“Contrary Evidence” – Excerpt from BURDEN OF PROOF

Burden of Proof FinalAssistant District Attorney Justin Blakely believes only in the letter of the law. When asked to prosecute a dangerous woman accused of killing her husband with 64 stab wounds to the chest, he sees only a butcher who should be locked away for her depraved act. But when he comes up against the woman’s driven, feisty attorney, he knows Chelsea Hanover has the power to change his mind. And, as he realizes her aim is truth rather than law, he can do nothing but respect her integrity. Knowing she’s stumbling into trouble, he’ll do anything to save her from herself, even if the casualty of his crusade is the law in which he believes.

 

“Contrary Evidence” — Excerpt from BURDEN OF PROOF –

“Tell me you have something.” Justin leaned against the door frame leading into the Forensic Technician Penny James’ lab. He knew better than to cross the threshold without permission. The sixty-two-year-old grandmother of four had scolded him like one of her grandkids a number of times when he was a rookie prosecutor about cross-contamination and improper attire for the lab.

Now, she glanced up at him over the rims of her glasses, her brown eyes twinkling in welcome. “Depends on what you consider ‘something,’ young man.”

“At the moment, I’ll take whatever you’ve got.” Normally, he enjoyed matching wits with Penny. She had a brilliant mind, and a sharp sense of humor. He knew she and his Uncle Mic went way back, but he never dared ask how far, or how close.

Today, however, with Chelsea’s assertions of her client’s innocence ringing in his ears, he was just too weary, and too worried, to muster up the fortitude for one of Penny’s brain teasers.

“You’re sure in a mood, today.” She tsk-ed beneath her breath and turned toward her desk, flipping through the files neatly stashed in the drawer there. “Case got you on edge?”

He opened his mouth to agree, but the words wouldn’t come out, as Chelsea’s thunderous green eyes seared through his mind, again. No, he was pretty sure the source of his mood wore a skirt and blazer that looked more second-hand than high-end. His breath caught at the memory of her slim form — the woman really needed to eat more — severely controlled red hair, and flashing green eyes… and he didn’t want to let his mind wander that way. No matter what he wanted, for years now, Chelsea Hanover wasn’t going to ever give in. She might look like sex up and walking, but she made it pointedly clear she considered him somewhere beneath pond scum on the evolutionary chain.

“Road to Vataria” – Excerpt from CHILD OF FALLEN WATERS (Legends of Tirum)

SOD Dragon 01

 

For the very first time, I’m allowing a sneak peek inside the next book of Legends of Tirum, CHILD OF FALLEN WATERS.

Why am I being so secretive about this book? CHILD OF FALLEN WATERS is a bridge book for the whole series. This is where everything both the characters and audience thought they knew about this series takes a very unexpected twist. This book sets the scene for some later explanations I’ve left vaguely explained (deliberately) or completely ignored by the characters who have the answers. And, like all catalysts, it defeats the purpose of the surprise to give too much away, too soon.

 

“Road to Vataria” — Excerpt from CHILD OF FALLEN WATERS (Legends of Tirum, Book 6) –

 

It wasn’t an easy feeling, to think the sky could fall on one’s head at any moment. Phoenix Telyn Gwndal, daughter of feuding houses and Chosen Protector of the World Forge, squinted against Helios’ glare as she glanced toward the cloudless sky again.

Not that she expected the sky to literally fall on her head, but knowing the Draconi were not the creatures of myth she once consoled herself with unsettled her. Through Marlaesa Bonedirk, she knew the Draconi of Junfa Canyon were allies, but the mere knowledge they were up there left her uneasy about what else might be soaring around above her. Telyn didn’t like the idea of enemies she couldn’t see or gauge.

“They’ll be here.”

Telyn turned her attention from the sky to find her lover, Nacaris, watching her. He did that a lot, lately. As if he thought she would disappear if he blinked, or fall apart at the least disappointment.

“I know.”

“Then why do you keep looking up? You’re going to trip over your own feet, if you keep at it.”

A wry smile tugged up the corners of her lips. “Battle instinct, I guess. The warrior in me doesn’t quite trust we won’t be attacked from the sky, now that I know there are massive creatures flying around up there.” She cocked him a curious glance. “I’m surprised you’re so calm about it.”

