The Salvation of Innocence The Bridge of Magic Trilogy Book 1 by Robert E. Balsley Jr. Genre: Fantasy
A young woman embarks on a harrowing journey to save her world's last vestige of magical healing in Robert E. Balsley Jr.'s epic new fantasy novel, The Salvation of Innocence.
Althaya, the goddess of healing, wishes to share her ability to help those in need, providing "empaths," which give clerics the means to magically heal others-a means that some people fear and wish to destroy. In response, a dark magic known as the Purge is created to seek out and eradicate all empaths.
But one lone survivor remains, spirited away by Althaya and hidden in a magical stasis field. There, the last empath must remain alive until the time comes for rescue-but the Purge will not rest until the last empath is found and killed.
Three thousand years later, Kristen Rosilie Clearwater is only beginning to realize her destiny. Having been brought to the island of InnisRos as an orphan, she has long felt a "tug" toward something she can't quite understand. But when she begins experiencing the dreams of a young child, Kristen knows that the two are somehow connected-and that the fate of the world, and the future of healing magic, rests on.
Three floors above the audience chamber, Father Goram and Safire turned into long hallway which lead to the nursery. They saw no dire wolf cub sitting in front of a door… but instead found the door open. They looked at each other with concern, fearing the worst, and sprinted down the hallway. Several possibilities raced through their minds… none of which ended well. Notwithstanding the monastery’s long association with the pack Romulus was a member of, dire wolves are still wild animals – even the pups. They’re also big. Even at a young age, a pup, especially one that Menelaus sired, could be as tall as three feet at the shoulders with the strength to rip flesh.
When they turned from the hallway and into the room, both priest and ranger faced a sight that, if not for the seriousness of situation, would have had them doubled over in laughter. Romulus had lain down at the foot of the cradle and was staring up at Mary McKenna, who had interposed herself between the pup and the sleeping Kristen. She had a baby rattle raised up over her head, ready to strike if Romulus so much as moved. Romulus, when he heard Father Goram and Safire enter the room, looked back at them and yawned. Mary McKenna, her eyes never leaving the pup, said, “What took you so long?”
“Why Miss McKenna, it looks like you have this situation well in hand,” Father Goram replied with a smile on his face.
“Well… forgive me, Father, but what kind of monastery are you running here!” Mary McKenna exclaimed. “Wild animals… I mean, really?”
“Your point is well taken, Miss McKenna. I shall have the person responsible flogged this very instant.” Turning to Safire, Father Goram said, “Safire, please turn yourself in to our master-flogger. Twenty lashes should suffice.” Mary McKenna’s attitude changed from indignation to worry for Safire.“You wouldn’t, would you? I mean… well… when I stop to think about things… I guess… well, there’s been no actual harmdone, now has there, Father. Kristen’s safe, and that’s all that matters.”
“Then allow me to take the wolf from the room before we wake up little Brighteyes. We’ll forget this ever happened,” Father Goram replied. Mary McKenna breathed a sigh of relief. “Yes, please, Father. Not another word about it.” Safire whispered, “How are you going to do that? Convince the pup to leave, that is.”
Father Goram shrugged his shoulders. “Guess I’ll just ask him.” Father Goram kneeled down in front of Romulus and presented his hand for Romulus to sniff. He then petted the wolf’s head and scratched behind both ears. “Romulus, I’m Father Goram. Perhaps your pack leader, your sire, has spoken of me? Our packs are friendly to one another.”
Romulus licked Father Goram’s hand.
“Will you follow me for now? I’m sure Miss McKenna will let you back in once we’ve finished.”
“I don’t know about that, Father,” Mary McKenna said.
“Miss McKenna, a word if you please,” Father Goram said as he ushered Mary McKenna away from the cradle to the other side of the room. She didn’t want to leave the baby’s side, but Safire stood next to the cradle to reassure her. Before going with Father Goram, she handed Safire the baby rattle.
Once far enough away to talk without disturbing the baby, Father Goram took Mary McKenna by the shoulders. “Miss McKenna, things are happening that, at least for the moment, go beyond my comprehension. I believe I’ll have a few answers soon and will explain things to you when I can. But for now, please be assured that Romulus would never hurt Kristen. I believe he’s been chosen to be her protector.Perhaps you can think of him as a bodyguard, a bodyguard assigned by the gods.” Mary McKenna didn’t look so sure. “Assigned by the gods, Father?”
“Yes Miss McKenna, by the gods. Can you handle that?”
The nursemaid pursed her lips and thought about it for a few seconds. “Yes, Father, I think so. I trust you know what is best for Kristen.”
“As I trust you do as well, Miss McKenna. It’s late. Try to get some sleep before the child awakens. I’ll see you in the morning.” Father Goram turned and called for Romulus to come. The dire wolf pup got up and trotted over to the door, ready to follow. Safire, though she knew never to underestimate Father Goram’s abilities, was astonishednevertheless. She couldn’t wait to tell her friend and brother ranger, Tangus DeRango, about what had just happened. But the tale should be narrated over a mug of strong ale, for he wouldn’t believe it otherwise.
The Struggle For Innocence The Bridge of Magic Trilogy Book 2
In this suspenseful sequel to The Salvation of Innocence, the war against evil rages on. This time good must fight on two fronts to stop a great evil-one strong enough to commit genocide-or their world will be changed forever.
After barely escaping death at the hands of the vampire Lukas, Emmy still faces an even greater threat. The Purge is approaching. Emmy and her comrades' only chance is to get help from the sentient city of Elanesse and commit the first assault.
Far way, another conflict is brewing. Father Horatio Goram must face off against the power-hungry First Counselor Mordecai Lannian, whose demonic concubine pushes for war, but the odds are against him. Emmy's fate rests on this struggle, and this determined priest will do anything to win.
In a realm where healing magic relies on a single emissary's ability to commune with the gods, Emmy's death would have wide repercussions. This sensational thriller reveals the destructive power evil will use to achieve its dastardly ends-and the depths to which good must go to stop it.
The Alfheim (193 Years Ago) Having the blood of royalty coursing through one’s veins offers many advantages not available to the common person… wealth, power, and access to all the things that makes existence more than just a constant struggle to carve a comfortable life out of reality. The royal who sees his duty as service to the people he rules, however, pays a steep price for those advantages. The good royal will bleed for the devoted. -BOOK OF THEUNVEILED
MARTIN ARNTUILE WAS seething. He didn’t understand how the king could demand such a high price. “You ask too much, Argonne,” he said hotly. “I can’t leave my daughter behind. Nefertari is our oldest!”
King Argonne Quarion, leader of all the Alfheim, leaned forward in his throne and pointed a finger at Martin. “It was you who decided to take your family and all your people to this world called Aster.” Leaning back and slumping down slightly, Argonne sighed. “I’m sick and dying, Martin. I can’t be cured. You know that.”
Martin softened. “I know, Argonne, and I’d change that if I could. But you have two brothers to succeed you. And the Alfheim’s been secured from the Elves of the Dark.”
“Thanks to your generalship, Martin,” Argonne said.
“It was my duty, my King. The Army is in superb hands, I’ve seen to that. My family and people aren’t needed here, but we are needed at InnisRos on Aster.”
“You wish to be a king. Trust me when I say it isn’t an easy tasking,” Argonne countered. He had hoped to put doubt in Martin’s mind.
“I don’t wish it, Argonne, but I have a duty,” Martin replied. “Someone over there traced my lineage back to their dead king. It’s a stretch, I know, but if someone they consider having royal blood doesn’t sit on the throne, chaos and anarchy will rule on InnisRos. Innocents will die when I could have prevented it. I don’t want that on my conscience. But leaving behind Nefertari… my King? Why? It makes no sense. She’s just a child. Think what it’ll do to my wife Denairis, Lessien, and Nefertari to be forced apart like that.”
“Families are torn apart all the time, Martin,” Argonne said. “I’ve observed Nefertari at my court and see a spark of intelligence I rarely see in someone so young. I believe she’ll make a difference here someday and I want to give her the opportunity to make that difference. She can only get the training she’ll need under the tutelage of my First Councilor. Martin, think about Nefertari’s future. It’s for the best… and there’s precedent for such an apprenticeship.” He paused and tapped the arms of his throne with his fingers, thinking. “I should’ve had that damn portal closed decades ago.” Argonne understood Martin’s motivation, however… to keep together his family. It was much the same motivation that was driving Argonne, the survival of his monarchy. He looked at Martin and could tell he wasn’t accepting his reasoning for keeping Nefertari in the Alfheim. After a few seconds, he looked at his guards. “Leave us,” he said. Hidden doors throughout the throne room silently closed as the guards did the king’s bidding.
“Stay, Martin, and I will make you king,” Argonne said as he looked pointedly at his Chief General. He would make this one last plea.
“Argonne, please,” Martin replied shaking his head. “Your brothers…”
“My brothers are both power hungry fools who anxiously await my death!” the king shouted. “They’ll fight each other over their right to rule. There’ll be bloodshed as they tear this kingdom apart. Neither are capable of assuming the crown I wear or the Mantle of the Sovereign, Martin! You know that!”
Martin held his tongue and didn’t dare argue...not when Argonne was so worked up. Besides, the king was correct, there’d be bloodshed. However, Martin suspected the only blood to be shed would be that of the two brothers and their sycophants… no real loss. There probably wasn’t anyone else in the kingdom who liked either of the two enough to help elevate them to the throne.
“Well, Martin? Care to respond?” Argonne asked impatiently, drawing Martin from his thoughts. “You’re going off to be a minor king on some damn island on Aster and I’m offering you the entire Alfheim. Surely this is more preferable.”
Argonne’s tone rekindled the anger Martin had relieved himself of just a few moments before. “Are you mad?! You know as well as I that would mean civil war,” Martin replied crossly. “Your brothers would finally find the one thing they could agree upon, and the council would think you’re implementing a dictatorship. My armies follow me, but they’re loyal to the crown and the monarchy first. Someone without a royal connection will never succeed.” Martin paced, attempting to ease some of his rage. Calmer, he turned back to face his king. “If I were to be named heir upon your death, everyone I hold dear would be killed as traitors. Even still, you hold my daughter hostage in the hope I’ll acquiesce?”
“Even still,” the king said. “Martin…” the king paused as he looked down at his gem studded, multicolored ring of office, immersed in the same thoughts that had been swirling around his head for the last month... his mortality.
Martin looked at Argonne and noted his vacillation. “Speak your mind, Argonne. Let us have no secrets between us. I’ve been commander of all your armies for decades. We’ve battled the Elves of the Dark together as well as elements of those within your own kingdom who would tear you down.”
Argonne looked up at Martin. His eyes had become hard, his tone of voice authoritative. Now he was a king talking to a subordinate, not a friend. “Trust me, General Arntuile, when I say I’ll spare no one to guarantee my kingdom is safe after I’m gone. The monarchy must survive for everyone’s well-being. Without it, we’re lost.”
Martin recognized the king’s change in attitude and shook his head. “That has nothing to do with me, Highness. I can’t rule for reasons I’ve already made clear. Your brothers…”
“My brothers will soon be dead!” Argonne shouted as he stood. Martin was tall for an elf, but Argonne was taller, and the height of the dais upon which the throne sat made him even more imposing. “I’ve had them arrested! They’re to be executed as traitors to the realm within the hour.”
“But the rule of law…” Martin began, surprised to hear of this
“The rule of law be damned!” Argonne interrupted as he stepped off the dais to stand in front of Martin. “I’m the king! Do you understand, General? The king! My word IS the law!”
Argonne studied his general for a moment. He knew he had been taking a calculated risk. “If I so choose, you can join my brothers, buried in a shallow grave without fanfare and soon forgotten… like you never existed,” he said quietly.
Martin drew back, stunned, at a loss for words.
Argonne rubbed his temples as pain flared in his eyes… eyes that had receded and had become unnaturally dark. “Damn headache,” the king said as he went back to his throne and collapsed into it. He looked weak and frail.
“Your Highness, perhaps you should rest. We can continue this discussion later,” Martin said, willing to use any pretense as an excuse to escape what he was witnessing... fearful the pain from the disease that was killing Argonne would cause the king to make rash decisions about his own future.
The king looked at Martin shrewdly. “You’ll not be dismissed so easily, General Arntuile,” Argonne said. “As for the pain, it’ll be gone soon enough.”
Martin bowed. “Yes, my King.”
“Is your refusal final, then?” Argonne queried.
“To be king of the Alfheim, Your Highness?” Martin asked. “Yes, I’m afraid it is. I’ve given those on InnisRos my word. My word…”
Argonne waved his hand around as he interrupted. “Your word is your bond. Yes, yes, I know all about that,” he said. “Sometimes it strikes me as being rather high browed. I also find it somewhat tedious.” Argonne leaned forward in his throne. “Here’s a piece of advice about your ‘word.’ Never let them see you break it… but don’t always keep it. Call it… oh, let’s say ‘king’s privilege,’ if you will. When dealing with your enemies and your subjects alike, you must allow yourself that leeway. Politics is not honorable battle, Martin. It’s dirty. Believe me when I tell you the strength of your conviction will not deflect the danger you put you and your family in as soon as you put on that crown.”
Martin looked down at the crystal floor. The conversation had taken an uncomfortable turn. He heard Argonne whisper, “Very well,” before he yelled for the guards. When Martin looked up, he saw Argonne’s personal contingent of warriors return from behind numerous door that had been invisible until now. Though they had made no hostile movement toward him, he recognized their vigilance, defensive posturing, and subtle movements to ready their weapons. Two of the larger guards stood shoulder to shoulder with Martin, while two others flanked the king.
Martin sighed. He was no longer a friend of the court. “So it has come to this, my King?” he said.
“I have only begun, General Arntuile.” Argonne said. Turning to one of the guards at his side, “I want the full council here immediately,” he ordered. “Accept no excuses.”
The guard saluted. “Yes, Your Highness,” she said before running out of the audience chamber. Two other guards followed closely behind.
Shifting his attention to Martin, the king said, “I believe you have something that belongs to me.”
