Pretending to Sleep: A Communism Survivor’s Short Story

Two years ago, I attended a professional writing workshop. One of the editors buying short stories for that workshop was putting together an anthology of stories about people’s passions. She wasn’t talking about romantic passions, but about subjects that were emotional, i.e. visceral.

So, I asked myself, what am I most passionate about? And why? And the answer, for me, was that I am most passionate about being an American. Because I wasn’t born one.

I knew then what I had to write about. This was the hardest story I’ve ever had to write. And no one was more surprised than me, when it was bought. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the publication date was pushed back, and I decided to pull it from the anthology and publish it myself.

As I was going through the manuscript, two years after I wrote it, I decided to give the story a more fitting title: Pretending to Sleep.

It’s interesting the details the mind chooses to remember. Decades later some moments are still so crystal clear that you can see them as if they were happening right now. Your gut tells you it’s happening. The sweat on your skin tells you it’s happening. That hammering inside your ears—the one that the distant logical part of your mind insists is just your heart—tells you that it’s happening. 

It wasn’t a dream, not in the sense that I was sleeping, but it was a nightmare. An extended, living nightmare, that came alive thanks to unguarded moments like, “Renata, that’s a nice story,” spoken by a stranger from across the table. She said it in a tone that implied that what I just told them was something I made up, rather than something that really happened. Either those words, spoken in that tone, or a shattered piece of china always take me back.

They happened together—those words and a broken cup. Maybe that’s why it felt so visceral. The cup, or a shard of it, bloodying my fingertip. The waitress, apologizing, scurrying for the first-aid kit like it was her fault. I saw it in her eyes, the fear that it was somehow her fault, that she must make it right, and no matter how much I insisted that it wasn’t a problem, that it was indeed my fault, I could tell she didn’t quite believe me. Or she would not, not until we were gone without asking to speak to the manager or leaving her without a tip. 

It was her hunched-over look, that scurrying, whipped-dog demeanor that I regretted the most. It added to the nightmarish feel of it all. This was not how things were supposed to be. Not here anyway, and I kept myself from weeping because I knew that doing so was only going to make it worse.

I stuck my finger in my mouth. Copper and iron. Salt. It kept me from saying what I wanted to say. It kept my passions from using my voice. It kept my thoughts to myself, for there is one thing that I have learned, that the decades have taught me, sometimes casually, sometimes painfully—you cannot wake a man pretending to sleep.

I don’t quite remember the first time I read that. It’s a Navajo saying, one coined way before I was born, perhaps even before my country-of-origin was formed. Before I learned a word of English. Before I’d even learned there was such a place as America…

You can buy Pretending to Sleep: A Communism Survivor’s Short Story in print or at your favorite ebook retailer, by clicking here.

SFF Book Bonanza

Check out SFF Mega Promo which features every form of SFF from action/adventure, to space opera, to urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Did I mention all of these titles were free? Yes they are. Really, true, free. No subscription fee. It’s a great way to discover new writers or maybe even explore a new genre. 

Liberty Island Interview

Liberty Island is a website, magazine, and publisher where “readers of a conservative or libertarian bent can find fiction, music, video and graphics that reflect their social values and political beliefs — and readers of all persuasions can find new voices and undiscovered talent. “

I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with Tamara Wilhite (fellow writer, mom, and engineer) both online and at conventions so I was very excited about this interview. Thank you, Tamara, for the opportunity to speak to your readers about my work.

Tamara Wilhite: Congratulations on the release of “Ravages of Honor”. What is the book about?

Monalisa Foster: Thank you. I’m thrilled to finally have it out there. The short answer can be summed up by the tagline: Riveting characters in a gripping tale of interstellar intrigue, love, and impossible choices.

The long answer is that it’s THAT book, the one that we’re driven to write because it’s the story we wanted to read and no one was writing it so we have to write it ourselves.

So, what did I want to write about? Well, I wanted to write about a female character I wasn’t seeing anywhere else. I’d gotten so sick and tired of the stereotypical “strong female character” (SFC) that is the biggest, baddest, smartest person of any room she walks into. 

-Read the rest-

Jimbo’s Awesome SF&F reviews Ravages of Honor

Sometime, in the course of human events, consuming a form of entertainment that is in your favorite genre but it is different in a lot of ways than the works that you usually consume is a good thing. Seriously. Listen, if you read this blog frequently (Hi, Mom!) you know that I usually take my Science Fiction with a huge helping of gun/blaster shots and a heaping side of BOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!! I like that. But let’s face it, not all SF has to be that. That’s a good thing, because not all SF is that. Take, for example, Monalisa Foster’s Ravages of Honor. 

Seriously, it’s a good book and there is enough gratuitous violence to keep us all entertained. We get everything from veiled threats to outright carnage. I love the fact that Ravages of Honor has a futuristic setting, but a lot of the weapons are things that Richard the Lionhearted or Tokugawa Ieyasu would have recognized. Some of this stuff is just amazing and it fits. Morgan-Foster does a great job blending old with the new. That in and of itself is a bit of a change (and no, lightsabers don’t count as ancient weapons) but it’s not the one I’m referring to. Don’t get me wrong, a sword wielding donai (what’s a donai? Well, you can either take my word that it’s a genetically engineered person bred for war OR you can read the book and see if I’m telling the truth.) is a lot of fun and not someone I’d want to run up against, but that’s not all there is to it.

To read the rest, click here.

Featherlight Snippet

One of the most common questions I’ve gotten from those who read Ravages of Honor is, “What are the donai women like?”

Like so much about the donai’s world, the scope of Ravages didn’t really let me address that question. The Ravages universe and its inhabitants are too big, too detailed, too deep to be fully developed in one novel, even a 150,000-word one.

But the story of Lady Yedon did give me the perfect opportunity to answer this question, at least for one donai. Lady Yedon was introduced in Ravages during Galen’s flashback to the first time he met Emperor Thán Kabrin.

If you’ve read Ravages, some of the world-building details are repeated here (for those that have not). If you have not read Ravages, it’s my sincerest hope that you will.

Either way, know that this novella stands alone as its own story. And that, unlike Ravages, it is a dark one.

Chapter One

Valeria stormed through the arched hallways leading from the swordhall to the Sovereign’s Suite as though she were some elemental force of nature. Her blonde hair was darkened by sweat. She swept it out of her eyes and tucked it behind her ear. 

Barefoot, she strode across intricate mosaics, cutting through shadows cast by carved, stone titans. Lightning split the sky, hurling blinding flashes of light at a universe gone wrong. The storm brewing outside was nothing compared to the tides of emotions she was caught in. They sent her crashing against unyielding cliffs and then sucked her back only to smash her anew.

Valeria was losing her strength and agility—an unbearable travesty. She’d not only lost the sparring session with her men, but she’d emerged bruised and battered. Healing was taking longer than it should have. Had it been a real fight, her enemies could’ve finished her off despite the nanites that gave her kind—the donai—their incredible healing ability.

The doors slid aside and she entered the ante-chamber. Lanterns floated down from the ceiling, casting a soft glow in the spartan chamber. Intricately carved panels covered the walls, deceptively hiding the ante-chamber’s main function: a kill-box. No enemy could pass through this chamber into the ones beyond where they might catch her unaware. Everything in the room, from the lanterns, to the tiles, to the panels was made of utility fog. Nanites stood ready to change form as needed, depending on the threat level.

A sword rack protruded from the column just inside the main chamber. She shed the killing sword and placed it on the rack, but the short sword remained within reach even as she stepped out of the hakama and shrugged out of the wide-sleeved jacket. They landed on the tiles as she made her way past over-stuffed couches and low tables. She had no attendants—not today, not tomorrow, not as long as she was like this. The fewer people who knew of her growing weakness, the better.

Continue reading “Featherlight Snippet”

New release: “The Heretic” in Trouble in the Wind

Today is the day! The most awesome collection of alt-history ground warfare stories called Trouble in the Wind is out from Chris Kennedy Publishing. I’m honored to share space with such a great group of writers.

Here is an excerpt from my alt-history story about Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans, one of the most iconic figures in history.

“France will be lost by a woman and shall thereafter be restored by a virgin.” — Marie d’Avignon

It is a terrible thing to know one’s future. To know that one cannot avoid it. To know that even if I could, I would not.

I do not walk my path alone. God has sent me counsel. It is for love of God that I take each inevitable step, knowing where it will lead: to victory; to pain; to lives lost. But also to freedom—not for me, but for France.

In my mind’s eye, I see them making the sign they will hold up as they escort me. I cannot read, but I know what they will call me: superstitious; a liar; a seducer of the people; blasphemer; presumptuous, cruel, and braggart; idolater and apostate; invoker of devils.


