Free Fiction Friday: Mountainous Stretch of Wind

POD Mountainous Stretch of Wind Ebook Cover 06


Etsuko delighted in the challenge of meeting a new species on a new world. Meeting new aliens, learning of their cultures, was her greatest joy. Not as joyful was dealing with new coworkers who seemed to view her as an odd little threat to their much more important experiments. It would have been fine if their Commander hadn’t ordered Etsuko to smooth the way in their tiny habitat.

Mountainous Stretch of Wind is a humorous SF story of learning to deal with unexpected circumstances and finding joy no matter what’s thrown your way that you’re sure to love.

Mountainous Stretch of Wind

By Meyari McFarland

1. Ascent

Wind battered at Etsuko. She leaned into it, hands thrust deep into her coat pockets. Not that the pockets helped. The wind stabbed through the coat, through her gloves, through all of the clothes she wore, even her heavy insulated underwear. Cold enough to bite and hard enough to steal her breath, the wind was like an enemy intent on killing Etsuko before she could take another step.

It was glorious.

She’d missed wind since she left Japan to explore other planets and other cultures. Certainly, while on world she got to experience actual weather but most of her time was spent on space ships and those could be so dreadfully dull. Even if the Commander shared Etsuko’s sense of humor and indulged in little prank wars with her the vast majority of her time shipboard was dull. Uninteresting. Boring.

Every time she tried to look at the path ahead the wind whipped tears into her eyes. She grinned, wiped the tears away with one cuff, and kept looking despite the wind that slipped under her safety glasses and into her eyes. So nice to have that struggle!

Even through the tear-blur Etsuko could see that they had far to go yet. The path stretched upwards, a bare rocky foot trail leading through boulders and scrubby grass that whipped in the wind like tentacles reaching for Etsuko’s feet. There were other plants, tiny purple creeping plants that slowly moved over the soil with tentacle-like branches functioning as limbs. Their white flowers were more like dots against the purple stems than the flowers that Etsuko was familiar with.

She wondered what they smelled like, if the pollen they released to the driving wind would cause her eyes to swell and her nose to run as the flowers on their ship did. Best not to check. She had promised not to do silly things just to see what happened and who knew what her teammates would think of Etsuko kneeling down to stick her face in the little purple plants. Besides, her face mask was fuzzy and warm, likely to collect any pollen that the flowers might have, if any remained after the beating of the wind.

Ahead, Chikafuji Kimiko and Yamashita Rika trudged upwards. Both carried packs on their backs equal in size to Etsuko’s. Two weeks’ worth of clothing and dehydrated food, one tablet for entertainment and to work with, a brush, a toothbrush, nothing else. The natives were quite strict about what could be brought in. At least they provided water, though from the briefing the water would always need to be filtered and purified. Even then the taste was something to regret. Pity she couldn’t bring tea. That would help.

Etsuko shook her head at herself, carefully pulled her boot out from under the seeking fronds of one of the purple creepers that had crawled closer to shelter behind her feet, and then trudged after her teammates. It would be strange to be surrounded only by women. In her life, Etsuko had spent far more time among men than women. For all the progress that the authorities claimed, women still tended towards soft sciences rather than hard.

She was no exception. Xeno-sociology was mostly a matter of learning to talk to other species whose morphology differed dramatically from human. It was delightfully fun trying to explain stereo-vision to creatures with one eye or three or none. And the joys of demonstrating running to a race that always moved at a snail’s pace had been beyond anything that Etsuko had imagined. This trip would likely be more of the same, though Etsuko did wish that she was even shorter and smaller so that she could see the natives’ homes.

Chikafuji Kimiko was an exception to the general rule of women in science, as was Yamashita Rika. Both had studied extensively in physics and xeno-biology before joining the Exploration Corp. Their reports were so thick with math and chemistry that Etsuko had set them aside, largely unread. It made Etsuko doubt her place on this team, her right to be here on this alien planet with its demanding, complicated, confusing masters.

But then, the problems the previous teams had experienced had more to do with social dynamics among the team members and between the humans and the natives than any hard science issues. Etsuko was fairly certain that her job was to be a wall between Kimiko, Rika and anything that would distract them from their work, though her orders had included a line about ‘smoothing interpersonal issues in the habitat’ that her commander had refused to explain further.

Annoying, amusing man. Mission briefings was not a place for teasing. Even Etsuko avoided making jokes during briefings. Still, dealing with any personal issues their team had shouldn’t be too hard. Etsuko usually did a good job of adapting to her environment, whether that environment included humans, aliens or mixes of the types.

It should help that both Kimiko and Rika were of Japanese descent. They might not follow Japanese social customs but they were familiar with them by default. One couldn’t grow up with a Japanese grandmother and not learn that bowing was important and politeness was mandatory.

Etsuko would certainly have to adjust to their needs, though. Neither of them were native to Japan or even Issei, first generation children born after emigrating from Japan. They wouldn’t follow the customs as fully so Etsuko would need to be conscious of herself and try not to offend them with her idiosyncratic version of Japanese politeness.

“I can do that,” Etsuko said to herself even though the words whipped her sounds away. “I will do that. I will do it well.”

She nodded and marched up the path after her teammates, wind tearing at her skin despite the protective gear. No matter what her always present worries told her, Etsuko would complete her mission. Two weeks wasn’t that long. It would take hard work but she could smooth relations with the natives and, hopefully, keep Rika and Kimiko happy during their stay on world.

She would do it.

And when she wasn’t dealing with her teammates, Etsuko looked forward to spending time talking with the natives about their so-interesting world with its wind and mountains and moving plants that acted like animals while being vegetable.

This should be an absolutely delightful mission.

2. Arrival

Etsuko staggered once the door sealed behind them. She’d gotten so used to the wind that its lack nearly shoved her off her feet. The backpack felt heavier, somehow much more noticeable now that the wind was gone. When she looked at the others, they stood so straight that they might never have been subject to the wind’s pounding, waiting for the inner door to cycle open.

An airlock. This was an airlock, of course. Etsuko should have expected that. Even though the planet’s air, bright blue sky with shredded white clouds overhead, was a near-perfect match for Earth air, the wind was so much stronger that it would be needed.

“The windows won’t open, will they?” Etsuko commented, thinking about midnight farts with no place to escape and the inevitable smells that accumulated when three people lived together in a very small place. Hopefully the air filtration system would be adequate to the challenge.

Rika turned to frown at Etsuko, one perfectly manicured eyebrow sliding upwards. “No, they won’t. Logically.”

Etsuko ducked her head in an awkward attempt at a proper bow. Rika nodded back with her lips pursed as if she’d just bitten a lemon. Next to her, Kimiko shook her head. Unlike Rika with her perfect eyebrows, perfect smooth hair coiled into an unruffled bun on the back of her head, Kimiko looked as though the wind was still blowing over her. They were both a good head and a half taller than Etsuko. Kimiko’s hair was short, only a few centimeters long. At some point it had been dyed brilliantly neon blue. Very little of the blue remained, only a bare three millimeters or so at the tips. Everything else was steel gray, the same as the walls of their airlock.

