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Weekend Writing Warrior 5/23/21 #8Sunday

Heartsbane book 3 coverWelcome back to another installment of the Weekend Writing Warriors blog hop, where a bunch of writers share 8-10 sentences from a current or recent WIP.

This week I’m continuing to share from my upcoming-ish release, book 3 of my Heartsbane Saga: Little Amethyst Abaya, which is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in a world of Vikings. Either next week or the week after, I’ll be moving on to the next book in the series.

I’m skipping ahead a bit to chapter 2. Nyah, the protagonist, is mad that the men she’s traveling with are making plans without her for the next stage of their journey. Not only have they told her it’s too dangerous for her to go with them, but she’s not allowed to listen in because she’s a woman and some of the local men object to her presence when talking about “men things.”

* * * * * * *

Domhnall approached me after dinner. “Would you care to go for a walk, m’lady?”

He smiled at me, which usually melted my insides, but this time I just glared at him.

He laughed, only deepening my scowl, and said, “C’mon then.” He took my hand and pulled me up from the low table, then led me out of the compound.

Evenings were my favorite part of the day in Aghlabid. The intense heat of the afternoon had dissipated but the chill of the night hadn’t set in yet. The sun sinking behind the western mountains cast deep purple shadows across the sand and turned the sky beautiful shades of gold, crimson, and indigo.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Domhnall said as we walked along a path towards a large pile of rock sticking up from the sand. We often walked this path to these rocks, which gave us privacy that was nearly impossible in the crowded compound.

* * * * * * *

And the rest of that scene:

“Oh, do you?” My tone was more playful than I’d intended. I often turned into a giggly, flirty mess when we were alone together.

“Yes.” We’d reached the rocks and he half-sat, half-leaned against one so that he was looking up at me slightly, my hand still in his. “You’re thinking you’re going to come with us no matter what we say or do.”

“True.”

“It’s one thing to put yourself in danger, but what about your sister?”

“You should know by now that if I tried to go somewhere without her, she’d probably steal a boat to follow.”

* * * * * * *

About Little Amethyst Abaya:

Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

With Heartsbane nearly decoded, Nyah finally knows the curse Prince Brandulfur suffers from and how to cure it. But when she and her friends travel to get the needed serum, a powerful caliph takes them prisoner and offers an ultimatum: a suicide mission to rescue a general’s daughter and enough serum to cure Brand’s whole court, or indefinite imprisonment in his castle.

To add to the peril, she soon uncovers a plot by Brand’s archenemy that will pull the known world into a battle between religions and cultures, with Brand at the heart of it. It seems so fantastical, no one will believe her.

But that’s never stopped Nyah before. With no one to trust, she’ll have to cast her lot in with the worst of the worst, and maybe, just maybe, at least some of her friends will make it out alive.

Little Amethyst Abaya is the third book in a series of fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings.

Other books in the Heartsbane Saga:

Book .5: “The Maiden in the Tower” – Carys has resigned herself to a life of servitude, locked away in a tower, until a chance encounter with a stranger leaves her daring to hope for more.

Book 1: Captive and the Cursed – When Nyah’s sister is kidnapped by barbarians, Nyah offers herself in her place. But she soon learns the barbarians aren’t what she expected, especially their cursed leader.

Book 1.5: “The Brave Little Thrall” – Fahim Al Rasheed has spent his life studying foreign cultures, but he never thought he’d actually have the chance to experience them. When his journey of a lifetime leaves him and a young barbarian king marooned in a hostile country, he’ll have to rely on more than book learning to make it back home alive.

Book 2: Sleeping Shaman – Nyah and her friends travel halfway across the world seeking a cure for a barbarian curse, only to discover that the man they’re seeking has gone missing. Nyah must navigate dangerous rivalries and conflicting cultures before time runs out.

Book 2.5: “Ezichi the Beautiful” – Only Banu Sasan, the fabled witch of the desert, can help a young bride complete a task. But what will she require from Ezichi in return?

 

 

Weekend Writing Warrior 5/16/21 #8Sunday

Heartsbane book 3 coverWelcome back to another installment of the Weekend Writing Warriors blog hop, where a bunch of writers share 8-10 sentences from a current or recent WIP.

Last weekend I took I detoured to a mom-related microfiction, and this week I’m back with another excerpt from my upcoming-ish release, book 3 of my Heartsbane Saga: Little Amethyst Abaya, which is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in a world of Vikings.

