Saturday, July 30, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday #16: On Consideration of the Bronte Sisters and Utah

If you're unfamiliar with Six Sentence Sunday, the idea is simple. Writers post six sentences from one of their works (published or unpublished, WIP or complete).

Today, I'm sticking with my YA urban fantasy, Osland, but I'm not continuing off last week's scene. Instead, this follows a scene in which the protagonist Gail Dorjee has just politely turned down the offer of joining her friend Lydia's Horticulture and Flowering Arranging Club:

Lydia stuck out her lip and nodded. “Like Charlotte Bronte said, ‘I try to avoid looking forward or backward and try to keep looking in Utah.'”

“Lydia, I don’t think Charlotte Bronte said that.” I wasn’t much for classics, but I did like Jane Eyre. I don’t know what that said about my taste in romance, but at least it was better than liking the other Bronte and Wuthering Heights. “Well, maybe she said something like that, but I doubt it was about Utah.”

For other snippets from a variety of wonderful authors writing in many genres, or if you want to get involved yourself, please visit http://www.sixsunday.com/

Friday, July 29, 2011

Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday #6: Feasting Upon Vengeful Rage

Welcome to #SFFSat – Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday -  a chance to post six sentences from a piece of speculative fiction. Want to join in? Check out the site and links to other great speculative fiction authors at Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday and follow the hashtag #SFFSat on Twitter.

This six is from my fantasy WIP Mind Crafter. The protagonist has been summoned to a clandestine meeting with her empress when she realizes the decor of the room she's in is a bit disturbing:

Shala’s breath caught. The paintings were not simple battle scenes. A young soldier in gleaming armor, his face contorted in pain, hoisted an imperial standard aloft while everyone burned around him. Everyone in the empire would recognize the face of Prince Daro, the greatest casualty of the Battle of the Golden Valley. Others lands might forever downplay such an inglorious defeat, but the empire feasted on the Golden Valley to feed their rage even ten years later. The recognition of the prince refocused her attention on the other paintings and their titles: “The Treachery of the wicked General Narakeen”, “The Final Stand at the Golden Valley”, and “The Cowardly Tiger burns the Noble Hawk.” 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Author Interview: Michael Shean, Shadow of a Dead Star

Today I'm interviewing Michael Shean, author of the science fiction noir, Shadow of a Dead Star.



1) Tell us a little bit about your novel.

Shadow of a Dead Star is at its core a story about a man who finds himself caught between the world he knows, the world he wishes it could be, and the world that it truly is.  Thomas Walken is an agent of the Industrial Security Bureau in late 21st century Seattle; his job is to keep illegal technology out of the hands of American citizens.  Most of that technology comes out of Wonderland, the nickname of a future Thailand who allows criminal laboratories to operate within its borders.

At the start of the book, Walken’s job is to intercept a trio of ‘Princess Dolls’, which are little girls who have been kidnapped and transformed into sexual toys for the wealthy and corrupt.  The interception is successful, but when the girls are forcibly taken from federal custody things go very badly very fast.  Suddenly he is on the defensive as everyone connected to the girls starts coming up dead and all his leads dry up.  And that’s only the beginning; as Walken attempts to find the truth, he will find not only his career in jeopardy but his mind and even his soul as well.

2) What inspired your novel?

Many things, I suppose.  I wrote this in 2009 when I was at a particularly angry place in my life, and a lot of the same emotions I experienced then ring throughout the novel.  Isolation, frustration with oneself and with one’s place in society, dissatisfaction with the status quo - Walken hates the people he works so hard to serve, after all, and at the time I felt a lot of that.  I’ve always loved speculative fiction of all kinds, as well as mysteries and noir, so this was a way for me to express my frustration about society and people in general as I felt them at the time.  As I still do, really, though I’m in a more mellow part of the cycle at the moment.

3) Cyberpunk is a subgenre that has seen its relative popularity wax and wane since its inception, particularly with the more recent influence of extreme transhumanist concepts such as the Singularity.  What drew you to this subgenre? Did you have any concern about modern science-fiction fans accepting a new cyberpunk setting that meditates more on the dark side of transhumanism?

