Category Archives: Sorrow’s Fall

New-ish Book and Contest Announcement

This week marks the relaunch of my sci-fi novel Sorrow’s Fall. It’s been revamped with a new cover, and brand new content.  With the second novel Sorrow’s Despair well underway, I felt it was time to freshen things up a bit.


So, for those of you who already bought the book, I’m having a contest. All I need for you to do is post picture of you with your book on my wall on Facebook. Simple right. If it’s an ebook show the cover on your device in your picture and you’re in too. At the end of the month I’ll pick five winners at random who will receive their choice of either a signed print copy or a free ebook.

In order to be eligible the cover must be clearly visible.  Submit pictures via my Facebook page. Like my page here: Davonne Burns.

I look forward to seeing all of you! And good luck!

Let’s Get Complicated Part Two: The Positives of Being a Villain

So last time we talked about creating multi-dimensional characters and focused on the protagonist of my novel Sorrow’s Fall.  This week I’d like to help you look for ways to make you antagonist just as compelling and multi-faceted.  After reading my post about Sorrow you are probably wondering what kind of person could possibly be an impediment to him and his goals.  That’s a very good question. It’s also one you need to consider in your own story. For now we are going to assume that your antagonist is another person and not that your character is struggling against nature or something. Nature doesn’t really have a personality, though it might seem like it at times.

In Sorrow’s Fall we are quickly introduced to Qadira Fall. She is the daughter of Lady Zulyekha Fall and the Queen-In-Waiting. She is nearly as powerful as the Barendi Queen herself. She has been raised and groomed to be consummate royalty. She is gorgeous, highly-intelligent and disgustingly wealthy. She also hates Sorrow with a passion. In the book he has no idea why she detests him. All he knows is that she tries to kill him every chance she gets.

She is his antagonist. But outside of her hatred for Sorrow, what is she like?  We know she’s royalty, that she inspires great loyalty among her coterie and that she is driven by the need to save her race. But what core qualities does she possess that take her from just being the person who hates Sorrow to a force all her own?

Last time we started with a negative trait, since most heroes have issues with them. This time lets look at the positive qualities a villain could have.  Yes, even villains have positive traits.  Serious. I’ll prove it.

First I need to figure out her core moral value. The Postitive Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Buglisi offers some amazing insight as to why this is so necessary. Not just for villains, but for our heroes as well. In The Positive Trait Thesaurus Appendix B has a method for finding your character’s core moral value. This is the core belief that affects all their other traits.  After making my lovely list of her positive traits I went to Appendix A to see which of them were moral values.  The main one was professional.  I’ll be honest. That confused me. Until I went to the entry for it.  There they list the definition as: exhibiting specialized knowledge and applying it with courtesy and good judgement.

Whoa. Wait-a-minute.  Now I’m more confused. My villain is courteous and has good judgement?  Well, let’s think about this for a moment. She is extremely well educated by the best instructors money can buy. She’s talented, smart, career and success focused, she’s ambitious and mature for her age. She is confident with high self-esteem and is highly ethical.

She’s not sounding very vile.  And if you are not a threat to her, she’s won’t be.  So what associated behaviors might she display where Sorrow can see them?  Lets look at the list.

  • Having the education and knowledge required to be proficient at one’s job
  • Being experienced in a specific field of work
  • Reliability, trustworthiness and honesty
  • Having strong people skills
  • Objectivity
  • Working well under pressure
  • Having a strong command of language and being able to articulate oneself well
  • Adaptability
  • Keeping one’s promises
  • Maintaining control over one’s emotions
  • Being proactive
  • Thinking before acting
  • Treating others with respect and courtesy
  • Being proactive
  • Being a strong listener
  • Assessing the politics of a situation and acting accordingly
  • Using good hygiene
  • Being well dressed
  • Acting appropriately for the situation

I could go on but you get the idea. A couple of the ones I highlighted as far as things Sorrow sees are; being experienced, adaptability, keeping promises, using good hygiene and being well dressed. Each of these things on their own seems pretty neutral or at least positive. So how do we grow her character beyond just being professional?  Well according to Appendix B the next layer beyond the moral core is achievement traits. This was a new thought for me and it took me a little getting used to, but now I see how invaluable it is. So let’s look further into Qadira’s personality and see what achievement traits she’s might posses that build on her core trait of professionalism.

