A little geography lesson…

Interested in learning more about the geography of The Hollow March and At Faith’s End? Like any bit of fantasy, it can sometimes seem like there’s a lot of names being tossed around therein, so it never hurts to provide a little point of reference for the undertaking. Here are some of the more important names to remember from around the world of Lecura:

A (*) next to a name indicates a capital city.

Those figures listed next to the provinces are the leading figures of those provinces.

Geography

Idasia; Anscharde*, and its provinces: (The Main Focus of the Novels, located on the continent Marindis.)

  1. Dexet—Duke Urtz
  2. Varstein—Count Palatine Veldhart (The Sheep) [As of At Faith’s End, Bishop Hargrove of Tennesburg]
  3. Karinth—Baron Yohan Wendoc
  4. Sorbia—Duke Burkhard Rusthöffen (Lord Steer)
  5. Baharia—Count Haisher Hendensleuce
  6. Thorinde—Count Corwick Ibin
  7. Usteroy—Count Palatine Walthere Cullick (The Lion); Fürlangen*
  8. Jaritz—Count Witold; and Verdan, with Lord Matair; Gölingen*
  9. Berundy—Count Palatine Diedrich Kurste
  10. Lucretsia—Baron Erim Pordill (The Black Goat)
  11. Momeny—Margrave Dustan Scheyer; Ungerührt Tor*
  12. Turgal—Count Herbst Irkaller
  13. Dornitz—Baron Milbard Bresche
  14. Fritensia—Count Palatine Hewlitt Mayse
  15. Brabeck—Baron Kraste Uschent
  16. Khetzen—Baron Othmann Joher
  17. Waibar—Baron Perstin Osich
  18. Wassein—Duke Turgitz
  19. Arlaine—Margrave Kasch Hiris
  20. Corvaden—Crown Land

Kingdom of Effise; Mankałd* (Located to the east of Idasia, sharing a border with its provinces of Arlaine and Momeny. It is presently in a state of war with Idasia.)

Kingdom of Surin (A chaotic, utterly decentralized nation to the east of the Idasian provinces of Jaritz and Baharia, beyond the River Jurree. Following a previous war with Idasia, a loose confederation of barons has seized control, with its king being little more than a figurehead)

Principalities of Ravonno; Turnina*; Palace of the Holy Seal (Located to the south of Idasia, separated from the Empire by a chain of mountains. It is the religious heartland of the Visaji faith, and dominated by four principalities united under the Patriarch of the Church.)

Frmr Kingdom of Narana (The westernmost nation of the Marindi continent. A broken nation now, reduced to a mere province of the invading Zutam Empire.)

Kingdom of Asantil; Calvijon* (Borders Idasia’s western provinces. A devout nation nevertheless viewed as responsible for the rise of the Farren heretics. Widely regarded at the last true check of Idasian power on the continent.)

Kingdom of Banur; Sayerne* (Located to the southeast of Idasia, this rugged land is an ally of Idasia, through marriage to the Imperial family and the Count Palatine Walthere Cullick.)

Dutchies and Baronies of Lorace (Once a collection of tribes, and now a collection of interlaced city-state-like baronies and dutchies, Lorace is located south of Asantil, along the sea. Regarded as vicious fighters, their independence is their own great issue.)

Grand Duchy of Walim (Often regarded as independent in name only, this erstwhile ally of Idasia sits on the Empire’s western border, serving as a sort of buffer state between it and Asantil.)

Island Nations of Karnush (Northwest of the continent lies the isles of Karnush–a smattering of atolls, sandbars, and large islands in their own right, regarded as some of the finest traders of the modern era. A fierce navy and savvy knowledge of the seas is their greatest shield.)

Confederacy of Forlia (Adjoining Banur in the east, this confederacy of states is a sort of half-effort in democracy, with an elected tyrant sitting over the citizens in question)

Holy Empire of Zutam (Zutam the Holy. Zutam the Mighty. Zutam the Terror. A continent and an Empire in its own right. Its origins lie in a continent south of these others’ landlocked existences–but since it crossed the sea and smashed Narana, its presence has become very real for all.)

