Unraveling the Veil – Talin, a Changeling

Release day quickly approaches. Liars and Thieves (Book 1) is available for preorder but goes live on August 29th.

I’ve introduced my goblin, Naj’ar. This snippet gives a glimpse of the main character Talin, a changeling/shape-shifter.

***

Talin sat on the smooth stone and scratched. Other than the vermin infesting his coat, the afternoon had progressed with minimal effort. He’d shift into his familiar self and bathe, then seek a meal of roots or greens. Something edible that didn’t include voles and other Borderland rodents. He could do without ingesting any more hair, bones, and all the other peripheral disgustingness that accompanied the gobbling down of wild meat.

He raised his nose, nostrils twitching at a new scent. The scruff on his neck and shoulders bristled.

A cat. A wild one.

Changelings didn’t stalk changelings, and something big and stealthy lurked in the jungle. He leapt from the sunlight, slipped through a natural trellis of twisted vines, and spent hours evading the panther that had sniffed him out. Exasperation surrendered into a growing sense of urgency. Head down, ears alert, he bounded over a stream and between the stilts that supported the railway spur in its treacherous descent. Already too long in jackal form, he was overdue to shift. And shifting presented some serious drawbacks.

Nose to the ground, he found the path he sought, and by twilight reached one of the tree-stands that peppered the Reaches. The ladder would present a challenge, but if he could manage it, the stand would likely save his life.

He circled the base of the tree, seeking a cache of buried crystals, and found none. Another obstacle. With a huff, he scanned the shadowed growth and tasted the air for unwelcome predators. Langur monkeys crept along the upper branches, and a shy loris blinked at him with pooled eyes, but no cats prowled the area. Poisonous snakes slithering in the trees would be the greatest threat, but there wasn’t much he could do about them. He sat on his haunches and closed his eyes.

He called up his human pattern. A cold shiver accompanied the brutal constellation of pain that sparked deep in his bones. The transformation would require only minutes, but after so long in a borrowed form, it would feel like hours.

The skeletal changes came first. He sank to his knees as his oblong skull crushed inward at the muzzle and bulged in the cranium. His neck compressed. Shoulder blades and ribcage shrank while hip bones expanded and rearranged their connections to fibulae and spine. His tail withered into a pointed coccyx deep within his flesh.

The air around him froze as he drew mass from the trees and ground to accommodate his larger size. A ring of frost crept outward from his contorting feet. Arm and leg bones elongated, and he gritted his teeth as the bones in his front paws shattered, seven pieces reforming into the twenty-seven of his human hand. He curled into a ball, breathless, as his elbows, knees, all his joints and cartilage switched to accommodate altered movement. The intensity of his pain weakened as his skeleton took its final shape and the rest of his internal mechanisms rippled into alignment.

His skin shifted last. Hair altered its texture, fine on his bronze limbs, scratchy on his jaw. Long and dark on his head.

As the ache inside him faded and his sweat cooled, the air returned to its familiar sticky humidity. His heart rate slowed. Strength spent, he could barely move, unconsciousness luring him into a dreamless sleep. Naked, he rolled to his hands and knees and rung by rung, hoisted himself up the ladder.

“Death would be easier than this.” He chuckled like a tipsy drunk. At the top, he collapsed, his legs still propped on the ladder.

Good enough, he surrendered to sleep.

Unraveling the Veil – Naj’ar, a Goblin

With a target of August for publishing the first book of the Unraveling the Veil series Liars and Thieves, the characters are eager to invite readers into their world. Naj’ar is a goblin. A snippet from Chapter One and a new cover.

Bats squeaked in the blackness, and an enduring cold leached from the walls. Neither troubled Naj’ar. His kind were accustomed to the leather-winged company, and his muscled frame, though half-elven, tolerated the chill almost as well as the purebloods. A shaggy fur draped his shoulders as he navigated the tunnelways beneath the mountain.

Ragged veins of quartz glimmered in the rock’s wet crevices, their latent power spiraling as if they’d captured wisps of cloud. Their faint glow cast angular shadows. Yet, the reflective surfaces of his eyes granted him the vision to lope through the crude passageways with sure feet.

