Sunwielder Gets a Makeover

EBOOK low res

As part of my conversion to indie publishing, my books are getting new covers. Once again, Jennifer Munswami of Rising Horse Creations has done her magic. This was a much more difficult cover because finding an image of Gryff as I pictured him in my head was impossible. Isn’t that funny? Writing and reading is so visual, and we become hopelessly attached to the pictures in our heads!

Now, what kind of author would I be if I didn’t try to hook you?

Prolog

The warrior rode in silence. Black oaks and silvergreen, dark with summer leaves, swathed the trail in shifting shadow. Shafts of sunlight speared the forest floor, altered only by the graceful sway of branches in the heated wind. She directed the mare with her knees, an arrow nocked in the recurve bow, a full quiver hanging from her pommel. A short sword with a breath of a curve rested in its scabbard at her belt, the ornate guard and curling quillon studded with moonstones.

Even this far from the battlefield, the land of Aldykar was riddled with brigands, deserters, and the soldiers hunting them. Yet she wore no armor, only the leathers of her homeland, tawny jerkin and breeches, soft-soled boots laced to the knee. Her hair, the red of old blood, flared in the filtered light, brushing her cheeks. Slanted gray eyes, pale as winter clouds, scanned the dark recesses of rock and fern in the hollows beneath the trees. The meeting place lay in a foreign wilderness, a place not unknown to her for she’d traveled the roadways and trails between Edriis and Mastrelle before, as maiden and warrior. Why the old woman chose the woods of Casbonny caused her wonder and filled her with wariness.

An owl’s solemn voice hooted in the moving shadows. The clearing lay ahead through columns of black bark, the round glade sunbathed and thick with fine grass. A young silvergreen grew in its center, branches filigreed steel in the pool of light. Her grandmother stood before the tree, arms at her side, gray hair plaited at her back. An odd expression imprinted her smooth face, a blend of relief, hope, and terrible resignation. “I am alone, Estriilde,” she said.

Songbirds quipped and called in the trees, offering no warning of predators. Estriilde relaxed her bowstring and slipped the arrow into her quiver. A long leg swung over the saddle, and she landed lightly at the shadow’s edge. “We live today, Grandmother,” she said in greeting.

“We live today.” Again the sorrow.

“Why all the trouble to meet at this place?” She tethered Morning Dove to a branch at the glade’s rim. “I ride to Angefell in eight days.”

That she’d received her grandmother’s missive at all seemed a toss left to chance, though she knew better. The old one glimpsed the endless arrays of time, how each moment unfolded like a fan with infinite future possibilities. She traveled them, followed their paths, tracked the splintering of lives, chose and chose through the moments to see where they wended and died.

“You know I bear a vision, my little one.”

Little one? Estriilde smiled. They were Edriisan, statuesque compared to the women of Aldykar, and she stood a hand taller than her grandmother. “This place is part of a path?”

Clasping her hand, the woman drew her into the glade’s light. “Every moment is a path. Yet this is the only one that will save you. The only one I could find. You have died a thousand times.”

Estriilde sighed. “Only today exists.”

“Only now exists, Estriilde. Only now, but I cannot help seeing what I see.”

“What will happen here?” She withdrew from her grandmother’s grasp and walked the edge of the grass in a slow circle, her right hand fingering the hilt of her sword.

The old one’s reply laced the air with ice, “The stranger will come when he hears you scream.”

“Am I to die today?” Estriilde slid the blade free, sunlight glinting on watery steel.

“It is the only way,” the gray woman whispered.

“You invite me to my death, Grandmother.” Estriilde gazed at the forlorn eyes, so like her own. “I will not die easily.”

“You will scream.”

Eyes closed, Estriilde raised her face to the cloudless sky. “Will you stay to see me fall?”

“I cannot, my child. But I will sing for you when you’re dead.”

The birds stilled, their calls frozen in the thick air. The debris of the forest floor rustled and snapped beneath the soft thud of approaching hooves.

“It comes now?” She cast a sideways glance through a wisp of blood red hair to find her grandmother gone.

