The SOULS OF ERGOS saga is a sinuous, multi-layered tale centred around two men, two worlds, and a bizarre twist of cosmic duality. Both men rousted by Fate, both displaced by undeflectable circumstance onto foreign spheres, each finds himself striving to remain grounded amid the peril of unfamiliar terrains and hostile peoples while simultaneously trying to unriddle the mystery behind their intersidereal abductions. With one protagonist stranded on contemporary earth, and the other on mediaeval Ergos, their respective existences come down to an ability to brave the travels and travails born of faithworthy comrades, of treacherous situations, and of the handful of gradually-manifesting mystical abilities that threaten to make both men unwillingly unique to their surrogate worlds.

Digital images by Jim Larkin, Dennis Cox, Sergey Vasiliev, Globalphoto, Carl Derocher, iqoncept, iconspro, SerrNovik, Zeelias65, and caraman; adaptations by Pomeroy41144.

GETTING IN ON THE SOULS OF ERGOS GROUND FLOOR...
This is as good a place as any to introduce the reader to my intent, my methods, and my writing style, so that the only surprises to be encountered in my tales will be those that result from the unfoldings of plot and narrative and characterisation, and not from my prolixity or my stubborn proclivity to use British English in an American novel.

Right off the get-go, let me say that I don't read a whole lot of fantasy -- not anymore anyway. I've probably ingested more science-fiction in my life than fantasy, but even there I'm sadly lacking in total books consumed. I've read a little Verne, some Wells, some Arthur C. Clarke, but really nothing -- and nobody -- in the modern pantheon of writers, sc-fi or fantasy. My influences, therefore, may not be immediately discernable. However, in its relatively short time in print, my first novel, Of Staves and Sigmas, has already been twice compared to Stephen R. Donaldson's much-honoured The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever -- once favourably¹ and once not so much² -- mostly because its protagonist and mine both fall into the "pariah on one world, hero on another" category. The comparison isn't a completely preposterous notion, for I did in fact make it about halfway through Lord Foul's Bane sometime back in the '80s (near the time that my ideas for OSAS were developing), and it's quite plausible that, despite never having finished it, Donaldson's story still may have influenced me in that regard. I would have to say that equally -- and perhaps more -- formative were various other tales based on the same formula of ordinary guys becoming extradinary heroes: Taylor (played by Charlton Heston) in Planet of the Apes, the bookish Peter Parker in Marvel's Spider-Man comics, and Virginia gentleman Captain John Carter in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Martian tales.

Less accurate, I must note, is one reviewer's claim that OSAS is a Tolkien-inspired novel.³ Don't hate me, hard-core Tolkien fans, but I've never once cracked a volume of that esteemed author's works in all my life. Not ever. Too, I have yet to see any of Peter Jackson's film trilogy instalments from start to finish. Yes, I've caught bits of each of them at one time or another on cable, but I must tell you that, gauging by what I observed, I found them to be (brace yourself) what celluoid fantasy always seems to come off as: cheesy, affected, hyperbolic fare. There, I said it. All of you purests may stick pins in your Geoffrey Verdegast dolls before reading further. "OUCH!"

My homage to Matheson's The Shrinking Man.
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SERIES
Too, I've made no secret out of  the influence that classic literature has had upon me; my youthful objective in obtaining a bachelors degree in English (and shouldering the subsequent, requisite reading of an unfairly enormous plethora of plays, novels, short stories and  poetry) provided me with a wellspring of long-proven wonders to emulate. And, yes, I use British English in my text. An idiosyncrasy? Perhaps. I owned mostly British books as a child because they were the major ones available to a kid who lived in Germany. True, when my family returned to the states, I re-adjusted. But I never totally dropped the British style. And, in scribing a  European-styled, mediaevalesque phantasy, I decided that British English was the way to go. An author never wants to turn off or snub his readership, but outside of entertainment value, reading is also a vehicle for learning, for stretching one's knowledge base, and I like to provide what I can. No complaints thus far, so full-speed ahead! As for the SOULS OF ERGOS series itself, I'm not sure at this point how many books it will encompass. For some reason, everybody seems to be obsessed with trilogies these days, but in bulldozing through my many years of notes, scribbles, and doodles, there's little doubt that SOE will stretch beyond the trilogy zone, probably concluding somewhere between four books and thirty. Whoa -- just kidding. Really, the best answer that I can provide is that I will write no more, and no less, than is necessary to get the story told in a satisfactory manner. My best guess is four volumes, but if inspiration prevails (translation: if I get too wordy), maybe five. Any more than that and I'll be forced to rename the series SOULS OF EGO, and heaven knows I don't need that monicker following me around throughout my career.

