As a child my grandma was one of my favorite people. She was always enthusiastic for everything I did, incredibly supportive and loving. My most vivid memories of her are her tight embraces, her scent, the pins she wore on her turtle necks and her vast collection of mice figurines.
Nearly a decade ago her and my grandfather retired to Nevada, to a small town hours outside of Carson. They wanted to live a simple life away from the city. At the time I was devastated. My grandparents house had been a constant in my shifting world as a child. My parents divorced when I was young, and because they had shared custody, I did not have one home. Grandma’s house always felt like home it was one place that never changed. That was where we spent holidays and birthdays, all of my memories were wrapped up in that house.
When they sold it, it felt like a piece of childhood went with the sale. I remember crying as I helped them finish packing up their moving truck and watched them drive off to their new home, hours away from me.
We did our best to go out as often as possible, and talk on the phone, but as I grew up and started a life of my own the calls became fewer and the visits more rare. I managed to keep up correspondance through letters as my grandmother’s hearing failed her. But after a while, her handwriting got sloppier, there was an obvious shake to it. Her spelling worse and then the letters stopped all together.
It worried me but I was so concerned about my own day to day stresses that I let it go, thinking I’ll call her next weekend and check on her. I told myself this over and over again.
I was naive and thought I had another decade before I would have to worry about losing her. Then grandma had a stroke. I talked to my grandpa on the phone, who assured me she was doing fine. I promised to visit but I never did.
Then she got worse.
Grandma wasn’t acting like herself and refused to go to the doctor. Until one day she collapsed and couldn’t get up again. Grandpa took her to the doctor’s office and they found out she had cancer, very advance and all through out her body. The end was near. My sister and I rushed to see her.
She had wasted away since the last time I had seen her. The stroke had left her disoriented. She had dementia they said. She had faded away into a pale imiation of the woman she had been. Even in the five years since I had seen her at my wedding. She didn’t seem like the same person. But when I walked in she recognized me, and smiled a big toothless smile. And on her turtle neck was her angel pin I remembered so well. I got to say my goodbyes, got to hold her hand for an afternoon before returning to my own life, and my small worries.
Months I waited on that phone call, telling me the end had come. I checked in with my grandpa every few weeks, to see how he was doing. No news was good news it seemed. She was six months in the hospital. There’s a stubborn streak that runs through my family, and my grandmother was the most stubborn of them all.
One year ago, she passed away. It was in part a relief and a feeling like I was a deflated balloon. I loved her more than I can express and knowing that I won’t ever get her back was hard or that I won’t get back that time I wasted thinking she would always be there.
Then just recently I got a call from my grandpa, he was making a surprise visit to me in Southern California. Something he hadn’t done in nearly seven years. Not since him and my grandma had driven down just to watch me get married.
I was excited to see him and then he made one ominous comment over the phone. I have something for you and your sister that your grandma left for you. My grandma had been sick a long time before she ended up in the hospital, her mind being eaten by the dimentia, I couldn’t imagine what she would think to give me.
He set out the next day, I called him in the morning to see when he would arrive, he again mentioned this mysterious delivery which seemed to have prompted his journey to San Diego. He refused to answer questions about his delivery and shrouded it all in mystery. I was intrigued. Could it be one of her pins, or her collection of mouse figurines. Those things I most cherished and made me think of her.
Day arrives that my grandpa shows up, he’s looking healthy if not a bit sad, we talk for a while waiting for my sister to arrive and again he makes mention of this mysterious gift from my grand without elaborating on what it is he is giving me. I shrugged it off, again figuring it was something not worth mentioning. Something so obviously my grandma, that I feel confident I know what it was.
My sister arrives, and after a round of hugs, my grandpa announces he is going to give us what our grandma wanted us to have. We follow him into my driveway where he parked is 2001 Chevy, with the camper on the back he slept in on the way here. He climbs into the back and unlocks a cabinet beneath the bed, and pulls out two large white boxes. As he handed it to me I was surprised by how heavy the box was. It must have weighed ten or more pounds. What could this possible be? It was even taped shut with packing tape. I waddle my way into the house with my heavy box and drop it onto my table which shakes beneath the weight.
My grandpa takes a seat at the table with his tea and drinks as I cut open the packing tape, my curiosity getting the better of me. What could it be?
I open up the box and inside is several rolls of quarters. I blinked for a few minutes as I look at this box filled with currency.
I looked at my grandpa and he gives me a half smile. Your grandma collected all the state quarters, she wanted you and your sister to have them.
