MID-WEEK SNEAK PEEK: The Laughing Man

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.

 

 

 

 

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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  

MID-WEEK SNEAK PEEK: The Stray

ebook coverDue out December 9, 2017 is the first novel from up and coming author Amanda Geisler. Here is chapter one of The Stray which is book one in The White Wolf Trilogy. 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.

 

Chapter 1

The wolf was never far beneath my skin, itching to be free, to run. The transformation was like a thousand needles puncturing my skin. Then the sensations became harsher, causing pain. I gave into the pain stopping myself from gasping at the feeling of fur sprouting from my skin.

Next came more pain, I winced as the first bone snapped, it was always painful. I crouched down to all fours as my back arched, my spine reshaping, fur bristled as it settled upon my skin, it was a wonder we never bled during the transformation.

Claws sprouted from the back of my fingernails, covering what was human. Then there was the uncomfortable feeling of my mouth and nose stretching. Stretching into something powerful, something dangerous. I felt my teeth sharpen, ready to rip into the flesh of some helpless deer, but that wasn’t what I was shifting for. The alpha had called a meeting and I needed to know why.

The final stages of my transformation set in as my legs shortened to match the length of my arms. Both my arms and my legs thickened as powerful muscles formed beneath the skin. I could feel the gradual addition of new weight as my tail proceeded to protrude from the end of my spine.

I shook out my pure white canine fur, the glow of my golden yellow eyes reflected in the river beside me. The contacts that normally hid the tell-tale colour of my eyes had disintegrated the moment I shifted.

The wind swept through my fur as I bounded through the trees surrounding me. I drifted towards the sound of familiar footfalls as I closed in on my destination. Toby, he was kind of like my brother, my pack brother. I caught up and ran beside the sandy coloured wolf, I didn’t startle him, he would have sensed me coming.

We slowed to a walk as we fought our way through thick underbrush, when we broke through the last of it, it was to find ourselves in a large, enclosed clearing. The sky was invisible above us, allowing only a small amount of light to leak through the canopy of leaves.

Several wolves sat in the clearing, all of them facing the large black wolf that sat under the small shelter that had been built a long time ago. Nobody was talking yet, the entire pack hadn’t arrived, they would wait for the rest of the pack.

I knew these wolves well, they were my family ever since my parents were killed. They have taken care of me, supporting me until I was old enough to care for myself. I was an emancipated teenager now, living in my parents’ old house.

Finally, the black wolf stood. This was Erik, the alpha and I despised the man, I always tried to stay as far away from him as possible but it never worked. My family were the alphas of the pack, and as one of the alpha children I might have been expected to lead; my brother was first in line, but he wasn’t here.

‘Silence,’ Erik Mendez growled. There was silence; nobody disobeyed his orders, they didn’t want to suffer the repercussions. ‘A rogue has stumbled into our territory,’ he stated. ‘This stray, has managed to get itself caught by Alec Hall.’

‘What are we going to do with it?’ Seth asked, glancing at me briefly before looking back to his alpha. His wolf was earthen brown in colour with flecks of white.

‘For all I care Alec Hall deserves to die if he thinks he can hold a werewolf,’ Erik sneered.

My brow furrowed. ‘Do you not care that we will be discovered in the process?’ I questioned.

Erik’s gaze shot towards me and I felt my ears flick back under his stern gaze, my wolf telling me to submit.

‘Alec has been circling us for years, ever since he and his son came to this town.’

‘Allowing this wolf to kill Alec is more likely to have them discover us,’ I told Erik. I knew I would get in trouble soon.

We risk exposure if we try to save it,’ Erik said. He seemed thoughtful though, that surprised me.

‘I can get in there,’ I announced. ‘I’m close to his son, and I have Agua. Let me get this wolf out.’ Toby was staring at me as if I was crazy for making such a suggestion.

Erik continued to look thoughtful. ‘If you get exposed, we won’t help you,’ he told me sternly. ‘Do this before the dark moon tomorrow and we will deal with the rogue afterwards.’

I nodded. I couldn’t believe that he was allowing me to do this. ‘It will be done by tonight,’ I confirmed.

It was Erik’s turn to nod, his was a nod of dismissal. I couldn’t believe it as I quickly followed Toby out of the clearing. It was like he was a different person.

‘Are you really going to do this?’ Toby asked me as we ran. ‘You’re going to risk exposure to save a stupid rogue.’

I shrugged. ‘I’m going to try,’ I replied.

I raced past the sandy wolf rushing ahead. We branched apart as we both went to retrieve our human clothes and school bags. I wasn’t expecting to run into him before reaching school, but I did. He loped up to my side as we neared the school grounds, clothes and bag in his canine mouth.

We stopped running through the trees when we heard the sounds of students on the oval beyond the forest. I dropped my bag to the ground in front of me, Toby was only a few metres away mirroring my movements.

I braced my body as I forced myself back into my human skin. Instead of snapping, my bones melted, painlessly changing back into human bones. I saw my fur sinking back beneath my lightly tanned human skin. I looked up once I was fully human, Toby was still in the throes of transforming back to human. He was newer, so it took longer for him to transform.

I pulled my clothes over my naked body. Most girls would feel awkward if they were naked in front of Toby; he wasn’t exactly a nerd, but Toby had seen me shift more times than I could count even before he had shifted himself. He was the only one in the pack that I was extremely close to except for Colby.

I put a set of the usual brown contacts into my eyes, hiding the yellow while Toby dressed into human clothes and put his own set of blue contacts in making his eyes green. When he stood tall on his human legs he ran his hand through his hair, a habit of his, because he liked it messy. I however pulled a brush out of my school bag as we began walking.

There was still a fair distance to walk on human legs and, by the time we reached the fringe we were mucking around. I pushed Toby over and bounded out of the forest playfully, the grin wide on my face.

I could hear him running after me as I ran into view of students. I looked back over my shoulder; Toby was coming alright, he had determination in his eyes, but he was also grinning like an idiot.

He might have been newer, but I knew he was faster than me. It probably had something to do with his long legs. That didn’t stop me from running. I had to remember to make it human speed since the humans could see us. Most of them were used to Toby and I acting like this.

I knew it when he was just about to grab me, so I side stepped as he dove past me. I laughed at him as he got quickly to his feet. I started running again, but he didn’t let me get far, grabbing me unexpectedly from behind and he was not letting me go.

Toby was laughing as I tried to escape. I stomped on his foot and elbowed him in the chest behind me. He let go as I hit him.

‘Ha, ha.’ The sound escaped from my mouth as I backed away.

I backed into somebody. I hadn’t realised that somebody had come closer to us. I saw Toby stiffen slightly at the sight of the newcomer. All I could smell was the jealousy of the person I had walked into.

‘Zac,’ I announced, spinning around to face him. Zac was watching the now sheepish Toby, staring at him through stunning light brown eyes. I knew he tried not to be jealous of Toby, but I didn’t think he could help it.

‘What are you two doing?’ Zac asked stiffly, staring Toby right in the eyes, challenging him.

‘Oh, you know how it is,’ Toby said with a grin. ‘Mucking around with someone like Rya.’

I rolled my eyes. Toby liked riling Zac up, however, anger emanated from Zac.

‘It’s fine Zac,’ I said, putting a hand on his arm. ‘We were just having some fun.’ I glanced at Toby. ‘Stop being a bully.’

