What I’m Reading: The Alchemists of Kush

alchemists of kush minister faust originalAlchemists of Kush cover

 

Critically acclaimed author Minister Faust returns with his fourth novel, The Alchemists of Kush.  Set in both modern-day Edmonton and ancient Sudan, this speculative fiction novel follows the path of two boys who must harness ancient knowledge in order to combat a great evil.

Raphael “Rap” Deng Garang was just your average seventeen year-old war refugee hanging on the streets of Edmonton, Canada. Half-Sudanese and half-Somali, he had one foot in both worlds but truly belonged in neither, especially in the close-knit Somali community in which he lived with his mother. A joy ride in a stolen car with a good friend led Rap down a path of self-knowledge that transformed him into Supreme Raptor, the “conscious rap” sensation.

Hru was a child soldier in ancient Sudan, helping the other children of his village survive when raiders destroyed their village. Forced to rely on rudimentary fighting  skills, Hru and the other child soliders manage to eke out an existence in the forest until they arrived at the ocean, in which the Great Devourer of Souls resided. Hru becomes the sole survivor of an attack by the Devourer, which leads him on a quest to find his mother and claim a birthright he didn’t know he had—as Horus, the son of Osiris.

Faust does a riveting job in alternating between modern-day Canada and ancient Sudan by way of Kush; the book is divided into four parts, and each part has two divisions: The Book of Then (which takes place in ancient times) and the Book of Now (which takes place in modern-day Edmonton.  The title of each of the four parts is key to the occurrences in that particular part, and takes on a greater sense of importance as the story progresses. As readers follow Rap’s path from an errant teenage refugee  to a young community leader, they are treated to a parallel course in history in the guise of the Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris. Indeed, the final portion of the book is the text of the Book of the Golden Falcon, which is the seminal text from which Rap and his cohorts are taught to elevate and expand themselves. The Alchemists of Kush is heavy on allegory, and readers would do well to take this into account while delving into this novel.  Faust has managed to make history cool, and the Book of the Golden Falcon gives a lesson not commonly found in neither public nor private educational institutions in any country. The underlying message of the novel is one of self-improvement, self-sufficiency, and elevating others to their best selves; while this message is imprinted upon the teenagers in the novel, it can be applied by all ages. Even better, you can read all of the Books of Then or the Books of Now in order, for a different yet equally entertaining reading experience which puts an entirely different spin on the novel.  Fans of Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, and Charles Saunders would enjoy The Alchemists of Kush.

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On the Level (NaBloPoMo day 30)

Total blog post goal: 30

Today’s blog count: 31

Total blog posts: 31

A phone conversation and a random YouTube interview intersected at a common point today.

I was on the phone with one of my sorority sisters, who is also a writer, albeit a bit earlier along in her career than I. We were discussing a writing conference she’d recently attended, and she asked me if I ever thought about pursuing a traditional publishing contract. I replied been there, done that, and given the current state of traditional publishing, I’m cool with the DIY route (self-publishing).

Later on this evening, I watched a 2012 interview on YouTube of NBA player Anthony Davis (“The Brow”), the star of the New Orleans Pelicans. Since the interview was for/by the Wall Street Journal and was during Davis’s rookie year, the focus was on his finances: how to deal with having such a sudden and large influx of money, how Davis spends it (or not), what the NBA teaches them about financial management during its Rookie Transition Program, etc.

One of the things Davis was asked, concerned the perception of the people in his life about him, since he signed his NBA contract after being picked number one overall in the 2012 draft. He spoke wistfully of having to end some friendships after he went into the NBA, because these people just wanted money, notoriety, etc, from him–the opposite of what a friend should do or be. He also spoke of keeping trusted advisers around him, including a financial manager and business manager, to keep both his bank account and sanity on track.

I thought about his words as I re-examined my own life, since I self-published my first book back in July of this year. While most of the people in my life have been supportive, there are those who have not. I’ve always had a good sense of “friends” versus “acquaintances”, especially as I grew older. And, for anyone who is a member of any type of extracurricular group (social, community-based, professional, etc),  the distinction is further delineated among “friends/sisters/brothers” and “members of the same organization”. There is something to be said for keeping your personal circle very small. At least it becomes easier to determine if someone is stabbing you in the back.