Talimphate of Tajalik (The easternmost state known to most residents of the Marindi continent–a land of silks and spice, hard men and women, and a rugged landscape dotted at least as much by tribes as civilization–it is the subject of many tales among the Marindi nations, and few of them true. Its size is of some dispute, but its power and elegance is not.)

Purposeful Literary Cruelty

While it is true that writers are, essentially, lying liars who lie (an article of great fun, by the way), another fact of life is that writers can be really quite cruel. Truly, we have a way of putting our characters through hell.

I should know. My name’s Chris, and I am a cruel little man. Minus the little.

I remember the first story I read where there is some true, authentic suffering going on. As a child, I had read Lord of the Rings and any number of other little fantasies and classy hist fics. of the day, but as much agony as that ring lays on Frodo’s head, it still doesn’t quite fit the bill of character torture. Change pace to something like Flowers for Algernon, where you get to see the height of a man’s bliss, only to watch the tortured, tragic fall, as his own mind degrades around him, and even memories begin to fail—and then, you shall truly know the horrors of what a writer can unleash.

In The Hollow March, my own first addition to the literary world, I have been told that I don’t just pick on my characters—but that I have a penchant for it. But between a raging war, a vengeful son, and a daughter that had her father burned alive, there’s never really a question of whether it’s going to be a dark world. It is at the core of my setting, my plot. The distance between people, and the horrors we unleash upon ourselves—it’s one of the core human elements I seek to explore in my writing. In reality, almost everyone has some burden they bear, some torture they must struggle with and to overcome—and I seek to bring that reality into my fantasy world.

Oh, Eddard. (Care of Game of Thrones wiki)

Oh, Eddard. (Care of Game of Thrones wiki)

In another fantasy work, the popular Game of Thrones series, pain likewise doesn’t seem to be the exception, but the rule. The whole nation seems a nest of vipers, all looking to kill one another from anything from familial to religious and the ever-so-key political woes. Everyone is a tortured character. Everyone has their burdens. It also makes for some of the most gripping cliffhangers you ever did see in literature…painful as some of these can be for some readers to stomach.

One of the big questions in the writing community is simply: why? Why are these sorts of “dark” and “gritty” tales gaining such popularity? What happened to the good old fluffy days? We certainly don’t want to go out on the streets and do this stuff ourselves—let alone have it happen to us—so why do we find it so enthralling?

Contrary to some’s belief (I’m looking at you Shades of…bleck), it doesn’t stem from the old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but whips and chains excite me.” Nor is it that we are globally, psychologically fubar’d.

Rather, I feel it’s more of a matter of realism—of balance. In the past, you’ve had your irredeemably evil. You’ve had your glittering good. Never shall the twain meet, save in a battle for the world’s souls. A lot of this pain and agony we see nowadays is due to us getting more into the villains’ POVs, and stripping our heroes of that purely heroic trait. We’re making humans, and humans are, at their heart, flawed creatures. We’ve seen it enough in reality to know that—in things like fantasy, we’re just now getting around to asking: what happens when you take an all too human character, and simply add all those other magical/mystical/etc traits to the world around them? How would that impact an individual’s mentality—a world’s, even?

We dig into the dark side of the human psyche because, at heart, we want to learn. Why, why, why we ask, would they want to do this? What drove them to it? It’s not the action the captivates, but that great, almighty why. Getting into villains’ POVs improves a story. That is my opinion. I will always hold to it. I don’t want to just see evil for the sake of evil—to see why the villain did it, well, frankly, this interests me as much as the struggle against.

Oh, hey Sauron, how are y--OH, GOD! ((c) New Line Cinema and Wingnut Studios)

Oh, hey Sauron, how are y–OH, GOD! ((c) New Line Cinema and Wingnut Studios)

Will the bad guy still sometimes be as crazy as a cat on the nip? Well, yes. But getting in their heads—especially hearing them justify their actions (yikes)—can make for some truly atmospheric, emotional, and downright creepy scenes. Furthermore, showing us those villains that aren’t straight up crazy, or straight-up wretched, but forced into the role, or doing the wicked because of what they think is the good—these are always characters that strike a chord. That engage.

