Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Last Reminders

Lots of things are happening in a short period, so here's a list:

1) Today's the last day A Question of Balance will be on sale for 99-cents at most e-book retailers.

2) Also, Google Play changed its terms and conditions, so they stopped discounting e-books there. While the sale price for A Question of Balance is correct at 99-cents, the rest of my library isn't correct, so please wait a day or two for the new prices to take affect before purchasing any of my other books in Google Play.

3) Reality Bites is available for preorder on Amazon. The rest of the preorder links at other retailers will be live by the end of the week.

4) Speaking of Reality Bites, I'll start posting chapters next week.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Monday, July 15, 2019

A Matter of Death is LIVE!

Yep, folks! It's a release day! My fourth this year, which alone makes 2019 so much greater than the last five years.

Even better, I've figured out preorders on all the major retailers, so the latest Justice novel is available to everyone at the same time! Including the paperback! (Though you may have to get your local book store to order it from Ingrams for you.)

Below are the blurb and links. And just to warn you, you may need some hankies at the end of the book.

Two skinwalkers controlling Tandor had been bad enough, but then a demon army waltzed up to the city gates…

Anthea, Luc and their allies are trapped inside the border city of Tandor. They’ve lost all contact with the rest of Issura and their neighboring countries. And if the demons get by Tandor, the entire continent will become their dinner table. But the city is low on food and more importantly, water.

Can Anthea and Luc find a solution? Or will they be forced to activate the final defense spells of Death to stop the demons, and kill everyone in Tandor and themselves in the process?

Magic and mayhem have never been this desperate. Or this fatal.

Barnes & Noble
Google Play

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

A Matter of Death - Chapter 6

All right, everyone! Here's the last sample chapter before next Monday's release. Preorders are set up in all the major retailers!

And a final reminder, the posted chapters will not be in the same order in the book. Writers are weird that way. LOL


By the time I reached the Neighbor's Gate, the demons had ceased their assault. They oozed back to their original positions in alternating rows. It was the only description I could think of for their movements.

I leaned over the parapet of the watch tower. Well, not all of them were back in formation. A dozen lay at the foot of the gate. Dead from the way the blackness spread from the corpses to the surrounding packed earth.

Except the odd contamination only I could see didn’t leach from one of the bodies.

“Reverend Father,” I called out.

He strode over from a consultation with priests from Conflict and Light. “What do you see?”

“The third demon from the right lying below the gate isn’t dead.”

He signaled for the Comanche Light priest he had been speaking with to join us. “We have a demon playing possum. Could you encourage them not to try this particular trick?”

The priest leaned over the parapet and launched a light ball at the demon. With a loud screech, it raced around as it burned. None of its fellows tried to help it. They remained as silent and as still in their ranks as they had before. The demon fell quiet a moment before it collapsed into a pile of red ash. No contamination spread from the cooling remains.

The Reverend Father frowned before he turned to me. “How does a dead demon look different to you than a live one?”

“They don’t look different per se.” I shook my head. “Eggs and grimoires tend to contaminate what they touch, so the item takes on the color of demons.” I peered down at the corpses. “These are the first demons I’ve seen that weren’t killed by Light magic.” I looked at the Reverend Father again and shrugged. “Maybe our brother of Light are the antidote to the contamination.”

The Reverend Father folded his arms over his chest. “Why those things, and not an actually demon?”

I shrugged. “That’s something we’ve been trying to figure out ourselves. The single egg smuggled into Orrin last fall turned the cask it was carried in, but the demon already residing with the imperial sorcerer in the Jing embassy didn’t leave any traces. In fact, it looked like a sash until it realized I was a danger to it.”

“And the grimoires?” the Light priest asked.

“The grimoires—” I couldn’t help a shudder at the memory of touching the one High Sister Gerd had tried to sell to the renegades. “The leather of the grimoires appears to be made of demon skin, except the one I confiscated felt…” I shook myself to drive away the whispers I still heard in my dreams. “I would have sworn it was still conscious.”

“But you still aren’t sure if it’s a difference between the demons summoned to our plane and those that are hatched here?” The Light priest cocked his head as he regarded me.

I shook my head again. “How did you know?”

He grinned. “Some of us have paid attention to High Brother Luc’s reports from Orrin.” His attention turned back to the Reverend Father. “May I dispose of the rest of the demon corpses, sir? I wouldn’t want anyone trying to make them into books.”

“Do it,” the Reverend Father ordered.

While the Light priest burned the rest of the demon corpses lying at the base of Neighbor's Gate, the Reverend Father tilted his head. We retreated away from the edge of the parapet.

“Brother Bumblebee relayed your recommendation of keeping a guard at the tunnel entrances inside the Temples,” he said quietly. “I’d like to hear your account of the demon’s attempt to breach Balance.”

I laid out our actions, including the odd behavior of Elizabeth during my rewind of time. “I’m not sure what to think concerning her behavior anymore,” I finished lamely.

“Yet you are still suspicious that she may be part of the original conspiracy?” He eyed me.

“Or the skinwalkers could have broken her.”

“I recall hearing her voicing the same concern when I eavesdropped on your conversation.”

“I don’t know if a truthspell could even work if she isn’t aware of her deception.” I hugged myself. There were simply too many unknowns in this equation. If any of the clergy from Tandor’s Temple of Knowledge were still in the city, surely they would be driven mad trying to calculate the outcome.

“Do the truthspell anyway to relieve both yours and Justice Elizabeth’s minds.”

“Yes, sir.” A little part of me was glad someone else was making the difficult decisions for once. My body literally ached from shouldering so much responsibility. I turned to leave.

“And, Anthea?”

I faced the Reverend Father again. “Yes, sir?”

“Get some real rest before you do the truthspell.” He grinned. “I don’t need you and Luc accidentally cooking your brains because you’ve been too busy following a certain other mandate issued by Light.”

I should have been embarrassed or furious at the Reverend Father’s overly familiar jocularity. Instead, it just reminded me how exhausted I was.

And thanks to my birth mother, I’d never be able to conceive a child even if I had wanted to. But there was no sense in rehashing the pain of my past.

“If we ever have the energy to get around to fulfilling the Light mandate, we’ll be sure to use the private facilities inside Love and lock the door,” I said wryly.

The Reverend Father chuckled behind me as I climbed down the ladder.

* * *

I repeated the Reverend Father’s odd conversation to Luc when I returned to Light. We sat in the high brother’s quarters and picked over our rations. The innkeepers were cooking for the entire city, and they did the best they could with the ingredients on hand. We’d be looking at this meal differently in another couple of weeks when the water ran out.

Luc blew out a deep breath. “All the ladies of Tandor, civilian and Temple, are taking the mandate seriously. I fear that’s why Bumblebee is hiding inside Balance. He begged me not to tell anyone where he was.”

I winced as I tore off a bite of flatbread. “He’s not interest men, is he?”

Luc shook his head. “The problem is he’s an attractive young man.” He waved a hand. “With the destruction and deaths here, the women of child-bearing age could use the stipend for producing a child with a Temple talent. He’s had an overabundance of offers, and some weren’t exactly subtle.”

While I had a bit of sympathy for poor Bumblebee, I had difficulty swallowing the bread in my mouth. Luc was ignoring our obvious problem, but one of us needed to address the issue.

“You should be taking advantage of the women’s hospitality in that regard.” I stared at my plate. “Especially with the Spring Rituals only a few days away.”

He held out his hand. “I couldn’t do that to you, no matter the reason.”

I looked up at him. “You don’t have a choice, Luc. You need to produce children with your talents. I can’t give you those children.”

“Since when have you cared about edicts from the home Temples?”

“Since we didn’t ride for Cant after the Samael DiRoy affair.” Maybe he really had thought I was joking after the Reverend Mother of Balance sentenced me to the Balance seat of Orrin. I wasn’t sure how serious I was until this moment. Luc pulled back his hand. “If we’d done that, we’d be demon fodder by now. And that’s assuming we weren’t tracked down and executed for defying your sentence.”

“It doesn’t change the fact you’ve been given specific orders from the home Temple.”

“I am not arguing with you about this.” He seized his crutches and headed for the door to his quarters.

“Where are you going?”

“I have to deliver a research report to Reverend Father Nizh√©'√©'.” Before I could reply, he slammed the door behind him.

It was so rare for Luc and me to argue, especially over a personal matter. And yet…

Was this my fault? Did I really want a declaration of his undying devotion in the midst of a demon invasion? Or was I simply a jealous lover?

The survival of human race might very well depend on what happened in Tandor. And here we were fighting, over him laying with other women. Which he’d been ordered to do.

My birth mother’s attempts to end her pregnancy left me blind and unable to bear children. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t angry with her. She had been a selfish fool. My grandmother Thalia had been just as much a selfish fool in her own way for pursuing her illegal affair with Kam bearing Gerd.

Here I was, acting just as selfishly and foolishly. Maybe it was a good thing I couldn’t have children after all. I’d only be cursing them with my family’s idiocy.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

A Matter of Death - Chapter 5

My apologies for not posting a chapter last week. I was literally awake for twenty-six hours straight in order to finish the book, edit it, and send it to my formatter.

Just a reminder--these chapters will appear in a different order and some in a different form in the final book.
The bells tolled Third Evening. Shi Hua’s stride slowed as she approached Jeremy’s quarters. She thought she was ready for what they were about to do.

“You don’t have to do this, Sister.” Mateqai, ever her shadow, stood at her side.

“We’ve been ordered—”

“That’s not what I meant.” He took her shoulders and turned her to face him. “Love making should be a pleasurable experience for all participants. Right now, you are upset and anxious—”

“And we may all die in four days.” A bitter laugh erupted from her.

“That, too,” Mateqai remarked dryly. “What I meant was it might be better to wait until you’re in a better frame of mind. Like in five days.”

She shook her head, and her second laugh was much lighter. “If I don’t do it now, I’m afraid I never will.”

He nodded and an odd expression flashed so fast she thought she imagined it. It almost seemed like regret.

Warden Tadhg stood watch at Jeremy’s door as they approached. He inclined his head before he knocked out a specific pattern. The deep thunk of the bolt sliding back set Shi Hua’s nerves dancing again. The door opened, but instead of his normal sleepwear, he was still dressed in his uniform.

“If you need anything before morning, summon me, Sister.” While Mateqai’s words were directed at her, he aimed a very pointed look at Jeremy.

“I will,” she promised before she sucked in a deep breath and stepped across the threshold.

* * *

When the sun peeked over the eastern mountains the next morning, Shi Hua’s horse pranced nervously beneath her thighs as she stood in formation outside Government Gate. Jeremy’s steed stood contentedly and munched on an apple from last fall. The animal’s mood probably had more to do with the idiotic smile Jeremy wore.

“Would you please change your expression?” she hissed to her senior.

“What’s wrong with my expression?” If anything, his grin grew wider.

“You look like a boy who’s been deflowered by the entire population of Love.” She glared at him.

“Well…” He shrugged. “The first part is true.”

She rolled her eyes. “Would you like the magistrate to post a formal announcement?”

His smile faded. “Wasn’t it…nice for you, too?”

“It was…fine.” So she had to imagine she was with Sister Claudia of Love in order to finish. The last thing she wanted to do was to hurt Jeremy’s feelings.

“Fine? It was only fine?”

“Can we not talk about this right now?” she begged.

“You were the one angry because I smiled,” he snapped.

“Because someone shouldn’t be smiling like a fool when they’re about to march into a war!” She said the last part louder than she meant to. The priests and wardens around them stared at them.

Mateqai nudged his horse between theirs. “With all due respect, can you two save the lovers’ spat until after we deal with the demons?” He backed his steed to resume their position in the ranks.

Shi Hua’s face heated. Her warden was right. This wasn’t the time or place to be discussing such things. But then, they shouldn’t be discussing them at all. There shouldn’t even be a reason to discuss them.

And here, she believed her life had become complicated when she was recruited as Ambassador Quan’s bodyguard.

No pennants or banners flew like they would at home in Jing. No banter or challenges to each others’ weapons prowess either. In fact, the Issuran forces were terribly quiet. To them, there was no glory in killing the enemy.

There was even less glory at the possibility of killing their own people. Surprisingly, Crown Princess Chiara agreed to Light’s mad plan.

The clergy from Knowledge stayed up the entire night to calculate materials and trajectories for the modified fireworks. Thief drafted anyone from the other orders who weren’t accompanying the army to help with the production.

Well, anyone except the priests of Light and the priestesses they took to bed.

Shi Hua glanced behind her. Her fellow clergy from Standora all had idiotic smiles similar to Jeremy’s. Sister Dragonfly was right. Men did go insane when it came to bedplay.

A blast of a ram’s horn echoed from the direction of the National Road. Tension rose at the signal. An itch tickled the back of her mind.

Bring them home.

Shi looked over her shoulder. Sister Dragonfly’s height and scarlet robes stood out at the top of the watch tower. But it was the smaller black-cowled figure huddled next to her who had spoken. Chief Warden Little Bear stood on the other side of Yanaba. The young justice must have thrown a major fit for the healers to allow her out of bed.

We will.

The troops in front of them began to move, and Shi Hua nudged her horse into motion. She sent up a silent prayer to her patron deity she hadn’t just lied to her friend.