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Friday 28 February 2020

A Novel Conversation with Jean Gill and Mielitta

Join Us Every Friday!
To be a little different from the usual 
'meet the author' 
let's meet 


Q: Hello, I’m Helen, host of Novel Conversations, please do make yourself comfortable. Would you like a drink? Tea, coffee, wine – something stronger? You’ll find a box of chocolates and a bowl of fruit on the table next to you, please do help yourself. I believe you are a character in Jean Gill’s novel Queen of the Warrior Bees, Book 1 in the series Natural Forces (but can be read as a standalone). Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role? 
A: I’m Mielitta, just turned eighteen and I live – used to live – in the Citadel. I’d love a glass of mead – if the honey is locally sourced. Hmm.. it’s complicated. I was nobody, invisible unless I failed or disappointed… and then I was stung by bees and changed. I suppose I must be the lead character.

Q: What genre is the novel and what is it about?
A: Eco-fantasy. Perfect society in the Citadel has banished all forms of Nature to keep citizens safe in a sustainable world. The ruling mages create greylight and darklight beneath a canopy that protects us from weather and the big enemy – the Forest. Even the word Forest is unmentionable although we know it’s out there. But I don’t fit in. I wasn’t born like other babies and I knew there was something better than this grey life. I had to flee to the Forest and what I discovered there – well, it changed my life.

Q: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goodie’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both?)
A: In the Forest, I’m a goodie, the hope for its survival. But in the Citadel, I’m a ‘freak’ under sentence of death.

Q: Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner … or maybe your arch enemy!
A: I don’t know what to make of Jannlou. He’s the Chief Mage’s son, the bane of my existence with his friend Bastien. But when he’s had the chance to take his bullying further and hurt me, it’s as if he protected me. When he followed me into the Forest and we fought, I thought we’d reached some strange truce. He even asked me to the Courtship Dance, when he could have any girl he wanted. None of it makes any sense. He must be using magecraft on me. How else could I find his blue eyes so attractive? There’s some mystery here that I haven’t figured out yet.

Q: What is one of your least favourite scenes you appear in?
A: I don’t want to talk about the way the Chief Mage penetrated my mind.

Q: And your favourite scene?
A: Discovering the Forest, in all its rich variety. Or shifting into a queen bee and going inside the hive, feeling like I belonged for the first time in my life. It was frightening though, especially when the other queens hatched.

Q: Tell me a little about your author. Has she written any other books?
A: She’s a busy bee 😊 She’s written twenty-one books and she’s a photographer too – and a beekeeper and mad dog-lady. She doesn’t settle on just one flower to make honey but she’s best known for her medieval historical fiction, The Troubadours Quartet. And for her dog story, Someone To Look Up To. But she’s also written a cookbook, WW2 military history and poetry. She’s won some awards too, which makes her very happy.

Q: Is your author working on anything else at the moment?
A: We’re telling her what happens next in the war between the Citadel and the Forest and she’s writing it all down as fast as she can. Arrows Tipped with Honey, Book 2 in the Natural Forces series will be out soon, probably in May 2020.

Q: How do you think authors can be helped or supported by readers or groups? What does your author think is the most useful for her personally?
A: She says she’s like Tinkerbell. Every time a reader enjoys one of her books and says so, anywhere in the world, in conversation or in a review, her writing spark gains strength.

And respect from other writers is a huge support. Inviting me to talk about her made her feel motivated. She said, ‘Thank you, Helen.’ [Helen: My pleasure]

Q: If your author was to host a dinner party what guests would she invite and why? Maximum nine guests – real, imaginary, alive or dead.
A : She doesn’t like dinner parties but she does like one-to-one conversations over a good meal. Since she was a teenager she’s kept a list of ten men she’d like to meet tête-à-téte. She was more romantic when she was younger and doesn’t usually tell anyone who’s on the list. I know Arsène Wenger made it at one stage but was dropped. I’m not sure she’s telling the truth but she says she’ll reveal five of them and yes, there are women she’d very much like to spend an evening with over a good meal – she loves food - so here’s her list – in no order.

Athos (who is her favourite musketeer)

Catullus (as long as he doesn’t talk about Lesbia all the time)

Rupert of theRhine (I’m afraid so)

Rupert of the Rhine.jpg

(Helen: well I suppose someone has to be interested in him...)

