NaNoWriMo 2016: Day Five

Word Count: 1,749
Daily Reward: Cake, in a jar!

 

I'm sorry, I no longer have a record of who drew this one :(

I’m sorry, I no longer have a record of who drew this one 🙁

Verdict:

When I first set out to write this, I was intending to have the story along the lines of “Kataryna fancies Daniel, but Daniel is already betrothed/engaged/involved with someone else”. However, I didn’t want the original love interest (now named “Sorcha”) to be a bitch and create rivalry between the two females. Indeed, the main conflict is going to come from a character that is not introduced yet – namely Tawny LaRoux – and that creating bitchy female relationships is a little too cliched and overdone. So, Sorcha is a nice character – she uses her healing magick to help Kataryna early on, she and Daniel have been friends since they were basically pups. The two are more friends who, by the nature of their birth clans (Lyall and Galbraith) are basically forced to be together by convention rather than intention. What this does do, however, is mean that I have one of two choices for how to deal with Sorcha, or three choices really. One, I can kill her off. This is probably the most dramatic option, but seems unlikely to fit into the plot of this story (unless Tawny gets REALLY nasty, it’s possible!). Two, I can make her fall in love with someone else. This is probably the most convenient solution. The third, is that I keep her alive and write all three into a polyamorous relationship. This is a very tempting idea – and one that might be super-fun to follow up on – but may upset the relationship dynamics of book two. Of course, it’s not impossible to combine Three and One – or even Three and Two. Or, if I felt particularly cruel, Three, Two and One in that order. Or Four, I could make Sorcha asexual.

The idea of creating a polyamorous relationship was something of an ephiphany. You see, as humans living the so-called “Western World” we tend to think of beings as following similar habits as is (traditionally) found in our culture. However, these are not people. These are furrae.  Heck, one of their primary deities is Elysia, Goddess of life and love, and yes, sex too. It is a world of free love and carnal celebration.

And it is a lot of fun writing sexual tension. And then interrupting it. With a llama.

Extract:

“Ye first,” Daniel stepped aside, allowing her to pass. “And take care. There’s a bit of a wee drop on the other side.”
Kataryna nodded and stepped between the pillars. Immediately, she felt that odd tingling across her fur — the sensation of numerous spiders again — then stumbled to an abrupt halt as the ground did, indeed drop away, a mere foot span away. She quickly reined the vertigo under control — she was descended from tree-dwellers after all — and took in the view. Wide steps led down the steep cliff, into a lush green canyon-valley. A valley that surrounded the rising towers, perched on their precarious island, much in the manner of a moot.
“Impressive, aye?” Daniel came up behind her, placed his hand on her shoulder, as though to stop her falling over the edge. With a mere whisker-length between them, his warmth, and his reassuring scent — like honey and spice — that was not, however, the direction in which she was at distinct risk of falling. He stood a full head taller than she, and she resisted, barely, the desire to nestle beneath his chin.
“If I could see the towers, how could I not see this?” Kataryna marvelled.
“Simple geography,” he replied. “It’s below ye line of sight, until ye are literally upon it.”
“But… the poisons? How can you grow a forest here?”
“I canna say I ken the answer to that.” His words blew gently across her head, stirring her hair, as he lowered his muzzle to breathe one word in her fluffy ear, “Magic?”
Kataryna felt her knees turn to jelly. She turned into his arm and rose her head, so that their muzzles almost touched. Her whiskers bristled against his. She inhaled deep his scent. So richly, deeply masculine. His fingers tangled in her hair, gently stroking her scalp.  “Magic,” she whispered. The word came out choked.
Kataryna felt a soft nudge against her side, followed by a more insistent one. Patch — either eager to get in on the action or suspecting Kataryna was hiding something in her pocket. Kataryna pushed the llama away, but it was too late; the moment was broken.
“Are ye two coming or not?” Sorcha’s voice rose from the depths of the valley below. “Or are ye too busy admiring the view?”
“We’d better head down,” Kataryna admitted, with great reluctance.
“Aye.” Daniel’s sigh held more than just exasperation. It held promise. “I’m feared we must.”

NaNoWriMo 2016: Day Four

Word Count: 1,909
Daily Reward: An afternoon nap and an episode of Once Upon a Time.

Illustration by Bronzemistral

Illustration by Bronzemistral (2004)

Verdict:

Wee bit tired today, kinda burned out after a week at work. Still, it’s my day off so I’ve completely my word count by 3:40 pm. My total word count now stands at around 7,264 words. More dialogue. More of Kataryna being somewhat adorably geeky (she’s so enthusiastic about being gifted with a dead roach!). Not sure when to reveal more of Daniel’s back story and his relationship with Jamilyn. Is it more effective to point it out early on or draw it out until her crush has fully seeded itself?