Martin was momentarily confused. “I…?” Then he understood. It had been so long he had forgotten.” Yes, Highness, I believe I do,” Martin said as he started to unsheathe his sword.
Eighteen blades appeared in the hands of the nine remaining guards, two for each guard. Martin found himself surrounded by a wall of razor sharp steel. He looked at the elves behind the swords. He knew most of them since he had handpicked each one himself for service to the king. The eyes, however, were unrecognizable as they stared back at him. Martin let the sword fall back into his scabbard and looked at the king.
“These men are mine, General. You no longer hold standing in their eyes.” Argonne answered Martin’s silent query. Waving the guards to step back, he said, “Leave the sword in its scabbard and present it to me. You’ve lost the right to use it on my behalf.”
Martin did so without feeling. He’d seen the king’s wrath before, but never towards one of his own. As Martin stepped back, he heard the sound of many footsteps enter the chamber from behind. The council members had wasted little time arriving.
Argonne rose from his throne to address the newly arrived council members. In his hand was Martin’s sheathed sword. All signs of the headache had disappeared. “I’ll make this simple for you,” he said, addressing the council. “I have several announcements to make. All are being made by royal proclamation, so no discussion will be tolerated. I only bring you here to follow protocol… and to warn you that any attempt to counter these proclamations by either direct or indirect action will result in your execution as traitors. Am I understood?”
There were general nods of agreement amongst the council members, though some were reluctant… not so reluctant as to challenge the king, however. Argonne nodded. “Good,” he said. “You’ve all made a wise decision. As is customary, I’ll have all the necessary paperwork drawn up and distributed in a day or two for your perusal. Just so everything is legal and transparent, you understand.” Argonne looked at the council, daring even one to argue. No one did.
Withdrawing Martin’s magically gleaming sword from its sheath, Argonne used it to slice his hand. Several of the council members gasped at the sight. As each drop of blood hit the floor, the magical link contained within the sword between king and guardian became weaker and weaker until it was completely drained of its magical power. “This sword was spelled to be in the hands of my most able general who, for all intents and purposes, is my closest protector,” Argonne said. “For who can protect a king better than the general wielding the king’s armies? But if it should ever draw the blood of the king it was meant to protect, the magic and power of the sword will exist no longer.” Taking the now magic less sword, Argonne pointed it at Martin. “Martin Arntuile is no longer that general,” he said. Holding the sword by the hilt and grabbing the tip with his other hand, he brought the flat of the blade down hard on his knee. The metal broke in several pieces. One shard flew forward and pierced Martin’s cheek and imbedded itself in his jaw bone. Taking what was left of the sword in his hand, Argonne threw it to land at Martin’s feet.
Argonne then pulled his own sword, Ah RahnVakha, from its gem encrusted sheath. It blazed with strong magic as soon as it cleared the scabbard. The Mantle of the Sovereign covering Argonne’s shoulders glowed as well. Argonne pointed the fearsome sword at Martin and said, “You are hereby exiled, along with your wife, Denairis, and youngest daughter, Lessien, to the world of Aster. There you will live out your days. Any return to the Alfheim will cause an arrest war- rant to be issued for your capture and immediate execution. The same arrest warrant also applies to Denairis, should she ever return. The child, Lessien, may petition for return, but no sooner than one hundred years from the day of this judgment.”
Martin kept his mouth shut and let this scene play itself out. Argonne was giving Martin what he wanted while avoiding the shamed of being abandoned by his Chief General.
Argonne voice drew Martin away from his thoughts. “Martin Arntuile, you have six hours to settle your responsibilities and obligations, collect your family and possessions, and say your goodbye’s. At the end of that time, you’ll report to the gateway and leave the Alfheim forever. Do you have any questions?”
“Your Highness, I’m sorry it had to come to this,” Martin answered. “Perhaps…”
“Enough!” Argonne roared. Argonne took a few deep breaths. “The time for talking is over, Martin,” Argonne said quietly as he regained control over his emotions. Even still, he couldn’t keep the sting of losing Martin’s leadership, and camaraderie, from his voice. “My decision has been rendered. You no longer hold standing at this court. You’ll be escorted back to your home by members of my guard, so I suggest you do not stray nor tarry overly long. In six hours’ time you’ll go through that portal.” Waving a hand at two of his guards, Argonne said, “See to it.”
As Martin was marched from the audience chamber, the sound of his boots and that of his guards echoed throughout the otherwise silent and still room. Martin knew he would never see his home world again. Martin’s attention suddenly diverted to the shard embedded in his jaw. It tingled. Surprised, Martin realized it still radiated magic... enough to create a new sword. Martin smiled. His old friend Argonne hadn’t completely abandoned him after all.
The Loss of Innocence
The Bridge of Magic Trilogy Book 3
War has come to InnisRos!
The Ak-Séregon Stone, stolen by the demon Nightshade, has been used to force open a corridor between Aster and the Svartalfheim, the home world of the Dark Elves. The Dark Elf army, led by Nightshade's father, Aikanáro, marches on InnisRos. Only Father Goram and his allies, with Queen Lessien's army, can close down the corridor and break the stranglehold the Dark Elves have on the island of the Elves of Light.
But the Dark Elf invasion of InnisRos is only one phase of Nightshade's design. To ensure InnisRos' human allies stay on their side of the world, she blackmails Lord Ternborg, leader of the Draugen Pesta, the Black Death, to invade the mainland from the east. Forced to collaborate with the mercenary cities of HeBron and Madeira, Lord Ternborg reluctantly leads three armies into the Forest of the Fey and the surrounding valley to capture the sorcerer stronghold of Havendale. Tangus, Kristen, Emmy and the humans now have their own war to fight on the mainland.
Meanwhile, deep below the surface, a new threat arises. The sylph are awake and moving from the depths with one goal in mind... destroy all life on Aster.
It stormed during the night, and the following morning was dreary. Light drizzle kept everything damp and everyone outside miserable. High Priestess Irinushka Abramovich, General Pavel Garin, and a small troop of twenty-four guards, twelve warrior monks of Irinushka’s order and twelve of Pavel’s security detail, made their way to the designated meeting place, the center of Dragon Pass. By the time they had arrived, the Hyrokkin contingent had just left their fort. The Hyrokkin had three times the number of guards.
“Now do you believe me?” Pavel said. “They’re bringing a small army. We should turn back while we still can.”
Irinushka didn’t like the looks of the approaching Hyrokkin either... but wouldn’t let that interfere with her objective. It was too important. “They’re under a flag of truce in neutral territory,” she replied. “Until we know for sure, we stay.”
The Hyrokkin stopped one hundred yards away, dropped the flag of truce to the ground, and raised their attack standard. Scores of arrows filled the air from the back of the Hyrokkin column, while those in the front charged.
“Shields up!” Pavel screamed.
But it was too late. The overcast skies prevented him from spotting the arrows until they were already on their downward trajectory. Eleven of Irinushka’s escort, including Pavel, went down, either dead or wounded. Irinushka dropped to her knees as she inspected Pavel’s wound... but saw he had died instantly with an arrow in his right eye and another in his chest. As she cradled his head in her lap, she looked around. The Hyrokkin where closing rapidly while screaming their war cries as another volley of arrows took flight. All they hit this time were iron shields.
