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Reread of the Darkness that Comes Before: Chapter Four

Reread of Prince of Nothing Trilogy

Book 1: The Darkness that Comes Before

by R. Scott Bakker

Part 1
The Sorcerer
Chapter 4
Sumna

Welcome to Chapter Four of my reread. Click here if you missed Chapter Three!

To be ignorant and to be deceived are two different things. To be ignorant is to be a slave of the world. To be deceived is to be slave of another man. The question will always be: When, when all men are ignorant, and therefore already slaves, does this later slavery sting us so?

—Ajencis, the Epistemologies

But despite stories of Fanim atrocities, the fact of the matter is that the Kianene, heathen or no, were surprisingly tolerant of Inrithi pilgrimages to Shimeh—before the Holy War, that is. Why would a people devoted to the destruction of the Tusk extend this courtesy to “idolaters”? Perhaps they were partially motivated by the prospect of trade, as others have suggested. But the fundamental motive lies in their desert heritage. The Kianene word for a holy place is si’ihkhalis, which means, literally, “great oasis.” On the open desert it is their strict custom to never begrudge travelers water, even if they be enemies.

—Drusas Achamian, Compendium of the First Holy War

My Thoughts

The quote from Ajencis ties into what the Dûnyain says in the prologue and is one of the themes of the series. So long as men are ignorant, they are slaves to what came before. When someone lies they can get you to believe things that are wrong, to do things for the wrong reasons, I can see how that could be a type of slavery. And of course it would sting more, because being lied to is a purposeful act. The world doesn’t conspire to enslave with ignorance. It just happens.

The Achamian quote just provides some background on the Kianene and a great way to add world building. Water is a big deal to the Kianene. Their Cishaurim sorcerer-priests are known as the Water-Bearers of Indara.

Section 1

The Holy War of the Inrithi against the Fanim was declared by Maithanet, the 116th Shriah of the Thousand Temples, on the Morn of Ascension in 4110 Year-of-the-Tusk. The day had been unseasonably hot, as though the God himself had blessed the Holy War with a premonition of summer. Indeed the Three Seas buzzed with rumors of omens and visions, all of which attested to the sanctity of the task that lay before the Inrithi.

Word spreads through the Inrithi nations of the Holy War. The Shrial and Cultic priests preach against the Fanim. In markets and taverns, people gossiped about which lords have declared for the Holy War. Children play at Holy War. The faithful proclaimed their desire to cleans Shimeh and kneel where the Latter Prophet walked.

The lords declared themselves Men of the Tusk and summoned their knights. Trivial wars were forgotten and lands were mortgaged. Great fleets of ships gathered to take the armies to Momemn were the Holy War was to gather.

Maithanet had called, and the entire of the Three Seas had answered. The back of the heathen would be broken. Holy Shimeh would be cleansed.

My Thoughts

I always like these sort of omniscient overviews of an area. It lets us see how people are reacting to the Holy War. Loved the veterans in taverns arguing who’s lord was more pious. And this is a rather telling quote about the piety of the average man: “The Thousand Temples issued edicts stating that those who profited from the absence of any great lord who had taken up the Tusk would be tried for heresy in ecclesiastical courts and summarily executed. Thus assured of their birthrights, princes, earls, palatines, and lords of every nation declared themselves Men of the Tusk.”

Their self-interests protected, they do not have a problem joining the holy war. A shrewd move on the part of Maithanet. For someone who is such a holy person, he has a shred understanding of the true nature of humans.

Mid-Spring, 4110 Year-of-the-Tusk, Sumna

Esmenet watches Achamian sniff a prune before eating it and is reminded of her dead daughter sniffing an apple. The apple’s vendor saw the tattoo an Esmenet’s left hand and she knew he wouldn’t sell to a prostitute. Esmenet told her daughter no. Esmenet’s eyes tear up at this memory as regret for her dead daughter, Mimara, fills her.

Achamian had been staying with Esmenet for a while now. Long enough for them to almost feel married. Esmenet realizes that being a spy is a lot of waiting and Achamian waited here. They had fallen into a routine and would spend the day talking and joking. Eventually, a customer would arrive and Achamian, slightly hurt, would leave to get drunk. When he returned, he would try to appear happy and a pang of sadness would strike Esmenet.

What was it she felt? Many things, it seemed. Pity for him, certainly. In the midst of strangers, Achamian always looked so lonely, so misunderstood. No one, she would often think, know him the way I do. There was also relief that he’d returned—returned to her, even though he had gold enough to buy far younger whores. A selfish sorrow, that one. And shame. Shame because she knew that he loved her, and that every time she took custom it bruised his heart.

But what choice did she have?

Achamian would never enter her room if he thought she had a customer. Once, she was badly beaten and just crawled to bed afterward instead of waiting at the window for Achamian. In the morning, she found Achamian sleeping in front of her door. She knew then that he loved her.

Theirs was a strange marriage, if it could be called that. A marriage of outcasts sanctified by inarticulate vows. A sorcerer and a whore. Perhaps a certain desperation was to be expected of such unions, as though that strange word, “love,” became profound in proportion to the degree on was scorned by others.

Achamian tried to find the man that hurt her, and though she protested that this was part of business, she was secretly thrilled. Esmenet suspects he still searches for the man. Esmenet thinks Achamian wants to murder all her customs. Achamian wants Esmenet to himself, but Esmenet has to continue seeing her clients because Achamian will eventually leave her and her regulars will have found new prostitutes.

There is a knock at the door and Inrau enters the hovel. Inrau has important news and is afraid he may have been followed. Achamian tells Inrau not to worry, even priests visit prostitutes and no one will think it unusual. Inrau, uncomfortable with this subject, asks Esmenet for confirmation.

“They’re much like sorcerers that way,” she said wryly.

Achamian shot her a lock of mock indignation, and Inrau laughed nervously.

Esmenet sees the childlike qualities of Inrau and understands why Achamian fears for the young man. Inrau’s news is the Scarlet Spire has joined the Holy War. Inrau heard this from an Orate of the College of Luthymae. Maithanet offered six Chorae as a gesture of good will and the College controls the Temple’s Chorae and had to be told the reason.

Achamian is excited by this news and starts to explain the Scarlet Spire to Esmenet. Achamian likes to explain things, even if his audience knows the information. His explanation is interrupted by his realization that the Temples gave six Trinkets to a School of blasphemers. Esmenet ponders why she loves Achamian and thinks when she is with Achamian, her small, sordid world becomes so much larger.

Trinkets. This reminded Esmenet that despite the wonder, Achamian’s world was exceedingly deadly. Ecclesiastical law dictated that prostitutes, like adulteresses, be punished by stoning. The same, she reflected, was true of sorcerers, except there was just one kind of stone that could afflict them, and it need touch them only once. Thankfully, there were few Trinkets. The world, on the other hand, was filled with stones for harlots.

Inrau asks why Maithanet would pollute the Holy War with the Scarlet Spire. Achamian explains that a School would be needed to fight the Cishaurim. The forces of Kian would protect the Cishaurim from Chorae troop. The Scarlet Spire is the best school for the task. Inrau hates the Scarlet Spire, and Esmenet knows the Mandate hate the Spire for their envy of the Gnosis. Ikurei Xerius III, the Emperor, has been trying to co-opt the Holy War using his control of the Imperial Saik. Maithanet has blocked this attempt by allying with the Scarlet Spire.

Then a question occurred to her.

“Shouldn’t—“ Esmenet began, but she paused when the two men looked at her strangely. “Shouldn’t the question be, Why have the Scarlet Spires accepted Maithanet’s offer? What could induce a School to join a Holy War? They make for odd bedfellows, don’t you think? Not so long ago, Akka, you feared that the Holy War would be declared against the Schools.”

There was a moment of silence. Inrau smiled as though amused by his own stupidity. From this moment on, Esmenet realized, Inrau would look upon her as an equal in these matters. Achamian, however, would remain aloof, the judge of all questions. As was proper, perhaps, given his calling.

Achamian explains about what he learned about the Scarlet Spires secret war against the Cishaurim. This is their chance to conclude the war. Another reason is none of the schools understand the Psûkhe, the metaphysics of the Cishaurim. All the schools, Mandate included, are terrified by not being able to see Cishaurim sorcerery. Esmenet asks why that is so terrifying. Achamian criticizes her question and, annoyed, Esmenet asks Inrau if this is what Achamian is like when he teaches.

“You mean fault the question rather than the answer” Inrau said darkly. “All the time.”

But Achamian’s expression darkened. “Listen. Listen to me carefully. This isn’t a game we play. Any of us—but especially you, Inrau—could end up with out heads boiled in salt, tarred, and posted before the Vault-of-the-Tusk. And there’s more at stake than even our lives. Far more.”

Esmenet is shocked by the reprimand. She had forgotten the depths of Achamian. She remembers holding him in the night as he dreams, crying out in strange languages. Achamian tries to confront Inrau on the possibility that Maithanet has connections to the Consult. Inrau flares up with anger, saying Maithanet is worthy of devotion and this is just a fool’s errand.

Esmenet realizes something important as they argue. Achamian sees the expression on her face and realizes she has an insight and asks her what it is. Esmenet points out the Scarlet Spire hid their war from the Mandate for ten years, how did Maithanet find out? Achamian agrees with Esmenet, Maithanet would never approach the Scarlet Spire unless he knew they would agree. Inrau argues the Thousand Temple could have learned the same way Achamian had. Achamian concedes Inrau’s point as a small possibility, but thinks Maithanet needs to be closely watched.

Inrau looked momentarily at Esmenet before turning his plaintive eyes to his mentor. “I can’t do what you ask … I can’t.”

“You just get close to Maithanet, Inrau. Your Shriah is altogether to canny.”

“What?” the young priest said with half-heated sarcasm. “To canny to be a man of faith?”

Not at all, my friend. Too canny to be what he seems.”

My Thoughts

They way women are treated in the three seas is appalling. The fact that Esmenet thinks getting beaten by a customer is just part of business and that she has absolutely no legal recourse is terrible. And the fact that her remembering of scripture says that adulteress get stoned to death, which it makes it sound like the man committing adultery with her gets off with either no or a less sever punishment. We also are given the comparison with whores and sorcerers. They are both outcasts in society, but useful outcasts. Even in Sumna, the center of this worlds equivalent to the Catholic church, Esmenet makes a living selling her body to priests, pilgrims, and soldiers.

In the last chapter we got Achamian’s view on their relationship. He suspects that her affection is just an act, that she pretends to care for him because that’s what she does for a living. Here we learn that she does love Achamian, but she knows that he will leave her eventually. His mission is more important than their relationship. She has to keep seeing her customers to be able to survive. It’s sad.

Esmenet’s banter with Achamian’s morning bowel movements is hilarious.

Esmenet’s life is so dreary that she loves it when Achamian visits, and may be what she loves about the man. When he is around, he tells her of far off places, of intrigue of lords. She gets to vicariously live through his stories.

Inrau’s blushing realization that priest visit prostitutes is funny. Particularly when Esmenet compares them to sorcerer’s.

Achamian must trust Esmenet. He has no problems discussing Mandate business in front of her with Inrau. He also respects her opinion. He knows she is intelligent. It is a terrible shame that Esmenet never was able to receive an education. She has a keen mind and is the first to realize the implications of Inrau’s news.

