A Halloween Lullaby

Lmao. Okay. I don’t often write poetry or the like—I’m not a huge fan. However, I ran across this random gem on my computer that I wrote years ago for no particular reason, and I forgot I had it until now. I entitled it only “Lullaby”, but given that Halloween is tomorrow night, it seems fitting to post it now. The file is dated just about six years ago.

Close your eyes and sleep now, child

dream your many dreams

For the world is full of sorrow

and evil, gnarled things

And if you should wake and I am gone

squeeze your eyes tight shut

For in the darkness all around

hungry things do hunt

They hunger for your little toes

and any bit they see

so snuggle under your blankets now

and leave the night to me

If you hear a creak or step

pretend it was the wind

For if they see you peeking out

surely they’ll close in

and when the day has come and gone

and night returns again

remember the warnings I tell you now

or the evil things will win.


Need Your Input! Book Synopsis

So, I just sat down and cranked out a book blurb/synopsis for my novel in about 10 minutes. I’ve never written one before, so I’m interested in seeing how people feel about it. Please take a look, let me know what you think. Would this book interest you (if you read the genre)?

Raised in isolation, Khet is forced to masquerade as blind in an attempt to keep a secret that could very well mean certain death for her entire family. Born the half-blood bastard daughter of an ancient god, her very existence is an affront to everything her people believe. But when Leander, an immortal Felnatherin lord discovers her, instead of ordering her execution, he saves her life. For reasons unknown, Khet is the spitting image of his murdered sibling. Together they will defy laws and push the boundaries of long-held beliefs in an attempt to discover the truth. A tale of secrets, betrayal and family, Daughter of Abraham is an epic Dystopian Fantasy Romance where beauty meets beast, and together, they overthrow an empire.

EDIT: Version 2

Sequestered away in a remote village, 16-year-old Khet harbors a secret that could very well get her family killed. Born the half-blood bastard daughter of an ancient god, her very existence is an affront to everything her people believe in. But when Leander, an immortal Felnatherin lord discovers her, instead of ordering her execution, he betrays his sworn oath to the crown and saves her life. Amidst a web of old prejudices, deceit and murder, the two unlikely companions forge a tenuous bond that a centuries old war will threaten to tear apart. Daughter of Abraham is an epic Dystopian Fantasy Romance where beauty meets beast, and together, attempt to overthrow an empire.

Thank you for your input!

Excerpt: First Draft — Khet

So, it’s late, I’m exhausted, and I have to get up at an ungodly hour in the morning to deal with plumbers and maintenance men, but I’ve been throwing around a scene from Khet that’s been stuck in my head for awhile now. Originally the scene was meant to take place only near the tail end of the first book, but because of how it sets up the story and the amount of dramatics involved, I’m also considering using it as a bit of a short prologue—like a teaser of what is to come. 

Keep in mind it took me about 10 minutes to write and it’s in its first draft stages—I may even scrap it entirely at some point… but, eh. I felt like sharing because some day it probably will disappear, and I’ll be sad to see it go. Consider it Khet’s first baby step out of the outline.

Right now it’s probably way too formal, lacks dialogue, hasn’t been checked for sentence construction, punctuation, spelling, lacks all sense of context…or any of that other nifty stuff that final drafts require in order to live… but it’s a start.

Side note: my blog’s inability to display italics in a way that is in any way meaningful is frustrating.

Small, elegant hands gripped the polished bannister as if at any moment the world might flip over on its head and the gilded lords and ladies of the court would float up towards the ceiling like puffy-headed seeds drifting in the summer air. Maybe not drifting… plummeting, like baskets laden with overripe fruit.

She closed her eyes, focusing on the heavy thrumming of her heart racing beneath her breast; it too felt as if at any movement it might flutter off like a small bird and disappear into the thrum of the party below.

Breathe. She sucked in a trembling mouthful of air and would have laughed at the absurd sound had it come from any other source. She was drowning in this place, surrounded by the unfamiliar melodies and dances, the polite conversations that barely concealed hostility. She didn’t belong here.


She lifted her head to let her gaze rest on Solomon, his brow furrowed as he took a few urgent steps up the curved staircase in her direction.

Arielle. Feminine, delicate—it practically rolled off the tongue, and yet it seemed to latch on to her like a tick, laden with the blood of her family. There had never been a moment before when she’d so badly wanted to scream.

“The Prince-“

“I’m done.” The words were little more than an exhaled breath, quickly swallowed by the violins below. She pushed herself back from the railing and wobbling slightly on each foot, stepped back out of the uncomfortable high-heeled shoes they had insisted she wear.

Solomon was at her side in only a moment, but she kept her gaze on the party below as she reached up and snapped the golden rings from around her neck and let them fall to the stone-cut floor. They hit the hard surface with the tinkling of small bells as they rolled towards the stairs, bouncing with each step they descended.

“Arielle-“ Again Solomon spoke the cursed name, this time, a shrill urgency to his voice.

She continued to ignore him and unpinned her hair, pulling out the headband and the delicate golden pins their mother had loaned her. She held them out to him and when he refused to extend his hand, she grabbed his wrist, forcing them into his open palm.

“What are you doing?” He asked, his gaze searching the upper level, and then the lower one for any sign of backup.

She turned to him then, lifting the edge of her gossamer skirt from the floor. “Taking back my life.” Before he could protest, she stepped up onto the seat of a burgundy settee that sat to one side, its back against the balustrades, and then another until her bare feet balanced atop the bannister. One hand gripped the nearby support column, and she blew out another unsteady breath.

“Arielle?” The familiar timbre behind her caught her off guard, and she turned, her back to the room below, and faced the man who had been her undoing from the start. Leander.

She still remembered the look in his eyes the moment theirs had first met. Love, hope, joy, anger, fear… some of the feelings remained, written plainly across his face. Staring at him now, all she felt was numb.

“Get down.” It wasn’t an order—not this time. This time, it was a plea.

She shook her head. “Sorry.” She let go and felt the air rush up to embrace her as her last toe left the polished wood of the railing.

A Character Portrait: Safiya

A Character Portrait: A brief peek into the lives of the characters of my fantasy novel, “Khet”, and what makes my characters tick.


It may seem a bit counter productive to first do a character portrait article of my main male lead, Leander, and then move on to a relatively minor character, Safiya, but Safiya’s story is one that needs to be told.

When “Khet” is finished and published and posted all over the internet, I have no doubt in my mind that Safiya will be one of the most hated characters in my series. After all, she’s the first villain Khet encounters in my novel.

Safiya is one of Khet’s older sisters—in fact, she’s the closest in age to Khet—a mere 5 years older. It may seem odd that Khet’s older sister is a Villain in my story… until one takes a closer look at Safiya’s life. More than anything, Safiya is a tragic character. She was only five when she witnessed the birth of her younger sister, Khet—only five when she learned that Khet wasn’t like the rest of her family… only five when she witnessed her mother’s betrayal. Unlike so many of Khet’s rather large family, Safiya was present when her mother betrayed their father with a Felnatherin lord—and from that moment forward she both hated her mother, and more so, Khet.

From the moment Khet is born, their lives become a waiting game—waiting to be found out and killed by the Felnatherin who actively hunt down half-breeds. Safiya and her siblings are forced to lie to everyone they know and pretend that Khet is blind so that she will never have to reveal her eye color. Because of her false handicap, Safiya spends her early life babysitting Khet, keeping her out of trouble, leading her around, doing chores for her, and all the while keeping her secret. Most of these are minor irritations to Safiya. The real kicker comes when Safiya is 16 and finally old enough to pass through the village’s maturation ritual.

For one day, the young men and women of the villages surrounding the valley come together to become adults in the eyes of their people. They test their bravery, strength, and agility… and at the end of the ceremony, they pair off with the boy or girl they have chosen to bind themselves to for life. Unfortunately, not all goes as planned for Safiya.

At the end of her first ceremony, she is rejected. In the eyes of the valley people, her family is tainted. Already two members have been blind (Khet and her half-breed grandmother Sana), and so Safiya is passed over. For another five years, she is considered a child, and in those five years, Safiya’s resentment of her younger sister festers.

The tragedy of Safiya is that all she’s ever wanted in life was to start a family of her own. She loves children. For five years, she bides her time, and when Khet finally turns 16, she gets her last shot. Her people are only allowed to go through the maturation ceremony twice… if she hasn’t gained a husband by the end of it, then she never will. She will ultimately remain a child in the eyes of her people for the rest of her life. Unfortunately for Safiya, the life she wants just isn’t to be.

During the second ceremony, Safiya is chosen for a bride—the crowning moment for the hopeful girl. For a few short moments, she is relieved and ecstatic. She’ll finally be able to leave her family, and Khet behind—but her joy doesn’t last long.