A dark lord is great every now and again, but if he exists for nothing but the nasty, at all possible times, and the hero nothing but the good, what do I gain from the experience? There is no learning. There is only the “oh no, he’s bad,” followed by the inevitable defeat. A certain sense of repetition and dullness seeps into the cracks between.

What’s more, struggles like these modern shadows bring us an opportunity to question and engage morality. Will motivations, justifications, and ethics themselves be flawed? Of course. But we get to see how they play out, how they interact, and why exactly they are the way they are. We don’t simply split the world down the middle and say: “Black and White,” if you please. We are forced to confront the shades of grey.

Inevitably, some people will do a drive by of such a work though and label it the downfall of western civilization. Or a sign of your own inherent wickedness. Don’t scowl. Don’t sulk. At that, I say: laugh. It should be expected, but you shouldn’t take it to heart. It’s not wicked to think, and to ponder different natures. Nor are you promoting them. You’re simply delving into the world and stripping away the colored coating so often applied.

As ever, if a scene doesn’t need to be there, it shouldn’t be—but you shouldn’t water down your work simply for a fear of potentially snarky reviews. Embrace your style, as it was meant to be embraced. All writers face critique. Don’t let it break you.

(And if you like what I’m preaching, I encourage you to indulge with my fantasy series, including The Hollow March and its sequel, At Faith’s End. Or if you’d like something a little more sci-fi for your afternoon sortie, have a look at short story “New Frontiers,” published in its entirety on this blog. Hopefully, you won’t be disappointed.)

The End Begins

In THE HOLLOW MARCH we learned the folly of WAR

Hollow March eBook Cover 2

the terror of ISOLATION

Sketch by Matthew Watts.

Sketch by Matthew Watts.

and the CHAOS of REVENGE

Sketch by Matthew Watts.

Sketch by Matthew Watts.

but now we learn what will come

when even FAITH falters against the backdrop of

AT FAITH’S END!

Now available!

Now available!

Today was the big release date! Thanks to everyone for their support in the process of building and launching this second step in what will hopefully be a life filled with many such literary moments.

Copies are available in both e-book (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FOHAT2I) and paperback (https://www.createspace.com/4470845)–links will be announced and added later as the print version comes to more retailers. There was an initial issue with print copies that delayed it somewhat, which has since been resolved.

The Final Countdown to “At Faith’s End”

“Some run the cliffs, and set upon an eagle’s wings. Others mire in the den, and once within, can never leave again.”

cropped-the-distant-man.jpg

You’ve walked the trail of “The Hollow March.” Now…

eyesgifIn ONE WEEK…

ImgurBattle

The Aftermath of Battle, care of Imgur.

Join the Chaos and the Fantasy that will lead to

“AT FAITH’S END”

Coming to Amazon on October 7, 2013.

For more information, click here…

Sneak Preview: At Faith’s End (Prologue)

Today, I have a special treat for you. With the release of “At Faith’s End” less than a month away now, I thought it time to tease out some of the facts contained therein. Where better to start than the prologue itself? If you can handle submerging into the crazy that is Usuri once again, I invite you to begin the sequel to “The Hollow March,” and step into the second chapter of the Haunted Shadows fantasy trilogy… More previews and goodies shall arrive in the weeks to come.

And remember: OCTOBER IS THE LAUNCH!

Prologue

Outside in the courtyard a dull, resonant clang issued from the gates. A dozen times a day they repeated that sound. They were never simply open any more. One never knew what might blow in on the wind.

Sword and smoke and always ash, rising in the east.

Outside, they were rattling the last bit of frost from the hinges. Pikes and bows bristled along the walls as soldiers stalked the battlements. They had been lax, at a time, but no more. The snow had gone, or near enough, yet the world never seemed to thaw. As the poets cried, the Winter King was nearly overthrown, but the young Spring Prince crept only slowly from his hole. The first flowers would be long in coming.