The ground shook. He paused, a hand reaching into the void for balance. Curved fingernails scraped a wall. Grains of igneous rock sifted from the ceiling. The tunnels to the peaks meandered in a labyrinth of forks, crumbling stairways, and long sloped passages, familiar to him though he’d never labored in the upper mines. His interest lay in the Veil and the hidden world that lay beyond.

Na’jar, a goblin

A pragmatic people, goblins rarely indulged in fantasy. But legends hinted of a hallowed land, the birthplace of the First where only the brave and just found welcome. Others speculated that behind the shimmering wall lay the answers to the secrets of eternity. Its allure tugged at his curiosity, a barbed thorn hooked in his mind, impossible to pry loose.

His feet slid, and his fingernails dug into the ice varnishing the slanted floor. Ice within the mountain? He frowned, gray skin prickling. The air froze on the walls in a glassy rime. The crust of frost thickened. Clouds formed with each breath, and for the first time, the frigid chill seeped into his bones. He sniffed the downy scents of snow and earth mingled with something new—the electric tang of power.

Bent in a crouch, he pressed forward. At the end of a winding incline, beyond the frame of winter’s brambles, a sinister light forced his yellow eyes to narrow. The snow-laced peaks sawed at the sky. And behind them, the Veil beckoned.

He toiled uphill. Bare feet crunched through frozen drifts. A white wind howled from the heights, and the curtain shimmered through gaps in the storm-bourn snow, a sheet of silver light, shuddering and bulging. Lightning crackled and ribboned through a lace of arteries and veins as if it were a monstrous creature hovering at the edge of the world.

Ears swept back, hands and feet numb, Naj bent against the blow. He trudged upward, determined to reach the ridge. Ice caked his face, sparkled on his lashes. The air hissed with electricity. The distinctive odor of ozone, both clean and burned, wrinkled his nose.

The Veil splintered. A blast of power flung him backward.

He tumbled down the steep slope, hurled into a black and white slide of rock and snow, past the tunnelway’s entrance. With a breathless gasp, he clambered to his feet and climbed for the mountain’s shelter. A second explosion slammed him to his back. Colossal shards of light shot outward, streaking through the storm. He covered his face with an arm. The snow and stone lost its grip on the mountainside, burying him alive. He clawed and kicked free of his icy tomb and scrambled over the sliding terrain.

Then the wind died. Snow and rock rumbled to stillness. The Veil began to weave itself together, threads swiftly stitching across the ether, reconnecting and patching the jagged wounds. The blizzard transformed into rain, slackened to a lazy drizzle, then evaporated before it mottled the ground. Sunshine lanced through gashes in a rapidly mutating sky. Snow vanished in a hot fog and then the fog too burned away.

The Veil thinned and solidified, releasing the energetic mass that had fortified it against the storm. Naj hastened for the tunnel entrance, his soles pained by the hot stones. Tufts of grass, moments before buried in ice, began to smolder. He dove into the warming passageway, rolled to his feet, and dashed into the blackness.

***

Thanks for reading!

Work in Progress – Unraveling the Veil

A new trilogy is taking shape, about half of the first draft already tapped into the laptop. I’ve given myself through March to get the story down. Then rewriting and revisions and loads of editing.

Below is the first scene, a sneak peek that’s subject to change, but it’s a start. Don’t hold me to it, but the working title of the series is Unraveling the Veil.

***

Kalann il Draak, the First of Chaos, aimed his cannons at the Veil. From the eastern sun to the western moon, the curtain of light spanned the mountains, banishing him to the forsaken waste that stretched north beyond the known lands. The silver wall shimmered, undulated with elemental power, the essence of matter. Its energetic core bound the illusory world together with the strength of goblin steel.

He would destroy the rippling wall that divided him from his kingdom, shatter the balance of creation, and wreck chaos on the myriad patterns of the world. The First, the sacred gods worshiped by of the mortal races, would vanish from the land.

His sword crackled, spat veins of lightning that illuminated the roiling clouds and fractured the rock beneath his army’s heels. The tortured earth swallowed slaves and soldiers alike, their screams lost to the grinding rock and the wind’s keening howl.