He shrugged. “I grew up knowing there were large creatures flying around above me. And I knew they meant me no harm.”

She blinked, confused. There was no way he’d encountered the Draconi as a child. The Lurudani were on the opposite end of the continent from Junfa Canyon, and there were no other Draconi on Ravenos, that she was aware of. Then, as she remembered another tale, she relaxed. “The Avarii. Paduari talks about them.”

Nacaris nodded. “Half-bird, half-beast. They have the gentlest souls, however ferocious they appear. Knowing them makes it easier to accept other winged races might be benevolent.”

Telyn glanced at the sky again, and changed the subject. “Do you think Hakan has any chance of finding out about his mother, after so long?”

“You would be the expert on lost parents,” Nacaris reminded her, referring to her own decade long search for her father, culminating in the discovery of his death at Raiador.

At least Hakan knew his father was still alive. Cold comfort, considering who his father was. Knowing his father killed his mother must be a very special kind of torment. But at least he had the hope of one day confronting his father and demanding answers. Telyn couldn’t even be certain her father knew she existed, before he died. Her mother remained close-mouthed on the subject of her father, and Telyn had no idea who Mistress Gwneth believed she was protecting.

Discover how the legend began! Pick up your copies of DAUGHTER OF ASHES, PHOENIX RISING, SPIRIT MAGE, MISTRESS OF CATS and SISTER OF DRAGONS today, at either Amazon.com or Desert Breeze Publishing.

Friday Q & A: The Book Soundtrack

color graph

Someone recently asked me this question, so I thought I’d extend it to all my fellow authors, as well:

Do you write with a “soundtrack”?

My answer:
Personally, I’m a music person (I grew up immersed in it), so I always have both a “series soundtrack” and a separate soundtrack for each book I write… a playlist of songs that keep the creative juices flowing and help me get into the “zone” of a particular book (it’s part of the secret to how I can write multiple books in multiple genres all at the same time, without ever confusing things… As soon as the “soundtrack” for that book starts, I’m instantly in that “zone”… Since I use the same soundtrack when drafting the storyline as I do when I’m writing, my brain’s conditioned to the pattern by the time I start writing…:) …)

If you have a question you’d like me to answer about writing in general, my process, my books, etc, please go to my FAQ Page and leave your question at the bottom of the page. I’ll select questions to answer on my blog every Friday, and those and other questions will be posted to the FAQ page, as well.

“Secrets and Abductions” – Excerpt from NICK OF TIME (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

 

When a young woman is abducted from a Pennsylvania State inpatient mental facility, Dr. Faith MacKenzie is about to be dragged into one of the most unusual cases she’s ever worked — a case with a living victim, and a race against time. If Shawna Hollister isn’t found before the secret society known as the Crucibani figure out how to access her memories, the end result could be mass genocide.

 

“Secrets & Abductions” — Excerpt from NICK OF TIME (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book 3) –

“So, when are you going to tell me what’s really wrong with this girl?” Faith looked up from the file with a frown. “There’s nothing in her file to indicate any kind of mental illness. In fact, there’s hardly anything in her file.”

Jonathan perched at the edge of her desk, the familiar flash of metal from the Challenge coin he carried passing over his hand as he rolled it across his knuckles. “She’s not mentally ill.”

She knew the implication of those words. “She’s one of your special cases, isn’t she?”

One brow lifted. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“Like Jenna, and that other girl — the one we found in the fire, last month.”

“You don’t have to make it sound sordid.”

She sighed as she laid the file flat on her desk and leaned forward. “You know what I mean. Why was she in a mental hospital?”

“Does it matter?”

“Of course it does.” She frowned as she rose to her feet. “I can’t profile her abductor, or figure out where she might be, if I don’t know why he took her.”

Jonathan straightened. “He?”

“Figure of speech.” She shrugged. “Statistically, abductions of adult and teenage females are committed overwhelmingly by men. What I don’t understand,” she stopped in front of him, hands on her hips, “is why you’re being so secretive about this.”

