What I’m Reading: The Alchemists of Kush

alchemists of kush minister faust originalAlchemists of Kush cover


Critically acclaimed author Minister Faust returns with his fourth novel, The Alchemists of Kush.  Set in both modern-day Edmonton and ancient Sudan, this speculative fiction novel follows the path of two boys who must harness ancient knowledge in order to combat a great evil.

Raphael “Rap” Deng Garang was just your average seventeen year-old war refugee hanging on the streets of Edmonton, Canada. Half-Sudanese and half-Somali, he had one foot in both worlds but truly belonged in neither, especially in the close-knit Somali community in which he lived with his mother. A joy ride in a stolen car with a good friend led Rap down a path of self-knowledge that transformed him into Supreme Raptor, the “conscious rap” sensation.

Hru was a child soldier in ancient Sudan, helping the other children of his village survive when raiders destroyed their village. Forced to rely on rudimentary fighting  skills, Hru and the other child soliders manage to eke out an existence in the forest until they arrived at the ocean, in which the Great Devourer of Souls resided. Hru becomes the sole survivor of an attack by the Devourer, which leads him on a quest to find his mother and claim a birthright he didn’t know he had—as Horus, the son of Osiris.

Faust does a riveting job in alternating between modern-day Canada and ancient Sudan by way of Kush; the book is divided into four parts, and each part has two divisions: The Book of Then (which takes place in ancient times) and the Book of Now (which takes place in modern-day Edmonton.  The title of each of the four parts is key to the occurrences in that particular part, and takes on a greater sense of importance as the story progresses. As readers follow Rap’s path from an errant teenage refugee  to a young community leader, they are treated to a parallel course in history in the guise of the Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris. Indeed, the final portion of the book is the text of the Book of the Golden Falcon, which is the seminal text from which Rap and his cohorts are taught to elevate and expand themselves. The Alchemists of Kush is heavy on allegory, and readers would do well to take this into account while delving into this novel.  Faust has managed to make history cool, and the Book of the Golden Falcon gives a lesson not commonly found in neither public nor private educational institutions in any country. The underlying message of the novel is one of self-improvement, self-sufficiency, and elevating others to their best selves; while this message is imprinted upon the teenagers in the novel, it can be applied by all ages. Even better, you can read all of the Books of Then or the Books of Now in order, for a different yet equally entertaining reading experience which puts an entirely different spin on the novel.  Fans of Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, and Charles Saunders would enjoy The Alchemists of Kush.



AAAAAAGGGHHHHH! This was supposed to have been sent on MONDAY, but when I switched from “draft” to “publish” on the WordPress app, I guess the app/phone interface didn’t get the memo. Grrrr…

Anyway, here is the original post that SHOULD have gotten to you a few days ago. *sigh*



Hi all,

I haven’t blogged in a long while because I was dealing with an ill family member, NaNoWriMo, Thanksgiving, and the imminent publication of my fourth book.

Well, the family member is better, I didn’t finish NaNoWriMo this year (only got to 27K words), T-Day is over, and my fourth novel, Stormbringer, is out as of today. WOOT!

Since it’s that time of the year where everyone and their grandmother is offering a sale, I figured I’d jump on the bandwagon. 🙂

Here ya go: my biggest. sale. EVER.

50% off (yeah, I said it), all titles through my website. Yes, that includes my newest book, Stormbringer.  Enter code CYBERTIFF at checkout.

You can find details in the latest email that went out to my mailing list (and if you aren’t on my mailing list, then what are you waiting for?)


This sale is going on all week through Saturday, 12/5. Free U.S. shipping on all orders of $10 & up. How cool is that?

For those of you who wanted to try my books but were frugally conscious, now’s your chance! And did I mention that I now offer the mass market versions of The Bastille Family Chronicles: Dominic and Blizzard: A Sebastian Scott novel? The regular price for those is $8.00 each; if you buy them this week, you can get them for $4 each.  That’s two for the price of one, which is a pretty good incentive to buy both. 😀 And the larger paperbacks, which are $14.95 each, can now be had for about $7.50! At this price, you can get all the titles and stock up for your holiday reading.

Oh, what a bargain! What a bargain for you!

And did I also mention that the books come autographed? And that they make great gifts? Just saying.

The offer is only good through my website, and ends at 11:59 pm ET on Saturday, December 5. Remember to use the code CYBERTIFF at checkout. Come through and gitchu a piece.

Thanks for stopping by.

RETRO READS: Streetlethal by Steven Barnes

Hi all!  Welcome to Retro Reads, where I talk about my favorite books that were published at least ten years ago. You can still find most of them online, though sometimes they have been re-released with a different cover and/or title. I will let you know if a book is out of print and/or otherwise unavailable.


