photographer to the royals Richard Lappas.

The morning started with a series of fun children’s activities with local children authors which included Jenny Kane’s exploration of Roald Dahl writings, Ollie Tooley and his secret identity card workshop, and Brindy Wilcox taking children on a time travel adventure to London.

There were also plenty of activities for adults interesting in books with a series of writing-based workshops for the budding authors of Exmouth. I was due to run my ‘How To Catch A Publisher’ workshop in the lovely big room next to the reference hall. I had the room arrangement and seating plan worked out and things were going smoothly, too smoothly in fact. As any soldier knows every battle plan created in the briefing room falls apart as soon as you start the campaign. Well, I started organising my workshop of four people and a woman rushed in and announced, ‘Room Change’ and I was displaced into a long thin white annexe which looked like a corridor. I charged in with minutes to spare to set up my new room. Then my workshoppers arrived. There were 9 of them in total. In a room 4 foot wide and 10 feet long. So, I lined the chairs up against the wall as if they were going to be shot, jumped onto the high permanent table and stuck my white board on the only empty space in the room.  I had to kneel up on the table to actually write on. My agility level really impressed me though – the hours at gym are helping. 

The workshop went well even though my feet could not touch the ground and I must have looked like a hobbit. Not the image I was really going for but at least it was memorable.

At the end of the workshop, I heard a couple say, 'I told you it would be well worth coming’ so I was happy.

My friend Tracey, waiting to run the next talk could not believe the number of people filing out from one tiny room to which I replied that I’d given my workshop in a Tardis because I’m cool like that…

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Comments

Sounds like a great day was had by all. Hope you sold a few too :)

Great blog!

HIgh Fantasy Map Art

Not all fantasy books need maps but when you start creating a massive epic high fantasy world it helps... a lot.

If you are creating your own world as opposed to basing your story on this planet, you cannot just cruise Google Earth or go retro, get your local maps out and check that one village is indeed south west of another or that there is no unexpected mountain range between your two warring villages.

Epic high fantasy is fantasy on an epic level - you are creating a whole new world for your readers to explore. This is fine when you begin your story but half-way through ynless you have a least stretched out a map you will not remember whether to go east to Mivir or west to Hwaerte Castle. You may not think it matters, but if your warlock is travelling in the wrong direction at least one reader will work it out and it will completely spoil the world building for that poor person.

So map creation from the very beginning of your story will save you a lot of time. Additionally, world building maps are works of art. They are beautiful. I cannot imagine many people who not recognise a map of Middle Earth.

This leads to one of the major map building issue of high fantasy. It cannot look like Middle Earth! Everyone has to create a map in their own style. My map style is pictorial I like to portray how the citidals and mountains actually looked, which was a big undertaking... 

My daughter created mine from my scribbles on scribbles of how each great citadel looked in Torcia and exactly where it was positioned. The result an was an instant overview of the two lands of Mivir and Torcia for the reader to track the travels and battles on and perhaps even use to create their own adventures...