I am even more cognizant of the phrase “Water seeks its own level.” I never really understood that until a few years ago. It means that as you progress and succeed, you’re automatically going to gravitate toward those who are moving in the same upwardly mobile direction as you, and attract the same. I am noticing this in small waves; in the past month alone, I have been in contact with people and organizations that are more in line with the vision I have for my writing as a business.I’m getting requests to connect on LinkedIn that are mind-boggling.. Yesterday’s blog post was retweeted by the very author about whom I wrote (to which I responded with a fangirl squeal). And, in a moment of synchronicity, this same author had a tweet on his page that said:

Likewise, I’m remembering an old adage my grandmother used to say: “You can’t fly like an eagle if you’re surrounded by turkeys.” In order to succeed, you have to surround yourself with like-minded people. That’s not to say you should ignore everyone who is not on the same path with you, but you have to understand that your path has to be walked by you; no one else can do it for you. And sometimes, that path must be walked alone, or in the company of those other than your originally planned companions.

2015 is going to be a busy year. I hope to see some of you on the journey.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

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Reading Rampage Nostalgia: Eric Jerome Dickey (NaBloPoMo day 29)

Total blog post goal: 30

Today’s blog count: 30

Total blog posts: 30

Finding an old book is like finding an old friend. And, like some friendships, it’s easy to take stock of where and who you were when the friendship started, and how things stand now.

I found copies of paperbacks from an author I used to read religiously, Eric Jerome Dickey, and went on a reading rampage. I started with Friends and Lovers, which was, according to him, the second book he wrote, but the first published. Then I followed with Cheaters. I’m debating on whether to read Sister, Sister (first book written, but not the first published–in fact, some of his characters from this book show up in Cheaters). All of this really got started a few weeks ago, when I re-read Thieves’ Paradise (which remains, hands down, my favorite of all his books–and I’ve read most of them).

sister-sister EJD cheaters EJD friends lovers EJD thieves paradise EJD

One of the things that struck me was that I was in a much different place when I first picked up these books over…wow, has it been at least fifteen years? In the aforementioned books (along with Milk in My CoffeeLiar’s Game and Between Lovers, which were all written during the same time frame), all of his characters are in their late twenties/early thirties. As a result, they were still finding out who they were, their place in the world, and still members of Team Bad Decisions. Fifteen or so years ago, these books resonated with me more because I was within those same demographics (even at the ripe old age of 41, I’m still Team Bad Decisions sometimes). Now, I read the books and enjoy the stories on a more superficial level. Likewise, in reading his later books, I can see where Mr. Dickey has grown as a writer; perhaps that’s why I love Thieves’ Paradise so much: that was when his writing seemed to make that next evolutionary step, which may have had something to do with him being able to finally write the novel he always wanted to write (he told me this after an author signing for Thieves’ Paradise, which was arranged by a mutual friend).

I still have copies of the other books somewhere in a box, and I may dig them out and read them someday, although Between Lovers is one of his most complex books, and was the book that was published right before Thieves’ Paradise (so I guess that’s where I caught glimpses of that evolutionary step). I’ll enjoy the books with a side of nostalgia, then put them back on the shelf when I’m done. I may pick them up again in a few years.

between-lovers-eric-jerome-dickey-paperback-cover-art

I don’t read many of his books now; he’s gone in a totally different direction, for the most part; his books are more in the vein of Thieves’ Paradise and Between Lovers: more gritty, more layered and nuanced adult relationships, and less wide-eyed, finding-oneself, time-to-be-a-grownup tropes. Still, I’m not as connected to them as I once was; I see less of myself in his current slate of books, and thus they have become just entertainment for me. I’m happy for him, that he’s writing what he wants to write, what he was meant to write–heck, that he’s still writing. He’s approximately my age, and his writing has reflected his personal evolution and growth, as well as his writing ones. But like an old friend, sometimes you just go in different directions and have to have a parting of the ways. You find new friends, but you keep the old ones on the shelf–and take them off once in a while, dust them off, and enjoy.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

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Letting it Flow (NaBloPoMo day 28)

Total blog post goal: 30

Today’s blog count: 29

Total blog posts: 29

 

Today was a no-writing day. I slept, ate Thanksgiving dinner leftovers, watched basketball, read, and thought about writing.

So much for rest. 🙂

Seriously: I had two story ideas and had to stop myself from reaching for my laptop and writing down the first few sentences/paragraphs/pages. That’s what happens when the writing mind is free of constraints (e.g., workshop/contest deadlines) and allowed to flow…stuff just comes to you. I also played with some various scenario twists for this year’s NaNo novel draft, but again; I’ll just jot them down and revisit them seriously next year sometime.

