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Sand and Ash 10 and Tsubàyo

I always start novels with an outline. The problem is, I don’t like restrictions and go with the flow of the story. For these books, it ended up being 10-20k words short, but there were still unexpected things that popped up despite my best efforts.

The tenth chapter was one of them. Tsubàyo wasn’t suppose to be in the story. He was suppose to fail killing Rutejìmo in the previous book and then wander off to have adventures of his own (in a novel that may end up being called Horse Thief). But, I’m pretty flexible when something sounds right and went with it.

Tsubàyo is an interesting character. In the first book, as one reviewer said, he was set up to be a rather stereotypical character. That was intentional, mainly because I do write from a character’s point of view. Rutejìmo’s view of Tsubàyo was stereotypical and rather two-dimensional, much like his initial views of Chimípu and Pidòhu. It wasn’t until he got to know the two that they gained depth.

I think that people are the same way. At first, they are nothing but stereotypes and first impressions. But as you interact with them, they start to get depth and characters, quirks that make them a richer person.

In the years of thinking about Sand and Ash, Sand and Bone, and Horse Thief, Tsubàyo had become a much richer person. The events after Blood sent Tsubàyo down a much different path from Rutejìmo. Not any less painful or a struggle, but different. And both have a great deal of tragedy in them; a theme that seems to carry through most of the desert stories.
We used to joke that I could make an instant decision if something cost a couple grand but would take hours trying to decided between the “regular” and “professional” version of a reciprocating saw. It just wasn’t the saw, it was all of the little purchases take forever but the big ones are either “yay” or “nay” in a matter of minutes.

I’m still in the middle of difficulties at work, but I got chapter nine of my fantasy novel, Sand and Ash, posted online this evening.

There is a lot of me in everything I write. This happens to be one of them. Rutejìmo can’t make a choice because he doesn’t know what he wants.

He has Chimípu who is as close as a female friend as he will ever have, but she is unobtainable. Like most warriors in this part of the world, Chimpu is sterile and spends her time among all the men of the clan but only where it doesn’t interrupt with the existing relationships, which means mostly bachelors and couples looking for a threesome. In effect, the warriors are “married” to the clan as a whole and can’t single out one member for their love. On the other hand, they are human which is why they help introduce the new adults to the world of relationships and sexuality. There won’t be details here, but some references here and there.

There is also Mikáryo, the woman he has had a crush on for a decade. He hasn’t seen her since the previous book, he doesn’t know if she remembers him, or even if she is alive. But the events that happened in Sand and Blood still drive him. He loves her, but he also loves the idea of her.

And finally, this is the first point where Rutejìmo realizes that Mapábyo might be something more. Since I write in third-person limited, he glosses over it because he doesn’t understand it.

The last bit is important. Cultural abuse is a nasty little thing that you don’t realize is happening. Rutejìmo has been an outsider to the clan for years and they have gotten into a “rut” of treating him as such. I see him coming to the slow realization that he doesn’t deserve love because of his differences or that he isn’t worthy of it. He’s given up over the years and expects to be a bachelor for the rest of his life.

Mapábyo doesn’t treat Rutejìmo like the others. She doesn’t dismiss him, which makes her scary and terrifying for him. The only other woman who does that, Chimípu, can never dedicate her life to him, so he’s struggling with the idea that he can be something with Mapábyo. But, years of being told that it will never happen is pretty powerful.

The important part is that not everyone realizes that is what happening. People doesn’t go into a marriage saying “he’s abusive and destructive, but I’m okay with that.” Most of the time, it is a slow progression that slowly consumes you until the point you finally stop and go “this is horrible, how did it happen?”

At the same time, I don’t think abusers wake up and go “I’m going to crush the heart of someone today. That’s awesome.” Some of them don’t realize what they are doing since they get into that rut and just do what they always did, not thinking about it anymore.

Rutejìmo doesn’t know that Desòchu is doing what is he is doing. Desòchu doesn’t realize it either (though the story Raging Alone has more insight into that). The same with events in the next book. Since Rutejìmo isn’t conscious of this, he doesn’t think about it which means the book doesn’t talk about it.

You may notice that Mapábyo and Mikáryo have similar names. That was only partially intentional, mainly because these two women are going to be a source of Rutejìmo’s confusion and struggles for a few chapters. The other reason is that when I first introduced Mapábyo, she was suppose to be an adorable little girl and a background player, not something significant. In hindsight, probably won’t do that again, but there are no chapters in this or the next book where they both show up together. These two women, in effect, represents two very different parts of Rutejìmo’s life.

Sand and Ash 08 and working too hard

Just as last week was a little ahead of time, this week is behind. Go figure. Well, it is still Wednesday and time for chapter seven of my fantasy novel, Sand and Ash

One and a half books and we finally get to something other than the sand. Before this, the stories have been really insular and isolated. From here on, there are still moments of being alone in the desert, but the scope of the desert increased rather dramatically to include other clans of the desert.

I like Gichyòbi. He is a noble warrior but also a human being. I have 1-2 novels worth of ideas for him, but it depends on what my readers would like to see. Plus, the interaction with his wife is pretty interesting. Of course, having a character who can’t really stray a few chains from a single city makes for interesting stories. Plus, the Wamifūko rites of passage are brutal (stick them in an airless hole in the ground where they either suffocate to death or escape).

Remarkably, the one thing I didn’t have planned out in my head is actually when Gichyòbi rescued Rutejìmo (the one they talked about in the chapter). I’m sure I can write it, but it didn’t seem as interesting as what happens between these two guys later.

When I wrote this, though, I didn’t realize how import Gichyòbi would become in Rutejìmo’s life. He shows up in this book and the next, not really being the center of a plot but being important. And since I have a story planned out for him, it really leans toward my R5-D4 plots.


One reason this chapter was late was a major project at work. While I don’t normally talk about work, I’m hopefully near the end of a multi-month project where I drastically underestimated the time it would take to complete and therefore worked 12-15 hour days to try making it right. It is due next week, so I’m having trouble doing anything else besides focus.

And I have an amazing wife. Seriously, I couldn’t be sane without her.

Sand and Ash 07 and falling in love badly

Just a little ahead of time, chapter seven of my fantasy novel, Sand and Ash is now available.

This chapter talks about one of the major themes of the novel: falling in love badly. So many books have the protagonist seeing the love interest across the room and falling in love. Or has a set up that requires the hero to rescue their “one true love” from some dire fate.

This isn’t one of those books.

I didn’t want to write about it, I wanted to write about my own life when I didn’t realize that SMWM (my wife now) was even remotely interested in me. Actually, it wasn’t until months later, a disastrous Sears visit, and a fantastic Red Lobster dinner, that I actually figured it out. She pretty much had to hit me over the head with a 2x4 before I got it.

Much like Rutejìmo, I was in a dark place crawling out of a hole when I first met SMWM. I wish I could say it was love across the room, but I don’t actually remember meeting her. One day, she was in my life and I went “well, damn, when did that happen?”

I didn’t think I’d ever find love, so I simply gave up hoping that it was going to happen and decided to live my life. Despite me being “being myself,” which is occasionally a cross between depression, being an asshole, and being obsessive compulsive, she not only fell for me (so she claims) but actually decided to hang around for almost two decades.

When I decided to write a sequel to Sand and Blood, I figured this was the perfect theme: falling in love badly. I didn’t want him to be a hero, I didn’t want him saving anyone, I wanted him to find someone who was willing to go after him and keep telling him “I love you” until he figured it out.

Sand and Ash 06, Faríhyo, and Kiríshi

And the sixth chapter of Sand and Ash is now available.

Chapter 6: The Next Job

When I wrote Sand and Blood, I’ll admit that I really didn’t like that I couldn’t give more of the clan more “screen time.” It was a relatively short novel (only 70k words) but the story was as long as I thought it needed to be. Yeah, I couldn’t have added more building of the world, but I was afraid of overwhelming the reader with a score of other individuals before they disappeared for twenty-something chapters and just popped up for the last two.

This novel had more opportunities for me to handle that regret. The two women, Faríhyo and Kiríshi, both have a rather significant role in this novel. They aren’t the main characters, but they are important as the story goes.

An interesting aspect of this story is that my wife was pregnant when I started writing this. Having a child in a story ended up mirroring a lot of the experiences during this time, even when things took a turn for the worse.

Sand and Ash 05 and Being Subtly

And the fifth chapter of Sand and Ash is now available.

Chapter 5: Leaving the Cave

This chapter is where I realized something about the culture I was creating. It happened about the same time as I read an article about the differences of wait staff at hotels in Japan verses the United States. One of the biggest thing is when a tourist decides to go some place the concierge doesn’t think is the best idea in the world.

In the United States, you’d probably hear “that isn’t a good idea, sir, I heard there are problems there.”

In Japan, from my understanding, it would be closer to “that is a very long drive, wouldn’t it be better to consider something closer?” I don’t exactly remember the article, but it was the non-forward nature of that culture that appealed to me.

While I was writing this chapter, I realized that the clan is subtle. They don’t tell you that you are wearing necklace when no one else does, or that your ten-year crush on a clan of the night is unwelcomed, they try to subtly guide you to realize that.

It was interesting though. When I look back at Sand and Blood, I see that very thing in the first few chapters. I didn’t intend it, but when Gemènyo talks to Rutejìmo, he doesn’t come out and say “you are about to go on a brutal journey to test your character, and if you fail, we’re going to kill you.” Instead, he tries to guide Rutejìmo into trying hard, not picking a fight, and accept that he’s never going to be a warrior. There are others who do the same thing, such as when Desòchu tells Rutejìmo not to get revenge.

A lot of that ties into something Pidòhu said in Sand and Blood: being aware of something makes it harder to experience it. You can’t really tell someone about some significant event in their live, such as the feeling when you first hold a book you published or watching your child be born (even if I’m never allowed to speak at a birthing again). But, when you are describing it to someone who has seen it, they can just nod and go “yeah, I know what you mean.”

In many ways, magic is subtle but also refined. The culture is brutal for many reasons, but they know how to produce powerful magic. This is in contrast to my forensic mage series where the magic is weak but very controlled.

Speaking of being subtle, Chimípu’s actions in this chapter are in contrast with that ideal. She flat out says, “get out of your cave,” but a lot has happened between these two books that lets her say that. She’s become the elder sibling that Rutejìmo didn’t have; more importantly, she understands that Rutejìmo struggles with the subtlety of his own culture.

A lot of this book is modeled after my own struggles, including getting those little clues about someone’s mood or attitude. I’m sure this idea of being subtle will come up a few times in the coming weeks.

Sand and Ash 04 and Being Different

It is time for the fourth chapter of Sand and Ash.

Chapter 4: Corrupting Influences

Back in high school, there was no question that I was an outsider. I didn’t really associate with anyone except for a few teachers (and in senior year, a few friends). I don’t really “make” friends very well, either because I was too quirky or that I just didn’t have the right skills.

And I was mocked for that. I want an outsider and most of the other students in the school made a point of telling me that. I found it easier to walk alone to school and eat in the lunch even when the hall monitors didn’t approve (I spent the last year sneaking my lunch in a bag to avoid them).

That said, I had a lot of people sign my yearbook. I wouldn’t say everyone was a friend, but they at least were friendly toward me.

This struggle shows up in this chapter. Rutejìmo is an adult in this book, a proper clan elder, but he isn’t welcomed as one. He has his own struggles, ones that he hadn’t worked his way over in the ten years since the previous book. He’s also… a bit clueless on certain aspects of his life. It isn’t clear if the clan’s treatment or his own lack of skills resulted in his situation; I like to think it is a combination of both where one fed off the other.

Why write this? Because I struggled for a long time on similar issues. Also, someone is capable of having something hanging over their head (such as Rutejìmo crush for a woman he hadn’t seen for a decade) and still be competent. They can be an outsider but capable, accepted but still unliked.

I’m also oblivious to much of the same things as Rutejìmo, at the novel will gladly explore.
My current writing project is Second-Hand Dresses, a Regency romance inspired piece. I say inspired because it follows many of the more modern historical romances in terms of sexuality (e.g., there is sex, but the foreplay on page can get naughty). It is also based on my fantasy world, Fedran, but in a far different part than my previous two novels, Sand and Blood and Sand and Ash.

Writing Second-Hand Dresses challenges a much different part of my writing. There is very little violence, the magic is subtle, and the culture is far more ritualized than any of the Sand books or even Flight of the Scions.


In the country of Tarsanw, I wanted to create a more Victorian culture. A place where magic has been refined into almost uselessness but mechanical devices are still new and remarkable. This is also a world that fits more with what I think about when I read Gail Carriger’s novels.