“The entire habitat is sealed,” Kimiko said in a tone that strongly implied that she was used to teaching much younger and much more flighty people. She didn’t look back at Etsuko. “We will stay inside the entire time.”

“You will,” Etsuko agreed. She winced when they turned to frown at her. Kimiko’s frown was particularly fierce, eyebrows drawn down over a flat, flat nose that Etsuko suspected had been broken long ago. “I am to work with the natives. I will need to leave the habitat frequently.”

“Better you than me,” Rika muttered.

“Agreed,” Kimiko said. “I have no interest in going outside until it’s time to leave.”

They all turned as the inner door beeped and then spiraled open rather like a sunflower’s petals pulling open to reveal its heart. Rika strode straight in, pulling off her backpack as she scanned the room. Kimiko gestured for Etsuko to go first and then snorted when Etsuko bowed to her before proceeding.

The habitat was quite small, even for a sealed unit, a bare eight paces in diameter. It had, of course, been designed as a circular dome, with small projections for the windows that resembled dormers and a lump on the right side that led to the bathroom unit. One sealed light had been set into the very top of the dome where it could light everything evenly. Thankfully, the only scent inside was a faint impression of dustiness and a lingering trace of ammonia from when the previous team cleaned and sterilized everything.

There were hammocks slung high under the dome in carefully carved out alcoves with little ladders that lead up to them. Sleeping bags already lay on them, each with a wrap of paper around them indicating that they had been fully sterilized before the last team left. Etsuko grimaced. She would still sterilize hers again, just to be sure. It was an uncomfortable thought that someone else had used that sleeping bag before her, many someones, even if they were all scientists. Etsuko had seen too many truly messy scientists with terrible personal hygiene to want to risk an improperly sterilized sleeping bag.

Under the white arch of the dome, the walls went steel gray just above the point that Etsuko could reach while standing on her toes. There were windows, thankfully, but they were more like portholes than the windows she was used to on a planetary surface. An inner window led to a narrow sealed tunnel that was protected on the other side by the outer window. At least they let in light, if not fresh air.

They had a tiny kitchen with a rack for pots hung high enough that Etsuko knew she’d be asking for assistance reaching them every mealtime. There was a very large-seeming table in the center of the room with four chairs, all scarred white plastic that showed how many teams had cycled in and out. It wasn’t that large, really. Etsuko could have spanned it with her arms but in this tiny habitat it seemed enormous. Even steps away she could see initials and words carved into the table’s surface in a dozen different languages.

Under their feet, the floor was dark plastic, a gray so dark that it resembled black in the shadows. Easy to clean, easy to sterilize between teams and certainly one of the most impersonal places Etsuko had ever had to spend time. She almost regretted the lack of human smells and that the walls were so well insulated that she couldn’t hear the shriek of the wind. Visiting the natives would be a relief.

“I will take that desk,” Rika announced as she set her backpack on one of the molded shelves along the outer wall that Etsuko had assumed to be nothing but décor. “The bed above is mine.”

“Very good,” Kimiko replied with an approving nod. She looked at Etsuko impatiently.

“Ah, well, perhaps the one closest to the door?” Etsuko suggested. She bowed again and nearly toppled over as her tired legs protested the movement. “If you do not want it?”

Kimiko frowned, shook her head and then took the desk farthest from the door. “This will be fine for me. Unpack. We should be begin work immediately. We don’t have much time on planet.”

Rika nodded and set to work with her backpack. Both of them turned their backs on Etsuko, leaving her to awkwardly pull off her pack and then quietly, shyly, pull things out. Within moments her little stack of freeze-dried rice toppled off her desk and onto the floor. Etsuko sighed and sat on the floor with it. The desk was barely wide enough for a book or a very small tablet. It certainly wasn’t what she thought of as useful even if there was a little stool that folded out of the wall for her to perch on. That made a more useful surface to place things on than the desk.

Rice went in one stack. Her various curries went in another. Etsuko smiled at her mochi, carefully packaged and sealed so that it met the requirements the natives had enforced. She hadn’t bothered with anything like the more elaborate desserts she preferred. Simple meals would suffice until it was time to leave. Doing without chocolate pecan pie was a minor discomfort, not a trial.

Her clothes would apparently have to remain in the backpack as Etsuko didn’t see a place to store them. No drawers or cubbies or even a shelf existed in her corner. A quick glance showed that Rika and Kimiko’s clothes were stacked on the floor. Odd. Wouldn’t they get dirty? But no, they weren’t stepping outside until they all left so the only dirt would be what they’d tracked in just now. Rika had stuffed her coat into her backpack which she slung from a hook close to the head of her hammock. Kimiko nodded thoughtfully and did the same.

Etsuko bit her lip as she slowly removed her coat and hung that on her just barely too high hook, leaving her pack on the floor under the little shelf-desk. Her boots went underneath the coat and her food into the kitchen pantry. Rather than take one of the higher shelves, given that she was so much shorter than the others, Etsuko took the lowest one, kneeling on the bare floor to carefully stack her sealed bags of food in little meal-sets.

“Separate shelves?” Rika asked.

“I thought it might be good,” Etsuko said. “I did bring mochi if you would like to share, Rika-san.”

“Just Rika,” Rika replied with such a glare that Etsuko bowed an automatic apology. “I left all that nonsense when I left Earth.”

“We’ll be around each other constantly,” Kimiko agreed. “There’s no need for formalities.”

She brought her food over and took the middle shelf, stacking it high with freeze dried fruit crumbles, steak and potatoes, and a big, big, big bag of granola that looked as though it had taken half her backpack.

Rika’s food was all the highly processed and automated pre-packed bricks that tasted like straw and looked like erasers. The little labels said ‘strawberry’, ‘beef’ and ‘gooseberry’ but having eaten them before on one very long, very bad mission Etsuko knew that they had nothing in common with the actual foods. She couldn’t imagine choosing to eat nothing but pre-packs for two weeks but maybe Rika had a digestive issue and this food was safest for her. Etsuko tried not to stare or show her dismay as she looked for a broom to sweep up the inevitable dirt from their, her, boots.

For her part, Rika wrinkled her nose as if Etsuko’s curry and rice was repulsive. “I’d best get my system set up. There’s work to be done.”

She strode across their little habitat as though it was as big as a spaceport, eating up the distance in two quick steps. Etsuko didn’t allow herself a sigh though she did smile when she found the broom and dustpan. There was also a lovely little auto-vac that someone had turned off.

“Oh, one of those,” Kimiko said, glaring at the auto-vac. “Never have been able to stand them wandering about.”

“Ah, well, I suppose we don’t have to use it,” Etsuko said. “I just wanted to be sure that we had cleaning supplies.”

“What for?” Rika huffed. “There won’t be any more mess other than what we generate.”

Etsuko stood, the auto-vac in her arms. Kimiko drifted away from the kitchen and back to her desk, syncing her personal systems to the habitat’s so that she could use all the observational equipment around the site and in the hull. Neither of them paid much attention to Etsuko so she cleared her throat. It took a second rather louder ‘ahem’ to get them to look up and focus on Etsuko.