Seasons marched, like men, like countries. But there were no countries, and in time there would be no men.

Outside, they went about as if all the world was still the same—and so it was, and it wasn’t. They said an emperor was dead. Others had died before him. Those that lived on shedded tears wiped them on their sleeves and stepped over the graves into the twilight of their lives. Old men passed so new could arise. So this one had, and even now she could smell the stink of him, close her eyes and feel the horror of his ringing pulse battering her heart—the fervor of his face, looming orthodoxy sneer behind the thin veneer of snow and emeralds, and gryphons, as shepherds gliding beneath the setting sun.

All this she saw and felt, and all the while the world went on pretending she no longer was a part of it.

There was no country and no king, and all the fire in Hell bespoke.

Yet inside, she couldn’t feel the tumultuous summer’s pull. The walls assailed her. When she breathed, there was frost in her lungs. When she touched the glass, there was nothing but a mirror of herself, in all its horror.

Usuri had grown haggard over the months spent in Vissering Castle. She scarcely ate. Only when her body cried out agonized gasps for life did she oblige, and always questioningly. In rebellion against the eastern styles of longer hair, she had carved what little she had close to the scalp. There was something satisfying in the motion. Her father gnawed at her waking thoughts and Rurik at her dreams. Each mocked her from the flames. Both gagged her days with brimstone and stole her breath away.

For months her father had laid beneath the earth, but his blood was no longer the only thing coursing in her. There were other faces, other names, ghosts without homes save her own tormented mind. It was only right. She had done them. All of them. She had plucked the chords of their life away and forever silenced their notes in life’s song.

Three tunes for three dead princes.

It was their deaths that racked her, not their lives. Names. She did not like to think of them with names—merely featureless ghouls, stalking the periphery of her soul.

The soul—a fevered thing. It was breaking every day, piece by piece, bringing a skeletal paleness to the olive life of her body. When she killed, pieces of her died with them. Not literally. Will. A slow and purposeful dying within. Inside: blackness. She loathed to look into it, lest it become all she saw. A step or a bound—she did not know how far away she was, yet she was getting closer every day.

How long since she had killed? The princely pair were last in mind—the villain king and his dolled-up brother. She had kissed the one, felt his touch on her skin. It wouldn’t come out no matter how hard she tried. The stain was on her. It bubbled inside with her father’s voice, tormenting her.

“I see you,” it said, “I know what you did,” and she could not hide, no matter how deep she buried herself. Her hands were still wrapped from when she tried to dig the voices out. The blood had stopped flowing, but the bandages held—she knew the danger as well as they did. Yet the danger to herself was the least of her worries.

Somewhere down below, the blood stirred like a poison, threatening her sanity.

They were not alone in the castle anymore. There were others. Those things. They had its blood and they had its eyes, and they were laughing inside, where only her father could laugh now because they had taken him, as they took Kasimir, as they would take her. There was an empress and a prince, and it was their presence that saw her locked within a tower.

Before, she had been allowed to roam a little. She had her watchers, but so long as she was calm, she could roam. Then she had tried to put her claws upon the Cullick wench, the lying creature-creature-creature that had taken Rurik inside her and—they didn’t like that. Cullick saw her to the tower. She was too weak to object. Her deprivations took their toll on her body, as the killings peeled at the innards. They locked her in a tower, ostensibly for her own good, but she knew better.

Cullick couldn’t let her be seen. Cullick couldn’t risk what she would do if she saw them. Yet she did see them. In the yard. On the walls. They were everywhere.

“Father,” she cried as she had when she was small. “Father, I am weak! I have not the strength! I have seen the Sunrise! I have seen the Shadow, and the Lion’s mouth, but it is wide and it is terrible and what am I? Who am I to tip the storms? They will not change!”

Killer! The word barked back at her and she could not deny, but there were words in her head, pounding with the force of a thousand-thousand cannon, and she could not turn aside from them.

Everything slid slowly into place, piece by piece. Little pieces on the board, moving to fruition. Everywhere the kings and queens, riding onto glory and to death.

Their devil-angel rode on southron wings. That was what they said. She could hear it, when she wanted. It haunted her dreams. The terrible shadow in his robes of white—they could not see him for what he was. She ran from him, but he only grew and grew, fangs falling from his malformed cheeks as his body bloated and distorted. He would laugh at her, arms outstretched as the darkness spread around him. He was a devil, and in her dreams she would round the circle three times, and he would catch her, pin her, devour her in white, and she would be falling into pyre flames, and everywhere was her father, tortured in innumerable ways, and always by the same faceless woman, wearing her husband’s crown.

And as she screamed, the choirs sang—the children’s dirge, from little bodies without tongues. Sometimes, she saw Rurik there, and she would call out to him, but he could not hear her. Then it would be him on the scaffold where his father met his end, and it would be his head put before the chopping block, and Essa with the blade. Singers sang, the head rolled, and at her feet, Charlotte would raise it to her lips and the head would ask:

“Can you see the glory?”

Of the coming, of the coming—

The door rattled and she twisted back, watching how the shadows spread across the twilit planes. The room was always brightest this time of day. Keys jangled, real voices gossiped.  Her prison didn’t feel quite so small in these moments. Yet it wasn’t small, not really. Not terribly, at least. She had a bed and pillows, two mirrors—thrice broken each—and all the space for walking, wandering, twisting, dining on the open air—and the purity of that air was a marvel. There were no cobwebs. Not anywhere. She saw to that, day in and day out.

One day, she caught a spider weaving webs above the door. Spider-little-spider-May, she never saw it coming. Then there was no more spider above the chamber door.

If only she were just as squishy.

Weren’t they all?

Light broke from the hall beyond, in ringing dust. Usuri tried not to cringe. In the ring—a scream—then nothing, never.

Would that she could pluck her wings.

Charlotte filled the silence with her doll-like form—no ruffled wrinkles, no miscombed hair; curled, gold as the coins bitter men exchanged. Her skin—like porcelain. The light struck her angelic.

Tray in hand, the angel moved parallel to her, to place her meal beside the bed. Usuri inched a pace, on hand and foot, marveling at the novelty. Little Charlotte was not a rarity in her presence, for all the ill-will she bade her, but the girl never brought her food. Whether that was her desire or her father’s, Usuri could not say. All Cullicks are as kings before the servile—above, beyond, mere men with lofty heads. She watched, but she moved no nearer. A shadow lurked behind the angel, filling the doorway, then the room. She did not shrink from it, but she did not goad it.

It had struck her. It would have no problem doing so again.

She cringed, reveled—perhaps, again.

“A mess. As ever.” The angel did not look at her as she set each item on the bed. “How might a woman become a beast?” She paused. Usuri could imagine her smiling. “You teach us every day, bit-by-bit.”

Usuri kept her silence. Charlotte moved on, handing the tray off to her shadow as she gathered some unseen strength into herself. Charlotte turned, steadied, drank her in. Usuri waited, shrinking—she did not like it when those eyes were on her, when they would meet her as a person. She advanced, a river rushing on to swallow her whole. Usuri felt her breaths quicken, felt the tightening in her chest. Angel wings, all too near. False promises taking flight. She shut her eyes, tried to close out the voices.

“Can you see the glory,” her dead father asked.

“Go away,” she whispered as the body crouched beside her. Tiny angel wings, like a fly’s—she could crush them if she wanted. Just needed to reach out and…

“Usuri, please look at me.” She did not want to look. Hell is in the eyes, and in Hell you can see and you don’t want to see and everything is…“Please.”

Usuri lashed at her, crying “Out!” but the hand caught her wrist, Usuri’s shaking wrist. Another was on her arm and she did not want to look but Charlotte was there, and she was not leaving. They never left. Not really. They were everywhere and all around—but their walls, their halls, they could not hold her. Even with body broken, the spirit rose and swam in the deep recesses of the forgotten—self.

