Shannon here: Brett Armstrong shares how he met his wife, along with an excerpt of how his hero and heroine met in his Christian Epic Fantasy, The Gathering Dark. Heads up, this book was published by the company my business partner and I recently bought. Comment or answer the question in any post dated Oct 6th – 9th to enter the drawing for a copy. Winner’s choice print or e-book. Deadline: Oct 17th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Brett:
- How did you meet your spouse?
You never know how much a single night can change your life. I was in my senior year and it was a Friday night in late September, so that meant I was pretty much honor bound to go watch a high school football game. It was a home game and the night was warm for the time of year. The small town crackled with the excited energy of the event. Growing up just outside Saint Albans, West Virginia a night like that night was one of the rare occasions where you really felt the thrum of the city’s pulse. I don’t remember the reason for it, but I got there a little late.
Most of the seats in the bleachers were already filled and I couldn’t sit with the friends I had planned on watching the game with. The way the field was laid out a lot of students ended up standing along a fence line just behind one end zone or another. After half time I picked the end zone that we were trying to reach for the half. Which was really nice, because you could hear the traffic from the road, take in the field with the bright stadium lights as twilight fell all around, and stand under a row of 50-foot-tall oak trees. The intersection of the sylvan and urban exemplifies West Virginia for me, where the wild is never more than a so many steps from the streets of even the biggest cities.
At the fence I found a friend to hang out with already there. We talked for a bit and then started watching the game, or at least I did. It wasn’t a great night for our team. We were playing against a school with a much better record than ours and it was already pretty clear we weren’t going to come out on top. I tried to be supportive by not calling it a night and giving up on them. Sometime during the third quarter my friend, who stood on my left, gave me a violent shove. I crashed into the person standing on my right and almost knocked her over.
She had fair skin and had long dark hair. I recognized her as being from my school in the grade below me and but had never spoken to her before. Giving her rueful smile I tried to apologize for my friend being annoying. I say tried, because she just stared at me with her deep chocolate eyes and then turned her attention back to the game. She didn’t say a single word in response. I just stared at her for a minute or so. My thoughts ran along the lines of, “Ouch. Guess that’s the first and last I’ll be speaking to her.”
After being used as a projectile weapon against the girl I didn’t know and the game taking an even sharper turn for the worse, I decided to leave after all. I went home pretty sure I had just wastefully burned all of my Friday evening. I got online at home and logged into my instant messenger (AIM to date this and for anyone needing a dose of nostalgia). I was on for about an hour when I got an instant message from SAsCutestGirl. Being the shy introvert that I am I was a little apprehensive. I almost didn’t answer, because I had no idea who would use that AIM handle, and generally answering IMs from people you don’t know wasn’t advisable even before malicious bots became the nuisance they are now. All the same I answered.
It was from a girl named Shelly. We traded a few awkward messages. Or at least I felt awkward, because the name didn’t click for me. She must have realized I wasn’t getting it, because she let me know she was the girl I’d been launched into earlier in the night. After that we had a nice time chatting. I discovered that I was just another useful prop for my friend to use in a strange flirting ritual in which he either bumped her into lockers or knocked people or objects into her. I logged off, feeling a little better about the night, but pretty sure it was just another night.
Over the months afterwards, I kept talking to Shelly and found out she’s an incredible person. Though she wasn’t into any of the geeky things I was, I discovered her to be kind and thoughtful. And smart and a lot humbler than her AIM handle suggested. As it turns out friends set up her account, but over time I had to admit I agreed that it fit her. We didn’t go on any dates for a long time, but by the time we did I was already falling for her.
We started dating a year after we met and have been together ever since. In case you’re wondering, I don’t think my friend is bitter about how things turned out. He agreed to be my best man at the wedding. Shelly and I are on year seven of our marriage, five of which have also been shared with our little boy who definitely takes after his mom in terms of cuteness. I count myself blessed and in prayers each night thank the Lord for the blessings I never saw coming. That I was there by that fence, unassuming, as fate pushed me and the love of my life together.
This picture from our wedding captured a special moment. We reached the part of the reception where everyone expects the bride and groom to kiss again and my wife is kind of shy about public displays of affection. I could tell she wasn’t comfortable and people were starting to say, “Kiss, kiss…” So I took her hand and kissed it. The way her face lit up at that moment is one of my most treasured memories.