“I will be leaving the habitat every day,” Etsuko said. “I can remove my boots in the air lock if you prefer but there will be some level of dirt and mess from outside. That is inevitable. Would you prefer me to sweep daily or have the auto-vac run?”

Given their attitudes, Etsuko certainly wasn’t going to give them the option of taking turns with the cleaning. She’d been in this situation entirely too many times since she left home. Taking turns at cleaning and cooking inevitably devolved into Etsuko doing it herself because the others ‘forgot’ or ‘needed to finish this project’.

“Sweeping and we will each take turns,” Kimiko declared.

“I would prefer to do it myself,” Etsuko replied somewhat hesitantly despite her determination. “It will, after all, be my mess.”

Kimiko glared as if she was offended by that. Perhaps she was. Etsuko would have been in her place. But Etsuko was the one who would bring in the dirt. She should be the one to clean. Rika looked from Kimiko’s face to Etsuko’s and shook her head.

“Decide it between yourselves,” Rika said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “I’d prefer to the auto-vac but I really don’t care one way or the other as long as my work gets done.”

Kimiko opened her mouth but Etsuko bowed so deeply that there was no way for her to see Kimiko’s glare and have her resolve crumble.

“I will sweep,” Etsuko said. “I will be the one making the mess. It is appropriate.”

She didn’t straighten up until Kimiko growled, thumped one hand into the surface of her desk-shelf and then sighed.

“Fine,” Kimiko grumbled. “If you insist.”

“I do. Thank you for indulging me.”

And that, finally, appeared to be that. Both of the others turned back to their work of connecting to the habitat’s systems, leaving Etsuko to tuck the little auto-vac back into its corner. One quick sweep of the habitat cleaned up what dirt they’d tracked in. After that, Etsuko nodded approvingly.

Time to contact the natives and let them know that Etsuko was available to hear any of their grievances against the previous occupants of the habitat. Hopefully she would be able to ensure that there were no complaints about the current occupants. Though as she linked her system into the habitat, Etsuko knew that she needed to note that social relations between the three of them were already somewhat strained. She would work harder over the next two weeks to ease them.

3. Agenda

Etsuko gasped for air as the habitat door shut behind her. Her nostrils felt as though they’d just gasped in steam hot from the tea kettle after the chill outside. So strange to have the wind sweep every smell away before she could even process it. Now she could swear that she smelled sweat, grease and oddly, sunflowers. The door was likely the cause of that fancy of her imagination. The sweat was certainly true, and possibly the grease. She doubted that the previous team had cleaned the airlock as seriously as the habitat.

Her first visit with the natives, unpronounceable name translated privately to ‘xam’sherb’tan’ in Etsuko’s notes, had gone quite well. The natives had been so very polite. It had been quite a joy to converse with them though Etsuko of course had to sit outside of their low burrows while they poked a head and sometimes a hand out into the wind. There was no way that she could have fit into their low tunnels, even as small as she was.

Their homes were underground, out of the constant wind. Much like the purple creeping plants that had taken shelter behind Etsuko during her visit to the village, the natives were very low to the ground. Their bodies were sleek, pale yellow on the underside and deep pumpkin-orange on top. Each of their four heads had one eye which rotated a full three hundred and sixty degrees, a set of six nostrils evenly spaced around the flattened perimeter and a single mouth underneath their body. It had muffled their words somewhat but the natives had kindly employed small transmitters to communicate more clearly to Etsuko’s systems. With the powerful wind and the driving rain storm that had blown over it was the only way that Etsuko could have communicated with them long-term.

Much of the discussion had centered around how well Etsuko and her fellow humans would adapt during their time on the planet. Apparently, the previous groups of scientists had gotten cabin fever fairly quickly. Understandable, really. The habitat was quite small but the work was fascinating for all three of them. Etsuko was relatively certain they would be fine during their short stay, though she would check with Rika and Kimiko at least once a day to make sure that they were not bothered by being inside all the time.

When the inner door slid open both Rika and Kimiko bolted to their feet to stare at Etsuko. She gulped, bowed and carefully took off her boots so that she wouldn’t spread dirt around the habitat.

“Where have you been?” Rika demanded.

“Ah, talking with the natives?” Etsuko said and stared at her, puzzled. “They’re actually quite pleasant, very polite and deferential.”

“It poured!” Rika said. “The rain was so loud we thought it was hail.”

“We were afraid you’d been hurt,” Kimiko agreed, coming over to take Etsuko’s coat off and then huff when she spotted tiny baby creepers gripping the hem. “Oh damn, get those out of here!”

“Ah, I am so sorry,” Etsuko said. “Let me handle that. The creepers do like finding spots out of the wind and I made a lovely windbreak for them.”

She took the coat, checked her rear end to make sure none had crawled up under her coat and into her other clothes, and then returned to the outer world, minus her boots. It took a good bit of effort to get the baby creepers let go but eventually set got them off. By the time she cycled back into the air lock Etsuko’s teeth chattered. Her shivers were bad enough that her whole body shook. Fortunately the air in the lock was considerably warmer this time around so by the time the inner door bloomed open Etsuko wasn’t quite so frozen.

Kimiko huffed as she took Etsuko’s coat and pushed her towards their meager little bathroom with its precious water-shower. “Go get warm. You could have just killed them.”

“The natives do not want that,” Etsuko said, rubbing her hands together. “The creepers are vital to their ecology.”

That perked Rika up, thankfully, though Kimiko only snorted as if that was a poor reason for Etsuko to risk her health. A quick shower with blessedly scalding hot water restored Etsuko to her normal self. She let her damp hair hang about her shoulders rather than pinning it back. It would dry soon enough. Having stayed out through lunch, Etsuko was ready for dinner now rather than after she dried her hair.

“I have no idea why you would stay out that long,” Rika complained as soon as Etsuko emerged from the bathroom. “You have to have gotten battered by the wind and the rain.”

“The wind was rather strong,” Etsuko agreed as she crossed to the kitchen and pulled out her favorite sweet and sour curry, a package of rice and the little bundle of strawberry mochi. “Where I was the rain was not quite so bad, really. I just hunched down and most of it blew over my head. One of the benefits of being so short. There aren’t many.”

She stared up at the pots on the rack, hands on her hips. Rika laughed, a truly startling sound out of the stern woman, and took one down for Etsuko. The amusement disappeared when Etsuko bowed her thanks. Kimiko murmured something quite incomprehensible that Rika made a little grumbling noise at. It sounded affirmative, whatever it was.

“I hope that your day’s work went well,” Etsuko said as she added water to her curry and began heating it on the little stove. “Mine was quite lovely. Truly the natives are very nice to deal with.”

“They’re weird looking,” Rika complained. She sat at the table and watched Etsuko cook as if Etsuko was working miracles rather than simply making a meal. “I wouldn’t have come at all if the observations of the ecology weren’t so important. Creepy people.”

