Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Guest Post by the author of The Books of Ascension

Zenith – The First Book of Ascension

Can you see the story breathing?
A mountain so great it takes a year to travel from base to summit
A sun so powerful it drives you into madness if you look at it
An ascent so vital it determines the fate of the world
A summit so precious it holds the key to the divine
The world of the great Mountain is unstable. Giant pillars erupt from the surface and yawning chasms form unpredictably underfoot. Since the Maelir first stood on its slopes in the distant past, they have sought to still its anger and control its power. Each year, twin brothers are chosen to make a perilous journey to the summit. If they survive they will be witness to Zenith, and the secrets will be revealed to them.
When Atreu and Teyth embark on their Ascent, their Talismans lead them onto conflicting paths that will ultimately set brother against brother. And this time the Ascent itself is in peril as unknown forces that have long craved the power of Zenith will stop at nothing to make it their own even if it means destroying the very thing that sustains all life the Mountain itself.

Zenith excerpt: Chapter Fourteen

A yell cut the darkness
Atreu and Cluric jumped up and raced over to the other side of the rocks.
‘Get it off,’ screamed Ronan, shaking his leg frantically.
Atreu saw the small animal attached to it and froze.
‘It’s a Dusk-rat,’ he cried.
Hrulth was holding out his sword in front of him. ‘Hold still, will you?’ he said. ‘I don’t want to stab your leg.’
Ronan couldn’t, so several of the others held it down for him while Hrulth speared the animal.
‘Get it off!’ screamed Ronan again, tears rolling down his face.
Hrulth grabbed the animal’s tail, but its teeth remained firmly embedded in Ronan’s leg. ‘This thing can’t still be alive.’
Cluric pushed his way through. ‘These Dusk-rats just don’t let go,’ he said as he pulled back on the animal’s snout with all his strength, slowly revealing the needle sharp teeth as he removed them from Ronan’s leg.
Hrulth took the Dusk-rat from him. He held it up and watched the blood drip from its mouth. ‘I’ve never heard of one of these things,’ he said in disgust.
‘There’s more of them,’ cried a shrill voice from the top of the rocks. ‘They’re everywhere!’
Suddenly the camp was in turmoil. The Dusk-rats swarmed over them like bees.
Atreu felt a sharp pain as one bit into his leg, and he staggered back to fetch his sword. Another one dropped on him from the rocks above, but he managed to throw it off before it could dig its teeth into his shoulder. He stopped to get his sword and quickly picked it up as another Dusk-rat ran over his hand. His leg screamed with pain as he looked down at the animal attached to his ankle. It stared back at him with a black-eyed ferocity. Atreu clenched his teeth and lanced it through the head. Using his sword as a lever, he prised its mouth open and watched the animal fall to the ground.

Equinox – The Second Book of Ascension
Can you see the story breathing?
The Keep
The most beautiful city on the great Mountain
The pinnacle of Maelir culture
The home of the Inner Sanctum
The place where secrets hide

The fate of the Mountain hangs in balance at the time of Equinox, and even the Keep can no longer remain untouched. The Maelir are desperate to defend it, the Faemir to demolish it, the windriders to claim it. But unknown to them all, a dark force has already emerged from the chaos to seize power.
As Atreu and Verlinden strive to decipher the power of the Talisman that has defined Atreu’s Ascent, Teyth and Valkyra are locked in a desperate battle that neither of them can win. At a time when darkness and light are in perfect equilibrium, when Maelir and Faemir must find a way to break the deadlock and avoid annihilation, the world’s fate lies in the Book of Ascension.

Equinox excerpt: Chapter Seven

Praether felt a strange tingling down his back as he unlocked the last chamber of the librum. It was as if he was suddenly given a vague awareness that something had just changed, or was about to change.
He opened the door and walked in.
‘I thought you would be here,’ he said.
An old man stood ankle-deep in dust by the bookshelf. He looked up from his reading and half smiled. It appeared as if a grey mist had started to snake its way up the Reader’s body.
‘Wait,’ cried Praether. ‘Don’t go.’
The mist continued no further.
Praether gasped. ‘Something has changed,’ he said, more to himself. And then to the Reader: ‘Why have I been able to stop you disappearing this time?’
The Reader raised his eyebrows as if to say, I think you know.
Praether shivered. ‘No … no I don’t.’
The Reader motioned the arch-librer to come closer.
Praether walked slowly towards him, kicking up small swarms of dust with each step, until he stood so close he could have reached out and touched him. The mist started to twist its way up the Reader’s legs as he slowly handed Praether the Book of Maelur.
‘Tell me – please,’ said Praether. ‘Tell me what has changed.’
The mist continued up his torso, and his body began wavering in front of Praether’s eyes.
‘Please, wait,’ cried Praether.
The Reader opened his mouth. ‘Read,’ he said, and Praether drew a sharp breath – it was the first word he had ever heard the old man speak.
The arch-librer watched the mist claim the remainder of the Reader’s body. As his face faded, Praether could still make out the strange half smile. For a brief moment it was as if a human-sized cloud floated just above the floor, and then it dissipated into nothingness.
The tingling sensation Praether had felt on entering the room now shot through every nerve. As he looked down to read the words on the page, he knew what had changed.
Somehow, in some strange way, he had become part of the story.

