Book Review: Banished Spirits by Jacinta Maree

29964717Banished Spirits by Jacinta Maree brings possession to a whole new level. When Rachel visits her father in Whitehaven, she arrives to find that his recent descent into madness has consumed his body as well as his mind and his death is eminent. Though what she does not expect is that when she loses her father the burden he bore would become hers.

Lock is a banished spirit who must latch himself onto a human host in order to survive and hide from those who are determined to drag him back to hell. Though when Lock attaches himself to Rachel he finds more than just a host, he finds an ally. Together they must defeat the seven sins and find Lock safe passage into the Third Realm.

This YA book is amazingly written and captivates you instantly. Jacinta has amazing attention to detail and story flow that you can’t help but fall in love with her imagination.

Rachel is a courageous and compassionate character who shows strength and conviction when thrown into a world of spirits and darkness. Lock grows on you; when you first begin the story you just want to slap his arrogant handsome ghost face but as his personality and past unfolds you learn how he and Rachel perfectly balance each other.

This is a must read story as Jacinta is an amazing story teller, I admire and envy her way with words and can’t wait to read the next book The Reapers. This is a three book series you MUST get your hands on.

 

~ Danica Peck

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Published in: on July 18, 2018 at 3:19 am  Leave a Comment  

Finding Your Editor

On a sunny summer morning at the very end of 2013, I met my editor. We met at a local café and I ordered wedges. I mean, I don’t specifically remember the wedges, but I know that’s all I eat at that place, so it must have been what I ate. We ate and talked about my book, because in those days, Chosen and Scarred were one single gigantic Word document and Unbidden was an unnamed pet project, and Sabrina – that’s her name, my editor – had the unenviable task of suggesting to her newest client – me, Shayla – that I make changes to my book. *gasp*

SHAYLA.jpgFast forward five years and I not only have my first three books in print thanks to Sabrina, but a whole new career she inspired me to follow without even meaning to, and I find myself compelled to tell the story of how important my author-editor relationship has been to both my writing and my life. In an age of instant communication, increasingly accessible self-publishing options and changing understandings of literacies, I can see how easy it would be to discount the value of an editor, but I can guarantee I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this, living the life I’m living now, without the ups, downs, challenges and windows of opportunity granted to me through the professional and personal relationship cultivated between me and my editor.

In keeping with a narrative theme, Sabrina is honestly a fairy godmother. What does that make me? I don’t know – princess? It’s definitely been said before, meant in an entirely flattering way I’m sure. Sabrina runs her own indie press, a small publishing imprint called Ouroborus Books, and with her near-magical skills of editing, formatting, graphic design and tech-wizardry, she turns people’s unreasonable 200k-word manuscripts into two beautiful, coherent, saleable books. Well. Your book mightn’t be 200k words and in need of a tidy split, but mine certainly was. Not that I necessarily wanted to hear that, because, you know, I’m a writer, and writers don’t need editors telling them what to do, because they already know their work is perfect. Ahem. So, there was me, a relatively newbie teacher with an oversized manuscript and a publishing dream, thoroughly impressed by Sabrina’s CV of skills. I wish I could smugly say I knew what all of those were, but as we talked I became aware of just how much I didn’t know about this process I wanted to take my book on and how valuable someone like Sabrina would be to have onside. She could help me make my dream real. Thus began my professional relationship with my editor.

184928153-57a5555a3df78cf459a45874It also started something else – a newfound fascination with the publishing industry. But it came about through some less-than-fairytale moments. It’s a well-kept secret that I am, in fact, a control freak, well-accustomed to running a classroom of wild, magical children and getting to decide everything from what colour poster paper you get to how far we can stretch free writing time out to. So, like for most writers, it’s quite terrifying to hand over your precious creation to a relative stranger – or, in fact, anyone – and allow them to judge your work, but for me there was this other layer of twitchiness, this silent fretting of “What’s she doing to the book that I can’t do?” It became an obsession, constantly wanting to know, every step of the way, and wanting to do anything that remained in my power to do. And wanting all the power. Wanting to view every single change to the cover. Wanting it explained why a cover feature had shifted due to spine thickness, which in turn was due to word count. Wanting double quotation marks because that’s how I was taught, and silently seething when I was told that it was non-standard practice and would make my book look unprofessional. Sabrina, accustomed to handling this whole process on her own, got an opportunity to practise tactfully managing an overbearing author, an opportunity I’m sure she much appreciated. I got an opportunity to practise compromise. It’s not very fun. I recommend either tennis or calligraphy instead.

Regardless, the first book was born, and when I unpacked the first box in Sabrina’s driveway and held Chosen in my hands for the first time, I realised quite suddenly what this professional relationship and all this practise at compromising had brought me. Not just a book. Not just a whole box of books. A better book. And a new understanding of how it got there. With her skills, talents and no shortage of patience, Sabrina had guided me to this moment and made it real.

Here’s the link to the video of that moment, so you can see the enlightened joy in my eyes for yourself, along with how nice my hair looked that day.

When we started work on the second book, I knew a bit better what to expect – what I would be able to help with, what kind of quotation marks I would have to live with – and Sabrina knew a bit better what to bring me in on. Things fell into place, things got moving, and then suddenly there was a second book to join the first. Physical proof that Sabrina’s initial careful suggestion to split my manuscript was a very sound idea, since holding Chosen and Scarred in the one hand and pretending like anyone would buy a debut book that size is just silly. Very glad she persevered in pushing that agenda with me way back when, and glad I wasn’t too stubborn to agree.

