Spotlight

C.L. Murray "This hero could cover a lot of ground on foot with a modest inventory of equipment: a sword, a bow and arrows, and you bet your a**, a magical flute, so magical that it was basically like the One Ring, only it was a flute, and he’d have to play it to wield its power."

CLM

Can You Tell Me a Bit About Your Writing?

I was an eighth grader who loved Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Zelda, and all it took was my neighbors bringing me back a wooden flute from Peru to trigger visions of a young hero on an epic adventure. This hero could cover a lot of ground on foot with a modest inventory of equipment: a sword, a bow and arrows, and you bet your a**, a magical flute, so magical that it was basically like the One Ring, only it was a flute, and he’d have to play it to wield its power. Pretty soon, I knew I was writing a book. It was called The Flute of Korindelf, and (being so sharp at thirteen) I could probably crank out a smooth final product in no time, right?

Thirteen years later—at age twenty-six—I published the finished book, which had no flute and a very, very different title.

One of the first cultures that I developed in this fantasy world bears a certain resemblance to Tolkien’s Riders of Rohan, only instead of a kingdom that builds its strength on the mighty backs of horses, here we have knights who ride the giant eagles that flock in the mountains behind their great city. Like the ancient Spartans, they start training for battle at a very young age, and at sixteen, after proving themselves in combat against their ghoulish enemies, it’s their rite of passage to climb into the mountains and claim eagles for themselves. 

When they win an eagle’s trust, they gain not only a seat atop a flying companion, but the ability to converse with it as well. The returning airborne knights are hailed as Eaglemasters.

Our hero isn’t one of them. Morlen’s been an outsider all his life, which gives him a particular advantage when he stumbles upon Roftome, the most powerful, coveted eagle of all, who’s gravely wounded and left for dead after an epic battle. Roftome has spent centuries rejecting the Eaglemasters’ kings, princes, and bravest warriors, who have tried to seat themselves between his wings and claim him like a prize. 

Immersed in his disdain for men, the last thing he expects is for one of them to set aside self-interest in his presence. But when Morlen carries Roftome on his own back, slowly traversing the snowy woods to reach Nottleforf the wizard, who mends the eagle’s injuries, it sparks an unlikely friendship that forms the heart and soul not just of this book, but the entire four-volume series. Their bond is best captured in this quote from a newly healed Roftome when Morlen intends to watch him fly to freedom:

“Many men have crossed my path, and my freedom is something they’ve never sought … While all other men would force their weight onto my back and call me servant, you took mine onto yours, and called me friend. Unasked, and asking nothing in return, you lowered yourself for me in a way that I never would for another, until now. Now, and from this day forth, I am your friend, and you are mine. Your weight shall be my weight, and my speed shall be your speed.”

Much like in The Wizard of Oz, Morlen’s journey to evade and eventually confront a sinister villain leads him to forge relationships with key characters whose lives are all missing something important. It’s as though each of them has grown used to having such narrow sight for so long that they need someone to come rattle them until their vision broadens. 

When Morlen proves to be that liberating force, they come to see the vast potential within themselves that they’ve been disregarding. But Morlen, after a life of being conditioned to think that his very best qualities are the most toxic and dangerous, needs to be rattled more fiercely than any of his companions.

In his possession is the magical Goldshard (which began as the Flute I mentioned earlier, until I realized that something non-musical, much smaller and easier for Morlen to conceal on his person could serve the same purpose). Legend says that the Goldshard’s keeper need only ask it for strength and invincibility, and ever since Morlen stole it, the Tyrant Prince of Korindelf has been laying waste to entire kingdoms and armies in search of it. 

As Morlen becomes more dependent on it to succeed through his many challenges, his natural abilities that he’s buried all his life refuse to be kept down any longer, presenting him with a dilemma: trust in himself, or trust in the Goldshard?

Nottleforf the wizard, speaking in his subtly wise fashion to this personal challenge that Morlen and the central characters face, says:

“There are those who will look at something so small, so incomplete, for so long, it becomes their everything, and they forget how much is outside of it. To them, I would say, do not mistake a facet for the gem.”

And so, A Facet for the Gem became the title that stuck for The Tale of Eaglefriend: Book One. The main heroes have all caged themselves with their own insecurities and limited sight. Each of them is stranded on a lonely rock that keeps them from having to face their fear. But they learn that when we hold too long to that which shields us from our fear entirely, we forget what it is to be brave in the first place. We cling so hard to the rock beneath us that our only hope is to hear the kind soul who calls out for us to jump, and see the view that we’ve been missing. Their triumph is the realization that there’s a boundless universe to explore within themselves beyond what they thought they knew, and those meaningful discoveries make up a point of light in the vastness of the lives around them.

I completed the first draft when I was twenty-four, and it clocked in at 130,000 words. For two years I tried relentlessly to get a literary agent, and eventually joined an online workshop with one who told me my book was overwritten, that I was sacrificing clarity in my effort to show off with a colorful style. If I could cut the manuscript down to 90,000 words, she’d give it another look. I spent months going line by line, chiseling the substance out of the murk, reconsidering the use of thirty words where ten would suffice. At the end of this meticulous process, I had trimmed over 40,000 words, scrapping over two months’ work, since the pace at which I’d written the book was around 640 words (two pages) a day. But the end result hadn’t lost anything of real value. It was the same book, only cleaner and easier to digest. When I sent the first few chapters of this to the agent, she still ended up passing, but I came out of the experience a better writer, and decided I was ready to independently publish through Amazon.

Wanting to make the best first impression I possibly could, I invested in a gorgeous cover from the professional book designers at damonza.com, and hired top-notch editor Karen Conlin: https://grammargeddon.com/karen-s-conlin/

Beta readers are also the most valuable resource that you MUST utilize before releasing your work to the world. When you find these wonderful people willing to give their time and energy toward the improvement of your work, treat them kindly, thank them sincerely, and take their feedback seriously. That doesn’t mean you should alter your work based on every single comment they make, but constructive criticism from the right people can really help you put a finer polish on it.

I published A Facet for the Gem https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01C9JT5BY in February 2016, and was delighted when Podium Audio contacted me that summer seeking the audiobook rights for the whole four-book Tale of Eaglefriend series. We agreed to a deal, and I’m thrilled with the audible editions they’ve produced, featuring narrator James Anderson Foster.

When you publish a book after pouring your blood, sweat, and tears into it, you hope thousands of readers in your target audience will just discover it on their own and buy it. Unfortunately, that wish is about as realistic as my initial expectation that a renowned literary agent would represent that rough, 130,000-word manuscript. Submitting your book to competitions like Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off #SPFBO is a great way to generate buzz from many strong voices in the writing/reviewing community. It also gives you the opportunity to pay that favor forward to other writers, which can improve your standing in the community you’re trying to impress.

Then we have paid advertising brought to you by BookBub, Facebook, and Amazon Ads (which I’ve listed here in order from Highly Useful to What An Obscene Joke). Be extremely careful with all of these, because they can take you down a road that resembles gambling addiction by essentially giving you a machine into which you can put x dollars and sometimes get back more than x. The added euphoria of someone buying your cherished work makes it so much harder to walk away when the profit margin just isn’t there. I’ve listed BookBub as the superior platform not just because of their coveted Featured Deal, which I got once three years ago and as a result saw my book rise above A Game of Thrones in Kindle Epic Fantasy Bestsellers for a few sweet hours. The BookBub Ads that you can run every day have brought me far better sales than any other platform. When I first published my book four years ago, I had some really good success with Amazon’s Product Display Ads (now Kindle Lockscreen Ads), but the cost per click and number of clicks per day that I get now with Amazon Ads compared to BookBub left me no choice but to issue the harsh ranking you see above. It’s probably best you don’t invest in paid advertising for your books until you have at least two or three on the market, preferably in a series.

My obsession with selling my one and only book definitely delayed my writing of its sequel. Cancer got in the way a bit, too. Almost three years since publishing A Facet for the Gem, I was starting the final three chapters of Eaglebreaker (The Tale of Eaglefriend: Book Two) https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07X3MGTZD after weeks of coughing up blood and shivering through fevers and knifelike abdominal pains. I finally went to Urgent Care and got diagnosed with testicular cancer that had metastasized to my liver and lungs. Nine months later, when I was preparing for my most intense chemo treatments and weeks of hospitalization, I found out the cancer had spread to my brain. A few weeks after hearing that news, and a couple days after getting radiation to combat the brain tumors that were causing seizures, I finished Book Two.

It’s been extremely rewarding to see that these books I’ve spent most of my life creating have resonated with so many readers in the US, UK, Australia, and Canada. I’m thrilled to have just put Son of Eaglefriend (The Tale of Eaglefriend: Book Three) on Pre-Order, for a release in a few months. A recent second round of brain tumor radiation slowed down my writing a bit, but my excitement to flesh out the ending I’ve been envisioning for so many years will carry me across the finish line.

 

Book 1

A Facet For The Gem

by C.L. Murray

About

When the mightiest eagle finally meets a rider worth carrying, a young man becomes a legend. Join all the readers soaring through this action-packed epic fantasy.

In a land of eagle-riding knights, bloodthirsty beasts, and a ruthless tyrant, young Morlen retreats from thousands of snapping jaws with the stolen Goldshard in his grasp. Its power to bestow strength and invincibility is just a panicked whisper away, and he’d feel naked without it while he fights the sinister forces that follow him at every turn.

Fortunately, he gains a few peculiar allies: a legendary warrior reluctant to leave his sheltered paradise, a wizard tormented by his past, and the untamable bird of prey that kings and heroes have sought for centuries.

