I think it is now time to tell you a little bit more about my friend Will.
William L. Hahn
Will Hahn has been in love with heroic tales since age four, when his father read him the Lays of Ancient Rome and the Tales of King Arthur. He taught Ancient-Medieval History for years, but the line between this world and others has always been thin; the far reaches of fantasy, like the distant past, still bring him face to face with people like us, who have choices to make.
Will didn’t always make the right choices when he was young. Any stick or vaguely-sticklike object became a sword in his hands, to the great dismay of his five sisters. Everyone survived, in part by virtue of a rule forbidding him from handling umbrellas, ski poles, curtain rods and more.
Will has written about the Lands of Hope since his college days (which by now are also part of ancient history). With the publication of Judgement’s Tale Part One, Games of Chance, he begins at last to tell the tale of the Land’s most unique hero, The Man in Grey.
My friend William L. Hahn is one of the few authors of Epic Fantasy whose books I truly enjoy reading. Usually, book in this genre bore me after a short while. The pacing is slow due to overbearing descriptions and side-stories. But not in Will’s books. With him, every single word moves the overall story forward.
I’m all the more delighted that he trusts my small publishing company “The Independent Bookworm” with the publication of his masterpiece “Judgement’s Tale”. Follow us into his world: “The Lands of Hope”.
In Will’s words:
William L. Hahn
I am deeply pleased and honored to address Cat’s followers today, for she has been a dear friend and an invaluable colleague directly responsible for much of my success. It’s only fitting that the excerpt for this post is the title-character of my upcoming novel, Judgement’s Tale.
As you may know, I followed the Lands of Hope for a long time – seriously more than 25 years – without trying to “write” about it in the sense of tales. Notes, yes copious notes, almost obsessive details, but never with an eye towards authoring a story. The Lands were always real to me – took a long time to admit that – and it was simply too BIG a job. There are more than five thousand years of history, a continent ten thousand kilometers long, and a population currently near five million persons. Where to start?
Long story short – I did start, by chronicling some of the spectacular events close to the current day in the Lands, what the sages are now calling the Age of Adventure: and they don’t mean that as a compliment! Adventurers are rare and unloved, they upset people and break with honored customs to follow rumors and hunches. But even outcasts, it seems, need company – they usually go about in small groups, and can be incredibly loyal to each other. I followed the deeds of several bands of these remarkable persons in my early chronicles.
But throughout my notes there was one fellow, unique even for them, maybe not properly an adventurer at all. He was a pariah, regarded with fear and loathing though he seemed to do nothing wrong. I was taken in by his driven nature, his terrible alone-ness – even other adventurers seemed to reject the one all knew as The Man in Grey. I wondered about that – to my eye, he was a combination of admirable and frightening qualities. Intelligent, brave and courteous, but also tightly-wound, inflexible and seemingly humorless. Solemn Judgement, the infamous Man in Grey wandered through every kingdom and touched briefly on the lives of nearly all the heroes, because he like them seemed to seek out danger in the furthest corners of The Lands.
Then as I looked at him more closely, I realized – he was not nearly as old as everyone took him to be, indeed, just a youth. How did this happen, and where did he come from? Even after twenty-five years of study, I had to admit I didn’t know the answer, I had never dared to look. But I began, and the result, several years later, is this novel.
In this excerpt, nearly the beginning of the tale, you can meet Solemn Judgement for the first time and perhaps begin to see how his spirit was formed from his first day in the Lands. I hope you enjoy Judgement’s Tale Part One: Games of Chance.
As we say in The Lands, Ar Aralte! (Hope Forever)
Excerpt of Games of Chance: Solemn Judgement
At forest’s edge, the gypsy band huddled and watched a boy on the seashore burying his father.
