Author: McKenzie Austin
Narrator: Gerard Marquez
Length: 15 hours and 30 minutes
Series: The Panagea Tales, Book 1
Publisher: McKenzie Austin
Released: Aug. 6, 2019
Genre: Epic Fantasy
The world’s end was his beginning.
Whole chunks of earth are withering away from the mainland and falling into the sea. Natural disasters are claiming thousands of lives. Prayers are no longer answered by gods. Prayers are answered by machines and the Time Fathers of Panagea.
Nicholai Addihein, one of the eight ruling Time Fathers, struggles to save the lives of his people. After a single moment of misunderstood treason, he must also save his own.
While running from the wrath of Panagea’s other Time Fathers, Nicholai lands in peculiar company. Can a fabled immortal, a crew of societal rejects, and a silver-haired woman with a mysterious past breathe life back into a world on the brink of death?
With all of existence at stake, Nicholai and the others prepare to fight until their last breath to change the fate of Panagea. Who would ever guess that success might be just as fatal as failure?
Like many authors, McKenzie took to writing early. She crafted numerous tales throughout childhood that served as an escape from the solitude often accompanying the inability to ‘fit in’ with the normal crowd.
The award-winning author now resides with her family in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she draws inspiration for her fantasy novels through copious amounts of craft beer and cheese.
Gerard got his start at an early age, performing with various Opera companies and teams throughout Australia. After moving to America as an adult he made the transition into musical theater, and voice-over. Gerard has worked with various Opera and Musical theater companies throughout southern California and LA. Gerard has been working as a narrator now for the last couple of years, and was incredibly honored and excited, when McKenzie Austin approached him to work on this great series.
By McKenzie Austin, Author
Inspiration is a peculiar thing, isn’t it? It’s one of those fluid, intangible effects. Inspiration can be found in something as mundane as the way the leaves leap to their deaths, separating themselves from the trees that they knew and loved all season long. It can be found in the way your loved one’s cheeks embrace the bottoms of their eyes when they break into an uninhibited smile.
Inspiration can be a moment. An event. A feeling. A person. While I’m thankful for all of the countless muses that motivate me daily, the biggest literary inspiration in my life has to be Neil Gaiman.
I can say with absolute certainty that the man holds that title for limitless existing writers. It’s unlikely that Mr. Gaiman will see this and leap for joy at having inspired one more person in a pool of endless, undying fans, but there remains one single, profound reason why I adore that man.
Being inspired is such a critical component to writing. It can often be squashed by the crushing weight of reality. Standing out amongst the almost 50 million books available on Amazon alone, a writer can’t help but feel the pressure to somehow shine brighter than the rest. How does one succeed in such a competitive atmosphere? Inspiration is only a small factor; we need to know the standard rules, as well. You all know what they are.
Get a compelling cover. Secure beta readers. Build a newsletter. Lock down those social media sites. Fashion an interactive website. Professionally edit your book. Write to market. And, for the love of the gods, separate your genres by pen names. Don’t be the guy whose ‘also boughts’ on Amazon are tainted because you were too lazy to craft an alias for each one!
Suddenly, that colorful inspiration is feeling a little washed out by the black and white side of the trade, isn’t it?
Yes, the business side of being an author can be a brutal one to learn. I found myself drowning in the sea of that reality more times than I care to admit. That beacon of brightness, though—that lighthouse in the dark, that keeps me from crashing into the jagged coastal rocks—has, and always will be, Neil Gaiman.
Nothing is untouchable to him. Dark fantasy for adults? He nails it. Quirky children’s stories? Flawless. It doesn’t matter if he’s writing horror, or comedy, or science fiction, or novels, or comics, or short stories. The guy does it all, and he does it all with his own name.
I understand the importance of the rules. Yes, a good cover matters. Yes, an efficient, talented editor is so, so valuable. But once that initial, gripping moment of inspiration fades away… and is replaced by the business side of writing… things can get admittedly overwhelming. As for me? It’s nice to know that I, too, can fly far out into left field from my last project’s genre, despite the ‘rules’. There exists no greater comfort than knowing that someone else did it before, and instead of falling flat on his face, he ended up soaring.