This excerpt is from the first chapter, skipping ahead just a teeny bit from the last snippet I posted. Brandulfur, who suffers from a nasty curse that’s left him disfigured, is napping while waiting for a messenger to arrive with an update on the cure. Protagonist Nyah is reading one of her library books in the courtyard. Domnhall is Brand’s foster brother and also the guy Nyah has kinda hooked up with.

* * * * * * *

Because of my spot in the courtyard, I was able to hear the rider as he entered the compound. Feeling a bit of remorse for putting Brand in a mood earlier, as my sister Payton had described it, I figured I could at least let him know that a messenger was here, so I set my book aside and went to find him.

He was asleep in the bedchamber he shared with Domhnall, wearing only a pair of linen breeches. Angry blisters and red welts covered his broad shoulders and muscular torso, distorting the blue runic tattoos that decorated his skin, and his breathing was ragged and labored. I’d noticed that he frequently snuck off in the middle of the day under some pretext or another. I’d asked him once if his curse was painful, and he’d shrugged it off. Egwu had made him an elixir that eased the pain, but apparently nothing had been done for the accompanying fatigue. I almost hated to wake him, knowing how hard he pushed himself to appear healthy and that he probably needed this rest. But I also knew how important the doctor’s visit was, especially as we were making preparations to return home. Brand had extra weight on his shoulders; his father and who knows how many others at court had also been cursed and were depending on Brand to return with the cure.

* * * * * * *

And the rest of that scene:

“Brand?” I said softly from the doorway.

He let out a very undignified snort but dinnae wake.

“Brand,” I said more loudly.

He stirred but still dinnae wake.

I crossed to his side and shook his shoulder. “Brand, wake up.”

His hand darted out and grabbed my wrist as he bolted upright. I yelped at his hard grasp.

He dropped my arm and glowered at me. “What do you want?”

“A messenger is here.” I rubbed my wrist and glared at him. “Next time I’ll just let you sleep.”

“I’m sorry.” He dinnae sound sorry. “But you shouldn’t have crept up on me like that when I was sleeping.”

“I dinnae ‘creep up on you.’ I merely nudged your shoulder, and you attacked me.”

Now he did look almost apologetic. Almost. “Did I hurt you?”

Before I could answer, he gently took my hand in his, turning my arm so that we could both see the red fingerprints he’d left. He winced.

Domhnall came into the room. “Fahim sent me to find you. As anxious as you’ve been, he was concerned you might be dead since you haven’t appeared.” His gaze went from Brand’s shirtless torso to my wrist in his hand. “Is everything alright?”

* * * * * * *

About Little Amethyst Abaya:

Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

With Heartsbane nearly decoded, Nyah finally knows the curse Prince Brandulfur suffers from and how to cure it. But when she and her friends travel to get the needed serum, a powerful caliph takes them prisoner and offers an ultimatum: a suicide mission to rescue a general’s daughter and enough serum to cure Brand’s whole court, or indefinite imprisonment in his castle.

To add to the peril, she soon uncovers a plot by Brand’s archenemy that will pull the known world into a battle between religions and cultures, with Brand at the heart of it. It seems so fantastical, no one will believe her.

But that’s never stopped Nyah before. With no one to trust, she’ll have to cast her lot in with the worst of the worst, and maybe, just maybe, at least some of her friends will make it out alive.

Little Amethyst Abaya is the third book in a series of fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings.

Other books in the Heartsbane Saga:

Book .5: “The Maiden in the Tower” – Carys has resigned herself to a life of servitude, locked away in a tower, until a chance encounter with a stranger leaves her daring to hope for more.

Book 1: Captive and the Cursed – When Nyah’s sister is kidnapped by barbarians, Nyah offers herself in her place. But she soon learns the barbarians aren’t what she expected, especially their cursed leader.

Book 1.5: “The Brave Little Thrall” – Fahim Al Rasheed has spent his life studying foreign cultures, but he never thought he’d actually have the chance to experience them. When his journey of a lifetime leaves him and a young barbarian king marooned in a hostile country, he’ll have to rely on more than book learning to make it back home alive.

Book 2: Sleeping Shaman – Nyah and her friends travel halfway across the world seeking a cure for a barbarian curse, only to discover that the man they’re seeking has gone missing. Nyah must navigate dangerous rivalries and conflicting cultures before time runs out.

Book 2.5: “Ezichi the Beautiful” – Only Banu Sasan, the fabled witch of the desert, can help a young bride complete a task. But what will she require from Ezichi in return?

Weekend Writing Warrior 5/9/21 #8Sunday

Happy Mother’s Day, Weekend Writing Warriors! I’ve been fortunate enough to spend the weekend with my son, hiking in a local nature preserve and then cooking. He’s inherited my love of the kitchen and made us chicken parmesan with triple chocolate mousse cake (and I’m very proud that I helped him and not the other way around).