Sir Michael Palin

An evening with Michael Palin.jpg
(photo: Wikipedia)
Sirius (yes, he’s a Great Pyrenees in one of her own books but she’s happy with good food and a giant dog for company. I understand that because of how I feel about my bees)

Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog.jpg

Dame Jane Goodall

(photo: Wikipedia)

Lee Miller (my favourite photographer)

War correspondents-Lee-Miller.jpg
(photo: Wikipedia)

Ermengarda,Viscomtesse of Narbonne (at her place, 1150, with troubadours)

Any of the amazing writers I’m privileged to know, now, in the ‘real’ world. Online friend and brilliant writer, J J Marsh is in my sights as somebody I MUST meet.

J.J. Marsh

Helen: Thank you, Mielitta. It was a pleasure talking to you. Would your author like to add a short excerpt? Meanwhile, chatting is thirsty work, would you like a refill of that mead…? I’ll join you I think . . .
Salute! Here’s to writing a best seller!

Mielitta: May the stones be with you, Helen!

She unnocked her bow, slung it over her shoulder, braced herself and stepped into the fierce heat again. This time, she was ready for the uncontrolled warmth playing on her skin, tickling. She laughed. She need not fear the sun.
She made her way back to the stream, listening to the music of water on pebbles, a song she had never heard. She sat down to listen better, on a comfortably rounded rock, safely above the prickle of grass blades. This was a song like book poetry, not like the schoolroom songs which praised the Citadel and promoted good citizenship, with a side-nod to hygiene and reproduction.
Her exertions in the heat had made her thirsty and, in defiance of the schoolroom songs, she scooped up a handful of unpurified water, losing trickles between her fingers as she drank.
As she sipped, she paused to marvel and drank again. Bubbles burst on her tongue like a liquid giggle. Then the water told its history, from snow-capped mountains through forests and meandering pasture, to this small diversion from a mighty river.
The water told its geology, from glacial tarns through limestone pavements and hard bedrock, picking up a tang of calcite or magnesium, a glitter of gold, en route.
Then the water told its wildlife. Silver-scaled fish, seething jellies of tadpoles and slithers of eels. This and more, Mielitta could taste in her scoop of water, as she watched a turquoise glitter of tiny wings over the water. Dragonfly.
She wanted these pleasures again but when she scooped and tasted a second time, the story was different. How could that be? Did one change of pebble, one shadow over the sun, change the taste of water? It must be so. The sadness of change, of death, and the glory of a new adventure, in two scoops of water. She should go back.
But she was already outside the Citadel. The sun was not to be feared, the stream was shallower than she’d thought, grass blades did not pierce her skin. The Forest could be named and it was just – trees. She’d stood beside one and felt no harm. She should at least explore a little while she was here. She could go back later, when she could be sure it was safe. Maybe Jannlou and Bastien were just inside the gate, waiting for her as she had waited for them. Let them wait!


Tuesday 25 February 2020

When #BeKind gets forgotten and Narcissism strikes again...

The recent tragic suicide of UK TV celebrity Caroline Flack has had a series of repercussions, many of which, sadly, will probably be forgotten about and will fade away within a week or two. The same thing happened after the death of Princess Diana and has driven Harry and Meghan to step aside from royal duties.

I'm talking about media harassment. Much of which has come from the newspapers (I use the term 'news' somewhat scornfully) and 'celeb'  magazines in particular. Many hairdresser salons, GP waiting rooms etc are now removing these type of magazines that proclaim things like 'we reveal the truth about XXX of Eastenders'. I'll not miss them, I never read them anyway.

You could argue that these high-status celebs know what they are letting themselves in for, should learn to take the rough with the smooth etc. But what about the nastiness, the trolls, the plain vindictiveness that abounds on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram etc? The spite that can be generated on these platforms is, sadly, unbelievable.

The #BeKind initiative that came in the wake of Ms Flack's tragic death has not lasted long. Nor, alas, will it be noticed by the dedicated troll or  narcissist. Whatever happened to 'if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all?'

But there is another element to this nastiness, and it is aimed not at high-profile, high-paid celebs but at ordinary people who have the only intention of entertaining or informing. Most of this group are not widely known outside of their own field, most earn a moderate income (if they are lucky - most don't, some earn not even enough to be in profit). I'm talking about authors.

