Spotlight, Excerpt & Author Interview: The Moon’s Eye by A.J. Calvin

The Moon's Eye blog announcement

Cover - The Moon's Eye

The Moon’s Eye
by A.J. Calvin
Series: The Relics of War #1
Genre: Epic/High Fantasy
Intended Age Group: Adult
Pages: 356
Published: January 11, 2022
Publisher: Self Published

Content/Trigger Warnings:
Shown on page: Violence, Child abduction/harm, Torture
Alluded to: Rape

Chosen for advanced training by the god of war himself, Vardak is considered a paragon amongst his people, the Scorpion Men. Yet his position and training come with a cost: He must serve the whims of the god, with no questions asked. Only days after his training is complete, he is sent far away from his desert homeland in order to act as the protector of the Fire Maiden’s mortal daughter, Janna.

Janna has been tasked with the recovery of a magical relic known as The Moon’s Eye, but she has little worldly experience to guide her. The Immortals deem the relic’s recovery imperative, for it alone can combat the rise of the Soulless—those sworn to the fallen, nameless god of death. The Soulless are ruthless and powerful, and eager to wage war upon the land in order to appease the god they serve.

Though Vardak is skilled in battle, he must lead Janna through several perilous areas in order to reach the relic she seeks, pushing his abilities to the limit. Unbeknownst to the pair, the Soulless raise an army and begin their conquest, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. Will they secure The Moon’s Eye before all is lost, or will the relic itself prove to be their undoing?

Can’t Catch a Break • Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads • Embrace the Dark Side

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Aran’daj was awakened from a heavy slumber by a pair of rough hands shaking his shoulders. He caught a glimpse of pale eyes from beneath the hood of the Murkor that knelt beside him, panic in the soldier’s gaze. He sat up and shrugged away.

“I’ve had little sleep for days,” he growled ominously in their own tongue. “This had better be important.”

“Commander, sir,” the soldier replied, his tone wavering on the edge of terror, “it is. The wizard is at the chasm’s edge, sir. He’s performing a ritual, or so Sal’zar claims. He’s an alchemist, sir. He would know.”

Aran’daj tugged on his boots and grabbed his belt, buckling it over his rumpled clothing as he stepped outside in the soldier’s wake. If it came to a fight with Shan’tar, his mail would do him little good; he left it within and followed the soldier to a place near the edge of the camp. The other Murkor milled about in confusion that bordered on panic. He strode past them, shoving those in his path brusquely out of the way. Most who took notice of his presence began to calm, though all remained fearful.

As he broke through the last of the crowd, Aran’daj was greeted by the sight of several large fires burning brightly along the chasm’s edge. The flames danced and swirled in intricate patterns unlike any he’d witnessed previously, and he knew immediately it was the work of the wizard’s magic. Shan’tar’s figure moved between each mound of burning tinder, a silhouette amongst the midnight shadows. He danced at times and gesticulated at others.

“What does he do, Commander?” one of the nearby soldiers asked.

Aran’daj shook his head and continued to observe the wizard’s strange performance. “I’m not certain I want to find out.”

“He calls powerful magic,” a low voice said from beside him.

Aran’daj turned to find a Murkor hooded and garbed in vibrant green standing beside him. The color marked him as an alchemist; there were only two presently within the camp, but he suspected this must be Sal’zar. He was nearly as tall as Aran’daj, with a thin, wiry frame.

Alchemists specialized in creating weapons and tools, salves, potions, and elixirs using the ingredients they encountered in the land. Some of their concoctions were used with devastating effect, while others were meant for healing or simply to improve fortune. Murkor could not use magic, but the alchemists’ creations were a close proxy.

In that moment, Aran’daj wished Sal’zar had brought with him one of the exploding stones the alchemists had been perfecting, if only to distract the wizard from his task. Shan’tar’s blatant use of magic made him uneasy.

“Can we stop him?” he asked of Sal’zar.

Sal’zar shook his head. “He is nearly finished, I believe. What he does feels…wrong.”

Aran’daj did not question him further, though he wondered how Sal’zar could seem so certain of Shan’tar’s actions. Perhaps the alchemists had learned a means of detecting magic, but had not yet perfected it enough to share their knowledge. Alchemists were known for experimentation, which often spanned years before they unveiled their creations.

Aran’daj focused his attention upon the strange human in the distance as he gyrated and spun toward the central fire. He caught a gleam of light in Shan’tar’s right hand, a green-white glow that outshone the flames for a moment before the wizard changed direction and his hand was hidden from view.

“What was that?” he asked of Sal’zar.

The alchemist shrugged. “It was a part of his magic, but separate, somehow. I do not know.”

Shan’tar fell to his knees at a point equidistant between the three pyres he’d built; his arms stretched upward toward the midnight sky. His voice soared in volume until it thundered across the barren landscape between them, a veritable shockwave of sudden noise. The words he uttered were in a language the Murkor could not decipher, neither their tongue, nor the common, but to Aran’daj, it sounded as though it had come from a time long past, ancient and mysterious.

The green-white light shone brilliantly. It enveloped the wizard and the three bonfires surrounding him. Instinctively, Aran’daj shielded his eyes and turned away from the sight, unwilling to risk blindness from the terrible, searing glare. Most of the other Murkor did the same, though given the sudden bout of swearing he heard from behind, some must have failed to avert their gaze in time.

