Wednesday, 20 November 2019

A Slice of Cake With... Sybrina Durant

Today I am delighted to be having a slice of cake with author Sybrina Durant.

Sybrina is an author, singer and songwriter whose books span a wide range between illustrated picture books, colouring books and YA novels to technical and how-to books. 

What kind of books do you write?

I write purely fanciful yet somewhat sciency science fiction and fantasy unicorn adventure books.

Can you describe your writing why?

I pondered how to develop the story of the Blue Unicorn and his tribe of Metal Horned unicorns for about 35 years before I finally got it ready to share with fantasy book lovers. 

My world-building and writing style was inspired by another unicorn storyteller named Piers Anthony.  I just loved his wit and colourful characters and wanted to see if I could create my own unicorn world with engaging characters.  

I came up with the idea to have metal-horned unicorns whose names, colors and even magic that was directly and sometimes indirectly tied in some way to the real scientific properties of their metals. For instance, there’s a copper horned unicorn in the story.  Her mane and hide are green because that is a prominent color you see in a flame with copper burning in it.  Her name is Cuprum because that is the Latin word for copper.  She has the magical ability to purify water with her horn because it is a reality that over the centuries, humans stored water in copper containers because of its bacteria and germ-killing powers. Cuprum has the power to manipulate any water source, even one as powerful as a water-filled tornado.  The story revolves around 12 unicorns.  Eleven have metal horns and magical powers.  One does not.  Journey To Osm is his story.

I always intended for it to be a full-length novel but I got distracted when I came across the amazing illustrator Steve Disgupta.  I loved his water-color style artwork so much that I condensed the text of the story and published it as an illustrated novella of sorts.  That book contains 40 something full-color illustrations that each span 2 pages.  Between each of those pictures are exactly 2 pages of story text. I actually went a little crazy publishing that book in several formats.  In addition to the full-color illustrations, I also requested each picture to be drawn in a black and white woodcut style like you used to see in old fairy tales.  That version is available for sale as a “Read and Color” book.  The shorter story is also available as an audiobook.  Finally, for readers who want to know more about the metal-horned unicorns, the 85,000-word novel will give them lots of insight.

Share with us your favourite passage from the book you enjoyed writing the most

Chapter Twenty-Six
Speed And A Pepo Seed  

The Firebird hovered at the entrance of the canyon watching the three of them. Blue “sipped” on his second rock and giggled something that sounded like “silly bird” to the Pendragon. They all laughed.  

Girasol felt completely powerless, and her feelings stung, but she had no idea how to help. “How can I make them listen?” she demanded of the mountains.   

“You can't,” came a voice from nowhere and everywhere at the same time. “I have induced hebephrenia in their feeble minds.”  

“Who are you? And what is heb-phren-what-ever you called it?” Girasol flared, melting some of the ice from the nearby rock faces.  

“My, aren't you a hot-head?” the voice chuckled at her display of wrath. ”I am Yegwa, the Spirit of False Springtime. I have put your companions and the Pendragon under a spell, which makes them think this is a wondrous place. I've altered the way their senses perceive things. They believe their delusions are reality.”  The unseen entity let out a peal of laughter at that.

“Let them go,” the Firebird demanded. Blue-white sparks spouted from her feathered crown. She could not see the spirit, and was getting more frustrated by the moment.  

“Let them go? I wouldn't dream of it,” Yegwa said in a voice hungry with anticipation. “It’s not often I have this much fun! Their antics will provide me with hours of entertainment. It gets so boring sometimes. You seem to be immune to my magic, though. Must be that hot blood of yours.”  

“What kind of spirit are you? How can you enjoy watching your victims freeze to death?” Girasol asked. ”Are you so wicked? Are you an evil sorcerer, like Magh?”    

“Magh? Sorcerer? Do tell,” Yegwa inquired. “He sounds like someone after my own soulless heart. Is he single?”  

“Single? What?!” Girasol blazed. “Never you mind about Magh. I don’t have time for this back and forth with you.”  

