Tuesday, August 4, 2015


to these podcasts!

Seriously, if you're a wannabe writer, a hobby-writer, a trying to make it big someday and support my family on my writing writer, then you NEED to be listening to these podcasts.




I feel like I have gotten so much more of an education through podcasts than I have in my four years of university.


Here are some podcasts that you'll catch me listening to...

Rocking Self Publishing

This interview-format podcast is produced by Simon Whistler is fantastic. He interviews a new author each week, finding out what has helped them become successful in self publishing. I find the shows to be informative, inspiring, and I just love to hear an Englishman talk with his yummy English accent, too. 

Writing Excuses

The Writing Excuses podcast is like being in a college creative writing class, but instead of just one teacher, you get four! This round-table panel discussion between four different writers (Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, Dan Wells) has taught me a TON about writing and traditional publishing. If you're not into self-publishing, there is a lot of great advice regarding the traditional route. Regardless of the publishing method you choose, this podcast has so much helpful info on how to be a better writer. Definitely check it out!!

48 Days

48 days is not a writing podcast.


Nope. It's more of a "find your calling and live your best life" type of podcast. 

That said...I LOVE it. I never miss a week. I haven't missed a week for the past 3 years. 

Dan Miller is the host of 48 Days, and author of the book 48 Days to the Work You Love which is a fantastic book. I read it. I used it. I got a fabulous position by using his strategy in the book. 

Even though this is not really a writing podcast, it is highly inspirational, motivational, and educational. Hmmm...how many more "al" words can I use??

Those are three for you right now. I currently have 17 podcasts that I listen to on a consistent basis, but I wanted to give you a few of my top ones. I don't want to overwhelm you. 

So go.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Five Enchanted Roses is Finally Here!!

Is it even possible to tell you how excited I was to get my copy of Five Enchanted Roses in the mail? No, probably not.

But I was pretty darned excited!

I just sat there for 5 minutes straight, just holding a real-live-honest-to-goodness paperback book in my hands. With MY name on it!! It was a good feeling.

I want that feeling to continue. 

On Monday evening, several of the authors of the anthology were part of a launch party hosted by Anne Elisabeth Stengl on Facebook. It was so much fun!

I thought I'd include some of the questions/answers from the launch party here on my blog, as well as any other stuff that's bouncing around in my brain and needs to be let out.

What inspired you to set Rosara and the Jungle King in the Amazon?

When I sat down to brainstorm my take on Beauty and the Beast, I wanted my beast to be something different from the mish-mash beast as seen on the Disney movie. I wanted it to be some sort of actual beast, whether real or imagined. I also knew that I wanted to have my story set in an exotic location. I had done the "once upon a time in a faraway kingdom" kind of story, and since I was writing specifically for a contest, I wanted my setting to be more memorable than that.

So, I thought of settings that I was familiar with. The first one that came to mind was Japan. Since I lived in a small, rural town in southern Japan for three years, I had a lot of schema to draw on to set the tale there. And I did write a Beauty and the Beast story set in Japan. It became Ai of the Mountain. I also thought of another setting I was familiar with, not because I had actually been there, but because I had learned so much about it, and had kinda fallen in love with it.

In college, one of my very favorite (if not so useful) classes was Anthropology. I loved this class! I loved learning all about  unique people groups that I'd previously never known about up until that point. One of the people groups I learned about was the Yanomami people of the Brazilian Amazon. They captured my imagination, and I wrote a couple of short stories for creative writing classes set in a Yanomami tribe.

Almost simultaneously with the decision to use this Amazonian tribe as my inspiration, came the realization of who my beast would be -- a jaguar. Thus, Tupa, the jaguar was born!

Did you create the magic system for your story, or is truly part of the Amazon tribes' belief system?

Most of the magic in the story has to do with the Karawara spirits. In my research for more information about the Yanomami, and similar tribes of the Amazon, I came across this phrase:

Some, like the Awa, take no stimulants or drugs but go into a trance through the power of rhythmic dancing and clapping to journey to the iwa, or abode of the spirits, where they meet the souls of the ancestors and the spirits of the forest, the karawara. 

Even though, the Awa are a different tribe, I knew that I wasn't recreating the Yanomami people exactly. I was creating my own tribe inspired by them and other nearby tribes. I loved this idea of the iwa - the abode of the spirits, and the spirits of the forest, the karawara. I couldn't really find much more information about what the iwa was, or what the karawara could or could not do, so I made up what I wanted to happen. Call it poetic license if  you must - I simply call it writing.

What advice do you have for someone submitting their story for the next contest?

Here's my two cents...

1. I feel like setting was really important. Consider these setting of the stories in Five Enchanted Roses...a pirate ship at sea, a haunted abbey, the Amazon jungle. Not your typical castles set far away and long, long ago. That's not to say that you can't have your fairy tale retelling take place in a castle or a familiar location, but then something else has to be truly unique. Turn the story on its head. Make the heroine the villain, for instance. Make something ordinary into something magical, or take something everyone assumes is good - into something truly evil. 

So, I guess I'm saying to make it unique, not just uniquely yours.

2. Write the story that you want to read. I love stories that are magical. But I also like stories that take me through strong emotions, whether that's disgust, anger, rage or wonder, awe, and enchantment. Don't be afraid to be brutal if necessary. Rosara has some very brutal scenes in it that make me squirm to read them. But, so did The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner. It's okay to be be a sadist to your main character. Just don't do it in real life.

So, tip number two is to write the type of story that you like to read, but it's also to make sure that there's a lot of tension. The stakes should be very high for your protagonist - like life and death sort of high.

3. Write. Write. Write. Then re-write. Re-write. Re-write. Then ask for some help.

Get your first draft out. Fast. Don't worry about stuff that doesn't make sense. 
Misspelled words? Fuggatabout it! Just write!
Not sure what you're doing or where your story is going? Congratulations! You're a writer!!

Just get the first draft done. 

Then put it away.

Like for a week. Maybe two or three. 

Then go back and revise and/or rewrite it. Look for plot holes. Look for inconsistencies. And for the love of all that is holy, make sure your story delivers on answering the readers' questions. 

What do I mean by this?

I mean, if you add details to your story - they have to be there for a reason. An important reason. 
If the room suddenly goes dark because the lights go out, you need to let the reader know why. Was it because of the presence of a ghost? Did the power go out in the whole neighborhood? Was an electrical line cut by a serial killer on the loose? 

If you write that the lights went out, and then your protagonist just lights some candles but never says, "Hmmm...that's odd. I wonder what's going on..." then you've created a question in your readers' minds that doesn't get answered, and that's not good. So, make sure you give your readers a payoff by delivering on unanswered questions. 

That doesn't mean that EVERY thing needs to be answered. If you're going to create a sequel, then you'll want to leave some hooks that lead the reader to say, "I wonder what happens in the next book!" 