Also, I’m going to run out of fan art of Kataryna and Daniel soon – at least of Kataryna in her pre-Reborne form (not really a spoiler for anyone who has been reading this blog regularly) and Daniel not wearing a loincloth. I’m not sure why everyone seems to draw him wearing a loincloth. I think they were aiming for the Native American vibe (it’s fairly popular amongst wolf furries). Of course, I do have a few NSFW pictures, and some of the two of them together, but the former isn’t appropriate and the latter isn’t appropriate YET. I do want to put up a picture of Fluffy (or just a random tarantula) but don’t want to trigger anyone with arachnophobia. If any of you are artists and wish to provide me with further artwork, I’d be very grateful!

Scrivener: Not entirely sold on Scrivener. If I want to change a character’s name or the spelling of a word (ie: flutterby to fyreflit), I don’t seem to be able to do it across the entire document, but only with individual chapters. This could be a bit tiresome should I try and change Jamilyn’s name in the future.

Extract:

(Context: Kataryna, being stubborn, refused the offer of a bed and chose to sleep on the hard ground. After a night of fitful restlessness, she is awoken…)

…But it wasn’t the dawn that had awoken her, not even the stiffness in her back, her thighs, her entire body. It was the sound of the gate clicking shut. The sound of something scraping across the dirt. She rolled to her knees, ignoring the painful cramps that came with it. “Who’s there?” she whispered into the darkness.
She gasped as she saw it creeping towards her — the gaping mandibles, the bulbous black eyes.
A scrittling. How had it opened the gate?
Fingers scrabbled out, frantic for any sort of potential weapon, but there was nothing except her pack. She clutched it to her chest. Perhaps she could fling it at the monster? Then, just as suddenly, the giant insect lurched forward and crumpled to the ground, limbs limp and bending at weird, unnatural, angles. Dead.
“Dinna fret. It’s just me.” Daniel’s deep voice, complete reassurance that almost sent her melting to the ground in relief. “I dinna mean to scare ye.” He loomed over the fallen scrittling and that was when Kataryna realised that it was one of those slain the evening before. “I brought you a present.” His laugh was a delicious low rumble. “Not quite flowers,” he said. “But I think more to ye taste somehow.”

Random things I googled today:

Chapter Four

NaNoWriMo 2016: day three

Word count: 1,744

Reward for achieving daily goal: sushi and a root beer

Illustrated by Jimi Newman

Illustration by Jimi Newman

Verdict:
Today was a bit of a messy day, writing wise. I had a later start to work – which should have meant I could spend the morning writing, but alas that was not the case. First I had to renew my driver’s licence, then I had to drop something off to a friend at the Mall, then my mother rang and we had a lengthy phone conversation, all meaning that I only just managed to attain the word count for the day with just enough time left over to get to work! Because, if I didn’t achieve the word count before work, I couldn’t reward myself with my intended dinner!

Today my characters spent a lot of time being embarrassed, and engaging in the semi-awkward conversation you get between three people, two of whom know each other quite well, and the third of which does not. Much blushing. Need more synonyms for “embarrassment”!

Scrivener:  nothing new today, or discovered any new traps/pitfalls. All good there! Just gotta be careful of the autocomplete thing. I suppose I *could* disable it, but I kinda like that it corrects my actual typos – just gotta train it into all the other words!

Writing accents is difficult too. I’ve got it down pat for Daniel, but it’s harder to do it for Jamilyn without forcing her to speak in Scottish cliches. I’m actually tempted to change her name to something softer and more feminine.

Extract:

 Partly to hide her discomforting feelings, but also out of genuine interest, Kataryna approached the two pack llamas. The piebald one looked up as she approached, emitting a low humming sound. She stopped, holding up her hands to show that they were empty (Fluffy being nestled back into her coat pocket) and held one out for the animal to sniff. Its nostrils flared, breath steaming warm against her palm.
“Here.” Daniel was beside her, placing something in her palm. A slice of apple. “Hold it flat.” His nearness made her fur tingle and she swallowed back a lump in her throat. Concentrated on the fruit, offering it flat to the beast. The llama’s lips were gentle and soft, plucking it from her hand with barely a brush of contact and leaving a faint sticky trail of juice behind. It lifted its head, long ears upright, dark eyes gentle beneath the long, curled eyelashes.
“Does she have a name?” Kataryna ventured.
“No, not really.” Daniel shuffled a little, and looked faintly, strangely, shame-faced. “Although sometimes I call it Patch. On account of, well, its patches.” He indicated the llama’s spotted hide. Its pelt was short, tight curls.
Kataryna nodded. Liking him even more — if that were possible — at this admission. Furrae were, for the most part, inclined to treat animals as commodities, as objects, not as the sentient beings that they were. “Can I stroke her?” she asked.
Daniel looked surprised at the question, as though the thought would never have occurred to him. “Well, I guess so,” he said. “Just don’t move too fast. Ye dinna want to startle it.” His lips twitched into a grin. “Believe me, ye dinna want to startle it. Also,” he added, “I, err, think it’s actually a boy.”
A quick glance confirmed this declaration and Kataryna kind of wished the ground would just open and swallow her up. She hid her embarrassment by stepping closer to the creature, reaching out and placing her hand on its shoulder blade. The tight curls felt dense, more like wool than fur. The llama, Patch, seemed completely oblivious to her actions, its attentions being more focused on Daniel, and the possibility of another slice of apple.
“Does the white one not have a name too?” The other llama, perhaps seeking some of the attentions Patch was receiving, had raised its head and was studying them with its gentle gaze.
“Err, nay.” Daniel gave a small cough. “I mean, aye. I call it Snow. Because of, well, the colour, ye ken.” He scratched himself behind the ear. “I ain’t too imaginative, when it comes to names.”
Kataryna allowed herself a chuckle. “I can hardly complain. I have a tarantula named Fluffy.”