To sell books - be they fiction, nonfiction or poetry we rely on word of mouth and reviews. OK not everyone will like our books  it would be a very dull world if we all liked/disliked the same things. Some books, let's be honest, are not very good - and I don't just mean self-published/indie - there are more than a few really bad traditional/mainstream books published. 

I've been in this writing business for well over twenty-five years now. Reviews used to be confined to the specific 'book' magazines or the designated slots in newspapers or magazines (I was on the USA Today best seller list for The Forever Queen) But now we have Amazon and Goodreads (plus a few others) where anyone can leave a comment. Any comment. Good or bad. Or plain nasty.

Amazon has weird rules, however - the powers that be will quite happily refuse to remove what is very obviously a comment written with the sole intention of being nasty, while a decent fair review will be zapped for no apparent reason. (I recently had a tousle with Amazon because they kept rejecting genuine reviews from the review blog I founded, Discovering Diamonds. I've still no idea why... but I think I've solved the dilemma). Also on Amazon, unless you meet a certain criteria (no idea what it is) you can't post a review or comment for a book that is available to be ordered in advance but is not yet published. These books are distributed either via the publisher, author or Netgalley as ARCS (Advanced Review Copy) specifically for the purpose of obtaining early reviews.

Goodreads, however, will list a comment or review even if the book is not available yet.  Which is fine - until the trolls gleefully creep out from beneath their slimy stones.

These often very nasty, highly vindictive 'reviews' usually carry a questionable motive: to undermine the author.

The premise of these 'let's trash the book' is disguised as 'the research is poor', 'doesn't know how to write', or for historical novels 'don't defame the dead' (I'm sorry but Henry VIII was a wife killing ba*std. His daughter Mary was a vindictive cow.) (I could name others but you get my gist.)
I have received hate mail in the past regarding my Arthurian trilogy - apparently I'm destined for Hell because I dared to make MY Arthur a non-Christian and I've therefore defamed God. A) I don't believe in God or Christ. B) The Arthur of the Christian-based Medieval stories never even existed so I don't suppose that God is worried about a fictional character be he pagan or Christian.

Many of these negative comments are just plain silly ('The book's about battles. I don't like battles.' So why on earth read a novel that has for it's tagline 'The story of events that led to the Battle of Hastings'?

My favourite negative comment, though is 'All this book does is advertise candy. It is a bad influence on children.' (The 'candy in question was Turkish Delight, the book - The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.)

These sort of things are to be laughed at. The danger comes when a troll deliberately sets out to shred an author's reputation and confidence, especially if the book in question is a new release.

It isn't necessarily the wording of these 'reviews' but the motive behind them that I question. What motivates these people to totally trash someone's hard work? Revenge? Jealousy? Simply doing so because they can?

The difficulty is, what can we, as authors do about these sordid attacks on us? The answer is... nothing. We receive the platitudes of 'Take no notice', 'laugh it off', 'ignore it' - but these vindictive comments linger like giggling malevolents in the background, they erode - in many cases - an author's already fragile confidence. They stand out in bold upper-case in the mind and gnaw away, leading to depression, an inability to write anything else and even suicide. 

Constructive criticism is acceptable, even welcome - we need to know where we're going wrong in our writing, but it doesn't have to be put in a sneering, snide way. There is a HUGE difference between constructive and destructive. Blatant public assassination is the latter. Destructive nastiness is unwarranted and often, plain baffling. Of what help to a writer or reader is outright vindictiveness?

So think about the #BeKind campaign. 'Do unto others' and all that. Yes be honest, if you don't like a book, feel free to say so - but do it courteously and truthfully. If there's typos just say 'there are several typos, maybe another read-through would be useful?'  or 'I'd suggest a re-edit to pick up some of the missed bloopers,' or even simply, 'the author has obviously put her heart into writing this novel, but it wasn't quite for me. Lovers of this type of Regency Romance will probably enjoy it though.'
You don't have to trash an author in the process of writing a review. .
Well, not unless you're a narcissistic troll.

Those who can, write. Those who can't, leave derogatory reviews about those who can.