Khet is discovered by Leander, and it comes to light that Khet’s family have been harboring a half-breed Felnatherin. Safiya’s hope and life are stripped away. Her family are destined to become attendants to Leander and will never be permitted to marry or have children—a ruling put in place to prevent further half-breeds from being born. Safiya is understandably, devastated. One moment she is set to become married and start her new life, the next, she becomes a slave to a Felnatherin lord, and her sister, Khet, is promoted to pretending to be a Felnatherin lady. Safiya, as you can imagine, is livid.

From this point on, Safiya’s life becomes one tainted with tragedy, madness, and murder. Unable to deal with the hand she’s been dealt in life, Safiya drowns her youngest sibling and attempts to do the same to another. In her mind, ending the children’s lives will save them from the tragedy of living a life like hers. She believes that she is being kind, rescuing them from a life spent in servitude. That isn’t how everyone sees it.

As punishment, Safiya’s face is mutilated, she is imprisoned, and she is kept captive for the remainder of her life. Every second she spends from that night forward she spends devising ways to make Khet’s life a living hell.

From the reader’s, and most of the character’s POVs, Safiya is a villain. She’s the selfish, mad sister who tries to murder her own family, and hates Khet for no reason other than she was born… but that isn’t how she appears to Khet, and that isn’t how she appears to me either. Like Khet, I see Safiya for what she is: a tragedy.

Khet is well aware that her existence has robbed Safiya of the life she’s always wanted. Like no other character in the book, Khet sympathizes with her older sister… to a point. Everything Safiya wants in life is taken away by her younger sister and the betrayal of their family perpetrated by their mother. Her life is a never-ending chain of misfortune and there comes a point when Safiya simply can no longer tolerate her own pain.

On the night that Safiya attempts to murder her younger siblings, Khet looks in Leander’s eyes and pleads for Safiya’s life to be spared. It may be one of the most telling moments of Safiya’s short life. As much as Safiya hates Khet, Khet in turn loves her. Khet is the only character in the book who truly sees Safiya for who she is and accepts her despite her flaws.

I can’t hate Safiya. Despite being cast as a villain in my story, she’s one of my favorite characters. I know readers are going to loathe her—I set it up that way… but I can’t help but hold a soft spot in my heart for this tragic character. Most readers will miss the parts of Safiya that make her such an exceptional character. Because Khet’s story is told from various POV’s, most of which hate Safiya, the reader’s view of her will be tainted in a way that can’t be avoided, and perhaps, that is the larger tragedy… for even outside of her fictional universe, Safiya will forever stand in the shadow of her younger sister.

Other Tidbits

Safiya’s name is Arabic and means “Pure”–which is strangely fitting considering in my novel, Safiya is the one character who strongly wants to get married and have children, and is unable to. She remains a virgin throughout her life and had Khet never been born, would have been an outstanding person overall. She has a big heart and a genuine love of children. Sadly, this version of Safiya doesn’t last.

During the course of “Khet”, we see Safiya grow up between the ages of 5 to 21 in the first book of the series. She is 1/8th Felnatherin.

A Character Portrait: Leander

This is going to be a bit of a weird one folks. Obviously, I’m far, far behind on my blog posts. After the great debacle of the brand-new-computer-that-doesn’t-want-to-work, I’m still three or four books behind on my reviews and scrambling to try and fill up my weeks with posts about other random things. So, since I’m currently suffering from food poisoning (Thank you Taco Bell, I both love you and hate you at the same time), and nowhere near finishing a book yet, I’m going to go ahead and do what I’d like to call A Character Portrait.

Recently I posted an article about the outlining of Khet and the inherent frustrations that came along with that endeavor, and I received a few responses that people were interested in hearing more of my writing and world building process. So, in the vein of continuing with my Khet spiel, I thought I’d do some in-depth looks at some of my favorite characters from the series and talk about what makes them tick. Now, this comes with a bit of a warning: There will be some spoilers. Hopefully no major story-revealing ones, but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum. It can be hard to explain what makes a character tick without talking about some of the events that have happened to a character though, so if spoilers bother you, run away now.


From day one, Leander has been a bit of an anti-hero in my story. He had to be. The truth is, the real hero of my story is Khet—and so when I set about building her counterpart, someone to push her into the spotlight, I knew Leander wasn’t going to be your traditional main male lead. He’s flawed—deeply flawed.  He’s arrogant, controlling, self-centered, and at times, cruel.

In the first draft of “Khet” (there we go using those quotes to denote story vs. character again), Leander was originally cast as an ancient God. This was before Felnatherin’s* existed and the lore of “Khet” had been planned out. He was the lord of a small river valley, an ancient being who sometimes appeared as a man, and sometimes as a lion. His word was law to the human villagers that lived under his rule, and he was both mysterious and inhuman in the way he dealt with his subjects.

*Felnatherin: ancient shape-shifting beings that have been present on Earth since the very beginning of time. They sometimes take the shape of men, other times, that of animals. They are immortal, and have taken the role of Earth’s guardian’s, protecting what is left of our world from the destruction mankind has brought upon it.

Because Leander was an ancient God of the valley, he didn’t portray a lot of human emotion. He didn’t think or act in the way the other characters (Khet especially) expected. He sometimes came across as cruel and uncaring—there never was an intention to make him kind and loveable—and because of that, when the second draft (and eventual re-write) of “Khet” came about, a lot of the negatives of Leander’s personality were transferred to the new version.

In the first draft, Leander was awful because the point of his and Khet’s relationship was for her to step up and teach him to become more human. He was supposed to grow and learn to be kinder and more thoughtful of those around him as he got to know Khet more and more… but that isn’t exactly what happened. When I attempted to re-write “Khet” and plot out the second draft, I couldn’t imagine Leander as anything other than what he’d started as—a bit of an ass. Rather than rewrite his character, I kept him flawed. I’m glad I did.

Leander is the product of a tragic childhood and poorly placed loyalty. As a child, Leander’s father is killed during a time when his people, the Felnatherin, are attempting to wipe 90% of the human population off the face of the planet. His father, Osias, didn’t hate human beings, but as a man who worked as the sword-arm of the Gilded Court**, it was his job to help propagate the genocide of the human race. It was no one’s fault that Osias died—he was a victim of circumstance—but as the oldest of his siblings (just 10 or 13 at the time) Leander took his father’s death hard. He grew to hate humans, and despite his step-father’s insistence that Leander let go of is father’s death, it festers deep in his heart over the next several hundred years.

**The Gilded Court: The royal court of the Felnatherin, consisting of the royal bloodline and all court officials. Also sometimes refers to the actual location of the Gilded Court—a hidden complex/city where the royal family resides.

It should be no surprise that Leander grows up to step into his father’s shoes. He too becomes a sword-arm of the Gilded Court… a sort of bounty hunter. It becomes his task to hunt down felnatherin and humans alike who break the law, and it’s a task he’s especially good at.

The one bright spot in his life is his love of his younger brother Solomon, and his younger half-sister, Arielle. The siblings are close, and despite the darkness festering in Leander’s heart, his brother and sister keep him from becoming a truly wretched person. All that is soon to change.

Unfortunately, because of his step-father’s bloodline and position in the Gilded Court, Leander’s sister, Arielle, becomes next in line for the felnatherin throne. Normally, she’d have very little chance of actually sitting on the throne, but unbeknownst to Leander’s branch of the family, the Queen, Sapphira, who has a son already, has recently discovered that she can not bear another child. Since the throne is passed down on the maternal side of the bloodline, that means Arielle is the only choice for the throne—and that doesn’t sit well with the Queen. A plot hatches to remove Arielle from the bloodline, and in a tragic turn of events, Leander and Solomon are tasked with executing Arielle—who has now been deemed a traitor to the throne.

Long story short: Leander is forced by his loyalty to the throne to execute his little sister. Her death creates a rift between Leander and his brother, and plagued with guilt, Leander distances himself from the Gilded Court and disappears into exile among the rock-strewn mountains of the great river valley.

When Khet’s story truly begins, Leander has been in hiding for the past one-hundred-and-fifty years. He is bitter, angry—both at himself, his family, and humans in particular. He has little respect for anyone, and with the exception of one or two human attendants, he rarely interacts with anyone other than to pass down judgment. He is a tragic character that lives and breathes the guilt and hatred in his heart, punishing himself and everyone around him for his own misplaced loyalty… until he meets Khet.

The first meeting of Khet and Leander is a turning point. She is the embodiment of everything he simultaneously fears, hates, and loves. Khet is the half-human, half-felnatherin descendant of Arielle, and bears a striking resemblance to his former step-sister. Like Arielle, she is full of life, joy, and devotion to her family. The two share a lot of qualities—but unlike Arielle, Khet’s spent her entire life sequestered—hidden from sight for fear that she too would be executed were she to be found out. Where Arielle was friendly and outgoing—even outright childish at times, Khet is quiet, thoughtful, and bull-headed. Leander can’t help but be drawn to the girl who reminds him so much of his sister, and at the same time, he fears her for everything that she is.