Chocolate mousse cake

Since it’s Mother’s Day and my main character in the Heartsbane Saga is an orphan, I thought I’d switch things up and post a flash piece I wrote last year, titled “Motherhood.”

* * * * * * *

Abyzou tells herself she has no regrets. She loves her child and its father. She loves the life they’ve created together, so different from her past.

But outside the weather is changing. Calling to her. And inside, the baby’s cries cannot be consoled. For days now it’s had a slight fever and a new tooth and doesn’t want to be held or set down in its crib. Aby walks the house, bouncing the child in her tired arms, as she longingly glances out the windows at the changing leaves rustling in the cool fall breeze, until finally, finally, the baby falls into an exhausted sleep.

Gingerly she lays it down in the cradle that’s been in its father’s family for generations. She tiptoes to the window and opens it, then backs away, as the wind whips in, caressing her skin like a lover’s touch, murmuring sweet nothings in her ears.

* * * * * * *

And the rest, since it’s short:

She takes a small, tentative step towards the window, then another larger, more confident one, guided by the wind and the beckoning chill beyond the panes of glass. She opens the window wide, inviting in the wild night and all it brings with it, when the baby stirs.

She stops and looks in its crib. By some miracle the child is still asleep. Aby strokes its cheek, just as gently as the wind strokes hers. The baby reaches over and grabs her finger, grasping it firmly in its tiny hand, as a delicate smile graces its lips.

Aby looks at the window, at what she knows waits for her beyond the room’s feeble light, and then back down at her sleeping child. He sighs softly in his sleep, his grip on her never wavering.

Aby carefully scoops him up into her arms, his small warm body fitting perfectly against hers as she walks over and shuts the window.

* * * * * * *

I originally posted this on Medium. I usually post several short stories or microfiction pieces over there each month, so if you use that platform, hop on over and read some of my other stuff, clap, follow, all that good stuff. Thanks!

Weekend Writing Warrior 5/2/21 #8Sunday

Heartsbane book 3 coverWelcome back to another installment of the Weekend Writing Warriors blog hop, where a bunch of writers share 8-10 sentences from a current or recent WIP. I’ll be spending today outside, enjoying the spring weather we get for all of about two weeks (two weeks ago it snowed, and yesterday it was almost 85). Ah, life in the Midwest.

This week I’m continuing to share from my upcoming-ish release, book 3 of my Heartsbane Saga: Little Amethyst Abaya, which is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in a world of Vikings. So far I’ve shared from the prologue, and this week I’m pulling from the first chapter. Nyah’s friend Brandulfur suffers from a painful curse, and in book 2 (Sleeping Shaman, a retelling of Sleeping Beauty) they traveled to a desert country to find the cure. Nyah has a history of let’s say interesting ways of solving problems that her friends don’t generally appreciate.

* * * * * * *

The hot desert sun beat down on me as I hurried through the dusty streets of Taglayt, the satchel hanging off my shoulder weighed down with several library books. The town boasted a small university with libraries filled with books from all over the world, and I was trying my hardest to read all of them. It also had a lovely bath house, and I’d been sorely tempted to soak away the sweat and dirt clinging to my skin before returning to our host’s compound. But I’d already been gone longer than I’d intended.

Fahim Al Rasheed’s compound was located on a hill just outside of town. I slowly approached the brick walls surrounding the courtyards and central buildings, on the lookout for anyone who might notice my return. Fortunately no one was about, and I was able to sneak in and place my satchel in the bed chamber I shared with my younger sister, Payton. My luck ran out, however, as I crept down the hallway leading to the kitchen.

“Where have you been?” Prince Brandulfur Gudrodarson of Karjaland loomed over me, a scowl visible even through the welts and blisters covering his face.

* * * * * * *

And the rest of that scene:

“Here.” I shrugged as I tried to get past him. “Nowhere.”

He folded his arms across his chest. “Where, exactly, would that be?”

I thought about telling him I’d been in Fahim’s study with him, answering his questions about my home country of Llogeria. Or in the kitchens with his wife Radiya, helping her prepare the midday meal. Or in the nursery with my sister, playing with the babies who lived in the compound. Or with Lord Domhnall—I blushed, thinking of what we would’ve been doing.

Before I could respond, however, Brand sighed. “How many times do I have to tell you, it isn’t safe for you to leave here by yourself?”

Now it was my turn to scowl. “I can take care of myself just fine.”

“Like how you almost got us all killed?”

“I seem to remember that I saved us all.”

