Bian’s Tale Part 1: Saigon

As promised, a taster of Bian’s Tale. Strictly speaking, Urban Fantasy is set in contemporary times, so this bends the rules a little. It’s also from a very different perspective. I hope you enjoy it, and I would very much like to receive feedback, whatever your reaction.

Bian’s Tale

Part 1 : Saigon

An Athanate Novel

By

Mark Henwick

© 2013 Mark Henwick
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Prologue

My name is Bian Hwa Trang.

I do not grieve.

What I was before, I am no longer.

I am at peace with myself.

I am female. I was born near Sai Gon, in Nam Ky, about one hundred

and thirty years ago. You now call the place of my birth Ho Chi Minh City

and the country, Vietnam. I am unsure of the exact date of my birth. I know

that I was sold in 1890; that was Dan—Year of the Tiger. I estimate I was

about nine at the time; I know I was Mao—Year of the Cat.

I was sold by my parents.

This was an act of the greatest love and sacrifice on their part. I hope

they survived that dangerous time and the little money they received for

me went some way to ensuring that.

My blessings, such as they are, on them, on their memories, on my

brothers, their children and their children’s children in that unhappy land.

And on my dear sister.

My love and reverence for them, always and for ever.

I am Athanate.

That is the word for the people, the language and the culture of which I

am now part. The word means undying. It means I can say for ever.

As I child, I heard stories of the ma ca rong. In the West, it would have

been vampires. They are both wrong. I am Athanate; I drink blood to sustain

me. That does not make me a demon, it does not make me an animated

corpse, it does not make me evil.

I am more like you than you think.

As to what I was and how I came here…this is my tale.

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Chapter 1

“You cheated! You cheated,” I shouted, as I tried to leap higher.

“Phew,” said my sister, holding the mango even higher and flapping her hand in front of her face. “Don’t get any closer. Ma’s been washing your

hair in buffalo piss.”

“Has not! You’re lying and you cheated.”

“No, I didn’t. If it’s not your hair then what’s that smell?”

“You stepped in the dung, smelly foot.”

That was smart of me. If she’d looked down, I would have grabbed the thick rope of her plaited hair and used it to help me jump up.

She didn’t look down. I hated her. I hated her even more than I hated the fat little man who chased us off the orchard. He had plenty of fruit. Why

did he have so much? He couldn’t eat it all.

Without Nhung, I would never have been able to escape over the wall when he chased us. But I was the one who climbed the tree. I wanted my half. She told me I could have half and she wasn’t giving it to me. She was going to eat it all, I knew she was. She was horrible to me, even though she’d taken me out for a walk.

“I hate you,” I said, and my lip trembled.

“Never say that, little sister.” Before I could stop her, she swept me into her arms and hoisted me on her hip as if I were a baby.

I struggled, but not much. She gave me the fruit and we shared it on the way home.

“Never say you hate me,” she whispered, burying her face in my hair. “Whatever happens. Promise me.”

“It doesn’t smell bad? My hair?”

She shook her head.

“Why are you crying? Is it because I said that bad thing?”

“No, little Bian. It’s nothing, just dust in my eyes.”

“I love you really, Nhung.”

“I know. And I love you, too. Now, I’m tired. You must walk, we’re nearly there.”

She put me down and, as evening fell, we walked together into the sprawling cesspit that was the slum where we lived.

Nhung had known another world, one outside of my imagining at that time, but I had been born in a sampan, in a floating village. I accepted the stink, the noise and the crowding of shelters.

Of course, I knew people lived in big houses, some of those houses were even made of stone. And those people ate every day, sometimes three times a day. I remembered visiting Sai Gon once, which I thought the biggest city in the whole world, and I’d seen the stone houses. But the people in the stone houses were as distant to me as the dragons in the stories my mother told me at night. I’d never talked to anyone who lived in a stone house, and for all I knew then, they too had long forked tongues and teeth like knives.

This was my world. Little Ap Long, on no map, reached only by paths. Or by water, of course.

