I love funny and sweet, and when I read the title, it sounded quirky to me, which all the better.
Qwyrk (Qwyrk Tales) by Tim Rayborn rekleased in May in the Fantasy, urban fantasy, humor, LGBT, history genre.
Qwyrk is the first in a series of four novels about the adventures of a group of misfits at the edge of reality in modern northern England, a world of shadows, Nighttime Nasties, sorcery, intergalactic councils, tacky nightclub attire, an abundance of sarcasm, and even elves…though they are a bit silly.
Qwyrk is having a bad day; several, in fact. One of the Shadow folk tasked with keeping an eye on humanity, she’s ready for a well-earned break in Yorkshire, but now she’s (literally) run into a girl, Jilly, who just saw something quite supernatural and truly awful happen in her town.
As Qwyrk tries to unravel the mystery, layers of villainy are exposed, and she’s stuck with an assortment of unlikely folk that she’d rather not have “helping” her.
Together, they confront ancient magic, medieval conspiracies, and the possible end of the world (that again?). It’s not the holiday Qwyrk was hoping for!
Qwyrk and her friends sat on the slanted rooftop of the Ecklesons’ large old home a little later on, quite annoyed. Now they were just trying to avoid all of the clatter and the obnoxious human adults stomping around below. Jimmy’s second outburst had no doubt earned him a grounding for the next month. Mr. Eckleson had let out a few stern words that were decidedly inappropriate for young Jimmy’s ears.
So Qwyrk, and her mates Qwypp and Qwykk, sat and surveyed the scene. It was a nice detached Edwardian home, with a lovely yard. Well, it would have been lovely except that it needed more tending than the Ecklesons were prepared to give it.
An old rosebush had grown to quite a size, such that its thorny branches often grabbed people as they walked by, often to gasps of surprise that then turned to annoyance as new victims found themselves unable to walk any farther until they became untangled. Those that ventured forward to smell the roses risked never being seen again.
At least twice a month, Mr. Eckleson threatened to hack the whole thing down, but somehow, he always got distracted by other weekend activities, such as football on television. And secretly, he harbored a slight fear of the thing, as if it were watching him. He worried that if he cut it down, a mob of rosebushes might return one night to enact a brutal vengeance. Mr. Eckleson needed a bit more fresh air.
Yes, it could have been a charming entryway to an old house, even with the disagreeable rosebush. But the plastic pink flamingos that Mrs. Eckleson had brought back from their Florida holiday and displayed with pride out front ensured that “charming” was not a word on the lips of guests. So did the bright blue ceramic garden gnome.
So, the trio looked down on the yard now: gnomes, flamingos, petulant rosebushes, and all. Humans could only see them as shadows with glowing red eyes, but up here, all alone, they saw each other on their natural form, which was basically like humans, except for their pointed ears. Humans would probably be disappointed by that. The occasional human—like a witch, a druid, a shaman, or some such—who could see them in their true form called them elves or fairies, which the Shadows resented. Elves were pretty silly, after all.
“So… what are we looking at?” Qwypp asked. Her bright red bob haircut clashed with her blue overalls and purple Doc Marten boots in a noticeable way.
“The rosebush,” Qwyrk sighed, as she ran her hands through her short but oh-so-stylish blonde hair.
“The rosebush,” Qwypp repeated. “And we’re looking at this rosebush because…”
“Shhh! Did you see that?” Qwyrk interrupted.
“What?” asked Qwykk, curling a strand of her long, wavy brown hair around her finger, and smoothing out wrinkles in her new designer exercise outfit. She obviously prided herself on being the glamorous one of the three.
“One of the branches moved.”
“Oh. My. Goddess!” Qwypp exclaimed. “You mean they have… wind up here in the north? We got here just in time!”
Qwykk stifled a giggle.
Qwyrk shot both of them an angry look. “It bent a little, like an elbow, you idiots! The rosebush is taking on anthropomorphic qualities. I’m sure I just saw it.”
“Anthro-what?” Qwykk asked.
“It means it’s becoming animated, moving like a bipedal being,” Qwypp answered, looking quite proud of herself, and smiling a smug smile.
“I don’t care what its sexual orientation is! That’s its own private business,” Qwykk answered in an equally snooty voice, clearly trying to sound impressive.
Qwyrk sighed and rolled her eyes. “Look, let’s just focus on it for a while, all right? It may do something else. We have to find out.”
“I wonder how that would work?” Qwykk mused after another minute of the three of them watching in silence.
“How what would work?” Qwyrk knew she’d regret asking.
“I mean, if you was a rosebush, how would you know who you fancied? Like, what if you had a knob with thorns? That wouldn’t be very pleasant! And even if you did know, what could you do about it? I mean… suppose you liked the rosebush on the other side of the street, how would you know if it fancied you back? And even if you knew it did, how would you actually get over there to get a snog? It’s not like you could move or anything. And how would you actually snog? Like, with what? Rosebuds on your branches? And suppose you actually fancied the oak tree next door instead, well, that opens up a whole new set of problems!”
Qwyrk almost put her face in her palms. Almost.
“Why can’t we just go downstairs and do some yoga?” Qwypp interjected, and for once, Qwyrk was glad for her whining.
“I told you…” Qwyrk started.
“You didn’t, though!” Qwypp said, annoyed. “Just that you’ve got a job up here to do, because of some funny reports.”
“Yeah, Qwyrk, what’s up? You dragged us all the way up here from London, when we were going clubbing this weekend, and we have a right to know why.”
Qwyrk assumed a mock pleasant voice. “Look, here it is again, in small words, so you’ll understand: that big rosebush has been doing some strange things over the last couple of weeks. It’s been moving like a human, and people have also been seeing things like ghosts, goblins, strange lights, and apparitions in the neighborhood; there was even a little earthquake a few days ago. When a plant starts moving by itself, it’s usually not a good thing, and if there’re ghosts and goblins involved, and the earth starts rumbling, it doesn’t usually lead to snogs and chocolate. All clear now?”
“But what are we supposed to do about it?” pouted Qwykk. “Now I can’t use my VIP pass to London’s ‘Club Nitro Ibiza Hedonistic Fun Dome’ this weekend.”
“The council wants us to keep an eye on it for a bit, to watch over everything. Our mate Jimmy down there is making that a bit difficult and making me question the wisdom of that order. I’ve a good mind to gag him tomorrow night.”
“The fact that we’re the ones that scare the bejeesus out of most kids who see us is somehow lost on the council, eh?” snarked Qwypp. “I don’t make the rules,” Qwyrk answered. “I just follow them.”
Qwyrk did ponder the irony of it all. “Well, what can I say? Sometimes kids are up far past their bedtimes and spot us. Then they get more scared of us than of the dangers we’re supposed to be watching for.”
It’s time for a change in policy.
Tim Rayborn is a writer and internationally acclaimed musician. He plays dozens of unusual instruments that many people of have never heard of and often can’t pronounce, including medieval instrument reconstructions and folk instruments from Northern Europe, the Balkans, and the Middle East.
He has appeared on over forty recordings, and his wanderings and tours have taken him across the US, all over Europe, to Canada and Australia, and to such romantic locations as Marrakech, Istanbul, Renaissance chateaux, medieval churches, and high school gymnasiums.
On the writing side of things, Tim lived in England for nearly seven years and has a PhD from the University of Leeds, which he likes to pretend means that he knows what he’s talking about. He has written several books and magazine articles about music, the arts, history, and business, and undoubtedly will write more (whether anyone likes it or not).
He currently resides in Northern California amid many books, antique music reproduction devices (i.e., CDs), instruments, and with a sometimes-demanding cat. He’s also rather enthusiastic about good wines, single-malt Scotch, and cooking excellent food.
Thoughts on the inspiration for Qwyrk
Qwyrk was inspired by several things, primarily my seven years of living in Leeds (in Yorkshire) in the 1990s. I’d been an Anglophile and medievalist since I saw Disney’s Robin Hood cartoon (you know, the one with the fox) way back at the tender age of about four. Other boys wanted to play with plastic army soldiers; I wanted plastic knights in armor. Soon after, I discovered the Lord of the Rings, the Sword of Shannara series, Star Wars, comic books, Dungeons & Dragons, and a host of other pleasant diversions, and there was no turning back.
My tendency to gravitate toward weird interests persisted in my decision to move to Leeds in 1992 and pursue an M.A. and then a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies. Clearly, I wanted a lucrative career. I was fortunate enough to travel around the North and much farther afield in those years, and to take in the richness of the culture and nature of Britain and beyond. I had an abiding interest not only in British history, but also its folklore, its older spiritual beliefs, and host of other such things.
The idea for this novel first started to take root back about 2006 or so. I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do, but some of the characters and mannerisms revealed themselves to me in those early stages. I knew the story had to be humorous, with a nod to the great sarcastic and surreal comic traditions of Britain: Monty Python, Blackadder, Terry Pratchett, the Young Ones, and so on and so forth. Some of the characters ended up being (very loosely) based on real people that I knew or had met. And no, I will never reveal who and will deny anything if anyone actually sees themselves in any of these characters!
I pounded out a few introductory chapters and then let it go back to rest for many years, with the intention of finishing eventually. Well, eventually is one of those words that is often a synonym for “Never, ever… ha ha ha!” But I was determined to get it done. So, a few years ago, I did a proverbial dusting off of what I had and sat down and awaited inspiration. Well, not really. I had to work at it, but I found that once I was in the “flow” (whatever that means), the words came pretty easily and I found myself in possession of a completed book. Then the real work of refining it, pruning it, and not wanting to throw all of it into a compost heap began.
The story drew from my various interests, and includes a smattering of various ideas and likes from different points in my life. This little tale gently (I hope) skewers everything from fantasy tropes to Western philosophy to New Age musings. Above all I wanted it to be fun: fairies, Nighttime Nasties, Templar knights, folklore, sorcery, and elves (though they are a bit silly). There’s plenty of sarcasm and banter as the characters (some of whom don’t really like each other that much) have to work together to prevent the end of the world (yawn). Along the way, they learn the value of trust, loyalty, and friendship; well at least a few of them do.
In the end, I had great fun writing it, so much so that I decided to write another, and another… in total, there will be four books in the series, which moves the story beyond the clichéd trilogy, but keeps it from overstaying its welcome: “Book Seventeen in the Chronicles of Osric the Obtuse” is not something I wanted to get myself stuck in.
I’m delighted with this book and its “qwyrky” characters, and hope readers will enjoy reading about their fractured and whimsical adventures as much as I did writing them.
- Tim is giving away an Amazon gift card with this tour