30 Days of Christmas Giveaway!


Hey! Go check this out!

I was lucky enough to get into the 30 Days of Christmas giveaway. My book Out of Disaster is up for one lucky person to get a free copy today. Go sign up and maybe you’ll get my book or the other two author’s books.

Leave me a comment here and I’ll put you in my own private matching flash giveaway. Two copies of Out of Disaster will be going to people’s ereaders one way or the other.

*cheers*

Advertisements
Posted in LGBT Issues, MDR Publishing, Rambling, Self Publishing, Writing Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Novel Monday: Facing the Storm – Chapter 1

Time for a new novel and given that I’ve just redone all the covers and formatting for the Muirin series, Facing the Storm seemed like a good choice. Speaking of which, if you’ve bought any of the Muirin stories on Amazon, do please check your device and content manager. The changes weren’t large enough for me to request Amazon to send the update so you’ll have to update it manually yourself. Enjoy!

Description:

When the Tourmaline Seas docked in Atalya, Raelin expected a normal port of call: trade, exploration, loading cargo.

What she got was a stunning offer, threats from the Delbhana and an unexpected need to step into her elder’s shoes.

The rest of the trip home to Aingeal raised the stakes for Raelin and her beloved ship as the lives of everyone on board rested in Raelin’s unprepared hands.

Facing the Storm

By Meyari McFarland

1. Distant City

Atalya’s City of the Ladies gleamed in the distance, spires shimmering as if they were made of light and shadows instead of solid chunks of crystal taller than the masts of the Tourmaline Seas. Mist clung to the salt marsh, hiding everything that lay between Raelin and the City. She stood on the last bit of solid land, hands on her hips, just looking.

Captain Vevina had warned her not to go any further than this spot. She’d warned the entire crew but her eyes had stayed on Raelin’s face the entire time. It showed that Captain Vevina still regretted taking Raelin on back after the Tourmaline Seas was rebuilt. Every time she saw Raelin, her brows drew together and her lips turned down in stern frown.

Raelin wasn’t sure why. She worked hard, followed orders, and learned whatever the rest of the crew put in front of her. Cooking? Raelin learned to make every single meal the cook knew and then asked other people for recipes everywhere they went. Trading? If it was for sale, Raelin learned about it and got samples to bring back home for Captain Vevina and Mother to assess. Hauling line, reefing sails, navigation? Learning those was a joy that left Raelin beaming, sometimes for days.

The last five years had been everything Raelin had ever dreamed of. Chinwendu’s markets filled with spices and delicate spider silk, Ntombi’s sun-beaten plains and the warriors that patrolled them, here in Atalya on the exact opposite side of the planet from Aingeal were wonders that Raelin would never get tired of.

How could she? Every place had a different scent, a different taste, even different sounds. Atalya’s language was all short choppy sentences with vowels clipped short. Chinwenduese flowed like the luscious silk they created, filled with complicated grammar and more genders than Raelin had ever conceived of.

It was all so beautiful, so different. Raelin looked forward to spending the rest of her life on the sea, exploring, trading and learning everything she could about the world and the people who lived it in.

“You look happy,” Bahb commented. She sniffed the air and rubbed her nose. “No idea why. Stinks.”

“Low tide,” Raelin said, shrugging. “Don’t know what you expect.”

Bahb shook her head at Raelin, looking longingly back towards the market they’d wandered out of. Her skin was darker than most of the ship, not tanned that way like Captain Vevina but naturally. Her mother had gotten pregnant with Bahb somewhere between Aingeal and Jaffa and had never known who the father was. Raelin thought her darker skin and hair gave Bahb a sort of beauty lacking in her family. Though it might be her smooth hair.

Raelin smoothed a hand over her hair, smiling wryly at the waves she felt. A lifetime of fighting with her curls hadn’t gotten her any closer to the smooth, sleek hair she’d always wanted. Nothing ever would short of spending hours on it or shaving her head.

“Why are we out here?” Bahb asked as she rocked on her toes. “Can’t be for that thing.”

“It is, actually,” Raelin said. She laughed at the way Bahb groaned. “Don’t act surprised. I’m a Dana. You know we get into everyone’s business.”

