Sneak Peek at Everdark Realms: The Darkening

Everdark Realms: The Darkening 

by Ella Hazelwood, Sabrina RG Raven and Mitchell Tierney

Prologue

Everdark Beginnings

When the isle of Amitav was new and still part of the mainland, the Ancients of the races there lived in harmony. They fashioned the diverse landscapes of their homes, and imbued the lands with their own magic and guardians.

The Ancients, of course, were just that – ancient. They witnessed many things in their time, but most sacred of all was the Everdark Alignment.

Every sixty years, a cosmic alignment of stars was pierced with a blue comet known as Everdark.

It was discovered by the Ancients, living much longer than any other creature on Amitav, that this alignment shone its sacred blue light upon the children who would aspire to greatness. No one could discern how Everdark knew who would be the best leader for their people, but the chosen ones were always gifted whether anyone realised it or not.

As the races grew, thelandofAmitavgrew with them, splitting from the mainland. Some left the island almost entirely, leaving only a few of their kind to wander and mix with the main races of the land; some travelled to the far corners of Amitav, to the lands that suited them best. The Luna Lukkos journeyed to the canyons, the Aistríonians to the forest, the Sapphyrians from their palaces in the south and forced to tunnels below, the Jishakus roaming the land and eventually inhabiting the Tendril Valley, the Aquillians expanding their underwater kingdom off the coast, and the Illumiens to their lofty tower.

Peace reigned for many generations. Traditions were born and legends were made. Four of the races kept the Everdark Alignment sacred, using the mighty power to select their new leaders.

Nevertheless, peace does not last forever. Soft words turned bitter and spiteful, and for many years war raged between the races. Times of peace became fewer and further apart until eventually the lands became a war zone and it was dangerous for even the brave to leave their home. Fear began to confine all but the wild creatures and the few traders willing to risk travelling. Blame was laid by all, on everyone else and never on themselves, becoming a part of life with every person ready to fight even if the conflict was, in essence, only kept alive by the mob mentality their history had created.

By chance, circumstance or perhaps something more, there was a meeting of three children of Amitav, moons before the Alignment, and though they had all pressed the occasion from their memory, knowing it would be frowned upon, in their hearts they wanted something to come from it, they wanted the peace they had shown to each other for all the people of Amitav. A life without fear.

Now, once more, it is the legendary coming of the Everdark Alignment and the finding of leaders new. A selected few would gather, all hoping to be chosen as leader. They would unite under the eyes of their ancestral kin. At their own sites of sacred power the Everdark Alignment would shine and illuminate the leader of nature’s choosing.

That is the ritual of the Everdark as it should be, but not all is well in thelandof Amitav…

 

Part One

The Luna Lukkos: The Curse of the Calaveras


Chapter One

A Not-so Family Portrait

In the family tree of the Mantilla’s, Saboo would be somewhere near the bottom… and a little to the side. It wasn’t that his parents didn’t love him; he was born eighth out of sixteen children and often got lost in the throng of family members when they had a reunion. In the picture over his mother’s stove you could see only his left ear, broad and round as a dinner plate… and that’s it. Saboo would tell you that you could see some of his whiskers if you squinted and got really close to the portrait.

Saboo was a Luna Lukkos, a tribe of tree dwelling natives that thrived on adventure and fun. He could often be found swinging from branch to branch, catching animals in his traps or just playing a local game called hide-and-come-find. Saboo’s fourteenth birthday had come and gone recently and with little fuss. He received a small apple, picked from a far away orchard which he had never been to; a new hunting rope, which had been cut in half so his parents had something to give him for his next birthday; and small sack of beetleberries, which he was allergic to. His parents often forget he was allergic to them, but they couldn’t be blamed, they had sixteen children to buy gifts for.

Saboo was small for his age; all his brothers towered above him and often mocked his short stature. His coat was a sun kissed reddish-brown, whereas his brothers’ coats were just brown, better for hiding in trees and less visible. Saboo had one other abnormality that made him different from his siblings; his tail was shorter. It was severed at the tip after a run in with a lepordconda as a child while playing hide-and-come-find with his brothers. His brother thought it would be funny to hide the rock in the lepordconda’s nest just after it had laid its eggs – talk about an over protective mother – and the dangerous animal had bitten the tip of Saboo’s tail off. The end was now a small, fleshy stump, a frayed fuzz of fur around it. Saboo looked at the portrait, his large, brown eyes reflected back at him, when suddenly his mother yelled for him.

Saboo!

‘Right here, mum,’ he said, standing right beside her.

‘Always disappearing… one day you’ll turn invisible and we’ll never find you.’

‘Mum,’ he protested, ‘I’ve been here all along.’

‘Go get all your brothers and sisters, it’s dinner time.’

The pot over the stove was huge. Saboo had once used it as a hiding spot when they played hide-and-come-find. His mother had not been impressed.

Dinner time at the Mantilla’s was always chaos. Hand over paw reaching for spices and juice; tails sneaking extra dessert and after dinner sweets.

The family had been gathered around the table, basking in the afterglow of a home cooked meal, when Uncle Bajool opened his big mouth about Everdark.

‘So Taboo, are you going to try out for the contest?’

Taboo was the tallest of the Mantilla clan. His shoulders were broad and his muscles were well built and structured. His hair was grey on the top, a feature thought highly of in the Luna Lukkos community.