“I will destroy you!” he roared up the barren slopes.

The First, his brethren, stood sentinel along the ridges, hands raised in silent defense, feeding the Veil’s mass with heat harvested from the mountains’ core, light stolen from the dawn. A blizzard of snow swept into the air, blew sideways in the skirling winds, blotting out the sky.

Draak’s sword swept down, sliced a rift into the Veil that the First snapped shut with a thunderous clap. The mage laughed at the feint as cannons strung along the foothills belched pulses of disruptive power, stripping matter of its binding force. The white-hot blasts generated surges. Waves bulged along the Veil’s magnetic lines like sound along an instrument’s string. Veins of power tore and reconnected, releasing eruptions of unbound light.

The Veil fractured. Seams burst open where the energy splintered. Like a stone through a mirror, shards of light flung outward, and Draak ordered his army through, secreted in the shattered wedges that pierced his enemy’s land. Another volley of fire penetrated the weakened wall. The bulk of his vast horde stormed up the slope, eager for the final rupture.

But the power of the cannon proved unstable, uncontainable, carried along the frayed curtain by sheer winds. His foes threw up shields like patches on torn cloth, stitching up the gaps with new manipulations of heat and light. The Veil began to cool. Snow transformed into steam as the mountains burned and the elements bound into new matter, altering the foundations of the world.

The First, guardians of the wall of light and the civilization within, gloried in their victory. Below them, trapped in the barren desolation of the north, Draak shook a curled fist at his brethren. But hubris was their flaw and his fury a ruse. The cannon had briefly unraveled the fabric of matter, not enough for an entire army to slip through, but sufficient for chaos to hook its curved claw. The mortals would see to the rest.

Soul Swallowers and Legacy of Souls

The next two books are weeks away from release. The covers are done, back cover blurbs are written. I’m delighted to share them here.

Soul Swallowers

Some souls gift insights, wisdom, a path to understanding. Others unleash power, proficiency with a sword, and indifference to death. One soul assimilates with ease. Swallow a host of the dead and risk a descent into madness.

Estranged from his family over the murder of his wife, young Raze Anvrell wields his fists to vent his rage. Then a chance at a new life beckons, and he retreats to the Ravenwood, the haunt of unbound ghosts. He and his mentor build a freehold and raise horses—until the old man dies and Raze swallows his first soul.

When his brother reaches out, open wounds begin to scar. But the tenuous peace won’t last. While those who rule yield to the lure of their ambitions, slavers roam the countryside. One man manipulates the law; another heeds the souls of violence howling in his head.

Raze too listens to his soul’s whispers, and as danger intrudes on his quiet life, he has no choice but to return to his father’s world and take up the fight.

(Soul Swallowers is currently available for preorder: Global Amazon Link.)

***

Legacy of Souls

Peace descends on the Ravenwood, and Raze Anvrell trusts that as love lays open his life, the turmoil of his past will loosen its grip. But in the halls of Avanoe and catacombs of Ezar, political intrigues thicken. Deflection and secrets manipulate the truth and more than one ruler stakes a claim in the quest for power.

A swallower of multiple souls, Sajem files his teeth and inks his eyes. Tentacles of madness slither deeper into the slaver’s afflicted mind. His raids grow brazen, tactics harsh, and conscience stripped bare. Alliances shift, fracture, and form, and no one is too old or young, too wealthy or beautiful to spare.

When death strikes, Raze must battle for those he loves, the principles he holds dear, and the world he desires. While heirs compete for the Ezari throne, slavers plot each other’s demise. If Raze wishes to save his family, his freehold, his chance at love, and his life, he must swallow one more soul.

***

Grumpy Ana and the Grouchy Monsters

My first children’s book in verse is out in print, a project that was completed over the summer.

Grumpy Ana Goblyn is sour, dour, and cranky. Her lips droop in a frown. She’s bored with every place and person in her friendly town.

With the help of her father, she builds a spaceship and travels to a soggy planet where she meets her perfect monster playmates.

But there’s a problem! The monsters see her grouchy frown and think she’s a monster.

In this children’s space adventure, Ana discovers that her attitude affects her happiness, and she can change it if she chooses.

