Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Aswang Wars: Malaya

For those of you who have been looking into the Aswang Wars, here's a post for you. Today I'm featuring a central character from the first novel in the paranormal trilogy set in the Philippines, Manduruko

The mystery girl in the sketch featured to the right (in what was a promo for the Aswang Wars before the first book came out) is Malaya, a girl from Mindanao who is much more than her innocent appearance would have you believe. 

In a way, innocent young Malaya is the title character of this first installment of the Aswang Wars trilogy. She's one of the very last of the original great Manduruko, a type of vampiric shapeshifter that takes the form of a truly monstrous beast. They look like bats, only bigger, scarier, and a whole lot meaner. Malaya is one of the only ones left who retains the form of the prehistoric monster; the rest of her clan are more akin to a small type of bat called the Philippine (or lesser) bamboo bat, the very small creature pictured above. 

Malaya is a very secretive character with very little to say about her past. Like every aswang, her human body does not age, and she's trapped with the appearance of a lovely young girl in her early-mid twenties with beautiful straight black hair, great big eyes, and soft, pouting lips. You wouldn't want her kiss, though: behind those lips are a set of teeth meant to kill. 

Malaya often uses her rather girlish human appearance to her advantage, catching an opponent—or, in some cases, her prey—off guard. Her transformation is a truly frightening one, taking a sweet girl to a deadly monster. Her use of this is seen very early into Manduruko, the little excerpt seen below. Check it out!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Who are you?” one of the men asked, stepping slightly toward her. She looked at him with delicate eyes, but she stood her ground without a hint of fear.
“Me? I’m a housemaid.” She looked over her shoulder, nodding in the direction of an old apartment building. “I work for a family down the street.”
“Is that so,” he said, hardly asking. “Don’t mind us. Go home.”
“Sir...” she said, looking halfway at Jei. “Are you going to hurt him?”
“Of course not,” the man holding Jei said, putting his fist down, but speaking with the sting of frustration on his voice. His forearm pressed Jei slightly harder against the wall. “Don’t worry. Go home.”
“Oh...” she said, looking down. She gazed at the ground, thinking, and then looked up and faked a smile. “Okay, sir. Goodnight.”
“Good night,” they all answered. Jei stayed silent.
He watched the girl walk away, and suddenly he was lost to a loneliness grimmer than death.
“Now...” the man holding Jei said, pulling back his fist again with hardening eyes. “Where were we?”
His fist shot out, a dark shadow fell over the moon, and in the blink of an eye the night was black. Jei braced himself in the darkness for a bone-crushing blow, but in the night, all was still.
Jei heard the faint heartbeats of those around him, and nothing else.
Without warning, the shadow that had covered the moon fell down from above. The glow of the moon returned as the object swooped down into the alley among Jei and the four men.
Jei’s eyes widened as the moonlight illuminated the body of a creature he had never seen before, and the voice in the back of his mind stirred like a boiling pot.
Behind the man holding Jei to the wall stood a beast the size of a truck, with glowing red eyes and fangs like sabers. With a body armored in thick, coarse brown fur, the titan crashed down from above, screeching as moonlight danced off the shining black claws tipping each bony, leathery wing. Jei straightened up as one of the claws pierced a man straight through the stomach, and the creature landed in the alley with a sound between a hiss and a scream. The bat shook the skewered body off of its wing, blood splattering the walls and falling to the dirty blacktop.
Jumping into action, the three men abandoned Jei and focused their attention on the giant bat.
“Manduruko!” one man hissed to the others, and the three gave each other one final look before jumping at the beast.
Jei watched in a mix of shock and awe as all three men threw themselves toward the creature they called manduruko, their eyes blazing with a crazed fury. Nimble as cats, they clamped onto the monster’s shoulders with claw-tipped fingers, mouths running agape with hisses and roars. It was like seeing men turned to monsters, their flushing and contorted faces now baring thick and profound canines as they swarmed over the bat.
A hideous scream erupted from the beast as one man sank doggish fangs deep into its neck, and the monster threw out one wing in retaliation to knock the nimble body away from it. The other wing snapped out and caught him mid-fall, throwing him against the wall next to Jei with force enough to kill. He hit the hard brick with a huff, and Jei heard something crack as his body went limp. As soon as the man hit the ground, the beast was on top of him with fangs bared, and blood fell from his body as the creature ripped the skin away from his throat. The man went still and silent, and the creature whipped around to sink its fangs into another who tore away at its shoulder.
