Finally, the sequel to The Song of the Rose is here: Of Stars and Ashes! The continuing saga of the alien Rox and their home system of Beta Pictoris B continues. These books are a series but can be read as a standalone.
Cinderella in space … if the glass slipper was a warship.
Rasha l’Cervantes, a Rox girl with beautiful golden horns, has been subjected to forced servitude along with the rest of her clan. While working in a quarry, she accidentally befriends a young neurolite, an armored insect that will one day grow up to become a spaceship. She also befriends a fellow prisoner, the ex-prince of her clan.
Kraz l’Cervantes made one bad political decision and now faces the dissolution of his clan. Everyone hates him except for a brave girl at the quarry: Rasha, who refuses to let him wallow in depression and forces him to eat.
The prisoners are separated and three years pass. Rasha recieves a summons to Kraz’s Choosing, a party where he will select a bride. But it is really an attempt to find the missing pilot of a neurolite frigate: a rogue frigate who is a danger to the fleet. Now Rasha must decide whether or not to Choose Kraz … if the deadly frigate doesn’t claim her life, first.
This is the second book in the Celestial Fairytales series, but can be read as a standalone.
Contains: Sweet romance, friends to lovers, no smut, spaceships, evil space fungus, military action, chases.
Okay, so, we moved into this house in June of 2021. It’s a nice double-wide trailer with plenty of floor space for kids to run around. Well, as soon as we moved in, we discovered that we had plumbing leaks under the eastern corner of the house.
Being new home owners after 15 years in apartments, we didn’t really know what to do. We tried calling out the home warranty folks to fix it, because that’s why we pay them, right? Turns out, the contractors who worked with the home warranty people are all experts at milking the system. We had three major plumbing leaks. The plumbers would only fix one at a time, forcing us to pay the fee multiple times to get each one fixed. It took so long to do this that the third leak had time to create a massive black mold pool under the house. The plumbers absolutely refused to get under there and fix the mold until we had restoration people come fix the mold. Whereas if they fixed the leak, there wouldn’t have been any mold … so yeah.
So, we spent most of the year going back and forth with various people who took one look at the problem and ghosted us. Meanwhile, I dug a drainage trench to control the water pouring out from under our house, and would bail it into a random sewer hookup that some previous inhabitant of the house had set up for a trailer.
Round about February, I was so miserable and sick of putting my hands in waste water that I begged my husband to just call a plumber and fix the leak. And this is where it gets weird.
So the plumber came out and crawled under the house and fixed the leak in about ten minutes. No problems with black mold, it was no big deal. So we ran water to make sure it was holding, and instantly all the sinks and showers backed up. So the plumber went around, trying to figure out where the blockage was. In the process, he discovered that our entire plumbing system had been ‘fixed’ by the people who flipped our house … ‘fixed’ to go into a complete circle without draining. Yes, our plumbing was an ouroboros, a snake eating its own tail.
The plumber, by this time, was furious. He referred us to some friends of his who would rip out all the plumbing and redo it for a reasonable price. The quote we got was 14k. We had to wait for our tax return, which wound up not being quite enough, not if we had to stay in an Airbnb for a week while our pipes got redone. So we renegotiated down to about 8k, which was much more reasonable.
So they came to rip out our pipes, and we relocated to an Airbnb in town. It was very small, but it was cheap. I entertained the kids with videogames and everything from the junk food section of the grocery store. They went from groaning about the tiny space to proclaiming it our best vacation ever.
It only took the plumbers about 5 days to redo all the water and drains, instead of the 2 weeks they had initially thought. They were able to get parts, and everything went smoothly. When we came back, we had water hooked up to our fridge at last, meaning the fridge with a water dispenser and ice maker that we hadn’t been able to use for a year suddenly works. Nothing drains into the yard. The washing machine doesn’t drain into the kitchen sink. The showers actually have water pressure. I can’t begin to express how wonderful it is to not have to put my hands into wastewater multiple times a day.