Esmenet’s insight on Maithanet and the Scarlet Spire is troubling. How does Maithanet know? There’s a lot of suspicious things going on with him. He’s one of the Few, but without the Mark of ever practicing sorcery, he came from Kian, and he knows of the very secret Scarlet Spire-Cishaurim war.

Late Spring, 4110 Year-of-the-Tusk, Sumna

Inrau is in the Hagerna, reeling from a secret he has learned about the Shriah. Inrau is conflicted by his faith and the debt he owes Achamian for saving his life when he left the Mandate. How can he repay Achamian by risking his own life? It seem wrong to Inrau. He feels he should give another gift, but obligation compels him

Conflicted, Inrau heads to the Irreüma, where small shrines to the Cultic gods resided. Inrau goes to shrine of Onkis, the Singer-in-the-Dark, a goddess of knowledge. Inrau cries before her. Inrau wonders if Onkis would forgive him for returning to the Mandate.

The idol was worked in white marble, eyes closed with the sunken look of the dead. At first glance she appeared to be the severed head of a woman, beautiful yet vaguely common, mounted on a pole. Anything more than a glance, however, revealed the pole to be a miniature tree, like those cultivated by the ancient Norsirai, only worked in bronze. Branches poked through her parted lips and swept across her face—nature reborn through human lips. Other branches reached behind to break through her frozen hair. Her image never failed to stir something within him, and this is why he always returned to her: she was this stirring, the dark place where the flurries of his thought arose. She came before him.

Inrau leaves on offering of food. Everything cast a shadow on the Outside, where the Gods moved, including his offering. He pulls out his list of ancestors and prays to them for intercession. Inrau cries out for the goddess to answer him and is met with only silence. Inrau thinks he should run.

The silence is broken by the sound of flapping wings up in the clerestory. Thinking it is a sign from Onkis, he heads up stairs to investigate. He wonders onto a balcony, exited that Onkis was communicating with him.

“Where are you?” he whispered.

Then he saw it, and horror throttled him.

It stood a short distance away, perched on the railing, watching him with shiny blue eyes. It had the body of a crow, but its head was small, bald, and human—about the size of a child’s fist. Stretching thin lips over tiny, perfect teeth, it smiled.

Sweet-Sejunes-oh-God-it-can’t-be-it-can’t-be!

A parody of surprise flashed across the miniature face. “You know what I am,” it said in a papery voice. “How?” can’t-be-cannot-be-Consult-here-no-no-no

Cutias Sarcellus, the Knight-Commander from the last chapter, steps out of the shadows with another Shrial Knight and explains Inrau is Achamian’s student. Inrau is stunned that Sarcellus is consorting with a Consult Synthese. Inrau whirls to flee and is cut off by a second Shrial Knight: Mujonish. Inrau sees the signs of sorcery on the bird, the Synthese, binding a soul to the vessel.

“He knows this form is but a shell,” the Synthese said to Sarcellus, “but I don’t see Chigra within him.” The pea-sized eyes—little beads of sky blue glass—turned to Inrau. “Hmm, boy? You don’t dream the Dream like the others, do you? If you did, you would recognize me. Chigra never failed to recognize me.

Inrau realizes prayers are useless and struggles to remember his Mandate training. He asks what the Synthese wants to buy time. The Synthese answers the same thing Inrau was doing in Maithanet’s apartment; overseeing our affairs. The two Shrial Knights and the Synthese close upon Inrau. Inrau remembers his training.

Inrau sense Mujonish looming behind him. Prayer seized his tongue. Blasphemy tumbled from his lips.

Turning with sorcerous speed, he punched two fingers through Mujonish’s chain mail, cracked his breastbone, then seized his heart. He yanked his hand free, drawing a cord of glittering blood into the air. More impossible words. The blood burst into incandescent flame, followed his sweeping hand toward the Synthese. Shrieking, the creature dove from the railing into emptiness. Blinding beads of blood cracked bare stone.

He would have turned to Sarcellus, but the sight of Mujonish stilled him. The Shrial Knight had stumbled to his knees, wiping his bloody hands on his surcoat. Then, as though spilling from a bladder, his face simply fell apart, dropping outward, unclutching

No mark. Not the faintest whisper of sorcery.

Distracted, Inrau is struck by Sarcellus. Inrau tries to use ghostly wards but they are useless. Sarcellus has a Chorae. Sarcellus grabs Inrau and touches the Chorae to his cheek. Part of Inrau’s cheek turns to salt. Inrau focus on the Synthese and prepares to unleash another attack on it. The Synthese conjures light that breaks through Inrau’s wards and pierces Inrau’s chest.

Inrau is drowning in his own blood. The Synthese watches him die. Inrau thinks of Achamian and of Onkis, struggling to breath. Inrau collapses and is hauled up to his knees by Sarcellus and brought face to face with the Synthese. The Synthese taunts him, saying he is an old name and could show him the Agonies. Inrau asks, “Why?”

Again the thin, tiny smile. “You worship suffering. Why do you think?”

Monumental rage filled him. It didn’t understand! It didn’t understand. With a coughing roar, he lurched forward, yanking his hair from his scalp. The Synthese seemed to flicker out of his path, but it wasn’t its death he sought. Any price, old teacher. The stone rail slammed against his hips, broke like cake. Again he was floating, but it was so different—air whipping across his face, bathing his body. With a single outstretched hand, Paro Inrau followed a pillar to the earth.

My Thoughts

Goodbye, Inrau. You did not deserve to die.

Whatever Inrau learned in searching Maithanet’s quarters had nothing to do with the Consult. My first read through that’s what I actually thought. But, Inrau is surprised to see the Synthese. If he learned Maithanet was connected to the Consult, this would not be surprising. Inrau killed himself to avoid torture, but also because he realized the Synthese did not know what he knew about Maithanet and thought it was important to prevent the Consult from learning and to protect Achamian.

Inrau makes a good point on debt repayment. If you saved someone life and they owe you, how can they repay that back with their own death. It defeats the purpose of saving the person in the first place.

Inrau revealed more of these abominations hiding in the Shrial Knights. Sarcellus referred to the Synthese as Old Father, implying the Synthese created him. We have our confirmation that the abominations are skin spies and why Sarcellus took such delight in hitting Achamian—the Mandate are his enemy.

Poor Inrau. You went out swinging though. And ripping out a monsters heart and turning his blood into liquid flames, that was pretty badass. Not bad for a guy who never actually used sorcery before. Shame Sarcellus had his Chorae.

Careful readers will note that Inrau did not die from being touched by a Chorae. A Chorae turns a sorcerer into salt, but the speed at which it does depends on how much sorcery they have performed. Inrau had only just now used Sorcery for the first time. He had been trained right to the point of using sorcery, but never crossed the line. Achamian would be killed almost instantly, and nonman sorcerers, like the one we meet in the prologue, could have his skin turned to salt just coming near a Chorae.

Achamian feared this would happen. He hadn’t been told of the spy in Atyersus. An Old Name is in the Synthese. It is a construct, like the abominations, and the Old Name’s soul is projected onto it. It does limit the creature’s sorcery, which is why it points out it still has the power to hurt Inrau.

Click here to head on over to Chapter 5!

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Reread of the Darkness that Comes Before: Chapter Two

Reread of Prince of Nothing Trilogy

Book 1: The Darkness that Comes Before

by R. Scott Bakker

Part 1
The Sorcerer
Chapter 2
Atyersus

Welcome to Chapter Two of my reread. Click here if you missed Chapter One!

I write to inform you that during my most recent audience, the Nansur Emperor, quite without provocation, publicly addressed me as “fool.” You are, no doubt, unmoved by this. It has become a common occurrence. The Consult eludes us now more then ever. We hear them only in the secrets of others. We glimpse them only through the eyes of those who deny their very existence. Why should we not be called fools? The deeper the Consult secretes itself among the Great Factions, the madder our rantings sound to their ears. We are, as the damned Nansur would say, “a hunter in the thicket”— who, by the very act of hunting, extinguishes all hope of running down his prey.

—Anonymous Mandate Schoolman, Letter to Atyersus

My Thoughts

This reminds of a quote from the Usual Suspects, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist.” Apparently the consult saw that movie. If it wasn’t for our expectations of fiction, and Fantasy in general, we know the consult is out there. Of course, we had something very strange in chapter one happen with the abomination. Perhaps we are glimpsing why the Consult has eluded the Mandate for so long.

Late Winter, 4110 Year-of-the-Tusk, Atyersus

Achamian stands before the Quorum, the ruling council of the Mandate. The Quorum studies Achamian for a long while before Nautzera, a member of the Quorum, speaks. Nautzera explains that since Maithanet has become the Shriah (Pope) to the Thousand Temples, he has stirred something up and cannot be ignored. All of the Cults support him without the usual political machinations.

“But surely we’ve seen his kind before,” Achamian ventured. “Zealots holding out redemption in one hand to draw attention away from the whip in the other. Sooner or later, everyone sees the whip.”

Nautzera disagrees. Maithanet moves faster and with more cunning. He uncovered two assassination plots and exposed agents of the Emperor. Achamian finally understands why he was summoned. Maithanet is rocking the boat, or as the Nroni put it “pissed in the whiskey.” Nautzera then tells Achamian there is to be a holy war. Achamian asks if it is against the Fanim. However, in the history of the Three Seas there had been only two other holy wars, both against the Schools (like the Mandate). These wars were known as the Scholastic Wars and were costly to both sides. Nautzera says the Cultic Priests are again calling sorcerers Unclean.

Unclean. The Chronicle of the Tusk, held by the Thousand Temples to be the very word of the God, had named them thus—those Few with the learning and the innate ability to work sorcery. “Cut from them their tongues,” the holy wards said, “for their blasphemy is an abomination like no other …” Achamian’s father—who, like many Nroni, had despised the tyranny exercised by Atyersus over Nron—had beaten this belief into him. Faith may die, but her sentiments remain eternal.

Simas, Achamian’s mentor and friend, explains that a holy war against the Fanim is doomed to failure. Kian, the only Fanim nation, also possess the Cishaurim. The Thousand Temples and Inrithi allies could field ten thousand soldiers equipped with Chorae, making them immune to sorcery. Chorae are the only check on the power of the Schools and the sorcery. Achamian points out those Chorae are equally effective against the Cishaurim. Simas, however, disagrees.

“Because between those men and the Cishaurim would stand all the armed might of Kian. The Cishaurim are not a School, old friend. They don’t stand apart, as we do, from the faith and the people of their nations. While the Holy War struggled to overcome the heathen Grandees of Kian, the Cishaurim would rain ruin upon them.” Simas lowered his chin as though testing his beard against his breastbone. “Do you see?”

Achamian, like all Mandate, remembers the dreams of the Fords of Tywanrae where the Consult used sorcery to annihilate their enemies. Nautzera comments that Maithanet is not an idiot and will know he cannot win a war against the Fanim. Achamian asks why he was recalled. The Quorum need Achamian to travel to Sumna and find out the target of the Holy War. Achamian lies and says he no longer has any contacts in Sumna, though his thoughts turn briefly to Esmenet, a whore he knew and one other.

