Search For the Golden Serpent
Servant of the Gods Book 1
by Luciana Cavallaro Genre: Historical Fantasy Fiction
A true page-turner, in a similar vein to Wilbur Smith and David Gemmell, is an action-packed adventure story catapulting a reluctant hero from one dangerous encounter to another.
Evan has been having some very strange dreams.
The Perth-based architect dismissed an unexpected phone call from an entrepreneur in Greece, asking him to restore his family home, as the ravings of a crank. Until, that is, the dreams begin, each more vivid than the last. A dream encounter with a mysterious character called Zeus sees him catapulted back in time to 500 years before the birth of Christ.
Evan finds himself quickly embroiled in a plot to prevent the birth of Christianity, an unwilling player in an epic struggle between the old gods and the new, fighting for his life.
The words on the paper blurred, and his head fell forward, eyes closing. He jerked his head back and stifled a yawn. He jiggled from side to side to wake up and thought an infusion of caffeine might do a better job. He suppressed a groan as he got up from the desk and headed over to the coffee machine.
Evan emptied and cleaned the basket, refilled the cradle, slotted it back in place, slipped a cup underneath and pressed the button. While it processed the coffee, he leaned against the bench, pinched the bridge of his nose and yawned again.
Did you have a big night?’ a colleague asked.
‘You could say that,’ he said, glancing over bleary-eyed.
‘Where did you go?’ His co-worker looked at him with an eager expression. Because he was the only single guy in the office the others often asked what he did on the weekends and who he dated. They’d go out for drinks on Friday nights after work but after a few rounds the others left to go home to their wives and children. He stayed on till late.
He gave his workmate a wry grin. ‘Nowhere exciting.’
‘Aww… come on, you must have. Look at you, can’t even stay awake.’
‘Let’s say this place is way beyond the normal haunts.’
The man’s eyes sparkled. He leaned closer and said in a quiet voice, ‘Who was she?’
‘Nothing like that,’ he said. The machine finished and the smell of rich caramel filtered upwards. He grabbed the cup and took a sip. ‘Ahhhh… nectar of the gods.’
‘What did you say?’ his associate said with a laugh.
‘Well, if they had known about coffee perhaps they’d still be around,’ he said, trying to cover up the faux pas. His mobile started to ring. He pulled it out of his pocket and checked to see who was calling.
‘Sure,’ his colleague said, shaking his head and smiling. ‘Next time you see Aphrodite, tell her to work a little of her magic on the missus.’ He walked away, grinning. What made me say that? Crazy enough with the dreams but now I’m saying weird phrases too?Maybe I need to see a shrink. He headed back to his desk, coffee cup in hand, sat and answered the phone.
‘Hi Max… yep, I have the plans drawn up, proofed and ready for presentation on Thursday. I’ll be at your office at 10am. I think you’ll like our proposal. The specs meet your requirements and will add value to the building… Okay, see you later.’
He swivelled in his chair. ‘Jerry, is the PowerPoint presentation ready?’
‘Almost, I just have a few extra points and images to add.’
‘Make sure it’s error free too,’ he said. ‘Alex, are the big plans printed?’
‘One left to complete. I’m still waiting for electrics and plumbing for the library wing to be finalised.’
‘Follow it up and get it sorted. I want the plans completed by ten o’clock.’
Alex picked up the office phone and nodded. He turned back to the stack of papers and began the arduous task of filtering requests for the next architectural job. Their reputation for delivering on time and on budget was one of the reasons companies requested their service. It was that, and the unusual designs. Inspired by the engineers of the ancient past, he wanted to emulate many of the buildings that stood the test of time. Their current project was the biggest, one that reflected the grandeur of an organisation responsible for gathering knowledge from the greatest thinkers of the time. Drawings of the Alexandria Library no longer exist, apart from artists’ representations. Inspired by those works, he created a unique version of the library. He hoped this project put the company on the world’s radar.
It took many years, a lot of late hours and hard work to build the business but it was worth the sacrifices made along the way. To be the best in this industry it takes dedication and in the early stages establishing the business, he had worked alone. Now he had twenty employees and a portfolio other architectural firms envied.
‘Boss… there’s a man wanting to speak with you regarding a job in Greece,’ Jerry said, his eyes wide.
‘Greece? What have you been smoking, Jerry?’ He snorted.
Jerry waved the phone at him, hand over the mouthpiece. ‘His name is Zeus um… his last name is unpronounceable.’
‘Zeus? His name is Zeus?’ He looked at Jerry, brow raised. This had to be a joke.
Jerry nodded and thrust the receiver at him. His expression was serious.