So that’s the tale of the plumbingpocalypse. We’re slated to have an electropocalypse next, and then a structural damagepocalypse. Word to the wise: never buy a flipped house. While I’ve heard that some house flippers do a nice job, the ones who did this house did not. They didn’t update the wiring to support an AC unit, they ouroboros’d the plumbing, and instead of redoing the ancient bathroom, they painted over the bad spots. The paint is now flaking away, revealing how gross it is. You know that movie Matilda, where the dad is the used car salesman who has all these tricks to make a car run just until he can sell it to some chump? Yeah, that’s what these house flippers did. They made the house look just good enough to pass inspection. I hope they go to jail someday.
A few years ago, I was listening to Elizabeth Elliot teach on the Fruits of the Spirit. I knew what Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, etc. were, but I’d never understood what Goodness was. It’s sandwiched in between kindness and gentleness, and my thinking was that Goodness was part of both of those. Kind of like saying “He’s nice.” It doesn’t mean anything.
So I was fascinated when Elizabeth Elliot defined Goodness as being high quality. “It’s like when we say, ‘This is a good cheese,’, or ‘This is a good vintage of wine’. In the same way, we are to be high-quality people.”
This stuck in my mind, especially as applied to writing. Was I portraying Goodness as desirable? Was I showing characters struggling to become higher and higher quality? After all, the refining process takes time and pain, both of which make for great stories.
Note: Holiness is: The state or character of being holy or sinless; purity of moral character; perfect freedom from all evil; sanctity.
Goodness is: The state or quality of being good, in any sense; excellence; purity; virtue; grace; benevolence.
Speaking of great stories, the other day, we were talking in my Discord about why Narnia and Lord of the Rings are still the Christian fantasy gold standards. One person said, “It’s wrong that their writings are still the best of Christian fantasy. By now we should have hundreds of works that are way better, and they’d be mostly honoured as those who started, not … all that it’s recommended when looking for Christian fantasy books.”
This got me thinking. As a Christian writer, I am obsessed with showing sinful man grappling with Ultimate Good. Evil is less interesting to me. Like, I pick up any Christian book, and yawn, it’s some lukewarm believer sinning again. You know what made Lewis and Tolkien stand out? They didn’t bother wallowing in the evil. Sauron has zero on-screen appearances. Instead, they grappled with Goodness, and man struggling to measure up. The Ring is a constant temptation, and arrayed against it are the Goodness of the elves, and Gandalf, and Gondor, and all the Good characters struggling to maintain their holiness in the face of corruption.
Goodness is treasured. It is something precious and desirable.
In Narnia, it’s each character coming to grips with Aslan. We’re not so much interested in what a pathetic waste of space Eustace is. We want to see him face Aslan and see how he changes. Each character is transformed by the end of each book by their confrontation with Good–they are either changed, or destroyed by it.
How many Christian books have been written since then that focus on man’s struggle with Goodness and Holiness and Righteousness? How many treasure goodness and constantly seek it out? I can’t think of any, and I’ve read quite a few. They kind of miss the point. Instead, they turn God into this cosmic battery that the hero channels in order to defeat the Bad Guys. Oh, and the hero wallows in evil. A lot. Like, in some books, the evil is pretty much front and center. This is no different from any book written by a non-believer.
Now, Mormons tend to get it right, and that’s why we have runaway authors like Sanderson and Meyers and Farland. They still write the stories of Man grappling with Good, although imperfectly. I think that’s why their books resonate so much.
When I was in college at San Jose State, I took Latin classes from Marianina Olcott. That is where I learned about the Roman concept of Virtus (pronounced “where-tuus”). It was a trait that the Romans respected, but it did not mean just virtue. It included other qualities too: prudentia (prudence), iustitia (justice), temperantia (self-control), and fortitudo (courage).
As I look around in the world today, I see that these traits are no longer honored and respected as they were in the past. Maybe that is why I love reading and why I have certain favorite movies I watch over and over again. You see, in my favorite books and films, the stories that grab me are about Virtus. All right, they can be cheesy sometimes. But I love that moment in Return of the Jedi when Luke throws down his light saber and tells the Emperor he failed to turn him to the Dark Side. That despite everything that will happen to his friends and (gulp) his “sister”, he surrenders and takes the blast of Force lightning full in the chest. That is Virtus.
