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Sacred Rituals Cover Art (Step by Step)

Inez Wandita, the incredibly talented cover illustrator that I work with, has generously shared these drafts for everyone to see! Her cover of Nisha was a real hit with readers, and if you want to see the Nisha step-by-step you can check it out here.

Creative Process

Interestingly you will see that her creative process is completely different for Nisha and Sacred Rituals. Inez confided to me that after reading the draft of Sacred Rituals, she immediately had a vision for the cover. Thus the first draft was already rather fleshed out, in comparison to Nisha’s first draft.

We changed some things so that it was more clear who was on which side. Saad and Faris are on the left facing off against Hans and the Aklum Captain on the right side. A very prominent part of this design is the eyes on the top of the page, which signify Nisha’s deeper awakening and understanding of her own powers, namely the Inner Movement magic which she practices. This becomes a key part of the battle scene, so I thought it was cover-worthy indeed.

Have you read Sacred Rituals? What did you think about the choice of design for the cover? Let me know in the comments!

If you haven’t read Sacred Rituals, you can purchase it at the shop. If you are a book reviewer and would like to exchange for an honest review, simply contact me.

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Book Review: Siege and Storm

Siege and Storm is the second installment of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, which is now an epic Netflix series. Having read the books and watched the series (twice!) I have to say I like the Netflix version better. Rarely does this happen in a book vs screen battle but it did happen here. With that said, in my opinion, Siege and Storm was generally a more exciting book than the first.

Plot

Siege and Storm starts pretty bleak with Alina Starkov the Sun Summoner not being able to use her powers because she is in hiding with her childhood friend and love interest Mal Oretsev. Everyone will be able to track her down if she gives a hint that she can summon light, so she is pretty dependent on Mal. Which as we all know is a recipe for disaster. Sure enough, they get caught by the Darkling and he imprisons them (again) on a ship that is searching for Rusalye, the fabled sea serpent. The Darkling believes Rusalye is the second amplifier. With both amplifiers then Alina’s powers will be further maximized, which of course he intends to manipulate.

The reason I think this book is much more exciting is that a new character comes in who saves the day not once but several times. You guessed it. It’s Nikolai. I actually can’t wait to see who Netflix casts for him in season two.

Women empowerment theme

With regards to the women empowerment theme that is such a big part of this series, I think author Leigh Bardugo did a nice job positioning Alina to be the General of the Second Army. Sure, Alina is not ready and inexperienced and was just introduced to the Second Army about a year ago, but a large part of this book is Alina adjusting to her new role of leadership and command instead of being the trophy prize that she was in the previous installment.

Be on the lookout also for how Leigh Bardugo weaves the concept of organized religion in and out of this series, quite fascinating if one remembers her origins. Born in Jerusalem, Leigh is a nonpracticing Jew.

Have you read this series / watched the show? What did you think?

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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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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.

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Nisha Universe Map

MY OH MY!!! Dear readers finally, after several revisions and going back and forth with the Inez the illustrator, Chriswan the editor, and my dear husband Cung who loves looking at maps, THE NISHA UNIVERSE MAP IS HERE!

This was prepared as a complimentary document for Sacred Rituals (Nisha Sequel). Support my writing by purchasing Sacred Rituals at the shop! As always, if you are a reviewer and would like to make an honest review, I am happy to send the book for free. Just send me a message.

The map becomes an important source of information because the sequel sees our characters expanding in the locations of their adventures. The geography of the kingdom starts to play a more vital part in understanding the plot, so I decided it was time to bring out the cartographers.

Without further ado, THE MAP.

I am so pleased with how it turned out! I hope you are too. Now, for some bonus material…a snippet of the sequel. Yes. It’s happening. Wait for the whole thing, July1st!!!


Snippet of the Sacred Rituals

“Let’s rest our horses here for the night,” Mares pointed out to Saad an opening in the forest, off the side of the dirt road. There was a small stream nearby, perfect for the horses to drink from. 

