Today, we enter the world of Amanda Orneck, author of Shadow of the Owl.
Born in Fountain Valley, CA, raised in a small town called Montrose, CA, Amanda has never stayed in one place for long — until now. She currently calls Huntsville, AL home, where she spends her days writing, gaming, and loving her family to pieces.
Amanda received her Creative Writing degree from the University of Southern California, learning her craft at the feet of David St. John, Aimee Bender and Carol Muske-Dukes. While at USC, she received the Middleton Creative Writing Fellowship for excellence in poetry.
For seven years she honed her writing craft as a video game journalist, writing for GamePro, WoW Insider, GameGeex, and handful of other outlets. In 2014 Amanda left the world of blogging behind to focus on her first love, fiction. Her debut novel Shadow of the Owl is available on Amazon. She is currently working on a sequel, as well as a cyberpunk project entitled Deus Hex Machina. Both are crowdfunding on Inkshares.
Now, prepare yourself to enter Esfera!
Geography and Nature: the big picture
Overall geography: Esfera is a small planet with four continents and three oceans. Three thousand years before the current timeline a great earthquake shattered a land bridge between the planet’s two largest landmasses, separating them into separate continents. The other smaller continents function as large islands and have been segregated from the larger land mass since the world’s formation.
Special features that makes your world unique, exotic, or strange:
Esfera was created 10,000 years ago with six original races, each centered around the world with their own well of power: Zyn, dwarves, pixies, merman, giants, and dragons. Each of the wells is tied to the others, and can be used to travel between them for those that know how. The two exceptions are the Well of Zyn, which can be used to travel to another world, and the Well of Pixies, which can be used to travel through time.
Special features that make your world familiar:
While Esfera is its own planet, some of its topography and history mirror that of Earth’s. While some would call this a coincidence, others maintain that the similarity between the two worlds results from their proximity in the galaxy and their having been created within the same universal era.
Magic and how it is defined in your world:
Magic in Esfera is connected to the physical elements of the world. One could say it is more of an additional scientific property than try magic. The Elves use magic tied to the four elements of wind, water, earth, and fire, and have learned to connect to these elements through song. The Pixies were created with an innate connection to Light and can manipulate its properties in what some would call magical ways. The Zyn were given domain over Shadow, as a counter balance to the Pixies, while the Dwarves were blessed with an understanding of the control of gravity.
Races and cultures: your world and its people
Races or dominant species:
As I mentioned, there are six prime races in Esfera, the dwarves, the zyn, the pixies, the giants, the dragons, and the mermen. Other races have sprouted from these.
Five thousand years ago a continent of dwarves left their underground caverns for the surface. Outside of their tunnels they thrived, growing taller in the constant sunlight. They called themselves humans.
Two thousand years later after the Great Break that severed connection between the two continents, the humans settled on the Eastern continent and began to abhor magic as something profane. Once humans had built their civilization, those on the outer limits of their territory began to intermarry with the pixies. Their children became the first elves, a magical race with deep connections to the planet. These people were forced out of the human lands and created a nomadic civilization of their own, living close with the land and honing their elemental magic.
Five centuries later, the growing population of the nomadic elves began to encroach on the territory of the nocturnal zyn. A brutal conflict broke out and the elves prevailed, driving the remaining zyn across the Sea of Stars in search of a new homeland. They happened upon the Southern Continent, found the Giants, and made a home on the barren peaks of the Eastern Islands. Some say that there are creatures on those shores that resemble hulking shadow ogres, with bloodlines that can be traced back to both zyn and giant. Others say this is impossible.
The main culture that you encounter in Shadow of the Owl is that of the amalgamated peoples of Shadowhaven. When human settlers were welcomed into the clans of the nomadic elves, they built their regions based upon where the elves had most recently settled. Therefore the modern regions of Shadowhaven are as follows: Kir’Midras: Southwestern Coast, Kir’Unwin, Central West inland forest, Kir’Kashel, northwestern mountains, Kir’Tazul, Northern Coast (this became the citizens of Haven City), and Lothyn’Kir, Eastern desert.
