The eagle’s shadow behind the main character,Virgin Jackson, has great significance in the story and you can see Nate Sixkiller on Virgin’s shirt. The background is the city and the foreground is the Birrimun Park. The park has hints of purple mulla mulla on it.
I know a lot of you aren’t going to like what I’m about to write, but maybe some of you will agree with me. I can easily say that I really enjoyed Legend, and there’s no doubt about it. But I can also say that the cover doesn’t do the story inside justice.
It’s true that the cover does incorporate various aspects of the story, but I feel there are endless possibilities and that the cover could have been much more eye catching that it is.
On the other hand, how crazy amazing was Legend?! Day and June are totally kickbutt! And OH so perfect for each other!! I love that this story was told in both of their points of view. The reader got the chance to get into both of their heads and see what they’re thinking and how they’re living their lives.
Legend weaves back and forth between the lives of Day and June, who live in the same world, but on completely different ends. While June is the baby sister of a high ranking soldier, Day is viewed as a criminal. June has perfect scores, is enrolled in a military academy and is living a good life. Day is legally dead, hiding in the slums, hoping to steal any food, and medicine to provide for his brothers and mom.
At the age of ten every child has to take a test called the Trials, scoring them on their intelligence and physical ability. The score they receive decides what kind of lifestyle they will be living in their future. If they’re scores are high (like June’s) their life will be comfortable. But if their scores are low (like Day’s) they are sent to working camps.
A civil war is rising between the rich and poor. More and more of the poor are dying due to a plague, while the rich go on living their lives with the cure.
When June’s brother is brutally murdered, she sets out to find his killer and get revenge. She heads to the poor lands of her society, knowing she has nothing left to lose. Her brother meant everything to her, and was always there for her, even when their parents weren’t.
Day is struggling with his own problems. He has a risky plan to steal the plague cure and return to his baby brother who is coming down with the sickness. His plan doesn’t run as smoothly as he hoped because Day isn’t sure, but he thinks he might have killed a soldier on his way out of the hospital.
Day and June bump into each during a street fight. Day takes in June, and they both start to have feelings for one another. June soon finds out who Day really is, and what he did. And can’t believe she was distracted by her feelings.
But the couple soon realizes everything isn’t what it seems. The world they are living in is a lie. The government, the Trials, the plague – everything is a lie. Day and June know what is REALLY going on, and need to do something about it.
Overall Legend was totally bad (…ass, that is!) and I already added Prodigy and Champion to my Christmas wishlist! Day and June were everything and more that I was hoping for in two main characters in this type of society dealing with these types of issues! I think that it’s extremely interesting that the world they live in is very comparable to the world we’re living in. Each person is sorted and filed by their physical ability and intelligence, but in Legend it’s is much more obvious.
My littlest treasure recently turned six years old. Six is a big deal when you’re five and three quarters. Big enough to want to invite twenty-eight five and six year olds to your party. And then there’s the grown-ups. Mr Just-Turned-Six is the youngest of three boys. Any parent of more than one child will tell you that you go all out for the first few birthday parties (if you’re that way inclined anyway) but then reality sets in. Big parties drop off to every second or third year. By the time number three child is around, crunch time has well and truly hit and it becomes a ‘you get one or two big parties and that’s it’ kind of thing.
Throwing the birthday party of your dreams is back-breaking hard work. It’s stressful. Expensive. And – notice where I said ‘…the party of your dreams…’ – yeah, well, while the birthday child might be thrilled with the result, they’re not necessarily going to curl at your feet every day for the rest of their lives thanking you for making their childhood the magical, imaginative experience that it clearly is. In other words, kids parties can induce a sort of post-event emotion-dive.
Well, that’s how it is for me anyway. Obviously, I over-think these things.
So, with all this in mind, I sat down with Mr Six to work out a theme for his party. Monsters? I suggested. Nah, he said. Superheroes? Nope. Not interested. Minecraft, he says. Too tricky, I say (calculating in the back of my mind how few Minecraft party supplies are available). Lego? Nope. Adventure Time? Arghh no! I had visions of crafting teeny tiny Ice Kings and Princess Bubblegums from sticky bits of fondant. And then, in a moment of either brilliance or laziness – because I’ve done this theme before – I suggested ‘Under the Sea’. He said yes. I said yippee!
With today’s post, I’m just going to start with the main birthday cake. We’ll talk cupcakes and cake pops and decorations soon. The fish cake is one of those things that looks amazing and complicated and like you’re a super talented cake decorator, when, in all honesty – it’s seriously simple.
The Day Before the Party
I started with eight (yes, EIGHT!) commercial packet mixes. I used the cheapest vanilla cake mixes I could find. My big tin is approx. 18cm by 28cm and 8cm deep. It took 4 mixes, and you’ll need two cakes. Mix and bake according to instructions. I did add a little extra vanilla essence – because I can’t help myself – and a few drops of blue and green food colouring. Give yourself plenty of time – a cake of this size needs plenty of time to cook, and you need two.
*My star cake tip is always, always take the time to grease and line your tin properly.
Scales and Fins
You’ll need a couple of packets of white chocolate melts, edible glitter, baking or parchment paper and some specialist chocolate food colouring. Using normal water-based food dye in chocolate will result in a nasty seized-up mess of bleugh. Powdered food colouring is fine, as is oil-based. I used a specialist product called Flo-Coat. It’s made by AmeriColor, and available at any cake decorating shop, or online. All you do is mix 5 drops of Flo-Coat to one drop of water-based food colour. I found it easiest to do this in a small glass with a wooden skewer, making sure I had plenty of pre-mixed colour for when my chocolate was melted. I quantities I used were aprox 40 drops of Flo-Coat to 8 drops of colour.
Next, lay out a large piece of baking paper on a flat surface. Melt white chocolate using your preferred method. I did mine in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between. I don’t like to work with much more than a cup and a half of chocolate at a time. Once melted, add your colour. Working quickly, add teaspoon-sized scoops of chocolate to the baking paper. Smooth with the back of the spoon to an elongated disc shape, at least 1mm thick. While it’s still wet, sprinkle glitter (or pearls, or any other embellishment). Make sure you make a few different sizes with each colour. With each batch of chocolate, I also varied the colour a little. You’ll need approx. 50 scales of varying sizes. Set at room temperature, and then carefully lift from the paper (it’ll come away easily) and store overnight in an air-tight container.
For the fins and tail, draw the shape you’ll need onto a piece of baking paper. Flip the paper (so you don’t get any lead in your chocolate!) and fill in your template with the desired colour of chocolate, using the back of a spoon or a spatula to smooth. Don’t forget the glittery bits! I made two dorsal fins and two tails. You’ll need eyes too, made using plain white chocolate in the same way, with the detail added later by either painted food-dye, or using edible markers (textas).
Hopefully you’re so organised the morning of the party, all you need to do it put the cake together. First step is to place one of the already baked cakes on a cooling tray. With a skewer, draw the shape of a fish. Use a sharp bread knife to carve the cake to your desired shape. Basically, you’re just taking off the corners at this point. When you’re done, place the first cake on top of the second, and follow your own lines so the cakes are now the same shape – kind of an oval. Now, you need to use those sculpting skills. Carve your cakes into a more football-shape by taking a little bit at a time. Remember – a little bit.
Once you have the basic shape, transfer to the board or dish you’ll be serving it up on. Smoosh the two layers together using your choice of frosting or cream. As usual, I used Betty Crocker brand pre-made vanilla frosting. It’s yummy and reliable. This cake took 3 tubs of frosting.
Once ‘smooshed’, tint the remaining frosting to a colour similar to your scales (or you could go for contrast). Cover the entire cake with a decent layer of frosting, paying particular attention to the rough carved areas where it doesn’t stick quite so well. Once covered, make small cuts with a sharp knife to the top of the cake, where you’ll wedge in the dorsal fins, and the back, where you’ll add the tail.
Once they’ve been added, gather up your scales and starting in front of the tail, work forward, slightly over-lapping each one. I used the smallest scales near the tail, and the bigger ones near our Fishy’s face. Leave approx. the first third of the fish clear of scales for what will soon be the face.
Add eyes, and mouth. The mouth in this case was made from red mouldable chocolate (also available at your cake decorating shop). After adding a couple of extras – some red and yellow M&M’s to fill in the gaps – you’re ready to wow!
Bec: Congrats on the recent launch of The Blood She Betrayed in Brisbane! What does it feel like to send your ‘baby’ out into the big, wide world? Would you share some of your fears and hopes?
Cherie: How does it feel? Like unsheathing my sword for my first-ever battle and discovering my blade’s been changed to rubber – I can either dash off the battlefield and hide behind the geraniums, or stay and face the critics. Fortunately, I’ve been buoyed by some fabulous reviews and gorgeous fan mail since The Blood She Betrayed was published. Readers have written to me and told me how much they’ve loved my characters and storyline. One reader has even begged me to write a new Heart Hunters novel every week (I wish! It takes months and months to put a story like this together – for me, at least).
As a newly published author, I wanted to spin a book that touched people’s hearts. I’m hoping I did that. My second hope is that people will read and share my book and give it the chance to become known not just in my neck of the woods, but around the world.
My biggest fear? Will I be able to write future Heart Hunters novels that resonate with the same magic as the first? My second novel, The Ghost She Killed, is due at my Publisher by March so once my author tour is over, I’ll be typing my little fingers to the bone to get the manuscript finished. For me, writing is therapy. There are all these images and conversations exploding inside my head and I need to pour them out onto. The hard work is making sense of all the characters and plot arcs and shaping it into a story that deserves to be read by readers. Readers are, after all, very discerning
Bec:The Blood She Betrayed is Book 1 in the Heart Hunters series. Can you tell us a bit about your gutsy heroine, the half-Taloner Shahkara, and your plans for Book 2, The Ghost She Killed?
Cherie: Seventeen-year-old Shahkara is a warrior princess from another world who comes to Brisbane, Earth, to find an ancient artefact, the Elnara, which can wipe out the heart-devouring Taloner demons plaguing her kingdom. As she arrives on earth, she manages to save the life of Max, brooding, directionless son of the enigmatic billionaire Liam McCalden. Max discovers that Taloners are trying to kill him and Shahkara discovers she needs an Earthern guide so they team up to find the Elnara together. The only problem: Shahkara’s hiding a deadly secret of her own. She’s half-Taloner. This gives her enhanced strength and sensory perceptions, but it also means she shares the same dark heart-lust and fears getting too close to Max in case she rips out his heart. You can watch the book trailer here:
Shahkara evolved from an image that flitted through my head – one of a warrior princess with gritty determination and fighter’s heart. I knew that, for her, I needed to create a story where the stakes were high and the sacrifices great. The Blood She Betrayed is a story of life and death, good and evil and an apocalypse that needs to be thwarted… within three days.
Shahkara’s not a brilliant swordswoman or magician or mathematician, but she knows how to hold her own at court. Stripped of royal title, she becomes a stranger in a strange land, fearful of relying on anyone, but determined to forge her way through the murky, technologically-driven Earthlands so she can save her people. She’s every young woman I know, facing challenging circumstances with no easy answers. We may not be saving the world, but we use our courage, compassion and smarts to wade through the mire, whether it’s an overdue assignment or a dying friend with cancer.
The Ghost She Killed is the second novel in my Heart Hunters series. Without giving away an spoilers, I can say that it has a lot more action and adventures for my main characters. A chunk of the book is set in a huge, hotel/casino in the heart of Brisbane, inspired by a stay at Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, a few years ago. There are also new threats, new demons, new ancient artefacts and a lot more magic.
Bec: You’ve just chaired a panel at GenreCon 2013 in Brisbane. Authors are famously pretty introverted creatures. Do you get the jitters, or are you confident when it comes to public appearances? What advice would you give first-time panel members?
Cherie: As a child, I was quite shy around strangers. I was more comfortable making friends with books than real-life people – but real-life people are so fascinating! Since my late teens, I’ve learnt to overcome my nerves and step out of my comfort zone so I can talk to strangers.
Some people say imagining their audience naked helps overcome their fears. I’ve never remembered to do that, but I also think it probably wouldn’t work for me – it’d just freak me out!
My advice for first-time panel members:
Know your subject but don’t feel nervous about any areas that aren’t your expertise – that’s why there’s a panel.
Write the three or four most important areas of discussion in short, sharp bullet points on a palm-sized piece of cardboard – so you don’t forget to bring these subjects up.
Imagine you’re only talking to the panel – that the audience doesn’t exist.
If you’re asked a question that you really can’t answer, say: “That’s an interesting question. Panel member B, how would you answer this?”
Remember to breathe!
Bec: You come from a strong writing community in Bundaberg. Can you tell us what’s happening up there?
Cherie: Bundaberg has a vibrant writing and arts community and one of the best libraries that you can find down under. Bundy writers are particularly proud of our annual one-day WriteFest in May each year, which brings authors/presenters from across Australia together to deliver cutting-edge info on craft and publishing. We attract attendees from as far away as the northern tip of Queensland and the far south of New South Wales. It’s a warm and close-knit gathering and gives writers like myself the chance to learn heaps – and pitch to top Australian publishers, including Hachette, Random House and HarperCollins. Speakers at next year’s event include international best-selling author Kathryn Fox, children’s picture book author/illustrator Jacque Duffy and industry stalwart Jo Butler who will present a masterclass on fitting your book into the changing shape of Australian publishing. Details will soon be available via bundywriters.com
Bec: Where would you like to be as a writer in ten years’ time?
Cherie: My ultimate goal is to write full-time – and to find beautiful friends/fans who help spread the word about my stories to others. I write to unleash the characters and stories cluttering my mind. I can do that anywhere, anytime, but I often feel stretched because I’m trying to juggle work, writing, family life and community. My dream is to earn a full-time living from my fiction writing and if I could do that within the next decade, that would be fabulous. I have some amazing stories that I want to share with the world. Watch this space.
Dead fingers curled around an ancient crypt and a love of Celtic mythology were the two inspirations behind Cheryse Durrant’s The Blood She Betrayed, the first novel in her Young Adult Urban Fantasy Heart Hunters series, published by Clan Destine Press. Durrant grew up on a small farm outside Roma where she chatted to scrub faeries and imaginary friends, including a superhero. She wrote her first story on her aunt’s bedroom wall when she was roughly four, but it failed to attract literary acclaim. She worked as a journalist for 15 years before trading her soul for fiction. The coffee/chocolate/strawberry addict now lives at Bargara on the central Queensland coast where she teaches writing through Creative Dragons (www.creativedragons.com.au) and is an avid WriteFest (www.bundywriters.com) fan.