Another sigh from Brand. Perhaps he’d finally come around to remembering the events the same way I did.

* * * * * * *

About Little Amethyst Abaya:

Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

With Heartsbane nearly decoded, Nyah finally knows the curse Prince Brandulfur suffers from and how to cure it. But when she and her friends travel to get the needed serum, a powerful caliph takes them prisoner and offers an ultimatum: a suicide mission to rescue a general’s daughter and enough serum to cure Brand’s whole court, or indefinite imprisonment in his castle.

To add to the peril, she soon uncovers a plot by Brand’s archenemy that will pull the known world into a battle between religions and cultures, with Brand at the heart of it. It seems so fantastical, no one will believe her.

But that’s never stopped Nyah before. With no one to trust, she’ll have to cast her lot in with the worst of the worst, and maybe, just maybe, at least some of her friends will make it out alive.

Little Amethyst Abaya is the third book in a series of fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings.

Other books in the Heartsbane Saga:

Book .5: “The Maiden in the Tower” – Carys has resigned herself to a life of servitude, locked away in a tower, until a chance encounter with a stranger leaves her daring to hope for more.

Book 1: Captive and the Cursed – When Nyah’s sister is kidnapped by barbarians, Nyah offers herself in her place. But she soon learns the barbarians aren’t what she expected, especially their cursed leader.

Book 1.5: “The Brave Little Thrall” – Fahim Al Rasheed has spent his life studying foreign cultures, but he never thought he’d actually have the chance to experience them. When his journey of a lifetime leaves him and a young barbarian king marooned in a hostile country, he’ll have to rely on more than book learning to make it back home alive.

Book 2: Sleeping Shaman – Nyah and her friends travel halfway across the world seeking a cure for a barbarian curse, only to discover that the man they’re seeking has gone missing. Nyah must navigate dangerous rivalries and conflicting cultures before time runs out.

Book 2.5: “Ezichi the Beautiful” – Only Banu Sasan, the fabled witch of the desert, can help a young bride complete a task. But what will she require from Ezichi in return?

Weekend Writing Warrior 4/25/21 #8Sunday

Heartsbane book 3 coverAnother Sunday, another Weekend Writing Warriors blog hop, where a bunch of writers share 8-10 sentences from a current or recent WIP. This week I’m continuing to share from my upcoming-ish release, book 3 of my Heartsbane Saga: Little Amethyst Abaya, which is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in a world of Vikings.

This snippet is from the opening prologue. Mihrimah is the daughter of the general in charge of a remote citadel. Her father and all the men garrisoned at the citadel were called back to the capital. She snuck out to say goodbye to her beloved as he was leaving, and on her way back was happened upon by one of the bandits currently terrorizing the countryside, who is trying to sweet talk her for information about the citadel’s defenses.

This excerpt skips just a bit from last week’s. They’ve reached the citadel, and the man has alerted his pack. (Note: Sidi is a term for “sir” or “mister.”)

* * * * * * *

Mihrimah shoved her companion inside the citadel, then pushed the door shut behind them. “Bar the door,” she told the frightened woman who’d let them in.

The woman did as she was told, her eyes alternating between the door and the wolf man, who was looking around the citadel.

The main door opened onto a small antechamber, with stairs leading up to the main living quarters and down to the stables, although they didn’t keep many horses and only enough goats and chickens to supply themselves with milk and eggs.

“Go upstairs,” Mihrimah told the serving woman. “Prepare a meal for our guest, and inform Grandmother that he’s here.”

The woman nodded and hurried away.

“What a beautiful home you have,” the man said as he approached Mihrimah.

She backed up, quickly hitting the stone wall behind her. “The better to welcome you, Sidi Wolf.”

* * * * * * *

And the rest of that scene:

He reached out a hand and again stroked her cheek. “What a beautiful smile you have.”

“The better to serve you with, Sidi Wolf.”

Outside, someone began banging on the door, and he was soon joined by many others.

The wolf man grinned at her. “It looks like my pack is ready to join us.”

Mihrimah unsheathed her short sword as the man tried to kiss her neck and brandished it in his face.

He laughed nervously. “What a beautiful little sword you have, my dear.”

“The better to kill you with,” she snarled, and plunged the blade into his stomach.

* * * * * * *

About Little Amethyst Abaya:

Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

With Heartsbane nearly decoded, Nyah finally knows the curse Prince Brandulfur suffers from and how to cure it. But when she and her friends travel to get the needed serum, a powerful caliph takes them prisoner and offers an ultimatum: a suicide mission to rescue a general’s daughter and enough serum to cure Brand’s whole court, or indefinite imprisonment in his castle.

