Fantasy Authors Unplugged

An Arrow Against the Wind Commentary: Athson’s Choices


The Bow of Destiny begins a long journey for Athson and his companions which leads him to a gut-wrenching ending in that book. An Arrow Against the Wind begins immediately after those twists but with a twist of its own. In that light, Athson’s perspective shifts with realization that what he thought was real wasn’t and he begins to question his decade-long predicament.


Within The Bow of Destiny, Athson struggles with grief both old and new as well as his uncertainty from his PTSD-like fits which seem to have resolved in some ways. However, he’s never quite sure of himself and doesn’t always trust his own awareness. He’s equally suspicious and doubtful of the quest. Within all of these difficulties, Athson is stuck in a spiraling struggle with his outlook on the adventure.

But, with the sudden shift of reality, his mood shifts from one of grief to that of a determination to seek answers to his life as well as help those around him. Without sharing any spoilers, Athson needs to find more than the Bow of Hart and isn’t willing to just follow Hastra’s lead in the matter. However, he is seeking to help others and himself though he doesn’t know how to go about it. He just unwilling to follow a course that he doesn’t believe will achieve his goals.

Athson sets out on his own to accomplish his new goals, determined not to remain a grieving victim. Hastra and Gweld slowly turn his attention back to the Bow of Hart as a way of accomplishing his goals. Their reasoning is that the Bow of Hart is the key to the problems that confront Athson who slowly comes around to the idea. However, he still wants to do things his way regardless.

Between the events of The Bow of Destiny and An Arrow Against the Wind, there’s a definite progression for Athson. In the first book, he’s struggling with his own pathos and malady about which he believes himself to be merely a bystander as events happen to him. By the end, he’s willing to take a stand for himself and others, rising out of his inward struggles.

An Arrow Against the Wind shows how Athson begins to grow as he takes action against the forces set against him. His actions are imperfect but he has skills as a ranger that he can use to further his goals. He believes he’s still making good decision, a belief revealed in the opening scene of The Bow of Destiny when he makes a choice while hunting. But as Athson progresses he will be presented with tougher choices and the question remains if he’s truly able to make a difficult decision by parsing out more than what he wants at a moment, but what is best for others as well. His choices lie between his own goals and the needs of others. He wants to help but what is the best way? He’s growing out of the malaise of years and into an active participant in this life because the Bow of Hart and the prophesy surrounding it require him to grow and make tough choices.


Here’s an excerpt where he discusses his options with Limbreth regarding some choices and the Bow of Hart:

Later, they shared time during their watches as they walked a circuit of their camp. Spark trailed them.

“Let’s just leave and go ourselves. They’re slowing us down. They’ll keep me from doing what I have to do.” Athson stared into the silent night, his tone hushed. Time was wasting. Each night the moon phase progressed. His gut clenched. “It’s not their decision.”

“Athson, they mean well and understand your feelings.” She paused, hefting a sword. “But there are the bigger issues of the prophecy. Hastra knew her risks and has for years.”

They paused by the mules, and Athson patted one on its side. “But I can’t abandon my father and mother again.” He turned to Limbreth and grasped her shoulders. “I’ve lived well with the elves while they’ve suffered. I can’t just run off and forget them.”

She leaned forward, her forehead touching his. “I know. It’s not easy. Maybe an answer will present itself.”

His voice rose in challenge, and he stepped back. “Like what? I’m trapped. They are trapped in Corgren’s clutches.”

Limbreth gazed toward their sleeping companions and back to Athson. “Quiet, you’ll wake the others. I don’t know what will happen, and neither do you. But I’ll go through it with you.” She took his hand and came closer. “I’m here now. For you. So are the others.”

Athson shrugged. Was her support just words? She had a suitor waiting for her. Somewhere. “What if the others scout out Corgren? I find the bow while they sneak my father away. Then, then…” Then what? His mother died?

Limbreth lowered her face. “What about your mother?” She sighed. “Tough questions and no answers. Yet.”

Athson paced away and back. “Well, just get some sleep. We push on before the moon.”