NaNoWriMo 2016: Day Two

Word count: 2,010

Reward for achieving daily goal: A walk along the river Avon, filling up my Pokemon backpack.

daniel-sumarraVerdict:

Less shaky than yesterday – didn’t even try to write Tail of Two Scions. Just got straight into the fun one. Not really much more to report. Kataryna got attacked by giant cockroaches, poor Fluffy was almost killed, and she was rescued by Daniel – and his golden furred “friend”,  Jamilyn. I am unsure how the Jamilyn/Kataryna story is going to play out. The whole “he already has a girlfriend and I’m jealous of her and she’s a bitch to me” plot is pretty much utterly overdone, and hey, Jamilyn IS a bitch – cos she’s a female wolf. But she’s quite nice. Blue-eyed (maybe she has some husky blood?). Kataryna is way geekier than I initially intended and I love it! She’s hamming up the whole “I’m an entomologist” thing and being a little nerdy show-off. Gonna roll with this. It’s also fun, and a little weird, to try and put in a few little things that make it easily and immediately apparent that she is romantically (or perhaps just sexually) attracted to Daniel. I’m so used to starting with the “we don’t get along or we’re just friends” thing that actually having a character go “Wow, he’s damned sexy and I’d have his children if that were actually genetically viable”* makes for a refreshing change.

Scrivener: have now activated auto-correct on words to avoid the capitalisation issue. Unfortunately, due to misspellings it also sometimes corrects names and also replaces with the wrong word. Think I am now aware why someone in a book I read – not mine! – was “gestating wildly”. Had some fun with the name generator.

Extract:

(Context: Kataryna has just been rescued from two cockroaches, each the size of a large dog.)

“Are ye alright?” A low voice, deep and masculine, almost a growl.
Her eyes rose, to see him, tall and broad shouldered. Long dark hair fell to his shoulders in gentle waves, except for two braids that framed his face. He had the long, broad muzzle of a predator, but his forehead creased in a furrow of concern, mirrored in his amber eyes. His pelt was a thick, rich, almost chocolate, brown, darker about his muzzle and chin. His triangular ears stood alert, twitching slightly, alert to other dangers.
“Can ye stand?” He reached towards her, offered her his hand. The other held a slender sword, insect ichor glistened upon it, in the ever-deepening twilight.
“I’m fine,” Kataryna replied, a little annoyed at the quiver in her voice. Sure, he was rather pleasing to look at — she’d always had a thing for lupines, despite her mother’s distinct disapproval — and his voice was such a rich, deep burr… that accent made the fur on her nape tingle with something that was definitely not fear. It also didn’t hurt that he looked very fetching in his kilt, which showed rather a nice glimpse of his muscular chest and plush black chest-fur. “Thank you,” she added, slipping Fluffy into her coat pocket and accepting his offer of assistance. His fingers were warm and strong as that wrapped about her’s.
“Think nothing of it,” he replied, heaving her to her feet. “Now, tell me lass, whatever were you doing out here, all on your lonesome?”
“Not alone,” she replied. “Not really.” She suddenly become very aware, not only of the male’s nearness and his deep, masculine musk, but also that she was still holding his hand. He seemed to realise at the same time, and they both unleashed their shared grasp and took a step back. “Um, there was another one. Another roach.” She tore her gaze away from his honey-gold eyes and glanced around.

Random odd things I had to stop writing and Google today:

  • The difference between a beetle and a bug – this almost ruined my joke, because I thought a roach was a beetle. Turns out it isn’t a beetle or a bug. Luckily, it’s not a bug, because if it was a bug I would’ve had to delete a few precious sentences!
  • Parts of an umbrella. The canvas-y bit is indeed called a “canopy”.

Also, if you want to read my Work-in-Progress, it’s now linked from the search bar above: Love in Tirra-Inle

[* lemurs and wolves cannot hybridise in my Furritasia world. Or the real world, of course!]

NaNoWriMo 2016: Day One

Word count: 1,666 (Seriously, the first chapter was precisely 1, 666 words long!)