“Very,” Etsuko agreed, beaming at her. “Such interesting bodies but very well adapted to their world. I am not sure, of course, having only just begun talking to them, but I think the extreme rule-making and rigorous requirements for politeness have much to do with the fact that they live underground in contained environments. Rather like us, here. There are rules and etiquette to ensure that everyone survives without undue conflict.”

Kimiko reared back, glaring at Etsuko. Rika looked away, staring out one of the windows rather than meeting Etsuko’s eyes. Well. Obviously she’d said something wrong. Etsuko ran over her words as she stirred her curry and then activated the rice packaging’s internal heating unit.

Oh dear. Perhaps they thought that Etsuko wanted to impose a huge number of rules on them? She bit her lip, wondering exactly how to smooth that over. She certainly had no intention of imposing any rules on them, just ensuring that they did the best they could in such cramped quarters. The lovely scent of the curry filled the air. Etsuko’s stomach rumbled. She stirred the curry and sighed that it wasn’t quite ready yet. Soon though.

“Have you eaten yet?” Etsuko asked.

“Some time ago,” Kimiko replied. “You didn’t take any food with you?”

“Oh no,” Etsuko said. “The natives were quite clear that we should keep our food in the habitat. They don’t wish to risk contamination of their environment with foreign species.”

She checked the temperature in the pot, nodding that her rice was done and her curry well heated. She looked at the plates overhead and then shrugged, dumping the hot rice on top of the curry instead of reaching up onto the kitchen shelves for one of the plates. A quick stir and her dinner was ready. Both Kimiko and Rika looked surprised when Etsuko brought the pot back to the scarred table.

“I don’t believe a hot pot will damage the table,” Etsuko said, running her fingers over the many layers of carved names. “Though it might smooth it a bit.”

Kimiko laughed as if her amusement was a kitten who had leaped out from under a bed to attack her ankle. She shook her head at Etsuko.

“I wouldn’t have expected that you’d eat from the pot,” Kimiko said.

“Faster,” Etsuko said around her first bite of food. She swallowed and shrugged. “Also only one thing to clean instead of two. It’s more efficient and I am rather hungry.”

Kimiko nodded, her eyes going distant as she accessed her systems. “We… received a message from the ship.”

“Oh,” Etsuko breathed, a bite of curry halfway to her mouth. “Is something wrong? We don’t have to pull out early do we?”

“No,” Rika said. Her glower was so intense that Etsuko could barely make herself chew and swallow. “You’re in charge of how we work together.”

“Eh?” Etsuko gasped. “Me? But why?”

Her shock seemed to surprise both Rika and Kimiko. Rika shrugged and turned away to go to her little desk, calling up her work programs and putting in ear buds so that she wouldn’t have to talk or interact with either of them. Kimiko sighed and stared at the kitchen rather than meet Etsuko’s eyes.

“The message is still in the habitat’s systems,” Kimiko said, standing abruptly. “I suggest you review it.”

“I will, of course,” Etsuko said. “Thank you for informing me. I wouldn’t have checked for at least another hour or two. I have a great deal to report on my conversations with the natives.”

Kimiko nodded once and turned away. She started working as well, ear buds in and back so stiff that it was as though a wall had been thrown between Etsuko and the others. Her curry tasted like ash in her mouth but Etsuko continued eating. She washed the pot and spoon, disposed of the wrappers and then took her mochi back to her little shelf of a desk.

Hopefully the message would explain what, exactly, she was to do because Etsuko truly didn’t know how to improve things now when the others had reacted so negatively to her change in authority.

4. Adjustments

The message revealed little of why Rika and Kimiko were so stiff with Etsuko. It was a simple reiteration that it was Etsuko’s responsibility to make sure that things went smoothly during their stay on the planet. She rather wished that she could curse without blushing so brightly that her face burned. A little more direction would have been very welcome. Some definition of respective responsibilities and expectations would have been delightful.

But no, their commander had not chosen to do that. She sighed, shook her head and tried not to knock her tablet off the shelf when she stood and tucked her stool back into its slot under the so-called desk.

“Ah!” Etsuko gasped and barely managed to catch her tablet before it crashed to the floor. “That’s it. I am sweeping and then working on the floor. The stool is a better desk than this thing.”

Kimiko made a strangled noise. When Etsuko turned to look, Kimiko’s shoulders shook with laughter. Rika had her face in her hands. Her shoulders shook as well though less obviously. So now she was a source of humor. Better than annoyance, Etsuko supposed as she retrieved the broom and carefully swept her way around the entire habitat.

“Feet please,” Etsuko said as she reached Kimiko’s desk.

“What?” Kimiko stared at her, one hand on her earbud controls to either turn them up or down. Etsuko wasn’t sure which.

“Lift your feet please,” Etsuko said, nodding towards the spot directly under Kimiko.

Once Kimiko tucked her feet up, eyes wide, Etsuko swept underneath her and then nodded approval. She patted Kimiko’s shoulder in passing and then roundly ignored Kimiko’s startled jerk away from her hand. Rika stood when Etsuko approached, leaning against the wall under her backpack with her arms crossed over her chest.

“This is a thing for you, isn’t it?” Rika asked.

“Mmm, somewhat,” Etsuko said slowly as she swept up all the crumbs that had somehow ended up under Rika’s desk. “I like a clean environment but I would prefer to use the auto-vac. Though I’d have to give it rabbit ears first.”

Both Rika and Kimiko choked at that. Etsuko grinned, schooled her face as close to seriousness as she could when she wanted to giggle, and then went back to sweeping. Ten minutes, she was done. As she carefully emptied the dustbin into the trash compactor Rika and Kimiko turned to stare at her. She blinked back at them, looking behind herself when they kept staring.

“You were humming,” Kimiko said.

“Oh,” Etsuko replied. She waved one hand to dismiss their startlement even though her cheeks went red. “I had a very good day. I am in quite the good mood. I do apologize if I disturbed you, Kimiko-san.”

“Must you be so formal?” Kimiko complained. She whirled on her stool to glare at Etsuko as if it was a terrible offense. “We’ll be here two weeks. You don’t need to be so stuffy.”

Etsuko’s jaw dropped open. “I… don’t believe I’ve ever been described as stuffy before. Quirky. Odd. Short. Always short. Certainly sly. But not stuffy. How odd.”

She went back to her corner, wadding her jacket up so that it made an adequate pillow and then opened her mochi while staring at first Rika, who frowned, and then Kimiko, who glared. Very strange indeed.

“Is it that I’m Japanese?” Etsuko asked.

“What do you mean?” Rika asked.

“The formality I use is very Japanese,” Etsuko explained while slowly nibbling her mochi. Strawberry had definitely been the right choice. It was just sweet enough to satisfy her sweet tooth but not so sweet that she ached to have more. “You are Nisei. Kimiko is Sansei while I am just Japanese. I was born and raised there and, honestly, was considered very much a rebel. Far too informal and silly, really. My mother and grandmother told me many times that I would never find a man who would marry a girl who wanted bunny ears on her auto-vac and who liked chocolate pecan pie over mochi.”