I laughed a little. Remembering before my grandparents moved away my interest in collecting the new state quarters. But just like the house my grandparents had lived in, I left it behind, a relic of my childhood. As I reflected later on I remembered all the different ways in which collector coins were sprinkled through out my childhood. It was something she and I had done together, and while I had forgotten about it the way I had neglected to call her, or write like I should. She had preserved that memory of me, when I was a child and we used to collect together.
And that is how I would like to keep her in my mind. My sweet grandma, cheering me on, encouraging me and loving me no matter what. And not a day goes by that I don’t think of her, or look at my state quarters displayed on my office wall.
I may have mentioned 2016 was a learning year for me and as I relaunch myself in a brave new world, I want to share my top picks for books that inspired me to be a better writer in 2016. I’ve listed them in descending order.
LIFELONG WRITING HABIT- Chris Fox
This is the book that got me thinking about 2016 and what I could have done better and helped me reach peace with the realization that sometimes you have to step back and absorb everything. As you can imagine, it talks about how to make writing part of your routine, which I really needed. But it also talks about habits in general and it really got me thinking about my habits, good and bad, and how I can improve as a person.
OUTLINE YOUR NOVEL -K. M. Weiland
I am a long time die-hard outliner. And if you’re a writer or if you’ve even dipped a toe into the writing community you know that there are lines that divide writers. There are the pantsers (those who write by the seat of their pants and make up a book as they go along) and there are plotters (those who write out an outline before they start). I love outlines, but even when I feel like I’ve written a highly detailed outline, there seems to be something missing. My first drafts are too thin, or the outline too vague when it comes down to what actually needs to happen. This book drastically changed my method for outlining and I know it is going to make a huge difference in my writing in 2017.
STRUCTURE YOUR NOVEL -K. M. Weiland
This is by the same author, and it takes a deeper dive into story telling. I can say this book wasso good, I would recommend it to EVERY writer. It literally changed the way I look at storytelling. I feel like this book could apply to anyone who wants to write, whether you like planning or not. I had so many ideas that came to me while I was reading. I even bought the work book, which has become an invaluable asset.
THE ONE WITH ALL THE WRITING ADVICE:
I grew up watching Friends, and this book is basically a book that analyzes friends and gives you tips on how to write from what can be learned from the show. I’ve read just about every non-fiction book by these authors, and their laid back writing style and the content made it one of my top reads of 2016. Highly recommended.
This book came to me at a really necessary time. I was feeling like crap about my year, about what I hadn’t done that I had set out to do. And it really helped me change my mind around on how I see my failures. And it lets you know that you’re not alone, the author struggle is universal. A must read for all creatives.
More than anything the non-fiction I read this year, really influenced me. I learned a lot about myself and my craft and I plan to read even more non-fiction books in the coming year to continue to improve myself and keep growing.
How about you, do you have a non-fiction book to recommend?
Since I’m releasing the final audio book in my Diviner’s Trilogy. (Internal screaming) I thought I’d make a recommendation for a couple of Audio Books that I’ve listened to and that absolutely blew my socks off.
The Artifact Hunters By A.W. Exley and Narrated by Gemma Dawson.
I talked about this series as being one of [my favorites in 2016]. I consumed the entire series in audio. I’ll briefly go over why I loved the series but you can read my full review here.
My favorite thing about this series was the main character Kara, she’s smart, carries a gun and wears a corset but she’s also vulnerable and has a dark past which makes her so much more relatable. The series starts out with a bang as Kara races to stop a serial killer, whose killing young woman in an attempt to gain immortality. It had me on the edge of my seat -literally cause I was listening on my commute to my dat job.
The narrator Gemma Dawson was amazing! Her character work was so perfect and her smooth British accent made the Victorian setting come alive. I would listen to more of her narration just to hear her voice.
My second choice is Dead City by Sean Platt and Johnny Truant Narrated by Scott Brick
This book was a thrill ride. It’s a zombie political thriller. If that sounds crazy, well it is. The setting is a world where there was a zombie outbreak which was cured and halted. People who were infected, still deal with a bit of decay and are treated as second class citizens. The story surrounds the people involved with the company who invented the cure, and keep it from returning.
The narration was great, Scott’s voice is gravel and intense, he even does a good job narrating the female characters (of which there are many.) Without sounding stupid. Some male narrators try a falceto and it just totally rips me out of the story. The first couple chapters are short, and fast paced and I could not stop listening.
My third choice is The Beam Season 1 and Season 2 By Sean Platt and Johnny Truant Narrated by Johhny Heller, Tara Sands, Ralph Lister, Ray Chase, R.C. Bray. Jeffery Kefer, Chris Patton, Rachel Fulginiti.
