“The Hit” – Excerpt from NOWHERE TO HIDE (Project Prometheus)

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This particular piece comes from NOWHERE TO HIDE.  Meet Candace Billings, daughter of a man with connections that could get her killed.

As far as the world was concerned, debutante Candace Billings knew nothing beyond a life of privilege. But the high gates of the Billings estate housed a secret darker than any prison facility, and Candace would do anything to escape it. When her father offered her the chance to travel to South America on holiday, she eagerly accepted, determined to never return to the life she left behind. But a bag exchange in a Columbian hotel brought her back into the United States a criminal, released into her father’s unyielding custody. A stolen car and a nighttime collision brought Candace to the attention of a man who could neither abandon nor absolve her. But, just maybe, he can save her.

 

“The Hit” – Excerpted from NOWHERE TO HIDE (Project Prometheus, Book #16) –

            This is it.  I’m going to die.

The thought slipped through Candace Billings’ mind like a snake, gone in a flash as the dark sedan slammed into the side of her sports car again. Grim humor gripped her as she acknowledged it wasn’t actually her anything.  She didn’t know a damned thing about cars. This was Ben’s car, sliding out of control on the rain-slick road as she fought to break free from the shove of the other vehicle.

God, please don’t let me die here.

What she was praying for, she didn’t know.  Death would be preferable to being returned to Ben’s fancy townhouse, or worse, to her father’s sprawling mansion.  Still, Candace gritted her teeth and fought the out-of-control car, and the jarring pound of the hitman’s vehicle.

And she had no doubt he was a hitman.  One of the cartel’s thugs, no doubt, employed strictly to take care of people like her.  Candace barked a sharp laugh, but didn’t dare spare a glance for the backpack on the passenger seat beside her, or a thought for its contents.  She didn’t have time.

A guard rail loomed in the beam of her headlights, and she swore softly beneath her breath as she slammed the brake to the floor.  The screech of the expensive machinery protesting the hard use joined the chorus of squealing rubber and the splinter of crushed metal and fiberglass.  Then, there was a sickening crunch, and pain seared through her body as she flew forward, caught between the guard rail to her left and the gunning engine of the sedan to her right.  Her breath stopped in her lungs as the seat belt strangled her, then snapped, and a nauseating crack filled the compartment.  She slumped sideways with a groan as pain exploded through her, and only the tortured squeal of the windshield wipers kept her company as she tumbled into darkness.

Want to know more about Project Prometheus?  Stay tuned… And pick up your copy of the Eppie-Nominated Project Prometheus series debut, IN HER NAME, available now from Desert Breeze Publishing!

“Her Father’s Keep” — Excerpt from PHOENIX RISING

PHOENIX RISING Cover

Phoenix Telyn Gwndal gave up the love of her life for the destiny she was born to bear. As she undertakes the quest levied on her, will she uncover a secret alliance meant to destroy her, or can a shadow from her past save her from the ultimate mistake?

“Her Father’s Keep” — excerpted from PHOENIX RISING (Legends of Tirum, Book 2)

The crumbled ruin of a soaring war keep loomed on the forested horizon, bathed in the bloody streaks of Helios’ setting light.  Telyn’s breath caught in her throat as she stared at the structure, imposing in spite of its dilapidation.  Pain wrenched her heart, startling her.  She’d never been to this place, so why did the mere sight of that decaying ruin fill her with such grief?  Her eyes stung, and she blinked away the tell-tale signs of impending tears.  She didn’t have time for this foolishness.

Determination fueled her forward, toward the destroyed remnants of her father’s lineage – all that remained of her heritage, and the once-mighty Phoenix Clan.  One day, she promised herself silently, she would see it restored.  For now, she intended to search every nook and cranny of the old ruin.  The Phoenix Book was still here.  She could feel it.

Pelarius Brunnari was an evil man, driven by an insatiable desire for power that didn’t rightfully belong to him, but he wasn’t stupid.  Oh, no.  The old fox was wily, right up to the end.  He knew the legends of the Phoenix Book, and probably better than anyone left alive, at that.  It was said, she’d heard whispers once, that the removal of any of the sacred artifacts from those entrusted with their care would not only render the artifact useless, but also quite dangerous to the one who did the removing.  The Aerai Majin, it was said, made sure of that.  And those whispers confirmed Telyn’s gut feeling – the Phoenix Book never really left Phoenix Hall.