Kimiko stared. Her shock was so extreme that she looked considerably younger than Rika, much less Etsuko. Perhaps she was Yonsei or Gosei. She had nothing of the manners, only the look of her Japanese ancestry and the name. On the other side of the habitat, Rika waved one hand at Etsuko as if she was being far more ridiculous than she was in reality.

“If you like pecan pie why didn’t you bring that instead of… mochi?” Rika asked. The way she said the word it became a curse instead of a treat.

“It’s strawberry mochi,” Etsuko said. She emphasized ‘strawberry’ just to watch their reactions and Kimiko didn’t disappoint her at all as she clapped a hand over her mouth to muffle her snickers. “Much sweeter than normal mochi but not so sweet I would spend the night dreaming of eating pastries and pie and licking frosting from the spoon. Once I went on a three month assignment and brought a pie with me. I woke with my pillow stuffed in my mouth having dreamed of eating an endless pie.”

Kimiko’s startled splutters turned into helpless laughter. She shook her head and leaned back against the desk without, somehow, knocking her tablet from its narrow surface. Rika glowered at Kimiko as if she’d betrayed some pact. Who knew? They might have formed one when the message arrived, desperately planning to ward off the terrible rule-maker who lurked around their ankles. Or at least their busts. Rika was quite tall. Etsuko knew that if she stood perfectly straight she would stare Rika directly in the nipple.

“Besides,” Etsuko continued, licking her fingers clean, “a proper chocolate pecan pie would be terribly sticky and fragile. I’m not coordinated enough to keep from smashing it. And I do try not to embarrass myself by licking the package in public.”

She grinned as Rika laughed too, rather like a barking dog that had suddenly spotted its owner coming home after a long absence. Rika threw up her hands and sat at the table to stare at Etsuko for a long moment. Of course, the scrutiny heated Etsuko’s cheeks until she felt as though her face was broiling. There should be sizzling sounds and perhaps the smell of bacon.

“Hmm,” Etsuko said thoughtfully while looking at the kitchen. “I don’t suppose bacon would be a good idea, would it? I’m still not sure how good the air filtration system is.”

“You’d find yourself eating your hammock?” Kimiko asked, eyes wrinkled so much with her grin that she looked a good decade older.

“Possibly,” Etsuko said. “I do love food. And people. And learning new things. And not breaking my tablet. How do you work on those desks? They’re not even wide enough to be a proper shelf, much less a desk.”

“Quit distracting us,” Rika exclaimed. “You’re supposed to be setting the rules for what we do.”

“No,” Etsuko said slowly, her head cocking to the side as she considered the order. “The commander said that I was to ensure things moved smoothly while we were here. That I was to ah, I believe it was ‘smooth the way’. That is not giving orders. Giving orders is giving orders. The commander is quite precise about such things. All he specified, and he wasn’t half specific enough or we wouldn’t be having this conversation, was that I ‘smooth’ things. I am the xeno-sociologist. I suppose it makes sense to him that I would manage everyone’s personal interactions.”

Kimiko frowned and turned to call up her work screen. She read over the message, or at least Etsuko assumed it was the message. Her screens were set to be unreadable for anyone without the encryption key. After a moment Kimiko nodded once.

“That’s… accurate,” Kimiko said.

“I do strive for accuracy,” Etsuko said. “I fully intend to have a long talk with the commander once we’re back on board about his lack of communication skills. Water balloons may be involved. I think they might be necessary.”

She started giggling at the way Rika and Kimiko stared at her, flapping one hand because really, faces like that? It wasn’t as though a simple water balloon would short out anything on board the ship, not in places that Etsuko had access, and the man definitely had it coming.

“You can’t throw water balloons at him,” Rika hissed.

“Why not?” Etsuko said. “He threw them at me.”

She laughed out loud, hands over her mouth at the way Rika’s eyes went wide and her hands flattened on the scarred table. After a second Rika threw up her hands and went back to her stool but she didn’t quite pull it out all the way so it slid out from under her, sending her to the floor. Rika groaned and lay there with her hands over her eyes.

“He threw water balloons at you,” Kimiko asked though the question was all in her eyes, not in her tone of voice.

“Oh yes,” Etsuko said. “After my last mission on his ship, when we all came back covered in mud. He is a bit of a prankster but only with those he knows share his sense of humor. Several years ago, oh, almost a decade ago now, he dated my cousin. And he visited my family during a reunion. We had a great deal of fun pulling pranks on each other. My cousin decided that she did not wish to date him after that.”

Kimiko shook her head and slowly turned back to her desk and screens. She shut the screens down one by one and then slowly, carefully, almost as though she was afraid the switch was the trigger for a glitter bomb, turned off the light over her desk.

Across the room, Rika sighed and turned to stare under the desk at Etsuko. They could see each other quite easily through the desk and chair legs. Etsuko waved and then giggled as Rika groaned.

“It’s late,” Kimiko announced. “I’m tired. I’m going to sleep.”

“A very good idea,” Etsuko said. “I will work very quietly on my report, I promise. And I will try not take more than an hour or so at it.”

“It’ll take you that long?” Rika asked, sitting up enough that she could support herself with her elbows.

“Mmm, longer if I am thorough,” Etsuko said. “I did spend hours with them. But I recorded everything so I can go back over it later, after we go home. I just prefer to get my initial report done the same day. First impressions often change after a night’s sleep.”

Both Rika and Kimiko nodded at that so apparently they had experienced the same thing in their respective fields. Kimiko climbed straight up to her hammock, zipping up the sleeping bag so authoritatively that Rika snorted and Etsuko hid a grin behind her hand.

Rika showered and then followed suit, settling into her bed with a sigh and a grumble at the light overhead. Rather than torment them with the bright dome light, Etsuko shut it off and used her desk light instead.

With just the one dim light the sterile little habitat felt much more home-like. Etsuko smiled and found herself humming an old song from Earth as she worked, the simple counting song she’d learned while gardening with her grandmother. Neither Kimiko nor Rika objected. They didn’t shift or move around as if Etsuko’s voice was annoying.

Perhaps this would work out after all.

She was still going to throw water balloons at the commander, though. He’d earned them.

The End

Find this Book:

On Amazon $2.99 ebook

On Smashwords $2.99 ebook

On Kobo $2.99 ebook

On CreateSpace $5.99 TPB

If you can’t afford to buy the story, please consider leaving a donation. All money received goes toward keeping me writing and posting these stories. Thank you very much!

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Busy day


FYI, life continues to be unreasonably busy but the next Drath romance novel should be out by the weekend. This one features Mohana, who’s been brainwiped, and Tiyamike, who’s a transgender assassin, on the run from the people who wiped Mohana. Mohana is a sap and falls in love the instant he sees Tiyamike. XD

I had far too much fun writing the book so I’m really looking forward to getting it out to you guys. Have a glimpse of the cover!

Well, I have to get to work (big customer audit today) but I just wanted to share. Have a good Wednesday everyone!