Jonathan sighed, and straightened, to stand before her, tossing the coin into the air and catching it, before pocketing it. His gaze, when it met hers, was somber. “Mac, I didn’t put Shawna in that institution. She begged us to put her there. She knew it was the only safe place.”

“Why?”

“There are things about this case that won’t make sense to you. Shawna Hollister is one of those things.”

Her eyes narrowed. “You don’t think I can handle it?”

“No.” He met her gaze levelly. “Not yet.”

“Master and Apprentice” – Excerpt from SISTER OF DRAGONS (Legends of Tirum)

 

One character I’ve been waiting to introduce since the beginning of the series was Dariadus. While he’s a driving force behind Telyn’s choice to be a warrior, and behind Nacaris and Telyn’s relationship, he’s been a kind of background ghost of a character, spoken of, but never really known. With SISTER OF DRAGONS, Dariadus comes out of the shadows, and the interaction between Telyn and her old mentor became one of the most touching scenes of the entire book.

 

“Master and Apprentice” – Excerpt from SISTER OF DRAGONS (Legends of Tirum, Book 5)

A wry smile tugged at Telyn’s lips as she neared the larger, banner-bedecked tent near the center of the camp. She knew, from the moment they arrived, she would eventually end up here. She could no more avoid Dariadus’ counsel than she could avoid Kishfa‘s edicts. Truthfully, she wasn’t sure they weren’t one and the same.

She came to a stop just outside the tent, still telling herself she could avoid the awkward fear clinging to her. Dariadus still didn’t know she was here…

“Are you coming in, or have you chosen to have yourself reduced to a pillar of salt and sand, instead?” The voice from inside the tent was familiar, and laced with a remembered hint of caustic laughter.

Telyn’s lips quirked up further, and any hope of escaping fled her. What a fool she was! Of course Dariadus would sense her lurking right outside his tent. Somehow, she always managed to forget what an accomplished Majin he was.

“Why do I bother trying to have a private thought?” She quipped back as she ducked inside the tent. She stopped as the tent drape dropped behind her, and blinked as her eyes adjusted to the lighting difference, the night-sight which was her father’s genetic gift taking over to allow her to see as clearly in the dimness here as it did in the bright sun.

Dariadus lounged, desert-style, amidst a pile of cushions. His once-dark hair was now threaded with streaks of white and faint lines carved by laughter and life framed his eyes and mouth. But age had been kind to her old friend, and his body showed little of its ravages, his hands still steady as a rock, his form strong and steady as ever. He grinned at the sight of her, and opened his arms wide.

“Come. Greet me properly.”

She laughed, crouching to embrace him in a Sheliac greeting of kinship. “You’ve never had passing acquaintance with ‘proper,’ Dariadus. Why start now?”

As his arms came around her, she felt a familiar energy pulse through her, and deftly deflected his attempts to read her bodily and spiritual condition. She backed out of his embrace and settled across from him, to see the grin on his face.

“You’ve come into your own, then. This is good. I always worried you would try to outrun it until it was forced to kill you.”

Telyn cleared her throat and glanced away. No way would she let him know how accurate his fear had been. Until Ulambara, she hadn’t faced her destiny. The memory of the fiery, blinding battle with both herself and her enemy rose up, and she shoved it away. She wasn’t about to relive those memories now.

“I hear rumors,” Dariadus continued, as if unaware of her inward struggle. “They tell me you’ve not returned alone.” His gaze dropped pointedly to her midsection, where her pregnancy was becoming more obvious by the day. “I would say they’re correct.”

“I travel with two other Chosen, plus a Pyracanthrian and a child other than my own,” she confirmed, then lifted her chin and met his gaze directly as a fiercely protective energy welled up within her. “Nacaris is with me, too.”

Dariadus didn’t look the least bit surprised or unhappy about this news. “I did wonder if that boy would ever find you.”

She blinked. “You knew?”

He laughed. “The whelp held me at the point of his sword and swore he’d cut out my heart if I didn’t tell him where you’d gone. Not much can stand in the way of that kind of determination and regard. Just tell me I did no wrong when I hinted you went home to the Gild.” His gaze narrowed. “Tell me he treats you well.”