One final thing I want to query ...  some of the known trolls run online review sites. A few are blatantly nasty,  their 'About' pages are full of hate-speech and foul language. 'Don't send me your f***** rubbish...' or 'don't send a book if you're a failed f****** vanity writer'.
Why on earth would any sane, genuine, respected, talented author actually WANT to send a book to people like this for a potential review? 

If you don't like a book, return it (yes you can do that even on Amazon) or burn it, or shove it in the bin - but why, why why, continue to read it in order to post a distasteful review?

I always remember one woman who came into the library where I used to work back in the 1970s. She plonked a book on the counter and announced in a loud voice: 'This book is full of disgusting language. I've read it through twice and crossed out every offensive word."

I really shouldn't have laughed...

Support an author - write a complimentary review.

Friday 21 February 2020

A Novel Conversation with Inge H. Borg and Ramose High Priest of Ptah

Join Us Every Friday!
To be a little different from the usual 
'meet the author' 
let's meet 
RAMOSE, the High Priest of Ptah

Khamsin, The Devil Wind of The Nile
 (A Novel of Ancient Egypt)

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Q: Hello, I’m Helen, host of Novel Conversations, please do make yourself comfortable. Would you like a drink?  Wine? You’ll find a box of dried apricots and a bowl of fresh fruit on the table next to you, please do help yourself. I believe you are a character in Inge H. Borg’s novel Khamsin, The Devil Wind of the NileWould you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role? 
A: May Horus spread his wings over you, Mistress Helen, and may Ma’at bestow upon you her virtues of truth, harmony and order.

I am Ramose, High Priest of Ptah, at King Aha’s First Dynasty court in Ancient Egypt. Indeed, I am very much a lead character; you might even say my actions ultimately influence the novel’s story –especially its ending.

Q: What genre is the novel and what is it about?
A: Historical Fiction, you call it these days. I tell you, though, while the characters are fictional, the ancient places are real as our lives revolve around the king, our gods, and the omnipresent Hapi, the great River Nile, our life-blood; with the feared khamsin an ever-present threat to all we hold dear.

Q: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goodie’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both?)
A: As the highest officiating priest at the Temple of Pta in Ineb-hedj (our City of White Walls you now call Memphis), I am the sacred servant of the gods and, alas, lending my wise counsel to our weakling king. He–ironically, calls himself Hor-Aha, the Fighting Falcon [pulls a face].
I am viewed as a “goodie;” at least by the gullible populace. But there were unavoidable conflicts in my life, mostly stemming from the heart and body of me as a man.

One early such conflict, I should have avoided at all cost. It was when I loved one woman – and was loved back fervently by her. She was my cousin, with me then a young surgeon priest from Nekhen in Upper Egypt. Unhappily, she was also King Aha’s Royal Wife. As she lay dying during childbirth, she made me promise to protect the infant, the Royal Heiress Nefret.

I tried my best for sixteen years, as Aha and his despicable whining second wife treated the headstrong girl with disdain, constantly wondering if the slave whispers about her were true.

Q Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner … or maybe your arch enemy!
A:  This brings me to my other conflict about having to appear divine, always adhering to the strict laws of our gods [shudders].

The ugly Vizier Ebu al-Saqqara was the scourge of my existence from day one. Can you blame me that I called on all my magic powers (all right, tricks if you will), to outsmart the man’s chicanery and expose him as a traitor to the Two Lands. Pardon me if I am smirking. I just reminded myself of his ultimate fate. Uncharitable, I confess, but ah, the memory still feels good.

By the way, Mistress Helen, may I express some displeasure with you here?

You granted that vile man an interview way before me. Really! You allowed the blow-heart to boast of his importance. I showed him, though.
[Reaches for another apricot] These are delicious. Ours were never this plump and sweet, as they came with the caravans from the regions beyond the Euphrates. You wouldn’t have some date wine to wash this down, would you?

Helen: My apologies for any unintended offence. There are some characters who tend to push themselves to the forefront. [smiles, pours a glass of Merlot] Here, good sir. Try this. It is pressed from grapes, not dates. 
Ramose: [Eyes the dark liquid with some suspicion but then takes a big swig]. Oh, that is nice. More, please.

Q: Is this the only novel you have appeared in, or are there others in a series?
A: The answer is 1) Yes, and 2) No. There are four more novels.