Okay, so let's say you've written your story.
You've re-written it. 
You've edited, polished and revised it to near perfection - or at least as perfect as you feel you can get without some outside feedback. Guess what it's time for!  Outside feedback!!

In other words - BETA READERS.

These are trustworthy people that you can ask to read your story and give you their honest, gut-wrenching critique of your story.

They should not be: your parents, your siblings, close friends (who are not writers - unless you REALLY trust them). Why? Because they love you too much and won't want to hurt your feelings.

You need to find some people who don't love you so much.

They can still be friends, but some distance helps. 

I have found that the best beta readers are people who are - READERS. So, if someone reads one or two books a year, it probably wouldn't help to ask them.

They should also be interested in reading stories in your genre. If they read biographies and rarely read fiction, they're not going to be as helpful to you as someone who reads a lot of fiction. It's not rocket science, but sometimes in our desperation to find someone -  anyone! - to read our stories, it's easy to give it to everyone. Don't. That's a mistake. 

I also find it very helpful to give my beta readers a list of questions to answer for their critique. These questions usually center around: When did you loose interest? What pulled you out of the story (or made you say, "That wouldn't really happen?")? What was unrealistic? What part was compelling? What unanswered questions did you have at the end of the story? 

If I ask questions like this, the readers don't feel so bad being harsh real in their answers. After all, they're just answering my questions. 

And finally, keep in mind that less than half of the people who say they will help you out, will actually do it. LESS THAN HALF. I'm not joking. I know they don't intend to make promises they won't keep, but just know that it happens. Therefore, ask twice as many people to read your story than you really need. Want five people to give their feedback? Then ask 10 if they'll read it for you. You'll be lucky if you get four. That's just how it works.

So, that's my 2 cents. I hope it's helpful. 

Above all though, don't be afraid to try! 
And keep writing!!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Ring Around the Rose: Question the Last

Well, it's finally here.
The last week of playing "Ring Around the Rose" with my fellow authors of Five Enchanted Roses.

It's been so much fun to see what they write, and to answer these questions as well.

This week's final question is another two-parter. Feel free to answer it along with me in the comments!

Part I: What are your thoughts on the themes in Beauty and the Beast?

Ok. A deep question to end with.
I can do deep.


Besides the obvious theme of Stockholm Syndrome and its effects on unsuspecting, book-loving girls, I think the theme that I resonate with the most is that each of us has a beast within us.

 I think every person is capable of being 'beastly,' and it's only because of grace and the love of others that we don't succumb to the darker side within us.

That sounded deep didn't it?
I tried.

When I was creating my story for the retelling of Beauty and the Beast, I sat down and thought of essential characteristics of the story. I came up with the following...

1. a damsel, who may-or-may-not be 'in distress'

2. a beast, who is ugly without but can be beautiful within

3. magic

That was pretty much it. Yeah, there's the magic mirror and the rose and all that, but I just wanted the bare essentials. And when I got down to the bare essentials that I listed above, I began to see Beauty and the Beast all around me.

That leads me to...

Part II: What is your favorite version of Beauty and the Beast?

Now that I saw Beauty and the Beast  with new eyes, I saw these characteristics played out in many books and movies that I wouldn't necessarily have thought of as a B&tB retelling. But I say they are.

One of my all-time favorite books is now what I would consider a B&tB retelling:

Wuthering Heights

Cathy is the damsel.
Heathcliff is the beast. 
And there's a certain element of magic, or at least the paranormal.
Sadly, this retelling doesn't have a happily-ever-after for the two main characters, however, a happy-ever-after does come about for their children, so that's something.

Another favorite B&tB retelling is the movie, Shrek.
I love how the movie turns the story on its head. Who is the beast? Is it Shrek or is it Fiona?

When I realized that this too was a B&tB retelling, it opened my mind to the possibility of other characters in the story being "beastly" as well. Hmmm....what an interesting spin! 

I won't say much more, because I don't want to give away too many spoilers about my story, Rosara and the Jungle King, but Shrek really inspired my story. Now you'll just have to read it and see if you can figure out how!

And then, my favorite out-and-out retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story is a more recent novel, Cruel Beauty. (Look at the cover! Isn't it gorgeous!! Oh wait, the whole idea of Beauty and the Beast is to NOT judge a book by its cover. My bad.)

If you haven't read it, you should. Get thee to a bookstore, posthaste!  Or a library. Or Amazon. Just get thee somewhere! 

So, what are your favorite themes and versions of the Beauty and the Beast story?  Do tell!

And then go check out these other ladies' amazing blogs. 
You'll be impressed. (They are much deeper thinkers than I.)

See what KayceeSavannah, and Janelle wrote!
And don't forget to check out Hayden's blog tomorrow to see her response.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Ring Around the Rose - Question the Fifth

This week's question is actually two questions. So, we'll have question 5.0 and then 5.1, shortly.

Now for question 5.0

What was the first story you ever wrote?

Oh, man.

I really, really can't remember.

I know that when I was in 3rd grade I created a family newspaper that all of about two editions, so that would probably include my very first story.

I think the first story that I can really remember well wasn't until I was a sophomore in high school. It was the first story that was long enough to be an actual story.
It was the first story that I remember being complimented on as well.
By the cute, blonde hottie in my writing class that I (and every other girl in my class) had a crush on.

It was about a deranged lunatic who escaped from a psychiatric hospital by killing his doctor and was going on a wild rampage before dying alone and afraid in the woods.

You know, a feel-good-fun-for-the-whole-family-happily-ever-after sort of story.

Honestly, I have no idea why I wrote it.
I was a bit of a dark, twisted soul as a teenager, I guess.
Or I was just really hormonal and didn't know how to deal with it.
Either way, it was a weird story.

But, I finished it. Other people liked it.
And I realized how much I loved writing.

So, now for question 5.1

What is your favorite Pixar movie?

So, like everybody on the planet, I love to see that little desk lamp hop across the screen and shine its light right in my eyes. I know I am about to be truly entertained.

I love the movie, Ratatouille. My daughters love it as well. I love how Remy the rat has an imaginary friend in Chef Gusteau. He says a lot of poignant things like "What do I know? I am only a figment of your imagination."

But, Ratatouille is not my favorite Pixar film.

I LOVE Finding Nemo as well.
Honestly, Dorie?
How do you not love Dorie?
I love this movie so much. But now that I have my own kids, it sometimes makes me cry when Nemo gets kidnapped fishnapped. And then again when he finds his dad. And then again when we think he's dead. It's an emotional rollercoaster for me to watch Finding Nemo.

But, Finding Nemo is not my favorite Pixar film.

My very favorite Pixar movie is....


I love, love, LOVE this movie!

I love the setting.
I love all the red hair.
I love the three naked babies.
The kilts.
The accents.
The fiery tempers.