Excitement pulsed a fiery song through her veins as she urged Bloodcloud toward the forest surrounding Phoenix Hall.  She had no fear of its darkness – her Bathron eyes would grant her vision even in its darkest corners and brambles.  And, if Kishfa rode with her this night, she’d have the Phoenix Book in her hands before the morning light.

Get your copy of PHOENIX RISING from Amazon.com! Want to see how it all begins? Find Book I: DAUGHTER OF ASHES, available from Amazon.com and Desert Breeze Publishing !

“Call of Fire” — Excerpt from DAUGHTER OF ASHES (Legends of Tirum)

Daughter of Ashes

 

Telyn Gwndal has always feared Majik. When her destiny brings her back to the place her nightmares were born, Telyn must take up a sacred quest to avenge the father she never knew. Her greatest ally is a man with a secret that could reawaken a past Telyn believes dead and buried, and destroy the truth she holds sacred. Can she trust him with her heart, or will her destiny force her to let him go?

 

Nacaris Onarchar is a man without a home. He thought he left behind the past when everything he loved disappeared from his life. Resigned to his rootless life, he never imagined that a desperate Elder’s request would bring him face-to-face with his past, and a chance to change his future. Can he bring himself to destroy the only love he’s ever known, or will he sacrifice the truth to hold onto a heart he can’t be sure he ever held?

 

“Call of Fire” — Excerpted from DAUGHTER OF ASHES (Legends of Tirum, Book 1)

Telyn.

The voice whispered, light as a breath and reverent as a prayer, in her ear.

The daughter of Ashes has returned. A second voice, as ardent as the first, joined in.

We have been calling. If she is the One, why does she not come to us? This new voice hissed, dark with skepticism.

There is a new power about her. A new ally. It will take time for her to understand, the first voice explained patiently.

We must teach her to wield that power properly, agreed the second. The Phoenix must fly again.

We don’t have time for this, the third muttered impatiently. With every moment we delay, the Book slips further away. Without it, we have no protector. Send the Summoning, and let’s be done with it.

The voices continued to swirl through her, joined by more and more, all chanting in a cadence that pulsed like the Dorfaíle, and tears seeped from her closed eyelids as she fought their siren song. Her heart twisted in her chest as if she suffered diabolical torture, rather than comfortably ensconced in a lavish bed. Those voices were full of desperation that ate through the sleep she tried to cling to. Yet there was a joy in their song, reveling in the mountain’s fire.

The sense of purpose she searched a lifetime for suddenly blossomed in Telyn’s heart as flames licked at her skin from the inside, hot enough to sear flesh from bone. Yet, bizarre calm held even the thought of pain far from her mind. Instead, she tossed in her sleep, attempting to banish the seductive sound that pulled so strongly at her.

Agony grew in the flames around her, until light seared the backs of her eyelids, and pounding heat engulfed her body. With a cry of terror, Telyn sat bolt upright, her eyes flying open.

The room was dark, though shadowy flickers of light crept in around the edges of the roanwood door. A cool breeze shifted the curtains and flowered through the room. Telyn shivered as it hit her sweat-soaked, overheated skin. Her brow furrowed. Camp Houses weren’t known to be drafty — least of all this one. So where was the draft coming from?

A terrifying thought struck her. It couldn’t be!

To prove to herself that she was paranoid, Telyn turned toward the west wall. Her eyes widened, and her stomach wrenched. “I don’t believe it!”

The shutters she so painstakingly made certain were bolted tight now bumped softly against the wall, wide open once again. The face of Raiador peered through the inky blackness outside, lit by over a hundred thousand flickering lights. She was in so much trouble.

Pick up your copy of DAUGHTER OF ASHES today, and continue the journey with Telyn in Legends of Tirum, available from Desert Breeze Publishing!