Two other things changed around this point, too. The first was that my fascination with the process Sabrina has guided me through, and my emerging awareness of how undoubtedly irritating I’d been in my ignorant determination to be involved, led me to the door of the path of a Graduate Certificate in Editing and Publishing. I was really just eager to learn and be more involved and helpful to Sabrina and my books, but a Grad Cert led to a Masters, which led to both a thesis and a group project to start our own publishing collective to publish other people’s books, which led to freelance editing work. The thesis led to a Doctorate, which is where I find myself now. I’m still not entirely sure how I got here. Pumpkin carriage?

typed-manuscriptThe other thing that happened was that along the way of testing one another’s patience and tolerance, challenging each other to justify and explain our every decision on Chosen and then Scarred, toiling together to make them the best they could be and to bring them to the world, Sabrina became my friend. I learned to read between the lines of her editorial comments and know when she was being firm and when she was being funny. I learned how best to ask for advice as a new editor, because I know now that she’s straightforward and grounded and knowledgeable. We can agree and disagree very comfortably now. When we took Unbidden through the same processes as we had the first two books, it was all smooth sailing, and when Sabrina asked me to edit her debut novel, Blank, the open professional and personal relationship we had developed over so many years ensured the sort of honest, positive conversation that kept the success of the book at the forefront of our minds. I knew when a protagonist’s mentor betrayed her that it was a plot decision Sabrina wasn’t happy with – I knew her well enough to be ableebookBlank Cover final to tell from her prose, and I could suggest ways of rewriting that motivation to iron out the plotting that had forced her into that scene. Our boundaries were already established, so it felt perfectly natural to intersperse editorial comments with personal reactions (like, Lol, ‘as’ has one ‘s’, or KILL THIS CHICK I HATE HER!!!) the way Sabrina does with mine. And I knew, from my time spent on the other side of the fence, how terrifying this process was to a writer having handed over the reins to her editor, and how much trust and faith was involved. We had learned that trust and faith from each other. Together, we made Blank a better book. Go buy it. It’s cool.

A few weekends ago, on a fine wintery day otherwise reminiscent of that first meeting, Sabrina and I met a Masters student at a Brisbane café to discuss our relationship as editors and authors for her thesis project. That frank and open conversation reminded me both of how far we’ve come in five years but also of how valuable this relationship has been to me and my growth. Working with my editor and cultivating our two-way editor-author/author-editor relationship has not only made my books better; it’s taught me to look at writing in a more objective and professional way, it’s sent me on a whole new career trajectory, and, very importantly, it’s given me a fabulous package deal: a professional contact and a friend in one. Thanks, Sabrina.

~ Shayla Morgansen

Published in: on July 1, 2018 at 3:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Living the Dream

If you’d asked me what my dream was my entire life up until a year ago I would have responded the same way. Something along the lines of the fact that I like telling stories, and ultimately my goal was to publish a book one day.

I never really thought it would happen; it was just a dream I kept in the back of my head, to take out and look at when I needed it. Sometimes the dream would be fame and fortune, other times I just wanted the acclaim and satisfaction of having a few people who loved seeing me do what I love. I imagined the pride I’d feel looking at my work and saying ‘yeah that’s mine. I did that.’

coverfrontNow I’ve done that. My life’s dream has been accomplished which, as you can probably guess, is a much more complicated thing to have happen to you than it might seem at first glance. So I thought now would be a good chance to look at what got better, what got worse and what got weird.

What Got Better

The obvious is probably the best place to begin: I now have a book to my name, which is about the strangest thing to have happen. I still occasionally get a little flush of quiet accomplishment knowing that I’ve done something I always wanted to do. I talk to people and hear that they’ve always wanted to write a book, how they’d always had a story in them. I love the idea of being a positive example rather than a cautionary tale for once, and every time someone quotes my work on Facebook or tells me they recommended it to a friend I feel a happy buzz.

I got what I wanted most from life – so many people never get to do that, so I won’t pretend I’m not lucky, and I’ll never forget what it was like to open up my first box of books.

What Got Worse

writers-blockI’m only twenty-six years old and I’ve already done the only thing in the world I’ve always wanted to do, which is a confusing situation to be in. I love writing, but I now have a much greater mountain to climb to reach my next potential step. Living off my work is something a lot of authors never achieve, and having already lived my dream I have no overriding goal to accomplish.

It resulted in a sense of malaise that lasted months after I got my first book out there. The fact that not everything changed when I did the only thing I had ever wanted to do was difficult to deal with. My world didn’t turn on its head and honestly, I kind of expected it to.

The world seems so much bigger now, and apparently that’s where things begin. I now have cons, promotion, marketing, trying to meet the right people and get my name out there which are things I have no idea how to do. Something I loved is a job now, which takes something away from the favourite hobby I once had.

Where to go from here?

I know how monstrously self-indulgent this sounds. I’m droning on about how my life changed when I got everything I wanted but the idea that twenty-six might be my peaking achievement is so strange. I don’t know if this is a thing most writers go through, but there’s a possibility. For so long my entire life, and maybe yours, has been about doing this one thing we’ve always wanted to do and once that’s done we end up with a sense of aimlessness that takes some considerable getting over.

My Advice to Other Writers

downloadIf you feel like I feel my best advice is to find another goal to work toward quickly. It doesn’t have to be ‘live off my writing’ (which mine is, as insane as it sounds to write that down.) It might be to find a way for writing a sequel to fit into your life or building more effective writing habits. It might be to write something outside of your usual genre, or write something that impresses and pleases you on a level your current work doesn’t.

If all else fails, work on your magnum opus. It’ll never be good enough to satisfy you, but it’s a lot of fun to try.

 

~Robert J Barlow

Published in: on June 16, 2018 at 2:32 am  Leave a Comment  

Long in the Tooth

Every few years I make a list of the books I need to write. And I say need, because for us writers, it is just that. I hadn’t done it for a while, and coming up to the end of two books, I decided I should probably figure out what I need to write in the next year or so.

157195302I started writing down the books that are half written and sitting in my brain covered in cobwebs and I came to the realisation that, maybe, I don’t want to write some anymore. Some of them, like the one I titled ‘Generation Rat’, had a very interesting topic and dynamic, and I couldn’t wait to write it. But now, years later, I would struggle to finish it. My heart and energy just aren’t in the old books anymore. Which is sad. I have a fear one day the writing tube will just run out and I’ll have no more ideas; I’ll sit down to write and that will be it – it’s empty.