“Not the Ladies’ business,” Bahb snapped, grabbing the back of Raelin’s shirt and dragging Raelin back towards the market. “I don’t care how little sense your family has, you know better. Haven’t seen you start one fight yet.”
Continue reading

Posted in Matriarchies of Muirin, MDR Publishing, Novel Monday, Rambling, Self Publishing, Welcome Post, Writing Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Free Fiction Friday: Another Path to Infinity

Every Friday I post a short story for free. It stays up for 1 week and then comes down when I put the next one up. So please enjoy this story while it lasts.

POD Another Path to Infinity ebook cover 08

Description:

When death stole one life, she searched for another.

Exie used her magic to travel from world to world in search of another place, and another woman, to call home. Grief kept her at Benella’s side for entirely too long, long enough that she left with anger and recriminations at her back. Benella had seemed like the answer to Exie’s prayers but she’d been wrong.

Years spent wandering the paths to infinity hadn’t led Exie to another woman who could replace her lost love. After five years of running, Exie wondered whether she’d ever find someone who could make her settle down.

Then a mistake while walking the paths dropped Exie into a life or death situation with the Goddess of All. Exie’s faith had died along with her lost love Tivian, or so she’d thought. She might have forsaken the Goddess when she ran away from home but it appeared that the Goddess hadn’t abandoned Exie.

Collapsed in a strange world unlike any she’d ever found before, Exie was at the mercy of a woman who could be Tivian’s twin. She might take pity on Exie but it appeared that her husband, world-twin to Exie’s own brother, had no such intentions.

Was this world the last she would ever see or would it prove to be the starting point for a path that led to Exie’s true home?

Another Path to Infinity

1. Loss

“I’m sorry,” Benella said as she dropped Exie’s hands, the smell of distilling rose petals heavy in the air. “I can’t accept.”

Benella’s kitchen was filled with roses from her garden, the heads coolly and methodically cut off at the peak of blossom so that Benella could distill rose water from their petals. Steam drifted around them, dripping down Exie’s drooping curls and forming tiny pearls of water on Benella’s cheeks. The steam only made Benella’s dark hair shine as she looked at the worn floor. Her dark eyes picked out the boards that Exie had replaced for her before raising her eyes to Exie’s again.

Her expression was anything but apologetic. Her eyes were cold despite the regretful smile twisting her lips into an approximation of emotion. Exie swallowed down a surge of acid rage. Months. She had spent months with Benella, helping her fix her house, weeding the garden, laughing at all Benella’s weak jokes about needing a real man in the house but oh well, Exie was close enough.

Close enough to do the hard labor. Close enough to fix what had gone wrong through neglect and lack of money. Close enough to fill Benella’s bed most nights. Not close enough to love, to cherish, or to keep. She’d failed again.

“I know you were expecting something more,” Benella said as she rubbed her hands distastefully over her stained and spotted apron. Once it had been beautifully embroidered, apparently a gift of Benella’s grandmother. Now it showed its years. “You have helped me enormously. I might not have been able to survive the winter without you staying here. The leaks in the roof alone would have destroyed half the food in the pantry.”

“It would have,” Exie agreed, not bothering to hide the harshness of her tone. “Not to mention last week.”

Benella winced at the reminder of Exie’s battle with the local bully boys in her defense. She looked away, the set of her jaw and shoulders defiant. Bruises still dotted Exie’s chest, back and stomach. Her knuckles were scraped and split. Exie had only just gotten sight back in her right eye. It had been ugly with broken blood vessels and bruising when Exie glanced into the water bucket this morning.

“They would have raped you,” Exie said. The words came out casual, as if it was a comment on the weather.

“They wouldn’t have,” Benella replied. Her shudder made the words into a lie.

“I’m just to leave?” Exie asked, said, demanded. “Take my things and walk away. Near a full year I’ve been here for you and I’m just to walk out the door and not look back.”

She expected a denial, some weakening of Benella’s expression. Instead she got a flat stare, a firm nod and a gesture towards the back door where Exie’s traveling bag sat waiting. This time Exie was the one to look away. No matter how often this happened she never expected it. It always hurt to be turned out of a place that she had begun to consider home, even though it could never be her true home.

