His first book, in 2009, was Blue Fire and Ice, book one of The Land trilogy. The book was first published by Sibling Press, a publishing house set up to publish his own books as well as a few books from people he had met on his travels. Blue Fire and Ice was followed by its sequel, Furnaces of Forge, in 2010.
That same year he also wrote and published Brimstone, the first book in the new Earth, Air, Fire and Water series. In 2011, Sibling Press released all its books as ebooks to supplement the print versions.
Alan continues to write. Currently, he is working on The Last Mountain, the third and final book in The Land’s Tale series, and Hourglass, the sequel to Brimstone. He is working on several adult novels, plus the final two books ion the Earth, Air, Fire and Water series. In between books, he completed a play, Daisy Chain, which was premiered in Melbourne in August 2010. The play was produced and directed by his daughter, Eryn, for Rouse House Theatre Company, which had been founded by Eryn.
Book One of The Land’s Tale series
When Beadledom is ravaged by a string of unquenchable blue fires, they turn to their unpredictable neighbours, the Muddles, for help. The Muddles agree to help combat the firs and to help discover who is setting them – and why. As events worsen, it is thought that the secret lies far to the north in the forbidding High Mountains. It is agreed that two people from each of the races will travel to the mountains to discover the secret of the blue fire. They are accompanied by a great Muddle bear called Miniver. And so seven unlikely heroes set out to find the secret of the blue fire and the identity of the mysterious arsonist who will stop at nothing to destroy them all.
Full of the most unusual characters and packed with intrigue, humour and adventure, Blue Fire and Ice is the first in an exciting new series of books about The Land.
Book two of The Land's Tale series
When two accident-prone young Mymidots devise a plan to provide unimaginable power to their factories using the source of blue fire, the people of the Land find themselves divided. Even the animals of the Land, sensing the malign power that has come to the Land, prepare for rebellion. Amidst the chaos, two strangers, bent on revenge and destruction, appear in the Land. With their deadly creatures, the spoorhounds, it seems no one can stand up to them. Crimson, one of the heroes of the High Mountains, is determined to try, even though it might take a greater sacrifice than anyone could imagine.
Book One of the Earth, Air, Fire and Water series
From the author
Background and concept
Brimstone, the first of four books in the Earth, Air, Fire and Water series, is aimed at slightly older teens than The Land’s Tale books – though it has to be said that adults have given it the most glowing reviews.
Again, I wanted a classic adventure story rather than a fantasy. And, like all good adventure stories, the main character was to be an outsider, someone who had to overcome not only their inner doubts, but the prejudices and narrow-mindedness of those around them. I also wanted the main character to be a mid-teen female, just beginning to understand herself. And in a profession not known for its female practitioners.
So was born Jenny: a young Eurasian girl who had lived all her life in the isolation of a great forest, who is taken by a great alchemist to be his apprentice. For this great alchemist – Richard Antrobus – has recognised that Jenny has abilities that even she hasn’t yet discovered.
The setting for the book is fictional. I didn’t want it to be seen as an historical adventure, set in a specific place, so I created the city state of Vale and its rival, Cleve. It was important that the era – though not specified - was alive, recognisable and accurate. Set between the middle of the 16th century and the early part of the 17th century, the period is faithfully re-created.
The alchemy had to be realistic, not just another way to work magic in the story. (In fact, there isn’t any magic in the book at all. It is all about the magic of the special powers that people have inside them.) Brimstone depicts alchemy the way it was: the forerunner to modern science.
Brimstone has all the ingredients of a great adventure novel: an intelligent, resourceful and courageous heroine, a ruthless and pitiless villain, a dashing, slightly mysterious hero, and steadfast friends. As one book reviewer observed:
“All this makes for a lot of FUN. There’s action, there’s humour, there’s a bit of fashion, there’s a bit of chemistry and there’s even a little gore. FUN!”
THIS EXCERPT HAS BEEN PROVIDED FOR THIS BLOG BY ALAN SKINNER
One day, when winter had almost run its course, a man reined in his horse outside a small cottage in the middle of the forest. A second horse trailed behind, and he let the lead rope fall as his own mount stopped. He looked around the dwelling. Everything was neat and well kept. To one side was a pen occupied by plump, scratching chickens and behind that was a sty, home to three pigs and a sow with a heavy belly. A garden bed, bare except for a few winter herbs and some eager shoots of green, lay on the other side of the house. Behind that was a barn and stable, both as well cared for as the cottage. The people who lived within took pride in their home and tended it lovingly.
Richard Antrobus dismounted. His long black cloak swirled round him as he swung from the saddle. For a man his age – he had weathered fifty-four winters – he moved gracefully. Whether the slight grimace that came to his face was from the long ride he had just endured, or because of what he was about to do, wasn’t obvious.
Antrobus walked to the front of the cottage. From inside came the voices of two women, talking easily, the way that family who are also friends do. The door was open and he stepped into the shadow of its frame. He took a deep breath, then spoke.
‘I have come for your daughter.’
They were the first words Jenny ever heard Richard Antrobus speak. His voice stilled their chatter; his shadow stretched into the cottage, over the rough floorboards and the wooden table covered in herbs, roots and flowers. When she looked across at him Jenny couldn’t make out any of his features. He was a large black shape, eclipsing the sun at his back.
She looked at her mother, and saw she was struck silent with grief and fear. She wanted her mother to say something, to make it all not true. But she knew there was nothing that could change what would be. So, she went to the alcove and put her few articles of clothing into a rough cloth sack. She kissed her mother’s wet cheek and felt her arms close around her. Jenny smelled the lavender on her skin and the gardenia in her hair, and felt the reassuring texture of the russet shift that covered the trembling woman’s body. She wanted to stay as she was, folded in those slim, light brown arms. But she forced herself away, walked past the figure filling the door frame, and left the cottage. The smell of bay and burdock followed her into the sunlight.
Jenny knew she would never see her mother again. It pained her to leave without saying goodbye to her father. She had lived in this forest her entire life. All she loved was within these woods and all that loved her lived in the cottage she was leaving.
She walked to the horses, hearing his footsteps behind her. He pointed to the horse he had been leading and she swung into the saddle. She kicked her mount into a walk and headed it along the path away from the cottage. Jenny promised herself that she wouldn’t cry, nor would she look back. Even when she heard the wailing of her mother, her name called over and over, she kept her promise. She turned her heart into a rock of anger against the man who rode beside her.
Jenny was not even fifteen. Yet she rode through Queerwood, the ancient forest of Vale, by the side of a man she had never met.
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BUY links for the books
Blue Fire and Ice
Furnaces of Forge
Buckle and the Pirate, a picture-storybook for early readers with illustrations by Serena Riglietti. Currently being developed for release as an interactive app.
Master Quickly, and adult literary novel due for release late 2012
Falling Apples, adult literary novel due for release in 2013
The Last Mountain, the third and final book in The Land’s Tale series.
Hourglass, sequel to Brimstone.