Let me first say that I never really had cyberpunk in mind when I wrote the book, but it seems that’s certainly how it turned out.  Now I’m a child of the Eighties, and when I was growing up many of the same forces that worked to establish the cyberpunk genre were in full swing when I was old enough to appreciate them.  The uncertainty of the Cold War, an emerging superconsumer society, etc. - many of these same elements have returned over the last ten years, and a good portion of the American population seem to be either blithely ignorant or very cynical about the change.  That’s something I want to talk about with a greater audience, and the near-future milieu is perfect for this purpose.  As for the darkness of the book, I find that too much of science fiction has become very ‘shiny’, and the message - if there’s one at all - gets lost under an overly polished presentation.  Darkness is a sucker punch; it makes you pay attention.  It’s my hope that Shadow does the same.

4) Dystopic technologically advanced industrial settings filled with moral decay are hardly unknown in science-fiction. What sets your book apart from others?

If anything sets this book apart from others in its genre, I hope it is the way the setting and the characters interact and share a common richness and brutality lacking in other works.  As I said before, I’ve found that in recent years a lot of science fiction has become simplified and overproduced - dystopian science fiction doubly so.  The setting shared by Shadow and other books is hardly rare, but in a great many instances it is romanticized to the point of becoming toothless or irrelevant.  Dystopias exist because people are screwed up, because they have problems, and it should be as organically portrayed as the people themselves.

5) This book is part of a trilogy. When you started writing it, was that your intention?

Absolutely.  The Wonderland Cycle was always planned as a trilogy; it’s just too big of a story to be contained in one or even two volumes.  I’ve always thought that the best stories come in threes, so I wanted to give the story behind the Wonderland Cycle a similar arc.

6) As a native of Washington state I was intrigued by your choice of Seattle over places like LA, NY (or even Tokyo). Why Seattle? The cyberpunk/urban fantasy role-playing game Shadowrun made Seattle as the basis of its setting. Any influence from that?


Well, it’s true that when I was a kid I did read some of the RPG material, but that wasn’t the reason for my selection.  My fiancee hails from the Seattle area, as do several of my friends, and it’s such a strange and interesting place; it seems a garden of the bizarre, and it just captured me that it’s someplace that the ultimate antagonists of the Cycle might take root.

7) There is a lot of gritty subject matter in this book. Although it seems vital for exploring the thematic issues you raised, were you ever worried that you were making your story too dark?

Not terribly.  Hell, if anything I was afraid it was too tame!  The next book is even darker, and I hope that those who have read Shadow will come along with me for an even stranger ride.


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His book, Shadow of a Dead Star, is available for purchase as an e-book at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

CANDYLAND: DARK AVENGER

Ah, Hollywood! They are officially out of ideas.

I saw this when it was announced years ago, but it's finally here. Battleship the movie. Based on the game!

http://movies.yahoo.com/blogs/movie-talk/battleship-changes-game-first-trailer-premiere-162012802.html:

"So how are they turning a fairly simple two-player strategy game into a two-hour silver-screen spectacle?  By adding aliens . . .