We passed huts made from screens of woven palm-leaf braced between bamboo struts. These flimsy structures were real to me; the stone houses of Sai Gon had all the substance of dreams. Real homes smelled of palm oil and wood fire and sweat and shit, not perfumes and spices. They were rough and light, with dirt floors and straw matting, not smooth and heavy, with tiles and silks.

As we got closer, my friend Minh passed the other way with his mother, carrying pots to fill with water. He jumped one of the smelly puddles and came up to me, puffed up with the importance of news.

“You have an aunty come to visit,” he said in a low voice.

“An aunty?” I looked up at Nhung. She untied her hair and let it fall across her face.

“Minh, come away. Now.” His mother jerked him back.

She didn’t like to speak to my parents, but she had been kind to me and Nhung before. Maybe her husband had gambled his wage again. Minh told

me that put her in a bad mood.

“We can go to the rice field together tomorrow,” Minh called out as he was dragged away.

I didn’t want to think of working in the rice field, so I just waved.

A visitor. So exciting and mysterious. We had never had one before, that I could remember.

“We have an aunty?” I asked Nhung again, but she just shook her head without looking at me and took my hand.

“Whatever happens,” she whispered as we walked on.

And so we arrived home, hand in hand, with the sweet taste of stolen fruit still on my lips, on the day my world began to come apart.

∞∞∞∞∞

I didn’t like Aunty Kim. She smelled of old joss sticks and piss, but I was polite. I knew she must be very important because we had fish with the rice at dinner. The bits of catfish left after the merchants had gone, for sure, but tasty all the same.

We children sat at on the floor on one side of our home and our parents sat with Aunty Kim on the other, as if that separated us. My eldest brother, Lanh, could have reached out and touched them.

A small lamp in the middle of the floor was the only light, and it wasn’t bright enough for me to see Aunty Kim’s face clearly.

But she didn’t look like my parents.

Aunty or Uncle can be used for anyone really; I called Minh’s mother Aunty. But we’d never had a Aunty visitor before. Even if I didn’t like her, she was so exciting. She had a piece of silk, real silk, like they had in Sai Gon. It smelled of flowers and she kept dabbing it against her face. Maybe she didn’t like to feel sweaty.

That was silly. Everyone sweated. When I had complained once that I was hot, my mother had told me that to breathe is to sweat. I said that to everyone until they got tired of it. And maybe a bit longer than that, too.

“She’s very thin,” Aunty Kim said, as if there was any other way to be. She spoke in French, like the people in Sai Gon, and I didn’t understand a lot of what she said. I was certain I understood the words, but they didn’t make sense. She could only mean Nhung or me, and we were just like everyone else we knew. Well, there was the fat man who guarded the orchard. But who would want to be like him?

“She speaks well, and she works hard,” said my father. Aunty Kim must be very grand, because he was stern tonight. He hadn’t laughed once.

“She hasn’t even worked in a house before,” replied Aunty Kim, making it sound like that was more important.

“She learns quickly, and she is honest, and strong,” said my mother.

It was as if they were arguing, or bartering. I couldn’t understand why and Aunty Kim started using words I didn’t know. But it had to be Nhung they were talking about, because my sister was all of the things that my parents claimed, and beautiful too, even if she was hiding behind her hair tonight.

With the meal in my belly and the words over my head, I was sleepy. I leaned against Nhung and she put her arm around me and squeezed. Too tightly, but it didn’t matter. It was nice.

“And the child…” I heard Aunty Kim say, as I fell asleep. “It might make it easier for them. It might be a chance for her to learn.”

My head came to rest in Nhung’s lap, and I didn’t hear the reply, or any more of the talk.

I didn’t meet Minh to work in the fields the next day. I never saw him again.

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Chapter 2

I woke in the night and I knew that I was on the Mother of Waters. I knew her sounds and smells; the creaking, the gentle swaying and drifting in her arms. My earliest memories were of helping my father catch fish, and sleeping on the sampan as we made our way back. That was all before Ba Hoang had heard of my father. Before men came asking for him and we had to escape from Khanh Hoi to distant Ap Long, where we were safe. Where we could be farm workers, invisible amongst the tide of country people seeking work closer to the city.