Several years ago, Achamian had a student named Inrau who he was training to be a Mandate Sorcerer. However, Inrau was to innocent to survive becoming a Mandate and wanted to be a Shrial Priest. He had, however, learned to much to be allowed to leave. Achamian loved his student, however, and faked his death and allowed Inrau to leave. Achamian only confided in Simas about his betrayal. Nautzera reveals that he knows of Inrau’s defection and that he is a Shrial Priest in Sumna. Achamian is stunned by Simas’s betrayal.

Nautzera wants Achamian to turn Inrau into a spy for the Mandate against the Thousand Temples. Achamian refuses, believing it would be to much for Inrau to handle. Nautzera accuses Achamian of sedition. Nautzera points out that the Consult may be behind Maithanet and that the life of Inrau would be worth it to find out. Achamian concedes the point only if the Consult really has returned.

“Ah, yes. I’d forgotten that you numbered yourself among the skeptics. What is it you say? That we pursue ghost.” He [Nautzera] held the word in his mouth, as though it were a morsel of questionable food. “I guess, then, you would say that a possibility, that we’re witnessing the first signs of the No-God’s return, is outweighed by an actuality, the life of a defector—that rolling the dice of apocalypse is worth the pulse of a fool.”

Achamian is prepared to face Sanction for allowing Inrau to defect. Nautzera continues his rant against the skeptics, reminding Achamian that the Mandate are not the other schools. While they spy and perform political machinations, it is to support their war against the Consult not to increase the Mandate’s power. “You [Achamian] confuse us with the whores.”

Simas steps in, and points out the Dreams have become more intense. What better vehicle for the Consult to seize power then through the Thousand Temples? Use it to destroy the Mandate through a Holy War. Achamian is wracked with doubts. Nautzera points out that Inrau may understand the stakes. That it would be possible to convince him without using Cants to compel him. Finally, Nautzera says if Achamian won’t go, another less sentimental Mandate spy would be sent.

Later, Achamian stands on the battlements of Atyersus and looks out at the sea and broods on the meeting. The Quorum meeting went on longer after Achamian agreed to the mission. Nautzera continued to berate Achamian, asking if Achamian forgot that the Old Names still resided in Golgotterath. Achamian wanders if the concerns of the present crowded out the portents of the past. Nautzera, on the other hand, dwelt in the horrors of the past and the threat of the future. The present was a mere formality.

And why not? The anguish of the Old Wars was beyond description. Almost all the great cities of the Ancient North had fallen to the No-God and his Consult. The Great Library of Sauglish ransacked. Trysë, the holy Mother-of-Cities, plundered of life. The Towers of Myclai pulled down. Dagliash, Kelmeol … Entire nations put to the sword.

To Nautzera, Maithanet was signification because he might be the start of the Second Apocalypse. Achamian is troubled by the idea the Shriah could be an agent for the Consult and lead a Holy War against the Schools.

Achamian reflects on his relationship with Inrau. Inrau had reminded Achamian of the first student he loved, Nersei Proyas. However, Proyas had grown proud with the knowledge that he would become King someday. Inrau, however, remained Inrau. Achamian loved Inrau because he was good. Inrau was open like a child or a fool, possessing an innocence of wisdom instead of ignorance. Inrau saw beauty in all things and forgave men their blemishes.

Achamian was dismayed and relieved when Inrau chose to abandon the Mandate. Achamian knew the Mandate would eventually destroy his innocence. Achamian remembered the night he touched Seswatha’s Heart and his world was transformed by the tragedy of history.

How could such innocence, any innocence, survive the terror of Seswatha’s Dreams? How could one find solace in mere sunlight, when the threat of the No-God loomed across every horizon? Beauty was denied victims of the Apocalypse.

Achamian considered securing Inrau’s escape the only good act he did in his life. Achamian wanders how long the Quorum knew of his betrayal and if Simas had truly betrayed him. Nautzera message to Achamian was plain, Inrau was a defector and deserved to die. Inrau knew enough of the Gnosis for another School to capture and torture him, eventually discovering the secrets. Then the Mandate would then be condemned to being a Minor School.

Had he done the right thing? Or had he simply made a wager?

Was the pulse of a good man worth rolling the dice of Apocalypse?

Nautzera had argued no, and Achamian had agreed.

The Dreams. What had happened could not happen again. This world mus not die. A thousand innocents—a thousand thousand!—were not worth the possibility of a Second Apocalypse. Achamian had agreed with Nautzera. He would betray Inrau for the reason innocents are always betrayed: fear.

Achamian reflects on how long it had been since he had been to Sumna. Five or more years, and wonders if Esmenet still lived. She always eased his heart. And to see Inrau, to warn him of his failure. Achamian yearned to see those two people he loved again and longs to be just a man.

Later, Nautzera watches Achamian leave Atyersus on ship from the battlements. Nautzera sees storm clouds in the distant and knows it will be a rough voyage to Sumna. But he knew Achamian would survive thanks to the Gnosis. Nautzera heads back inside and goes to the library were he finds Simas reading by lantern light. Nautzera is jealous that Simas eyesight hasn’t failed him in old age. Nautzera, like others his age, needs an acolyte to read for him these days.

Nautzera confronts Simas, saying they should have told Achamian they already know who Maithanet has called the faithful to war against. Nautzera knows the deception as necessary to motivate Achamian to betray his student, but it doesn’t sit well with Nautzera. Simas disagrees, saying the Consult has taught him that ignorance is a powerful tool. Nautzera counters that knowledge is more powerful. Achamian may run into trouble because he will not be alert. Simas is dismissive, saying Achamian will be careful at the heart of the Thousand Temples.

Simas then asks Nautzera if he has heard the new report. Simas had an uncanny ability to read what troubled Nautzera. Nautzera answered that Parthelsus’s primary informant in Tydonni vanished. Someone is hunting Mandate agents. Simas thinks its the Consult. Nautzera says it could be the Scarlet Spires or the Thousand Temples. Nautzera thinks Achamian should be warned.

Simas points out that their enemy is to timid or canny to strike directly at them. Achamian befriends his agents. He is weak. If he knew that Atyersus has been infiltrated and his contacts may be hunted, he would hesitate. Nautzera agrees that Achamian is weak, but it is Mandate policy to give autonomy to field agents, to trust their judgment. It doesn’t sit well with Nautzera denying Achamian knowledge that could save his life.

Simas answers that they have struck the right balance of with Achamian and points out he was right that Inrau’s defection would be useful. Simas asks Nautzera to trust him and says they have arduous tasks. Despite the Dreams, a Mandate Schoolman had turned traitor.

My Thoughts

Achamian doubts of his abilities are revealed through how self-conscience he is of his appearance. Because of the hardships of travel he has the appearance of a lowborn laborer instead of a noble sorcerer.

Unlike the Scarlet Spire which are ruled by a Grandmaster, the Mandate have a Quorum of presumably elder Schoolman. This gives a more democratic feel to the Mandate. Achamian stands up to the Quorum and only risks censure for his crime of allowing Inrau to defect, but not for objecting against the leadership.

Achamian loyalty to Inrau, his student, is one of Achamian’s best trait. Being a teacher is what Achamian is best suited for, he loves it. The Quorum uses Achamian’s love to compel him to turn Inrau to a spy is a low blow on their part.

The shadow of the Apocalypse covers everything the Mandate do. Like all fanatics, they will do reprehensible acts for the greater good. Achamian yearning to be just a man is understandable with the looming mission of turning innocent Inrau to spy on his own religion.

The scene between Nautzera and Simas is interesting. During the Quorum scene Simas is presented as Achamian’s ally and friend, Nautzera as the enemy. Yet all the decisions to lie to Achamian about his mission, to warn him that someone is murdering their informant, come from Simas. Despite his dislike of Achamian, Nautzera doesn’t want him going into a serpent’s nest unprepared. However, Simas reasoning appears sound, but there is something sinister about the old man. Maybe the fact that his caring routine is just subterfuge. Nautzera puts it as “the man [Simas] was as shrewd as he is devoid of sentiment.”

Also, interesting that Simas eyesight has not diminished with age.

This chapter does a great job setting up Achamian’s arc for the book. We saw in the last chapter the abomination killing Achamian’s newest recruit. And now we learn this is going on everywhere. The Consult, or another faction, has dangerous servants working for them. Something supernatural. And they war with the Mandate. Worse, they have a spy. Someone is feeding them information. Someone on the Quorum of which we only met two—Simas and Nautzera. And we had a POV from Nautzera.

It’s suspicious from a literary position. It is always possible an unnamed traitor is responsible or the Consult has another way of divining the Mandate’s agents. Until then, I would keep my eye on Simas.

Click here to continue on to Chapter Three!

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Reread of the Darkness that Comes Before: Chapter One

Reread of Prince of Nothing Trilogy

Book 1: The Darkness that Comes Before

by R. Scott Bakker

Part 1
The Sorcerer
Chapter 1
Carythusal

Welcome to Chapter One of my reread. Click here if you missed the Prologue!

There are three, and only three, kinds of men in the world: cynics, fanatics and Mandate Schoolmen.

—Ontillas, On the Folly of Men

The author has often observed that in the genesis of great events, men generally posses no inkling of what their actions portend. This problem is not, as one might suppose, a result of men’s blindness to the consequences of their actions. Rather it is a result of the mad way the dreadful turns on the trivial when the ends of one man cross the ends of another. The Schoolmen of the Scarlet Spires have an old saying: “When one man chases a hare, he finds a hare. But when many men chase a hare, they find a dragon.” In the prosecution of competing human interests, the result is always unknown, and all too often terrifying.

—Drusas Achamian, Compendium of the First Holy War

Thoughts

Cynicism and fanaticism are opposite sides of the coin of belief. Mandate Schoolmen straddle both sides. Fanatical in their belief of the consult. Because the greater Three Seas ridicule them and their mission, cynicism has set in. Like the old saying that every cynic is a disillusion romantic.

History is full of examples of the consequences of actions. The assassination of Duke Ferdinand set off WWI. The Serbian separatist that assassinated him just wanted independence from Austria. WWI ended the German Empire (the Second Reich), caused the downfall of the Romanovs, and the rise of the Soviet Union. I absolutely love the quote from the Scarlet Spire (who were about to meet in the story). Humans by themselves can be rational and intelligent, but in groups we feed upon each other, echoing each others thoughts. Groupthink can be a dangerous beast.

Midwinter, 4110 Year-of-the-Tusk, Carythusal

We are introduced to Drusas Achamian: Mandate Schoolman (sorcerer) and spy. He is in the city of Carythusal, capital of High Ainon, and home of the rival sorcerer school, the Scarlet Spires. In a tavern in Carythusal, he is slowly recruiting Geshruuni, Captain of the Javreh. The Javreh are the warrior-slaves of the Scarlet Spire. Out of the blue, Geshruuni states he knows Achamian is a spy.

Achamian tries to bluff Geshruuni but his momentary hesitation when he is called a Schoolman betrays him. Geshruuni speculates on what School had sent Achamian. The Imperial Saik, the Mysunai, or the Mandate. Geshruuni wagers of Achamian of being a Mandate. Achamian, now terrified of being caught by the Scarlet Spire, prepares to unleash his sorcery, not caring of the consequences. Geshruuni reaches into his tunic and Achamian realizes it is too late to use sorcery. Geshruuni produces his Chorae. All sorcerer’s could feel a Chorae’s unnatural presence, and Achamian had used Geshruuni’s to identify him as the Javreh Captain.