Reward for achieving daily goal: Chai latte and belgium biscuit.

kataryna-Emily-DeLisle

Verdict:

Shaky start. Tried to begin with Tail of Two Scions but wasn’t really feeling the ‘love’ so decided to free it up by writing something fun, something light, something just for me (that I may never share with anyone, muahahaha!). I’ve called it Love in Tirra-Inle for reasons that might become apparent if it goes as planned (And it better goes as planned because it foreshadows two other incomplete stories of mine!).

Scrivener: Doesn’t autocorrect my case-related typos (ie: if I type “KAtaryna” it doesn’t adjust it) which is quite annoying as I type fast and often make that error, but there’s probably a setting for it somewhere? On the plus side, it keeps count of my words as I go, so I can see at a glance instead of compulsively clicking “word count” each time, which is super-nice. Otherwise, it’s a writing program. I’m a little here or there about it, really.

As for writing a romance – well, it’s not a romance yet. The only characters so far have been a grumpy coach-master (unnamed); our protagonist, Kataryna; and her pet named Fluffy. I’ve not identified the species of anything, except the cama (camel/llama hybrids) that the furrae use as draft beasts. If I get annoyed by characters being described only by their ethnicity in human-related fiction,  then it stands to reason* that I should also get annoyed by anthros being defined only as their specicity (look, I invented a word!).

Chapter two, Potential Love Interest will be introduced. This is probably too late in the story for it to be a Mills and Boons romance. But then again, the main character is an anthro lemur, with a pet ?????? called “Fluffy”, who has just been stranded in a desert wasteland.

Pretty sure Mills and Boons are not going to be interested (unless they decide to introduce a Furry-Apocalypse themed range with an entomological bend).

Well, I’m writing and I’m having fun. And I’m going to continue trying to jump between Tail of Two Scions and Love in Tirra-Inle and see if I can at least get into writing again. Heck, if I finish this one I might get it printed up and buy a copy of it, just for LOLs. I might even sell some to a few trusted friends.

Tips for getting up the word count: When your character gets dumped in a wasteland with three bags and can only carry one, list everything she decides to take with her and everything she leaves behind. This serves two additional purposes: it shows you something of her personality, and it also gives you lots of useless dribble that you’ll probably have to edit out later.

Extract:

She had three bags, one bulging with reference books, another with her array of scientific equipment. Much of it too valuable to leave by the side of the road — but also far too cumbersome to carry.  The third, which contained her clothing and other personal affects, she supposed she could sacrifice. Surely Tirra-Inle would have some sort of market. Still, staggering in covered in road-dust and stinking of sweat would probably not make the best first impression. She should probably keep at least one set of fresh clothes. And maybe some soap. Oh, and the remainder of the special “birdseed”-and-nut brownies her mother had packed for her. Packed with nutrients; she’d need the energy. The water flasks, well, they were a definite necessity. Although the Deadlands were interspersed with streams, creeks and all manner of watercourses, none were fit for consumption. Deadlands wasn’t just a clever name. Rainwater was probably safe and she’d have to hope the wildlife wasn’t too toxic — Fluffy couldn’t survive on seeds and nuts. She’d have to take her thick jacket too, for temperatures could plummet into levels of dangerous discomfit when the sun went down. Kataryna’s russet and grey fur wasn’t dense enough to provide much insulation. Her ancestors were better suited to a more tropic climate. Now, the books. Well, her notebook was a no-brainer, along with several (slightly chewed — bad habit) pencils. Never know what she might find out here. Observing from ground level was always better than observing from a carriage. A couple of encyclopedias — there was no way she was leaving “Slater’s Guide to the World of the Creepy and the Crawly” behind. That book was invaluable! She’d need to take her butterfly net. Could always use that to catch flutterbyes to feed Fluffy, although that felt perhaps a little too cruel. Better to let him catch his own. He was hopping around, circling her, scenting the air with his forelegs. Probably the “Idiot’s Guide to Wilderness Survival” would be essential too. Even if her brother had given it to her as a joke. A box of fire-lighters. Damn, her microscope was too bulky. She’d have to leave it behind. She cursed, but there was nobody to listen. Dissection kit, a definite yes. Magnifying lens… well, that could be squeezed in. Compass, yes. Book of before-time tales… she’d have to leave that behind. Waterproof slick, well, that would probably be useful. Still, at least she could leave the umbrella, although the sharp end might make it a useful weapon.

Random Factoids I have learned today:

  • Spiders hear and smell using the hair on their legs.
  • A human can walk around 5 km in an hour.

[* it doesn’t stand to reason.]

Writing Exercise

Today I went to a writers’ workshop, put on by the NZSA and featuring some highly talented and lovely people. The first workshop I attended was hosted by Rachel McAlpine about rekindling one’s love of writing, and Write into Life. We listed the reasons why we weren’t as passionate about it as we once were and I left feeling inspired – so inspired in fact that I’ve switched my internet home page from Facebook into the NaNoWriMo page so that I can remain focused on my writing and not get distracted by US politics or memes.