‘Well, you know me, Uncle. Not only will I try out, but I will get in and win… and when I’m leader, you can come over to my palace for supper.’

All the other children rolled their eyes.

‘I’m gonna try out too, Uncle Bajool,’ came a voice from the far end of the table, slightly around the corner and into the lounge room. Everyone craned their necks to see where the peep had come from.

‘Saboo?’ his sister Shiloo said.

‘I didn’t even know he was here,’ his older sibling Masoo answered.

Uncle Bajool laughed while holding his bulbous stomach. His long beard bounced up and down.

‘You, enter the contest, Saboo? I think not.’

‘Leave him alone,’ his mother cried out, slapping Bajool on the arm.

‘Saboo is… well… a runt?’ he said, waving his arms in the air like he was juggling.

‘A runt?’ Saboo echoed, taking offence. ‘I’ll have you know, Uncle Bajool, that I have climbed the Gargantuan Tree twice!

‘That means nothing,’ his uncle snapped, even though everyone knew that it was indeed a mighty feat.

‘You can’t even see the top of the Gargantuan Tree, Bajool, it’s out of sight!’ his mother said, passing yet another bowl of food down the procession of Mantillas.

‘It took me four days. Up and down.’

In his anger Saboo picked up his mashed Poa-Poa Yam and tossed it right at Bajool’s ugly face. It struck him square in the forehead, knocking his head back. The other fifteen children burst out laughing.

‘Saboo… to your room,’ his mother said quite solemnly, although Saboo thought she may have been stifling a laugh.

‘Mum?’ he whined.

‘Come on, mum,’ Masoo said. ‘Bajool deserved it!’

Bajool wiped his face. The creamy goo was in his hair and his mouth; some was on his ear and a little was up his nose which had blushed as red as his face. He slammed his fist down so hard on the table that drinks toppled over.

Saboo’s mother shot up from her seat. Her eyes were warm when they wanted to be and stern when they had to be; today they looked fierce. Everything stopped when they saw her face.

‘Saboo… to your room. Bajool, it’s time for you to take your drunken tail home.’ They both looked like they were going to question her, but thought better of it.

***

 

Saboo sat on the edge of his parents’ balcony. The stars were brighter than usual, shining down with delightful intensity. Saboo looked up and let out a long sigh. He ran his filthy fingers through his long hair and huffed as Lazarus, his pet lizard, crawled up beside him and gave him a nudge, nearly setting him off balance.

‘Hey, boy,’ Saboo said. ‘Wow, you really are getting big, almost as long as me now.’ Lazarus nudged him again in agreement and almost knocked Saboo off the city.

‘Whoa, boy… steady there, it’s a long way down.’

The city ofMonkishwas hundreds of metres off the canyon floor. From up close it looked like a massive cubby-house. Panelling and antennas sticking up from various places. From a distance the shrubbery covered most of the framework, and the canyon hid the rest.

They both peered down to the canyon floor below. In the darkness they could just make out the guards of theMonkishCitychasing glow-wasps, instead of being at their posts.

‘I don’t wanna end up some ground-dwelling guard, Lazarus… I wanna be… something,’ he said, patting the giant lizard’s head. Lazarus gurgled slightly.

‘Saboo,’ came the soft voice of his sister Shiloo.

Saboo turned around. She had snuck him some dessert from the dinner table – a small round plate covered with little purple cakes slathered with rich dark sauce. She handed it to him with a smile.

‘I don’t blame you for what you did; Uncle Bajool can go too far sometimes.’

Saboo nodded and threw Lazarus a cake.

‘If you give him too many he’ll leave mess around the house again and mum will seriously kick your –’

‘Look at that!’ Saboo shouted. Above them a falling star exploded and descended towards them, burning away in a fiery glow.

‘The first signs of the Everdark,’ she said, crossing her arms to protect herself from the cold breeze her tail tucked in beside her.

‘Do you think I have a chance of getting in?’ Saboo asked.

‘If Taboo can get in, I’m sure you can… when you see the Elder, just pick your words carefully.’

Saboo thought about this for a moment.

‘I wanna show everyone that I can be a leader, that I am not a chimp anymore. If you could just see me out there.’ He waved his hands towards the dark, dense jungle. ‘I can swing higher than anyone I know. I’ve invented new traps to catch the pot-belly twisterpigs. I’ve created new weapons and learned moves that Taboo doesn’t even know about!’ He put his cake down, too distressed to eat, which was odd for a young Luna Lukkos.

‘It’s more than that, Saboo. It’s here,’ Shiloo said, as she touched his chest with her finger, ‘in your heart… and here.’ She pointed to his head. Saboo nodded.

‘Your heart will tell you what to do and your brain will tell you how to do it, and these will make it happen,’ she said lifting her paws up to the afterglow of the falling star. Saboo looked at his hands. He had the feeling that if he was going to get in, he would have to push himself beyond the limits of anything he had ever done before.

***

 

When Saboo awoke, his head was pounding, his eyes dreary. He shifted his legs and kicked something hard in his bed.

‘Ouch,’ he cried, lifting his sheets to see what intruder was in his bed.

A filthy, oddly shaped rock lay near his throbbing toes.

‘What the?’ He lifted it up.

The window beside him let in the cool morning air. He looked through the window to see a few younger kids arguing outside.

‘Hey!’ he yelled as they looked up. ‘Who put this in my bed?’

One of the small children, whose name was Razzy, slapped his forehead.

‘Saboo!’ he hollered out. ‘That was the best hiding spot I could find!’

The kid next to him whipped his tail back and forth. He had seen the rock, making him the winner.

The rules of hide-and-come-find were simple: one person hid the rock and the other person had two days to find it. If the first person didn’t find it they had to do a dare. If they did find it the other person had to do the dare.

‘Thanks a lot, Saboo!’ Razzy said. ‘He would have never found it up there!’

‘Go play hide-and-come-find someplace else!’ Saboo said, tossing the rock down to the now irritated adolescent. He limped into the kitchen where Taboo was flexing his muscles. No one noticed Saboo pulling up a chair and wiping the sleep from his eyes.

‘…and then what will you say?’ his father asked Taboo.

Taboo scratched his chin and thought for some time. Saboo almost fell asleep again.

‘…Oh yeah! I’ll say how my family is one of the original ancestors that helped build theMonkishCity…’

‘…and…’ his father pressured him on.

‘…and we helped set the traps around the borders and we make up a large number of the voting tally for next year’s Mayoral elections!’

His father dropped his head and shook it from side to side. The Everdark comet had been seen soaring through the sky late in the evenings, and everyone was getting nervous that it was so close. They thought the Elder would announce the contest any day, so some early practice was in session, but none knew exactly when it would be called.

‘What?’ Taboo asked.

‘What about honour and the skills needed to bring this city into the new era?’ Saboo said nonchalantly.

Everyone turned and looked at him in stunned amazement.

‘Saboo?’ said one of his sisters.

‘How long have you been there for?’

‘Saboo,’ his mother told him. ‘Go check the traps for meat, we’ll need to celebrate if either of you get in to see the Elder.’

Saboo nodded and yawned again.

‘Have two brothers ever been in the contest, dad?’ Taboo asked.

Their father was a large man whose shoulders arched forward, his back was curved and sore from years of building and construction.

‘When the last Everdark Alignment occurred, I was only a toddler. I can barely remember it,’ he laughed heartily. ‘All I can remember is that the ones chosen to receive the clues and start the contest are very brave. They have something inside them that only the Elder can see.’

Saboo’s mother wrapped her arms around him and hugged him close.

‘They are excellent in battle,’ their father continued, ’and swift on their feet. They don’t need the local markets and canteens in the city to survive. They can live off the forest and canyon floors.’

Their mother rolled her eyes and patted Saboo on the shoulder.

‘Now, Saboo, before we all have to start eating off the floors, go get meat from the traps.’

As Saboo dragged himself off the chair and went to his room to get his utility belt, Razzy was climbing back through his window with the hide-and-come-find rock.

‘Razz!’ Saboo shouted.

‘Saboo?’ he said guiltily, having been caught red pawed.

‘You can’t hide it here. I don’t want the entire population of Monkish searching my room for it.’

‘But I wanna be the hide-and-come-find champion!’

Saboo picked up his utility belt and strapped it to his waist. It was full of pockets and compartments. It was packed with smoke-cluster bombs, wire, trip-string, scent-disguise pellets and knock-out throwing discs. He grabbed his spear, which was compacted down to a foot long, metal rod. A button was positioned in the middle, so with just one touch, it extended to full length. He put it in a pouch that was flung over his back.

‘Give me the rock,’ Saboo finally gave in. Razzy’s eyes lit up.

‘You’ll hide it for me?’ he said.

‘Sure I will,’ Saboo replied.

‘Great! They’ll never find it!’

‘Ok, good, now go… I’ve got work to do.’

***

 

Once Saboo had left the gates, the guards went back to their normal sleeping positions, spears left lying on the ground and empty, fermented juice bottles by their feet. It had been a while since anyone had dared attack the city; but visitors were still common as Monkish was one of the only mixed race city’s left as far as Saboo knew, although most the population were Luna Lukkos like himself.

I would hate to know what would happen if we were ever really under attack, Saboo thought. The guards are more like baby sitters for the iron doors, making sure they don’t get too rusty.

He continued on his path. After some time he came to a deep valley. The trees angled down towards the bottom of it, almost pointing the way. Saboo could smell the rotting meat. He knew there would be no animal in this one, but he better take a look anyway. He grabbed onto a branch and lifted himself high, swinging between the branches. He leapt off a huge, thick tree arm and soared through the air, gracefully snatching a hanging vine and landing on his feet on the valley floor. He walked over to the middle. The trap was near invisible. Just where his feet were was a stinking heap of grey meat, tempting to any wandering animal. He bent down. A thin piece of wire hovered gently over the rancid mess. He dare not even breathe near it, or it would send several razor sharp spears into him before he could blink twice. Saboo stood up, grabbed the vine and climbed it. This was the first of many that he had to check.

The Luna Lukkos were excellent inventors. They loved setting traps on the ground as well as up in the trees. They preferred the trees because they disliked being on the ground for long periods of time. It felt unnatural to them. They favoured their homes high in the trees. It felt as if they were being pushed up and away from danger, and the water. The Monkish hated the water, in fact they dreaded it. The city was the farthest place they could find that was away from any water. Many lived in caves and tunnels on mountain ranges, but most lived in the City ofMonkish, high in the trees, connected by cables and flying-foxes, lifts and conveyer belts. Once up in the city you forgot the fact that you were up so high. The ground was level and covered many, many acres of sky. Sometimes the height of the city scared some of the visitors, but once they were up in the city they forgot all about the ground far below. As the city grew and grew, more outsiders came to investigate and ended up staying. Now the Monkish City was a bustle of different races and creatures, but most were still the Luna Lukkos.

The day moved on with dismal slowness. The heat stuck to the bottom of the forest like a fog. It was thick and difficult to walk through. Not many animals were out hunting, preferring to stay in their caverns and holes and sleep the hot day away. The green moss turned yellow, as it sometimes did when rain was days away. The air above the canopy was cool and welcoming on Saboo’s face. He knew he couldn’t spend all day jumping from tree to tree, he would have to, at some point, check his ground traps.

As he landed his stomach grumbled for food. His eyes still felt puffy from only being awake a few hours. He reached into his bag and pulled out a compass. He flipped it open and several small dials whirled to life, buzzing as electronics calculated his position. The circular screen lit up and a little red arrow spun around and around, finally resting to his left. He looked up into the trees. There, hidden among a mimica bird’s nest and a vine, was his mark: a yellow paw print to remind him where he had set the trap. He closed his compass and placed it back in its compartment. One of the first things he noticed was an absence of smell. That meant one of two things: the trap hadn’t gone off, letting an animal have a free feed, or meat for a feast!

Saboo walked into the thicket, pushing large plant leaves out of the way. He got closer to the trap and could see his make shift vine ropes had released the cage. He ran the last few feet without fear of getting caught in the trap himself. An upside down bowl-shaped cage made of branches and wires sat where he had set the trap. Inside the cage, carved spear heads chewed down on the back of an animal. As Saboo poked his head through the bars of the cage he could see it was a gawk-antelope, a slow moving animal that ate ants, scraps of meat and dead leaves. They often got lost from their herds and wandered over this side of the island in search of food or a dry spot to lay eggs.

Saboo ran to the nearest tree and pulled a lever he had made from his mothers old clothes-line retractor. The spears squished as they were slowly pulled out of the gawk’s skin, the cage withdrawing back up into the leafy awning. The gawk was slightly bigger than the ones that had wandered here in the past. Saboo picked it up and heaved it onto his back, thinking it was good luck finding some meat before it got too dark. The forest could be quite scary after the suns went down.

The body being so heavy, it would put a little strain on swinging home, so he opted to walk it.

The gawk’s head, flopped over his shoulder, looked almost mummified. He stopped and examined it some more. Teeth marks were located on the outside of its face and neck. That’s strange, Saboo thought, I knew they were stupid, but how could it bite itself there?

A deep rumbling growl echoed around him. Suddenly, the forest was deathly quiet. The heat had intensified. The rumbling noise of a beast rattled the twigs and shifted the dead leaves. Saboo dropped the gawk and stood dead still. Something had killed this animal before his trap had a chance to. Now it was here, and he was the meat.

Out from the dark shadows of the forest trees came a silhouette of a huge creature. As it came closer, Saboo could see the redness of its eyes, the stringy hair on its back and the huge paws… a crimson wolf. Due to their hypersensitive eyes being very distracted by the light of day, they usually only hunted at night.

Saboo circled the crimson wolf. Its fangs were like picket spikes; not made of bone or flesh, but wood as hard as rock. Its eyes were sunken back into its head like pits of flaming red anvils. The crimson wolf’s eyes never left Saboo’s.

‘Okay wolf,’ he told it. ‘Let’s do this the easy way… you take my meat and I’ll starve.’

The wolf bared its teeth. Hundreds of dark, splintered stakes spread across its mouth. Its hind legs compressed, lowering it to the ground. Saboo knew the crimson wolf breed; they could pounce hundreds of feet into the air, coming down on their victims with such force it left craters in the ground, being able to pinpoint its prey’s future location with alarming ease. He had seconds to think of what to do but that was more than enough.

He reached into the utility belt that hung low around his hips and pulled out a black cube, no bigger than a die. His eyes shot down at it at lightning fast speed. He flipped the safety switch off. When he looked back, the wolf was gone.

Damn, he thought. Rule one with crimson wolves: never take your eyes off them. He knew it was above him, claws extended and seconds away from landing on him. He threw the cube down and green smoke spewed all around him. The wolf thundered into the ground the smoke throwing him off target. Nearby trees shook violently, sending birds and animals scurrying for cover. The wolf was frantic, tearing at the smoke, gnashing its teeth, its jaws snapping open and shut. Pieces of the ground were sent into the air. Then it stopped suddenly. The green fog floated gently around its black fur, the wolf’s red eyes glowing through the mist. Breathing heavily, its rib cage heaved in and out.

‘Pssst… wolfie. Up here!’ Saboo sat up high in a very tall tree, holding the gawk over his shoulder. His tail was wrapped around the branch.

The wolf went berserk, racing up the tree with the speed of an arrow. Saboo gulped. He had forgotten the crimson wolf had the ability to hunt prey in the tallest of tree tops. He swung down, his tail catching his weight and catapulting him into the next tree. He gripped a branch with his spare hand, continuing his motion, swinging to the next. It was not easy with the weight of the gawk over his shoulder. The wolf followed, biting branches clean in half. Splinters showered down and leaves fell to the ground. Its breath was beating on Saboo’s neck.

Saboo moved horizontally through the foliage, behind him the deadly creature gaining momentum. Saboo leaped high into the air, standing out in the suns’ rays. He reached over his back into his pack and pulled out a small staff. It was the size of his forearm and brown in colour, with silver patterns engraved up the handle. In midair Saboo turned, dropping through the trees like a heavy stone. Twigs slapped his back and face, cutting him under his eyes. The huge wolf followed him, bearing down on him from the tops of the trees. It was just feet away, its paws extended, massive talons bared, ready to tear flesh.

Saboo’s tail was curled up beside him, guarding it from the wolf’s blood-thirsty mouth. He aimed the spear at the wolf. Its huge body flew through the air, hair in waves behind it. Its eyes were a scrub-fire red, burning with the hunger for fresh meat. Saboo pushed the button, at the same moment that his arm smashed into a stray branch. The spear head shot out, whizzing through the air and tearing through the crimson wolf’s ear, ripping it in two. The wolf let out a howl of anger. His aim would have been a bullseye if the branch hadn’t redirected it.

The spear was attached to the handle by a single strand of wire, tough enough to hold ten gargar-moths. He fell faster and faster, smashing against large branches. The spear tip zoomed up into the air; the small barbs attached to the sides ripped a giant hole in the leafy canopy. The ground was coming closer and closer. He could almost feel his body smashing against the hard surface, shattering all his bones. The blue sky flashed in his eyes for a split second, the white clouds formed images of the Elder looking down at him, displeased. He looked at the wolf’s open maw. Saliva poured from its mouth. Saboo reached for his kill and threw it at the wolf. It rocketed through the air and straight into the wolf’s mouth – much to its surprise. Saboo used both his arms to yank the spear back towards him. The spear head turned in mid air and plummeted back towards earth. The barbs struck the wolf’s back, digging into its hair and skin.

Saboo could now smell the dust of the forest floor. The wolf looked up, the kill still wedged in its mouth, and it saw the spear sticking into its back. With its attention diverted it lost track of its fall and plummeted into the fork of a tree, crashing into instant death. The spear wire twanged as it was stretched tighter than a drum skin. Saboo closed his eyes and tightened his grip as he prepared for the slack to catch up. His fall stopped dead quick, sending him jerking into the air and dropping the last few feet onto the hard ground. Wham!

The wind shot from his lungs, he gasped for breath. A large dust cloud puffed around him from where he landed. The staff handle swung idly just above his head. Far, far up in the trees the massive wolf was nothing but a mangled mess of skin, bones and teeth. He sucked in air quickly, filling his lungs once more. His breathing returned to normal, his head hurt a little and his tail felt bruised. He wiped his brow.

All of this for meat? he thought. If getting meat was this hard, maybe I’m not cut out for the Everdark contest.

Out of the tree the gawk-antelope dropped and landed on his head.


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The Baseball Theory

I should have called this blog the Onion theory, but it didn’t have the same ring to it. There’s a band called Will Haven who I used to listen to who had a song called Baseball Theory about how a baseball has many layers, and as you unravel it, there are different types of fillings. I believe the singer was talking about his relationship, but I’m here to talk about books and writing.

I’ve struggled with being able to write to a certain level. I don’t want to be on the same level as the thousand other writers out there trying to make it in the publishing world. I want to be deeper, or higher, or whatever the analogy would be. I want someone to read my work and know I’ve practised, put effort into honing my skills and that my ideas are unique and my characters are real and might actually be your neighbours or friends. I used to call these layers 2D and 3D, (this is a little insight to how my brain works when writing and it might sound crazy, but I can’t help it). If I write a character that is bland, with no discernable features and has no background and my story is lacklustre, I think to myself ‘that was too 2D.’ I need it to be more 3D. I need it to have layers, sides, depth and be realistic. It’s not enough to make a ‘father’ an alcoholic, or a ‘mother’ overbearing. It’s too clichéd and predictable. In my NaNo (National Novel Writers Month) I made the daughter deaf. She’s in one scene that goes for about two sentences, but I was able to make her more 3D. I wanted to add a character that was a late teen goth, but dreaded the thought of what stereotypical template I would write about a teen goth, so I tried really hard to try and unravel her ‘baseball.’ I didn’t want her to have black eyeliner or fingerless gloves or listen to Marilyn Manson. She writes a weekly blog, listens to Norwegian black metal and I made her talk about a boy she dated who was severely into the Occult and that he got a little too close to the supernatural and had disappeared.

I don’t want to overdo it and make every single character have a rich and meaningful/heartbreaking back story. Sometimes you can add a few layers by indicating things like smoking when they’re stressed, looking at junkies and being disgusted because their sister/brother died of an overdose. You don’t need to go in deep and reveal layer after layer, two or three is more than enough. Often, and I’m guilty of this too, I’m read entire books where the main character hasn’t the slightest depth at all. This happens in fantasy books often because the writer is too distracted with cool secondary characters and environments.  Take X-Men for example, who is the coolest, most badass x-men? Wolverine. Then who? Beast, Gambit, Jean Grey? Now look at the leader, Cyclops? All leaders are straight forward, square jawed with a simple power who has no flaws and are more annoying then enjoyable. This also happens with Images Cyberforce, Ripclaw was cool, Ballistic was cool and their leader, Stryker? Who cares? He has three arms on one side and a long blonde pony tail. Wolverine had a back story a mile long, he had several different comics going at the same time, but did they ever release a Cyclops comic? Nope. And if he did, would anyone have bought it?

When it came to team dynamics, there was always that formula of having one really, really large guy, example, (the Thing in Fantastic Four, Beast, Maul from WildC.A.T.s). The cool offsider  (Human Torch, Grifter), the slim and sexy female (Storm, Invisible Woman, Zealot). I say break this mould because it’s becoming tiresome and predictable, it stays two dimensional. I understand in the comic realm if you mirror something successful, you may get readers to come to your side for a carbon copy and then they’ll have two comics to read a month, instead of one.

Anyway, I’m getting off the point. Some characters always surprise me, and it’s always unintentional. I’ll write a side character needed for one chapter and I’ll like them so much I’ll bring them back into the story later on and give them a bigger role. Other characters that I try to build too much on become a struggle to write and I leave them. In the NaNo I’m writing now I have a character called Wickham who picks up one of the main characters (Fella Jack)  to drive him out to this massive hole they found. His whole purpose was to just have somebody tell him what they had done the night before when they were drunk and Fella Jack woke up on the front lawn. Wickham is stick thin with shoulder length blonde hair and he smokes and has an old car. That’s all the depth I gave him. He didn’t have any other purpose, but for some reason, I don’t know what it is, I like him. I want something to happen to him, get him involved. I gave Fella Jack’s wife a drinking problem (breaking my own rules, I know), she hates her daughter and leaves to go to bars to pick up other men. I thought her character was deep enough, but I haven’t been back to her since the first chapter and I’m 12 chapters in!

Sometimes unrevealing the baseball works, and other times just having it the way it is works too. You can never tell.

Mitchell Tierney

Resurfacing

 

The past few months I haven’t written. Not a word, not a sausage, not a damn thing. And at first I went a little stir-crazy and now, I’m just a bit lost.  Is this what happens when a village loses its chief idiot?

So why have I been sans-writing? Has there been a writing strike? Have I lost my marbles? Have I lost my pen? Have I crashed a laptop? For the love of all things decent, what, Sandy, what?

Nope. I’ve just not had the time. The last few months I’ve been a part-time student, full-time worker ant, and I’ve been in a play which has gone from intense to better start focussing and sorting yourself out, now! To the point where I’ve skipped some good opportunities to do many things in the public forum. My blogs stand neglected and abandoned with cobwebs growing all around them. And to be honest, it’s a little disheartening that there isn’t a regular audience clamouring for the next episode of my work…awkward.

So now, here is my challenge and the point to this, my first blog in months (how lucky do you feel right now) –how do I get back? Oh, don’t get me wrong, I want to get back to writing…sort of. And I have a lot of work I want to write. My biggest motivator for one of my novels was NaNoWriMo. The challenge of 50,000 words in 30 days is amazing. I won’t go into details, because there’s already a blog all about it, but damn it gets the blood pumping, doesn’t it? I even kept going with my work last year, after the due date, because I was enjoying writing it so much. Admittedly I wasn’t a part-time student, nor had many other art jobs going at the time, but still, there it was. And now, I see writing as my old friend. One I’m keen to be reacquainted with. I want to sit down, like I am right now, and have a cup of tea and maybe a warm cholesterol-inducing creamy scone and just get the words out of my heart, out of my mind, out through my fingers and onto something a bit more tangible. I want to do this. But right now, I’m just a little tired. I’m a little lost. I know where I want to go, but it’s just about trying to follow the path in the forest to my destination.

So, I’m going with the tried and true method. I’m putting on the music, I’m taking time out and I’m sitting down and writing. I think this time though, instead of jumping back into my stories like I used to do, I’m going to have to start a tiny bit slower. It’s like trying to move the rusty handle of something. You’ll need a little oil, and you’ll need to let it take it’s time. But wait, just wait a second and she’ll be back to her former glory in no time.

I’ve also had some personal things that have happened since I last wrote and it’s definitely coloured my experience of life in general. So right now, as much as I would like to write and forget all the hideous, grotesque bollocks that’s happened recently, I just need to relax and go with the flow.

And I think that’s what it’s about for me, at the moment. Different writers work differently. And depending where you are in life and in the world, your writing will be different. Right now, it’s reflective, so I can deal with everything. But when I’m feeling strong and awake enough I look forward to going back to some good old fashioned gothic action. It’s sort of like recovering from an illness. The fever has broken and I’m starting to get my appetite back. It’s going to be a little while before I feel like a rich meal, but right now, I’m getting my appetite back and it’s a good thing. I’m reconnecting.

I suppose the reason I’m writing this, is just to say that as writers we get impatient with ourselves. I especially do. When I have the time, but not the inspiration. When I have inspiration coming out of my ears and no time to write. When I have no idea what the hell I’m doing, but I’m doing it and loving it and racing along with it, not sure if I’ll land or crash and burn. But sometimes, just sometimes, whatever is out there, whatever life hauls at us, torsion catapult style, whatever hits the fan and whatever you’re left cleaning up afterwards, the thing with words is that they’re these beautiful things that don’t just entertain or amuse us, they sort us out. They help us deal. They help us cope. Sometimes they help us understand and sometimes they leave us questioning what the hell the author was smoking. But sometimes, just sometimes, instead of demanding that they do our bidding, instead of insisting that inspiration get its butt down here and help us because it’s the only day we will have in a long time, sometimes, it just pays to sit back, relax and go with the flow.

Believe me, as much as I have a tree-hugging hippie side to me and I love the ‘go with the flow’ notion, I’ve never really done it with my actual work. I’ve always had an agenda. I’ve always had somewhere I’ve wanted to go or something I’ve wanted to get out there. For instance, the genre, the type of story, the beginning of something. Sometimes even just one line. One line that starts that story for me, whether it’s beginning, middle or end. And the only time I’ve been reflective is when I’ve journalled and kept my thoughts to myself. But these days, I think I need to let the intense agenda go. I just need to go with the flow. I just need to write and see what happens. And maybe I’ll keep it and use it, maybe I’ll change it, and maybe I’ll keep it hidden for now and see when I’m ready to share it, if I ever am. The other thing that keeps cropping up for me is to let someone else into this world of mine. I’m a very private person when it comes to certain things in my life, most of us are. And there are a lot of people who wouldn’t believe that about me, because I come across as the warmest, friendliest, outgoing person who isn’t shy to talk to someone. But my closest friends who have known me much longer and have seen me at my worst and for some reason have still stuck around know this about me. I’m exceptionally shy. I’m terrified of letting someone into my most sacred world. And every day I slide into my little customer service mask, and pretend that I’m not shy. And every day it requires effort. But there are days when I just can’t deal with people. And there are days when I can’t be bothered trying, because I’m exhausted. Keeping up your defences every day does that to you. So why don’t I just relax and ‘go with the flow’ and let everyone in? Easy – because not everyone is respectful or tolerant. And lately I’ve had that reconfirmed. Writing for me isn’t just about slipping into different worlds, putting something completely fictional out there, entertaining myself and the world and leaving it be. It’s much more than that.

When I write, I’m letting you into a sacred area of my world, powered by the one thing I prize more than anything in the universe – imagination. I’m letting you into my world. I’m showing you what I see, what I feel, what I hear, what I think. And I’m trusting you with it. Sometimes it’s an exceptional risk and sometimes I don’t get involved in thinking about the type of person reading it. It’s too much to deal with, I don’t need that kind of pressure. Because at the end of the day this is my world. These are my characters. And you are a guest in my world. So, I write for me. But there is my world, and when I write I invite you into it. Because I’m curious, because I want to connect. I want you to see something. I want to show you something. On some level I hope we can understand each other. You don’t have to love it, you don’t ever have to read another thing I write, ever again. You don’t even have to finish reading what I’ve written.  And today, just today, I’m not going to worry about it. I’m not going to try and shape anything. I’m not going to try and impress you. I’m not going to try and entertain you. We’re not going to pretend that I’m not shy and I’m not unsure. Today, we’re just going to be honest with each other. Respectful, but honest. I’m not sure. I’m unbelievably shy. I’m doing something different and I’m trying something new. So here I am. My castle is unguarded and my defences are down around you. And I’m just going to sit back and see what happens.

So I tell you what. I’ll invite you in for a cup of tea and a few words, and in return I’ll let go. I’ll relax and I’ll go with the flow. And let’s just see where the evening takes us.

If this works, then all right. We’ve achieved something. If not, then screw it. It was a good experiment. But right now, while I’m trying to find my way back through the forest and the thickets, let’s just stop, check out the scenery, let it go and go with the flow.

 

~Sandy Sharma

 

 

 

Plan vs. Not Plan

There are two very different schools of thought when it comes to writing I’ve found – the planners and the free writers. This difference becomes widely apparent at this time of the year, especially in my house. That’s right folks; NaNoWriMo is once again upon us. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, please see last year’s entry on NaNoWriMo here.

It has become a bit of mother-daughter rivalry at my place; as we both battle to beat each other on daily word counts, rushing to fit in writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days while still holding down full-time day jobs and keeping the household running smoothly. Things get a bit crazy.

But it’s the lead up where the planning styles, or lack of, show themselves. My planning involves purchasing copious amounts of sugar free Redbull/V/*insert energy drink*, candy and food I can eat one handed. I am a free writer. This how I approach most my books. On November first I will be up at 4am to start writing and at this moment all I know is a general premise and my main protagonists name…  and that’s how I like it. For me planning a story makes me feel bogged down. It stifles my muse. I like to let my characters write themselves and take me on their stories like I’m merely a ghost writer for a group of fictional entities. Being made to write outlines for stories at school was hell for me. Most times though I had awesome English teachers who understood me and let me write my stories and then write a synopsis. (Thank you Mrs Morris)

And then there are writers like my mum. My mum, Mara Harrison, whose beautiful illustrations for the next Ouroborus Book Services’ book Everdark Realms can be seen at www.everdarkrealms.com, is a planner. She approaches her writing and art with surgical precision, planning meticulously every detail before even starting to write/draw. Watching her during NaNo is an experience. Whereas I sit typing on the couch, caffine in reach; she sits surrounded by notebooks and bits of paper. She stops at intervals to rifle through her papers, rustling away as my dog looks on perplexed from the safety of my side.

I guess deep down though our planning styles match our personalities to a tea. Although I like to know where I’m going in advance in life, I certainly am more of a head first, try it and see person. My mum on the other hand is a meticulous list maker. She’s very ordered and things don’t get left to chance. And they both work. We stare at each other in shock at the approach we each take to our writing, and life in general, but in the end, the goal is the same. We’re in it for the words and in the end, as another NaNo comes to a close we will both hopefully have our 50,000 words or more ready to be enhanced once the insanity dies down and I lower my caffine levels enough to actually sleep.

So my advice is do what works for you. Don’t get bullied into planning and mapping because it’s what is expected. Alternatively, if you are a planner, especially if surrounded by opinionated free writers, don’t feel that you’re planning is wrong or cheating. If it helps you to write and keeps you going, more power to it.

For those doing NaNo this year, good luck. Feel free to friend me. My name on the site is theravensclaw. Have Fun and happy NaNo-ing.

Top tips for editing

Seeing that we recently touched on spelling I thought I would give you my top 5 tips for self-editing this week. Now these tips are not just for writers, but for anyone. Be it a cover letter with a resume or an email to a friend, these tips will make you sound better and hopefully stop those bad grammar habits so inherent in today’s society. But as this blog is focused on writing that is where my tips will be aimed at.

Although I always recommend getting a professional edit of any work before publication, some writers prefer to do it themselves. Even if you are going to get a professional edit, you should still give the manuscript a once over at least before sending it off for these services. Your editor will thank you.

In my time doing edits and proof reads, I have always come up against the same issues (even in my own work) because frankly, I get it, we think faster than we can type/write so mistakes are made, but they can be fixed. So here are my top tips on self-editing.

1. SPELL CHECK IS YOUR FRIEND… MOST OF THE TIME

Now spell checks can sometimes get things TOTALLY wrong or make some bizarre suggestions, BUT if you have it set to the right language settings, it will pick up a multitude of sins. So use it but be discerning.  Missing spaces and common misspellings can be eliminated easily (I personally am notorious for typing ‘teh’ instead of ‘the’, and ‘withe’ instead of ‘with the’).

2. CHECK YOUR HOMONYMS.

Homonyms are words that sound the same but are spelt differently. The big culprits are there, their and they’re; your and you’re; its and it’s; wander and wonder; where and wear; weather and whether; and which and witch. If you don’t know which one is right LOOK IT UP!

3. TENSE

This is something I see all the time as an editor. I find several occurrences of people swapping from past to present tense. First step is deciding which tense (past, present or future) you want to write in. Most common is past tense and future being least common (I couldn’t even think of an example of a book written in future tense, if you know one please tell me). An easy way to tell the difference is in connecting words like HAVE of HAS and verbs. I find, if you aren’t sure, reading aloud can help make it more obvious.

4. PUNCTUATION and CAPITALISATION

This one may seem obvious but so often I see missing full stops at the end of paragraphs or marks before quotation marks. As for capitalisation, unless it’s a proper noun (ie a name) or at the beginning of a sentence, you should second guess that capital letter.

5. CONTINUITY

Continuity is something that isn’t as common and much harder to check. If you write fantasy and are creating creatures and names and places, I recommend a running list of all the words you make up and all you’re characters. If a character’s name changes several times its going to confuse people. Also if there are words that can be written several ways eg. no one or no-one, make sure you stick to it.

So happy writing folks. Hopefully these five tips can help you to write better and stop your editors tearing their hair out.

~Sabrina

Published in: on August 27, 2011 at 2:20 pm  Comments (8)  
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Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

First off I would like to thank all of our supporters so far, both those who support us online via our blog here, twitter and facebook page; and to our offline fans who won’t actually be reading this. Some of you may have noticed all has been quiet on the Ouroborus front in the last month or so and I’d like to apologise for our absence and offer an explanation. You may also have noticed a slight name change, but I will get to that in a moment.

For those who don’t know us personally, the company Ouroborus Books was founded by two writers: myself (Sabrina) and Alison. In recent months there has been much change in both our lives and I regret to inform you all that Alison is no longer continuing her role in the company. I would like to use this post to thank her for the tireless work she has done to help get our projects up and running, help keep our accounts in order and keep me sane while she is raising two beautiful little girls. And not to worry, I doubt this is the last we here of Alison, who will now have more time to write. Her amazing prose skills I hope we can one day have the privilege of publishing.

In other news we are now offering several book building services (one of the reasons for the name change) including editing and appraisals. A new website will soon be launched and a new book title will be joining our catalogue shortly. Everdark Realms: The Darkening is a fantasy story aimed at ages 10 and up and will introduce you to the writing styles of myself and two of our other bloggers. Mitchell and Ella.

But for now please be patient as the changes continue. The blog however is back next week with a new post from Mitchell. Also join our twitter and facebook groups for our new word of the day feature, upcoming news and special offers. Our store is currently running via the facebook page for anyone wanting to get their hands on a copy of Mel’s awesome book The Riders’ War: Battle for Today but our regular web store will be back soon and the book is also available to be ordered at any good bookstore.

Thanks again for the support and spread the word. Ouroborus Book Services is back and ready to set the writing world on fire!

~Sabrina