“No Boundaries” – Excerpt from COME WINTER’S PALE (Chronicles of a Dragon’s Realm)

image by bogglyeyes

image by bogglyeyes

Today, I thought I would share something completely different, for me. This is blast from my past, reinvented. When I was a kid, I started researching and writing a series of Arthurian Legend inspired books. My original intention was to be historically accurate, and write a series of historical novels. However, as I grew older, and my writing style became more defined, the historical novels I began in my youth began to evolve, as well. In the case of this series, I began to shift toward Steampunk, bringing together the history and details of the legend as I researched it with a Steampunk world. In essence, I recreated the Arthurian story in a Steampunk world.

“No Boundaries” – Excerpt from COME WINTER’S PALE (Chronicles of a Dragon’s Realm, Chapter III, Book 1) –

Some things just aren’t meant to be.  Kata LurAine had heard the phrase her whole life.  Sitting at the knee of her stern, proper grandmother as the old woman taught her to stitch the painstaking designs into the coverlets for her hope chest was the first time.  Or, more properly, just after she’d about turned the white silk red with her blood from pricking her fingers.  That was when Granddam Maralaese decided that Kata was a lost cause – destined to never marry.  A failure.

Kata snorted to herself as she dropped the faceplate of her welding mask back over her face and lit up the torch.  Like she needed some dainty little cross-stitch pattern to make her life whole.  Like she even needed a man.  She was content here in her workshop, surrounded by metal that hummed and whirred with a life dear Granddam would never have understood.  Never mind that metalcrafting wasn’t a woman’s world.  And, okay, so most men turned their noses up at a woman with grease smudges and soot on her face, and sporting helmet-head hair from her welding mask.  But she didn’t care.  She couldn’t pretend to be something she wasn’t.  And it wasn’t a big deal, right?

The torch lowered, and the flame clicked off as Kata rested her palms flat against the scarred steel of her workbench.  She had to quit lying to herself.  It did matter.  It mattered a lot that no one saw Kata – not the real Kata, anyway.  Not that being seen was her goal in life, she told herself stubbornly as she flipped the mask down again.  But it would be nice.

She kicked the torch back on, and let the flash of flame against metal soothe her as  the machines in her shop hummed and whirred on.  If this was her lot in life, she could live with it…

A sound startled her out of her zone, and the torch flame skipped up, searing a long line of sooty copper along the face of the steamship she was working on.  Irritated, she shoved up the mask and whirled toward the source of that sound.

“You should know better than to sneak up on a woman with a torch!”  She glared up into the face of the stunned-looking gentleman – he in his just-so waistcoat and gloves, a dark cane resting between his arm and side that she’d bet any of her machines he didn’t actually need – standing in the stable doorway that served as entrance to her workshop.

He blinked again, clearly nonplussed, and she was left to wonder if he was a little thick in the head.  Then, he opened his mouth, and she was certain he was.  “You’re a woman!”

She rolled her eyes and muttered, “Thought we’d established that, already.”

He shook his head, and stepped forward.  “No, you’d don’t understand.  I was told this was the place to go to commission an airship.  They said you’re the best around.”

She peered at him through narrowed eyes, assessing if he was pulling her leg.  She stalled on his face, again.  He had angular features with just enough smoothness to blend them together, dark hair cropped to his collar in current high fashion, and forest green eyes that were arresting in their intelligence and perception.  Something twisted in her chest, and her throat closed up for a moment.  She hated that feeling – the attraction that zinged through her – knowing there was no future for it.  There never was.

They talk a lot,” she managed gruffy, yanking the mask back down to conceal her face.  “Just who are they, anyway?  For that matter, who are you?”

“Jarath Pherson.”  He doffed his Homburg and strode further into her personal domain, raising Kata’s hackles.

“Never heard of him.”  She set her jaw, determined to ignore him.

He coughed.  “That would be me.   Tarsak Memkno recommended you.”

She froze.  Tarsak?  The little gnome was her idol, her mentor – the man who knew everything there was to know about airships and landracers.  Adrenaline rushed through her.  Tarsak really thought she was good?  A grin spread over her face, and she turned toward Jarath as she lifted the mask again and shut off her torch.  Finally, her chance to prove herself once and for all – convention, and what she should be doing, be damned.

“Well, then, what are we waiting for?”