McKenzie Austin’s Top 10 Songs that Inspired Her Work
Music is incredibly inspiring. I’ve listened to my fair share of tunes while writing The Tree That Grew Through Iron (actually, the whole of The Panagea Tales series, really) and there are certainly a few that stand out as having been played on ‘repeat’ during several scenes.
- Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise by The Avett Brothers – This is/was the very mantra of Nicholai Addihein. Throughout the series, he’s surrounded by this looming ‘darkness’, and it takes many different forms depending on which book you’re on, but he always holds fast to this (often times idealistic) dream that he can make things better for everyone. He wants so badly to do what’s ‘right’, but must come to the realization that what’s right for some will never be what’s right for all. This song is actually what inspired the title for the final book in the series (The Canary That Sang to the World).
- The Sound of Silence by Disturbed – This particular song resonated more with book two in the series (The Gods Who Harvested Men) but the message still applies to The Tree That Grew Through Iron. ‘Silence like a cancer grows’ is, perhaps, the strongest line. Things deteriorate as far as they do because we’re often too scared to speak up and change the circumstances. Nicholai is so desperate to help everyone, to ‘reach them’, but the outcome of his efforts often fail to yield the results he hopes for. The most admirable thing is that he keeps trying, regardless of how often he fails.
- Pompeii by Bastille – This song encapsulates the entirety of the series, but touches The Tree That Grew Through Iron in a far more literal way. Everything around the primary cast is changing. The physical landscape of Panagea, their mental endurance to continue fighting for a revolution, their emotional reactions to their circumstances… but through everything, through all of the shifts and challenges and obstacles, at the heart of it all, one thing hasn’t changed at all. Camaraderie runs deep, and is a critical component of their interactions with one another.
- Leave a Light On by Tom Walker – I know these are supposed to be about The Tree That Grew Through Iron, but I can’t help falling back to songs that remind me of the series in its entirety. In book three (The Serpent That Swallowed Its Tail) this song really resonated with me, as several of our characters let their obsessions consume them in a rather unfortunate way. There’s always that one rock for the individual who is slipping though… the one who will ‘leave a light on’ for he or she who is lost in the dark.
- Lost by Coldplay – This one reminds me of Nicholai in particular, but certainly fits the bill of the crew, as well. “Just because I’m losing doesn’t mean I’m lost.” And poor Nicholai, he loses. Quite a bit. His good intentions often blow up in his face, but he gets right back up and tries again.
- Radioactive by Imagine Dragons – This song paints a picture of Panagea to me. “Waking up to ash and dust” couldn’t possibly be a better fit to the world our characters are living in. The vibe captures the raw spirit of desire for a change, too. For a revolution. I love it.
- broken by lovelytheband – What better lyrical song to highlight the unnatural relationship of Kazuaki and Bermuda? Traditional love songs just wouldn’t do. He adores her dearly, but doesn’t know a damn thing about lovey-dovey sentiment. I like ‘broken’ because the nicest thing that’s able to be said is ‘I like that you’re broken’, which is hardly a compliment at all, but somehow, the way it’s said, you know it’s meant as a term of endearment. It’s Kazuaki and Bermuda, for sure.
- Long Time Traveller by The Wailing Jennys – One of the more obscure songs that reminds me of the series, but this one goes through my head each time a character dies. It also reminds me of Kazuaki’s perpetual journey to find a way to terminate his contract with immortality, so that he, too, could join those he bonded with in the afterlife. “I’m a long time traveling here below, I’m a long time traveling away from home” guts me in a way, when I think of the psychological ramifications that would stem from watching lifetimes of loved ones rise and fall.
- All of Me by John Legend – I feel a little silly posting so many ‘love’ songs in this list, since the few romantic relationships that exist in the Panagea Tales play a far less poignant role than the camaraderie and the general pursuit of completing the primary goal… but this is another one that reminded me of Kazuaki’s affection toward Bermuda. Maybe I enjoy them so much because he rarely puts his sentimentality on display, so it’s fun for me to think about that (almost) non-existent side of him.
- Someone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi – I can’t really dive into why this one represents the book(s) without ruining some pretty big moments in the story. Just know that it’s as applicable as it is heartbreaking, and that’s why it made the list.
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