Any good journey requires a tattoo. Tattoos require ink. Sometimes you can’t find good ink on your journey, so you’ll have to do your best with memories alone and hope that they don’t fade before you find yourself in a place with better supply lines.
Spoiler: don’t get tattoos in the Congo.
When I started writing my first book I was in the process of selling everything I owned and moving to South Africa to work on the world’s largest private charity hospital ship. I started that first book on one continent and finished it on another, a pattern I would somehow maintain for the three books that would follow.
For me, a writing journey isn’t so much about learning to love stories, reading voraciously, starting to write, and stumbling into my first novel. Writing is an outpouring of everything I’ve seen, every place I’ve been, and everything that has happened to me in the midst of those experiences.
You can’t travel and not be changed.
We like to think we enter the world to change it, but it is the world that changes us. This is one of the most challenging aspects of losing our pride, which is a greater hindrance than most would like to admit. We are so very small, and that’s ok. Perspective changes not who we are, but how we relate to everything around us (which, in turn, does change us foundationally).
I wanted to save the world, but the world has been the one to save me far more frequently.
My journey is encapsulated in my latest story in the same way that everything I write holds some part of me – but Into the Nanten holds much more. It’s the story of a man who has been exiled into the world’s most hostile jungle in search of a man that he hates, a man exiled there 20 years before him. It’s the story of a man wrestling with the consequences of his passion, with the loss of those he should have loved, with the murder of those he did.
And in the midst of all that, it’s the story of his unblinding. It’s the story of his self-realization, of understanding just how little he truly understands. Knowing how much more there is to know.
Marceles na Tetrarch enters the jungle much as I entered Western Africa: duty-bound and under orders. Marceles and I both fled our failures; we both hoped to return better men. Yet somehow in the midst of that, there is a realization that better men may not exist – the distinctions begin to fade. The surety of what we want and who we want to become dissolves before the strangeness of the ‘other’ we discover.
The world is not as we always imagined it to be. Those we meet do not hold to the same ideals, nor do they see ‘good men’ as the ones with the same traits we would uphold. Whose good is better? Whose right is right?
At a foundational level, Marceles and I both want what is good and right, and I think we both understand that such things do exist. There is Truth with a capital “T” out there, but we mistook our lenses for the world beyond them and in the process called them “Right.”
As we both have learned, the warrior and the writer, often ‘right’ is exactly what you must let go in order to discover something better. Truer. Nearer the mark. Sometimes the ink you find is better than the ink you knew, even if it doesn’t meet the standards you always held.
Let’s hope we both survive long enough to arrive at the place and peace we seek.
Moving along the soil is the quickest way to die; for Tolly to survive she must learn to stay silent. Life on farms like hers was difficult enough in the face of plague and a decade of drought, but something worse has come to the foothills under the Highridge Mountains. Something that will destroy everything she loves.
Mere miles away, Vanig’s search for water to revive his farm is cut short when soldiers arrive bearing dark news of disaster striking farms throughout the region – and they suspect he is the root cause of it all. Those suspicions spike when a disheveled warrior appears hundreds of miles from home and takes Vanig hostage.
Death looms in the shadows of the Highridge.
“Farmer.” Gaptooth grabbed Vanig by the shoulder and turned him. “We ain’t walkin’ no farther. You do your thinkin’ on the way back.”
“Do you think I came out here to ruminate?” Vanig was shocked at how the anger boiled over, but he followed it.
“I need to make a survey of these draws.” Vanig shoved the soldier’s hand off his shoulder. It felt good. “Take measurements. Draw. No amount of thinking will move it without knowing just what I’m moving it through. You think because I live out here that I’m some stupid mystic. Sacrifice a goat and maybe this time the rain gods will bless me with abundance? Well they won’t. Gods and man have abandoned this place all the same. It’s a waste; and without someone like me to change that, that’s the way it will stay.”
Crooknose stepped forward to speak, but Vanig held up his hand.
“I need an hour. Give me that. Go drink your fill and sit down to rest. Gods know you both need it.”
Crooknose shoved his finger into Vanig’s chest. “Listen here you goat lovin’, dirt humpin’, ignorant piece of shit. We’re leavin’, and we’re leavin’ now.”
“We are not,” Vanig growled. “So get your finger off my chest.”
“Don’t move. Any of you.” All three of them jumped at the sound of the voice. A new voice, one they didn’t recognize. “I mean it! Don’t move. Take one more step and you’re all dead.”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Jay Swanson is the creator of Into the Nanten, the world’s first real-time fantasy blog. He is also author of a spin-off novel, Shadows of the Highridge, the standalone short novel Dark Horse, and the Vitalis Chronicles trilogy. Jay grew up in Washington State, and has lived all over the world since then. Jay served for three years with Mercy Ships, a medical charity that runs the world’s largest private hospital ship, the Africa Mercy. In each country they visit, Mercy Ships donates free surgeries to the world’s forgotten poor, alleviating the suffering that so often accompanies a lack of access to medical care. He started in IT, then worked as the editor for their international Creative Pool, and finished as the on board Media Liason.
Paris will always have a place in Jay’s heart; he lived in France for two years, but he’s currently working in the US as a consultant on electronic medical records. Basically, he lives on planes.
Jay has a background in design and video production which have been instrumental in his self-publishing endeavors. Jay was telling stories from an early age, and latched on to video as soon as he discovered he could borrow people’s cameras. The stories that would one day become the Vitalis Chronicles began to take form in Jay’s head as movie ideas while he was still in college, and he began writing them down when he realized that they might make good books as well as films (and that if he died in Africa, there would be nothing left to prove they ever existed). He started writing White Shores in May of 2010 and finished on Christmas day of that year in Applesbosch, South Africa.
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE
Jay Swanson will be awarding an e-book of Shadows of the Highridge to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.