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  • Marius H Visser

September is here and swiftly moving along, before we blink, the year will be gone. I did not even mean for that to rhyme, but who ever said that was a crime? Oops, I did it again . . .

Okay, I'm done, I promise.

Some of you know by now that the new series The Stormfall Cycle is out in the world with The Way of the Walker as book one. Now I am already getting emails asking when book two will come out, which I absolutely love! You thought I was about to complain, weren't you?

Honestly, though, I love being asked when the next book will come out as that gives me the motivation to push to get it done. I am already finished with chapter six and the story is taking shape.

If you don't know, authors are basically split between 3 camps, Plotters, Pantsers, and Hybrids. I have always fallen squarely in the Pantser camp, but am now trying more of a hybrid approach for this series.

To give you more context:

* Pantser sits down and starts writing a story with absolutely no idea what is going to happen. The story unfolds for the writer as much as it does for the reader. This method does tend to have a bit more cleanup involved after a novel is written, especially if it is a series.

* Plotters are on the other side of the scale, they design the entire plot, character arcs, story arcs, conflict, world-building, elements, and every other little thing that goes into a story beforehand, then they write the story, and they stick to that, leaving little wiggle room.

* Hybrids, well they plan and do most/a fair chunk of the work beforehand but when they start writing they kind of veer off course sometimes, becoming Pantsers, but they always have that plan to fall back on if things go bad . . . Some stay the course, and good for them.

I have done significant plotting for this series beforehand, from background lore that will never make it into the series, to what will happen at the very end of the series. I have thought about who will not make it to the end, to who will find "peace". Where conflict will arise and what tropes to add. I'll tell you one thing, it is a struggle keeping these characters on the straight and narrow.

Anyway, besides this very interesting tidbit of a writer's life (I'm sure), I wanted to leave you with a short excerpt of The Way of the Walker, introducing Bellard to you all. Enjoy.

Excerpt of The Way of the Walker

Kunia, Academy of the Arcane, school for the gifted, had been the subject of many controversial discussions in the North over the years. The women had it easier when it came to the subject of magic, for they were doing more than was expected of them, serving the country by becoming mages, druids, wizards, healers, and herbalists. But the North expected men to be warriors, hunters, providers, protectors. They were supposed to be strong and brave in the face of danger, willing to give their lives for others to live, not become figures of obscurity.

After eighteen long years in Forgeholde, Bellard had been ready, and excited, to leave for Kunia. It had been nearly a year now since he joined the academy, and their graduation to continue to the second year was close at hand. For all the patient waiting they had forced him to endure, studying day and night, he couldn’t wait to hold his very own isolation crystal in his hands, his very own Pillar.

He wondered what his Pillar would look like, what colour it would be. Cracked and dull? Bright and clear? Would he wear it as a necklace or a ring? A bracelet, perhaps, as he had seen other students on the grounds of the academy wear theirs, while some wore it as earrings, all dependent on many factors. Some he had seen glittered brightly in the sun, while others were dull green, or ruby red, even dark as night. Only time would tell what his would be.

Until now, the masters of the academy had trained all the first-years on the theoretical way to use their gifts without actually being able to harm anyone by mistake, banning any use of magic without the guidance of an isolation crystal. Soon, though, they would venture to the Sacred Hall of the Usha, where their Pillars awaited them. With the isolation crystal, they would create real magic, form a power within themselves, isolated by the crystal to guide it outwards.

The year before, Bellard’s power had come to him in the form of a crow knocking its long, sharp beak against his window during a bout of icy rain pattering on the roof. It had cawed and squawked, turning and twisting its head. Its beady black eyes followed Bellard as he rose from his bed and made his way over to the ice-streaked window. Time froze as they stared at each other, feeling a deep connection form between them. One that some would say had always been there, unrecognisable until the day of their awakening, when it blossomed, ever growing until they claimed their Pillar, blooming into existence. It was then that they would realise their power.