I’ve written a little about Tarsanp before but this one is about the family names. Inspired by Spanish names, a Tarsan native includes both their mothers and father’s name as part of their formal name. Unlike the clans of Kyōti, given names aren’t last in the name but first.

This also makes the name more in line with what we expect from American or British names. It also was written in contrast to the desert culture, which is distinctively Japanese-inspired.

The basic name is:

GivenName PrimaryFamilyParent PrimaryFamily SecondaryFamilyParent SecondaryFamily.

This might sound confusing, but let’s give the basic example, one of the antagonists of Second-Hand Dresses.

Marigold de Kasin na Maifir

One of the important parts is that Tarsan names start and end with consonants. This does differ from English names, but fits with the Lojban roots of the language. When a name is a translation to an English word, I usually use it which is the only case when a name ends in a vowel (Lily, the protagonist).

Marigold: This is the given name. In informal company, this is used when speaking among friends. Unlike the desert names, nicknames are typically the first to the second consonant of someone’s name (“Mar” in this case). Women’s names frequently include flowers, crystals, plants, and rivers.

de Kasin: Tarsan has the idea of a “primary” family. This is the family that officiated over the marriage (marriage is very important to these guys). The “de” means “husband’s family”. So, this means that her husband was a Kasin and that family is the one that married her (or brought her into the family).

na Maifir: The “na” means “wife’s family” which tells everyone that she was originally a member of the Maifir family. This is the secondary family because she married out of that family and into the Kasin.

For those who married into the same family, they use “dea”, such as dea Kasin which means both sides were in the same family. This is also used when there is no marriage, since there is only one family involved.


The other part of the name is the marriageability of an individual. As you might guess, a marriage is considered the cornerstone of society. Not being married means someone is a non-entity. They are nothing and this reflects in the name and language.

This originally was formed like the names, with a particle to indicate one part and a gender-specific element. For example, “be” means bachelor or bachelorette (i.e., debutante) with “sire” meaning a male and “dame” being female.

I figured over the years, and given the frequency, this got combined into one word. So, a bedame is a young woman ready to be married and a besire is a young man also ready for marriage. This is a patriarch, so the besire has become “unmarried man” more than “young”. I don’t exactly agree with the idea, but it fits the culture and the larger picture.

There are other prefixes: mo- means child or youngester, ta- indicates a married couple,and ku- for widows, spinsters, and widowers. Second-Hand Dresses focuses on Lily becoming a kudame in this society.

There are some areas of the country that dropped the prefixes entirely (think using “Ms” instead of “Miss” or “Mrs”). In that case, it is just dame or sire as appropriate.

Formal Names

Putting everything together, we can get back to Marigold.

Tadame Marigold de Kasin na Maifir

(I decided to italicize the prefix, but not the “de” or “na” because there are English names that use those types of prefixes already).

For children (modames and mosires), they use “dea” with their parent’s family. For example, Nirih is Marigold’s daughter and Lily is an unmarried woman, both with parents in the Kasin family.

Modame Nirih dea Kasin

Bedame Lily dea Kasin (she becomes a kudame in the novel)

Like the desert culture, the longer the name, the more respectful. So, when someone is being very polite, they would call Marigold “Tadame Marigold de Kasin na Maifir”. When someone is just being “slightly” polite, they may reduce it down to “Tadame Marigold de Kasin” or even “Marigold de Kasin”. Finally, informal would use “Marigold” or “Mar” with “Mar” only being used behind closed doors and among good friends.

Other Classes

Outside of High Society, a lot of the rules break down. The middle class doesn’t care as much about families as the upper classes do. Not to mention, almost every person in a given town is the same family as the town, so they skip the primary name. This means in a middle class conversation, Lily would still be “Lily dea Kasin” but Marigold would be “Marigold na Maifir” (which would offend her, of course).

Likewise, where the culture is dropping the be- and ta- prefixes, the family particles are being dropped. So, in the informal countryside, it is simply “Marigold Kasin”. And that leads into the naming conventions of the surrounding countries.