Out off the coast of Hawaii for an international training exercise, Alex discovers a massive vessel floating in the water.  It rises up into the air, and suddenly the war games aren't so fun anymore.
So obviously it's not a direct translation of the game, but it does promise to retain many of the fundamental elements of the original . . . And the Naval ships will have their radar disabled, so they will have to strategize to figure out where their enemies are lurking."
Heck, it's probably goofy fun in the end, but I'm amused that we're at the point where Hollywood is licensing board games with basically no stories to make into movies. I mean is there really THAT much marketing synergy to be gained from being associated with the Battleship game?
Anyway, I need to get started on my script for CANDYLAND: DARK AVENGER:
THIS FILM IS RATED PG-13 for INTENSE SCENES OF FANTASY VIOLENCE, SOME SENSUALITY, AND FOR BEING CREATIVELY BANKRUPT.
IN A WORLD WHERE SWEETNESS REIGNS BUT THE KING IS MISSING:
Queen Frostine: The King is missing. Someone must find him before the Vegetable Armies invade!
ONLY ONE WARRIOR CAN GET THE CARDS HE NEEDS . . .
[Sam Worthington as 'Sugarus' enters the scene holding a small card with a green rectangle in his hand. He tosses it into the air and morphs into a huge green sword]
TO ENSURE THAT EVERYONE MAKES IT TO THE FINAL SQUARE . . .
[Sugarus, trailed by Queen,  throws another card into the air and a shimmering doorway appears]
Sugarus: Run, damn you, run!
[Heavy rock music blares. Sugarus turns. Several humanoid carrot men advance with menacing axes. He jumps into the air in slow 'bullet-time' and slices through a carrot with his green sword
FROM THE DIRECTOR OF CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE AND CRANK 2 . . .
AND THE PRODUCERS OF CLASH OF THE TITANS . . .
COMES ONE SWEET BUT EPIC ADVENTURE
[Sugarus leaps off a cliff with two swords in hand and impales two tomato soldiers].
CANDYLAND: DARK AVENGER
The sad thing is, someone probably WOULD pay for a script like that. :)

Yeah, I shouldn't kid myself. I probably would go see that movie. Haha.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Blog Tour - Author Interview: Debra Chapoton (EDGE OF ESCAPE)


Today, I present an interview with Debra Chapoton as part of her blog tour for her YA novel, Edge of Escape.



1) Please tell us about your novel.
EDGE OF ESCAPE is a fast-paced novel that reveals the intersecting lives of two high school students, Eddie and Rebecca. Eddie is emotionally impaired yet very bright and good-looking, but because he is part of the invisible crowd, the special ed. kids, Rebecca is not really aware of him. He devises a plan of stalking and kidnapping in a pathetic attempt to win her over. Eddie has some issues that will make him repulsive and creepy to the reader and yet arouse some sympathy for him. Rebecca, though a strong female character, also has her weaknesses which are exposed as the story unfolds through multiple flashbacks and flash forwards.

2) What was your inspiration for this novel?
I was inspired by Dean Koontz’s novels which so often have bad things taking place in lonely deserted cabins in the middle of the woods. Wait, I live in a log home in the middle of the woods. Anyway, I few years ago there was a boy in one of my classes who was tall, handsome and smart, but cried when he couldn’t understand how to conjugate Spanish verbs. He sat with the special ed. kids at lunch and I never saw him talk to anyone. I started imagining what he would do if he liked one of the popular girls who wouldn’t give him the time of day. What if he drugged her and drove her to a woods like mine and devised a number of traps she had to escape from . . . what if he pretended to be her rescuer . . . what if she started to like him . . .

3) What sort of difficulties, if any, did writing a YA novel present?
The biggest difficulty is getting the characters to do and say what I want. They seem to have minds of their own. I will plan out a scene as I walk back and forth down my half-mile long driveway, chipmunks, deer and raccoons following behind, and then when I get back to the computer to write it down the characters change it all up. They invent their own dialogues or bring a knife in their pocket or leave a clue where I wasn’t expecting one. It has gotten so that every day I try to stop writing at a cliff-hanging point just to see how they’ll get themselves out of the corners I write them into. It’s kind of fun.

4) Stalking is a rather dark topic. Given some of the recent controversy over dark themes in YA, have you worried at all about negative reaction to some elements of your book?

I haven’t heard of any negative reaction to the stalking part probably because Eddie is a pathetic but understandable character. His part in the tragic death of his father and the way his mother mistreats him mold his personality and are factors in his emotional damage. The message hidden beneath the layers of plot is one of understanding, acceptance and forgiveness.

5) Are there any authors who have influenced you?
Every single author I have ever read has influenced me in some way. I learn from each of them and appreciate different styles, plot devices, character building techniques and so on. I have too many favorites to list them, but I will give a recommendation that every romantic girl should read Robin Hardy.

6) Tell us a little about your writing process.
I like to write about 1000 words a day, 5 days a week. First I proofread the previous 2 days’ worth and edit like crazy then I go for a long walk and think about what the next scene should be. It may take one or two hours for that scene to take form when I get back to the computer because those darn characters will go off in other directions. More proofing follows and then it’s lunch time.

7) If you had one piece of advice for an aspiring author, what would it be?

Don’t ask family and friends to read your work and expect to get honest opinions or advice. Seek out a writers’ group or post excerpts on forums that critique and review.
-----
Her novel is available in both digital and paperback versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
You can also find out more Debra and her novel at www.edgeofescape.blogspot.com and www.bigpinelodgebooks.com

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday #15: Melting Pot

If you're unfamiliar with Six Sentence Sunday, the idea is simple. You post six sentences from one of your works (published or unpublished, WIP or complete).


Today, I'm going back to my YA urban fantasy, Osland. I present this six without context or comment.

Lydia peered at me for a long moment. “Are you an alien?” She furrowed her brow. “Not that I discriminate. I welcome you as a Martian-American to Earth. If you need like someone to talk to immigration for you, I’m sure my dad can find some good lawyers.”


For other snippets from a variety of wonderful authors writing in many genres, or if you want to get involved yourself, please visit sixsunday.blogspot.com.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday #5: No trespassing means no trespassing

Welcome to #SFFSat – Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday -  a chance to post six sentences from a piece of speculative fiction. Want to join in? Check out the site and links to other great speculative fiction authors at Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday and follow the hashtag #SFFSat on Twitter.

This six is from my fantasy WIP Mind Crafter:

Frigid air knifed at his skin. Howling winds whipped through the mountains. Flurries of white flakes filled the entire area rendering any attempts to see beyond the immediate vicinity futile. A clawed hand gripped his shoulder. His blood pounded in his ears. The Vali had finally come.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday #14: The Blood of Kings

This week, I'm going to stay again with my Regency paranormal romance WIP, A Woman of Proper Accomplishments. Last week, a bit of a social scuffle broke out in the middle of an archery contest when a local VIP, Lady Johnstone interrupted with an announcement. I'm skipping ahead a bit to get to the meat of her announcement.

------

“The target has been placed 200 yards away," Lady Johnstone said. "King Henry the Eighth was said to be able to place his arrows well into the center at 240 yards.” 

Helena managed to contain her gasp. John Sutton, however, did not contain his laugh. “200 yards, Lady Johnstone? Perhaps one does need to be a king to manage such a feat."
---------

For other snippets from a variety of wonderful authors writing in a variety of genres, please visit sixsunday.blogspot.com.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Guest Post: Marion Sipe: Characters of Color in Fantasy

Today, Marion Sipe, author of the recently released Signs of Blood. Here's a little about her book (available at Amazon and Smashwords):

"While investigating her father's murder, Chadri never meant to get involved in politics.  She arrives in Mesaceal with her mentor Nathias and a wild talent for blood magic, but soon finds it won't be enough to stop a brutal attack on her family home.  After befriending a queen who is forced to fight to win her crown, and learning of rumors about the theft of a sleeping god, Chadri is caught up in a web of conflict spanning two nations. Trapped within the tightening threads, she must unravel the secrets surrounding her father's death, or die the same way he did."

Today, though, she's here to talk about characters of color in fantasy.

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Characters of Color

Quite honestly, when I created this world I was fairly oblivious to the lack of characters of color in fantasy. Not because I didn't read it, I've devoured fantasy books (and most other kinds) all my life, but like many white people I didn't get it. I was, literally, color blind. I wrote these characters, Chadri and Liral who are both characters of color, because they were from a background where they would be... characters of color. Liral is Devsari and they're a desert people, and Chadri is half-Devsari/half-Bensas. The Bensas once shared the desert with the Devsari, but the Devsari expanded and the Bensas got pushed up into the mountains on the western coast.

I'm white, but I grew up in all different places (mostly around the south), surrounded by people of myriad skin tones and cultures. When I went to write, it was normal to me that people would be varied, that they would come in shades, so that's the way I wrote them.

