Samples of My Work
Current Project for 2022: Novel-length manuscript of ~60,000 words about the hero's journey of an adolescent demi-deity heroine.
Hoofbeats thunder beneath me, thu-thumping as wings flap into desperate flight overhead, scattering inky feathers like amateurish brushstrokes. One of them I catch in midair and it gleams green in direct sunlight. A wild thrush. Most things you don’t know unless you look closely enough, I imagine Shu would’ve said. Every second takes me farther from her monastery, the place I had known as home and hearth, and from Shu, gentle and generous in equal apportions. Oh, the times I had curled into the shape of the moon window to the left of the front door on a day that felt the same as the last, wishing to venture across the borders of mountain forest to where the verdant greenness vanishes! Perhaps I had believed too much and too naively of the tall tales told by the travelers, like the one about the ignorant toad at the bottom of the well.
The outer world is same-ish enough so far since we’ve left when the day was still draped in the blueness of its morning shawl. A dirt path leads straight ahead while razors of leaflets cut guilelessly above. The copper-barked trees that had followed me down the incline of the mountain ebb into diminutive species of shrubbery, curly ferns, and heart-shaped leaves. Occasionally a pebble kicks up at my side, and I nudge my steed who either doesn’t notice or pretends not to
"Drifters" | Short Story of ~6,000 words
Days before she confirmed in person, Zi had received a thin envelope in the high-rise mailroom. The envelope contained an even thinner sliver of parchment paper stamped with crimson ink that read “Guangdong No. 24 Leather Handbag Factory temporarily closing at 81 Shenan West Road until further notice.” The letter indicated there would be a follow-up letter in one month’s time if there were to be a re-opening. At the bottom was the signature of the general manager, a man she had never heard of, in barely legible cursive.
Zi’s thoughts had gone to her pocket dictionary in the hidden compartment in her suitcase. She had taken a short paring knife to the dictionary to cut out a squarish hole large enough to currently hold exactly nine hundred thirty-four yuan, her savings from the time she had set foot in Guangdong almost a year ago. The amount was enough to support her and her family in case of emergency for at least some months or longer if she was thrifty. The dictionary had been her first purchase, bought from a street vendor next to one that sold tourist trinkets, fake coins, and sandals that were guaranteed to break after the fifth wear.
There was a saying that Guangdong dogs bark at snow. Zi had not immediately seen any dogs. Instead, there was an asphyxiating humidity that overpowered bouts of torrential rain, tearing apart the sky and bathing the gray-hued industrial municipality.
Heat. Rain. Concrete. Car exhaust filled the air, intermingling with smells from fruits and produce on the verge of rotting in their colorful crates. Street food crackled to life from open flames only to be promptly impaled by bamboo skewers. Live chickens were butchered and casually disemboweled, entrails discarded, while women strolled in sundresses clasping parasols. Gleaming fish were scaled, their clear, colorless sequins raining into plastic catching bins. Everywhere was the stench and sounds of human habitation, a thudding heart whose exports would end up in the far reaches of the world.
"Set Maat" | Short Story of ~ 4,600 words
“We stay until sundown. Foreman’s orders,” I said, hearing the breathy groans of the throng of gathered workers. Their odor, acrid and musk-like, filled my nostrils along with the dust that covered our almost-bare bodies.
Some threw up their hands, the callused and worn ones of stonecutters. Others drank from their flasks, complaining intermittently of the dilution of the ale we were allotted. Still others broke off into brittle pieces the noticeably coarser bread made of rationed emmer wheat and barley.
“The vizier is commissioning several more burial chambers. His majesty’s lineage grows, praise Hathor.”
“Why is the foreman not here to tell us himself? Why does he hide behind you?” a potter named Hotep asked. He was a stout fellow with saggy jowls, smaller than many of his counterparts and therefore faster to squall. His wife was the village gossip.
“And what difference would that make?” I narrowed my eyes at him. Intimidation was the only recourse when the tensions started. Even so, brawls were becoming commonplace.
“You may request an audience with him when we return. I trust you are capable of finding his mudbrick.”
Hotep scowled my way but said nothing further, stalking to a modicum of shade near the mouth of the main tomb. The others began to disperse, some casting sympathetic glances at Hotep, and I traipsed toward an ancillary side of the work site. The cliffs were darkening overhead, shadows extending across the sanded crags.
The air became dank as I took the downward steps of the tomb passage that plunged into near darkness. I felt along the ridges of the walls of the vestibule, an antechamber leading to an annex and a burial chamber. The corrugations were rough and familiar, their markings swiftly recognizable.
Here, the sounds grew more muted as painters blended earthen minerals, occasionally murmuring amongst themselves in the near silence of their focus. They greeted me tepidly as I walked by them in the burial chamber, knelt low to paint each square cubit in teeming color. It was a scene of rare green-blue pigments of the vizier being received by Osiris in the underworld.
“Nearly complete,” I said, considering the remaining work of moving many of the funerary objects into the space. Many of them were stored in my workroom back in the village.
“Yes, may fortune continue to befall our benefactors,” a painter muttered dully. He was painting pitch in thin lines—an ankh, the symbol of immortality, held by the vizier in the mural.
“Your meaning?” I asked, taken aback by his tone.
He turned, and I saw it was one of the elder painters, Madu. Wrinkles pleated at his eye corners, his forehead. He had deep-set eyes and narrow, sharp-boned shoulders. Linens hung slackly at his waist.
“Only an old man’s gripes, boy,” he said, dipping his brush of bunched reeds into malachite pigment.