“Oh, you are indeed a peppery dish.” Yegwa let loose a shrill cackle. “If I had teeth, I’d eat you right up!”  

“What about my friends?” the Firebird pursued. She looked around the top of the canyon walls for the source of the disembodied voice.   

“You're welcome to keep company with them, if you wish. I don't keep anyone imprisoned, you know,” the spirit said, trying to sound sugary sweet. “My guests are quite free to wander about, as you witnessed when you met the Pendragon.”   

“You're too kind,” Girasol thanked her in a voice drenched with sarcasm. The Firebird wanted to keep a close watch on Blue and Gaiso, and now that she knew Gwyn was in the same predicament, she worried about her, as well. She tapped her head with her right wing, trying to figure out a way to save her friends.   

Hot blood … hmmm … Warmth … that’s it. They need to be warm!  

They would freeze to death, if she did not help soon. She remembered the pepo seeds Blue had stashed for her, so she flew down to where the delusional trio were still playing house. They were not even aware of her presence, as she rummaged in the sack slung across Blue's shoulder.    

Thank-goodness, Blue brought these along, she thought. Nothing grows up here! 

She brought one out of the bag and bit into the nutmeg flavored treat. It all depended on how much she exerted herself but under normal conditions, one Pepo seed equated to at least two days of revitalization. As she launched into the air, she hoped this one would be enough to warm up her friends and get them away from this canyon of certain death. She started slowly, flying continually around the oblivious little group, fanning her wings so that warm gusts circulated through the square-shaped space. 

”If nothing else, I’ll keep them from turning into ice lollys.”    

As the warm air encouraged the blood to flow through their veins, they noticed her once more. 

“Look at that,” Blue exclaimed. He pointed at the Firebird with his horn. ”It's a flying unicorn!”

“No, it isn't,” Gaiso corrected him. ”That, Sir Unicorn is a flying doe!” 

“You're both mistaken,” Gwyn informed them. ”It's the Pendragon who was being so rude. Remember? You told her to wait outside.” 

“They see me!” Girasol exclaimed, relieved that her efforts were working.

Each of them saw her as a different creature, and as they argued with each other so vehemently, Girasol wondered how they could communicate at all. The fact that they could at least see her gave her some hope, and an idea. 

Needing to generate more heat, she continued circling her friends, picking up speed as she flew. She raced around and around inside the canyon with the speed of a peregrine diving to strike its prey. 

Strawberry-colored flames licked the thin, melting ice from the frozen mountainsides until they were drier than the surface of the moon. The very walls stretched themselves toward the unaccustomed sunny glow. 

Still, she flew faster. 

The Firebird now generated a blue-flamed heat rivaling that of a star. Round and round the canyon she spiraled, as if chased by hounds from a netherworld.

The screaming of the Yegwa broke through the trance that held her captives. “This isn't fair! You're ruining my fun!” she yelled in savage irritation. 

Her voice echoed throughout the canyon and her screams frightened them all, but Girasol was joyful that her friends had recovered. They stood in the middle of the canyon, dripping with sweat, but had regained their faculties.

“What's going on?” Blue asked, trying to see the Firebird through the glaring light.

“There's no time to answer questions. Follow me. You too, Gwyn,” she ordered them. “I’ll lead you to safety.”

Blue and Gaiso scrambled after her, but the bigger bird hesitated. “Do I know you?” the Pendragon asked, wavering. 

Another of Yegwa’s terrible screeches echoed. 

With the increasing screeching of the enraged Yegwa, Gwyn decided it did not matter whether she knew these creatures or not. She hastily followed Blue and Gaiso down the trail after Girasol. The Firebird was frantic to find an escape for her charges. Their lives depended on it. If they got cold again, the Yegwa would regain her power over them.

No matter how far they ran, they could still hear her venomous taunts. ”There's no escape from Yegwa! Your friends are doomed, Firebird.” Her laughter rang obscenely. 

Girasol’s energy began to wane, but she refused to give up hope. She flew far ahead, seeking an exit from the canyon for her land-bound friends. She never stayed away from them longer than a minute, so that they would not lose too much body heat.