Ba Hoang had ears in the water. My father said that when he thought I wasn’t listening. I looked many times and never saw any ears in the water. This fish would just eat them anyway. But I knew I was supposed to keep away from the river and the people on it, and I did, mostly.

And yet here I was, in a sampan, with the old smell of fish guts and sweat. What had happened?

I reached out for Nhung for comfort and reassurance, but it was my mother next to me.

“Shh, my baby. Not a sound, Bian.” She hugged me tightly to her, and rocked me along with the Mother of Waters. A little spray must have come through the weave of the cover because her cheeks were damp.

Everything was all right if she was here.

It was all a mystery and exciting, but not so exciting to me that I couldn’t sleep. I could always ask Nhung tomorrow why we were on the river. She’d tell me.

∞∞∞∞∞

There was no Nhung the next day, and no answers.

We came up the Sai Gon River into Khanh Hoi with the fishermen before dawn. Sampans covered the face of the river there, every day. As we had needed to many times before, long ago, we had to walk from boat to boat to reach the quay. But today, the family slunk away from the docks like dogs, our straw hats pressed down over our heads. The whole family except for Nhung, who I couldn’t see, not even in any of the other boats.

“Don’t look round,” hissed my mother. “Keep your eyes down.”

Everyone was scared. I was scared because they all were. I wasn’t scared of Bo Hoang. He was a monster that came for bad children. I hadn’t been bad, had I? But then I remembered the mango yesterday. It hadn’t been ours. That was bad. Had Ba Hoang found out about that? Did he have ears in the orchard as well? Had he taken Nhung?

“Where’s Nhung?” I asked my mother.

“Hush, Bian,” was all she replied.

“Are we going to work?”

“Not today. Hush.”

“Then where are we going?”

“Be quiet! No more questions.”

I was sad that no-one would talk to me, but we were walking towards Sai Gon, and maybe I would see a dragon today. Lanh had told me they danced in the city streets sometimes, but I was never sure when he was teasing me.

About noon, we were in the heart of the city and surrounded by people. My parents weren’t so scared any more, but still no-one would tell me anything.

They stopped at a house. I didn’t even know. I was walking ahead with my hands over my ears to block out the noise of all the people. Lanh had to catch me up and bring me back.

A real stone house.

It was a single room, so big you could fit four families in it, maybe more. Inside, there were only some old men and a lot of sacks of spices which made me sneeze. The front was open to the street, but it was cool and dark at the back. We sat there on straw mats while my father talked to the old men. I saw him hand some piasters to the men. One of them brought us tea and tiny chipped mugs.

He spoke nicely to my mother and she smiled.

“Such a fine son. Strong,” he said and clapped Lanh on the shoulder.

Lanh called him uncle and thanked him for the tea.

The man’s tongue and his teeth seemed quite normal. Despite that disappointment, I thought I liked him.

My parents went out, leaving us to play.

My second brother, Thao, and Lanh argued about what we were doing here and when Nhung would join us. I sniffed some spice which burned my nose and made my eyes water. The old men laughed and closed the sacks.

I decided it would be alright to live here, but what would we do? My parents always said that there were too many people and not enough work in Sai Gon.

One of the old men taught us a board game, XiangQi. I watched Thao and Lanh play. It was nice not to work, but my brothers were worried and trying not to show it. I could tell by the arguments they had.

I fell asleep in the afternoon.

It was evening when my parents returned. I jumped up, expecting Nhung to be with them, but she was not.

They brought food—noodles and fish soup, and pork as well. Pork! We sat at the back of a stone house in Sai Gon and feasted like the Emperor.

Yes, it would be nice to live here and eat like this every day, so long as we were all here.

My parents didn’t seemed to enjoy the food as much as we did.

When we had finished, we sat quietly and waited. In Ap Long, we always spoke while we ate, and afterwards too. Here, we knew things had changed. But it wasn’t so scary as long as mother and father were with us. They wouldn’t let anything bad happen to us.

“Father,” said Lanh eventually, “where is Nhung?”

My father looked around. The old men were sitting outside, in the street, playing mahjong by the light of a smelly, hissing lamp.