Clouds ripped overhead in shreds of slate; below, the endless Western Sea reflected leaden chop without a white edge to relieve the monochrome sense of threat. Yet the boy outdid them both. He laid his father’s corpse in a pose of dignity, and stubbornly hacked a fire-trench behind the tide-line scrub. All the while his posture, his pace, his entire demeanor radiated a total lack of color. The gypsies could have explained the ashen tint of his tunic, the dusty charcoal of his breeks and high leather boots. Salt water might have bleached his long, straight hair to dark silver, as well. But they could all sense it was otherwise- the boy was grey, through and through. And they came no closer yet, though the Rom were a hospitable people by nature.
“Grandmother, can they really have sailed from the West?” said Yellin the knife-thrower to the troupe’s leader. The thin, tightly-wrinkled woman shrugged for answer, in annoyance not indecision. He continued “But no one has crossed the ocean to the Lands since…”
“Since the advent of Hope, if we are to believe the stories,” said Mari the tambour-player; and at this everyone nodded, for to the gypsy a story is the blood of life.
“Yet see you the skiff,” insisted Yellin. “Well made and trim, to be sure, but so small, and with a crew of only two.”
Now the leader bestirred herself and pointed with her stick to the skies, where a lone hawk circled and cried. “We have had strange storms this month,” said Grandmother Valeria, “lightnings of many colors and winds that blew in circles, it seemed. And the hawk portends long journeys, the lone hunter who rules the signs of the Air. I think this young man comes of a land further, yet not the same, as those our heroes set out from.”
The band stood in silence after the grandmother had spoken- a new story unfolded now and none would interrupt it. Instead they watched as the young man completed the trench, then faced the skiff with arms akimbo. After three moments, he decided; bracing his leg under the mast-board for leverage, he hauled hard and began to break up the beautiful craft for firewood.
The Gypsies watched him still, an hour later near dusk and by the light of the burning pyre. Munching apples and crusts, they took in his every move, like watching a play: the boy piled the planks in a half-pyramid, put his father’s body on the keelboard, and hauled it to the top with driftwood-rollers and all his strength. He had set the flame and now stood leaning on a half-length of the skiff’s mast, serving him as a thick quarterstaff.
“He is not a man,” said Mari, “not fifteen I bet.”
“Old enough to see his father die perhaps,” Yellin nodded. “But to bury him… and now?”
“Now, he is alone in all this world,” said Grandmother Valeria “For he is not of the Lands, I can feel it.”
Again no one answered her, and the story continued in silence. The son had put aside some of his father’s belongings, and with the funeral flame fully set he knelt briefly, then rose to take them. As the flicker-toothed fire ate the setting sun, the grey stranger put on the iron-hued broad-brimmed hat, hung the silver symbol around his neck and donned the full-length charcoal cloak, with all the gravity of a man putting on armor. He took up the staff, and faced the fire on the beach once again. For a moment, he seemed to sag, as if under some nameless weight. The wind died down, but a single report of thunder signaled it was merely the quiet before the storm.
“He is a castaway, an orphan now,” said Geltar the fire-eater.
“And so, he is one of us,” finished Valeria, and before anyone could stop her, she stepped from the edge of the trees and into the story, gesturing to the boy on the sand. At first, he appeared not to notice, but after dipping to one knee a final time in a gesture of respect, he turned and strode steadily in her direction. From that moment, he never looked back at the fire or the sun, the father or the sea. The rest of the gypsy band shuffled from cover in response, and before long they were together. At this close range, the Rom could see that his eyes were large gems of silver, gazing hawk-like from beneath his ashen brows.
“Do you speak the Common Tongue, boy?” Valeria asked, holding her hand palm-up in a gesture of friendship.
For a moment, it was as if she spoke to a statue of a boy, his body unmoving and his face yielding no more comprehension than that of an animal to her speech. But as she prepared to try again, the grey youth said “Aye, though thy tongue is somewhat odd, I trow I do gain the meaning of thee, mistress.” It was Common, as the gypsies knew it, but of an older dialect, such as the scholars in Conar might speak.
“Do you know any other speech, then?” Valeria asked, and in response the stranger tried first a smooth-flowing tongue, which had no meaning for any of the band, and then another, somewhat harder and more clipped. He spoke with fluency to judge from his ease; but on his third try, every tone hummed like a rung bell, and some of his listeners actually stepped back a pace from the resonance and strength of it.
