I just wrote The End on the first book in the Starstone Prophecies. It’s been a long journey, but a most enjoyable one. The book is far from being ready for publication, but now I can begin the edits and prepare it for submission to Tor Publishing. Please keep your fingers and toes crossed for me!
If Tor decides it’s not their cup of tea, I will be self publishing sometime this fall.
Inktober is an art challenge that takes place during the month of October. You draw at least one picture per day using ink mediums, like pens or markers. There is a prompt list you can follow, but you can make up your own or just wing it. You also don’t have to technically use just ink. You can add color if you desire. The point of the challenge is to get yourself into the habit of drawing daily, and the best way to do this is to limit your tools back to the basics.
Taking part, I have created a botanical journal of Ellium, the world in which the Last Book of Oracles series is set. This journal will use the official prompts to create all the fantastic species of plants native to the different regions of Ellium. Each day, I will draw a new plant then post it on Instagram and here with full botanical descriptions. The illustrations will use simple ink outlines done in ballpoint pen, and a light selection of colored pencils. Each day’s heading will include the prompt word used to inspire the plant.
The Marsh Scorpion Trap is native to the Blackmarsh in the eastern reaches of Carnath. It is a carnivorous, leafless tuber with a unique day-night cycle that allows for both feeding and pollination. Poisonous only at the stinger and bulbous base, the roots can be ground into a base for anti-fungal medicine. The sting is not deadly to creatures larger than insects, but should be avoided as it causes a lingering and painful burning rash.
The stinger is lowered during the day, at the exact height to sting the trap’s favorite prey, the marsh earfly. Lured in by the sweet nectar, the fly is stung as it lands, painfully contorts then falls into the liquid filled trap. During the night, however, the stinger raises away from the trap, allowing the common ashwing moth to both share in the earfly harvest and accumulate pollen along its fuzzy body. As it rains often in the Blackmarsh, the trap has a lid which lowers at the first sign of moisture.
Logger’s Nightcap is a wood-anchored, medicinal fungus mostly found in the western riverlands of Orynthis and the forests bordering Lath’limnier’s Wall. If it grows in the forests south of the wall can only be speculated, but the Elvan have never offered it for trade. As the Elvan are known to practice different forestry techniques, the Logger’s Nightcap may have adapted solely to the habits of men.
Logger’s Nightcap grows only on the southward facing end of felled logs. It will not grow on the bark of trees like its cousins, and prefers the moist, sappy wood exposed by a logger’s blade. Due to this strange behavior, it is both limited in number and intertwined within Orynthisian folklore. That is why, for each tree cut, an Orynthisian logger will leave one section of the tree on the forest floor as an offering to the ghosts of their kin.
Logger’s Nightcap also gains its name from its medicinal properties. It can be dried, ground and added to a tea, which acts as a tranquil sleep aid at low doses, and as a gentle sedative at higher doses. In recent years, it has become a sought after treatment for blight madness. It is the blight itself, however, which has become the greatest threat to the mushroom’s survival.
Only the top, largest caps in the colony should be removed, allowing the smaller ones to mature and sustain the colony. The smaller caps do not contain enough of the sedative compound to make an effective treatment.
The Chōkar Mok, or Rock Apple, is found in the high reaches of the Pel’Kothar steppe. Its hard, spiny exterior reminds one of the hard skinned Orc’kothi people who call the arid, unforgiving lands home. Like the Orc’kothi themselves, the chōkar mok’s rough appearance can be deceiving. Once roasted, the outer layer can be easily sliced through to reveal a soft inner pulp in a surprisingly vivid violet hue that tastes similar to Orynthisian honey dates.
Procuring these fist-sized fruits is no easy task, as they are found only in the highest rocky outcrops, clinging precariously to the sides of cliffs as tempting treats for the goats that eat them raw, spreading the seeds. One must also take care, when dangling off the cliff face, not to pluck a chōkar mok before it is ripe. If the blossom is closed, it is too soon and the fruit will be astringently bitter. The best time to pick is when the blossom’s outermost petals have blackened and begun to fall off.
The Fool’s Spell Orchid is as beautiful as it is deadly. This bright orange orchid has been the death of many foolish alchemists. An ancient scroll said to contain the recipe for eternal life lists the orchid as an ingredient. Hall the scroll is coded in an unknown language, however, so one can only guess at how to properly complete the elixir. Many have tried, all have died, earning the orchid its name.