Evan took the phone from him. ‘Hello, Evan Chronis of EC Architectural Services, how may I help you sir?’
‘Hello Evan, my name is Zeus Pantokratora.’ His English was perfect, with a hint of an accent. There was something familiar too. ‘I have a job that requires your expertise. My family’s home needs help and you are the person who can protect it from further ruin.’
While Zeus spoke, Evan had the oddest sensation. He was not sure how to explain it but it reminded him of being light-headed after a hard game of basketball or a tough workout at the gym. Then you felt great, those endorphins having spread their magic through your body. That’s what he was getting from Zeus.
‘Mr Pantokratora, what you need is a structural engineer,’ Evan said. ‘I could recommend a company that can address your concerns.’
‘No Evan, I need the services of an architect,’ he said.
The hair on his nape tingled. Zeus, it seemed, did not get rejected often.
‘We’re rather busy and my calendar doesn’t free up until six months from now,’ Evan said, flicking through his diary.
‘That will not do. My home doesn’t have long,’ he said.
‘Mr Pantokratora, what is the nature of the problem?’
‘The foundations are weakening and if not attended to right away, it will cease to exist.’ From the tone of his voice it was evident the condition of the dwelling was dire.
‘From what you have just told me sir, a structural engineer is your answer. I have a contact in Athens I can refer you to, to assess the damage.’
‘Evandros,’ Zeus said. A chill went up Evan’s spine. ‘I am calling upon you.’
Nothing he said changed Zeus’ mind. A dull ache started at the base of his skull. Great, a headacheis not what I need right now.
‘Where is the building, Mr Pantokratora?’
‘On Mount Olympos.’
Evan’s mouth fell open. ‘Did you say “Mount Olympos”?’
He sensed Jerry and Alex had stopped working, their attention now focussed in his direction.
‘Right.’ I’m dealing with someone who needs to be hospitalised.
‘Evandros, the Family needs you, time to come home.’
Evan was no longer sitting at his desk with the phone in hand. Seated before him, on a purple-lined massive throne, was a towering figure of a man. He had long, wavy blonde hair and a beard. His eyes were blue and so pale they were disconcerting. He wore a silver dress, leaving one muscular shoulder bared and on the other, a gold pin held the material together.
On a throne next to him was a gorgeous woman, with long golden hair and the same coloured eyes. She exuded power and the way she stared at Evan made his skin crawl. She wore a similar outfit though the bodice displayed a generous figure.
It was then he became aware of the others. They too were sitting on thrones, flanking the man and woman, all twelve looking at him. Evan’s stomach churned. Bile rose and his mouth watered. He took a step back.
‘He looks unwell,’ the woman said with a slight smirk on her face.
A man, trident in hand, sat perched on the edge of his seat. He too was fair haired. His hair was short and he had a beard. His outfit was as blue as the sky on a clear sunny day, and he shared the eye colour of the two seated on the central thrones.
Evan squirmed. Their attention was intense and unnerved him.
‘Does he remember?’ the trident-bearer asked.
The man next to him shook his head. ‘Not yet.’
‘Should we help him recover his memory?’ the woman said, standing up.
‘That could prove problematic,’ another said.
Evan spun on his heel and came face to face with a younger man. He hadn’t heard or noticed him move.
‘Why so?’ asked the woman.
‘If we speed up his consciousness, it may cause irreparable damage to his brain.’
‘Hold on here,’ Evan said, managing to find his voice and backing away. ‘No one is laying a hand on me. Who are you? Where am I? And how the hell did I get here?’
‘At least we know he can speak and think,’ the woman said, her tone wry. ‘You are on Mount Olympos.’
He blinked, and the cogs in his brain clicked. ‘You’re Mr Pantokratora?’
The man on the largest throne stood. ‘I am. This is the Family.’
Evan swallowed. ‘What in the name of the...’ He blinked, unable to complete the sentence. Zeus grinned and finished, ‘…gods, I believe you were going to say.’
His legs wobbled. ‘I need to sit.’ Evan’s knees folded beneath him and he collapsed to the floor.
The Labyrinthine Journey Servant of the Gods Book 2
A mysterious message. A mission from the gods. Can he turn back the clock to prevent his family’s extinction?
Evan’s new life is in ancient Greece, and he fears he’ll never see his home again. Ripped from his 21st century world, his only way to return to the present is to collect god-saving sacred relics for his father Zeus. But to locate them means braving perilous seas and staring down death in search of a legendary oracle.
During their voyage, Evan and his companions come face-to-face with mythical creatures, fabled warriors, and treacherous sorcery. But despite the dangers all around them, Evan’s deadliest threat may be bound to him by blood…
Can Evan complete his quest before he and the gods are lost to history?