Something weird happened between workshop 1 and workshop 2 in my head. I’m not sure precisely what, but I went from feeling inspired and excited and positive into feeling a bit of a moody fraud. It certainly wasn’t anything to do with the very talented and well-spoken Mandy Hager. All I can think that triggered it was the book I snatched a quick read of in the interval, Caraval. There was something about the book, which is beautifully written but had a quite twisty-turny plot at that point, that was unsettling my brain. It also didn’t help that the pen I had borrowed earlier, having forgotten my own, then ran out of ink and I had to borrow a pencil from the lovely lady sitting beside me (thanks Wendy!).

"Singing Home the Whale" by Mandy Hager is one of my 2014 Top Picks.

“Singing Home the Whale” by Mandy Hager was one of my 2014 Top Picks.

Anyhow, somewhere along the way, when Mandy Hager began speaking about the theme of the story and finding your character’s voice, my brain started to rebel against me and my, somewhat dubious, talents. I don’t purposely think of themes for my writing generally – the themes come after. Aroha’ Grand Adventure is a story about courage, determination, and dedication. Midsummer Knight’s Quest is about friendship, and how it can help you change and grow as a person (or goblin, or sentient being), and also has an environmental message. Fellowship of the Ringtails doesn’t really have a theme. I suppose one could argue that it’s kind of a David VS Goliath story. Or your typical “farm boy” (or “fishergirl”) is destined to rule the kingdom trope (not that she gets that far in book one). But it’s not something I ever sat down and planned before I began writing.

 

Anyway, we were asked to come up with a slogan about something we were passionate about and I couldn’t think of anything.

Nothing.

At all.

Eventually, after writing “I can’t do this” and “I’m too frivolous”,  I managed to scrawl down: “The environment must be treated better. Stop f**king it up” (and yes, I censored it in my notebook too, I’m that much of a prude).

But then I drew a stalemate when she suggested we then choose a character based on who the theme would affect the most. What was the theme? Which of the 1000s of ways we’re f**king up the environment should I choose? Should I take the easy, but far too predictable route and make the character a penguin caught in discarded netting. That’s not a bad plot for a picture book – but for anything longer it would fail miserably. And what about the other side of the story?

Eventually, through a long and convoluted thought process I somehow ended up with this:

The main character:

“Criminal, arrested for something petty, assigned to cleaning up a city park/area as community service. Along the way, befriends a homeless man – who at first she treats with cruel disdain until somehow he helps her to stop being such a petty middle-class girl with arrogant airs.” (followed up by “this is pretty cheesy and is bound to have been done. I probably ripped it off something“).

As you can see, aside from the mention of cleaning up the park, this is not about the theme I’ve given above – it’s a different theme: How everyone matters and how we all have our own stories.

This was not, by the way, answering the questionaire we had been given at all, which involved the MC’s family, political views and all manner of other things.  I wrote the questions all down for future reference though.

Then we were given a “fill in the gaps” writing exercise, which I started off faithfully following, and then, as per before, started veering off on a tangent. I’ll underline

the bits that were given to us.

It was a cold day. So cold that my fingers tingled numbly and I tugged my scarf tight around my neck. As the crowd entered the park they looked like the degenerates they were: hoodies, low-riding jeans, Doc Marten boots*. Not my kind of people at all. I could smell fresh mown grass, barely masking the stink of urine from the cement toilet block. And all around me mud and puddles and  piles of mown grass muck. The first thing that sprung to mind was why the hell am I here? It was only one tiny jar of nail polish/. Stupid. stupid decision. And plum wasn’t even my colour. That made me remember that the people here – boys mostly, and one girl with close cropped hair and a pierced nose* – were here for their crimes too. What had they done?

What are you staring at?” I barked at one boy – patched jeans, faded t-short. At my words he scowled, narrowed his eyes and stared at his feet.

[* I do realise I’m falling under the terrible influence of the stereotype. This was just a writing exercise. I hope you will forgive me.]

Needless to say, I didn’t volunteer to read out my words. But hey, at least I’m writing…

Now I’m wondering how I could use the above story seed to offer a twist on a fairy-tale for Shelley’s “Wish Upon a Southern Star” anthology. It is tempting to make the MC Goldilocks, sentenced to community service for her crimes, but not sure how I could tie in the beggar without either ruining the Bear family (perhaps her actions caused them to lose their home? and meant “baby” bear was kicked out onto the streets?) or bringing in a cross-over, which would disqualify the story from being in the anthology altogether.

Suggestions?