Chick Weed is a common weed that is loved by farmers and hated by gardeners. For the size of its small yellow flowers, this weed produces a overwhelmingly pungent odor resembling rotten garbage and manure left out in the sun. Foxes hate the smell as much as a city gardener, making it a great way to protect livestock. The weed thrives on chicken droppings, and it grows naturally around chicken ranges.
The King’s Goblet, sometimes called the Drunken King’s Goblet when safely out of a court official’s hearing, is a mushroom resembling a drinking chalice. It is filled with an opaque honey colored sap which lures in gnats and other small insects. The substance isn’t sticky, as one would imagine, but the gnats appear to drink themselves to death.
Near the end of its life cycle, about eight days, it will being to tip over and spill its cup. This gives the colony the look of a king’s banquet table after a long night of revelry. It is edible, but only after it has fully spilled its drink. Some say it tastes of sweet ale once left to simmer for a hour, and it is a common ingredient in stews. It can be found in most wooded areas of southern Carnath and northern Orynthis.
The Wilted Ground Cactus is another botanical oddity from the Pel’kothor Steppe. Growing up to nine feet tall, if it could remain standing, the cactus has adapted to the the higher elevation climate by folding over on itself after reaching a certain height then growing along the ground before attempting to grow vertically again.
The horizontal sections of the plant often end up covered in dirt, making it dangerous to walk the steppe barefooted. The large spines are not poisonous and do not deter the goats from making a snack of them. In times of scarcity, the Orc’kothor will burn away the spines and eat the cactus paddle. In times of plenty, the cactus’s yearly fruit serves as a seasonal delicacy.
Native to southern Orynthis, the Morning Star Vine is a fast growing, hearty vine which climbs tenaciously along and up any available surface. It blooms throughout the summer, but only i the early morning hours. The large star-like flowers open at daybreak and close by mid-day, often closing before even the dew on the leaves has time to dry. It is also known as the prayer vine, as its highly fragrant scent flows heaviest in the morning when the blooms are open, filling the temple gardens of Orynthis with a pleasant aroma that greets the faithful as they arrive for morning prayers.
The speckled, uneven petals, large size and soft white color of the Uriman Lily would make it a prized addition to any garden, if it weren’t also the rarest flower in all Ellium. Found only in the royal gardens of the Red Keep in the city of Carn, this precious specimen is said to have once blanketed the region now known as the Uriman Desert. So rare, it must be pollinated by hand, and taking one from the royal gardens, even for study, requires a King’s Seal. To take one otherwise carries the penalty of death.
There is an old rumor that the lily was once a gift from the ancient city of Uriman to the king of Carnath during a time of peace. Another rumor says it was taken as a prize when Uriman was conquered, but the truth has long been buried with the ruins of Uriman under the desert sands.
Growing by the fast flowing Maiden’s Veil River of northwestern Carnath, the Maiden’s Needle is a versatile reed valued by many craftsmen, wives and Orc. The three uppermost needles dry hard enough to be used as sewing needles and hair pins. The long, angular stalk makes the perfect, disposable writing utensil for those unable to afford the metal writing pens of Orynthisian artisans. The broad fibrous leaves can be woven into all manner of baskets and other textiles. The Orc’kothi have come to prize the reed stems for use in their skin tattooing practices, and is now one of the most commonly bartered items to acquire Orc’kothi stoneware and beads.
The Cruel Fated Tulip of Orynthis has developed an interesting relationship with the saw jaw ant. Just as the tulip’s flower begins to open, it releases a special scent that attracts the ants up its stem. The soldier ants use their saw blade like jaws to cut the flower off at a jointed weak point on the stem. The smaller worker ants then move between decapitated tulip flowers, pollinating the bulbs hidden within the petals. By propagating via the head instead of growing more bulbs under ground, the tulip is able to quickly spread across entre fields and does not suffer the same root binding complications found in other tulips. Despite their mean appearance, the specially jawed soldier ants are surprisingly docile and only bite when under threat.
Sea Bells are small, pink bell shaped flowers the grow along the Sapphire Coast in abundant clusters each spring an bloom until fall. Resilient against the salty sea spray, they have long been used as a remedy for nausea and sea sickness. Dry and ground the stamen filaments into a powder and add to hot tea.
Grown not for its bloom but for its thorn, the Guardian Rose originated in Orynthis but has spread throughout Ellium due to its practical applications as a pest deterrent and easily added fortification. Farmers use it as natural fencing to protect livestock, but must be careful the voracious climbing rose does not take over field crops. Kingdoms use it as a deterrent to those who may think to climb tower, city or castle walls. Its thick, barbed thorns harden with age and leave a lasting sting. Able to climb stone and wood, the rose’s fast growing vines can cover a building wall in four seasons.
Identified by its two-three leaf pattern and black clustered berries, the Hunter’s Berry is a low growing forest shrub that can be differentiated from edible blackberries by the lack of thorns and bitter taste. This identification is important, because eating a handful will leave a person weak and unable to walk for a few hours. They are used as a coating on arrows to aid in deer hunting, preventing an injured deer from running too far should the arrow miss the heart.
Only one species of bird has been seen eating the berry and suffering no ill effects, the yellow bellied meadow lark, and hunters use sightings of this bird to locate clusters of the berries.
These strange melons, known locally as Swelling Fruits, come from southwestern Orynthis and are the only melon known to grow on a tree instead of a vine. As they ripen, they swell in size until the supple branches bend enough to touch the ground. Legend says the tree came about when a mage tried to cross an apple with a canary melon in an attempt to grow larger, melon sized apples.
The melon has a dense, smooth yellow rind. The center of the fruit is heavily seeded, and the fruit pulp is watery but sweet and a beautiful shade of light pink. The branches have offshoots with small oval, waxy leaves, much like citrus trees.
Found only in the far reaches of the southern Elvan lands well beyond Lath’limnier’s Wall and the Greenwood Dale, the spicewood tree can grow to heights beyond three hundred feet and live much longer than the memories of men. The deadwood that falls to the ground is collected, dried for a year then milled into a spice which is highly sought after in the rest of Ellium. All attempts to grow the tree from acorn outside the Elvan lands have failed, leaving the spicewood market firmly in Elvan hands. As such, a bottleful of spicewood is worth its weight in bronze.
If the name Fire Weed doesn’t serve as a warning for anyone tempted to try eating this plant, then the blood red fruits should. And, the term fruit is highly misleading, as the small red seed pods are not sweet but scorchingly hot. Found only on the Pel’Kothor high steppe of the Orc’Kothi lands, this potent pepper has a place in many Orc’kothi legends and customs. They call it the Mo’toka, or Mother of Fire. Each season, the fruits are collected then pressed between large stones to extract the oil. The oil is used in cooking, medicine and even as a fire starting aid. The true heat is found in the seeds. Eating the ripe fruit whole has become a challenge of strength and bravery among the Orc’kothi youth, and a source of amusement for the elders.
The Crown Breaker Pine is commonly found throughout Carnath. It is prized in spring and summer for its lumber, and is avoided in the fall. This pine produces a uniquely large cone that falls to the ground whole, splitting apart from the force so that the seeds may be carried off by forest animals. These cones are so heavy and fall from such great heights that they can cause injury to man and deer alike. When the trees begin shedding their cones in early autumn, the plunking thuds of their falling to earth echoes throughout the forest in warning for two to three weeks.
Unlike its thinly rooted, pond dwelling cousins, the mud root lily has adapted to life in the thickly mudded bog of the Blackmarsh. The palm-sized white flower sits on the surface of the mud while its large tuberous roots help keep it from sinking. The pale fleshed roots have a waxy coating that may help keep them from rotting in the mire. Once cooked, they taste of turnip and carrot. However, when collecting them, one must take care of two deadly dangers. The mud itself is filled with sinkholes that can suck a person down to the bottom without warning. Using a long stick to check depth is recommended. The lily is also home to a potently poisonous species of frog. The thumb-sized, orange and black frogs are often hidden in the innermost petals. The slighted touch to the skin from these frog’s mucus excretions can leave one too weak to make it back out of the mud.
Well, here we are, at the start of another great writing adventure! After spending the past six years writing romances across numerous genres, I’ve decided it was time to try something a bit different. This story has run away with my heart, inspiring me to try new things, get back into art and focus on building a world that felt lived in. In the coming months, as I continue working on the first book, I will be sharing concept art and details from the world of Ellium.
To readers of my previous romance series, do not abandon hope! I do have plans to continue some of my romance series in the future. While the focus of Oracles will not be romance, and there will be no ‘heat’, there will be a gentle love story woven in between the mystery and magic.
To new readers I hope to meet along the way, hello! Feel free to connect with me on social media. I look forward to sharing my stories with you.