I will get back on my writing job on Monday, when I start revising the draft of the next Bastille novel that will be released in January. Until then, I will enjoy the weekend and catch up on reading and binge-watching my shows and movies.

But I’ll probably sneak some quick writing in. ‘Cause that’s what we writers do. Writing: it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure! (Shoutout to anyone who remembers that reference, which means you’re an American at least over 35 years of age LOL).

Thanks for stopping by.

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Thanksgiving Finish Line! (NaNoWriMo/NaBloPoMo day 27)

Total word count goal: 50,000

Total blog post goal: 30

Today’s word count: 2,656

Today’s blog count: 28

Total words written: 50,050 (and counting)

Total blog posts: 28

Happy Thanksgiving, to those of us in the United States who are celebrating a day of being grateful (and gorging on turkey with all the fixins). And happy day to those in other countries. 😀

 

I DID IT! I DID IT! For the second year in a row, I have “won” National Novel Writing Month with a word count of 50,000…and I’m still writing. Once I crossed the 50K mark, I went ahead and validated the novel. There was a 100-word discrepancy between my word count tool and NaNoWriMo’s, but hey…I’ll take it. 😀

This is one of the many things that I have to be thankful for. Especially since this was a book that I never saw coming.

I am also thankful for NaNoWriMo being OVER, as far as the word count goes. This book is going to be longer than others I’ve written, as the plot has taken unforeseen turns that require more plot extension. I probably won’t even revisit it until next year, because I have other writing projects that are more pressing. But it will be nice to work on the book when I feel like it, versus the pressures of the NaNoWriMo workshop/competition.

I still have to complete National Blog Posting Month, so I will probably post about random stuff which may or may not be book-related. You’ve been warned. 😀

Now that I’ve cooked Thanksgiving dinner and eaten my first round, it’s time to get some dessert and curl up with a book (and some wine). 😉 The final menu was: turkey, macaroni & cheese, potato salad, collard greens, green beans, corn, dressing (which is just stuffing that is eaten outside of the bird lol), sweet potato pie, apple pie, rolls. All made with these two hands (except for the rolls, which were store-bought). And a nice pinot noir for myself. 😉

WriMos, the finish line is close; you can cross it! There are still three more days left. Let’s get it!

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

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Rocking Pots (NaNoWriMo/NaBloPoMo day 26)

Total word count goal: 50,000

Total blog post goal: 30

Today’s word count: 1,103

Today’s blog count: 27

Total words written: 47,397

Total blog posts: 27

 

Not much to say today, except I added a bit to some existing scenes in the novel, and added the beginning of another twist. Most of my day was spent making the more time-consuming side dishes for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving meal: potato salad,  dressing (I don’t stuff my turkey; never have), macaroni and cheese, sweet potato pies (I’m in the South, and we do sweet potatoes), and apple pie. I also prepped some of the fresh vegetables for tomorrow, which will cook quickly while the turkey is roasting.

Despite all that, I managed to write just over 1,000 words today. And I have my alarm scheduled for 7:00 am to put the turkey in the oven.

I’s dawg tired, bawse.

Writers, keep on keeping on.

Thanks for stopping by.

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Are We There Yet? (NaNoWriMo/NaBloPoMo day 25)

Total word count goal: 50,000

Total blog post goal: 30

Today’s word count: 2,362

Today’s blog count: 26

Total words written: 46,294

Total blog posts: 26

 

You can always tell when it’s time for an activity to come to a close. For me, it’s when that activity starts becoming a chore.

I’ve been feeling that way for the past few days about NaNoWriMo. The checking of stats, pushing myself to make my allotted word count each day (even if–especially if–I have no idea what to write), etc. is getting tedious. And when something fun turns to tediousness, it’s time to leave the party.

I’m happy to be less than 3,000 words from the 50,000 mark. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it is bringing me a sense of relief. I’m ready for this to be over, for this year. Part of it is, as I’ve said in some previous posts, that I am writing when I am normally on a post-published-book, month-long mental vacation.  Part of it is that I’m running out of ideas on how to further expand the plot of my novel. Part of it is that I need to devote time to an upcoming book that is due in less than two short months. Part of it is that my time will be focused on preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Another part is that I don’t want to have to do ANYTHING on Thanksgiving but eat, read, relax, roll over…lather, rinse, repeat. 😀 Notice I didn’t mention writing.

Anyway, NaNoWriMo is an intense month, and as such I am ready to switch to a lower gear. 2,362 more words…

My fellow writers in the struggle–we’re almost there!

Thanks for stopping by.

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