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Guest Blog by Mark T. Barnes - Blending Magic and Technology in Epic Fantasy - May 23, 2014


Please welcome Mark T. Barnes to The Qwillery.  The Pillars of Sand (Echoes of Empire 3) was published on May 20, 2014 by 47North.



Guest Blog by Mark T. Barnes - Blending Magic and Technology in Epic Fantasy - May 23, 2014




Blending Magic and Technology in Epic Fantasy
by Mark T. Barnes
There are varying opinions about blending technology, or science, with the arcane in fantasy stories. I don’t believe there’s a hard and fast rule in a genre that encourages authors to speculate about worlds other than the one we were born in, and for readers to suspend their disbelief. Provided there’s a valid reason for science and the arcane to coexist, that technology doesn’t preclude the ongoing study of the arcane, and that the reasons for coexistence are demonstrated to the reader and make sense, then I think it can work quite well.

For me it’s questions inherent in the world building:
• How do science and magic coexist?
• What factors make the ongoing study of magic feasible when compared with the relative simplicity of ongoing technological advancement?
• When did society make the choice to focus on two potentially divergent paths of improvement?
• Why doesn’t either the arcane, or science, dominate the other?
• What is the mindset of the prevailing cultures, or the elements of the world around them, that make the arcane a viable option?

When creating the world of Īa for The Echoes of Empire series, and developing it’s layered history of empires that had risen and fallen, there was a tendency for new cultures to borrow from the old. It makes sense to take what you need from what you’ve experienced, and leave what you don’t. Our own history is filled with similar tales where innovation has led to imitation. Īa is no different in that intelligent people will recognise the value in something, try to understand it, and then emulate it and build upon it.

The arcane was well developed on Īa, with a history of cultures being aware of, and connected to, the living mind and spirit of the world. Arcane energy was a renewable natural resource that could be manipulated. The catalyst came when the Starborn (Humans), landed on Īa. Within decades the humans came to blows with the indigenous peoples of Īa, and wars broke out. At first the human technology proved to be very effective, but it was static. The arcane was as strong: subtle and powerful, and highly adaptable. After more than a century there came a détente. But the humans had shown the indigenous cultures of Īa what it was like to have flying ships, to have powered vehicles, or weapons that fired energy, or to create life quickly and artificially. Soon the great minds of Īa had taken on these wonders and found ways to imitate what they had seen, to greater or lesser degrees.

By the time of the stories told in The Garden of Stones, The Obsidian Heart, and The Pillars of Sand, there has been a renaissance of arcane industrialisation. Technology, such as it is, is powered by the arcane, and stretches the known limits of hard science. The mindset of those who live on Īa is to work collaboratively with nature, as they know that the world is aware of what happens around it. Though the arcane is not practiced by everybody, access to the arcane devices and benefits of that imitation can be. Similarly the natural resources of Īa lend themselves to sustaining arcane effects, are mostly renewable, and reasonably accessible. There is no need to continue with the complexities of technology when the arcane can emulate what the people of Īa needed.

Even the humans have embraced the arcane, though some are aware of humanity’s glorious and advanced past. One of my new projects deals more with the humans and their study of ancient Starborn technology, where histories tell of the wonders of ancient human civilisation, and their ability to sail between the stars. But that article is for a different set of books.

Should the writer’s world building answer the questions I posed earlier, the blend of arcane and science can provide a rich and varied world that readers may enjoy.





Echoes of Empire

The Pillars of Sand
Echoes of Empire 3
47North, May 20, 2014
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 488 pages

Guest Blog by Mark T. Barnes - Blending Magic and Technology in Epic Fantasy - May 23, 2014
The epic conclusion of the Echoes of Empire trilogy.

Prophecy declared that corrupt politician Corajidin would rule the Shrīanese Federation, even become its new Emperor—and sinister magic has helped him defy death in order to do it. But his victory is not assured, thanks to clashing rival factions that hinder any attempts to unify the nation. Though he has taken increasingly brutal measures to eliminate all obstacles in his path, the dark forces supporting him grow dangerously impatient. And the harder they press, the more drastic Corajidin’s actions become.

Soon, only his most powerful adversaries will stand in his way: Indris, the peerless swordsman and sorcerer who has long fought to end the Federation’s bloody turmoil; and the warrior-poet Mari, Corajidin’s own daughter and the woman Indris loves. Fate has torn them apart, forcing them into terrifying personal trials. But if Indris can bring to bear the devastating knowledge of the Pillars of Sand, and Mari can rise up as a rebel leader, Corajidin’s enemies will rally—and the decisive battle for the soul and future of the Shrīanese will begin.

