Ouroborus Authors Roundtable Interview: A Year in Review

Debut authors. New titles. Record sales at Supanova. As we draw to a close on what has been Ouroborus Book Services’ biggest year to date, some of our team takes a few minutes to debrief together and discuss the highlights of 2017.

How did 2017 progress you as a writer?

Shayla: Pass. I didn’t write anything. Oh, that’s not true. I wrote a thesis! My first non-fiction work, which is going to be published sometime late next year as a chapter in a book about publishing. I also began my freelance career as an editor and publisher, which gives a whole new perspective to the writing process.

Sabrina: 2017 progressed me as a writer by finally finishing my solo novel.

Shayla: Yay! That’s huge!

Danica: For me 2017 was one of the most challenging yet rewarding years I’ve yet to live. While writing Battles of Azriel three, me and the characters had some disagreements so I decided to take a break where I let my imagination go wild and wrote half a dozen standalone novels, one of which you can look forward to reading next year.

Rob: 2017 got me The Laughing Man. I could not be happier with it. I started my own business writing speeches and ads, that cut down on the time I could write.

The single best memory you’ll take away from 2017 is…


The best book I read in 2017 was…

Sabrina: Best book this year: The Fireman by Joe Hill. He’s like a modern version of his dad (Stephen King). Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer was weird but enthralling too.

Shayla: Devil’s Advocate, by Jonathan Maberry. It’s an X-Files origin novel about teenage Scully becoming a sceptic. I’m a nerd, conditioned to like it, but I was really impressed by the attention to detail. Oh, and The Messenger, by Markus Zusak. That guy makes me jealous. How can anyone make words so beautiful? And now I’m reading Wintersong, by S. Jae-Jones, and it’s majestic. I know that’s not just one, I’m sorry!

Mitchell: The best book I read in 2017 was the graphic novel Maus. Highly recommend.

Robert: My favourite book of 2017 was Kill City Blues from the Sandman Slim series.

In 2018, my readers can look forward to…

Mitchell: In 2018 my readers can look forward to the final Everdark Realms book, rounding out the trilogy and bringing the stories together.

Sabrina: I’m also looking forward to getting the last Everdark book out and my first solo novel Blank on the shelves. I’m also looking forward to welcoming new authors on board and making heaps of cover art.

Danica: In 2018 my readers can look forward to me sitting down and sorting things out with the characters to deliver book three to you. Goodbye 2017, I’m ready for a new year. Hello 2018.

Shayla: Ooh, I’d better not make any promises at this point, but I’m hoping to have book four of The Elm Stone Saga out – at the very least, finished and with the editor.

My plans for the future include…

Sabrina: Future plans are to release 5 books next year for the company. Hard slog ahead but a fun one!

Mitchell: Finishing my adult book and hopefully releasing it later in the year.


Published in: on December 30, 2017 at 7:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Designing Fantasy Book Covers

My favourite covers to design are from the fantasy genre. It branches out into so many sub-genres that tends to only really exist within these niches, from traditional swords and dragons to urban and gritty covers to text only covers filling the gaps.

There are several elements to covers: image, colour scheme, theme and typefaces.


COVER2fThe main image of a cover will differ from sub-genre to sub-genre. The original sword and dragon fantasy is one sub-genre where the cover image is usually the focus, and suits more traditional-looking art. As much as I have a soft spot for them though, the old style framed oil painting of scantily clad, Fabio lookalikes, rescuing the even more scantily clad damsel from a beasty, are something that should stay in the past. There are some vintage things that should not make a comeback.

However, the painting style itself can still be used (hopefully with less sexist imagery) and there are many amazing traditional and digital artists out there who can create a masterpiece, but instead of boxing it in a solid coloured box, we respect the art enough to let it BE the cover. This can work for all sub-genres but a looming beasty staring back at you from a cover is certainly right at home in more traditional fantasy.

