This is continuing feature on Archer’s Aim – Fantasy Authors Unplugged. I hope to frequently share an interview with a fantasy author. If you have authors to suggest and/or questions you’d like to see answered then leave a comment or send me an email. If you are a fantasy author and would like an interview please let me know and we’ll plan one that fits your schedule.
It goes without saying that the writing process takes a mixture of skill, creativity and serendipity. For me, writing The Bow of Destiny has been a long journey full of distractions of all kinds but I’ve experienced all three of the aforementioned mixture during that time.
When I first started writing, I had no idea what I was really doing. Developing a book is a skill in and of itself. I had some vague notion about what I want to do and how a story should flow – but not the specifics. Back when I started this out of high school many years ago, there wasn’t a lot of material at the tip of the fingers from which to learn. Sure I had basic skill to write a pretty good term paper or essay but that’s very different from writing a work of fiction let alone one that is a fantasy.
Over time, I had to learn what good fiction writing meant. Also over that time, the style and reading sensibilities changed. Once I really committed to writing 4-5 years ago I had to face the fact that what worked for a fantasy book in the ’80’s did not in this new millennium. At that time, I had a finished the manuscript back in the 90’s and had received acceptance from a small press at the time (I turned it down due to the vague contract). I knew I had a pretty good story but many of the fantasy element were dated – even despised in some circles – due to the passage of time.
It meant in many ways that I had to start over with a drastic re-write. Tropes became a major concern. Style became even more important. I needed to balance good vs evil, black and white morals and gray morals (which are more popular in the genre now). The re-write became cumbersome.
But along the way there have been rays of sunshine. I’ve learned many things about editing and producing a book including how to make covers, format a manuscript and what deep POV is. There were interesting changes suggested from alpha/beta readers and my editor, Jessica Barnes. It’s been difficult with all the growing pains but it has been noted by my wife, who’s read many of the changing version, that my writing has improved from many years ago so the work has paid off. I still have a long way to go as a writer but I’ve come a long way too. The Bow of Destiny can’t wait any longer so I set it out for public consumption in less than two weeks. In some ways it’s appropriate that the writing journey has been long and arduous in years just since the book covers a long quest for The Bow of Destiny.
Haunted by his past. Hunted in the present. Uncertain what is real.
Athson has seen things that aren’t there and suffered fits since being tragically orphaned as a child at the hands of trolls and Corgren the wizard. When a strange will mentioning a mysterious bow comes into his possession, he’s not sure it’s real. But the trolls that soon pursue him are all too real and dangerous. And what’s worse, these raiders serve Corgren and his master, the hidden dragon, Magdronu, who are responsible for the destruction of his childhood home. Athson is drawn into a quest for the concealed Bow of Hart by the mystic Withling, Hastra, but Athson isn’t always sure what’s real and who his enemies are. With Corgren and Magdronu involved, Athson must face not only frequent danger but his grasp on reality and the reasons behind his tragic past.
When his dead father touched his hand, Athson almost dropped the arrow. He squeezed his eyes shut. Ignore him. Focus. He took a slow, deep breath. Not this, not now.
“That’s it, slow breaths, steady your hands.” His father helped him nock the arrow.
“You’re not here. You’re dead.” Athson whispered lest he startle his prey. He didn’t need help with the arrow.
“And Athson, make sure you keep that secret I trusted with you.” Ath’s hand dropped away.
“I’ve held my tongue.” Athson’s lip quivered and he forced his hands steady. A memory and nothing more. That’s what he got for forgetting his medicine. But he had kept the secret over the years since his father taught him the bow that day.
Athson knelt on one knee with an arrow nocked and gauged each target. Wind gusted and flattened grass in its weaving dance. Waves boomed against the Sea of Mist’s rocky shore beneath the cliff’s edge two hundred strides distant. The pheasant was trickier, he decided. The rabbit would do. His gaze shifted between the two animals. No shakes, no more old memories while cleaning the kill. He brushed the vane feather with his thumb. But the memory didn’t bode well.
Athson eased into his stance at the shaded edge of forest, waiting unseen by his prey. The wind fell still. He drew the arrow to his cheek, aimed, and exhaled. A litter of kits hopped near his intended meal. He blinked. No killing a mother. He shifted targets and released.
The arrow sprang away in silence and pierced the green-feathered head.
Athson strode from hiding, high grass tangling at his shins. The rabbit and her litter scrambled into their hole. “You’re safe this time.”
He squatted by the pheasant and plucked out chestnut tail feathers. When he cut the striped neck, Athson shut his eyes. The less blood seen, the better, to avoid the memories. Athson yanked his arrow loose with a grunt. “Sarneth sends me to the middle of nowhere so I waste time hunting.” Father plucked the arrows with more care. Maybe his father should have used other things with the same care.
He thrust with his belt-knife and gutted the bird. Torn innards stank. Images flashed behind his eyes of bodies writhing as weapons were yanked free. He swallowed. Why this, why now? He sat on his heels and counted the months since his last fit. Over a year, and his elvish tincture of Soul-ease lay forgotten at the ranger station. Not good. He needed that medicine. He rubbed his temples. Fits were hard, but seeing things later confused him. Days of parsing reality flooded him with dread. Gweld, his elven friend and fellow ranger, would be disappointed at his laxness with the medicine.
He buried the bird’s offal well away from his camp. Athson brushed a hand over his eyes with a sigh. No shakes, no memories. He took a deep breath and marched away, teeth grinding. He needed to seek peace and not anger. The wind picked at foliage and birds called in the forest. But tension clung to his shoulders.
At his campsite Athson hung his kill over his fire from a makeshift spit. Early chill sent him gathering more firewood, a worthless duty at an empty border. He eyed the stand of fir trees, doing anything but thinking. They were a good windbreak but wouldn’t guard against that night’s nip. Building a canopy of fir limbs near the fire at the opening would warm his cold feet.
The breeze rose stiff with the promise of a frigid bite later as Athson gathered armloads of deadwood. “I’ll need that canopy.” The gust blew stiffer.
Athson frowned at the smoke marking his position for miles when he approached his camp and muttered in dissatisfaction. Rocky ground and no smokeless pit-fire. He shrugged off the irritation. “There’re no trolls this far west in the Auguron Forest.”
Racing the dusk while gathering firewood was all the excitement Athson encountered. He snagged another fallen limb, hurrying more now to check his roasting pheasant than to beat nightfall.
The wind shifted and carried the hint of smoke from his campfire. Sudden nausea left him unsteady. Memory of other fire on a different night quickened his heart. Athson snagged the last of the wood for his final armload.
“You take this bag and hide.”
“Leave me alone mother, you’re long gone.” Athson coughed and stumbled over roots.
Smoke curls through the thatch over the rafters. His mother shoves food and a coat into the bag.
That wasn’t now, that was ten years past. He groaned and blinked a tear away.
Athson sank to his knees and coughed against choking smoke. His mother acts calm but he sees fear in her wide, hazel eyes and her rigid movements. Smoke thickens and flames roar beyond the door. The warning horn blows. Screams erupt outside and mingle with joyous snarls of attacking trolls.
Athson’s mother heaves him out the window. “Hide as best you can.”
They both cough. Athson nods and opens his mouth.
The door slams open. His mother snatches an iron skillet and cracks a hobgoblin in the face. The attacker collapses but others leap through the door. His mother yells and flails with the skillet.
Athson ducks away and runs into the night amid the dancing light of burning Depenburgh.
A longer sample is available on the Goodreads page for The Bow of Destiny and at the end of What Is Needed
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