The Draugen Pesta charged forward to meet the Hyrokkin attack, but Irinushka knew it wouldn’t be enough. She stood after gently placing Pavel’s head on the hard, stone floor of the pass.
“I need time,” she said to the two warrior monks who had remained behind to guard her. “Your sacrifice will be remembered in the words of poets... and the prayers of all those in your warrior order.” Both monks knelt to receive Irinushka’s blessing and, once they had it, darted off to join the battle.
Irinushka’s anger took root as she watched the monk’s run to their deaths. It was anger at the death of her one and only love, Pavel... anger at the Hyrokkin treachery... anger at the gullibility of the king to believe peace was possible with the centaurs... and anger at herself for believing the same thing. Looking up into the wet and dark sky, she raised a fist into the air and screamed. It was a primal scream full of hate and self-loathing.
The priestess looked down at the dead and decided enough was enough. “I don’t care if you forgive me or not,” she whispered to her goddess as she raised her hands and chanted:
“Spirit, wind, toxic fire. Read my soul, read my ire.
Doom the ones who cause me pain. Feel the anger I can’t refrain.
Test my fortitude, test my mettle. See the claim I wish to settle.
Heed my call, insidious beasts. Come to me, I grant you release.”
“ANIMA MEA REFERT SURGE!”
The drizzle turned into heavy rain which swallowed up the din of the battle taking place deeper into the pass. Lightning streaked across the sky and thunder shook the ground, knocking Irinushka off her feet. A great crack made its way across the pass in front of the priestess as the ground rose and then dropped back down. Enormous bluish bolts of electricity dropped from the sky and disappeared into the open ground before her, setting off a kaleidoscope of light deep in the depths of the fissure. Then, except for the heavy rain still beating down, silence prevailed, and the light died. Irinushka looked around. There was a feeling of anticipation in the water-drenched air.
The battle between her escort and the Hyrokkin seemed to be over. There were no sounds of swords clanging together, and the screams of the dying and the wounded abruptly ceased.
“The Hyrokkin have won and are dispatching the injured,” Irinushka thought. “They’ll come for me soon.”
Irinushka pulled a knife from her cloak and lowered her body into a defensive fighting stance. She knew she was going to die... but she was determined to make her death as expensive to the Hyrokkin as possible.
The footfalls of the centaurs could now be differentiated from the rainfall, but another sound caught her attention. It came from the opening in the pass floor. Irinushka first heard a great tearing as if a bed sheet were being ripped in two but multiplied a thousand times. Then she heard the screams and cries of millions of inhuman voices.
As Irinushka stared, a wet fog of steam rose from the fractured pass and blocked her ability to see clearly. She closed her eyes and concentrated. After a few seconds, her mind separated and identified the different sounds. She heard the Hyrokkin come closer as their hooves clattered on the stone floor of the pass. She heard the rain sizzle as it went down into the breach in the earth. Whatever was down there must be incredibly hot. She heard inhuman voices – voices that cried for release – voices that cried for the freedom to mangle, slaughter, and destroy. Finally, she heard movement deep within the fog. She knew at that moment her prayer had been answered. And it terrified her.
Forms rose from the great crevice and took shape in the mist. There were seven and they were monstrous. Each was twenty-seven feet tall. Atop their dragon torsos were large dog-like heads, but instead of two eyes, there were six, three to each side. The gold-colored eyes sparkled with intelligence, wisdom, and something else Irinushka couldn’t quite put her finger on. Perhaps it was a great weariness. The scales on their bodies shimmered with a shiny black coloration which reflected light back at the observer. Four powerful arms protruded out of the torso... each ending with a three-talon hand. Four legs, each clawed, as thick as the trunk of a large tree, and as long as Irinushka’s ten-foot height, secured these great beasts to the ground. Their tails extended another fifteen feet and ended in a three-talon tip. But the most significant part of these creatures... Irinushka thought the most beautiful part... were the wings. Each wing was twenty feet long with large claws protruding outward from the point where the delicate wing skeletal structure began. The membrane on each wing was flexible and nimble but also appeared to be very tough. Like the body, the wings shimmered a deep purple which faded about half-way down and turned to crimson. Gold flakes covered the wings and sparkled even in the dim light of the dreary day.
The charging Hyrokkin came to a sudden stop when the creatures came into their view. The world had never seen the like, and they were unsure how to proceed. As much as they wanted to take the head of the Draugen Pesta priestess back with them to prove their great victory, they weren’t in any hurry to lose their lives in doing so... at least not until they had gauged the fighting prowess of the huge creatures standing before them.
Six of the creatures turned to face the Hyrokkin while the remaining one moved closer to Irinushka. Towering over her, it looked down.
“I am Michael,” he said. “You’ve called upon us at a most inconvenient time, priestess. But we have vowed to answer. What is your pleasure?”
Irinushka stared. She had been expecting horrid creatures to do her bidding and not such an impressive exquisiteness.
Michael seemed to understand Irinushka’s momentary delay. “Do not confuse splendor with weakness,” he said. “My brethren and I spend our long lives battling demons... demons that would otherwise invade your world. You’re lucky it is us who intercepted and answered your call. The demons your summoning was intended are impossible to control and would have ravaged you. Now, we’re wasting time. What do you require of us?”
Irinushka, still staring, pointed at the waiting Hyrokkin.
“You wish them dead?” Michael asked. “They do not appear to be a threat at the present moment.”
Irinushka finally found her voice. “They attacked under a flag of truce and murdered my people,” she replied angrily. “They deserve the same consideration. I command you to kill them!”
Michael turned to look at the Hyrokkin, who by this time had read the situation and were beginning to retreat. “And?” he asked after turning his attention back to the priestess.
“And...” Irinushka dropped to her knees once again, cradled Pavel’s head in her lap, and kissed his forehead. When she looked back up at Michael there were tears in her eyes.
“Ahh... I see,” Michael said. “You want retribution.”
“Yes!” Irinushka answered before shaking her head. “No! I want justice! I want them punished!”
Michael studied the priestess as she cradled the head of the one she loved. She continued to weep… her tears mixed with the rain as they fell. “Punishment is something I understand.” Michael turned to his waiting comrades and nodded his head. The Hyrokkin tried to escape their doom, but it was impossible.
Irinushka heard their screams over the incessant pounding of the rainfall. She tried to push her feelings aside but found she couldn’t. She now regretted dealing with the Hyrokkin in such a harsh manner.
Michael continued to study her. He understood the emotions he saw in her eyes... in her body language. “I see you comprehend the finality of your actions. It’s a heavy burden to sentence one to death... even if that’s what they deserve. It’s an even greater burden to be the executioner.”
Irinushka looked up. “I didn’t...”
“You didn’t what?” Michael interrupted. “You didn’t end their lives? You’ve no blood on your hands?” Michael paused to let his words find meaning. “Accept your responsibility in this killing.”
