Callsign – A Korps Fiction (Part 3)

(Part 1 here)
(Part 2 here)


Signals pinged from surface to surface. Data, visible in strings, lights bouncing from one building to another. Imperceptible to most, but alight in a cascade of movement to her. She slunk her svelte, smooth form through alleyways and over fences, nimbly coursing over every obstacle designed to keep civilians out. Not exactly defences. But a hindrance to the unequipped. And this otter was far from inexperienced.

Radiatrix scanned the area. Something had scrambled a radio signal she happened to be monitoring, in a way she had not recognised. Like shooting a pin through a cloud of dust. If she hadn’t caught it, anyone else would have dismissed it as interference or a packet error. Tracking it was ephemeral. Her pursuit began randomly. It had no fixed location nor source, manifesting from random locations like the centre of buildings, or from directly upwards from open sky. But it wasn’t just random noise. It was tangible, directed. A transmission.

It had latched onto something now. The data points seemed to change focus, honing in on a specific area out towards the bay. She could feel them passing by, like raindrops shooting towards a singular focal point. She vaulted a sheet metal fence and rolled across the concrete, ending in a poised crouch to survey the waterfront.

Whatever the signals were amassing to lay beneath. She felt the waves and signals converging, spiralling, swirling, into something… almost physical. A bulk of writhing, pulsing signals all entwined around something hidden by the noise. Her RCGs flicked and buzzed trying to read scans of the messages, but these were enigmatic even for her. It was like trying to read through something’s skin. Not nonsense, but complex and veiled.

“That’s worrying,” she muttered.

She flicked a webbed claw over the holster at her left thigh and spun her hunting knife into her palm. There weren’t many things that could elicit that kind of non-physical control, and in her experience, fewer were friendly. For what she knew of radio waves and her own ability to direct and contain them, this was something more organic and about their behaviour, an unpredictability to their aim.

She circled the bay for a minute, trying to ascertain the best point of entry. As she was about to take a step forwards, she hesitated.

“Radiatrix checking in,” she said furtively to her dispatch team, keeping her eyes on the bay. Her RCGs had painted it with a faint reticule that shimmered in time with its frequency undulation. “Something in the bay. Strange. Psychic, maybe. Or interference. May require assistance.”

“Confirmed. We have your position and pinged nearby assets for potential backup. Be careful, okay?”

“Sure.”

Just as she neared the edge of the quay to dive in, a purple light erupted from under the surface, pushing the water up and outwards like an explosion that disappeared into the night like dust. The radio signals she’d scanned splintered and dispersed, and she watched the water froth and flow back to relative stillness. 

She played her claws over her knife, calculating her approach.

A rippling dart of blue thundered through the water, splitting the waves and careening into the distance. Gritting her teeth, she leapt into the inky depths.

Navigating the bay was easy for her. She cut through the water like a blade, her RCGs scanning for any shapes in the water that could lead to the disruption’s source.

Ahead, a limp form, reaching upwards. They were muscular, but no taller than her, with a long and half-scaled tail drifting in the currents. She could see their RCGs flashing danger icons and immediately braced herself under their arms, beginning a powerful ascent to the bay. She breached the water, landing the unconscious newcomer’s form on top of her, and, wresting an arm over their chest to keep them from slipping back under, she jabbed a claw to her goggles once again.

“Need medevac, immediate. Co-ordinates on encrypted burst. Please acknowledge.”

“Acknowledged, medevac scrambled and en route.” 

She kicked back and dragged their body to the bay’s edge, then hauled them onto the concrete boat launch. She laid her ear to their mouth to check for breathing, then, flicking an electronic needle from her utility pouch, sammed it into their chest. Their body convulsed, they vomited murky water a second later, ejecting it from their lungs. Removing the needle quickly, she rolled them onto their side, where they laid, unconscious, as the whining jets of a light VTOL aircraft roared into proximity.

*

A hard surface. Distal warmth. The cold that pressed into them had faded, but their body felt infinitely heavy and their consciousness slow. They felt like being in a shall both tight to their entire body but massively vast, reaching to the furthest horizon they could feel. Their proprioceptors were probably broken. If, by some miracle, they were alive, they may have sunk to the bottom of the bay.

They tried to move their right hand. They knew it was still there, but it refused their command.

I know. Too dangerous. My bad.

“Aweh, they speak,” came a resonant, slightly cold voice, with a strong South African accent. “You hear us admonishing you for getting moer-toe like this?”

They paused. Errrm, no?

“You broke them again, Sophie,” spoke a second, lighter voice. 

“I only break people intentionally, Viddy” the first voice scorned, somewhat playfully. “They’re fine.”

Didn’t realise I was in company, I’m sorry. Guess I’m… not underwater?

“You’re out,” came Viddy’s voice.

I, um… still can’t see, though.

“Just a precaution,” the first voice, Sophie, said again, amongst some clicks and clanks of metal and the light whirring of a CPU fan, or something similar. “We paralyzed you for analysis anyway, but also to safeguard us in case you weren’t Korps.”

I’m… prospective. I feel like I’ve done a lot wrong so far.

“Well, to start, your RCGs are terrible. Almost worse than fake.”

They’re a homebrew from unlocked civilian ones. I’m not a hacker, or coder so I piecemealed together code from whatever I could manage.