I hope you enjoy a few peeks at the illustrations.  And, of course, it has a happy ending.

Available in Print: USA, UK, Canada, India

 

Soul Swallower – Work in Progress

I think that’s the name of the series. I like the alliteration anyway. Better than Soul Gulper.

I don’t have too much to share yet, but here’s a brief peek at Raze and the act of swallowing a soul:

***

Raze lingered alone by the hearth, the remainder of the freehold tucked beneath woolen blankets. In no mood for company, the solitude suited him. Briyon’s soul catcher dangled from a cord twisted through his fingers.

His grief unearthed old ghosts, his mother among them, an ageless portrait suspended in the gallery of his mind. Not so his memories of Mirelle. Those lingered with infinite fluidity, entangled with visions of the past and dreams of a future that would never be. Six years had shuffled by since her death, five since he’d joined Briyon at the freehold, and yet he’d found no lever long or strong enough to pry her from his heart. Loneliness punched the breath from his lungs and sapped the strength from his back. At twenty-two he was master of the freehold, a tired soul, angry at a world he couldn’t control.

He rolled the pendant over in his hand, keenly aware of its delicate beauty. The white soulstone had transformed, no longer solid but translucent with pale tendrils of color swirling like morning mist. Copper wire no hardier than a strand of hair coiled around it, holding a round sliver of lapis in place with a final twist of two tiny leaves. It glowed with a soft light, indicating the presence of a soul. A soul he loved.

With great care, he unhooked the tiny copper leaves, unwound the wire, and removed the blue gem capping a small hole. Inside, an iridescent sphere resembling a pearl shone with a brilliance that startled him. Were all souls so bright? He didn’t know, this soul-catcher his first. He rolled it into his hand. Would he swallow it? Did he want what Briyon offered? Was there anything to fear?

The sphere glimmered in his palm, sharing no insight. He placed it back into the pendant. No need to choose, no decision pressing him to act with haste. The round gem refitted, he coiled the wires, paused, and then uncoiled them. In one fluid motion, he uncapped the pendant, tipped the luminous pearl into his mouth, and swallowed.

A rush of heat streamed up from his belly through his heart and into his head. It coursed down his limbs to his fingertips and toes. His body trembled, the sensation alien but not frightening, and it subsided as quickly as it overtook him. Eyes closed, he accepted Briyon’s soul. In the quiet of night, he exhaled a long breath, crept to bed, and dreamed another man’s dreams.

Kari’s Reckoning

The full series is now out and available on Amazon.

Excerpt from Kari’s Reckoning, The Rose Shield: Book IV

He carved woads into his own skin, scored his cheeks and hairline, sliced grooves into his chest and arms. He notched his ears and slashed his shoulders and thighs. Blood ran down his legs and arms, dripped from his chin and fingers. He flayed Guardian’s dagger from his forearm and would have found another place to carve if Lian hadn’t ripped his knife from his hands and flung it into the forest.

The Farlander heaved him up and carried him to the pond. The water glowed and whirled, rich with luminescence. He staggered into the freezing fluidity and lay down, sinking beneath the surface. The light retracted and surged back, clung to his skin, and burrowed into his flesh. His wounds burned. Luminescence swirled with his blood, entered his veins, and lit him like a brand. He rose for a breath and sank again, eyes open, his vision filled with divine brightness.

The world spoke to him, not with words but emotion, an ancient message extending back through eternal time. His blood leached out, blending with the planet’s soul, every fiber connected across the land and water and air, the living and dead. The world drew on his life, tasted its richness, and integrated him into the pattern. Life surged around him and exploded into him, unstoppable and larger than he and those he lost, all of them forever part of the whole. The sensation was love, but not the feeling of love. All the emotions, fear and sadness, joy and pleasure, anger, and passion blended into the rich and poignant elixir of life.

He gasped for breath and floated, his irises reflecting the three moons and a night drowned in stars. The fire in his veins abated and the sting in his wounds faded. The owl called its lonely song. He closed his eyes and rested in the cold light.

***

Start the Tetralogy with Book I: Catling’s Bane.

Only $.99

 

Farlanders’ Law

The full series is now out and available on Amazon.