The Labyrinthine Journey is the second book in the fast-paced Servant of the Gods historical fiction series. If you like well-researched landscapes, suspenseful twists and turns, and mythic battles, then you’ll love Luciana Cavallaro’s heroic odyssey.
Buy The Labyrinthine Journey to sail into a Greek legend today!
*Gods and goddesses
*Time travel history
*Shield and sword
Evan twitched and brushed away the annoyance buzzing in his ear. He turned on his side and tried to get comfortable on the hard ground. He opened his eyes, bolted upright and scanned the forest. The darkness shrouded it like a cloak beyond the ring of light cast by the fire. He heard the faintest rustling of leaves, then twigs breaking, as though something or someone stepped on the dry tinder. The fine hairs on his nape tingled. He got onto a knee, pulled his sword from the scabbard and stood. He bent and shook Phameas awake. Evan put a finger on his lips and pointed to the forest with the sword. Phameas got up and grabbed his sword.
They woke the others, careful to minimise sound. Evan scanned the interminable blackness of the trees, hand clenching and unclenching on the hilt of the sword. The others stood alongside, while the High Priestess and Dexion remained behind them. Evan could feel the heat radiating from Homer’s body. He looked down at Phameas who gave him a tight smile. The hilt bit into Evan’s palm. Loud rustling and branches snapping splintered the eerie silence.
The resonance of feet pounding on the earth came closer.
‘Help me! Someone!’
A body stumbled through the last barrier of the forest and into their campsite. A juvenile sped towards them. His eyes were wild, fine lines of scratches covering his face, arms and legs. His dishevelled hair sported green fronds, and his khiton was torn.
‘Mountain thieves!’ He wheezed and pointed to the woods.
Hektor grabbed the boy’s arm and flung him behind. A group of rough-looking men in tattered clothing burst into the clearing, waving swords and spears. The group skidded to a halt. One grinned, showing his few remaining decayed teeth when he spotted the High Priestess.
‘Well, well… this has indeed turned out to be a profitable evening,’ one said, leering. With a shout, he charged, his motley brigands rushing headlong with him.
Evan’s mouth went dry and his heart banged against his ribcage as he gripped the sword and shield. His body went cold, then hot. He stared at the faces of the outlaws. Their mouths opened in grimaces, spittle flying everywhere and eyes feverish. They reminded him of rabid dogs. He held the shield closer and stiffened, ready for impact, much as a boxer did when facing an opponent.
Two came at him, the white of their eyes red. Their swords clanged against his shield. His arm vibrated, sending shockwaves from his fingertips to his shoulder. He swung his shield into one, knocking him onto the ground, and thrust his sword at the other. Sparks flew as Evan deflected the next attack. He slashed at his attacker in one swift motion, breaking the other man’s sword. Evan’s blood surged and thundered in his ears, the adrenaline soaring as he ran his sword through the disarmed man. The brigand screamed, clutched at his stomach and fell to his knees.
Evan felt a sharp burning sting beneath his ribcage. He looked down and saw a bloodtipped sword at his waist. His nostrils flared. With a roar, he kicked the man in the chest, leapt forward and swung his sword. The severed head flew backwards. Blood spewed from his neck. The body crumpled at his feet. He pivoted, beat off another attack and lunged. Evan fought with blind fury, striking and cutting down the bandits.
When there was a moment’s reprieve, he noted the loudness of the clash of metal in the small clearing. The scent of iron was strong. In a daze he took in the scene. It was if he watched the skirmish in slow motion.
Leander let fly arrows, each one hitting their target. He retreated to defend the High Priestess, Dexion and the boy as they crouched by the fire. Hektor swung his axe, severing limbs of those who came too close. Their screams pierced the night. Homer wielded his sword with ease; the blade dripped with blood. Phameas thrust and parried those that swarmed towards him, and as a moth to a flame, he drew them in and maimed many.
Evan was brought out of his stupor by horrible shrieks. Sounds of death permeated the air as the fight went on. Bodies of the dead lay strewn, their limbs littering the area like discarded waste. Gore and blood, dark as the night, soaked the ground. The last surviving thieves began to falter, and one by one, they turned and fled. Leander aimed his bow into the sky and released a volley of arrows. The slender projectiles disappeared into the darkness. Sharp, dreadful squeals echoed.
Then there was silence.
They looked at each other. Splatters of crimson stained their bare skin and clothes.
‘You’ve been injured,’ Phameas said, pointing at the gash on Evan’s side.