(And yeah, this is me trying to post here more *wry smile*)

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Novel Monday: Following the Trail – Chapter 2

POD Following the Trail Ebook Cover 04

As her older sister’s wedding begins, Keiko struggles to cope with a level of society she has never prepared for. Raised a peasant, Keiko is now a member of nobility. Despite that, she longs for the simplicity of her rural peasant life but her family’s choices mean that Keiko will never go home again.

Worse, everyone at the wedding assumes that Keiko will marry her future brother-in-law, Ammad, despite Keiko’s fascination with the visiting Lady Tamami.

Following the Trail is a sweet romance where cruel gossip and sheer determination create a trail to a new life that promises everything Keiko could ever want.

Following the Trail

By Meyari McFarland

2. Hill Garden

Ammad brushed off his chest as he strode up the hallway behind Nabeela. He couldn’t help but be surprised that Shizuka, their Piyari, had actually told the truth about her sisters. Haruka was absolutely gorgeous. In a couple of years she’d turn heads from one end of Ambermarle to the other. She was a bit too young yet for anything romantic but with her cheerful nature and beautiful moon-like face, Haruka was certain to find dozens of suitors.

And Keiko, the middle daughter, was just as lovely, if a good bit more serious. He’d been surprised to literally run into the young woman but other than her concern about the travel dust that had afflicted every single guest to arrive over the roads, Keiko had been completely charming. And truly stunning despite her somewhat strict demeanor.

Her face wasn’t as round as either Shizuka or Haruka. Instead she had an oval face with large dark eyes. A broad nose perched over small full lips. Beautiful wide eyebrows balanced out her face, giving it a lively look that Ammad smiled over even now, after leaving her side.

Sadly, her hair had been pinned up in a smooth bun that swept from her forehead up to the top of her head. He’d glimpsed little flowers tucked into the coil of the bun when Keiko bowed, as tempting as the brief flashes of ankle he’d seen as she walked.

“You’re quiet,” Nabeela commented. She laughed at Ammad’s start of surprise. “What has you so distracted?”

“Ah, just thinking about Piyari’s family,” Ammad said.

Nabeela grinned, poking one stiff finger into his shoulder. “I saw you talking with her younger sister Keiko. She’s a lovely one, isn’t she?”

“Yes, she is,” Ammad agreed.

He didn’t add anything else but then he didn’t have to. Ever since Shizuka had accepted Nabeela’s offer of marriage, Nabeela had been determined to find Ammad a spouse. She’d arranged meetings and dates with every single eligible man and woman for dozens of miles around. Whenever someone from other provinces came to visit, Nabeela asked them about eligible people there. It had become something of a game for her to try to match-make for Ammad while Ammad gave her as little feedback as possible.

Not terribly helpful for him to find a Lady but Ammad still wasn’t sure that he was ready for marriage. It had only been a bit over a year since Mother’s death. He didn’t wake with heart-breaking loss anymore but Ammad didn’t think anyone could fill Mother’s place better than Shizuka already had.

A wife or husband would have to be someone utterly different than Mother and right now Ammad couldn’t imagine sharing his life with another person, let alone someone so different from Mother, or even Shizuka. There was time yet, no matter what Nabeela thought about it.

Predictably, Nabeela’s smile turned speculative. Ammad sighed and shook his head at her.

“I think one marriage to girls from the Village of Beautiful Women in the family is enough,” Ammad said.

“I don’t know,” Nabeela replied, chuckling at his glare. “I’m sure Shizuka would be delighted to have her little sister closer. They were quite close.”

“Please stop,” Ammad groaned.
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Free Fiction Friday: Bottling the Cold, Hard Heart

POD Bottling the Cold Hard Heart Ebook Cover 04
Eliza’s comfortable life ended when her beloved grandmother died. Her cousin Sandra swooped in and took it all, from the house to Eliza’s beloved dog, Miki. Nothing Eliza did worked but the one thing she would never give up on was saving Miki, no matter what it took.

Bottling the Cold, Hard Heart is a cozy mystery where family and tradition are the true threats to life, love and liberty.

Bottling the Cold, Hard Heart

By Meyari McFarland


Eliza paused just inside the back fence, heart pounding so hard that her head spun and her stomach churned. Her familiar old yard looked so very barren now. Sandra had stripped out the purple and gold irises that had clustered along the west side of the yard like sunlit storm clouds in the spring. Every single blueberry, concord grape and blackberry bush was gone, torn up as though they were worthless. There was no hope of wine this year, sweet and rich from the fruits of the garden Eliza and Grandmother had spent so many years tending.

Her old oak tree, trunk bent and twisted from the lightning strike that had killed half the tree when Eliza was ten, was gone. There wasn’t even a hummock or stump left. Sandra must have paid to have the stump dug out and the hole filled in before she covered everything in the yard with purchased blocks of dry-edged sod.

Even the old fence, broad boards that Eliza had once decorated with chalk drawings of suns, stars and moons, was gone. Every single bleached grey slab of wood had been whisked away. In its place was an eight foot tall cold, impersonal chain link fence whose only bit of personality was the green plastic coating over the bare metal. The Chelsey’s back yard looked startled at being exposed and old Mr. Quinn’s yard all but glowered, shrubs leaning away from the chain link as if offended by its presence.

Grandmother’s house was as unrecognizable. When Eliza moved in at eight, after her parent’s deaths, Grandmother had insisted on repainting the house in Eliza’s favorite colors. The roof had been covered with new burgundy shingles. Eliza, Grandfather and Grandmother had gleefully painted the siding forest green. The trim had been a rich golden tan. All the doors and window frames had been carefully covered with deep purple paint that made the little rambler look like a grand Painted Lady of the Victorian era.

Not now. The house was white. The shingles were black. Every scrap of color was gone, just like Grandmother’s life was gone, like Eliza’s life was over. Only Sandra’s desires and tastes remained.

Except for Miki, her precious little Cavalier King Charles spaniel. Miki, hopefully, was the last bit of life and color left in the house that had been Eliza’s home since her father killed her mother and then himself when she was eight years old. Now she just had to rescue Miki and go to jail for crossing Sandra.

Eliza wished for that old battered fence for more than just nostalgia’s sake as she edged carefully across the bricks of grass towards the back door. Anyone passing on the road in front of the house could see her there. With all the greenery gone, Eliza stood out like the sole red rose in a display of pure white lilies.

It hardly mattered that Eliza had parked her car a mile away and walked down the much quieter back lane that only garbage trucks followed to get here when there was no cover at all in the yard. Someone had to notice her, had to call the police soon. But no, Eliza couldn’t hear a single car. The afternoon was still and quiet as suited a Tuesday afternoon in the middle of the month. Everyone in the neighborhood was gone, hopefully especially Sandra.

Birds sang next door, a strident Bluejay calling its claim to the neighbor’s garden worms, a little chickadee trilling as it hopped along the top of the chain link fence. The chickadee cocked its head at Eliza, taking in her wild hair, shaking hands, pale face. Then it flew away as if afraid to even look into Sandra’s yard.

And wasn’t that the heart of it all?