Chorae. Schoolmen called them Trinkets. Small names are often given to horrifying things. But for other men, those who followed the Thousand Temples in condemning sorcery as blasphemy, they were called Tears of God. But the God had no hand in their manufacture. Chorae were relics of the Ancient North, so valuable that only the marriage of heirs, murder, or the tribute of entire nations could purchase them. They were worth the price: Chorae rendered their bearers immune to sorcery and killed any sorcerer unfortunate enough to touch them.

Geshruuni grabs Achamian’s hand and holds the Chorae over it. Geshruuni calls the Scarlet Spires as ruthless and cruel to their enemies and servants alike. Achamian asks what Geshruuni wants and he answers “What all men want, Akka. Truth.”

Death poised between the callused fingers of a slave. But Achamian was a Schoolman, and for Schoolmen nothing, not even life itself, was as precious as the Truth. They were its miserly keepers, and they warred for its possession across all the shadowy grottoes of the three Seas. Better to die than to yield Mandate truth to the Scarlet Spires.

Achamian sees no Schoolmen in the crowd. Sorcerers can see other sorcerer’s by the bruise of their crimes against reality. Realizing Geshruuni is playing his own game, Achamian confesses to being a spy for the Mandate School. Geshruuni releases Achamian and agrees to spy for the Mandate against his masters.

Achamian muses on being a spy. As the son of a poor Nroni fisherman he never even knew the word spy. As a youth he was identified as one of the Few (a sorcerer) and taken to Atyersus by the Mandate School for training. Chosen as one of their spies, Achamian has crisscrossed the Three Seas and seen many things. Far away places were no longer exotic to Achamian. Nobles, Emperor and Kings seemed as base as lesser men. He had educated princes, insulted grandmasters, and infuriated Shrial priests. Now in his middle years, Achamian has grown weary of being a spy and sorcerer.

Achamian is perplex and dismayed by his meeting with Geshruuni instead of feeling elated at recruiting such a well-placed spy. Geshruuni, motivated by vengeance, told him potent secrets of the Scarlet Spires. Geshruuni penetrated Achamian’s disguise because he was to free with his money, unlike the merchant Achamian pretended to be.

Achamian is alarmed to find out the Scarlet Spire has been at war. The schools skirmished with spies, assassinations, and diplomacy all the time. However, this war was different. Ten years ago, Grandmaster Sasheoka was assassinated in the inner sanctums of the Scarlet Spire. Despite possessing the Abstraction of the Gnosis, the most powerful school of sorcery, the Mandate School could not have succeed at the task. Geshruuni reveals the Cishaurim, the heathen school of the Fanim, were responsible.

There was a saying common to the Three Seas: “Only the Few can see the Few.” Sorcery was violent. To speak it was tot cut the world as surely as if with a knife. But only the Few—sorcerers–could see this mutilation, and only they could see, moreover, the blood on the hands of the mutilator-the “mark,” as it was called.

Not so with the Cishaurim. No one knew why or how, but they worked events as grand and as devastating as any sorcery without marking the world or bearing the mark of their crimes.

Unable to see the Cishaurim as one of the few, they would easily be able to enter the Scarlet Spire. Now hounds trained to smell the dye of Cishaurim robes patrol the halls. Achamian is confused what would possess the Cishaurim to declare war on the largest, most powerful School. Geshruuni can only shrug. No one knows.

Geshruuni questions his decision to betray the Scarlet Spire as we walks home. He finds gossiping like a woman did not satisfy his desire for revenge. He laments his status as a slave and wishes he could be a conqueror. Despite being drunk, Geshruuni realizes he is being followed and beings plotting “scenario after bloody scenario” for the presumed thief.

Geshruuni ambushes his stalker, and is surprised to see a fat man from the tavern and not a footpad. Thinking it is a Scarlet Spire Schoolman, Geshruuni throws his Chorae to kill the man. The man catches the Chorae and doesn’t die. The fat man reveals he was following Achamian and berates Geshruuni, repeatedly calling him slave and ordering him to heel like a dog. Geshruuni grabs the man and pulls a knife, threatening to kill him. The next thing Geshruuni knows is pain in his arm and he drops the knife. Geshruuni goes for his sword and the fat man slaps him hard. The fat man continues slapping and berating Geshruuni, his voice sounding more and more inhuman. Finally, Geshruuni is struck so hard he falls to his knees.

“What are you?” Geshruuni cried through bloodied lips.

As the shadow of the of the fat man encompassed him, Geshruuni watched his round face loosen, then flex as tight as a beggar’s hand about copper. Sorcery. But how could it be? He holds a Chorae—

“Something impossibly ancient,” the abomination said softly. “Inconceivably beautiful.”

After meeting with Geshruuni, Achamian returned to the hovel he stayed at, went to bed and dreamed. Every night, Mandate Schoolmen dream scenes from the life of Seswatha. Seswatha fought the No-God during the Apocalypse and founded that last Gnostic School, the Mandate. In the dream, part of Achamian knows he witnesses events 2000 yeas old, but part of him was Seswatha. The Mandate call this particular dream the Death and Prophecy of Anasûrimbor Celmomas.

Anasûrimbor Celmomas, the last High King of Kûniüri, has fallen before a Sranc chieftain. Seswatha kills the Sranc with sorcery and goes to the dying king’s side. In the distant, a dragon flies over the field of battle. Seswatha knows Kûniüri has fallen. With the help of a Trysë knight, they drag the dying king from the battlefield.

Seswatha pleads with Celmomas not to die. Seswatha believes without the High King, the world will end and the No-God will win. As Celmomas dies he has a vision. The gods have not abandoned men to the No-God, his darkness is not all encompassing. The burden to defeat him falls to Seswatha.

Celmomas asks Seswatha to forgiven him for being a stubborn fool. For being unjust to Seswatha. Seswatha forgives him. Celmomas asks if he’ll see his dead son in the afterlife. “As his father, and as his king.” Seswatha answers. With pride, Celmomas talks about the time his son stole into the deepest pits of Golgotterath. Celmomas’s vision continues, and he sees his son riding through the sky. Celmomas’s son speaks to him.

“He says … says such sweet things to give me comfort. He says that one of my seed will return, Seswatha—an Anasûrimbor will return …” A shudder wracked the old man, forcing breath and spittle through his teeth.

“At the end of the world.”

The bright eyes of Anasûrimbor Celmomas II, White Lord of Trysë, High King of Kûniüri, went blank. And with them, the evening sun faltered, plunging the bronze-armored glory of the Norsirai into twilight.

Achamian awakens and weeps for a long dead king. In the distant he can hear a dog or a man howling.

Geshruuni has been tortured by the abomination. He told the abomination everything and now the thing drags him towards the river. He panics. Geshruuni asks why, he told the abomination everything. The abomination answers: “the Mandate have many eyes and we have much plucking to do.” The abomination throws Geshruuni into the river where he drowns.

The next morning, when Achamian awakes, he writes in his dream journal about the latest Seswatha dream. He dreamed of the Ford of Tywanrae (the same), the Burning of the Library of Sauglish (different, he saw his face not Seswatha’s in a mirror), and the Prophecy of Celmomas. At first he rights same, but scratches it out and writes, “Different. More powerful.”

Achamian questions his own fixation on recording the dreams. Men have been driving mad trying to decode the permutations of Seswatha’s dreams. For a moment, Achamian has a panic attack of still being on the battlefield. Despite the defeat of the No-God, Seswatha knew the conflict wasn’t over. The Sclyvendi and the Sranc still existed. Golgotterath remained and the Consult, servants of the No-God, still ruled there. So that the memory of the Apocalypse would never fade, Seswatha’s followers would get to relive it.

Achamian next uses the Cants of Calling to communicate with Atyersus, the citadel of the Mandate. His handlers are disinterested in the secret war and instead summon Achamian home. Achamian is surprised and ask why. They answer it involves the Thousand Temples. Cynically, Achamian thinks of one more meaningless mission as he packs up his belongings.

Unlike the other Great Factions of the Three Seas, who vied for tangible ends, the Mandate warred against the Consult. But for 300 years, no sign of the Consult had been found ,and the Mandate waged a war without a foe. This has made the Mandate the laughingstock of the Three Seas. Now the Mandate was adrift without purpose, filling the time with pointless actions like spying of the Scarlet Spire. Achamian is hopeful that this sudden mission to the Thousand Temples will have real purpose.

My Thoughts

Achamian is an unusual protagonist in the genre of fantasy. Middle-aged and burned out at his job. He is world weary instead of the fresh-eyed youth (which Kellhus in the prologue almost is until you realize he is a man without emotions). We meet Achamian just as he underestimates the intelligence of Geshruuni. This is not the first dangerous situation Achamian has been in and it shows. While he panics internally, externally he continues his ruse as a merchant out drinking. We even see Achamian resolve when he thinks faces death or betrayal of his order and he chooses death.

When Geshruuni instead spares Achamian, Bakker compares being a spy to being a whore. Bakker uses this analogy a lot with Achamian. To be successful both must play a role. They have to adapt quickly, putting on the right performance to manipulate. Both must be good judges of character. Grave misjudgment can end badly for both the spy and the prostitute, particularly when no legal or social conventions protect them.

Achamian is unnerved by his underestimation of Geshruuni. By no skill of his own, Achamian uncovered powerful knowledge. But had Geshruuni been loyal to his masters, Achamian would be facing torture and death. Achamian has questions and worries about both his ability and his mission that will continue to haunt him going forward.

And poor Geshruuni. The abomination strips Geshruuni of his bravado with a few slaps. And for nothing. The Mandate aren’t really interested in his grand secret. They care so little, they have summoned Achamian away for a more important mission.

I’ll have more to say on the abominations when we learn more about them. Clearly, they are enemies of the Mandate. But if the Consult hasn’t been active for 300 years, maybe its because they were working on new, devious plans to continue their ancient war.

The Seswatha dreams are some of my favorite parts of the series. I love the glimpse Bakker gives us of the Apocalypse, showing us the consequences if the Mandate’s war against the Consult is lost. It wouldn’t be epic fantasy without apocalyptic prophecies. After Achamian awakens, he fanatically writes in his dream diary while cynically questioning the purpose in deciphering those dreams. He walks that line of fanaticism to follow and understand Seswatha’s life and the cynicism brought along by years of pointless, frivolous busy work.

Bakker drops such interesting tidbits about his world, seeding both the backstory and the past. At once he sets up the political maneuvering that will dominate the rest of the book and explains how his sorcery works, the differences between the schools, and why the Fanim Cishaurim are so feared by other sorcerers. He is building the foundation that the entire Prince of Nothing Series rests upon. Why did the Cishaurim assassinate Sasheoka? What are the Consult up to? Who are the abominations? And what is so important about the Thousand Temple?

The prophecy is very interesting. An Anasûrimbor shall return. But which one? We know Moënghus went ahead of Kellhus. He lurks somewhere in the three seas. Is he the one prophecy speaks of, or is Kellhus who is even know making his way across the sranc-infested wilderness.

Click here to continue on to Chapter Two!

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Interview with Autumn M. Brit

51w0Olv36sL._UX250_This week, I got to delve into the wonderful mind of Autumn M. Brit. She’s one of the many delightful indie authors I’ve discovered since embarking into the world of self-publishingShe has two series under he belt, a Fantasy series called ‘Rise of the Fifth Order’ (a wonderful series) and a dystopian future series Friends of My Enemy (on my TBR list).