One man—the smallest of the group whom Jei suddenly remembered from the fight club earlier that night—lost his grip on the bat through the coarse fur armor, and fell to the ground from its body with a hiss of pain. Jei saw the bat react, rearing up to set one giant foot on the man’s chest, ignoring his friend slashing through fur at the back of its neck. It screeched and pushed its foot harder on his chest until its raptor-like claws pierced his skin and Jei heard bones crack in his chest. The man’s eyes widened for a static moment, and then he fell limp beneath the creature’s grasp.
Jei watched in paralytic silence as the giant bat thrashed around the alley with the last survivor still clinging to its neck, and without hope of winning, the man leaped from the animal’s back toward the entrance of the alley. In mid-leap, his body shuddered as if possessed, and without a sound, contracted into the form of a large fox-like creature with thick black fur and a long, flowing tail.
The bat lunged after it, snapping at its heels as it fled, but all too quickly the smaller beast landed soundlessly on the ground, rounded the corner of the alley, and disappeared into the shadows beyond.
There was a low grumble—like the sound of an old engine—rising from the great bat’s throat, and then everything faded to silence.
The bat froze in its place, and the glowing red eyes of the animal focused in on Jei, its lips pulling away to reveal a set of jagged off-white teeth like a collection of knives. It made no sound, and Jei only watched as a long, narrow, and fully prehensile tongue rolled past those dripping teeth and out of the creature’s mouth, a sharp and hardened point at the end threatening to stab clear through his body.
Jei’s eyes narrowed. This didn’t make sense, and he didn’t like it.
The bat drew closer until it was only centimeters away from Jei’s face, and in one motion drew the blade of a tongue back and turned away to spread its wings, disappearing into the night sky without another sound.
Jei stood there for a moment, frozen in the shock of the memory of what had happened. His face and hands were stained with blood, and his heart beat faster than it ever had before.
He looked at the blood splattered across his body and wiped it from his skin with rough fingertips, raising it to his mouth. Cringing on contact, he spat it to the ground, leaving its bad taste stinging behind his lips.
This blood wasn’t normal. It had a bad taste, a bad smell. This blood was not normal, and it definitely was not human.
Jei looked sideways at the three bodies lying bloodied and mangled in the dim light of the moon, staining the alleyway with red water.
He sneered.
Jei pushed himself off the wall and started toward the entrance of the alley from where he came. As Jei stepped out of the alley and into the main street, he saw a girl standing against the wall of the old building. He turned to her curiously, narrowing his eyes in suspicion. Had she been there all along?
And then he recognized her face.
It was the same girl. It was the girl who had looked so familiar, the one who had shown concern for him before. The girl with the familiar voice and the pretty face, the one who was unafraid to walk alone at night in this violent and dangerous place. Had she never left at all?
She was different now, different from how she was before. He looked at her hands, her face, her legs, all stained with drying blood. And her clothes, still neat and tidy, were clean and untouched, as if nothing had ever happened. She looked at him, her pretty black hair slightly matted with the blood staining her arms, her legs, her face.
He looked at her blankly, and she grinned in an unsettling way. She pulled her hair up and away from her shoulders as if to tie it back, and then she turned wordlessly, showing him the fresh, jagged red marks scored across the back of her neck. She looked over her shoulder at him, her unnerving eyes boring into his with the intensity of burning coal.
Manduruko.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Read the first ten chapters of Manduruko on wattpad or download the full ebook at the MuseItUp bookstore!

The Elf Empire, Part 3 (Names)

In the Elf Empire, respect is one of the most important things a person can have. There is a strict ranking, a hierarchy that ties everything tightly together. The names given in the Elf Empire are one of the strongest ways of distinguishing status and showing respect. For the following, I will refer to a young Elf named Hona Kipuno, a fully-realized Elven Knight.

Firstly, Elven names are earned, not granted. At birth, an Elf infant is given a name suiting to them. For instance, Hona was given the name Kipuno, meaning "tree," at birth. He was given the name by the Emperor when he was taken to the palace to live because it was told by the soldiers that he would coo at the trees whenever one passed in the village. This first given name is the default, and will be used for many years to show that the bearer of he name is not yet fully-realized.

After a long period of training, the Elf will earn the second part of his name. In Hona Kipuno's case, he was given the name "Hona," meaning "flower," for his gentle nature. His name became Hona Kipuno, or "Flower Tree."

