Thirteen Mercies, Three Kills by Liv Olteano
Harmony Ink Press
Cover Art : Catt Ford
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Liv Olteano here today talking about books, writing and her latest Harmony Ink story, Thirteen Mercies, Three Kills by Liv Olteano. Welcome, Liv.
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with Liv Olteano
Q: How much of yourself goes into a character?
I often ask myself that question. The truthful answer is I think there’s something of the creator in whatever they create. Just like there’s something of parents in their children, without them being an exact replica of the parents, I believe as writers we put something of ourselves in every story and character we come up with.
Without them being any sort of mirrored image, I believe characters do say something about their writer.
Q: Do you feel there’s a tight line between Mary Sue or should I say Gary Stu and using your own experiences to create a character?
I believe that if a writer uses their own experiences only to create characters, then the results end up feeling stunted, incomplete, and terribly repetitive.
What we do is use everything around us, every moment of our lives and of those around, every melody we ever hear, every feeling anyone has ever expressed in some way that has reached us. There’s a sort of primordial soup bubbling in a writer’s mind and heart, I think. Everything that person has ever experienced, thought, heard, and in any way came into contact with goes into the soup.
It can lead to the creation of countless worlds and characters, and some can have traits or present ideas that are very much connected to their creator; and sometimes the worlds and characters we come up with are shocking to those around us, because they can’t reconcile what they know of us as people with what we create.
I’m not sure if the “perfect” creation would reflect enough of the creator, or of it should reflect nothing of them. What do you think?
Q: Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write? Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?
I’m a geek at heart, truth be told. I’m also a sociologist by training and have studied various cultures and cultural patterns. I love reading about different societies and belief systems, and am fascinated both by what they all have in common, and what sets each one apart. There’s a wealth of information out there, more than any one person can ever hope to have the time and resources to access and understand. But what we do manage to find out and experience goes into that creative primordial soup.
When a story comes to me, it comes with its setting and world traits, as well as its characters. I do research on whatever I feel can strengthen what came to mind at that point – cities, cultures, folklore, anything and everything. I love the research stage of the process. It’s when that primordial soup is at its finest, shaping up clear directions and solidifying in what later becomes that story.
I love the freedom of creating something of my own and including facts or aspects of the real world – it’s the mix of things that is interesting, after all. Always much more interesting than each element on its own, right?
Q: Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?
As a reader, I can enjoy either – it really depends on the writing, on how invested I am in the characters and the story itself. I find I enjoy the ‘falling for’ bit of the story the most, in fact. All that tension, all the uncertainty. I’m a very evil reader, lol. I love tormented characters and love to see them squirm, haha. Once that part of their interaction is over things can still be fun, but the most fun for me is when it’s the toughest for the characters, mwahaha.
As a writer, I generally go where the story wants me to – I don’t like putting pressure on my characters to interact in a certain way so it would lead to a certain ending.
Watching her father’s termination, twenty-year-old Cristina Mera Richards decides to kill the reaper Edgar Verner. Verner is the resident alkemist of New Bayou, though, and since alkemists are immortal, killing him won’t be easy. But the harvesters are destroying the hovertown one citizen at a time. Edgar Verner must be stopped.
Cristina Mera has a gift for seeing and hearing ghosts. She escorts souls out of bodies ravaged by the withering sickness, taking away their pain. Her gifts are unique. Once it’s clear she’s a changeling, Verner becomes more than interested in having her by his side.
Mysterious Wanderer Alkemist Nikola Skazat is the solution to Cristina Mera’s problems—a delightful and charming one, since Nikola is a woman unlike any Cristina Mera has ever met. Becoming Nikola’s apprentice instead of Verner’s finally gives Cristina Mera the opportunity she needs to save her hovertown. It also puts her heart in high gear, gives her butterflies, and just might get her killed.
“It was night. It was always night.
Since the Final War, the skies had been covered in thick clouds that allowed no light to pass through. The Outside air was poisoned. The Old World was covered in a thick layer of soot. A dead world rotting away under a coat of darkness. And we had killed it, history said. Now we were dying too. Or would have been were it not for alkemists and their hovering platforms that housed us and filtered the air that we breathed. The alkemists had saved us, the story went. But in order to be saved, people had to make sacrifices.
In our town, New Bayou, the sacrifices consisted of terminations, soul extractions, becoming golems, paying fines for negative float factors, and allowing the hover platform resident alkemist to be our lord and ruler. Our resident alkemist had declared that civilized towns had to have a mayor, senators, and policemen. But what our authorities did was anything but civilized.
We had traditional times of day and night that followed the cycles we were told existed back when the sun rose and set. Clocks told us what time it was, and we used terms like “day” and “night” for the endless darkness of the skies. We separated time into hours, weeks, months, and years, though nothing much ever changed except for the citizens of each platform. Or at least on ours. We didn’t travel often between platforms. It was too risky to try.
Today was a termination day. It was staged as a grand event, always. People gathered in the town hall, in the terminations room, specifically, to witness the sacrifice citizens were making for the greater good. Or the punishment inflicted on those found guilty of a crime. At least once a week, a dozen citizens at a time were terminated. Sometimes the authorities required more or settled for less—it all depended on how much float fuel the engines needed.
Death lounged against the window frame. It seemed eager to pick up the dozen souls still residing in the bodies lined up. Max Richards—my father—was among them. The sacrifices stood proud and brave, condemned while their runes shone in bright colors nobody besides me and Death itself seemed to see. The rune tattoos were supposed to give them strength, courage, and quiet of the mind while they waited. Nobody wanted to have a restless soul right before termination. It might change the float factor of their soul and make their sacrifice futile. Of course no one wanted those dozen souls to have anything but positive float factors.
I thought those runes were simply signs of condemnation. Death was death, as far as I was concerned. It wasn’t a brave sacrifice or a glorious gesture. It was simply the parting of the soul from the body. And regardless of the runes, that parting was a painful event.
This batch of terminations was a strange mix of criminals and volunteers. Strangest of all was the fourth volunteer from the right—my father. My heart beat violently, and I looked him straight in the eye. There should have been some sort of emotion in those beautiful gray eyes, but they looked blank. He stared back at me, unreachable, as much a stranger now as he’d been for too much of my life. It made sense, after all, that he’d be a stranger in the hour of his death too. I loved my father the way one loves art: as a concept, for its execution, and from afar. My love for him was a cold kind of love that unsettled the heart, neither tender nor comforting. I liked to think he loved me the same way. It was better than the alternative… that he didn’t love at all.
Edgar Verner—our resident alkemist—walked around the flock of victims, thick-lens goggles hiding his eyes. His presence was insulting in a way I wasn’t allowed by law to even contemplate, but I did contemplate it, felt it and fully embraced it in my heart. I hated Verner because I saw so many of his victims’ ghosts still ambling about the hovertown. Sometimes he deemed souls as having negative float factor after having extracted them from the body, so he didn’t consume them. He simply freed them, left them to wander, lost and terrified, without a body. Once extracted by the alkemic device, a soul was stuck among the living. Nobody had told me so, and I had no way of asking, but I was sure the cupola under which we lived also kept souls within. It seemed to me releasing those extracted souls was an act of pure malice. He had to know they suffered once released in such a manner. I knew they suffered. I heard their wails of fear and despair. And I hated him for it. I hated him even more for having consumed some of the souls himself. He was a reaper, a soul eater, a monster. The town could sing his praises all it wanted. It was easy to. The town couldn’t hear the wails of the ghosts still around. And they wailed on and on, seeming to have no notion of time or place, and no consolation.
I glanced at Death as it sat there and I wondered how it felt about the competition. It stared back at me like we were old friends. In fact we were acquaintances, if I had to find a word for it. We’d seen each other over the last ten years on multiple occasions—never chatted, though. Death never had a thing to say. Perhaps it knew no language, and little need did it have to use one. Its actions spoke loud enough. Just like Verner’s, I thought bitterly, though he chose to speak.
In the crowd of witnesses, I stood numb, oddly detached from the moment. Every now and then my gaze slid back to Death as it lazed against the window. Hair tumbled from its head like a tangled river of blood. Its face, hair, and attire flickered in and out of view. When it grinned, a void opened up on the brink of its lips. It regarded me with holes for eyes.
Silence reigned like a curse over the room, thick enough to choke. Verner pointed slowly to the first victim in the row. The young girl was probably no older than me—I thought she was too young to be terminated. But then again, there never was a good time to die. Was she a volunteer at such a young age? Perhaps a criminal? My stomach seemed to crawl up into my chest.
Death chuckled and took a step closer. The alkemic device in Verner’s palm looked deceptively delicate and beautiful. The thin iridium spokes, nicely held together by a matching iridium frame, held a crystal in place. It was quite a tiny, lovely thing—lovely and deadly. It shone with a rainbow of colors as it began to suck out the girl’s soul. A mirroring pull in my own heart made my skin crawl. My soul seemed eager to abandon ship.
Death frowned and wagged a finger at me like a mother chastising her child. I swallowed thickly as black-cherry hair overlapped the rivers of blood gurgling from Death’s head. Its eyes seemed green for one terrible moment. The face cut my breath short. Of all the times it could have done so, it chose this particular moment to flash at me an image of my dead mother. Was it a twisted sort of kindness on its part to show me the one I’d loved the most and whom it had taken away?
Verner sucked in the young soul through his mouth like a mist of colors that he breathed in. The device in his palm slowly shut down, the crystal’s eerie glow dying out. He licked his lips and grinned.”
Want to read Chapter 1 entirely? Visit Thirteen Mercies, Three Kills on Harmony Ink and click Show Excerpt to read it!
About Liv Olteano
Liv Olteano is a voracious reader, music lover, and coffee addict extraordinaire. And occasional geek. Okay, more than occasional.
She believes stories are the best kind of magic there is. And life would be horrible without magic. Her hobbies include losing herself in the minds and souls of characters, giving up countless nights of sleep to get to know said characters, and trying to introduce them to the world. Sometimes they appreciate her efforts. The process would probably go quicker if they’d bring her a cup of coffee now and then when stopping by. Characters—what can you do, right?
Liv has a penchant for quirky stories and is a reverent lover of diversity. She can be found loitering around the Internet at odd hours and being generally awkward and goofy at all times.
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