Monday, September 24, 2007


Remember that two fingered song for piano that everyone seems to know? Well this blog is not about that. Heh.

Actually, it's about my search for bamboo chopsticks. In my quest for interesting, inexpensive items to give away at the convention I'm attending in the spring, I had the notion to give hair piks as one of the items. In my Mystic Valley books the women twist their long hair up and anchor it with jeweled hair pics. I thought that I could improvise by painting and beading bamboo chopsticks.

Perhaps I will... but bamboo chopsticks seem to be a scarce item. I thought I would find them at a dollar store. Nope. Chinese restaurant? Perhaps, let's make a deal? Nope. So today my friend called me from the dollar aisle at Target. "Quick! They have chopsticks!"

This is how sad this is. My husband and I dropped everything and barreled down there to buy chopsticks. Tomorrow I will try out my idea. If it works, then we'll probably go back down there and buy the rest of them in the rack. Pitiful, isn't it?

So far, I have tiny boxes to decorate for chinka boxes. The men in Mystic Valley wear their hair--very long hair--in twenty five braids that are fastened on the ends with chinkas. Chinkas are carved beads that fit over the end of the braid. At night when they take their hair down the chinkas go in a chinka box. So. I found small boxes to decorate.

And then I will also make small recipe books with recipes from the valley. That won't be so difficult as I have quite a collection of specialty papers to use for that. My friend has graciously agreed to help me adapt recipes for the book.

One thing I'll say about my projects. It's a good thing I have all winter to work on this. While other people will be watching television and knitting, I'll be making chinka boxes and hair pics.

And I guarantee that the readers that take one of my souvenirs home will probably remember me and my books longer than the ones that take a bookmark. So, we'll see.

In the meantime, I thought maybe you would like to read about the chinkas so here's a scene in which Llyon demonstrates exactly what a chinka is used for. Enjoy.


The light breeze spread the scent of rain and quoltania bushes through the open window. Dancer enjoyed the light cinnamony scent and breathed in appreciatively before shifting to cuddle closer with Eppie. He spread his hand across her belly and rubbed their baby gently, careful not to wake Eppie. He froze when a tiny out of place sound wafted through the open window. A few seconds later, he caught the slight brush of fabric and silently he slipped from the bed, moving across the room to the window.

Peeking from behind the soft curtains, he saw a man stalking down the path to the back gate. Grabbing his sharda, he shinnied over the windowsill and soundlessly followed him as far as the river. Within a few feet, he knew he was trailing Merlyn but he was intensely curious about what could possibly bring his bond-father out in the rain in the middle of the night.

When Merlyn crossed the bridge and headed out into the open field past the training halls, Dancer waited until the buildings were between them and followed. He sank down in the deepest shadow in a dark corner and waited for a few moments, in case Merlyn returned. Just as he was satisfied that Merlyn wasn’t coming back his way, he heard a soft footstep on the bridge and barely made out the figure of Llyon coming his way.

Breathing shallowly, he squatted motionless in the dark while Llyon softly passed him in the rain. Slipping around the end of the building so that it was between him and the bridge, he crept to the corner until he could see the field clearly. The fine hairs along his spine tightened as he watched the small group of men in astonishment. There on the field he saw why the hair ornaments were called ‘chinkas’.

While all of the men stood in a semi-circle watching intently, Llyon spun rapidly toward a practice dummy, his braids whipping out around him from the centrifugal force. When he came within reach of the dummy, the chinkas struck it with deadly force, making a very distinctive sound. Chinka, chinka, chinka. Dancer shuddered as he watched Llyon’s lethal dance shred the dummy.

When Llyon came to a standstill, the men formed a line and one after the other each performed the same savage maneuver. After several more passes, the men divided into pairs and started practicing basic hand-to-hand fighting moves. Dancer assessed their skills and decided that they were fairly basic. Depending on what Merlyn and Llyon had to say after the practice, he might be able to assist them. He watched the entire practice, patiently waiting until all of the men were gone except Merlyn and Llyon.

Having seen exactly what Llyon could do, both with the chinkas and with his mind, Dancer took him down quickly and efficiently before disabling Merlyn. While he waited for them to come around, he tied Merlyn’s hands together behind his back with a couple of his braids and admired his work. Hair was notoriously difficult to unknot and if Merlyn moved very much, he would rip his own hair out. Then he sat down in the middle of Llyon’s back and waited.

He knew the moment Llyon was conscious and cheerfully cautioned, “I wouldn’t do anything too hasty,” and felt him relax when he recognized his voice. Merlyn groaned and then cursed fluently and creatively for quite a while. Dancer listened raptly to his repertoire, admiring the fact that he didn’t once repeat himself. When he was silent, Dance inquired calmly, “Have you called out the reinforcements?”

“Who the hell would we call?” Llyon asked in exasperation. “Mama? Everyone else has gone with Dai!”

“This is true,” Dance agreed, struck by the undeniable facts. Bish, Dai and Tyger were all far away. Arturo was with Dai also. Arano was with Silence. Wolfe was at the other end of the valley. If these were the defenders of the valley, they were woefully undermanned.

“What do you want?” Merlyn demanded with resignation.

“I watched your little practice session and I want to know why?” Dance replied quietly. “What has you in such a panic that you’ve set up a militia? Because that’s what it is, isn’t it? This isn’t the same as the standard warrior training.” He waited patiently while Merlyn and Ly had an intense silent discussion. When they seemed to come to an impasse, he pointed out, “I have the right to know. I have a bond-mate and a child on the way. Your grandchild, lest you forget.”

Merlyn sighed. “It’s you and Trav,” he admitted reluctantly. “You’re the reason we got the men together.”

More puzzled than ever, Dancer stood up, freeing Llyon. Cautiously, he unknotted Merlyn’s hair and released his bonds. “Why? What have we done to you?”

“You found the valley, not accidentally but with purpose.”

“Are you both completely whacked? I know I didn’t hit you that hard! I literally stumbled into that cave.”

Merlyn shook his head. “No. But I think we should go back and wake Trav. I would rather only explain one time.”

Oh, my, oh, my. Just wait until you see what Amarinda - - has done to the Blogga Saga. And then post on over to Kelly - - for her interview with Puck, one of the characters from her Regency romances. And then? Have a wonderful day.


  1. 25 braids that they undo at night? Wow, talk about work. I used to have hip length hair up until a couple of years and I was hard pushed to keep it in one braid nor did I bother to undo it at night. I must read more about these Mystic Valley men...

  2. All I can say, Anny, is better you than me!! I tried to be clever once by hot gluing beads to plain glass xmas ornaments and let's just say it took longer to create them than they lasted...

  3. After she makes them, she'll have to wear them or use the boxes to make sure they hold. Though, I'm pretty sure anything Anny does is done well. :)

  4. I too had hip-length hair. Braiding keeps it neat, but if the braids aren't taken down regularly it pulls on the scalp and you lose your hair.

    Jenyfer, I'm a crafty sort. We'll see how long it takes. I enjoy creating new stuff. If it's too labor intensive and takes time from writing, then I'll find something else.

    Although... the acorn thing has been fun.

  5. I was proud of the fact I'd once made a memo holder from craft sticks, and the thing stayed intact for 10 years. Beyond that, I'm hopeless. When I belonged to MOPS (Mothers Of Preschoolers), it was the only craft item that stayed together once it was carried to the car! And it's now buried in a box somewhere...who knows if it's still in one piece:)