Most of these books are either half written or have chapters all over the place and some I still want to write, but ‘I’ll write it later’ when I run out of other things to write. Coming to the end of a book is equally exciting and depressing. If you’ve ever seen those marathon runners that are stick-thin, their knees are wobbly, they don’t know where they are, they’re sweating and falling over – that’s how it feels. You’ve made it to the end of a book, it’s done. Well, sort of. Editing and rewrites come next, but the hard part’s done. The exciting thing is, you get to start another book. Some people find it daunting, but I find it exciting. The first few chapters are vital. Even I don’t know the characters properly, or the environments.

images1I’ve got two chapters to go on ‘The Skellington Key,’ then I’ll edit it and send it to the publisher. Then I’ll work on ‘Children of the Locomotive,’ which is pretty much all written, but needs another run through. This will take up the next few weeks at least, if I get my arse into gear and knuckle down. After that, I’ll have to choose what to work on next. Do I dig the old books out and dust them off and see what can be salvaged? Has time and experience made them obsolete? Maybe. I really don’t have time to panel beat a book into shape and force myself to write these books that are long in the tooth and I’ve somewhat gotten bored of.

writingMy next adult book ‘Homeless Astronaut,’ excites me. It has a few subject matters that I’m keen to write about. There’s only two characters so far and I’m constantly thinking of what I can do with it. It’s something of a challenge and I like it. Last week I had an idea about writing a period piece called ‘The Wandmaker’s Apprentice’. That started me down a road of exploration and note-writing that lasted nearly five days straight. Although those old books are still in my head, patiently waiting, I’m sure there will be a time where the final story arc will fall in my lap and I’ll sit there and bash it out. I do want to write ‘Generation Rat,’ I like the characters I have. I like the story line. But I also want to rewrite ‘The Devil and The Wall,’ and the other books I’ve wanted to write forever: ‘Dark Water.’ But time and ideas restrict these books. I also can’t write five books at once, I’ll never get anything done. So, I try to only write about two books at once. One adult book, and one Young Adult book.

Don’t let books die, if they are meant to be in print, you’ll get it done.

Mitchell.

Published in: on June 3, 2018 at 11:02 am  Leave a Comment  

In the case of Stuing the Sue

untitled.pngOnce upon a time (ignore the cliché) many characters were unique, interesting and most importantly they had depth. You may not know this, but many of those amazing characters were in fact Mary Sue or in the male case, Gary Stu.

EvilQueenReginaPromoWhile everyone has a different opinion on them, I’m determined that the Mary Sue can affect my mood for a story. In my eyes, they are very repetitive and they are more common than you think. They are consistently expressed as beautiful, with a sad ‘poor me’ tale, have no flaws, has everyone’s immediate attention that even bad guys are interested and the most common theme is that they are incredibly overpowered!

Known examples of these characters are:

  • Bella Swan from The Twilight Saga (I mean the name pretty much starts with warning bells)
  • Regina Mills/The Evil Queen from Once Upon a Time (Literally a person who is always the victim, then blames other people for her problems – but the best part is that everyone lets her do things without consequence)
  • Richard Rahl from The Legend of the Seeker (While I’ve only seen the first season and never read the books, he does have obvious elements of a Gary Stu)
  • Superman/Clark Kent from Superman (Alien orphan with incredible power – it’s safe to say I never liked him… No offence to Superman fans)

Richard_CypherAs you can see, there are several well-known characters that are Sues/Stus and I’m here to hand out advice to stop them from taking over our writing community.

I won’t say that my characters are non-perfect little angels – because they’re not always in that case. But I do work hard to make sure that they are dimensional with real struggles and pain. The only advice I can offer when creating a character is giving them a balance. If you feel like your character is a Mary Sue, take an online test and find out for yourself before giving yourself some time to give a certain character flaws.

imagesFGE1RXLRWith that, I must advise you to not give them so many flaws. If you hand them too many flaws, then they become the anti-Sue which is the opposite of what we want.

For example, make a character intelligent and insightful – but perhaps making them not street smart or a little awkward due to the lack of experience.

However, despite that Mary Sues exist, you can make them better by making them realise their flaws and that they’re actually human (or… inhuman in some cases). Even now, I learn more about my characters – about their fears and hopes. Perhaps in the distant future you will be able to see it as well.

~Annalise Azevedo

 

Published in: on May 14, 2018 at 1:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Fandom Fun

SONY DSCAs the fourth Wonder Woman and second Scooby Gang pose in front of our book stall for a photo with a particularly buff Thor and a truly loathsome-looking Joffrey, I marvel at the colour, the life, the sheer enormity of this thing people still like to think of as cultish when it’s clear that at some point, it crossed over into mainstream: fandom.

crowdsartistsalleyIt’s Supanova, the biggest pop culture and comic book convention in Australia, and together with Oz Comic Con and a few smaller regional events, makes up the year-long national con circuit frequented by all things movie, TV, book and comic fannish. As authors and artists, we’re there with a table covered in books and artwork all centred around the genres most prevalent in fandom: fantasy, science fiction, horror, paranormal, and other subgenres of speculative fiction. We’re in the Artist Alley section of the exhibition floor, surrounded by other genre writers, artists, craftspeople and designers, all of us holding down stalls bearing our creative, nerdy wares like a great big colourful market of geekdom. Our customers are fans of all kinds, anime fans, Trekkies, Jedi, wizards, Brown Coats, Whovians… all wandering about in relative harmony, some dressed up, others not, many in some reverent state of in-between with a Sherlock-quote handbag or a Pikachu ears headband. When someone comes over to browse the books, it’s not hard to find something in common to chat about – we’re all fans, after all, though our sources of fannish interest and devotion are diverse. Fandom, whether fans identify with the collective or one of its subcommunities or not at all, is a fascinating worldwide space generated and sustained by the shared suspended belief of millions upon millions of media consumers of varying degrees of involvement. It’s here at Supanova, manifest in the cosplay and the hours-long lines to get a two-second photograph next to Stan Lee, comic book godfather; it’s online across hundreds of platforms and sites, evidenced in the deep meta discussions on Facebook and in forum threads about Kylo Ren’s emotional state; it’s in the conversation you strike up with your friends after walking out of the latest Avengers movie about the credibility of a particular action sequence or the execution of a particular humorous line. Fandom is real, and it’s far from underground these days. It really is a wonderfully fun place to be, and judging from the numbers of fanfictions just in the two biggest multi-fandom archives and the numbers of Supanova attendees ranging through the tens of thousands in each of the capital cities, I’m not alone in my opinion.