“Those words!” started Yellin, “Is he singing? I never-” but the leader of the band interrupted him, her face shining with wonder and fear.
“It is Ancient, I’ll be bound. I know it not but I’ve heard enough before, in the courts and at trials. This boy speaks the tongue of power like a native.”
The stranger stopped to hear this dialogue, a puzzled expression on his face. “Ye- know somewhat of those last words? I have little training in them-”
“And you should not speak it again, except at need,” returned Valeria. “It is the Ancient speech, which our heroes used, the tongue of dragons and other beings of power, and one cannot lie while speaking it.”
The boy raised a single brow. “Or in any other tongue, certes.”
After a moment, a quiet chuckle made its way among the gypsies, the first hint of levity these entertainers had felt this day. Valeria too smiled, and said “Assuredly. We have seen you from afar, traveler, and we welcome you to our band for as long as you may wish to stay. Tell us, what are you called?”
The young stranger stood even taller than before as he swept off his hat and answered in the manner of a captive soldier. “Mine name be Solemn Judgement, mistress. Son of… of Final Judgement, once of…” and here for a time the boy could not continue. As he stood in silent struggle, the weather broke and a storm came lashing down on him. The gypsies stood just under the lee of the forest and were mostly untouched, but the grey stranger’s face was soon speckled with rain. Valeria scrutinized him closely, yet saw nothing but sky-water on his cheeks: the heavens granted a sign of grief he could not provide himself. “He was- my teacher, mistress. Every day, as we sailed- he taught … I seek knowledge,” he finished stiffly.
Valeria stepped forward then, and as her band gasped she reached for the young man with both arms. The same stick-hand which had just yesterday cracked Geltar’s skull when he offered an impertinence in jest, the fingers which had turned the tarot cards in merciless judgment of her own people over the decades she had ruled the clan; these same limbs she now used to enfold the stranger, holding him close as if she would shelter him from the rain. And for all he bent in any human reaction to her welcome, she may as well have embraced his staff. But when she turned and led him by the arm, Solemn Judgement went along with the gypsy band, stepping east with them into the forest, further into the story, and fully onto the Lands of Hope.
About Judgement’s Tale: Games of Chance
For twenty centuries the Lands of Hope prospered from their Heroes’ peace, but suffer now from their absence as a curse thickens over the central kingdom known as the Percentalion. An immortal omniscient conspirator schemes to escape the extra-worldly prison restraining his tide of undeath, using a demonic ally in a plot to bring back hell on earth. Solemn Judgement steps onto these Lands both a stranger and an orphan, driven to complete the lore his father died to give him.
In a world beset with increasing chaos, the bravest Children of Hope must take mortal risks. A young woodsman’s spear-cast, a desperate bid to save his comrades; the Healers Guildmistress’ cheery smile, hiding a grim secret and a heavy burden of guilt; the prince of Shilar’s speech in a foreign tongue, a gambit to avoid bloodshed or even war. As a new generation of heroes, scattered across the kingdoms, bets their lives and more, Solemn Judgement- soon to be known as The Man in Grey- must learn to play … Games of Chance: Part One of Judgement’s Tale
I’m going to host William L. Hahn’s new release “Judgement’s Tale #1: Games of Chance” tomorrow but couldn’t resist participating in this Blog Hop too. Please come back tomorrow so you won’t miss Will’s fun guest post.
Thank you Danyelle Leafty, @DanyellLeafty, for inviting me to the hop. I admire the way you twist fairy tales like pretzels making them more delicious with every turn. If anyone who likes fairy tales hasn’t read on of hers, please do so. They’re really worth it.
So, what is this bloghop about? All over the world, authors (established and up and coming) share details about how and why they write. The reason:
“We writers share these things, but informally during workshops and at conferences (and, for a handful of established writers, in printed interviews), but not so much through our open-forum blogs. With the hashtag #MyWritingProcess, you can learn how writers all over the world answer the same four questions. How long it takes one to write a novel, why romance is a fitting genre for another, how one’s playlist grows as the draft grows, why one’s poems are often sparked by distress over news headlines or oddball facts learned on Facebook…
What am I working on?