 

Aurelia and Riana

Aurelia & Raina

Aurelia and her friend Riana, a tanta (aka “Fork Marked Dwarf Lemur)

I haven’t been doing a lot of writing recently, and even less drawing. Sad but true! What I have been doing is a lot of walking (damn you Pokemon Go!) and a fair amount of formatting. I’ve been working on the second anthology for our Writers’ Guild and I think, given the time and effort, that this will be my last combined anthology. The stories are great, and I’ve had a lot of support on the editing process, but wowsies… formatting takes time! However, I’ve gotten two actual paying projects for formatting to work on as well, so we’ll see how that fans out. Maybe one day I will be able to give up the day job…

Meanwhile, I’m trying to prepare myself for NaNoWriMo by: a, clearing out projects out of the way and b, deciding what story to work on.

I’ve several options:

  1. Rewrite “Tail of Two Scions” again.
  2. Rewrite “Furritasia: Reborne” (like I promised I was going to about a month ago).
  3. Finally finish my Pokemon Fanfiction with a Poke-apocalyse story.
  4. Write a series of short chapter books aimed at the 6-9 years market, each featuring a different animal having adventures.
  5. Write a romance/love story (maybe the story between Kataryna Lemieux and Daniel Galbraith)

Anybody wish to help me with suggestions? I suppose I could always try all of the above and switch between them. Seeing which one works for me!

Furritasia: Reborne

katlemurmistie

Illustration by Mistie Newman

It all seemed so hopeless.

To the outside observer, Kataryna Delilah Lemieux appeared to have the ideal life. She was slender, and elegant, with her black and white ringed tail; her rufous brown and grey fur and tufted white ears. She had a job that she enjoyed – rehabilitating abandoned and injured animals –  and she had a mate that loved her, and whom she loved very much: the handsome lupine, Daniel. But inside her, a seed of despair and hopelessness unfurled its poisonous leaves.

It sprouted innocuously, hidden from all.

And outside, the world grew darker, the shadows stretching longer.

It was the scrapbook’s fault.

Kataryna did not really understand why she had begun collecting the articles: cutting and pasting pictures of half starved war orphans in distant Kalimere; stockpiling articles about animals found broken and violated; collating pictures of barren wastelands where forests had been reduced to desert rubble and rivers ran thick with the sludge of pollution. It was a compulsion, a sinister hobby. Whenever she was alone – which was often, for Daniel worked long hours and his family, not accepting of a lemurine/lupine relationship, forbid the two to den together – she would pore over the pages, or search through piles of newspapers and old magazines, seeking new additions for her macabre collection.

And then, one bright and cheerful spring day, as the birds argued in the trees outside and daffodils bent their heads with the wind, it all became a bit too much.

The sprout of despair began to bloom

Taking a jar of sleeping tablets and a naked razor blade, Kataryna filled her claw-footed tub almost to the top, leaving just enough room for the water to displace. She had no wish to flood the bathroom, to leave too much a mess for Daniel, or her landlord – which of the two would find her first? – to clean up. The water was hot, almost painfully so, as she dry-swallowed two of the tablets and eased herself carefully into the watery embrace.

It was harder to make the first cut than she had expected. Slicing a jagged smile across one wrist, and then, with shaking, almost nerveless fingers, the second. She fumbled, dropped the blade, which bobbed away on pink-stained waves. She stared at it, uncomprehending, as a great weariness overwhelmed her. The tablets took her in the clutches, drew her down, down, down into the sanguine tinted water and closed the final curtain over her head.

*

She opened her eyes to a hazy room and the smokey cinnamon scent of incense. Looked up, and met the long, slender muzzle of a canid, a jackal with golden eyes and a flowing black mane.

“You have taken your own life, Kataryna Delilah Lemusu.” Anubis’ voice was low and richly golden, but also tinged with shadows of sorrow.

Kataryna nodded, and stared at her hands, at the jagged scars bisecting her fur. “Yes. I did.”

Anubis reached forward, his long fingers brushing her chin, raising her head so that her eyes met his. “Why?”

“The world was a terrible place.” Kataryna tried to look away, but his grip was firm and she could not, so she closed her eyes instead. “I could not bear to be a part of it anymore.”

Anubis gave a short sharp bark of laughter, although there was no humour in it. “The world is a terrible place,” he admitted, “but what did you do for it?”

Kataryna frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Did your presence make it worse?” His long ears pricked forward and he tilted his head at her. “Or did you help to heal it?”

A great sinking feeling settled on Kataryna’s narrow shoulders. She had done nothing, nothing of consequence. Saved a few animals; donated a few reds when the collectors came calling. Pointless little droplets in a sea of despair. “There is nothing that can be done,” her voice came out a hoarse whisper, “the problem is too big. The world is dying. Nothing anyone can do will save it.”

“That,” said Anubis, “is where you are wrong.” A single tear trickled down his cheek and he caught it on his finger. Bringing his hand to Kat’s face, he ran the tear-stained finger down her forehead. “One person can change things. Maybe not save the world, but one tear is scarcely alone, is it not?” He placed his hands on her shoulders. “Kataryna Lemusu, I am sending you back. And you will not be allowed your final rest until the world no longer needs you. This is your curse. If you sit back on your haunches and do nothing, then you will be nothing. You must take action, for every teardrop counts.”