This epic tale of intrigue, love, and betrayal, painted in the blood of allies and enemies by Mark T. Barnes, concludes the Echo of Empire trilogy that began with The Garden of Stones and The Obsidian Heart.



The Obsidian Heart
The Echoes of Empire 2
47North, October 15, 2013
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 438 pages

Guest Blog by Mark T. Barnes - Blending Magic and Technology in Epic Fantasy - May 23, 2014
A plot to overthrow the Shrīanese Federation has been quashed, but the bloody rebellion is far from over...and the struggle to survive is just beginning.

Warrior-mage Indris grows weary in his failed attempts to thwart the political machinations of Corajidin, and faces the possibility of imprisonment upon his return to his homeland. Moreover, Indris’s desire for Corajidin’s daughter, Mari, is strong. Can he choose between his duty and his desire…and at what cost?

Left alienated from her House, Mari is torn between the opposing forces of her family and her country—especially now that she’s been offered the position of Knight-Colonel of the Feyassin, the elite royal guards whose legacy reaches back to the days of the Awakened Empire. As the tensions rise, she must decide if her future is with Indris, with her family, or in a direction not yet foreseen.

As he awaits trial for his crimes, Corajidin confronts the good and evil within himself. Does he seek redemption for his cruel deeds, or does he indebt himself further to the enigmatic forces that have promised him success, and granted him a reprieve from death? What is more important: his ambition, regaining the love stolen from him, or his soul?



The Garden of Stones
Echoes of Empire 1
47North, May 21, 2013
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 506 pages

Guest Blog by Mark T. Barnes - Blending Magic and Technology in Epic Fantasy - May 23, 2014
An uneasy peace has existed since the fall of the Awakened Empire centuries ago. Now the hybrid Avān share the land with the people they once conquered: the star-born humans; the spectral, undead Nomads; and what remains of the Elemental Masters.

With the Empress-in-Shadows an estranged ghost, it is the ancient dynasties of the Great Houses and the Hundred Families that rule. But now civil war threatens to draw all of Shrīan into a vicious struggle sparked by one man’s lust for power, and his drive to cheat death.

Visions have foretold that Corajidin, dying ruler of House Erebus, will not only survive, but rise to rule his people. The wily nobleman seeks to make his destiny certain—by plundering the ruins of his civilization’s past for the arcane science needed to ensure his survival, and by mercilessly eliminating his rivals. But mercenary warrior-mage Indris, scion of the rival House Näsarat, stands most powerfully in the usurper’s bloody path. For it is Indris who reluctantly accepts the task of finding a missing man, the only one able to steer the teetering nation towards peace.





About Mark

Guest Blog by Mark T. Barnes - Blending Magic and Technology in Epic Fantasy - May 23, 2014
Mark Barnes lives in Sydney, Australia. He is the author of the epic fantasy Echoes of Empire series, published by 47North. The series includes The Garden of Stones (released May 2013), The Obsidian Heart (released October 2013), and The Pillars of Sand (released May 2014). The Garden of Stones was selected as one of five finalists in the 2013/2014 David Gemmell MORNINGSTAR Award for Best Newcomer/Debut, with the winner to be announced in London in June 2014.




You can find out more at www.marktbarnes.com, his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/marktbarnes.author, or follow Mark on Twitter @MarkTBarnes.


Guest Blog by Mark T. Barnes, author of The Garden of Stones - June 7, 2013


Please welcome Mark T. Barnes to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Garden of Stones (The Echoes of Empire 1) was published on May 21, 2013.  You may read an interview with Mark here.




Guest Blog by Mark T. Barnes, author of The Garden of Stones - June 7, 2013




Something old and something new in ‘The Garden of Stones’
By Mark T. Barnes


Let me start by saying I read a lot, and a lot of speculative fiction: fantasy and science fiction mostly, with some horror and other elements to round things out, and provide some depth and breadth. I’ve always favoured those writers who provided an immersive, layered experience, not only in their prose, but in the complexity of their plots, their character development, and their world building.

In ‘The Garden of Stones’ I aim for something similar, but as unique as I can make it. Īa is an old world, where elements of culture have been inherited down the centuries as civilisations rise, and fall: or vanish, leaving barely understood legacies behind. Part of the world building process was making shifts from paths we walk so often. Taking the story out of something comfortably European was s starting point; dispensing with standard approaches to religion, and removing deities; having a world of reason and grand invention, rather than something reminiscent of the Dark Ages; refusing to slavishly follow historical gender roles, so that gender is mostly superfluous to what a character can do with their lives; and using language to give names to things that are meaningful to different cultures in a multicultural world.

