Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Jim Melvin's epic-fantasy series The Death Wizard Chronicles

Journalist turned full-time novelist, Jim Melvin visited The Book Connection in December. Today, we are featuring the first three books in Jim's epic fantasy series The Death Wizard Chronicles, which some say will be a huge hit with adult fans of Harry Potter and Eragon. You'll find a synopsis of all three books and Jim shares some of his reflections on writing each of these novels.

Short synopses for Books 1-3:

The Death Wizard Chronicles, a six-book epic fantasy, is approximately 700,000 words in length. I am confident my main character will become a classic hero in fantasy literature. In a groundbreaking paradox, the Death Wizard, a champion of good, derives his power from a source traditionally seen as negative — death. His nemesis, an evil sorcerer, derives his power from the sun, the benevolent source of all life. Their struggle to control the fate of the planet Triken unfolds in epic fashion throughout the series.

In a truly original twist never before seen in this genre, the Death Wizard is able to enter the realm of death during a temporary “suicide.” Through intense concentration, he stops his heartbeat briefly and feeds on death energy, which provides him with a dazzling array of magical powers. The series also is a love triangle involving two desperate characters attempting to come together despite the machinations of an all-powerful psychopath with incestuous cravings. Graphic and action-packed, spanning a millennium of turmoil, The Death Wizard Chronicles carries readers on a breathtaking journey they will never forget.

In Book I (The Pit), Torg, the Death Wizard, is imprisoned in a horrifying pit bored into the solid rock of a frozen mountain. His captor is Invictus, the evil sorcerer whose power threatens to engulf the land in eternal darkness. Torg spends 22 days in agony before making his dramatic escape and setting off on a series of adventures that will change the fate of Triken.

Book II (Moon Goddess) introduces the powerful love story of Torg and Laylah (sister of Invictus), who are irresistibly drawn together by supernatural passion. After each one escapes the clutches of the sorcerer, they meet in the wilderness in a frantic attempt to outrun the forces of evil and reach Jivita, the White City.

In Book III (Eve of War), Torg and Laylah are hounded at every turn by Invictus’ evil minions. They flee from one danger to the next in a frantic attempt to reach the safety of Jivita. Along the way, they encounter unexpected enemies and friends … and even receive help from an unlikely source: Vedana, the mother of all demons, whose diabolical schemes include keeping the wizard and sorceress alive. At least for now.

Book One (The Pit) excerpt:

Each breath has a beginning, middle, and end. The inhale has a beginning, middle, and end. The pause in between has a beginning, middle, and end. The exhale has a beginning, middle, and end.

The breath is a microcosm of all existence. If you watch closely enough, you will see for yourself.

Use breath as the focus. But do not force it out of its natural rhythm. Simply become aware of it.

When the mind wanders, draw it back — gently, but persistently. Release your distraction and return the attention to the breath.

Inhale ...

Know that you are breathing in.

Exhale ...

Know that you are breathing out.

Inhale ...

Know the short inhalation.

Exhale ...

Know the short exhalation.

Inhale ...

Know the long inhalation.

Exhale ...

Know the long exhalation.

Inhale ...

Breathe in and become peaceful.

Exhale ...

Breathe out and become peaceful.

Inhale ...

Breathe in and become aware of the body.

Exhale ...

Breathe out and become aware of the body.

Inhale ...

Breathe in and feel joy.

Exhale ...

Breathe out and feel joy.

Inhale ...

Breathe in and become aware of the mind.

Exhale ...

Breathe out and become aware of the mind.

Inhale ...

Breathe in and control the mind.

Exhale ...

Breathe out and control the mind.

Inhale ...

Breathe in and concentrate the mind.

Exhale ...

Breathe out and concentrate the mind.

Inhale ...

Breathe in and slow the thought.

Exhale ...

Breathe out and slow the thought.

Inhale ...

Breathe in and quicken the awareness.