They heard Viddy audibly grimace. “Civvies aren’t powerful enough. Like a pushbike to a motorcycle.”

“Look, it’s not that I don’t appreciate good boererate, but you’d have had better luck walking to our door and asking directly,” Sophie admonished. “We could have shot you and done less damage to you than these.”

They sighed. I figured. Sorry. I don’t know how any of this works. But I think I need to be here. For me, as much as for anyone else.

Something touched their arm, possibly Viddy? They felt like webbed paws. “You know, you’re speaking through your collar, right?”

Y… yes. Just a habit. I can actually talk though.

They switched from logged speech to vocal, and let their breath humm from their throat for a second, before finally speaking. 

“Could I see?” They croaked. Their voice was soft, with a slight deepness to it, and the unmistakable accent of a Brit, or at least one who spent the majority of their life there. 

“One second,” Sophie cautioned. “Your new RCGs are formatting. Your oxygen injector failed because your OS was a fokken mess and registered all available commands as one execution, so it infused and purged simultaneously.”

They gave a short, defeated sigh. “Right.”

“You also broke it.”

“That… may not have been me, but I’ll take responsibility for it.”

There was the sound of something moving, and the soft tapping of a keyboard. “These RCGs are faster, more secure, more functional, and I’ve already transferred what little secure data there was from your old ones onto them. You’re lucky you weren’t in sy moer-in with a vulnerability like that plugged into your face.”

They didn’t respond, their mind still in the black depths in which they’d been almost crushed. This was not how they intended their introduction to go.

Something touched their right shoulder. “It’s okay,” Viddy whispered. “Some come in a lot worse.”

They were tempted to respond with the sentiment that they doubted many had damaged themselves this much on ignorant abandon, but held themself back for not wanting to inflict their embarrassment as unwarranted insult, against them or their current carers.

Something pressed into the side of their head. Slowly, filtering into focus by layers of brightness and colour, they came to view themselves in a very clean room, with muted white lights and a fairly high ceiling. It would have looked like a hospital, were it not for the numerous cameras and very conspicuous turret mounted into the ceiling.

They blinked, and looked around.

“This place has a very, uh… ‘We’ll help you but won’t take any shit’ vibe.”

“Welcome to my triage.”

Were Archantael not paralyzed, they would have jumped at the figure towering over them, an already formidable-looking maned wolf in a powerful exoskeleton of sleek gunmetal, neon claws gleaming in the operating theatre’s sterile lights. Her neckline and chest were adorned with the Korps insignia, and atop her head was a blaze of red hair, as fierce as the eyes she regarded the newcomer with behind curved, svelte RCGs.

“To you I’m Professor Carmine, or Nosferatu, whichever you like. Just never in vain, or you get poesklapped.”

“Noted,” Arch replied, before glancing to the figure on the other side, a much less imposing but still sleek, elegant and powerful frame of an otter. She gave a polite wave.

“Viddy. Callsign Radiatrix. Yeh.”

Sophie flicked something on the gurney and Arch felt sensation returning to their body. They let out a deep sigh, feeling their chest rise and fall under their own volition again, and blearily slid round, gently manoeuvering their tail, to hang their legs off the gurney. The metal guards over their hindpaws glinted in the light, still bearing the residue from the bay. They’d need to wash their combat gear too, as with the returning sensation in their legs came the realisation of still being very damp, and increasingly cold.

They looked to them both and bowed their head. “Thank you, and sorry for being an inconvenience.”

Sophie frowned. “The only inconvenience is not talking to us first. We’re not blaming you for… wherever happened down there.” She looked to Viddy. “It sounded very odd.”

Arch glanced to Viddy, who was skimming through something on her tablet. “I logged frequencies, it’s not usual.”

“You pulled me out, didn’t you?” they said quietly. Viddy nodded.

“Thank you. I’ll owe you… anything, literally.”

The otter gave a warm, kind smile, then turned the tablet round to them. “This is what got you, right?”

The image was a strange, disjointed array of data points, but seemed to coalesce to a hydra-like spiral of tentacles.

“I… I didn’t see it. I know who it was, just not… what.” 

Sophie gave a snort of contempt at the scattered shape on screen. “That’s some vrot energy there. Friend of yours?”

“Once. We have… somewhat of a history.”

Viddy nodded understandingly, and pulled the tablet back round, before handing it to Sophie, a little shyly, the fur on her cheeks bristling as the large, pink-clawed exo skeleton arms brushed against her paws at the hand-off. “I logged these. Hopefully it’s an early warning next time.”

Arch dug their claws into their paws. “Next time, I hope it’ll be the last.”

Sophie clicked her tongue. “I get you. But build yourself up here as you need first. No point making out soos Siebies se gat and ending up worse than tonight for poor planning.”

She walked round to face them, standing next to Viddy, leaning towards them with a stern countenance. “And don’t do it alone, did you cav that?”

Arch nodded, sheepishly. “I won’t. Thank you.”

Satisfied, Sophie glanced down at the tablet and flicked her claw a few times. “Now, what do we call you?”

The pangolinfox rose to their feet, briefly flipping open WHISPERSHOT’s canister to ensure it was safe, and attached their quiver back onto their belt.

“My name’s Archantael Clow. Callsign: Aegis.”