IMG_7900So for something so wildly popular, it’s almost funny that it continues to be treated as cultish, both in everyday discourse and academic circles. Introductions of fannish interests to polite conversations still seem to need a sort of disclaimer – “Sorry, I’m such a nerd” – and fan studies as a discipline, though established in the mid-1980s and then firmly legitimised by such pioneering researcher/fans as Henry Jenkins and Camille Bacon-Smith (both 1992), continues to be painfully underresearched and underappreciated. Though it doesn’t shock me, I wearily acknowledge the raised eyebrow I receive when I explain that my PhD draws from fan studies – “That’s a real thing that people actually study?”

Well, yeah. A study of people gathering both physically and virtually around shared interests to engage in literate practices such as discussion, critique, debate, collaborative writing and the creation of other arts works, of an media machine both influencing and influenced by the evolution of globalised mainstream culture, of a multi-billion-dollar industry transcending singular forms and challenging old notions of time and timelessness with reboots and reruns and Twitter petitions for cancelled shows to be revived as films. Yeah, that’s a real thing, and it’s kind of in plain sight. Disney didn’t buy out George Lucas’s soul (pretty sure that’s what you get in exchange when you give someone $4 billion, along with their movie franchise) because they’re silly.

23509306_1759794297364578_1377898381681322401_oStanding at my team’s stall at Supanova in author-Shayla mode, it’s hard to shift the hat of researcher-Shayla and not wonder at all these up-and-coming writers around me with their unique story worlds, and at the Cruella and Hermione standing on the other side of the table animatedly discussing the author’s previous book and all that they loved about it. For the purpose of that conversation, that story world is real for those three people, and if I listen in or join them, that world is open to me, too. To all of us. I think that’s the magic of being a media fan, whatever your specific corner of fandom, whatever non-fans say or can’t perceive – that ability to make real what somebody else once envisioned and tried to share, either as a book, a screenplay, a television series, and to join others inside that shared vision. It’s an exciting kind of magic as a fan, even more so as an academic who gets to research that instead of something more mundane, but most especially as a creative. When I put my books out into the world, I opened that world inside my head up for others to join me. What had been real to me for years was suddenly a place others could come and experience, too. Does that make my work part of fandom? I guess I already have my answer in the Octavias, Lisa Simpsons, Ariels and Castiels who stop at my Supanova table to ask when the next Elm Stone book is out. I built the door, but the fans bring the magic.

Shayla Morgansen

Published in: on April 26, 2018 at 10:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

SNEAK PEEK: Blank

ebookBlank Cover finalBlank

by Sabrina RG Raven

Release date: June 2, 2018.

To pre-order click here

CHAPTER ONE: Almara

When I was born my parents wept. Not in joy like most parents do, but in sorrow.

Everyone in the world is born with a tattoo that matches their soul mate’s. We couple for life. I have no idea, even now, how it all works, how that soul mate is always close enough to be found, but I am blank. That is why my parents wept.

The hospital put me in isolation, capsuled in a humidicrib, encased in plastic, hoping that a mark would appear in time, like the spots of a Dalmatian puppy. But I remained blank. They took blood samples, and skin scrapes. They bottled my tears and called in healers. They genetically tested me, looking for missing markers and the like. They found nothing out of the ordinary. I was a healthy baby who grew into a healthy toddler.

My parents searched my skin a thousand times, praying that a mark would appear. It had never happened in my town – a blank child – at least not in the past 100 years of records. There were rumours, rumours that left me isolated and my parents embarrassed.

My sister was born when I was three. She had her mark emblazoned on her calf, the same place as my mother. They named her Joy, as they were finally going to be able to get past my deformity. My name, Almara, meant one who is alone. I guess they were right.

There was nothing but stories of people like me. Eventually though I was ignored enough to make my life liveable. I went to school, but was sat in the back, so as not to disrupt the other children. I was a curiosity, but I needed more in my life than being the blank child. I worked hard at school and did as I was told. I got good grades and my parents were proud, but I was never acknowledged for my efforts. I was ten when I started looking through the town archives.

The archives were housed in the basement of the town library. The librarian, Mr Elwood, was used to me being in the building; it was a good place to escape the stares and whispers of the locals. My parents were content with me being there as long as I was out of their way and not getting in trouble. It was safe there and I felt safe too, surrounded by books and data drives.

I had asked Mr Elwood about the archived town records, but he would just ruffle my hair and tell me I would be bored in there, steering me towards the children’s library. One day I overheard an adult ask for access to the archives and Mr Elwood shuffled through the stacks of books, leading the man into the antiquity section of the library. I followed behind, darting from shelf to shelf to stay out of view. When you spend your life trying to avoid stares you get good at walking as softly as a cat and blending in to the background. I was good at being ignored now.

The vanilla-like scent rose from the old pages of the antique book section, cracked leather sent swirls of warm dust into the air. I loved that smell. I heard the hushed voices stop as they drew up to a door. It was dark wood, with a metal keypad on the side. I darted to the next shelf to get a better angle on the keypad.

4-6-8-2 Mr Elwood typed in. 4-6-8-2, 4-6-8-2, I repeated in my head, locking the number away for next time. The man slipped into the room and banks of fluoro lights lit the white room beyond as the door swung shut with a sigh of hinges.

I scuttled a few rows over, just in case. Mr Elwood knew I loved the smell in here so I slipped a tome from the shelf and began to look it over. A History of the Oasis. Herios was my city, built on old forests with a thriving paper industry. I flicked through the pages, gently leafing through the history of my family home. We were Herians going back five generations. This book concerned itself though with wars and industry, and not so much the people or where the population originally emigrated from. I knew that most Herians were from the mountains and beyond; my family from the beyond part. I closed the book with a sigh and a small puff of dust, and was sliding it into its spot on the shelf when Mr Elwood appeared beside me.

