Friday, April 29, 2016

New Cover Art ; New Book-=-The Asphodel Cycle 2: The Redemption of Asphodel

Cover art makes me happy. Well done covers help your readers to visualize the characters in your story. I've been fortunate. Over the past six years or so, I've worked exclusively with cover artist and web diva Kelly Shorten, over at KMD Designs. She was one of my partners at Musa Publishing and is responsible for all those gorgeous Penumbra covers. Now she's an independent designer, and I am SO glad to be working with her again. You've already seen the gorgeous art for The Reckoning of Asphodel--now check out the even MORE gorgeous art for The Redemption of Asphodel!

Okay, let's be for real here. 

It's freaking amazing, right? 

You may be wanting to know more about this book, so here's the blurb: 

The battle of Asphodel and its aftermath has taken a toll upon Tamsen Ka’antira de Asphodel. Her Elven husband, Brial, is overprotective—and very aware that their greatest friend, Anner, is still in love with his wife. Still dangerously weak, Tamsen must help determine which noble is best suited to sit upon Ansienne’s alabaster throne—whether Brial likes it or not.

Unfortunately, the Duke de Spesialle isn’t done with Tamsen yet. The dream that once tortured her keeps changing, and despite Brial’s precautions, she must confront Spesialle again. But the Virgin Huntress has plans for Tamsen, and sends her on a journey to answer just one question: “What gift can buy the redemption of the Elves?”

But when Tamsen finally confronts the answer to the goddess’s question, she may discover that the one thing she must sacrifice to save her people is the one thing she is not strong enough to give.

The Asphodel Cycle 2: The Redemption of Asphodel will be released on June 6!

All that being said, next Tuesday, May 3, is the release of the first Asphodel novel The Reckoning of Asphodel. Stay tuned for buy links and--

Wait a second. I neglected to mention that for the first WEEK, The Reckoning of Asphodel will be offered for free. As in totally free. So take advantage of it--and if you do, a review on Amazon or Smashwords or wherever you purchase your copy would be greatly appreciated. 

Let me know what you think about my cover art or anything else Asphodel--I look forward to hearing from you!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A New Excerpt From The Reckoning of Asphodel

This is the second excerpt from my upcoming novel The Reckoning of Asphodel, which will be released on May 3, 2016. For more information about Asphodel, check out my website, Goodreads page, or my Amazon page

Tamsen de Asphodel watched as her parents were killed—murdered by her sorcerer uncle. Raised by her Elven kin, Tamsen knows her destiny is to avenge them both.
Unfortunately, Tamsen’s destiny is complicated. She is the sole heir to her human father’s estate, but she is also the last remaining heir to the Elven throne. The Elves, especially the Scout Brial, are suspicious of her human ties and her magical power. Her magic is unique—neither human nor Elven, dangerous, and difficult to control. And when she and Brial fall in love, it is a relationship the Elves will not accept.
But when her uncle moves to destroy the Elves, war explodes across both kingdoms. Only Tamsen, with Brial at her side, can bring human and Elf together to fight against him. In the reckoning that is coming, she will need both sides of her conflicted nature…and the aid of a goddess.


Within an hour, it was impossible to see further than twenty feet. I had taken the lead, but Brial was close behind. I had pulled my cloak so far forward, however, that I didn’t see the men charging at us from the sides of the road. 

“Get down!” Brial shouted hoarsely. 

As I turned to see what was going on, someone jerked me out of the saddle. I landed on my back with the breath knocked from me. A large man hovered into my line of sight. He grinned, three blackened, broken teeth hanging precariously from his upper jaw. I lay there, trying to gasp air back into my lungs as he leered at me. 

“Gots us a purty gel here boys!” he roared, bending down and picking me up by the front of my cloak. I felt the fabric rip under his dirty fingers and a cold realization surged through me. My breath came back into my chest with a whoosh and I gulped in fresh air. 

Then my eyes narrowed. 