The grass roots of my world and language building were found partly in the Mediterranean, but more so in Middle Eastern and Eastern World influences. Even then, these were a high level framework, almost an abstract, from which I could build something new. While not a native of these countries, I respect their traditions and didn’t want to copy them slavishly—or misrepresent them—but used elements to weave like pieces together into something new, that was still familiar enough for readers to hold on to. World building is hard enough, without making everything so foreign that readers have no anchor to hold them fast to the characters, world and story.

Social mores are something that interest me, and it constantly surprises me that we feel the need to reflect the wilful ignorance, if not the outright arrogance, of our own history in our fiction. Isn’t fiction—and in particularly speculative fiction—supposed to give as the broad strokes we need to write about something new? For me, raised in a non-sexist, non-racist environment, the idea that anybody was limited by their gender was ludicrous. When creating the cultures of Īa, I set simple rules: anybody can aspire to social and professional advancement; war is for those trained to wage it; and gender has nothing to do with your life opportunities. So you’re a woman and you want to be a soldier? Go right ahead. Want to lead your influential family? Of course you can! You’re a man, but you want to be a courtesan and give pleasure for a living? Absolutely. I think it’s important to break down the established views on gender, and look at ways where we can represent women and men, the rich and the poor, equally with regards to responsibility, accountability, authority, and opportunity.

I think one of the most fun parts was creating a new system of magic, and making mystics more than mages. Shifting to a Renaissance mind set, with its innovation, intellectual pursuits, its revolutions in science, and its approaches to diplomacy, gave me the chance to leverage some non-standard fantasy elements. Using the seeds of archaeology, of arcane engineering, of branches of magic as a science, etc, made the world building and story telling more interesting for me. Adding arcane devices, flying ships, mystic weapons and methods of healing, artificially created races who thrived to form cultures of their own, etc, added layers to the world. Writing a story in an age of reason gave me the chance to have characters who could be motivated more by curiosity and a desire to learn, and to adapt, moving away from the fear of the unknown.

The three point of view characters all have different histories and motivations, needs and wants. Readers get to see Īa unfold from these perspectives, sometimes seeing the same thing through different lenses, and having different impressions. I’ve tried to build a world people will find engaging, populated by people who actually live in it. Through their eyes, readers will discover Īa, it’s cultures, it’s people and it’s layered history, all things I hope readers will enjoy, and make Īa a place where they will want to spend more time.

‘The Garden of Stones’ is the first book in ‘The Echoes of Empire’, and reveals part of the world, the people, and the history that makes Īa the place it is. I look forward to sharing more of my world with people, as it unfolds with the release of ‘The Obsidian Heart’ in October 2013, and ‘The Pillars of Sand’ in May 2014.





About The Echoes of Empire

The Garden of Stones
The Echoes of Empire 1
47North, May 21, 2013
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 506 pages

Guest Blog by Mark T. Barnes, author of The Garden of Stones - June 7, 2013
An uneasy peace has existed since the fall of the Awakened Empire centuries ago. Now the hybrid Avān share the land with the people they once conquered: the star-born humans; the spectral, undead Nomads; and what remains of the Elemental Masters.

With the Empress-in-Shadows an estranged ghost, it is the ancient dynasties of the Great Houses and the Hundred Families that rule. But now civil war threatens to draw all of Shrīan into a vicious struggle sparked by one man’s lust for power, and his drive to cheat death.

Visions have foretold that Corajidin, dying ruler of House Erebus, will not only survive, but rise to rule his people. The wily nobleman seeks to make his destiny certain—by plundering the ruins of his civilization’s past for the arcane science needed to ensure his survival, and by mercilessly eliminating his rivals. But mercenary warrior-mage Indris, scion of the rival House Näsarat, stands most powerfully in the usurper’s bloody path. For it is Indris who reluctantly accepts the task of finding a missing man, the only one able to steer the teetering nation towards peace.




The Obsidian Heart
The Echoes of Empire 2
47North, October 15, 2013
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook

Guest Blog by Mark T. Barnes, author of The Garden of Stones - June 7, 2013
A plot to overthrow the Shrīanese Federation has been quashed, but the bloody rebellion is far from over...and the struggle to survive is just beginning.

Warrior-mage Indris grows weary in his failed attempts to thwart the political machinations of Corajidin, and faces the possibility of imprisonment upon his return to his homeland. Moreover, Indris’s desire for Corajidin’s daughter, Mari, is strong. Can he choose between his duty and his desire…and at what cost?