StreetLethalStreet Lethal alt cover










Steven Barnes

Sci-Fi/Speculative Fiction

Publication Date: 1983

Status: Out of print/Available used

Streetlethal was my first purchase from Borderlands Books in San Francisco. 🙂 I’d already become a fan of Steven Barnes’  books Lion’s Blood and Great Sky Woman (I checked them out from the public library), but I’d never heard of Streetlethal until I saw it while browsing in the bookstore. I bought it and another of his (unknown to me) books, The Kundalini Equation.

Streetlethal takes place in a somewhat dystopian future Los Angeles. The story centers around Aubrey Knight, a highly skilled nullboxer (nullboxing is like MMA to the nth degree) who becomes an enforcer for the Ortegas, a powerful drug family who also dabbles in black market organ selling and prostitution.  Aubry is set up by his new girlfriend/drug addict (guess who is her supplier?) because he wants to quit working for the Ortegas–which is not done–and sent to a maximum security prison for murder.

(Never trust a big butt and a smile, Aubry.)

He eventually escapes and goes after Luis Ortega, the man who orchestrated his set-up, which is how he meets Promise–a woman who had taken Aubry’s ex-girlfriend/snitch under her wing and got her into rehab. Promise becomes Aubry’s “in” to the Ortegas, with interesting results.

The technological advances in the novel are quite mind-boggling, especially considering that the book was written in the early 1980s. Barnes’s gift is showcasing the range of human emotion in all of his characters. In Aubry Knight and, eventually, Promise, we get everything from euphoria/”top of the world”; to the depths of despair when your world is snatched from beneath your feet; to the unique mindset of athletes, especially professional ones; to the confusion and borderline resignation when things don’t quite work out the way you’d planned. In his strong secondary characters (Tomaso Ortega and Kevin Warrick are excellent) we get the roller-coaster ride of power plays, drug addiction, insecurity, family dynamics, and the urgent drive that comes from feeling like time is running out when you have too much to do. It’s also nice to read a post-apocalyptic novel that doesn’t include zombies; then again, zombies weren’t as much of a thing in the eighties.

I missed the memo that Streetlethal is the first in a trilogy (it pays to read those last few pages of advertisements in a book), and that Aubry’s journey continues in Gorgon Child and Firedance (that has been rectified–thank you, Amazon used books). Fans of dystopian stuff, martial arts, science wonks, and diverse sci-fi/speculative fiction would enjoy this novel.

Thanks for stopping by.

What I’m Reading: Salsa Nocturna

I finally got around to reading a book I’ve had for a while: Salsa Nocturna by Daniel Jose Older.

This is Older’s debut collection of short stories (published in 2012), and the jump-off of his first full-length novel, Half-Resurrection Blues. While I perceived Salsa Nocturna to be the precursor to HRB, Older said that the events in SN took place after HRB instead of before. He’s the author, so he should know, though I beg to differ. 🙂

Anyway, having read some of his other short stories published here and there (and also here); his contributions to the anthologies Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond and Long Hidden; and his debut young adult novel Shadowshaper (more on that in a later post), I was not disappointed with Salsa Nocturna. At all. Set in Older’s preferred boroughs of New York City, Salsa Nocturna introduces the eclectic plethora of supernatural and supernatural-affiliated characters that populate HRB.  The social commentary alone was great (“Protected Entity” was everything) and the characters were so rich and varied that it was like reading a paint palette. The characters meet and bond throughout an array of otherworldly situations that are sometimes as amusing and engaging as the characters themselves (Riley and Gordo quickly emerged as two of my favorites). Older is also one of the relative few Latino authors who does not sugarcoat the mezcla of African and Latino bloodlines and cultures in his writing, and for that alone he gets props from me. I wasn’t really digging HRB based on the excerpt I read (and the character Carlos even less) but after reading Salsa Nocturna, I’m more inclined to plunk down some cash for Half-Resurrection Blues. His character Kia, in the linked stories above, has me anticipating her own upcoming novel, Midnight Taxi Tango.

Salsa Nocturna is, in my humble opinion, Older’s strongest full-length work to date. Short stories are where Older’s talent shines brightest and I would love to see him pen another collection, even with different characters. Do yourself a favor and pick up Salsa Nocturna. Thank me later.

And thanks for stopping by.

Stuck (pt. 1)

I haven’t blogged in quite some time. An emergency hospitalization of my grandmother (for whom I’m a caretaker) which required me to spend both nights there; followed by week-long bout with the flu (which I probably picked up from the hospital, but I digress) doesn’t bode well for the creative process. Even as my full recovery drew nearer, and I did my usual “write it in your head” part of my process, I faced a crisis that strikes fear in the heart of every creative:

I got stuck.