Politics and origin: how the world is knit together
What are some of your major nations?
The two primary nations that you encounter in Shadow of the Owl are Shadowhaven and Eidalore. The pixies no longer have a sovereign territory after the War of the Pixies some 500 years ago, nearly wiped out their entire race and they were forced to retreat to their original grove and well of power.
What is the overall history on which the present world is built?
Here is the traditional retelling the elves of their origin share during the Festival of the Elements. Whether the facts within are accurate remains to be seen.
“Out of the darkness of the land, the Pixies were born. Their love of the light made them steadfast friends of the land, and they ruled over it in wisdom and harmony. Their kingdom spread throughout the land we know as Shadowhaven far to the North beyond even Eidalore itself. All were happy in the land of the Pixies. There was peace, and prosperity for all.
Many moons passed, and there was nothing but happiness within the Light of the Pixies, until the wooden boats pushed up out of the sea and landed on our shores. They called themselves human, and the humans were fierce and cruel and wanted the land for themselves. The King of the Pixies, Great Ione, saw the evil in the hearts of the men, and struck out to protect them. He waged war against the human armies, alone flying full into the battlefield to arise victorious.
Having vanquished all his foes, King Ione made the humans a solemn vow; if they would stay above the mountains, the Pixies would relocate to the South, and each race would have their own land. To speak to the King of the Humans, Ione took their shape, but the son of their King was a human of hard heart, and he struck Ione down with a blow of his sword.
King Ione collapsed to the ground, slain with a weapon of iron. Where he fell, his blood flowed into a river, and the river traveled south along the mountains, through the pass, until it came to rest in a pool. From out of the pool came a new people, tall of stature, who could speak to the elements and work with the magic that surrounded them.
We are those people, we have risen from the blood of our Pixie ancestors, and tonight we celebrate the elements that bind us to this land. Hail Ione, Father of the Elves!”
How does your world relate to the real world as we know it?
Both planets were created during the same universal era, so their age is very similar. You would say that our present day is coinciding with the current timeline on Esfera in Shadow of the Owl, although their technologies are still very much medieval. Historians believe this retardation of scientific advancement is due to the addition of magic to Esfera’s physical laws, on which many of the world’s people rely.
The dwarves are said to have advanced to a near Victorian level of technology, but since they hidden away from the main continent across an incredibly dangerous sea, most people in Eidalore or Shadowhaven have little to no knowledge of their scientific advancement.
Religions, language, and recreation: expressions of your world’s people
What are your dominant faiths, beliefs, and religions?
There are two religions held by the people in Shadowhaven. The first is the belief system of the elves, who worship the Elements themselves because it is from them that they receive their power and gifts.
The humans of Shadowhaven largely belong to the Church of the El, a monotheistic belief system based on ancient writings in a dwarven text called the Testament. The land where the human settlers came from is an atheistic country, and so they fled religious persecution with the last priests of their religion, who hold the last copy of the Testament known to exist.
More than one devout man has noted the similarities in these belief systems, and how they seem to complement rather than contradict eachother.
What are you major languages? How extensively have you worked your languages out?
There is only one spoken language in Shadow of the Owl, that of common. The Testament is written in the dwarven language, which has a grammatical structure based off of a combination of Russian, French, and Viking runes. I’m sure there are other languages in the world, but so far the Queen of the Pixies hasn’t shared hers with me yet, and the other peoples of the world are just as tight lipped.
Do you have unique styles of architecture?
The architecture of the nomadic elves is an interesting one because they grow their buildings from the stone beneath the ground whenever they move to a new place. There are discarded ruins all around Shadowhaven marking where their previous settlements were. It is for this reason that no matter what the natural make up or magical tendencies of a clan might be, their leadership tends to be made up of at least one Earth Wielder.