‘Almara, what are you doing back here?’ he said with a smile as the book returned to its place in the shelf.

‘Just soaking up the smell, Mr Elwood,’ I replied with a laugh.

‘A young lady like you shouldn’t be digging around in the dust of these old shelves. Why don’t you head back to the children’s section? We got some new books in this morning that I just finished putting on display.’

‘But the old books are interesting,’ I said, trying to think of a better excuse. ‘It’s for a school report anyway. Just looking at the old history books. Stuff from before the war. If I could get into the archives…’ I grinned, knowing his answer.

‘We’ve spoken about that before. You don’t need to go into the archives. Anyway, if you need pre-war history, you’re better off going into the Libriophile system. The pre-war books are in there and much easier to read than these old things.’

‘It’s just not the same. And there’s nothing else for me to do, so I don’t mind spending the time.’

‘Well, don’t stay down here too long. You’ll end up all dusty. Your parents won’t like that.’

‘Yeah, I guess,’ I mumbled, knowing full well my parents wouldn’t give a damn if I came home soaked in paint, let alone dust.

Mr Elwood smiled and wandered off, whistling a quiet melody that echoed through the shelves. I heard the town clock chime half past five. I had half an hour until the library closed. The archives would have to wait until tomorrow. I went to the history section and grabbed a few books to take home. I had read so many books on history that I didn’t need the books, but I hoped to find something I’d missed about being blank in one of them. Maybe one day I would find answers as to what I was, and what being blank meant. There had to be more to it than meaning I was meant to be alone.

The clock chimed 6pm as I walked through the heavy doors of the library and down to the bus stop. The man from the library was there. I glanced up at him, trying not to draw attention to myself. I was envious of him. If I were an adult, Mr Elwood would let me into the archives too. He held a wad of paper in his hand, printouts of plain text, still curled on the corners from the warmth of the copier. I sat on the bench seat and tried to read the documents in his hand but he soon shuffled them into the bag he had slung over his shoulder.

The bus pulled up and we both got on. Soon I was home and sitting silently at the dinner table as my family talked over me as usual. I was their broken child and Joy had news. She had found her soul mate.

 

Published in: on April 24, 2018 at 10:53 am  Leave a Comment  

SNEAK PEEK: Reflection of Fire

efire.jpgReflection of Fire

by Annalise Azevedo

Release date: May 18, 2018.

To pre-order click here

CHAPTER 1

Laria Alfero was not a daydreamer by nature. But even while she remained seated on a hard chair, her chestnut eyes occasionally slipped out to the window, recognising the clouded sky was threatening rain. Her mind was preoccupied by the strangest sensation in her stomach – the same feeling she got when she was in the presence of fire.

She had only been a child when she discovered that she was afraid of fire. It wasn’t like a natural fear that children possessed, but a phobia that sent fear shooting through her veins. As soon as she saw any sign of fire, her body locked up and terror crawled its way to her heart.

It was mystery to Laria what caused the fear. Sometimes she wondered if it had to do with her late father and that it was the way she coped.

She barely knew the man. He’d died when she was an infant – a time that Laria could never remember.

However, as her history teacher continued to explain the records of their small town, Golden Cliff, Wyoming, Laria leaned on the palm of her hand to consider his words. The strands of her dark brown hair brushed her tanned cheeks when the winds came through the screens.

Anyone who grew up in their town knew about the infamous massacre that resembled the Salem witch trials.  The massacre was decades ago. People had been so afraid that they slaughtered each other.

Then, apparently, one woman changed everything.

Changing her focus back to the teacher, Laria shook her head and forced the fatigue to the back of her mind. While her history teacher, David Embers, did not care if she spaced out, it was Laria’s responsibility to possess the knowledge for any exam.

‘It was true that town founders were, in fact, Native Americans that migrated from Utah.’ David was popular with his dishevelled, dirty blonde hair and stormy, grey eyes. His easy-going personality made an excellent impression on the school girls, but much to their despair he was happily married with a child. The man merely scratched his scruffy beard as he met eyes with Laria. ‘We all know who they are, right?’

The history teacher was a decent guy; far closer to a friend than a mentor, but Laria knew that he liked to tease people; her especially for some odd reason. Everyone knew that her ancestors were a part of this town’s foundation.

With a smirk, David turned to write the four names on the board. “Rosa”, “Laurence”, “Forte” and “Alfero” imprinted in the back of Laria’s mind. They were the most common surnames in Golden Cliff, yet aside from Laria’s mother and brother, she had never met another Alfero.

It was claimed that the Alfero family were considered “extinct” due to the brutal massacre. There was a possibility that some were out there, however Laria didn’t care. She was nothing more than a cynical but dedicated teenager in a small town.

Her eyes narrowed into a sceptical glare, yet she wasn’t surprised when she spotted her current neighbour lift her manicured hand. It was something that one of her friends would do in order to learn about the mysteries that were buried in the town.

‘Mister Embers,’ said the blonde with a charming smile on her glossed lips. ‘If the founders were Native American, then why were they given European names?’

Jenna Sommers was Laria’s friend since first grade. Growing up in a small town, it was impossible to break the ties of friendship. It was clear that Jenna didn’t fall in line with the stereotypical blonde girl. Her charm mostly came from her sweet personality and intelligence.

With innocent, chocolate coloured eyes, perky personality and intelligent outlook, it wasn’t hard for the hormonal boys to fall for her. If it had been a story, Jenna would’ve been the perfect example of a Mary Sue appearance wise, however Laria knew better. Jenna had her flaws and made mistakes.

David moved his hand from his face and crossed his arms with a pensive expression. He considered it wisely. ‘Golden Cliff was founded in a not so accepting time, so of course many Native Americans were forced to take European names in order to be accepted into society – except that didn’t give much improvement. However, there could be a whole other reason to their decisions.’

The shriek of the school bell halted David’s explanation and he raised a curious eyebrow towards his phone. His harsh stare towards his it was only for a moment, as he immediately glanced back at the class with a smile.