The first one that pops out for me is ambitious but decisive actually wins out as the dominant trait here. Mostly because you can’t get much more successful than she already is, though she does have ambitions. Her decisiveness on the other hand is partly her and partly her upbringing. She’s had to bear a lot of responsibility since she was very young and much is expected of her. Her core value also influences her decisiveness since she is driven by a strong sense of responsibility and has the desire to lead.

Cool, we are on a roll here. Can you see how working from the inmost core trait outward is helping us build her personality and keep her well rounded? Let’s move on to the next layer: interactive.

These traits develop through interaction with others and the world in which the character lives. These traits help her work with her subordinates, handle conflicts, convey ideas and create healthy relationships. So building on our core trait of professionalism and our achievement trait of decisiveness what might be her dominant interactive trait? Here I run across several that are worth noting such as bold, flirtatious, inspirational, patriotic, persuasive, sophisticated and traditional. She is all these traits to varying degrees, but which one is dominant and why? Looking through the book both patriotic and sophistication are good choices, but sophisticated wins.  This is mostly due to her upbringing and the culture in which she was raised. She was brought up to be royalty so sophistication is not only needed, it’s demanded.

Now we come to the out most layer, the identity layer. The book describes this layer as “attributes [that] are tied to a personal sense of identity, leading to satisfaction and contentment with who one is. Traits emerge to allow the character to explore and better understand what makes them unique.” (The Positive Trait Thesaurus 2013, Ackerman & Puglisi, Appendix B page 233). It’s in this layer that I would put patriotic along with traditional. Here traditional actually compliments patriotic. She is very concerned with keeping her native culture untainted by outside influences which is directly tied to politics. She even went so far as to disown her mother who went against the established tradition and is willing to start a war to keep things as they have been.

You’ll notice we’ve not once considered the negative side of any of these traits, yet we already have a very good basis for her character. And she doesn’t seem all that evil does she? 

All of this just from a core value of professionalism.

Killing Sorrow

Something has been nagging me lately.  A disquiet that I wasn’t sure how to quell.  So, this morning I decided to write the final scene of Sorrow’s Fall from Sarin’s viewpoint. This might have been a bad idea because it was intense.

Warning:  Major Spoilers for Sorrow’s Fall including the end and several major revelations.  Do not read if you have not read the book.

The book is only $.99 on Amazon so fix that then come read this. 😉

Below is the music playlist I wrote the scene to.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Killing Sorrow

The air hung thick and heavy with the smell of ozone.  Blaster fire seared the air.  The Hyperian shock troopers were no match for the Sal’Ori but they just kept coming.  Holding a hand to my side to stem the flow of blood I tried to locate Sorrow.  I’d never imagined he would be powerful enough to kill an Ancient.  Even as an Amalgam I’d been helpless before her.  Rinkin and Diedre had received the worst of it. It would take some time to heal from Ophelia’s poison.

Sorrow was several yards away on his hands and knees in the grass.  Qadira stood over him.  She was saying something, but I couldn’t quite make it out.  His dark hair was much shorter, barely brushing his shoulders.  I wondered who had cut it and how they’d known it would hamper him. The dark vest he was wearing glittered with blood, more pooled under him. She’d already stabbed him twice from what I’d seen.  How was he still moving?

“No!” Sorrow’s voice reached me clearly. Whatever she was saying it was upsetting him enough to drive him to speak.  I started forward grabbing up a discarded phase rifle as he got to his feet.  He staggered a few steps his determination flickering around the edges of his aura. It wasn’t as tumultuous as I remembered.  He’d managed to find some emotional balance.

“…the fact that you are already powerful enough to kill an Ancient will please Grandmother.”

I steeled myself and pointed the rifle at Qadira.  “And that is why we cannot ever let him fall into your hands again, Qadira.”