Once I was able to stop sleeping for long periods of time, and managed to stop coughing up a lung, I tried to work on the rewrite of next book in my Bastille Family Chronicle series, which is Dominic’s story. I made major changes to his love interest, which required more research (shoutout to Cynthia and Ekaterina for the gamer info!)–which required a recalibration of the plot, especially after I added some different tension points to the love interest. But the flow still wouldn’t come.

Then I pulled up the first draft of the novel I started for National Novel Writing Month 2012. This was a more serious book (the BFC series are contemporary romances), which take longer for me to write. Tinkered with that some, made some progress. But I felt guilty because I wasn’t working on the BFC book, which my readers are looking for by spring.

Then I managed to write a science/speculative fiction/fantasy (SFF) short story for submission to a magazine. The story was based on an SFF book I started back in…2006, or somewhere around there. Anyway, that was kind of fun, and made me think about revisiting that book again. And the guilt over writing another BFC book took over.

I had to ask myself why I felt so guilty. Was the thrill gone from the series already (I’ve only published the first one, and have five more to go)? If so, why? I’ve gotten positive word-of-mouth feedback from readers so far, and the excerpt seemed to work toward introducing me to a broader audience of fans. My readers are looking forward to the next five books, as well as a stand-alone spinoff. The book is selling, again via word-of-mouth. So what’s the problem?

I thought long and hard about it, and my conclusion wasn’t pretty. And I have The Ninja to thank for it.

More on this in a later post. Thanks for stopping by.

Relaxing Rampage: NaNoWriMo/NaBloPoMo day 23

Total word count goal: 50,000

Total blog post goal: 30

Today’s word count: 3,763

Today’s blog count: 24

Total words written: 42,065

Total blog posts: 24

Today, I had a nice, relaxing Sunday. It was cool outside and pouring down rain, so I was snuggled on the couch under a blanket. I also fell into a nice, two-hour nap.

Perhaps today’s writing rampage came as a result of the heavy-duty maxing and relaxing. Maybe it came because I knew that my time would shortly be focused on the Thanksgiving Day dinner (which I will start making at least a day in advance, so as to preserve my sanity). Maybe it was because I saw the finish line looming (I am less than 8,000 words away from NaNoWriMo victory!).

Regardless of the reason, I am proud of writing so much today. The book is taking an interesting spin, one that I certainly didn’t see coming, and I probably won’t be finished with the book, plot-wise, by the end of this year’s NaNo. Also, as writing is wont to do, I got an idea for yet another book that i may try my hand at, and hopefully have ready in January.

The rain has stopped for now, but the relaxing hasn’t. This is a good night for a mug of cocoa before I go to bed. You should try it!

My fellow writers in the NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo struggles: EIGHT MORE DAYS! Let’s make them count, and please take into account the tryptophan coma many of us will fall into on Thursday (here in the United States).

Thanks for stopping by.



Stat Spike Scare: NaNoWriMo/NaBloPoMo day 19

Total word count goal: 50,000

Total blog post goal: 30

Today’s word count: 1,790

Today’s blog count: 20

Total words written: 33,324

Total blog posts: 20

Not much to write about today, except that I had a bit of a nervous moment early this morning. As I’d mentioned in my previous post, I continued to write after I posted to the blog, and to NaBloPoMo. I finished around 1:30 am or so. Shortly thereafter, I was reading some articles on Medium when I got a notification from WordPress that I was experiencing a heavy traffic spike on my blog. At first I was excited, but when I only saw one “like” notification on that particular post and no “follows”, I decided to check the blog stats. I saw that there were three hits from the United States, and  46 hits from Indonesia.


I know no one in Indonesia, and I’ve never been under the impression that anyone over there would be interested in yesterday’s post topic, which was the failure of the United States public school system. Then I thought about the various spam comments on my blog (thank you, Akismet, for catching them all!). Then I got nervous: was someone trying to hack my blog? I have security features in place, but I did have a brief moment of panic where I was afraid that some hacker extraordinaire would get into my blog for the fun of it and send out lewd post, before erasing everything. But, since everything seems to be intact, I guess it’s fine.

Still, it’s an unfortunate side effect of the technological age in which we live.  Hackers abound on the internet; they flourish like mushrooms after a spring rain. And while some only use their powers for good, others like the thrill of the hack, particularly in areas where they think they won’t be missed.

That brief moment of panic made my sleep a bit restless. I hope that my safeguards continue to be in place.

Hope everyone is making progress on their writing.