Exhale ...

Breathe out and quicken the awareness.

Inhale ...

Breathe in and slow the breath.

Exhale ...

Breathe out and slow the breath.

Inhale ...

Breathe in and slow the heartbeat.

Exhale ...

Breathe out and slow the heartbeat.

Inhale ...

Exhale ...

Inhale ……

Exhale ……

With one final surge of mindful concentration Torg willed his heart to stop beating. When Sammaasamaadhi arrived, his temporary suicide began. What the wizard experienced next occurs to all that ever live — from the simplest bacterium to the most complex animal.

And that is what made Torg so special.

Only a Death-Knower can die.

And live again.

Only a Death-Knower can return from death.

And remember.

Only a Death-Knower can tell us what he has seen.

Not all care to listen.

Personal reflections on Book One (The Pit)

The Death Wizard Chronicles is literally a dream come true for me. I began envisioning the opening scenes from The Pit while still in college in the late 1970s. And for the next 25 years, I imagined the trials and tribulations of a wizard who could die and return. But my job as an editor/reporter/supervisor at the St. Petersburg Times seemed to consume most if not all of my creative energy, and I never seemed able to sit down with any consistency and put the words on paper. Four years ago, I was lucky enough to be able to semi-retire while still in my 40s, and in September 2004 I wrote the first page of The Pit. Seven hundred thousand words later, it’s now January 2008 and I’m within two weeks of finishing the final revision of book six, the last book of the series.

Once I finally began to write, the words seemed to gush out of me — almost as if I were channeling. And what a joy it was. I have to admit that there were many times in my life when I never thought this series would be written. And here I was, writing it. I’ll always be able to look myself in the mirror and know that I gave it my best shot.

Book Two (Moon Goddess) excerpt:

Bhayatupa heaved against the chains like a mountain trying to tear itself from the ground. But the more the great dragon struggled, the tighter the restraints became. Watching all this, Laylah became convinced that she was doomed. Vedana had been lying the entire time. Nothing could free her from this nightmare. But just then, the most peculiar thing occurred. Invictus, always in command, always in control, let out a yelp, and his magically amplified voice leapt across the valley, suddenly high-pitched and frightened.

“What is it?” he screeched. “What is happening to the sun? Someone ... help ... IT HURTS!”

All eyes looked toward the sky. A shadow had emerged over the western edge of the round yellow orb. Few would have noticed this unusual event — at least at this early stage — if the sorcerer had not reacted so intensely. To Laylah’s surprise, her brother turned and fled through a doorway into the tower, trailing fire and smoke.

The momentary silence that followed was as profound as death — then came hysteria, as if acid were raining from the skies. But above the tumult thundered an even greater sound — an enraged growl that swept over the valley like a tidal wave.

Snap. Snap! SNAP! One by one, the chains that held Bhayatupa fell away.

Personal reflections on Book Two (Moon Goddess)

Book One is a quick and easy read, a sort of rollercoaster ride that is purposefully sparse and sketchy. Book Two slows down the pace and takes on a more traditional fantasy feel. Moon Goddess is my second favorite of the six books. In my opinion, only Book Five (Sun God) is better. Almost every scene and character in Book Two has been with me — in my mind, at least — for more than two decades. So actually writing the book was cathartic, to say the least.

I wrote Moon Goddess (and all but Book Six, actually) in a house located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains. Our house was surrounded by twenty wooded acres, and a window in front of my desk in our downstairs office looked out into a beautiful forest of pines and hardwoods. To be honest, though, I did most of my work at night, so I couldn’t see the forest as I wrote. But I could hear it and smell it, which was every bit as good. Those were wonderful, peaceful, private moments — just me and the words and the trees outside my window.