A falling star streaked across the sky. Athson remembered a similar sight in his vision at Eagle’s Aerie. The arrow Eloch prepared. He frowned at the sparkling sky. The inheritance lay in his pack. The same words written on the will. He needed an arrow?

“That was beautiful.”

“Yes.” Athson managed. “There’s supposed to be an arrow.”

Still watching the sky, Limbreth frowned. “What arrow?”

“It’s in the prophecy.” He thumbed over his shoulder toward camp. “It’s in that will I got. I don’t know where that is. I remember something. A falling star like a smoking arrow from back at Eagle’s Aerie. But if it’s not with the Bow of Hart I don’t know what to do to find it. But if I did, I’d have something to fight back with. Maybe.”

“Perhaps, but at least we’ll know if it’s there, and maybe we can ask Howart, if he’s there…” She lifted her arms to his shoulders and stepped closer, her eyes still to the sky. “Then we’ll decide. You know we’ll do something based on all that information. There’s an answer, Athson. It’s not hopeless.”

He scowled a moment then realized her tone held encouragement. “Thanks.” He held her a while under the stars as the time slipped past him.

Find out more about the second book of The Bow of Hart Saga, An Arrow Against the Wind, by clicking on one of these retailer badges:

About the Author


Fantasy Authors Unplugged: A Visit From Poet/Editor John Mannone

Today’s edition of Fantasy Authors Unplugged is a real treat as I host award-winning poet and poetry editor, John Mannone. John composes a wide spectrum of speculative poetry as well as editing for several magazines. Thanks to John for agreeing to write a guest post on his favorite subject and how he both develops and edits it. I hope all the poets out there find John’s words informative and inspiring:

John C. Mannone, winner of the 2017 Horror Writers Association Scholarship, has work in Poetry South, Artemis, Blue Fifth Review, New England Journal of Medicine, Peacock Journal, Gyroscope ReviewBaltimore Review, Pedestal, Pirene’s Fountain, Event Horizon, Eye To The Telescope and others. He’s the winner of the 2017 Jean Ritchie Fellowship in Appalachian literature and the recipient of two Weymouth writing residencies. He has three poetry collections: Apocalypse (Alban Lake Publishing) won 3rd place for the 2017 Elgin Book Award; Disabled Monsters (The Linnet’s Wings Press) featured at the 2016 Southern Festival of Books; Flux Lines (Celtic Cat Publishing)—love-related poems using science metaphors—forthcoming in spring 2018; he won two Joy Margrave Awards in literary nonfiction; and nominated for several Pushcart, Rhysling, and Best of the Net awards. He’s a professor of physics near Knoxville, TN.

Hearing the Literary Voice in Speculative Poetry

There is this unfortunate contention between genre writing and literary writing: Typically, GENRE encompasses Romance, Western, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Action-Adventure, etc. It is often entertaining, action-filled, plot-driven, sometimes cute, clever, imaginative, and accused by the literati of being full of poor writing (clichés, cheesy dialog with a plethora of adverbial tags, gratuitous language/sex/gore, etc.). On the other hand, LITERARY is often considered more serious writing, with character development more important than plot. It is often existential and explores the human condition. There is usually a masterful use of literary devices.

I do not make such distinctions. I firmly believe that one can have the best of both writing worlds. My philosophy toward writing is whether it’s good or not, not whether it falls into one (artificial) category or another, “bookstore shelvers” be damned.

What is Speculative Poetry? After Hollywood promoted its brand of science fiction, fantasy and horror, this new term was coined to give more respect to the genre. Science fiction writers no longer wanted their work to be called Sci-Fi, but rather SF. However, the stigma of the “sci-fi ghetto” prevails.

For my purposes, I consider science fiction, fantasy, surrealism, and all their subgenres, as well as the much broader speculation, “what if,” as speculative fiction and poetry. (I consider horror and humor as styles that are applicable to all genres, including literary. More discussion on this below.)