“Please go,” Benella said.
Continue reading

Posted in Free Fiction Friday, LGBT Issues, MDR Publishing, Self Publishing, Writing Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Novel Monday: Transplant of War – Chapter 25 – Conclusion!


Description:
Adane barely escaped war in his homeland. He wanted nothing more than to hide in this new city with his adopted child Chisa by his side. But every choice he makes risks their quiet lives and every day brings the war that Adane fled closer to their doorstep. Soon Adane will have to choose between running away again or taking a stand against an enemy that can’t be seen and cannot be fought.

Transplant of War
by Meyari McFarland

25. Home

It was so far. Adane leaned against one of the beautiful buildings, his glowing spear braced so that it would prop him up. He’d made it a grand total of one block past the city walls before his exhausted legs refused to go any farther.

No one had stopped him as he slowly, painfully, hobbled through the palace. Really, there hadn’t been any people to stop him. Some servants, pale and wide eyed, so terrified that they’d run when they spotted him. A few soldiers had run by. One city guard, his uniform messy and streaked with soot.

No nobles. No mages. No one who could order Adane to turn around and report to the King, the Queen. Really, they would probably insist that he go to the queen with his shaking arms and legs, pale skin, sweaty brow. But no, he’d gotten lucky and slipped out of the palace, right out of its walls, without being found. Stopped.

“I can’t make it home,” Adane complained to the spear because there really wasn’t anyone else to complain to.

“Go away!”

Adane fell over, staring at the servant who glowered down at him through a window. The servant frowned, pointed up the street, her hair in a messy bun that looked as though she’d only just twisted it into place. A love bite on her neck told Adane that ‘we’re about to die’ sex might have been happening before Hakeem al Haddad died.

“Go on! Go away!” the servant insisted. She swatted at someone behind her before glaring that Adane hadn’t immediately scampered away. “Why are you still here?”
Continue reading

Posted in Mages of Tindiere, MDR Publishing, Novel Monday, Self Publishing, Writing Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Free Fiction Friday: Sensory Alterations

Every Friday I post a short story for everyone to read for free. It stays up for one week and then I take it down and replace it with another one. Enjoy the story while it lasts!
Sensory Alterations Ebook Cover 02

Description:

When Tinesha left her Seattle suburban home to join the space station building program it was with a sense of excitement. She hoped for adventure and something greater to dedicate herself to. Helping humanity expand into outer space seemed like a worthy path for her life, one that she’d be able to follow for years, maybe decades.

But once she was on the station and had begun to help constructing it, Tinesha found that she was having a harder time adjusting to life in space than she expected. It wasn’t the work that gave her trouble or her fellow construction workers in space.

No, the problem was that she couldn’t adjust to the sensory differences in her environment. Just as Tinesha was about to give up and go back home, her new friend Kalila suggested a way that Tinesha could cope with the station. Taking her up on the suggestion opened up a whole new world for Tinesha. More importantly, it opened up a possibility between them that Tinesha would never have dared to hope for.

Sensory Alterations

It was the smells that made it impossible to adjust to her new life on the space station. Tinesha had had high hopes when she joined the station building program. A new life in a new place with adventure and excitement were just what she’d been hoping for. She took all the tests and passed with flying colors, even the physical tests that made her sweat worse than weeding the garden behind her family’s home in the middle of August.

The trip from her home outside of Seattle to the training center had been a medley of stale air, bland food and the smell of too many bodies crammed into too small a space. Once at the training center, Tinesha had gladly thrown herself into the many things she needed to learn. She’d noticed that the center smelled of antiseptic and new plastics instead of rain or moss or even other people.

It was scrubbed so clean so often that there were no smells of anything else left. That made sense given that they wanted all the recruits to be as healthy as possible before shipping out to the stations under construction in orbit between Mars and Earth. It had been a minor irritant, that lack of the moist smell of rain clouds moving in, the absence of musty earth and moss. Tinesha would deal with it for the chance to do something totally new.