This was Sandra’s now. The yard stripped of flowers, trees, shrubs, the fresh sod laid down over the clover Grandmother and Eliza had favored, even the bare black paving stones by the back door with one pristine white-painted iron chair sitting by a carefully centered white ironwork table; it all belonged to Sandra when it had been willed to Eliza.

The Bluejay shrilled as it took flight in a clap of wings that startled Eliza back into the chain link fence. It clanged, startling her even worse. Eliza bit her lip against a scream that would turn to tears, to panic, to shaking and crouching by the gate instead of going in to rescue Miki.

“Miki,” Eliza whispered. “I have to save Miki.”

She pressed her hands to her mouth, shut her eyes. No matter how frightened she was of Sandra, Eliza had to rescue Miki. Grandmother had willed the house and everything in it to Eliza. Sandra had gotten the money, the investments she’d always prized over people and pets, but the house had gone to Eliza so that she’d always have a home for herself and Miki.

Not that the will had stood against Sandra’s lawyers.
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Novel Monday: Following the Trail – Chapter 1

POD Following the Trail Ebook Cover 04

As her older sister’s wedding begins, Keiko struggles to cope with a level of society she has never prepared for. Raised a peasant, Keiko is now a member of nobility. Despite that, she longs for the simplicity of her rural peasant life but her family’s choices mean that Keiko will never go home again.

Worse, everyone at the wedding assumes that Keiko will marry her future brother-in-law, Ammad, despite Keiko’s fascination with the visiting Lady Tamami.

Following the Trail is a sweet romance where cruel gossip and sheer determination create a trail to a new life that promises everything Keiko could ever want.

Following the Trail

By Meyari McFarland

1. Dusty Road

Keiko licked her dusty lips as she carefully eased out of the carriage that had brought them from their home village in the mountains to Breding Manor, awkwardly feeling with her geta for the step that the servants had put down. The air was heavy with dust, full of the scent of moss and roses. It should be raining but this year had been unusually dry. The road had been dusty enough that Keiko’s indigo kimono looked grey rather than blue.

She still couldn’t believe that Shizuka had gotten engaged to Lord Bilal Mansoor’s daughter Nabeela. In just a few days Shizuka would be the Lady of Breding Manor, or at least the Lady’s wife. It seemed like a dream, a fantasy, but no, nearly a year to the day after Shizuka arrived at Breding Manor, here they were, getting ready for a wedding.

Once securely on solid ground, Keiko turned to help Father down. His burns were healed, though the scars would always remain, twisting his face, the skin on his left arm and leg, into something as fearsome as an oni. Keiko knew that he still felt the pain from the exploding molten glass that had set them all on this path. He hissed at her grip on his left elbow, hand curled into an awkward claw, but he nodded his thanks once he was down. His left leg hadn’t been too badly burnt but the doctors had said that the knee would always be a problem for him.

Little Haruka followed, scampering down with a flash of calf that made Keiko frown at her. Mother followed more carefully, patting her kimono into place and then taking Father’s arm. All of them were sweaty from the ride. If it wouldn’t have taken too long, Keiko would have preferred to walk. The carriage had been horrible, jolting side to side and so hot that she felt faint standing there.

“It’s huge!” Haruka whispered, tugging on Keiko’s sleeve. “O-nii-chan, this is really Shizuka’s new home?”

“It must be,” Keiko whispered back without tugging her sleeve free from Haruka’s grip.

It truly was enormous. Keiko couldn’t see how big the building actually was. Built on a rare bluff, flat enough for a large building, Breding Manor seemed to fill every inch of that space. The building itself was one story tall in most areas. She could just glimpse a two-story section towards the back but it seemed to be miles away. Their little two-room home could have fit into Breding Manor twenty, maybe thirty, times.

She’d never been somewhere so grand before. The roof had striking tile that looked as though it was generations old, covered with thick moss that gave it a living feel. Underneath, cedar planks covered the walls. Wide windows of many panes spread across the entire expanse of the wall facing them. The amount of fuel necessary to heat the place with that many windows was unimaginable.

The front door, huge and carved with beautiful deer, salmon and bear designs by local artisans, swung open as a grand lady in the most beautiful blue resist-dyed kimono that Keiko had ever seen hurried out. She smiled so brightly at them that Keiko automatically bobbed her head in a bow, only to stop and lift her head to stare.

“Shizuka,” Keiko breathed.
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Well, that’s good.

I’ve gotten Novel Monday posts queued up until December 26th. We just finished the last novel so it’s time to start a new one. I decided to follow on after A New Path and share it’s sequel Following the Trail. The Manor verse is always fun though I’m not sure when I’ll get around to writing more.

I’m having far too much fun with my current series, the The Drath romances. I’ve got three up already and I’ve just finished the latest of three unpublished Drath romance novels. I’m hoping to get those out one each month so the goal is getting the next one (#4: Fragments of a Chain) up by the ened of this week, then #5 (Stranded With You) by November 18th, and the latest one (#6: Reunited Hearts) by Dec 16th. Maybe by the 9th as Christmas does lead to shutdowns.

There will be more after that as I’m having far too much fun with the Drath verse.

Though I would like to write some more short stories to share, too… Not enough time, just never enough time for everything I want to get done.

Anyway, just wanted to let everyone know the latest news. Hope you’re having a lovely weekend!

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Free Fiction Friday: Midwife to Divinity

POD Midwife to Destiny Ebook Cover 03


Dahlia had a problem: a stalker with powers that threatened not just her life but also her carefully crafted identity. Jacks had a problem, too: a magical doom that had destroyed his entire family. Only by trusting each other can they solve the problems destroying their lives.

Midwife to Divinity is an urban fantasy focused on strength, challenges and claiming what you thought you’d left behind.

Midwife to Divinity

By Meyari McFarland

1. Cold Comfort

The answering machine light blinked at Dahlia. She stared at it, heart hammering in her ears, an angry lump up in her throat. Dru had been right. Everything she said was right. Dahlia bit her lip, watching that light flicking on and off like a strobe sweeping ever closer to her.

Her apartment was cold, dark, in contrast with the beautiful colors that had tempted her into staying here originally. Dahlia had taken to leaving blankets and sweaters everywhere so that she could curl up under them. Even after she finally figured out how to deal with this problem she’d probably keep them out. The comfort and color was so enticing that Dahlia knew she’d keep doing it.

Comfortable blankets or not, it wasn’t safe to turn on the lights. Turning up the heat was a problem, too, given what she’d been able to figure out about Jacks. As nice as it would be to have warmth in here, she didn’t dare do more than keep the pipes from freezing. Better to be cold and live in the dark than risk Jacks realizing that she was still here. She’d spent too many years building this life to abandon it so suddenly.

The entire mess was Dahlia’s fault. Despite Dru’s warnings, she’d had to go out, had to take a night off and go to the bar with her oblivious coworkers. That last night of warmth and laughter had been so wonderful until it all went wrong. Dahlia’s fingers tightened around the keys clutched in her hand, squeezing until her knuckles ached and the edges threatened to break her skin, spilling out power and blood in equal measure.