He looked down. His blood soaked the linen. He sucked in a breath as the adrenaline began to wear off and agony set in.
‘Damn.’ He clutched his side and winced.
The High Priestess stepped over the bodies. ‘Let me see.’
Evan lifted the hem up. She leaned closer and touched his side with light fingers. He flinched.
‘Evandros, I need to attend to your wound right away,’ she said. A flicker of concern crossed her features, then was replaced by her usual stoic one.
‘It’s bad, isn’t it?’ he said between clenched teeth.
She did not respond.
‘I thought so.’
‘We must act now.’ The High Priestess took him by the elbow and turned to Phameas. ‘Help me with Evandros.’ She then looked to Homer. ‘Take his weapons.’
Homer nodded and reached to take the sword. The tip hit the ground. Homer grunted, hefted the sword, his neck muscles protruding and placed it by Evan’s bag. He returned to take the shield.
‘Watch your toes,’ Evan joked in a weak voice.
Homer gave him a lopsided grin and beckoned Hektor. Between the two men, they carted the shield away. With the help of the High Priestess and Phameas, Evan lay down by the fire.
‘Look!’ Dexion pointed.
They turned to see an elongated blue-white shape speed towards them from the sky. It stopped beside the fallen bodies. The blinding light faded to reveal the Messenger of the Gods, holding a staff in his hand, his winged sandals glowing. He scanned the carnage before giving them his attention. Hermes frowned, seeing Evan wounded.
‘Evandros, my brother, I will guide these soulless individuals to Hades. I also bring tidings from Father Zeus. Eris, the Goddess of Discord, has been freed from the realm of Tartaros and beseeches you to remain vigilant.’ Hermes gazed at him a while longer and then turned to the High Priestess and bowed with flourish. ‘Your beauty rivals that of the Spartan Queen Helen.’
‘You honour me, Divine Messenger.’ She acknowledged him with a slight nod.
He smiled, giving Evan another lingering look before vanishing, and with him, the bodies of the dead thieves.
‘Who was that, and where are the bodies?’ Theodoros asked, mystified.
‘How many brothers do I have?’ Evan rasped, fighting hard not to pass out. ‘Gods, that hurts.
Minotaur's Lair Servant of the Gods Book 3
The Minotaur stirs. Evan is drugged to forget the gods' quest.
Evan and his companions are entrapped by the Amazon Queen Antioche and her warriors. Memories and allegiances are tested. The Dark Master's victorious revenge over the gods is almost complete. The plight of the High Priestess is precarious, her health ailing, and unable to rescue her brother and fellow Atlanteans.
The last sacred relic, secreted in the lair of the Minotaur, must be recovered or the Dark Master's succession plans of a new god are complete. The mystical lands of Krete, the final stage of Evan's journey, are within his grasp. He must succeed so his father, Zeus, fulfills his promise. Then there is Queen Antioche, and the precious gifts she presents him.
Will Evan return home, and what will become of his future?
Minotaur's Lair is the third and final book in the action-packed Servant of the Gods historical fiction series. If you enjoy well-researched landscapes, historic characters, excitement, mythical creatures and unique settings, then you'll love Luciana Cavallaro's heroic odyssey.
The sun filtered through the small window, brightening the otherwise dingy room, the beams of light falling across a motionless body that lay in a bed. The shallow sounds of inhalation and exhalation broke the unnatural silence. The woman’s shrivelled and fragile frame, covered by a grey woollen blanket, exacerbated the pallor of her face and her long, limp, dull locks. Her eyelids quivered as the sun’s rays caressed her face.
‘Alexina, wake up,’ whispered a gentle voice.
The High Priestess’ fingers twitched under the covers.
‘My dearest daughter, you must awaken. Your brother and companions need you—they are in trouble. But you cannot help them if you do not waken.’ The speaker paused and then in a firmer, deeper tone said, ‘Alexina! Open your eyes. Now.’
A thickset body blocked the sun’s light and cast a shadow over the reposed form of the High Priestess. Her eyelids fluttered open, sensing a familiar presence. She was oblivious to her surroundings, her ice-blue gaze transfixed by the dark timber slats of the ceiling. Her mind was awash with strange images, random pictures that she could not comprehend.
‘Whe …’ she began, but no words came out. She tried to swallow, her mouth and throat as dry as the woollen-spun coverlet. She opened and closed her mouth, as a baby did when hungry. ‘Wh … where … am I?’ she breathed.
The older woman spun around, startled.
‘Goodness, you are awake.’ She moved closer to the bed and gawked at Alexina, dumbfounded.
‘Where … am … I?’ Alexina repeated, voice hoarse yet clear.