By the time they arrived at their assigned station, Tinesha had grown aware of a deep hunger for smells that she couldn’t find in her environment. There were no green growing things smelling of pollen and damp earth. All the plants were grown hydroponically and she wasn’t assigned to tending them. The food came wrapped in plastic, perfectly balanced and nutritious but the smells of it were off, bland, wan compared to what she was used to. Even the air made the back of her nose itch for the lack of dust.

“I don’t think I can do this,” Tinesha murmured as she sniffed the air in hope of something more than metal, the plastic wrap over her lunch tray and the scent of her deodorant.

“Can’t do what?” Riyad asked as he settled into the seat opposite Tinesha. “The food? Granted, this is worse than normal. I think they bleached it while they cooked it or something.”
Continue reading

Posted in Free Fiction Friday, LGBT Issues, MDR Publishing, Rambling, Self Publishing, Writing Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Novel Monday: Transplant of War – Chapter 24


Description:
Adane barely escaped war in his homeland. He wanted nothing more than to hide in this new city with his adopted child Chisa by his side. But every choice he makes risks their quiet lives and every day brings the war that Adane fled closer to their doorstep. Soon Adane will have to choose between running away again or taking a stand against an enemy that can’t be seen and cannot be fought.

Transplant of War
by Meyari McFarland

24. Cooperation

“Move!” Adane snapped at the mages.

Faisal stumbled over, shoving the soldier away only to collapse by Adane’s side. Next to Adane, Princess Abra shoved several spelled arrows at the archers and then grabbed more, desperately whispering The Spell over them, one by one. Adane grabbed the first one, passed it to Faisal and then the second to the scared young man.

“Cast!” Adane ordered them. “Hurry! Grab arrows and cast. Pass them around. We need multiple versions of The Spell on them.”

“It won’t work,” the young man moaned but he still cast The Spell.

Adane shook his head at the boy, turning to Princess Abra. “There’s another version. Instead of focusing on the spell as something immutable, focus on making it like the sun, radiating, seeking out the soul-riven and ripping them away from the Immortals.”

“Show me!” Princess Abra demanded. “That doesn’t make sense.”

“I can’t!” Adane shouted. “I’m already expended!”
Continue reading

Posted in Mages of Tindiere, MDR Publishing, Novel Monday, Self Publishing, Writing Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Free Fiction Friday: Valkyrie

Every Friday I post a short story for people to read for free. It stays up for one week and then I take it back down. Hope you enjoy the story while it’s here!

Description:
Maria hated Anthony. The teachers at their school doted on Anthony and joined him in bullying anyone that Anthony targeted. He was Gifted and Maria wasn’t so Maria was always wrong whenever they fought.

One day, as Anthony’s bullying took on overtones that frightened and infuriated Maria, her temper broke. The aftermath opened a whole new world to Maria, allowing her to ensure that Anthony wouldn’t hurt her or anyone else ever again.

Valkyrie tells the exciting coming of age story of a young woman in the Eight Factors universe. It is appropriate for young adults and up.

Valkyrie

By Meyari McFarland

“Leave me alone, you jerk!” Maria yelled.

Anthony laughed. His hair floated around his head in a corona of fire. It crackled, giving off only the faintest hints of smoke. His little brother, David, reached out to pull Anthony away by his fire-proofed sleeve but the heat surrounding Anthony’s body was apparently too much for him to beat. David snatched his hand back, shaking it before sucking on his fingertips.

“Make me,” Anthony drawled. He leaned close enough that Maria cringed away from the heat coming from his hair. He smelled like fire, like hatred, like all the things that Maria had come to hate about the Gifted since her big brother Pablo’s Gifts erupted.

He laughed at Maria, reaching to palm her breast. She screamed in fury, jerking back only to go flying as Anthony shoved her. She skidded over the grass, tumbled when she hit the blacktop and then landed on her face next to the bin full of basketballs they’d used earlier for dodge ball. Blood dripped down Maria’s upper lip. Her elbows felt like the skin was completely gone.

Anthony laughed. “You can’t actually think you’re interesting, can you? Come on. You’re a no-Gift nobody with an idiot for a brother. No one’s interested in you.”

His laughter was echoed, hesitantly by other ungifted kids, dismissively by the two instructors who were supposed to monitor the playground. Maria glared at him, something like fury beating inside her chest. She felt like her skin was about to tear from the sheer anger inside her, like the ground under her feet wanted to growl along with her.