“My children,” he said quietly. His voice caught and suddenly, I was very frightened, for no reason I could name. “My children, a bad thing has happened. It is my fault and it isn’t.” He stopped and mother put a hand over his.

“Bian Hwa,” he said, “do you remember when we had to leave Khanh Hoi to go to Ap Long?”

“Yes, we left because Bo Hoang was looking for you and he has ears in the water.”

“Hush, Bian, do not say that name.” My mother glanced out into the street. “Say…say the thin man.”

“The…thin man,” said my father, “is very bad. He found us in Khanh Hoi and he found us in Ap Long, and he will find us again unless we move far away.” He stopped and blinked. “And that is very, very difficult. To go, we need papers and we need money. Money for papers and money for travel.” I didn’t understand anything about papers and money. And to travel, you just walked or rode in a sampan.

“Will Nhung be there waiting for us?” I asked.

My mother bowed her head.

“No,” said my father. “There are too many bandits in the countryside. Travel would be dangerous for her…and for you. She must stay.”

“It’s my fault,” I said. I’d been the one who wanted the mango. Nhung would never have done that on her own. I’d wanted it so badly, and she’d wanted to make me happy. Now she was being punished.

“No, Bian Hwa, it is not your fault. The thin man and the government are not your fault. They are everybody’s fault.” I didn’t understand anything. He paused and tried again. “We cannot stay here and we cannot take you with us.” He saw my face. “Until it is safe to come back,” he said quickly.

My mother began weeping.

“But father,” said Lanh, “if we are not together, how will we burn offerings to the ancestors?”

“We will all burn offerings, but not together. Until it is safe—”

“We must not lie,” said my mother, wiping her eyes fiercely. “This day of all days.” She moved closer to me. “Bian, you are too young to work as a maid in the houses and too young for the journey up the country.” She looked so angry. “We want you to be happy and free of the thin man. We want you to be free of the curse of bad luck that has followed us, free of our shame.” She put a hand softly on my arm. “And to escape that, you must go further than any of us, my daughter. Far, far away.”

“Mother, how—” Lanh started.

“Look around us, Lanh,” my father interrupted. “Where are we?”

“Sai Gon, in Nam Ky,” he replied proudly.

“No! Our leaders are exiled, our rulers are French. We cannot even leave this place unless they give us permission. Forget Nam Ky, all of you. Forget the puppet Emperor. That world is all gone. This is Saigon, in Cochinchina, part of the French empire.”

I was scared that they were angry. I didn’t understand what they were arguing about.

“Then we should join the Black Flags and fight the French.” Lanh spoke to his friends like this when he thought I wasn’t listening, but he’d never spoken to our parents this way.

“No, Lanh.” My father spoke again, and now his head bowed. “It is too late for that. The Black Flag Army is gone. The bandits that use the name are nothing but an irritation to the French, and they will be swept aside soon. No, it is time for a different path.”

“Bian, listen.” My mother pulled me against her. “We are happy for you. You will be safe. You will wear pretty clothes and eat good food. You will go far away and learn so many things. You will have a good life. Don’t you want that? Then, maybe you will come back, rich and contented, and burn offerings at the temple.”

I cried. I didn’t want to go far away and learn things.

“But how?” said Lanh.

“We were warned. We knew the thin man was getting closer, and that gave us just enough time to prepare. We have made an agreement with a good Frenchman and his wife,” replied my mother. “An important man in the government, a rich family with no children. They want to adopt a girl before they go back to France.”

“Bian,” she hugged me again. “You will have a new mother and father, and you will live well in a stone house and see many beautiful things. You will be happy, won’t you?”

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Chapter 3

My name is Bian Hwa Trang.

Bian means secret, Trang means honored. You cannot be both secret and honored. Between them, they crush the fragile flower, Hwa. Maybe this was what made my name so ill-omened.

My father had been honored. I knew it even then, like I knew the tales of dragons. He had been an important man, my father, the youngest mandarin in the service of the Emperor. I didn’t know what these words meant when I first heard them. My mind couldn’t comprehend the opulence; the houses and servants and bowing. Not for the man who I had seen gutting fish and planting rice.

