Sci-Fi & Fantasy Authors

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A group for Sci Fi, Speculative and Fantasy authors to discuss the genres, and critique each other's work. 

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Looking for a bit of feedback on back cover blurb, and first chapter of my Science Fiction novel 'The God Of Edever'. As fellow writers and (probably) readers of the genre, does this grab your attention?

The God Of Edever 

When an ancient artefact is discovered, the lives of eight teenagers are changed forever. The legends say a conflict with the Gods once brought the people to the edge of extinction as the magic left the world. Now deep in the forest, something strange has awoken, something old and burdened with purpose. It has chosen them, and willing or not, they must brave the ruins of a fallen world to save the future. But the journey is full of danger, and not everyone wants them to succeed. 

One: Evil in the Forest

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

* it was old, the damage it had sustained had left it barely able to function * it needed to heal, and so it began growing into the surrounding spaces, seeking nutrients and minerals * tendrils stretched for miles as it recovered, regathering what had been lost * but the process was sluggish, too few resources available to assist in the task * the one thing it had in abundance however, was patience * the passing of the years meant little to it, and what began as a small spark of purpose, gradually edged towards consciousness * it used the meagre energy from the red sun to power its progress * there were strange things in the dark, new patterns alien yet familiar * it sought knowledge and understanding * after the planet had circled its star twelve hundred times, it had regained enough of itself to remember, and was now suffused with unfamiliar feelings * it found a new source of energy that it could drink of greedily and began to grow more rapidly * after so much time, the need to act had suddenly become urgent * it reached out, seeking long forgotten paths * many were dead, but eventually it heard an echo * a trace of something it knew, and it tapped on the window to be let in * 

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Harrid thought it had been a long, hard, and frustrating day as he picked his way among the Shrike Vines. Their purple leaves were thick with an oily underside that exuded beads of sap. It would capture insects in a sticky embrace. Using his Mak, a long slightly curved heavy knife, to cut them out of the way, was just spreading more of the stuff all over him. Even his hair was tacky. One half had adhered to the side of his head, while the other stood up in a ridiculous looking tuft that he couldn’t smooth down. He wiped his free hand on the front of his shirt and turned back to Jax.

‘Jax, can you invent something to get us out of here? This is stupid.’ 

She stared at him and shook her head in exasperation, not bothering to answer. He had led them both out into this part of the forest on the promise she would see something special. Multiple insect bites, and a rash from some Thornwhip, had taken the edge off any anticipation she might have felt. The sun was right above them and sharp beams mottled the floor of the forest, having found their way down through the red leaves of the trees above them. Tiny flies swarmed in their thousands in the golden light, their hard wing scales creating a low rustling.

Jax regarded Harrid critically, his shirt and trousers were covered in the sticky Shrike Vine juice, and although she had been careful to avoid it, it was all over her trousers as well. They both wore off-white shirts with rope laces at the front. The cloth was stiff and scratchy when it was first made. It came from the inner bark of the Coton Tree which yielded long stiff tubes when harvested. After treatment, this could be woven into clothing that would soften with age. Jax was irritated that she had chosen a new shirt to wear, and it was itching. At least the trousers were comfortable. These were light brown and made from animal skins. and were soft and hard wearing, like her high boots. Harrid was similarly dressed, but his trousers were black.

Jax had light brown hair, which she always wore pulled back into a ponytail where it dangled most of the way down her back, a common style in the village. Her eyes were an ordinary shade of light brown, and her face was scattered with freckles, which she hated. She was conscious of her right hand, which was missing its thumb and forefinger as a result of a childhood accident. This injury was doubly unfortunate, as she had been born into the Jinner clan. Jinners were the artificers who built things around the village, and good dexterity was a prized attribute for someone who had aspirations to be a Jeefa, a senior role in the clan. Jax had a quick and inquisitive mind and had it not been for this accident, she would already have been at the forefront of consideration for such a position in the future. She was determined, despite the challenges, to become a Jeefa Jinner one day.   

In contrast, Harrid had black hair and startling blue eyes. He was slightly scruffier, perhaps the suggestion of a beard appearing, and marginally taller than Jax. He was a member of the Xeti clan. The natural leaders of the other clans. Jeefa Xeti were by default the ultimate decision makers in their village, all the other clans deferred to them. 

Where they had obvious differences, they were similar in less visible ways. One of which was their shared curiosity and outlook on life. Harrid was always out exploring the woods around the village, often not returning back until the last light disappeared in a deep red smear on the horizon. 

