Character Profile: Isafri

Source: Pexels.com

Source: Pexels.com

Age: Don’t you know you never ask a lady her age? Looks to be in her early 20’s.

Hometown: An exotic place far, far, far away but she’ll never tell you the name of it.

Likes: Dancing, good food, good wine, the finer things of life, but also climbing to high places

Isafri is an agent of the Eclipse, but while many of her counterparts are grim, rough men who would knife you as soon as look at you, she works on a far more subtle level. She specializes in infiltration, counter-intelligence, and espionage. Only when it is absolutely vital does she actually make a kill.

She normally poses as a shockingly beautiful woman, because they can get in anywhere for anything, but she is a master of disguise. Her beauty, or lack thereof, is a deliberate choice that she can easily control. If you can see her, she has decided to let you see her, how you perceive her, and whether or not you walk away from the encounter.

She wasn’t always a glamorous, powerful woman. Long ago, she was just another street urchin who posed as a boy, flitting from rooftops and hiding in alleys. Calling herself Tal to complete the disguise, she did odd jobs for merchants or outright stole just to survive.

Until Mwarthes found her and gave her a choice that wasn’t really a choice at all.

The Ultimate Compliment

I am not a football fan.

Not to say that I hate it. It just does nothing for me. And yet, during this year’s Super Bowl, I went to my father’s bar to watch the Big Game. I was told there would be hot wings.

There were no hot wings.

While I lamented the lack of hot wings, a very tall blond woman dashed up to me. Her face was full of an intense emotion that I couldn’t identify in the gloom of the bar.

I thought she wanted to kick my ass or at least make me step aside because I was in the way somehow.

“Are you the author?” she asked.

I told her, yes, I was the author. She must have heard of me because my dad, a lover of gritty crime novels, won’t shut up about me.

Instead of challenging me to a duel, she hugged me. She told me she had read my book and it was just what she needed during a really hard time in her life recently. She teared up. I teared up. There were more hugs.

After the game, all I could think of was that I need to finish the sequel. If there were any doubts in my mind about the series, or writing in general, they’re gone now.

That encounter meant a lot to me and got me fired up about writing again. I just want to take time out and ask you, if you enjoyed a book, to take time out to contact the author. Tell them how it made you feel. Maybe they’ll read it. Maybe they won’t. But there’s a chance you’ll make their day and light a fire in their heart.

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Character Profile: Memnon

memnon

Age: Unknown. Looks to be in his late 20s, early 30s

Hometown: Wherever he lays his head to sleep.

Likes: The satisfaction of a job well done, high places, fruit, good beer

Memnon is an assassin for the cult known as the Eclipse, but he couldn’t tell you for how long he’s been employed by them. He couldn’t tell you a whole lot of what he did before he joined, though he knows he was in the Khemeret army for a long time. He was a scout, sneaking into enemy territory to gather information and potential weaknesses.

As dangerous and lonely it was, he enjoyed that job until his troop was ambushed by an Alvari war party. Ambushed because he did not see them. Ambushed because he had not done his job.

He will not make the same mistake with his new master.

He was Mwarthes’ superior for a time, and he was quite certain that the absurdly tall man would either get himself killed or be punished for incompetence. But year after year, Mwarthes thrived in the secretive organization. He’s just too silly for Memnon, and he tries to keep his distance whenever possible.

Memnon is not a handsome man. With his heavy brow and long greasy hair, he does not attract the eyes of women. Years of work with the bow has given him a much larger left shoulder, while the right side of his back ripples with muscle. Though he was never tall to begin with, he has a hunchback look to him.

He doesn’t care how he looks. There is only his work.

Self-Deprecation

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The following conversation has happened more than once.

A person will say to me, “Oh my God, you wrote a book? That’s amazing!”

And then I will respond with something like, “Yeah, but it’s just self-published. It’s really no big deal.”

What in God’s name am I saying? No big deal? Independent authors don’t just master the discipline to sit down and write whole-ass books. We also take it upon ourselves to edit and revise our books as well as format our manuscripts into ebook and print forms. Some of us design our own covers or spend money hiring someone to do it. We put most of our hard-earned money back in the game to advertise our books, to get a chance to reach more eyeballs. Hours and hours are spent researching how to market ourselves and our books until every third word out of our mouths is ‘optimization’.

No big deal? Good God, being an independent author is a hardcore death crawl with only the love of writing fueling us through the fire and flames. It’s borderline psychotic. But I love it, much in the same way some people like running marathons.

I didn’t make this post to extol indie authors. I wanted to point out that I have a knee-jerk reaction to any sort of praise or admiration, and I have a feeling that many of you do. We insult ourselves before anyone else can, because it hurts less that way, and hearing praise short-circuits our brains.

I’ve heard so many people say some variant of “I don’t know how to take compliments” and then turn brutally rip into themselves for the sake of making other people laugh.

This sort of humor is nothing new. The best comedians have long presented us with their own shortcomings to make us laugh.

i am pagliacci

i am pagliacci

With the ubiquity of social media, it’s easier to spread this negative comedy. In fact, there’s a group on Facebook called ‘Self-Deprecating Memes’. Hell, I JOINED the group because it made me laugh and think “Oh, that is so me.”

This kind of humor is probably a backlash against the social media illusion, that everyone ELSE is living an amazing life. You’ve seen the pictures of your friends at gorgeous beaches, or their beautiful weddings, or their amazing wild parties with nary a hair out of place.

But self-deprecating humor? It not only showcases how so many people actually live but helps people know that they’re not the only ones who live like this. It’s comforting, I’m sure, but after a while it starts to creep into your own psyche. You start to internalize that meme.

trash

When I was a teenager, my mom told me my curls were so pretty. My reaction? “I’m sorry, they’re really awful.”

God bless her, my mom smacked me upside my head and said, “When someone compliments you, you say ‘thank you’,” like she was talking to a dumb little kid.

i had some rockin curly hair

i had some rockin curly hair

I stood there, utterly flummoxed. I hadn’t realized that by apologizing and putting myself down insulted the person giving the compliment. It was a revelation.

Did it stick? Nope.

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I don’t know how to fix this or why I do it in the first place, but I’m going to try and catch myself before I counter any more nice things said about me with a cheap shot at myself. I will thank the person and maybe, just maybe build myself up a little.

And if I catch you talking the same way, calling yourself trash, I’ll smack you on the head.

Rachael Has a Patreon Page

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Patreon isn’t exactly new, but I’ll lay it out and explain it anyway.

Patreon is a subscription-based service, allowing fans and supporters to pledge a monthly amount of money. Artists, writers, designers, community leaders, and all sorts of creative and inspiring folks have set up their own pages, asking for donations. Not demanding. Not begging. Just asking for a little donation in return for some goodies.

Maybe it’s a sketch made available only to patrons of a certain comic artist. Maybe it’s a sneak peek at an early, unedited chapter of an upcoming book. Maybe your name could be featured in the end credits of a Youtube video. Patreon is a cool way for fans to directly support and interact with the creators they follow.

So, of course, I was slow to hop aboard until I saw one of my favorite authors had her own Patreon page. N.K. Jemisin is the incredible author of the Broken Earth trilogy, as well as the newly-released short story collection When is Black Future Month? Her speculative fiction is both powerful and touching.

I’m totally a fan, okay? Anyway, I figure if she can do it, so can I.

For $1 a month, you’ll receive a thank-you note and a monthly picture of my animals. They are very soft and good. This claim is backed by Science©. You won’t be disappointed.

For $2 a month, you’ll get everything with the first tier along with a Book of the Month recommendation and access to a Patron-only discussion about them on Discord. We might end up talking about video games though.

For $5 a month, you’ll receive everything listed above and also get monthly sneak peeks at unedited chapters or short stories. You’re not allowed to laugh, kthx.

And for $10 a month, you’ll get everything listed above, and I’ll send you a signed copy of the books that are published while you are a Patron.

When I receive $100 a month, I’ll start work on the Vessels audiobook. Finally, the world can know the official pronunciation of ‘khemu’. Or ‘Ios’. Or ‘Mwarthes’. Dang, I got a lot of funny words in my book.

Ahem.

Your pledge would not only help me create great content but also enable me to deliver it in a new form.

Thanks again!

Character Profile: Mwarthes

Illustration by:  Quinton Thomas

Illustration by: Quinton Thomas

Age: Unknown (Somewhere between 28 and 35? Don’t worry about it. Age is just a number.)
Hometown: Nowhere special
Likes: Hawks, snakes, having a good time

Mwarthes (pronounced M’war-thez, shut up, he knows it’s not a good name) is an assassin for the cult known as the Eclipse. If its agents do good enough work, they receive gifts like regeneration and access to the Silence, a method of communicating wordlessly with the Master over great distances.

Also the Eclipse serves the legendary pharaoh Nephtet-Ka and is preparing for his return to the living world.

Or something. He didn’t pay much attention during orientation.

Mwarthes gets to see exotic locations and meet new, interesting people, frequently for very short amounts of time. He doesn’t die as easily as others, and he gets to enjoy a kind of limited immunity to most ailments.

Sometimes he is called back to the Master and undergoes certain rituals. He wakes up changed, but usually it’s for the better.

Though when he wakes up again, he’s unsure what day it is. Or week. Or…

His latest job? Something unusual, a little out of his wheelhouse. He’s usually told to go to a place to kill a certain person. Instead, he has to guide Ashira all the way across the country to fulfill some prophecy. Even though he’s ordered to escort her such a long way, he doesn’t mind. He’s good at traveling, and his charge is a sheltered, spoiled, and prideful girl.

He’s going to have so much fun.

New Year, New Cover

Hey everybody. I had a big decision to make during the New Year’s celebration. I finally decided to change the cover of Vessels.

Not only that, but I combined Vessels and What the River Brought. It wasn’t an easy choice to make but I finally determined that they were best when put together.

Those of you who purchased either book now have rare first-edition copies and I hope you aren’t too aggravated with me. As proud of the original cover as I was, having made it myself, it just wasn’t good enough. Granted, I made the new one too but I had a professional’s help in the overall design.

And I’m very happy with it.

vessels book cover

The fact of the matter is that it’s not easy being an independent author. You really have to figure out what to do and how to do it. I’ve stumbled over every obstacle you could imagine.

But I think I’m finally getting on my way and it’s thanks to you, the readers.

I’ve got a lot planned for this year. Surprises and giveaways and promotions and new books.

My New Year’s Resolution?

To step up my author game.

Thanks for sticking with me.