A soft smile curved on Telyn’s lips, and she chuckled. Nacaris more than treated her well. He loved her to distraction, which she knew was no easy task. She had more than enough fears for all of them. “There’s no one I would rather have at my side.”

Pick up your copy of SISTER OF DRAGONS, today… And see how the legend begins, with DAUGHTER OF ASHES, PHOENIX RISING, SPIRIT MAGE, and MISTRESS OF CATS, all available at Desert Breeze Publishing or Amazon.com

“Difference of Opinion” – Excerpt from MISSION OF MERCY (Project Prometheus)

PPSeriesDecal

Like all of Project Prometheus, Shadow Walker produced some characters who just refused to remain silent. Among them was Jaye’s over-protective older brother, Marine Colonel Colton Zacharias Michaels, Jr. and smart, sassy Sarah St. John. From the moment Colt stepped into the picture, I knew I’d be going back to tell his and Sarah’s story. There was just too much story there to not tell. So, though it will be released after Shadow Walker, Colt and Sarah’s story takes place about a year before.

 

“Difference of Opinion” — Excerpt from MISSION OF MERCY (Project Prometheus):

“It’s as simple, or complicated, as you choose to make it.” He tilted his seat back on two legs and grinned smugly, his gaze raking over her in blatant appreciation that heated Sarah’s blood in spite of herself.

She bristled instantly in response to his words, and his careless tone. That heat in her blood was fury. Had to be. Arrogant son of a– “You’re not taking this seriously, Colonel. In fact, you haven’t taken a single moment of this entire investigation seriously.”

“On the contrary.” He sat forward suddenly, the chair hitting the floor with a thud as he grin fell away. “It’s very serious. You think I find anything funny about you coming in here with that holier-than-thou attitude of yours, slinging accusations of misconduct at men and women who’ve sacrificed more than you’ll ever understand?”

She glared at him. “Can you even find a hat to fit that arrogant head, Mr. Pot?”

He blinked. “Huh?”

“As in, pot and kettle. You don’t know me, Colonel Michaels, or what I’ve been through in my life.” She drew herself up as tall as she could, already aware she was far from imposing. Still, Jack always said her glare could freeze fire. Maybe she could turn this arrogant Marine into a Popsicle.

He rose, taking a step toward her. His voice lowered as he came to a stop before her. “Try me.”

She wasn’t going to let him get to her. Too bad she couldn’t convince her treacherous heart of that, as it tried to pound its way free of her chest. “I don’t trust you.”

That stopped him. “Why should that matter?”

She drew a breath that smelled of his spicy aftershave, and told her unruly hormones to pipe down. “If you ever find out what, you’ll know why. Until then, Colonel Michaels, I suggest you focus on getting me the information I need, rather than fighting battles you can’t possibly win.”

Look for the story that started it all, IN HER NAME, coming from Desert Breeze Publishing this Fall!

It’s All Geek: Perspectives on Science and the Paranormal (and why I write both, simultaneously)

I can’t tell you how many times I hear “But if you’re so science-minded, why do you write Paranormals, and believe in the paranormal?” Like these two things are mutually exclusive, and acknowledging one excludes me from acknowledging or understanding the other.

This is a stereotype I’m sick of. So let me set the record straight, once and for all. Parapsychology, the paranormal sciences, and physical science are not mutually exclusive. They never have been. The base concept of science is, in itself, to explain the unexplained. Let’s take a look at a few established principles, and a few conceptual theories, to explore what I’m talking about.

15524593-northern-lights-aurora-borealis-dramatic-landscape

A mere five hundred years (plus or minus change) ago, the science of the day declared the Earth flat, and that the heavens revolved around the Earth. This planet was, by established science of the day, the center of the universe. The concept of space flight wasn’t even a glimmer, and the established medicine of the day often involved the judicious application of leeches, for everything from poisoning to excessive bleeding (I’d love to see someone explain that one!).

The people who dared to challenge this established science of the day were labelled insane or heretics. They were often ostracized, sometimes imprisoned, and in some cases even put to death for daring to challenge the established science of the day and/or look for explanations to those things deemed inexplicable, at that time.