Modern Speculative Poetry consists of hard and soft science fiction and its subgenres  (like alien worlds, space/time travel, alternate history, apocalyptic, utopia/dystopia, cyberpunk/steampunk and others); high and low fantasy and its subgenres (like magic, sword and sorcery, mythical creatures, weird, etc.); horror (as a genre), which often includes gothic, paranormal, supernatural, and psychological elements, but may be simply monstrous (monsters of any kind); and surrealism, where a dream world trumps logic, is deeply symbolic, and where truth resides in the subconscious.

Lifting Speculative Fiction poetry into the Literary realm is not accomplished with just poetic words. To be a poem, it must transcend those words. Chopping up prose and arranging it to look like poetry is even worse—structure complements the content, not the other way around. Ted Kooser, a former US Poet Laureate, said in his book, “The Poetry Home Repair Manual,” that you need more than story to lift anecdote into poetry. Literary poetry uses more than descriptive language, that’s generally relegated to prose; poetry usually does it much better. Note: the use of poetic words to describe nature does not make a nature poem, but it does make a piece of creative non fiction; the same thing happens when describing science with colorful words or didactic metaphors.


Apocalypse (Alban Lake Publishing) won 3rd place for the 2017 Elgin Book Award

Some examples of how I have done this is seen in the following poems:

Nature Poem: The Physical World:
Starwashed (Seven CirclePress)

Nature Poem: The Biological World:
Blue Crab (Radius: From the Center to the Edge)

Science Poem:
Eulogy for a Voyager (Red Fez)

Science Fiction Poem:
Extinction Level Event (Abyss & Apex Magazine of Speculative Fiction)

Fantasy Horror Poem:
Influx (2016 Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association Halloween Podcast)

Surreal Poem:
Subterranean Poetics (Subprimal Poetry Art)

[Additional dark poems are linked in an article about the HWA at Altered Reality Magazine (see “a special announcement from John,” as well as the rest of the “Meet John C. Mannone” page]


As a poet-scientist, I recognize that there’s an intimate connection between poetry and physics. Physics always asks the big questions, even the ones we cannot answer, but Poetry tries to answer them anyway—poetry attempts to express the inexpressible.

When I first started writing poetry seriously (May 2004), I asked the more experienced poets around me what exactly is poetry. Among the unsatisfying answers I often got was that poetry has emotional impact. Well, duh, so does any good creative writing. So I examined, as a scientist would, what distinguishes poetry from another kind of crearive writing. I deduced that it might be easier to say what poetry is not and to identify some of its salient features:

Poetry is much more than prose. It’s special and I believe it is the most effective vehicle for emotional delivery and impact. A poem is often charged with emotion and reveals something very important about us or the world we live in. It is layered with different meanings, uses poetic devices (especially sensory details) and expresses, in a few words, what you need to say (not merely want to say). Words should be fresh and arranged with a re-enforcing structure; they must flow smoothly and with rhythm.

Ultimately, I concluded that the most basic elements of poetry can be distilled to LIMS, which is my acronym for Language, Image, Music, Structure. Interestingly enough, they seem to equally utilize both parts of the brain, the logical left-brain and the creative right-brain. Actuality, both sides of the brain are used for every element:

Disabled Monsters (The Linnet’s Wings Press) featured at the 2016 Southern Festival of Books

Language     left-brain

Image           right-brain

Music           right-brain

Structure      left-brain


Some characteristics of these poetic elements are as follows:

Language: compressed, fresh, sensory, textured, layered

Image: symbolism, proxy for abstractions, enriched detail, metaphor, surrealism

Music: rhythm and flow, meter, aural devices such as assonance, consonance, rhyme (internal/end), onomatopoeia

Structure: Traditional forms, free verse, line breaks, verse breaks, white space, concrete verse, syntax

In a successful poem, these elements interconnect and re-enforce each other:

Structure/Form should serve function (not the other way around)

Music may set mood/tone

Image resolves abstraction (also personification, pathetic fallacy, etc.)