Bearing weapons of war, the riders reined their mounts at the rim of the glade and slid from their saddles.

Then the screaming began.

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pixabay

 

Writing for the audience of…me.

pixabay image compilation

pixabay image compilation

Days before Sunwielder first hit the press in 2014, my publisher emailed me a question. “Sunwielder has a little of everything: war, romance, love, friendship, violence, and humor. What audience did you write it for?”

Good question.

It’s a blessing she and I communicated by email, or she would have seen the clueless, dumb-ass look on my face, my mouth forming my snappy, cutting-edge reply, “Uh…Oops.”

Without a doubt, the inquiry got me thinking, and to be honest, it wasn’t the first time I’ve contemplated the idea of writing with an audience in mind. I suppose many authors do, and from a marketing perspective, having a target consumer in mind is…um…what’s the word…imperative?

But I can’t write that way, at least not intentionally. My stories feel more organic than that, coalescing in the puny nutshell of my brain and suddenly cracking open into consciousness. I can only write from the inside out, and therefore, I wonder, is the audience…me?

The answer in a way is “yes.” The stories and characters compel me to put them to paper; the themes invade the little globe of my life. They can’t help but reflect elements of my worldview, my real and imagined experiences, my despairs and hopes. If I consider this question logically, why would any artist put heart and soul into a work of art she or he didn’t like?

As a person entering the last third of life, I spend a portion of my idle minutes musing over past choices and the myriad shifts they prompted in the winding path of my own story. This sunny-afternoon, garden-gazing pondering definitely informed Sunwielder. Those who most “get” the book, it seems, share this stage of life with me and the accompanying tendency toward reflection. So, yeah, the audience is probably “yours truly.” Thankfully, I’m a fairly run-of-the-mill human being to which a few souls out there can relate.

So, why does Sunwielder have a little of everything? I suppose because that’s how I perceive the complexity and poignancy of an authentic life. What human life isn’t a conglomeration of different bits, a pie chart of multiple, disparate wedges forming a whole? Gryff Worden, the Sunwielder, needs to be relatable, and though the details of his story may differ from ours, I’d argue that the reality of the way choices sculpt his life is universal to us all.

Sunwielder will be reissued within the week as a self-published book. Stay tuned.

Sunwielder Moments

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image from en.wikipedia.org

“I don’t think I can die, Estriilde,” Gryff said quietly, his first words since the peak of the bridge.

“You’ve pickled your head in wine, Farmer,” Estriilde replied. They hurried toward her tent, so close to being free of the wind.

“It’s not the wine,” he persisted. “It’s the sunwield. I don’t believe it will let me die.”

“We all die, Farmer.” Her cloak opening wide as wings, she flew ahead. He plodded behind her, entering the dark tent as she fumbled to light the brazier. Sparks flinted to life and the fire began its fight to banish the cold. He sank onto a stool as Estriilde sat back on her heels and studied him. “Every one of us dies in our time.”

Drawing on the leather cord, he lifted the medallion from inside his shirt and let it hang exposed around his neck. She shuffled forward on her knees, close to him, and caught the bronze disk in her hand, silently counting.

“You have seventeen left.” Her gaze rose to his eyes. “That time may pass in moons or years, Farmer. Every one of us side-steps death without a glimmer of awareness. We are a moment early or late before the arrow flies, we decide not to swim, to travel a lesser road. We aren’t hungry the day the food spoils, we leave the house before the roof collapses, we decide to ride the wild stallion the morning the placid gelding breaks a leg.”                   -Sunwielder

***

I wrote Sunwielder three years ago, and since then “sunwielder moments” have become a mainstay of my household vocabulary.

Sunwielder moments aren’t always those instances when a decision prevents unknowable catastrophe. How many times would each of us have died if not for the minute choices that led us down alternative paths? It’s a question without a reply.

Side-stepping unknowable death stirs a sense of destiny. Yet, for my lover and I, sunwielder moments tend to rise from our reflection on the choices that were pivotal in steering our lives. Each road traveled required another passed by. What if he or I had turned the other way?