I’m currently working on two projects at once. First, I began retelling fairy tales but with a twist. The first two volumes are done but not (yet) translated (see below for my writing process). I hope to start publishing them close to the end of the summer.
Second, I have worked out the kinks in the overall storyline of a Middle Grade time travel series which will have five to ten volumes of roughly 25,000 to 30,000 words. Terry, the main character of the series will be traveling to many interesting but not so well known times in history on her search for her father.
While I’m still polishing, and having my editor go through the texts, I’ll be publishing several short stories that have been collecting on my hard drive during the last year. They are rather diverse. 😉
How does it differ from others of its genre
The fairy tales have twists I haven’t encountered yet. I read thousands of fairy tales from many cultures when I was younger and still love the diversity found in the old stories. The first volume will contain a retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red” from the dwarf’s point of view (who is not even half as evil as you might think) plus a bonus short story about Rumpelstiltskin. The second volume is a retelling of “The Beauty and the Beast” in a steampunk setting. Both were a lot of fun to write. At the moment, I’m using stories that are not entirely unknown but that might change at some point. I plan to include the original tale in the finished eBook for those who’ve never heard of it.
The time travel story will be very different from other MG time travels. It will not be like “The Magic Treehouse” for example since there will be an overarching problem the main character faces. Although the episodes can stand on their own, they all build on each other. Also, the historical time my main character visits will always be meticulously researched. I want these books to be so entertaining that the readers won’t even notice they learned something about history before they set the finished book aside. I’m a big fan of learning with fun, and what more fun is there than an entertaining story. 😉
Why do I write what I do?
I’ve read so many books, I’ve lost count. Most of them were mediocre or just didn’t fit my taste. Since I had been writing stories ever since I learned my alphabet, becoming an author and writing the kind of books I would love to read myself, was the only sensible option. I’ve been striving to write the best books possible ever since.
How does my writing process work?
When an idea has congealed to something worth writing about in my mind, I sit down and condense the whole idea into a single sentence of 30 words or less. Then, I work out scene cards (my scenes average at 1500 words, so that makes 10 cards for every planned 15K words). The most important bit that goes on each scene card are the scene’s main character and conflict. When I have the whole plot laid out, I start writing (usually one scene per day) the first draft in English. During this time, it often happens that I have to adjust my scene cards, move them around, cut or replace them, or change the conflict or the character.
Once the first draft is done, I set it aside and let it simmer for a while. Then, I start revision (Which usually takes much longer than writing the first draft). When I’m done with that, I send the file to my editor and start translating the story back into German, my native tongue. As son as I finish the translation, I incorporate the changes sugessted by my editor in both language versions and then send both versions to their appropriate proof readers. The, I hand-code them into ePub, mobi and print ready files and get started on the next book. When I’ve got some spare time, I do a little marketing. However, spare time is hard to come by in a family of five…
Finally, I’m passing the staff on to my fellow writers who will be posting a week from now:
Maybe you remember how fascinated I am with a Roman battlefield that has been discovered close to where I live. Since I’m going to have some visitors next month, I looked for a way to book a guided tour. That’s when I found this video (it’s in German but easily understandable even if you don’t know the language):
The film was completely planned and executed by children. I’m very impressed.
» Read More
I’m blaming the weather…
Up to this weekend, the weather has been much to my liking; not too warm, not too cold, not too dry and not too wet. However, this Pentecost weekend is growing hotter and dryer by the minute. I’m really happy that we insulated our house or I’d have dried out by now.
With the summer came an avalanche of work. Ever since I opened my kickstarter (btw, it’s still running a few more days), I started connecting with people I never would have thought of. Even if the campaign doesn’t fund, it looks as if my dream-project will still come true. We’ll see. As soon as I’ve got something definite, I will keep you posted, promised.
