Have you ever wanted to visit the worlds and characters of your favorite books? Well, come and walk into our beautiful vast library and let us get you stuck in the pages!
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In my previous years as an SPFBO judge, I always tried to offer spotlights to as many authors in our group and to the finalists as I could. I planned to do it for SPFBO 8 too, but life was busy kicking my arse as I slowly clambered out of years of burnout. The 5th anniversary shenanigans forced me to revisit some of my old features and update them, and thus enabling me to reach out to the finalists and ask them if they wanted to play. I offered them a choice between What the Hungarian?!, Tales from the Asylum, Stuck in the Pages, Party with the Stars, an interview, and a guest post.
Trudie Skies, author of The Thirteenth Hour, Before We Go Blog’s SPFBO 8 finalist chose my newest feature, Stuck in the Pages and so, let’s see how they did with it!
This feature is posted as part of the Wyrd & Wonder Month hosted by amazing ladies, check out all the content on Twitter!
Trudie Skies is a British author based in North East England, though they have been living inside fantasy worlds ever since they discovered books, and they refuse to return to reality. Within Trudie’s daydreams you’ll find SPFBO and BBNYA finalist The Thirteenth Hour, a gaslamp fantasy described as obnoxiously British and best read with a cup of tea.
When not conjuring new worlds, Trudie spends their free time exploring the realms of indie books and video games, staring at clouds, and chasing after their fluffy companions.
Connect with Trudie Skies
You are an esteemed guest in the Asylum and you are currently browsing the books in our vast library when you spot a familiar title you really enjoyed once upon a time. You pick it up, nostalgia rushing through you. Which book did you lift from the shelves?
The Skin by J. E. Hannaford.
Turn to page 268 and pick up a passage that’s not spoilery. Share it with us!
‘Here, you take one half,’ Sal said and we sat in the dim light as he began to study the lists.
‘Sal, I’m not exactly a reader, remember?’ I said.
‘I must find time to teach you,’ he muttered. ‘Pass them all here. You remember the names I tell you as we go through.’
We searched the lists for hours. Most of the creatures in the collections were of no consequence for their spiritual power, but there were specimens of creatures I thought long extinct.
Oh no! Our pet demon just got too excited by your presence, opened a portal into the book, and now you are stuck in the pages. Describe yourself as a character! What is your theme song in this situation?
Yaar! I’m dressed like a salty sea dog with a pair of leather breeches and a fancy black waistcoat. Hang on, where’s my cutlass? Oh darn. I’m not a pirate. I’m just a boring ol’ sailor! No wonder my waistcoat smells faintly of seaweed. I suppose I’ll sing myself some sea shanties, then.
Come all you young sailor men, listen to me. I’ll sing you a song of the fish in the sea!
After the initial shock wears off, you assess your environment. What do you see? How do the other characters react to you if there are any?
It’s night time, and I appear to be on some sort of ship, though it’s less of a ship and more of a floating town. On the top deck, there are private huts and even trees growing on board. I’m standing in the common area that gives me a lovely view over the ocean.
We’re out in the Terranian Sea, so my new magical sailor senses are telling me, and this delightful ship is called Barge. It’s a pleasure boat. Oh my!
There are plenty of folk mingling nearby and they seem far too excited to notice me standing amongst them. A lovely lady named Seren has taken their entry fee. Judging by the lack of coin in my pockets, I must have already paid! She’s now asking her eager patrons to come follow her to the pleasure courtyard. A couple bump past me, rubbing their hands and talking about the night of pleasure that awaits them…
“We travel on the midnight tide of deepest, darkest desires,” so I hear.
Oh no. I’m far too sweet and innocent to explore my deepest, darkest desires! What have I gotten myself into?
Since you are stuck, you have to decide whether you stay where you are or go and find shelter. What do you do?
There’s a port across the horizon and illuminated by the moon overhead. Barge has already left for the open ocean, giving me no easy means of escaping until the ship returns and docks once more, which I’m guessing won’t be for a while yet. I could be stuck here for hours, and I can already hear people making squicky sounds. That’s a technical term.
I overhear some patrons talking about a meeting below deck in the Ocean Bar. It seems there’s more going on this ship than sexual gratification, and dark desires can also include secrets and other illicit goods. Even sailors need to relax and have a good time, right?
Your decision made, time to think a step further. You need food and drink. Can you find some in nature, buy some, barter or require it any other way? How?
The Ocean Bar sounds like the place to be, so I head on down to the lowest deck. Yes, I was right! This is the place to be. The lower deck holds beautiful fish tanks teeming with a variety of tropical fish I’ve never seen before. There’s a whole reef taking up the centre of the room. And on the far side is a bar surrounded by glowing jellyfish.
I head on over to the bar and I’m told drinks and food are included with my entry. Just what my sailor-ears wanted to hear! There’re all kinds of exotic multi-coloured drinks, and naturally, fish are on the menu. I ask for a pina colada—or nearest equivalent—and get handed a silvery-looking drink with an umbrella.
I decide not to order the fish. Seems wrong to eat fish when you’re being watched by fish.
Once you are full, a creature approaches you. What/who it is and is it dangerous?
When I’ve finished my drink, I take a closer look at the fish tanks. There’re poison creatures inside some of the tanks, so I’m warned. One of the glowy purple tentacle boi’s swims right up to me. It probably can’t kill me from the other side of the tank, but I keep an eye on it, just in case.
My deepest, darkest desires don’t include tentacles, to be honest.
While interacting with this creature, you discover you have magical abilities. What are they? And can you use them at all?
As I stare into the tank, the jellyfish places one of its tentacles on the glass, and I press my hand above it. My reflection changes slightly as I realize I’ve gained the ability to glamour myself, and thus alter what I look like!
I shed a tear, for the jellyfish has reminded me of my deepest, darkest desire. To grow a fabulous purple mohawk.
How does your encounter end with the creature?
I allow the glamour to take hold, and I am no longer a lowly sailor, but Tru, Master of the Skies, a fearsome pirate with a really cool waistcoat, cutlass strapped to my belt, and a purple mohawk. I tip my mohawk at the jellyfish and bid it farewell. Even pirates need to be polite.
It’s still night on Barge, but I step outside to breathe in that salty sea air and the scent of jasmine as my mohawk flutters majestically in the breeze.
Meanwhile, the Asylum staff realizes what happened and finally manages to figure out how to get you out of the book. How much time do you think passed?
It’s still night, which means a few hours at most must have passed.
While the staff fusses over you, your thoughts are whirring. How do you think your character would have changed the story going forward? What impact your short stay had on the world?
Alas, I doubt the patrons would have noticed me, as drunk and sex-crazed as they were, but perhaps the crew of the Black Hind paid heed to the pirate with the cool mohawk aboard Barge and will consider hiring me for a sea-faring adventure in the future.
The Asylum staff escorts you to a cozy room with a window to our garden and puts you in bed. When you wake up from your nap, you find the book on your nightstand. What’s your first thought? What do you do?
When I wake, my hands go straight to my head to feel for my mohawk. To my dismay, the glamour didn’t hold. I shed another tear. I open up The Skin and I’m pleased to read that the staff of Barge are taking good care of the sea creatures aboard, including my tentacle friend.
The Asylum staff, concerned with your behaviour decides to keep you under our careful watch indefinitely. We assure you this does not makes us happy but we will let you play with our pet demon whenever you wish. We hope you enjoy your time with us!
Thank you for awakening my deepest, darkest desire!
Grab a copy of Trudie Skies‘ SPFBO 8 Finalist, The Thirteenth Hour!
If you’d like to try this feature out, please contact us for further details!
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