Thanks for stopping by.


HS English FAIL: NaNoWriMo/NaBloPoMo day 18

Total word count goal: 50,000

Total blog post goal: 30

Today’s word count: 2,011

Today’s blog count: 19

Total words written: 31,534

Total blog posts: 19


I recently volunteered to be a judge for a high school essay contest. The test was for high school juniors and involved an imaginary gift of hundreds of thousands of dollars to be spent on the world crisis the writer deemed fit. The writer basically had to explain what he or she would spend the money on, how they would spend it, and why spend it on their choice. Entrants were graded on a scale of 1-5 (1 being the worst) in five areas, including  ability to address the topic, grammar, and clarity of thought.

Of the twelve essays I was assigned to review, I only deemed two worthy enough to pass to the final round.


While reading the essays, I felt like I was served a healthy portion of “Who taught you?”, with side orders of “WTF” and “do better”. Since when did the basic components of writing an essay fall by the wayside, especially given that people are still being funneled into college as a post-graduate goal? Not only were there grammatical errors, but there was a distinct lack of ability in forming coherent thoughts and putting them down on paper. Not to mention, a seeming dearth of following directions (some wrote the essay the way they wanted to, and not how the contest requested it be written). Mind you, I’m all for freedom of expression and creativity but when you’re trying to win a contest, it’s usually best to do as instructed.

I understand that what I learned in my AP English classes almost 25 years ago was vastly different from what schools are teaching today. But come on, now; a few of the essays were written in the same structural style, which indicated to me that their ineptitude was more of a teaching problem.  Which means that these kids are being turned out into the world without a clue of how to really succeed in the fundamentals of reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic (does anyone even know what “arithmetic” means anymore?)

I weep for the future.

Sometimes, I think that perhaps I should go back to teaching a creative writing course. But I don’t know if I have the patience to undo the hot messes that are being created in the United States public educational system.  Reading those essays confirmed that I was correct in choosing not to teach high school English. Or maybe I should have braved the hazards of public schools and tried to make a difference, like my beloved high school English teacher did for me (she’s retired now, but we still keep in touch!). What she drilled into my head is why I always got compliments on my writing, even just regular papers and essays. It’s why I landed gigs as a highly regarded book reviewer and contributor to three nonfiction anthologies, and why I now have two solo published books to my credit.

Today’s kids don’t have that. And I pity them.

Everyone, enjoy your writing because it is a privilege to be able to do it, and do it well. Don’t take it for granted.

Thanks for stopping by.



Still on E: NaNoWriMo/NaBloPoMo day 13

Total word count goal: 50,000

Total blog post goal: 30

Today’s word count: 0

Today’s blog count: 14

Total words written: 22,198

Total blog posts: 14


It’s 11:34 p.m. ET and guess what? I have not written one single, solitary word today. And I’m cool with that.

I didn’t even realize it until I looked at the clock. Which is telling, in and of itself.

I guess my mind realized that it needed to rest. After taking my grandmother to her doctor’s appointment, I haven’t done anything significant other than making a large wok full of homemade chicken fried rice (it is GOOD),  reading (Thieves’ Paradise by Eric Jerome Dickey), watching NBA basketball (YEAH, BULLS!), Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder. And playing Bejeweled Blitz and Mahjong. And checking the Bleacher Report app. And drinking wine.

And I have enjoyed every minute of it.

I’ll get back on the good foot this weekend but for now, I’m feeling a lot better, mentally. I hope that you all are still persevering with your writing (novel, blog, or both). See you in the hunt.

Thanks for stopping by.




Out of Gas: NaNoWriMo/NaBloPoMo day 12

Total word count goal: 50,000

Total blog post goal: 30

Today’s word count: 1,032

Today’s blog count: 13

Total words written: 22,198

Total blog posts: 13


I ran out of gas today. I started rather late today after a looooong day of errands and exercise (and NBA basketball!), and didn’t start writing till around 9 pm EST. I started writing during halftime of the Miami Heat-Indiana Pacers game, and picked it up during time-outs and the Houston Rockets-Minnesota Timberwolves game (which is being played in Mexico). I wrote more dialogue and more speculative fiction stuff; in fact, this novel is shaping up to overlap between genres. Which will be interesting when it comes time to publish it; I’ll be checking lots of boxes when categorizing it.

Anyway, I only managed 1,032 words today, and I wanted to write my blog post before midnight (in accordance with NaBloPoMo). But, on a positive note, this is my 100th post on this blog. YEAH!

I have to be up early tomorrow, so I’m signing off. I hope all are doing well on their books, or blogs, or both.

Thanks for stopping by.


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