Meanwhile, I’m preparing for the release of my friend Will Hahn’s novel. I’ll be featuring him and his release here on this blog on the 17th of June (please come by and win something). At the same time, I’m preparing some of my short stories for release. Proofreading took much longer than I had anticipated though, but that shouldn’t delay the release for long. And last but not least, I finished planning the overall structure of my first planned series. The first volume is already written (has been for a while) and I’m currently translating it.
You see, I’m so terribly busy I simply forgot to post on my blog. I’m sorry and blame it all on the weather. Who do you blame if you can’t keep up with the requirements of life?
I bought some really expensive piece of software: Dragon Natural Speaking. Currently, that’s the best voice recognition software in the world (as far as I know), and I’m using it to translate my novels (which I write in English) back into German. I’m delighted. Since I’ve been using the software, I get 30 to 50% more of my ususal daily wordcount.
However, the side effects are really strange. Have I told you that I dream a lot at night and that I usually remember my dreams in the mornings? Not, well you know now. Since I started using Dragon, my dreams become weirder. A couple of days ago I began dreaming punctuation too. It went like this:
quote why are you so angry question mark quote
It really drives me nuts.
Have you experienced something similar? I find it really weird.
In the last few weeks, I got quite a lot of negative reviews on my story “Swordplay”. While I still love the world, the characters and the setting, this got me thinking. After coming back out of my self-induced misery, I understood a couple of things:
1. The reviewers might have been the wrong choice of readers seeing that most of them are romance readers.
2. A genre mix like this is harder to sell than plain crime or plain fantasy or plain romance.
3. I should write more than this series so readers can choose.
So I decided to write in three different series this year. The first one (1) will still be my Gendarmerie Magique series (I like the world too much). The second one (2) is a middle grade time travel series, and the last one (3) a single-genre fantasy series. And this is where I need your help. Of the bat, I can think of three stories I can turn into a series, but with some more brainstorming I can use them all. So, please tell me:
Which story shall I expand into a series?
Welche Geschichte soll ich zu einer Serie ausbauen?
If you haven’t read the stories (yet), you can look at their descriptions by clicking on the mini-covers on the right or on the titles in the poll (for voting please click on the white circle).
A few more informations on what I’ll do once I choose my third series:
Since I don’t like cliffhanger endings, you can expect all three to be linked stand-alones (meaning each book stands on its own but is linked in sequential order to the other books of the series). The books will be slightly shorter than the initial stories (maybe around 50,000 words for series 1 and 3 and 25,000 words for series 2) or I won’t be able to write them all this year.
I was lucky to get two places on a Goodreads group’s R4R (read for review) in close succession. So, I offered my newest release “Swordplay” and “Urchin King”. Surprisingly, the copies of “Urchin King” went fast while the ones for “Swordplay” have still not all be claimed. This got me thinking.
Is my Stress-O-Meter stuck at: “going crazy”?
Don’t get me wrong, I like “Urchin King” but I like “Swordplay” better. The world is much cooler, and the characters leave more room to grow over the series (that’s one reason why I decided to make a series out if it). Also, there are so many lovely sidekicks that can have a cameo in the next volumes. But if the R4R is representative for my readers, I might be wrong.
Am I still the weird one out? I know I was when I was a kid, always reading, loving school, living in the middle of a forest with no interest in shopping or make-up. I was never one to fit in easily. But does this apply to my books too? Are they too much out of sync with the rest of the world? Is that the reason why I’m not making a living from my books (yet) despite the fact that I have seven well written (according to my editors) books out there (plus short stories and one audiobook)?
If you’ve read even one of my stories, please let me know what you think. Especially if you’ve read “Swordplay” (or even just the sample on amazon), please tell me if I’m right or wrong to turn this into a series.
I don’t get this discouraged often, but when it hits, it hits me hard. Please help.
Meanwhile, I’m sitting at my PC, tired but happy, and write my next story. This time, it’s a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” set in a steampunk world. I love the genre. If you’ve never tried it I advise you to watch the film “Wild Wild West” with Will Smith or read the free online-Comic “Girl Genius” (highly recommended but quite long by now).