Urban fantasy and more modern fantasy can have the full image, but popular design aims for the emblem or artefact style cover. A semi-plain background, decorating text with one feature image in the centre and some crisp type can draw the eye and can elevate a cover into the modern day. Be it an amulet, a symbol or item, this can be a versatile way to draw attention and also requires less knowledge from the book. Although this works well with more modern fantasy, it has also been used in some of the newer releases of Tolkien.

Thirdly the text only cover. This type of cover has blown up in popularity over the years in all genres. The most important part of this is the typeface (see typeface section below). All genres can use this cover style as it requires almost no knowledge of the book and there are more options in colour scheme.

Colour Scheme

cover ebook.jpgRegardless of genre, colour theory is important. There are many books on colour schemes but instinctively the brain connects certain colours with certain themes or emotion. The other thing to keep in mind is your complementary colours for the text/image etc.

There’s a great article on colour and emotion here.

And a run down on the basics of the colour wheel and complementary colours here.


coversTheme is probably the most important element. You don’t want to pick up a book that looks like a fantasy to discover an action thriller (well, that depends on your reading taste but you get the point). Theme is not just the emotional aspects of a story but elements of genre, characterisation and many other aspects. The way you address this is different to all designers. Some just want a quick sentence, some want a blurb and personally, I like a little more so the cover really speaks of the story.


coverfrontIn fantasy covers, regardless of style or genre, the most stand out feature should be the typeface. There are millions of fonts available and there are also artists who make custom fonts. A particular typeface can become part of your book/author branding. For example, you can spot a Stephen King book from 40 paces because his name has been emblazoned in the same typeface for several years. So, make it distinctive. Make it so people know which books are from the same author or the same series purely because the typeface matches.

So, when it comes to covers, especially in the fantasy genre, my advice is, make sure you know what is the heart of the book, the sub-genre and the author’s emotional intent with the work so you can create a well-rounded cover that creates interest and adds to your overall branding.

~Sabrina RG Raven

See Sabrina’s art and design work at www.sabrinargraven.com

Published in: on December 16, 2017 at 3:05 am  Leave a Comment  


coverfront.jpgDue out December 9, 2017 is the first novel from up and coming author Robert J Barlow. Here is chapter one of The Laughing Man which is book one in The Laughing Man Chronicles. Available at the Ouroborus Book Shop or all good book retailers.

Also if you are local to Brisbane Australia feel free to join us for the official launch. For details click here.

The Laughing Man

A homeless man wandered the streets of Berlin, his hair was thinning and he wore three threadbare coats over each other, pushing his few possessions in a shopping cart. He shook his head and searched for something, his hands roaming through thin air as he became frustrated. A black sedan pulled up in front of him and four men in suits got out. Without a word, they bundled the struggling man into the car and took off. They were never seen again.

In New York a young woman with a power suit and power hair made her way out of work, cutting a shortcut down an alley and plugging her headphones into her ears. A tall, bald man in a leather jacket approached her from behind, the sound of boots on gravel obscured by the tune. She hit the ground seconds later.

In London, a mohawked musician slung a guitar onto his back and walked out of the bar he’d been playing in. He sung softly to himself and stopped when three beautiful women approached him. He gave them his most charming smile and the most stunning of them approached him. She leaned up to kiss him and broke his neck.

On the Stockholm leg of her tour a popular teen singer was gunned down in broad daylight. Security reports said she was shot by a crazed fan. The police never identified the killer.

A pair of children ran through the Beijing streets, scrambling and stumbling through a crowd. They tried to give away no angle of attack, to vanish into the crowd and hide behind people. They didn’t blend well enough.

A building that contained the boardroom of a fortune 500 company was bombed. The explosion took out several floors and cost thousands of innocent lives, including the company’s entire board. No clear motive was presented.

Only one thing was found in common on every scene. Two circles, one white with a red dagger inside it and one black with two intersecting triangles.

To those who didn’t understand, it seemed random, like a sudden burst of unreasonable violence in a world full of unreasonable violence. Dead men and women in a world of dead men and women. Senseless tragedy in a world of senseless tragedy.

To those who did understand, the answer was clear. The Seraph were falling, the Eldritch were rising, and the Legion and Lost were going to war.