When an Elf has earned his second name, it is disrespectful for anyone "beneath" him in status to call him by his birth name. The second name is a sign of achievement, so even those "above" him in the hierarchy are inclined to call him by his earned name to acknowledge his achievements. His close friends, however, may call him by his personal, informal name. For instance, Hona Kipuno is called "Hona," his formal name, by almost everyone in the Elf Empire to acknowledge his Knight status. Close friends like Shengset Sokora, however, call him "Kipuno," because they have been friends since childhood.

When introducing themselves to someone they haven't met before, an Elf will always introduce his full name, even if they have not yet earned their second name. The name alone will tell something about the Elf, as well as the individual's social status.

In addition to given and earned names, the Elf Empire also has a plethora of suffixes used to indicate status as well as the relationship between two people. Suffixes in the Elf Empire are about equal to calling someone "Mrs." or "Mr." It's extremely rare for an Elf to address another Elf without using a suffix. Foreigners and outsiders, however, will not have a suffix added to their name.

The suffixes listed below are to indicate exact status. They are used in formal situations and when meeting a new person.

-ran is used to indicate status as a turalan, or Rider apprentice/pupil
-sen is used to indicate status as a sensa, or a realized Rider/warrior
-nori is used to indicate status as a funori, or nobleman/knight
-ari is exclusively used to address the wangari, or Emperor

Using these suffixes, Hona Kipuno would most often be called "Hona Kipuno-nori" or "Hona-nori" to indicate that not only is he a fully-realized warrior, but is also a nobleman/knight of the Empire.

Find out more by checking out Eire, the first book in the Rider Chronicles, on amazon kindle!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Storyteller

Been a while since I've talked much about my debut novel from when I was seventeen (a whole two years ago!). Today I'm going to talk a little about a current WIP of mine, a long-due sequel to my Skinwalker original, The Messenger.
Here's a little about The Messenger, if you haven't read it yet:
The Messenger is the story of young Alexis Forysth and Cougar "Coug" MountainScreamer. Alex is a California girl who moves out to the Puget Sound in Washington when her mother dies, to live with her older cousin Liam. Coug is a skinwalker, a cursed soul who lives possessed by the spirit of the mountain lion and a hatred for the white race. When the two find themselves inseparable from each other, the rest of the skinwalkers will do their worst to keep Cougar and Alex apart, even if that means killing them both.

Today I began work on a story that's been sitting in my mind for a while, but never had the chance to come out. I'm storyboarding right now, but in the meantime if you haven't read The Messenger, check the link on the left sidebar and read a bit more about it! Now I can talk a little bit about what you can expect from the sequel.

"The Storyteller" comes from the meaning of the animal totem Badger. In the Skinwalker books, the badger's host is Benjamin Beran, the "Chief" of Cougar's tribe. It goes without saying that Ben will have a big significance in this installation, but I'm not entirely ready to reveal exactly how.

When it comes to Coug and Alex, this sequel is going to be much more focused on the two as individuals rather than as a duo. They will have to spend a lot of time apart and do a lot of journeying without the other. During the interim, they've spent a lot of time together and become used to the other's company. It will definitely be a rude awakening for them both.

This one is also going to be more focused on the skinwalkers than the previous. There's going to be a ton more individuals introduced, a lot more than the total of five you read about in the last book. Coug will also have to make some new "friends," as his journey is going to be just as physical as it is emotional and spiritual. Unfortunately, this will change him in many ways. He's going to become a lot more serious, brooding, distant, and he's going to have to grow up from 18 fast. Reality is going to sink in for him.

Among his new team, two new skinwalkers will be introduced that act as his "foundation." One is a girl with a very special ability, while the other is a boy with an eccentric type of sadism.

The girl, Aria, plays host to the spirit of the lynx. I haven't yet picked out a specific origin for her, but due to the lynx's significance in Ojibwe lore, she may come from the Ontario/Michigan area. I can just imagine her staring out over the great lakes, lost in thought. If you look into the Lynx's abilities according to its totem medicine, you can start to imagine why this girl might have a very useful power to the rapidly approaching war between the skinwalkers. I'm not very willing to say much more about it, but I am willing to give you all a hint: The lynx is the seer, and the knower of secrets. The same can be assumed about its human counterpart.

The boy, Mako, is the human host for the killer whale, or orca. A bit more local to Cougar than Aria, his history is one Coug knows very well. Originally from far northwestern Washington, Mako was "contained" among the skinwalkers for being sadistic an unpredictable. Cougar meet him onceas a child, and ended up with an extreme phobia after the young Mako takes a bite out of his leg.

As of today, The Storyteller is just in storyboarding, the same initial process I went through with The Messenger. It's still in the early stages, so let me know in the comments: what are your favorite animals, and what types of skinwalkers would you like to see teaming up in this next installment? Leave your opinion below!