To add to the peril, she soon uncovers a plot by Brand’s archenemy that will pull the known world into a battle between religions and cultures, with Brand at the heart of it. It seems so fantastical, no one will believe her.

But that’s never stopped Nyah before. With no one to trust, she’ll have to cast her lot in with the worst of the worst, and maybe, just maybe, at least some of her friends will make it out alive.

Little Amethyst Abaya is the third book in a series of fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings.

Other books in the Heartsbane Saga:

Book .5: “The Maiden in the Tower” – Carys has resigned herself to a life of servitude, locked away in a tower, until a chance encounter with a stranger leaves her daring to hope for more.

Book 1: Captive and the Cursed – When Nyah’s sister is kidnapped by barbarians, Nyah offers herself in her place. But she soon learns the barbarians aren’t what she expected, especially their cursed leader.

Book 1.5: “The Brave Little Thrall” – Fahim Al Rasheed has spent his life studying foreign cultures, but he never thought he’d actually have the chance to experience them. When his journey of a lifetime leaves him and a young barbarian king marooned in a hostile country, he’ll have to rely on more than book learning to make it back home alive.

Book 2: Sleeping Shaman – Nyah and her friends travel halfway across the world seeking a cure for a barbarian curse, only to discover that the man they’re seeking has gone missing. Nyah must navigate dangerous rivalries and conflicting cultures before time runs out.

Book 2.5: “Ezichi the Beautiful” – Only Banu Sasan, the fabled witch of the desert, can help a young bride complete a task. But what will she require from Ezichi in return?

Weekend Writing Warrior 4/18/21 #8Sunday

Heartsbane book 3 coverWelcome back to the Weekend Writing Warriors blog hop, where a bunch of writers share 8-10 sentences from a current or recent WIP. This week I’m continuing to share from my upcoming release, book 3 of my Heartsbane Saga: Little Amethyst Abaya, which is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in a world of Vikings.

This snippet is from the opening prologue. Mihrimah is the daughter of the general in charge of a remote citadel. Her father and all the men garrisoned at the citadel were called back to the capital. She was supposed to stay put but snuck out to say goodbye to her beloved. And of course her father caught them. I’m skipping ahead just a bit, to after her father sent her back but cautioned her to be careful.

* * * * * * *

The journey back was as uneventful as the one to meet the men. Dusk was falling and the top of the stone citadel was just in sight when Mihrimah caught movement in the scrub ahead of her.

She froze, remembering all the training her father had given her, all her practice alongside and against the citadel soldiers.
Whoever it was, he was between her and the citadel, and Messenger knew how many others were with him. She could sneak past him, perhaps, but what of the others? She bit her lip, then stepped onto the road.

She’d covered only a short distance when footsteps crunched behind her.

“Hello, my dear,” a male voice called out. “Do you live near here? I’m afraid I’m lost.”

* * * * * * *

And the rest of that scene:

She turned around and nearly gasped. A man wearing a matted wolfskin hide over his tunic leered at her.

“I do live near here, Sidi Wolf,” she said, dropping her eyes demurely.

“I’m glad I found you, lalla. It’s getting dark, and I have nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat. Would they give me a meal at your home, do you think?”

“Oh yes, Sidi Wolf. All our men have been called back to Haksuk, and it is only the women who are left in the citadel. We have plenty of hot meals that will go to waste.” She coyly looked up at him. “And warm beds that will be empty.”

The man grinned at her, revealing a mouth of yellowed, broken teeth. “It’s been a long while since I’ve had a warm bed.”

“Are you alone?” she asked.

“Nah, there’s a whole pack of us out here. But maybe I’d like those meals and warm beds for myself, at least tonight.

* * * * * * *

About Little Amethyst Abaya:

Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

With Heartsbane nearly decoded, Nyah finally knows the curse Prince Brandulfur suffers from and how to cure it. But when she and her friends travel to get the needed serum, a powerful caliph takes them prisoner and offers an ultimatum: a suicide mission to rescue a general’s daughter and enough serum to cure Brand’s whole court, or indefinite imprisonment in his castle.

To add to the peril, she soon uncovers a plot by Brand’s archenemy that will pull the known world into a battle between religions and cultures, with Brand at the heart of it. It seems so fantastical, no one will believe her.

But that’s never stopped Nyah before. With no one to trust, she’ll have to cast her lot in with the worst of the worst, and maybe, just maybe, at least some of her friends will make it out alive.

Little Amethyst Abaya is the third book in a series of fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings.