Then he leaned forward, his muzzle brushing against hers, forehead pressed to forehead, his long ears tickling the sides of her head. A darkness descended, crashing in, consuming her, and whirling her away into a tornado of stars.

*

Sunlight danced across her eyelids, teasing her awake. She stirred, finding herself curled around her tail. Roused herself, the ground crinkling and rustling beneath her.

“Where am I?” she pondered, then recollection, recognition came and with it the flood of despair, of guilt.

She was lying in a pile of autumn leaves. She had taken her own life, spoken with Anubis and then re-awoken here.

“Am I dead, or am I alive?” she wondered, struggling into a crouch. There was something strange and heavy, wrapped about her shoulders, down her back. “What have I done?” She held up her hands, staring at the jagged scars – one long and deep, the other rugged and short, a clumsy incompetent mess. “Daniel,” his name came to her lips, along with crushing pain. Had he been the one to find her? Had there been anything to find? “What have I done to you?”

She tried to shrug off the heavy cloak that dragged her down, but it moved with her. Reached back, touched it, fingers brushing against the warm, soft warmth of feathers.

Feathers?

A glance, and then another, as though to prove to herself that what she saw were true.

Wings. She had wings.

Now that she saw them, she could feel her blood coursing through them, feel the muscles that controlled them, just as she could feel those in her fingers and her feet. She flexed those muscles, unfurling one wing, running her fingers along the silky feathers; feeling their barbs clutch to one another, smoothing them back in place.

“Can I fly?” The thought was too terrifying to ponder on for long, and she dismissed it. A glance at her surroundings and she saw, lying in the leaves, three objects.

A mirror, a cloak and a rolled scroll.

Her fingers fell first to the mirror, but it held not her reflection – and how might that have changed? – but the gentle face of Anubis, gazing out at her with compassion in his golden eyes.

You have been reborn for a purpose, Kataryna Lemusu. Do not fail me.”

The image blurred and changed, but she could still hear the words, but not through her ears – directly in her head. “You are dead to him now, Kataryna. There can be no return from the other side of Heaven.”

As the image gained clarity she threw the mirror against a tree, glass shattering.

For in the mirror she had seen him, her beloved Daniel, holding her limp, damp and bloody form; brushing his muzzle against her cheek – as though begging her to return to life.

rebirth-kat

Illustration by Angela Oliver, 2003


furritasia-cover2003Furritasia: Reborne” was first written and serialised in 2002, via Livejournal (Lemurkat_Studio). It was never completed, and was abandoned in favour of its sequel, “Scavengers of the Deadlands“. However, the characters are still near and dear to my heart, and their stories deserve to be told. Thus, I shall endeavour to present here, weekly, a new installment, rewritten with greater emotional depth and detail, and less grammatical errors. Please join me on my journey.

Illustrations will be provided, where available, thanks to the online community that supported and encouraged me in the early days of Furritasia (2000-2005).

(and yes, the “reborne” is intentional, not a typo, more of a pun)

Anthropomorphic Animal People (aka: Furries)

The furry fandom is a subculture interested in fictional anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics. Examples of anthropomorphic attributes include exhibiting human intelligence and facial expressions, the ability to speak, walk on two legs, and wear clothes. Furry fandom is also used to refer to the community of people who gather on the Internet and at furry conventions.

  • wikipedia “Furry Fandom”

I first connected with the internet seriously in the early part of this century, and immersed myself in online communities and cultures. Along the way, I discovered Furries. Now, the Furry Community was one of the friendliest, but also one of the most mocked, on the internet at the time – and they possibly are still rather misunderstood today. I created a Fursona (Furry persona), put up auctions for both stories and art on Furbid, and shared my art via VCL, spending most of my time on Yerf’s forums (but lacking in the artistic ability to actually become a member). Sadly, all of those sites are now long defunct, VCL has been archived, but is still viewable, Yerf has vanished altogether and Furbid has been replaced by Furbuy, which seems to attract sellers but not-so-many buyers. And truth be told, my art was somewhat substandard at the time and most of the auctions were purchased by the same fellow, a fellow how probably kept most of lower-tier artists afloat.