Have you invented feasts, holidays?
The elves celebrate a harvest festival called the Festival of the Elements. Shadowhaven is such a new and rather tumultuous kingdom, so they have not been able to establish many unique cultural traditions in their 20 years of existence.
What about music and art? How does it differ from the music and art in our world?
The people of Shadowhaven really don’t see music as an art form. This probably stems from the fact that Singing is their primary access to magic – or at least it is for the elven residents. Those that were musicians in their old life have picked up more practical trades while attempting to establish a new nation blending two peoples.
I did hear rumors of some poetry floating around despite the violence ravaging the kingdom. It will be interesting to see if any of it survives the occupation.
Want to know more about Esfera? Why not enter it by ordering a copy of the book:
A reluctant princess. A farm girl sharing memories with her dead twin. A predestined orphan. Together they must stop the usurper or perish.
Betrayal has come to Shadowhaven, and a power mad wizard has overthrown the kingdom, bent on capturing their store of magic hidden beneath the castle. The royal guard have been sent off on a mysterious mission. Without their trusted warriors to protect them, the kingdom falls overnight. The queen is dead, and the king and princess have fled for their lives. Now only terror reigns over this once peaceful land.
But the royal guard are coming back, and there are rumors that the king and princess aren’t dead, just merely in hiding. Can the captain of the guard find the king and restore the royal family to their place? Can a princess living in secret truly rise up and grab hold of her destiny, or will she hide from who she is if it means the destruction of countless lives? How are the royal family connected to this land, and to the well of power hidden deep beneath Illuminata Castle?
The night around Mylena and Fionn was never quite the same after they began their flight toward the east. The forest took on a cloak of menace when the sun set, and Fionn had the feeling that it wasn’t just their imaginations keeping pace with them as they ran. The first few days were alright, went along without much happening. But even during the nights when they made camp and Mylena appeared out of the brush with fruits and mushrooms to cook for a meal, Fionn hadn’t exactly felt able to relax. Who knew what was lurking in the bushes around them? He hadn’t spent much time in the deep forest, but he could guess that there was a contingent of nasty monsters eager for eating unsuspecting travelers when they let their guard down.
It was for that reason that he slept in short shifts, and always with his sword in his hand. This particular night the moon had set behind the trees many hours before, and Mylena was already curled in her cloak by the fire. Fionn stoked the fire with the heel of his boot, thinking about the events in his life that had led to this moment. He had been trained as a warrior, yet was left at home when his mother went off to join the Queen’s Guard. Why did she leave him at home? Fionn had been told that he was too young, but he was certain that wasn’t it, because there were warriors taken for combat much younger than him. No, it had to be something else.
Perhaps it was his mother’s insistence that he protect Chiave. The foundling child was human, and, as a human, was victim to his weaknesses. For one thing, he aged incredibly quickly in comparison to an elven child. Fionn himself had taken many years more to mature when compared to the brief childhood Chiave experienced. And Chiave was never able to understand the basics of swordplay. Fionn’s mother had long ago given up attempting to teach Chiave how to defend himself, which, in itself, was strange, when connected to the fact that Fionn was charged with protecting the boy. Hopefully, Chiave had gotten away safe with the rest of the village. Whatever had done those horrible things to that priest was still out there somewhere, and Fionn hoped fervently that it wouldn’t find his brother.
As if he had conjured the nightmare by just thinking about it, the night around Fionn began to hiss. Instinctively he drew his sword and crouched low beside the fire to silently wake Mylena. She stirred slowly, and then when she saw him holding a hand over her mouth, she jolted awake. Her golden eyes flew open wide with fear as he gestured around him, cocking his head to listen. The hissing rose in pitch around them as Fionn removed his hand from Mylena’s mouth, and together they rose to their feet back to back, still without speaking. Try as he might, he was unable to pinpoint the direction the voices where coming from, so had to conclude they were surrounded. Silently, he cursed himself for allowing the fire to burn throughout the night. They had created a beacon for the monsters to follow, and now they were trapped.