At least the cold kept the garbage from smelling. Dahlia hadn’t taken the trash out for three weeks now. Pretty soon she would have to but for now the bags, stuffed to the point that the drawstrings barely held them shut, sat patiently by the front door.

More air freshener would take care of the residual stink of rotting orange peels and apple cores that Dahlia couldn’t avoid. It didn’t help the empty fridge, though. That was something that Dahlia had to take care of soon or risk going to the mall next to work. Which she wouldn’t do.

Jacks would be there, his eyes too bright and his fingers curling as if they could feel the muscles of her biceps struggling to escape already. How he got away with his stalking was the mystery. Dahlia didn’t see how anyone could miss the man’s predatory expressions, the way he cornered young women, pulling them aside and forcing them to smile, to look up at him, to slip away with him. She didn’t know how people missed that the women came back bruised, frightened, sometimes bleeding and all, all, of them with gaps in their memory that covered the hours of the time with Jacks.

Dahlia already knew that some never came back at all.
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Now Available: Consort of the Crystal Palace

Imani had a problem: Bala Wirnhier, Platinum Consort of the Crystal Palace.

Since her arrival, Bala had taken over. Overnight, Imani had gone from Chief of Staff to clerk. Nothing Imani did made a difference.

That wasn’t going to last.

Imani would not fail. Taking Bala as her consort would restore Imani’s power.

No one was going to destroy Imani’s life, especially not Bala.

Find This Book:

On Kobo $3.99 ebook

On Smashwords$3.99 ebook

On Amazon $3.99 ebook or $14.99 TPB

On CreateSpace $14.99 TPB

Whoot! Finally got the Now Available post up! *happy dance*

Sorry I’ve been so silent over here, guys. I’ve been very busy getting things done at the day job and working on getting my writing set up as a proper business. Which takes, apparently, an infinite number of trips to the bank to get things straightened out. Very frustrating but once it’s done it’ll be done and then I can get on with actually doing the writing and publishing my books. And, maybe, you know, advertising them. Like this. And other ways.

*rueful grin*

Anyway, I hope you like this book if you choose to read–it’s got my first f/f couple for this series and they were a ton of fun to write together. Add that to the next two novels (already done) and the one I’m maybe 3 chapters from finishing and this ‘verse is going strong. Expect a book a month until I run out of books for this series. Or move on to something else as will inevitably happen in time.

I really am sorry about disappearing. I’ll work hard to be more consistent about coming over and posting here. You can always find me on Tumblr as it’s super quick and easy to post there. My current challenge is doing a watercolor and ink sketch every single day for the month of October. No misses so far! :D

Hope you enjoy the book if you choose to read!

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Novel Monday: A New Path – Chapter 10 (the end!)

POD A New Path Ebook Cover 09


After Shizuka’s father suffered a terrible accident, she took on the challenge of apprenticing to the nobility of Ambermarle in the hopes of learning a new career that could cover for his medical care. Breding Manor surprised her with more than just career opportunities.

Two potential romances with the Lord’s oldest son Ammad and his willful daughter Nabeela promised a new path that Shizuka could never have imagined.

A New Path is a sweet romance where second chances lead to something wonderful for everyone involved.

A New Path

By Meyari McFarland

10. Revelation

Shizuka let out a slow, careful breath as Master Ammad’s guest and he left the room. Her hands trembled on her thighs despite her efforts to still them. Why had he paid such respect to her? Mistress Nabeela was the one who was the host, not Shizuka. But she knew the answer to that even as she thought it.

Mistress Nabeela had allowed Shizuka to take care of all the customary hostess duties, from picking the tea and arranging for the food, very little of which had been eaten. Perhaps she should have gone for cheese instead of fruit with the naan bread? It would still be eaten of course, just by other people. Either way, it had been Shizuka who had boiled the water, chosen the tea pot and cups, arranged the food, given the orders to the staff and directed the servants, not Nabeela.

And when little Peni had spilled the udon, it had been Shizuka snapping orders at everyone, soothing Peni’s poor burnt arm, calling for a doctor and shouting to a servant already on her way to inform Lord Bilal that it wasn’t bad enough for him to get up. It had even been Shizuka choosing how to arrange Mistress Nabeela’s hair and Shizuka was fairly certain everyone in the hallways and in the kitchen had exclaimed over how lovely the style was once Shizuka returned to check on Peni.

Even Peni had giggled over it while the doctor soothed aloe over her burnt arm and wrapped it with a clean bandage. And then it had fallen to Shizuka to decide that Peni was to help in the offices until she could use her hand properly again, rather than waiting for Mistress Nabeela or Master Ammad to give a ruling. Or, even more appropriately, for Lord Bilal to rule.

“Well, that went better than expected,” Mistress Nabeela sighed once the door shut behind Master Ammad and their guest Waseem. “He’s usually as stiff as a log. He seemed quite charmed today, though.”

Shizuka nodded thoughtfully. “He seems very proper, Mistress. I was reminded of my grandfather on my father’s side. He was always very stiff and proper but he had a wicked sense of humor.”

“He played mean tricks on people?” Mistress Nabeela asked, concerned.

“Oh no, Mistress,” Shizuka said with as close as she could manage to her grandfather’s still, faintly surprised face. “He never played tricks. He just assumed something sexual was going on at all times.”
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Free Fiction Friday: Transformations

POD Transformations Ebook Cover 02


Ewould had spent his life in an uneasy compromise between his true self and the pressures of his parents and society. No matter what body he’d been born with, he was male. That changed the day he buried his husband. Come what may, Ewould decided to seize his destiny and set for to transform himself into the person he should always have been.

Transformations is a powerful fantasy story of truth, identity and forcing the world to accept you as you truly are.


By Meyari McFarland

Ewould sighed as he reached the top of the ridge, thighs burning from the climb. His lungs burned too, unused to the cold, clear air after too long cramped in town, hunched over a kitchen stove. The lack of a corset didn’t help. His breasts, damned fat bags, weighed heavy on his ribs despite all the weight he’d lost since the priests arrived to change their lives.

It was quiet, so blessedly quiet, up here. Ewould could hear birds peeping in the low shrubs along the trail. Wind ruffled strands of grey-streaked hair that had pulled free of the thick brown braid down his back. Should have cut that off before he left but it took so damned long to saw through a braid that he hadn’t bothered. Better to leave when he had the chance, before the priests could force him into another marriage he hadn’t wanted and to a man he couldn’t stand.

So much had changed since he was small.

It had been years since he’d gone this way. More than two decades. Hell, nearly three now. The last time had been when his brother was driven out of the town for using forbidden magic, face bleeding and back torn to shreds by Father’s whip.

No one spoke his brother’s name after that, not even Ewould.

He’d been too afraid. Ewould licked his lips, tasting the remnants of paint that the priests had insisted he wear to the funeral. They didn’t care that Ewould was mourning, didn’t care that Ewould had loved Maas with his whole soul. They sure as hell didn’t care that Maas had loved Ewould despite everything that was wrong with his soft, rounded body, not because of it.
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