Maria pulled herself to her feet, shaking with emotion. She looked at Anthony’s sneering face and just… Enough. More than enough. So beyond enough that Maria wished that she had knives to throw at Anthony, guns to fire. A fire extinguisher to put him out and drown him!

“You wouldn’t keep harassing me if you didn’t like me, you little shit!” Maria screamed.

She grabbed a ball and flung it at Anthony’s head. He jerked and fire flared around him. The ball exploded so Maria grabbed another and another, flinging them at him while he cursed at her. All the kids that had clustered around him scattered, the Gifted ones with startled expressions, the ungifted ones with delighted grins. Maria kept flinging balls even though Anthony kept blowing them up. The startled fear on his face was more than worth the scolding she would inevitably get.

“Stop it, you stupid bitch!” Anthony shouted. He crowed as Maria ran out of balls. “You didn’t even hit me!”

“Don’t call me a bitch!” Maria bellowed.
Continue reading

Posted in Eight Factors, Free Fiction Friday, MDR Publishing, Self Publishing, Writing Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Novel Monday: Transplant of War – Chapter 23


Description:
Adane barely escaped war in his homeland. He wanted nothing more than to hide in this new city with his adopted child Chisa by his side. But every choice he makes risks their quiet lives and every day brings the war that Adane fled closer to their doorstep. Soon Adane will have to choose between running away again or taking a stand against an enemy that can’t be seen and cannot be fought.

Transplant of War
by Meyari McFarland

23. Attacked

“Blessed,” Adane gasped, ducked a branch aimed at his head. “Mother!”

Screams echoed behind him. The way out of the garden, the only way he knew, was behind him but Adane kept running. He had to escape from the palace. Any of the people here could be tainted, taken, soul-riven but somehow not affected by The Spell. But then the mages here weren’t working together and they didn’t have the better version of The Spell. It wouldn’t affect Hakeem al Haddad without touching him and there was no way to force him to touch the murals.

“Projectile, something, anything,” Adane muttered, ran, didn’t dare to look behind.

Soldiers loomed in front of Adane, running straight towards him. He blanched, scrambled to stop, slid on the too-even paving stones of the garden path. They glowered at him until an explosion went off behind them. Nothing changed, no wave of nothingness that said that The Spell had been activated but fire billowed towards them in a roaring wall of death.

“Run!” Adane screamed. “Run, you fools!”

They hesitated but Adane didn’t. He ran at them, through them, over one of them that tripped as he began to scramble backwards. Then the path was clear again and he could run for the wall, the garden wall.

“Out, we need to get out,” Adane shouted.

“Left!” one of the guards shouted back.

Closer screams and the roar of heat and flames chased them as they ran through one final wall of shrubbery and then, thank the Mother Goddess, was a door. Small, sturdy, wooden and unobtrusive. The soldier flung it open and Adane dove through. Three soldiers followed, only three, before the soldier slammed the door shut and knocked Adane to the floor.
Continue reading

Posted in Mages of Tindiere, MDR Publishing, Novel Monday, Self Publishing, Writing Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Free Fiction Friday: Tiny Gifts of Peace

Every Friday I post a short story for people to read for free. It stays up for one week and then I take it down again. Hope you enjoy this story while it lasts!

POD Tiny Gifts of Peace Ebook Cover 03

Description:

Nonna’s granddaughter hated her fiancĂ© and the upcoming marriage. Couldn’t blame her. The man was a useless lump.

She’d had husbands like that. It was annoying other than the daughters they’d sired for Nonna.

Nonna’s daughters hadn’t inherited the means to deal with useless husbands. Her granddaughters had.

So Nonna hummed as she made wedding presents that would give them all a bit of peace.

Tiny Gifts of Peace

By Meyari McFarland

Nonna hummed as she opened the spice cabinet. Shifted her feet and rocked her hips enough that it was something like dancing. Just enough like dancing. When she was younger she could do more, could move and sing and bring the power within up with ease but after seventy years her body just couldn’t do what she needed to pull on her magic anymore.