Their journey—their friendship—becomes the catalyst that drives Leander forward as a person. Because of her, he learns to own up to the guilt he holds towards his sister’s death. He re-learns what it means to be loyal to family, and he learns to set aside his hatred for mankind. That’s one of the things I love about Leander as a character. He isn’t just some male lead present to make the female audience swoon. He isn’t around just to push Khet into the spotlight or to take the place of a love interest. Leander is a true counterpart to Khet. Without him, Khet would never learn to step up and be the strong female lead she soon becomes, and likewise, without Khet, Leander would never learn to let go of the past and grow into the strong male lead he’s meant to become. Their relationship, as tenuous as it is at times, is symbiotic. Without either one, the entire story would fall apart.

Leander has a few quirks throughout the story—mostly revolving around how he treats Khet—but I think his quirks are what keep him from becoming a character the audience genuinely hates. Let’s face it, he’s not particularly nice throughout the beginning of the story. He’s broody, arrogant, seems to lack any empathy… he’s the sort of person who is fiercely loyal to his duties and responsibilities, but lacks the ability to stand up for himself. He can be stubborn, easily agitated, slow to change and forgive… but that isn’t all there is to Leander. He is fiercely protective of children, his human attendants, and Khet. Despite his harsh exterior, when he thinks no one is looking he’s quick to step up and take care of others—never expecting to get any credit for his actions. He has a strange sense of humor and fascination with poking at Khet and irritating her. I think because Khet so resembles Arielle, he can’t help but treat her like his little sister at first. He teases her, pushes her around, and basically hovers around her in attempt to make certain she is taken care of—though he’ll loudly profess that he finds her irritating.

In his own way, Leander is kind, caring, and thoughtful, but because of his guilt about Arielle’s death, he tends to outwardly punish himself by purposefully casting himself in a negative light. Don’t get me wrong, Leander is far from perfect. He really can be an ass—but he treats his poor behavior as a type of shield… to protect himself from the chance that anyone could get close to him again, as Arielle and Solomon once were.  Deep in his heart he knows that given the choice to end Arielle’s life again, he couldn’t do it… and admitting that his loyalties were wrong, that his misplaced hatred in mankind may be wrong, is a terrifying prospect. If Leander was wrong about that, then the core of who Leander is—is a  lie… and he isn’t ready to admit that yet.

Other Small Tidbits:

Leander’s full name is: Leander. Yup. That’s it. The felnatherin don’t use last names. His name is actually Greek in origin as many of the felnatherin names are Greek/roman/biblical in nature, and means: Lion of  a Man. In Greek mythology, Leander was also the name of Hero’s lover in the tale of “Hero and Leander”. He was a man who fell in love with a priestess of Aphrodite and swam across the Hellespont river each night in order to meet her. One tragic night, he lost his way in a storm and ended up drowning. Upon seeing her dead lover on the shore the next morning, Hero leapt to her death from a temple window to join him.

My version of Leander is around 650 year old (give or take a decade), though he appears to be around 24. He’s got blond, wavy hair, green eyes, and shape shifts into a very large, male lion. Despite all arguments to the contrary, he is deeply enamored of Khet, and tragically, too bull-headed to admit it. He has a bad habit of walking around stark naked all the time because he’s too arrogant to feel embarrassed and too lazy to bother to wear clothes like a decent person—a fact with irritates Khet greatly. He tends to stay in his lion-form 80% of the time because it means he doesn’t have to interact with people—a habit which he starts to grow out of once he meets Khet—but he still reverts to his lion form when he wants to be left alone, to avoid Khet’s questions, or to avoid all responsibility for his actions. Leander’s still got a lot of growing up to do by the end of book 1.

The Frustrations of Outlining “Khet”

Khet6Today, we’re going to talk about “Khet”. What is “Khet”? Khet is the name of the main character from the unnamed book I’m currently working on outlining/writing. Lacking a permanent name for the project, I usually refer to “Khet” as the project itself, not just the character, so I apologize ahead of time for any related confusion herein. I will try to differentiate “Khet” the project from Khet the character by the use of quotes.

“Khet” is an epic fantasy story with themes of romance and political intrigue. It is the story of a girl from a small stone-age village that rests alongside an ancient river, hidden deep within a high-walled valley. It is set in an age far into the Earth’s future and in an alternative timeline where ancient shape shifting beings (the Felnatherin) have lead an uprising against mankind, committing a genocide that spans centuries in retaliation for our defilement of the planet’s ecosystems. Humans have been stripped of all modern technology and subjugated to a slave-like rule for the better part of the last era, and because of this, have forgotten most of their history on this planet.

Because of the genocide of humankind and the Felnatherin’s hatred of them, the Felnatherin’s royal court (The Gilded Court as it is so named) has put in place certain rules of engagement when it comes to Felnatherin/Human relations. The biggest of these rules is that Felnatherin’s are not permitted to mate with Humans. This is something that has happened in the past, and mixing the bloodlines turned out to be a very complicated and disastrous situation—after all, it’s hard to subjugate an entire part of the populace when you can’t tell which side the members fall on.

Now, there’s some very convoluted and intricate mechanics to how the throne is passed down on the maternal side of the royal bloodline of Felnatherin, but the trouble begins when the current queen, Sapphira, decides she’s not ready to hand over her throne to a distant relative, Arielle, after discovering that she cannot produce a female heir of her own. She orders two bounty-hunter brothers (Leander and Solomon) to have their sister (Arielle) executed for treason after discovering that Arielle has fallen madly in love with a local human. Unable to defy the queen, the brothers war with one another, and in the end, Arielle is killed.

What ensues is a generational intrigue and battle for the throne as Arielle’s descendants pass down the royal bloodline from one half-breed descendant to another, all the way down to Khet. Khet is the spitting image of Arielle, and after she is discovered by Leander and Solomon, she steps up to take Arielle’s place. The queen made a major miscalculation in her plan to hand the throne over to her son—she kept Arielle’s treason a secret. Because no one outside the brothers know that Arielle was executed, when Khet shows up at court, masquerading as Arielle, she can’t do anything to out the girl without putting her own position as queen in danger. Having the person next in line for the throne murdered (effectively ending a centuries old tradition of handing the throne down through the maternal bloodline) isn’t something the Gilded Court will take lightly.

All chaos ensues as Khet, a half-breed, battles Sapphira and her son, Asher, for the Felnatherin throne. The stakes and consequences couldn’t be higher for everyone involved.

As you can probably tell, the plot to “Khet” is pretty complicated. There’s a lot of threads with the genetics/bloodlines, the motives of the characters, and the romances between them that get tangled and knotted throughout the story—hence the major amount of outlining that must be done to keep everything straight and plot-hole free. One of my biggest challenges in figuring out the outline so far have been problems of my own making.

khetnotebookoutlineWhen I started the outline for Khet, I began with a very brief one-page synopsis of the story. From there I mapped out the major plot points that had to happen, and after that, I sat down for a couple of weeks and wrote out an entire notebook of synopsis for the timeline and scenes that had to occur. Literally—an entire notebook. I ran out of ink in three pens.

The next step, which I am currently working on, is to make what I like to call a “detailed outline”. I’m basically taking my notebook-outline and re-transcribing it scene-for-scene into a Word document. Each scene is labeled with the setting, time, weather, characters involved, POV, and has a pretty good run-through of the order of events and conversations that must happen in each chapter. This has so far been the most frustrating and time-consuming task in the project, but also the most fun. The trouble is that often in my notebook outline, I knew the type of scenes I wanted to put in, but I was rather vague on what actually had to happen. There are sometimes scenes that run on for four or five pages, and then there are times (like the one I recently ran into) that involve notes as vague as:

POV: Solomon. Need a chapter here where Solomon receives correspondence from Leander telling him to visit. Be sure to add in a scene for the Queen/Asher somewhere around this time.

Yup. That’s it.

Running into these roadblocks has frustrated me to no end, but there’s no one to blame by myself. The problem is that these types of vague notes often lead me to major changes in the story as I am forced to sit down and figure out what is happening in depth. Because I didn’t take the time to figure out everything in the notebook outline, this often leads to major plot holes that must then be sealed up or worked around. The particular one I mentioned above lead to the realization that I’d need a prequel for Arielle at some point. I’d also have to change the timeline so that Sapphira has been plotting against Arielle for a number of years before she actually has her executed. Two chapters had to be added to the beginning of my story to seal up some plot holes, and another three or four have been added to a later point in time to smooth over the changes that those changes made.

I’m not even halfway through my notebook outline and I’m already up to Chapter 25 of “Khet”. I will soon be delving into writing out the entire trilogy (it may be even longer than that) just to be able to fit in all the scenes I want to add. “It’s complicated” is an understatement.