Language works hand-in-hand with the other elements

Flux Lines (Celtic Cat Publishing)—love-related poems using science metaphors—forthcoming in spring 2018;

I offer my Workmanship Metaphor without apology: poetry magic happens when we mix (those four aformentioned) elements together, but exactly how the organic evolution happens remains a mystery, at least to me. This mixing alone might give rise to potentially good genre poetry. However, if we now infuse it with layers of meaning, we give it literary depth. Are we not all made up of elements of matter that come together in a beautiful and complex way? Yes, but that isn’t enough to make who we are. What about the heart, the soul, the intellect? It takes a Creator to inspire those things—“we are His workmanship” (the Greek word is transliterated as poiema, from which the word poem is derived!) We too are creators of poetry.

In analyzing my more than 700 publications in creative writing, three significant plateaus are disclosed that correlate with my advancing the crafting of a poem—clarity*, rhythm, literary depth—which is why these have become the minimum requirements for any poem I offer to publish in the various journals or judge in poetry contests.** (Note: none of the tallied works were self-published. See data table and graph below.)

  • Clarity was not listed as an element above (unless one wants to include it under language) because it is implied for all writing, whether business, scientific/ technical, nonfiction, let alone creative writing. If nothing else, this is what I learned in college: Good writing should posses the following hierarchal elements: unity, harmony, coherence. These are impossible to achieve without clarity and clarity is essential for effective communication, even at the emotional level.

** I edit poetry for Abyss & ApexSilver Blade, and Liquid Imagination. And I’ve been a guest editor for Inkspill, Eye To The Telescope, and Subprimal Poetry Art, as well as a poetry judge for local writers’ guilds, Poetry Society Tennessee and the 2018 celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies.


Increases in publication rate are concomitant with the significant improvement in crafting: first, clarity (2005); second, rhythm (2009); and third, literary depth (2014) together with expanding my literary voice (from lyrical to conversational), as well as writing longer poems (at least doubling the average length from around 100 words to about 250 words).

In conclusion, how do you hear the literary voice in speculative poetry? First, speak to your speculative poems as they’re being born or soon thereafter; they will learn, just as the baby birds learn by imprinting when mother bird “speaks” to them. So too your poems will sing, and they will know your voice.


Adapted from a workshop I led at the 2015 Alabama Writers Conclave (University South Alabama Fairhope) as well as other workshops and sources.

Thanks to John for sharing his approach to poetry and be sure to visit his website where you can find out more about his publications. As he mentioned, John also edits for several magazines so check out some of the issues and his poetry choices as editor. Come back tomorrow for a big announcement!

Fantasy Authors Unplugged: Cover Reveal – Cusp of Night by Mae Clair

Today’s edition of Fantasy Authors Unplugged makes a slight detour away from fantasy and into the broader speculative genre with a paranormal cover reveal. Read on and see the book by Mae Clair:

Cusp of Night
by Mae Clair
Release Date: June 12, 2018
Mystery> Thriller & Suspense > Paranormal

book cover for Cusp of Night, a mystery/suspense novel by Mae Clair

Recently settled in Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania, Maya Sinclair is enthralled by the town’s folklore, especially the legend about a centuries-old monster. A devil-like creature with uncanny abilities responsible for several horrific murders, the Fiend has evolved into the stuff of urban myth. But the past lives again when Maya witnesses an assault during the annual “Fiend Fest.” The victim is developer Leland Hode, patriarch of the town’s most powerful family, and he was attacked by someone dressed like the Fiend.

Compelled to discover who is behind the attack and why, Maya uncovers a shortlist of enemies of the Hode clan. The mystery deepens when she finds the journal of a late nineteenth-century spiritualist who once lived in Maya’s house—a woman whose ghost may still linger.

Known as the Blue Lady of Hode’s Hill due to a genetic condition, Lucinda Glass vanished without a trace and was believed to be one of the Fiend’s tragic victims. The disappearance of a young couple, combined with more sightings of the monster, trigger Maya to join forces with Leland’s son Collin. But the closer she gets to unearthing the truth, the closer she comes to a hidden world of twisted secrets, insanity, and evil that refuses to die . . .


Connect with Mae Clair at the following haunts:

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Promotional banner for author Mae Clair with bio and author photo, spooky house as header in wash of red