Viddy smiled at them again, and extended her paw to shake. They took it firmly, gratefully, and returned her smile with one of their own.

Sophie laid the tablet back on the gurney. A split second later, a message appeared on Arch’s RCGs:

WELCOME TO THE KORPS, AEGIS.

Sophie shot them a smile too. “Take some time to learn the base layout. If you need lodging here there are people to help you, but you can get most of your combat supplies here. And Ask. For. Help.” She cast a threatening claw to them. 

They raised their paws up with a nervous grin. “Yes. Very much. First thing I need is a good tattoo artist.” They gestured to their insignia. “I need one of those on my chest.”

Viddy grinned. “Good choice. I know one-”

The sliding door opened suddenly, and a figure even taller than Sophie loomed through, curled horns and long tan hair drifting close to the hanging lights, their grey and brown frame completely obscuring the door. The feathered cloak that hung from their high shoulders billowed out behind them, displaying their four powerful arms adorned with thick leather straps. Aside from the cloak they wore nothing on their top half except for a pentacle harness; around their waist was a long split robe draping down to their feet, and several surgical-looking knives on belts hung at angles. Their four eyes, black with golden pupils, took in all details of the room at once. 

“We have some targets to shred,” xey announced, xyr voice resonant with multiple tones, a mix of the powerful and soothing, overall deep but with a rich, otherworldly dimensionality to it. “Will anyone accompany a demon on xyr midnight run?”

Immediately they honed in on Archantael, bewildered, by the gurney. “You’re new,” xey said, slight with intrigue.

“They are,” Viddy chirruped, beaming widely.

The demon lent out a large, clawed hand to the hybrid. “We are Sentari.”

“I’m Archantael,” they replied, taking the Sen’s claw as firmly as they could. Their body was all at once hot and cold, like a wind on a dark summer night. “I’m an archer, and shield-summoner, if they’re of use to you.”

A grin split Sentari’s face. “We always have use for ones such as yourself. Are you in?”

Arch looked down at their gear. “I’m a little wet.”

“We have that effect on people,” xey replied with a wry smile, a long tongue flicking between xyr teeth. Arch felt a rush of blood to their cheeks and swallowed. Viddy was looking coyly away, but also smiling. “But we can get to that later. Are you with us?”

A flick of their synth claw, and WHISPERSHOT sprung into life.

“I’m ready.”

Arch Korps archer

Art by Necrotext


The Korps is a fictional furry queer cyberpunk universe created by KorpsPropaganda
Viddy/Radiatrix is a character owned by Viddy / Dipika
Professor Carmine is a character owned by Jay
Sentari is a character owned by Sentvri
All characters were used with permission and owners were sent this before posting for approval ❤
Thank you all.

Callsign – A Korps Fiction (Part 1)

A muddy night sky. It would be clear, if the lights from the city weren’t so pollutive. Stars were barely visible beyond the glare, the tiniest pinpricks to remind you this wasn’t a dome or skybox with finite borders you could slam into if you tried hard enough. Although somehow, somewhere, a corporation would try to sell that as the next greatest luxury. Custom skylines, tailored to your neighbourhood.

As if the current corporate mindset didn’t already do that. Lie to you about the stars and tell you it’s your fault you can’t see them.

All the more reason to enjoy the sky now, what little was left of it.

The figure perched on the high building’s parapet, overlooking the bay, pressed a claw to their temple, and the small disc that lay embedded in their red-brown fur. A small, deft flick brought up a menu on their HUD, and a sleek pink visor beamed into place around their eyes. They craned their head back and the display brought the whole sky into view, mapping every known star, and even a few that had no designations yet, assumed likely calculations based on observed interstellar activity. At least some people were still paying attention to what was over their heads.

Their long tail curled on the ledge beneath them, the roughness of the scales running along it and up their back highlighted by the ambient glow from the building’s outward-facing sign, while the long fur beneath it blended into the darkness. The pangolin-fox hybrid bore a muscular frame, something of which they seemed proud, to the extent of foregoing anything covering their upper half most of the time aside from the usual equipment of their quiver. Of course, with scales over their shoulders, head, and back, wearing anything that wouldn’t immediately be shredded was a challenge. For now they were comfortable in flowing pants that sinched at the knee, shin guards, and a large open-fronted collar which beamed soft blue light to the underside of their vulpine muzzle.

A small bell icon appeared in their lower right view, and jiggled silently. The name next to it brought a gentle smile to their face.

It’s been a while. Their voice was soft, and unspoken, transmitted directly into the screen. How are you?

“All the better for seeing you, matey!” the older, silver and black fox said warmly. He was wearing one of his ancient, well-worn polar fleeces, branded with a logo from a long-since-defunct company. “I hope it’s not a bad time.”

They smiled. It’s never a bad time for you, Pôl. I’m about to start an assignment, though.

“Oh, well, I won’t keep you! Did you decide on your callsign yet?”

They paused. Maybe. I don’t know if that’s how it works. I haven’t done anything significant yet, or researched anyone else’s…

“Oh, so what you MEAN is you have something you want but are embarrassed about how corny it sounds.”

They ran their hand over their ears and gave an embarrassed grin. Look, just because you’re allowed under my firewall doesn’t mean you can attack me like that.