It was harvest time. Magical potential was about to be discovered and for a few of those who would be caught in the crossfire there would be adventures, or tragedies. The rest, would be found by the wrong side and killed before they ever began to understand why.

Forty seconds either way changed everything for one.





Published in: on December 5, 2017 at 6:40 am  Leave a Comment  

When to kill your characters

Killing off a character can be anywhere from a genuine pleasure to a heartbreak depending on the author. It’s also one of the big causes of anxiety for new writers. When do I off the satisfying villain? Can I kill a secondary character? Does a main character dying in the middle of the story raise the stakes or will I be missing out on the awesome stuff they could do later? There are dozens of questions based around killing them and, while by no means an expert I have managed to get a few pieces of wisdom.

So here are some good and bad versions of popular scenarios in which offing one of your babies is something you might want to consider. Here’s a rule of thumb though: only kill off a character if you’re sure their death will contribute more to the story than their lives would.

Good Version

To break complacency

bhetNothing will pull a reader out of their engagement more than knowing exactly what’s going to happen next. So, if someone is absolutely sure of what’s going to go on in the near future, murder someone the plot would normally protect. Whether it’s a potential love interest, a side character, the protagonist or even a particularly formidable villain, killing off a key piece can change the entire game. George R.R. Martin is one of the masters of this move. This can be a problem for your more sentimental authors but if you’re sure you need something to shake up your reader this might be the trick.

Bad Version

To shock and appal

George R.R. Martin is also a perpetrator on this side of the coin. Sometimes, if you don’t know what to do, some authors might decide to kill off a beloved character for the shock value. Getting rid of, or causing something horrible to happen to a character for nothing but a cheap shock, can be effective once, but soon a reader will start to see it coming at best and feel betrayed at worst. Getting rid of an otherwise perfectly good character for a few pages of investment is selling them pretty cheap

Good Version

To raise the stakes

dead_wombat_343445You can’t allow your readers to get too secure in the fiction. The world in which lives aren’t at stake is a world in which only so much excitement exists. Getting rid of a couple of interesting secondary characters can raise the feeling that anyone can die, and that adds an element of genuine worry into a storyline that can make everything your characters do seem more important. Letting someone kind of important fall to make everyone else’s actions more vital is a fair trade.

Bad Version

To motivate the protag.

This is probably one of the most important and troublesome reasons to kill a character. Motivating a protagonist by murdering their partner/mother/best friend is common, and sometimes necessary but it’s also a waste of a perfectly good character to do something you could quite easily do in a hundred other ways if you knew the character a little better. Figure out what motivates them. Ambition? Legitimate desire to help people? Ideological differences? Revenge is common enough, but offing an otherwise interesting character just to give your main something to do is boring. Also it tends to happen a lot to women, which says some creepy things.

Good Version

Because the story needs it to progress.

dead_by_damouseSometimes people gotta die to make things work. Whether it’s a war story, an assassination or an unavoidable end of life, sometimes things need to happen, and sometimes someone gets mowed down in the act. This should always be done after careful thought, but it must be done. Whether it’s the only way to truly establish a villain, or a price that needs to be paid for victory, there’s no point agonising over something that needs doing.

Bad Version

Because you can’t think of anything else

One of the worst pieces of advice I ever got about writing was ‘when you can’t think of what to do next, kill someone.’ Sure, it might work once in a while, but if you’re killing characters just because you’re not sure what to do next, then take a few days and think it over. There are a thousand things you can do before closing that door. Getting lazy will come back to haunt you in the end.

The bottom line is to balance the death’s value to the story against the character’s. A well-crafted death can redefine the story, take you to the next level or keep the reader interested; a badly crafted one just ruins a perfectly valid character. The bottom line is to act from a place of value and instinct, not insecurity. Killing off a character because you believe it’s good for the story will enhance it, while killing off a character out of insecurity is going to end badly.

By Robert J Barlow

Published in: on December 2, 2017 at 12:42 pm  Leave a Comment