Now, whilst I enjoy drawing animal people – as has been noted in previous entries, I favour animal, or animalistic, characters over humans – I have never believed that I actually was the spirit of a lemur trapped in a human’s body, nor have I ever engaged in anything dubious or dodgy, either wearing a fursuit or not. I just prefer drawing, and writing, animal characters to humans. I have a vast cast of Furry characters, beginning with Kataryna Delilah Lemusu, a ring-tailed lemur.

conbadge-kat Kataryna began life as a regular ring-tailed lemur-morph: brownish-red fur, white belly, long striped tail. Then one day, in a fit of artistic angst, I killed her off. Slashed her wrists in the bathtub, in fact. I’m not sure what happened to that illustration – it’s probably lying around in a drawer somewhere – but anyhow, she was unable to stay dead: Anubis sent her back from the Afterlife, tasking her with the duty of helping others, and saving other people’s lives. She was reborn, as an angel. For a few months, I actually wrote her story as a serial via Livejournal (also now largely defunct, as the users all migrated to Facebook) and have archived it on my Fictionpress site, if you want to read it (it’s poorly edited, sorry). Naturally, I never quite got around to finishing it. I was too fickle in my writing, and I don’t think I finished a single story between 2000-2008 (when I wrote, finished, edited and, eventually, published, Midsummer Knight’s Quest). Despite not being finished, it did spawn a sequel, Scavengers of the Deadlands (also unfinished) which you can read the first ten-or-so chapters of here.

One day I shall finish them … one day!

Although I did move away from the Furry forums around 2005 (and shortly after, Yerf closed, the two events are entirely unrelated), I still drew the occasional bit of Furry Art, and the characters still remained alive, begging their tails to be told. Fellowship of the Ringtails is technically furry, although the characters are actually little changed from their earth counterparts in appearance, and mainly anthropomorphic in behaviour. I was also accepted into the Furry Writers Guild, much to my surprise and delight! And, with any luck, will see some of my short stories published in future anthologies. This may encourage me to reincarnate my Furry characters, dust off the manuscripts and get them published!

I have also written Poke-morph Fanfiction, and you can read that story here: Pookamon: Quest for Freedom AND it actually IS finished!

 

 

 

Writing Non-human Characters

It occurred to me a while ago, that I just don’t seem to write many human characters. Even my mostly-human characters: Niamh for example, have some inhuman traits.  Indeed, the only time human characters ever show up in my story is either as a side character, or in my short stories.  Even Dirk Lord-Rainer, who is a POV character for a portion of Midsummer Knight’s Quest, only plays a fairly minor role compared to Hemlock, the goblin.

So, why do I favour non-human characters?

First and foremost, I love animals, plus I have a zoology degree and I’m not afraid to use it to educate while I entertain.

Other reasons you might choose to write non-human protagonists:

  • Challenge, to explore the world from a different perspective.
  • Adds an extra quirk to a fairly mundane or traditional plot idea.
  • Allegory or parable.
  • FUN.

Non-human characters can range from realistic style animals (Incredible Journey, Watership Down), through to anthropomorphic animal-people (aka Furries). Generally speaking, I prefer to read animal-protagonist novels in which the animals behave much like their wild counterparts, but with increased insight and complex communication, or truly anthropomorphic ones, where the characters still show some of their natural animal traits. The movie, Zootopia, is an excellent example of this. However, shows like Arthur, where the characters are basically just children that happen to look like animals, don’t interest me.

Of course, “non-human” can also refer to werewolves, elves and many other near-human species.

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to deal predominantly with mostly-realistic animal characters (I’ll talk about writing Furries at a later date).

The first thing to do when writing an animal character is RESEARCH. I watch documentaries, read books, look up information on the internet. Remember, if you get one facet wrong there is someone out there who will notice and most zoologists aren’t shy about correcting errors! Of course, the more popular your animal is, the more is known about them, so not only will you have a plethora of information at your hands, there will also be more folks out there looking to correct any errors you might make. If you are making up the species, as I did with my goblins, then you can create as crazy an ecology as you like, but remember to keep it consistent!

Next you need a plot, and with that, CONFLICT. Is your character wild or domestic? If domestic, you could write a family drama from the animal’s perspective – The Last Family in England (aka The Labrador Pact) by Matt Haig is an excellent example of this. Murder mysteries seem popular too: why have several cats in the neighbourhood been found dead? Sit down and brainstorm a list of possible adventures that your domestic cat or dog could get up to. For both domestic and wild animals, there is the classic theme: trying to get home/find a new home, in which either the original habitat is destroyed (Animals of Farthing Wood) or the animal is taken from his/her home and must find her way back (Far From Home Cats). Survival in general is also a popular theme, (ie: Black Beauty and Bambi), but you will still need the plot to build to something – whether it be the battle for dominance to claim his position as head of the herd, or that final hurdle before being reunited with their owner or finding their forever home.

Even animal characters need PERSONALITY. They should always be a character first, animal second.  They should have needs and wants, hopes and dreams – and forces (be it another character, or nature) acting against their achievement of these. Cliches are fairly common in animal-driven narratives: cats are sly and manipulative, dogs dependable and loyal, but it is fun to twist the stereotypes. After all, hyenas are generally portrayed as scheming and malicious thieves and rogues, but did you know that they do regularly hunt their own food (not just steal it), have a matriarchal society and form strong clan bonds, not entirely dissimilar to the oft-romantisied wolf?

Whether your animal character is predator or prey, pet or stray, it can be fun to delve into the world, look at it from a different perspective (don’t forget the senses!) and challenge yourself to write something different.