The Firebird was growing tired from over exertion. Never had she flown so fast before, but Yegwa easily kept up, laughing evilly at her attempt to save her friends. 

“You will fail!” the evil spirit screeched. Her voice bounced around the canyon walls, and it was this that finally allowed Girasol to see it. . .well, she saw something.

A crystalline vapor chased after the group. It shimmered like a mirage in the desert, but this quivering apparition was born from the cold, rather than the heat. 

Girasol did not stop to stare at Yegwa. She had to find an exit. She could not give up. All their lives all depended on it. 

The Firebird was expending her energy reserves quicker than usual, and there was no time to stop for another Pepo seed. Besides, she had no idea what the effects might be of eating another one so soon. For all she knew, she might completely flame out. She could not chance losing her strength, or her fire. Her friends needed her. 

The Yegwa was always right with her, laughing and taunting her failing strength, “You’re growing weak. You’ll never beat me at my own game. My essence will turn even you icy cold!”     

Hearing those words, Girasol faltered, dropping like a stone toward the ground. ”No!” she yelled defiantly. Her fall halted just two feet from the icy surface. A mighty surge of her wings pushed her back into the sky.

There, just a little ahead, the tired bird saw a small opening in the rock face. Through it, she could see a wide band of purple land. Her heart lifted. That was the way to freedom! 

She had flown over the rainbow-colored Bands of Weita. The colored bands were laid out exactly like a rainbow shining in the sky after a storm. First purple. . .then, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. The bands flowed seamlessly together, with only gentle hills and dells in the distance. Crossing should be easy. She smiled happily. Her energy could not have lasted much longer.

“Here,” she called triumphantly. “This is the way to safety!”

The opening proved smaller than she had thought. Blue exited first. The hole was a little wider than his shoulders, so he made it through with room to spare, but Gwyn got stuck half way through. Blue heard her cries for help and turned back. Grasping her flippers with his cloven hooves, he pulled, but could not budge the large Pendragon. 

Gaiso immediately positioned his antlers under her tail so that the sharp tines would not puncture the poor chick-drake. Pushing and pulling until the rocks crashed and crumbled, Gwyn finally squeezed through with a grunt and a groan. The hole was now large enough for the stag’s antlers to pass through without even touching the sides. He leapt through in a single bound and the three survivors waited anxiously for the Firebird to join them. 

Seeing them flee to safety, Yegwa called caustically, “Go that way, if you dare! You won't be any safer from those who dwell within the Bands of Weita than you are with me!” She laughed with harsh malice, and then vaporized back into nothing.

Girasol had soared back and forth before the opening in the side of the mountain, protecting her companions as they escaped the canyon. Now, they were all safe. “We'll take our chances,” she said wearily, exiting behind them. 

The instant they were all through, the screeching of the Yegwa mercifully ceased, as if an invisible sound barrier had sprung up between them.

Tell us about your latest project

I have two new metal horn unicorn projects going on concurrently.  One is something I’m calling The MarBryn Compendium.  It will be a rather large pictorial glossary about the unicorns and all of the other denizens of the Land of Marbryn, where the metal-horned unicorns were trapped for several centuries before they made their way back to their home planet of Unimaise.  The other is a children’s book featuring the metal-horned unicorns when they were little ponies.  I am co-writing it with Sandi Johnson and Enrique Vignolo is creating the adorable illustrations. It’s going to be amazing.

What is your favourite cake?

Chocolate – the chocolatier, fudgier and gooier the better.  In fact, I’m sure Tinam, the Tin-Horned unicorn – he’s the magical chef of the tribe - could whip an incredibly edible chocolaty confection right out of thin air that would more than satisfy the sweetest tooth of any unicorn.

You can find out more about Sybrina's books on her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Join me next week when I'll be having a slice of cake with Matilda Scotney.

If you would like to take part in A Slice of Cake With... please fill in the form found here. I'd be delighted to have you.

You can also support my writing endeavours and buy me tea & cake - it's what makes the world go round!

Claire Buss is a multi-genre author and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find all her books on Amazon. Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.