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THANK YOU!!! Your votes put ‘Guarding Charon’ into 4th place with the P&E poll for Best of 2016!!!

This week, I’m giving you a peek at Fin and her world! Enjoy!

            Thunk.

The sound of the arrow piercing the wild boar’s carcass seemed loud in the early morning silence. Fin lowered her bow. “Well, at least I hit it that time”.

“Your aim’s getting better. It may not convince a trained archer, but most won’t question your role with us. That should make things easier for you.” Alaric kept his voice low.

She reached over her shoulder and extracted another arrow from her quiver. Nocking it into place, she slowly drew back the string. “Easy hasn’t been part of my vocabulary for a very long time.” She let the string go, wincing as the string bit into her arm. “And fooling most of the people isn’t good enough.” Fin rubbed at her stinging skin as she watched the arrow fly. It landed in the ground at least a yard away from the boar.

“Come on, let’s go pick them up and try again.” Alaric motioned for her to follow him.

They kept their voices low as they passed the small tents where their companions slept. No sense in waking them up before dawn, not unless something showed up. The last few days had been tough on all of them. After the way they’d left Lorien, Fin still kept her ears open. She didn’t like the feeling of being chased. But it was better than being chained.

“Fin, relax. If anyone made out what you are in town, they’d have caught up to us by now.”

She shook her head, the red braid dancing down her back. “You know I can’t. The only reason I’m still free is because I don’t relax. If I relax, this happens.” She looked at him.

Fin watched as Alaric’s face turned momentarily to amazement as she flashed the true color of her eyes at him. The normal green was gone, replaced by the metallic gold that marked her as one of the Amari. She sighed.

“It’s beautiful, you know. They’re beautiful. It’s a shame you have to hide them. Even around us.”  Alaric’s voice was barely above a whisper.

“Yeah, well, hiding them has kept me out of chains for twenty years. It’s a habit now.” Fin bent down and picked up her arrow. “I read somewhere once there used to be thousands of us. Walking the streets, not hiding. I haven’t met another Amari for over ten years, not one who didn’t belong to someone.” A wistful tone crept into her voice.

Alaric’s hand on her shoulder made her look up. “You don’t have to hide around me. No one should be treated like that, ever. And I won’t let that happen to you.”

The look he gave her sent chills down her spine. Of all her companions, he was the one she talked to the most. Put all her trust in. Emile, Trystian, and Gwen were all there to protect her, hide her, and she knew it. But there was something about Alaric that told her his interest went even farther.

His focus changed to something behind her. She made sure her eyes were hidden again. That was the first bit of magic she learned how to do. It was the only thing that had kept her free for so long.

“In the camp!” A male voice called out from the surrounding brush. “We’re cold tonight. Can we share your fire?”

Fin hurriedly gathered the last of her arrows, then darted back to wake the others. Alaric’s voice carried across the small area. “Depends. Are you friend or foe? We don’t take kindly to those who would share our fire and try to rob us blind.”

Fin rushed into the first tent, shaking Gwen awake. A single finger to her lips was all the warning the dark haired woman needed. Slipping back out, Fin could see three men emerging from the forest not far from Alaric’s tall form. No armor, no uniform, but something wasn’t right about how they walked.

“Would we ask first if we were foes? Why not just rob you? Why give your pet time to warn the others?” Fin stiffened at the word the man used to describe her. Pet. That’s what a chained Amari was called. She dove into the second tent. Emile caught her within his embrace. “Shh. There’s no guarantee they know.”

Trystian was up as well, strapping his sword belt on. “Stay close. We’ll keep you safe.” The tall, bearded man reassured her before leading the way out of the tent.

“What pet? There’s none here. If that’s what you seek, you’re in the wrong place.” Alaric’s voice was even. It was always better to talk their way out of a conflict.

The first tendrils of light from the approaching dawn gave her enough to see what she feared. All three of the men approaching Alaric had chains dangling from their belts.

“Ah, that’s fine. Charlie here–” the leader jerked his head back towards one of his companions, “–he likes to pretend he can smell ‘em. Says they smell bad on account of being corrupted by that magic of theirs.” He kicked at the dead boar Fin and Alaric had used for target practice. “Seems to me this is what he was smelling.”