Other books in the Heartsbane Saga:

Book .5: “The Maiden in the Tower” – Carys has resigned herself to a life of servitude, locked away in a tower, until a chance encounter with a stranger leaves her daring to hope for more.

Book 1: Captive and the Cursed – When Nyah’s sister is kidnapped by barbarians, Nyah offers herself in her place. But she soon learns the barbarians aren’t what she expected, especially their cursed leader.

Book 1.5: “The Brave Little Thrall” – Fahim Al Rasheed has spent his life studying foreign cultures, but he never thought he’d actually have the chance to experience them. When his journey of a lifetime leaves him and a young barbarian king marooned in a hostile country, he’ll have to rely on more than book learning to make it back home alive.

Book 2: Sleeping Shaman – Nyah and her friends travel halfway across the world seeking a cure for a barbarian curse, only to discover that the man they’re seeking has gone missing. Nyah must navigate dangerous rivalries and conflicting cultures before time runs out.

Book 2.5: “Ezichi the Beautiful” – Only Banu Sasan, the fabled witch of the desert, can help a young bride complete a task. But what will she require from Ezichi in return?

Spring 2021 goal review

Clyde happens

Clyde from Heartsbane still does not care about my goals.

Once again, it’s time for my quarterly check-in to see how I’m doing with the goals I set for myself in January.

I started a new job in January, doing intake assessments at the psychiatric hospital that recently opened in town. I’m enjoying it pretty well, although the schedule of three consecutive days of 12-hour shifts looks a lot nicer on paper than it does actually working it – especially when that third day rolls around and my brain is numb. And especially especially when I pick up an extra shift. My bank account is loving it, but my writing goals not so much.

Anyways.

  1. Continue to publish and promote my Heartsbane Saga series. Books .5, 1, and 2 are all out. Books 1.5, 2.5, and 3 are ready to go as soon as I’m done with edits. Soon, I hope.
  2. Publish something at least twice a week. I just checked and I’ve published 15 stories on Medium this year, which averages out to about one a week. Not twice a week, as per my goal, but still pretty good. Most of it is microfiction, but that’s okay. It’s something.
  3. Marketing. Brian Cohen just started another Amazon ads mini course this week, and I’m hoping to follow along. My Amazon ads have been doing decent for sales, and I want to kick them up a bit. I’ve also started participating in the Weekend Writing Warrior blog hop again after a long absence, which is helping with marketing a bit too, I think.
  4. Travel travel travel. I made it to Dodge City, KS, in February. The museum was a bit of a whitewashed disappointment, but I still enjoyed getting out on the Plains. On that trip I also ate at a delicious German restaurant in Wichita, explored Truckhenge in Topeka (not as good as Carhenge or even Cadillac Ranch, but A for effort), and managed to sweet talk my way into a private self-guided tour through a closed-for-renovations psychiatric museum in St. Joseph, MO. A couple weeks ago my kid and I went to Chicago for his belated birthday trip and found some awesome arepas, which is his thing right now. This weekend I hope to go to Detroit and eat pasties from the Eastern Market, Middle Eastern from my favorite Middle Eastern restaurant in Dearborn, Belgian from this little restaurant with awesome beer, and maybe even some Aramaic from this Chaldean restaurant. Yes, I am all about food when I travel. Now that the weather is getting warmer, I’m hoping to use my 3-4 day weekends for some solo vanlife hiking trips pretty regularly.
  5. Continue to Marie Kondo the shit outta my life. I Marie Kondo’d my living room last year and it’s still pretty good. Now I’m nearly done with my dining room; my dad is building me a big floor-to-ceiling cabinet so I can organize all my kitchen gadgets and pantry stuff. Next it’ll be on to my office, which is a godawful mess.
  6. Read 100 books. My usual goal. I’m currently at about 16/30 books, but I’ve been able to read a bit recently at work to catch up (another nice perk of the job; when we’re full or on hold for admissions at night, my supervisor doesn’t mind if we read or whatever as long as we’re caught up with everything else). I’ve also started going to the gym 2-3 times a week, and I read for about 20 minutes while walking on the treadmill. Two birds with one stone and all that.

If you’ve set goals for yourself, what are they? How are you doing with them?

Media Monday: More famous than Edgar Allen Poe?

Media MondayThe book: Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edogawa Rampo

The music: Anything by Ningen Isu

YouTube’s algorithms know my tastes pretty well by now, so when a new band is recommended, I watch the video. I think I was watching something by Babymetal and YouTube was like, “Hey, J metal [Japanese metal] is cool, but you’re not a kawaii metal [Japanese metal + Jpop [Japanese pop]] person. Check out these guys instead.” So I did.