There are thousands of them, long strings of seemingly inconsequential forks in the road that brought us to where we are now. Alter one, only one, and the dominoes would have cascaded down completely different paths. Even the wrong turns, the miserable things that happened in our pasts contributed to where we are now.

If you think about it, the billions of choices made by your collective ancestors led to YOU. If a prehistoric youngster hadn’t chosen to clean the scratch on his arm, you might not exist.

Sunwielder moments extend beyond our individual lives as our power of choice impacts the lives of others. We may be the catalyst that unwittingly saves a life, transforms a future, or reaps despair. Even if ultimate outcomes rest on thousands of choices and influences, why not choose the path of kindness. You never know where that road will lead.

In Sunwielder, Estriilde focuses on the present — the past unchangeable and future unknowable. Easier said than done. As humans we tend to spend much of our lives peering over our shoulders and inventing the scenery ahead. Randy and I are no exceptions to the rule.

Yet, as we grow, our sunwielder moments reside more frequently in our present. They appear on the cusp of choices, as we attempt to peek into the future and catch glimpses of how each decision may sway the trajectory of our lives and the lives of those we come in contact with. We attempt to live with more awareness of the gift and power of choice. For we, unlike Gryff and his sunwield, can’t journey back in time and travel the path unchosen.

Do you contemplate the sunwielder moments of your past? Do you choose with an eye on the trajectory of your future?

 

Sunwielder – off to the press

Tomorrow Sunwielder heads to the printing press and a couple weeks after that it arrives on my doorstep. These are thrilling moments in the life of a writer – another book birthed, another soul-bearing to the world.

Sunwielder came out of my own musings. How many times have I gazed back at the path of my life and wondered how one small decision, one minute choice or event changed my course. Waitressing in a diner at age sixteen led to a number of years in  the restaurant business, which led to meeting my first husband, which led to a daughter and a new career, which led to my second husband who encouraged me to write. Even mistakes and disasters can inform our lives. The tragedy of 9/11 sent me off on a new career path after 18 years with one company, swapping business for human services. My brother’s murder in 2003 will run its ripples through my life and my writing for the rest of my days.

What if we could go back and remake our choices? Avoid our miseries? Make better decisions and new mistakes that open wonderful doors? That’s the magic of Sunwielder.

Sunwielder

 

In a land on the brink of war, Gryff Worden discovers his family slaughtered, his farm in ruin.

Mortally wounded, he stumbles upon a timekeeper, an old woman of the northern forests, one who tracks the infinite paths of each life. She offers him a sunwield, a medallion promising to return him to the pivotal choices that swayed his life’s journey. Her only condition—he must wear the bronze charm until the end.

Now his story remakes itself, casting him backward in time to moments of decision and death. His old life gone, he no longer remembers the purpose of the medallion burning his chest. As he uncovers the sunwield’s power, new choices lead him on an epic adventure through war, death, friendship, life, and love.

Available on Amazon

 

Map Making

 

Sunwielder MapI seem to be needing maps for several of my latest adventures in writing. Actually, I’ve always create hand-drawn maps as part of my world-building, but they’ve been for my reference only. As far as amateur maps go, some turn out rather nicely, carefully crafted, while others are horribly scribbled.

Now I have a few books in the works where I think the maps may be of interest and helpful to the readers. The stories take place in sweeping landscapes – islands in the case of Dragon Soul and a whole continent for Sunwielder. The hand-drawn artwork isn’t going to cut it.

So I invested in a map-mapping program, designed for games, but suitable for books. Don’t ask me how that works quite yet, as I haven’t moved that far into the process. However, I did make a map!

I went with Profantasy, available at a decent price and with good quality. I got scary warnings about downloading the user’s guide and haven’t taken that step, but there’s an awesome youtube tutorial as part of the “help” function. I watched the tutorial, paused, drew a coastline, watched another segment, inserted mountains, watched… you get the idea. In about five hours, my first attempt at a map was done! Supposedly this is a very basic map, but not too shabby.

The map is for Sunwielder