David here. In our continuing attempt to keep the content here at MW fresh and exciting, we are introducing a new feature today. To mark the paperback release of A.J.’s first fantasy novel, ACT OF WILL, A.J. has written today’s post in the voice of his lead character, Will Hawthorne. In the future, you will hear from other characters, sometimes in the form of Q and A’s, sometimes in the form of rants. It should be entertaining.
But there is more to this exercise than just fun and variety. As Faith explains, fantasy writers are often asked by publishers to come up with promotional pitches, pieces that will go out to book buyers, or be put on the publisher’s website, or perhaps appear in a small promo booklet to be distributed at Book Expo of America or a similar venue. They want clever and cute, and they want these pieces to be plot or character driven. Writers are often hard pressed to come up with something, especially that first time, and so we thought we would share with you one such approach.
And so, without further ado, we present to you Will Hawthorne . . .
My name is Will Hawthorne. I live—or lived until very recently–in
Cresdon, a walled city in the mountains of Thrusia which the people who
live there think is, on the whole, not a bad place to live. They think
this because none of them have been anywhere else. Cresdon is actually
the armpit of the world, doubly so in summer, and—oddly—triply so
when you’re trying to get out of it under the watchful eye of a
battalion of Empire archers. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I don’t know if some kind of power or intelligence governs the
universe. Most of what I’ve seen suggests either that there isn’t
or that there is but it has a warped sense of humor and doesn’t like
me very much. A case in point: I grew up a theatre orphan, earning my
keep by playing walk-on roles in consistently dreadful plays,
surrounded by giftless actors all making real money while I worked my
tail off for the chance to finally get out of a dress (boys my age
generally had to play women: don’t ask.) I kept my nose clean through
my apprenticeship till my eighteenth birthday, which was when the
company would decide whether or not to keep me on salary, and then the
universe woke up and said “Looks like things are going well for
Hawthorne: time we stuck the boot in.”
The form the boot took in this case was the
Empire’s almost comically ludicrous decision to arrest me for
sedition and immorality. I say ‘almost comical’ because there’s
not much to laugh at when you’re dangling from the end of a rope with
your entrails roasting to the delight of the crowd (executions draw as
many spectators as plays). Not being keen—for once—to give the
audience what they wanted, I opted to run. This was smart in some ways
(because it avoided a nasty death) and deeply, profoundly stupid in
others (because it removed any doubts about my guilt and set me up for
a still less pleasant, less speedy and infinitely more public death
when the Empire finally caught up with me, as they inevitably must).
Long story short, I took refuge with a group of adventurers: principled
sword-wielding idiots who—it turned out—were almost as likely to
slit my throat as were the Empire.
Still, I had to get out of Empire territory and
my new “friends” looked like my best option, so I tried to prove
that I might be useful to them, concealed my impulse to a) turn them in
and b) seduce one of their tastier ladies, and managed to get through
several sunsets without losing significant organs.
So far so good.
But things took a turn for the worse once they
took a real job, and it turned out that in addition to their homicidal
tendencies they had some pretty impressive suicidal ones as well. The
“job” involves the identification and defeat of an army of
mysterious horsemen who show up out of the mist in the hundreds,
butcher everyone in sight and then, when the mood takes them, buggar
off again. Bear in mind now that our little party of adventurers
numbers six, including one (me) who has the weapon skills of a slower
than average squirrel. In other words, a total death trap.
My part in this fiasco? Help out with the things
I’m good at: acting, audience manipulation, and general purpose
lying, while keeping lengths of shiny metal out of my spinal column. No
mean feat. Then there’s the things I’m less good at: shooting the
occasional crossbow bolt in the general direction of the enemy, and
waving a sword about in the vague hope that said enemy will laugh
themselves to death.
But maybe, just maybe, I might actually contribute some much needed
common sense to the proceedings. Because one of the other delusions my
adventurous pals hold close to their hearts, something at least as
preposterous as their self-sacrificing nobility, is that they believe
in magic. Seriously. Not rabbits out of hats and pick-a-card,-any-card
type of magic, but mystical swords and vanishing armies type magic.
They don’t talk about it much, but I have a gift for sniffing out
stupidity and the stench around these guys is like diving headfirst
into a Cresdon privy. They reek of it. What that amounts to, of course,
is that my friends (and I use that word not so much loosely as wildly
inaccurately) who are supposed to be protecting me are only
fractionally less lethal to my survival chances than the ruthless
crimson-cloaked army we are supposed to be stopping. Another shrewd
life choice made by Will “Deathwish” Hawthorne. The only question
now is whether I’ll live long enough to make any more.
Act of Will is available in paperback from today, June 29th. If you can’t find it at your local bookstore, please ask for it. It is also available in paperback from Amazon. A.J. (who is immensely grateful to all at MW for the chance to plug his book) will respond to comments on Will’s post, and promises to go back to more conventional MW posts next time. Thanks, guys.