‘You are in the palace of Queen Antioche,’ the woman replied, laying a hand on her forehead.
‘Who are you?’ Alexina asked, the words coming out in breathless spurts, as if she had just sprinted the one hundred stades.
‘I am the queen’s physician.’ The healer stepped back to the table, her hands moving, though Alexina could not see what she was doing.
‘Why … am I … here?’
‘Do you remember anything?’ the healer asked, glancing back at her.
Alexina’s ice-blue eyes clouded. ‘No.’
‘Your ship capsized during a storm and you struck your head, which left you unconscious. The damage to the ship made it impossible to sail, and the winds brought you here to the Isle of Hephaistos.’
‘How … long … have I … been here?’ Alexina asked, her stomach twisting. The odd pictures were now making sense—they were fragments of memories of what had happened since she’d left Atlantis, and of their errand as set by the gods.
‘You have been a guest of the queen for five full moons.’
‘What?’ She tried to sit up but collapsed back onto the bed, puffing. ‘It is imperative I see my brother and companions.’
‘That is not possible.’ The healer moved to the bedside with haste. She shook her head at Alexina and took her slender, pale hand. ‘You are unwell, and if you were to stand, you will fall. First, we must build your strength, and when you are stronger, then you may see your brother.’
‘Bring my brother here,’ Alexina said, her lips trembling. ‘I must speak to him.’
The healer smiled and patted her hand. ‘There, there, my dear, please calm yourself, I will summon your brother.’ She placed Alexina’s hand on the bed, moved to the table and grabbed an earthenware cup. ‘Drink this, it will help you get better.’
With the woman’s aid, the High Priestess drank the bitter-tasting liquid and sank back onto the bed, exhausted.
‘I shall return with food and news of your brother,’ she said, setting the cup back on the table behind her. ‘But for now, I want you to rest.’
Alexina’s eyelids were getting heavier, and she tried to resist the drowsiness that threatened to overcome her.
‘What was … in that b … b … beverage?’ she asked, slurring her words, her tongue thickening and sticking to the roof of her mouth.
‘It’s a draught to help you sleep.’ The older woman’s voice sounded far away. ‘It will aid your recovery.’
*Award-winning author of The Labyrinthine Journey
*Nominated for book awards in the Action/Adventure and Historical Fiction genres
*Drove her first car at the age of three
Luciana Cavallaro’s alter ego is a high school teacher where she plugs away educating teenagers the merits of reading and ancient history. She often looks for a brick wall to bang her head when faced with disinterested looks from her students. She’s also a historical fantasy and thriller/suspense author, who creates fast-paced, action-packed series for her readers.
Born and raised in Western Australia, residing in Perth, Luciana loves to travel and since getting her passport at the ripe old age of twenty-four has toured parts of Europe, a legacy of her Italian heritage. She enjoys being active, going out with friends, reading and tries to grow her own vegetables. She dreams of travelling again and visiting the ancient sites that inspired her stories, that is when she’s not spending time being an unofficial stunt person and knocking herself out in the process. Visit her website at https://luccav.me/
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I am a first-generation Australian Italian; my parents came to Australia as children with my grandparents in the 1950’s. I grew up in a country town called Waroona, where my parents still live. The town is about one and half hours south of Perth. (see maps below). I was the first to go to university in my family and studied Secondary Education (high school teacher degree) in Information Science and later Ancient History. I’ve been teaching for over twenty-five years, and taught in public and private schools. I had transferred to a new public school when I was in car accident and couldn’t work for three months. This was when I developed mental health issues and to try and heal myself, I began to write. That was when I realised I had a passion for writing, and I could channel my thoughts in a creative way rather than take a darker route. Writing became my lifeline and which is why I keep writing.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I do a few different activities depending on how I am feeling. I like to go out and take photos when I can. I find it distracts my thoughts and I enjoy being in the moment, focussing on taking the perfect shot, which can sometimes take ten to twenty photos. I am so grateful for digital cameras, so easy to delete images that didn’t work. I’m a bit of purest when it comes to what I use for taking photos. I treated myself to a good camera, with various lens for different shots and a tripod. I prefer to take photos of landscapes, animals and action shots. Some of my favourite photos are of surfers taking waves in Margaret River.
I also like to read, and try to read books by fellow indie writers especially in the Historical Fantasy Fiction genre. I do have an eclectic taste in genres, but tend to favour Historical Fiction, Thrillers/Suspense, Mystery, Humour, Sci Fi, Fantasy and Crime.