He had never been like the other kids in Forgeholde. He had a fascination with the workings of the world, a keen sense of morality and a deep understanding of his own mortality, always erring on the side of caution. Other boys did not seem to accept his way of thinking, though, calling him a coward and a mule. Every day they would mock him, throw stones at him, chase him with sticks and beat his back bloody. Shout vulgarities and make fun of him. And for all the love he had for Gallus, his best friend for as long as he could remember, he grew tired of him always stepping in to protect him.

Little did Bellard know he would soon welcome his transformation, his acceptance of the power of the world and the mystical arts that now coursed through his veins. He had opened that window, and the black bird swooped into the room, settling to the floor before morphing into an ephemeral vision of the bearer, a plague of persistence seeping into his very pores, enshrouding him with the promise of power at his fingertips. He could feel his own potential so close to the surface yet was just unable to breach that final layer. From that day on, the dreams of the Usha hounded him, and they hounded him still, waiting for the Pillar to ground them in place.

But until he claimed his Pillar, gifted by the mystical Usha, he would need to complete the year of studies after an already long and challenging semester, before going on a much-deserved break.

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  • Marius H Visser

Originally slated for an August 1st 2023 release, it will come as a shock and surprise that we have released it TODAY! Yes, the 19th of July! Head to the store now, and get your copy if you haven't already. I appreciate all reviews left, so please don't forget to let other like-minded readers know why you enjoyed The Way of the Walker. Here is a small excerpt (the prologue) from The Way of the Walker for your enjoyment.

Jonas dug his fingers into the cool, moist dirt, snapping the thin roots of young plants, and an earthy smell graced his nose. Long breath in, eyes closed, he sucked in the smell, feeling his heart beat deep in his chest. How was it he could be so lucky? He cupped a mound of dirt in his hands and watched a worm curse at him, wriggling around, annoyed at being removed from the earth. He grinned at the worm’s anger and placed the soil back in the hole he’d dug. ‘There you go, little fella,’ came his gruff voice. ‘No need to haunt my dreams tonight.’

He rose with a smile on his face, lightened by the fresh scents around him, taking it all in. Pink flowers with a spicy, clove-like scent, red lilies with a sharp, sweet smell, and so many more filled the air. The soft drizzle of morning dew dropped from leaves up high, wetting his hair, and he sneezed again, like he had done so many times this morning. It might have smelled great, but like his father used to say, ‘Everything has a price, my boy.’ The various scents irritated his nose greatly, yet he still kept a smile on his face. There were worse things in the world.

The crisp early-morning air left a trail of mist covering the mountains and valley, the forest looking serene and untouched. Moisture in the air wet the rims of his nostrils, forming droplets at the tip, causing him to sniff incessantly. How many times had he walked these mountains, sat on logs and rocks, thinking about his past? Thinking about what he’d done. Wondering if he really deserved to be here in this blessed place called Barren Hollows. He had left the North with nothing but the clothes on his back and a tarnished reputation, and the people here took him in, no questions asked.

He was a man broken by the greed and ambition of others who preyed on his skill and abilities. Young and stupid, he had loved the attention it got him at first, the women he had, the men following his every order, but what they’d done . . . All to empower the name of his employer, the adavey, leader of the eastern Northlands.

The people of Barren Hollows had given him a purpose to live again, given him hope when he met Ayla, and just like that, the rest was history. They had fallen madly in love, and from that love came Jorin, a reminder for him to be a better man.

‘Papa!’ called a squeaky voice behind him. Jonas turned around, instantly having to stick out his arms and catch the small body sailing through the air towards him, crashing into him and driving him back.

‘Jorin, you crazy little monkey! What are you doing all the way out here?’ he asked, finding his footing. An owl hooted from a tree on their right, and Jorin imitated it, hooting loudly in Jonas’s ears. ‘It seems we be eating owl tonight!’ Jonas said and hefted the boy, cradling him in his arms and digging his face into his little stomach, growling as he blew onto the soft skin with his lips. The loud farting flaps reverberated through the forest, stirring a commotion in the trees, branches cracking, leaves rustling. ‘It seems the owl had enough,’ Jonas said as he stared at the big-winged bird flapping to get away from them. He set the boy down and took up his axe.

‘I’m not alone, Papa. Mama is here too.’