When the light receded, Aran’daj gaped at the spectacle unfolding near the chasm’s edge. The pyres had been extinguished, and Shan’tar remained kneeling between them, but five figures now encircled him. Even from a distance, Aran’daj knew something was terribly wrong with the newcomers. They seemed human, but their skin appeared grayish, as though rife with decay, while their movements were too fluid and quick to be natural. He could see one of the newcomers’ eyes, and they glowed dimly in the night, crimson and filled with rage. Each wore antiquated garb that Aran’daj recognized as human-made.

“Gods preserve us,” Sal’zar murmured, his tone stunned and horrified.

“Who are they?” Aran’daj asked quietly, though he suspected he already knew. His stomach churned and flipped as bile rose into his throat.

Before Sal’zar could respond, one of the newcomers, shorter than the rest, with a figure that appeared female, strode forward to meet Shan’tar. She raised her hand toward him, but her fingers never met his flesh. At the last moment, she drew her hand into a fist, and Shan’tar’s neck snapped sideways at an unnatural angle. She waved her hand dismissively at his corpse. It rose into the air and tumbled over the edge of the chasm behind her.

“Gods,” Aran’daj breathed, unable to tear his eyes from the sight, terror rooting him in place even as the figures began to march toward him.

“They are the Soulless, Commander,” Sal’zar replied, his tone faltering. “The wizard has doomed us all.”

Author Interview:

1. What inspired you to write this book?
This question isn’t easy to answer. The original concept for The Moon’s Eye began in the late ‘90s, and my memory of how it came together is fuzzy. It was a long time ago!

What I can tell you is that I started writing the original draft while I was in high school. I was reading a lot of Katherine Kerr (her Deverry Cycle), Raymond Feist (the Riftwar and Serpentwar series), and a few other notable authors around that time. I think some aspects of my book were influenced by what I was reading back then.

I’ve always loved fantasy, mythology, and (most) fairy tales. Writing what became The Moon’s Eye was an extension of that. I didn’t go into the story planning to make it a trilogy, but that’s where it ended up.
I wrote the drafts of the subsequent books while I was in college. Then they sat for a long time.

During 2021, I decided to go back through the trilogy and see if I could salvage anything of it. I liked so many of the ideas and characters that I didn’t want to leave them gathering dust forever, but those drafts were not in any state to be published. I ended up rewriting the entire series from scratch, but kept some of the overarching themes. It was a big project.

I’m glad I did it, because I’m very happy with the end result, and the feedback so far on book one (The Moon’s Eye) has been great.

2. What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?
Foremost, I learned that twenty plus years of writing and life experience makes an incredible difference in one’s writing. What I wrote back in high school could probably be considered “good” for a teenager, but it was not good enough for publication. It needed a lot of work.

I also learned the value of a good outline. (Yes, I’m a plotter.) With this book/series, I was forced to use a very in-depth outline. There are six distinct points of view throughout, but each story ties into the others in some way. The best way I could conceive to keep track of what needed to happen with each character at each point in the story was a chapter-by-chapter outline. There were a number of times when an idea struck and I had to adjust the outline accordingly, but having it in place to guide me was a huge help.

3. What surprised you the most in writing it?
I’m not sure for the original drafts, since it was so long ago.
When I decided to take on the rewrite project, it felt overwhelming at first. But once I started piecing the outline together, things started to flow really well. I was surprised at how easy it was to rewrite it.

4. If it’s not a spoiler, what does the title mean?
The Moon’s Eye is a magical relic that one of the main characters (Vardak) is tasked to obtain. It’s definitely not a spoiler, as it’s mentioned in chapter one or two.

5. Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?
None of the characters in this series were inspired by real people.

6. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?
Not really. I write to entertain, for the most part.

7. What is your favorite part of the book?
There is one scene not long after Vardak and Janna meet Maryn where they’re discussing food. Janna grew up in a relatively sheltered environment, and she’s not used to some of the customs of other peoples.

I took a bit of inspiration after watching Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel. They discuss a few things that Janna is repulsed by. Tarantulas, lizard jerky… It was a fun scene to write, and one of the few more light-hearted bits found in the book.

8. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
Dranamir. She’s the main villain, one of the Soulless, and a complete sociopath. Sometimes writing her chapters weren’t too bad, but other times I struggled. I had to channel anger for her character that some days I just couldn’t muster.

There was one scene toward the end of The Moon’s Eye that I was stuck on for a few days, when I saw a meme about Darth Vader. Thinking about the scene at the end of Rogue One gave me some inspiration to finish that particular chapter.

I’m not a mean person. Writing a character like Dranamir wasn’t easy.

9. What are your immediate future plans?
I have a few exciting things planned for the near future.
I’ll be releasing books two and three in The Relics of War series this year. The Talisman of Delucha on July 19, and War of the Nameless on December 6.

I have a different series, The Caein Legacy, that’s set in a different world, which I’m hoping to begin releasing in 2023. I don’t have any firm dates yet, as I’m still going through revisions/edits, and The Relics of War has taken precedence.

And I’m still writing new books too.

About the Author:

A.J. Calvin is a science fiction/fantasy novelist from Loveland, Colorado. By day, she works as a microbiologist, but in her free time she writes. She lives with her husband, their cat, Magic, and a fairly large salt water aquarium.

When she is not working or writing, she enjoys scuba diving, hiking, and playing video games.

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