“I...” Irinushka stopped and looked back down. “You’re right. It’s no different than if I had run them through with a sword myself. But it’s not what I was trained to do. As a priestess, I’m supposed to succor, not destroy. I feel... dirty... like I’ve betrayed my vows.”
Michael nodded. “Yes, in this instance we were your sword. But we’re not your conscience.” Michael paused as he considered. “Priestess, I don’t know if this helps, but those we killed were evil. We wouldn’t have done it otherwise. Is it not your duty to protect the good from such evil? If so you have done well today.”
Irinushka stood. “Thank you, but that’s little consolation.”
Michael shrugged his shoulders. “So be it. Listen closely, priestess. We intervened to save you and your world from a great mistake. Demons should never be used as a solution to a problem. Though we answered your call, that does not mean you commanded us. Nor does it mean we will always act upon your best interests... if those interests don’t coincide with ours. Remember that for the future.”
“I understand,” Irinushka replied.
Michael picked up a stone and made a fist around it. The unmistakable gleam of magic surrounded his hand, and when he opened it, a small, chained locket had replaced the stone. He handed it to Irinushka. “As I mentioned, we only came here by mere happenstance since your summoning was intended to call a demon. That would have been most unfortunate. The next time you have need of us, use this.”
Irinushka bowed. “My people are in your debt,” she said.
Michael nodded. “We will be your Doom Warriors,” he said before he turned to join his companions at the edge of the crevice. Without another word, each flapped their wings to gain altitude before diving back into its depths. As Irinushka watched them spread their wings to take flight, she thought they were the most beautiful creatures she’d ever seen. Shortly after the Doom Warriors disappeared, the crevice closed, leaving no sign it had ever existed. She put the locket around her neck and under her tunic next to her bare skin, turned, and began her walk back to Fort Extreme. She needed to coordinate retrieval of the bodies and report the day’s happenings to her liege. As she made her way, she debated telling the king about her newly discovered allies. The more she thought about it, however, the more she felt Pavel was right. The king wasn’t sane enough to use the locket wisely.
Robert E. Balsley, Jr honed his fantasy writing skills as a game master in Dungeons and Dragons over twenty-five years. During that time he developed the thoughts and ideas that turned into the Bridge of Magic series. The Salvation of Innocence is the first book of that trilogy and Robert's debut novel. Robert graduated from Elder High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. He served in the US Air Force for six years. After his discharge, Robert started working at Tinker Air Force Base in Central Oklahoma where he's been an engineering technician, first level supervisor, and lead technician. Robert retired in late 2014. He left Oklahoma and currently lives in Burlington, Kentucky. He and his wife have three children, three grandchildren, and three dogs.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I’m a long-time Dungeon and Dragons player. The first few games I was prepared as the Dungeon Master (DM) came from existing modules that can be bought from most book or gaming stores. But as I matured and gained more confidence as a DM, I preferred writing my own games using my own ideas. Using experience gained as a technical writer in my civilian job with the USAF, my games were extremely detail orientated, original, and offered up adventures that were tailored around the players themselves. My modules were standalone… but they were also built to serve as steppingstones in a much larger storyline. It wasn’t long before my players – my friends – were saying I should write a book. After I retired, I set out to do just that. The genesis of The Salvation of Innocence came from a storyline in one of my games. And every one of my D&D friends are characters in the books (trilogy, actually). It was easy to develop their personas because I’ve known them for decades.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
I refuse to watch any live game on TV that one of my favorite teams is playing in (particularly Oklahoma University football). I consider myself a jinx. This goes back to the early eighties. My wife reports to me during the game with scores and updates. I won’t even watch another game because of the scores that scroll along the bottom. I’m not just quirky, I’m weird.
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you!
It was 1993 and I was a First Level Supervision at Tinker AFB. Part of my responsibilities was the management of all the communications records for all Air Forces bases and sites worldwide. There was an near fatal accident at Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, when an project installation team member went into an electrical manhole instead of a communications manhole. Part of the accident findings referenced faulty records. I was sent to help resolve any of the issues within my purview. While there I was able to take a tour of “the Mountain”, a huge complex built underneath an actual mountain. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
What are some of your pet peeves?
Hypocrisy. Double standards. The phrase “At the end of the day.” (Though I’ve caught myself saying it every once in a while.) Lying. Messiness.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I was born in Sioux City, Iowa. (My father was stationed there while he was in the Air Force. It’s where he met mom.) When I was about four, we moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where dad was from. A little while later we moved about forty miles east to the town of Fayetteville, Ohio. We lived there until I was about twelve, then we moved back to Cincinnati.
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
With family. I’d also smoke a few cigarettes. I quit a little over twenty-five years ago and still miss them from time to time.
Who is your hero and why?
The easy answer is dad. Though my family wasn’t rich, we always had what we needed, including an example of how we should live our lives. I also had a boss with whom I worked for many years. A lot of my ability as a writer is due to his tutelage. Then there’s the American veteran, especially the combat veteran. Two words sum up “Why?” Our freedom.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
I would never be a world leader. I believe in countries, each with their own individual identity and control of their own future. Anything close to a one world government would be detrimental to our liberty and our right to choose how we wish to live our life.
What are you passionate about these days?
I’m most passionate about what the future holds for this country. I see too many forces within that are actively trying to change what this country stands for. Forces that want to destroy the only beacon of light and freedom in the world.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
Mostly watch TV… but I’m also hooked on Face Book. Music and a good book also helps me to relax.
How to find time to write as a parent?
My kids are grown and making success out of their own lives. But when they were still at home, I set a block of time every Saturday morning before anyone else was awake. Though I wasn’t writing a book then, I was creating my own D&D games.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Stiff, severe outside, teddy-bear inside.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I haven’t gotten to that point yet.
Do you have a favorite movie?
This is pretty much an impossible question. The two movies that affected me the most are “The Exorcist” and “Alien”. The movie I probably enjoyed the most is a close tie between “Robinhood, Men in Tights” and “Spaceballs”.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
I can see my entire trilogy made into a movie… a “Lord of the Rings” type thing.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Definitely a panther… but a wolf is a very close second. Dire wolves play a very important part in my trilogy and will continue to in future books.
What inspired you to write this book?
As I mentioned, the storyline came from a D&D game I created for my players. Two of those players, dear friends and the inspiration for the Tangus and Kristen characters in my trilogy, met and married… but apparently having a child together wasn’t in the cards. So I created the empath Emmy, as well as her background story, to give them a child in the game. When I made the decision to try my hand at writing, I knew this was the story I wanted to expand upon and tell.
What can we expect from you in the future?
The third book of my initial trilogy establishes several new storylines which will be concluded in a second trilogy. No working titles as of yet. I have decided, however, to take a different approach. Instead of marrying all the characters and their storylines, I’m going to write about each new storyline in its entirety before moving on to the next. Essentially the trilogy will consist of three or four novellas. At least that’s the plan for now. Things may change after I start actually writing the stories.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
Not at the present moment. However, I have written a short story about two undead dire wolves which I plan on incorporating into the next trilogy.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in the trilogy?