First, let’s get to know Autumn with some fun, quirky questions!

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three books would you want with you.

I’m a practical girl so the first two books would be one on botany and the use of any and all plants found on the island. I want to know what can be used to make fiber like linen and rope strength as much as poisonous or not! The second book would be Wilderness First Aid. You know, just in case!

But the last book… that is a tough one. My first thought was the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, but I think I’d like a book I hadn’t read. If I can stretch the rules a bit, I’d love to the a compilation of all books in the Guin Saga. It looks so fascinating! I love heroic fantasy and at 130 books … well to have time to finish it I’d have to be stuck on a deserted island. Hopefully by the time I reached the end I’d have been rescued … or made myself a sailboat. 😉

How thick would a 130 book anthology be? Well, it would definitely keep you busy!

What animal best describes your personality?

If I can choose any animal: dragon. Totally a dragon. BUT my husband likes to limit me to ‘real’ creatures. sigh. In that case, my totem is an owl. And that really does suit me. I tend to be quiet and observe. And owls (like dragons) have no major predators and are amazing hunters. I like that they are a traditional magical creature too, being a night hunter. It grants them the mythos of being able to fly between the spirit world and our world, which is probably why they are often selected as familiars for wizards and witches. An owl is also the symbol of the goddess Athena and her Roman incarnation Diana. Can’t go wrong when you choose something representing the goddess of war and wisdom!

What do you mean dragons aren’t real? Next, you’ll say there aren’t elves!

If there was one place in the world you’d love to visit, where would it be?

This one is hard because I love to travel and there are so many places I want to go. In the last year I crossed off two of the top journeys on my list: hike the Inca Trail to Macchu Pichu and Alaska. I really want to go to Iceland, preferably in the winter where I can soak in a hot spring and watch amazing auroras. And I’d really love to see a good meteor shower anchored in a sheltered lagoon off a sand spit of an island one day. Somewhere you can watch stars fall all the way to the horizon. And I’d love to hike a really long trek. The AT would be nice of even the PCT, but there are some really cool journeys in Nepal and Mongolia that are less well known and would be incredible. So this didn’t really answer your question, because I’m not sure I can choose between those three. I’m thinking I’ll make my way to Iceland first, but you never know!

Soaking in a hot spring and watching nature’s beauty painted across the sky! Nice!

Are you a cat or dog person?

Well when I was younger, I had cats. But my family also had one dog throughout my childhood. I wanted a dog as a hiking companion when I was in college, but of course couldn’t sneak one into my dorm. So when I met the man who became my husband and then met his Cairn Terrier … well I just knew I’d do anything to be with that dog! So as an adult, I’m a dog person.

If you could have a dinner with one historical person, who would it be?

I love history and so this one took some thought. There are so many interesting people who have lived! Buddha would be awesome. Or Confuscious? Hmm … As a final decision though, I’m going to say Sappho. I admire her poetry, or at least the few fragments we have remaining of it. What has endured is her amazing legend as one of the most famous poets of antiquity. So I’d love to hear more of her poetry – from her! – and about her life. Can you imagine learning what legends she holds of what the world was like before 600 BCE? And really, how could you not want to meet the poet who wrote:

Although they are
only breath, words
which I command
are immortal

What a great quote! I see why you like her.

Now that we got the fun questions out of the way, let’s get down to the brass tacks!

Besides writing, what are you passionate about?

Living! That may seem like a tossed off answer, but I’m serious. I love life and the adventure/journey of it. I’m never bored and even on the horrid days I know there will be a balance of amazing ones. I joke that even if I had a thousand years, life would be too short. I want to fill it with so much and get frustrated by the limitations of body (which thankfully isn’t so bad at the moment!) and money/society. Why on earth do I have to earn a living? I want to see sunrises all over the world, taste food from every culture, and share a smile with strangers. I want to write amazing tales that inspire others to do the same. I want days with my family to really enjoy being with them. Everything always feels so rushed, because we don’t have a thousand years and we do have to earn a living, and you end up missing some of the best moments running to the next thing. I guess that I’m passionate about smelling the flowers on the way.

 What drew you to the craft of writing?

Because I can’t draw the ideas I see in my head. But I can write them pretty well. Honestly I was on track to be an artist and even have my BA in Studio Art – but it is also in English. I’ve picked away at writing while in high school and college, but didn’t get serious until I was 35 when I realized I got a lot more enjoyment out of writing than I did drawing. And then I stumbled into the epublishing aspect and that gave me an outlet (selling artwork is not that easy!).

I love the challenge of writing. Crafting a comprehensive story is only the first part. I get into subtleties such a hidden clues in chapter headings to word choice based on a character POV. Writing, and by that I mean everything from creating a story, writing it, and editing it to high polish, stimulates my brain like nothing else. I write first for me, because I love trying to write the best story I can and because I love delving so deeply into the characters and plots of what might have only been a ten minute daydream. When I hear back that someone loved it to, or picked up on a tiny clue buried in the prose … oh it is so awesome!

I know what you mean. I was speaking to a beta reader on my second fantasy novel, and was thrilled when she made noticed foreshadowing I planted!

 

When writing a novel, are you a detailed planer or do you fly by the seats of your pants?

I’ve tried both ways. I wrote Born of Water with a very general idea that could have been summed up in three sentences. And I immediately got lost and bogged down. So then I rewrote it with a pretty detailed map. But spending months working on an outline to then write it for real is a VERY slow process. And I like the writing part. And I don’t have a lot of writing time.

So now I’m a bit of a hybrid. I have a pretty clear idea of major events in a novel and know how it will end (usually – I’ve had characters make decisions that created a whole new book, but that is another story. The VERY end of that one did resolve how I expected. Sort of.), but I have no idea what is going to happen in each chapter when I sit down to write. Instead, I keep things flowing and guide my pace for tension and action by doing quick sentences under at least the next three chapters, though sometimes I’ll have half the book mapped out with quick notes including POV, major point/action of chapter, and how it should end. As I write and edit, I’ll keep side notes of things that feel off or need to be added in. I’d almost call my writing method layering. I write out the main story, add in subplots and other details missed, make sure timelines match up and that clues for later actions are there, and then work on word use. I’m not sure it is the system I’ll always stick to. If I were a full time writer and not trying to maximize the bit of time I get each day to write, I might develop a whole new system! But this seems to work to keep the idea flowing while it is fresh and then adding critical depth when I’m in a more editorial mode.

Your trilogy Rise of the Fifth Order are imaginative fantasy. What attracted you to writing speculative, genre fiction?

Because that is what I read when I was a teenager! I wouldn’t say I set out to write epic fantasy as my first book or even really thought about it while I wrote the Rise of the Fifth Order. I was really writing a story that would be one I would have loved to have read. Only when I was done to I realize that I needed to pick a genre and really got into the nitty gritty of what types of fantasy are out there. After I dipped my toe in the self-publishing world, I realized that having an idea of what beast I’m planning on writing is nice to know before I get going, even if it is a mishmash of several genres. The beauty of the indie publishing world is that you can have space dragons eating zombies if you’d like. I haven’t gone quite that crazy yet, but I keep trying to write stories I love. And my first reading love was epic fantasy. 🙂

I have a feeling, “Because that is what I read when I was a teenager!” is at the root of most Fantasy and other Speculative Fiction authors choice on subjects.

Inspiration is such a fascinating phenomenon. Where did the inspiration for the Rise of the Fifth Order come from?

The idea stemmed from the combination of two random ideas oddly enough. I had this story idea that was going no where in my head of an executive who was a dryad (could turn into plants, specifically a potted on in her office) at a conference and sees a young woman like herself, which is rare. But that is as far as the idea had grown before wilting. It just went nowhere. And at the same time there was this massive painting of a Mediterranean village  in the bathroom at my office. One day wondering what life was like in that painting combined with a woman with elemental powers who sees a young girl like herself, but different and Born of Water started to grow.

The rest of the story is more difficult to explain. I finished Born of Water knowing the story didn’t end, but not knowing where it went. That is a mistake I avoid now when I right a series! I finish the whole thing first because there are definitely things I’d tweak in Born of Water to set up everything for book 2 and 3 better. But I didn’t have this first series planned and when I sat down writing Rule of Fire I only had a vague idea everyone had to go back to Lus na Sithchaine. Except they got into a fight on the Steppes and then ran into Tam again and Ria decides to leave with Zhao, and of course the whole point of the story is finding out who this man who used to be the Curse is… Rule of Fire is the first book where I really let the characters lead the way. They sorted out what was going on and when writing fell off, it was usually because I had a plot hole I had to solve before I could continue. That is how I realized what Elantha’s price for sending Sinika to Minna really was: it was a plot hole that needed answering. I knew Sinika would go after the Kith because that was an unresolved conflict from the previous war. The Church of Four Orders would never let their only defeat last. And I knew that balancing the spheres would be important but not be the whole solution, just bring about the resolution. Rule of Fire and Spirit of Life flowed into each other really well and that is how I want to write series from now on! But I can only say the inspiration for the second two books came from the characters reacting to what had happened in the first book and Born of Water came from a very strange place.

What is your favorite character from the Rise of the Fifth Order?

Am I allowed to choose? I feel like a parent and you shouldn’t have a favorite. 🙂

I think I relate to Darag the best. He could be represented by an owl too! I do like Niri and her voice flows naturally for me. Khodan, Ty, and Zhao are harder for me to get into their heads, but when I do it snaps into focus and I can write their voice quite well. Ria in Born of Water was nearly impossible for me to write. I wasn’t very fond of her and thought about chucking her off the boat. But since the whole point of the story was saving her life, I couldn’t let the Curse eat her. And I’m glad I didn’t as I really like who she becomes in Rule of Fire and love writing her (and Zhao’s!) perspective as the different creatures they become (the dragon scene was the easiest one for me to do – I really should be a dragon). Sinika was always a challenge because he didn’t let me in on his thoughts. He outwitted me even as I wrote and I seriously worried he’d win. He still might. I’m working on a new series… And I totally skipped Lavinia, who is a very good character but easy to overlook at times.

I often joke that my favorite character is the one whose voice I’m writing in at the time, because I see the world through their perspective and want to relate it the best I can. I think I’ll leave my answer at that.

I understand you’re writing a sequel series to Rise of the Fifth Order. Could you tell us something about it?

I did just hint at that, didn’t I? lol. Yes, I’m writing a new trilogy called Games of Fire that begins six months after Spirit of Life ends.

I really thought I was done with the characters and world of Myrrah when I finished Spirit of Life. I was working on my near future dystopian series Friends of my Enemy and was quite in love with the characters and story line despite no magic! But the characters from the Rise of the Fifth Order kept popping in my head. And with good reason. They might win, but not necessarily in the best circumstances for everyone.

Darag, Laireag, and Zhao are hurting from the death of Beite. The forest is in tatters. Sinika is being held prisoner in the same Temple housing the Sphere of Fire, Ria is trying to create a new affiliation out of the Church of Four Orders to include Spirit Elementals, which of course isn’t going to be easy. There is a lot going on right there, but it wasn’t a story and certainly not a trilogy, so I tried to ignore the voices in my head – at least theirs as they were making it hard to write about a non-magical near future war. I eventually had to confront them and demand they tell me a good story or shut up. Oh and they did. I think I totally missed the point of their world or what they started with the events in the Rise of the Fifth Order!

So yes, the story does start up again based on those little problems listed above. But it is really so much more, a deeper thread that goes all the way back to the beginning of the world of Myrrah and the first war. The spheres are just a part of it. Little clues that I didn’t even know I’d put into the Rise of the Fifth Order become incredibly important in Games of Fire.

Book 1, Spark of Defiance, is written. I’m starting book 2, the Fire of the Spheres and hope to finish that his fall. Book 3, as yet unnamed, will hopefully be written in the early winter while I edit book 1. I hope to release all three in 2016 with the first in the spring.

Well, I can’t wait until 2016!

What do you find most challenging about being a self-published author?

Finding the time for everything. I love, love, love to write. And I actually really like editing too. And I like to read and the marketing isn’t too bad. But I’d like to be more social on social media. And I’m taking a marketing course, but I haven’t found the time to implement some of the suggestions. I feel like I’m holding myself back because there just isn’t enough time to do it all. I have side projects like working on a non-fiction book on tips to writing better fantasy. And I want to offer author services like covers or character sketches or even CreateSpace formatting (which I oddly like doing now that I’ve finally learned how!). But ack, time! My 1 to 1 ½ hours of writing time a night has been squeezed to death and something has to give at some point soon. Thankfully winter is coming and I can curl up next to the woodstove and not feel so pulled to also want to spend time with family, hike, kayak, camp, motorcycle, etc. If I can figure out the bills and marketing, I’m going to try to become a full time writer or at least shift into a part time job. That is my goal and the only thing that makes the complete insanity of everything I’ve got going on right now seem worthwhile. Heck, this fall will also see the launch of Born of Water as an audio book with a really awesome narrator Jerry Villegas. Hearing something you’ve written spoken by someone with an amazing voice and who is great a catching nuances is an experience every authors should have! But thank goodness most of the work is on his plate, because I would never be able to fit it in if I were the lead!

Being a self-published author and taking it seriously as a career often means you are running a full time writing/publishing job while working a full time job and juggling a family and life. It is hard. Things are going well enough that I am hoping to move more towards writing as my main career, but while I’m making that switch and getting all those pieces in place, it is really stressful to keep up with everything. And that kinda sucks.

That is amazing advice!

Last, do you have any advice for a new or aspiring author?

Three things: Take yourself and your work seriously, write more than one book, and if you are going to write a series write the whole thing first and then launch the books three to four months apart.

What I mean with take yourself seriously is to treat yourself like a serious author from day one, and that, I hope, means providing quality. Get your work edited. Get a good cover. Work on your novel until it shines. Don’t throw a story up on Amazon and expect people to flock to it and love it and you’ll be rich and famous. That rarely happens and the best chance of it occurring is if the packaging looks great and the product is unbelievably awesome. I totally thing being a self published author is worth all the effort, but it does take effort.

And the advice about writing more than one book is simple: you get so much better with each novel you write. Whether or not you publish them, keep writing. Your prose will get better, how you tell a story will get better. Reading is great, you can learn from that, but there is nothing better than practice. Practice writing a lot!

And the last advice on launching a series of books back to back is because it is the best way to build a fan base. In today’s day and age, no one wants to wait more than a year for the next novel. I saw my sales jump when the Rise of the Fifth Order series ended because all the books were available. People who love epic fantasy love to read and most people go through all three books in less than a week. It took me more than three years to write. That just doesn’t work out well. So if you want writing to be more than a hobby, if you want a career, get all those books lined up, edited, and ready to go and launch them all within a few months. Heck, put book 2 and 3 out on pre-order at the same time you release book 1 if you can. Let people know you are serious about being an author and providing a complete tale that will rivet them.

And I guess one last piece of advice that goes along with that: if you want to make this a career, keep a writing schedule or writing goals. You should write or edit every day, even the lack of inspiration days when the writing feels horrible. Work isn’t always fun, but writing is more often than not thankfully. But if you want to have fans you have to commit to creating fresh material every year. So get writing!

Now that we’ve gotten to know the amazing Autumn Brit, you can find out more information about her amazing books!

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Autumn is a best selling author in fantasy, epic fantasy, and war – not all on the same series though! She is the author of the epic fantasy, adventure trilogy on elemental magic, the Rise of the Fifth Order. Her newest series is Friends of my Enemy, a military dystopian/ dark fantasy tale laced with romance. Friends of my Enemy will be released in full in 2015 and will be quite the story full of strong characters, tight plots, and lots of action. Meanwhile, she is working on a new epic fantasy trilogy, Games of Fire, set in the same world as the Rise of the Fifth Order. If she stops goofing off and enjoying hobbies such as hiking, motorcycling, and kayaking, she may even be able to release the first book in 2015 too.

Stop by her website and blog to learn more about the worlds of her books at www.AutumnWriting.com. You can also find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Author.Autumn.Birt or more frequently on twitter @Weifarer.

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Interview: Poppy Reid

11853927_1654184644868390_889607995_nThis week, I had the pleasure to interview Poppy Reid. Despite us sharing a last name, I had never met Poppy before I joined twitter last year. She’s a great, supportive author and helped me out a lot by editing my short stories. She also wrote a really great fantasy book The Blood of the Fallen

First, let’s get to know Poppy with some fun, quirky questions!

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three books would you want with you.

I assume you mean books I’d want to read, as opposed to huge tomes I can use to make a fire or island survival guides. I’d probably take ‘Outcast’ by Josephine Cox because I love the drama and romance. Another drama I love is Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews. After those two I’d probably be thoroughly depressed so I’d have a fun book as a pick-me-up – probably “Is it just me?” by Miranda Hart. It’s more of a biography than a novel, but it’s so funny!

Yeah, the last thing you’d want is to be depressed while stranded on a desert island!

What animal best describes your personality?

I’ve never heard that question before! I suppose I’d say a squirrel, because they hide their food to prepare for winter. I’m fairly decent at planning ahead.

If there was one place in the world you’d love to visit, where would it be?

There are hundreds of places I want to go. Right now my dream is to travel the world. I’d love to visit New Zealand one day – go kayaking, skydiving and hiking on the gorgeous islands.

New Zealand is a beautiful place!

Are you a cat or dog person?

Definitely a dog person. I used to be scared of dogs as a kid but I love them now, I can’t see one without squealing and wanting to pet it.

Right!

If you could have a dinner with one historical person, who would it be?

Probably Martin Luther King. He was a great inspiration to many.

Now that we got the fun questions out of the way, let’s get down to the brass tacks!

Besides writing, what are you passionate about?

Travelling. It’s my dream to travel the whole world, working, earning and writing as I go. I might start next year!

Good luck with that! I could never do that, I would get too stressed about the details!

 What drew you to the craft of writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. If it rained when I was at school and we couldn’t play outside, I’d be curled up in a corner writing a story. When I got my first computer (a huge, heavy old thing without internet that used to belong to my mum), I’d sit in my room for hours and hours working on the Fire Princess series (which unfortunately got lost after we moved house). I’ve always written, and always enjoyed it.

When writing a novel, are you a detailed planer or do you fly by the seats of your pants?

I have pages and pages of notes, comments and highlights on my computer. Sometimes I come across an ancient version of a book I’d written and laugh at the old – and sometimes terrible – ideas I’ve had. I don’t plan every little detail but the basic story, notes on characters and a timeline is on a separate document as a reference.

I have a hard drive full of stuff I wrote back in the late nineties when I was in high school. It’s dreadfully hilarious.

Your novel Blood of the Fallen is a sword-and-sorcery Fantasy. What is your favorite part about writing Fantasy?

I absolutely adore fantasy. It’s completely limitless. You can create an entirely new universe with its own rules, its own hierarchy, its own laws. You can control the magical elements, the weaponry, the creatures and the people. Fantasy is definitely my favourite genre for those reasons.

I think we’re on the same page!

Inspiration is such a fascinating phenomenon. Where did the inspiration for the Blood of the Fallen come from?

I’ve always been kind of a hopeless romantic, enjoying romantic books and movies. I always wanted to create something like that but didn’t fancy focusing on just a romance book. Since I love fantasy, I created the world of Theldiniya and developed the relationship between two people whose love could never be accepted by others – something I experienced when I was younger, and wanted to incorporate into my first book.

What has been the biggest obstacle you faced when you self-published your novel Blood of the Fallen?

Formatting! I didn’t enjoy having to sort out the front cover, page numbers, page size, etc. It was a massive pain in the butt.

Oh, yes. The joy of formatting. I’ve only had to do shorts, I can only imagine an entire novel.

I understand you are living abroad in Japan. What is it like to live and work in a foreign country?

If you enjoy being considered exotic, working in Japan is a lot of fun, if a little challenging at times. Once you’re over the homesickness and craving your country’s food (it took six months to stop fantasizing over sausage rolls) you start to get used to it and really feel at home. Japan is a great country in many ways – it’s safe, clean, the people are polite and it’s an entirely different culture. I did get a little culture shock when going back to England for a week, though – I forgot to tip the taxi driver (tipping isn’t done in Japan) and felt really bad about it afterwards.

I’ve always wanted to return to Japan, well Okinawa. I was there at a really young age, too young to remember it outside of my parent’s home videos.

Last, do you have any advice for a new or aspiring author?

First of all – write every day! Even if it’s nothing to do with a project you’re working on. Read a lot, especially friends’ and acquaintances’ work. Enjoy what you do – don’t think of it just as a way to make extra money. Get people to read your work and take criticism well. I actually wrote a small piece on being a writer on my blog which answers this question. Click here to check out Poppy’s Article!

Yes. Learning to take criticism is important. We are usually blind to the faults in our work until someone points them out.

Now that we’ve gotten to know Poppy a little bit, let’s check out an excerpt from her novel, Blood of the Fallen.

A1c9ZO68mEL._SL1500_Theldiniya has been torn apart by two hundred gruelling years of war, both sides forsaken by their ancient gods. One last desperate strike by the Tyrans has prophesised doom for their people, yet, undeterred by the Seer’s cataclysmic predictions, a clan of Tyran warriors have moved east to attack a small Elven village. The Seer turns to Villid, his last true friend, in hopes that he will help protect the Elf Seer and save the Tyran people. When Villid is framed for a crime he didn’t commit he finds an unexpected ally in Aya, an Elf girl, forcing them to rely on each other to survive. In such turbulent times an unlikely friendship is formed between those who once would have been enemies…

You like that one?” Shade suddenly hissed. “The one in green? You want her, do you, Tyran?”

Villid didn’t respond. He glanced round. The Tyrans had now completely surrounded the square, well-hidden in the shadows, waiting for the order to attack. Here and there he thought he saw the hilt of a sword, or a movement from one of the soldiers. The Elves round the tables, however, were oblivious to their hunters. Villid could see women and children sitting, eating, clapping and smiling at the beautiful dancers in the middle. He didn’t like this at all. Battles and arenas were one thing, but the slaughtering of the innocent?

The music had reached its climax and was starting to slow down, and then the dancers were entwined round each other, their arms outstretched, still and silent, smiling down at the crowd. All too soon their performance had ended. Villid knew it – the moment would come any second.

“Shade,” he whispered desperately. “We… we shouldn’t…”

“I tire of this,” Shade interrupted, as several of the Elves started to get to their feet and applaud the dancers. “This is it. So what was the one you wanted, six-one-twenty-seven? That one in green?” and he took aim with a long, sharp dagger from his belt.

It was like an instinct. Villid slammed as hard as he could into Shade’s shoulder, throwing him off his aim. The blade cut through the air as fast as lightning…”

If you want to read more (and you should, Blood of the Fallen is a great read!), you can pick it up from Amazon and Amazon UK!

Poppy Reid was born in Wick, Scotland and grew up in various parts of England before going to York St. John University to study Linguistics. She now resides in Nagano, Japan and works as an English teacher. Poppy adores writing, and has written several books and a numerous amount of short stories and informative articles online.

 

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Interview: Tim Hemlin

AtMyDeskTIMI had the pleasure of interview Tim Hemlin. I’ve gotten to know his wife over the last year on social media, and she introduced me to her husband’s writing. The Wastelanders was a fantastic dystopic Sci-Fi novel. In fact, you can check out my review of his novel here! Now let’s get on with the interview!

First, let’s get to know Tim with some fun, quirky questions!

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three books would you want with you.

Right away I’m going to cheat a little because my first choice is a handsome hardback composite put out by the The Library of America—Four Novels of the 1960s by Philip K. Dick. The novels include The Man in the High Castle, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (which the movie Blade Runner was loosely based on) and PKD’s masterpiece, Ubik. Philip K. Dick is one of my favorite sci-fi writers and has been a huge influence on my work. The other two books I’d take are War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy and The Complete Poems and Plays by T.S. Eliot. I’ve read Eliot since college and still enjoy his work. As for Tolstoy, I love his shorter works so maybe by being stranded on a desert island I’d finally get through War and Peace.

Nice. I thought about War and Peace for my answer. It’s long and I’ve never had the time to read it, so a desert island seems the perfect place!

What animal best describes your personality?

Bear. He’s strong yet introspective and he also has healing powers. And on occasion I’ve been accused of being grouchy . . .

If there was one place in the world you’d love to visit, where would it be?

I’ve always wanted to go to Paris. In particular, Paris 1922. I’d love to hang out with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Eliot, Stein, Picasso, Joyce, Pound . . .

Are you a cat or dog person?

I lean more towards dogs. I have two dogs—a Westie and a Shi Tzu—and a cat. The dogs are so happy to see me walk through the door in the evenings and they appreciate the attention I give them. The cat will bite my toe at night if I roll into his space at the end of the bed.

If you could have a dinner with one historical person, who would it be?

John Adams. Any man who claims “that one useless man is called a disgrace, that two are called a law firm, and that three or more become a Congress” would make an interesting dinner companion.

I have never heard that one. It maybe my new favorite quote to one of my favorite founding fathers.

Now that we got the fun questions out of the way, let’s get down to the brass tacks!

Besides writing, what are you passionate about?

At the top of my list I’d say running. I’ve completed a number of marathons, half-marathons, 25 & 30Ks, and I’d someday like to tackle an ultra. Running is a type of meditation for me and in that way it compliments my writing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stuck on a story, gone for a run and come back hot, sweaty and excited because I’ve had a breakthrough. I also enjoy swimming, biking and fly-fishing. I guess when I’m not writing I like to be active, though I do read a lot. To paraphrase Stephen King, you won’t have the tools to be a writer if you’re not a reader.

The outdoors was never my thing, but I can get down a read a book with the best of them.

 What drew you to the craft of writing?

Since high school I’ve known I wanted to be a writer. I enjoy word play and for the longest time I wanted to be a poet. I even studied with Charles Simic and MeKeel McBride at the University of New Hampshire. Then I discovered the work of John Gardner (Grendel, October Light, The Sunlight Dialogues) and similar writers and gradually made the transition to writing novels.

When writing a novel, are you a detailed planer or do you fly by the seats of your pants?

Fly by the seat of your pants sounds so capricious, yet that’s mostly what I do. Robert Frost said no tear for the writer, no tear for the reader. I take that to mean a writer must invest himself in his work and be willing to bear his soul through his characters and the world they live in. I do this best when I give my characters the freedom to speak to me and show me what’s going to happen next in a book. If I don’t give my characters that freedom I often write myself into a corner and then have to backtrack to find out where I went wrong. That’s not to say I don’t have a general idea of where I’m going in a story, but even that can change. When I wrote The Wastelanders I felt sure I knew where I was going with it. And then the time-witch appeared and changed everything—for the better. She kicked that novel into another gear.

I recently learned the term “pantser” from Janna Kaixer to describe the more adventurous writers. I definitely only have the loosest of outlines when I write.

Your novel The Wastelanders is a sci-fi thriller. What attracted you to writing speculative, genre fiction?

The Wastelanders came about because of my concern for the environment. I feel it’s my duty, in the words of Dr. Jonas Salk, to be a good ancestor so future generations can enjoy nature as much as I have. Yet in the novel I also deal with power, political corruption and mass movements and cite often from that unique, American blue-collar philosopher Eric Hoffer. I like stories that mine for feelings and explore complex themes. There’s nothing like being immersed in PKD’s Ubik, Frank Herbert’s Dune or Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter House Five (all big influences on my work). That’s not to say I don’t also enjoy lighter reads. The young adult novel I recently completed is less complicated than The Wastelanders in that it’s more direct. It’s a love story and a coming of age story that focuses on good versus evil, and I’ve loved every minute I’ve spent with those characters.

Your characters almost seem alive in your head. You live, breath, and die with them, and spill all the joy and pain onto the page.

Inspiration is such a fascinating phenomenon. Where did the inspiration for the Wastelanders come from?

You’re right; inspiration is a fascinating phenomenon. It’s the Muse handing you the key that unlocks the right door to that perfect world. I mean wanting to write a book because I’m concerned about the environment is one thing, but that’s a theme, not a story. Themes are just mannequins. Characters, plot, and setting are the clothes that dress them. So where did the inspiration for The Wastelanders come from? It came from Dune, from PKD, from Slaughter House Five, and from some of the idiot politicians we have today who manage to get voted into office. And just when I was about to lose hope in humanity, inspiration came from young love, from old love, and from the good heart of an enigmatic gunrunner.

The Time Witch’s sections definitely had a surreal, PKD vibe.

What is your favorite character from the Wastelander?

My favorite character is a toss-up. Bear is the enigmatic gunrunner who has prescient abilities and is indomitable. On the other hand, the time-witch took hold of my imagination and ran with it. I’m fascinated with the concept of time, time travel, and “bending” time. This all came out in her. It’s been pointed out to me that this is incongruous with sci-fi novels, though I strongly disagree. As Arthur C. Clarke said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Playing with time is a fun story technique. I’ve always enjoyed stories with those angles was happily surprised when I came across it in your novel. And transhuman abilities have always been a staple of Sci-Fi. No one questions Dune as Sci-fi with all its prescient

I understand you have a Young Adult novel in the works called Son of the Kitchen Witch. I would love to hear a bit about the plot.

Son of a Kitchen Witch is a coming-of-age young adult urban fantasy with a large dose of the paranormal, adventure and a touch of romance. Seventeen year-old Bobby Hawthorne has always known his overprotective mother is a witch. However, he never understood the depth of her powers until he learns the truth about his father’s death and the ancient group of fanatics determined to hunt down and kill every last witch on earth.

As if being a high school student isn’t already hard enough, Bobby and his best friend, Angelina Dellapicallo, struggle to understand the emerging secrets of white magic in the wiccan community, secrets strictly guarded by Bobby’s mother and her friends. The unexpected appearance of his spirited grandfather, though, sets in motion a series of events that sweep the young teens down a dangerous path, one inhabited by an ancient evil that threatens not only Bobby and Angelina but the wiccan community as well.

Pixies can’t stop the hellhounds . . . but they have sounded the alarm . . . and the magic users must respond . . .

Sounds like a fun read! I can’t wait to read it.

Last, do you have any advice for a new or aspiring author?

Write. Write. Write. It’s like a runner preparing for a marathon. You don’t just wake up one morning and run 26.2 miles. You put in those training miles first, and the more you put in the better (most likely) your race results. I don’t know if you recall, but recently you and I had an exchange about how bad our first efforts at novel writing were. Well, it’s those horrible efforts that never saw the light of day that lead to the books that are now out on the market. I’d also suggest picking up Stephen King’s On Writing or one of Natalie Goldberg’s books—Writing Down the Bones or The Wild Mind. They have great advice and good exercises for beginning writers. And read. I think it’s a cop out when writers say they don’t read because they don’t want to copy that author. Reading is part of a writer’s heritage. Own it.

To a new writer who has just completed a book I say get out of the house and go to a conference. Join a writer’s group. Get an author’s page on Facebook. Join Twitter. Join online book clubs. Start a blog. Mine is on Word Press at timhemlin.com. Review other writer’s books. Make an author’s page on Amazon. Look into the Indie scene. There are a ton of resources for independent writers. Use them. It’s a lot of work, but so was writing that novel. And don’t you want people to know about it and read it?

Some great advice! Write, write, write! That’s what everyone says, but it’s the truth. It’s been great talking with you Tim. He’s a great guy.

Now that we’ve gotten to know Tim a little bit, let’s check out an excerpt from Tim’s novel, The Wastelanders.

wastelanderSet in the future of America where climate change has driven the citizens of the US to live in “bubbles” cities protected from the harsher, outside air. They survive thanks to the Cartel, a huge company that provides water through desalination.

When the Water Cartel’s #23 desalination plant explodes, Deputy Bernie Hawke finds himself under surveillance by Home Sec authorities. They suspect he knows the whereabouts of his son, Joey, who a year earlier had gone missing from the civilized society of the bubble to the Wastelands. Believing Joey carried out the attack, the Home Sec agents show Bernie video of his son inside the city’s bubble. Convinced of his son’s innocence, Bernie puts his sleuthing skills to work and backtracks his son’s footsteps to a shady bar on the edge of the Rim, the land that borders the Wastelands. Bernie knows government agents are tailing him. What he doesn’t expect is an attempt on his life. Inadvertently, Bernie cuts down a Rim guard and once again finds himself interrogated by the irascible Agent O’Hare.

CHAPTER 11

Bernie Hawke shivered. He sat in the fussy little concierge’s fussy little office. Every instinctual bone in his body had told him to run. Only a Herculean effort overcame that urge. Now as he listened to the jowly O’Hare and dealt with iron-spine Crisp, Bernie was glad he’d not panicked.

O’Hare, who’d been speaking with one of his officers, pulled up a chair across from Bernie. The office held little more than a cheap metal desk, a handful of chairs, a black synthetic-leather couch and the flags of Texas and America. The obligatory picture of President Litz hung on the wall behind the desk. The rest of the walls were empty except for a pair of cutter mounts and the video-cams. Old-fashion ceiling tracks held the lighting which could be dimmed or brightened. O’Hare had tried them bright. Now they were dim.

I told the little pixie to find us a pot of good coffee even, by God, if he had to go back to the Bubble to get it,” O’Hare announced.

You know why I’m out here,” Bernie stated. His head swam from lack of sleep.

All in good time, lad. All in good time.”

Why are you here?” Bernie persisted.