She laughed and took a few steps back as she looked at me.  She wasn’t going to take me seriously.  Swallowing hard I looked at Sorrow.  He was so different now.  Rinkin and Diedre had done a lot to help him but that darkness was still there, just waiting to be unleashed.  I’d just witnessed how devastating it could be. What would happen if it was used-if he was used to further the war? He had no control. He would obey any order given by someone in authority over him.  I would have to report this to Zaryfa.  Her plan had failed. There was no way to save him.

Her only grandson. The first male child born in nearly three generations.  And I was going to have to kill him.  Drake had done too good of a job rendering him useless as anything but a weapon. Even though I had seen the potential within him, he couldn’t see it for himself.  Gods why did it have to be me? The rifle shook in my hands as I selected my new target.  He was facing Qadira his back to me.  He trusted me. Why in the seven Hells did he have to trust me?

He staggered forward as the bolt hit him in the back.  His shock lit up the area blinding me for a moment.  Oh gods.  I pulled the trigger again watching him sink to his knees. Gods this can’t be happening.  Please don’t make me have to kill him. Please.  I’ll do anything. Anything at all just don’t make me kill him.

The choice is not yours child. Zaryfa’s voice reached me from the ship orbiting overhead.  He must die.

But he’s your grandson.

And Qadira is my granddaughter.

Why can’t I kill her?!

We spoke of this Sarin. She cannot become a martyr for the Purists.  He has to die. Implicate me as you must for those who are listening.

Yes, My Queen.

So, you’re going to kill him yourself, is that it?”

Sorrow’s fear and pain was difficult to ignore as I stepped closer to him.  My throat was tight and speaking took effort. “If I have to I will. I may not be able to defeat you right now, but I will take away your chance of using him.  If I had not seen him transform like that I would never have believed it, but he is too dangerous of a being to be allowed to live.  No one should have that kind of power.”

Especially not you, I thought to myself.  She was already more powerful than any Barendi before her.  If she succeeded in gaining Sorrow’s help either willingly or not, there would be no stopping her.  The Hyperia would fall and with it the fragile balance with the outlying systems.  It would be the chaos of the Clan War all over again.  Only this time the galaxy itself might be destroyed.

“You have no idea Sarin.  Why do you think Our Queen destroyed the Aram when she had the chance?  This,” She pointed a finger at Sorrow, “this is the embodiment of what they were.  Beings so beautiful and powerful they had to be destroyed at all costs.  Yet, who could have foreseen the price?  I know why you feel you must rebel.  All the clans are dying out Sarin, not just yours.  The Queen is well aware of this.  That is why she allowed him to be born, why he was not aborted the instant it was discovered what he is.  She will make sure that the clans prosper once more.  The Barendi will once again rule the galaxy as they did centuries ago.  You Baroness, could have your place in that galaxy.”

It wasn’t even a temptation.  She had no idea who was working to thwart her.  I looked down at Sorrow. He was staring up at me blood trickling out of his mouth as he fought to breathe.  I could feel him trying to reach out to me, soft tendrils of disbelief and anguish. He’d thought I was dead. I could see the flicker of relief fading as he continued to look at me. I blinked back tears, forcing down the searing pain in my chest.  I’d already felt him die once, I wasn’t sure I’d survive a second time.  I kept the rifle pointed at him watching the hope fade from his eyes.  His aura was flickering between fear, pain and despair.  I kept myself tightly shielded. If he or Qadira discovered what I was actually doing all our plans would fail.  Xenazia’s mental touch caressed my mind, her concern flooding me.

“Sarin, don’t!”  Xenazia pleaded, “Didn’t you hear what she said!  We could save our clan.  He’s no threat to us any longer.”

“She is a liar Xenazia.  You know as well as I do that we are both dead no matter what happens.  The only thing I can do is make sure Zaryfa cannot use him to make war on the rest of the galaxy.”

“There has to be another way, Sarin please!”

“What other way, Xen?”  I screamed at her part of me needing some outlet for this horrible pain, “Tell me another way then.”

“I . . . I don’t know.”

Qadira snorted, “You are pathetic.  Hurry up and be done with it, or I’ll kill you both where you stand.”

“You are going to anyway so what does it matter?”

She laughed again.  A horrid gloating sound, “I’ll let you live as long as you kill him.”