Little pots sat in ranks, each sealed tight with a cork to preserve the herbs inside. Despite the corks, the door wafted a rich hint of meals past and future to her nose. Cinnamon sticks seal inside their tall jar tempted from the back of the shelf. Savory oregano mixed with sprigs of thyme dried and crushed and bottled for a dark winter when the garden had gone fallow.

She tapped her bottom lip as she considered the spices, toes tapping. Adria was getting married so something sweet would be good. Nonna had plenty of parsnips to grate up and add to a quick bread. Some raisons, maybe those old dried cranberries that Nonna had never gotten around to using, a bit of cinnamon and she’d have a delicious treat that everyone would savor. Or no, maybe a nice sweet parsnip and dried fruit pie that would fill bellies as well as delight the tongue.

They’d eat it up, laughing and dancing, celebrating for Adria when the girl so clearly wasn’t pleased about the wedding. No surprise there. Such a shame that Nonna’s daughter, Grace, had bowed under to that husband of hers. Adria was of an age to marry, yes, but not to that lump of a man. Hadn’t even a home of his own or a career, nothing to offer a bright girl like Adria other than his limp prick and the expectation that Adria would take responsibility for everything, even getting him hard enough to sire Adria’s children.

So perhaps a sweet treat wasn’t the best idea. Something savory? Parsnips and that mutton she had cooked yesterday would make a delicious meat pie. Needed the root vegetable to strengthen the spells, add substance that would last and last for as long as possible. Add the oregano, thyme, some of the precious peppercorns she’d bought at the same time as her cinnamon sticks and it’d tempt even the fullest of bellies.

Nonna nodded. That was a good idea. They were both good ideas and easy to accomplish.

“Both it is,” Nonna said. “Best way to make sure I get them all.”
Continue reading

Posted in Free Fiction Friday, Mages of Tindiere, MDR Publishing, Self Publishing, Writing Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Novel Monday: Transplant of War – Chapter 22


Description:
Adane barely escaped war in his homeland. He wanted nothing more than to hide in this new city with his adopted child Chisa by his side. But every choice he makes risks their quiet lives and every day brings the war that Adane fled closer to their doorstep. Soon Adane will have to choose between running away again or taking a stand against an enemy that can’t be seen and cannot be fought.

Transplant of War
by Meyari McFarland

22. Haraldr

The tent at the center of the garden looked far more like an office now. All the handmaidens in their colorful silk were gone, replaced by clerks scribbling notes and counting records of weapons used, food consumed and lives lost. Their grim expressions told Adane enough about King Haraldr’s efforts to fight the Immortals that he stumbled over the urge to turn and run away.

Faisal caught Adane’s elbow, steadying him, cutting off any chance of escape. Not that he could have escaped anyway. Adane knew that. There was no escape and there would never be an escape from this battle, not when the Immortals held so many in the palms of their hands and wanted so much more.

The other mages had not been completely idle. Someone had painted The Spell on the fabric walls while another mage, one Adane didn’t recognize, had spelled the stones leading in to notify occupants of the tent if anyone arrived. It was a lovely little spell that Adane didn’t have the time to study. He slowed only to have a soldier and Faisal both gently, very gently, urge him forward off the path that meandered through the garden and onto the short path that led up to the mock-tent.

King Haraldr emerged from the tent as soon as Adane stepped on the short path. His voluminous robes were gone, as was his crown and the vast majority of his beard. Adane blinked, one hand going to his own beard in surprise. The hair on the right side of King Haraldr’s head was short, scorched short, and his right eyebrow was completely gone. Apparently he’d nearly been killed by a fireball or he’d tripped and landed his face in campfire.

“You survived!” King Haraldr exclaimed. “That is such a relief. Good, so very, very good. Come in, come in. We have many questions for you.”

“And I have to teach the mages you’re working with how to do the most basic things,” Adane replied. “Really, my Father’s soul must be writhing wherever it’s been stolen off to. What are they teaching mages around here, Your Majesty? Faisal here doesn’t have the most basic knowledge that we all learned back when we were children.”
Continue reading

Posted in Mages of Tindiere, MDR Publishing, Novel Monday, Self Publishing, Writing Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment