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Book Review: Daughter of the Pirate King

What a FUN read. Pirates of the Caribbean is one of my favorite movies and piracy, in general, is a fantasy genre I’m quite besotted with, so when I came across Daughter of the Pirate King duology on booktok (tiktok accounts which focuses on books), it went to the top of my To-Be-Read. Spoiler Alerts – a whole ship of them!

Synopsis

Princess Alossa is the daughter of the fearful pirate king. She was trained personally in the art of fighting, swordsmanship, and general pirate behavior directly by her father. Her body bears the physical scars. Yet, the result is she is one of the best pirates alive. She captains her own ship named the Ava-Lee, whose crew are mainly women pirates with various abilities. Captain Alossa is beloved by her crew and in turn she does everything she can to protect them.

In the first book, she is sent on a mission to retrieve a part of a hidden map which leads to a legendary treasure trove guarded heavily by sirens. Sirens are underwater she-creatures that sing to men, sleep with them underwater, then drown them and steal their treasure). Along the journey, we find out that Alossa is so strong because her mother was the Queen of the Sirens.

The second book goes into her relationship with her mother and finding out terrible truths about her father. Together with her crewmates and the sirens, Alossa leads a battle to begin the new era- the era of the Pirate Queen.

Romance

Oh yes, there is romance alright. Riden, the ridiculously attractive first mate just keeps distracting Alossa…until she realizes that their feelings and relationship is precisely what she needs to balance her human nature and her dangerous siren nature.

What I like best about how Tricia Levenseller presents the romance is how empowered the women’s roles are. These women pirates kick ass – or rather, slit throats – and are deadly, powerful fighters. They don’t let guys mess with them, and the only guys accepted onboard the ones that respect the women and are not insecure about their own abilities.

Men who are insecure of their abilities usually end up emotionally abusing their partners. I mean, the Alossa’s father is the perfect example! Let’s just say I’m glad the Siren Queen (Alossa’s mother) got her revenge in the end.

Do I fantasize about being a pirate on board the Ava-lee? You bet. Five stars for the duology.

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There’s Always a First, a poem

“Better than sex.”

“The best experience in my life.”

“I love the beer after a deep dive!”

“Been diving since I was 13.”

“Its like flying.”

“Its freedom!”

“Its my therapy.”

“Its my meditation.”

“Its a different world down there.”

“Its so beautiful.”

“Help, I can’t equalize!”

“Aren’t you afraid of the water?”

“Of the sharks?”

“Of the deep?”

“Of the dark?”

“Will we see the sunfish?”

“Do you use nitrox, or oxygen?”

“I’m just an open water beginner!”

“This is my very first time.”

“I’m scared.”

“Of the water.”

“Of the deep.”

“Of the dark.”

“I’m scared.”

“Here, take my hand.”

“Breathe slowly.”

“Reach out, hold my hand.”

On Diving

20 August 2018

Lembongan, Bali

To read more of my poems, visit A Season of Poetry in the shop. Your support means a lot to me!

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Fear of Heights

I stared at the hundreds of steps going almost straight up to the peak of Padar Island. We were on a sunrise hike to one of the most beautiful views in East Indonesia and I was shaking with fear of heights.

Padar Island is one of the stops on the Rafida Adventure liveaboard which sails off of Labuan Bajo, Flores. Ever since a good friend Oka Setiawan decided to try his luck in the leisure boating business, I have been wanting to go visit and try it out. I originally was going to go with Oky, but obviously, he didn’t make it. Then the pandemic came about, and Rafida could not sail for almost a year.

Sailing Trip

When it was finally able to sail again, Cung, me, and several other friends were invited to go on the sailing trip to try out the services of the crew. It was such a lovely time, and my first time to Flores made me see why so many people liked to go there. It’s so different from West Java, with its own culture, language, and climate.

This beautiful climate allowed for dry islands to rise out of the oceans, sprinkling the waters with small to relatively high hills. From on top of the hill, you could see the ocean, the beach, and the other islands.