As I imagine it is with every serious writer, my long-range intent is to create an engaging piece of literature, rife with good characterisation, intrigue, adventure, humour, and unpredictability. I don't like heroes who are heroes 100% of the time. I don't believe in the unredeemable coward or the intractable evildoer, nor that the meanest tough guy doesn't have a gushy moment, or the wimp, a few moments of gallantry. I draw from both personal and studied experiences, and I often burn an inordiante amount of lamp oil doing research in order to authenticate the many, many things that I don't know. If I'm not always accurate, trust me, it's not for lack of trying; I've clocked a considerable number of hours back-tracking through books or scrolling in tedium on-line for that one little factoid that I'd wager a majority of readers will probably never think twice about. Regardless, in the end it gives me satisfaction to know that I took it the extra kilometre. And if you're still reading this, maybe that means something to you as well.

Hey, don't get me wrong -- the films all looked great. In fact, maybe they looked a little too good; and for me, having grown up on stop-motion animation, this is sometimes worse than looking schlocky. I can't explain it; it's simply a visceral thing, a personal preference (I felt the same way about the CGI in the later trio of Star Wars instalments -- too perfect). Plus, in characterisation, I noted a ton of pure good and pure evil but not nearly enough gray area. There were too many idealised archetypes for my liking. And that Greenleaf guy never seemed to run out of arrows (did I miss the part where his quiver was magically bottomless?). Anyway, seeing as I truly have no first-hand  knowledge of  J.R.R.T. and his creations outside of legend and memorabilia, how could my work possibly be Tolkien-inspired? Well, the only conceivable way that this might ever happen (allowing for the reviewer's assumption to be valid, which I believe it isn't) is due to the fact that I've probably, undoubtedly, viewed or read or heard a boat-load of Tolkienesque rip-offs in my day, and if any of them served as fodder for my devisings, then I guess I've been influenced by Tolkien through clones and second-hand sources -- which in turn would account for why Mr. Jackson's films didn't impress me much. I salute him for his ambition and his fastidiousness, but in my humble opinion it's a shame that so many other film-makers ruined it for me before an authentic Tolkien production made the scene. Yes, I'm certain that I'm in the minority. And that's okay; maybe someday I'll come around. But for now, I'm simply weary of the finite and repetitive premises that the epic fantasy genre has been saddled with. This said, in my work I make a staunch effort to shun conventional fantasy gimmickery, Tolkienesque or not, because most of it has become ultra-formulaic and hackneyed by today's standards. I also do not utilise most of the typical fantasy creatures that have been batted around for years -- dragons, fairies, elves, orcs, cauldron-huddling witches, pointy-hatted wizards, etc. -- although I will use them in descriptive reference if need be. Instead, I prefer to create my own creatures and the lore behind them. I hold that it's more authentic this way. I also reject the Hollywood-style exhibitions of fancily twirling swordplay that one finds in stories and film, not merely because they're caricatural and showy, but because such things do not and will not work to one's advantage in authentic battle, where speed and strength are needed  far more than flash. I like realism, even in an outlandish story. And I also strive to thwart predictability as well. I don't like telegraphing to the reader where a  detail is  leading or  how a  character will  react in a  given situation. There are  too many novels already out there that do this. If you want predictability, re-read one of them, 'cuz I'm taking you elsewhere. I'm hoping to be proof that a writer can be consistent and still keep the twists and turns going. I like leading my readers one way, and then dropping the reins and slapping the horse's patootie so that they're whisked off  into wild and untamed unexpectedness. Tell  me if I succeed. Now, as for my real influence in story-telling, this honour goes in large part to Edgar Rice  Burroughs, whom I mentioned a few paragraphs ago. I can't begin to tell  you how many of  his stories I enjoyed while in  my twenties, from the Mars and Venus and Pellucidar books, all the way to his one- and two-shot outings. I also had a long-running  daliance with  Louis L'amour and Richard Matheson novels during this same period -- both of which taught me a specific style of literary technique (utilising  gun-slingers and giant spiders to do so). It was also at this time that I began gobbling up mediaeval  non-fiction (The Mediaeval Soldier, English Weapons & Warfare 449-1660, etc.) to get me versed in what I needed to know historically if I were ever to become a credible writer.



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