Ningen Isu’s music is pretty standard metal. Wikipedia tells me they’re influenced by Black Sabbath and Kiss, which comes across – nothing groundbreaking, but still good to listen to in the background. They’re also fun to watch: the singer/guitarist looks like he should be yelling at you to get off his lawn, the bassist has this ghost-monk look going on, and their current drummer appears happily stuck about 30 years in the past.

Where they do distinguish themselves, however, is with their lyrics, with references to H.P. Lovecraft, Buddhism, and classic Japanese literature. Their name, for example, which means “Human Chair,” comes from a story by Japanese mystery/horror writer Edogawa Rampo. So, I decided to read a book of his short stories.

First, some notes about the author. His pen name is the Japanese pronunciation of his favorite mystery writer (say his name aloud if you can’t figure it out). His stories are “Ero guro nansensu,” which comes from the English words “erotic, grotesque, nonsense.” And that really captures his stories that I read, which gives them a creepy vibe that you don’t find very often in straight-up mystery or horror.

Of the stories in this particular book, they seemed to fall into two categories: creepy body horror, and the psychology of murder. There’s nothing supernatural in these stories (with maybe the exception of “The Traveler with the Pasted Rag Picture”), which only adds to the horror, because any of these stories could actually be real, taking place right now. He also has some pretty ingenious murder methods, in case you’re looking for inspiration for your own murder story that you’re definitely just writing and not actually acting out.

I don’t have much familiarity with Japanese literature (or much Asian literature overall, unfortunately), so I was glad to find this book. I’ll definitely be reading more of his works and those of similar authors.

If you’re familiar with Japanese literature, what other authors would you recommend?

Weekend Writing Warrior 4/4/21 #8Sunday

Heartsbane book 3 coverHappy Easter, Weekend Writing Warriors blog hoppers! I’m not religious, but I do like the Easter season because it has the best candy. I’m partial to Reese’s peanut butter cups – the mini ones, not the eggs which don’t get the chocolate:peanut butter ratio right.

This week’s excerpt is from the newest book in my Heartsbane Saga of fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings. Book 3: Little Amethyst Abaya is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, and I should probably just shut up about when it’ll be out because, although I have the best of intentions, my work schedule seems to be kicking my butt and leaving me very little time for writing and editing.

This snippet is from the opening prologue. Mihrimah is the daughter of the general in charge of a remote citadel. Her father and all the men garrisoned at the citadel were called back to the capital. She was supposed to stay put but snuck out to say goodbye to her beloved. Last week ended with her throwing a rock at Tefvik to get his attention.

* * * * * * *

Tefvik’s head jerked up and he looked around wildly before spotting her. He dropped down on one knee as if adjusting his boot lacings. No one around him seemed to notice. Once the men rounded a bend, Mihrimah ran up to him. He swung her into a hug as their lips met.

Too soon, he pulled away. “What are you doing here?” he hissed in a low whisper.

“I couldn’t let you leave without saying goodbye.”

“It’s not safe for you out here, all alone!”

“You know I’m a better fighter than half these men.”

* * * * * * *

And the rest of that scene:

Tevfik’s brow furrowed. “But even you can’t take on these wolfmen.”

“It’s just the caliph politicking again, and dragging us into it this time.”

“No, it’s more than that. It seems there’s some actual truth to these tales.” He shook his head. “You need to return to the citadel as quickly as you can. And I need to rejoin the column before your father—”

“What in the name of the Messenger are you doing?” Mihrimah’s father bellowed as he came towards them.

She stared at him calmly, as if finding his daughter with one of his soldiers was of no need for concern. “I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye.”

* * * * * * *

About Little Amethyst Abaya:

Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

With Heartsbane nearly decoded, Nyah finally knows the curse Prince Brandulfur suffers from and how to cure it. But when she and her friends travel to get the needed serum, a powerful caliph takes them prisoner and offers an ultimatum: a suicide mission to rescue a general’s daughter and enough serum to cure Brand’s whole court, or indefinite imprisonment in his castle.

To add to the peril, she soon uncovers a plot by Brand’s archenemy that will pull the known world into a battle between religions and cultures, with Brand at the heart of it. It seems so fantastical, no one will believe her.

But that’s never stopped Nyah before. With no one to trust, she’ll have to cast her lot in with the worst of the worst, and maybe, just maybe, at least some of her friends will make it out alive.

Little Amethyst Abaya is the third book in a series of fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings.

Other books in the Heartsbane Saga:

Book .5: “The Maiden in the Tower” – Carys has resigned herself to a life of servitude, locked away in a tower, until a chance encounter with a stranger leaves her daring to hope for more.