Thank goodness we’ve come so far, right? But have we really? When science declares something “hogwash” or “ridiculous” without exploring the possibilities inherent within it, that science loses its ability to truly function as it should – it loses the flexibility to bend and explore new dimensions and possibilities within our universe. Without that flexibility, without the “what if,” most of the science we take for granted today would never have existed.

I firmly believe that science holds the key to unlocking the potential of the human spirit. As Einstein once said, imagination is more important than knowledge. Anyone can spout knowledge. Being able to imagine how that knowledge might be put to use is of far greater value. While science seems content to study the human brain at length, it fails to explore how that brain chemistry might apply to things which, today, appear “paranormal.”

“Paranormal,” by most basic definition, means “outside of the normal.” By this definition, in the 1500s, the law of gravity, for example, would have been considered “paranormal.” So would Columbus’ assertions that the world was actually round, rather than flat, or Copernicus and Galileo with their “crazy” theories regarding the heavens above us. A mere hundred years ago, the computers we so take for granted as part of “normal” life were considered “science fiction” and completely, utterly paranormal, by the word’s definition.

Medical science will be the first to admit they do not have all the answers to how the human brain works, or even what it might be capable of. By this very admittance, they lay the groundwork for the possibility of eventually being able to empirically test for and gauge things like clairvoyance, clairaudience, Psychokinesis, telepathy, and a host of other parapsychological conditions. I firmly believe that, in time, science will uncover the root of these types of abilities, and will be able to study it very effectively, and therefore expand our knowledge and use of such abilities, taking them firmly from the realm of “paranormal” and into the realm of “normal.”

By the same token, I believe that science will one day progress to the point of being able to prove, conclusively, the existence of the spirit (human and animal) and its ability to survive corporeal death. Already, we see rapid advances in the methodology and equipment used to study and document potential hauntings, and I believe that if these advances continue to happen, and people continue to strive for that understanding, someone will stumble into the same kind of “eureka!” moment Archimedes did when he figured out volume displacement.

To understand why I believe this, I will apply some simple, established science. Namely, the First Law of Thermodynamics (otherwise known as the Law of Conservation of Energy and Matter). It states that matter cannot be either created or destroyed. It simply changes form to fit new conditions or environments. Medical science proves that the human body is animated through a complicated and not-completely-understood system of bio-electric signals, chemical reactions, etc. Basically, the human body is a kind of living, working biological battery/computer. We put off a tremendous amount of energy, in the form of heat. This is best seen in how our bodies begin to overheat when we are exerting a lot of energy, thereby requiring our bodies to kick in their onboard coolant system (sweat) to help cool us down. When we exert energy in a focused manner, we do so by transferring said energy to another activity or object – say, picking up a box. The energy our bodies generate through the use of fuel (food, water, air, etc) is transferred into kinetic energy, which allows us to grip and lift the box, at which time the kinetic energy is changed into force energy, applied against gravity to lift the box.

So, if we are batteries, with all this stored up energy at our disposal at any time, when we die, what happens to all that energy? The Law of Conservation of Energy and Matter says that it has to go somewhere. It can’t simply disappear. Rather, it must change form to fit its new environment and situation. In time, this energy might be absorbed into other things which utilize energy, or it might continue to absorb energy from around itself, taking on a more definitive form. In both of these cases, it would be following the Law of Conservation of Energy, and by the same token become the energy source known as “ghosts” or “spirits.” Since a large part of the energy we store up is stored in the brain, logic would follow that the energy released to a new form during death would retain some measure of its former use, at least for a while. Those electrical pulses that carry information and accumulated knowledge around the brain could retain some kind of energy “memory” which would allow for the intelligent interactions experienced by paranormal investigators.

The same principles of scientific thought can easily be established to many areas currently deemed “paranormal.” As such, I say with confidence that I do not actually believe there is a division between the paranormal and science. Instead, I think the one (science) simply hasn’t yet arrived at point where it is capable of empirical measurement of the things we at current deem “paranormal.” But I do believe the time will come when these fields of study collide, and I don’t believe it is very far off, either. In the meantime, I will continue to write my geeked-out, scientific paranormals, and enjoy the hell out of knowing that, on this front, I’m ahead of the curve.