I enjoy doing crossword puzzles, and find it helps with diversifying word use when writing, in addition to increasing my vocabulary! I like to get into the garden as well, planting vegetables and herbs for eating, though the bugs do get their fair share. It’s such a nice feeling harvesting the seasonal vegetables and herbs to use for dishes that haven’t been sprayed, picked green or sitting in a cool room for days before hitting the markets.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Loyal, ethical, justice seeker and sporty.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
A few readers have commented and emailed me they can easily see Books 1 and 2 in the Servant of the Gods series made into a movie. Recently, a fellow teacher at my school mentioned my books were cinematic. A lovely compliment as my colleague has a doctorate in literature! Though I would have to say, The Guardian’s Legacy Book 1 in the Coin of Time series could easily be made into a movie or a television series. It reached the quarterfinalist stage in the 2022 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Competition, Finalist round in the 13th New Media Film Festival and Page Turner Awards, which is quite amazing as the pool of talent is extraordinary, and recently I have been informed it has been awarded a Silver Medal in the Suspense/Thriller category in the Global Book Awards.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I am currently working on a new series, Coin of Time, which is about a guardian of a coin that has magical properties that once belonged to Herakles. The family was given guardianship of two coins, one was lost during the crusades, the other remained with the descendants. Nik, the new guardian, mentored by his grandfather, is alerted to the other coin somewhere in France. Nik’s grandfather disappears while searching for the coin, and Nik is considered a suspect by Interpol and the French police. Meanwhile, a neo-Nazi leader, Konrad Resnik, is also hunting for the missing coin, and it’s a race to finding the coin.
Book 1, The Guardian’s Legacy was published October last year and I have completed the draft of Book 2, which I hope to get to beta readers in the new year.
I also am writing a Historical fiction novel based on Hypatia, the astrophysicist, mathematician and philosopher who was vilified for being a woman and later killed by religious fanatics. Somethings don’t change. It’s a bit of romance story, sort of, and told from the point of view of Roman Prefect Orestes, who was posted to govern Alexandria and to quell the fractious religious groups in the city.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
The concept for the Servant of the Gods series was ‘conceived’ over twenty years ago, and the original story was very different to what was published. Actually, it’s nonexistent. The only remaining feature from the original storyline was that the main character/s were from Atlantis. What happened, you may be thinking? I paid for a manuscript assessment, and I thought they’d love the story. They didn’t. The report wasn’t flattering and stated if I wanted to write a travelogue, then that’s what I should do. Ouch! Suffice to say, my ego was battered and shattered. I stored the manuscript away and didn’t write for months or look at it again. I am grateful to that first assessment, even though it did hurt at the time, and I decided if I was to take this writing seriously, then I should enrol in courses to improve my writing.
In the year 2000, my sister and I went on a Contiki Tour to Europe for three weeks. What a fabulous trip. It was my first time to Europe and whetted my appetite for more travelling. I had been studying ancient history and mythology, and it was while touring the ancient sites in Rome, the creative writing bug hit me. I knew what I wanted to write. I went back to my manuscript and pulled out what I wanted, and came up with a different storyline, keeping the same characters as mentioned, introduced a few new ones and kept the journey side of the original concept.
I knew from the outset my characters were Atlanteans, I had a fascination about the legend of Atlantis since I was a teenager and had read books, searched websites and watched documentaries. It was Plato’s dialogues that inspired the basis of the story and a trip to Santorini, Greece, sealed my belief that this island was the origin for Plato’s discourse. Years later, I watched a documentary by Bettany Hughes, British historian, who used Plato’s works to point out the similarities of his descriptions of Atlantis to the features of Santorini.
My main character Evan/Evandros had a different name, as did the High Priestess, Alexina. I introduced Dexion, a twelve-year old Sicilian boy living on the streets in Hippo Regius and another new character, Phameas, a Phoenician sailor, who befriends Evan when Zeus strands him in the middle of a shipwreck. Now their story has come to an end … sigh …
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
The names took a bit of research as each character had particular traits and appearances. As the story is set in the 7th century BCE, with a distinctive Greek mythology flavour, I researched ancient Greek names.
The characters of Homer, Hektor and Leander were quite easy to pick. I selected the name Homer after the famous ancient Greek poet/bard who gave us the Iliad and Odyssey. There’s very little we know about Homer except for his works and that he was blind. I made my character of Homer lose the ability to speak, and he was a Water Engineer back at home on Atlantis. Hektor was so named after the Trojan prince Hektor, both formidable warriors, but that’s the extent of the similarities between the two characters. I liked the name Leander when I saw it and selected for one of the characters, as he is the nice guy in the story who tries to keep the peace.