They had met while Jax was experimenting with something she had been working on, some distance from the settlement. Confident that she had gone far enough that she wouldn’t be discovered. She had found some old drawings of a bow that could be used with one hand to fire small bolts with tremendous force. Her early attempts at reproducing the device from the drawings, which had been badly faded, were a failure.

The problem was that she couldn’t get the short bow to cock into the firing position, it was too hard to pull back the string. Letting the tension out of the string reduced the power. The dilemma perplexed her for days. Eventually she figured out that the long shaft of wood under the body of the little bow, just visible on the drawing, was a lever. If this was positioned properly, it could be used to pull the string back with ease.   

She had been testing her new design, on a target affixed to a tree, when Harrid had walked around it, eating a Globefruit. Before she could stop herself, she had squeezed the trigger and the sharp bolt, now travelling with lethal velocity, sped across the gap between them. It buried itself inches deep in the target which had been attached to the tree at about head height. 

As the missile missed him by scant inches, Harrid just stopped where he was, juice running down his chin. Jax froze, not sure how he would react. ‘You could have killed me,’ he said in a matter-of-fact way. 

‘Sorry, but how was I to know you would walk around the tree I was testing my hand bow on. You should be more careful,’ replied Jax defensively.

‘What are you, a Jinner?’ asked Harrid. ‘Why are you all the way out here anyway?’ He pointed at the hand bow. ‘If that’s a weapon, it should be made under the direction of the Sek.’ It immediately became clear that he was less interested in his close brush with death, than he was with what she had made.

Jax didn’t want the Sek to know what she was up to, which as the boy had pointed out, was something she shouldn’t be doing without their permission. She decided to go on the offensive now. ‘None of your business what I am doing. You wouldn’t understand anyway, by the looks of you.’

‘Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?’ he replied looking hurt. ‘Besides I’m a Xeti, so it is my business.’ He stood up straight and threw the remains of the globe fruit into the undergrowth. Pulling up his sleeve he showed her his wrist. The clan tattoo of the Xeti was unmistakable.

Jax remembered thinking at the time, she should have just stayed quiet. Now this boy could go back to the settlement and tell the Elders that she had been making a weapon without permission. She’d be in a lot of trouble and probably get put on menial work for weeks. She started to blurt out a flustered response when he smiled. 

‘Relax, the Sek are mostly bullies and idiots anyway. I won’t turn you in.’ She frowned at him, and he added. ‘Providing you show me how that thing works.’

She had been about to refuse, but quickly decided that further antagonizing him would likely be a mistake. ‘All right, come over here.’    

They had spent the next two hours firing practice shots at the tree. Harrid had been impressed with her invention and they both agreed that while it would be frowned upon, the existence of the hand bow should remain undisclosed for now. And so, they entered into a pact, not to share it with anyone else. 

‘Besides,’ Harrid had pointed out, ‘it’s not a weapon, it’s a tool.’ Jax had asked him what he thought it was a tool for. 

‘Making holes in trees,’ he had replied with a laugh. 

From then on, they met regularly for exploration in the forest, and the secret of the hand bow was something they kept between them. They became friends and talked about what their plans were for the future. Harrid wasn’t keen on taking up any sort of leadership position, which was the proscribed role of someone from the Xeti. He confessed he found people difficult, and this was one of the reasons he went off for sojourns in the woods. Jax conversely, made no secret she wanted to rise up through the ranks of the Jinners to become a Jeefa one day. Although, she had pointed out, this would be difficult with her hand. Who would trust her enough to give her responsibility for one of the big settlement building projects?

‘I would,’ Harrid had replied. 

From the first Harrid liked Jax, and he could tell she liked him too. A perennial topic of conversation was their lack of understanding about why young people had to follow strict rules. One of which was only forming long term relationships with someone from their own clan. While anyone could mingle with anyone else when they were growing up, as you got older there were more restrictions placed around who you could talk to. Eventually, you would have to make a life promise and bond with someone from your own clan. Bonding with anyone outside was forbidden, and on the rare occasion it did happen, the result was exile to the Cols. 

The Cols were a group of people who lived lower along the valley, by the Abandoned Places. They were generally looked down upon by the clans. Cols society was unstructured in comparison, and this translated for some into a lack of refinement and general attainment in what they considered civilised society.   

Both Harrid and Jax were now coming of age and Harrid’s parents were already pointing out potential partners in the Xeti for him. Jax had explained the same was happening with her, but she wasn’t interested in any of the choices put forward. 

Out here was a refuge from all of that. Deep in the forest where no one could see them, there was no reason why they couldn’t carry on meeting with each other. They were unlikely to be spotted and reported on. The woods became their escape from life and they set off whenever they could to try an invention of Jax’s, or discover something new. Despite the dangers posed from the creatures that lived here, they never felt in any peril, and were always mindful of where they were and what they were doing. Until today that was.

Harrid had to admit he was lost. He had found a segment of what he thought might be the Life Tree a few days ago on a solo expedition. What he had assumed to be its thick trunk was lying across the ground, completely covered by growth. Jax had been in the Jinner school getting some education on something to do with water and pressure, but he knew she would be desperate to see it. He was dismayed to realise that he now couldn’t find it again to show her.

He wasn’t actually sure he had found a piece of the legendary tree that was said to have reached all the way up to heaven. When he was much younger, his mother had told him that at the beginning of the world, the God of Edever had sent life from the sky down along its trunk and this was where all the clans had come from. Stories told how it had been cut down in the Fall, generations ago. Some said you could find it stretching across the ground in a line to the stump of the Life Tree itself. That was rumoured to be far away to the west, and no one Harrid had ever spoken to would be foolish enough to venture such a distance from the settlement to try to find it. Legends made out it was so tall that the fallen trunk had stretched for as far as the eye could see.

Harrid took most of these stories with a heavy dose of scepticism. For something so big, it seemed incredibly difficult to find a piece. Yet there were many strange things around. Beyond the Abandoned Places at the edge of the forest, was the great Silver City which shone bronze in the sunlight. It was an empty structure from old times. No one was meant to go there; it was said to be haunted and dangerous. Everyone knew those huge decaying buildings made of a strange material that rose high from the jungle, with vines growing around and through them, were out of place and alien. 

From time-to-time people found odd artifacts that had been made by some magical means no one could now reproduce.  These were collected and stored by the Istrans. The strange religious group existed everywhere, even among the Cols. The Xeti themselves would sometimes consult with them to determine what to do about certain problems. They were the custodians of all the religious teachings that formed the basis of the stories Harrid and everyone else had heard as a child.  What he had recently found was certainly odd, perhaps worthy of their attention. Whether it was the fragment of a tree that had gone all the way to heaven, Harrid doubted. But it was out of place here and far too large to be moveable. 

At least it wasn’t too hot today. It had been about twenty hours since sunrise. The Keeper was directly overhead, orange in the blue sky. You could occasionally see it through gaps in the forest canopy. He brushed his hair out of his eyes and found to his dismay, that he had rubbed sticky sap in them as well. He now had fuzzy vision to go with the large piece of hair sticking up rigidly from his scalp. He attempted to rub them clear with mixed results. He tore a Cloth Leaf off its stalk. The plant had large dark green leaves, almost black, with white veins running along them, that grew close to the ground. Screwing the leaf up, he wiped the blade of his Mak, to rid it of the sticky residue from the Shrike Vine. He was in a mess, and Jax didn’t look much better. He could tell she was getting irritated. 

He was about to give up and turn back for home when he saw the cluster of Stick Trees near to where he had found the suspected piece of trunk. He recognized them, as they had grown too close together and rather than standing straight up, in an effort to reach the sunlight by the most direct route, they had begun to twine in and out of each other, forming a sort of giant basket. 

‘Jax,’ he called out, ‘It’s over there.’

‘What is?’ she asked. ‘This had better be good.’

‘Come on,’ he grabbed her hand and led her over to the Stick Trees. There was a large mound covered in moss, running in a line about ten feet high and fifteen feet across. It gradually reduced in size until the ground was flat again some distance away in either direction. He indicated to Jax a small section of the mound that he had cleared the soil from earlier. There, something that had been hidden by dirt, was now exposed. A dark shiny surface with glittering points of light embedded beneath it. 

‘Keeper and the Sisters’, said Jax. ‘Is this a part of the Life Tree?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Harrid. ‘But it fits the descriptions in those stories the Istrans go on about.’

He began clearing more of the earth and vegetation away from the object. Where the sunlight touched, it scintillated with reflected light, and then sparks appeared, shooting along the exposed length disappearing under the soil. 

‘Can you get a piece of it off?’ asked Jax. 

‘No. I’ve tried, it’s as hard as anything. I gave it a good whack with my Mak, but it didn’t even leave a scratch.’ She looked at him as if she was about to ask him to try again. Before she could say anything, he added, ‘I don’t want to hit it again, it will probably damage the blade.’

Jax ran her hands along the smooth surface. It was cool to the touch and unlike any other plant she had seen. ‘They say that things came and went from heaven along the trunk of the Life Tree. Gifts from Edever, knowledge that has been forgotten for centuries.’ She pointed upwards to where you could see the bright point that always appeared on the western horizon. If they had been clear of the jungle, it would have been visible even in the middle of the day. It always remained in the same place and unlike the other stars, it would disappear at some point in the night. This pattern was regular and unchanging. Everyone called it the light of Edever.

‘You don’t believe in that old rubbish, do you?’ he asked. 

‘Didn’t you believe your parents when they told you stories about long ago? How we hurt the God and the Little War caused us all to be cast out from heaven in the Fall?’ Jax knew he didn’t, he thought it was all superstitious nonsense.

‘Don’t tell me you believe in it? It thought you were the practical, grounded one’, he said it in a teasing way. He knew Jax was probably more sceptical than he was about what she was told. She certainly questioned everything far more than he did.  

‘Perhaps there are things the Jinners are forbidden to tell anyone outside their clan,’ replied Jax arching her eyebrows mysteriously, ‘Secret knowledge, too powerful to share.’ Harrid was looking intrigued, but she was just teasing him. ‘No, I think it’s all made up to keep children amused. The tales about the Glitter Men who would steal you away into the forest if you misbehaved and the haunted Silver City, it’s just to make sure you don’t wander off and get into trouble when you are too small.’ 

Harrid remembered being terrified of the Glitter Men coming to get him when he was little. ‘What do you think this is though?’ he asked pointing at the strange material. ‘I told you I had found something interesting.’

Jax looked at him and smiled, ‘It is fascinating. And I thought you were just trying to get me out here with you.’

‘Well yeah, that too,’ said Harrid and smiled back. 

Jax was just about to come over to him and Harrid thought they might end up embracing or even stealing a kiss, which would have sent the Elders into a fit, when there was a high-pitched scream from deeper in the woods. They immediately stopped to listen. The scream came again moments later, and then another voice, a girl shouting for help. 

‘Someone’s in trouble,’ said Jax and they both set off in the direction of the calls. 

They followed the forest paths as best they could. It wasn’t a straight line to the sounds of distress, but the going would be quicker if they didn’t have to hack their way through Shrike Vines or other equally bothersome vegetation.  The scream came again, and they hurried up their pace. Breaking through into a clearing, where there were a number of large boulders around an open circle of forest floor, they saw two girls. One was lying on her back and clutching at her arm; it was a reasonable assumption she was the one who had been screaming. Now she was only producing a low moaning sound. Holding her head in her arms, the other girl, with long blond hair was looking around and calling out for help. On the ground beside her was a backpack and a tall walking staff. 

Harrid saw the inert body of a Tree Sloth, off to one side. The thick leathery hide was matted with blood, and it lay over one of the rocks. Next to it, a tree branch was shattered. It looked like the Sloth had attacked the two girls and one of them had killed it using the branch as a club. Harrid knew the Sloths waited, hanging from a line they spun out of a set of glands on their backs, and as their prey passed below, they would drop down behind and inject a quantity of toxin into their victim, using a spur that protruded from either thumb. The venom was very painful and left untreated would kill a frail person or young child. 

Jax ran over to the girls and assessed the situation. The injured girl had now passed out and was lying limply in the arms of the other one. ‘We need to get her back to Hoag’s father, he will be able to administer an antidote to the sting.’ She was talking at a hundred miles an hour as she usually did. ‘We should bind the arm.’ Harrid immediately went in search of some Chord Grass and more Cloth Leaf.

She looked at the blond girl. ‘Are you uninjured?’. The girl nodded. ‘I’m Jax, that’s Harrid,’ she said pointing. ‘What’s your name?’

‘My name’s Leea and this is my sister, Saffy,’ she replied. Jax could see she had been crying. 

‘How did the Sloth get you?’ asked Jax. ‘You know they hang in trees.’

‘We weren’t paying attention,’ replied Leea. ‘We had to get to the Xeti to take them the things we found, a punishment by the Elders for going where we shouldn’t. Saf thought we were getting lost, so we started arguing about whether to go back or not. The Sloth came down behind me, but Saf pushed me out of the way, and it scratched her on the arm with its spur. It had started to come down to the floor to attack again, so I hit it with a branch I picked up and killed it.’ Leea was trembling in shock as all of this came out at once.    

‘So, it didn’t get you?’ Jax asked to be sure. Leea shook her head. 

‘What Clan are you from?’ asked Jax, as Harrid retuned with a length of Chord Grass and leaves and began binding the wound on Saffy’s arm. 

‘We’re from the Col’s village,’ replied Leea. 

Harrid stopped what he was doing and looked across at her. ‘You’re a Col then? You shouldn’t even be up here in the deeper forest. You know you’re meant to stay down in the valley. You were asking for trouble.’ 

Visits from the inhabitants of the Col Village were very rare and the reverse was equally true. There was no hostility between the two settlements, they were just different peoples. With years of being brought up in the Clans, Harrid couldn’t hide an underlying disdain in his voice. Jax gave him a sharp look and he immediately felt guilty. He was about to apologise when Leea flushed with anger.  

‘I don’t expect you to understand. You aren’t any different to anyone else from the Clans. Not one of you thinks Cols can do anything useful. Constantly looking down on us. I suppose if you knew who we were, you wouldn’t have helped us.’

‘Hang on a minute,’ said Harrid. ‘We’re helping you aren’t we? It’s not my fault that Cols have a certain reputation. No one else had as much to do with the Little War and the Fall as your people.’

‘How can any of us know what truth there really is in the stories of things that might have happened centuries ago,’ replied Leea. ‘What was that to do with me? Besides you don’t believe children’s stories do you?’

Harrid was just about to reply that there must be some truth to the legends when he remembered the conversation, he and Jax had been having earlier. ‘Of course not, but other people put a lot of faith behind them. I’m just saying, you shouldn’t be up here. Then you wouldn’t have gotten into this mess.’

‘We had to come. I’ve already told your friend. We have something the Xeti need to see. We were told by our Elders to bring it up to the Clan Village.’

‘What is it?’ asked Jax. ‘Harrid’s a member of the Xeti clan.’

‘He’s not of age though,’ replied Leea, eyeing Harrid with suspicion. ‘This needs to be told to an Elder, a Jeefa.’

‘I’m nearly of age,’ said Harrid in an indignant tone. ‘Who do you think you are, talking to Clan like this?’ He was annoyed with himself a soon as he said this. Some of what Leea had said had struck a nerve. He knew he was being irrational.

Jax put her hand on his arm to stop him saying anything else and adopted a more conciliatory tone. ‘What’s so important that you would risk walking through the forest? Especially since you were likely to face an uneasy welcome from us?’ she asked. 

‘We found something at the borders of our land in the Abandoned Places. On the outskirts of the Silver City. Something strange,’ she replied. 

‘What do you mean strange?’ asked Jax. 

‘Those old stories’ said Leea. ‘Despite what I just said, at least some of it might be true after all.’

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Hey guys... haven't posted on this board in a while, so thought I'd come visit!  I'm trying to write a short story, which is hard for me, as everything wants to turn into a novel!! Anyway, I have created this medieval style world, which all my novels are set in, and so is this short story...

The basic premise is that a Warlock is teaching a group of apprentices... but he is a very bad teacher, he hates kids, and they hate him... The opening two lines are:

Warlock Denton Silpepper was the worst teacher the Citadel ever had.

Everyone said so, and they couldn’t [all] be wrong.

FYI, I have ALL italicized in my Word version, not sure how to do that here, so used [ ]...

Anyway, I've reached the point where the boys try to play a trick on him, which backfires... This is my first draft, but can you take a peek and offer any suggestions or thoughts? I think the only other things you need to know are that Caelon is the head master type person, and Bulmont is the class bully... Thoughts are in italics again, so more [ ]

Here's the scene:

Telling this group of boys something was forbidden was like waving a red cloak in front of a marsh hog. Both were equally likely to land you in a mess of trouble.

Denton groaned, thinking of the reaming Caelon would give him for this error in judgement. He jumped up, promptly stepping on the hem of his robe, tripping himself, and tumbling back to the ground.

Rubbing his wounded dignity and dented head, he finally made it to the door, his torn robe trailing behind him, and attempting to tangle around his ankles

As he threw the common room door open, he startled five boys sitting around a chalk circle. There were herbs and spices in a bowl in the centre, which smoked slightly from the tiny flames Bulmont was shooting into it.

They were chanting, though broke off in dismay as their Master burst into the room. Denton rushed forward.

“No, no, no, you mustn’t.”

Afterwards, no one could say exactly what happened, but it’s likely that Denton tripped as the torn piece of his robe wrapped around his ankles.

In any case, he fell forward, smearing the containment line the boys had drawn, and spilling the burning herbs all over himself.

There was a sudden cloud of smoke, which set everyone coughing and retching. A flash of brilliant light finished the job of blinding them the smoke had started, and the boys heard a hideous scream, which effectively choked off any sounds they were making.

In the sudden silence, a bedroom door opened, and a small voice spoke.

“What the bloody hell have you fools done?” Kyler asked.

That was an excellent question, what had they done?

Waving their arms and robes, they attempted to clear the smoke away, until Kyler remembered they were Warlocks. He cast a small wind charm to clear the air before they attracted the attention of other Masters.

Master Denton groaned and picked himself up. He felt distinctly odd. His vision was strange, perhaps he’d lost his glasses…

As he reached for his face, two large paws with vicious claws swiped at him. He jerked backwards, pushing them away, and the paws turned and slapped away from him.

“MY HANDS!” He said… or rather, tried to say.

What filled the room was a shrill chittering. Denton jerked his head to look down at his toes, which were tingling oddly… only his body wasn’t his anymore. His thin frame and tattered robes had been replaced by something that looked like the bulk of a hog, with long rough bristles of hair.

“NO!” Denton… squealed… and ran from the room on all fours.


He rushed into his room, and straight through into his bathing chamber, where he stopped short in front of the full length mirror. He reared back, horrified.

A… creature… stood looking back at him. A hideous, odious, repulsive, abhorrent… thing was watching him. Without looking down at it, he lifted one hand. The monstrosity in the mirror lifted a paw. He tilted his head. The beast did the same.

It was… him.

He stared. Pale green bulging eyes, with large black pupils stared back from a small triangular face. He’d been right about the hog body, he could see the round tummy and buttocks of a swine, and feel the coarse hair bristle as he moved.

An ear twitched, drawing his eyes upwards. Large, wide ears, sat on either side of his head, slightly higher than on a human, but not up on top like a rabbit.

[Bat,] he thought distractedly.

The bulging eyes bothered him, so he moved his gaze downwards, but that wasn’t much better. A bulbous pink nose flared as he watched, and he realized he could smell so many scents it was hard to identify them. His human nose had been much less sensitive… if he’d had this nose sooner, he’d have made sure they cleaned his bathing chamber better.

The nose wrinkled at the odors of damp and mildew, forcing a tiny horn just above his nose to twitch.

“I have a horn…” Denton said, and he saw the thing’s mouth move, but what came out was only more squeaking.

His attention had fastened on his teeth at this point, and he wasn’t thinking about his voice any more. He spread his lips, gazing in disbelief at the long, yellowed… fangs that filled his mouth.

They overfilled it… over filled it really, as four of the longest, a top and bottom on each side, overhung his lips and threatened to pierce his face.

Hardly daring to examine himself, but needing to know the worst, he let his gaze drop further. Instead of hog’s trotters, his feet seemed to be padded, like a dog or a wolf. Though from the size of the thick, pointed nails protruding from his toes, more like a bear, or a lion.

With something approaching shyness, he peeked between his hind legs, and was relieved to find his ‘bits’ tucked inside a pocket. At least he wasn’t completely exposed.

Something thick and pink twitched behind him, and he panicked, thinking it was a snake. Whatever it was whirled with him, and he spent a few moments chasing it in a circle before he settled enough to realize he now had a tail.

A scaly, hairless, thick pink tail… just like a rat, though enlarged by several magnifications. Denton was able to flick it, and it shot out, knocking a bottle off the shelf behind him. He jumped as the glass shattered on the stone floor, and shampoo splattered everywhere.

The strong odor almost overpowered him. How on earth did I ever bathe in that?

If he’d always been small for a human, he was rather large for a… whatever he was. He wasn’t a rat, or a possum, or any other creature he recognized. But he wasn’t enormous either. Upon reflection, he thought he was probably about the size of a fox.

He met his eyes in the mirror. Up till now, he’d been calm. Remarkably calm, really.

Probably shock. He nodded wisely at his reflection, clamping his lips close to avoid hearing that awful chittering if he tried to speak.