In all honesty, it’s also the most fun I’ve had writing in ages. I’ve fallen in love with “Khet” as a story, and as a character. There are so many different aspects and complications to the plot that are fascinating to try and work around. I feel like I’ve gotten a really good handle on the character’s motivations and personalities—to the point where they aren’t just characters to me anymore. They are real people, and they live in a real (albeit constructed) world. I care about their lives, and I’m trying to do my best to put that care into crafting their story. I’ve enjoyed watching “Khet” evolve over the past year from a vague idea into a complicated, lore-heavy exercise in world building, and I can’t wait to see the project turned into a tangible novel someday.

There are days where I just want to run around in circles, squealing my joy to random people about how much I love “Khet” and some new plot complication I’ve found a work-around for—but at the same time, I hesitate to post too much about the project on my blog. Given the chance, I’d probably talk about the project daily here on Author Unpublished…but I understand that I’m really the only person in the universe who cares. I don’t want to bore my readers, but at the same time, I know that I should be getting the word out about the book long before it’s published to get an audience built up for “Khet”. The question is, where do I draw the line? I’d love some feedback from anyone who’s so inclined to leave a comment: Are you interested in hearing more about Khet and my process of building up the story and the outlining process? Are spoilers a thing people care heavily about at this point? Should I just keep it to myself?

Excerpt: Khet

What follows is an excerpt from “Khet” a story that I’ve been working on just for the last year. This is first draft, no editing, so forgive any grammatical mistakes or lack of polish. Enjoy some free reading. I want to finish this story someday T_T This is a YA/New Adult Fantasy with a bit of Romance thrown in. It is based on an alternate earth in prehistoric times–A definite change from my usual work.

Khet (Working Title) – Excerpt, First Chapter

I sat atop a weathered skull half my size, naked toes curled into cool sand beneath me. I didn’t know the name that belonged to the skull – creatures such as this hadn’t been seen in the great valley since before my grandfather’s time. I removed the blackened brush between my teeth, leaning forward to paint a gentle black curve across the back of the lion’s head that decorated the small patch of cavern wall. Sitting back, I put the brush back between my teeth and used gentle fingers, blackened with charcoal to smudge the line, bringing darkened shadow to the image.

“Has he offered for you yet?” Adala’s soft voice echoed clearly from the other side of the small cavern where she worked to spray the outline of her hand onto the cavern wall with a small hollowed stick and a bowl of ground charcoal.  “Hadya said she saw Isam bargaining for another Cria the other day. I don’t think your family would turn down five.”

“I’m not sure he’s going to.” I spoke around the brush in my mouth, leaning back from the painting for a better look. The ears weren’t quite right. I leaned in again, taking the brush from my mouth to outline the right ear again.

“Please. He’s been following you around like a pup since you grew breasts.”

“He follows around anything that has breasts. That includes his family’s bitches.” My voice came out in an irritated tone. Adala’s loud and sudden laughter startled me, and my stroke wavered. “Baboon tits.” I cursed under my breath.


“I tailed this line.” I replied, wiping a bit of spit onto my thumb and attempting to scrape off the extra color.

“That’s really disgusting.”

“Speak to me of disgusting when you see him staring at one of the poor things. He practically gets off on watching the pups nurse.”

Adala made an indelicate sound behind me and the corner of my lips quirked up in reply. “I hope-“

A faint roar echoed in the distance, bouncing off the valley walls, and we both grew still in the half-lit cave. The lion’s deep roar sounded a second time, and there was a shuffle of movement over my shoulder as Adala stood. I glanced back at her, leaning down to pick up a few small wooden bowls containing black and red dyes at my feet.

“Leave the brushes. I’ll wash them.” I said, tucking a few brushes into the corner of my mouth.

Adala stopped and frowned at me from across the room, “You aren’t coming?”

“In a minute.” I stood and crossed the cave to her, handing over the bowls, and retrieved her brushes from the crook of her arm. She eyed me in silence as I worked.

“He probably doesn’t even remember.”

I looked at her then, my green eyes resting on her own sienna ones.

“Did I say anything about him?”

“You don’t need to. You get twitchy when he comes into the valley.” She pointed out, turning on her heal to pick up a woven bag from beside the rock she’d been sitting on. She drew it over her head, and its strap fell securely between her naked breasts. She nested the dye bowls in her arms and tucked them into the bag.

“I do not get twitchy.” I tapped the blackened end of a brush against her shoulder, leaving a dark mark, and then turned for the bright opening of the cave.

“At least be honest. He scares you just like he scares the rest of us.” Adala continued, jogging forward to catch up.

I shrugged off her comment, stepping out of the cave and into the small trickle of the valley river as it lead away from the cave’s opening. I stepped delicately from one flat rock to another, ankle deep in the cool stream, following its path away from the cave and towards the larger river.

“I never said I wasn’t scared. Why do you think he’s here?” I asked, wading into the deeper water until it came nearly to my knees.

“I don’t know. He was here in spring. He doesn’t usually visit again so soon.” Adala frowned for a few moments, and then shook her head. “Guess we’ll see when we get there. Don’t take too long, he is not a patient man.” Adala shrugged back and continued on down the river without me, slogging through the shallow waters as she headed towards the village.

Man.  A feeling of uneasiness fluttered in my chest. It wasn’t the word I’d have chosen. She was right. I was scared. It had been six summers since the great lion god had given the first names to our people, and I was still afraid.  Since that day, I’d done my best to avoid his visits into the valley. I did not answer the call – I fled from it.

I bent above the river, taking the brushes from the corner of my mouth, and worked to scrub the black stains from their ends. The water grew dark around my calves, and I scrubbed until the water ran clear again. When I had finished, I tucked the brushes into a small satchel that sat low on my hips, swung wide across the simple linen loin-cloth I wore. The fabric was stained a dark, ruddy brown, and hid the stains of painting well. I took a few moments longer to wash my hands in the cool water, attempting to pry the black stains from under my fingernails, but it was of little use. My hands were shaking.

I glanced nervously down the river towards the village. I didn’t want to go back, but I had little choice. Surely Leander would have retreated to his mountain-home by now. He never stayed long. Resolved, I trudged down the river, enjoying the cool lap of the water on my skin. It was mid-summer and the searing rays of the sun beat down mercilessly on my golden skin. A gentle breeze lifted long, sun-streaked hair from my shoulders, tumbling it behind me in a silken flag. I took a deep breath. I would not show fear.

The river curved just before it hit the banks of the village. The water here was hip-deep and flowed by in a lazy tumble over smooth river stones and fine bits of sand. I glanced down at the water, trying to shore up my courage, and noticed a black streak of dye across my mouth where I’d been tucking brushes all morning. I grimaced and sunk under the surface of the water, scrubbing at my face for a few moments before coming up for breath. I glanced down at the water again, noting the absence of the dye, and reached up to squeeze the water out of my long hair.

“Khet.” The low, growling voice made me pause – arms tangled in my hair. Baboon tits.

I took a shallow breath, and slowly lowered my arms and turned to face the village bank. Leander stood in the white sands of the grass-lined shore, his naked skin glistening like burnished gold under the sun. As a man, his hair fell around his face in ragged sable locks, but his eyes were the same piercing gold the color of rich honey as they had been as a lion. He would have been beautiful if not for the silent rage clenching his fists and drawing his face into a rigid scowl.

If I’d been standing in shallower water I would have dropped to my knees, but struggling to bow in the deep water seemed more of an insult. I settled for a small bow of my head, averting my gaze towards the village for a moment before straightening to look at him again.

“Come.” He turned, and stalked up the river bank, tight corded muscles shifting in his lean back as he walked away from me. I felt my eyes widen. He wanted me to follow him. I was not willing to disobey a direct order, and sloshed out of the river with quick feet, jogging up the river bank to fall into step behind him. My loin cloth swung heavy and wet against my legs, making a distinct smacking sound as it hit my skin, and the sound made Leander pause in his step. I nearly ran into his rigid form, and stumbled back a step to avoid touching him.

He glanced down at me then, studying the cloth.

“Remove it.”

I stared at him, but his eyes lingered on the loin cloth for a moment before rising to meet my gaze. Embarrassment brought a deep flush to my skin, and I looked away while I untied the cloth from around my waist, and dropped both it and my satchel into the sand at my feet.

With no acknowledgement of my now naked state, he turned on his heel and continued up the bank of the river and onto the flat dirt of the village proper.

Nudity wasn’t abnormal to my people. I’d seen most of my male relatives naked as children, and all of my female ones, but past a certain age our differing male or female parts were usually covered. Leander was the first and only adult male I knew who never wore a cloth. Ever.

I fell back into pace behind him, and kept my back straight, head up, gaze focused. I would not let my fear or embarrassment show. This was my eighteenth summer, and though I was well past the age women began to wear cloth, I refused to let Leander know that it bothered me.

We entered the village center with its fire pit tucked away under the shade of a large banyan tree. The ground here was cool dirt, packed hard under decades of walking. The people of my tribe bowed in four long lines on one side of the clearing, their backs to the raised thatch huts that were their homes. Across from them four men and four women with hair the color of pale wheat stood rigid and waiting. They were Leander’s attendants. Golden hoops circled their necks and ankles, and saffron cloth fell between their well-muscled legs. They stood feet apart, arms behind their backs, eyes forward and watching.

The attendants had never left Leander’s fortress before. I frowned as I studied their faces. We’d all seen Leander pick and choose among us for the obedient staff of his fortress far up in the rocky hills of the valley, but he’d never brought them back down into the valley. It was unnerving how much they all looked alike. They wore their hair long and braided back along the midline of their body like the mane of a horse. The ends ran loose down their backs like a golden fall of water, reaching just past the long curve of their posteriors.

I glanced past the eight attendants and found Adala bowed low in the dirt beyond them. She lay apart from the others, her forehead nearly to the ground where she knelt. Her body shook in small inaudible sobs. A few pieces of grass stuck out at odd angles from her head, caught in her dark hair. I turned back to Leander, a question on my face, and caught his golden eyes once again focused on my own.

An indescribable hatred filled me. He’d done something to Adala. I did something then that had never been done in Leander’s presence. I glanced at Adala, still bent in the dirt, then back to the great lion god.

“Why?” My voice was breathy with fear and outrage, but it sounded out clear in the still air. A small strangled sound came from Adala, and I glanced over Leander’s shoulder to her. She still knelt, bent close to the ground, but her posture had become rigid and still. I glanced back to Leander. We did not speak to gods. We did not question them. It was the first law I’d ever learned.

He studied me for a moment, a calm curiosity in his golden eyes. A few seconds passed, and then he stepped forward, his hand reaching for my throat. His warm hand slid back against my neck to cup my spine against the palm of his hand, sending my pulse thudding wildly in my throat. He stepped into me then, his face nestling against the hollow behind my ear, and I stood rigid against him.

My hands rose almost of their own volition – whether to push him away or simply touch him, I didn’t know, but I forced myself to put them back at my sides, fingernails digging into my palms. I’d only been this close to him once; the day I’d been given my name. No one touched Leander—it wasn’t done—but he could certainly touch me.

He gave a low growl of warning, a deep rumble at the back of his throat, and then he took a deep breath, taking in my scent. My eyes were focused on Adala over his shoulder. She had cautiously raised her gaze, and now sat bent close to the ground, her eyes following Leander’s movements with a sense of bewilderment.

I didn’t dare move, but I sent her an answering look, one that meant caution. Leander wasn’t acting like himself.

There was a small movement from the attendants, and I glanced at them to find their eyes turned towards Leander and me. There were a few stray looks of shock and fear before they turned back to their rigid stance, eyes forward and unseeing. Their hesitant glances had done nothing to comfort me. I wasn’t the only one to notice his strange behavior.

My face was pressed perilously close to Leander’s collarbone. I could smell the scent of sun-parched grass, sweat, and cat on his skin. His hand was strong and still behind my neck, his skin hot where it pressed against me. I turned my face just a fraction of an inch to glance at the side of his strong jaw, and the movement made Leander’s breath still. I froze, partially turned towards him. A heartbeat, two, and then he let go, stepping back.

I looked up at him then, searching the expression on his face, and found his eyes heavily dilated, the gold of his eyes only a thin sliver around the dark of his pupil. His mouth was half-open and he gave a small huff of breath as he took another step back, and then turned towards the awaiting villagers.

Slowly, I unclenched my hands. My joints ached with the strain, and I felt warm liquid slide down the palms of my hands. I glanced down at them. Small red half-moons cut into my palm where I’d dug my fingernails into my skin. There was nothing I could do about it, so Iturned back to watch Leander, small drops of blood hitting the dirt at my feet.

“Stand.” He commanded as he stood before the tribe, mouth still half-parted, scenting the air. A few members of my tribe looked up, though no higher than Leander’s knees, and slowly began to rise.

“Stand!” he shouted this time, and the entire tribe scrambled to their feet, eyes lowered to the ground. I started at the roar of his voice as it echoed through the valley. I took a step towards Adala, my eyes focused on the lion god.  He stood staring at the crowd for a moment, lifting his face as he scented the air. His voice came again on a low growl.

“Family?” he asked. I frowned at the odd command. When no one answered, he turned and strode towards me once more, thrusting out a hand. He grabbed the bicep of my left arm and yanked me towards him, pushing me towards the awaiting crowd. “Family.” He ordered, abruptly sending me stumbling towards my tribe.

I was panting, my breaths coming in short nervous bursts as I stepped into the awaiting lines of villagers. I grasped my brother Harith’s wrist and dragged him towards the lion god. Harith was my elder brother – a full six summers older than I, and a full head and a half taller. He was nearly the same height as the lion god. His skin was the same golden brown as mine, but he sported an array of messy mocha waves atop his head, and deep coal eyes. I was the odd-ball out in my family. My brother’s gaze met mine as I pulled him from the crowd, and I flashed him a nervous look of apology. I brought him to the front of the lines and then went back for another sibling.

By the time I was done, my mother, father, grandparents, three brothers, and four sisters stood lined up before the others of my tribe. My mother held my little brother Hanif in her arms – he was still nursing. My sister Basima, only now walking, clung to her leg with one thumb tucked into her small mouth.  Except for me, my family bore a strong family resemblance to one another. We all sported the same golden tone of skin, but the rest of them bore dark hair and eyes. My hair was lighter, more sun-streaked, and my eyes, a pale shade of green. Harith’s young wife stood beside him, her own babe in arms.  He was the only one of my siblings yet married, though my elder sisters Safiya and Ruwa were both of age.

I turned back to Leander, standing before my family line. He glanced over his right shoulder towards Adala.

“No.” I said, stepping forward. “Friend, not family.”

Leander’s gaze fell on me again and he nodded once. He glanced to his left side and then back to me. “Come.”

I glanced back at my mother. Her eyes were wide, clutching Hanif tight to her chest, and I turned away from her, striding towards the lion god. I stepped beside him, turning to face my family, and waited.

Leander stalked forwar, slowly pacing down the line of my family. He paused before each one, staring them down though none of them would look him in the eyes. They were more obedient than I. He’d started with young Hanif, inspecting his chubby brown arms and head of thick brown locks. Next was Basima with her clear hazel eyes and long tangled curls. On down the line he went, turning their faces with his large hands and inspecting their lean labor-hardened limbs. He took particular care inspecting my younger brother Mahir who was only thirteen summers, and my sister Sadia who was but five.

He turned towards me, eyeing my older sisters. “These have no children?” he asked.

I glanced towards Safiya and Ruwa. “They are not yet married.” I offered. He turned towards me then, eyeing along the length of my naked body. I felt the flush rush back to my face.


“Safiya is twenty summers, Ruwa, nineteen.”

“Your age.”

I glanced at him nervously then, and met his eyes for only a moment.

“Eighteen this season.”

He seemed to consider that.

“The others?”

“Harith is twenty-three summers.” I nodded towards my elder brother and his wife. “His wife is nineteen, their son, a season.” I glanced towards my younger siblings. “Mahir is thirteen summers, Sadia, five – Basima, two – and Hanif is just over 2 seasons.” I continued down the line in a tumble of words. Leander turned back to my elder brother and his wife.

“A mated pair for how long?”

“A summer.” I replied, my gaze falling on the couple. This answer seemed to please Leander and he nodded once, leaning towards the pair to inspect my brother’s son. The small wiggling baby flailed his arms at the lion god’s presence and his face began to pinch into the beginnings of a wail. Leander stepped back at the sight and scowled at the infant.

“Stop it.”

My brother’s wife clutched the babe close in her arms, which only served to make the child angrier, and he let out a loud, wavering wail. Harith looked frightened – he was male and knew little of small children. I strode forward, past Leander’s shoulder and lifted little Sa’id from his mother’s arms. She clutched at him, but I sent her a warning look and she dropped her arms immediately. I tucked the small naked child against my shoulder and patted his back, bouncing him gently as I paced away from my brother and his wife.  She was new to motherhood, but I’d helped raise my younger siblings.

I whispered a soft lullaby of birds and sunshine in his velvet ear, and small hands tangled in my still-damp hair, he stilled against my shoulder. I continued to pat his little brown back though it stung the small cuts in my hand, singing the soft song under my breath, and let my gaze fall back to Leander.

The lion god watched me with a strange expression on his face. He seemed to consider little Sa’id in my arms, and his gaze swept the length of me. When his eyes met mine again there was a look I didn’t quite understand, and it sent my heart racing in my chest.