Phameas is a Phoenician name, the more familiar ones such as Hannibal, Hanno, Hasdrubal or Himilco, famous individuals from Carthage (Tunisia), I wanted to avoid, hence Phameas was born. He’s a sailor, a common occupation for most Phoenician men earning a consistent wage. Dexion, is a Sicilian twelve-year-old boy, the origins of his name are Greek. I wanted a name that was different and with its own distinctive connection to the region. The name Dexion relates to Sophocles, and means ‘right-handed (dex) and accepted’, which Dexion portrays in the story.
Alexina, the High Priestess of Atlantis, did have a different name initially but it didn’t fit with her personality, hence the change. The name is a derivative of Alexander, and she is strong, possesses a refined personality and dignity, yet maintains an unbending stance.
The main character Evan/Evandros Chronis took a bit of deciding. I did have a different name but as the character developed, I knew I had to change it and Evan was born. Evandros means ‘good of man’ and Chronis is the personification of ‘time’ and also means ‘(may he be) long lived’, which is the perfect fit for my character as he was a man out of time and place.
How did you come up with the title of the book?
I took my time in determining a title for the third book in the Servant of the Gods series. I was reading lots of articles about ‘optimising’ words for the title to get more hits when people search for books. I’ve never been good at following recommendations or taking advantage of strategies to garner more readers. The title Minotaur’s Lair eventually evolved out of the impending confrontation between Evan and the Minotaur, and the location of the final sacred object. To complete the task set by the gods, Evan and his companions had to travel to Crete and into mythical creature’s lair. In the end, I went against the grain and hence the title.
Who designed your book covers?
I had two designers; Search for the golden serpent and The Labyrinthine journey were created by Scarlett Ruger from The Book Design House. She wasn’t available to design the third book and I went to Damon Za over at https://damonza.com/, who also did the cover design for another series I am writing. Both did a fantastic job and captured the essence of the stories. I’m very happy with all my covers and love the fact I get to choose the design, something you don’t get if you’re traditionally published, not unless you’re in the realms of J.K. Rowling or Michael Connelly!
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
My characters definitely hijacked the story. There were times during the narrative when I thought, great, I’m following the outline and going along nicely, then out of the blue, there’s resistance. I couldn’t write, each time I’d start to take the story in a different path, the characters resisted and nothing happened. Not even a whisper of inspiration. It wasn’t until I let them dictate what happened and where they were going, did the story progress. My characters are relentless but what they don’t realise is that I can kill them when they get annoying.
Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes/Did You Know?'-type tidbits about the author, the book or the writing process of the book.
Fun Fact: the reason why the Servant of the Gods trilogy took more than twenty years to write was and still is, that I teach full-time. The books were written after dinner week nights and on the weekends if I didn’t have other commitments, and during the school holidays when I wasn’t marking and prepping for classes. While I’d love to write full-time, it’s my day job that’s keeping me financially solvent!
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
My top 10 favourite authors in no particular order:
Valerio Massimo Manfredi
James Rollin and Rebecca Cantrell co-writers of The Blood Gospel series
I would have liked to included my favourite non-fiction authors but kept it to fiction authors only.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
As my books are set in the ancient world, I do a lot of research on the civilisations featured in my novels, their culture, what the geography was like, transportation, weaponry, languages, etc. I use books, websites and documentaries to collate the information, which I then make notes to use in my stories. I aim to make the worlds of the past as accurate as I can. Of course, there is creative license and a little time bending, but mostly I try to make the setting and characters as authentic as possible to the era. In describing locations, buildings and all the sensory elements of what the character is experiencing, I hope to engage the reader and enable them to feel as if they are part of the story.
Throughout the writing process, I go back and forth to my research checking the details and how best to include into the story. The most helpful resources I have found are texts written by archaeologists and historians, primary sources such as Homer, Pausanias, Herodotos, and playrights of the time. Artist’s rendition of places, clothing, transport, food, is also very helpful in visualisation.
Do you see writing as a career?
I do see writing as a career, however I’m not there just yet. I am working on it! It takes me longer to complete a book as I teach full-time and can only write in the evenings, on the weekends and on the holidays. That is when I don’t have marking or planning to do, and fitting in time with family and friends. It would be nice to focus only on writing and publishing books.
What do you think about the current publishing market?