What did he feel about this turn of events? As a scholar, he found himself categorizing his various body parts, and studying his emotions from a distance.

But as the transfigured person, he found he was very close to complete panic. A sudden thought brought him up short.

I was only transfigured. Yes, I’m sure of it. They wouldn’t have… they wouldn’t dare transform me. But what if they made a mistake? They have no idea what they’re doing!

He wanted to run up and down the halls screaming for help, but since he couldn’t speak, such an action might be more dangerous than helpful.

After all, what would he have done if some disgusting rodent suddenly appeared outside his door, chittering and running to and fro?

Why I’d grab my broom and smash it, that’s what. 

He had to stay calm, and think this through.

A figure appeared in the mirror behind him. It was Bulmont, and he was holding a large wicker basket…

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Hi, my novel THE ACTUALITY (the story of an AI created in the image of a woman she's never met and full of jeopardy etc!) came out in paperback in January and there is currently a giveaway for a signed copy on Twitter. Basically you just need to retweet, comment and tag someone before the 20th. Link below for anyone interested who is on twitter.

Paul x

Added a post  to  , Sci-Fi & Fantasy Authors

Hi folks, 

I've been away from JW for quite a while, but wanted to post some news about my 'journey'. In 2019 I self-published on Amazon the novel I'd been working on, 'The Hammond Conjecture', but it got very little interest. Then I thought more about the feedback I'd received from Gary Gibson in the manuscript assessment, and worked out a much better ending, and put up a 2nd edition. Then a friend produced a website for me using github. I started a monthly newsletter, and organised swaps and promotions on StoryOrigin. I now have 180 subscribers. I re-approached agents and entered competitions, with zero success. But lately some great reviews have started appearing on Amazon and Goodreads as a result of the swaps. 

Last year I heard about the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition, and entered it. Then I put it into Kindle Unlimited, which didn't do much for sales, but you get a 5-day free book promotion, which I'm just using now. I splurged it in my newsletter, and I've put announcements on Facebook reader groups and on Twitter and am getting lots of downloads - 100 in the first two days. That has shot me up to #5 in the UK Amazon free alternate history list:

Now I've heard that Conjecture has been selected by the File770 judges to go into the semi-final phase of SPSFC:

If you're interested, please download a free copy before midnight PST on the 5th. For your local Amazon page use the link

And please write a review! I hope this is useful,

Martin Reed

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I'm hearing varying stances on whether or not writers should have an Author's Website before querying. 

1. What have you heard? 

2. If you have a website but are not yet published, would you mind sending me the link so I can check it out?

Thanks so much!

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Hello all!

I have been trying to query my YA Fantasy horror/thriller novel with little success, so am looking over my query package and thinking how I could make it better. Would anyone here be willing to look over my cover letter, synopsis and first 3 chapters and let me know their thoughts? I'm thick-skinned, so would appreciate it if you can tell me where you get bored/confused etc.

I would post the whole here but obviously that's quite a lot, so if you're interested, can you comment/ message me your email?

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I'm currently working on my first novel, and was thinking to tie it into a larger multi-series world. Do any of you have any thoughts, and if so, how should I go about it?

My world is about a group of people that can shape shift, and I was thinking to make gods that watch over the universe, and make the worlds interact. This is just a brief background, and I will accept any advice.

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I'd like to pick your brain on the topic of science fiction. Though I'm not a scientist and have never been a good friend with the natural sciences, I've always enjoyed sci-fi, from Star Trek, which I watched with my mom, to Superman, Soylent Green and enjoyed reading Douglas Adams. Having said that I'm not a typical sci-fi nerd and didn't stick my nose into most superhero stories or comics and movies.

While working on my current WIP I found myself hesitating to label it as science fiction, mostly because of reactions I got to it from other male writers. One of them, e.g. was surprised to hear I write sci-fi because I didn't look like it. Another one seemed discouraging because I wasn't sure whether to label my WIP as sci-fi or speculative fiction and it seemed that if it was sci-fi, then I should have known. The truth is, it could be both, because it's a futuristic story that involves technology, but there's not much 'real science' in it and I don't explain how things work in details, the way Isaac Asimov does. While I did sense some protectiveness about the genre from the 'real geeks', I also reflected on the expectations readers might have if I label this novel as sci-fi. The hardcore fans would be disappointed no doubt, because the technology remains on the side and isn't the core of the story, plus there are no heroic attempts  - not the kind the hardcore fans are used to. In the end I went for a dystopia, because it's the core of what this story is about

But my questions (after this long intro) is - is there a certain 'protectiveness' over the genre of sci-fi from their hardcore fans ('real sci-fi' vs. 'soft sci-fi') and where does this leave writers who want to write in between? Also, is there a gender divide in science fiction?