One thing I can say about the characters in my trilogy there are a lot. Most of the characters of importance are introduced in the first book, The Salvation of Innocence. Father Horatio Goram, if not the main character, is certainly one of the main catalysts. Think Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings, except he doesn’t mysteriously disappear and reappear when trouble comes. Then there’s Emmy, the last empath, a child who is at is the center of the entire trilogy. At first she’s just what she appears, particularly in the first book. As the trilogy progresses, she becomes more and more involved until her transcendence at the end of the third book.
Kristen and Tangus become Emmy’s adoptive parents. Kristen, a priestess who was orphaned and raised by Father Goram and his first wife, Mary McKenna, has a bond with Emmy that was in place even before Kristen was born. That bond drives Kristen to Emmy, who after over three thousand years, is in grave danger. As the last empath, any harm to her will have severe and long-lasting consequences for the entire world of Aster. Tangus, Kristen’s eventual love and husband, is an experienced ranger who spent much of his early life adventuring. There’s no one better then Tangus in rangering. His love for Kristen, Emmy, and his daughter by another, Jennifer, is the center of his being.
Autumn is another priestess whose specialty is natural healing, though she can use magic when necessary. She becomes Father Goram’s second wife. Though completely devoted to her husband, she’s a survivor… strong, level-headed, intelligent and not afraid to speak her mind.
Mordecai Lannian is the principle antagonist. He’s your typical power-hungry politician born into a wealthy family and warped by a craving for power. As part of his machinations, he manages to manipulate Vayl, Father Goram’s right hand, to turn traitor and work as Mordecai’s inside man. This becomes complicated because Vayl legitimately loves some of the people he’s betraying.
Finally, Nightshade. She’s a demon who Mordecai has summoned, thus giving him control over her, to be his assassin. She unusual for a demon in that she develops the tiniest spark of goodness in her soul. Eventually this spark matters, but not in the first book, whereas she kills for Mordecai without remorse.
There’s plenty of other important players, both good and bad, but these are the principles in book one. I have knights, a queen, Marines, a captain and crew, and Tangus’ old adventuring buddies. And dire wolves. I love the dire wolves in my books. They’re protectors, guardians, faithful companions, early warning systems, and everything else that’s good in animals.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
I’ve already discussed the fact that a lot of the characters are based upon characters played by friends in my D&D gaming sessions. The other characters… at least a good number… are generated based upon the situation I write myself into (for example - a ocean voyage is involved, so I created a captain, her first officer, other officers and crewmen). I also create storylines as the book evolves. Essentially I know how to get to point A and point B, but I’m never sure of the route I’ll be taking. That changes every time I get behind the computer screen. It’s how I write… and sometimes the additional storylines require new characters (some of which become important depending upon the importance of the storyline). My wife calls it “chasing rabbits”. I call it genius. ?
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
As I previously mentioned, most of the main characters were actually named by the D&D players who played them in my games. As for all the others, some were just random names I thought up. However, as I got further along in the books, I realized I needed a better way to distinguish races… including names. For most of the elves, I used several elf name generators found on the internet in the public domain. The sailors are based upon the British, the Draugan Pesta are based upon the Russians, the dark elves are based upon the Chinese, dwarves are based upon the Scots, etc. Once I’ve determined the real-world nationality, naming the characters is nothing more then selection.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I think the most enjoyment I get out of writing is the exploration of new thoughts and ideas and, if I like them, the incorporation of those ideas into the storyline. I’m a fly-by-my-pants type of writer. Many times when I get behind the keyboard, I have no specific idea just where my writings are going to take me. Developing day-to-day ideas and successfully integrating them into the story gives me a great deal of satisfaction and pleasure.
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
Pretty much discussed this above.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
In my world, the last empath also represents the ultimate innocence. Specifically, Emmy is the innocence the world needs to survive, but there are forces that wish to destroy her. The first book tells the story of her rescue, the second of the fight to keep her safe, and the third shows, in some respects, her transformation into a powerful force in her own right that no longer requires protection. Her innocence is lost as a result of her growth. Considering this, the titles came easily.
Who designed your book covers?
Book Cover Designer
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Speaking about my first book, The Salvation of Innocence, I would have edited it better. Now that I have two additional books under my belt, I can see areas that I would probably remove. I also didn’t use contractions as much as I should have.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
When I first started out, it was more of a test to see if I could do it. My real motivation was to prove to myself, and everyone I know who believed I’d be a decent author, that I could do it. As I wrote the first book, I realized I had more in me then just a one and done. As I wrote the second book, I came to understand that I enjoy writing. It isn’t a chore. But it is hard work.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I’m not a huge moviegoer, so I’m not overly familiar with all the stars and starlets that might be available. I don’t really have a preference.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
First, you have to understand my works are fantasy. I’m a sixty-five-year-old man who’s spent decades reading fantasy and playing Dungeons and Dragons. In a fantasy world, all kinds of possibilities exist. Magic is commonplace and creatures exist that defies rational thought. Ghosts, demons, dragons, elves, dwarves, an intelligent boulder, and other creatures taken from the depths of my imagination are standard fare. My world has good and evil (not unusual)… but good can turn evil and vice versa. It also offers travel through space and time to different worlds and realities. In other words, be prepared to allow you imagination to roam free. Keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to accept the impossible.
How did you come up with name of this book?
Pretty much discussed this above.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
Instead of specifics, I think I’d prefer to answer this question in generalities. I really like the interaction between characters, particularly those who have been friends for many years. I’ve been able to capture the banter that occurs between friends as they go about their day to day life… as they rely upon each other to survive dangerous situations… the way they blow off steam… even the tall, wild tales they tell each other, sometimes for the umpteenth time.
I also really enjoy the different perspectives I use to show a bit of the action as it occurs. Be it from the perspective of a frog, or a young rabbit, two love-starved wyverns, or my favorite, dire wolves, I try to outline what’s going on from the viewpoint of those other than important characters.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Landross, Father Goram’s guard commander at Calmacil Clearing and a knight. I’d love to spend the day horse riding, taking lessons in swordsmanship, visiting with the dire wolf pack that calls Calmacil Clearing home, and listening to a few of Landross’ stories of his experiences.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
Some of the characters are based on friends I roleplay with (as I mentioned above). The personalities they brought to our games are the same personalities I used for their matching book personas. Kristen, Tangus, Elrond, Max, Azriel, Lester, and Safire are the characters based off real people.
Father Goram… he’s kinda based off my usual persona when I’m playing and not DMing. I say kinda because during games I’m not usually putting myself in a leadership position. But in real life, most of my career was spent either as a first-level supervisor or section lead, not only responsible for mission requirements and management, but also for training.