Eclipse – The Lost Book of Ascension
Can you see the story breathing?
What happens if after the winter solstice, the days keep getting shorter?
And shorter?
Until there is an eternal night?
What happens as the darkness grows?
And the creatures of dusk take control of the Mountain?
And the quest for the third Book is the only hope?
The Mountain is in its death throes as the Nazir send their wraiths to finish what the dusk-rats and grale had begun. Soon there will be no daylight to protect the Maelir and Faemir, and with each twilight there are fewer places to hide. Will the Mountain finally collapse under its own instability or will Atreu and Verlinden’s descent find the words of salvation in the Lost Book of Ascension?

Eclipse excerpt: Chapter Eight

In the growing dusk the Source took on an increasing dream-like quality.
Atreu became aware of his own breathing, and soon the air around him seemed to be pulsing in time. A soft lap-lapping of water merged with the rhythm of his breaths. After a while he realised that the dark figures on the lake were coming closer. As they approached, he could see that the cowled monks were sitting bolt upright on the floating prayer mats and paddling slowly to shore.
By the time the monks reached the edges of the lake, Atreu was mesmerised by the serene poetry of the scene. Over a hundred Source Holy Men now reached the shore and stood up from their mats in the same fluid motion. Each one remained perfectly still, facing the cliffs with their back to the lake, as the others arrived at the shore. Finally the last one arrived, and Atreu waited, expecting something to happen. He could detect no signal or sign, but as one, the monks gave out a deep sonorous tone that filled the air like honey. As he listened, the tone grew deeper and sweeter. It so enveloped him that he could not be sure that his own voice had not joined in the twilight chorus.
And when he thought no sound could be richer, he became aware that the monks by the lake had been joined by the monks in the cliffs behind him, and the chorus seemed to reach a height and depth he had never imagined. He had been moved by Felsen chanting before, but what he was hearing now was on another plane. No pictures or visions ran through his head. This was pure sound, devoid of any content or images. It was as if his head was being cleared, and filled with a single resonant note.
The cliffs, the water, the air itself, seemed to become one with the tone, adding to its depth and flavour. And then, just as Atreu lost any sense of a world that wasn’t made of the sound, it faded, the last note lingering like the sweetest of aftertastes.

Buy the books!

She spooned the soup from her bowel – the joys of typos!
Dirk Strasser

This bowl typo appeared in a close-to-final draft of my fantasy novel, Zenith.  Unfortunately, spellcheck won't pick up an error like this.  Even more unfortunately, I didn't pick it up.  I was lucky because a friend of mine saw it on a read-through and had a good laugh at my expense.

You've got to ask yourself: why did I write it, and after I’d written it, why didn't I pick this up?  I know the difference between bowl and bowel – and why you would want to spoon something out of one, but not the other.  I guess typos happen because typists are human, and it’s only human to make mistakes.

One theory puts a lot of typos down to the “fat-finger syndrome” where your fingers hit two keys at the same time on a keyboard or two buttons together on a touch screen.  That could have been the case with my bowel typo – the “w” and “e” are next to each other on a QWERTY keyboard.

Simply trying to write something too quickly is another reason for typos. Recent Search Engine Optimization research has indicated that misspellings probably occur in around 10% of search queries.  Typo-squatters actually use this to make money by registering a possible typo of a well-known website address hoping to get traffic when internet users mistype that address into a web browser.  Or even more sneakily, they deliberately put typos into a webpage or its metadata so that search engines direct people who make this error to the site.

Here are some typos that obviously didn’t make it through the checking processes.

These two prove that no word is saef from the typo-bug:

Sometimes, it’s just one letter that makes the difference:

Sometimes it’s two letters:

“Germans are so small that there may be as many as one billion, seven hundred million of them in a drop of water.” – Mobile Press US

“I have a graduate degree in unclear physics.” – job application

Sometimes writers should really hang their heads in shame:

Well, does we?

Sometimes the correction is funnier than the original typo:

Sometimes the typo correction has a typo correction:

Typos are funny things.  Thank goodness for editrs.

About the author: 

Dirk Strasser has written over 30 books for major publishers in Australia and is an Active Member of the SFWA. He has won multiple Australian Publisher Association Awards, a Ditmar for Best Professional Achievement, and has been short-listed for the Aurealis and Ditmar Awards a number of times. His short story, “The Doppelgänger Effect”, appeared in the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology, Dreaming Down Under. His acclaimed fantasy series The Books of Ascension – including Zenith and Equinox – was originally published by Pan Macmillan in Australia and by Heyne Verlag in Germany and has been re-published by the Macmillan Momentum imprint, this time including the “lost” third book. His fiction has been translated into a number of languages. His short stories include “The Jesus Particle“ in Cosmos magazine, “Stories of the Sand” in Realms of Fantasy, and “The Vigilant” in Fantasy magazine.  His most recent sale was “The Mandelbrot Bet” to the 2014 Tor anthology Carbide Tipped Pens, edited by Ben Bova and Eric Choi. He founded the Aurealis Awards and has co-published and co-edited Aurealis magazine for over 20 years.

Twitter: @DirkStrasser