It took me a couple chapters before I really sunk into this book, but once I did, oh man was I hooked. There’s so many layers of plot going on I don’t even know where to start. Lets see, this is set in our not too distant future in a world of technology like what we have today but advanced to an extreme level of connectivity. Just think of AI in everything, from your walls to inside your skull. And the story centers around two brothers each heads of different political parties right before there form of an election and the back stabbing and secrets that go with it.
This narration is a full cast narration and it was my first time listening to it. Going in I thought full cast meant that you heard each narrator narrate the voice of the character while someone else read the other parts. But instead each chapter’s character perspective is narrated by a different voice. It was jarring at first but once I got into it, I started to enjoy hearing the characters voices done a certain way by a certain narrator.
This series was really good, I highly recommend it. There’s only two books in audio in the series, and I’ve got the ebook on my to read list. But as I follow the authors I know the series is not done, and also knowing them, knowing that this book will probably destroy me when I get to the end of Season 3.
How about you are you listening to audio any you’d like to recommend?
I mentioned in my previous post, I had a lot of ambitious plans for 2016. Not all of them panned out but one thing I can say I accomplished was I met my goal of reading 50 books. Which is harder than I thought it would be. Here is my top five reads from 2016 for Fiction (In Descending Order). I’ll be doing a follow up post about my non-fiction picks.
This book, was beautiful in it’s simplicity. I never thought of literary sci-fi even being a thing but that’s what it was. An entire planet is destroyed and the survivors of the genocide have been searching nearby planets for more people who share their ancestry and are scattered across the solar system. Tangled up in this poetic narrative, is a love story and a story about finding your roots, and cultural identity. It made me think, and it was beautiful. I cannot praise this book enough.
THE ROAD- By Cormack Mccarthy
This book sat on my shelf for over a year. I am going to admit that I saw the movie first and it kind of destroyed me. I cannot handle children in danger plots, and the entire story is about a father and son, struggling to survive, as the world is dying around them. The writing style of this book is different. If you are particular about writing I would skip this one. But the tone it evokes, and the story that Mccarthy weaves through this father’s eyes had me turning pages well into the night. It’s the sort of story that sticks with you long after you’ve finished reading it.
I love this series, and I read 3 out 4 of the books this year. It was hard to pick a favorite out of the bunch, and without giving away too many spoilers, this book is about a bad ass chick, set in a steam punk universe. Kara Devon has everything I love in a female lead, strong, independent, and clever. She gets into some terrible tight spots and she always finds a way out. There’s a love story to this book as well, which given the premise of this particular novel was used to great effect. (Vague enough? I don’t want to spoil) I highly recommend this entire series.
OK this is a bit of a cheat, but I seriously cannot pick a favorite from this series and if I didn’t pick the series this entire list would be dominated by these books. This was the first time I had read anything by this author but she quickly has become a new favorite. The tone and atmosphere was so palatable. The language she uses it just grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let you go. The entire series was wrapped up in a mystery so many layers deep, I didn’t even know how far it had gone, until I was almost drowning in it. This series will probably go down as one of my all time favorites. Now you may ask, why not my number one pick? I knocked it down a couple, just because the characters and the conclusion felt like a let down. I had fallen to hard and fast in love with this series when it came to the end, I was left kind of wanting. The main character had a ton of potential, but she felt flat on the page. Same with her romantic interest. To be honest, the back ground characters were much more interesting.
So Steiver did end up taking the top spot for me. This book, made up for all the short comings in the RAVEN CYCLE. The writing is visceral and nearly leaps off the page, the main character was everything I wanted from Blue and the supporting cast felt real to me. I really enjoyed this book. And it’s stand alone, which was great and bad at the same time. I wanted to keep living in that world. But the story line was so succinct and well done, that I didn’t mind it when it was over.
Looking back, I read a lot of traditionally published titles. Which was convenient, (easier to get from the library) but since I am an Indie author my goal for 2017 is to read more Indie Books. And my Goal is to read 50 indie titles by the end of 2017.
What are you favorite books from last year?
2016 was a crazy year for me, but looking back on the past twelve months, I feel like I grew a lot as a person and as an author. I mentioned in my 2016 review. I made a lot of ambitious plans for 2016 without any real idea of what the follow through will be. And this may sound crazy, but just because I failed, doesn’t mean I am going to be more conservative with this next year. With that in mind, I plan on being more up front with my goals, to keep me accountable and I have a plan of action in place, to make sure I hit all my goals. Here I’ve outlined some of my goals for the coming year.