A Facet for the Gem is a coming of age fantasy that brings Morlen from distant kingdoms to sprawling aerial battles, into the fiery breath of a stony dragon and side-by-side with a lady knight who is the last person to need rescuing. Fly with him as his epic adventures culminate in a final showdown against swords, fangs, and greatest of all: his own fear.

Book 2

Eagle Breaker

by C.L. Murray

About

When a deadly woman from a clan that tortures eagles into submission captures Morlen’s dear companion, Roftome, he embarks on a quest more terrifying than any he has yet undertaken.

Going alone into the Mountains of the Lost, Morlen treks an uncertain path through hostile forces that embody the grimmest legends. Worst of all are the Pyrnaq—wretched, twisted corruptions of the free eagles they once were—and their overwhelming presence is a constant reminder of the terrible fate that he must spare Roftome at all costs.

Held as a prized acquisition within the clandestine force that eagle-kind has dreaded for centuries, Roftome finds himself uniquely positioned to influence his abused brothers and sisters whose minds may still be salvageable. The cost of this rare opportunity, though, quickly proves more severe than he’d anticipated.

Despite the absence of their two strongest allies, King Verald and Lady Valeine lead the Eaglemasters on a massive campaign to wipe the Ferotaur Wildlands clean of their ancient enemies. But as they delve deeper into the overrun wasteland, they hear whispers of a watchful evil that their intrusion might soon unleash.

On a desolate corner of the world and threatened on every side, Morlen realizes that his only hope is to unite with one of the fierce ghouls he fought in his first adventure. And as the days pass into weeks, and months, he grows more afraid whether the end of his long journey will bring him face to face with the friend he lost, or… with something else.

Book 3

Son of Eagle Friend

by C.L. Murray

About

Evinn Eaglefriend’s boyhood was filled with stories of the free eagles that used to roam peacefully behind his people’s citadel, of Roftome the Untamable, whose fiercely sought allegiance had only been given to one man. Now, at sixteen, near the end of rigorous battle training that had once turned youths of the realm into Eaglemasters, he regards these accounts as little more than fanciful children’s tales. There are no free eagles, only Pyrnaq, the rattle of their chains a prelude to the blood they shed, their screams icy with insatiable wrath.

Second in line for the throne his mother’s father once sat upon, he’s been hardened over the years by sword and spear alongside his cousin, Vethros, whose coronation is only months away. He loves the future king like a brother, and does not envy him the challenges he’ll inherit with his crown. To their north, Sydrenna Eaglebreaker gains more ground every month with an army that eclipses the very sun, and south, the ferotaurs and shriekers are united against them under a ruler bent on seizing their kingdom with his sorcery.

When his father pulls him and Vethros from their lessons one day to visit the wizard Nottleforf at Korindelf, they realize that their training is at an abrupt end. The ongoing war for which they’ve prepared all their lives will no longer permit them to grow up at its edge, and they must follow Morlen along a path fraught with dangers they’ve only observed from afar. And, the deeper his father leads them through the heart of their enemy’s power, the more Evinn is forced to grapple with his uncertainty about the legendary figure known as Eaglefriend. All he does know for certain is one thing:

Boyhood is over; the perils that separate kings from princes have just begun.

About the Author

CLM

Charles Laurence Murray was born in 1989 and grew up in San Diego, California. He spent many days lost in the humming, spark-scattering clashes between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, caught up in a charge with the Riders of Rohan, and enthralled by the cadence and poise of Doc Holliday emerging from the shadows to face Johnny Ringo. When he was thirteen, he became obsessed with the idea of an eagle-riding, sword-wielding hero and developed it over the years into an epic, four-part fantasy series called The Tale of Eaglefriend.

He published his first novel, A Facet for the Gem (The Tale of Eaglefriend–Book One) at the end of February, 2016, and it has been featured on ten Amazon Top 100 lists, ranking at #2 in Kindle Teen Epic Fantasy, and at #5 in Kindle Adult Epic Fantasy. Podium Publishing, the award-winning audiobook publisher whose first fiction title was Andy Weir’s The Martian, picked up the audible rights to The Tale of Eaglefriend five months after its debut, and narrator James Foster brings the first installment to life with a stellar performance.

On November 1, 2018, after weeks of severe illness while beginning the final three chapters of Eaglebreaker, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had metastasized to his lungs. The ensuing months of chemotherapy and other treatments were highly effective, and finally in August of 2019, after learning the cancer had spread to his brain and enduring a string of seizures from the hemorrhaging, he completed the book. Thanks to California’s remarkable health care and the expertise of his doctors and nurses, he has a long, happy life to look forward to.

The Tale of Eaglefriend will continue with Books Three and Four.

Where to Find Them

I discuss writing my books through cancer and advertising them more in-depth at https://authorclmurray.com/

Feel free to get in touch there or on my Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCLMurray

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15039189.C_L_Murray

I also tweet occasionally @AuthorCLMurray: https://twitter.com/AuthorCLMurray

 

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