But most of all, I love Merida.
I love her spirit.
I love that she's not satisfied with the fate that she has.
Instead, she does whatever she can to be in charge of her own fate.


I think that theme of the movie really really resonates with me. I don't want to accept the fate that I felt I was heading towards. I want to change my fate, own it, and make my dreams come true.

Hopefully, without turning my mother (or anyone else for that matter) into a bear.

Don't forget to check out Hayden's blog tomorrow to see her response.
Also check back to see what KayceeSavannah, and Janelle wrote, too!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ring Around the Rose: Question the Fourth

What Other Author Do You Write Most Like?

That's this week's question in our Ring Around the Rose blog hop extravaganza.

My honest answer is that I have no flipping idea.
I've never really thought about it before.
Hmmmm...now I'm getting all self-analytically about my writing.

The thing is, I write very differently for each piece. My voice doesn't always stay the same. My non-fiction voice tends to be very laid back, not take itself too seriously, and be more like a conversation (a conversation where I do all the talking, I know) where I like to open up and have fun creating new vocabulary words like "self-analytically."

Maybe kind of like Dave Barry.

I might be reaching.

A lot.

He's a very successful comedic writer whereas I'm...not so much.

But, it's a start.

My fiction writing tends to be more formal. I try my best to use commas correctly, though I am certain that I am failing miserably.

I think if I were to compare my fiction writing voice to another author's it would have to be Lois Lowry, author of The Giver, Gathering Blue, The Messenger and a whole host of other books. Though the subject matter of her books is serious, she gives it a light touch and makes it accessible to both younger and older readers. I try to do that. Hopefully, I am.

Hmmm....now I really want to know YOUR opinion.
If you happen to have read any of my fiction and/or non-fiction and you had to answer this sentence, what would your answer be?...

Dorian Tsukioka's book _________________ is reminiscent of such authors as __________________ and _______________________ . 

Or how about this one...
If you love books by ________________ and __________________, then Dorian Tsukioka's book is what you're looking for.

I'd love your help in making my marketing more direct! Who knew that you'd be working in the marketing and advertising field today (unless of course that is your actual job, in which case -- you did)?!

But now for the really fun question for this week's blog hop...

Which Author Do You Want to Write Like?

This one is easy for me.

Without a doubt, I would love to write like Joss Whedon.

If you don't know who that is, I weep for you.

The truth is, I've never, ever read anything by Joss Whedon, but I know his voice well. It's funny, poignant, pithy, fast-paced and just simply amazing. That's how I aspire to write.


Until then, I'm happy to make up words.
So are you feeling self-analytically now, too?

Don't forget to check out Hayden's blog tomorrow to see her response.
Also check back to see what KayceeSavannah, and Janelle wrote, too!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ring Around the Rose: Question the Third

This week's question is a doozy!

How would you talk a hungry dragon out of eating you if you were face-to-face without any sort of weapon?

I'm going to just come out and say that I'd likely become a fricasseed dragon delicacy.

However, that doesn't mean I wouldn't try. Especially if it was a talking dragon. If it's a dragon out of Harry Potter, then I'm screwed.

But maybe, just maybe, a talking dragon that can be reasoned with would result in me escaping a charbroiled fate. Maybe.

If you've never read the book, My Lucky Day  by Keiko Kasza, you're missing out. It may just save you from a hungry dragon.

I'd totally use what I learned from this little picture book to save my butt.

In the story a little pig finds himself at the house of a hungry fox. Just as the fox is about to eat him, the little pig gives up and suggests that the fox give him a bath first because he is an awfully dirty pig.

The fox commences to build a fire and give the little pig a bath.

Just as the fox is about to eat the pig again, the pig tells the fox he's all skin and bones. He suggests that the fox fatten him up a little bit first. So, the fox makes spaghetti, meatballs and chocolate chip cookies from scratch. After a big meal, the pig says he's ready for the fox to eat him.

But, just as the fox is about to have the little pig as a snack, the pig mentions that his meat is all tough and suggests that the fox give him a massage.

Well, as you can guess, the little pig uses all these opportunities to tire out the fox and get away. The book has a surprise twist at the end. If you have kids, I'd suggest getting it for them and checking it out for yourself. I love using this story to help teach kids how stories go and twisted endings. They love it.

Anyway, I'd try to use what I've learned from the book to talk my way out of becoming a dragon's dinner.

Though I might as well sprinkle some parsley on myself now, because I doubt I'd be able to trick a dragon. I'd be a gonner.

But hopefully, I'd end up face-to-face with a friendly dragon.

Maybe Puff. I'll keep my fingers crossed in case that ever happens.

Don't forget to check out Hayden's blog tomorrow to see her response. Also check back to see what Kaycee, Savannah, and Janelle wrote, too!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Writing Faster

If there's one thing a writer always wants to do - it's to write faster.


Because the faster a writer writes, the more stories can be published, and the more cha-ching ends up in the pocket.

But also because writing is hard.
It really is.
Creating anything takes effort.
It's so much easier to consume than to create.
It's easy to read a book - writing one is hard.
It's easy to sit and watch a movie - but writing a screenplay is not.
Consumption is easy.
Creation is very difficult.

So, even though I love writing, it is still difficult.

So, if I can figure out a way to write faster and get more accomplished in a shorter amount of time, I am all for it.

You may have heard of plotters vs. pantsers.
If not, I'll quickly explain.
A plotter is a writer who likes to do some sort of outlining before commencing with writing a story. The depth and breadth of the outline may vary, but at the very least, a plotter will have something down on paper to serve as a framework for the rest of their story.

A pantser is someone who writes "by the seat of their pants." They tend not to outline, but to let the story flow and take them wherever they want to go.

I used to be a pantser.
Then, I used to start out as a pantser who became a plotter when I got stuck and had to come up for some sort of synopsis for the rest of the story.

Now, I am a complete and absolute plotter.
And I love it.
I write so much faster this way.

It takes time to plot, that's true.
But, once I have created an outline for the story, I am able to write it out so much more quickly than I could when I left the story up to just happen on its own.

I'm sure there are pantsers who can write quickly.
I am just not one of them.

Over the last couple of days I tried something new to see if it would help me to write even more quickly.
I was well into the first chapter when I decided to stop writing all exposition, and write only dialogue. No "he said" or "she said"'s even. Just dialogue.

I have to tell you, this experiment was AWESOME.
I loved it!
In one afternoon I was able to write out all the dialogue I could foresee happening, and I was able to crank out several thousand words without a hitch. That's big news for me. I'm sometimes lucky to get several thousand words in a week.

I'll admit that I am very much a plot-driven author. Characterization is very difficult for me. In fact, it's not usually until I'm halfway through a story that I have a good sense of who the characters are. But, I always know what I want to have happen to the characters, and I have a good sense of how I want them to speak.

So, relying on just dialogue really helped me to flesh out my characters this afternoon and get to know them even more quickly as I wrote out their words.

Again, this was AWESOME.

I tried to imagine the story as a movie in my head, and in a movie there is nothing but dialogue. Screenplays are 95% dialogue because that's all there is. There are very few movies with voiceovers to get inside the character's heads (and those that have it probably shouldn't). Instead, it's what the character says and how they say it that helps the audience know who they are, what they want, what their problems are, and the type of people they become.

So, if you're looking to write a little faster, even if you're not a plotter like me, may I suggest this:
Sit back and imagine your story in your head just as if you're watching a movie.
Don't describe anything.
Don't worry about the setting.
Or the mood.
Or laying out the scene.
Just pay attention to what your characters say. Write that down. Only that.

Then, when you're done with a chapter, or even the whole story, go back and fill in. See if it helps you to get to know your characters faster, outline the plot of your story quicker, and ultimately - write a whole heck of a lot faster, too!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Ring Around the Rose: Question the Second

If you haven't read the answer to last week's question about which fantasy world I would choose to live in, you can scroll down or click here to read that thrilling bit of blogging.

This week's question is closely linked to last week's. Get ready to dust off the best advice you learned from How to Win Friends and Influence People, because this week we're going to be shaking hands and kissing babies...

Question the Second: If you could meet your favorite literary character, who would it be?

I'm going to let you know right up front that I'm going to cheat on this one. 
You're just going to have to be okay with that.

First of all, I'm going to pick two characters.
No, no backtalk from you that I can only pick one.
I gave you fair warning.

And second, one of them isn't an actual literary character.
I know, I know.
Get your panties out of a wad. It'll be okay.

Let's start with the most inflammatory of the bunch: my non-literary, favorite literary character.

Look at those "Come hither" eyes!
I was going to say Captain Kirk.
Of the 60's.
Not movie Kirk - he's too Hollywood.
But Kirk of the ugly yellow shirt. That Kirk.
I totally had a crush on him. Well, re-run versions of him. He was way before my time. Way. Wayyyyyyyyyy before.

So, no, I didn't go with Kirk.
Either he'd love me and leave me as he seemed to do on...Every. Single. Episode. (Did you say it just like Kirk? If so, good for you.)
Or else, I'd end up on his crew doomed to be one of the redshirts that wouldn't live past the first 10 minutes of the show.
So, no Kirk for me. Meeting him is too dangerous.

Instead, I went with another non-literary favorite literary character: Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.

She could totally kick your butt. And look great, too.
I love Buffy. Do you love Buffy? You should.

I have stipulations, though.

I'd have to be part of the Scooby Gang if I met her.

Similarly to meeting Captain Kirk in his world, I would most likely be in grave peril if I met Buffy in hers and wasn't one of her peeps (the Scooby Gang - with whom I'd love to spend time with as well).

Xander, Willow, Giles, Buffy and Me. Sitting down to a nice cup of tea right before something dreadful happens and we're called on to save the world.


So, Buffy and pals are my first choice.

My actual LITERARY favorite literary character that I would love to meet is Evie from the Paranormalcy series. (Paranormalcy, Supernaturally, Endlessly)

I LOVED these books, and I loved the main protagonist, Evie.
Guess who she reminds me a lot of....

She's witty, spunky, funny, kicks some bad-guy ass, and has a huge preoccupation with the color pink.

What's not to love?

If you like YA (and this is pretty much squeaky-clean YA, by the way), you should totally check these books out. They've been out for a while now, but they're still a fun read.

I think Buffy would agree.

Don't forget to check out Hayden's blog tomorrow to see her favorite literary character that she'd like to meet.

Also, see what Kaycee, Savannah, and Jenelle said, too!

So...who would you like to meet?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Ring Around The Rose - Question the First

For the next few weeks, the authors of the stories found in Five Enchanted Roses will be participating in a blog hop of sorts. Each week we will be answering a different question.

I invite you to join in the fun by reading the other authors' blogs to find their answers, and also make sure to share your own answer in the comments as well.

You can check out the other authors' blogs by going to Kaycee, Savannah, Jenelle, and Hayden's blogs! Kaycee will start us out on Monday, and Hayden finishes the question on Friday. 

I answer out of turn because I'm just special like that. 

(Actually, I had a complete brain fart, and will make a special effort to have my answers out on time for the next four consecutive Thursdays.)

So all this fanfare brings us to.....

Question the First: What Fantasy Land Would You Want to Live In?

And because I'm a teacher, and I'm never satisfied with a simple one sentence answer, I'll throw in the kicker


I'll admit, I've known about this question for a few weeks now, and I've really be struggling to come up with just one fantasy world to commit to. 

I  love all these amazing worlds:
The Lord of the Rings
Harry Potter
The Last Unicorn
The Neverending Story

All of these had awesome settings, and I'd probably be content living in any of them. 

Then again, I even had a hard time committing to a FANTASY world.

What about Sci-Fi? I love Sci-Fi. And Sci-Fi loves me:
Star Wars
Star Trek (the original and the Next Generation)
Ender's Game
Under the Never Sky
These worlds might be awesome to live in, too. 

Much better than living in the world of:
The Hunger Games
The Giver
The Stand

I definitely don't want to wake up one of these days in those worlds. 

I've finally narrowed it down to two picks. 
This was difficult. 
I've been visiting one of my favorite universes since elementary school - long, long before David Tennant made the Doctor a hottie. 
I wouldn't mind being his traveling companion, though. 

But in the end, I had to go with a world full of silliness and comedy. 

There's not a lot of magic in it to make it fantasy.
But there is a six-fingered man, a giant, an albino, a miracle worker, a pirate, and a beautiful princess...

If I could live anywhere, I'd have to choose the land of the Princess Bride. 
Evidently, there's a shortage of perfect bosom's in that world. 
I might as well help out. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Five Enchanted Roses Author Spotlight: Savannah Jezowski

So other than me, this is the last of the Five Enchanted Roses authors that I had the privilege of interviewing for my blog. I'm so pleased to introduce to you Savannah Jezowski, author of Wither. Savannah is located in Michigan, and is currently working in banking.

Let's get to know her better...

Tell me about your Five Enchanted Roses story.

Wither is based closely on the original fairy tale. However, I took great liberties with the setting and characters to make it my own telling. For example, Beauty isn't the Merchant's youngest, most beautiful daughter. There isn't an Enchantress in my story either; although, I suppose there is a character who is responsible for the Beast's circumstances. There are also other differences which I can't share yet. You will have to wait until the release! In this telling, I also chose to tell the story as much from the Beast's perspective as Beauty's. Once I got into it, his story really captured my heart. I love Bet, too, but Corwin is my favorite character. 

What was your inspiration for your story? 