Left alienated from her House, Mari is torn between the opposing forces of her family and her country—especially now that she’s been offered the position of Knight-Colonel of the Feyassin, the elite royal guards whose legacy reaches back to the days of the Awakened Empire. As the tensions rise, she must decide if her future is with Indris, with her family, or in a direction not yet foreseen.

As he awaits trial for his crimes, Corajidin confronts the good and evil within himself. Does he seek redemption for his cruel deeds, or does he indebt himself further to the enigmatic forces that have promised him success, and granted him a reprieve from death? What is more important: his ambition, regaining the love stolen from him, or his soul?





About Mark

Guest Blog by Mark T. Barnes, author of The Garden of Stones - June 7, 2013
Mark Barnes was born in September, 1966 in Sydney, Australia. Raised and educated in Sydney, he was a champion swimmer who also played water-polo, soccer, cricket and volleyball. Drawn to the arts at a young age he wrote his first short story at age 7 though was active in drawing, painting, and music as well.

His career stuttered in finance, slid into advertising then leaped into Information Technology where he continues to manage a freelance Organizational Change consultancy. It was not until January 2005, when Mark was selected to attend the Clarion South residential short story workshop, he began to write with a view to making it more than a hobby. Since Clarion South 2005 Mark has published a small number of short stories, worked as a freelance script editor and done creative consultancy for a television series.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter





2013 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2013 Winner


The 2013 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars winner for May is The Garden of Stones (Echoes of Empire 1) by Mark T. Barnes with 67% of the votes cast. The Garden of Stones was published by 47North  on May 21, 2013.  The cover artwork is by Stephan Martiniere.


2013 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2013 Winner




The final results:

2013 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2013 Winner




The May Debut Covers
2013 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2013 Winner




Thank you to everyone who voted, Tweeted, and participated. The 2013 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars will continue soon with voting on the June 2013 Debut covers.


Interview with Mark T. Barnes, author of The Garden of Stones - May 22, 2013

Please welcome Mark T. Barnes to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Garden of Stones (Echoes of Empire 1) was published on May 21, 2013.



Interview with Mark T. Barnes, author of The Garden of Stones - May 22, 2013



TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery.

Mark:  Hi Sally, and thanks for inviting me.



TQ:  When and why did you start writing?

Mark:  I started writing, painting, drawing and experimenting with music when I was very young. Though I'd forgotten about it, my mother found a short story I'd written when I was seven years old, secreted away in a cupboard at my old primary school. I dabbled with story telling as part of roleplaying when I was in high school, but did not consider taking up writing as a profession until after I attendted Clarion South, 2005. That was such a profound experience, having the chance to listen and learn from some great mentors--and fellow students--that it cemented my desire to take writing seriously. As for why? I've always been fascinated by stories, and love being swept away in the wonder of them. My childhood and teenage years formed my reading habits: tales of heroism and nobility, sacrifice and love, good, evil, morality, ethics, law and justice. Grace, and the epic falls from it, or notoriety and the reach for redemption. I love the tales of flawed, complex characters, layered stories, and rich, new worlds that I can wander through. So it wasn't a stretch to want to share stories of my own with other people, hoping they loved the escape as much as I do.



TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Mark:  I suppose I tend to be a little obsessive compulsive, so I become oblivious to what's going on outside the story: like eating, drinking, or the front door bell ringing. I also tend to find I only ever write to music, tending towards favourite sound tracks.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Mark:  Definitely a plotter!



TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Mark:  There are a few. I don't pretend it's an easy thing. Being able to run my consulting business, spend time with the people I love, as well as finding the time to write, means there are sacrifices that come along with it. But you have to go into this with your eyes open, and be realistic about the time it takes, as well as what the impacts are not only on yourself, but others. Thankfully I've some very understanding, tremendously generous and caring people in my life. The other thing I find challenging is to write what I want to write, rather than write what I think might be popular, or profitable. Writing is as much an art, as it is a business. Genre readers are a cluey bunch, and I think they know when a writer is being disingenuous. So the challenge is to write what you love. It's also an intensely personal thing, and somewhat challenging, to put yourself in the public domain.



TQ:   Describe The Garden of Stones (Echoes of Empire 1) in 140 characters or less.

Mark:  Hahaha. I've never Tweeted anything! Here we go: Action, magic & adventure. Love, revenge, betrayal & murder. People of action, ambition, intelligence, & conscience. Garden of Stones. Buy it!



TQ:  What inspired you to write The Garden of Stones?

Mark:  I wasn't seeing a lot of what I liked to read, so decided to write it myself. Readers tastes are varied, and 'Garden' won't be for everybody, but I wanted to create a rich, new world with characters that were believable, flawed, yet ultimately aware of who they are, and what they were doing.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Garden of Stones?