I dominate over the story in Book 1 of the Legends of the Winged Scarab series, taking place in Ancient Egypt (3080 BCE). One thread throughout the series are the Golden Tablets. When ancient brittle reed mats where discovered, I ordered their strange weavings copied onto thick slates of the yellow nub dug from the earth.

As Books 2-5 of the series slide into modern Egypt, goodies and baddies hunt, dig, fight, love and kill for my fifty Golden Tablets. Will the beautiful Egyptologist Naunet ever decipher their meaning?

I let you in on a secret: They tell the story of the first Egyptian settlers, way before Aha’s predecessor, the nebulous King Narmer, built his City of White Walls (your Memphis). Where did those ancient people come from? For now, my lips are sealed.

Q: What is one of your least favourite scenes you appear in?
A: Ah, my heart still breaks [wipes his eyes]. I was forced to condemn my child to death … [coughs]. I mean, the royal child, Nefret, whose safety I had so solemnly promised to my beautiful Mayet. But the girl’s unpardonable trespass against our strict laws of Ma’at left me no choice [pauses before adding in a whisper]; at least not publicly.

And this caused the greatest conflict in my service to gods and king; one which I must take into the field of reeds after which my eternal ba may never be granted peace. But at the time, my heart was glad for it. Until … [holds up his hand in distress] No more, I beg you.

Q: And your favourite scene?
A: We were in great danger. Still, I couldn’t help being amused. Aha, however, was not. I know, I was wicked. But when magic and mysticism saved us from being butchered, I call the use of deceptive powers justified–besides, to put Aha into a trance–again-was a payback for his often insufferable temper.

Aha, Nefret with three of her women slaves, and I were traveling upriver disguised as humble pilgrims on three of my temple boats. It had been my idea, necessitated by a brewing war at our southern borders.
While Aha sweated incognito in my kariy (boat shrine), the girls, scantily clad as temple chantresses, alas drew furtive looks from the handful of our virile palace archers (creating another problem later on.)

As we rowed upstream through the narrows, we noticed a clump of figures. At first, we though they were from the local temple providing our tents–as prearranged. But I sensed danger and decided we should camp in the open on the cliffs rather than staying on the vulnerable sliver of land along the river.

I had a plan (don’t I always?). We carried large vessels with the entrails of a slain crocodile mixed with human waste. A stinking brew indeed [wrinkles his nose]. My second defence was to be my secret potion that induced a deathlike trance. Too little, Aha’s and the girls’ blood would be on an attacker’s hands. Too much, it would be on mine…

You may read what happened in the Abbreviated Excerpt below.

Q: Tell me a little about your author. Has she written any other books?
A: As I mentioned above, the Legends of the Winged Scarab series spans over five novels – and five thousand years (3080 BCE – 2011 AD).

Q: Is your author working on anything else at the moment?
A: She has a notion about ancient Crete (way before the Minoans). As I intimated above, as the earth convulsed spewing fire into the heavens, some of those people managed to reach shores of a continent where they found a green savannah with great rivers and strange animals. I think she needs a good kick to write down her ideas. Pity, I can no longer assist her with some of my excellent temple scribes.

Q: How do you think authors can be helped or supported by readers or groups? What does your author think is the most useful for her personally?
A: It’s always a question of supply and demand. Too much free material. To find exposure, one must promote. But most paid sites no longer draw enough readers to offset the expense. Some say, “Write down for the masses; nothing too literary.” It becomes an author’s choice between personal satisfaction and selling. Luckily, most historical fiction authors can still be very proud of their well-researched and superbly written novels.

Q: If your author was to host a dinner party what guests (real, imaginary, alive or dead) would she invite and why?
A : The first thing she undoubtedly would do was to find a good caterer (she being a self-professed terrible cook).

                 Wilbur Smith, author of many Egyptian-themed historical novels (to add his take on our ancient ways).

Smith, signing The Quest

                  Dr. Zahi Hawass, flamboyant Egyptian archaeologist and former antiquities minister (he’ll add zest and controversy to an ever livelier-and no doubt louder-discussion about “these people” professing to know about his culture).

President Barack Obama tours the Pyramids and Sphinx with Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (Hawass cropped).jpg

                    Herodotus, the Greek who travelled throughout Egypt in the 5th Century BCE (to ask him which of his writings were based on fact and which on his fancy).

