Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Excerpt--Prisoner of Death coming October 1

When Tamsen wakes up in an unfamiliar place with no idea of who she is, something warns her to be cautious. So she plays a game with the man who claims to be her husband, and pays attention to what is going on around her. The physician her husband calls to tend to her after her accident makes her uncomfortable with his strange allure and odd style of speech. Nothing around her seems as it should be.

While Tamsen tries to regain her lost memory, Brial Ka'breona is tearing across the continent in an enraged hunt for his lost wife and Queen. But now the gods are forbidden to walk the mortal realm, and not even the Virgin Huntress can help them. In order for Tamsen and Brial to come together again, terrible sacrifices must be made--by mortals and immortals both. When a strange new ally presents itself, Tamsen must determine if the sacrifice she must make is ultimately worth the cost.

But sometimes, it doesn't matter what the price is. When the continued existence of the mortal realms is at stake, there may not be a price too high to pay.

* * *

I AWAKENED slowly.

My eyelids fluttered open, and I squinted against the bright light that turned my sight red for a moment. Hands that did not look familiar at all came up to shade them from the glare. Even that small movement made my head swim with a sharp, piercing pain penetrating behind my left ear, but I forced myself to sit up and look around me. 

The room was completely white: the walls, floor, ceiling, and furniture were all pristine, sharply white. The one window that let long cruel rays of light fall upon the snowy bed upon which I lay was shrouded in white, filmy fabric, flowing in a scarcely-felt breeze. 

What is all this? 

I lifted my hands once more, staring at the long, slender fingers and slim wrists in amazement, noting the extreme pallor of the skin stretched over the delicate bones. Are these my hands? Those hands went to my face, and the fingers felt oddly rough against my cheek, the fingers and thumb callused. 

Cautiously, I set my hands on either side of my body in the bed, scooting myself to the edge and swinging my feet to the floor. Then, I stopped again, fascinated and confused by the sight of my legs clad in long fitted leather trousers tucked into scarred high-topped leather boots. I looked down at my body. 

The leather tunic was fitted to me over a tan-colored shirt that stretched over the bones of my wrists. An intricate sash of leather belted both garments around a slender waist. No frills or furbelows about these clothes, and their tight fit didn’t disguise the feminine shape beneath them. 

I got to my feet, swaying as I rose to my full height. A sudden motion caught my eye as a very long silver-white plait swung against the top of my right thigh. Amazed, I lifted it in my hands, noting the fine silky texture of it. 

Is this my hair? 

I tugged on it and was rewarded with another vicious twinge of pain behind my left ear. I examined my head with cautious fingers and located a tender swelling on my temple. I moved as if I’d been asleep for a long time and stiffly made my way to the ewer standing on a white washstand nearby. I splashed water onto my face, hoping it would jar some memory loose. 

Everything about me was strangely familiar, yet I didn’t recognize anything. The clothes and hair were obviously mine, but why didn’t I… 

The water in the bowl stilled into a flat reflective sheet. I stared in absolute confusion at the reflection. The young woman with the puzzled frown, was that me? My mouth opened slightly, as did hers, and I realized I had no idea who I was. 
Faces, images flew past my inner eye, yet I found myself unable to grasp them. Too many discrepancies. I grasped the edges of the washstand with blanching fingers. 

Hands pale and slender, but callused. A young woman’s face, but the hair of an elder. Everything seemed like it should have been familiar, but wasn’t. I half-fell half-staggered back to the snowy bed and collapsed against the deep softness of the blankets and pillows. 

Who am I? 

I closed my eyes. Hopefully, when I woke up, I could put all of these pieces together. Hopefully, I would know who I was. 

* * *  

“TIME FER ye to be wakin’ up, milady.” 

My eyes flew open. A corpulent woman with a broad face peered down at me. 

“Are ye feelin’ all right, milady?” 

`“I—I’m not sure,” I stammered, sitting up. A wave  of nausea and dizziness overwhelmed me. Instantly, my companion’s strong, beefy arms came around me, lowering me back to the pillows. 

“Well, now, ye don’t want to be doin’ that, milady,” she chided me good-naturedly. “’Tis quite a knock on the head ye took, and that’s a fact. Jest lay there, and I’ll mix ye sommat to make ye feel better, all right?” 

“Who are you?” 

She placed a cool, damp cloth across my brow. “Ye don’t remember me?” 

“I don’t remember me,” I replied with a hint of dryness in my voice. 

“Gods above—the master said ye’d taken a hard knock, but I never thought it was that bad. I’m Graisen, yer maid, an’ ye’re the Lady Solange de Spesialle.” 

“Spesialle?” I asked blankly, disliking the name for some reason. “What is that?” 

The woman clucked her tongue. “It’s yer husband’s dukedom, milady. Yer the Duchess of Spesialle and married to Lord Gabril these past ten years or more. Don’t ye remember him?” 

A fleeting image of long golden hair and flashing black eyes raced across my mind and then vanished into the clouds that fogged my mind. 

“Is he blond?” I asked, trying to regain the sight. 

“Aye,” she replied, with a note of relief. “Lord Gabril’s as blond as they come, milady. Ye’re a right striking couple, ’im with ’is blond hair and handsome face, and ye, milady, as perty as a picture with yer silver hair and eyes and sech a tiny little figger. The Duke’s been right worried about ye, milady, and ’e won’t like it atall that yer memory’s been taken. Shall I tell ’im to come in and see ye?” 

I hesitated. Obviously, this woman knew me, which meant I was probably this Solange person, but I felt that it wasn’t quite right, somehow. Another name was just beyond the borders of my consciousness, hanging tantalizingly out of reach. Finally, I nodded, and the big woman bustled across the room to the door. 

“Ye kin come in, milord,” Griasen said. 

I lifted the cloth from my brow as a man entered the room. He was tall and fair, but his eyes were a piercing light blue instead of black. He came immediately to my bedside and took my hand in his. 

“How do you feel, my dear?” he asked. 

“You aren’t the face I remember,” I murmured, screwing up my eyes in an effort to recognize him. “I don’t remember you at all.” 

“It’s all right, Solange.” He brought my hand to his lips. “That was quite a fall you took. The physicians warned me that this might affect your memory but assured me your memory would return in time. Griasen and I are going to take good care of you, my sweet, until you’re all better.” 

 “How did I fall?” 

“Your horse threw you,” Gabril replied, a worried frown creasing his brow. “You hit your head on the garden wall.” 

“It hurts.” I withdrew my hand and closed my eyes. I didn’t remember this man, and I wanted to be left alone with my troubled blank thoughts. 

“Of course. I’ll come back later, my love, when you’re feeling better.” 

He rose with seeming reluctance and went to leave. Once at the door, he murmured in a low voice, “Clean her up, get her into something more comfortable, and then let her sleep. It’s the best thing for her.” 

Did I imagine the smug satisfaction in his voice? If Griasen was right, this man was my husband. Why would he be satisfied with an injury to his wife? Before I could think about it, Griasen was back at my bedside. 

“Come now, milady,” she coaxed me. “I’ve rung fer a bath, and I’ll wager that once ye’re washed up and in clean clothes ye’ll feel worlds better!” 

“Griasen.” I opened my eyes to look at her. “I do not remember the Duke as my husband.” 

“Don’t worry, milady,” she said, her eyes glistening. “Ye will…in time.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Big Day for The Reckoning of Asphodel

Today has been a banner day--and there's not even a football game on. The first novel in The Asphodel Cycle--The Reckoning of Asphodel--is back on the bestseller list in its genre, which is always a good thing. 

But to make matters better, Reckoning is now available in paperback! Each month, as I release new digital books in The Black Dream on the 1st, I'll also roll out a paperback of an Asphodel Cycle novel. 

You can grab your paperback of The Reckoning of Asphodel here

Self-publishing and doing it the right way is not only difficult, but expensive. I approached this experience the same way  I approached the hundreds of books we published at Musa. Each book is professionally edited, copyread, formatted, and designed. Each book cover is original art, designed by a professional cover artist. Each book is produced in multiple formats. These aren't just word files slapped into a pdf. There's more to creating a good book than that technically. 

As soon as the craziness slows down around here, I'll blog about the entire process--most likely in tedious detail. But for today? 


Friday, September 09, 2016



Whether AM or PM 12:34 has been a time of day that for some reason I always seem to notice. I'll look up from writing.


I'll wake up for some reason, disturbed from the three or four hours of sleep I'm getting in this incredibly busy year and glance at the clock.


Through the years, that time of day had held an almost magical fascination for me. For a long time, a song was associated with it. I could be driving down one of the long, boring stretches of I-70 between Ohio and Tennessee, and Steve Winwood's While You See A Chance would come on. I'd look at my watch. 


Don't you know by now
No one gives you anything?
And don't you wonder how you keep on moving?
One more day your way
And that old gray wind is blowing
And there's nothing left worth knowing
And it's time you should be going
While you see a chance take it
Find romance, fake it
Because it's on you...

The song and the time have a special significance to me--a conversation shared long ago between a girl who didn't know what she wanted but knew she didn't have it and a young man who knew exactly what he wanted but didn't know how to share it. Both were lonely, with many friends and few confidantes, and looked far beyond their familiar worlds and yearned for new horizons. Many nights, in the car, Winwood would come on the radio and we'd look at the clock. 


A moment we shared, exclusively. Just ours.

That was thirty years ago. Twenty-three years ago, we parted ways. But in all the years after, that one, specific time continued its significance. For some reason, every once in a while, I'd glance at a clock--a bank clock downtown, the clock in the car, the time stamp on a document, the time when my cell phone rang. 


Yesterday was a long, hard day. I've spent the past few days working on a story that ended up going viral, keeping me at the computer for long hours making sure the story kept its legs. Not my normal wheelhouse; not a fantasy novel. A human interest story based in college football, about a wonderful young athlete and the brave and joyful six year-old who inspires him. But other things came up today--personal things that have made it difficult to stay focused. 

I shut the computer down around ten, and resolved to leave it that way and try to get an actual good night's sleep. I took a long bath, went to bed, and (naturally) couldn't go to sleep. So I finally gave up. Something was bothering me. I figured I'd write a blog since I was awake. When my desktop fired up, I glanced at the time. 


That time means even more to me today than usual. You know, when I first began to recognize 12:34 as a significant moment in time, it was associated with a person. A young man with whom I laughed and dreamed and dared to hope for escape from all that weighed me down. 

It's been almost exactly twelve hours since I got a phone from my oldest daughter--a phone call that came not at 12:34, but at 12:45. I didn't think about the significance of the time when we spoke. It wasn't until tonight, as I lay in bed unable to sleep, that I thought to check my cell phone to see what time she'd called. 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning is one of my favorite poets, and there's a passage in her masterpiece Aurora Leigh that came to my mind this afternoon and stayed there all day:

For tis not in mere death that men die most, 
And, after our first girding of the loins 
In youth’s fine linen and fair broidery 
To run up hill and meet the rising sun,  
We are apt to sit tired, patient as a fool,  
While others gird us with the violent bands 
Of social figments, feints, and formalisms,  
Reversing our straight nature, lifting up 
Our base needs, keeping down our lofty thoughts,  
Head downward on the cross-sticks of the world. 
For a long time, 12:34 meant so many different things to me--love, commitment, fulfillment, maternity, dreams, art, brilliance, joy, disappointment, self-loathing, anger, loneliness, wistfulness, longing, youth, laughter, failure--all the words that encompass the beauty and terror one faces as a young adult. 

But it won't anymore. 

Now, as I glance at the clock, it's 1:14. 12:34 AM on this day is gone and past, blown away from me like a skirl of  October wind will blow the autumnal leaves from the hundred-year-old oak in my front yard. In the dry rustle of those leaves whispering across my lawn, 12:34 will also be gathered and dispensed with, to make way for winter's bitter grip on the Ohio landscape. And when the snows finally blanket the world, will I look out my window and think regretfully of 12:34? 

No. 12:34 will always be with me, locked into my heart and my memories whether smothered under January snows, drenched in April rains, June storms, and August's stubborn grasp upon the seasonal heat. And when my October comes to meet me at last, I would not be at all surprised if I succumb to its insistent call at 12:34. 

That call, when it comes, is unavoidable. 

And that old gray wind is blowing 
And there's nothing left worth knowing 
And it's time you should be going--

It's 1:34 now. Our last hour is done. Requiescat in pacem.