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!

Outline Accomplished

Today is a milestone for me, and a very hard-earned milestone at that. A few years ago I started writing a story—it was a whim of an idea spurred on by a late-night National Geographic documentary binge—but it sparked an idea. I tossed the idea back and forth for a good long while, and after a year of writing, had about 9 (awful) chapters to show for it. There was something about this story, however, that wouldn’t let me put it down. It was completely different than anything else I’d ever written—and the initial chapters had a pretty good response. So, at the beginning of February 2014, I sat down, and in a two day period, I wrote the initial bulleted outline of what I would refer to as “Khet”.

It is now mid-September of 2015, and I’ve just completed the 56k word synopsis-outline. Half of which, was written in the last two weeks. My brain hurts. Seriously though, it’s hard for me to explain what a relief it is. This is small—just an outline. Not even the first draft…but it’s the first full outline I’ve ever completed, and now that I have it, I know that writing that first draft of Khet is going to be simple. I know what’s going to happen. I know the characters, their motivations, even bits and pieces of their dialogue. I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally move on to the writing phase, and I am oh-so-glad that nearly two years later, I am still in love with Khet as a story.

And for those of you who missed my Facebook post and tweets, the series and book finally has a name! It will be a 3-book trilogy of the Fantasy/Romance/Dystopian persuasion, and will henceforth be referred to as:

[The Gilded Court Series]

  1. Daughter of Abraham
  2. Sister of Solomon
  3. Mother of Ehr

*rolls up sleeves* Time to get to writing that first draft.  After I get a few chapters done I’ll be looking into finding some Beta Readers, so if you’re interested, please let me know. I don’t have a synopsis yet—because my brain can’t handle being eloquent just this moment, but I’ll try to have one soon for anyone interested. Even if it’s just an outline right now (albeit a very detailed one), I feel accomplished.

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?

New Computer Foibles & Other Things

This week has possibly been one of the most trying and busy weeks I’ve had in quite a while. A little over a week ago I came down with some sort of head cold/sore throat combo that seemed to have my name embroidered on it in gold thread. It’s been a little over a year since I’ve  been sick to any sort of degree, and I’d forgotten how much it sucks. It started with a little bit of a sore throat and a runny nose—nothing major—but turned into another spree of going deaf in one ear, which, if you click the link I just shared, you’ll understand why that terrifies me. I immediately started taking meds to try and fix things before they got out of hand…. unfortunately that lead to an even bigger problem: The mixture of allergies, head cold, and meds meant that my eyes got really dry and before I knew it, I had a pink, swollen eye. Le sigh.

All of this comes down to a week of miserable sniffly noses, splotchy red throats, and irritatingly itchy eyes that makes me want to hide in a damp, light restricted closet filled with tissues. As miserable as that is (and really, it wasn’t fun, but I was surviving like a trooper) things became complicated when my family got word that the two brand spanking new gamer PC’s we’d ordered a week or two before were finally on their way. This was joyous news! Except, we’d decided to move around the three computers in our house to separate rooms, which meant a lot of furniture rearranging, cleaning, reorganizing, and backing up of old files. To make a very long story short, I just spent the last 3 days inhaling mountains of dust (because I’ll admit it, I am the WORST when it comes to dusting. I just don’t do it. At all.) It felt like we were moving. Seriously. Couches, beds, dressers, TV’s, book shelves, desks, chairs… all of it got moved over the course of two or three days (mostly by myself because my husband has a displaced rib and a bad back that makes moving anything heavy a no-go).

For a normal person, this situation would have sucked. It was tiring. It was dusty. It involved a lot of cat hair—but for someone like me who is severely allergic to dust mites, cats, and basically everything ever—it was torture. I spent two days unable to catch my breath because the dust irritated my allergies so bad that I was in a perpetual asthma attack. It hurts to breathe right now… which also means that on top of all my other head cold related problems, I haven’t slept in two days. Double le sigh.

The good news is: everything was completed on time. I backed up my computer like a pro, got everything moved and put away, I managed to somehow not die in the process, and the new computers arrived! Everything was hooked up, my internet was turned back on, and I thought “Wow, that went smoothly. I can get back to my regular posting schedule without a blip in the radar.”

And then I realized that my new computer wasn’t recognizing my external hard drive…. the hard drive where all my artwork, music, books, photos and writing resides. Somehow during the moving of everything in my house, my external hard drive broke. My husband figured it was the shell—this is a pretty common problem, and the shell we had on the external hard drive was pretty iffy right out of the box. Whatever, I have a new, awesome computer, and we can just mount it and make it an internal drive. Problem solved! Except it wasn’t. My PC still doesn’t recognize the drive… even after adjusting the BIOS. So what does this mean? There is a 50% chance that either we were incredibly unlucky and the drive isn’t getting enough power, in which case getting a new shell will fix the problem. Or, unfortunately, my drive is dead.  I cannot tell you the amount of horror this awakens in me. I will literally bawl my eyes out if it’s dead.

I can replace my art. Mostly. It’s posted to my DeviantART account. I can replace my music (it’s just a pain). I can even replace my books if I have to (that’s an even bigger pain—I just finished replacing my hard library with e-books and cataloguing all 22k of those)…my photo’s, sadly are irreplaceable, but eh… who cares… my writing? I have backups of –almost- everything (I think)… but not Khet. My beloved Khet which I’ve spent months re-writing. Though I still have my very vague hand-written outline, the detailed typed outline that’s 23 chapters long? That, my friends, will be lost. Excuse me why I hyperventilate.