The first of them appeared to the south, hissing and snapping its jaws just on the edge of the firelight. Mylena cried out as another three appeared to her left. Fionn guessed there were half a dozen in total, perhaps a few more staying out of sight. A tiny hunting party compared to the enormous army that had overwhelmed Laud’El, but still enough to ensure that the two of them would not make it through the night alive. As smoothly as he could, he crouched down to the earth, attempting to hum some water from the ground, but there seemed to be no aquifer beneath them. Besides his sword, he had his bow and a full quiver of arrows, but in such close quarters, they would be useless. They were going to die.
The creatures seemed to realize this as well, so they braved exposure in the light to taunt their prey. As they stepped into the firelight, Fionn could see that they were humanoid, although they did not stand as men did. Hunched over, they hung their heads and swayed a bit like snakes might. In fact everything about these monsters was reptilian, even the green-black shimmer of their skin. Yes, it was skin, not shadows he saw, which explained how they could be fought.
No matter what he thought of, it wouldn’t be enough to stop these creatures. What did he have besides a sword and his bow? Only a scared girl who quivered behind him. She wouldn’t be any use. His magic was gone, his ability locked away with the spirits of the water that was too far for him to reach. Fionn racked his brain for something, anything that would keep them alive long enough to get away from these monsters. Would the fire do it? He kicked coals and fiery logs at the nearest creature. Although he ducked and backed away, it looked more surprised than hurt by the flames. Damn.
“I can’t do anything,” Fionn said, finally breaking the silence. “I’m sorry, Muirinn. This is not the way I wanted us to spend our last moments together. Forgive me.” He closed his eyes and prepared for the end to come.
“You are an elven warrior. You do NOT simply curl up and die! We have come so far, too far to simply give up after everything.” Muirinn’s voice was surprisingly strong despite the way she trembled. Fionn wanted to think that something might happen, that he would think of something that would be their salvation, but, instead, he just stood there.
The creatures evidently decided they had had enough of taunting their prey and began to lunge toward them, their teeth gnashing. Muirinn cried out as one began to scratch at her, slashing with one clawed hand and then watching her wriggle away. It seemed to be enjoying itself, and if it could have laughed, Fionn imagined it would have.
Suddenly out of nowhere he heard a song burst forth behind him. He couldn’t tell exactly where it was coming from, but it sounded like a variation of the spell songs he had been working with. The sounds were indistinct and difficult to understand, as if he had never learned them, but from behind him, a white light began to glow so bright it hurt his eyes. He turned to see Muirinn radiating light from within her. It was she who was singing, her eyes closed and her mouth thrown open with her head thrown back, as if she were calling out into the night. The light flowed from her face and hands, radiating from her fingertips. It burst forth, growing in intensity the more she sang. The light seemed to be seeking something, and, as Fionn watched entranced, he realized exactly what it searched for. The light was looking for the creatures.
The creatures, repulsed by the light, shrank back and then began to run away, completely retreating. The light didn’t stop at the edge of the clearing, though, but followed them into the forest, seeking them as a hound would seek a fox. The light burst through the trees, through the bushes, and as it reached the first of the creatures, the monster exploded into a ball of light. All six were eventually found, and destroyed in small explosions that looked like tiny suns. And then the light was gone, switched off as one might snuff out a candle.
Muirinn collapsed into a heap on the ground, her hands shaking and her eyes glowing with residual light. “What happened?” she asked as Fionn went to her, holding her as she shivered against his shoulder. She looked up at him with her glowing eyes. “What happened?” she repeated and then passed out.
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Connect with Amanda in the following places!
Website: Amanda Orneck
Blog: Immersive Cursive
Facebook: Amanda Orneck
Email: amanda “at” goldleafbooks “dot” com