Everybody else in my novels are made up on the fly, usually born through need or to meet a storyline requirement. For example, in the second book I introduced Elbedreth the sylph. She was originally intended to be an antagonist… a boogieman… but as I was writing that storyline, I suddenly turned and chased another rabbit (another storyline came to me) and I made her an important character who realizes her fate (my goals) in the third book. Since she and Azriel have become inseparable, I’m sure she’ll be in my next trilogy.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story, or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
I’ve got complete control… though I do create storylines if I develop a new character that I become enraptured with. I also kill characters regardless of how fond of them I am. My novels do not have happy ever-after’s. Like real life itself, compromises must be made, and my characters need to make the best of what’s given to them. Sometimes that has to be enough. This isn’t to say my novels are overly dark. There’s plenty of humor, and the needs of most of my characters are seen to.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
That, in my opinion, is an almost impossible task. There’s so much available by established authors… and if you’re the type of person who likes to need stuff from new authors, there’s plenty of that out there as well. So what makes mine different? Well, it’s rather simple. My books are good. Sure, there’s the normal good vs evil, exciting battle sequences, sacrifices, likeable characters striving to overcome challenges, etc. But I think the strength is the character development and character interaction with each other. As I’ve already mentioned, many of the main characters are based upon the personalities of the people I’ve role played with for decades. They’re my friends. I show them not only in their role-playing persona, but also their real-life personas. It simply doesn’t get any more genuine than that.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
In my head, yes. But this trilogy represents my only output.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
Lilac, because that’s my favorite scent.
What did you edit out of this book?
Nothing of real significance. A lot of my editing occurs during the creation of the book. Ideas that didn’t work… sentences that made no sense… rearrangement of ideas up and down the manuscript. I don’t make an outline, so there have been occasions wherein I have a thought I really like that conflicts with something I addressed earlier in the book. This forces me to retreat and fix the earlier parts.
When I complete a book, I put it through a three- edit process. The first edit is a read of the entire book. From that I pick up any obvious errors in grammar, consistency, content, flow, plot problems. Then I use ProWritingAid to edit the book a second time. I’ve found this to be an excellent basic editing tool which catches even more problems. Finally, I do another complete read to make sure I’m completely satisfied before I publish it.
Is there an writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
There’s so many authors I like in many different genre’s, it’d be hard to pick just one from all that talent.
Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes/Did You Know?'-type tidbits about the author, the book or the writing process of the book.
-I’m superstitious. I never watch any of the college and professional teams I support. At least not live.
-I’m a bit of a neat freak… but I don’t write with any kind of outline or logical process.
-I’m retired and I don’t really like leaving the house, much to my wife’s never-ending frustration.
-The book is based on a storyline I originally developed for a Dungeon and Dragons game.
-When I write, some days when I get behind the keyboard, I don’t have any idea what I’m going to write. It’s not that I rely on last minute inspiration… though there’s plenty of that. I enjoy developing my ideas spontaneously.
-I’m not one to sit down and write for hours at a time. I usually only manage about two hours a day, almost every day.
-I enjoy painting myself into a corner as I write. At first it scared the crap out of me. But now, when it does happen, I enjoy the challenge of working myself out of it. Most times I can… and some of those times the fix evolved into either a major plot or character. (When I say I painted myself into a corner, in many cases it means I zigged on a storyline when I decided after the fact that I wanted to zag. For example, in The Struggle of Innocence, I introduced the threat of the sylph. But before that, my intention was to have a mysterious creature in the tunnels below Elanesse. The creature killed one of the main characters… Max. He comes back as a ghost, BTW. Then I decided to make the sylph simply an animal defending her lair instead of something evil. As I did that, I gave her a personality and a name… Elbedreth. I ended up liking her. That was the corner I painted myself into. In the process of developing her background… the reason she was down there… I came up with the threat of the sylph to the world of Aster. For the most part I like paring characters off. That’s how Azriel went from a rowdy dwarf to a rowdy sylph. I’m still not sure about the why of his conversion, just that he went through it. I’ve somewhat explored it, but no definitive answer presented itself to me. Another corner that may or may not be answered in a future book.)
-I have to admit, the book stretches your imagination. Fortunately it’s fantasy, so a bit of “wild speculation is acceptable. For example, I have an intelligent, flying boulder. He’s pretty badass but can be funny at times. He a permanent character and I love him. There’s also an intelligent city whose physical manifestation is a tree. Her champion is also a tree… who used to be… well, you’ll have to read the books. ?
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
The Dragon Riders of Pern series/Anne McCaffrey.
The Sword of Truth series/Terry Goodkind
The Foundation Trilogy/Isaac Asimov
The Game of Thrones series/George R.R. Martin
The Belgariad and the Malloreon/David Eddings
The Deryni series/Katherine Kurtz
The Black Company series, Garrett P.I. series/Glen Cook
Destroyermen series/Taylor Anderson
The Dresden Files/Jim Butcher
Drizzt series/R.A. Salvatore
What book do you think everyone should read?
I’d like to say The Salvation of Innocence, but that’s kind of selfish. In truth, I can’t think of a book that has had, or has, more of an influence on people than the Bible. If this is a standard answer, then that would be because it’s the truth.
How long have you been writing?
Books? Since late 2014. Dungeon and Dragon games? Since the mid-nineties.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
Most come to me as I write. Mostly because the storyline demanded it.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
I haven’t really done any research before I write. Since I write in the fantasy genre, there’s not a lot of fact checking I need to do before I start. However, I do research as I’m writing. For example, in The Salvation of Innocence, a sea voyage was required. Instead of glossing it over, I research the construction, parts of, and manning of ships from the 1700’s, particularly British ships of the line. I studied combat strategy and envisioned how to apply that past philosophy to fight off a dragon. I also researched land combat tactics from the medieval age as well as the different types of army units and their strengths. As for the Marines I have in my trilogy, I pretty much use modern-day U.S. Marines as my guide.
Do you see writing as a career?
No. The people who are successful writers have several things in common… they have talent and they either have connections or provided a story that caught the public’s imagination. I call that catching “lightning in a bottle”. I don’t think my talent level is on par with successful writers, though I may be selling myself short.
What do you think about the current publishing market?
Hard to crack. I consider myself lucky that Dove and Dragon Publishing decided to take me on. But that doesn’t mean my chances at success are guaranteed… just somewhat better. Demand dictates how well my novels are received… and there’s a lot of material out there to satisfy that demand.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
I do, though not as much as I used to. Too many other things to occupy my time. My favorite genre is fantasy, but I also enjoy science fiction, horror, sometimes crime, and books about WWII.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
If I understand the question, I write with noise. I love writing with new age music (like Enya) in the background. Most weekdays, however, I write with FOX Business in the background. When I was writing games for my D&D sessions, I listened to classical music on my CD player. Sometimes the music inspires, sometimes it calms, sometimes it picks me up, particularly if I need to figure just exactly where I want my storyline to go (or how, which is just as important).
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
My books seem like they are several going at one time. I use many different storylines and characters to get from Point A to Point B. But the direct answer is one at a time.
If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?
I think it would be the Lord of the Ring series. Those books pretty much set the standard for future fantasy books and D&D games and books.
Pen or typewriter or computer?
Definitely computer. It spell checks as I write, allows me to cut and paste if and when I decide a particular storyline, paragraph, or sentence, allows me to save my work using several different formats, allows me to insert illustrations, checks basic grammar, etc, etc, etc. I know that some writers consider pen as the only pure form… but all that ever does for me is hurt my wrist, not to mention it’s slower which means my mind is always three ideas ahead.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book.
