An avid reader of fantasy and science fiction novels all his life, J. Michael Radcliffe published his first novel The Guardian’s Apprentice in 2010. He lives with his family in rural Kentucky along with seven cats. When not acquiring cats for their plan of world domination (cat armies are terribly hard to train), Michael enjoys spinning stories from the wisps of magic around him. He has written four novels and multiple short stories.
The book is the story of a young man who discovers his hidden potential, when he is brought into the realm of magic. He is drawn unwillingly into the middle of political intrigue, with more than one person trying to use him as their pawn.
The main character’s grandfather serves as the Guardian, a gatekeeper that maintains the Veil – a magical barrier that tethers the magical and non-magical worlds together and protects them from each other. Someone – or something – is at work trying to break the Veil and bring the long separated worlds together, to subjugate the human race on both sides.
Before he can become his grandfather’s apprentice however, he must gain the approval of the High Council, a group of witches and wizards more interested in advancing their own agendas than in protecting their world. If he wins their approval, he must survive training under the tutelage of his grandfather’s assistant – a wizard convicted of treason some five- hundred years before and sentenced to spend all but one hour every day as a black cat.
Learning to control the power within proves harder than he thought, but when he tries to return home he learns the shocking truth – his grandfather’s enemies want him dead whether he’s an apprentice or not! If he doesn’t find the inner strength to control his power, both worlds could perish as the ancient portal is unsealed and the Shadow is unleashed upon mankind.
I think because of the system of magic and magical creatures, the series is firmly in the fantasy genre, although it might infringe upon the paranormal with some things that appear in the books.
The fourth book in the series, Touch of Darkness, was actually never intended to be written. I thought the series had ended with book three, but one of the central characters kept rattling around in my head and simply demanded I tell his story.
The other three books in the series are shown below, along with the tag line from their covers:
Bloodstone – The Guardian’s Curse
An ancient evil has returned to threaten the world of magic and mortal alike. Keegan Whitestone is now the Guardian – the protector of the magical barrier known as the Veil – but he has yet to learn how to control his powers. Now, he must find and destroy the Bloodstone, a legendary jewel used by the powerful necromancer, Sava, to ensnare and devour the souls of others. In order to save the soul of the woman he loves, Keegan must make a terrible choice.
Rise of the Shadow
Sakkara, Egypt – the birthplace of magic in our world. On the thirteenth hour, of the thirteenth day of the thirteenth month after their death, an old enemy returns from the abyss with the aid of the Shadow. Keegan Whitestone must unravel a mystery and stop a murder before it happens, five thousand years in the past!
Touch of Darkness
Alone and on the run from his past, Rami is tormented by a dark spirit that haunts his dreams. Terrified of the power he may possess, he must find a way to control it before it drives him insane. When he finds himself thrown into an unlikely partnership with the alluring and stubborn daughter of a caravan leader, he soon realizes she may be his downfall. Like a moth to a flame, Amirah is drawn to Rami and his mysterious past. Together they must find the long lost ‘Book of the Dead,’ before they are consumed by the darkness.
I had always envisioned the series as a trilogy of books, and thought it would end with Rise of the Shadow. The odd thing was, as I developed book three I became very attached to a particular character and the circumstances that guided his behavior. As a result, a few months after finishing book three, I had to start the fourth book because I simply could not leave his story untold. It actually worked out quite well, as it brings the series of books full circle as far as the timeline and continuity go.
I have to admit, I really think I hit my stride with book four and consider it to be the best of my work. Maybe it’s because I feel such a connection to the two main characters.
My first book started when I was facing sudden unemployment after being downsized. I had about two months free before starting my next job, and I had always wanted to write a book, so I thought “why not?”
When I started my new job I put the manuscript to the side and would work on it every so often until finally it was finished. I received a couple of rejection letters from publishers, so after a while I finally published it myself on Amazon. Long story short, it took eight years because I wasn’t focused on my writing, and quite honestly did not think my work was good enough to publish.
The other books did not take nearly as long, and on average took about six to nine months to write and edit.
In between the books and since my last one, I have also written a number of short stories that usually tie into the main characters of the novels.
I like to think that it is, because in my writing I think there is a clear vision of right and wrong, as well as personal responsibility. Part of what I enjoy most though, is developing the characters so readers can see the conflict inside, when an outwardly ‘good’ character chooses to go down a darker path. Sometimes even the darkest of actions can be driven by the purest of motives.
I wanted to be a writer ever since I was about seven or eight years old, when I first read The Hobbit. When I was young and in school, I was socially awkward, terrible at sports, and had difficulty making friends, so books were my companions a lot of the time. Reading allowed me to travel to new and exciting worlds, and I wanted to create some of that magic myself.
I think The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring were my favorites, although I also devoured the entire John Carter of Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I also loved good mysteries though, and read every single story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well as many of the books by Agatha Christie.
I like to think I sort of combine the two in my writing, because I love to leave clues for the reader that leads to a surprise at the end.
I think Tolkien has to be the most influential over my writing. The magical world he created inspired me in my own work. I could picture his stories in my mind as I read, and I wanted to deliver that very same experience for my readers.
Most of the books I have read in the last twelve months have been related to my day job, as they have dealt with leadership development. I did recently finish The Last Apprentice series written by Joseph Delaney, and I have a biography of Thomas Jefferson lying on my nightstand waiting to be read.
I cannot stress how important reading is to someone’s development. Being a lifelong reader has, in my opinion, made me a stronger communicator. I have a better grasp of the language, I think, because reading has given me a wider vocabulary – which I think has helped me immensely in my business career.
It saddens me greatly to think reading is on the decline, because society seems to have an ever-shorter attention span and preference for the instant gratification of movies, television and video games. I would love to encourage young people to read, because it opens up so many worlds by building their imagination.
They need to pick up a pen, or turn on the computer, and start writing. Write a lot. Then write even more. Then join a good strong writers group, especially one that allows writers to critique each other’s work.
Most importantly, learn how to give AND receive constructive criticism. Being critiqued is difficult to bear, but if you can learn from it you will become a better writer.
Lastly, don’t give up! If you enjoy writing, then do it – but don’t imagine you will become the next best seller overnight. There are literally thousands of titles being uploaded every week on Amazon, and it is incredibly hard to get your work noticed amongst all that noise.
Write because you enjoy it, but most of all, write because you have a story to tell.