- How did your hero and heroine meet?
And while I don’t make my characters clones of people I know or snapshots from my life, I do, on occasion borrow from real life to give the skeleton to special events or characters. In The Gathering Dark, I drew from the best romance I know, the one I’ve lived, to set up the relationship between teen Knight Anargen and the striking, enigmatic girl he’s admired from afar, Seren. Though epic fantasy, the story of Anargen and Seren’s love, is integral to the Quest of Fire saga and something readers consistently have commented they want to know more about in the books to come. Here’s a quick peek that should show off the parallels from above.
Excerpt from The Gathering Dark by Brett Armstrong:
Less than a minute later, he was at his father’s shop and looking on the patient soul who needed the services of a blacksmith. Anargen’s eyes widened with surprise.
Awaiting his arrival was Seren, a girl his age with hair dark and long like the region’s namesake river. The first day Anargen saw Seren, really saw her, was at a festival last summer in the nearest town of any size, West Haven. Anargen was participating in an archery contest and on his last shot of the tournament one of his friends, Bertinand, bumped his elbow, sending the shot wide.
Anargen ran over to retrieve the arrow from a basket of corn it had skewered and reached it in time to see Seren bending over to pick it up. At that moment, the sun caught her long tresses in just the right way to reveal the tinges of red hidden in them, like precious copper in a mine. When her warm, cocoa eyes found his, the words of apology he had planned to offer were lost. She was a marvel. The contrast of her pallid skin with her dark hair were reminiscent of his favorite treat, blackberries and cream. The fragrance of honeysuckles in bloom clung to the air around her.
At length, he had managed to mumble, “I’m sorry about that. My friend bumped me.”
She merely handed him the arrow and went back to tending her family’s booth. Anargen’s heart almost went still with dejection.
After he went home, Anargen drafted a letter of apology and found her home some distance from Black River. No one was there, so he left it on her doorstep, sure he’d never know her. The next day, Anargen had found a letter from her on his family’s doorstep:
I do not accept your apology, because I do not see the need of it. One lost ear of corn gained me your letter. Likewise, one lost contest gains you mine. Life is filled with losses that are full of greater gains.
Rather than approach her in person, Anargen had written a reply letter, and the practice persisted for weeks. Since then a friendship had blossomed, but Anargen carried quiet hope for more.
“Anargen, I’m glad you made it,” Seren greeted, looking at him like she could already tell he’d overslept. “I was beginning to worry something had closed the smithy.”
Fussing a bit with his hair, which he suspected of giving away his dereliction, Anargen replied, “No, all is well. At least now it is.”
About Brett: Brett Armstrong, author of the prize-winning novel, Destitutio Quod Remissio, started writing stories at age nine, penning a tale of revenge and ambition set in the last days of the Aztec Empire. Twenty years later, he still tells stories enriched by his Christian faith and a master’s degree in creative writing. His goal with every work is to be like a brush in the Master artist’s hand and his hope is the finished composition always reflects the design God had in mind. He writes to engage, immerse, and entertain with deep, thoughtful stories. Continually busy at work with one or more new novels to come, he also enjoys drawing, gardening, and playing with his beautiful wife and son. Learn more & connect:
About the book – The Gathering Dark:
After a thousand years of light, a teen’s world teeters on the edge of utter darkness.
Jason is an expert at running from his past. But when it catches up, he finds himself hiding in a peculiar inn listening to a tale from centuries past.
The story is Anargen’s, a teen who is pulled from all he loves to follow his oaths of loyalty to the fabled King of the Realms. Together with his mentor, Cinaed, he rides north on a special quest to mediate peace talks between ancient foes—the men of Ecthelowall and the dwarfs of Ordumair. Nothing goes as planned. Many on both sides of the dispute despise Anargen’s Order. Worse, an arcane evil has returned to the North. This “Grey Scourge” seeks to ruin the peace talks and ensure a lost treasure held by the dwarfs is never found by those for whom it is meant.
As Anargen’s story unfolds, Jason begins to wonder whether it is truly just a fable. He soon finds himself drawn into the conflict Anargen faced. A battle that has shaped and can destroy his world.
The Gathering Dark Trailer: The Gathering Dark Book Trailer
Interested in Brett’s books? Get your copies now! Brett’s Amazon Page
Question for Readers: Have you had a day that started ordinary but looking back changed your life forever?