I posted about this in a Christian writer’s group on social media. I received comments utterly dismissing my argument out of hand.
“Simple factor. [Narnia and LOTR] were not wrtten as “Christian” books. They were written for a secular audience and published by secular publishers. They were just writing great literature. They weren’t writing great “Christian” literature.
And both being classically trained lit professors probably didn’t hurt, especially considering the types of education they got. They probably wrote more during their teen years than most authors writing today have done in their entire lives”
Because Lewis and Tolkien were obviously gods among men and we can’t hope to achieve anything they did, or even study them to learn what they did. Yes. Very good lesson to draw from this.
I was also informed that stories that are dark and vile and end in death and despair have value. I have to wonder, to whom? English lit teachers? Fantasy readers seem to enjoy it with Game of Thrones, but I think that, even there, people still hope for some kind of a satisfying ending. There will probably never be one.
So, as a fellow Christian writer, I challenge every writer. Look at your books and see if you are glorifying good or evil. How many pages are devoted to villains and sin and perversion? How many pages are devoted to Goodness and Righteousness and Holiness? And I don’t mean in an ironic way. I mean in an honest, actual, doctrinal way, which shows what you know of Goodness?
Tolkien and Lewis changed the entire fantasy genre. Let’s change it again, writers. But we have to focus on grappling with the Good.
I just love book launch days, they’re so exciting. Sanctuary goes live today, after two years of writing and revisions! This is superhero fantasy aimed more or less at adults, because there’s romance, but there’s nothing dirty, so kids could read it, too. I just think they’d be bored by the first half.
It’s not easy being Bloodbound. Jayesh’s magic and life force are mingled with that of the magic island, Sanctuary, and he is desperately lonely. The girl of his dreams, Kari, has been his friend for months, but she is still grieving her dead boyfriend. When Jayesh kisses her for the first time, Kari has a vision of his magic, and she runs from him. Jayesh is crushed, and his wounded feelings begin to slowly destroy Sanctuary. Meanwhile, in Atlantis, an outbreak of strange cobra-like centipedes attack Bygone Island. The only one who can heal their bites is Jayesh, and his friends need him at full strength. But his damaged relationship with Kari disrupts his judgment and leads him down a path toward self-sacrifice that none of his friends want. Now Kari will have to make a choice. Her love for Jayesh must overcome her fear of him and his binding, for to love the Bloodbound is to become Bloodbound, too.
Sanctuary can be read as a standalone, but the two books before it are Bloodbound and Waygate
Currently only on Amazon, but I will update links as the other retailers go live over the next few days.
I’m going to keep doing art to promote this book for a while. Besides, it’s been fun to have an excuse to concept these characters out. 🙂
This is Cirrus Markone, (pronounced Mark One) the Shadow the Hedgehog of After Atlantis. If you’ve read the Guardian books of After Atlantis, you’ll know all about Cirrus. In Sanctuary, he becomes Jayesh’s unwilling mentor. Cirrus is a genetically-engineered wizard who looks down his nose at everybody around him and pretends not to care about anybody. His brand of mentorship is, “Suck it up, loser.” This winds up being good for Jayesh, who tends to dig himself into holes of self-pity. Also, Cirrus does not follow the Mentor Must Die trope. He’s a protagonist, himself, and has lots more awesome to do in the rest of the series.
Sanctuary launches on the 11th, so I’m doing a ton of art to show off what the book is like. This past week, I focused on the main characters and some excitement they get into. Next week, supporting cast and some of their shenanigans!
Sanctuary is Jayesh’s book, more or less a direct sequel to Bloodbound. Jayesh is still coping with being magically bound to a magical island, even if it does rocket his healing magic through the roof. As it turns out, he’s the only person in the world who can heal manticore venom stings and bites. But all he wants is for his girlfriend to not run away from him anymore, and to not be so crushingly lonely. This is him and his tiny dragon Suntala.
This is Kari Winters, Jayesh’s longtime crush. She’s a lightning super, dealing with grief from the murder of her boyfriend, and she’s kind of using Jayesh as an emotional life raft. Not exactly the healthiest of relationships, but the events of Sanctuary force her to confront her feelings and actions, and make a choice regarding Jayesh and loving him–or not.
“I’m just going to use my powers on the quetzalcoatl,” Jayesh said to the others. “Maybe diminish his pain.”
“If it attacks you, I’m zapping it dead,” said Kari, fists clenched at her sides. “I wish you wouldn’t do this, Jay. It’s a monster, just like the manticores.”
But it wasn’t like the manticores. Jayesh couldn’t explain the sense of grief and compassion inside him. He placed both hands on the silky feathers and drew on his healing shard.
He sensed the life in the great body, life mingled with magic. It reminded him of Suntala, but not quite. This creature was huge and blazing and alive, as if a shard had melted and run into its bloodstream. But that life was leaking from many wounds, both inside and outside. He found four hearts, one central one and three secondaries. A secondary heart had been shot through, and was draining the pressure of the rest. The creature’s entire magical being strained against the damage, trying to heal it.
Jayesh focused on that heart, first. “Come on, boy,” he whispered, drawing in the creature’s own magic. “Work with me.”
At first, the serpent’s magic blocked him out, like the tide running contrary to a swimmer’s path. But gradually, little by little, Jayesh’s healing magic soaked into the creature’s body and bone, redirecting its native magic. The damaged heart struggled, and the other hearts spasmed. Terror shot through the serpent and into Jayesh, potent as Kari’s lightning.
But Jayesh had enough empathy built into his healing shard to catch that fear and quiet it. “Shh,” he whispered, closing the holes in the wounded heart. “You’ll be all right. You won’t die, I don’t think. Come on, boy, you’re strong. Feel how the healing works? Work along with it.”
Rodion stepped up beside him and lifted the Mender’s Rod. Jayesh’s sense of the serpent’s wounds grew clearer, and it became easier to heal. “Thanks,” he said softly.
“No problem,” said Rodion, flicking his white hair out of his eyes.
After a moment, Kari joined them and laid her own hands on the feathery coil. All along the great body, wounds began to expel bullets and to close up. The serpent’s own magic surged in response to their assistance.
For the first time, the creature stirred, lifting its head out of hiding. For a moment it hung a few feet above the humans, watching them with its yellow eyes, the feathery crest standing upright, like a question mark. Then it relaxed and rested its chin on the coil they were touching. A third eyelid closed over the eyes like a gray film.
“I didn’t know he had eyelids,” Kari said. “Snakes don’t.”
“I notice that he only has the third,” Rodion said, “and not the first and second. Possibly because his flight ability demands it.”
Jayesh said nothing. He was in tune with the serpent’s magic, conducting their healing like a concert, and euphoria crept through him. His weariness, fear, and hunger fell away. All that remained was the ecstasy of healing, directing that energy, mending and regenerating. He was aware of his friends as beacons of light on either side of him, the serpent as an ocean of magic, and life, and potential. And nearest of all was Fith, watching, adding subtle hints to Jayesh’s magic, directing him in ways he wouldn’t have attempted.
He didn’t surface from that sea of bliss until the serpent slid its head forward and touched his forehead with its snout. “Little human,” it whispered, “stop before you die.”
Startled, Jayesh opened his eyes and gazed into the strange, narrow face of the serpent. The eyes were bright as jewels, the mouth turned down in a frown, then up in a smile. The tongue fluttered in and out through a hole in the lips. It brushed Jayesh’s forehead like the touch of an eyelash.
“My magic is overwhelming you, Bloodbound,” said the serpent. “Thank you for closing my wounds. I will manage the rest.” It turned its attention to Rodion and Kari. “I extend my thanks to you, as well. Because you showed me mercy, I lay no curse upon you, but a blessing. May Fith accept this offering.”
So, this week wasn’t supposed to be a nightmare week. It was supposed to be a nice week. I was going to catch up with the weeds in the yard, and it rained a bit, and it was nice.
Then on Tuesday one of the big girls landed on the 20 month old on the trampoline and broke the baby’s ankle.
Nice week instantly shot. I’ve gone back and forth to the ER, bounced around appointments for the orthopedic surgeon, etc. etc. all week long. The baby now has a massive cast that she uses to club people with. (Her ankle is already well enough to do that, which I find amazing.)
In the midst of this, I tried drawing a golden age of scifi book cover for a friend.
Me: Hee hee, this is fun.
Her: Wait, the girl is supposed to be black.
Me: mojo crashes and burns because that means the whole pic has to be redone
So now it’s Saturday and my poor hubby has to work. Next week, 3:30 wakeups, which turn both of us into zombies. I just can’t catch the mojo again.
This morning, I scraped out a quick drawing, just to keep in practice:
So that’s been my week. I’ve been so tired and stressed that when I sit down at my computer, I’d rather stare at the wall than create anything. But maybe things will calm down now? Maybe?
It’s launch day for Song of the Rose! I’m sure there’s other space opera version of Beauty and the Beast, but this one is mine. 😀
The human race is at war with the Rox, a ferocious race of horned, demonic humanoids from space, and humanity is losing.
When the humans and Rox agree to a hostage exchange, Lieutenant Zayn is asked to volunteer because of her social standing. She will be housed with a prince of the Rox, and their good behavior will ensure that peace talks will go forward between their races. Zayn is terrified of sharing living space with one of the demons, but she agrees in order to bring about an end to the war.
Alnair l’Nath is a prince and commander in the Rox fleet. He is nervous about being shut in with a human princess who might knife him in the back, but he wants the war to end, too. He and Zayn despise each other on sight, even though Alnair finds her oddly attractive.
Zayn and Alnair gradually make peace as they discover that humans and Rox are not so different. But when a rogue agent of the Rox kidnaps Zayn and Alnair in order to end the peace talks and escalate the war, it will fall to a human and a Rox, and the growing love between them, to end the conflict forever.
This is a sweet romance with only mild kissing, but plenty of suspense and action.
I wrote this book on accident. I’m kind of burned out on fairytale retellings, mostly because I’ve just read so many. They’re kind of predictable, because if you know the basic story, the retelling will hit the same story beats. And they’re also kind of like … 1500s medieval tech level, peasants and princes, Western European fantasy.
For some reason, my brain went, “But what if it was in SPACE?” And I had to start writing and playing with it. The first draft was much shorter, written in a week before Christmas as a gift for my writing group. They demanded that I go back and expand it. So I rewrote it from the ground up, and I think there’s about 1 page remaining of the original version. Which is fine, because the spaceships needed a lot more time to shine. While humans have regular spaceships, the aliens have these silicon-based lifeforms they fly around in. Their ships are sentient and have attitudes, kind of the dragon and rider dynamic. “You are my pilot and if anyone threatens you, I will vaporize them.” I wound up falling in love with my ships. I’m working on a second story in this same universe (Cinderella!) that is centered around a girl in a forced labor camp who accidentally imprints on a young ship … and he grows up into a giant frigate and demands that she be his pilot.
In Song of the Rose, Alnair and Zayn each think that the other is the beast. And the Roses wind up being this alien artifact that … well, I don’t want to spoil it. Read it for yourself. 🙂 🙂
I kind of fell off the bandwagon with Bloganuary, sadly. I kept trying to do the prompts, but they were like, “Describe yourself as a tree” and “what do you feel when you look at the stars?” and … I had nothing. Or more like, I had way too much and it was too personal to put in a public blog, heh.
Anyway, now it’s February, and I need to get my rear in gear. I have a book to publish this month! It’s Beauty and the Beast set in space with aliens. It’s only a novella, probably barely topping 100 pages. I had my husband proof read it for me. He was ‘meh’ until he got to the kidnapping and space battle stuff, and then he was entertained. So hopefully this story will entertain guys as well as girls.
I’m hoping to have it out by the 14th for Valentine’s, so I’ll be formatting and launching it this week to get it live on all platforms before I announce it. I like to give people lots of buying options.
After that, I hope to get Sanctuary launched in March. It’s the next book in my After Atlantis series, and it’s still deep in revisions. I’m pondering whether to add a couple of scenes, and got bogged down. I’m very happy with it so far, though. It has the fluff and magic and wonder I was aiming for when I wrote it: basically, what happens when a guy whose very life force is infused into a magical island begins breaking his heart over a fickle girl. And how both him and his island begin to die in very apocalyptic ways. And how the girl has to straighten out her own problems in order to save him … and then still half-injured, stave off an attack of bad guys who would like nothing better than to drag both guy and girl off and leash them for their magic.