Pôl flicked his ears and sat back, forgetting his holographic camera had a fixed focus range, turning into just a muzzle and teeth for a few moments. It almost made his guidance more effective. “I’ll attack you however I want, you know it’s good for you. Besides, you went through all this to be there. If you know what your purpose is and where you’re supposed to be, then be there, without apology.”

The hybrid cocked their head, a little consternative. It’s not that I don’t have purpose. Probably. It’s about… definition. How do you sum up everything you want to be in a single word and make it formidable, without it being reductive or overblown?

The fox gave them an admonishing look. “To me, your own name would suffice. You’ve always been impressive. But you, Archantael” a shaky, demonstrative claw came into view, “you don’t acknowledge yourself as much as you should. Modesty is creditable, but not to the point of self-burden. Do you really think you have to earn your right to live, or help others? I know exactly what you’re there for, Arch, and in a world like ours don’t ever pretend any act of kindness isn’t significant enough to be given credence. I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again, you’re worth your own time. Especially if you’re already giving it away to so many.”

Archantael closed their eyes and sighed, a release of tension more than a sense of frustration. There were few people who reached them so deeply, but friend and mentor Pôl was one of them.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. They glanced at their left forearm, and played the glinting metal against the reflections of the blue-green city bloom. I don’t know if I’m ready. But I know where I’m supposed to be. For now, at least.

Pôl gave an approving nod, then his face shifted out of focus and his ears loomed into view as he scrabbled amongst some papers out of view. They watched with a bemused comfort at the amenability of his disorganisation, despite being one of the most resourceful creatures they knew. Eventually, and after some whispered threats to nondescript entities, the black and grey muzzle drifted back to the centre screen

“So, about your request.” he sighed, raking a claw under his chin in a reticent scratch. “You, I think, deserve better than to be held ransom to his hate. But I did find him. I’m just… worried about you, matey.”

They nodded. I know. It’s the first step. He won’t change if he won’t know what he threw away. And if I can’t make him see… then I’ll stop him outright. I’ll take whatever you have, if you could send it to my ghost server. Thank you.

“No probs, matey. We need to get you back here for a spell, we’ve missed you.”

Arch smiled again, a little wistfully. I’ve missed you too. I’ll get back when I can. Give my love to Dorin and Brew.

“I know how it goes. Just… be safe, all right? I won’t be round forever.”

That’s a lie and you know it; you’re as immortal as they come.

The fox laughed, a lyrical rhythm that soon turned to a withering rasp. “You know that’s not how it works.”

Yeah. Yeah, I know. Be safe, Pôl.

“YOU be safe, matey. Talk soon.”

The cityscape took over the sound of the terminated stream, and once more they were alone. They stood to their full height, and from their metal plated left forearm section withdrew a slender, angular device that unfurled into a longbow, with code WHISPERSHOT embossed on its inner surfaces. Their custom-designed modular bow engine. It thrummed into life, while the cover plate on their arm flared open to form a small, sharp shield.

I could just name myself after you, they thought. But the idea of being defined by use of a weapon and nothing more, even one they designed themselves, was… uncomfortable. The choices and dramatic portmanteaus flowed through their mind again. Nothing felt succinct enough.

Giving a momentary frown, they pulled out a few of the metal shards that made up the structure of the bow, angling them for weight distribution and aerodynamics, then glanced at the ammo count on the right of their HUD.

If I can’t be creative right now, I’ll at least be productive.

A brief second of focus and the inventory blipped out with a detailed menu:

-Six palisade arrows, for long-distance shield deployment
-Eight electro-restraints, lasting at least six minutes apiece
-Eleven quick-release concrete foam shots, with an impact spread of eight feet
-Five interference beacons, ranging 150 metres

-Seven spacial disorientators, when work meets play

It wasn’t a full complement. Something about this city interfered with the effectiveness of their hacking beacons and immobilisers, so they were completely out of service for now. They still did physical damage, but relying on blind luck while still facing the brunt of a drone controller barrelling towards you was not a good time. Well, not under the circumstances, anyway. They would need to see a hacking expert for some upgrades, or advice on frequency hopping.

At least their battery still worked. Its status in their lower wrist glowed at a satisfying 98%. Plenty of shots to be taken even if they ran out of strategic ammunition.

They hooked two clawed fingers around the cable that ran from wing to wing, just behind the centre of the bow where the arrow crook lay. Two generators above and below it whirred into action, and as they drew back, a bright fizzling cyan bolt formed along the length of their arm. They glared down its length, crosshair appearing in their vision, with twisting indicators changing by the distance and height of the surfaces and objects before them. Satisfied all was well, they drew forward their arm and the cyan energy bolt faded back into the generators.

Time to move.

Archantael took a step forwards, and in the air under their footpaw appeared a glowing purple sigil, in the shape of a curled up pangolin. It took their weight; another step and a second appeared under their other footpad. The sigils shimmered; underneath them appeared smaller ones that rotated and drew away, then slammed upwards into the first set, sending the archer rocketing into the sky. They began a long, leaping bound, each step anchored and boosted by the shield sigils summoned beneath their feet, as they began a wide circle around the bay, beginning their patrol.


Continues in Part 2

Preview Art by Necrotext

The Korps is a fictional furry queer cyberpunk universe created by KorpsPropaganda

Endings and Beginnings

It’s been a while since I last posted in here, and there I was thinking that I’d turned over a new leaf in productivity.

