blog tour, books

Blog Tour: War of the Snakes – Julian Cheek*

“Dreams can’t be real, can they?”

Such is the gnawing question reverberating through Sam’s head as he battles with a dilemma, which refuses to be ignored.

In his dreams, he is always confronted by one simple point: Muanga-Atua exists! And for some un-asked for and un-wanted reason, he – Sam – is expected to save this place from the calamity that engulfs the people of the Turangai. Not only that, but he is also supposed to have some sort of incredible power by which he is expected to destroy both the Bjarke and their leader, Lord Elim, the Turangai’s oppressors.

“But that is ridiculous! Right?”

Determined to ignore all that occurs in this so-called ‘dream world’, he does nothing. That is until one cold, grey, autumn morning a TV news flash captures a shocking series of events, which leads to one undeniable truth; what he has tried to ignore all along in Muanga-Atua has somehow incredibly exploded into his world and it is searching… Searching for him.

His do-nothing approach is just not good enough. Not now. He will have to go back to Muanga-Atua to seek out this power he was supposed to have obtained. Find the power, accept what it can do through him, and go out into that awful place to do battle with someone, or something that makes his very blood run cold.

But how? How can he go into this world and be all that the Turangai think he is, when he still cannot accept the truth? That he is ‘The One’. Sam, Wielder of the Staff of the Ethereals and saviour of their world. And now, apparently, of his own as well.

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I am an architect by profession and have been practicing for almost thirty years. My passion for design and for creating lasting spaces has pushed me to the forefront of this field and some of my projects include Mercedes World in Brooklands, NikeTown in Berlin and Europe’s largest pharmaceutical project for Hexal in East Germany. Currently, as Head of Design for a leading International developer, I am looking after the design and delivery of the first Versace-branded residential tower in Europe, in London.

It has long been my drive to challenge and test the people I work with, to demonstrate to their respective audiences how best to explain a concept. It is this vision that I hold closely to in my direction in creating stories and ideas such that the reader is also able to quickly understand what the story is about, and also to associate themselves with it and the characters within.

I live with my partner and our dog in Hampshire. Collectively, our four children have all grown up and flown the nest and we now enjoy seeing our own children learn themselves the tough lessons that life sometimes throws one. Mitch, my partner, is my inspiration and joy. She is my rock and we often discuss ideas for plot lines ( we both write) and both love bouncing ideas off each other.

The subject matter that forms the trilogy, “The Ethereal Series”, of which “The War of the Snakes” is book two, was brewing in my mind for quite a few years. I wanted to explore the idea where the “the good guy” doesn’t always win. I describe this as “In our lives, we all often hit obstacles that cause us to react, sometimes with frustration, rage, despair. Often, we carry this burden by ourselves, too afraid, and at times, too British, to share these with others”. The series, tries to unpick the various and numerous layers of the “onion skin” that Sam, the main protagonist, has built up around himself over the years, due to a tragedy he is unable to cope with. It is, hopefully, a story that a great many readers will associate themselves with, either from personal experience, or through friends who have gone through deep valleys, or may still be in them. The book is not intended to be too dark, so a few wobbly bridges are thrown it at times so that the reader is reminded that all is OK ultimately.”

As a Christian, my faith is important to me, as are my beliefs. A life message I have learned and now try to carry around with me, is that every person is precious. It does not matter what creed, race, sexual orientation, religious standing or place in society one finds themselves in, rather what does matter, is that when all the “stuff” is peeled away, whether self-built or applied by others, God sees us for who we really are; which is a beautiful creation, made wonderfully, and with care and attention. I try to share this in my outlook and acceptance of others. This lesson has been taught, often through extreme tragedy and loss, as well as times of great joy. These are reflected in the various scenes Sam and his family find themselves in.

The bright times include when I spent my youth growing up in South Africa. As a child growing up in what, for me, was a beautiful country, where kids did not differentiate between skin colour or culture, the pure exhilaration of being able to explore the mountains, the lakes and rivers and the landscapes, often at great peril to life and limb, cemented a rich tapestry in my life that helped me to look outward and see how peaceful things are, when one is able to turn one’s head to one side for a moment and smell the flowers.

