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The Bhel Sea - coming soon!

My next novel is very close to being released, with edits almost in and an artist commissioned to produce the book covers.

This is a novel that is a good four years in the making, from conception at the end of 2006 and the first chapters written soon after the birth of my first daughter, then sporadic progress through the following three years until it was finally finished, feeling like something of a Frankenstein monster given the total project occurred both before and after becoming a father (twice), and before and after attending Clarion South 2009 (a particularly intense 6 weeks writers’ workshop).

I’m very much looking forward to holding the print version in my hands. That is the final moment when the fruits of all that dispersed labour is realised and the project feels ‘finished’.

More updates to follow, including blurbs and preliminary designs for the maps and cover.

Here is an excerpt of the book, the prologue (still subject to change):


The Bhel Sea once smelled of ruin, of wealth and of places I’ll never go. It’s different now but it’s hard to hold onto memories of distant events as anything more than stories. They don’t seem to hold much truth compared to the every day. Memories fade too quickly and details are forgotten. I don’t want to forget. It seems impossible that I could, but in ten years time, this will all seem as distant. 

I live on Ash’s Reef, on a little island in the Bhel Sea, where the wind is always blowing in the sails of passing ships. I was born here, and have some memories of a time before the Korsar, but not many because I was only a boy when they arrived, ten years ago. They came with hands and arms tattooed black. Like any thief, murderer or freebooter, they took what they wanted, but they didn’t leave. I remember the flames coming out of windows, and the smell of burning flesh, but not much more.  

From Ash Island, the Korsar brought the sword to the Bhel Sea,  to the ports, to the villages and towns on the coasts. When the killing stopped, the plundering began. Everyone paid the black tax they demanded. My father paid it. Every trader and every ship’s captain paid it. The Korsar strung up anyone who didn’t; dangled them from hawsers flung over a yard-arm to moan in tandem with the creaking of the rope that cut into their necks. Any boat or ship they had would burn to the waterline before them as they choked.  

The Korsar ran the Bhel Sea  and left wrecked ships and skeletons in their passing to calcify and join the coral. None of it was enough to stop the demand for trade. I know all this because of the stories from sea-hands and merchants, stories about spices and timber and ambhel powders. Stories about towns and ports hungry for commerce: Skarpa, Newport, Kells, Rigon, and the Free Towns. Everyone  learning to bend to the Korsar, a violent change that rippled beyond the Bhel Sea, down the Straits and into the city-states of the warm South. 

All of it coming from here, from the Bhel Sea, a sea of many names: the white sea, the sea of bones, the sea of storms, the sea of old times, the sea of ambhel, the sea of last gasps. The sea of change seems closest to the truth. And the Korsar were a stone dropped in the waters of the world, bring disorder to places and people who had never seen deep water. 

I knew none of this at first. How could I know that the Korsar would touch the life of a noble’s daughter in the southern city-state of Tir? She a girl when her parents were murdered, and condemned to a cold heart, following the orders of their killer. 

And I knew nothing of the change the Korsar brought to the East, beyond the Spine Ranges to the warriors of the Elaan Sept and their leader, Jhared Elaan.            

But I learned of it all soon enough, because the change came to me, too, in the Bhel Sea where I worked as a scriv, and later a symbolist. 

This is their story. And mine. This is my written memory.

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