I let out the breath I’d been holding.  It almost became a sob as I felt Sorrow give up.  His will flickering out like a snuffed flame. I wanted to scream at him to tell him to run, if only to save myself from having to do this. I wanted so badly to touch him.  To comfort him and tell him how much he meant to me.  To tell him that I would always love him, love that part of him that tried so desperately to be more than what he was allowed.  I blinked, tears burning down my cheeks.  Taking a step closer I raised the rifle to point it at his head.  I couldn’t let him suffer any more.  He looked up at me his eyes pleading and my resolve threatened to disappear.

I can’t do this Zaryfa.  I can’t.

There was no answer. I stared down into those deep green eyes and wondered when I’d fallen so completely.

“I never meant to hurt you.” I could barely get the words out, “I wish-I wish so desperately things could be different.  Goodbye, Sorrow.”

Closing my eyes I pulled the trigger.

There was a soft thump.  I didn’t dare open my eyes yet.  Tears were still streaming down, I couldn’t stop them any more than I could block out the cold pull of his energy evaporating as he died.

The rifle thudded to the ground next to me.  Qadira made a soft sound and I opened my eyes to see her kneeling next to him.

“I can’t believe you actually killed him.”  Her voice was soft, full of wonder.  “I’ve always wondered what it would feel like when he died.”

It felt like winter, like the infinite cold of space, like being ripped apart from the inside. Nothing would ever be the same.

“Are you happy now?” I choked on the words.

She cocked her head up at me. “Happy?  You just killed my brother.  My twin brother…this really hurts.”

“You expected something different Qadira?” I’d forgotten about Sher’Ak.  “You spent all those years forging that bond and then expected to be able to sever it at a whim without backlash?”

She got to her feet but I didn’t miss the tremble.  Her eyes glistened as she looked at me. She looked terrible.  It seemed Sorrow had gotten in a few hits of his own.  “I won’t kill you Sarin but you are still a traitor.”

I didn’t move as she turned and walked back toward one of the Barendi drop ships. I wanted to throw up.  Sher’Ak was glaring at me.

“Nicely done Baroness.”

“Do not speak to me.”

“Sarin, lets go. There is nothing more-“

“Just…leave me for a moment Xen.  I need a moment.”

“Of course.”

Sher’Ak snorted.  “Stupid. What a waste. Do me a favor Baroness and never contact me again.  I might kill you.”

I nodded but my entire focus was on Sorrow. Collapsing on my knees next to him I reached a trembling hand toward him.  How had this happened? I could still remember the first time I saw him.  The jolt at realizing who and what he was had left me reeling for days.  I was supposed to be his guardian, not his murderer.  A sob caught in my throat as I ran my fingers through his hair. What was I supposed to do now?  How was I supposed to go on?  Slipping my arms around him I pulled him close.  He was limp and warm and I was reminded of the last time I’d killed him. Stopped his heart with a kiss.  I wasn’t going to get another chance to hold him.  I clung desperately to that memory as I shook with sobs.  He’d always been so brilliant and powerful but now there was nothing.  No bright colors and shimmering energy.  Staring down at him through the tears I knew I would never feel like this about another being. I’d never meant to hurt him.  At least now he felt no pain and could finally rest.

“I’m so sorry-so sorry.”

How long I stayed there holding him, I’m not sure.  When I finally let him go his body was cold, the once brilliant green eyes faded and dull.  I kissed him and brushed the hair back from his face. The blaster burn was an ugly mark on his forehead and I resisted touching it, wanting to erase it.  Doing so wouldn’t fix what I’d done.

“We need to go Sarin.” Xenazia’s voice was soft, her mental touch hesitant.

“I-I can’t just leave him here like this.”

“Sarin, please. He’s dead. There is nothing you can do.”

“Don’t you think I know that?”

Her mental touch faded but she didn’t move away, instead wrapping an arm around my shoulders.  I couldn’t fight her as she pulled me to my feet.

I cannot do this My Queen.

You must child. Believe me when I say it was for the best.


Sorrow's Fall Cover

Sorrow’s Fall is available on Amazon in both paper back and digital.  Audio book coming soon to