I will write 500,000 words.
This may sound like an enormous amount of words, but you’ll see the break down here.
I will publish three books:
The Sea Stone Book Two of the Dragon Saga (May or June)*
The Cursed Staff** Book Three of the Dragon Saga (Sept)*
The Immortal Vow** Book Four of the Dragon Saga (December)
* All dates are tentative
** Title probably will change
If you’ve read any of my other series and are waiting on a sequel, I apologize in advance. I went back and forth on this for a while when deciding on 2017 schedule, but these books listed above are the ones I am most excited to write and I decided to put passion first. I will be continuing them eventually.
In addition to these novels, which their estimated word counts total 375k words (125k each dragon book)
I am working on a series of short stories set in the World of Akatsuki. Most of them are still in the planning stages, but you’ll see familiar characters and some new ones. These will be entirely free: but only to my newsletter subscribers. If you’re not on the list I suggest signing up now. I have 6 total stories the first to be released in March or April (Official launch to be announced)
In addition to that, I am also planning on having blog posts, at least twice a month, more if I am able. The topics will vary, but mostly it will be about what is interesting me at the moment, TV Shows, Books I’ve read, and the occasional information about research or more tidbits from the world of Akatsuki. I look forward to the year ahead, and I hope you do too!
What book on the list are you most looking forward to? Let me know in the comments.
I went into 2016 with a lot of aspiration. Maybe a bit more than I could chew, in retrospect. Even getting this post reflecting on 2016 is a little delayed. (Hello February.) I had planned on reading at least fifty books. I wanted to write six books, and publish them all. (Don’t ask me where I thought I was going to get the time to do all that.) I started off a little behind, the revision of Heart of Thorns, previously Those Who Dwell in Thorns, did not go as expected. And I was set back a couple months on the release going from January to April. But I was not to be detered and I jumped right into the writing the sequel, where I there got stuck.
I thought to myself, that’s OK, just work on something else in the mean time, so I started another project, and got stuck again. I went back to the sequel of Heart of Thorns, made small progress before my motivation started to wane.
It was during this time that my grandmother died. It wasn’t unexpected, in fact it was something I had been anticipating for months. But my grandmother, like me was too stubborn to go quietly. But she finally found peace in the spring of last year. I had a dark period in the months that followed, I started and stopped a lot of projects, aimlessly wandering through a creative wasteland where I felt all my inspiration was dried up. I thought I was ready for her to pass on. I had said my goodbyes had made peace with it. But it still struck me hard.
A couple months passed, I did a lot of assessing and thinking and dreaming, and in August I felt like I was back on track. I made a decision to write the next book in my Dragon Saga, The Sea Stone. I even started posting onto Wattpad to keep myself motivated. But as seemed to be the trend with 2016, another personal blow came out of the woodwork and my father passed away in early September.
This one was a lot harder. Not to get long and personal, but my father and I were estranged for a very long time. It’s a messy story that I won’t get into here, but his death shook me. In part because he was young, only in his fifties and because the first thing I heard about him in years was that he had a heart attack. He had not lived a healthy life, and as I realized at the time of his death, I have not been living a healthy life either.
I won’t go into a long sob story about my trials with food, and my struggle to do the right things for my body. That’s not what the Blog is for. But I tell you all this to lead up to something that has been weighing on my mind over the last couple months.
I spent a lot of 2016 dreaming, and plotting and planning for a future that I was not putting into action. I think things like I want to write six books in a year. But I do not think about the effort and time it would take to do such a thing. Sure I knew I’d have to write x amount of words per day, and that I would need to do huge amounts of words, to get it all done. None of this was unrealistic per-say. At the rate I write, I could have easily done it. But my biggest life challenge is consistency. I can start a diet, I can start a book, but at some point I lose interest and meander away onto new green pastures.
2016 proved to me how much time I have wasted on thinking about the things I wanted to do. I wrote the least, and up until recently I feel like I accomplished little. But as I took a hard look at myself, in the wake of my father’s death. I realized something: I learned a lot this year.
I read more non-fiction books on writing this year than I have since I started writing. I took courses on marketing, listened to hours of podcasts on writing and marketing. I learned a lot. And while there is no body of work to show for it. I’d like to think of 2016 as my evolution year. Going into 2017 this is my year of implementation and the word I’ve chosen as my theme: Production.