It must have been a wonderful time for him earlier in his life: to have survived the great cholera epidemics that killed more than a million people in Nam Ky; to have studied and excelled; to have been accepted into the ranks of those that ran the country. With danger and striving behind, my parents must have thought a life of glittering rewards lay before them on their marriage day.

But the glitter hid the decay that lay beneath. A ragged and impoverished country that fell ever deeper into the pocket of the French while its supposed leaders sought wealth and advantage over one another. And in one such power struggle, my father’s sponsor in the service fell, taking my father and many others with him into disgrace.

A trial was held. It was a mockery.

A charge was laid that government funds for building the Emperor’s mausoleum had been stolen. My father’s sponsor committed suicide to protect his associates. That was sufficient for his enemies; the man and his supporters had been effectively destroyed; they ceased to care. The charges were dropped. The stolen money was a mirage. It had never existed and they knew it.

But stories like the theft of the mausoleum funds gather life like a storm harvests winds. The wealth was fabulous, the stuff of legend, an emperor’s ransom. It had been hidden, and the location known only to a trusted few.

I’m sure that gave my father no more than a bitter amusement, until a chance comment, a cruel aside when he was seen by his former colleagues at the docks, made the stories grow a little more.

There was now one man, just one, came the rumor, a disgraced mandarin, who still knew where the money was hidden and he worked as a humble fisherman in Khanh Hoi, biding his time before he collected it. Bo Hoang’s men came searching through the floating townships for my father.

Lord of the gangs in Khanh Hoi, fierce as a tiger, cruel as death, Bo Hoang ruled the floating townships. There was never any chance that we would not be betrayed, and my parents knew it.

I must have been four or five. To me it was just another nighttime on the Mother of Waters and waking to a new home in Ap Long, made from bits of sampan.

Far greater shocks for Lunh and Nhung; born into privilege, having adjusted to life on a sampan and then having to adjust all over again to rice farming. It was not simply that the work was hard and the life unforgiving; the two years immediately before Bo Hoang tracked us down the second time were famine years. As the eldest children, Lunh and Nhung took the brunt of the extra work and ate no more than Thao or I. I never heard either complain, not even once.

Something of that strength was passed to me, maybe. As my family prepared to say farewell that night, I stopped crying. In fact, I never cried again, except in the darkness, with no-one as my witness.

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About Mark Henwick

I was born in Africa and left out in the sun too often. An early interest in philosophy and psychology was adequately exorcised by tending bars. And while trying to enroll in a class to read Science Fiction full time, I ended up taking an engineering degree which splendidly qualified me to move into marketing. That in turn spawned a late onset career in creative writing. When not working, I get high by the slightly less conventional means of a small light aircraft. My first book, 'Sleight of Hand' is available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/Sa0D3n

34 responses to “Bian’s Tale Part 1: Saigon”

  1. Susan A. says :

    Wow, this is very well written. The details are colorful and easy to imagine. I can feel the heaviness of Bian’s thoughts in her words and her actions. The amount of history and culture you manage to squeeze into this small part is amazing as well. There is one spelling mistake where she says “I feel asleep in the afternoon” that you might want to correct. My only other concern is how well received this will be to UF fans. I love these sort of tales that go back in time, but this is a very different style than the Bite Back series.

    It’s difficult to say what UF fans might think of it since it lacks the action and paranormal aspects many of your readers would expect (at least in this early part). Maybe if you hinted a bit more as to where this story is headed early on it could help hook any reluctant readers and make them more willing to see where things are going. Right now it looks like Bian has a lot of growing up to do before the Athanate comes into play. Paranormal fans may not be very patient to get to that part.

    Hope you find this feedback useful. Feel free to edit out my typo reference when you fix it. Thanks for sharing this excerpt!

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks Susan, you’ve highlighted my concerns about this story not being ‘mainstream’ UF. The supernatural aspects pick up, as foreshadowing, in the next few chapters, but don’t really manifest until the last quarter.
      I’m not quite sure how it should be positioned. At the moment, I just want to write it – ‘the story demands it be told’.
      Thanks for the typo!