He turned to his attendants then and huffed an abrupt sound at them. The women stepped from the line up and strode forward with purpose in their step. Two grabbed Mahir’s scrawny wrists, the other two reaching for Sadia. My eyes went wide. He meant to have them. I turned towards my nearest sibling, handing off Sa’id to my grandmother, who cradled the now wailing babe in her arms and crooned softly in his ear. His back was a sticky wet mess of blood and I grimaced at the sight. I turned back to Leander and strode until I came nearly toe to toe with the lion god, my chest rising and falling in heavy breaths.

“Please.” I begged without touching him. There was a note of panic in my voice. “They are only children.”

He grabbed my arm then, in a painful grip, wrenching me out of his way.

“Leander!” I shouted, grabbing at his wrist where it clutched my arm. He paused at that, his fierce gaze falling to where my blood-stained hand grasped his bronze wrist. His eyes narrowed in fury and he let out a loud, halting roar near my face.

I didn’t breath. My hand slipped from his wrist, my fingers shaking. He shook my arm once, causing me to stumble against him, and growled down into my frightened expression.

“I am your god, and you will obey.”

I heard soft sobs behind me. Sadia. I stared up into Leander’s eyes, my own startled face staring back at me in their reflection. I let my gaze drop, letting the tension drop from my body. When my voice finally came out, it was breathy and soft against his chest.

“Yes, my Lord.”

Excerpt: The Soot Mother

What follows is an excerpt from “The Sooth Mother” a story that I’ve been fiddling around with for the last year or so. This is first draft, no editing, so forgive any grammatical mistakes or lack of polish. Enjoy some free reading. lol

The Soot Mother – Excerpt (First Chapter)

We are the mothers of soot-

We called it a birth, but the word on everyone’s mind was death.

We sing our mournful song-

We were only children; the seven of us, and at sixteen rotations, I was the oldest.

For we have lost our eggs-

Mohri Ibenmihl turned fifteen today.

And now our future’s gone-

The small, fair-haired girl could hardly walk under the strain of the globe of her stomach, and we six Nethenil did what we could to bear her towards the surface.

Cover your ears as we pass-

Our voices reverberated deep within the depths of the cavern, ringing out in haunting melody.

Turn your eyes to the ground-

Sweat beaded the young Mohri’s naked skin, and she gasped as she lost her footing, collapsing onto her knees. Nethenil Jaeli, the second eldest of the group, helped me to lift her from the stone, and together we bore her frail weight across our narrow shoulders.

She was dying.

We travel through the deeper Delves-

With the exception of Nethenil Jaeli, the other girls were too young to contribute, and instead, walked ahead of us, lending their nervous voices to our song. They were afraid—we all were.

To burn beneath the Suns.

The dark stone of the tunnel gleamed beneath our feet like a great black mirror, and as we neared the Genirbehr, the temperature climbed as quickly as our small sisterhood. It was the last bit of shelter before we hit daylight and a welcome respite along our journey.

We’d traveled for what seemed like days through the dark of the Delves, always heading up. There was no time to spare for rest; Mohri Ibenmihl wouldn’t survive much longer, and we had to reach the surface before she breathed her last.

“Sister,” I turned towards Nethenil Jaeli, peering around Mohri Ibenmihl’s limp head. “Help me set her on that rock over there—we have little time to prepare.” I nodded towards a large flat stone near the wall of the cavernous room.

Mohri Ibenmihl said nothing as we lifted her onto the warm rock, and left her there to address the anxious group of children. I watched her for a moment, though she did not acknowledge my gaze. We weren’t far from the surface, and already the radiation had begun to eat away at her skin. Blisters marred the delicate skin around her eyes and lips. We couldn’t afford to delay much longer.

This would be the first time many of the girls had left the Delves, and like Mohri Ibenmihl, many of them would not make a second.

My gaze fell over the small group as Nethenil Jaeli went around to each girl, making last minute adjustments to each where needed. Their hair, once a thick and lustrous black, had been shorn off with a crude blade—as close to their scalps as we dare. Already intricate silver patterns had been painted on the bare skin of their heads, and each wore only a short mesh skirt the color of the stone at our feet.

This is how I would remember many of them; frightened children sheared and painted for slaughter. Few would make it to the next Walk, and even fewer to the one after that.

I’d long ago lost track of how many Walks I’d attended, but this would be my first leading one. Our sisterhood had always been small, just a group of two or three at a time. Nethenil Kora had mothered us for as long as I could remember, but at the age of fifty rotations, she’d walked her last. Her ash now dusted the sun-baked surface, along with countless other Nethenil before her.

Millennia ago, the single sun of Jiha’Glohir had fractured into four separate burning balls in the sky. We had once orbited the great blue giant, but now, it orbited us. It had happened so long ago, there wasn’t a person alive who remembered how it had occurred, or the life we’d once had before it. We had only ancient folk stories told over cooking fires in the depths of the Delves to remind us of better days.

To say we’d survived the extinction of our planet would be overstating the matter. We’d endured. Survival was too pretty a word for it. Unlike our time before the Breaking, every one of my people knew the story of what came after.

When the Suns broke, the planet’s surface was bathed in radiation and heat—a great wave of destruction that turned everything it touched to ash. A few of my people, the Grigowyn, fled into the darkness of the Delves—great underground caverns deep within the core of Jiha’Glohir—and within their depths, they found the Astym.

The Astym were a race of dark-dwelling beings that once, had barely been able to stand the weak sunlight of our temperate planet. After the Suns broke, however, like us, they could no longer near the surface.  Cast together in darkness, the two species made a pact.

Though the Astym were a frail species—they were also curious, and clever. Unlike the Grigowyn, whose children must be taught by the generation before it, the Astym had a race memory. Each Astym was born with the all the knowledge and memories of those before it, and it was the Astym that authored the written pact between our peoples.

In exchange for shelter from the unbearable surface of the planet, the Grigowyn signed themselves away to an eternity of rule under the Houses of the Mohri, and in only a generation, we had come to revere the child-like savants as living Gods. They were ancient, forgotten beings, hidden away in the dark depths of Jiha’Glohir. They were here before the first of the Grigowyn had been born to our world, and had survived many destructive events before the Breaking. We saw them as our one hope to survive.

For all their inherent strengths, however, a single, fatal, design flaw plagued the Astym.

Though we referred to them as female, the Astym had no gender. They resembled small children, and at 15 rotations, each began to wither and die. The Astym lifespan was short, and their bodies, pone to premature failure.

The Astym reproduced only once in their lifetimes, and that reproduction could only occur at the time of death—and only under the intense heat of our suns. In essence, each Astym replaced itself within the collective with an exact genetic clone, and if the cycle did not complete for any reason, the loss of that life could not be recovered.

For this reason, the greatest crime in our world was to cause the premature death of an Astym. It was this crime that had made us Nethenil.

At the conception of the Avelion Pact—the contract that bound all Grigowyn to a Mohri House—a caste system had been put into place. At the top of the castes sat the Mohri: the Astym. Below that, were the Gohri: their Grigowyn caretakers. Each was hand-chosen by the head of each Mohri House, and they were indulged much like coddled pets. Then, there were the Ihptorin: the male Grigowyn. The Ihptorin were the labor class of the houses—working as ore miners, hunters, and artisans. They were traded for breeding stock to ensure Gohri bloodlines, and used as a status symbol between the houses.

At the bottom of the castes were the Nethenil: the casteless. We were the unfortunate caretakers of dead Mohri. Somehow, our intended charges had been lost—killed, or had simply never been born. By Astym law, we were considered filth, and according to their dark god, be it accident, or intended harm, any Gohri that lacked a Mohri charge, was a murderer.

Many of us were caste as Nethenil from birth. Our mothers had provided too many daughters, or a Nethenil had failed a Walk, and an egg was lost—and so from the moment of our conception, we were slated for death.

The other castes were not permitted acknowledge us. We were but ghosts—ash floating in the wind—Soot Mothers. We were no longer seen or heard. If a house needed a body dumped, or a Mohri was sent to Walk, a note, smudged with ash would be dropped in the tunnels, and we Nethenil would respond without word.

We were a caste of desperate, starving nomads. We paced the Delves from House to House, caring for the dead—for death, was our only trade.

The Mohri need not put the casteless to death—the Delves were a dangerous place outside the Houses. There were rarely more than a handful of Nethenil per Mohri House. Most of us starved, succumbed to disease, fell to cave-ins, or burned.

For all our despair, however, we Nethenil were charged with a single task – the most sacred to our people – that no others were permitted to do. We Walked. The Astym could not bear the radiation or heat of our suns, and because even we Grigowyn often succumbed to it, the Gohri and the Ihptorin could not be risked to this task.

Unfortunately, it was a necessity. If we did not Walk, the Astym would die without progeny, and it was blasphemous to even consider the possibility. They were our Gods, our saviors in the dark of the Delves. It was our burden, and without our sacrifice, the whole system would fall apart.