Do I have ambitious goals for 2017? Yes
Do I think I will achieve them? Yes -Because I see what I need to do to obtain them. I’m done dreaming and I’m ready to be doing. In my next Blog post, I plan on spelling out what I plan for 2017 and how I am going to do it. And at the end of the year, I plan on looking back at the year and I think I’ll be very happy with where I am at.
Two blog posts in a week, I know, I’m shocked too. I’ve been wanting to write up some posts just about me in general, cause I am vane? Maybe. Or Maybe I just want to share, or over share. That’s for you to be the judge.
Either way, I may have mentioned a time or two, that I’ve been writing since I was really young. And when I was in high school, I had high aspirations, a thesaurus and a lot of really badly written short stories. But apart from that I read a lot, and I read widely. But during those early writerly years I had my author inspirations who were the ones I wanted to be able to write like, I wanted to tell stories the way they told a story. And even now as I’ve published eight titles as of this blog post, I still think of these as my literay heroes in my genre.
Juliet Marillier: The first that drew me to Marillier’s writing style was the beautiful way she wrote, her words are almost poetic, she evoked colors and scents and sounds that weaved together into this almost tactile tapestry. I would fall into her books and feel like I was swimming in the sea along with a selkie, or drinking from a timble with a fairy. I could go on and on about her works. The one thing, reading her work did to influence me was to make me want to spend more time on description and scenery. Every time a reader tells me they love my descriptions, I get a little giddy because I pride myself on that part of my writing.
If you haven’t read Marillier yet, I highly recommend The Seven Waters Trilogy. The first book is the series, Daughter of the Forest, was my introduction into the romantic fantasy genre and it’s probably the reason I write the type of books I do.
Jacqueline Carey: My best friend first introduced me to Carey as she has with so much of what I read. This author was like my first taste of dark chocolate. Carey’s stories have an edge of sexiness and mystery, and danger. What I fell in love with the first time reading it though, was the complex plot and political intrigue in her Kushiel’s series. I loved the far reaching web and how everything fell together at the end as if I should have seen it all along. It was what inspired me to write the Diviner’s Trilogy.
If you haven’t read Carey yet, I would highly recommend: Kushiel’s Dart. Though if you’re not a fan of sex scenes and darker themes you may want to skip this one.
Anne Bishop: I found Bishop in my twenties and I devoured ALL of her books in a couple weeks. Her books have a slight dark edge without going over too far into extreme themes. Just as they’re sexy without being overly explicit. In my opinion, they ride a perfect edge that I like to strive for in my work. I don’t really like super explicit stories, most of the time, I love that hint of tension and that hint of danger and darkness. That’s what Bishop captures perfectly.
If you haven’t read Bishop yet, I would highly recommend: The Black Jewels Trilogy. It is that perfect mix of political intrigue, romantic passion and a good mystery.
What about you, who are you favorite authors and books? Let me know in the comments.
My Favorite Animes
As a veteran anime watcher, (that’s right I served my time!) I often have this question posed to me: What’s a good anime to watch? Or I just saw: *insert anime* do you know something like it? I then reference my anime log list (yes I have a list). I used to blog about anime, but fiction writing sort of took over. But I figured since I haven’t posted to the blog in a while it might not hurt to share something random/funny about myself.
Anyway trying to narrow down my favorites to just five is like trying to pick a favorite child. But after some careful deliberation (not really that much deliberation I’m just being dramatic, it’s an author’s right after all.) here’s my picks, in descending order:
This series was actually referred to me by my non-anime loving best friend. She never really got it until attack on Titan. I love this show, it’s gritty it’s dark at times, but light at others. The series is set in a world where the planet has been over run by Titans, these massive human like creatures who eat humans. Humanity has been pushed behind high walls intended to keep them safe from the Titans, until a titan bigger than any other comes and breaks down their walls. If you love some serious action and drama, you’ll love this show.
I’ve watched this series, read all the manga, and even wrote a few fan fictions for it back in the day. I was obssesed with it for a while. Blood+ takes a new spin on the vampire myth, where the vampires are horrific bat like creatures who can be killed by one girls blood. This series is also dark and beautiful at the same time. Sora’s protector, Haji, was in part inspiration for Noaki in the Dragon Saga series. I want to explain more about this series but I don’t want to ruin it, just go see for yourself.
I couldn’t get away without mentioning InuYasha. This series formed my adolescence in a part. I remember watching episodes late at night with my sister, and both of us making jokes over the fact that Kagome and InuYasha just would never, fraking, kiss. But I digress. InuYasha is the story of a girl from modern day Tokyo who falls down a well in a shrine and ends up in fuedal japan. This one is a bit on the lighter side, with plenty of humor, but it has epic battle scenes. It’s an absolute classic!