Marble bust of Herodotos MET DT11742.jpg

                   Dr. Naunet Wilkins (né Klein), my author’s Egyptologist from Books 2-5 of the Legends of the Winged Scarab (to find out if hers really is an ancient sinner’s soul reborn to atone for my Princess Nefret’s trespasses).

                 Me, Ramoseof course (to set these people’s thinking straight. After all, I was there–they weren’t).

               Inge H. Borgour hostess.  (She’s a good listener. Hopefully, she’ll use our discussions in her future writing.  Besides, she’s the one to “adjourn us to the parlour” for some after-dinner libation. I hope.)

And there you have it, Mistress Helen. My author believes six is the perfect number for such diverse and headstrong guests, lest discussion turns into argument.

Now, I do thank you for letting me speak my mind and for your gracious hospitality [holds out his empty glass again].

Helen: Thank you, Ramose, High Priest of Ptah, it was a pleasure. I realize chatting is thirsty work. Here is some more of our modern wine [pours]. And I’ll have a glass myself . . .  

[Ramose drinks up, smiles, and then gracefully slides off his chair leaving Mistress Helen apprehensive about the tall man’s loosening leopard skin.] 

Helen: [sighs] Salute! Here’s to writing a best seller!

CONNECT WITH Author Inge H. Borg

Abbreviated Excerpt - Chapter 26
Khamsin, The Devil Wind of The Nile
(Book 1 – Legends of the Winged Scarab)
* * *
Swift-footed, they poured over the closest hillock like scavenging hyenas... Their fanatic stares left no doubt they would spare no one.
The ringleader’s eyes bulged with lusty anticipation. “I am Wadji, Cobra of the Desert.”
He and four others rushed inside the largest tent. Sickening odour assaulted the expectant raiders. The group stopped, horrified. Three men and a tall girl lay rigid in apparent death while a pretty young woman writhed on the floor, her half-naked body covered with fiery red blotches. To one side in the tent stood a very tall man staring at them in tearless shock.
The stench was enough for Wadji to feel he would soon be next. He lifted his long walking staff and prodded the motionless tall girl. “Dead.”
“The plague! It is the dreaded plague,” the tall man intoned. As if he thought the tribesman could save him, he reached toward the stunned Cobra of the Desert, but stumbled. Instinctively, Wadji reached out. Too late he saw the disgusting blotches. Bile coated the desert-hardened man’s dry throat.
With great dexterity, Ramose manipulated the tiny shafts firmly between his fingers. Then he raised his arms, careful to leave his hands below eye level of his adversaries.
“Advance no further, Wadji! You, Cobra of the Desert, will die if you come any closer.”
“And how will you kill me, Tall One?” Wadji cackled.
“By placing my bare hands on your shoulders,” Ramose intoned.
Wadji laughed.
Ramose took another step forward.
Wadji turned to a big man behind him, “I wager you cannot kill the Stinger of a Scorpion.”
Ramose breathed deeply, and The Stinger felt two bites. Sand fleas, he shrugged.
Ramose removed his hands, his thumbs sliding the poisoned tips back between his fingers. He stepped back just as the giant crashed to the floor. The four marauders gasped. What magic was this? ...
Wadji could take no more. Back in the open, he unwound the swatches from his face and greedily sucked fresh air. As he exhaled, he suddenly realized the air itself might carry the awful plague. His followers tumbled from the tent equally crazed in avaricious fear for their miserable lives.
“Away!” Wadji cried, his three surviving tribe leaders close at his heels...
* * *
Awakened, Aha growled, not satisfied with explanations. His head felt as if it had been split in two. The smell inside the tent grew intolerable.
“For Horus’ sake! Get rid of this stinking mess! Best have it burned,” he groaned and buried his face in a cushion to escape the sickening stench...
* * *
The marauders rushed along the high plain. Wadji forced himself to look back. In the distance, a dark pillar of smoke rose through the desert’s iridescent heat. “They are burning their dead,” he shuddered.
“May the sun scorch those who are still alive,” the first marauder added, his face distorted with disgust and fear.
“There! Another plume of smoke,” the second man pointed, and the third added, “It is the Stinger’s burning Ba.”