Are you unique enough?

I don’t know if other author’s experience this, but it is something I think about – especially after reading a lot of Tweets by agents and publishers that talk not about an author’s books or works but the author themselves.
One agent I happened across openly admitted that they where not seeking any type of unique work, they where seeking a unique type of person, and an author had to fit a mould. Is that my problem, I don’t fit a mould?

In today’s heavily visual, heavily marketing, heavily social media focused society I’m not surprised that publishers seek author’s who have a sell-able face, but not just a sell-able face, but a sell-able identity. Somehow, at some point, I blinked – and identity became this massive, important thing. What is your identity?
Are you unique enough to be an author?
It feels like, today, you have to have some sort of incredible personal uniqueness to win an agent, or a publisher – something that makes you stand out amongst the crowd – instead of your work.
But perhaps I only see one side of the publishing industry online, I would really love to speak to publishers and agents about this – because I find it utterly fascinating.

I am pretty sure it was how I was raised that instilled in me an ethic of believing that my work spoke for me. I didn’t want to be put on a pedestal, it was my work that I wanted to share – not me. I wanted my stories, my adventures, my worlds, my characters to shine for me.

The more I write, the more books I put into print, the more I have this intense desire to fade into the background and just let my world exist for me, to let my work be my voice.

Excerpt – Orphans & Outcasts – Chapter One

 

Hello friends and readers.
I thought I would upload an excerpt from ‘Orphans and Outcasts’ since the editing is getting pretty close to finished. Just a few chapters to go. Front cover and illustrations are still way off done, but hey, at least editing is on track! Yay!

Enjoy. 

 

CHAPTER ONE

There is nothing left.

Kemet is gone. Kemet is gone. How could we have allowed this to happen?

Had we truly grown so complacent in ourselves that we believed we were invulnerable?

We believed we had tamed a Dragon—(why, why did they not listen to you? Why did they not slay it?)

I sit here, my dearest Sekhmet, surrounded by the mirrors that reflect my failures.

What have we done?

Kemet is gone.

There is nothing left.  

 

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A’aldryn dashed lightly across the sand, the fine grains roasting his foot-paws despite them never touching the surface for longer than a moment. The wind sang a howling song in his ears as he raced Utillia’s wide skylines. In the distance the bow of the Lawless Child crashed down, cutting its way through the mighty sand-waves like a blade. The Sun, low behind the dunes, was a herald of the coming Twin Winter months. The cooling air from the higher dune shadows tangled between his legs, dulling the heat of the scorching sand.

These precious moments of freedom were just for him and Khamsin. The wind-god who dwelt within him cherished the running of the burning-sea. In these few scarce hours they were one in mind, lost in the immensity of the horizon.

It has been a good day. The wind-god stroked the filaments of his awareness. It was not so much a voice that he heard but a sensation of lingering like an old etching carved into stone, for Khamsin was as ancient as the Ovin-tu Mountains[1] and always it felt as though he was a call echoing off distant cliffs.

“Indeed,” A’aldryn replied. “I hope we uncover something in that null-zone. Thanks be to the Rythrya[2], maybe we’ll finally get enough funds to upgrade the generators.”

A horn hollered, spiking his pelt. Thick lines were flung over the edge of the Lawless Child, breaking the waves. A’aldryn breathed deeply through his air-gills. A thrill chilled his under-pelt as he watched the sand-ship spreading her outer wings. She was not an overly large vessel—a nyhot class[3], crewing only a hundred and fifty able-bodied burning-seafolk—but she did them proud and he adored her almost as much as he adored his mate.

He dropped to all fours, increasing his speed. The wind surged around him, spurring his body forth with leaps and bounds until he latched onto a rope, clawing up the hull with strong hauls. With a flip, he twirled into the air and landed with an expert swagger on the decking. He caught the movement of the sand-ship as he stood upright on his hind-paws. His fan-tail unfurled, steadying his posture.

The two upper-decks of the sand-ship were busy with scurrying crew members, obeying the orders of the queen, all paying him no heed despite his rank of chaplain. The vessel shuddered under his foot-paws as the Lawless Child took the brunt of a strong gravity swell, thrusting out from the null-zone yonder.

They were vagabonds and orphans, cast-offs from the Ruling Prides, coming to the Lawless Child for the same reasons—protection, shelter, food, work—a home, a pride. To the unobservant it was not so obvious, but to his eyes it was easy to see those who were unique like himself—the misfit-born, cursed with mutations caused by the rising radiation leaking free of the null-zones and the Zaprex technology beneath the burning-sea.

In many ways it was better to be dead than to be born a misfit; whether Human, Kelib, Kattamont or half-breed, the shame was a cutting blade and life within the Ruling Prides was impossible.

A’aldryn curled his extra digits into the hooks of his dangling belts. The scars had long been hidden by his silver pelt, but he could still feel them pull from time to time, reminding him of his childish attempts to cut off what he had once considered an abomination.

Through the commotion a commanding voice called, “Prince A’aldryn, get your tail up here! Report!” A’aldryn caught sight of his mother aloft the stern deck: Zafi’ashid Silvertide, exiled queen of the Silvertide Pride. The glow of the Sun was raw behind her, casting a glinting halo around her glossy unkempt fur. She was dainty behind the heavy weight of the helm, the magnificent contraption of wheels and levers dwarfing her in size, and yet there was no doubting the queen’s prowess.

She might have been an exile of the burning-sea, cast aside like trash by the Silvertide Pride that ruled the Trading Routes between the Wind Cities and Isles, but her queenly strength was unwavering. Like raw silver, pure from the ground, she had been born to rule the strongest pride of Utillia, and that air of royalty had never left. It was something she had passed to him, in the way he sashayed up the stairs to the helm. She did not glance his way as he stationed himself directly beside her, but her flamboyant air-gills briefly flashed in greeting and, within, Khamsin berated him sharply for forgetting Kattamont customs.

Zafi’ashid cared not that she mingled with the low-life scoundrels of the outlaw trading posts, or the criminals and pirates that winged through the outer sectors. That, he knew, was true pride—that she had been outcast but had never lost what she had been born to be.

“Mother, I scouted ahead and the null-zone is over the next wave-bank. Ni’xlye was correct in her dreamings; there is a ruin inside.”

Zafi’ashid spun the wheel, locking a lever in place with a foot-paw. Her tail balanced her weight as she guided herself around the controls. “Good, good. Does it look like anyone has discovered it already?”

“It looks unscavenged.”

“All the better; we shall be the first.” Her grin grew wild, bright azure eyes ravaging the horizon yonder in anticipation. She did so love the hunt. A’aldryn swished his fan-tail lazily, envious of the colours his mother’s had; it glinted like a precious opal, while his had the pristine blues of scarce water. Mother had never told him why she had been outcast, but he had gathered enough over the sol-cycles. It had been because she had birthed a misfit. It perhaps explained the intense drive he had inherited to search for and learn more of the Zaprexes, following in her unwavering paw-steps.

What truly lay beneath the burning-sea? Wonders untold—long uncharted cities, sunken and left to slumber. He had barely scratched the surface of their great towers in his countless dives. They called to him. He had to follow. It was because he was misfit-born, and all misfit-born shared in common the dream of the cities paved in gold.

Mother knew he craved answers. That was why they had become archaeologists. It was a dangerous profession; they were labelled heretics by the Ip’osti——for their beliefs that the Zaprexes were not invaders but saviours. Honestly, he was not afraid of being branded a heretic, but what he truly despised was the dirt they had to put up with to fund their research. For the upkeep of the Lawless Child and food for the crew, they had been forced to allow Scavengers to use the sand-ship and accompany them on exhibitions.

It went against everything an archaeologist upheld to tolerate Scavengers pulling apart the wonders of a Zaprex ruin. He felt filthy just thinking about it.

“Must they come, Mother? This is truly a marvellous find and they will destroy it.”

Zafi’ashid’s brow lifted under the linkage of her air-gills. A’aldryn unfolded his arms, spreading them in protest.

“And, yes, I detest the man.” He spat.

“It is simply your pride instinct. Resist it.”

“I want to stab him in the face whenever I see him.”

Her laughter rang high into the Mist sails. “That is what you get for being born a pure-blooded prince.”

“Mother!”

He had been born a prince, and the prince’s place in a pride was to protect. Queens and princesses lived for the hunt. A’aldryn stiffened as he caught the scent of the leader of the Scavengers. Zafi’ashid was smiling and he rolled his eyes, feeling his fur spike as the heavy footstep of the Human thumped up to the helm. There was no way he was going to duplicate his mother’s gesture of greeting towards Torka. The stinky Human could go throw himself overboard for all he cared.

“Greetings, Queen Zafi’ashid! I see we have been in luck and found some fair winds.”

Zafi’ashid cocked her head toward him and A’aldryn shrugged nonchalantly. He might have given Khamsin free range to push the Lawless Child along; it was not a bad thing to have a wind-god permanently residing within his mortal shell—he was personally going to take every advantage it brought. After all, he was the sand-ship’s chaplain; taming the wind was his role on the vessel—the Pride had just never seen fit to inform the Scavengers about Khamsin. To the vultures he was, quite simply, a very good wind-tamer and he did so enjoy how much it vexed them.

“Indeed, Torka, the Rythrya Stones have smiled upon us.”

The Stones do not cause the winds. Your mother needs to remember who it is that truly rules these oceans. Khamsin stirred, bristling under his fur like hot-fire. A’aldryn snorted, insulted on behalf of Khamsin for being compared to the monuments scattered around Utillia.

“Mother, the Rythrya are guide stones, nothing more. They do not create the winds.” A’aldryn glanced over the tossing dunes in the distance. “The Simoon forge the winds.”

“Ever the scholar, A’aldryn,” Torka said. “You fill your head with useless facts from a useless past.”

Torka’s bass laugh was heavily weighted with a gurgling of tobacco use. It was never a good thing for a Human to abuse their lungs in Utillia—the air was already too thin for a first-generation Human of Pennadotian birth.

“The past is not useless, Torka,” A’aldryn muttered. “It is from the past that the future shall be reborn.” He could not understand how so few who dived deep into the burning-sea, down into the depths of the Zaprex wonders below, came out not seeing that the rebirth of their world was beginning. A’aldryn unfolded himself from his perch, levelling the man with a glare. “Besides, it is my useless facts that bring you coinage to fill your useless pockets.” He had not encountered many Humans Torka’s age; most who sailed the burning-sea died before they had the chance to reach more than fifty sol-cycles. He was not entirely sure if Humans could get much older. Half-breeds he had encountered—they had many amongst the crew—but pure Humans usually remained in the Wind Cities and the Isles, preferring the life of mist-farming or trading. Torka, though, was beginning to go gray and he smelt of foul decay that was off-putting. His long hair was always bound back, and he often wore a broad smile as though life was pleasant. His skin had long since seen better days, wrinkled and blotched by the boiling Sun and the radiating burning-sea. Yet it was still the smirk that A’aldryn detested the most—so smug and self-satisfied, like he knew something no one else did, some grand secret he was content to let sit on his lips but never to tell.

“I think what the prince is trying to say, Torka, is that the ruin is un-scavenged. If you and your men will prepare for the dive, I will get close enough to drop you off.”

“This is good news Queen Zafi’ashid. My men have been holding out for a good bit of scavenging.”

“I hope this will be fulfilling for us all.” Zafi’ashid heaved on a lever and the vessel beneath them lurched forward. A’aldryn steadied himself as a side-wing caught an up-gust of gravity and he seized a nearby handle, throwing his full weight upon it.

He bellowed over the deck, “Tie down that wing! Why is it still open? Someone tie that cursed thing down. We’re closing on a null-zone. The gravity is destabilizing. I want the wings buckled down.”

Zafi’ashid laughed and he shot her a glare, fluffing the fur of his chest in frustration. “I would be grateful, Mother, if you took better care of the sand-ship I will inherit when you cross the Osiris Gate.”

“You will not inherit it, my prince. Your queen will.”

“It will still be my sand-ship.”

Torka cracked a laugh. “Maybe we might find your queen some legs this time, heh, boy. Some records did say those Zaprexes could rebuild limbs better than our Kattamont mechanics.”

A’aldryn quenched Khamsin’s internal raging tornado. The indecency of the Human man was beyond insulting. It was enough to justify cleaving his head from his shoulders and putting it on a stake. Had this been any other Pride, he would have.

“I will prepare myself for the dive, Mother.” A’aldryn turned sharply, his fan-tail coiled irritably. Maybe if he had wind-blessed luck, Torka would take a bad fall this scavenger hunt and never come back up. After all, the burning-sea took no prisoners. He heard his mother’s laugher as he stomped away. It was troubling, though; he was not entirely sure if he was happier to be away from Torka or his mother.

Neither his mate nor his blood-brother were in their cabin, their usual hiding place from the crew of the Pride. A’aldryn breathed in their lingering scents. It calmed his nerves. Collecting his assortment of archaeological and dive equipment from a locked chest he donned the hand-crafted belts and foot-paw pads and snatched up the face-mask. It was a ghastly thing, made all the more uncomfortable by the tubes that attached to his air-gills, but the presence of toxins could be possible in any ancient Zaprex ruin, and that could not be taken lightly, even by a Kattamont. He had seen Humans melt when exposed to spores and gases below the surface of the burning-sea.

He headed topside. Zafi’ashid’s voice was shrill over the groaning of the Lawless Child and the bustling of the crew as they anchored the sand-ship on the edge of a high dune wave. Khamsin’s spirit soared through him and A’aldryn breathed out deeply, sensing the delight of the wind-god as its tentacles danced around the metal of something beyond his sight. They had found it—something old, and yet it felt impossibly new and undamaged by the passage of time and the burning-sea.

A’aldryn sighted Ni’xlye on the deck leaning over the railing. Her tail poked through a hole in her wheelchair, flapping in a clear display of joy. He smiled. For a half-breed, his mate leaned more toward a Kattamont nature, and to that he was eternally grateful. Her Humanness was in her peculiar hands and her cute little nose. She had none of the magnificent Kattamont air-gills but had at least inherited a tail and fur. She was already a queen, though she pretended otherwise for the sake of their Pride unity and his mother’s sanity—though neither queen would admit it to the other.

At the death of a queen, such as his Pride mother, the waiting neutral princess would mature and take her place, inheriting the Pride, including the princes and neutrals under her rule. His mother was not dead; she was an outcast, staying alive by her sheer desire to win back the honour she had lost. Ni’xlye was not a neutral princess, but, out of deference to his mother, she kept the façade as his mother’s princess. He was sure this was only possible because his mate was half-Human and their Pride was one of misfits. It was the part of her that was Human that did not mind being a second queen to his mother.

After all, in truth, it was his mother who suffered—she had no , no one to care for her; she was alone—like a rythrya stone amongst the sand dune waves, weathering the storms of the burning-sea’s rage.

Ni’xlye was the true queen; the shadow queen his blood-brother would often say.

With stubby ears twitching, she caught his stare. The glow of her rosy fur brightened at his admiring gaze.

“Ryn!”

He smiled at her shortened version of his name. It bothered his mother, which was perhaps the reason both his blood-brother and his mate used it so often.

“Oh, Ryn, isn’t it beautiful! I wish I could go with you.”

His chest ached as she rolled the wheels of her chair around. Under the patchwork blanket of her own making, he knew her legs lay limp. Only he and his blood-brother had the privilege of seeing her uncovered. His mate was strong, not only in spirit, but also in body. Her life was one of tribulation. He had been childish, thinking his little extra digits were a blight on his life. Ni’xlye had still been in the womb-sack of a female, and, due to the mutation of her bones, her legs had never developed correctly. It pained him to think that were it not for the softened heart of one Ip’osti she would not be alive to love him.

He hooked his extra digits into his belts and levitated over the deck, landing beside her in a swell of wind.

“If the Human oafs were not coming I would take you, love.”

“You shouldn’t speak ill of Torka; he is a nice man. Besides, I am half-Human, so you should be kinder to my people.” Ni’xlye fluffed her chest fur, settling back in her chair.

A’aldryn rolled his eyes. Ni’xlye’s insistence on acknowledging her Human side extended to wearing Human clothing, which was bothersome to get off her at night, and it ruined her adorable rosy pelt. Why keep fur as luxuriant as his mother’s under that much fabric? He did not see the point. Kattamont fur was supposed to be without restriction; otherwise it did not absorb sunlight or starlight—but, no, Ni’xlye refused to listen to his nattering on the subject.

“You’re judging me; I can feel it.” She eyed him.

“I’m undressing you in my head,” he sniped back.

Her tail thumped him, causing him to stagger forward, more in surprise than at the force of her strike. He caught her cocky grin and the shine of her mottled eyes.

“Find me something, Ryn. Bring me back a gift.”

She so loved the beautiful wonders they uncovered, the artefacts of centuries past that her fingers could touch and her mind process. He promised himself he would find something for her to cherish, just to see her happiness.

The wheels of her chair grated over the deck and her hands grasped the surface of the railing. Ni’xlye stared wistfully over the horizon. “Be safe, too,” she murmured.

“I will, I promise.” The adventure of discovery was thrilling, but it was still dangerous. Even with all the caverns of secret wonders, the possibility of finding clues as to why Utillia existed as a land of scorching irrational sand, there always remained the danger he might not return from below. He had been raised a warrior-scribe, and he would always seek the answers, despite the risks.

A’aldryn fluttered a soft breath of wind across Ni’xlye cheek, causing her to laugh as she tucked her hair behind a perky ear.

“I can feel it, Ryn.” She tipped her head toward him. “I don’t know what it is, but I know we’re getting closer to the source of our dreams. We’ll figure it out—what happened to us.”

She was speaking about his extra digits, his mutation, and how she even existed at all—half-breeds—they should have been impossible.

He did not know which was sadder: the fact that his mate believed unswervingly in the Zaprexes or that, no matter how much they searched, they never came any closer to that which all misfits dreamed of—the cities of gold.

A’aldryn bent and nuzzled her cheek. “I trust our dreams. They have carried us this far.”

“As do I.”

A’aldryn straightened at Zafi’ashid’s low voice. He stepped aside from Ni’xlye sharply, bowing to the queen.

“There is an island nearby; we shall dock there and await your return. It is far too dangerous to keep the Lawless this close to a null-zone; we could destabilize the gravity and collapse the area onto you while you dive.” Zafi’ashid approached, brushing a paw through Ni’xlye’s hair tenderly. A’aldryn curled his foot-claws against the wooden planking.

“Yes, Mother.”

“Then you have your orders, prince. Come back alive.”

“Always.” He sent a swell of wind toward Ni’xlye to caress her cheek as he turned and skipped over the edge of the sand-ship into the burning-sea below.

 

***

 

One of A’aldryn’s great pleasures in life was annoying Torka with his ability to walk on the burning-sea without sinking. Only skilled Ip’osti chaplains could do this, and the fact that he, a young prince, flaunted it, irked the Human scavenger to no end. He could tell from the twitching of Torka’s eyebrow and the way his lips curved into thin lines. The man loathed him, and the feeling was well returned in kind.

The surging pulses of the destabilizing gravity of the null-zone made his fur spike. He would never get used to the sheer power that Zaprex technology radiated, nor come to understand how and why pockets of emptiness would open up within the burning-sea and leave vast sectors unstable. Some burning-seafolk called them holes, but they were not holes in the term of a visible gap one could swing a rope into and drop down into the dark depths. It was an area of no sand, no burning-sea, just nothing—appearing suddenly and without warning in a sector. They could be big or small. If they occurred when a sand-ship was nearby, or right beneath a sand-ship…well, he had seen it happen from a distance and it was never pretty.

Somewhere in the pocket of nothing lay a Zaprex machine, a wonder of extraordinary history just waiting for him. Waiting for him to discover why the null-zone existed and why Utillia had become a land of moving sand, why misfit-children were born, and why the world they lived upon was crumbling, piece by piece.

“What do you think we’ll find down there, cub?”

He glanced at Torka as the man strapped his booster pack to his hips. While he did detest the Human, he had to grudgingly admire him for being the best in the scavenging business.

A’aldryn fitted his mask, attaching the tubes to his air-gills.

“The null-zone is small, so I suspect it won’t be a city entrance.”

Torka nodded. “Good, good. Last time we got a city entrance I lost three men.”

A’aldryn shuddered. Ah. Yes. That had not been a good hunt. The crystal-spores from the Zaprex corpses had been particularly lethal, but they had gone down so far, and so deep, he had almost expected to never resurface—and they had only reached level six, the very tops of the cityscapes.

He had been glad Torka had been unable to scavenge the Zaprex remains due to the spores. Desecrating the fairy-kin’s castles felt disrespectful enough, let alone taking the hollow bodies for spare parts.

“It is unlikely that will happen this time, Torka.” A’aldryn shook his head. “But I do suggest caution. I suspect we will encounter some crystals, so full protective gear if any of you want to father children.”

“You heard the cub!” Torka shouted to his men, “Don’t mess up your suits this time!”

“Why doesn’t he wear one?”

A’aldryn glanced back at the questioner, giving the new-comer a smile as he stepped over the edge of the null-zone.

“I’m already tainted. Misfit-born, remember.”

“It’s why he’s here, numbskull. He can sense the shiny-crystals and warn you not to step your foot in it.” Torka whacked the young man over the head and A’aldryn smiled as he released Khamsin, beginning his dive. It was disorientating, as he knew he was going downward, but there was no reference point for the slow movement when all around him was entirely nothing. When he had first begun his expeditions into null-zones he had thought his eyes were playing tricks, catching signs of life, trickles of sand, and whiffs of light. He had tried to reach out and catch the strange fragments only for them to break up and disintegrate in his paws. Khamsin called it corrupted information and now whenever he took the plunge into the odd world of nothing he knew that surrounding him was not mere darkness but a lack of anything at all. It made him feel very alone, very empty, and ever more frightened of the world he lived in. The burn of the scavenger crew’s booster-packs glittered in his eyes, he watched them pan out, creating a formation. Torka swirled around him; finally the man was in his element. A’aldryn eyed the booster-pack, wondering how easy it would be to accidently kick Torka hard enough for the booster-pack to grow unstable—

A’aldryn, I have promised to protect all the lives upon the Lawless Child, and that includes Torka. If you desire to fight him, you will have to do it as a Kattamont prince with a grudge, then mayhap I will aid you with throwing him overboard. Currently, the man has done nothing to slight you but ruffle your kitten feathers.

A’aldryn winced at Khamsin’s berating.

“You are no fun,” he muttered.

Faint light appeared below them. A’aldryn glanced up, shaking his head at the sight of the small sliver of daylight some distance above. Despite how long he felt the dive was, they had not truly travelled far. On his deepest dive he had reached the sixth level, the very tips of the ancient Zaprex cities, and that alone had taken days to achieve. They had barely broken the surface during this dive. He looked at Torka. Honestly, he should get along with the Human man he spent so much time diving with.

Torka manoeuvred his booster-pack controls, swinging towards him, his cheeks flushed rosy against the burn of the pack. “Any idea what it is, cub?”

A’aldryn squinted. This close he could finally make an outline of the old Zaprex monument. His chest inflated sharply with surprise. This was a spectacular find. If only his mate and blood-brother were with him. He could imagine their delight.

“A flying machine.” He barely managed the words.

Torka clapped his hands. “Oh, oh!” The scavenger whirled back around to his men. “Lads! We got ourselves the catch of the sol-cycle.”

It must have crashed here. Khamsin nudged his mind. It is strange…

A’aldryn frowned. Yes, it was strange—the way the eerie shape was suspended in the nothing, globs of sand surrounding it. Crystals were scattered, as though they had been shattered when the null-zone had been created. Others protruded through the hull of the ancient vessel in such a painful manner it made him cringe. He could only liken it to a pin-cushion from his blood-brother’s healing kit. The crystals’ glow was an allure though, drawing him closer as a moth to a flame.

There is something inside. Something different…something…new…

“What?” A’aldryn raised his brow. “Really?” His tail flicked. New was good.

Khamsin’s wind rippled over his fur. Sometimes, young one, it is not always good. The wind is the element of change, and not all change is good change.

Tah.” A’aldryn waved aside the wind-god’s concern. “We will bring Ni’xlye back a grand treasure.”

***

[1] The mountain range that rings the borders of Pennadot.

[2] Rythrya – means ‘Guiding Stone’. In this case it is in reference to the ‘Seven Rythrya’ which are the great guiding stones worshipped in Utillia by all Kattamonts. However, scattered across Utillia, there are many ‘rythrya’ used to guide sand-ships through the burning-sea. Chaplains use them to navigate the winds and currents.

[3] Nyhot – medium sized sailing vessel, two masts. Typically equipped with twenty-five guns, five officers, a doctor, chaplain (wind-tamer), purser, and up to one-hundred and fifty able-bodied burning-seafolk.

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.

Title_Page_Jarvis.jpg

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.

KibandDenvyJPEG.jpg

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…

Book Launch – Rosanne Hawke

Last night I was extremely honoured to be part of a book launch for Rosanne Hawke‘s two books ‘Wolfchild’ and ‘Across the Creek’ being republished by Stone Table Books.

AtC_WC BooklaunchPoster BM170331 smallcopy.jpg

It was a wonderful opportunity to be a part of a panel with Rosanne and two other illustrators, D.M Cornish (whom I’m sure many know as the author an illustrator of the Monster Blood Tattoo books — he illustrated the front cover for Wolfchild), and also Emily Bensted who did the beautiful interior illustrations for Wolfchild. Seriously, you need to see them, they’re stunning!! She is so talented.

The panel was really fun. I got my words tied up a bit, but I think, as I have more opportunities to speak, I’ll get better at not tripping over my tongue so often.

I was so honoured to do a cover for Rosanne. It felt as though I can come full circle in a way. It feels like a lifetime ago now that I was attending Tabor University as a student in Creative Writing, back then, I was just beginning to feel the effects of my fibromyalgia but we still didn’t know what was going on with my health and I was just gradually getting worse. I kept pushing on with Uni though, as best as I could.
Rosanne was one of my lecturers and we both recall the conversation in which she showed me the cover of Wolfchild and how she hoped to someday redo the book – I said something about how, someday, it would be wonderful to redo it for her.

Life went on. My health got worse and I left Uni without finishing my Creative Writing degree. It was an immensely depressing time, but I surged onward, publishing my own work and keeping on doing what was before me despite my health. Drawing, while such a HUGE passion of mine became very taxing on my body, I simply wasn’t able to keep it up to the extent that I needed to to keep up the skill level. So — it went by the wayside.

Until now. Until Stone Table Books contacted me.
I kid you not, three months before Stone Table Books contacted me I had decided to start drawing again, with great vigour, I went and got myself a little Wacom Tablet (because my big cintiq had died) to work on. My work wasn’t what I wanted it to be, I was pretty sad that I had lost a lot of skills over the years, but I was determined to get skilled again.
Then, Stone Table Books contacted me and I was just…overwhelmed.

Rosanne remembered me. She wanted me to do a cover for her!

Years of wondering why – why do you take particular roads and paths that seemingly lead nowhere. Sometimes you end up at a dead end and have to turn back. Sometimes you’re left wandering around, endlessly trapped pondering what you’re supposed to be doing.

And it is lonely when a puzzle piece falls into place than you can look back in hindsight and see where all the puzzle pieces have fallen before to lead to the finished picture before you.

Last night was so much more than a Book Launch to me. It showed me that while I feel the past ten years have been meaningless wandering — it hasn’t been — the puzzle pieces are falling into place.

So, thank you Rosanne and Stone Table Books.

Across the Creek Book.jpg

 

Not the right type of Fantasy

When I was much younger (in my teens, just starting my writing journey) I used to be down right terrified of agents and publishers. To me they were the great gods of the industry and I was a pimply, cubby little girl who had dreams far to big to ever achieve. Then, gradually, over the years, I actually got to interact with editors within the publishing industry and I found them to be so kind, so helpful, always willing to give me advice and cheer me along in my dream.
The two years I spent with my novel being considered by Penguin Australia was the best two years of my life. I learnt so much respect for the industry from just those two years and the editors I interacted with and while, in the end, my novel never made it through the acquisition stage I went away feeling like I had received the greatest gift of all:

Belief in myself.

I was about twenty at the time, I had very little self-esteem, and my illness was just beginning to take root, and for a girl who began her life being entirely unable to string words together because of her dyslexia, finding belief in herself was the solid foundation I needed to carry me forward.

I owe Penguin Australia and those editors so much for those few years. While I am sure I would have found my way eventually, just having words of encouragement from those I considered the greatest of the great rooted the oak tree I was growing into.

Years later, I am still trying to find my place within the publishing industry. If anything, I have watched the industry change rapidly around me into something that has terrified me even more than I was once terrified of agents and publishers. I now find myself in limbo. I neither know how to step forward, nor backward, I cannot got up, nor down, nor around. I am…just…here, a voice amongst many.

And that leads me to the interesting journey I have been taking over the past year and a half. Agents. Here in Australia we don’t have many agents, and they usually work side-by-side with publishers, so it can be quite difficult to actually find an agent. It’s a bit of a catch-twenty-two. You can’t submit a manuscript to an agent unless you’ve been accepted into a publishing company, and you can’t submit a manuscript to a publishing company unless you’ve been accepted by an agent. This greatly amused me. I spent quite awhile laughing in my office when I finally realised the little circle that had formed.

Its who you know. Or. You pay something like $900 for a pinch conference and I do not have that cash lying around anywhere. That’s a lot of money…

I’m not complaining, really I’m not – I’m amused. I don’t tend to get upset about these sorts of things and whine, I simply laugh how interesting the tight box I find myself in truly is. When I was a starry eyed little girl, dreaming of becoming the best science fiction and fantasy author EVER I never imagined I would be in my office wishing I had $900 for a five minute pinch. That would never have even crossed my mind!

So, I had to start looking outside of Australia and that has been…interesting…
Twitter is a great source for writers, its dangerous, Twitter, but once you learn how to navigate it and not get eaten alive it can be fascinating to discover what’s going on in the writing world. Thus I started searching for agents to submit to and that…is where…I found…my problem.

I don’t write the right type of fantasy.

Current count of rejections stands at fifteen. Some agents have been really lovely and told me why, which is really considerate of them – and the reasons, once more, have really amused me.

Some have told me that my writing style is to old-fashioned. My apologises, I actually speak a little old fashioned as well (just ask my family.)

Others have told me they don’t like the fact that I have a male protagonist. (Should have had my female protagonist open the novel…would that have worked?)

My biggest sin, apparently, is that said male protagonist *saves* female protagonist – and I will not even begin to rant about this issue. I could write an ENTIRE blog on this issue alone and how unfairly I feel, as someone who is chronically ill, the idea of being saved and being a damsel in distress is being demonised in society today. Because you know, right, you know it’s okay to ask for help, you know it’s okay to need help to get out of a situation that is out of your control?
Well, apparently not. 

I could go on, but I think the picture has been painted.
My fantasy is not the right type of fantasy.
It does not fit the populist ideals.

Perhaps I still live in another era where writing was an expression of just myself, and I did not have to pretend to write something to get published.
I will still write the fantasy I want to read. That was the whole reason I started writing when I was a teenager in the first place. I found myself craving a particular type of science fiction and fantasy, and I could not find it anywhere, so I started writing it for myself to fill the void.

That void might have become larger.
I might be shouting into something so huge, so vast it now engulfs me entirely that I will never be heard but I at least still have a voice in which to shout. To that I am grateful.
I still believe in myself.

Write on.