I’ve thrown my blog open to a brilliant science fiction writer’s latest creation. Gardens of Earth is quite different from Mark Iles’ previous military science fiction, well worth your attention. Supposing you were a pilot on the cusp of a battle (Yes I said it wasn’t military but bear with…) to save Earth from an alien invasion when — nothing – a weapon that shouldn’t be used, was used. When he awakes, it’s a whole different scenario, yet it is still Earth. World and character building in this novel is superb. If you’re not already sucked in, read the extract and the following Q&A.
Isn’t the cover art fabulous? Book cover by the wonderful Alex Storer: The Light Dreams – Art and music by Alex Storer (wordpress.com)
Mark’s bio at the end:
1) This is your first publication via Elsewhen Press. How have you found it?
Elsewhen Press have been really good. They are a very family orientated group and truly care about their writers. We meet up on zoom once a month to chat, I’ve not come across that before and it helps you to relate to them and the other authors. It’s been a great journey and I’m thoroughly enjoying the experience.
2) As far as I gather the plot for Gardens is quite a different voice and subgenre than your Lions series. More of a fantasy element. How different was it to write compared to your more military hard SF novels?
I found it quite hard but it was a story that was demanding to be written. I found the entire process a journey, where you discover different things and life takes you on varied tracks. I’m primarily a military science fiction writer, having served in the armed forces for many moons. However, the story developed a life of its own. Yes it’s SF, but it’s also horror, fantasy and romance. Everyone likes a little romance and, as we know, war breeds horror that can sneak up on you. I don’t think you can have a book about the subject without really covering it.
3) How has the COVID pandemic affected your writing routine and mindset? I didn’t think it bothered me but my wordage has definitely suffered.
I went down with covid quite early but at the time the doctors told me was that I had a lung virus. It was really a case of heal they self with paracetamol, etc. I was stuck in bed for weeks and struggled getting over it for a long time after. Even now I still struggle a bit with tiredness and being out of breath. I’m only now getting back into the flow, getting up and having breakfast, doing housework, before I start writing at around eleven am – finishing anywhere between two and four pm; though I do tend to give myself a break over the weekend.
Covid affected my writing quite badly. I was unable to focus or write for a long period of time. The irony for me was that, having gotten over it, not much actually changed for me. I live alone and so don’t see many people anyway. I really do feel sorry for those who have suffered through isolation from the pandemic though, particularly the children.
4) Moving house hasn’t helped for my writing mojo – plus cycling too fast round a corner and busting a collarbone. Have there been upsets in your situation that you feel able to tell us about that affected your writing?
I feel for you there. Moving house is stressful and I can only imagine how frustrating it must be, when you want to write and can’t.
My writing is often up and down. I’ve completed a book in less than six months, while others have taken several years. I found feature writing relatively easy and did that for years. Fiction is so much harder, particularly a series where you have to remember every little thing. It takes lots of research too, because if you screw it up your audience is sure to tell you.
5) How has being involved in the Help for Heroes related activities inspired or been detrimental to your writing?
I’d say inspired more than anything. If you can’t write then you can’t write, but doing courses and mixing with other veterans has a calming effect; plus you get to see people you often wouldn’t normally – and for me that was a really big deal.
Both H4H and Combat Stress help veterans with strategies to deal with their issues. For me, using writing as a means to get up in the morning with something to do helped tremendously.
One thing in particular that really helped was Mindfulness and ‘being in the moment’. Being out in the wilderness and stop to take stock of things really adds to the realism in your story, your ability to describe things more fully. The five things you can see, four you can hear, three you can touch, two you can small and one that you can taste – it really works.
My hope is that through reading this story people will not only enjoy it for what it is, but also gain a better understanding of veterans and their issues.
EXTRACTS in case you missed the first extract of Mark’s book, this is the link to ‘Gardens of Earth’ The Sundering Chronicles Book I (markiles.co.uk)
Extract from Mark Iles’ GARDENS OF EARTH: Book One of the Sundering Chronicles
Mrs M moved to stand next to him, automatically tightening her dressing gown as together they turned full circle to survey the carnage around them. People hurried past, their faces taught with terror. Somewhere gunfire rattled and people screamed, many of the cries cut short. There was an explosion, followed swiftly by another much larger, and even more gunfire and shrieks. The people were running now, their faces white with terror. The snap and chatter of gunfire sounded closer still, while overhead brilliant beams of energy flashed.
That crisp smell of winter carried an icy, bone-chilling terror that tensed Seethan’s muscles to the point of screaming while filling him with dread. Together they stood staring into the darkened streets, lit now only by flames and a few guttering streetlights here and there.
“Look,” Mrs M said, clasping her gown tightly as she pointed to a body lying in the snow-covered road. It was fresh, the blood still pooling, and as yet only lightly dusted by the falling ash. “Look what we’ve driven them to! It’s their home not ours, we should leave the Spooks to it and find somewhere else to colonise!”
“That won’t happen, you know it,” Seethan replied. “The colonisation industry has spent far too much money to let Halloween go now, they’ll want to recoup their losses. Politicians cock up, the military clean up. That’s always been the way of things.”
A convoy of military drones shot past overhead, spitting brilliant beams of blue energy into the darkness as they went. A man on fire staggered towards them from one of the doorways, screaming in agony before collapsing into the snow. He lay there smoldering, just another body in the wintery nightscape.
In the doorway something else moved. It was a deeper shadow in the semi-darkness and Seethan knew that there was someone there.
NOTE: The next instalment of Gardens of Earth is on the blog of Sarah Udoh Furthner here Blog (sarahudohgrossfurthner.com)
Mark Iles Bio
Born and raised in Slough, Mark Iles began studying the martial arts when he was 14 and joined the Royal Navy at the age of 17. A voracious reader he used to devour up to three paperbacks a day – primarily science fiction, fantasy, and horror – by the likes of John Wyndham, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clark, Ray Bradbury, Brian Lumley, Frank Herbert, Stephen King, and a plethora of others. After The Falklands War Mark was drafted to Hong Kong, where he began writing features, for a variety of martial arts magazines, and short stories for a wide range of markets. In 2012 he decided to challenge himself and undertook an MA in Professional Writing, followed by Diplomas in Copywriting and Proofreading. With over 200 short stories and articles under his belt the book he wrote for his MA Project, A Pride of Lions was published by Solstice – followed by two other novels, a short story collection, and four novellas. His latest novel, Gardens of Earth, book 1 of The Sundering Chronicles, is published by Elsewhen Press in August. Currently Mark is working on the second in the series, as well as another short story collection. Now a 9th Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo, Mark is still involved in martial arts and has also written both a book and an app on the subject.
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