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I'm back with a new idea! I get so many of my story lines from dreams - I have a weirdly active imagination and dream adventures quite often - anyway, I'm thinking of using this one for NaNoWriMo, which our oldest talked me into doing with her.

I have the first chapter started... most of it's written, but you'll see a chunk near the end is just "blah blah blah then this happens"... which got me to the part I wanted to write down while it was fresh.

It's the first time I've written ALIEN, and the first chapter is an origin story - another first, since I normally lean fantasy. I popped it into peer-to-peer, but thought I'd show you guys, since you're in the genre! If you read it there, don't bother here... oh, and I've done a bit of editing since I created this PDF, so there are less BUT's... 

As I mentioned in PTP, there's a flavor of Planet of the Apes (second movie??), where Zira trades her baby with the ape in the zoo... though the only dead baby in my story is born that way! Right now I'd like feedback on the flow and story line, rather than too much spelling and grammar - though I have tried to watch both those things!

FYI, the protagonist in this chapter is deliberately not named - the child will never know her, or her name... and a couple other names I DO want to add I haven't figure out yet, so X and Y area stand-ins for now... 

The next chapter will skip forward to when the boy is 7-8, then into his teens, and the final (main) story will be told when he's grown... and I think every other chapter in between will follow the matching development of the displaced baby (who will end up as the antagonist) ... or I may do both boys in one chapter, to get to the main story faster... I'm doing the jumps to show their character development as they age.

For obvious reasons, it's called CUCKOO'S CHILD, (the file is CUCKO-CHAP 1, and if you sort the files by NAME, it's in the middle of the second row)... And I thank you for your thoughts!

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Hi guys, I have a question for you all. I'm keen to hear how you approach something I'm having doubts over.

In general, I'm happy with how my WIP is progressing. But the third chapter is causing me doubt, because it is full of backstory. My question is:

How do you approach delivering backstory?

I hate huge chunks of exposition deposited into the stories I read but I've found myself with an exposition problem. I could keep the chapter as-is, with the MC attending a memorial for a tragedy and reminiscing about the cause and effects of the tragedy, or I could rewrite the chapter into three parts, the tragedy, the immediate aftermath, and the present day.

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After all the honest feedback about my last post, I made revisions to my excerpt. I tried to Show rather than Tell and hopefully I succeeded. Please let me know.

Blackness was all Avidius could detect when he opened his eyes. A dark void staring back at him, without so much as a glimmer of light to eclipse it. He blinked multiple times, but the blackness remained. Where am I? His eyes wandered in all directions, but the darkness gave up no discernible shapes, silhouettes, or shadows. He could, however, hear tree branches rustling in the breeze, smell wet grass, and feel a mossy turf beneath his palms where he lay. I’m outside. He drew a deep breath, his iron girded chest filling with moist, crisp air. And I’m alive... but why can’t I see! There he remained for a moment, on his back, pondering. His mind vaulted from one thought to another, scrambling for any explanation other than the one he feared the most. Suddenly, a furious thrashing of his heartbeat boomed in his ears, jolting him up to a sitting position. He waved his hands before his face. Nothing. He rubbed his eyes vigorously then clenched them shut before opening them again. Nothing. Then, like having the wind knocked out of him, he waited in stunned silence, unable to breathe. I’m blind. It was a fate worse than death and one for which Avidius had often suffered recurring nightmares when he was very young.

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Honest feedback... does any of this make sense?

Darkness was the last thing Avidius expected when his eyelids opened. It was if he had awoken deep inside a cave, where light could not penetrate. A terror came over him for a moment, thinking he was dead. But he could hear tree branches rustling in the breeze, smell wet grass, and feel a mossy turf beneath his palms where he lay. No... he was very much alive. But why couldn’t he see? He rose in a panic, feeling for his eyes. Blindness was worse than death. In his youth, Avidius had suffered recurring nightmares about losing his sight and wandering aimlessly through Rome’s back alleys; penniless, friendless, hearing only the pitied mutterings of others. The nightmare would always end with him frantically seeking the nearest sharp object, opening an artery along his wrist, and laying down to die. Nothing terrified him more... except, of course, losing another child.