2. Lovely Complex
There’s some stories that just stick with you. That’s how lovely complex was for me. The story surrounds a too tall girl and too short boy, who form an alliance to help each other find love but end up falling for one another. As someone who grew up awkward, their feelings of awkwardness and fumbling at first love were very relate-able. This is an absolute must see!
1. Ouran High School Host Club
I love this show, manga, everything about it. Whenever someone asks me: What’s your favorite anime. This is always my first choice, hands down. Ouran is about a poor girl whose going to a school for rich kids on a scholarship. Haruhi doesn’t stick to social norms and wears her grandfathers old clothes to school when she cannot afford a uniform and gets mistaken for a boy, and when she breaks a vase in the club room of the infamous host club she’s forced to become a host to pay back the debt of the vase. This series is mostly a parody of anime/manga tropes but the story interwoven into it, just resonated with me. I have probably watched the show and read the manga a hundred times now. I absolutely adore this series.
So there it is, my top five favorite animes. How about you? What are your favorites. Let me know in the comments.
Just a few days left until The Priestess and the Dragon is unleashed! Check out the first chapter below. And also check out information about how to win a Signed Paperback copy!
Sweat rolled down her neck, slid down her spine and pooled at the basin of her lower back. Suzume resisted the urge to itch a tickle near her nose, lest she smear the white paint that adorned her face. The high priestess chanted in a sonorous voice and the procession moved forward a half step. Suzume sighed and lowered her head. The bells hanging from the decorative pins in her hair jingled as she did so. The second to the high priestess whipped her head around, somehow hearing the insignificant sound beneath the high priestess’ chanting. The second glared at Suzume, who returned the look with a half-smile and a tilt of her head, which jangled the bells further. The pinging sound felt like a declaration. I did not choose this life and I will not obey your rules.
The second pursed her lips as she glared at Suzume. She would not dare interrupt the ceremony to chastise Suzume. But if looks could kill, Suzume would be dead three times over. She would most likely get a tongue-lashing when they were alone again. If she had learned anything since coming to the temple, it was that the Maidens of the Mountain took their ceremonies seriously.
The procession moved forward another half step and the second turned back to the head priestess. Suzume sighed as she inched towards the temple. What she wouldn’t give to rip this constricting robe and sash off. I would trade all my father’s—no, the emperor, as I must now call him—I would give up all his gold and the power of the Eight to be free of this robe!
True, she was no stranger to fine garments. Indeed, she had often donned fine silks, she had been served by ladies from the noblest families and had men fall in love with her at least once a week. That was until her mother had ruined everything. You couldn’t tell from the bitter chill rolling off the mountain peaks, but at the White Palace, the cherry blossoms would be blooming. She should be viewing the cherry blossoms with General Tsubaki, her onetime intended, and having courtiers slipping her poetic love notes. He was the perfect match, powerful and old enough not to notice when I flirted with the younger lords. She sighed again.
The second spun around, breaking rank, and said with a hiss, “Silence.”
The young priestesses that were in three lines behind her giggled. The second glowered past Suzume towards them and the giggling died away, leaving only the sound of the high priestess, who continued to chant without breaking stride. When the second turned around, Suzume rolled her eyes. The procession moved another half step.
Suzume’s thoughts returned to her own lamentable fate. When she had imagined her wedding day, it was not like this. Instead of marrying General Tsubaki as was her right and his honor, she was to become an unwilling bride of the mountain god. Which was a romanticized way of saying she had been exiled to a life of a priestess. As the emperor’s trueborn daughter, she was born of divinity and as such she could not be simply married off. Her father insisted on adding insult to injury.
They approached a group of red torii arches. Before she passed beneath the first one, the wind picked up and jangled the bells in her hair, pushing against her as if trying to keep her from entering. She hesitated for a moment. She felt a tingle along her fingertips, a slight burn as if they had come too close to a flame. The second saw her dawdling and jerked her head to the side, indicating she should cross the barrier. It’s just a gateway. She crossed the threshold, and as she did, a prickling sensation ran up and down her arms. She pressed against an invisible barrier, as if the archway wanted to keep her back. She stumbled through and nearly lost her balance. She overcorrected and heard the priestesses behind her laughing, thinking she had lost her balance.