The story world was inspired by After, a story I wrote for the Five Glass Slippers competition the year before. I realized I had stumbled across an amazing story world that had many stories to tell. While Wither is technically a part of a series, it is a solid stand alone story. My Marmie also inspired a particular aspect of the story...but I can't tell you what aspect exactly. 

How long have you been writing?

I began writing when I was in elementary school. I wrote infamously long, meandering fantasy and science fiction novels that I will never attempt to publish. I began writing seriously in college when I had two short stories published in a student publication.

Have you written any other stories/novels?

I have several short stories published and am currently working on two novellas that will published as Ebooks later this year. Yes, After is one of them! It is technically the prequel to Wither and will be Book One in The Neverway Chronicles. The other story I will be publishing is another Beauty and the Beast novella called When Ravens Fall. It will be available in the autumn, with After following a couple of months later.

Can we find any of your other works for purchase online? 

Not yet...but very soon!

What is your process when you begin writing a story?

I usually start with a plot idea and then sit down with a notepad and brainstorm in circles for days and days. It is not uncommon to fill up an entire journal in the brainstorming stage. My husband makes an amazing sounding board. He has been actively involved in all of my recent stories. After I have the ideas fleshed out, I try to work out an outline. I am not much of an outline person. The end result is never like my outline, but I am trying to teach myself to plan ahead better so that I do not have as much rewriting to do.

What other writers/books inspire you?

J.R.R Tolkien, Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott were my favorite authors when I was growing up. I also enjoy Charles Dickens, Diana Wynne Jones, Lloyd Alexander...and Louis L'Amour. I will admit I have a fondness for westerns. Marmie read L'Amour to us when we were kids, and I've never outgrown it. 

What advice would you give to other new writers?

Keep writing. The story you wrote today may not be right for this publisher or magazine . . . but something you write tomorrow could be! Don't be afraid or ashamed of rejections. Keep your chin up and keep writing. 

What's next for you? Anything else you're working on for the future?

I am planning to write several stories in The Neverway Chronicles and perhaps a sequel for When Ravens Fall. I also have a dystopian story I have been kicking around for a few years, but it is on the back burner for right now. I hope to get back to it one of these days, but I have hundreds of story ideas tucked away in my journals. Who knows which ones I will end up actually writing.

Where can we find you online?

My blog is http://savannahjaysworkshop.blogspot.com
I also have a Facebook Author Page and you can also find me on Pinterest and Goodreads.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Get Your Pencils and Laptops Ready...It's Writing Contest Time!

Rooglewood Press is delighted to introduce their third fairy tale novella contest—

Five Magic Spindles

a collection of “Sleeping Beauty” stories 
The challenge is to write a retelling of the beloved fairy tale in any genre or setting you like. Make certain your story is recognizably “Sleeping Beauty,” but have fun with it as well. Make it yours! 
Rooglewood Press will be selecting five winners to be published in the Five Magic Spindles collection, which will be packaged up with the phenomenal cover you see here. Maybe your name will be one of the five listed? 
All the contest rules and information (how to enter, story details, deadline etc.) may be found on the Rooglewood Press website. Just click HERE and you will go right to the page. 
Rooglewood Press’s first collection, Five Glass Slippers is available for purchase, and our second collection, Five Enchanted Roses is scheduled to launch on July 27, and is currently available for pre-order. Be certain to get a copy of each and see what previous winners did with their wonderful retellings.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Five Enchanted Roses Author Spotlight: Kaycee Browning

This week I'd like to introduce you to another fantastic writer, and winner of the Five Enchanted Roses constest, Kaycee Browning.

Kaycee is the youngest winner, finishing up her senior year. (What amazing talent! I wish I could have written so well at such a young age.) She is another writer from North Carolina, and I'm so happy to have you meet her today.

Welcome, Kaycee! Tell us about yourself...

I'm currently a high school senior. In August, I am going to attend college to major in Creative Writing and hopefully minor in business and cinematography/film studies. I'm very excited!

How long have you been writing?

I've been inventing stories for as long as I can remember, but I never tried writing them down until I was twelve years old. I wrote a few short stories, and then I wrote my first novel at age thirteen. I've been writing consistently ever since!

What is your process when you begin writing a story?

I outline the story. It's not a very detailed outline, it is simply a line with the four big plot points (Inciting Incident, Embracing Destiny, Black Moment, and Climax) and any little scenes or plot twists I've envisioned placed roughly where they will go in the story. I know some writers like to outline everything, but I prefer to simply make a vague plan and leave plenty of room for creativity during the actual writing.

Have you written any other stories/novels?

I have indeed! Ember Flame is the first book in my Leverage Trilogy. I'm currently editing the sequel, Hail Frost.

Ember Flame is available in both paperback and Kindle through Amazon

Tell me about your Five Enchanted Roses story.

Esprit de la Rose is a Beauty and the Beast retelling set during the Golden Age of Piracy (18th century). It has pirate ships, beautiful mermaids, supernatural elements, an adventurous heroine, and a charming rogue of a captain. It's been quite a lot of fun to write and I hope it is just as fun to read!

What was your inspiration for your story? Anything in particular?

I'm a fantasy writer, but my very first novel was actually a historical fiction adventure about pirates titled Shadow's Fire. As I was trying to decide what sort of short story to write for the Five Enchanted Roses contest, I stumbled across Shadow's Fire and was hit by a wave of nostalgia. I decided I wanted to delve into the world of pirates again, and Esprit sprung from there.

What other writers/books inspire you?

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine was my first introduction to fantasy (and hey! it's a fairy tale retelling!), and in my opinion, it is everything fantasy novels ought to be- fun, intriguing, and poignant. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien shaped my character profoundly. As for current inspiration, I have recently become enthralled with nearly anything by Brandon Sanderson, the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

What advice would you give to other new writers?

Be honest. Good writing requires, almost forces, you to be raw and truthful. It's a little scary because it feels like you're baring your soul to the world. It feels like it will do nothing but hurt. And sometimes it does hurt, but the reward is so worth it. Readers can sense honesty. They know when you are being heartfelt and when you are being withdrawn. Readers love honesty. So be honest. It's worth it.

What's next for you? Anything else you're working on for the future?

Yep! Like I said above, I'm currently editing Hail Frost, the second book in the Leverage Trilogy. After I publish it, I am going to write/edit/publish the third book. And whither then? I cannot say...mostly because I have so many story ideas I'm not sure which one I will pick to explore! ;)

Where can we find you online?

My blog: http://thepinkcave.blogspot.com
My Twitter: https://twitter.com/KayceeBrowning3
My Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6435974.Kaycee_Browning

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Things I Should Have Learned By Now

On this journey to become a (someday full-time) writer, I've learned a few things.

And I've worked really hard to be a learner. Lemme tell ya!