O’Hare winked as though they were the best of friends, old warriors who looked after each other. Pure political bullshit, Bernie thought. Yet, curious. Home Sec had jurisdiction everywhere in the country—hell, they believed they had jurisdiction anywhere in the world—but this was Rim guard territory—the sub-czar’s domain. And Bernie had killed one of their own.

The fussy concierge entered the room with a silver tray and coffee service which was as incongruous with the setting as raincoats in the dessert. “Jamaica Mountain Blue,” he explained, hands shaking as he set the tray down on the desk.

O’Hare half listened as his men came and went.

Very rare, now that it’s only grown in bio-houses. And raw sugar. And cream. Anything else, sir?”

Aye, laddie,” O’Hare said while accepting a cup of coffee. “Who is it that allows this stinking brothel to operate outside of the Red Courtyard?”

The fussy little man paled.

Speak up, man, my coffee’s getting cold.”

Why, sir, we’re not a—”

Mind your words carefully,” O’Hare warned. “While my boys were printing the air we caught many an interesting shadow.”

Bernie watched the concierge swallow hard. The infrared-like dust captured energy images, downloading them to cell cams. In Bernie’s circles it was known as filming ghosts. Judging from the exchange between O’Hare and the concierge, it was obvious not all of Home Sec knew about this fine establishment. Someone allowed it to operate below the radar.

Aye, think about it, lad. I’ll be getting back to you. Be gone now. Mind the front desk.” O’Hare turned his full attention to Bernie as the concierge backed out of the room. “As you said, Deputy Hawke, I’m aware of your reason for being on the Rim, but why is it you’re in this stinking place?” The old cop gestured for Bernie to help himself to some coffee.

Bernie obliged and poured a cup, black. “Pure coincidence.”

I’m to believe that?”

What do the air-prints show?”

O’Hare stirred another cube of sugar into his coffee, tapped the side of the cup with the spoon and tasted. “Aye, it is good.”

O’Hare.”

Patience, lad.”

I haven’t had enough sleep to be patient.”

And why is that?”

Would you like me to spell it out for you?” asked Bernie. He sipped his coffee, too, but hardly tasted it.

Oh, would you be so kind?”

Bernie tossed out a finger with each point. “I came looking for my son. I have doubts that he was involved in the bombing. I wanted to hear his story with my own ears. I’ve not been able to locate him.”

Even in the wilderness?” O’Hare asked.

Yes, I did leave the trails. I walked the bayou. Anyone with half a brain would suppose a person trying to make it to the Wasteland would first travel the bayou.”

O’Hare took another sip and then asked, “You didn’t happen to meet anyone else out there, now, did you?”

Not a soul, unless you count the ’gators and mosquitoes.”

Yes, we’ve matched your cutter.”

Of course you have. And you’ve looked at the air-prints. Since emotion was high, you’ve detected images confirming my story. By the way, I thought printing old images was doubtful. Were you bluffing our fussy little friend?”

O’Hare set his cup down on the desk. “Not quite, lad. As you said, emotion runs high, here. And then when you combine it with an abundance of activity, they may produce a blurred ménage, but the intent is clear enough even for a Rim guard to understand.”

So what did looking at my cutter—time-matching it—tell you?”

Aye, lad, you fired in self-defense at your assailant.”

The heavy way in which O’Hare responded triggered a reflex in Bernie’s training. He knew the routine, the alternating between direct and circuitous questioning. O’Hare, playing again good-cop, came at him all folksy and from the sly. Bernie had expected Crisp at any moment to barge in and briskly take over. Now he wasn’t so sure. “Something else happened tonight,” Bernie said. “Isn’t the killing of a Rim guard bad enough?”

Normally I’d agree.”

But?”

Try the killing of two Rim guards, lad.”

Bernie leaned forward. “Two? Hey, I was only assaulted—”

O’Hare raised a hand. “Take a guess where they found the other guard?”

The woods.” As Bernie spoke he knew in his heart Joey had been involved in the killing. Damn if that didn’t nail the kid’s coffin. Of course, he didn’t express his suspicions to O’Hare.

Now, I’m willing to believe you’re incredulous reaction,” O’Hare told him.

Bernie said nothing.

However, the sub-czar has a different idea.”

The sub-czar?”

Disagreeable fellow by the name of Rex Fielder. I’d admit that to no one but a brother of the law.” He paused.

They think that since I was in the woods I killed the man,” Bernie said.

Aye, lad.”

All they had to do was look at my cutter—”

We both know that can be covered with a good cleaning.”

I haven’t had the time.”

We found no air-print evidence you did so in your room, that is true. And if you had been cleaning it, you’d probably be dead.”

Bernie picked up his cup but then set it down without drinking. “So what are they saying? That I resisted arrest?”

They might’ve, had they gotten here first and erased the air-prints. Fortunate for you, lad, we had you under the eye.”

Yeah, my lucky day. They’re saying something. What is it?”

According to the Rim guards mouthpiece it was an act of blood.”

An act of blood? You mean the two men—”

Brothers, lad. Brothers.”

Bernie stared dumbly off into space. Brothers? On one level it sounded perfectly logical. Joey kills the Rim guard during his attempt to escape and then his brother sets out to take revenge on…he shook his head. No, this was all too tidy.

What is it, lad?”

Bernie looked up. Crisp had entered the room as though he kept a baton sheathed in his ass. “It doesn’t make sense.”

O’Hare eyed him carefully. “Why is that, now?”

What time was the guard in the woods killed?”

A glint as though a burst of adrenalin entered his gaze. “The official time hasn’t been released.”

But the official motive for the attempt on my life has,” said Bernie.

It appears so.”

Crisp stopped behind O’Hare and stood in icy silence.

The time frame,” Bernie thought aloud. “The time frame is too close.”

O’Hare replied by pouring himself more coffee.

That’s why they haven’t—and I’ll bet won’t—release the time of the first guard’s death. It won’t align with the attack on me.”

Seems mighty coincidental the two dead are brothers.”

The attack on me was planned ahead of time,” Bernie continued. “What happened in the woods was a random act.”

Be careful, lad. You’re wading into dangerous waters. To charge the company with conspiracy—”

How else would you explain it?” interrupted Bernie.

An act of blood.”

The official word. Of course, you would eat whatever crap they put on your plate. But don’t you find the taste bitter?”

The coffee cup in O’Hare’s hand shook slightly as he took a sip. Rage flushed his cheeks and Crisp remained as rigid as the word of God. For a full minute neither said a word.

Come on, O’Hare, this isn’t an investigation, it’s a pill being shoved—”

Deputy Hawke,” the old agent cut in, voice low and harsh. “I’d suggest you mind your words. Unless you can offer evidence confirming this outrageous notion that’s found its way into your head then you’d be far better off accepting the results of the official inquiry.”

Bernie let out a short laugh, the kind accompanied by a faint grin. “Mind my words? Why? I have nothing more to lose, O’Hare.” An echo, he realized, of what he’d told Graham’s daughter at the pub. Instead of revisiting the litany he said, “What else can I lose? My freedom? Well, let me tellyou something, lad, I’ve been in a cage for a long time now, I just didn’t know it. Anytime a man’s afraid to speak his mind, he’s looking at life through iron bars.”

Crisp stirred and appeared ready to speak but O’Hare raised a hand. “A rousing speech, lad, the very kind, if spoken outside these walls, that might transform those metaphorical bars into the literal. Were that to happen how would you go about quenching the fire in your heart?”

Bernie said nothing.

O’Hare set his cup down and stood. “When you’ve had your fill of this surprisingly good coffee, you’re free to go.”

Free?” Bernie sounded suspicious.

Aye, lad. Self-defense in an act of blood is justifiable. You know that.”

What’s going on here?” asked Bernie.

The sun’s rising, Deputy Hawke. A new day. As my dear old mother used to say, ‘Looks like another hot one.’ She loved the heat, God rest her soul. But we know better, don’t we? We know how hot it can get, especially on the Rim. We know when to dive headstrong into it, and when to seek shelter in the shadows. At least I do, Deputy Hawke. I pray for your sake, lad, you do too.”

If you want to read more (and how could you not, The Wastelander is an amazing book), you can pick it up from Amazon.

And don’t forget to check out Black Silence, the short story the reunites the characters and may serve as an exciting prelude to the Wasterlanders upcoming sequel!

BlackSilenceA ghost from the past . . . A girl lost in the Wastelands . . . Bernie Hawke missing . . .

Can the enigmatic Bear join forces with warrior-priest Joey Hawke, and Caballito, the legendary descendant of the ancient Running People, in time to rescue them? Or will they fall prey like so many others to the black silence of the Wastelands?

You can pick up Black Silence from Amazon!

Tim is a marathoner, a former English teacher of 22 years who is now utilizing his master’s degree in counseling by working as a high school counselor.  However, it’s his passion for the environment that sparked his need to write The Wastelanders, a dystopian-clifi published in both e-book and paperback by Reputation Books. He also has a short story, Black Silence, introducing a new character, Caballito, who appears in the sequel to The Wastelanders available through Amazon.

Recently the Muse has kindly allowed him to tap into that creative magic and pen a young adult urban fantasy titled Son of a Kitchen Witch. a coming of age story with a good v. evil backdrop.  It is currently with his agent, Kimberley Cameron of Kimberley Cameron & Associates Literary Agency.

His current WIP is the sequel to The Wastelanders which should be completed in spring of 2016.

In the 1990’s Tim published a series of culinary mysteries through Ballantine Books and has recently gotten the reversion rights. He is planning on reissuing them through an elite new publisher, La Nouvelle Atlantide Press out of New Orleans. This series is set in Houston, Texas. The Neil Marshall series includes If Wishes Were Horses, A Whisper of Rage (nominated for a Shamus Award), People in Glass Houses, A Catered Christmas (the one he most enjoyed writing), and Dead Man’s Broth.

Tim has recently appeared on BBC UK The Big Film Review w/ Sudip Baduri film critic.

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Killing your Characters or Writers are Monsters

Killing your Characters or Writers are Monsters

In the latest novel I’m writing, Reavers of the Tempest (Book Two of the Storm Below), I came to the point where I killed a major character. I was torn up inside. I grieved for this fictitious person even as I wrote the words that condemned the character to death. I felt like a complete monster. I felt real guilt in the moment of writing.

For me, the characters I write are almost real people. I think about them, putting myself into their heads. I have to believe they’re real so I can capture their personalty. My characters are almost my friends, or at least casual co-workers.

And then you come to that point where you kill them. You have to harden your heart. You have to set aside the care you feel for this imaginary character and thrust the dagger into their backs. And then you have to write their deaths. You have to get into their minds and experience the loss and fear all for the service of your story.

Because that’s why you’re killing the character. For the story. After breathing life to this fictitious person, you lead them into circumstances and pull the rug out from under them. They lose all those dreams and hopes, their plans for the future. It all ends abruptly because you have a story to tell.

To be a writer, you have to be a little monstrous. You have to be willing to put your imagination into the darkest parts of life and humanity. As William Faulkner put it, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” You need to be prepared to do what it takes for the service of your story. You can’t flinch. You have to harden your heart and plunge the dagger into your character’s back even if they don’t deserve it.

Even though I felt like a monster for killing my characters, I’m sharpening my knife. The story must be satisfied. I cannot flinch. Without risk and conflict, a story is a limp, boring affair.

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