When she looked to them to see if they experienced the same phenomenon, they passed through without resistance. At least the wind had dried the sweat that was surely streaking the white paint on her neck. She chanced a glance to her side; beyond the red columns of the arch the pathway had a sheer drop. And in the distance she could see the mountain range shrouded in clouds. The pathway leading up to the shrine was carved from the mountain, one side a flat mountain face with a few sporadic plants growing in the cracks. The shrine was wedged into a cave; four columns supported the front facade, and beyond the veranda, the latticework doors had been pulled open. She had come a long way from the White Palace to this desolate mountain temple. Suzume suppressed another sigh, lest the second’s scowl grow deeper. Let’s get this over with, she thought.
After what felt like hours, but was closer to a few minutes, they passed beneath the last of the red arches and the house of the God of the Mountain lay before them. The wood on the front had been carved with a scene depicting the mountain range. Above the mountains, the god sat upon a cloud, and with an outstretched hand he brought rain to the needy farmers down at the bottom.
The high priestess stopped the procession. She finished her chant with one last echoing note that bounced off the surrounding mountains, and the following silence was more defined. The wind howled ominously. Suzume’s skin itched and burned. She fought the urge to rub her palms against her flesh to assuage her affliction; she wanted to maintain at least the illusion of respectability. The head priestess and all the other shrine maidens bowed in unison. Suzume, distracted by her fevered skin, did not follow but instead stared into the inner sanctum of the god. A pedestal was the room’s only adornment and upon the white pillow was an obsidian stone.
“Bow, you ungrateful girl,” the high priestess scolded.
Suzume did so with reluctance. Her skin trembled and twitched like a horse trying to shake off a fly. She could not remove her eyes from the stone. It seemed familiar, as if she had seen it before. As she knelt, she lost sight of it. She lowered her head in feigned obedience. However, a sensation began to stir in her gut; she felt like she might retch. I cannot do that, not now, not here. She glanced up once more, trying to regain control of her body.
The high priestess approached the shrine while swinging a brass bowl attached to four chains, with a stick of incense in it. The white smoke swirled around her and trailed after her as she approached the pedestal.
The high priestess lit a few incense sticks that were in holders on either side of the pedestal. She knelt down with her head bowed low to the ground as the room filled with the pungent smoke. The smoke tickled Suzume’s nose. She wiggled it back and forth, the churning feeling in her gut creeping up to the back of her throat. It felt as if there were an inferno burning inside her.
“God of the Mountain, bringer of the rain, great master who parted the lands from the sea, please accept this bride as yours.” She clapped her hands together, finishing the prayer. She rose up onto the balls of her feet and turned to face the group without rising from a kneeling position. She motioned for Suzume to come forward.
She rose on shaking limbs. Only her mere stubbornness kept her moving. As she crossed the threshold, a sensation like a punch to the gut stopped her in her tracks. Whatever was inside her was coming out, now. She stopped, afraid to move for fear her very skin would melt from her bones if she went too near. Is this a part of the ceremony? If so, I refuse to be a part of it.
The high priestess frowned and once more beckoned for her to come forward with a sharp impatient movement.
Suzume shook her head and set the bells jangling. They echoed across the room and seemed to reverberate tenfold, rattling around inside her skull.
“You cannot turn back now, you will anger the god,” the second snarled, now standing beside her with a rough grip of Suzume’s elbow.
The second forced Suzume forward; then Suzume’s knees buckled beneath her. Her stomach heaved and she feared she would empty its contents in front of everyone. She grabbed her abdomen in a last effort to hold back, but something bubbled up from inside her, the burning receded from her arms and pooled in her stomach before traveling up and out of her mouth. Bright red light burst from her lips and shot out like a current that sparked and undulated as it made a direct trajectory for the pedestal and collided with the obsidian stone.
For a moment the stone vibrated, and then it began to rock back and forth on its stand. Finally it rolled and began to ricochet around the pedestal, colliding with the raised edges of the stand. Then the pedestal exploded in a shower of splintered wood. The force of the explosion threw the high priestess backwards. Suzume fell to the ground just in time to avoid a deadly piece of wood from piercing her heart.
Fragments of wood rained down on her as she covered her head with her hands. When the raining debris ceased, she looked up again. Smoke filled the chamber—she could not tell if it was just the incense or from whatever had caused the explosion. The burning sensation had left her body, but Suzume felt a new tingling warm sensation that flooded her skin like a warning bell. She could not get up, however; it felt as if an invisible hand held her down, nearly forcing the air from her body.
“High Priestess!” the second shouted somewhere in the smoke and debris. The other maidens were chattering in fear.
“I am here, and unharmed,” the high priestess said. The smoke cleared and revealed her to be lying on the ground. She sat up and bits of wood fell off of her. She looked at Suzume, her eyes wide. “What did you do?” she asked.