“I am giving you one chance to back away from me,” I said, my voice still a bit breathless. He laughed, throwing back his head, and the teeth teetered in his gums. Behind me, I heard steel on steel. Brial was fighting. The man swept me against him with one blow of his meaty arm. Try as I might, I couldn’t free myself. As I closed my eyes and reached for the magic, I felt his ugly face nuzzle into my hair. 

Two things happened next. As gorge rose in my throat at the man’s touch, an electric charge zipped out from me, blasting the ruffian back with an oath. Then a sword point thrust through the front of his beefy chest. I watched, stunned, as the outlaw slid down the cold steel edge, falling almost in slow motion to puddle at my feet. 

My mind flashed back. Blood on the snow. 

Flakes swirling in a howling wind, while the ground stained red with blood. The sickly sweet smells of cooked meat. The flash of a sword against a slender throat— 

Are you all right, Tamsen?” Brial was shaking me, his face white. 

I pulled back to the present, my gaze meeting his then sliding past him. There were two other bodies lying in the churned snow, already stained by a sluggish crimson flow. 

Brial swore. “You don’t have time to be faint now. I only drove the others away! They’ll be back, Tamsen.” He worked quickly, wiping the sword on the outlaw’s jerkin and driving it into its sheath. Turning, he whistled, and the horses trotted up. “Can you stay on?” 

“I’m fine, Brial.” I forced out the words from between numb lips. “Let’s just ride.” 

We turned our horses and fled into the teeth of the storm. It was only after we galloped away that I wondered: had I killed the man, or had Brial? I looked down at my hands in a daze. Surely, the shock I had released was only enough to stun the outlaw. 

The smell of roasted meat hung in my nostrils until several miles lay between the newly dead men and us. It took us two hours at a dismayingly slow pace to reach the next village. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

2016--The Year The Music Died

First Bowie. Then Merle Haggard. Now...Prince?

I can't believe it. 

Prince was an integral part of my growing from adolescence into womanhood--an independent musician intent upon having his own way, creating music no one else had ever thought of, and riding the charts to unbelievable popularity. 1984 was the year of Purple Rain--my senior year in high school/first year of college. Despite the earlier songs I was familiar with, Prince was an enigma to me, a punk girl trapped in the country music of the Deep South. Purple Rain was an awakening for me musically--a conceptual album that told a story, but not as high brow as Bowie or as insistent as Pink Floyd. 

And that story was the kind of thing important to a 17-year-old girl. His music spoke of emotion and sex and violence, wrapped in the imagery of a novelist and the words of a rebellious poet. He wrote songs about things that no one else dared to--Darling Nikki, anyone?

I met a girl named Nikki
I guess you can say she was a sex fiend.
Met her in a hotel lobby
Masturbating with a magazine.
She said, "How'd you like to have a good time?"
And I just couldn'r resist
When Nikki started to grind-- 
             --Prince and the Revolution, Purple Rain 1984 

Prince was the anti-Michael Jackson--an artist of color who didn't give a rat's ass what anyone thought about the fact that he was five foot nothing, wore high heels, and dressed like a New Romantic. He was a virtuoso musician who could play multiple instruments, and one of the best guitarists in music. His voice was unbelievably rangy--a full FOUR octaves plus four or five additional notes surrounding his natural baritone.He created an iconography around himself that even in an era where all the great musicians were doing that, his stood above the others for its sheer audacity and playfully malicious message. His sexuality was endlessly debated--and yet, no one had any doubt that if you pissed Prince off, he would kick your ass.

And then run over you with his souped-up purple motorcycle.

He was an androgynous bad ass, whose work as a producer was almost as revolutionary as his music. He brought us one of the great party anthems of all time thanks to his introduction of Morris Day and the Time to the world, and one of the greatest love songs and vocal performances ever with Sinead O'Connor's version of Nothing Compares 2 U. Hell, we wouldn't have text-speak if he hadn't done it first.

He took a stand against the big record label who'd tied up the rights to his music, and emerged as "the artist formerly known as Prince"--a stand that might have ended up killing another musician's career. Two years ago, he won the rights to that music back, effectively bringing Warner Brothers to their knees after he'd termed their contracts "slavery" two decades before. And then he triumphantly re-signed with them, having regained the rights to his entire catalog.