“Confessions in Blood” — Excerpt from SHADOW WALKER (Project Prometheus)

Project Prometheus BadgeEvery once in a while, as an author, you encounter a scene that just blows you away. This scene was that for me — totally unexpectedly. I originally intended for Trevor to come around alone, to have to battle his thoughts and personal demons completely alone, to illustrate how much inside of himself he’s gone in order to retreat from what he can’t understand or face. Instead, his disappearance dragged Jaye into the mix, and this amazing bit of character exposition developed all on its own.

“Confessions in Blood” — Excerpt from SHADOW WALKER (Project Prometheus, Atlantis Silver, Book #3) —

Ten minutes and a gurney trip later, Jaye frowned in true worry as she realized Trevor was still dazed and not at all himself.  Even worse, the bright fluorescent lights illuminated the blood on his dark skin that the moonlight and shadows masked.

Helping him to his bed, she left him just long enough to collect gauze, warm water, and antiseptic.  She doubted he lost enough blood to need emergency surgery or a transfusion, though the amount was alarming to view.  She frowned.  Even knowing it was probably a superficial head wound, and looked worse than it was, she was worried.

Standing before him, she dipped a piece of gauze in the warm water and began gently cleaning the blood from his face.  If she could get through the blood, she could find out if he needed stitches or not.

Trevor flinched with a hiss, and she raised startled eyes to find him regarding her with clear eyes, as if he’d never been the animal she found hidden in the bushes.

“Jaye?”  His voice was weak, and his hand trembled as he lifted it – the only signs he was actually unwell.  He glanced toward the window, and his brow furrowed.  “What time is it?”

“About two in the morning.”  Jaye bit her lip.  He lost track of time, and she didn’t like that.  Losing time was a bad sign in psychiatric medicine.  She wiped away the last smear of blood, and a chill passed through her.  There weren’t any wounds.  Not a single laceration.  She swallowed past her trepidation, but her voice still came out small and breathless.  “What happened to you?”

He tensed. “I don’t remember.”

The tone of his voice alerted her something was wrong, even before she met his gaze.  His eyes were clear, but evasive.  Damn it, he was lying to her.  “Trevor…”

“No.”

She loosed a small cry of exasperation.  Zero-two-hundred hours, when she barely slept last night, was not the time for him to start pulling his stoic routine on her.

“You never were a good liar.”

His gaze darkened as he stared her in the eye.  “And you must have a lot of practice at it.”

Those words drove the breath from her even more than his bitter tone did.  Had he finally remembered Somalia?  Did he know what she did?  She sought blindly for a place to sit as her knees weakened with fear.  “What do you mean?”

The anger dropped from his face, and he reached out to her, oblivious of the blankets dropping, leaving him naked from the waist up.

“Hey, I’m sorry… I don’t know what that was.  I just… I don’t want to talk about where I went, okay?”

For a reason she couldn’t explain if he asked, his secretive attitude annoyed her.  She went back to cleaning the smaller blood smears from his face and neck.  “Great.  Fine.  Do you want to at least tell me how you ended up naked and covered in blood?”

“Not particularly.”

“Damn it, Trevor!”  She threw the gauze into the bio waste container with more force than necessary and glared at him.  “This isn’t a game.  I’m trying to help you.”

“I’m fine.”

“Funny.  Your boss doesn’t think so.”

“I said, I’m fine.”

“Bullshit.”

His eyes narrowed.  “You never used to swear.”

She bit down on words that would turn the air blue, and instead snapped, “Yeah, well I had to get tough.”

The frown on his face pulled her attention from her anger, even before he hazarded, “Because of me?”

She flinched, in spite of her attempt to remain neutral.  She couldn’t help it; she’d run from the truth for too long.  “Yes.”

His gaze turned away, toward the window, and he looked truly ill for the first time.  “I’m sorry.”

The words hit her out of nowhere, and stung because he had no idea how little she deserved them.  She should be the one begging for his forgiveness.  Jaye bit down hard on her lower lip, and stepped closer.

“Don’t apologize,” she whispered as she stroked his cheek gently.  “Not to me.”

Want to know more?  Find out how it all starts in IN HER NAME, currently available from Desert Breeze Publishing.

“Magic Mirror” – Excerpt from SHADOW WALKER (Project Prometheus)

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Trevor Watkins is the miracle of the hour; the survivor of an unassisted coma. But he awakes in a strange place, with no memory but one – the smiling face of a woman with jade-green eyes he has a dreadful feeling he’s supposed to hate. Trapped in a living nightmare from which he believes there is no escape, he finds himself face-to-face with a betrayal he can’t help but forgive, and a secret he can’t hide from. Now, the jade-eyed beauty from his past can set him free, if he’s willing to let her step into a world that could take her away from him forever.