‘And dead tired from the slog up here,’ she said, the hem of her dress in hand while she climbed over fallen logs and rocks, ferns and small bushes brushing against her legs. ‘Why did you have to walk so far for a tree? There are plenty closer to home.’

‘But then I wouldn’t have had this view,’ Jonas said, gesturing behind him to the lake at the bottom of the valley, shrouded by the mist, a dark blue patch in a sea of green. She drew him in close and kissed him, her soft red lips wet and cool.

‘Papa! Let’s go swimming!’ Jorin’s wild brown hair bounced and flopped as he dashed over the rocks through the forest, running down the side of the mountain.

‘Jorin! No, wait. You could get hurt!’ But the boy didn’t listen and giggled instead as he scrammed away from them. Jonas turned and ran after Jorin, with Ayla following behind. Steep cliffs and drop-offs rode the side of the mountain, with enormous, sharp boulders waiting for a fool to tumble down, breaking legs and worse. He lost sight of the boy for a moment and scanned the declivous forest, glimpsing a red-and-black jerkin through the stands of thick trees. ‘Jorin!’ He heard the boy’s laughter bounce between the trees.

‘You can’t catch me,’ sang the squeaky voice, disappearing from his sight again.

‘Jorin, stop this!’ Ayla shouted behind him.

Heart racing, alarms going off in his head, Jonas sprinted down the side of the mountain and stepped on a loose rock, twisting his ankle. He went down in a hail of dust and leaves, crashing through brush and dirt, dropping his axe somewhere along the way. Dirt and gravel shot into his right eye, the coarse matter grinding harshly, forcing him to close it. ‘Argh!’ he groaned and jumped back up, searching for the boy with his left eye. The woods were a dangerous place for a lone boy to run around in. Bears, snakes, apes, and jaguars prowled these woods, and a small, easy meal was something they wouldn’t readily let go.

Twigs cracked to their right, and an urgent scream followed, setting his heart on fire. ‘Jorin? Papa’s coming!’ His loss of depth perception made him unbalanced, causing some things to appear further away than they were and others closer than they were, messing with his head. He stumbled along, feet getting hooked on stumps he’d seen as far away, nearly going down again. ‘Jorin, where are you?’

‘Here, Papa!’ screamed the terrified voice near to them, and he stopped to scan the area. The ground dropped away from them on their left, and then he saw his boy. Jorin hung by the tips of his fingers clutched to a mass of twisted roots crawling across the side of a tremendous boulder, legs kicking air and eyes wide as saucers. ‘Hurry!’ he cried, ‘Papa! Help me!’

Jonas ran across the top of the boulder and went to his knees, skinning them on the rough surface, breath caught in his throat. The quicker he breathed, the less air made it to his lungs, dark spots enveloping his vision. He reached down to his boy, leaning over the boulder as far as he dared, seeing the menacing rocks far below, just waiting to claim this little body for their own, and he shouted, ‘Grab my hand!’ It wasn’t long before Ayla arrived at his side, screaming and crying at the possible fate they had found themselves in. Seeing the fear in her eyes, he called again, ‘You can do it, boy! Grab my hand!’

Jonas started slipping over the side and felt Ayla grab his legs to pin him down, giving him a little more length to worm down. He was so close now, but he could see Jorin growing tired, his tiny hands trembling from exhaustion and fear. ‘You’re all right, lad. Just take my hand,’ he said calmly. Tears welled in his eye. ‘Don’t let go now, you hear me?’ They locked eyes for an instant, and the tiny hands slipped away from him. ‘No! No! Jorin! No!’ His heart stopped beating for a moment while he screamed and cried, watching his boy fall.

This never happened! He never ran from us. I know this memory. This is a dream!

Jonas woke to a blaze of heat surrounding him, his body bruised and in pain. Blood seeped from wounds on his side and arm, black marks staining him all over. His head pounded, and his sight blurred, the unmistakable feeling of old iron bars pressing against his back a hard thing to forget. Fires raged all over in the cavernous dungeon, and in the distance sat a beast on its throne, eyeing him with contempt.

Just a dream then, he thought and closed his eyes again.

The Way of the Walker 3d Mockup

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