The view was indeed spectacular, but I really could not enjoy it as much as the others did. They took shots in what seemed to me to be dangerous spots, but were actually quite safe, I suppose. I took a picture instead of leaning on a rock. That was the best I could do-I didn’t want my feet to give out on me.

Much later, after seeing all the photos, I did have a slight regret. Where had this fear of heights come from? I couldn’t quite place it. It’s so interesting because most people are more afraid of diving. They are afraid of the ocean, of the deep blue, or of sharks. I love deep diving, and I love seeing sharks!

I think of all the enjoyment I would be able to have I wasn’t afraid of heights. For such a lover of nature, I feel I owe it to myself to slowly learn how to conquer that fear.

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Creating Nisha Characters’ Looks

One of the intriguing behind-the-scenes process of the Sacred Rituals (Nisha sequel) cover is the back and forth discussion I had via WhatsApp with Inez. We were trying to create Nisha characters’ looks. From the first cover, we were quite clear on what Nisha would look like. But what about the others? And what kind of clothes did they wear? What would the look on their faces be?

Creating Nisha’s Look

Going back to the first cover, I knew I wanted Nisha to be South Asian or Northern Indian looking. Think Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai with her gorgeous features, but more warrior like instead of ladylike. The tricky thing was working out how her robe would look like. I found myself seeking inspiration from Kashmiri style clothes and scarves. That’s how her scarf came about. The scarf design and pattern became a theme going into the cover of Sacred Rituals.

Creating Saad’s Look

Saad’s character growth really gets quite developed in Sacred Rituals. He wasn’t just a sidekick anymore, it’s clear he now has a vital role in the plot. I was inspired by a friend of mine from Sri Lanka. This friend is dark-skinned, quiet, but very perceptive and smart. He’s the type that is soft spoken but tough. In real life, he leads many private sector investments in Sri Lanka and leads forward thinking high impact business initiatives. People like this are somehow always wearing glasses! LOL.

Creating Faris’ Look

As for Faris’ look, I had in mind a friend of mine from Spain. He’s extremely bright, and very handsome. It’s interesting that I took the name from my Sri Lankan friend Faris Fausz though. Another fascinating point is that you will notice Faris’ character is a bit ambiguous throughout. Whose side is he really on? You’ll have to find out by reading it yourself, but that mysterious feel was also inspired by this friend.

To get some more backstory behind other Nisha characters’ looks (especially the Aklumites!), subscribe to my newsletter. Support our work by purchasing at the shop, along with the first book: Nisha.

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Nisha Sequel Is Here!

And finally, after getting carpal tunnel syndrome, after going to Labuan Bajo, after producing a musical…the sequel to my fantasy trilogy Nisha is released.

I would like to thank Cung for putting up with me everyday, Chriswan my editor who completely believes in Nisha’s Universe and is always doing what he can to make it more believable, and all the book reviewers, bookstagrammers, book podcasters out there who read and reviewed my books. A special shout out to Krisandryka and Sherry, my Mad Tea Book Club co-founders. Last but not least, the gorgeous illustrations came from the hand and head of Inez Wandita.

Without further ado…. Sacred Rituals by Airin Efferin.

Support me by purchasing Sacred Rituals at the shop! Please send me your thoughts, feedbacks, and honest reviews. For a sneak peek and a view of the Nisha Universe Map fresh off the cartographer’s desks, visit here.

Happy reading!

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The Last Five Years Producer Speech

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is Airin Efferin, your friendly host for tonight’s yet another Zoom session. In the context of The Last Five Years production though, I am your UNFRIENDLIEST MEANEST BITCHIEST co-producer. While we wait for some people to enter, let me show you this picture.

Andrea Miranda as Cathy Hyatt, The Last Five Years (table read)

This was the table read in 27 February 2021. A table read is the first time the whole cast and crew go through the script from beginning to end. This table read was done via zoom, just like now, and so this production is truly a pandemic production. It was concepted, designed, executed, filmed, and streamed during the coronavirus pandemic.

For all the people involved in this production, from volunteers to severely underpaid workers, think about that for a moment. You created an awesome show during one of the most challenging times of human history. It’s easy to create when times are good. It’s not easy to create in hardship. And yet, that’s what all of you did.

So I hope you are sitting straight and feeling real proud of yourselves, because look what you did – look what we did. I hope that some years down the road, whenever you’re feeling stumped or blocked or like you want to give up, just remind yourselves about this project. Remind yourself that you were a part of something that at first seemed truly impossible. Something that created history (at least, musical theatre history – in Indonesia ) and remember that you CAN.

If you can do this, who knows what else you will be able to do.

This producer speech was written for the online premiere of The Last Five Years (June – July 2021). Streaming tickets are still available now at Kiostix. Support us by buying and watching online!

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Manta Mamas – Podcast Episode 8

In comparison to the other women I interviewed so far on this podcast whom I’ve known for years, Janis would be the most recent contact. We only met last December of 2020 on the dive boat in Nusa Lembongan island. Once you have been on a dive boat together though, it’s an unforgettable bond.

Janis Argeswara, marine biologist

Janis is a marine biologist with Marine Mega Fauna Foundation, a global non-profit with headquarters in Mozambique. When some divers from the Foundation discovered the tiny island of Lembongan in Indonesia and saw that there was a large manta ray population, they decided to set up an Indonesian chapter.

Listen to the really cool work that Janis does in saving and preserving manta rays and marine life. Make a donation to Marine Mega Fauna Foundation to support their work, and whenever you can: use less plastic. Don’t kill turtles, or manta rays, or sharks with your waste.

Let’s love and take care of our oceans!

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The Last 5 Years, An Off-Broadway Musical

I had the great challenging call of co-producing The Last Five Years in this pandemic. During the process of filming this musical, the cast and crew engaged ourselves in a game of sides. Are we Team Jamie? Or are we Team Cathy? And why? Let’s dig a bit deeper into their relationship.


Cathy


She gives herself completely to Jamie in the relationship and is left “Still Hurting” (according to the title of the first song) after he cheats on various women and leaves her. It’s easy to sympathize with Cathy because she got burned! She got cheated on! Plus she is not as successful in her career, so we feel a certain pity for her.

Her insecurities as an actress affected her sense of self; eventually taking a toll on their relationship.


Jamie


He tastes success quite early on in his career, soon after they began their relationship. He was smitten with Cathy and “all of the ten thousand women” that she was. However, when his writing career continues to bloom, his ego gets inflated. He starts being unsatisfied with their relationship which leads to infidelity with various women.

We can see that in both situations, the relationship deteriorated in accordance with their sense of self. Where Cathy feels smaller and smaller, Jamie feels bigger and bigger. Neither is healthy. Both contribute to the end of the relationship, and both feel they are in the right.

How often do we deal with this in our daily lives! Sometimes we are Cathy, feeling worthless and demanding our loved ones to continuously take care of us. Sometimes we are Jamie, feeling ourselves better than the people around us, thinking we don’t need them anymore.

Ouch.

I think if there is anything I learned from The Last 5 Years process, it is to reflect upon my own sense of self and the relationships I have with the closest ones around me. I am imperfect, and so are them. We are all just doing what we can. Perhaps the question here is, what will happen in the next five years? Will we have learned, will we evolve or change? Or will we be stuck in our same old mindsets and make the same mistakes even if our partner is someone different?

The Last 5 Years is streaming now on kiostix, featuring Andrea Miranda as Cathy and Taufan Purbo as Jamie. Directed by Fonnyta Amran, you can purchase the streaming tickets on Kiostix.

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Scenes from Faris’ Childhood, part 2

Song of the Gatum Forest

Faris had known for a while that Mama was sick. The sicker she got, the more obsessed she was about recording all her knowledge about the Outer Magics. When she became too weak to write, she dictated it to Faris, who sat next to her, writing day and night. Scrolls lay everywhere inside their home.

One afternoon she finally seemed satisfied with what they had recorded. She asked Baba and Faris to take her outside. She sat on her rocking chair by the Gatum trees and listened to them.

“They are singing. Their songs give me courage,” she said. By now Faris was able to understand bits and pieces of their speech, especially when they were rustling together. Sometimes they would each veer off in different directions and sound patterns. But he’d never heard them sing until now.

“Do they give you courage to fight the sickness, Mama?” Faris asked her with much hope.

“No, my dear one. They are giving me the courage to … move beyond.” Mama answered softly. She kissed Faris on the forehead, and then took Baba’s hand. He was openly crying, tears streaming silently down his face. Faris looked up to see how the branches seemed to be moving together, dancing against the backdrop of the clear blue sky. He listened harder, and thought he could make out the shape of their song. The dancing of the branches were connected to the song, he realized.

Mama hummed along, her voice smaller and smaller, until her notes merged in complete harmony with the trees’.

Forgotten

That very night they buried her body in the forest. Baba asked Faris to stay up all night, to watch and listen closely. He was going to perform the Ritual. Faris had never seen the Ritual before. He watched with slight fear, for he knew it was difficult magic. Baba hummed a series of low notes while executing gestures with his hands and body. He did this repeatedly, until the Forest seemed to echo his song, and the branches joined in his slow dance. Faris watched until his eyelids became too heavy, for this lasted all night. At dawn, his father woke him up.

“It is complete, son. Let’s go back inside and get some food for both of us,” Baba said as he took Faris’ hand. Rubbing his eyes, Faris looked at Mama’s grave. He gasped, for there he saw a small seedling of a Gatum tree. The Ritual had worked. Now the tree would grow.

The next couple of years unfolded in peaceful routine for the young wizard and his Father. In the day Baba taught him the speech, music, and dances of the Forest. In the evening Faris pored over his mother’s scrolls, reading and practicing while Baba wrote down his own scrolls. The Forest fed them what they needed.

When Faris finally began to understand the Forest and its speech, Baba taught him the Ritual. In the days that followed, they did nothing but focus on the rhythm and steps of the Ritual. It was taxing, and often took much of Faris’ energy so that he would be feverish the next day.

One afternoon, a messenger came to visit. He was riding a well-kept horse while ponying another horse. They both looked like they belonged to the Crown. The royal messenger handed a sealed letter to Baba. It was a message from King Chet, informing the wizard that Queen Anvi’s Barrier had fallen, and she was entrapped in a life-threatening situation.

“The time has come, son,” Baba said gravely. “King Chet begs me to help at our borders. The situation is dire. I expect to be gone for a couple of months, but I am not sure.”

“I will come with you, Baba,” Faris quickly responded. “I am ready.”

“No, you are not.” Baba put his strong hand on Faris shoulder. “Not until you master the Ritual. You must learn by yourself, the Forest will guide you.”

Faris started to object, but Baba looked straight into his eyes.

“The risk is too high if our Ritual is lost and forgotten. When you have mastered it, send a letter by the birds, and I will send a horse for you. I promise.”

Faris mastered the steps and the songs by heart, working day and night fervently. He sent a bird with his message, and waited. He waited several days, for a horse which never came. Weeks later it was the bird that returned, with a letter from the King. Baba had fought heroically with the other soldiers. But there were too many bodies. The King gave them all a proper heroes’ burning, and scattered the ashes on the hills of the borders.

Without Baba’s body, Faris could not perform the Ritual, no matter how many nights he tried. There would be no tree for Baba. The Gatum Forest would forget that this Wizard ever existed.


These scenes are part of the prologue to Sacred Rituals: the sequel to Nisha. Nisha is a coming of age fantasy novella which I wrote. You can purchase Nisha at the my shop. To see Nisha reviews and ratings, visit Goodreads.

Sacred Rituals is now available for purchase at the shop!