Monday, August 19, 2013

The Complicated Case of Jei Rivera

Once in a while there comes a character who is truly difficult to write for. For me, writing the Aswang Wars, especially the first book Manduruko, was more difficult than I had first imagined it, largely due to the main character, an amnesiac who has little passion for anything.

His name is Jei Rivera, and after a long struggle with expressing his character in an identifiable way, I feel like he has come a long way from when I first wrote him into a Manila fight club in his very first chapter. While during the first book, his amnesia made it difficult to write for him, as he had very little backstory. But in following installments, the forgotten memories get to come back, and so does a backstory that adds a ton of depth to the once-unemotional character.

In fact, as the first book turned into the second, and the second into the third, I got increasingly attached to Jei. The backstory just got more involved, his character more complicated and deep, and the overall tale just got more and more relatable and interesting.

When it all comes down to it, I'm simply saying that, as an author, you learn something new and grow from each story you write. Jei's is the first "series" I wrote to absolute completion. What I took away from the Aswang Wars is that all characters have an incredible story to tell, if you stick with them long enough for them to show you.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Getting back to business

It's been a while since I've written a blog post, mostly because of they way I've had to really dedicate my time to studying. Now that I have enough time during the day to sit down and write out my thoughts, I'll be able to get to posting more often.

Which reminds me that I've yet to show off the new cover release of number two in the Aswang Wars trilogy, Mantahungal!


What do you think? Very fitting for this revealing installment of the series! Lots of secrets will come out in this book, and I can't wait to have an official release date for everyone! Leave a comment below to let me know what you think of this great cover!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Manduruko Cover Art

Here we go, everyone! This is the official cover for The Aswang Wars: Manduruko, the first in the Aswang Wars series! I'm really excited to announce this—I just love this cover to death! The aswang on the cover is really frightening, isn't she? Hehe.

This may or may not be the cover for the print version of Manduruko. It really depends on how things go in the next few weeks. The release date will be coming pretty soon, so be on a lookout. Tentative release date (for the ebook, print will come a bit earlier, most likely) is November 2012.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Marva Dasef and Setara's Genie


SETARA’S GENIE
A girl, a genie, a few demons. What could go wrong?
by Marva Dasef
MuseItUp Buy Link: http://tinyurl.com/SetarasGenie
Amazon Buy Link: coming soon

* * * Leave a comment with contact info to be in the draw for prizes * * *

The Kazikli Bey

Most of you have heard of Vlad the Impaler, right? Count Dracul, the model for Dracula? Well, Kazikli Bey is the middle-eastern translation for something like “The Impaler Prince.” His popular last name, Dracul (there are many spellings) came from him signing up to a Hungarian chivalric group, the Order of the Dragon. Vlad’s father was also a Dragon member and the Dracula name is a title.  Vlad’s family name was Basarab. I’ve seen a couple of horror works where the authors did enough research to hone in on the family name, revealing only later that the evil monster is none other than Dracula.

The real Vlad was a nasty character. He directed his wrath against the Ottoman Empire for the most part. His habit of impaling his enemies on stakes (not only heads, but sometimes entire bodies) earned him the title of The Impaler Prince. When Vlad was still a child, his father was ousted from his own throne of Wallachia. Vlad the elder made a deal with the Ottomans to get back at his fellow countrymen. To secure ties to the Ottomans, he sent his two sons as hostages. The elder son, Vlad Junior (Mr. Impaler), was defiant toward the Sultan and was beaten quite often. On the other hand, the younger son, Radu, ingratiated himself to Sultan Mehmed II and even converted to Islam. He was given the title Bey and served Mehmed II leading the Janissaries (think Special Forces). Vlad Jr. came to hate the Ottomans for his treatment and waged a long and bloody battle with them. His nasty habit of impaling enemies earned him the title, Impaler Prince.

Vlad the Impaler
In “Setara’s Genie,” I thought that giving ol’ Vlad a different face would be a nice twist. What if Vlad didn’t really impale anybody? What if he was trying to gain peace between the rampaging warlords that messed up Romania? It’s all in the PR. If he puts himself out as the baddest mother in the valley, wouldn’t you think it a bad idea to cross him? Considering that the real life Vlad spent his youth with the Ottomans, learned Turkish, and studied the Quran, he might have actually had some respect for his former captors. What if he did perpetuate a reputation of badassery just to keep the peace?