“We have travelled far in the two days since we left the Border. We will arrive before tomorrow evening. It is a farther distance from the highlands where the King will be coming from. Our party is likely to arrive before them.”

Saad nodded, and they dismounted from their tired horses. 

Thank you, he spoke as he patted the steed’s head gratefully. Though the horse could not reply, Saad knew that she appreciated his gesture. 

Saad thought he would have much-preferred flying, for it was faster and more exciting. But there was no way for him to change back into his human form when they arrived. He could not transform by himself, he needed the help both an Outer Movement and an Inner Movement magician. This was something else he found out during his time at the Border. It appeared his magic could not stand on its own, but rather it served to link up, amplify, or temper the movements. For when he managed to connect the movements, the outcome was astonishing.

Perhaps he should not have left them, Saad thought, regretting his decision to go. What was he hoping to accomplish without Faris and Nisha? Saad quickly shook his head. This would not do. He left on his own choice to seek his people. Yet deep down he was missing Faris and Nisha too much. 

Mares was an adept guide, but not the best company, nor much of a chatter. During their resting times, the soldier largely watched Saad silently without offering any conversation. On occasion, he would take out his knives and sharpen them. This evening, after eating the bread and dried fruit General Char insisted them to take, Mares took out some pistols and examined the weapon with much care. 

Saad did not feel the soldier would like to be interrupted, so he simply laid down, staring up at the stars that peeked out from the top of the leaves. He tried to count how many there were but always drifted off before he could finish. The past two nights he dreamed of the fortress at the border, Nisha, and always the green eyes of Faris. But this night he dreamed of the ocean, of stars falling into them, and of a young dark-skinned woman carrying a baby. 


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Series Review: The Enola Holmes Mysteries

I first heard about Sherlock’s younger sister through the recently released Netflix film: Enola Holmes (September 2020). The film is a must watch. It is utterly delightful with great acting from Millie Bobby Brown who plays Enola. I then discovered the 6-book mystery series by Nancy Springer, of which the film was based upon.

Did I like the books?

YES! Fast paced, action filled, with surprisingly dark mystery themes as befits Victorian London (late 1800s to early 1900s). The author most definitely has an agenda which is to show the massive gap of gender inequality during those times, and how Enola and her mother managed to still make a life for themselves. I especially liked how the corset was used as a continuing imagery to suffocate women, but Enola brilliantly and very practically used it as a tool to hide her most precious belongings (money), including a dagger to protect herself.

How did the film and the books differ?

Films and books always have huge differences. In this case I liked both, although I will say the film tried to appeal to a more “traditional” mindset when they added possible romantic nuance between Enola and Lord Tewksbury. In the books there was no such shimmer. All Enola wanted to do was go to university and make friends with the like minded, strong-willed Lady Cecily. Oh and the ending? No spoilers but the the sixth book punches a much stronger ending.

Is it worth the investment?

The books are about $7 each. The whole set is available on Amazon Kindle for $36, so you can save some money if you buy all six books. They are very fast reading of about 10 -12 hours per book. If strong girl heroines shattering society perceptions are your thing, then this series is definitely worth the time and money.

Have you seen the movie or read any of the books? Let me know what you thought in the comments! If you are looking for more young adult fiction with strong girl heroines, check out my book Nisha.

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I am Giving Away a Free Sample of Nisha

I grew up reading fantasy books with strong heroines. These stories planted seeds in my mind that girls did not have to grow up just to be what society wanted her to be. She could grow up to be whoever she herself wanted to be. This is a radical notion if you are from conservative origins.

The coming of age novella titled Nisha is my own addition to the collection. It is set in a fantasy world with witches and wizards, but also incapable leaders, annoying brats, and a girl who is trying to figure out what is happening around her.

A good friend then suggested I record a narration. Hmm!

So, just about a month ago I brought the manuscript to a studio, took a deep breath, and recorded myself reading it out loud. As promised, click here to download the free sample of Nisha (audio).