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Scenes from Faris’ Childhood, part 1

One of Baba’s Lessons

“Baba, I can’t hear anything,” young Faris said to his father. “I mean, I can hear sounds but I don’t understand what it means.”

“Well, that’s a start,” Baba replied in his deep voice. “It takes time, and practice, of course. Be patient with yourself, but not too patient. It is good to acknowledge you can hear them, but that you do not understand. These trees are perhaps twenty or thirty years old. They are mere buds, and also still learning. Even I can barely understand them.”

“Young like me?” The boy’s eyes lit up. “Can we be friends? I wish I had siblings.”

“You can be friends, which is why I introduced them to you, and you to them. Understand their speech, and their colony will be your friends for life. They are truer than any siblings humans can have.”

“But if I move about, if I go work for the King, then we would be far away. I won’t be able to hear them, and I’d just be lonely again,” Faris said sadly.

Baba picked him up easily. The young boy’s hands reached up for a branch closest to him. Baba let go of Faris, and the boy swung from the branches, struggling not to fall to the ground. He shifted his weight this way and that, so that his feet were resting on the trunk of the Gatum tree. Faris again heard sounds he could not understand. It was coming from the tree he was holding on to. The sound rippled and echoed to the other Gatum trees surrounding them. Faris looked at Baba in wonderment.

“Once you learn their speech, son, you will never be alone. Not as long as there is still a Gatum tree in this land. Come, your mother is waiting for us.”

One of Mama’s Lessons

“Which elephants today, Mama?” Faris asked his mother.

“We’ll work with two different ones today. Take that big stone one, and the smaller white one,” Mama answered as she cleared their table. Her lessons these past few weeks were always held inside their home, on the dinner table. When she was not teaching Faris, she would be sitting there, writing their pedagogical methods on scroll after scroll.

Faris opened a large cupboard which had rows and rows of carved elephants, from some as small as his thumbnail to the stone one as big as a coconut. It stood by itself on the bottom rack, too heavy to be placed on the higher racks. He glanced at his mother. She was still rolling up the last of the scrolls, hunched over to make small notes.

“Mama, I can lift the stone one only a little. It’s too heavy. I can’t bring it to the table.” Faris reminded his mother.

“Of course! How silly of me!” She exclaimed. From where she was standing, she made a small gesture with her hand, and the stone elephant lifted itself out of the cupboard. It glided across the room and landed on the table with a soft thud. Faris tried to imitate his mother’s hand gesture, but the stone elephant did not move again. He gave a small sigh. Turning back to the cupboard, he spotted the other elephant he was to work on today. The white elephant was much smaller, but it was behind rows of colorful wooden elephants.

He tried the gesture again, with his right hand. This time the white one lifted itself above the painted elephants and landed perfectly on his right palm. He smiled. He could lift the smaller ones.

“I saw that,” Mama laughed. “Bring it here, and we’ll practice lifting both elephants.”

Faris walked towards her with the white elephant in his hand. He felt a soft heat pulsing from the little carving.

“Mama, what is this made of?” He asked as he carefully put it on the table next to its bigger sibling. “It feels different than the wooden ones we’ve been working with. It’s more … warm, I think?”

Mama smiled, her eyes twinkling with pleasure. “I’m so proud you noticed the difference straight away! This one is carved from bone. Elephant bone. It’s extremely precious and hard to come by. Since it’s made from an actual elephant, it responds more readily o your attempts.”

Faris practiced with the bone elephant until it could move its trunk up and down, but that day he still made no progress with the stone one.

“You’ll get it soon. Stone materials are tricky,” Mama said, even as she made the stone elephant wrap and unwrap its trunk gently around a scroll.


These scenes are part of the prologue to Sacred Rituals: the sequel to Nisha. Nisha is a coming of age fantasy novella which I wrote. You can support my writing and purchase Nisha and Sacred Rituals at the my shop. To see Nisha reviews and ratings, visit Goodreads.