A darker side was the struggle when my two children were diagnosed with an incredibly rare genetic disorder of which, only 12 have been recorded. The first child was born in Germany and whilst I could speak German, the medical and technical issues around the condition and trying to speak to doctors about it, led to extreme periods of sadness. Often, I was told by one of the doctors that, in their opinion, my daughter had this or that condition, and would probably die before they were 4. The angst that came from this, only to find out some months later, that actually, the doctors were shown to be wrong and that my daughter now had “this” condition (probably), and that life expectancy was not very good, was beyond description.

In this darkness, a light was switched on by the healing touch of a wonderful church, and of being introduced to many other children who were in a much worse condition than my daughter. I learned that it was OK to be scared and afraid and worried, but that if I looked outside for a moment, all was at peace. The children are now both leading active “normal” lives and are 24 and 21 respectively and they both delight and frustrate as children do. I wouldn’t swap them for the world. Valuable life lesson there.

Both me and Mitch enjoy painting. For me, my forte is portraiture and I find that by studying this subject matter, it helps me to see the nuances that make up a person’s face or a setting for a scenic composition. It is a challenge to try to capture the character. A lesson I take with me when writing.

In conclusion, if there was a strap line I would want to adopt or uphold, it would probably be, “Laugh when there is no reason to, and never forget to stop looking out. Peace reigns even in the worst of chaos!” I trust that the reader will immerse themselves in “The War of the Snakes” as well as my first published novel of the series, “The Awakened” and be there ready to support me and the travails of Sam when book three comes to print in Autumn 2021.

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The street lights quickly left the small, crude shelter behind off the pathway he now found himself on and slowly, Sam became aware of more small buildings gradually emerging out from the gloom as if afraid to reveal themselves. They were arranged higgeldy-piggeldy, bouncing off each other, at crazy angles as if seeking support from their neighbours. All were dark, empty it seemed, foreboding and bereft of light and life. “Most definitely houses of some form.” Thought Sam. “But where is everybody?” This question uttered, almost impossible to respond to. Everything was still, unmoving and yet jumping to life it seemed, whenever the lightning struck, bringing their silhouettes into sharp relief before plunging them once more in to the vestigial darkness that surrounded this place.

No wait! Just there ahead. Another light, lower down, almost at eye-level. A half-illuminated sign slowly came into view, its buffeting to and fro, restrained to a timber post by two clanking chains which were hooked into the top of the sign. “The Fickle Thistle” loomed out suddenly announcing a small, ramschakle stone façade, within which stood a stout looking door from which a hearty orange glow seemed to shine out from a small window cut into its front. “A pub? Here?” Thought Sam. It looked completely incongruous in its surroundings but Sam threw all caution to the strong wind hurling itself around him, hurried over to the door and pushed it open.

Inside, almost as if the storm outside had thrown a make-shift bomb into the surroundings, the piano playing, juke-box of noises evaporated and at least thirty pairs of eyes swivelled and fixed themselves on the door and the stranger who had just entered, as if studying a leper. The cessation of the thrashing rain at his face, having now entered into this “lion’s den” that was “The Fickle Thistle”, was more a reason to stay than the accusing eyes boring into him were a reason to leave. With a sharp intake of breath, Sam continued on in, closing the door behind him with a “clunk” of finality, shutting the tempest out from his world, if only for a moment. Then he turned and peered slowly into the pub.

The punters were all staring at him as if some nasty curse had entered into their private domain. Even the barmaids, some with beer tankards sloshing their frothy suds to the floor, stood rooted to the spot in mid-stride, gazing at Sam, almost as if in fear.