I've pretty much given up TV all together (though things will be changing when Heroes comes back).
I no longer listen to NPR or music while driving or doing mindless chores and only listen to podcasts on writing.
I force myself to read a non-fiction book after every fiction book, so I can keep on learning.

I'm feeling pretty dedicated here.

But, I'm learning that there is a BIG difference between KNOWING better and DOING better. 

So, here's some things that I've learned that I should do, but have yet to actually do to become a better-selling writer.

#1: Write Consistently

I struggle with this so much.
And the guilt, the GUILT! that I feel for not writing consistently nags at me.
To whom do I owe this feeling of guilt? I have no idea. It's not like I have an editor tapping impatient fingers on the table while I type away on my laptop.

I have tried SO MANY times to make a schedule for writing on a regular basis. Alas, I am the Queen of INconsistency it seems. I know this will make me a better writer, and a better selling writer (after all, the more books I have out there, the more books there are for readers to purchse), but it's still something I struggle with fitting into my very busy schedule of day job, kids, dinner, sports, and bedtime. But, I need to commit to writing on a regular basis if I'm going to reach my goals.

#2: Diversify

Self-published authors know that though Amazon is the biggest game in town, it's not the only game in town. In fact, being published on multiple platforms like Kobo, Apple iBooks, Smashwords, and other online book retailers that host self-published authors will only help increase sales.

Why haven't I done it yet? The time factor again. Seriously, I have issues with time management. If I have any spare time, I always feel like I should be spending it writing.

(Hence, the reason why this blog is often neglected for long periods of time. Because, let's face it, if I'm blogging here and chatting with you, I'm not working on my next book. And I really need to spend some time working on my next book.)

#3:  Connect With Readers

I try, I really do try. I promise. I'm just not very good at small talk. I know having a strong online presence, especially utilizing social media, is a helpful step in building relationships with readers. But, I suck at it.

I use Facebook mainly to keep up with friends and family, and haven't yet made an author page there. (Part of me is scared that if I do, no one will join! Boo-hoo, poor little me on my author page all alone.)

And with Twitter, I feel like I'm poking around in the dark. I'm never sure if what I'm sending out is being seen, or has relevance for anyone else.

And let's not get started on my mailing list. My poor, dusty, neglected mailing list. On one hand, I don't want to bother people with emails when I don't have anything much to say, but on the other hand, I don't want to send out an email when my next book comes out and have people go, "Who is this lady? Did I really sign up for this?"  Finding balance seems like the key here.

Okay, so now I have some things to strive for. I've learned these important lessons. Now it's time to implement them.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Five Enchanted Roses Author Spotlight: Jenelle Schmidt

Today I am highlighting Jenelle Schmidt, winner of the Five Enchanted Roses contest, and author of Stone Curse. 

Give me the basics...Where are you located and what do you do?

I'm from Raleigh, North Carolina, and am a stay-at-home-mom.

Tell me about your Five Enchanted Roses story.

The story opens inside Thorndale Castle, which has been the recipient of a rather nasty curse. In one evening, most of the nobility of the country who were attending a ball at the castle were turned to stone, the princess was abducted, and a visiting prince was turned into a beast who cannot leave the castle grounds without losing his mind. And nobody knows who cast the curse or why.

What was your inspiration for your story? Anything in particular?

I kind of started out by thinking of all the things I didn't like about the original or classic retellings of Beauty and the Beast. I didn't like the father's role in the original story, or the fact that the prince in the Disney version was cursed at the age of 11 because he wouldn't let some creepy old lady into his house after dark (I think his parents would have probably agreed that this was the best course of action... not that they are present in the story). So I set out to create a version of the story where the prince is not really the true "Beast" of the story. It's a bit of a twist on the "don't judge a book by its cover" theme.

How long have you been writing?

I've been writing my whole life. I was coming up with stories before I could even hold a pen, and I began writing stories the moment I learned to write. I was going through some things my mom had saved of mine from my own homeschooled days, and happened across a story I had written when I was six years old. It had chapters and everything!

Have you written any other stories/novels?

Yes. I have written five novels, two of which have been published. We are hoping to have the third book in the series available later this year. I've also written a novella adaptation of Cinderella, which I also hope to release later this year.

Can we find any of your other works for purchase online? 

Yes, you can! King's Warrior and Second Son are both available through Amazon in e-book and paperback form.

What's next for you?

The next thing I'm working on is the second book in my new series - which I'll be talking about later on in the year on my blog. I also have a sci-fi/mystery project in the works that I hope to begin writing as soon as my current work-in-progress is finished. And I have a whole new world (to borrow from Disney) with no story yet, just waiting for some characters to come fill it with life.

What is your process when you begin writing a story?

First I have an idea. Usually the idea is focused around a character and/or a set of circumstances that might converge upon that character. Next I do a lot of world-building. My husband helps with this part immensely. I write fantasy and sci-fi, so the world-building is an extremely essential step. Then I might sit back and let the story and the characters simmer for a while. I'll discuss ideas with my husband some more, create some more characters, and begin putting together an outline. Once I have the outline kind of figured out - at least for the first few chapters - I will start writing the story. My outlines tend to be very flexible, and they change as I write.

What other writers/books inspire you?

That is a very long list. J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald definitely top the list, as the fathers of modern fantasy. Stephen R. Lawhead is a constant source of inspiration, as well as Timothy Zahn. There are many others, but those are the main ones.

What advice would you give to other new writers?

My first piece of advice is to read. Read everything you can get your hands on. Read books you love, read books you don't love, become an expert on the genre you want to write. Read books outside that genre. Read!

My second piece of advice is to write. Write on napkins and fill up notebooks and the hard drive of your computer. Write what you know. Write what you don't know. Write what you'd like to know. Some of it will work, some of it won't, but don't let that stop you.

And finally, finish a writing project. You don't have to finish EVERY writing project. Some things will be abandoned. But there is nothing like that feeling of accomplishment when you finish that first manuscript to spur you on to keep writing and keep finishing stories. Accept that there will ALWAYS be something you will wish you could change about your story, it will never be perfect... but it can be considered "done."

Where can we find you online?


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Five Enchanted Roses Author Spotlight: Hayden Wand

I'm so excited to bring you my first interview with other authors of the Five Enchanted Roses contest. These ladies are hard at work revising their own stories for the anthology, so I really appreciate that they took the time to answer my questions. I think you'll love getting to know them, too!

My first guest is Hayden Wand, author of The Wulver's Rose.

Here is her bio from GoodReads:  Hayden Wand is a Christian and a homeschool graduate whose love of both Jane Austen and adventure stories inspired her to write her first novel, Hidden Pearls. When she's not writing, reading or bribing her siblings to read the classics, you can find her baking, crafting, practicing her archery skills, or watching her favorite shows on the BBC. She lives in South Caroline with her parents and four energetic younger siblings. 

