A lot of Art

So I have a lot of art to do in the next couple of months.
Like.
A LOT.
As in, I am going to be in front of my computer every day just doing art. That’s it. Art.
This isn’t a problem. I am really happy to be doing art, it just feels a little overwhelming to be staring at a list of illustrations I need to get done for my next novel and wondering…ah…whoops…deadline.
DEADLINE.

Did I mention DEADLINE.

Hah. Hah. Oh boy.

I should be doing art right now.
But instead I am currently writing a short novel I hope to submit to a company here in Adelaide. I’ve always wanted to write a ‘family survives a disaster’ novel and I figured this would be a great opportunity to write that one book I’ve always, really, really wanted to write. It’s only 40,000 words. I can write that in like…two weeks, but, the topic requires a lot of research.
Maybe I can get my brother-in-law to help. He’s good at research…

Anyway, where was I, ah yes, ART.

So, if you’ve ever picked up the paperback versions of KEY and Protectors you’d know they’re illustrated. I really love illustrating fantasy novels. I think it adds another dimension to the story, and it’s fun.

Right now my amazing editor and I are working on the first book in the currently titled ‘Northland Rebellion’ series that fits in between my main ‘Chronicles of the Children’ series. We’ve almost finished the editing. Very exiting.

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Here is the half-title page. I’ve been a bit worried though…Jarvis is ‘another boy’ and in an industry that is increasingly looking for female protagonists I don’t know if featuring him on the first page is a good idea. I thought, maybe, to change it to one of the female characters – in which – this book has many.
But I think I’ll leave it as it is, as the title page I am working on balances things out.

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I’m trying a different style for this book – different from KEY and Protectors. I wanted to go for a more painted style. I don’t know how it will print, so I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. Here is Khwaja Denvy and Ki’b. For this book – I would have to say Khwaja Denvy is the ‘protagonist’.
I actually wrote this book for Lance.
Lance was an elderly gentleman at the cafe I write at. We would talk whenever he visited, and he told me stories about his time in WWII, growing up as the son of a German father and an English mother. He marvelled me with his energy and vitality despite growing old. We laughed together, we cried together. He was the first man (other than my father) to ever call me beautiful. Every time he would see me he would tell me, ‘You are so beautiful today. Why, if I was a young man, I would marry you.’
I never got the chance to tell him how much those words meant to me. How much those words blessed me. I learnt so much from him.
His favourite character from KEY was Denvy. He considered himself to be Denvy. Lance died before I was able to show him even the draft of Orphans and Outcasts, and I’m actually a lot more emotional about it then I thought I would be, now that I’m coming up to releasing the book.
So I guess that’s why I chose to focus on Denvy as the ‘hero’. Because I saw an interesting story in telling things from the point of view of an older character, thanks to my time with Lance.
Denvy just happens to be a giant-cat alien…

Starting a new novel

Book 3.
Ohhhh. Book 3.

So I already have a fabulous outline for Book 3, but now, with an outline all done and dusted, comes the actual work of writing the prose. That important…part…of turning an outline into a novel. This phase comes with its own difficult challenges.

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The first of these challenges being a sort of ‘resetting’ that is required when switching out of outline mode into prose mode. After having spent such a long time writing just an outline, dot pointing every single thing that happens in a chapter.
Zinkx walked over to the tree and rested while he said blaa, blaa, blaa.
Shanty swung a club
Sam shook his head.
Skyeola waved his wand–sorry–conductor.
That sort of stupid, silly, dot-point like outline that I do because…I am ridiculous.

Now I have to move away from that into actual ‘story-telling mode’ and its hard. Oh. It’s hard. I sat at the cafe the other week just staring blankly at a white page of doom open in Office Word with the cursor blinking at me and while I had the Outline sitting there, right next to me, I was just drawing a total and utter BLANK.
What the heck was I supposed to write? I started to panic. Could I do this? Oh no…oh no…oh no!!

Wait. Wait. Hang on. Hang on. I had the same problem when I was switching from Book 2 Outline to writing Book 2. Ohhhh.

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Cafe time!

So, I thought to what I had done back then. I got out my pen and notebook and I kick started my imagination by writing the oldie-fashioned way. Totally confused everyone at the cafe, which was amusing. I guess it’s a bit odd to see the author who is such a quick touch typist suddenly switch to using a pen and notebook.

The words started the flow. Not great, mind you, but at least something was coming onto the page. It’ll likely need a serious rewrite by the time I get to the end of the novel, but I do have to start somewhere.

I think the major problem I am having is getting back into the ‘voices’ of the characters. Zinkx’s somewhat dry, sarcastic drone that I imagine him having when he’s the POV character. Shanty’s comforting warm demeanour hiding her slowly growing fierceness. Sam’s upbeat chirpiness, and his childishness gradually fading as the heavy burden of his task becomes ever more apparent. Skyeola’s melancholy and bitterness giving way to a subdued adulthood.
It’s like I halted all that for six months while writing the Outline and now I’m having to remember their voices, their actions, the little nuances that make up their characters.

Here is an example of just how different the outline plan can be from the writing prose I end up with, and just keep in mind, none of this might end up in the final cut. (The prologue that ended up in Protectors, some of you might recall, is very different from the Prologue I had originally written for Protectors, let alone the first chapter of the book!!) So I always go into writing a novel knowing how unlikely it will be that anything I write will end up in the final production.

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Zinkx slammed into the ground, rolling across sharp basalt rocks, his suit no longer able to absorb the sheer force of the assault as the explosion of the mine blasted away his battery back. Skin tore. His crystal visor cracked and toxic air flooded his lungs. He could not stop the roll, his hands threaded bloody as he clawed at the jagged rocks. One moment he was spinning, the next he was airborne, and over a cliff, sailing downward, into the red glow of an open wound into the earth. Lava swamped his vision.

Zinkx reacted. A surge of lighting ignited through his limbs, spinning free of his bloodied hands, coiling together to form ropes, and latched onto the cliff side. He jerked to a halt, landing knee deep in the molten rock. His suit flared with vectors between the seams, and alarms blinked across his visor. Zinkx heaved on the ropes, surging himself out of with a thrust of gravity control. He landed in another uncontrolled landing, crying out as his burning legs gave way.

The desire to curl over and give into the blackness that threatened to swamp him was intense, but the horrifying dreamathic colours coming across his damaged visor urged him to ignore the call to collapse. His squad needed him. He had dragged them into this, he was going to get them out of it. Tearing off his utility belt in a blind panic Zinkx ripped into the painkillers, thrusting the syringe through his suit and into his thigh. The relief would be at least enough to ignore his damaged body and the failing of his battle suit. His replacement visor was shattered. There was no choice then but to reseal his broken one and hope the patch worked long enough until help arrived. Picking himself up Zinkx tightened the strap on the treasure he had tied to his back.

The canopic jar.

The result of their infiltration into the Zaprex fairy-castle of the Dam, holding back the Sea of Inquisitives. Even now, through the thick yellow miasma choking the horizon, he could see the immense structure rising out of the charred black earth. Its silver, sleek architecture, like all Zaprex buildings appeared netted together in a series of enormous hexagons, that upon closer inspection, became smaller grids, upon even small interlocking webs. It astounded him that he and his squad were the first in generations to manage any infiltration into the ancient Dam. He was half in the mind that the High Elder had sent him on a fool’s errand in the hope he and his squad would perish—he would not have put it past the erratic man who loathed any competition to his position.

“You’d better be worth it…” he whispered to the precious artefact.

Zinkx threw himself forward with a bounce of gravity control. If his legs where useless he was going to have to overwork everything else—he could not allow the canopic jar to fall into the hands of the enemy, nor could he return to the House of Flames and High Elder empty handed.

::Captain!:: His lieutenant’s pictographs, sweeping and smooth despite how frantic they came across, filled out over his visor in thick black lines. ::Captain where are you?::

::Kaitla?:: The disorientation of dreamathic communication caused him to halt. He had never been particularly skilled in communicating through the crystal visors with the colours of emotions, making them form understandable patterns, and it was made all the worse with damaged equipment. ::Kaitla, I got thrown by the mine. Count me into your position.:: He sent back. Unlike Kaitla’s beautifully sculpted colours, his always went across in globs and splatters, ending up like embarrassing ink stains.

Numbers threaded quickly over his visor screen and he followed their position through the smoke. The mine had been unexpected, and he should have scanned for such a weapon, but the pinning fire of the Twizel legion following them under a blind fog of toxic cloak had been frantically distracting. He had paid the price for his panic.

A bullet ricocheted off a nearby rock and Zinkx ducked behind it, eyeing the nearby cliffs, visible only in sharp shadows cast from the eerie glow of the murky lava draining down in slow, majestic falls, overflowing into deep trenches.

::Kaitla, I’m coming in hot, get a shield up.::

::Aye, sir.::

He fisted his hands. Muscles flinched, prepared for the pain, and he it took deep breathes to unwind the knots. He burst into a run, forcing it through his legs. Bullet fire rained down, cracking the soil. He lunged as a shield of metal surged out of the ground, throwing up rocks and dust. Zinkx looked up from his crouch at the taller figure of his lieutenant in a gleaming silver battle suit. Either Kaitla’s battery pack had been damaged, or his supply was running low, for the liquid shine that usually glinted off the skin-tight armour was failing, and the daffodil signage that indicated their ranking as soldiers had lost its lustre glow.

::You look like trakri sir.:: A hand was offered to him, he seized it.

::Thanks.:: He stood with the aid, ignoring his trembling legs. ::We need to move.::

::Problem, that.:: Kaitla winced as his shield was assaulted and the noise was near deafening. ::And it’s not just our friends on the ridge,:: his colours turned a sarcastic green before quickly shifting to grief sickened grey, ::Sir, it’s Ariel, she…she triggered the mine.::

Zinkx’s already dry mouth felt now like he had swallowed a spoonful of ash. No. No. He refused to think—no. He pivoted on his heels. Lying under an ice blanket his squads medical nurse was lying stationary on the hot rocks. He grabbed for the cold blanket. It disintegrated in his hands, revealing her lower extremities and he choked on the whine escaping his throat.

Her suit had resealed the wound.

It was designed to do so.

It was designed to save their lives.

But it made no difference, to a Messenger, this was a death sentence.

Her legs were gone.

Her dreamathic colours over his visor were the horrible shades of pale pottery, broken and unfixable. He could barely understand them with the cracks in the crystal.

::Leave me, Captain…please.::

::Never.:: He shifted to her side and altered his gravity. He slid his arms under her. ::I would never.::

::I am useless now. They’ll just put me in the Breeding Program.:: Her colours turned blue and the strokes sharp—terror, filled with terror.

::I won’t let them do that to you. Now, get on my back.::

She struggled. Her heart was not in it. Zinkx grabbed her visor, placing his against it, ignoring the cracks.

::Ariel, we can do this. We can make it. I need you. I need my medic. I’m torn up inside. I’m going to need you.:: Her sobs echoed through the dreamathic bond. Her fingers around his shoulders tightened, the colours of the dreamathic tears like pattering toxic rain turning gradually a deep determined orange of resolve. It was back, the desire to live, to fight again. Zinkx bit down on his lips as he swung her onto his back. His legs could give way when he was free of this, for now, he had legs to carry her with and carry her he would.

::Lieutenant, let’s go.::

Kaitla spread his hands, metal splitting like a wave around them as his birth elemental-gift danced with the ease of an experienced welder. The metal shield rolled, becoming wheels, spinning off in two directions.

::I’ll cover you.:: The clipped reply came, ::Make it over the ridge sir.::

Zinkx set his gaze forward. The next ridge. Their last communication had pinged off a Thyrrhos warship in that direction. That was their safe zone—if the vessel was even still anchored there. He had to believe it was. He had to believe that Prometheus would have waited for him.

Slamming his boots into the unstable ground Zinkx ran, balancing himself only with thrusts of gravity control. Kaitla’s metal shields spun, twirling back and forth, spitting up sparks of lava as they sliced through the earth, blocking the onslaught of weapon fire from the distance. It was a small blessing that the Twizels were not engaging them in close combat. That meant the high possibility the Thyrrhos warship was docked over the ridge.

His feet left the ground suddenly.

Ariel’s grip on his shoulders tightened.

Laughter burst out of him, unexpectedly, as he sailed downward in a rush. In the distance the shambled together shape of the Thyrrhos warship docked by the Sea of Inquisitives sent a rush of relief through him, flooding his chest and the pain of his jarring landing was just bearable. Kaitla skidded down beside him, rolling before scrambling up and spinning back to look up the ridge they had leapt down.

::Traki!:: The lieutenant swore.

Zinkx needed no other warning. He ducked. Ariel cried out as the Twizel’s talons clipped the air nearby. Zinkx grabbed her around the waist and flung her away, watching, barely, as she was caught by one of the approaching Thyrrhos. The enormous Fire Elementals thundered past, shaking the earth, splitting the small fissures in the crust, splurging up lava. The lone Twizel stood no chance against the storm of fire that met it, it’s bulbous body of rippling shadows, mangled together with stolen muscles and bones from Messengers it had consumed, was ripped apart by weapons that towered over Zinkx.

Zinkx dropped to his knees as the energy drained out of him. Safe. He was safe.

“You’re late, fire-sprite.”

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For those who want to know what Thyrrhos look like. Kaitla and Ariel are much older in this image though.

If you’ve read Protectors, you might notice that the prologue of Book 3 covers one of the stories Zinkx tells Skyeola and Sami (I think. It might just be Skyeola…) about the time he fell into a pool of lava and learnt how to summon lightning without a battery pack — and how he got the scars on his legs.

However my concern is, at the moment, I’m not so great at writing young-Zinkx voice. Young-Zinkx is rebellious, loud and wouldn’t hesitate to punch someone he’s having a disagreement with. Older-Zinkx very much thinks things through a bit more, having learnt from his younger-self mistakes.

So this will get a rewrite when I’m much more settled into writing, as I still feel like I writing to much like I’m outlining. It’s going to take awhile to switch around.
I just find it a fascinating experience to see the difference between the outline and the prose.

It’s going to be a really long journey. I’m always in awe of authors who can punch these 200,000 word books out in a few months. Perhaps someday I’ll get that good.