A movement in the dimness of the rafters caught his eye and he peered up, if only to break contact with the wall of hostility that greeted him from the occupiers within. If the scene at the ground floor plain was disconcerting, the view into the rafters was, if anything, even more bizarre. At least five birds, all shapes and sizes, gazed down at him from the sanctuary of their dim perches. One had its wings at full stretch as if ready to launch off its perch to attack him. It was then that Sam began to notice a different “layer” of activity that was occurring in and around the clientele of this establishment. He became aware of a multitude of creatures, if they could be called that, snaking and slithering around the crowd at floor level. Some hiding behind bar stools, afraid to look at him, others, with fur bristling and teeth barred, standing their ground, looking at him. All, without exception, seemed to be waiting though. “Waiting, if anything,” thought Sam, “for further instruction from someone or something!”

“Padme!” The thought thrust itself into his mind like a cannon ball. “Of course!” These animals and creatures were the companions and protectors of the customers and staff in this place of solace from the storm outside that was hurling itself with full wrath against the building’s flimsy shell. For the first time, Sam felt a sense of security and belonging, for he was able to fix where at last he was. Definitely no longer in the sanctuary of Greyshott. (“Although, thinking back, even the village at the moment was not exactly a haven of peace and tranquillity.” He reminded himself) When he left it “a few short minutes ago!?” he mused, there was utter chaos, with what seemed like flesh-eating maniacs at his tail and a directive from Alice, proprietress of “Timbers Tea House” and part time angel, to go and destroy….. “Yes, it was all coming back now.” Sam had a mission to undertake, why, he still had no real clue about, but, for some reason, he was living a normal life one second, “if that could be classed as normal”, he reminded himself, and the next, he was being thrust into a strange world with flying, thought-communicating beasts from some wild, weird crazy land, with a task to go and kill some Lord, save that world and come back and save his own! “All before bloody breakfast!”

He knew at some deep, intuitive level, that he was finally back in Muanga-Atua, and the people and animals around him seemed to fit at last, into a jigsaw, even though this was without any picture to base it on, or number of “pieces” still to go. He breathed out and started to move towards the bar, there to seek out any information as to where “here” was.

He had taken only a few short steps when some men at a table closest to him stood up and blocked his passage further. They were not in the mood to let him pass. Perplexed, Sam looked up at them and cowered slightly as he saw their anger and determination to send him rapidly back from whence he had come, it seemed. But what they said next threw him into a turmoil of emotion.

“Where is your Padme, young man?” They challenged. One reached into his coat as if to draw out an article, “Or weapon!” Sam assumed.

Sam’s last half hour cascaded like so many dominoes into a pile of scatterings and threatened to burst out of his head, leaving him an empty, destroyed shell. He saw the start of the chaos back at home; He saw Alice coming to rescue him, his flight away and up Blacknest Hill and his arrival at the totem at the top. He remembered then why he was running and, more importantly, what he was running to. Now he was here, wherever that was. He knew that he had to find a staff of some description, which had been lost, but he hadn’t the foggiest idea where it was or how he was supposed to find it, now that this reality had taken over.

“I said,” threatened one of the men, pushing his dirty fingers into Sam’s chest with each syllable, “where. Is. Your. Padme?” At last, a small piece of this jigsaw managed to emerge from his mind’s eye and settle itself into place. ”Of course! It is impossible to be in this world without a Padme, and to walk without one meant you were either dead, or demon…….. Or Sam!” Thought Sam.

Without thinking, Sam blurted out, “Um. Well. I am known here as Sam-of-the-Shades. I have a Padme called Babu but we can exist apart. I lost him at Watamka during a battle with the cursed Bjarke and I have to find him quickly, rescue Pania and Ma-Aka, find the missing staff of the Ethereals and then do battle with Lord Elim and his horde before he destroys this world and mine!”

As Sam was vomiting words out as fast as his mind could conjure them up, one of the men, eyes as large as saucepans, pulled out an incredibly large, and most certainly, “deadly” knife, and started towards Sam with clear intent. Sam saw it all as if in slow-motion but knew what the outcome was to be. He closed his eyes in resignation and some frustration and started to cower down, expecting at any moment, to wake up again in Greyshott with a very painful chest and having to go through the process all over again.


*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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