Well, I have now!

Fracture’s manuscript is finally finished. It needs editing and it’s a little shorter than Legacy so far, but there’s a lot in there. I hope I can do justice to all the great comments people have been sending my way. Thank you again for all your encouragement. It means the world to me.

To give some background as to what I’ve been up to and why this is ACTUALLY different: I quit my full-time job to write; specifically to finish up the Resonance Tetralogy and dedicate myself more to my passions and try to make them part of my living. They’ve been in my head and part of my dreams for such a long time. I couldn’t take having to restrict myself from them any longer. I’ve been very lucky to be supported in this, and I will try my hardest to get everything finished quickly. I think I’ll have a much greater incentive to do that from now on. No distractions, no excuses. Except cosplay, but that won’t take over my life so extensively. I swear.

funny-anime-girl1

This happens a lot when I’m writing. Or making costumes. Just generally.

So, what happens now?

I write. Passionately and extensively. I’ll also pepper this blog with updates so everyone can know what I’m up to and what the status of the book is, where you can get it from, and various other things I’m doing either in conjunction with Resonance or separate from it. This’ll mainly stay a creative blog though. But I’m always happy to answer questions, and if something is of particular interest to me I’ll make an article out of it. I’m looking forward to that.

Plus there's that real world crap to catch up with. Ugh.

Plus there’s that real world bollocks to catch up with. Ugh, I’m so behind.

So, as a teaser for the next few weeks/months… you guys like artwork, right?

Cool.

I will be pre-emtively excited while dropping infuriating hints, to you all, bwahaha.

I will be pre-emptively overexcited while dropping infuriating hints to you all, bwahaha.

 

Bright Young Things

So I’m really into Wakfu now. For those who don’t know it, it’s a French animated series based on an MMORPG (or MMPORG, if you get the reference), and stars a young Eliatrope (being who can control portals) called Yugo. He’s awesome. He hadn’t been on the screen for more than a few seconds (well, after we saw him as a baby) and I’d already decided I had enough of an affinity with him to cosplay him in the future, because he’s that damn cool. He’s kind and optimistic and capable, and I’m actually a little blown away by how taken I am with him. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised though, because I am still dedicated to the Mysterious Cities of Gold series, and Esteban was full of exuberance and adventure and good will, even if he did tend to get himself into danger a lot. Naruto is a similar character, albeit a lot more outspoken and defiant (and rude). And the original Avatar: The Last Airbender series followed Aang, who had nothing but compassion for the world, and struggled to see it brought to peace, and was dedicated to making his friends happy and safe. He’s my favourite part of that three-series journey, as he leads it perfectly.

He puts the AANG in Prot-Aang-onist. Wait, let me try again...

He puts the AANG in Prot-Aang-onist. Wait, let me try again…

It just brings to mind the reactions people have had to Legacy; specifcally to Tierenan, the deuteragonist (of sorts) who travels with Faria and follows her adventure.

A Hero Who Didn’t Know He Was A Hero

Without exception, everyone who’s spoken and written to me about Legacy has told me how much they like Tierenan. He’s run away with my audience, heh. And he deserves it- he’s a very cool guy, and I don’t think any of the other characters would complain that he gets as much praise as he does. The weirdest thing to me is that he was the character I planned least. He just happened. I didn’t spend ages constructing a specific development arc for him within Legacy or honing his personality. He came as he was and fit in perfectly. I’m really grateful for that, because if I’d tried to write him, I probably would have ruined him.

And we all know how that turns out.

And we all know how that turns out.

The people who know me have said that he’s me, but I always saw myself as Alaris; not a main character, for one, and also more of a support role and a play-as-much-by-the-rules-as-possible sort of person. The more I think about it, though, the more I realise there’s more in Tierenan than I first anticipated, whether it’s reflective of me or not.

When I first wrote Legacy I kind of brushed him off as someone to fill in the gaps between Faria, who carries the main narrative, and Aeryn and Kyru, whose story I had been invested in since the very early concepts (even before any of them were animals). To a degree, I figured that what he said either wouldn’t matter or would be there as a commentary to prevent the whole thing from being too serious. I always wanted him to be likeable though, and not as artificial as a lot of obnoxious Disney comedy placeholders are. But through spending time with him, I think specifically because he wasn’t constrained by preconceived plot ideas, he took a shape of his own that reacted to the environment and the other characters. It really was a more natural progression for him, and I wasn’t even aware of it.

One thing remained constant, though: his unfaltering hope. I’ve always wanted my stories to be full of hope, and he is the sole character that carries it from the moment we meet him. I think people fall into the trap of making stories dismal or harrowing or unpleasant, especially for young adults, and they focus so much on the loss of innocence and certain cruel realities of the world for no reason other than to be evocative. It’s probably what irritates me most about the direction the Harry Potter series went in, especially in the final book. War begets casualties, of course, but stories are such an investment for the reader. Killing off everyone you care about (and not even giving them a final justification or battle scene) doesn’t make you fulfilled as an audience member. Personally, I find it very unsatisfying. Especially for young adults who’re about to make their mark on the world, they shouldn’t be discouraged from trying, or from dreaming big or wanting to protect or include everyone. There’s already so much cynicism in the world, and I think the ones who will change it need to be given hope. Not promises, but hope.

Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”- Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke and Bone

I’m really glad that Tierenan is liked so much. It’s humbling to me. I want to keep his light going in the rest of the books, and it would be an honour if he was talked about in the same way that Aang and Yugo and Esteban and Natsu and Groot are some day. And not just by me :p

We're on the fence about you, boy.

We’re on the fence about you, boy. Haven’t forgiven you for the weird plot developments.

Inspiring Teens Blog Hop Interview

Back in October last year, I was asked to participate in the Inspiring Teens Blog Hop, a multi-blog extravaganza of author interviews and book discussions organised by Greta Burroughs aiming to encourage teens to read. Unfortunately the site my interview was hosted at is no longer working, but I enjoyed the opportunity to take part very much. It meant a great deal to be able to discuss my passion and share my work, so I saved a copy of the interview, and here it is:

Inspiring Teens Blog Hop interview (Originally hosted by Kate Bainbridge on read2review.com)

1. Reading

Why do you think Teen Read Week is important?

Reading is such an important tool- more than being a basic life skill in communication, it opens you up to such wonderful worlds of creativity that, today, can be so easy to avoid through computers, TV, games, and everything else that encourages a simpler, more graphic interaction. It goes without saying that everyone needs to read just to keep on top of things on a daily basis, but particularly the opportunity and ability to read books is such a rich and rewarding experience that nobody should miss out on.  I’d have so much less of myself now if I hadn’t read when I was younger, and I’m always grateful for the amount of self-development and inspiration I gained from books.

How do you think we could encourage youngsters to read more?

I think giving them something, be it a story or a character, that inspires them will make the biggest difference. You only need to look at the success of a series like Twilight to see how many young women were dreaming of a ‘perfect’ guy to fall in love with- as much as tastes differ, you can’t argue with the power of that inspiration even on a basic level. I’d challenge anyone who read Harry Potter who didn’t at some point during their journey want to be a wizard. There has to be a fantasy, an escape, an adventure, or something, that really speaks to them. But you need variety. If you don’t like vampires (like me), being sat in front of the teen paranormal section in a bookshop isn’t going to encourage you to read anything. I get frustrated with the prevalence of fads in fiction that essentially restrict the creative outlet for audiences. So there has to be something, even a single book, that lights a fire within and makes you want to dive straight into that universe.

When you were a teenager what books did you like to read and did you have an all-time favourite character?

I loved fantasy and adventure books. The ones I read time and again were The Deptford Mice trilogy by Robin Jarvis, particularly the first book- The Dark Portal. Mr. Jarvis was a major influence on my imagination and writing style; I was about six or seven at the time and even though I’d read books like Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series, it wasn’t until I read The Dark Portal that I found such deep inspiration. I devoured that trilogy and the Deptford Histories books that came afterwards. Thomas Triton was my favourite character throughout it all- a mouse who lived on the Cutty Sark with a needle for a sword (I was also obsessed with fencing and sword fighting, you see). My friends all liked the characters who were supposed to be around our ages, and Thomas was much older, but it didn’t bother me to pretend to be him when running around the playground or at home. He was just that cool to me. I went bananas when he had a whole book devoted to him in the Histories series.

2. Writing

Were you writing as a teenager? If so, what were you writing and what inspired you? Did a person inspire you to write?

When I was about two or three my older sister would write and illustrate simple stories for me when I was upset, or just because she loved art.  Somewhere I think there’s still a half-finished story about a fox in a cage that she began for me! So I’d been exposed to storytelling and shaping dramatic narrative for as long as I can remember. But I played around with stories with my various toys from a very young age as well. I’d get frustrated when a favourite character of mine in a TV show was ousted for the show’s star- a lot of 80’s and early 90’s cartoons had the one singular hero who did everything and the secondary characters were essentially cheerleaders for the most part aside from their obligatory one-episode-per-season showcase, and my issue was that I often preferred the secondary characters. So in my games I’d make sure all of the characters had a role, and that continued into my first ‘serious’ writing when I was about thirteen and started on fanfiction. Essentially if I wasn’t happy with how a show or book I was into was going, I’d invent my own, and from that, once I learned the basis of a story and how to create a unique world, I began developing my own original ideas.

My biggest non-book inspiration was probably the TV series The Mysterious Cities of Gold, which still has a profound effect on me when I hear the music or see any clips. I take huge inspiration from music, and my collection of orchestral scores is vast and varied. I have anime, video game, movie soundtracks and will swipe whatever songs inspire me even if I’ve never heard of the band before.

Do you think today’s teens are in a better position if they want to be a writer than you were all those years ago (hee hee)?

Definitely. I think the potential for imagination has always been there, but there’s such a rich library of creativity to take from nowadays that there’s no reason for anyone not to be inspired. And you can be inspired by anything- movies, music, TV, video games, books; it doesn’t have to be just written down. I feel like I read far less than most other writers I know, but it hasn’t curbed my imagination or ability to write. When I told people that I wanted to be a writer and subsequently revealed that I hadn’t read Lord of the Rings, they were shocked, as if I was supposed to be physically unable to write fantasy until I had. I still haven’t, by the way, and I don’t regret that- I don’t need it, and nobody that knows you should tell you what you can and can’t study for inspiration. The amount of resources and support available to writers now is incredible- there’s nothing that should hold you back if you want to try.