Usuri looked at her with eyes hollowed in the flame’s of man’s hate, watched the mirrors of the angel and the monster in their reflection. Her or her, she could not say. There was compassion there, though, staring back at the remnants of her life. The hand on her arm moved slowly, purposefully. She felt it, did not watch it, but it came to her, stroked the hair from her face and flecks of dirt from her skin. She must have been so thin.

Charlotte’s face shrank at the sight. Her eyes left Usuri’s momentarily. They found the floor, then back, creasing with care. “What is it like?” Charlotte whispered. Her touch lingered on Usuri’s cheek.

“There are things out there, you know. Waiting. We do not want to push you. You are so…”

Dead?

“Frail,” said Charlotte. A line of worry creased the woman’s brow. “Surely this does not…” Need to be? Apparently, Charlotte thought better of her path. Usuri could see the shift. “But you did this to yourself. And before that: them.” Charlotte’s hands folded in her lap. A place where so few things fell. Usuri would have thought her virginal, but all was poison there. Rurik was poisoned there. “It will get worse now. Our lord’s inquisitor would sit the throne. Ring about his neck, with bastard children in tow. There will be burnings, you know. Of course you know. Do you care?”

Underlying: would you have them do unto others as they have done unto you? She could imagine Charlotte burning, but the pretty locks always fell away until it was her father’s grimacing, screaming face—but she had not been there. The moment when the Inquisition’s flames finally split his screams. She could only imagine it now.

“Father wishes to see you. With them, between them—it grows dangerous. It’s just a matter of time before—it’s worse now. Much worse. We would end it. And you—I know you do.” Justifying, clarifying, always mitigating to the sound of its own sullen ring! A beast! A beast! Father, how of this breast, or of this beast, might any word yet change? “We could not spare Matair, but the rest—they still breathe, you know. Would you like to see them?”

And say what? Usuri looked at herself and in a moment’s clarity saw what they saw: the disheveled monster, in fine but ratted gowns; bound hands, black feet, hair crusted wet. All of House Matair was dead. She could smile for them and twirl in her little gown, as this creature did, but they would never know her as anything more than their father’s novelty.

“You will lie again,” she whispered.

Charlotte smiled faintly. “All men lie. Should we wish against it, we should not speak at all.”

“Does it sing? When no one is around to hear it?” Usuri watched the confusion settle about the lady. “Take heart. He moves in you. Never…I cannot touch them if I know not what to touch. I see them, but I do not know them.”

More than once, she had heard Rurik’s voice ringing in the dark. That faint cry from fields choked with frosted death. She tried to shut him out. To close her mind and her ears against it and pretend she couldn’t hear his pain.

“We can piece them for you. Or bring you to them. This is bigger now. You’re not a shadow, Usuri. You’re not,” Charlotte said.

“It says, the songbird without wings. In its cage, it speaks of wind. What does it know that she does not?” Usuri touched the hand and the hand faltered. She traced it down the wrist, felt it yield until the shadow stirred its steel. Such lines, such grace, majesty in a vase—the design was fickle. It never knew. They never did. It took something larger. “If it comes, then so will I.”

She released her grip on Charlotte’s skin, and the girl drew up and away. They always did. They had their purpose, and once they saw it done there was no other. Usuri folded her hands into her lap, watched the way the veins creased along the knuckles. So frail.

Rurik might have said that to the lamara whore, as he caressed her at night.

“Will you eat?”

Usuri smiled toothily at the woman until she left. Eat is the wrong word, she thought, as she looked over the bread Charlotte had left behind. She would consume—until she had grown fat on all the vagaries of her odium and burst forth in a requiem of deconstruction. How sweet the sugared tune that would sing them all to silence.

The Cover Unveil: At Faith’s End!

Well I’ve teased it out over the course of a couple weeks now–I think it’s time to shift this process into the next gear and see if we can’t drive it home (Car reference? I know, oh god, what did they do to the author? Don’t worry, I’m mostly intact.) After a long, muggy weekend, it’s my pleasure to kick off the week with the final cover for the upcoming At Faith’s End, in all it’s glory. For those that have been following the process all along, you’ll notice a few changes in the transition from inception to adulthood, but hopefully we can all agree it has turned out positively lovely.