Prince was a legend, and became one very early on. I respected his independent spirit, his fearlessness in standing up to a corporate giant, and the poetry infused into every lyric he ever wrote. My kids grew up hearing Purple Rain and Controversy. Bowie they liked; Prince, they loved.

That summer of 1984, I was driving home from work and When Doves Cry was on the radio. I was one of those sing along in the car kind of kids. I had an orange VW Bug that I loved, and driving through Clarksville, Tennessee with the top down and Prince cranking on a hot summer's day was a pretty awesome feeling. When I got home, surprisingly, my mother was waiting for me. I instantly tried to figure out what I'd done to get into trouble, and then she told me that my best friend had been killed in a car wreck that morning.

I'd talked to Tammy on the phone the night before. We had big plans for college--after years of debating against each other for different high schools, we were at last going to be debating together on the same team. We were excited, because fall semester was only a few weeks away. I'd known Tammy since we were both toddlers. She and I lived five houses apart back then. Her death was the first tragedy to ever touch me that closely.

And ever since, When Doves Cry has inextricably been associated with her death in my mind.

That summer and fall, I played Prince's Purple Ran album over and over. When Doves Cry might have been tied to death for me, but the rest of the album was exuberantly, vibrantly, sexually full of life and the joie de vivre that Prince's iconic album exuded. It helped me cope with loss, and taught me that all the changes a teenager undergoes are an essential part of life--not wrong, but defiantly normal and oh-so-right.Living in the same state as the hypocritical Tipper Gore and her stupid parental advisory labels on music (and now video games) made his defiance of society's "acceptable" norms even more impactful--and taught me as a writer to push the boundaries myself and to seek the rarer paths in my work

An important lesson, for something that was "just" pop music.

So today, after losing David Bowie and dealing with his incredible self-designed epitaph, after losing an icon of country music in singer-songwriter Merle Haggard (not my cup of tea, but what an incredible story and human being he was)--now we must confront the horror of a world without Prince.

I am a child of the 80's. The pop culture of that decade has influenced my taste as an adult, for good or for ill. Music is what taught me to be a rebel--and that rebellion is epitomized in two artists: David
Bowie, and Prince.

I'm sure somewhere, among his things or upcoming music, Prince has composed his own epitaph. But if he hasn't, that's all right--because he wrote it thirty years ago.

How can you just leave me standing?
Alone in a world that's so cold
Maybe I'm just too demanding
Maybe I'm just like my father--too bold
Maybe I'm just like my mother
She's never satisfied
Why do we scream at each other?
This is what it sounds like when doves cry...
          --When Doves CryPrince and the Revolution, 1984 

There is no doubt about it. 2016 is the year the music died.

Monday, April 18, 2016

First Excerpt from The Reckoning of Asphodel

As promised, here's the first excerpt from my upcoming book release, The Reckoning of Asphodel, coming May 3, 2016!

We did not have long to wait. Less than a minute later, I saw the bobbing of torches through the trees. Thirty seconds after that, they thundered around the bend. The leader pulled up when he saw the flaming arrow burning merrily in front of him. Over my head, bowstrings sang as Mylan and Morrote fired two more flaming arrows to land near the first.
The leader’s horse reared and the man had all he could do to control it. I watched in cold silence while he struggled with his mount. Once the horse was calmed, I called out in a clear voice. “You have entered Asphodel without my permission, stranger. What is your name and affiliation?”
“Who in the hell are you?”
“I am Tamsen, Countess of Asphodel,” I retorted. “You did not answer my question, commander! The light is in your eyes, not mine, and I can see your uniforms and insignia.”
“Lord Spesialle ordered me to prepare this castle for occupation.
“Spesialle has no claim to Asphodel. His claim is forfeit, as is due a regicide and traitor.”
A low murmur broke out among the troops, but the commander ignored it. “How do I know that what you say is true?”
“You don’t,” I said pleasantly. “However, I should inform you that I have a company of Elven archers behind my walls that are itching to use you for target practice.”
“I don’t believe the lies of any squatting peasant wench,” the commander growled. “My orders are to take this—”
Before I knew what was happening, the man screamed. Brial had notched and fired an arrow that pierced the man’s leg in the half-inch gap between the bottom of his mail shirt and the top of his high, thick leather boot. “If you speak one more word about my lady the next arrow will be through your throat!” he called in a clear, cold voice. “Any man that moves in this direction will die. Make your decision quickly. We want to have enough time to burn your corpses and get a good night’s sleep.”
“Good shot,” Glaucon noted with dispassionate approval.
“Easy shot,” Brial shrugged even as his voice grew tighter. “Even after Tamsen warned them, they kept their torches burning.”
The commander grimaced in agony as he removed the arrow from his leg. He examined the distinctive Elven fletching, and then said something low to the men at his back.
As he began to turn his horse’s head, I called out, “Take this message back to your master, dog: Asphodel is once again held by the heir of the house, and will remain so. On the day he enters my lands, I will kill him with my own hand. There is no succor in Asphodel for the man who killed our King.”
He glared at me silently, his face twisted with hatred. Then, his troop turned their horses and sped into the night.
“You should return to the castle, milady,” Anner suggested. I could just see his gray eyes glint in the moonlight. “They may try to double back. Glaucon and I will keep watch.”
Before I could respond, Brial gripped my arm and steered me back into the castle. Grimly, he marched me up the steps and into my room. Once there, he tossed his bow in a corner and glared at me.
“What?” I asked, confused.
“Why did you do that?” he grated. “What plausible excuse for such idiocy can you possibly have?”
“I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about.”
“The only reason this castle could be safe for you is if your uncle doesn’t know for certain that you are here!” Brial shouted. “Now he not only knows where you are, but you make matters worse by sending him a message that a man like him cannot ignore.”
“It doesn’t matter if he knows for certain or not.” I retorted, my own temper rising. “He’ll come here regardless, Brial. He needs Asphodel to act against the Elves.”
“You don’t know that.” Brial enunciated carefully, evidently trying to rein in his temper. “You are only guessing.”
“I know it. I don’t know how I know, but I do. Spesialle will be here within three months, Brial, and he will not come alone. He will bring his army.”
Brial opened his mouth and then shut it abruptly. We glowered at each other for a minute and then the breath left him in a loud exhalation. “If you ever do anything like that again, I swear to the gods I will throw you into the first room with a stout door and lock you in,” he said in a slow and carefully controlled voice. “Don’t fight me on this, Tamsen. If you will not behave in such a way as to protect yourself, I will not allow you to endanger yourself further. If I must, I will force you to listen to me.”
“You wouldn’t dare!”
“Try me.”
“Well then you’d better hope that the door consists of something other than wood,” I retorted spitefully. “If it isn’t, I’ll burn my way out.”
“I meant what I said, Tamsen.”
He kissed me, his fingers digging painfully into my arms. When he pulled back, he looked at my shocked face and laughed, not humorously, but with an ugly, ragged laughter. “I told you not to let yourself get involved with me, I told you it would interfere with my ability to protect you! You don’t listen to anyone, Tamsen, and your pride will be your undoing! You are not omnipotent, my lady.”
His tone was so furious I actually winced.
“If you will not attempt to protect yourself, then I will do it for you, You will not like my methods, but you won’t have any choice. I will not stand by and watch you get yourself killed, and by the gods, you will obey me!” He punctuated each word with a shake. “I love you, Tamsen, but at this moment I could break your neck.”
He kissed me again, and then pushed me away. “By the way, don’t go on thinking that you are the only one here who has magic,” he purred. “The Ka’breona element is metal; I can build a door that all your magic will not break.”
"I wouldn't count on that!"
He turned to leave and spotted Morrote standing grimly in the door, his nostrils flaring. For one long, tense second the two Elves stared each other down, then Brial said evenly, “Get out of my way, Ka’antira. I will take your watch tonight and you can remain here to guard her.”
“From whom?” Morrote growled.
“From me, Elflord!” Brial snarled at him. “Most particularly, from me!”
Without a look back, Brial stalked by the stunned Elf and disappeared into the blackness of the outer corridor. I exhaled slowly and sank into one of the chairs by the fire.
Morrote looked after the vanished Brial with an odd expression on his face. Then he snorted a short bark of laughter and stepped into the room.
“I’d really rather be alone, uncle,” I said sadly.
“I don’t think that’ll ever be an option for you, Tamsen,” the Elf said with a twinkle in his eye. “You two were meant for each other.”