Toby just shrugged and walked off with a grin on his face. ‘See you at lunch,’ he yelled over his shoulder.

I shook my head. ‘Why can’t you two just get along?’ I muttered more to myself then to Zac. ‘It would make my life easier.’

‘I just don’t like him,’ Zac told me, glaring after my friend. ‘It’s the way he looks at you.’

I laughed. Toby just had those kind of eyes. ‘He’s a brother to me,’ I reminded Zac, not for the first time. ‘You know that our parents were best friends. We were always playing together when we were little.’ This was actually true, Toby had always come over to my house, he still does. ‘We grew up together.’

‘I know,’ Zac sighed. ‘It just bugs me that you’re so happy around him.’

‘Then you better get over it,’ I told him. ‘Because Toby isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.’ Zac was still watching Toby, who had just reached the school buildings. I sighed. ‘I’m going to class.’

***

My teacher arrived just as I sat down in my seat. He was whistling, surprising me and the rest of the class. Mr Hammond was usually such a sour person.

‘I know that you’re all interested in the werewolf claims that were on the news today,’ he announced.  ‘So, we’re going to spend a few days studying the werewolf myths and legends. There are many different werewolf mythologies, so I would like you to choose one and write a paper about it, to be finished by Wednesday next week.’

There was a collective sigh throughout the room. I had sighed too, but for a different reason.  A dark moon was coming before the due date and that meant one less night to work on the paper.

‘But how do we know which one is correct?’ a student from the back of the classroom asked.

Mr Hammond looked at the student. ‘We can’t know for sure until the lead researcher is able to communicate with the werewolf they have in custody. Then, early next week, Alec Hall has allowed me to organise a little excursion to his laboratory. He should be able to tell us about all the different mythologies.’ Mr Hammond paused. ‘After he manages to talk to the werewolf of course.’ I sensed Hammond glance at me.

I hid my horror. Not only had they almost discovered us, they also intended to find out our secrets. It was a good thing that I would be getting the wolf out of there, I just didn’t know how yet.

We were allowed to spend the rest of the lesson researching our papers on the internet with the laptops we used for class. I already knew that I was going to base my paper on the mythology that was real.

Werewolves were descended from the Greek King Lycaon and his children. They angered the God Zeus by serving him the flesh of Nyctimus, Lycaon’s youngest son. I of course had to limit the details I added to the ones discussed in the human version of our histories. I would have to leave out our connection to witches and the fact that Lycaon also had a daughter included in the curse.

The bell rang and we began to pack up our things for our ten-minute break before our next class. Normally, it was just enough time to swap books over at the lockers and have a bite to eat, but luckily, today I had a free period and an entire hour to myself.

I almost ran to my locker to grab a bit of food, I kept my history books and my laptop.  Zac had the period off as well and most of the time we would sit out on the field to study. However, Zac liked to get distracted and unknowingly test my self-control.

I walked through the hallways that were busy with students making their way to their next class and left the building just as the next bell rang, walking to the tree Zac and I sat under during our free periods together.  It was a place we could just enjoy each other’s company, sometimes studying, and other times doing a lot more than that. When I was with him sometimes it felt like I was melting. I always had to stop him, because I was scared I might transform.  I didn’t know if I would be able to stop myself.  I knew when I was angry I still sometimes had trouble stopping myself from shifting.

I had just settled when Zac arrived, his laptop resting open on his forearm, it had probably just been used in his last class.  He sat down close to me, his hip resting against mine. For a quick moment, it was all I thought about.

‘When do you have history?’ I asked him. I couldn’t remember if he had it today; stupid two-week timetables.

‘Not till after lunch,’ he replied. He was more comfortable without Toby around. His voice was softer and he was more relaxed when it was just us.

‘We’re studying werewolf mythologies,’ I told him. ‘He wants us to choose the one we think is the real one and write a paper on it.’

He sighed. ‘When is it due?’

‘Wednesday. You could come over to mine and we can work on it together?’ I suggested.

‘Sure. I’ll check with my dad for some of his information on werewolf history.’ He was silent for a moment. ‘Enough about school work,’ he said, pushing his laptop off his knees.

He pulled me closer and put his arms around me. He kissed me deeply, his lips parting mine.  When we finally broke apart we were gasping for breath. His lips travelled from my mouth down to my neck, my skin tingled in response.

I gasped again at the tingling feeling they gave me. I put my hand around his neck and pulled his lips back to mine. He made a joke of resisting, but it was feeble and soon our lips connected once again. Our school work was forgotten and my self-control was dwindling. Soon, I would have to pull away again. Zac lowered me down on to my back, his lips still pressed against mine.

I knew that it was going too far, but I couldn’t bring myself to break away. Even when his mouth wasn’t on mine, it was somewhere pressed against my skin and all I could do was respond.  He ran his hand down my side, his hands sliding higher. I lost all control.  My hands began to burn with the first signs of transformation. One hand dug into the ground beside me.

Someone shoved Zac off of me, angering him until he saw it was his best friend, Dylan Andrews. He was always interrupting the moments I had with Zac. This time, however, I was grateful.  Zac leaped to his feet to mock fight Dylan while I got myself back under control. I sat up and looked clenching my hands closed, hiding the claws that had appeared. I took a deep breath and they disappeared.  Boys, I thought, looking up at them. I shook my head.

‘Righto boys,’ I said to them in the fake motherly voice I used every time this happened.  ‘Do I need to break up this fight, or will you save me the hassle?’

As always, they stopped mid wrestle, looked at me, then sat up and pulled the usual innocent look. I had to stop myself from laughing. They looked like pups when they got caught doing something naughty. The laughter erupted in the end, bubbling over so that in the end the boys joined me.

‘So anyway,’ Dylan said. ‘What are you doing?’ He glanced at our discarded laptops and books and grinned.

‘We were supposed to be studying,’ I said in an accusing tone. ‘But somebody got us a little bit distracted.’

Dylan laughed. ‘Yep, that’s our Zac.’ He dodged Zac when he tried to push Dylan over again. ‘Anyway, you’re lucky I butted in. You guys were getting a bit carried away. I recommend finding a room.’

We spent the rest of the free period talking about the paper that Mr Hammond had assigned us.  Dylan thought he might write about the French history of werewolves while Zac decided to wait to see what his dad said. Soon the bell rang and students started piling out of the buildings.

I grabbed my stuff and stood to leave. ‘I’m gonna go hang out with Agua,’ I told the boys.

Zac moved toward me for a quick kiss.  ‘See you this arvo.’ I nodded briefly in response.

As I walked towards the cafeteria I heard Dylan speak. ‘Dude, you’re so whipped.’ I heard the responding thud as Zac tackled him.  I walked faster shaking my head at the immaturity going on behind me.

Published in: on November 29, 2017 at 8:56 am  Leave a Comment  

SNEAK PEEK: Everdark Realms 3: The Reckoning

cover3v1I know we promised Everdark 3 by Christmas time but due to some health issues with one of the writers and the departure of another, we are a little behind, so, to make it up to you, here’s a sneak peek at the first two chapters of Everdark Realms: The Reckoning.