Next Saturday (Sunday at the latest) I’m going to draw the winners of the giveaway. Please be patient until then. And finally, I’d like to thank all the wonderful people who helped to make this tour a success for me. Hugs to all.
Yesterday, another excerpt went life on Karin Rita Gastreich’s blog. It was nice to meet yet another person with a surname originating in the German language. 😉
And I’d like to apologize. I had meant to post yesterday but completely forgot to schedule it. I couldn’t do it in real time either because I had the house full with birthday guests. We celebrated the 19th birthday of my eldest daughter and I didn’t have much time for online stuff. Thus, the post comes now, and it’ll highlight one of the most important people involved in this novel: the cover artist.
Corona Zschüsschen, Dutch illustrator and graphic designer
Corona comes from Enschede (if you like her art, she’s available for international freelance work and her prices are reasonable). I stumbled over some of her art when I was looking for things to pin to my Pinterest boards, and I immediately liked her drawing style. Since I was having major trouble getting a shutterstock picture to work that I had originally planned on using (but the resolution was crap, every detail looked pixelated), I contacted her. She was lovely to work with. So here she is in her own words.
Why did you become an artist? Was it a childhood dream? My first childhood dream was to start a cat-shelter. I even wrote a letter to my 20-year old self when I was 10, outlining my plans and ideas! While I really love cats (and I have 3), that never happened. I moved around a lot when I was young. Drawing was something I could do anywhere, anytime. I had always loved illustrating, but I never thought I could become an actual artist. Sometimes I still can’t believe I am. I have to remind myself. 🙂
What’s your greatest obstacle in creating?
It’s me. Illustrating can be very mood and inspiration depended. I think it must be the same when you’re a writer. Sometimes inspiration comes at the most impossible of times. Or I can make a lot of different versions of something knowing they simply won’t work. It can be very frustrating! But all the different versions are still part of the journey. As long as I like the destination, it’s all worth it!
What makes your art different?
I don’t know how different I am… though of course no artist is the same. I have found artists whose style looks similar to mine, or sometimes the subjects or thoughts behind an illustration can be the same. I’m not bothered by that. I tend to branch out to a lot of different styles, because I like to adjust my art to the subject. What works for one book cover may not work at all for another. I also like to know as much as possible before I start illustrating. For example, with designing characters, I want to not only know how they look, but also their motivation and background story.
What was the most exciting thing happening when you are creative?
You mean for me as an illustrator? It was about 4 weeks ago when I found out one of my illustrations is going to be used for for very VERY big ‘thing’. But I can’t say anything about it. I’m contractually obligated to be silent about it. I can’t even show the illustrations. I want to shout it from the roofs, hahaha! Also, every time I receive an e-mail from a potential client my hart rate spikes. I can’t sit still before I answer the mail.
What was the biggest challenge with my cover?
The best thing about working with a writer is that they often know exactly what they want, even if they don’t! So the challenge was to get the idea that was in your head onto the cover. Being able to read some chapters of the book really helped. You were very specific and I really like that. You knew what you wanted. I hope I have fulfilled your book cover wishes 🙂
Who is your favorite Indie artist?
I guess any artist that’s not affiliated with a publisher could be considered independent. But most are a combination of both. One of my favorite contemporary illustrators is Loish (Lois van Baarle). I’m so jealous of her skills. Her character designs are stunning and magical. Her illustrations are incredibly pretty. Another illustrator I really like is Yasmin (chubbytentacle.com), her style is so much fun. I can’t help but smile when I see her illustrations.
Who is your favorite traditional artist?
I really like John William Waterhouse. I can stare at those paintings for a long time. I also enjoy the work of Berthe Morisot, a female impressionist painter. I have a lot of respect for the female painters in history. Often their pursuit of art wasn’t taken very seriously. Though I can’t identify with the era they lived in. There have been people in my life who don’t see how being an illustrator can be a actual job.
If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?
I can only pick one? 🙂 I am quite happy with my life as it is now. I just wish it hadn’t taken me so long to get here.