And then I have to write a fresh book and I have no idea how I’m going to top Sanctuary. 😀 😀
Here’s a manga-style book cover mockup for another story I’m playing with. It’s high fantasy inspired by Final Fantasy 14, which is interesting, because I loathe high fantasy. It’s just a little story about an angstball knight on a quest to find the wife he saw in a vision, and the healer who travels with him and thinks it’s great fun. They earn their keep by slaying monsters, so … it’s like fantasy battles and romance all in one.
This one is a bit tough for me. What makes me feel strong? As in, spiritually? Emotionally? Physically?
I don’t feel particularly strong spiritually or emotionally. I’m kind of a wimp in those areas. But then I remembered the other day, how I physically conquered an obstacle. And boy, did it make me feel strong and empowered.
Out here in Arizona, there is this terrible thistle thing. I don’t know what it’s called, but it smells like a corpse and it grows about three feet tall and … infinite … wide. I’ve found mats of them that were six or eight feet across. If they keep getting water, they keep spreading. Their roots go down about two feet, and they’re just about impossible to get rid of.
We have a concrete slab in our back yard for parking a trailer on. The kids use it for riding bikes and playing games, kind of an impromptu patio. Anyway, one of those terrible thistle things had taken root under the edge of the concrete slab and had spread to about three feet wide. The only way I’ve successfully killed one of these things was when I poured an entire container of ice cream salt brine on it right before a rain, and the salt soaked into the ground. Nothing else touches these. I have not yet tried Round Up because I hate the smell.
Anyway, it had rained and softened the ground a bit, so I decided that that plant had to go. I got my shovel and clippers and a T-post. First I hacked the plant to the ground, then I went after it with my shovel. Once I had excavated a few feet of soil, I started levering the roots out of the ground with the T-post. The plant came out in sections, like it had just grown copies of itself to construct the root mat. I tore out pieces of it for a solid hour. Fortunately it hadn’t grown as deep under the concrete as I’d feared, and I tore out the last section of roots with a triumphant laugh.
So there you go. Pulling weeds makes me feel strong. Really big, invasive, horrible weeds that smell like a dead animal. Just one more step on the road to reclaiming our yard from the wilderness. I swear, nobody has touched this yard in 30 years.
Today’s prompt asks, “What’s next on your reading list?”
I’ve been reading books aloud to the kids to start off the year. I know we should be reading deep, pithy educational stuff. So we started off with Howl’s Moving Castle, because that’s educational, right? It’s about a girl cursed to be an old woman, and she goes to the wicked Wizard Howl for help. Turns out Howl isn’t so wicked, and needs her help to break the spell that he’s under. The book is a hilarious readaloud, with chapter titles like, “In Which Howl Expresses His Feelings With Green Slime”.
Naturally, we had to read the sequel, Castle in the Air. This is a take on the Arabian Nights, where a humble carpet merchant buys a magic carpet and falls in love with the Sultan’s daughter, only to see her kidnapped by a djinn. Then he has to go on an adventure to rescue her, aided by a grouchy genie in a bottle, a dishonest soldier, and a black cat whose only power is to make herself huge. It has nothing to do with Howl until the 3/4ths mark, where it suddenly has everything to do with Howl.
Well, we finished that one, and I asked the kids what they wanted to hear next. They voted for Witch Week, also by Diana Wynne Jones, but it’s in the Chrestomanci series. In a world where witches are burned for being witches, a strict boarding school takes in witch-orphans. The story starts when a teacher gets a note saying, “Someone in class 6B is a witch.” And the shenanigans that ensue have had us laughing and laughing.
I never noticed how funny these books were until I read them aloud. Jones has a very dry sense of humor that only comes through when you’re trying to voice the crazy things these characters are saying or doing. Harry Potter is funnier when read aloud, too.
What will we read next? Probably more Diana Wynne Jones. I want to buy A Tale of Time City and surprise them with it, because they’ve never read that one.
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