  2. Erik says :

    I enjoyed it….will be nice to learn Bian’s story. Skyler and Diana should have they’re own books as well… or maybe more info sprinkled though the other books. I enjoyed the first two books. Don’t push so hard as to ruin the story or burn yourself out!

  3. Becky says :

    Read both ‘Bite Back’ books in a day and a half (minimal work got done and I lied to my boss but I couldn’t put them down). You’ve developed the characters brilliantly so far with just enough mystery remaining for a host of further books in the series. I love that you’ve made Amber a likeable and very human but strong and independent woman – frequently in the UF genre a ‘strong’ female lead means an incredibly stroppy, unreasonable and unlikeable brat which leaves me despairing and ashamed to be female, and a fighter. These books are exciting and imaginative but for all their ‘sci fi’ elements they remain, unbelievably, human and believable! Please keep them coming – and soon. Work all night every night if you have to!

    Very often I stop reading a good story because of poor editing/proof reading but yours was either very well proofed or was just too enthralling to notice.

    I think background stories for the characters is a great idea and doesn’t bog down the main novels with too much history, a much better idea to have this available via short stories here on your website. More to follow I hope! This one, about Bian, shows a remarkable grasp of history – were you there…?

    Now a bit peed off that I have to wait before the next installment.

    Keep up the very good work

  4. G. L. Drummond (@Scath) says :

    New fan, fellow writer. Loved both Bite Back books! Very interested in reading Bian’s story as well. =)

  5. c says :

    It is 4:30 in the morning, I have just finished reading both Sleight of Hand and Hidden Trump. Please write more soon. The stories were wonderful. Well written and gripping. I am sure that Bian’s story will be just as wonderful. Thank you

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks, C.
      I should be upset at the number of people who’ve lost out on sleep or work to read my books, but I’m not. I’m evil like that. I hope to keep you awake many more times!

  6. Hugh Haynsworth says :

    I just wrote a review of your second book. I looking forward to the next book. I though I criticized the first, I think it made the second half better as a result. I am looking forward to the next book. I am also looking forward to more about the leaders of the house.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you Hugh, and apologies for the time it has taken to get round to replying. All feedback is useful!
      Without giving spoilers, the leaders of the Athanate Houses are not very prominent in book 3, which has to divert to explore the world of the Were. However, of course, the politics and structure of the Houses will continue to emerge as the story progresses. There are a couple of Athanate twists in book 3.
      Hope it keeps hitting the right level for you.

  7. Kristy Atkinson (@kristyatkinson) says :

    Although Bian’s story may not be technically UF, I believe that those who have read the main Bite Back books will want to read it regardless. I’m not a fan of historical genres; however I am invested enough in Bian as a character that I NEED to read her story, and I have no doubt after reading this excerpt that I will love it.

    Write it and we will come 🙂

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you Kristy.
      At a general level, I expect Bian’s books to be shorter than the main Bite Back books, and less ‘layered’ – fewer subplots. They are dark.

      I have sketched them out:

      Book 1 – Saigon
      Book 2 – The Words of the Dead
      Book 3 – The Sword of the Second Son
      Book 4 – The Rise of the River
      Book 5 – The Tears of the Leopard
      Book 6 – The Honor of Strangers

      Book 2 takes Bian to mid 1920s. Book 3 is during the Second World War. Book 4 and 5 are in the 1950s-60s. Book 6 is set around 2005.

      May take a while to finish!

  8. patricia says :

    I’m not even sure how I stumbled onto Sleight of Hand – I know it sat, unread, in my Kindle for several weeks before I finally clicked on it. I was hooked – drawn into the story and the characters instantly! I was lucky enough that Hidden Trump was already out – I bought and read that one immediately, just finishing it a few days ago. Now I have Raw Deal to tide me over at least until …. tomorrow. How soon did you say book 3 would be out?