What advice would you give a youngster who enjoys writing?

Watch intently, listen carefully, and don’t be afraid to question anything in front of you. Encourage yourself to enjoy something fully, and if you don’t then ask yourself why and break down what you would have done differently. Think about how that would change the outcome, and plan it out from there. You can even work backwards: think about something you’d like to see happen in the series/show/book/whatever, and decide how you’d begin that plotline. I’d encourage anyone to write fanfiction if they want to. It’s an easy way to get started with story construction and character creation, and you can change story elements at will without worrying hugely about your basic setting. It’s a sandbox environment for writing, and a great development tool. One thing that helped me, is, when watching TV shows or movies, or playing games, is to always have the subtitles on. It a great tool for reading dialogue and ‘seeing’ how it’s constructed instead of just hearing it.

3. Your books

What is your latest book about?

My latest book is Legacy, the first in a series of four books (collectively called The Resonance Tetralogy) set in a fantasy world, Eeres. Much like The Deptford Mice trilogy and the Redwall books, the characters are anthropomorphic animal species. Here’s the blurb for you:

“Her power is unmeasured. Her abilities untested. Her destiny inescapable.

Faria Phiraco is a resonator, a manipulator of the elements via rare crystals. It is an extraordinary and secret power which she and her father, the Emperor of Xayall, guard with their lives.

The Dhraka, malicious red-scaled dragons, have discovered an ancient artefact; a mysterious relic from the mythical, aeons-lost city of Nazreal. With their plan already set in motion, they besiege Xayall, pummelling the city to find Faria and rip more of Nazreal’s secrets from her.

When her father goes missing, Faria has to rely on her own strength to brave the world that attacks her at every turn. Friends and guardians rally by her to help save her father and reveal the mysteries of the ruined city, while the dark legacy of an ancient cataclysm wraps its claws around her fate… and her past. She soon realises that this is not the beginning, nor anywhere near the end. A titanic war spanning thousands of years unfolds around her, one that could yet cost the lives of everyone on Eeres.”

Are you working on anything new at the moment?

Currently I’m working on Legacy’s second and third sequel novels, Fracture and Ruin’s Dawn, and a trilogy of Steampunk books called The Song Chronicle of Thera, set in a world where geothermal energy can be harnessed to give mechanically-augmented warriors extraordinary power, and the incredible battles fought to protect the world from total destruction.

And there are about seven other stories all trying to get out of my head too. Writing just one or two at a time is very difficult when there aren’t enough hours in the day.

What do you love about being an author?

Your imagination is completely free. You have license to create anything in your head that you want to. You want a talking cake? Done. Evil guinea pig from another world? No problem. A cursed, blood-sucking pen that traps its users’ souls forever in paper? Sure. Anything is yours to create, and it’s a wonderful feeling. You’d be amazed how liberating it is to have a story before you, however long it is, and know that you created that entire world. You begin to see worlds behind and within other worlds, and even in reality you see so much more than face value. Everything becomes richer, deeper, and all of the things that inspired you before become that much more enjoyable for knowing how they’ve affected you. The absolute best part, though, is when people start telling you how your work inspired them in turn, and, unprompted, start linking your work back to your original inspiration, or something else that inspires them too, something new to you that helps open a completely new facet to your world. That is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had, and I hope to create many more.

Werewolves vs Vampires vs Teenagers

I hated puberty. The insults, the isolation, the hormones, the mood swings, pretending to fit in for fear of being alone, and anger at nobody taking you seriously. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was just a week, but this thing lasts around six years. There’s a lot to discover during puberty, and it’s not always great. I look back at it with a real trepidation, wondering how far I’ve actually moved from those swirling insecurities and the restless, adirectional meandering between friends and ambitions trying to find what my true dreams were.

There is a comfort in mystery during puberty though, to an extent. If I admitted it, I sometimes enjoyed hanging onto depressive feelings; they were my problems and nobody else’s grievances could take them away from me. It felt more satisfying to tell people that nothing was wrong even though I was lonely or jealous of everyone else’s girlfriends or just generally pissed off. Being able to tell people would suddenly devalue them, either by comparison or because helpful advice would solve them. For the most part I already knew they were fuelled by hormones or rather superficial situations, and at the time I didn’t want to lose that, because I wanted to have something larger to grasp onto in my life, something true to me. It’s an odd, almost detrimental selfishness, and given that puberty’s a whole swell of new, often quite dark or unfamiliar emotions it’s not hard to see why paranormal creatures of choice begin creeping into our minds as allegories for our own transformations.

I want to suck… 
Vampires are not my favourite cryptid, I’ll be blunt. I hated vampire films, books, tales, anything much to do with them. Even though I helped a friend write one. That was different.

I guess for my part they represented the more attention-seeking emotional lot that wandered around. I was definitely more goth-orientated when I was younger, not that I had the confidence to show it completely. Being more introverted myself, the goth friends I had who were into vampires always seemed to take what seemed like more than their fair share of the issues and attention that I wanted from those around me. They wore their feelings in their clothes- black, baggy, and hooded, as if trying to dress themselves in shadows and hide their insecurities. It’s a mask, and anyone can attest that the clothes you wear are a reflection of how you feel about yourself.