"At Faith's End," © Chris Galford ; artwork © Matthew Watts 2013.

“At Faith’s End,” © Chris Galford ; artwork © Matthew Watts 2013.

Now including a horse, among other pretty things. Matt really went above and beyond with this piece, and I dare say I may like this one even better than what we ended up with for The Hollow March – and believe you me, that’s saying something.

Additionally, for those of you pondering, the summary as you may or may not be able to squint it out at these particular dimensions is in fact the actual summary as it will appear on the book and its publication pages. Because I am a friend to eyeballs everywhere, I shall re-post it here:

“Conflicting dedications to duty and revenge have gutted the Idasian Empire, leaving its royal family in tatters and a host of opportunists snapping at the scraps. In desperation, they turn their hopes to a foreign face, praying for reprieve against the dark plots determined to see them dead.

Meanwhile in the east, hiding among the starving remnants of the imperial army, Rurik Matair has survived attempts on his own life, and war besides, only to become isolated from those he cares most about. But even as the madness of a nation infects the heart of the army, a new commander offers the hope of stability—and the possibility that new changes will right old wrongs.

Yet one cannot hide from truth. As Rurik and his friends face the reality of those around them, young and old alike are forced to realize a terrible fact: even faith can crumble, and what stalks its ashes might be something far worse.”

October remains the time of debut. It shall not be long now!

Bringing Color to the Cover

Behold! I have seen the glory of the coming of the artwork, and though its ways may be mysterious to a lowly writer like myself (whose contenders for most notable scribble most assuredly include a stick figure horse), I have found sufficient luck in this life to be blessed with a skilled artist.

In the past, I’ve waxed philosophic on the qualities that make for good cover art. And as ever, I want to take the time to thank my accommodating artist, Matthew Watts, for his skill and speed with a computer and a brush. When an idea crosses the man’s path, he can surely run with it, and take it to all sorts of delightful ends (and if last week’s cover art extravaganza didn’t prove that to you, you’re cold inside. Bitterly cold.). He listened to my own insights and produced many of his own, and pursued doggedly idea into action.

As you may recall, this is the piece we settled on:

© Matthew Watts 2013.

© Matthew Watts 2013.

But that was the bones of the thing. First comes the notion, then the boundaries, then the color and the detail that give the thing life. Draft-hopping, as it were. And like dipping one’s hands in the primordial ooze, each draft grants a vision of evolving life.

If that was the birthing, this is childhood—the transition from when the idea meets the page to when the idea has truly gained an identity of its own. And even in this, you can see it’s going to be a beauty.

coversred

© Matthew Watts 2013.

Quite the development, no? We’re going for a notable difference from the stark, winter-fueled chaos of the previous book. The change of season factors fairly heavily into the book, and with spring coming, that means color—colored thoughts, colored scenery, and thusly, Matt went for a more lively color scheme, to soothe and tempt the eyes, where the other lured with its sense of foreboding (And before you ask, no, the cover is not in red–this was another draft; as I said, the transition before the final. Next week I shall unveil that, to suitably stun and awe and hopefully get some love on).

I also opted out of the full picture wrap-around for front and back this time around, exchanging, for the back, something a little more reminiscent of the book’s war aspects, while also providing an easy setting for the text. (Which–also don’t mind the text. It’s presently using the summary from The Hollow March, here, because at this stage in the process the summary had still been a work in progress!)

Additionally, I’d like to take this time to update you on the release of At Faith’s End! Mark your calendars: 2 months out is what we’re looking at, putting us up for an early October release. Tell your friends and get interest generated early; I couldn’t have done anything without you kindhearted readers that decided to take a chance on me!

(And if you want to keep up to date on all potential announcements related to the Haunted Shadows series, or simply join the discussion with other people, be sure to check out the Facebook Page yonder. Yonder I say!)