So the short of it is this: I’m sick. My new computer is awesome. I’m online and ready to post to my blog… but I may have lost my soul to the evil that is a broken hard drive. Please pray for my literary babies.

I committed mass murder. Goodbye my darlings.

For those of you who are unaware, I’ve been working on and off for awhile now on a novel of mine (as of yet unnamed) that I sometimes lovingly refer to as “Khet” (after the MC). I started the story some time ago after a particularly interesting thought popped into my head (while watching National Geographic), and since then, I’ve been scrambling to piece it together.  It started off as a pantster attempt to write as much as I could in as little time as I could, and that was fine. It worked. I got the first dozen or so chapters done in a relatively short period of time.

The problem was, that version of the story wasn’t very stable. I didn’t have the foggiest clue as to where the story was going, and so most of it was spent bumbling around in random directions. (It was crap.) So, intent on improving the story, I sat down a few months ago and decided to work on an outline for the chapters. That went fine for awhile, until I realized that there was this niggling little bit in one of the chapters I hadn’t quite fleshed out yet. Everything came to a stand still. It was something seemingly small: I needed a reason for the two brothers in my story to quarrel. Little did I know how important that detail would become.

Several days ago I once again picked up my notebook and a pen and began trying to sort out the past history between the brothers. It was a small thing. I just needed a reason for them to hate each other, and then my story would be complete. An idea sparked: a relatively innocuous fight over a woman (which then became a half-sister, a breach of law, and the battle for a throne)… and it changed the entire basis of what I thought I knew about Khet.  Dozens of characters were erased from history, another dozen sprung up in their place, and an entire species of creatures popped into being. Laws were made, and genetics were mapped out. I ran out of ink in two pens, and went through an entire brand-new spiral notebook, furiously writing for three days to get the new plot outline down on paper (which right now isn’t detailed, but still massive). I spent the better part of the day trying to set royal bloodlines and arrange inbreeding to get the family relations/genetics/and story outcomes I wanted out of 33 people.

I look back now and shake my head at myself. I should have known better. Sometimes, the smallest detail can change everything in a story. I’ve read enough books that I should know that by now. As Hemingway once said, “Murder your darlings!” and I did. I threw out my entire story and all but a handful of characters, and rewrote (my version of) Earth’s History. We’ll see how many survive the next cut when I start arranging the scenes and setting up the intricate events and dialogues. I have a feeling my characters are huddled in a dark corner of my story right now, shivering. MUHAHAHA.

… This has all been a really long explanation for why I missed Free Fiction Friday last week. I actually forgot because I had my nose in a notebook, cackling gleefully as I wiped out 7 children characters. ❤  I hope everyone had a great weekend.

I will defeat you Khet *shakes fist*

I did not end this day the way I expected to. I started off this morning intending to do… nothing, basically. It’s Sunday and Sunday in my family is the one day of the week when everyone gets together for a family meal that lasts practically from breakfast till dinner. In years past this has been a non-negotiable event that takes the majority of the day. I’ve been able to weasel my way slowly out of it over the last couple years, and now it’s my day to sit undisturbed and spend some time to myself. Usually I use this time to catch up on laundry and dishes or to read a book. *thumbs up*. Today, I did nothing of the sort.

Instead, I got up this morning and said “Cary, that’s enough of that bull-crap. You said you were going to get a book published this year, and you are woefully behind. Get to work!” So, I set aside my TBR list (which is huge by the way) for a day and sat down to do something I literally haven’t done in years: An outline. You see, I’m severely OCD. I’m not talking about being obsessed with organizing (though I am) We’re talking about a person who when she was little used to turn doorknobs, flip light switches, and blink a certain amount of times in order to balance the world out. Yah, that sort of crazy. I’m not as bad as when I was little anymore, most of my OCD shows itself in the way I’m obsessed with shredding random things into miniscule pieces on my desk, my inability to sit still, my obsession with organizing and being thorough, and an infrequent need to repeat words containing the “ih” sound. Yah, I’m still weird. Moving along.

When I was a teenager I used to spend weeks outlining stories. The problem was, I’d get so incredibly obsessed with “getting it right” (thank you OCD!) that I could never actually get to the writing part. So, to avoid my OCD, I became a pantster. It was great. It really was. For once I could get dozens of chapters done in a week without looking back. I made a ton of progress and all was right in the world.

Until I ran into a part of my story where I wasn’t sure how to proceed. Without an outline  I’d really only half-figured out my story, and when I got to the point where I didn’t know what came next… I stalled. I started to review what I had, and started to nitpick and go a little crazy about perfecting what I had.

So, this morning when I decided to get to work, I said “Screw you OCD. I’m 29, and you will not keep me from writing this story.” and got to work. I looked up some story formula’s, plotting advice and outlining methods and started to really work out what my story was about.  I’m still only partway into figuring the whole mess out, but my story has drastically changed (for the better) and for once I think I have an idea of how this is going to go. So watch out Khet, you’re about to get a makeover! At least I  feel like I got something accomplished today.

PS: writing with OCD is like being a gerbil on a wheel. You run in circles, the same circles… over and over in an attempt to make each circle better than the last. Sometimes I wish I could just jump off the wheel and dismantle it with a crowbar. Anyone else out there writing with OCD? How on earth do you stop obsessing over the details and perfection? It makes my brain hurt.

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.”