Other Names

The whole idea of families being the central part of the society continues even for cities and locations. Families, not individuals, own everything from the stores, carriages, and even the forests.

tca: Cities, towns, and thorpes. For example, “Soldir tca Kasin” is the city of Soldir which is claimed by the Kasin family.

zda: Homes, buildings, and stores. Lily’s mother’s manor is called the “Rosewood zda Kasin,” Lily’s store is “Lily’s Blossoms zda Kasin.”


The Tarsan culture is very different from the one I grew up in. Philosophically, I don’t agree with it. It objectifies women and treats young girls as basically a barter system to make deals between families. In high society, women are allowed to have jobs and run households, but don’t have military careers or more technical jobs.

Why would I create a society like this? Well, there are two reasons.

The first is that I want a canvas to write stories against. If every society was egalitarian, there isn’t much opportunity for having people stand out. I can’t have someone bucking the trend to save the world or engineers trying to get around their own limitations when there is no reason. I can’t have people trying to establish new traditions nor use the old ones as a point of tension. Also, I want to contrast this culture and society against others ones. And the best way to do that is to create a flawed one.

The other reason is romance. I loved reading Regency romances when I was younger. There is something exotic about it that was fun and I want to explore it. I love the idea of sinking into a society that doesn’t agree with my world view simply because it doesn’t agree with my world view.
It is time for the third chapter of Sand and Ash.

Chapter 3: Nightmares

Looking back at this, this is the chapter that ties back into Sand and Blood. It is brushing against info dump territory, but I think it’s okay.

The biggest indicator is that this isn’t a young adult story. People are going to die in this book and at least a few of them are going to get laid. The problem is that many people seem to think that Sand and Blood is a young adult simply because they were teenagers in that novel, but it was just a starting point for this story (which is ten years later).

We also get a chance to see Chimípu, who I adore. She is also the “Chosen One” that I wanted Rutejìmo to stand next to; I don’t like writing stories about the person with all the powers, I want the person struggling to do even a little. That said, she’s pretty awesome.

The entire sterility aspect of warriors came out while I was writing this chapter. It tied back into some evolutionary theories. In specific, the desert warriors gain considerable power and talents to protect the clan, not a specific person. Warriors don’t get married (at least in this part of the desert) and they don’t focus on one or even a few people.

Most importantly, this chapter is the point where the reader finds out Rutejìmo’s opinion toward violence. Someone once mentioned that the penultimate chapter of Sand and Blood was uncomfortable and brutal, but the events in this chapter are the direct response to that chapter. It was suppose to be painful to read, mainly because it was painful for Rutejìmo to experience.

I hope you enjoy. And remember, if you enjoy it, please consider throwing a dollar or so through Patreon.

Sand and Ash 02: Decisions Made

It is time for the second chapter of Sand and Ash.

Chapter 2: Decisions Made

This chapter has a lot of things, including the introduction of Desòchu, Rutejìmo’s brother. In Sand and Blood, it was a while before I introduced characters mainly because of the accented names, but I made the assumption that a reader may be more comfortable with them now so they are showing up in the novel rapidly.

There are new characters too. Probably the biggest is the introduction of significant women in the clan, Kiríshi and Faríhyo. These are the wives of Rutejìmo’s friends but they didn’t have any role in Sand and Blood. This was actually one of the things I regretted when I wrote the first book. I wanted to keep Sand and Blood focused on Rutejìmo’s revelations and growth. And his relationship with Desòchu, Hyonèku, and Gemènyo framed the beginning and the ending of that story. I also wanted to get them out of the valley as fast as possible without overwhelming the readers with the accented names.

Four Pillars

The card game they created was one of the fun parts of world-building. It is a deck of five cards with a mixture of gin and a few other games. I actually wrote up the rules, but I haven’t play-tested or polished them. I’m planning on writing up the rules as part of Journals of Fedran #2 which is focused on games.

Website Development

You may notice if you go to the chapter on the main site, I’ve done some cleanup and expansion on the page. There are download links for the EPUB, MOBI, and PDF versions of the story. Also, every chapter has a metadata block which lists the locations, characters, and some other information about the chapter. These are linked to the world site which has spoilers for this and the previous book.

Patreon, Wattpad, and Penflip

As before, the serial format is supported by Patreon. If you like my work and want to help, please consider subscribing. If you give $4, you can read the entire novel (which is in a protected file on the site).

You can also read this serial on Wattpad and Penflip, but neither has the nifty linking to the world page.