Perhaps it’s just personal bias, but I could see great parallels between the emotional state teenagers considered themselves to be in, and the aesthetics vampires seemed to provide. Sleeping habits are disrupted during puberty, and the excitement of staying out at night makes the prospect of activities in the dark (whatever they might be) far more exciting. A whole new fascination for life after 9:00 opens up once you’re old enough to start asking questions and challenging your own boundaries. As your emotions develop, you also start experiencing more of the bittersweetness of emotions, the idea that things can be both good and bad, and that both can exist almost constantly within one entity. Anti-heroes and even villains become opportunities to experience the darknesses of life and actually wallow in them for a time.
The fascination with blood comes hand in hand with a sense of adventure and adulthood. The link between both vampires and werewolves with the advent of periods is probably too obvious to go into; monthly transformations and free-flowing crimson is probably all the description you need to make the connection. But more than that, blood signifies danger, risk and assertion, and an irreversible pact with whatever spills it. I can remember fantasising about wanting to protect something so much that I would throw my life in front of it, and wanting to feel that heroism within me. It didn’t seem worth it without the spilling of blood, almost. And as a teenager, when you’re struggling to find a way to express your emotions to anyone, friends or relatives, the frustration can become so much that hurting yourself, drawing blood becomes a justifiable, almost enjoyable pain. I’ve only done it myself once (I pinched part of my skin between my fingernails; hardly substantial), and I’ll never do it again. But I understand the inescapable frustration, and with that the feeling that you know better what your feelings need to resolve themselves (usually someone being hurt or bumped off) and the ‘rage superiority’ that comes with being affronted. The idea that you could swoop down on someone of your choice in the night and suck out their life-force becomes immensely satisfying, and becomes an emotional quest for justice, whether it’s against you or vigilantism for a friend.
Werewolf Bar Mitzvah
For werewolves then, the emotions are similar, but the expression is subtly different. As anyone knows, werewolves are normal people about 95% of the time, but every full moon turn into hulking powerful creatures and go on a rampage. Where vampires are consistently dark and brooding creatures, werewolves have a greater deal of balance, at least until the rage quotient builds up enough that they explode in a fit of fur, muscle and poor special effects. Werewolves, then, are better at concealing their emotions and have a greater disguise than vampires, who have to be more overt about their nature simply because they have a fundamental disability to do otherwise. Turning into cat litter when you step into the sun makes you more obvious than someone who inexplicably disappears once every four weeks.
While vampire-archetype personalities might revel in the emotional turmoil they feel and mutually licking each other’s wounds (and thereby reinforcing the need for wounds to be greater), werewolf-types may well be embarrassed by it or feel they’re unworthy of those same emotions. I’d refrain from telling others about my issues because I believed theirs had greater merit or urgency, or that nobody would be interested anyway. But I still got angry. While a vampire has precision-killing abilities, the anger a werewolf feels is more omni-directional, a rage against many things leading to a situation rather than a single vendetta. There are definite parallels between both, though: the aspect of darkness and self-isolation, introversion, an injustice or imbalance against something the ‘creature’ holds close, and the idea of a hidden power that could unleash deadly force if provoked.
And, perhaps, coming to terms with a sense of loneliness. Puberty teaches us so much about emotions and how different we each are, so the longing to find someone who we can share ourselves with becomes hugely important. Everyone at some point will feel like a monster or a freak, and for some those feelings will last a lot longer than others. We’ll start to analyse what makes us different, and often there isn’t an answer, something that leaves us trying to create one rather than be left without an explanation. The idea of transforming one way or another into a deus ex machina that can tear all our problems apart and rid ourselves of the need to ask questions becomes very attractive.
“But… what am I?” “Over-reacting. Now piss off and get on with your work.”
I suppose it would boil down to what causes your angst and how you deal with it. The popular image of vampires of being dark, clad in leather and fiendishly strong is well-established in the media and will rarely fail to appease a budding pubescent with dreams of becoming equally impressive. Werewolves have far less to go on in media portrayals that aren’t dated or fairly crass, so their image remains more internal and personal. It’s easier to be a vampire not least because it ties in well with goth fashions and popular culture- you can see more clearly what you belong to. In return goth fashions embrace people who feel (or at least want to look) ‘abnormal’, and popular media enhances the ‘lone wolf’ image attached to it. Because a werewolf can look like anyone, you’re wandering without a pack a lot of the time. Unless you’re one of these spiritual therians, but… well… different strokes for different folks. I’m not judging.
It’s always interesting when the next vampire movie comes out what they’ve done to address the emotional perceptions that these characters have. To be honest I don’t think certain popular teenage franchises have done anything good for either race, and I always wonder why it is that werewolves come such a distant second in the race for screen-time. Van Helsing was a crap movie, but at least the werewolves didn’t look like the greasy, oversized rats of Underworld. Vampires get all the glory, in both good and evil, while werewolves seem to be the plight of the accidental and ugly. I guess majority perceptions of furries probably haven’t done any favours to appeal to the eyes of Hollywood (I like anthro characters, but too much sex, guys, seriously). But it still seems unfair when there’s an untapped mythos waiting to be unleashed. Vampires, for all their self-obsessed vanity, are dull and overplayed.
But maybe that’s my inner werewolf talking.