The irony was that, until the Avelion Pact, the Astym had been a race slated for extinction. Without it, the Grigowyn would only have had to wait, and the Astym would have died off in a single generation. Fifteen years, and we’d have been free – but the Grigowyn were a compassionate race at heart. We’d been pulled in by the Astym’s child-like demeanor, and signed away the future of our species without hesitation.

It was hard to know how long ago the changes to Jiha’Glohir had taken place. My people had no written language, and with no day or night cycle, time was a concept few of us observed. We counted our time in rotations; at the end of each, the greater sun of the four would pass before the Genirbehr—the entrance to our cave system—and we’d know that a new cycle had begun. However, the count from the time of the many, to now, was vast, and long ago forgotten. We only knew that the Breaking had happened long ago—long enough, that the Grigowyn had begun to adapt to the surface heat and radiation.

We weren’t immune, but we’d found that we could stave off the effects for short periods.

“Nethenil, gather.” I motioned for the children to gather around me, and I sat on the warm stone beneath my feet at the center of the cavern. A few moments passed while the children huddled in around me in a great circle.

“I know you’re frightened—we all are. You may pass this day. I have walked more times than can be remembered, and I have seen few Nethenil return from their first Walk.” I said, and reached out to touch the clasped hands of one of the girls. “Ease your hearts. The dark will come; you need not fret over it. If you cannot stay calm, it will leave you. Do not allow fear to rule your hearts, and you will return safely.”

I nodded towards Nethenil Jaeli, at the rear of the group, and quietly, she stood to rummage around in the small pack she carried on her belt.

“In a moment Nethenil Jaeli will hand each of you an Iiviib Root. It will help to stave off the pain of the scarring. Though it is only a momentary pain, it will be intense, and if you are unprepared, you will lose the dark to it.” I turned my head to the side to show the girls the intricate pattern of scars that covered my scalp, and one of the smaller girls reached out to trace the patterns with her small fingertips.

“Hair burns off on the surface, as does any material you may take with you. That is why we wear the Raii-Enibra.” I explained as I pointed to the delicate latticework of metal mesh I wore that served as a skirt. “The Syn Ore the off-worlders come here to trade for does not melt in our environment like other materials. It burns with an intense heat, and it will cause pain, but it will not harm you as long as the dark is with you. “

I reached down to the small metal trinket hooked onto the belt of my skirt, and removed it, holding it up for the group to see.

“Stay aware of the markers you wear at your hip. They are your warning. When it falls from your body, you must return to the Genirbehr.” I cautioned. “The dark makes us immune to the heat and radiation of the surface, but it is only for a short while. When the marker falls, your time is up. If you fail to heed this warning, you will burn with the Mohri.”

I glanced around the small group for a moment.

“May the dark keep you.”

“Darkness keep us.” The girls chorused.

I rose to my feet as Nethenil Jaeli handed out the last of the roots, and I strode to her side.

“Did you finish checking them?”

“Yes, they should be fine.” She replied. The metallic paint used to pattern their skin was not truly paint, but a volatile mix of ores that would ignite and burn in a flash under the heat of our suns. We used it to inscribe the marks of our shame onto our scalps, branding us as Nethenil. It was this scarring that made our first Walks so deadly. The momentary torment of the scarring often broke the concentration of the girls, and if they could not stay calm, they would lose their only protection.

“Good. I must attend to Mohri Ibenmihl. Please, keep them calm until I am finished.”

Nethenil Jaeli nodded, and I turned to the Mohri, waiting quietly at the edge of the room. I strode forward to kneel at her feet, and pressed my forehead to the stone beneath them.

“Let the dark gods hear my prayer, and return the dead to your sight.” I recited, and then sat back on my heels, coming face to face with Mohri Ibenmihl for the first time.

Slowly, her gaze rose to meet mine, and for the brief moment, I was acknowledged into existence.

“I see ash before my view, and ask of it what it requires.” Mohri Ibenmihl responded in the custom of the ritual. The strain on her face was evident, and though she looked at me, she could no longer see. Already the radiation had taken her eyes. They were sunken and clouded, boiled in her skull.

“I ask the name of your descendent, so that I may whisper it to the ash, and all may know her.”

“Mohri Senlehl.” She turned her gaze back to the stone, and the acknowledgement was gone, the ritual complete.

I rose to my feet as Nethenil Jaeli approached, and with little hesitation, we took up our burden for the last time.

“It is time.” I called to the girls as we passed their huddled mass, and one by one, they fell into step behind us, a procession born of death and anxious with hope for the next generation of Mohri.

A thin veil—a small, protective shimmer in the sweltering air—masked the entrance to the cavern. It was a testament to long ago forgotten forces the Grigowyn had once mastered. Little remained of these old ways, and what little I knew had been passed down to me by Nethenil Kora. It was knowledge I had been entrusted with, along with a single task; one I would trade my soul for in order to accomplish. Today, I would do the unthinkable.

The barrier gave a bit of resistance as I passed through it and out into the open ash fields of Jiha’Glohir, and as I stepped into the light, the darkness overcame me.

In reaction to the radiation of our broken suns, my skin shot black—the color of burned stone—and a dark film rose to protect my eyes from the light. The scars of my scalp and the metal of my skirt burned bright as coals against the dark of my skin. The heat was intense, a searing pain that engulfed every inch of my body, but I `was used to the pain, and grit my teeth as I helped Nethenil Jaeli haul Mohri Ibenmihl beyond the veil.

Her scream was brief – a short punctuation to the end of her life as her body burned, and turned to dust in the blink of an eye. I brushed the ash from my shoulders, and hefted the large blackened egg she’d left in her wake into my arms. It’s surface bubbled like tar as the ash of her mother burned from the hard shell.

It would be several more minutes before the heat would work its course and trigger the gestation of Mohri Senlehl. I stood to the side, and watched the procession of Nethenil as they took their first steps onto the surface of their home planet.

The first stepped through uneventfully—a flash of fire, and the glow of ore—and she glanced around with wide eyes at the barren plain around us. Forgotten cities, burned black and hollow, sat on the horizon, and seemed to writhe in the waves of heat.

The next three didn’t make it as far. They’d stepped out cautiously into the heat, and panicked when the pain hit them. The darkness fled from their skin, and limbs beyond the veil withered and baked in mere seconds. Nethenil Jaeli, set with her task, pulled the remainder of the convulsing bodies into the sun, and watched them turn to ash with little compassion. A Nethenil who could not Walk, was of no use to us.

Of the six Nethenil that stepped beyond the veil that day, three survived.

“Sister.” I called out to Nethenil Jaeli, and hefted the heavy egg higher in my arms. She turned in my direction, our younger sister at her side. “Show Nethenil Ahven how to check the supply orders, I’m going to run a visual on the landing site.”

“Are you sure? It’s a ways out.” Nethenil Jaeli responded, concern in her expression.

“I’ll be alright. I think an ash storm may be on its way, and you’ve got your hands full already. Keep an eye on our sister, and I’ll return quickly.” I nodded towards Nethenil Ahven, and turned to stride farther out into the ash plain.

The ground beneath my feet was soft with a millennia of ash coating its surface, and my feet sunk easily into the searing gray. Traversing the surface any length of distance was a struggle, and made more difficult by the heavy burden in my arms. I searched the horizon, and saw the telltale blurry haze that signaled an ash storm was imminent. I hadn’t been lying about the danger. I was counting on it.

Ash storms were deadly. A searing cloud of ash, brought up from the surface by the solar winds could blind and suffocate in seconds.

I glanced down at the egg in my arms. It was almost time. Tiny specks of molten ore flecked the shell of the egg, and began to glow with heat—a sign that Mohri Senlehl had finally begun her short life.

I dragged my feet through the ash as I walked, encountering little resistance from the fine particles until at last, my toes hit upon something buried beneath the surface. I stopped, and set down the egg, nesting it between my feet, and turned to glance towards the Genirbehr. Some hundred feet away, my sisters were huddled around a group of stones set along the edge of the veil. Both were intent upon the placement and counting of the stones, marking the orders of off-worlders who would be returning to trade for ore.

Off-worlders were not permitted to enter the Delves, and with no written language of our own, taking orders had become somewhat of a challenge. Off-worlders could only visit the surface of Jiha’Glohir for a short time, even with their protective suits, so the timing of meet-and-greets had to be timed carefully.

The first off-worlders to reach our planet nearly a hundred years ago had strived to teach us their language, and with a bit of trial and error, a method was found in the placing of small stones to help us communicate. Unfortunately, with the high fatality rate of the Nethenil, it was difficult for us to learn a spoken or written language between our species.