Book Three (Eve of War) excerpt:

At the camp that night, Sister Tathagata felt strangely lightheaded — and she had never been so thirsty in her life. Though none of the ordinary Tugars dared chastise her, Tāseti found the courage to complain about her excessive consumption of water. But the High Nun couldn’t stop herself. The evening after they left the haven, her mouth had become constantly dry, more so even than the exertions of the journey should have demanded. She became concerned that she was coming down with a fever, which would make the march to Anna far more difficult. She found a quiet place on the rim of the camp and tried to meditate. Normally she would be able to view her discomforts with detached concentration, watching them rise and fall in wave upon wave of impermanence. But this thirst was different.

When she watched her breath, it only made it worse. She found herself literally sneaking behind Tāseti’s back to drink. She noticed several others doing the same, their normally placid faces flushed and agitated. Did she look that way too? Sister Tathagata, the Perfect One? This was the kind of behavior for which she had lectured others. Never before had she felt so out of control.

The Tugars fed them bread, dates, and berries. She ate mindfully but did not enjoy the small meal. She would have preferred the stew with the sardines. This time, she would have eaten the fish along with the broth.

After feeding the monks and nuns, Tāseti, Rati, and the desert warriors had roasted a bighorn sheep they had brought down earlier that day with a bead from a sling. The warriors were tearing into it with gusto, relishing the greasy meat and washing it down with Tugarian wine. The High Nun stood silently off to the side and watched, her mouth watering. She almost felt like she could take a bite herself, an especially juicy bite — and she hadn’t eaten the flesh of an animal since she was a child almost three thousand years ago.

To somehow quench her newfound desires, she snuck over to the water-skins and drank until her stomach bloated. Then she staggered to her tent and slept. The nuns by her side smelled tasty — like delicious raw meat.

Personal reflections on Book Three (Eve of War)

By the time I started Eve of War, I really had hit my stride. In preparation for writing The Death Wizard Chronicles, I read more than 50 nonfiction books — everything from medieval weapons and armor to Horses for Dummies — and the research really paid off in Book Three. I’m not quite in George R.R. Martin’s league, but my authenticity quotient is pretty darn good, and Eve of War is where it really begins to show.

One of my favorite scenes in this book involves a harrowing journey by canoe down a whitewater river. Much of the description of my fictional river is based on the real-life Chattooga River (think Deliverance), which flows through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and which is world famous for whitewater rafting. I went down a stretch of the Chattooga once myself — and adored every moment of it. Those thrilling memories played a large role in the scene.

Here's more information you need to know:

Books: The Death Wizard Chronicles, a six-book epic fantasy. Book One is entitled The Pit and was available on rainbooks.com and amazon.com in September 2007. Book Two (Moon Goddess) was available in October 2007. Book Three (Eve of War) was available in November 2007. Book Four (World on Fire) will be available in mid-January 2008. Book Five (Sun God), February 2008. Book Six (Death-Know), March 2008.

Jim’s blog: http://www.deathwizardchronicles.blogspot.com

Bio: Jim Melvin, 50, was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., but spent more than forty years of his life in St. Petersburg, Fla. He now lives in Clemson, S.C. Jim graduated from the University of South Florida (Tampa) with a B.A. in Journalism in 1979. He was an award-winning journalist at the St. Petersburg Times for twenty-five years and retired in 2004 to become a full-time novelist. At the Times, he specialized in science, nature, health and fitness, and he wrote about everything from childhood drowning to erupting volcanoes. But he spent the majority of his career as a designer, editor, and supervisor. Jim is a student of Eastern philosophy and mindfulness meditation, both of which he weaves extensively into his work. Meditation helps to clear his mind for long bouts of writing. Jim is married and has five daughters. The Death Wizard Chronicles, a six-book epic fantasy series, marks his debut as a novelist.


Jim Melvin said...

Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog, and also for the excellent presentation. I appreciate all that you have done for me and for other writers fortunate enough to have come in contact with you.

Cheryl said...

You're so sweet Jim. I'm thrilled to promote great books and yours definitely qualify.

Best of luck!