Even knowing how it will end, I march towards this future of my own free will. I walked the path knowing that I would take an arrow. I walk it again, knowing it will end in fire.

I know it will be worse than anything I can imagine. Worse than the beatings, the arrow to my chest, the wound to my thigh. I know that they will draw it out. There will be no quick release, no snap of the neck as the rope catches my fall.

No mercy.

Only fire.

They will make me live my own Hell because deep in their hearts they know my soul is destined for Heaven.

Do not call me brave. Save that for those who overcome fear. I fear not, for God is with me.

Hard sci-fi made me cry*

Image Source: IMDB

Tired of the remakes, the reboots, the “let’s see how much more blood we can squeeze out of this turnip” output of today’s Hollywood? I think you’ll find Passengers a refreshing change. 

If like me, you didn’t rush out to see it in the theatre, it might’ve been because of blurbs like this one from IMDB: “A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early.” 

Sounds like a snore, doesn’t it? 

It is rated PG-13, just under two hours long, and tagged as adventure, drama, and romance. What it is, however, is a story about love, redemption, and forgiveness. It’s about making the best of life, even when things don’t go as planned. It’s about the pioneering spirit, about a positive future, about what a man and a woman can achieve together.

“But wait, you said this is hard sci-fi.”

Yes, I did. And I stand by it. It’s science fiction because of the setting: a spaceship traveling between the stars. It’s hard sci-fi because it’s an extrapolation of current knowledge (it’s closer to 2001: A Space Odyssey), than to the space-fantasy cum turnip known as Star Wars

But what this movie actually is, is a great example of using science/setting as a trope and a literary device for delivering a character-driven story. The science is not the point of the story, but there is enough verisimilitude that it has a real feel to it (this comes from someone who can get really picky about the scientific details).

Continue reading “Hard sci-fi made me cry*”

Ravages of Honor is out now

I am very pleased to announce the release of my first novel, Ravages of Honor.

With one act of defiance, Syteria holds the fate of two empires in her hands, but she does not know it.
A stranger in a strange land, she must survive, adapt, thrive.
Only then can she free herself. Only then can her sacrifice and rebellion bear fruit.
An epic story about the price of honor, power, and freedom.

Ravages of Honor has spawned several shorter works, some of which have seen publication, some of which are due for release. One of the things you find out as you’re writing a novel is that there are so many other stories that go into your world, but that you don’t have room for them all in the main work. And it’s wonderful. Your minor characters can have their own stories. And no character is born on the first page. They all have history. The world you’ve build also has history.

Ravages of Honor‘s companion works can be found here.

Ravages of Honor Snippet

It had been more than a decade since Syteria had breathed the sweet air of Kappa, the world where she’d been born.

High above her, Rho—Kappa’s larger planetary sister—dominated the sky like a vast,malevolent eye. Its light washed out the hauntingly familiar stars struggling to make their presence known.

A leaden weight, as heavy as the armor plating of her tactical vest, took form in her belly. Her grip on the rifle tightened, each deliberate breath bringing it closer as if it were some talisman.

Syteria had been paired with Mara, a trusted eniseri veteran. Age lines and scars crisscrossed the older woman’s face. Her dark hair, clipped close to the scalp like Syteria’s own, was covered almost entirely by her helmet. Mara’s gloved hands rested lightly on her rifle. A soft wind stirred the leaves on the trees above them, sending shadows into play across her confident face.

They knelt at the edge of a clearing, in the cover and concealment of a downed tree, awaiting the order to advance on the lone shack with its pitiful column of smoke.

A stone well fronted an animal corral. The lowing of the beasts within, the odor of manure,the tinkle of bells worn by the animals in case they got lost all poked at her memory. Syteria had been born and raised in a place not so unlike this one.

She closed her eyes as flashes of her past surfaced: running barefoot through leaves; watching Rho rise and set; holding soft, downy hatchling in her hands.

Syteria shook her head and opened her eyes, darting a glance at Mara, checking to see if she’d somehow given something away. But Mara was watching the shack.

To keep her hand from drifting up to the monitoring collar, Syteria tightened her grip on her rifle’s stock. Maybe the collar would attribute the change in her breathing and body chemistry to nerves, to this being her first time. Maybe the Matrons who were monitoring this mission were too busy to notice.

Continue reading “Ravages of Honor Snippet”