After a while, most traders picked up the basics of our speech, and in return, we’d done our best to pass on their counting system between our sisterhoods. Only the oldest of the Nethenil, such as Nethenil Kora, had picked up enough of the alien speech to be able to communicate fluently. She’d taught me all she’d known, but even that was only the basics.

The ash storm raged in the distance, drawing nearer by the minute. I turned my back to my sisters and knelt over the egg at my feet to lift the corner of the object hidden in the ash. A few more seconds.

This moment had been planned for nearly three decades—waiting for the right conditions—the perfect opportunity. Born in secret, deep within the Delves, my mother, Nethenil Kora, had raised me outside the Houses of the Mohri. I was a true casteless—the only Grigowyn born and raised outside the Avelion Pact since its conception—and all for this moment.

The ash storm hit with silent force, and I ripped the hidden off-worlder helmet from beneath the layers of ash at my feet, and pulled it over my head. As the seals locked, I gasped for breath, and opened my eyes. A massive swirl of gray blanketed everything around me. I couldn’t even see the egg at my feet, but I felt its searing surface against my calves.

I took a deep breath, and then with words and movements older than the Breaking, I called on the ancient forces long lost to the Grigowyn, and prayed for an answer. The marker fell from my hip, I felt it drop, and knew I was running out of time.

“Noen.”  As I spoke the first word of the ritual, I traced around the top of the egg, and the shell lit up like a trail of burning embers beneath my fingertips. I inscribed the ancient pattern along the surface of the egg until it burned like a beacon in the gray ash of the storm. The egg was a catalyst in a ritual passed down for hundreds of generations, since the time of the Breaking—it was an exchange—a borrowing of life. The words were of a language long since forgotten to our kind, used here to summon up lost magics.

Break. Take. Transfer. Burn the eldest bloodline back to its beginning, and sacrifice the embers for the place and time of its conception. Old Ones hear my plea, and undo all that has been written.

I spoke the final word, and clutching the egg to my chest, I crushed it, just as the burning took me.

Excerpt: The Madigan Witch

What follows is an excerpt from “The Madigan Witch” a story that’s been playing around in my brain for the last couple of days. I wrote it in the last hour. First draft – no editing. So forgive me if it’s lacking a little polish. I’m always talking about my writing and figured I’d take some time to share a little. It is an unfortunate coincidence that the character name and genre closely resemble a book I recently reviewed, but both were decided on BEFORE I’d read the book, and you know what they say about originality: it doesn’t exist anymore. So rather than fret over the name, I’m just going to let the story speak for itself and not worry about the similarity.

The Madigan Witch – Excerpt

My name is Molly Madigan. I am 24, and I don’t believe in ghosts. I repeated the words like a mantra in my head. A warm August breeze swept through the two-inch gap in my car window, lifting a russet strand of hair, and sent it sliding across the bridge of my nose. Almost absently I tucked it back behind my ear, but stubborn, it immediately slipped out and fell across my cheek again.

I could do this. I’d done it dozens of times. I glanced out the passenger side of my car towards the small suburban home that lay across a neatly-mowed lawn. It was a small one-story house. Two six-paned windows stared out across the lawn in my direction, trimmed in white and set against a deep gray background. Three short concrete steps lead the way to the brand-new screen door.

Sitting on those steps was a small boy. I grimaced. I hated working with children. With a resigned sigh, I turned away from the picture of the cozy gray house and slipped out the driver’s side door.

“Hey, Olly.” A familiar voice called from just down the sidewalk, and I turned to see Oliver Crewe as he slammed shut the door on his blue SUV. He’d called me that since grade school. He was a grown man and still thought it was funny that people called us ‘Olly and Oliver’. I didn’t have the heart to ruin his fun. Oliver was a great guy; smart, dependable, and fun to be around. He was also firmly in the ‘friend’ box.

A grin spread slowly across my face. I turned away from him as I popped open the trunk of my car and pulled out the silver hard-sided case that housed my equipment, but glanced back over my shoulder. “Who’s with us tonight?” I asked as I slammed the trunk of my car closed again and hefted the equipment a little higher.

“What, no hello? No ‘Hey Oliver, you’re looking particularly handsome today’.”

“I saw you four hours ago. You really need to talk to someone about that separation anxiety.”

Oliver reached out and plopped a black baseball cap over my hair and tapped on the brim. “What can I say? I’m trying to keep in touch with my feminine side. Not my fault she happens to be a redhead.” He grinned, jogged back to his SUV, and began to rummage around in the backseat, no doubt gathering more equipment.

I shook my head and spared a glance towards the house. The kid was still sitting on the front steps. Damnit. “So, who’s the crew?” I called to Oliver as I turned back towards the blue SUV and rounded the open door to watch him gather the equipment. He poked his head out the door and squinted against the sun over my shoulder. We had maybe two hours before sunset.

“Eric and Claire. Small house, small crew.” He shrugged in lieu of an explanation.

Shit. I didn’t mind Eric, he was a bit of a geek and got a little over-zealous at times, but he was good people. Claire, I couldn’t stand. She was one of those women who liked to be friends with everyone even if she had nothing in common with them.  Most nights I’d spent with Claire consisted of listening to her talk about her dysfunctional relationship with her mother, or sitting on the floor of the bathroom trying to get her to stop bawling her eyes out after she’d quite literally scared herself snotless. It was going to be a long night.

“Who’s got lead?” I asked as I reached around Oliver’s athletic form and grabbed a few coils of cable from the backseat.

“Want to flip for it?”

“Not really.”

“Aw, come on Olly. They get so excited when you open your mouth and words come out.” Oliver laughed and shot me a cheeky grin.

“I am not my great grandmother, and I’m getting tired of explaining that to every call we get. Nan was as much a witch as I am a brunette.” I snapped out the words in irritation, and Oliver shrugged, arms heavy with equipment, and then kicked the car door closed with a backwards tap of his boot.

“I know,” he said solemnly and shot me an apologetic smile, “but your Nan is the reason we get half the calls we do. She had a reputation around here. It doesn’t hurt to pander a bit to the customers.”

“I’m taking HQ.” I said definitively. There was no way in hell he was going to get me to run lead with a kid in the house.

“Fine, but you have to take the evidence too.”


We trudged up the curb and onto the front lawn, abandoning our equipment into a well-organized pile in the vivid grass just as the team van pulled around the corner of the block. Before Eric and Claire had even pulled up to the house, Oliver was signaling them to take care of the equipment.

“You’re with me for meet and greet.” He said, reaching out to tap on the brim of my baseball cap again.

I adjusted the cap that had ‘Grace Cape Paranormal Society’ emblazoned across the front in creepy white font, and jogged to fall into step behind him. As we came to the front door, I hung back a few paces, just out of reach of the front steps. The kid hadn’t moved an inch and stared down at his feet without a word.

Oliver punched a finger at the doorbell, and stepped down off the steps as well, waiting for the owners to answer the door.

“Cute place.” Oliver commented over his shoulder. A voice called out inside the house but I couldn’t make out the words. “You think it’s haunted?” He wiggled his eyebrows.

I glanced away from the kid on the steps just as he lifted his gaze to Oliver. “Not a chance. Building’s too new.”

“Damn. You’re usually right about these things. Guess we’ll be chasing dust specks all night.”

I snorted in reply. That was Oliver’s way of reminding me of Nan again. He was still hoping I’d step up and take lead. Fat chance. I think in a way Oliver believed the stories about the great Molly Madigan. She’d been born at the turn of the century, back when séances were first coming into popularity, and my Nan, the origin of my namesake, had frequented all sorts of ‘ghost talks’ in her twenties.

They’d called her a medium back in those days, then as the decades wore on, a sensitive, and eventually when she was long passed, a witch. People loved to romanticize those old crazy stories where people sat in rooms, ten to a table, and called upon the spirits of people long dead.

In reality, my Nan was an outgoing, independent woman fascinated with the occult. She wasn’t a psychic, medium or sensitive, and she certainly wasn’t a witch.

I was pulled out of my thoughts as the front door to the small gray suburban home opened, and a thin, nervous woman greeted us. She was young, probably around my age, and wore a pastel cardigan. Great. She was one of those. New couples were a pain in the ass. Especially if-

A little girl’s wail sounded in the background, and the young woman smiled apologetically at us. “Sorry. Hi, come on in, I’ll be right back.” Not waiting for an answer, she turned from the door and disappeared down a narrow hallway towards the back of the house.

Just what I needed. Another kid.

Oliver turned to shrug at me over his shoulder and stepped up the stairs and into the house.

“This sucks.” I muttered under my breath, and steeled myself as I walked forward, stomping up the front steps and straight through the kid sitting on the middle step.

Like I said before, my name is Molly Madigan. I am 24, and I don’t believe in ghosts. Saying you believe in ghosts is idiotic. It’s like saying you believe in gravity. It doesn’t matter what you think – they’re there every god-damned second of the day, belief or not.