“Magic Mirror” – Excerpt from SHADOW WALKER (Project Prometheus, Book #3)–

Red Widow’s fists clenched, driving her French manicure into her palms, as she glared out at the neon-lit night.  She wanted that mirror.  She was prepared to do whatever it took to make sure the Musir didn’t win, again.  Daniel was one of the newer generation of Arachaena.  She had to educate him.

“Do you have any idea how important that mirror is?”

His sigh sounded exasperated.  “Yeah, I know.  It was the inspiration for the tales of magic mirrors throughout European history; even believed to be the legendary mirror through which the Lady of Astolat watched Lancelot.  And it unlocks the Portal of Kronos.”  When she turned toward him, she saw his grimace.  “Aren’t we both a little old for fairytales?”

His sarcasm annoyed her.  That was part of what was wrong with this new generation of Arachaena.  They were decadent, self-indulgent, and jaded.  They didn’t understand the powers of the world, or why they were important.

“It’s no fairytale, Danny boy.  And the mirror is more than a mere key.”

He lifted one brow in skeptical attention.  “Convince me.”

“Cover that mirror in the blood of a Musir, and it acts as a beacon through the oblivion beyond the Portal.  We need it to guide the Great Lord back.”

She turned just in time to see him sit forward, his interest suddenly intent.  “How much blood?”

A slow, deadly smile curved up her lips as she moved to the bedside table, and extracted a silver kris knife that glowed with a dim blue-white light.  “One of our archeological crews uncovered this on a dig in Greece.  It took some work, but we figured out what it’s for.”

“And that is?”

“You shed the Shadow Walker’s life blood onto the mirror’s surface with this knife, and it begins a chain that no power on Earth can halt.”

She stabbed the knife’s point into the table between them, and met his gaze with narrowed eyes.  He would do what she wanted.  She wouldn’t tell him about the magical lettering said to reside within the mirror’s surface.  Or that those letters would become clear in the presence of Ausar’s vessel.  That was a secret she planned to keep to herself.  Those letters were one part of the key to the Philosopher’s Stone, and the source of everlasting life.  The Musir were reincarnates; they hadn’t yet figured out their own history.  Aside from that threat, only the Widows and Dimitri Lapinov knew about the truth of the Philosopher’s Stone.  And she intended to keep it that way.

 

Read the book that started it all! IN HER NAME is available now from Desert Breeze Publishing!

The Creation of an Author, Part 3: What’s With All This Romance, Anyway?

One question I get asked a lot is “Why Romance?”… Most people who know me probably think I’m one of the least romance-minded people in the world.  *laughs* Truth is, I’m probably one of the biggest romantics you’ll ever meet.  I’m just not one of the most traditional romantics.

Most people think of romantics as people who believe in happily-ever-after, are interested in lots of lovey-dovey public displays of affection, and (in the case of women) have what psychology refers to as “Cinderella Complex” – ie, someone’s going to sweep them off their feet and change their lives.  If that’s what you think of as “romantic,” hey, more power to you – but it personally makes me gag. Strange sentiment from a self-proclaimed romantic, yes?

Here’s what I believe (and this is my personal feeling, so I don’t expect anyone to understand or agree):

I don’t believe in happily ever after.  I never have.  Call me a realist about this part of it, but I know beyond any doubt (and I always have), that we as human beings don’t get to determine what makes “ever after.”  We don’t steer our own course when it comes to death (unless you like to indulge in self-destructive behavior or plan to commit suicide – neither of which I recommend), and I don’t believe we directly have any influence over what happens after we die (I’ll save the whole argument of reincarnation vs. ascension for another time and place).  So I consider it arrogant to assume that love is forever.  I firmly believe it can last as long as life, however.  I do believe that, in rare cases, when it’s strong enough, it can endure lifetime after lifetime, beyond the boundaries of death.  But in time, I do believe that love changes, becomes something else.  So I’m more inclined to a “happy-as-long-as-we-can-be” philosophy.