Mark:  Am I a bad person to say, not a lot? I did some research into languages, as well as various socio-economic and political systems.



TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Mark:  Indris was the easiest to write because he's an honest man who cares about people, and has realistic motivations that we can all relate to: duty, love, guilt, etc. And as a Sēq Scholar, he's part adventurer, part archaeologist, part inventor, part warrior, and part magi: so weaving those elements together gave me somebody who was smart, who could take care of himself, and tries to do the right thing for the people he cares for. The most difficult, though no less fun for it, was Omen. He's a man out of his time, becoming more disconnected from life, and a little insane because of it. So giving the character, in the position he was in, rational motivations and interractions was sometimes hard.



TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Garden of Stones?

Mark:  I have a few favourites, for different reasons. Generally, I like the chapters where the three point of view characters finally accept what it is they have to do, are aware of the consequences (both good and bad), and decide to proceed regardless. Of those, the scene where Corajidin and Mari are discussing what the next few hours will mean for their Great House, and their possible futures, was the most fun to write. There's something about the inevitability of helping your family that can be quite tragic when there's doubt across the board.



TQ:  What's next?

Mark:  'Garden of Stones' is part of a deal with 47North for 'The Echoes of Empire' trilogy. I've written and we've done the copy edits for the second volume, 'The Obsidian Heart', and I'm currently writing the third volume, 'The Pillars of Sand'. I've seen the concept art for the cover of 'Obsidian' and am once more humbled, and awed, by Stephan Martiniere's talent. Seeing the final art is something I'm looking forward to. There is also the audiobook work for 'Obsidian', which should land on my desk soon. 'The Obsidian Heart' is scheduled for October 2013, and 'The Pillars of Sand' for May 2014.

With regards to other projects, I've more stories to tell with some of these characters--and this world--so we'll see whether readers are also interested, and go from there. Best scenario for me is that 'Garden of Stones' is a success, and that people enjoy 'The Echoes of Empire' enough that I can write Indris's much larger story. If not, there are some stand alone novels, as well as another idea for a trilogy I'd quite happily explore. Seeing 'The Echoes of Empire' done as a graphic novel, or adapted for television, would be amazing. There are no plans for either at present, but a man can dream.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Mark:  It was my pleasure, Sally. Thanks again for asking me. I hope that you and your readers enjoy 'The Garden of Stones', as much as I enjoyed writing it.





About The Garden of Stones

The Garden of Stones
Echoes of Empire 1
47North, May 21, 2013
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 506 pages

Interview with Mark T. Barnes, author of The Garden of Stones - May 22, 2013
An uneasy peace has existed since the fall of the Awakened Empire centuries ago. Now the hybrid Avān share the land with the people they once conquered: the star-born humans; the spectral, undead Nomads; and what remains of the Elemental Masters.

With the Empress-in-Shadows an estranged ghost, it is the ancient dynasties of the Great Houses and the Hundred Families that rule. But now civil war threatens to draw all of Shrīan into a vicious struggle sparked by one man’s lust for power, and his drive to cheat death.

Visions have foretold that Corajidin, dying ruler of House Erebus, will not only survive, but rise to rule his people. The wily nobleman seeks to make his destiny certain—by plundering the ruins of his civilization’s past for the arcane science needed to ensure his survival, and by mercilessly eliminating his rivals. But mercenary warrior-mage Indris, scion of the rival House Näsarat, stands most powerfully in the usurper’s bloody path. For it is Indris who reluctantly accepts the task of finding a missing man, the only one able to steer the teetering nation towards peace.





About Mark

Interview with Mark T. Barnes, author of The Garden of Stones - May 22, 2013
Mark Barnes was born in September, 1966 in Sydney, Australia. Raised and educated in Sydney, he was a champion swimmer who also played water-polo, soccer, cricket and volleyball. Drawn to the arts at a young age he wrote his first short story at age 7 though was active in drawing, painting, and music as well.

His career stuttered in finance, slid into advertising then leaped into Information Technology where he continues to manage a freelance Organizational Change consultancy. It was not until January 2005, when Mark was selected to attend the Clarion South residential short story workshop, he began to write with a view to making it more than a hobby. Since Clarion South 2005 Mark has published a small number of short stories, worked as a freelance script editor and done creative consultancy for a television series.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter 

Guest Blog by Mark T. Barnes - Blending Magic and Technology in Epic Fantasy - May 23, 2014Guest Blog by Mark T. Barnes, author of The Garden of Stones - June 7, 20132013 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2013 WinnerInterview with Mark T. Barnes, author of The Garden of Stones - May 22, 2013

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