It was Chadri and Liral who taught me about the lack of characters of color in fiction. Because I was writing them, I looked for other characters like them. And I found shockingly few. There are many whose race or ethnicity or skin color weren't mentioned, but I found I always thought of those characters as 'white.' Books with characters of color as MCs were shelved in a different location than books with white MCs. Seriously. And the horrible thing? Sometimes, they still are. Segregation in literature. Why? If it's a fantasy novel, shouldn't it be in the fantasy section? Does the color of the MCs skin really mean that it should be somewhere else?

I think white writers are afraid to write characters of color. We're afraid of getting it wrong, of being accused of racism. (Let's face it, we're kinda terrified of that word.) But is it any better to ignore the issue? Even laying aside the problem of realism (humans come in a multitude of shades, it's just a fact, look around. Most things come in various shades), there are larger things at play here. Everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in what they read. It's one of the reasons we do read. Books (TV and movies, too) are our experience of our culture. They are how we relate to it, one of the mediums through which our culture's expectations and values are communicated to us.

How many of us read a story and the MC does something awesome, and we grin and think "I would totally do that." or "Yes! Exactly what I would have said." Or what we wished we could say. Or what we want to believe we'd do in that situation. Or any number of other things. Books, movies, TV, these are our ideals. These are the standards to which we hold ourselves (which only makes it sadder when there's no way to "live up" to those standards, or when those standards are twisted into impossible, ridiculous, or unworthy goals). How would you feel if you looked at the TV and couldn't find a face like yours? Think about it. Take a moment and imagine that almost everyone in almost every book, TV show, and movie looked different than you. Not only that, but how would you feel about your culture when it communicated to you ideals that were nothing like your personal experience? How would you feel knowing you weren't reflected there?

I think it's an important issue, especially in secondary world fantasy, in which we get to create the people we're writing about. Writers have the unique opportunity of communicating their world to readers, but at the same time they're communicating their ideals to readers. Our books, in addition to hopefully having an awesome story with awesome characters, say: "This is what I find admirable/worthy/important." What does that make what we leave out?

And yeah, there's a chance that we'll get it wrong. There's a chance that any character I write isn't going to ring true. That's the chance I take when writing. I can limit those risks by doing my research, by widening my own experience of the world, by listening to what people of color have to say on the subject, and by taking just a little time to educate myself on the pitfalls, clich├ęs, and the topics at hand. That doesn't remove the risk of my messing it up. But I take that risk with every character, no matter who they are or what the color their skin, their gender, their class, their sexuality, whatever. But if I don't try, I wind up populating my fictional universes with... well, thousands of clones of me. And seriously, who wants to read that?

----

Thanks, Marion. As a minority and a long-time fantasy fan, this topic is something I've thought a lot about throughout the years, and it's interested to see it explored by someone else.

Please check out Marion's blog at (http://marionsipe.blogspot.com) and her book at Amazon or Smashwords.

Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday #4: Always find the positive in a given situation

Welcome to #SFFSat – Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday -  a chance to post six sentences from a piece of speculative fiction. Want to join in? Check out the site and links to other great speculative fiction authors at Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday and follow the hashtag #SFFSat on Twitter.

This six is from my fantasy WIP Mind Crafter.

In this six, the protagonist (Shala) finds herself having a most curious nightmare in which she's a foreign woman on a doomed ship. For reference, in this book, a crafter is a type of magic user with specialized abilities. Shala is, when she's awake at least, a mind crafter.

Through the sheets of rain and flying debris, she spied a golden-haired woman yelling into the storm. Why hadn’t the damn Caranian air crafter protected them? Despite all the silver they'd given her, they were still going to die. A fellow Dassian would have done more for them. Jalisia cackled into the wind. A fellow Dassian also would have wanted double the silver.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

(Blog Tour) Chloe JonPaul: This Business of Children



Today, I'm hosting Chloe JonPaul as part of the blog tour for her novel, This Business of Children:

"Vera Harriss, Deidre Fletcher, Mark Pettingill, and Stu Martel are elementary school teachers in the fictional town of Blevins, Maine whose secret, private lives change dramatically as you read. Vera, who is about to retire, vents her anger during a Board of Education meeting with a speech that brings the audience to its feet. Why does Deidre, an exceptional teacher, leave the job she loves to become a corporate trainer down South? Then there is Mark, the perennial job hunter looking for a corporate position with more prestige and pay but then turns down the perfect offer when it finally comes through. Stu, one of the most popular teachers in the school, struggles with a deep, dark secret that he can only share with Deidre. What causes Stu's untimely death? Vera Harriss, Dee Fletcher, Mark Pettingill, and Stu Martel are eager to share their intriguing secrets and entangled lives with you."