I love ‘em all, but perhaps the one character I like writing about best is probably is Azriel. He’s a dwarf turned sylph who’s a bit outlandish. What I like about him is his lack of filter on both his thinking and his talking. He’s brash, short-tempered, and very opinionated. Yet he has a good heart and is willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good.
What made you want to become an author and do you feel it was the right decision?
I’m retired, so I’m not earning a living with my writing, so there isn’t the financial pressure. But the decision to write was definitely the right decision. I enjoy it immensely.
A day in the life of the author?
Up at about 0800-0830, depending upon when my dogs decide when it’s time. Prepare for the day, get the dogs out and make the coffee. At 0900 I turn on the FOX Business Network (Varney and Co.) and watch while getting caught up with emails and Facebook. At 1000, downstairs to my space… man cave… where I surround myself with dragons, spaceships, castles, D&D miniatures, airplanes, etc. Turn on the TV (back to FOX Business) and get started writing. I stop around 1230 for lunch and some afternoon TV. (I’m gotten to where I like to watch old-time westerns like Gunsmoke, Big Valley, Bonanza). Break for time on the treadmill, then back upstairs for a shower. Feed the dogs, watch evening TV while reading or, too my horror, get on Facebook. I call it a day around 0100. (These are just the days I stay home, which, I must admit, I really, really like.)
Advice they would give new authors?
Don’t quite your day job. Being a successful writer (money wise), regardless of talent, isn’t a guarantee. It’s a fact of life. Take care of your family first.
Describe your writing style.
By the seat of my pants. I don’t outline (though I do make notes of ideas I have that I might cash in on later), nor do I particularly know what’s going to come out of my mind when I sit down to write. I have an intimate knowledge of Point A and Point B… but everything in between is a concept… a vague idea waiting to be discovered.
When I’m finished with a particular section, I sit back and take my time studying it. Is it written well? Does it make sense? Does it fit in with the rest of the story to date? Will it force me to revise earlier storylines? Is it something that needs to be expounded until later in the novel? Does it add to the plot? Does it illustrate the action that’s going on? A lot of different factors… but when I’m buried in my manuscript, it’s not too difficult.
What makes a good story?
The normal things… decent plot, likable characters, action, a few little surprises to keep things interesting, originality, and probably a happy ending. Sometimes happy endings are a bit hard to get to depending upon the author. George R.R. Martin’s Sword of Truth books have few, if any, happy endings.
What are they currently reading?
Right now I’m back into reading books about World War II. The book I’m reading now is “World War II at Sea - A Global History” by Craig L. Symonds.
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first? What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I make occasional notes, but I don’t do outlines. Why, I don’t know. I guess the main reason is because I really don’t know how the story is going to get from Point A to Point B. I chase too many rabbits… take too may different paths that don’t really present themselves until I walk the road, so to speak. An outline might serve to restrict my thoughts. Though it might be difficult to understand by some authors, but some of my coolest ideas have come when I ask myself, “What’s going to happen here?” while I’m actually writing. For example, in my third book, two of my main characters are deep underground and come across a dragon horde. In Dungeons and Dragons lore, evil black dragons can be found underground. As I had my characters study the situation (all they wanted to do was pass through the chamber with the horde), it occurred to me “What if the horde were protected by a young, inexperienced, and somewhat incompetent dragon? And what if the black dragons weren’t evil? What if the young dragon was actually part of a clan that had left to pursue a cause that had commonality with the mission of the two characters passing through?” I played with the idea and Jörmungander the Black Dragon was born. After a rather tense beginning, he ends up being dear friends with the other characters. I had no idea he’d come into being, along with an entire storyline about his black dragon clan, when I sat down for that writing session. I’m not sure that could have happened if I restricted myself to an outline.
I start at the beginning and plod through until the end. To me it must be linear. I don’t want to think about Chapter Two until I get there.
Two things I’d consider common traps for aspiring authors. One, don’t try to make your way of telling your story identical to someone else. Be yourself. Sure, follow the common rules like grammar and format, but tell the story in your own way. That will make your writing more natural… and you’ll be more comfortable. You’ll like writing and that will help to insure you keep writing. Two, your first effort will not be your best. I’ve written three novels. I was extremely proud of that first one. That’s normal. But as I wrote my second, and then my third, I realized my first wasn’t my best. I learned as I wrote each. I really liked the second and I love the third. But that first one, while not bad, could be better. (In still might do a second edition someday, but for now, I have too many other projects.) Don’t let any disappointment in your first cause you to stop writing. Euphoria always has a downside.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
This one’s easy. I can’t write more than a couple of hours in one sitting. I just can’t. I have to push myself away from the keyboard and go on to other things, then come back the next day, refreshed.
I follow a lot of author’s pages on Facebook and I’m constantly see folks post how they wrote 5,000 or 10,000 words that day. Some even have a word number that they want to achieve every day. There’s been plenty of times when I only wrote a single paragraph. (Obviously these are times when I’m working through plot problems.) When you’re writing novels that are 50,000 to 220,000 words each, it means that the book’s going to take a long time to get written. So is the editing.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I work for originality and hope that’s enough to give the readers what they want. Some of the creatures I’ve created in my trilogy are really fantastic. Sometimes I wonder if that might turn a reader off. To combat that, I usually end up giving these creatures personalities… something the reader can relate to… and a part in the storyline. I feel comfortable writing about a gruff flying boulder with a sense of humor… or purple-stripped saber-tooth tigers teaming up with main characters to fight off evil. It’s actually part of what I enjoy about writing.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
That writing is fun. I’m not a full-time writer who’s trying to make a living off it. My publisher hasn’t put any deadlines on me. (Well, perhaps a few… but certainly nothing that was overwhelming.) So I’m not under any pressure. But before I started, I didn’t think I’d be any good at it, even though my family and friends thought different. I thought it was going to be a lot of work for not much gain. Just the opposite, in fact. If what I did wasn’t any good, what would my family and friends think.
But as it turned out, I have a lot of fun with my writing. I visit new worlds, meet new people, and get to do all the things that are impossible otherwise. As it stands now, I’d be kind of lost if I couldn’t spend my two hours a day writing.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I’m surrounded by females… my wife, my daughters, my sisters, a lot of my friends, even my three female dogs. It’s easy to use them as examples. (I don’t write romance, so I don’t ever need to get that intimate.) Consequently, I don’t really struggle much with female characters. A good portion of the female characters I have in my trilogy are strong and just as capable as males. I have a female ship captain, female priestesses, female generals and admirals, and a couple of queens. I do give them a bit more power to be sympathetic, but other than that, I treat them as I would a male in the same positions. That’s not to say I don’t have any situations wherein the male has to step in and save the female… but that’s what people in love do, isn’t it? (I think everyone should have a partner. Almost all of my characters have a love interest.)
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
My first book took a little over a year to write, edit, and publish. (At the time I didn’t have a publisher, so I self-published with CreateSpace, now KDP.) But of the three, it had the least amount of words, and fewer storylines. My third novel, and my longest, has been a three-year project.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Yes, but strangely, I’ve haven’t. I kind of suspect writer’s block is more writer boredom… boredom with the current project. It’s impossible to maintain the same level of enthusiasm a writer has at the beginning of a project over a sustained period of time.
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