Before Suzume had even the chance to answer, a hollow maniacal laughter filtered through the chamber. The head priestess’ mouth dropped open as she turned her head back to where the pedestal had been. The smoke rolled away and a coiled serpentine body covered in opalescent scales dominated the room. The creature’s muzzled face looked down upon Suzume, his long whiskers brushing against the bells on her hair pieces.
“God of the Mountain and bringer of the rain, I presume?” Suzume asked.
The creature smirked, revealing rows of dagger-sharp teeth. “You awoke me?” His voice echoed and filled the room with thunder.
Had she been a cautious woman, she would have listened to the underlying threat in the creature’s stature and his words. But Suzume prided herself on the fact that she did not cower before anyone, even the God of the Mountain.
“And if I did?” she asked.
The beast exhaled; his breath, as cold as winter, froze her skin until that warm tingling sensation defrosted her.
“God of the Mountain,” the high priestess gasped.
He turned his large head towards her and looked her up and down and said, “Your voice has been in my dreams.”
Tears gathered in the old woman’s eyes. “Thank you, lord, it is a great honor. I always hoped you heard my fervent prayers. I have dedicated my life to your service. Please tell us, why now have you—”
“Silence, you speak too much, human. I did not awaken to hear your prattling. You should stick to your prayers and songs, they are much easier upon the ears.” He growled and the high priestess fell onto her knees and laid her face to the ground.
“My apologies—” she started to say, but he growled and she silenced herself.
The god turned back to Suzume. “I can sense little spiritual power in you, yet you have undone the seal,” he said while regarding Suzume. He tilted his head to the side. The shrine maidens and high priestess had moved out of the way of the god’s coiling body and were huddled outside the shrine.
She looked at them and back at the god. How had she unleashed him? As far as she could tell, it had been an accident, an involuntary action. Regardless of the how, she did not want to admit her ignorance in front of the other shrine maidens.
“It was simple, the seal was weak,” Suzume lied.
He tilted his head and barked a thundering laugh that shook the building down to its foundation. He took a few steps back and then with a puff of smoke transformed. When the smoke cleared, a young man stood in his place. A naked young man. His sleek black hair hung loose about his shoulders in an almost obscene way.
Suzume admired his lean physique and let her eyes trace his body downward. Before she could get too far, however, the high priestess forced Suzume’s head down so she could not admire the god’s other masculine assets. Suzume sighed; if this is how she was expected to act for the rest of her life, then she was not going to like living here at all.
The god approached her and loomed over her. “You are my newest servant?”
She bristled at the servant distinction and was preparing to correct his misconception when the high priestess chose that moment to interrupt.
“She is your newest tribute, my lord, your pure bride.”
He raked Suzume up and down and she met his gaze with an out-jutted chin and only took a quick peek at his manhood. Not bad, she thought. He laughed again.
“I don’t know how pure she is.”
Suzume glared at him. How dare he insinuate she was anything but chaste! She had been attempting to get a sneak peek at his godly assets but nothing more than that. It didn’t make her impure to be curious.
“My lord!” the priestess proclaimed. He turned to her and looked her up and down.
“You keep calling me that, but I am not your mountain god. I am a dragon, and before I was trapped inside that stone, I ruled this realm. And you”—he knelt before Suzume. Now she did avert her gaze; she did not need to be that familiar with his manhood—”shall help me exact my revenge.”
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Last week, I did a review for book one of the Succubus in a Red Dress. I hope you’ve downloaded a copy, because why not it’s free and it’s awesome! I’ll wait while you get your copy…
Anyway, I’m going to try and limit spoilers here because you definitely need to read The Succubus in a Red Dress before reading Succubus and the Crown. But I’ll keep this as vague as possible. We rejoin Delilah who do to (redacted) reasons has become the Succubus Queen of New York city. As usual our reluctant heroine is not pleased with her current circumstances especially when more succubus start trickling into the city and looking for her protection. While she’s trying to handle her new kingdom, her new boyfriend Ken and her are having some domestic issues, mostly involving his mother wanting her dead. As you can imagine hilarity ensues.
This was a wonderful follow up to the sassy tone of The Succubus in a Red dress and I devoured it over a weekend. It was one of those reads you could not put down. I enjoyed it immensely! We get a lot more action in this one which had me reminiscing about all the Buffy the Vampire I watched growing up. As before, I loved this book but especially Delilah. We need more strong females in fantasy, don’t you agree?
Coming up next, the Succubus in a Black Hat