‘That’s enough for today class – I will see you tomorrow.’ He dismissed his class and went through his files as Laria returned her books to her bag. She didn’t realise Jenna had already finished her packing until the blonde started prattling about their plans after school.

It was the day to celebrate their friends’ victory in basketball. It was their first week back and their friends were working hard for finals. For a normal person, anyone would’ve been nervous, but they were the two most confident people that Laria knew. While there were other sports they still played in, basketball was the town’s favourite and sponsored the team known as the Sabres.

‘You don’t even know that they’ve won,’ Laria said when she lifted her bag to her shoulder. Together they left the room after waving farewell to David and headed to their lockers. ‘Besides I thought you were into football because of the vegetable quarterback.’

A scowl came from the other girl’s pretty face. ‘Laria.’ It was a warning tone, however the brunette brushed off the scolding. ‘Taro isn’t as bad as you think. It’s Sara that is the bad person – he just doesn’t see it yet.’

And this was what Laria meant by flaws. ‘Jenna, Taro Launten is a jerk full stop.’ Out of all the people Jenna wanted to go out with, it was the popular school quarterback who was dating the school president. ‘He’s been a moron since second grade and he only got worse when we were freshmen. Sara just happened to get in the way and I’m not going to keep explaining how much I hate him.’

‘You don’t have to,’ Jenna responded with a light huff. ‘You and Maya just have to accept that I like him. Look – I wouldn’t be mean to the guy you liked.’ Unlike Jenna, Maya was a tomboy and outspoken. She played in the dirt without a care in the world and she was far more rebellious than the rest of Laria’s small group of friends.

‘Of course you wouldn’t,’ Laria muttered flatly. ‘That’s because Maya and I are horrible at the dating stuff. I still remember when you set me up with your cousin and I said that he had a decent sized forehead.’

‘How could I ever forget? No normal girl comments on a boy’s forehead in general!’ Jenna exaggerated and raised a hand dramatically to her own forehead. ‘I remember him telling me never to set him up with you guys again.’ She sighed, her shoulders sagging. ‘I suppose it would be for the best, he has a weird thing going on.’

Before Laria could respond, she flinched when a hand pressed on her shoulder from behind. ‘Oh boy,’ said a gruff voice and Laria grinned in recognition with anger forgotten. She tilted her head to the side, recognising the curly mop of cinnamon coloured hair and hazel eyes. ‘Is Jenna talking about the human vegetable again?’

While Laria laughed, Jenna’s cheeks went bright red in anger. ‘Brodie Forte!’

He laughed and scratched the back of his head. ‘Sorry Jen, I can’t help myself teasing you. Anything that makes you blush is worth it.’ He turned to Laria and flashed the boyish smile that she couldn’t help but return. ‘I see that you awoke the dating dragon.’

Brodie Forte had been Laria’s friend since they were in diapers. Apparently, his father Leon worked with her father before they were born. However, it was through her mother Lesley that they managed to keep close.

His face glistened with sweat from the humid air and Laria recognised his black jersey with a red logo of a sabre tooth tiger. His shorts were replaced by regular sweats however, as if he was uncomfortable walking around in pants that didn’t reach his knees.

‘I see that you’re back alive,’ Laria replied before squinting her eyes and leaned towards his face. ‘No bruises, so it’s safe to say that Maya didn’t peg the ball at you in frustration. So you won.’

The smirk twitched on Brodie’s face. ‘Yep – she’s absolutely terrifying when it comes down to motivation.’

Jenna squealed and raised her hands to her mouth. ‘That’s amazing Brodie! So where did Maya run off to anyways?’ While both Maya and Brodie played basketball, it was Brodie who represented the team. Maya managed to remain as the coach’s aid – mostly succeeding when it came down to yelling.

‘She said she wanted to meet us there,’ Brodie replied with a light shrug. ‘I’m guessing that she wanted to meet up with Seth.’

Laria’s smile dropped at the thought of the boy. Seth Laurence. While Laria didn’t hate him like she did with Taro, it was hard to connect with Seth. He gave off a vibe to everyone that he didn’t want to be disturbed. But it was hard to understand Seth, especially since the most that Laria knew about him was that he was a friend of Maya’s and that he wanted nothing to do with society.

Laria shook the thoughts of Seth away and replaced her frown with a determined grin. It wasn’t about Seth, but at the end of the day he was still friends with one of hers. ‘Alright – now that school’s over we should head to the Silver Roots. Heather said that she had to go on ahead for something.’

‘Okay,’ Brodie agreed before looking at his jersey. He stopped the girls with an unsure mutter. ‘But maybe I should get changed first – I’ll probably get kicked out if I walk in like this.’

After waiting for Brodie to finish changing clothes, the trio settled in Jenna’s old car with a satisfied sigh that they beat the storm. While the Silver Roots bar and grill wasn’t far, rain had a habit of pelting heavily during the summer time.

Silver Roots was a common hangout for high schoolers and lone adults. It wasn’t Laria’s favourite place as she preferred less people, but it was good company for her friends when they needed to hang out.

Laria entered in first, with her pair of friends following her after their attempts at avoiding the rain. How they didn’t slip and slide on the wooden floor was a mystery to her. She peered through the crowd, spotting a familiar face and smiled.

‘Heather!’

 The single brunette peeked her head up with a tender smile before shying back into her soda. Heather Verdas was a simple girl; with wavy, light brown hair that reached her shoulders, olive skin and hazel coloured eyes. She was gifted with her studies, attaining the top ranking of her class.

‘Congratulations on your win Brodie,’ Heather said softly. Despite her high-level intelligence, Heather was soft spoken and quiet. It was sometimes hard to understand what she was saying when crowds were busy.

‘Yeah, I know,’ Brodie responded with a boyish grin. ‘But what we need is some drinks.’ And Laria knew that he was going to turn to her. On cue, Brodie patted Laria’s shoulder as she placed her bag on the table. ‘Could you get me a drink Lil Ria?’

Great. That was back. ‘I will if you don’t call me that disgusting nickname.’ It was a nickname that Brodie picked up after her older brother Chris had said it. Laria liked her name, but she hated it when people purposely mispronounced it.

‘I’m sorry,’ Brodie said despite not sounding apologetic.

It felt like an eternity when Laria turned away, giving a thumbs-up when Jenna asked for whatever Brodie was having. Laria headed to the bar after taking a mental note. She didn’t fail to notice the woman with a black hoodie sitting by herself.

Laria avoided gazing at the stranger. Sometimes Laria saw her sitting alone, drinking her troubles away. Despite going to this place for as long as she could remember, nothing was known about the hooded woman.

A cheer for Maya echoed in Laria’s ears and she turned briefly to spot the raven-haired female being hugged against her will by Jenna. Standing with them was a brunette male that Laria instantly identified as Seth.

Laria made a sharp turn towards the bar, however she felt her body hit something hard and she stumbled back. The wet floor made her feet slip and gravity didn’t give her a chance to regain her balance, thankfully managing to catch herself on her hands and knees to prevent any twisted ankles.

In the background, Laria heard the bartender freaking out in fear of being sued.

Laria dismissed the voices and looked to see that she hadn’t been the only one that fell. It wasn’t a face that she recognised instantly, but there was something about it that gave her a sense of déjà vu. The male looked roughly her age, with dark, curly hair and blue eyes.

It took him a moment to compose himself before realising the situation. He had a mixture of panic and distress flashing in his facial features.

‘I’m so sorry,’ he said with a familiar voice and Laria shook her head to dismiss it. It wasn’t right – she’d never met this stranger. ‘Are you hurt?’ By now, more people were looking at them, even Laria’s friends, yet she didn’t answer. ‘Oh crap… I spilled soda on you.’

Instead she pushed herself back to her feet without his assistance and frowned in suspicion. Just who was he? She briefly looked at her white singlet to recognise the splash on her chest. She flushed in embarrassment and covered her chest with her arms – clumsy fool.

‘Let me help you He began but Laria didn’t want to hear it. Her first instinct was to snap at him for crashing into her; however, there was a voice in the back of her head telling her that it would be wrong to do so. ‘Do you need my jacket or-?’

‘I’m fine,’ Laria cut him off curtly and walked around. He was still on the ground; Laria noticed the unbuttoned leather jacket that he was willing to offer her.

Finally, her eyes went to Brodie who seemed to frown at the fallen boy. Laria couldn’t help but step away. To them, it looked like she was running in embarrassment, but in reality, she felt like she was running from something much more frightening.

Laria knew the exit at the back of the Silver Roots would give her some space. It surprised her that she wasn’t bombarded with concerned friends; Laria preferred it that way.

Her thoughts were cut off by an ominous feeling. It was like something was watching her yet Laria couldn’t make sense of it. Despite her instincts demanding her to flee, Laria wanted to investigate.

With a cautious step, Laria made her way towards the sound behind the dumpster. It was just weak echoes of moans and as she got closer the panic built in her chest.

I have to see what it is, she told herself firmly, clenching her fists to force away the nervous feeling in her gut. Something was telling her that misery was all over this alley, but there was something even deeper that seemed… intriguing.

As Laria finally got a view of the scene, she almost wished that she hadn’t. She immediately ran towards the bleeding man as she called out for help. ‘Hang on!’ Laria demanded fiercely and her hands went over the man’s chest to stop the bleeding. He was covered in bite marks, scratches and countless bruises. ‘You’ll be fine!’ But she knew that she was lying to herself and the man; there were too many wounds for her to save him.

‘You.’ The man’s voice made Laria take her gaze off the wounds to meet his eyes. She flinched when she saw that they were gold, but it was clearly her imagination. They were brown the next moment. ‘The fire is strong in you… Alfero…’ He coughed out blood, spraying it on Laria’s soda-soaked shirt.

How did this person know that she was an Alfero?

‘Hey! Stay with me!’ Laria shook the man’s body and gritted her teeth to stop herself from screaming. She didn’t know this man, but she felt she had to be responsible for him. ‘You can’t die, please!’ But it was already too late.

His laboured breathing settled, and he seemed to be at peace as he died in her arms. His eyes shut as his final breath left him. Laria began trembling.

Thunder cracked the sky and Laria heard a growl. She jolted at the sound peering over her shoulder to see something move in the shadows. Her eyes could barely catch the shape of it, let alone discover what the creature was. It was the only sign of life besides her. But just like that, the creature was gone, disappearing from her sight until it would strike the next time.

This world was filled with a lot more darkness than Laria was led to believe.

Published in: on April 21, 2018 at 9:34 am  Leave a Comment  

Convention Preparation as an Author

As convention season commences in Australia, we begin the insanity of convention prep. Most of these tips will be applicable for all those who convention as an artist or any other creator, but this is to all the authors wanting to join the insanity of conventions.

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As the co-ordinator of Ouroborus Book Services, I am in charge of stock, packing and running our stall so here are my Top 10 Prep Tips.

1. Lists

imagesLists are your best friend. Whether you have one book or 13, as we will have this year for April Gold Coast Supanova, this is the most important thing. You need a stock list (especially with multiple titles/items), a stall list (banners, tablecloths, etc) and a survival list (food, water, things to do). Use these to order stock, and while packing so nothing gets forgotten, especially if you are travelling for a convention.

2. Stock Counts

images (2)Even though you won’t need 100 of each title (seriously don’t bring 100 of each title or you will be wasting time and space, not to mention lugging them all there), you need to know how much stock you have. I like to make sure we have 20 of each title available before the show. The last thing you want to do is run out. Make sure you do a stock count in plenty of time to order more if you are low.