In my book, Setara tries to go off on a cruise ship and ends up in a slave market. Lucky for her, an ancient crone pretty much forces her to buy a pendant. It’s Kismet (another middle-eastern concept)!   Basit is captured in a bottle of wine, and Setara can’t get him out of the bottle of djinn. She’s hauled off to the slave market, while her genie gets pickled.

The Kazikli Bey happens to be in the market for slaves and, noticing that Setara is wearing the locket stolen from his mother, he purchases her. He turns out to be a really nice guy, releasing Setara from bondage and ensuring her safe journey homeward with Basit, who is out of the bottle, but afflicted with one monster of a hangover.

Blurb

Abu Nuwas sits in the bazaar on his threadbare rug; a cup and sign proclaim him a teller of tales. For one small coin, he bids passers by to listen. A poor girl, Najda, sells spices from a tray. Would he, she asks, trade a tale for a packet of spice? Abu Nuwas agrees and begins the epic adventures of a girl and her genie.

As did Scheherazade before him, Abu leaves Najda hanging in the middle of each yarn to keep her coming back. Between stories, he questions the girl about her life. He discovers that she’s been promised in marriage to an old man whom she hates, but she must wed him to save her sick mother’s life. The rich bridegroom will pay for the doctors the mother needs. Meanwhile, Najda sells spices in the market to earn enough money to keep her mother alive.

He relates the adventures of the bored daughter of a rich merchant, Setara, and her genie, Basit, as they encounter the creatures of legend and folklore: a lonely cave demon seeking a home; a flying, fire-breathing horse who has lost his mate; a dragon searching for his family; an evil genie hunting for the man who put him in a lamp; and a merboy prince cast out of his undersea kingdom.

Excerpt

“I have this girl up for sale. If she catches the eye of the Kazikli Bey, then she should fetch a good price. Keep her well-shackled. She tried to run away.”

The captain grabbed the front of Setara’s tunic and yanked the top lacings loose. She twisted away. “Stop it!” Her face reddened when the pirate exposed more of her chest than was proper for an unmarried girl her age.

The trader took the chain on her shackles and pulled her behind the platform. Many men, women, and children sat or stood with chains attached to wooden columns by iron rings. A boy of only six or seven hugged a woman’s side, crying loudly. She soothed him, but it didn’t help. One of the trader’s helpers jerked the boy away from the woman. She tried to hold him, but the man dragged the child away from her.

Setara looked around, trying to think of something she could do, but calling out for help was useless. Soon, they led her up to the stage. The auctioneer looked her over and grabbed her jaw to pull her mouth open. She struggled to turn away.

“Good teeth. Not a bad body. How old are you, girl? Fifteen, sixteen?”

Setara jerked her head away from his filthy hands. “None of your business, you piece of camel dung.”

“Never mind. It doesn’t matter.” He shoved her to the center of the stage and began the auction.

“Who will give me one hundred shekels? She’s a strong, healthy girl. Good for household or fields.” He winked at the crowd and added, “Maybe your harem is in need of some fresh blood.”

Setara’s face burned with humiliation. She looked out at the crowd of men, for the crowd was entirely male. No self-respecting woman would come to a slave auction. The audience laughed and nudged each other’s ribs. Setara felt sick. She wondered if it would put them off if she threw up on the auctioneer’s sandals.

The Kazikli Bey looked at her intently. He rose from his throne and walked up to the stage. “Bend down, girl.”

“I will not. Keep your slimy hands away from me!”

The auctioneer pushed her roughly to the front of the stage and forced her to lean over toward the man. He reached up, and Setara closed her eyes, afraid of what would happen next. She felt a slight tug on the thong that held the amulet.

“Where did you get this?”

Setara opened her eyes and looked into the soft brown eyes of the Bey. She saw no menace there. Instead, she felt a strange attraction to him. In a flash, she realized this was the face she had seen in her vision.

“In Gamaal. I bought it from an old woman, a witch.”

“Ah, of course. Her name was Seralgo?”

“That was the name on the shop.”

The Kazikli Bey turned to the auctioneer. “She’s mine. Take her off the block.”

* * *

About Marva

MuseItUp Author Page: http://tinyurl.com/MIU-MarvaDasef

Bio: Marva Dasef is a writer living in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and a fat white cat.  Retired from thirty-five years in the software industry, she has now turned her energies to writing fiction and finds it a much more satisfying occupation.  Marva has published more than forty stories in a number of on-line and print magazines, with several included in Best of anthologies. She has several already published books and the Witches of Galdorheim Series from her super duper publisher, MuseItUp.