    I agree with the poster above. I’m interested enough in the characters to happily break genre and read ANY background on Amber, Bian, Skylur, Diana, Alex, Jen or Tullah! I like the depth of ALL of your characters and I have a hard time choosing which of the “minor” characters seem most intriguing. Write it. Put your name on it. I’ll buy it.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you Patricia!
      I’ll see how Bian’s Tale goes before I look at any others. Skylur and Diana are too powerful for a novel, I think. Maybe novellas. Tullah’s a possibility. Alex’s affair with Hope might make a weepy novella in itself.
      But all that waits for WIld Card and Saigon.
      Your post shows the two-step marketing issues with getting readers into the series. Got to get them to download, then got to get them to read. I’ve been trying to address the first by making Raw Deal ‘free’. Amazon refuse (other than as part of their lending program).

      • patricia says :

        I think Amazon has that ‘corporate’ mentality now that it didn’t have when it was a tiny little company operating on a shoestring budget. However, if it makes you feel any better, as a “fan” I am not at all disappointed or upset with having to fork over a buck and, in fact, if any of that gets into your pocket, I’m happy to do so. Since I’ve already read your other two novels, Amazon could have easily gotten the full $8-9 paperback rate from me, even for the Kindle edition. I don’t hold Amazon’s policy against YOU at all – you had every intention of giving your words, ideas and story away to readers as a “freebie” and I appreciate the gesture! There’s a third-step to marketing, by the way, that I’ll be addressing later today on a couple of my social networking outlets – getting the people who have downloaded and read the series to talk about the novels, compliment the writing, then pester their FRIENDS until they also download and read! I have several friends (none of whom I’ve ever actually met, go figure!) to whom I’ll be promoting your novels strongly. The internet works in mysterious ways.

        I don’t mind waiting for other background stories. While of course, I want EVERYTHING and RIGHT NOW OR SOONER (I’m American like that), I also understand it’s important not to break the author. Cuz then he can’t write any more. Which sucks.

        Oh, and I finished Raw Deal already, so now I’m completely dry on Henwickian reading material. No pressure, just sayin’. 😉

  9. Renee says :

    I started Slight of Hand yesterday; I read the first chapter and stopped. I stopped to buy the other two books so I could read Raw Deal then Slight Of Hand. I finished Hidden Trump a bit ago and just finished your “BIAN teaser”! I will be biting my nails to the quick till the full story comes out, as well as the next Amber Farrell novel! Thank you for a terrific read!

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you Renee! You read quickly – a bit quicker than I can write. 🙂
      I expect to publish Bite Back 3, Wild Card, in October. The schedule slipped a bit with getting Raw Deal out and it’s slipped a bit more. That schedule may not leave me enough time to get Bian’s Tale 1 – Saigon out before Christmas, but that’s what I’m aiming for.
      Keep an eye on this blog and/or the Facebook page for updates, teasers, cover images and so on.

  10. Mary says :

    Just bought book #3 and have reread book # 1 and #2 before I start it. I also read your prequel. I became immersed in your world and your multidimensional characters.
    I enjoyed the detail, history, tone, and emotional content of Bian’s story. I really like how beautifully the story is unfolding and would argue that you do not need to be in a rush to suit the needs of urban fantasy readers. Just tell a good story – well.
    Found a grammatical typo in chapter one. “We children sat at on the floor….”
    I am looking forward to reading Bian’s Story.
    Many thanks for your efforts. They are much appreciated.
    Mary

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you Mary. I hope you remain immersed!
      Saigon in 1890 is going to be a very different world to Denver in the modern day. I’m enjoying the differences, trying to capture the feel of the city they called the Paris of the Far East. As I’ve just posted, there’ll be a teaser on the blog in the next month or so that will take these first 3 chapters and take the story forward to the end of the first section. Here’s a snip …

      To come upon Saigon just at the dawn, the old-timers said, is like waking from an opium dream.
      Dragons, formed from the mist off the rice fields, flowed down onto the dark river and raised phantom heads to stare blankly at the stirring city, with its wide, leafy boulevards and square, pale buildings looming out of the darkness. The east began to bleed gold into the gray sky and rob the night of its substance.