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Let's Get Ready for the Asphodel Cycle!

So I've jumped back into the world of Asphodel with both feet. Time to get this show on the road.

As my longtime readers--all five of you--may remember, from 2007-2009, my first fantasy series The Asphodel Cycle was published. The books did fairly well--top ten on multiple online retailers, great reviews, some fairly awesome awards and nominations, and lots of hate mail when I killed off an extremely important character that was, apparently, loved more than I realized. 

And then, of course, the publisher went defunct a few years later while I went on to bigger and better things. 

But the Asphodel world wouldn't shut up. I really like playing in the fantasy-mythology mash up sandbox. It combines all my favorite things. And while I went on and started delving into more literary fantasy, every once in a while I'd sneak into a secret file and write some Asphodel for fun. Then, last fall, the story suddenly took off on me--so that now I have an entire SECOND series set in the  Asphodel world, bringing the adventures of Tamsen and Brial to eight books total. 

And then I was stuck.

The first rights to the original series were gone, so that automatically killed off the chances of selling the second series with the same characters. And for the first time, I considered self-publishing. After all, I ran a publishing company. And that's when it came to me.

I decided I would reissue the first series in four consecutive months--and the second series in the four subsequent months. That means I will be releasing each book in the series a month apart. (A publishing plan I'd dearly love for George RR Martin to subscribe to by the way, and NO-- John Snow will NOT remain dead. Duh.)

Here's what you need to know to prepare yourself!

So--release schedule.


The Reckoning of Asphodel--May 3, 2016
The Redemption of Asphodel -- June 6, 2016
The Temptation of Asphodel -- July 5, 2016
The Apostle of Asphodel -- August 2--2016

The world of Asphodel lives again in the never-before published sequel series The Black Dream coming this fall!

Servant of Dis -- September 1, 2016
Prisoner of Death--October 1, 2016
Sorcerers of Hell --November 1, 2016
Gods of Rebellion --December 1, 2016

Cover art by KMD Designs

Tamsen de Asphodel watched as her parents were killed—murdered by her sorcerer uncle. Raised by her Elven kin, Tamsen knows her destiny is to avenge them both. Unfortunately, Tamsen’s destiny is complicated. She is the sole heir to her human father’s estate, but she is also the last remaining heir to the Elven throne. The Elves, especially the Scout Brial, are suspicious of her human ties and her magical power. Her magic is unique—neither human nor Elven, dangerous, and difficult to control. And when she and Brial fall in love, it is a relationship the Elves will not accept. But when her uncle moves to destroy the Elves, war explodes across both kingdoms. Only Tamsen, with Brial at her side, can bring human and Elf together to fight against him. In the reckoning that is coming, she will need both sides of her conflicted nature…and the aid of a goddess.    

Important sites/accounts

Writing website The Cache Vault

Tomorrow--excerpt from Reckoning. Later this week--cover art for Redemption of Asphodel. Also later this week--a basic series blurb for The Black Dream--another wild ride through classical mythology and traditional fantasy, where the stakes are greater, the cost is higher, and the death toll rising. 

Also, I will be creating an online lexicon for the world that will cross over between here and my website--the mythology, the language (yes, it's Latin-ish), the history, the families--all that good stuff. 

Did I mention my new website? The Cache Vault is now up and running--and will be getting bigger like pretty much anything I write. You might note some interesting news while there about my pseudonym. 

So find me on social media--friend me (I take a lot of Twitter and Facebook breaks) and get ready. Oh and the last thing--

Have a great week!