3. Promo Items

37b5c33b6b1b89a7a7487386b8b48c5aPeople like free stuff. You need to find the most cost-effective way to do this while making it a useful object. Business cards are great but most folk will put them in the bottom of their bags and never look at them again. Same with flyers. We personally love bookmarks. We hand out free bookmarks at our stall because it’s something people can use. And if they use it, it means you might get a sale later on down the track because they’ve been looking at a pic of your book for the last few months and decide to give it a go. Printing smart is your way to save cash. I know with the place we use, it’s only a small amount of difference in price to go from 100 bookmarks to 1000, so we buy them in bulk. (shout out to www.cmykonline.com.au)

4. Buy a Trolley

luggage-trolley-250x250Best purchase we ever made was a luggage trolley. It was cheap (under $100) off eBay and holds about 300kg so perfect for us and folds flat enough to fit in the car on top of our stock. It has made life so much easier and we can transport most our gear in one or two tips. If you can’t afford to do this but have an old wheeled suitcase, they can do in a pinch but are a pain to get into a car when full of books.

5. Fridge Bags

14If your novel is a standard 5x8in, then supermarket padded fridge bags are perfect to transport books. You can fit two stacks perfectly in each bag and they’re strong enough to deal with the weight. When full they also stack nicely on the above-mentioned trolley and are super easy to Tetris into a car. Plus picking up a bag of books is less stress on your body if you are weak like me. They’re also good for food and drink, and you can pack them inside each other for easy under-table storage during the convention.

6. Self Care

germ main image.jpg.500x490_q67_crop-smart_upscale-trueConventions are hotbeds of germs and injuries. I’ll be honest. The tales of con-flu are real, so you need to look after yourself before and during the convention. Take your vitamins and be kind to yourself and try to get some sleep. During a convention weekend, you will eat horrible food, not drink enough water and most likely fall into an exhausted heap each night. Try to eat some veggies and things not deep fried for at least one meal. And for the love of all that is holy, make sure to get the next day after off work. You will need the recovery time. Also, be careful lifting things as the last thing you need is to do your back in after sitting on hard plastic chairs all weekend.

7. Essentials

Apart from your stock, there are some essentials you will need for the convention. These include

  • a tablecloth (a flat sheet is good because you want it to cover the table and hit the floor at the front) and a spare cloth to cover your stuff at night.
  • Signage (some conventions provide this, but extra visual aids always help)
  • Money tin (you will need somewhere to store your money) and a float (change should be a mix of notes and coins depending on your price point. If your books are $20, you should get $20s and $10s, to make change for $50 notes. If you have $15 books, add $5 notes.
  • Pens (for signing)
  • Emergency box (band aids, Panadol, blutac, cloth tape, tissues, scissors etc)

download (2)I buy a slab of bottles for our team and freeze them. As it gets crazy hot in conventions you will need water so you don’t pass out, and I know I don’t want to pay $4 a bottle there. You can get slabs of 24 bottle for under $15 at supermarkets and office supply stores.

Convention food is expensive and usually gross. I recommend bringing something to nibble on. Sugar is also helpful to keep the energy up so lollies and fruit can be good. Be mindful of bringing peanuts as you don’t want to kill a customer who might be allergic.

8. Team Prep

18033900_1548830928460917_7441094164985825218_nAlways bring a friend. Obviously, we are a big team, so we can take breaks and still have several folk behind our stall. But if it’s just you, make sure you bring people with you. Most cons will include a few passes with your table booking so use these to your advantage. Eight hours without food or toilet breaks is not gonna be fun. Make sure your team know prices, basic info on the products and how to handle money. Bribe them with candy, lightsabers or daleks (thanks Mum) if needs be.

9. Give Yourself Enough Time

cardboard-box-books-white-background-d-render-illustration-29940580Prep is a heap of work. I start at least two months before the convention, writing lists and doing stock counts. This gives you time to order stuff you need, amass fridge bags, and to space out your costs. I pack at least a week before the convention just in case I forget something.

10. Breathe

23509306_1759794297364578_1377898381681322401_oI used to end up in a ball of panic packing for conventions, which in the lovely humidity of Queensland, was never a pretty sight. I’ve now learned that by prepping ahead of time, keeping to my lists, and stopping if I feel overwhelmed for a break, I can now get things done with little panic and stress.

So, in conclusion, plan, have fun and look after yourself!

~Sabrina RG Raven

For more info on convention planning check out How to Sell at a Convention by fellow convention goer Megs Drinkwater available on Kindle.
Published in: on April 16, 2018 at 10:25 am  Leave a Comment  

Writing Programs: A review of Scrivener

Writers and authors use a variety of ways to plan their projects. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs I’m not much of a planner, I do however have my research and I have tried a few different programs to help me sort through all of my notes.

As far as programs go I give Scrivener a solid 9/10.

download (1)This program has a lot of uses in it that makes it worth the $45AUD one off cost. It updates your program and as far as I’m aware it is a lifetime subscription. Once such thing I came across while playing with the program was the name generator. You can put in a variety of different settings and it will provide you with names that fit your description, you can even look up name meanings.

The basic layout for a fiction novel set up is relatively easy to follow. It has a manuscript section where you can make a tab for each of your chapters then you are able to export the file and it will hopefully come out as a fully formatted novel. I haven’t tried this part of the program yet as I prefer to complete my manuscripts in Microsoft Word for easier reading and editing.

scrivener-cork-boardYou can also create character profiles within the program which I found extremely useful, especially now that I am gaining more characters and venturing into the second book with them, it is important for me to remember who is who and how they are related to the main plot. Without this section of Scrivener I would be lost, I would be constantly reading through The Stray to make sure everything is correct. Similar to the characters section of the program you can create places. Describing a new place and need to know all the information later on? The best place to store it is in that section. For both the characters and the places Scrivener provides a basic template that you can edit to suit your project needs.

You do also have the option to make extra areas, which is what I do. I make extra folders and corkboards that allow me to put my mythologies and species histories and connections into a database of some kind. You can also create extra template sheets for later use if you require them in other projects.

Scrivener is a very useful program for me and I’m not even using it to its full capacity. I think this program is fantastic for its price and would be useful to almost any writer beginning or published. I’m looking forward to giving Scrivener’s sister program, Scrapple, a try whilst I plan and write the rest of the White Wolf Trilogy. For only $15AUD it’s worth a try.

~Amanda Geisler

 

Published in: on March 25, 2018 at 6:03 am  Comments (1)