  11. Deirdre says :

    I think it is wonderful, you should break out of the UF chains and continue with this story. The people who would jump at the chance of reading Bian’s story are people already familiar with her and the are interested in hearing how her psyche has developed. By breaking out of the chains, I mean telling her story until she becomes what she is. The human part of her helps her become what she is, and her development starts with…being human. After all, isn’t that what we crave? UF is the desire to be something other then what we are.

  12. Rashmi says :

    i got hooked on Amber Farell’s story. I read them all back to back and I love Bian so this is exciting. Thank you for writing such strong female characters.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks Rashmi!

      I am embarrassed how long it is taking me to write Bian’s Tale. I promise I’ll be working on it again soon. I wish I could write faster 🙂

  13. Gloria Weaver says :

    Glo Weaver says March 4, 2016

    Sir, I have read all six of your bite back series. In fact, this is my 3rd read. I love them. First series of books that I have gotten to the point of having to remind myself they are fictional characters. Love the way all the characters interact and portrays normal human (aside from of course the paranormal part) behavior. Can’t wait for Angel Stalks and Bian’s Tales. I want to get them as soon as they are available, but please don’t hurry so much that we lose your outstanding writing skills. Good luck with your future endeavors.

    Awesome, Awesome, Awesome!

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you so much for the positive vibes!

      Angel Stakes re-drafting has reached the last section – the mad helter-skelter at the end. The current draft needs a lot of rewroking, but I know exactly where and what I need to do, so hopefully, not long now.

      I’ll get back to Bian’s Tale this year, and I have some ideas for making the writing flow more smoothly! 🙂

  14. Theresa says :

    I am anxiously awaiting the conclusion of Bian’s story. As a fan of UF I also appreciate back stories of the main characters. I would like to see Skylar’s and Diana’s stories as well.

    This was well worth the read and the conclusion would be well received and welcomed.

    Also, I can’t wait for the next installment of Bite Back. I was ahead of the story well before the reveal of the <>. It explains a lot.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Hi Theresa, sorry, edited your message there to keep spoilers hidden!

      I will be restarting Bian’s Take soon. This sample chapter and the first section where Bian is a child is fine. The next sections of the first book deal with her life as a teenager in Saigon. I’m not happy with those sections and they need a careful re-write. They tell the story, but they dont have the punch of the opening. Not good enough.

      I’ll post progress and samples as I go.

      Before Bian’s Tale comes out, I will do a sequel to The Biting Cold, which will bring Amanda into the Bite Back storyline.

  15. Euni says :

    Hi Mark
    I like knowing a little bit about Bian. It shows how she is developed and why she is the way she is. She’s a conundrum most of the time but out of all the characters, besides Amber, she is the one that makes me want to know more. I can’t wait for the whole story. I know you’ll make it good. 🙂

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks Euni.

      The time I’ve taken with Bian’s Tale should in no way imply I don’t want to do it. I do, and I want to get it right. And yes, her background is very different to everyone around her, despite the way she identifies with people or groups of people she comes across in Bite Back.

  16. benjamin says :

    It’s cool that your book would show some of what european colonism did in it. I am a history freak and like how some of your books use history. Like that quote from stalin.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      I’m guessing you mean this, from Angel Stakes: “Stalin claimed a single death was a tragedy, and a million just a statistic,” Skylur said.

      I enjoy playing with quotes, some of them obvious and attributed like that, and some hidden.

      The Saigon of Bians Tale is very definitely grounded in the historical reality, as far as I can research it. I hope I can dig up my notes and make them available for readers when I finish. Some of it, of course, is poetic licence. Here’s the opening paragraphs of the second section, some 4 or 5 years after the events of the opening section.

      “To come upon Saigon, just at the dawn, the old-timers said, is like waking from an opium dream.
      Dragons, formed from the mist off the rice fields, flowed down onto the dark river and raised phantom heads to stare at the stirring city, with its wide, leafy boulevards and square, pale buildings looming out of the darkness. In the vast landscape of steamy mangrove swamps and flooded paddy fields, the regular formality of Saigon’s gleaming buildings seemed like mirages.
      The east, across the river, began to bleed gold into the gray sky and rob the night of its substance.”

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