Part One:

THE LUNA LUKKOS: THE BATTLE OF MONKISH CITY

Chapter One

Three Jars

The small goblin peered out from a trunk that lay on the ground. It was hollowed out by animals, using it for shelter during the winter days. There, a small pile of bones in the corner where whatever animal had been here last, had eaten as its last meal in the make-shift shelter. The goblin’s name was Stanley and he wore a dark grey tunic and had the hood pulled up over his head. There were two holes on each side so his small, pointed ears could poke out.

Stanley looked around carefully. He examined the tree tops and looked into the dark crooks of the forest. When he figured it was safe, he ran out of the sleeping trunk to a little collection of mushrooms. He pulled a small blade from his waistcoat and started clipping the fungi off at the stalks. He tossed them in a small sack and suddenly looked up. It wasn’t a noise he heard, but an aroma he smelled.

‘No…’ he whispered and started running back towards the cabin.

It took some time to get back, as the goblin was only the size of a small cat. He stopped briefly to climb a small tree; clambering up the branches and looking as far as he could. He saw a bird take flight, squawk and disappear over the mountains. Stanley shook his head. He looked worried. Turning towards the cabin where his master lived, he could see billowing smoke coming from the chimney.

‘Oh no…’ He slid down the tree and ran.

The front door of the cabin was jammed open with a bag of sand. A tear in the side had made it pour into a small mole hill, right in the entrance. The Tarrcrow peered through the gap in the door and saw his goblin friend running at full speed towards him. Without even asking the question, he knew something was wrong.

‘They’re coming!’ Stanley gasped, his lungs empty of air.

‘It was only a matter of time,’ the Tarrcrow said, its beady, black eyes nothing but swirls of ink.

‘You have to leave. Pack your things and get out of here… They’ll kill you.’

The Tarrcrow looked at the small goblin. Stanley flicked his hood off; sweat beaded down its face.

‘No matter where I run, or where I hide… they’ll come for me.’

‘You don’t care if you live or die?’

The Tarrcrow went to the cupboard and pulled out three jars of liquid. One was yellow, one red and one blue.

‘It’s not about living or dying, Stanley. It’s about standing up for what you believe in.’

‘The Everdark,’ Stanley said, solemnly.

‘Stanley,’ the Tarrcrow said, leaning down, his beak gently touching the ground in front of the small goblin. ‘Your work here is done. You’ve protected the forest from my cursed feet. You are free to go.’

‘But… but…’

‘I won’t live. And you needn’t come back. You’re free.’

‘I’ll fight with you,’ the goblin pleaded.

‘No… it’s not your fight. You must go back to your city… They will more than likely need you in this time of peril.’

The goblin thought for a moment, bowed and ran towards the corner of the front room. He opened a door and disappeared inside. The Tarrcrow moved the sand bag and swung the door open wildly. The forest around the cottage was swarming with thin, demented creatures. All the morbid monsters were hunched over and walking on all fours. They had the snout of a canine and the extremely long ears of a bewilder-goat. Their fur was mismatched in colour and missing in patches. Whatever had created them had done so quickly, and with one purpose.

‘Come out, Crow!’ one howled, appearing form the cover of the forest.

The Tarrcrow stepped outside and where he walked, a small fire started, exactly the shape of his foot print. The giant crow held the jars under its wing and quickly counted the shadows moving amongst the tree line. There were too many. He looked over his shoulder and saw the goblin in the doorway. Stanley waved, with a tear in his eye and the door was swiftly shut.

‘Where is the monkey boy?’

‘He’s not here. He came and went on his way…’

‘You’re hiding him.’

‘No,’ the Tarrcrow said, knowing perfectly well there was no use in arguing. ‘If you’re master had any foresight they would know his whereabouts by now… Saboo is not hard to track down.’

‘Tell us where you sent him.’

The Tarrcrow pulled the first jar from under its leathery wing. It held it up and let the sun charge the yellow liquid.

‘Find him yourself. Your master sent the assassin Chupacabra… and you should know by now it was killed. There’s your first clue…’

The horrors became restless, shaking their awkwardly built frames.

‘There’s no time for this… Kill it!’

The Tarrcrow arched its wing back and lobbed the jar into the air. Multiple horror hounds leapt from the dark recesses of the surrounding forest. The jar spun in the air, the liquid inside sloshing around. The lead horror charged the crow, nabbing the giant bird around his leg. The jar fell to the ground and shattered into a hundred pieces. The liquid exploded into a blinding light, sending searing rays outwards like the spokes in a wheel. Light tore through two horrors, killing them instantly. They fell to the ground in a mess of stitched skin and rancid hide.

The Tarrcrow tried to kick the hound off, but its teeth were made from shaved bone. He felt his feathers tear and its skin rip. Blood squirted from the wound. Another hound latched onto the Tarrcrow’s right arm, then another went for the throat. He pulled the blue jar from its nook and smashed it on the ground near his feet. A whirlwind appeared, sucking up three of the horrors, tossing them into the air and spinning them around until they became sick. It flung them far and wide. They crashed into the trees, breaking their necks and dying instantly. The crow pecked its long beak at the hound on his foot and soon it died, still with its teeth still sunk in.

More emerged from the darkness. Then more after that. The Tarrcrow was surrounded by shaggy, bony creatures of dark magic.

‘Your time has come, bird. Tell us his whereabouts and we may spare your life.’

‘I knew my days were numbered once the dark magicians cursed where I walked,’ the Tarrcrow said, his voice shaky. ‘But I thought I would die for the greater good. For the cure. For the land. Not at the hands of make-shift animals built to serve a master.’

He slipped its hand into its underwing and pulled out the red jar.

‘I can say I’ve served a purpose and left Saboo in capable hands… Tell your master his days are now numbered.’

With his final words, the Tarrcrow lifted the jar up and hammered it against the ground. The jar broke apart and a great, cyclonic, ring of fire engulfed the surrounding woods. The fire leapt high and large, burning everything in its wake. The cottage turned to ash, the trees crumbled and the horrors melted into oblivion.

The Tarrcrow returned to the dirt of the forest… the forest it had once protected.

 

 

Chapter Two

The Mirror Man

Saboo sat against a crumbling brick wall and watched the vendors set up their stalls for the daily commerce. His hands were in his side-bag, where he was holding the Mask of Ebb. Looking down at it his face stung. He grimaced and rewrapped the mask in the cloth he had taken from Lawless’ house. He stood up and looked around. He had been in Spooners Lore for two days, sleeping by the fountain until a vagrant, smelling of alcohol, tried to use it as a urinal.

He stepped out into the morning sun and was almost run over by a cart carrying cabbages out of the small city.

‘Watch out!’ the blind driver grumbled.

The night before, when Saboo had found a small bridge to sleep under, he had witnessed a group of strange people marching through the city centre in the middle of the night chanting for a wizard that had blended into the populous of the city. They had upturned bins and had woken the occupants of the stores to search their houses for the miscreant. As far as Saboo could work out, the wizard had several warrants for his arrest and used dark, illegal magic.

Saboo made his way to the side alley where a local eatery gave out small portions of food to professors and warlocks who worked through the night in their viewing towers and watched the progress of the comet as it came and went. Saboo lined up with the rest of them, but when he got to the front, he was pushed away.

‘Pirate!’ The grumpy food dispenser shouted, pointing at Saboo’s tattoo. ‘This is for the people who have earnt it… Now scat!’

Saboo, with his tail between his legs, left the alley for the backstreets of the city. He looked at the tattoo on his arm. It had healed and his fur was starting to grow back. His stomach rumbled and he headed out into the twisted metropolis.

Spooners Lore wasn’t a big city, but the way it was built was astounding. The streets spiralled around a centre where there was large monument made of wands. They were all burnt and scorched together, from some great war that Saboo had never heard about. There was an equal mix of horrid, criminal types lurking amongst the streets, disguising their faces and wearing odd masks. Then there where the upper-echelon business creatures, dressed with scarfs around their necks and carrying expensive clocks and dials. Their pockets jingled with spare change and they made the noise louder, daring anyone to pinch them. Generally, the place was a hub of magical traders, soul-exorcism handlers and general positive mages trying to come together to form a safe haven.

Saboo’s stomach grumbled again, this time loud enough for a civilian walking near him to snap a quick glance at him. He had come here to find a way home, but had not met a single person in two days who would answer his questions. He was starting to think he had been guided in the wrong direction. He coursed his way through the streets, getting odd looks from passers-by. He tried to hide his tail the best he could, however, it was a bit awkward to walk with it tucked in beside his leg.

There was a fork in the road, one street sign read; Hawkers Pavilion – Magical Traders and Fair, and the other side read; Blackbird Avenue – Travellers Unique and Rare Food Bazar. Saboo saw the word ‘travellers’ and began to walk down the slight incline in the road. It was paved beautifully and intricately. The large houses on either side had built in shop fronts. There was less noise away from the centre, but the shadows crept and followed, not only between the stores and alleyways, but also high up, through the windows and mezzanines. There was an elderly woman pushing a cart up the hill. She was snorting and moaning and muttering to herself under her breath. Once she reached the top, close to Saboo, she stopped and wiped her brow with an old rag.

‘Broth?’ she said, her words sounded like straw going through a meat mincer.

Saboo approached carefully, eyeing the old woman. She popped the top off a large pot and the smell hit Saboo’s nose and his mouth instantly watered. Floating on top were dumplings and vegetables. The smell was divine.

‘Only 5 Pecos a serve. Only 5!’

‘I don’t have any money,’ Saboo replied.

The woman grunted and heaved the heavy cart handles back onto her shoulder and started heaving the wagon back over the hill.

‘Wait!’ Saboo said, running after her. He reached into his bag and pulled out the Mask of Ebb. ‘I have this… Will you trade?’

Saboo held the mask outwards the woman glanced at it over her shoulder. She dropped the cart suddenly and the cutlery clanged together. She wiped her eyes with rag and stepped towards Saboo.

‘Where did you get this?’ she snarled.

‘Someone gave it to me,’ Saboo answered, now somewhat regretting showing it to her.

‘Stranger from a stranger land you are… but aren’t we all? You look tired and starving. I will give you this food for that mask, under one condition… you don’t tell anyone you had it, or who you gave it to.’

Saboo gently angled the mask back towards his chest.

‘You know what this mask is?’

‘The Mask of Ebb… missing for quite some time. The Mask of Flow is in this very city… the two together… well…’ she rushed around the side of the cart and filled a large bowl with broth. She added dumplings after dumplings and pulled a large coco-juice from the ice box. She offered it to Saboo.

As hungry as he was, he knew he had made a mistake.

‘I’m sorry… no. I’ll have to keep the mask. Would you know of anywhere around here that could get me back to…’

The woman lunged forward, dropping the broth and the juice. It smashed against the floor, spilling everywhere. Her fingers wrapped around the mask and her eyes shot open, pure white and without pupils or irises.

‘Hand it to me!’ she snarled like a wild animal.

From the darkness sprung a hooded figure, a large wooden bo-staff twirled in the air and thumped against the woman’s abdomen. She was flung backwards and rolled along the ground. The mask fell to the cobblestones pavers and the hooded figure picked it up. Saboo took several steps back. The figure didn’t lift their hood off their face, but stared with yellow eyes. It looked down at the mask, then back to Saboo. It handed it to him.

‘Spooners Lore isn’t a dangerous place… unless you start waving around an extremely rare, magical artefact.’

Saboo took the mask and put it back in his side bag.

‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘I don’t know why I offered to swap my mask for food… it was…’

‘You’re hungry, that’s why you did it. Come with me to my shop, I was just about to prepare breakfast myself.’

Saboo was reluctant to follow. He stood his ground for a moment and looked down the path to the Travelers Unique and Rare Food Bazar. There were more food carts down amongst the interconnecting roads.

‘You can go down that way, but you don’t have any money. Nor do you know anyone.’

‘I just need to find a way to get to…’

‘Monkish City,’ the hooded figure said, the voice neither male nor female.

‘How did you…?’

‘Without sounding forward; I’ve seen you here for the last few days, sleeping under bridges and eating things out of the bins. We don’t often get Luna Lukkos here… in fact, you may be the very first one.’

‘My city is under attack and I need to get home. But I don’t know where I am or how I can get back quickly.’

‘I do,’ the figure said. ‘Now let’s stop standing here, out in the open waiting for trouble and get to my shop.’

The figure flung its long coat, making it swirl and fan out. They marched quickly down a side alley and out of view. Saboo rushed to catch up. He hadn’t even had time to make a decision if he was going or not, but he found his feet moving fast after the hooded figure.

They swerved and parried down several alley ways, and down the next street. It was much quieter and barely any shops were open. Several people were hanging their washing out, strung high above, from building to building.

‘Here,’ the figure said, pulling keys from their side pocket.

Saboo looked up and saw the sign; Bard’s Mirrors and Antiquities. It was an old, faded sign that hung from equally faded and rusty chains. The door was pushed open and the figure slid inside. Saboo followed carefully. Inside the shop was dimly lit. The first thing Saboo noticed was the number of mirrors everywhere. There must have been nearly a hundred just in the front room; of all shapes and sizes. Some were long and wide, some were short and skinny. Some were in frames, others were cut haphazardly. They weren’t stacked in any particular order, or had price tags on any of them. They were scattered with almost careless abandon. Saboo stepped around and over the mirrors to follow the stranger to the rear room.

‘Is your name Bard?’ Saboo asked, losing the figure in the darkness momentarily.

A candle was lit and the stranger’s face was suddenly thrust into light. Their skin was grey and their eyes glowed a strange yellow. They had a slit for a mouth and no nostril holes.

‘My name is Mondo Bard. The store is actually named after my father, he died several years ago.’

The rear room had more mirrors, all smaller than the ones in the front room. Some were hung on the exposed brick walls. To the right was a chimney, the fire was out and the coals were cold. There was a table with half built frames and a long bench with two deep sinks full of water.

Mondo put the candle on the table and poured water into two ceramic cups.

‘You said your city is under attack?’

Saboo drunk swiftly from the cup, taking the entire contents down in several large gulps.

‘I was taken by the Calavera witches. They are the ones that gave me the mask. A fortune teller told me they put a curse on my city.’

Mondo turned and looked at the empty fire place. He stared for some time.

‘It makes sense now.’

‘What does?’

‘Something stronger is at play here. The Everdark has passed and someone, somewhere used it to their advantage. The witches you speak of… they are karmatic. What they give in negative, they must give in positive.’ Mondo turned to Saboo. ‘Someone has hired them to curse your city, to destroy it, then to take you far from it… but they gave you the mask.’

‘That’s why I need to get home.’

A shadow moved in one of the mirrors along the far wall. Saboo leapt back, jolted in fright.

‘They know you’re here!’ Mondo said, flinging his hood back over his head.

‘Who does?’

Mondo grabbed Saboo by his arm and ran into the front room.

‘Picture a mirror in your city, any mirror.’

‘What?’ Saboo said, watching as the mirrors started to fill with grisly shadows.

‘I can send you back… through the mirrors. I normally need more time to prepare, but you have the mask. It will help get you there, but you must wear it.’

‘But it burns.’

‘You’ll die here if you don’t.’

Saboo yanked the mask from his bag and looked at it. A long, grey hand came out of the closest mirror and tried to nab the mask. Mondo kicked it away.

‘Whoever is behind this is strong, now put it on.’

Saboo lifted the mask to his face and placed it on gently. The searing pain tore at his flesh, digging into his skin and reopening old scar tissue. He shrieked and convulsed in agony. Mondo grabbed his hands and closed his eyes as the shadows started to crawl out of the mirrors.

‘Picture a mirror or you’ll end up somewhere you don’t want to be.’

Saboo sifted through his brain, but he came up blank. Then he remembered a piece of mirror he used for his traps outside the Monkish City.

‘Okay,’ he gasped. ‘It’s small… and outside of the tree city.’ Tears rolled down his face.

‘It will have to do,’ Mondo swung him around violently as several shadow creatures pounced on him. Saboo was thrown into a long mirror. As soon as he hit it, it turned to liquid and he was swallowed whole.

The shadow beings all rushed to the mirror, but Mondo snatched it quickly and threw it onto the floor where it smashed into a thousand shards.

‘You’ll never find him now,’ Mondo said with a grin.

The shadow creatures all turned their eyeless sockets towards him.

‘You will pay for that,’ they said in chorus and slunk back into the mirrors from which they had come.


 

Published in: on November 18, 2017 at 5:39 am  Leave a Comment  

Indie Book Review: Soulless by Jacinta Maree

“We are the generation that laughs at death.

Reincarnation.

What was once considered a gift of immortality has become an eternity of nightmares.”

 26846210Soulless by Jacinta Maree is set two hundred years in the future, where humans have begun to remember every life they have ever lived. Scientist came up with a band aid cure called D400, which helps repress memories but no one can find a cure, until Nadia Richards is born.

Nadia is a strong and likeable female lead with a sassy attitude that makes you giggle as you read her story. The difference between her and every character is fascinating to read about, where she sees parents and siblings, everyone else sees just more humans, no one really connects anymore because of the reincarnation, because of remembering every person you’ve ever met in every life time.

When Nadia meets Diesel, a man with some very psychotic personalities in his past, you become addicted to this story. They say we girls can’t resist a bad boy, well Diesel is as bad as they get. You instantly crave to peel back the layers underlining his character, he is so complex and fascinating that you just need to keep reading, you need to know more about this man, this character.

When Soulless arrived in my mailbox, I had it finished in less than two days, and the only reason it took me that long is because work would have fired me if I didn’t show up to my shifts. It is a fresh take on the dystopian genre. It is exciting, full of action, dark elements that make you squeamish, but most importantly keeps you on your toes and itching for more.

It does, however, end on a cliff-hanger, which is bad in the sense that I need the next one now, like right now. Luckily for you, it is now available, but when I read it, it wasn’t and I was annoying the author to hurry up with the release of Soul Finder, so when you read this book, have book two ready to go.

Soulless is a one of a kind story that I can’t even think of what to compare it to. But if you like Divergent and Hunger Games, then I guarantee you’ll enjoy Soulless. It would also be recommended to young adult and above.

Jacinta is an amazing writer with an extraordinary imagination and I loved this book as well as her other series I have read and can’t wait for more of her work, so I highly recommend you google her name.

 

-Danica Peck

 

Published in: on November 5, 2017 at 6:54 am  Leave a Comment  

The Fine Art of Finishing

So, you’ve had an excellent idea, you’ve done your worldbuilding, nailed down your characters, done some plotting and started the work! Congratulations!

You’ve done the easy part.

As a person with quite a few finished texts, and a good many more unfinished ones, over my brief career I have developed a few simple steps that can turn the process of completing a novel from incredibly difficult to merely difficult.

1. Don’t skip to the cool parts

Yeah, I know, you have an awesome battle scene and you can’t wait to unload your personal favourite’s backstory and you have so many ideas to delight the audience!

Don’t.

Write a general idea of them so you don’t’ forget them if you have to, but skipping ahead to the interesting bits of your story can ruin motivation to write the connecting parts. Building the motivation to write the small details and plot stuff is hard enough at the best of times, and keeping the awesome part as something to look forward to can be a motivation tool to get the extra bits done.

2. Write Now. Right Now. Write Right Now

images1Don’t miss an opportunity to write. Whether it’s half an hour before class or when you get home from work, even if you’re writers-blocked and all you do is spend ten minutes sitting at your desk staring blankly at the screen writing why can’t I write over and over again, building the habit of writing can give you the momentum to get through the hard parts and keep you productive when you otherwise might give up. Very little is more damaging to productivity than coming back to your writing after two weeks and realising, ‘Oh damn I’ve completely fallen out of this.’

3. Find your writing environment

Some people can write just anywhere, under any circumstances. These are the people everyone else hates. The rest of us mere mortals need to figure out your environment before we can really get to work. Whether that’s atmospheric music, comfortable furniture, outside, inside, desk or bed, figure out where, when and how you write best, and keep yourself in that situation as much as possible. Avoid any unexpected or strange influences. Taking a moment to prepare a good working environment can boost productivity significantly.

4. Just get it down

downloadIt doesn’t matter if it’s good enough, first drafts are garbage and they’re allowed to be garbage. That’s why we have second drafts and beta readers and editing. The more you reread and rethink, the more things will seem bad, and the more you’ll have to think about the exact right thing. The right thing will come as you revise and redraft. The goal of the first draft is to get the story done, you can fix it in editing. Nail that phrase into your head ‘fix it in editing, fix it in editing,’ until you can let an error go.

5. Make Writing Friends

Not just writer friends, writing friends, friends you can share writing thoughts and ideas and characters and dumb stuff with. You can say all the weird writer junk, drone about characters with them for hours on end. They’ll do the same back and you might get some good ideas. Meet people who will make writer goals with you and commiserate over that one part you can’t finish. Having a support network based on what you do cannot be overstated. Writing is a solo business, bring friends.

These aren’t magic bullets.  I can’t say for sure that if you do these things you’ll finish handily. You’re almost certainly still going to have a couple of projects that are resigned to the failure pile forever, but if there’s something you have the motivation to do, that book you’ve always wanted to write, this should help.

-By Robert J Barlow

 

Published in: on October 22, 2017 at 6:51 am  Leave a Comment  

Top Five Writing Tips

I definitely don’t claim to be an expert on the subject, since I still haven’t published my first novel, but here are five things that I believe every new writer should know.

1. Read

images (2)I know that everybody says this but I think it is the most important thing for every writer to know and do. How can you expect yourself to be a good writer if you’re not a good reader first? But I don’t just mean sit there and read a book, though that is fun I’ll admit, what I actually mean is that you need to read the novel from a writer’s perspective.

Go back and read a book that you’ve already read, this will stop the storyline from getting in the way. Pull apart the novel, think like the author, why did they write the character doing this or thinking that, what purpose did it have in the story. Observe how minor characters effect the storyline as opposed to secondary characters. If you learn to understand the intentions of a particular author, you can learn how to apply the technique to your own work, though I won’t lie it will take time. Then you will never be able to fully enjoy a novel again.

2. Make Time and Space

images1A lot of people have a life outside writing. Mostly because it is nearly impossible to make a day job out of writing, unless you’re the next J.K Rowling. Set aside a certain amount of time, either every day or even every week, where all you do is work on your project. By getting into that routine you will discipline your mind to be creative when you want it to be, this will help you to write on demand, not just when you’re mind decides to throw you a bone.

You also need to make the space. An office, the bedroom, your local cafe. A place that will allow you to focus on nothing else. Those with children would find this more difficult. For this I recommend talking to your partner about your writing and agreeing on a time that they will take primary care of the children.

Pets are another distraction, as it is I had to lock my young feline out of the room in order to write this blog post, unfortunately he can open all the doors in the house so I have no escape unless I lock it, also unfortunately I then get the sulking meow from the other side of the door. Most furry friends can be locked out of the house so that you can gain some peace and quiet, others will be quite happy to leave you to it. It’s just the clingy ones you have to worry about, unfortunately I have one of those. Still trying to get him out of it.

3. Do Your Research

images2Different stories require different levels of research, your actual story and how much information you already know will affect the amount of research you need to do. You can do your research in one of two ways; as you need it or before you need it. Honestly I prefer option two. It means that I already have the knowledge when I require it. However that doesn’t always work, especially when your story takes a turn even you didn’t expect. This is where option one comes into play.

The main reason for this is so you know what you’re writing about. For example, you can’t write a novel based in the past and have a piece of technology that hasn’t been invented yet. Or. In regards to weapons, you can’t have particular type of weapon if they weren’t used in that geographical area during that time period. It’s all about the fact checking, and it prevents embarrassment later on if you ever get asked about it.

4. Don’t Copy Other Writers/Authors

bookshelfPretty much anybody would read that title and go of course, you can’t plagiarise, that’s illegal. But, I’m not talking about plagiarising. I’m talking about writing styles. Every writer has their own voice, it takes time but every writers finds their at some point. I will admit that I did this myself when I first started writing. But it never worked for me. Now I follow my own path as a writer, and my work is better for it.

It’s normal to look into how other writers plan, research and write their stories and try to mimic their process and get try to use it. Occasionally it will work. But usually it doesn’t or only part of it works for another writer. If you are going to study other authors’ writing processes I recommend trying several styles and use what is most comfortable.

Can you write better with everything planned or do you write better in the moment without forethought. My style is a bit of both, honestly it depends on what I’m writing. The Stray took a bit of planning, mostly because it was a first novel, The Lost, which has been written, was mostly spontaneous writing. I haven’t written the third book yet as I returned to begin the revision process for The Stray, however I know that the storyline I’ve chosen will take some planning, especially since I’m drawing the series to an end.

The only thing I can truly recommend in this area is to study. Explore writing techniques and use what works for you. Develop your own style and your own voice.

5. Don’t Expect Too Much

writing-a-short-biographyI can’t tell you how many times I finished a draft of The Stray then went back and to read over it nearly a month later and I was disappointed in it. I’ve forgotten how many versions of the story I’ve written, but this particular version is in its fourth draft and I have only changed the storyline in each.

I go back and read the first version of The Stray and I can barely get past the first page. I wrote it when I was twelve, and back then I thought it was the best thing in the world, I wanted to be the next Christopher Paolini, a published author as a teenager. Looking back I am seriously glad that I didn’t send it out to anybody.

I saw a meme on my Facebook feed a few weeks ago. It talked about first drafts, I can’t remember exactly what it said, and of course I am unable to find it when I want it, but it was something about how “we’re shoveling sand into a sand pit so we can build castles later” I believe that this is the best way to describe a first draft. It takes time to write a story and it doesn’t always work the first time you try. So take your time and keep writing.

– Amanda Geisler

Published in: on October 8, 2017 at 5:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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Full Circle

I was fourteen and on the bus on the way back from the comic book store. I grew up in Darwin, so it was all the way up town. If we finished school early we would venture up, buy some comics and jump back on the bus and be home before nightfall. On one particular trip, on the way home, I decided to pull my comic book out of its brown paper bag and read it. As the bus chugged along, we got closer and closer to all the high schools. Kids would get on this bus that would then take them to the main terminal, where they would all get off and get different buses home. Myself and a friend were near the back, reading our comics and in total immersion with everything about them. Then we heard someone say, ‘Are you reading comics?’

Keiths-Comics.jpgI knew we had made a mistake. Four teenagers climbed over seats to come and sit around us, forming a circle. We quickly tucked our comics back into their non-discreet bags and just sat there while being berated for reading comics at our age. ‘Why are you reading comics?’ ‘Get a life,’ and ‘losers,’ were said amongst other things. I thought it was going to turn violent, but they got off a few stops later. I remember making a mental note, not to ever read comics in public again.

Fast forward a few years and I’m on the bus again with a good friend of mine and he sees two girls he knows at the back of the bus. He makes me go and sit next to them and we all started chatting. It was coming to the end of High School and we were all heading into Senior College (year 11 and 12), and they were asking what sort of courses we were going to do and if we were going to go on to university. My friend knew what he was going to do, to the point I felt a bit bad that I didn’t have my career life planned like he did. The girls turned to me. My friend said, ‘You’re not going to try and draw comics, are you?’

rgvyhu6nipx8azgbozkt.pngI was mortified. Reading comics and drawing my own comics was a secret I didn’t want anyone to know about, especially after the bus incident. I shook my head, ‘No,’ and said I didn’t know yet. The very idea of writing or drawing comics was so absurd to some people that it made them uncomfortable to the point they needed to ridicule me about it. I never thought that was a viable career path for a fifteen-year-old living in Darwin.

Years later, when I was working for an insurance company, I printed out pictures of Alan Moore, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and pinned them up on my cubicle. Half were authors, half were comic book writers. I loved their work, all in different ways and I aspired to be like them. When people came by my cubicle, they would point to Alan Moore and ask, ‘Is that your dad?’ ‘No, it is not my dad, it’s Alan Moore. He writes comics.’ I’d get a strange look and then they would leave.

4351820-alan-moore.jpgIn the last few years a lot has changed. There is no closet for the comic book reader, because everyone is now into it. A lot of it started with the Iron Man movies, then the Walking Dead. My boss at my job now loves Walking Dead and we chat about it every other day. I offered to give her the comics so she can read more about it, and even read ahead of the TV show, but she’s still a bit apprehensive about reading comics. My mother watches Daredevil and my father watches Arrow. We now have work discussions about Aquaman and who the best Batman villain is. We talk about the Inhumans TV show coming out and the new Defenders. Everyone in my office is looking forward to the Punisher TV show and the Justice League movie. People know about the Watchmen movie, Legion, Flash, Supergirl, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Preacher and Fear the Walking Dead TV shows. I get on the train after work to head home and people are openly reading graphic novels and Avengers Omnibuses. They are watching Game of Thrones or Preacher on their phones or ipads. It’s out in the open now. To be mocked for liking comics or fantasy no longer has justification. You’re almost ridiculed for not watching it.

AbsoluteSandmanVol2I still can’t read comics on the train, but I don’t hide the fact that I read them anymore. I’ve posted a picture of Grant Morrison’s Multiversity on my Instagram page and received a few likes. I’ve even gone as far as submitting scripts and comic book ideas to Image comics. I’ve submitted two so far and I’ve got another three to write and submit. My friend on the bus who mocked me for even thinking about writing comics laid the groundwork for my self-doubt very early on. When I first started writing I only dreamt of being an author and I didn’t tell anyone. Now that I have three books published, I tell everyone. And if I can be an author, I can be a comic book writer. Maybe those guys who picked on us on the bus over twenty years ago are now watching Walking Dead or Luke Cage. Maybe they go into a newsagent to get the newspaper and see the comics there and think about buying them, but don’t. Maybe their kids are reading them and it’s their bed time reading material. There’s even a possibility they dressed as Iron Man or Flash at a dress up party and feel like an outsider like I once did.

I don’t have animosity for people who are getting into comics or the fantasy world now. Everyone is welcome. You can be a tourist if you want. If you watched Wonder Woman and wanted to know more, drop into your local comic book shop, they won’t bite. Ask them about where to start, they’ll point you in the right direction. Welcome, you’ve got a lot of reading to do.

– Mitchell Tierney

 

 

Published in: on September 10, 2017 at 10:33 am  Leave a Comment  

What is Assisted Self-Publishing?

You have a story to tell. You have a publishing dream. You have a stapled stack of pages you’d like to see turned into a book. Everyone looking at this post is at a different point in their own creative journey, and some of you are aiming toward publication, like I was just a few years ago. Then, through a series of events that can only be considered fateful, I found Ouroborus Book Services, an assisted self-publisher. For me, this partnership was perfect, and now I get to sign my books at stores and call myself an author – the dream! But for those playing at home, tapping away at keys on your own first manuscript,  you’re certainly forgiven for asking: what is assisted self-publishing?Girl in spectacles studying in library

Assisted self-publishing is exactly what it sounds like: publishing by yourself, but with help. For the last century, the art and business of book publishing has been dominated by big publishing houses, whose expertise in guiding manuscripts from authors’ hands through the many processes of editing, proofreading, formatting, printing, binding, marketing and distributing has been unmatched. There was no way to get your book out there except to send your pages off to a commissioning editor and joining the slush pile, and if you were lucky enough that your book was ‘picked up’, all creative control was with the publisher, who in this model is, after all, the one shelling out the dollar bills for the project. And make no mistake, there are a lot of dollars to be paid, to all those talented and skilled people employed by the publishing house to handle the different tasks in the production chain to make massive print runs of quality product. Then, slowly, on the tides of numerous industry and social changes, self-publishing became viable again – self-funding writers taking a chance on themselves, teaching themselves the necessary skills and processes, taking advantage of technologies and platforms as they came available to get their works out into the world. Naturally, these early amateur efforts lacked the finesse and craftsmanship of traditionally published books, but the gap is fast closing, and today’s independent books can be indistinguishable from their big house competitors. Minimising print runs and cutting all those people out of the production chain lowers costs significantly, and many big authors either began their careers in self-publishing, or, as is emerging, are moving back to it for the creative control it lends and the complete financial independence. Because if you’re the one doing all the work and putting forward all the capital? You reap the profits.

Open flying old booksBut as you can imagine when you take on the work of a whole chain of professionals, self-publishing is a lot to do, a lot to learn and a heck of a lot to manage. As attractive an option as self-publishing is becoming, balancing the steep learning curve and administrative stuff with the author’s actual job of, you know, writing, is both off-putting and, at the very least, a big drain on your time.

That is the niche that assisted self-publishing is filling for thousands of authors. Maybe you want the creative control to choose your own cover but can’t design, don’t know any graphic artists and wouldn’t have the first clue how to format an image into a cover for book-printing software, or perhaps you’ve got a drawer of rejection letters and now you’re willing to take a chance on yourself where big publishers won’t. Assisted self-publishers either employ or network with freelancers to complete all those jobs in the chain, reducing some of the pressure from authors who can’t be expected to know all the processes in this whole industry.

images (2)Assisted self-publishing worked for me, but I’m a single case study, and I can’t speak for your circumstances. For me – an unpublished young female with a fantasy manuscript, probably the least attractive query publishers can possibly receive – it allowed me to circumvent the gatekeeping of traditional publishing that says “we’ve got enough of those”, “we’re not publishing in that genre at the moment” or “we don’t publish new authors, sorry.” It also enabled me to produce a quality, professional product that can compete with mainstream fiction, which was more important to me than simply “getting the work out there.” I certainly didn’t have the skills to do that on my own, so it made the most sense for me to hire some experts and work with them. If self-publishing is your chosen path and you’re feeling overwhelmed just wondering where to even start, assisted self-publishing may be for you.

As with all investments, do your research and shop around. A professional service should be able to be transparent with you about what they do and where the costs will arise. Go with your gut and your bank account, and DON’T RUSH – your book has waited this long to be born, it’ll keep another minute while you really crunch the facts and figures to decide what’s right for you.

 

by Shayla Morgansen

 

Published in: on August 27, 2017 at 4:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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New Release – Colours Within

Battles of Azriel Book 2 front TEXT.jpg

Danica Peck’s newest title, Colours Within, is book 2 in her Battles of Azriel series. Here’s a sneak peek. Available on Amazon, Book Depository, and at other good book retailers. Signed copies are also available at our shop.

CHAPTER ONE

Arya’s History

I was born as Arya Faith DeValentino and like every teenager, I went through a phase of not liking my name and was known as only Faith. This was timed perfectly as a supernatural war was just beginning. During this time, I made many enemies and ultimately, they came after me and my family. Most couldn’t find us because of my change of name, but that was many moons ago.

I was born in 1905 and stopped aging at the age of sixteen. Yes, that is correct, eternity as a teenager. I’m lucky it was after the bad skin and the awkward looks stage of adolescence. I am the first of my species to be born. The rest of my siblings were made, from humans, into my father’s species – Nagual. I am a hybrid; my Mother was a Minx and my Father the Nagual.

What’s a Nagual? In less fancy terms, we were just shape shifters: and we turned into jaguars. We had basic magic that was connected to the Earth and when turned, a black cat mark appeared on our wrists.

And a Minx? They were just elves, well kind of. History says that an Elf and a Siren bore a child, which is how the first Minx was created. And that’s what I am, a Minx with all the power qualities of a Nagual.

I may not be human, but I have made mistakes. I was an Elf with human regrets, an immortal with a mortal soul. My mistakes would haunt me till the end of days. I’ve watched my brother die. I’ve watched my fiancé die.

What do you do when, in your world, you can’t die from old age? The only death in our world is murder.

What did I do? I let magic and revenge consume me.

I wished for a mortal life.

CHAPTER TWO

Vila 1984

It was a surprisingly cold night for November. Perhaps it was the storm, which often brought the cold winds. The water that fell from the sky was like ice, but I didn’t flinch. Perhaps my skin was now used to it, for it had been hours since I was standing in the rain in this run-down town.

Before the rain, before me, this town had been full of life. Now there were only the memories of pain and death. I looked over the destruction I had caused, but no emotion ran through me, no guilt or pain. Around me, the buildings that had been left standing began to sink deeper into the earth as the flames stole their last bit of strength. The wind carried the screams of the deceased, their blood stained the ground upon which I stood, despite the rains’ best effort to wash it away.

As the remains of a building crashed into the wet dirt with a small cry, I turned my attention to it, as though expecting someone to emerge from the rubble.

My olive skin had a slight glow from the remaining flames, though most of my skin was hidden by the crimson essence of the departed. My skin revealed no wounds, even with the amount of blood that covered me it was hard to believe. Not even the rain could remove my sins. Tainted, red rain fell upon my lips but I didn’t feel sickened by the rusted coin taste that found its way upon my tongue. My midnight hair fell past my elbows, sticking to my skin like a spider web. My onyx eyes glanced up at the moon; tonight was the night. I had waited long enough. I felt intoxicated with power and revenge, and this violated town was the ideal place to end my vendetta.

The cries of people watching someone they loved being murdered, the screams of terror and the ear piecing shrieks of the dying, echoed within my mind. The moon had broken through the clouds and cast its light over me as I waited. I waited for him – the one that had caused my suffering. Tonight it would end.

A twig snapped behind me. I smiled, exposing my feline teeth, as a dark, brooding figure walked towards me. I turned to face him, meeting his gaze. As he closed the space between us I looked him over. His dark brown hair fell around his face, his dark blue eyes shone out from his ghostly pale features.

‘Jedhail,’ I whispered, loathing rising within me. ‘What better place to meet your demise.’

‘Impressive,’ he murmured with his velvety voice. ‘I envy the fame you will receive.’

Hunger filled his eyes as he gazed over my body, still stained with red.

‘I suppose you want to fight?’ His voice had a sense of arrogance as he took a step back. ‘But as my final words, may I tell you a bed time story?’

I went to snap my impatience at Jedhail but he put his hand up to interrupt me.

‘This is the tale of murder and love, the story of your two significant others.’

‘Why would I want your version of killing Rhys and Mikhail?’ I shouted.

‘Ah, that’s why,’ he mused. ‘I didn’t kill Mikhail.’

‘That’s a lie,’ I argued, though my voice wavered with uncertainty.

‘Are you sure?’ he teased.

I thought back to Mikhail’s death. He was right, I wasn’t sure. I never saw his killer’s face, I was too far away. But if Jedhail hadn’t kill Mikhail, who had?

‘The blame goes to me,’ said a soft, sweet voice from behind Jedhail. Elphina, his partner, appeared – she was a spider demon, a rare pureblood demon species of vampires.

Spider demons are evil, full stop. Vampires can be swayed either way and that’s how this power couple happened. Elphina seduced a young innocent-souled vampire, Jedhail, to give up his soul, he then became her own personal slave and puppet. He had no idea that he was just her tool.

‘You?’ I exclaimed in disgust, as Elphina walked towards me.

Blue electrical sparks flew from my fingertips as anger and hatred swelled within me.

‘The amazing Faith,’ Elphina mused as she walked closer to me. ‘Or are you going by Arya again? Either way, Mikhail was luscious, wasn’t he? I wish I had dug my claws in first.’

I threw myself at Elphina, who avoided the attack. I landed in a crouch position, a low growl coming from the back of my throat as rage began to consume me.

‘Aw, baby,’ Elphina mocked. ‘You can’t beat me.’

I smiled through my feline teeth, taking her words as a challenge.

I threw myself at Elphina again. This time she didn’t react at the same speed causing her to almost lose balance. Elphina lashed out at me with her claws, I ducked the attack and spun a kick into her stomach. Elphina doubled over and glared at me as she caught her breath.

With a quick glance, I saw Jedhail circling us like a bird circling its prey.  He had no motive to join the fight, so I put my focus back on the current target. I threw continuous attacks at Elphina, keeping her in the defensive position, not allowing her an opening to attack.

Elphina scrunched up her face in frustration, lashing her claws out against my neck. As I pressed my hand to the wound, Elphina took the opening and punched the side of my face. With the combination of the wet ground and the hit, I lost my footing and landed in the mud.

I quickly brushed off the hit and jumped back to my feet ready to attack again, but Elphina was quicker. She had drawn a titanium blade. She jammed the blade into my stomach so fast, I barely blinked. I was clenching her fist and holding in the urge to scream, falling to my knees. My hands grabbed the hilt of the blade.

Elphina kneeled before me, looking me in the eyes. ‘Recognise the blade? It’s the one I killed your lover with.’

How could one person bleed so much?

That had been the only thought that was going through my head as I had supported Mikhail’s wound. That’s all I could think about now. Elphina pulled on my hair, forcing my head back for our eyes to meet.

‘You know Mikhail begged for his life?’ Elphina snarled.

‘You lie!’ I spat.

‘He screamed,’ Elphina purred. ‘He begged. He was pathetic.’

A low growl rose from my throat. I pulled the blade from my stomach and slashed it across Elphina’s cheek. Throwing my hands forward I conjured a gust of wind which threw Elphina onto her back. I pushed myself to my feet and as Elphina stood up, I plunged the blade into Elphina’s chest. She screamed in agony as I twisted the knife, opening the wound further. She fell to the ground and I watched as her spirit left her body.

Jedhail ran to Elphina’s side as I stumbled backwards away from both of them.

‘Raphael, Angel of Ease,’ I whispered, my strength waning. I was on the verge of collapsing, but Jedhail still lived.

‘Raphael…Angel of …ease, in the divine …name of…Raphael,’ I murmured using all my strength to stay conscious. ‘I consecrate and charge, I ask for healing, from the rain …from the earth. Raphael…Angel of Ease.’ A white light appeared and swirled into my wound.

Jedhail’s cold, dark eyes were shooting daggers as he walked over to me while I was kneeling on the ground supporting my wound. Jedhail back-handed me, causing me to spit blood from my mouth.

‘Kill me,’ I snarled. ‘I dare you.’

Jedhail licked his lips, showing his fangs. His eyes travelled from my neck to my eyes. He kneeled before me, grabbing my chin, forcing me to look at him.

‘No,’ he whispered, and smiled as disappointment flickered in my eyes. ‘How does it feel ma petite, the vengeance? Was all the blood worth it?’

My onyx eyes glanced dangerously at him. ‘I feel nothing.’

Jedhail scoffed.

I winced as I tried to stop the bleeding from my still open wound.

‘Liar – what would Rhys say if he saw what you did here? What would Mikhail say?’

I looked at him, my eyes faded back to blue from black; the magic’s hold on me relinquished, allowing the remorse and pain to all set in.

Jedhail smiled. ‘Feel the pain, taste the blood,’ he whispered coldly in my ear. ‘Being the creature you are, I believe this will haunt you forever.’

Sensing the sunrise, Jedhail walked off leaving me in my despair.

 

 

 

Published in: on August 12, 2017 at 4:44 am  Leave a Comment