Book 1: Captive and the Cursed – When Nyah’s sister is kidnapped by barbarians, Nyah offers herself in her place. But she soon learns the barbarians aren’t what she expected, especially their cursed leader.

Book 1.5: “The Brave Little Thrall” – Fahim Al Rasheed has spent his life studying foreign cultures, but he never thought he’d actually have the chance to experience them. When his journey of a lifetime leaves him and a young barbarian king marooned in a hostile country, he’ll have to rely on more than book learning to make it back home alive.

Book 2: Sleeping Shaman – Nyah and her friends travel halfway across the world seeking a cure for a barbarian curse, only to discover that the man they’re seeking has gone missing. Nyah must navigate dangerous rivalries and conflicting cultures before time runs out.

Book 2.5: “Ezichi the Beautiful” – Only Banu Sasan, the fabled witch of the desert, can help a young bride complete a task. But what will she require from Ezichi in return?

Weekend Writing Warrior 3/28/21 #8Sunday

Heartsbane book 3 coverWow, it’s been a while since I’ve participated in the Weekend Writing Warriors blog hop, where each week contributing writers share 8-10+ sentences from their latest projects. I got a new job, and while a schedule of 3 consecutive 12-hour shifts each week seems like it would give me more free time, that doesn’t seem to be the case as of yet.

Anyways, this week’s excerpt is from the newest book in my Heartsbane Saga of fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings. Book 3: Little Amethyst Abaya is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, and it should be out later this week (my work schedule willing, of course!)

This snippet is from the opening prologue. Mihrimah is the daughter of the general in charge of a remote citadel.

* * * * * * *

Mihrimah half slid, half climbed down the rocky embankment surrounding the squat citadel of Yumurta. She’d traded in her characteristic purple abaya and matching headscarf for a khaki one, so that her clothing blended into the dry rocks and shrub around her; Babaanne had been quite adamant that she wasn’t to leave the citadel until her father returned.

Mihrimah had mentally rolled her eyes then and physically rolled them thinking about it now. It was bad enough that most of the men stationed at the citadel had been called to fight the wolfmen, as they called the bandits currently terrorizing the countryside, and that she was forced to stay behind. But to expect her to stay inside while her beloved Tevfik was leaving too? To not even allow her to say goodbye to him? No, she wouldn’t accept that.

Once she was down to the main road that led to the capital city of Haksuk—although road was too generous for what was barely more than a footpath—Mihrimah paused. She doubted anyone would notice her as she walked along, if any of the few women left behind were even to look out one of the citadel’s narrow arrow slits that barely passed as windows, but she didn’t want to take any chances. As soon as she was spotted someone would be sent to fetch her back, and she had to at least say goodbye to Tevfik.

* * * * * * *

And the rest of that scene:

She didn’t trust the tales of the wolfmen either. She didn’t doubt that bandits roamed the countryside but she did doubt they were as fearsome as the stories made them out to be. Men in wolfskins that cannibalized their victims? Surely it was an exaggeration to advance whatever the caliph’s agenda was. Nonetheless, she didn’t want to run across them.

Sticking to the trees and rocks alongside the road, she made good enough progress that she came across the soldiers from the citadel by late afternoon. Three dozen or so men walked in pairs or small groups, chatting and laughing. None seemed to be taking the emissary’s warning seriously, and none seemed to be concerned about leaving the passage undefended. Most likely her father hadn’t shared his concerns with the men, predominately young soldiers from small villages all over the Caliphate of Tema who were unfamiliar with the caliph’s constant scheming.

One man, however, walked alone at the rear of the column. Tevfik’s head was down as if studying his feet, but Mihrimah knew he wasn’t paying any attention to the dirt he walked on. She grinned as she picked up a small rock and pelted him neatly between his shoulder blades.

* * * * * * *

About Little Amethyst Ababa:

Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

With Heartsbane nearly decoded, Nyah finally knows the curse Prince Brandulfur suffers from and how to cure it. But when she and her friends travel to get the needed serum, a powerful caliph takes them prisoner and offers an ultimatum: a suicide mission to rescue a general’s daughter and enough serum to cure Brand’s whole court, or indefinite imprisonment in his castle.

To add to the peril, she soon uncovers a plot by Brand’s archenemy that will pull the known world into a battle between religions and cultures, with Brand at the heart of it. It seems so fantastical, no one will believe her.

But that’s never stopped Nyah before. With no one to trust, she’ll have to cast her lot in with the worst of the worst, and maybe, just maybe, at least some of her friends will make it out alive.

Little Amethyst Abaya is the third book in a series of fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings.

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