I asked Chloe to share the inspiration for her novel with me.

-----

In 1991, I took a leave of absence from my teaching position after a very troubling year at the school where I was assigned. To safeguard my sanity (smile), I decided that it would be best to take some time and re-group so I went back to Maine. My dear friend Helene invited me to stay at her home.

Lewiston, Maine was the place where I had done the best and most creative teaching in my entire career.

It wasn't too long after my arrival that I began musing about the possibility of writing a novel. Before I knew it, these four characters emerged almost out of the blue. They weren't any of the teachers I had known - possibly a composite of people I had known in the many places I had taught over the years. I must admit, however, that there is a bit of me in both Deidre Fletcher and Vera Harriss.

I wanted the setting to be in Maine but I didn't want to name any particular town or city so I named the town Blevins. The story is also a reflection in some way of my own union activism as a teacher.

The greatest inspiration for the novel, I feel, is having worked beside so many wonderful teachers who DO make a difference in the lives of the children they teach. I want to acquaint the world with the struggles they face professionally while having to deal with the demons in their own lives.

My teachers and my high school principal inspired me to be the best that I could possibly be and so the dedication in this book reads:

To the special teachers in my life who inspired me with their wisdom, spirituality, and elegance.

                            Margery Harriss
                            Marguerite Zouck
                            Eunice Shay
                            Mother Colombina, MPF

I actually trashed the novel after I had written it but my friend retrieved it saying,

“You are NOT throwing this away!” I stashed it away and really didn't think about it much until last year when I began seeing so much in the news about the problems in education. What topped it for me was reading about the teacher who committed suicide in Bethlehem, PA after being accused of molesting a student. We also had the 25th anniversary of the Challenger disaster. I thought, “Wow! That's all in my book!” So I pulled the manuscript out once more…and the rest is history.

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You can find Chloe at http://chloejonpaul.com/ and her book in both electronic and physical formats at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books-A-Million.



Sunday, July 3, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday #13: True Glory

This week, I'm going to actually stay with my Regency paranormal romance WIP, A Woman of Proper Accomplishments. Last week, the a friend of Helena (the protagonist) had butted heads with another woman who had just insulted her after the end of a archery competition. Only the word of an important announcement ended their encounter.

-------

Helena stepped away from Jane Thornton to focus on Lady Johnstone through the gathered throng of people. Mr. Morgan stood beside her, a jolly smile on his face visible even at a distance. The continued din of excited conversation from the crowd made any conversation more than a few yards away difficult to hear.

Lady Johnstone held up a hand and waited until the crowd again fell into silence. “The contest is not yet complete. I offer a chance at even greater glory to those who would embody the true spirit of archery.”

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For other snippets from a variety of wonderful authors writing in many genres, or if you want to get involved yourself, please visit sixsunday.blogspot.com.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday #3: We're already measuring your coffin

Welcome to #SFFSat – Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday -  a chance to post six sentences from a piece of speculative fiction. Want to join in? Check out the site and links to other great speculative fiction authors at Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday and follow the hashtag #SFFSat on Twitter.

This six is from my fantasy WIP Mind Crafter.

In this six, the protagonist (Shala) finds herself talking to the Vice Minister of Harmony (basically a government internal security/secret police type ministry). The Vice Minister proceeds to gleefully describe the process of "Clouding", a procedure that strips the magical power away from errant crafters (the term for magic users in this setting):

"First, you see the panic settle over their face," Vice Minister Fouang said. "Then, the pain. Oh, how she writhed.” He stepped toward Shala, his face almost mirthful. “Then I saw it in her eyes, the exact moment they carved her soul. The screams would haunt your nightmares, Fifth Shala."