What do you do for a living? 

For the past three years since I’ve graduated high school, I’ve been living at home and helping my family/writing. However, this fall I’m heading off to college, which is going to be a whole new experience. I’m planning on majoring in History, which is one of my passions- and the reason most of my stories take place in a historical context!

How long have you been writing?

I wrote my first story when I was eight or so, and I literally haven’t stopped since. However, I really wasn’t able to devote the time to it until after I finished high school. I guess you can say that I’ve been a “serious” writer for about four years.

Tell me about your Five Enchanted Roses story. 
Author, Hayden Wand

The Wulver’s Rose is a retelling that takes place in 1700s Scotland and involves the mythical Scottish creature known as the wulver. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that the roses and dreams are two very important elements in my version of the story ;)

What was your inspiration for your story? Anything in particular?

I've always loved the story of Beauty and the Beast, but one thing I've always wondered about in the original story was why the beast was so upset that the merchant took his rose. I mean, honestly, what was the big deal? The story idea really sparked with that, and the rest is history.

Have you written any other stories/novels?

Yes! In fact, I self-published my first novel, Hidden Pearls, this past month.

Can we find any of your other works for purchase online? 

You can find Hidden Pearls through Createspace, and the Kindle version is also available on Amazon.

What is your process when you begin writing a story?

First, when I get an idea, I let it roll around in my mind until I get a clear picture of what kind of story I have on my hands. During that time, I usually jot down little ideas for the plot and name my characters, and once I think I've got a handle on the storyline, I make a vague outline and then start to write. I normally edit a bit as I go, so my first draft is usually more of a combined first/second draft.

What other writers/books inspire you?

If I had to pick just one author, it would have to be L.M. Montgomery. There are so many of her books that I love, such as the Anne of Green Gables series, The Blue Castle, and Chronicles of Avonlea. I find that she’s able to write both completely hilarious scenes as well as heartbreaking ones, and it’s my goal to be able to do the same. I've also been influenced by C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

What advice would you give to other new writers?

There’s so many good pieces of advice that I've heard through the years- keep writing no matter what, have perseverance, etc. if I could give some advice that’s really helped me, it would be this: read the classics. Having a high standard when it comes to literature will help give you a high standard when it comes to writing.
Also, good stories are all around you. Inspiration is everywhere, if you know where to look for it.

What's next for you? Anything else you're working on for the future?

Oh, goodness, yes. I have a journal that I jokingly refer to as my “book of secrets” that is full of story ideas that will probably keep me occupied for the next thirty years. Currently, I’m working on two historical novels and one sci-fi. One of them is another fairy-tale retelling, and I’m very excited about it. :)

Where can we find you online?

My blog: http://everystory-storygirl.blogspot.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8037264.Hayden_Wand
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Hayden_Wand
I've also recently put up a website: http://haydenwand.weebly.com/

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Coming Up For Air

Oh hello there, poor, neglected blog.
So nice to see you again.
Did you miss me?
Of course you did.
I missed you, too.

I've been rather busy lately, dear blog.
You'll have to excuse my extended absence.
You see...I have a little bit copious amounts of tunnel vision.
It seems that once I get sucked into a project, it's difficult for me to focus on anything else.

So, dear blog, please forgive me for my neglectful ways.
I've been working so hard on revising my story for the Five Enchanted Roses anthology.
Well, by "working" I mean a whole lot of thinking...days and days of thinking, musing, pondering...and then a very intense burst of focused writing and revising.

That's how I roll, blog.
Think about it. Think about it. Think about it.
Do it!
Then, it's done.

I'm very excited, my little blog.
I just turned in the first revision of my story, Rosara and the Jungle King. I promised myself ice cream when I finally got it finished. It's 11:00 at night...sadly, ice cream may have to wait until tomorrow.

Here's a beautiful blog button for my story:

Isn't it pretty?  I love it!

Oooh, now do I get to say that I'm an "award winning, published author?"
Yes, I think I do.
And I think I will introduce myself that way from now on as well.
I can just picture myself now at a dinner party or social gatherings..."Hi there. So nice to meet you. I'm Dorian, an award winning, published author. Have you tried the canapé? So delish!"

Ahh, and now that I've turned in my first set of revisions, I get to go back to my current manuscripts. I have two stories I'm working on at the moment. I think I'd better pick one and get 'er done and then move on to the second. Hmmm...which one to pick?
The one that is likely to be the shortest, or the one that might have more "oomph" as far as sales and readership goes?
It's a tough decision.
I think I'll sleep on it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


i'll admit it. I have a severe case of adult onset ADD. It's somewhat debilitating when I'm trying to stay focused on a project and get stuff done.

My current fairy tale story is suffering a bit because my attention got drawn by something else in my head.

Sometimes it feels like the stories in my head are all yelling at me, vying for my attention until I get them out of my brain and onto the page. And unfortunately, the strongest willed story usually wins.

So that's what I'm facing right now. I'm still writing, still trying to achieve my dream of being a full time writer. I'm allowing myself to enjoy the ride along the way as I take this journey, and let the stories become real gal on their own time.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Wowza! Winner, winner, chicken dinner!!

I am floored.


Lemme tell you why...

At the end of 2013, I entered a writing contest. For the contest, I wrote a 20,000 word story that was a retake on Cinderella. If you've read my books, you would know this story as Cursed Beauty. I didn't win the contest, but that was okay. I won back a renewed interest in writing, that lead to the writing of a young adult science fiction novel last year and several more novellas also centered around fairy tale retellings. 

In 2014, the second contest came around, this time writing a story based on Beauty and the Beast. I wrote two stories - one for the contest, and the other became Ai of the Mountain, and is published on Amazon.com right next to Cursed Beauty.

Today, the five chosen stories for the Five Enchanted Roses contest were revealed. 

And I nearly peed my pants this morning when I saw that MY story, Rosara and the Jungle King, was one of the stories chosen for the contest!

I was so amazed. 
I really, really, really had no faith that I'd win. 
All I can say is Wow! 

Thank you to Anne Elisabeth Stengle and the staff members of Rooglewood Press that chose my story out of all the other, amazing stories they had the opportunity to read. I have no doubt that there were so many incredible stories that told the tale in fresh, new ways. 

I'm certainly glad I didn't have to make the decision to choose them. That would be tough.

Here's a preview of the cover of the book:


And that's MY NAME on the cover! Seriously. I can't believe this.
I think I've had to change my underwear three times already, because I keep peeing my pants with excitement. 

Here's the blurb about my story...

By Dorian Tsukioka

Maor has determined to take her as his third wife, by force if necessary. But Rosara would rather risk her life alone in the jungle than submit to any man's brutality. When a beautiful jaguar tells her that it knows where to find one of the karawara, she resolves to seek out this jungle spirit and request its aid. The jaguar warns Roasara, however, that gifts from the karawara are never without a price. . .