There are a lot of books been published every year and not just the ‘traditional’ authors giving readers lots of choices. It’s hard to get your book noticed amongst the volumes of books, however I am grateful that there is help out there for the indie author trying to get their work seen and read. Building networks is perhaps the way forward, something I am working towards, though it is difficult as most of my fellow writing friends live in different time zones! It is a great time to be an indie author, with so many options and paths to be published.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I have found when I write at night after at day at school, I prefer to write in silence. I need peace and calm after teaching teenagers! On the weekend I play a variety of music when writing. I listened to the soundtracks from Gladiator and Troy when I wrote the Servant of the Gods series. I found the albums helped to centre my thoughts for the period in which my books were set. For my Coin of Time series, I listen to albums by Tame Impala, Sash, Bond, Robert Miles, Enigma, Enya and the Temples. The series is set in the present and the location starts in my home city of Perth, Australia before jetting off to Europe. These artists, a mix of Indie Rock, Electronica/Dance, Classical and New Age I play when writing certain scenes. It’s rather interesting what genre of music works to be productive when I write and if I choose something different such as Jazz or Hip Hop for example, I can’t write, so I stick to the same artists. If it works, why change it?
Pen or type writer or computer?
I use a computer for all my writing. I purchased Scrivener some years back and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I wrote Search for the golden serpent and The labyrinthine journey on Word, and while that application has merits, but when I needed to move chapters or scenes, it was not easy. I kept every version and had to go back and forth to see what I had deleted, inserted or moved. With Scrivener, I can drag and drop chapters where I need them, and when I delete a chapter, it’s goes into a folder and remains there. It’s handy too for if I decide to use some sections of the deleted chapter in another scene or in the next book, it’s easy to locate.
Working on the computer also allows me to jump from my manuscript to checking information I have researched. I have two monitors; one has the Scrivener application open and the other has the research open such as websites I’ve bookmarked. I also have a lot of text books that I refer to, much easier to scan an index or contents page for the information I’m after. I tend to go down the ‘rabbit hole’ if I search the internet and get distracted by what I’ve found.
I prefer to save my work on an external drive rather than on a cloud option. I’m a bit old school in that regard and a little protective of my work. I’d rather have lots of external drives than saving onto the cloud.
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?
When I get ideas for a story, the first thing I do is brainstorm. This helps me decide whether the idea has any potential, and if I fill the page, then I proceed to the next stage otherwise I put the concept aside and may go back to it another time. I currently have a notepad with ideas that I’ve yet to brainstorm!
From my brainstorm, I create scenes, mainly dot points. I try not to be too prescriptive in the planning process as I prefer to let the writing flow, and this is when the characters insist on taking over. The scenes are a guide for the storyline and as long as I hit those markers, how many chapters it takes doesn’t matter. As to the chapters, they evolve from the scenes. For example, one scene in Minotaur’s Lair had seven dot points, which became nineteen chapters. I’ve used this method for all my stories, and it works for me. I have tried different strategies but didn’t find them as effective for my style of writing.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Definitely original. My work refers to Greek myths and legends, historical figures and events, and I try to remain true to the origins of the story and characters, however the narrative is original. Well, I hope it is, I haven’t read anything similar to my books, though I had one reviewer recommend my books to those who had grown up reading Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. For the record, I had the idea for my trilogy back in 2000 with Search for the golden serpent published in 2015. With teaching full-time and family commitments, it took a number of years to write and rewrite the books.
I’m not one for following trends or writing to the ‘market’, I prefer to write stories that I am invested in and passionate about. I know a number of authors who do write generified books that are in the top 100, and that’s their journey, I’d rather write books with characters that resonates and hopefully strikes a chord in readers who enjoy historical fantasy.
What are the unique challenges for a writer in blending history, mythology and fiction? How do you balance fact and fiction in your stories; and what type of research do you conduct to aid the development of your characters and the worlds they inhabit? Are there any particular works or references you would say have aided or inspired your own writings?
The hardest part is putting it all together and making it sound plausible. It’s like testing a new recipe you’re not sure how it’s going to turn out. I have files of information about places, people, what buildings looked like and people’s names which I refer to constantly. Depending on the scene I am writing, I always have a number of websites open and non-fiction books on hand. You can’t see the top of my desk some days. The places and culture are based on fact, with a little creative license and the story is purely fictional. My characters are taken from various myths but with my trilogy they are new characters with traits taken from legendary heroes like Akhilles, Hektor, Theseus, Herakles and others. I do refer to Homer’s Iliad, just to get the tone of the gods, and to Pausanias’ Guide to Greece books. I’m always reading and checking sources. I find morsels of information all the time and store it away. I find a use for it later on. If I can’t use in my current works in progress, then it will be considered for my next writing piece. I have a pad where I keep my ideas for stories. I think I need another life-time to write all the stories I have in my head.
The author is currently offering a giveaway of a signed ARC and bookmark plus deleted scene in exchange for screenshot of a receipt for pre-ordering a copy of The Minotaur's Lair!
More details in the following video: