My guest author today at An Author’s Desk is Graeme Brown. Graeme is an author of epic fantasy whose debut novella, The Pact, was published recently by Burst Books, the scifi/fantasy imprint of Champagne Book Group. Graeme is also a fellow author in the group blog, Worlds of the Imagination, a scifi/fantasy blog for authors and readers of the genre. Check out Grame’s bio, writing area, books (with link), book blurb, and contact info.
I write epic fantasy, but also have explored science fiction and have a series I’d like to write when I’m done the fantasy arc I have planned out. I am also a junior editor for Champagne Books. Aside from being a lover of epic fantasy (George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan, to name my favorites), I am a math lover. I have been given the opportunity to being some research while still an undergraduate, thanks to one of my former professors who took me under his wing, so I spend my days wandering between the worlds of modular arithmetic and various fantasy universes.
When I’m in this (normal) world, I enjoy yoga, running, coffee-shop-hopping, and playing the piano. I also have a background in web design and SEO, which I did for several years before returning to the world of academia and publishing.
I like to make a mess when I write. Small pages and little booklets are great, because the more I can spread out, the better. I’m in the process of playing around with Scrivener, but, from experience working on computer versus working by hand, I find marrying digital with tactical is still my style of preference, especially since I do a lot of diagramming with maps and sigils and settings.
I prefer to write every day, just a little, because it keeps me connected to the story, blends in the rumination process with the writing process. I also only write one draft.
This works because I don’t write front to back. I develop the draft as I go advancing the word count by a couple hundred words every day (crossing a thousand on the great days), but spend a lot of the writing time pushing other relevant sections to their edge. I find this process not only provides the right inspiration to get into the story (and eliminated writer’s block), but also allows me to tie in elements from earlier.
A standard writing session for me involves first sitting down, opening my black box (which has my miniature profile and outline sheets), spreading out my pages before me – outline on the left, characters on the right, settings, maps, and world-building tracking sheets out of the way but ready for access. I work at the computer, usually with a coffee. Before I start writing, I spend anywhere from ten to twenty minutes going over my outlines and character profiles. I’ll open the manuscript document on the computer, read a bit from the day before, jump around to other sections – whatever the particular session calls for – and once I start feeling the story’s voice sediment, I begin. A writing session is usually about an hour, though I prefer two or more; I most often end them by choice because I know I have my other ten or so tasks for the day awaiting me.
I can work anywhere, so long as I have the space and I’m not distracted, especially by email. I’ve written in bed (with the bed made!), at the kitchen table, on the futon, at my favorite lounge at the university, in many a Starbucks or Second Cup. In that picture, I am writing at my partner’s mother’s house, one of my favorite studies where I usually do Saturday writing (his old bedroom, soon to turn into a spa room, so I’m getting my fix while I can!).
The Pact is a short tale that will whisk you away to the castle wonderland of Will Lesterall, a boy who’s grown up safe and secure but who will soon find himself at the center of a secret plot hatched between fallen gods and wicked women. For intrigue and tension lurk behind the proud tapestries of Fort Lesterall, and a night that begins with wine and feasting soon will end with blood and the budding of an old prophecy’s seeds. The crossed daggers of House Lesterall have been its sigil since its founding, but their meaning a mystery – until this night, when Will discovers the power of his bloodline and the deeper fire within him.
The Stablehouse climbed three stories, a narrow building just twenty feet shy from touching the top of the double outer wall that surrounded the castle’s north flank. Lights shone in the top floor windows and a few others at ground level, where the horses were kept. Will hurried across the dark stones. The soft tap of his shoes against the cobbles echoed in the empty Square. In the middle, where the ground sloped down toward the sewer drains, the statue of Amarr the Barbarian cast a long shadow. Will passed into it and stopped. He heard voices.
Two men spoke in hushed tones, but their words carried when the wind wasn’t gusting.
“It’s that hag, I tell ya,” came one voice. “She’s roundin’ them up, preparing one of her big spells, she is. I heards there’s a sacrifice comin’, and she means to raise the dead.”
“Don’t be stupid, Roth.” Will recognized the raspy tone at once. It belonged to Mern, the whitesmith, whose half-slashed throat had never fully healed. Will squinted, but couldn’t see where the voices came from, other than realizing they drifted over from the dark, walled yard outside Hellistead’s Tavern.
“I’ll not have ya callin’ me stupid. Oh no. I know what this is about an’hoo. You’re just afraids, justs protectin’ yurself. Ya know whatcha got in it, ands I don’t blame you for bitin’ your tongue.”
“Quiet, you hay-brained crofter,” Mern spat. “Tonight’s not a night to whisper about such treacheries. The Lord Ham will cut your tongue out, and the world’ll be a better place for it if he does.”
“Old Cren will put it back, if he do, but I says he’d best act quick, or he’ll be lacking for the parts as fits him proper. The night’s black, Mern, and it’s gettin’ blacker yet.”
There was a hollow clatter, then sharp hisses. The man who spoke improperly cursed in words that would have made Grandma Mae gasp then Will heard quick footsteps and a series of clunks. He looked back to the castle, to where father gathered his fighters, then the other way, to the Stablehouse. If father’s in trouble, I have to warn him. Will knew his words wouldn’t be taken seriously, though.
He began to run across the stone expanse. Fort Lesterall won’t fall. Mern’s a wicked man, and whoever that other one is, he’s got no wits. Cren’s just an old woman who lives in the woods. She probably doesn’t even exist.
The side door to the Stablehouse opened as Will arrived, revealing a long labyrinth of stalls lit by rows of hanging lanterns. Jak peeked from behind the door, and Will slipped inside. When the older boy closed it, the dangerous night seemed far away. They were alone, Jak peering at Will, a curry comb still clasped in his hand. He was broad-limbed and of average height, with tousled hair the color of wet earth and eyes like onyx. As usual, he smelled of straw and horse manure, but that only made him all the more inviting.
Jak grinned. “I thought you’d hurry over after the feast proper. Too many clouds tonight, though. I’m afraid we won’t be spying Hell’s Cap, but I’ve another surprise for you. Found it myself, last night.”
“We won’t be going to the groves, Jak.” Will lowered his voice. “The Unborns are going to attack. Alter Dun showed the Red Token. That means the Unborns have challenged us. The Pact is broken. Even as we speak, my father’s gathering an army.”
“Of course he is.” Will turned toward the metal spiral stair. Barrik, a wiry man with salt-and-pepper hair and a bushy moustache, bent his impressive height as he descended from the second floor serving quarters. “I’ve a hundred retainers to see to and that’s lots of horseshit, my little prince. A good thing they’ve taken to the barracks. I’m full, and there’s a thousand more coming, twenty companies marching under you uncle’s banner knight, Telliken. If we hold the night, then there will be others, and we’ll feed the Unborns hell like they haven’t seen in centuries. But if what I’ve heard’s true, then they have hell to feed us first, before we can draw breath.”
Will gaped at the Master of Stables then shook his head fiercely. “Fort Lesterall cannot fall.”
Barrik grunted, though it sounded like a laugh. He picked up a pail and carried it to a nearby stall. “I wish I believed that, lad, but this world’s not run on luck, I’m afraid. A man forges his own blade then learns to use it, or he gets cut by everyone around him. This world’s a fierce battlefield, a bitch with a thousand teeth.”
“We can fight with them,” Jak insisted. “I’ve practiced with the sword you gave me lots of times in the groves. I’m not bad.”
“You would be with armor on.” Barrik came out of the stall with a pail full of black dung. He looked at Will, at Jak, his expression grave. “No, you boys have another errand…