The book is due to release this summer, 2015! Make sure to go to the book's Goodread's page and mark it as "to read!"

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Hold Onto Your Pants - It's a Cover Reveal AND a Giveaway!!!

I'm so super excited to get to reveal a cover for a fantastic author (that you should be reading, if you haven't, then GET THEE TO A BOOKSTORE!).

Anne Elisabeth Stengl is one of my favorite writers, and more importantly, one who has inspired me to be a writer as well. I'm so honored to be able to share the cover of her upcoming book, Draven's Light. Isn't it pretty?

In the Darkness of the Pit
The Light Shines Brightest

Drums summon the chieftain’s powerful son to slay a man in cold blood and thereby earn his place among the warriors. But instead of glory, he earns the name Draven, “Coward.” When the men of his tribe march off to war, Draven remains behind with the women and his shame. Only fearless but crippled Ita values her brother’s honor.

The warriors return from battle victorious yet trailing a curse in their wake. One by one the strong and the weak of the tribe fall prey to an illness of supernatural power. The secret source of this evil can be found and destroyed by only the bravest heart.

But when the curse attacks the one Draven loves most, can this coward find the courage he needs to face the darkness?

Coming May 25, 2015

I know I totally do!  Anne Elisabeth is raffling off three ARC's (Advance Reader Copies) of her upcoming book. Click on the link for your chance to win a copy of Draven's Light.

Here's a little more info about the illustrious Anne Elisabeth Stengl...

ANNE ELISABETH STENGL makes her home in North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a kindle of kitties, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She is the author of the critically-acclaimed Tales of Goldstone Wood. Her novel Starflower was awarded the 2013 Clive Staples Award, and her novels Heartless, Veiled Rose, and Dragonwitch have each been honored with a Christy Award.
To learn more about Anne Elisabeth Stengl and her books visit: www.AnneElisabethStengl.blogspot.com

Check out this excerpt from the book!

Excerpt from
By Anne Elisabeth Stengl
(coming May 25, 2015)

He heard the drums in his dreams, distant but drawing ever nearer. He had heard them before and wondered if the time of his manhood had come. But with the approach of dawn, the drums always faded away and he woke to the world still a child. Still a boy.
But this night, the distant drums were louder, stronger. Somehow he knew they were not concocted of his sleeping fancy. No, even as he slept he knew these were real drums, and he recognized the beat: The beat of death. The beat of blood.
The beat of a man’s heart.
He woke with a start, his leg throbbing where it had just been kicked. It was not the sort of awakening he had longed for these last two years and more. He glared from his bed up into the face of his sister, who stood above him, balancing her weight on a stout forked branch tucked under her left shoulder.
“Ita,” the boy growled, “what are you doing here? Go back to the women’s hut!”
His sister made a face at him, but he saw, even by the moonlight streaming through cracks in the thatch above, that her eyes were very round and solemn. Only then did he notice that the drumbeats of his dream were indeed still booming deep in the woods beyond the village fires. He sat up then, his heart thudding its own thunderous pace.
“A prisoner,” Ita said, shifting her branch so that she might turn toward the door. “The drums speak of a prisoner. They’re bringing him even now.” She flashed a smile down at him, though it was so tense with anxiety it could hardly be counted a smile at all. “Gaho, your name!”
The boy was up and out of his bed in a moment, reaching for a tunic and belt. His sister hobbled back along the wall but did not leave, though he wished she would. He wished she would allow him these few moments before the drums arrived in the village. The drums that beat of one man’s death . . . and one man’s birth.
His name was Gaho. But by the coming of dawn, if the drums’ promise was true, he would be born again in blood and bear a new name.
Hands shaking with what he desperately hoped wasn’t fear, he tightened his belt and searched the room for his sickle blade. He saw the bone handle, white in the moonlight, protruding from beneath his bed pile, and swiftly took it up. The bronze gleamed dully, like the carnivorous tooth of an ancient beast.
A shudder ran through his sister’s body. Gaho, sensing her distress, turned to her. She grasped her supporting branch hard, and the smile was gone from her face. “Gaho,” she said, “will you do it?”
“I will,” said Gaho, his voice strong with mounting excitement.
But Ita reached out to him suddenly, catching his weapon hand just above the wrist. “I will lose you,” she said. “My brother . . . I will lose you!”
“You will not. You will lose only Gaho,” said the boy, shaking her off, gently, for she was not strong. Without another word, he ducked through the door of his small hut—one he had built for himself but a year before in anticipation of his coming manhood—and stood in the darkness of Rannul Village, eyes instinctively turning to the few campfires burning. The drums were very near now, and he could see the shadows of waking villagers moving about the fires, building up the flames in preparation for what must surely follow. He felt eyes he could not see turning to his hut, turning to him. He felt the question each pair of eyes asked in silent curiosity: Will it be tonight?
Tonight or no night.
Grasping the hilt of his weapon with both hands, Gaho strode to the dusty village center, which was beaten down into hard, packed earth from years of meetings and matches of strength held in this same spot. Tall pillars of aged wood ringed this circle, and women hastened to these, bearing torches which they fit into hollowed-out slots in each pillar. Soon the village center was bright as noonday, but with harsh red light appropriate for coming events.
Gaho stood in the center of that light, his heart ramming in his throat though his face was a stoic mask. All the waking village was gathered now, men, women, and children, standing just beyond the circle, watching him.
The drums came up from the river, pounding in time to the tramp of warriors’ feet. Then the warriors themselves were illuminated by the ringing torches, their faces anointed in blood, their heads helmed with bone and bronze, their shoulders covered in hides of bear, wolf, and boar. Ten men carried tight skin drums, beating them with their fists. They entered the center first, standing each beneath one of the ringing pillars. Other warriors followed them, filling in the gaps between.
Then the chieftain, mighty Gaher, appeared. He carried his heavy crescent ax in one hand, and Gaho saw that blood stained its edge—indeed, blood spattered the blade from tip to hilt and covered the whole of the chieftain’s fist. Gaher strode into the circle, and the boy saw more blood in his beard. But he also saw the bright, wolfish smile and knew for certain that his sister had been correct. The night of naming had come.
“My son,” said the chief, saluting Gaho with upraised weapon.
“My father,” said Gaho, raising his sickle blade in return.
 “Are you ready this night to die and live again?” asked the chief. His voice carried through the shadows, and every one of the tribe heard it, and any and all listening beasts of forests and fields surrounding. “Are you ready this night for the spilling of blood that must flow before life may begin?”
Gaho drew a deep breath, putting all the strength of his spirit into his answer. “I am ready, Father.”
Gaher’s smile grew, the torchlight flashing red upon his sharpened canines. He turned then and motioned to the darkness beyond the torchlight.
The sacrifice was brought forward.