It’s not every girl’s dream to be rescued, or to have some Prince Charming ride in and sweep her away (truth is, I’ve always found that aspect of Fairy Tales to be a little on the creepy side).  But just because a girl prefers to face her own perils doesn’t mean romance doesn’t appeal to all women, no matter the size, shape, age, or sexual orientation… And certainly no matter how much one might protest or claim otherwise.

Some of us are quite capable of solving our own problems, tilting at our own windmills, and facing our own demons.  Some of us kick ass when it comes to taking care of our business, and we certainly don’t need another person to step in and save the day.  We’ve got it well under control, thank you very much.

But does that mean we want to spend our lives alone, or facing an existence built on something dull and lifeless, or even frightening?  Of course not.

Every girl dreams of being a princess (even if some of us are far more Xena than Sleeping Beauty). Not literally, of course, but at least in the eyes of someone else.  We want to be special, to be seen as someone beautiful, awe-inspiring, and beloved. We want to feel as if we’re the most important person in someone’s life, and to know that they compare every other woman they meet to us, and find those others lacking.

It’s hardwired into us to crave grand gestures of love and affection – some symbol that tells the world just how special we are to someone else.  For a lot of women, that’s what an engagement ring is all about.  It’s what lavish weddings are all about.

Plenty of people (women included) scoff at romantic fiction.  They call it trash, written porn, smut, etc, etc.  I can promise you this – none of those people have ever actually read a Romance novel.

Are there novels that are explicit?   Of course there are.  But then, there are Horror novels that are graphic about blood and terror.  There are adventure and action novels that are over-the-top with violence.  Crime novels that are almost too ghastly and grisly with their details, to read.

What is it about Romance that so sends people running?  Could it be the unwillingness to face their own deeply-buried desire to be truly loved?  Perhaps it’s that they’re stuck in our prudish society’s mindset that anything involving sex should be shunned.

Personally, I think it’s the former.  Porn is a billion-dollar industry for a reason… People don’t have a problem with sex.  People have a problem with love.  The idea of facing your own emotions, of admitting that you want more, that you’re looking for something spiritual as well as physical, is something that sends a lot of people (both male and female) running for their lives.

Romance novels are about more than sex.  They’re about connection, about love that’s true, deep, and abiding.  About the emotions that are tangled up inside of sexual desire, and about letting go of the desire, to get at one’s heart and soul.  And they make us face our own wants and needs – make us step up and say, “Yes, I do want more from this relationship than just sex.”  They’re not about perfect people, or larger-than-life situations.  They’re about ordinary people who discover the most extraordinary gift of life – the ability to love and be loved.  In short, Romance novels are about every girl’s dream come true – not the perfect man or woman (after all, there’s no such thing as a “perfect” person), but the perfect match of two hearts and two souls.

 

As for the level of sexuality in some Romance… Well, I don’t personally have a problem with it, as long as it’s kept tasteful.  Personally, I’m not by nature a physically demonstrative person when my emotions are truly engaged.  Instead, I’m more likely to get quiet and retreat inside my shell.  Am I afraid of my own emotions, sometimes?  Hell, yes.  I’m afraid of getting hurt, of being taken advantage of, because I care too much, or give too much.  Once the floodgates open, it’s often difficult to stop the emotions, and I’ve got a long history of pain caused by letting others actually see what they mean to me.  So, instead, I either get very quiet, or I turn into a clown.  People may think nothing bothers me, that I’m either aloof or goofy. Truth is, I’m neither.

There are many times I’ve been accused of being too logical and not at all romantic. Truth is, while it’s easy to express and explore my romantic side on paper, I’m far less comfortable expressing it in real life. Not because it’s not there, but because what’s missing is trust. I have a long history with broken trust, and early experience with overwhelming physical trauma. Both have made me hesitant toward physical contact, and even more hesitant toward reaching out to others, emotionally. So, I turned my attention toward writing about relationships that are troubled, but capable of overcoming that trouble. I write strong women with damaged trust and a desire to fix their own lives — sometimes even a desire to not even let anyone else into their lives. I write strong men who are secure and strong enough to show the heroine how important she is to him, and let her be an active partner, not just a window-dressing prize to be rescued.

This is what it means, to me, to write Romance.