“Fire’s that way.” Alaric gestured towards the rest of them. Fin tried not to grip her bow too tightly. The others stood near enough to prevent anyone from reaching her, but far enough away to pull out their weapons if it became necessary.

“Much obliged,” the leader remarked as he motioned the others to follow. Fin watched the strangers approach, Alaric trailing close behind. Something wasn’t right about them. It went beyond the shackles.

Alaric raised his chin, calling out “We have guests.”

That’s when it happened.

The lead bounty hunter threw his fist back hard, knocking Alaric to the ground. Fin fumbled with her quiver, sending out the silent healing energy to her friend. Around her, the other three drew their weapons and prepared to meet the charging foes.

By the time she got an arrow nocked, they were too close. Fin retreated a few feet, watching the fighting closely. Her bow was ready, but she needed to get a clear shot.

Close combat always unnerved her. The stench of blood turned her stomach. Gwen was holding her own against the one named Charlie, and winning handily. When the first body dropped, Fin relaxed just a little. There weren’t many out there who could beat Trystian or Emile in one-on-one combat, because the two men didn’t believe in mercy. Just an expedient death.

An arrow buzzed past her ear, the fletching scratching her cheek. Spinning on her heels, she watched it sail past the man charging at her. He leaped to tackle her as she tried to raise her bow. Instinct kicked in, and she did the only thing she could think of to stop him.

She willed his heart to stop beating.

An anguished wail tore from her throat. Pain forced her to her knees and caused her to drop her bow. The body of her would-be assailant fell with a heavy thud in front of her. Fin grasped at her left arm, desperate to breathe through the searing agony rippling down her bicep. She’d killed him. Justified or not, she’d taken a life.

“Fin? Are you okay?” Alaric’s voice broke through the shock. She opened her eyes.

He knelt in front of her. A single hand gently brushed her hair from her face. Concern for her was clearly visible in his brown eyes.

“I…I killed him.” She could barely whisper the words.

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Yep! Time for another teaser!

I hope you all like this sort of thing…gotta admit, it’s fun for me to do!

‘Amari: Three Tales of Love and Triumph’ is a collection of the first 3 stories about the Amari race. I say ‘first 3’ because I can honestly say I haven’t given up on the world entirely. There may be more stories yet to come.

Christoph leaned back in his chair, pushing his empty plate away. “Not sure I should say this,” he hesitated, “but I think Alaric’s a better cook than the ones in the palace.”

“Only from necessity. Trystian was the real chef among us.” Alaric stood, picked up his plate, and moved to the small counter that served as their kitchen area. “Christoph, how about some air?” he asked.

The other man looked at him, confusion on his face. Alaric pointed over to their wives, deep in conversation.

“Oh, ah, yeah,” the man sputtered. “Sounds good to me.”

The pair left quietly. Alaric knew Fin was close to the end of her pregnancy. She hardly left their home now, complaining about how lonely things could be. Having Lyssa and Christoph come over to eat was his idea. Fin was so used to people around her, she didn’t take solitude well.

The two men settled into a pair of chairs that sat underneath a small overhang. “She’s giving Lyssa ideas, you know.”

“Those two get enough ideas between them to change the world. Putting them together may have been a mistake,” Alaric laughed.

“She wants us to have a child. Started talking about how secure things are now, that my line needs to continue.” Christoph leaned back in his chair, running a hand through his hair. “I just don’t know that I’m ready for fatherhood.”

“No one’s ever ready for it, Christoph,” Alaric replied. “You do have a bit more pressure on you than I ever did though.”

“I know,” he sighed. “One day I’m glad I’m the king, the next…”

“You want to run away from it.” Alaric finished for him. “I know that feeling. Far too well.” For a moment, he let his mind drift back to his childhood back on the island. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good. There were times, when his brother was sick, he prayed for him to recover. If only to spare Alaric from inheriting the throne.

“You know, Fin told me something about you when you were gone. Wouldn’t mind getting the story from you, though.”

Alaric turned, his brow furrowed. “Just what did she tell you?”

“When I told her you were heading back to Lorien, she asked if Kaerdan was still on the throne. Though she didn’t use those words.”

“Exactly what words did she use?”

Christoph looked away, watching the few people wandering the street. “She called him ‘not even half the man his brother is. And a rotten bastard that needed to be slit open’.”

Alaric laughed, but there was no mirth in the sound. “That sounds like him. And her.”

“Well?”

“Well, what?”

“Am I going to get the full story?”

Alaric looked down the street, choosing his words carefully. Christoph had been nothing but kind since they came here. No reason not to trust the man. But his own experiences with royalty made him leery. “It’s a long one.”

An elderly woman, flanked on each side by a youth, stopped in front of them. She bowed once, with great care, at Christoph.

The king rose, holding out his hands to greet the woman. “Great Mother, you honor me tonight. Will you now let me release you from your bondage?”

Alaric looked closer. A small iron bracelet encircled the old Amari woman’s wrist. Strange, he thought, Christoph set all the Amari free when he came to the throne. Why is she still wearing that? It was the first time he’d seen any Amari in Caerlynn wearing any iron.

She nodded, “The time is come for the truth to be said. For all stories to be told.” She leveled her gaze on Alaric. “Fin must learn the truth before her child comes. Before the first truly free Amari comes into this world. One whose parents never knew the burden of being a pet.” She dug a withered hand into a satchel that hung across her body. Withdrawing a worn leather book, she looked back at Christoph. “I accept now, the freedom you have offered. And then I will discharge my most sacred task and give this to Seraphina nan Grear.”

Christoph’s hands moved to the woman’s wrist. “And I am grateful, Great Mother, that I am honored to be the one to free you at last.” He slid the bracelet across her bony hand, pocketing it as soon as it left her body. Standing aside, he watched as the old woman entered the house.

“Who was that?” Alaric asked, confused. “I’ve never seen her in town before.”

Christoph settled back into his chair. “She was ancient when the raid happened on Uamh nan Amari. Stayed with Lyssa, raised her. Every other Amari my father chained deferred to her. I’ve tried, every year since he died, to get her to let me release her. She always said it wouldn’t happen until her most sacred task was near completion. I never asked what that was. It felt…wrong for me to do so.”

Alaric rose and started to move toward the door. Christoph stretched out an arm, blocking his way. “I wouldn’t, my friend. Whatever is going on in there is for Fin and Fin alone. I know that much. I know you’ll be told, in time. There are no secrets between the two of you. For now, though, I think we’ll be out here for a while longer.”

Settling back into his chair, Alaric kept a wary eye on the door. “I suppose so. But what do you propose we do while they’re in there?”

The king smiled. “You did say the story was a long one. Looks like we’ve got the time.”

Nodding, Alaric replied, “Yes, I think you’re right.”

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Hey! It’s election day, so I hope you’ve voted. Don’t need to know who you voted for…this is a politics free zone! LOL! Just hope you made sure your ballot was cast!

For Teaser Tuesday, I give you an excerpt from ‘Alaric’s Bow’!

Kai stuck to the shadows, avoiding the revelry of the wedding feast. A sense of dread had encompassed him since the arrival of the bridal party the day before. Something was wrong, but he couldn’t put his finger on what.

Kaerdan and his new wife, Jenny, sat at the head table, their fathers flanking the happy couple. Her blonde hair shone in the candles illuminating the hall. Kaerdan did have a preference for fair-haired ladies. In that, he would be happy.

It was his mother, however, that drew his attention. She rarely left her rooms any more, claiming illness. Tonight, though, no sign of sickness decorated her pale face. If anything, it glowed in triumph. And why shouldn’t it? Her firstborn married, ready to continue the family name. Soon, he would be King.

His father rose from his place, chalice in hand. “Today was a glorious day! A wedding, a new treaty, and a successful hunt! Kaerdan is truly gifted and his prize sits radiant beside him. To the happy couple!”

Kai shifted through the people near him. Gifted, indeed. The only thing his brother had ever been able to do was take credit for someone else’s deeds.

He needed air. The hall was nauseatingly sweet, between the overabundance of the beeswax candles to the boar—his kill—roasting on the spit. Winding his way through the drunk wedding guests, he made his way to the upper gallery. Outside would’ve been preferable, but he knew better. At some point, he’d be expected to go forward and pledge his loyalty to his father and brother. Not that the words meant anything to him. He stopped believing in the vow after seeing how little they meant to Kaerdan.

“Where’s the Historian?” his father’s voice boomed through the arched hallway. Kai smiled a little. The recitation of the family line would take a good deal of time. Tradition, yes. But it also gave him enough time to breathe some air not saturated with sweat, ale, and food.

“Kai,” Holly whispered from a recessed doorway. “Do you trust me?”

He blinked at her, puzzled. “Of course. Why wouldn’t I? It’s not like you can lie to me.” He flinched at the anger that flashed across her face. She didn’t need the reminder of her status.

“You need to come with me. Now.” Reaching out, she pulled at his hand. Her voice tumbled over the words.

In the back of his mind, he heard the Historian drone on. He was covering the family fast. The old Amari had been with them since he was an infant, and was tasked with remembering each birth and death. Every family on the island kept a Historian to prove noble birth.

“Holly, I can’t. As soon as Old Josiah is done, I have to go down and make my pledge. If I miss that, Father will have my hide.”

She licked her lips, her gold eyes darting past him. “Kai, there won’t be any way around that. Once Josiah is finished, things are going to go bad for you. Quickly.” She pulled on his hand once again. “Please, I beg you. Come with me now while you can still run.” Her eyes welled up with tears.

“Run? What am I running from?”

The hall below became silent. Too silent. He heard his father’s massive oak chair slide across the floor. “Josiah, you forgot one of my sons. Why did you not add Kai to the list?”

Tearing his arm from Holly’s grasp, Kai turned and looked down. Something knotted in his stomach. Whether it was fear or apprehension, he didn’t know.

“I am Amari,” the old man croaked. “I cannot lie. You asked for a recitation of the legitimate line. I have given you that.”

Susana, his mother, spoke across the chamber. Her voice snapped with irritation and fear. “No, Josiah. Kai is true born. He should be on your list.”

“Prince Kai is son of his Majesty, yes. But not by you, my Queen. He was begotten on an Amari brought over after a raid. You traded your own stillborn son to his mother so he might live. His only saving grace being his eyes were that of his father, not his mother. Kai is half Islander, half Amari.”

The assembled guests broke out in a fury of voices. Kai staggered back against the wall, stunned. He was half Amari? Kaerdan’d have him in chains the moment he saw him.

Something pulled at his wrist, hard, insistent. He looked, afraid it was a guard. Already he could hear his brother demanding both Kai’s attendance and a blacksmith. Holly stood next to him, her face full of compassion. “Kai, please. We have to get you away from here, now. Before it’s too late!”

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Hey!

I know, it’s been two weeks without a post. October has been, without a doubt, busier than I anticipated. And it’s not slowing down any time soon!

Renton City Comicon is coming FAST! 11 days and counting! I’m excited, nervous, and about 20 other different emotions. I want to make a good first impression because this is my first guest slot at a con. And I want to be invited to more!

So, last week something happened that was both big and small at the same time. October 11th would’ve been my parents’ 48th wedding anniversary. I’m sure they celebrated, in their own way, in whatever afterlife they’re in.

To commemorate the day, I released a new book. ‘Amari: Three Tales of Love and Triumph’ is now live.

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Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MCRZ9H7

Go forth and conquer!

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Hey! It’s Monday!

Had a great weekend! Went to Portland with my hubby to attend Rose City Comicon. To be honest, it was the first time we’d been without our daughters and not around other family in a long time. Spent way too much money, but I’ve got a great outfit to wear to Renton City Comicon now!

‘Emile’s Blade’ is with my editor at Solstice Publishing. Just heard from her this morning, in which she declared it to be ‘riproaring’. This is a good sign, I think.

Oh! And the cover’s done already!

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I’ve gotten the three transition chapters done for the combo book. Waiting for ‘Emile’s Blade’ to be done with edits and proofread, then I can insert it and get the process started on that one.

So, what’s next? Well, I’m going to return to Lily, Talin, and Kade’s world. That’s right, I’m doing a follow up to ‘Mark of the Successor’!

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Hey.

It’s Wednesday, not Monday. And I haven’t exactly been on the ball each week with posts here.

I did a big push and wrapped up “Emile’s Blade” earlier this week. It’s with my beta readers now, and should be under contract/with my editor at Solstice Publishing shortly after the first of September. Now I’m starting to connect all three Amari stories (Fin’s Magic, Alaric’s Bow, and Emile’s Blade) into a single book that we can release in both ebook and print formats.

I’m working with two different cons now! I’ll be a guest at Renton City Comicon in October, and a panelist at RustyCon in January. Love that these new opportunities are starting to open up to meet readers. And help authors.

There’s been other things going on, though, beyond the books. I’ve had some real issues lately with feeling like I have too many balls in the air. Work, writing, house, college (oldest heads that way in a few weeks), high school swim practice for the youngest, promoting, doctor and dentist appointments, vehicle maintenance, and about a dozen other things. It’s led me to spend more time just sitting and not wanting to participate in much of anything over being excited for the future.

A lot of this is related to my parents both passing away within seven months of each other. My dad’s death hit me really hard. When I was there the last time, I brought home one of his sweaters just to have something that still had a bit of his scent on it. My mom was morbidly obese. So am I. And I won’t die the way she did, so I’m looking into having surgery.

Our insurance won’t cover it, so I need to sell some books. LOTS of books. We’re looking at $20,000 to get this done.

So, yeah, things haven’t been the best. I never set out to lie to anyone reading this blog. If anything, I wanted to be brutally honest. To live past the age my mom was, I have to do something now. And current book sales aren’t going to get me there.

Still, it’s moving forward with the planning. It’s getting the preliminary testing and visits done now so, when the money is there, we can do this.

Oh, and I’m going to take a dream trip to Scotland when it’s done and I’ve recovered from the surgery.

Ever so slowly, the door on my past is closing. In some ways, I’ve kept it open for far too long. I don’t think I’m done grieving, which is one reason why I had to force myself to finish up ‘Emile’s Blade’. When you read it, and I hope you will, you will understand why. I’m probably going to have bad days ahead of me. When the desire to call him and give him some exciting news will remind me that he’s not able to answer any more. And there will be days where the juggling act I do will want to come crashing down. But I hope, and feel, that those days will be farther and farther apart. That the good will outweigh the bad, the memories give me more smiles than tears.

The stories that still need to be written will come to pass. The surgery, and Scotland, will eventually happen as well. And maybe, possibly, hopefully, the future I want won’t be as far away as it seems.

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Morning, everyone.

Last week, I found out my mother passed away. I’ve spent a lot of time since then coming to grips with her passing. While I think I’ll still have difficulties at the service itself, time moves on.

We didn’t have a perfect relationship. There were more times than not where one of us would dig in our heels when we should’ve given some slack to the other. The fault was as much mine as hers. She was, however, my mother. For that I loved her.

Needless to say, I didn’t write much last week. Too many phone calls that needed to be made, etc. My sister has to deal with more than I do, and I wanted to help her as much as I could. By Sunday, the stress was enough. I spent the day either sleeping or huddled under blankets watching football. And fighting a cold that’d crept in unnoticed. I spent the day being a cat instead of an adult, and it was good.

Now, though, now I think I’m ready to write again. I’ve got ‘Alaric’s Bow’ with my editor. ‘Arine’s Sanctuary’ is out for your reading pleasure (I hope). It’s time to go back to Arwenna’s world, wrap up The Raven Chronicles.

‘Wielder of Tiren’ will be the end of the series. I’d always planned it that way, and now I know that’s what’ll happen. Arwenna’s tale will come to an end, like every story must. Her world is dark, forbidding, and mirrored parts of my own life far more than I like to admit.

As I let go of my mom, I’ll do the same with Arwenna and Y’Durkie.

That’s not to say I’ll stop writing. Nope. The muse is out of her cage and refuses to be locked away. I’ve got two more stories for the Amari and their world ahead of me. Plus, I said something in passing to a friend the other day, “traipsing the beach of the river Styx”.

Yep, there’s a story hiding in those words.

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