Excerpt from Farlanders’ Law, The Rose Shield: Book III

The baby reminded her of Gussy on the day Zadie delivered her into the world of the stead. Such memories raised tears for a lost lifetime, a wistful dream that evaporated upon her waking to a harsher, crueler morn. Those days had marked the most sacred of her life, a few years of recaptured innocence when they called her Rose for lack of another name. Zadie had chosen the name because of her eye, and Wenna had given her the choice of calling it her own. The tender mothers of her youth had seen the ugly mark bruising her face and named it something lovely, called her a thing of beauty when she was a scrawny cast off lacking a voice of her own.

This little one possessed no flaws, no strange blemish or discoloration or unexplained power, nothing to hurl her life into heartbreak and ruin. So, Catling chose the name again, and in that instant, all her misgivings, all her dreaded anger and doubts and regrets about the baby resting on her body vanished. Every indignity inflicted upon her, every threat and injury and act of destruction faded into the murky distance. For years, those with unfettered authority had wielded her as a tool. Now, the power of the infant’s face, the gray eyes and soft hair, the little bowed lips, the helplessness of this new life eclipsed them all. Suddenly, only this life mattered, her child’s life, and she drifted instantly and deeply into love.

***

Start the Tetralogy with Book I: Catling’s Bane.

Only $.99

 

 

Oathbreakers’ Guild

Excerpt from  Oathbreakers’ Guild, The Rose Shield: Book II 

“The time has arrived for your final trial.” Dalcoran sat across from her, every detail of his grooming, attire, and manner precise, his features ageless despite his infirmity. “It’s an act which binds you to the guild, solidifies your power, and acknowledges the great burden you will bear as an influencer. Your oath to the heiress is absolute; you are sworn to do her bidding even when it rails against your personal wishes. It is the responsibility of the guild to see you prepared.”

“I understand.” Catling set her teacup on the low table between them. Nothing he said thus far shocked her, and yet, a chill coiled up her spine.

“What we ask of you, we ask of all initiates. We only ask it once in training, though your oaths may dictate future sacrifices in practice.”

“You may tell me, Dalcoran-Elan.” Catling threaded her fingers in her lap.

“You are to kill an innocent.” He met her eyes. “Not someone dying, sick, or aged. You must steal the future of someone at the height of life. The heiress may require it of you, and your binding oath will demand your obedience.”

She stared at him, an all-consuming emotion burning in her chest. Not horror but fury. “The heiress would never order the random execution of an innocent without purpose—as an exercise. Dalcoran-Elan, I refuse.”

“You cannot refuse, Catling.”

“I can refuse because that is exactly what I am doing.”

He sat in rigid silence and sipped his tea while hers grew cold on the table.

“I’m an aspirant,” she said, “and it’s within your rights to coerce me into compliance. Yet, I suspect the whole point of this trial is to test my willingness to stalk and kill with complete self-control.”

“I shall report your decision to the heiress,” he said, ignoring her statement.

“You may do so.” She rose to her feet and brushed the creases from her jacket. “You may also tell her that I will act as her assassin if the need arises, but I will refuse to murder without purpose.”

The knowing smile on Dalcoran’s face made her feel as though she were a child refusing to grow up. “You will learn in time, Catling, if your fiery principles are forged of steel or glass.”

Click the Cover for a Global Link to Amazon.

Catling’s Bane is currently $.99
Enjoy!

Catling’s Bane is Live

Catling’s Bane

In the tiers of Ellegeance, the elite Influencers’ Guild holds the power to manipulate emotions. Love and fear, pain and pleasure, healing and death mark the extremes of their sway, but it’s the subtle blends that hook their victims’ hearts. They hide behind oaths of loyalty and rule the world.

A child born in the grim warrens beneath the city, Catling rues the rose birthmark encircling her eye. Yet, it grants her the ability to disrupt the influencers’ sway. Established methods of civil control disintegrate before her. She’s a weapon desired by those who reign and those who rebel.

To the Influencer’s Guild, she’s an aberration, a threat. They order her death and thus the betrayals begin. One woman protects and trains her, plotting to use her shield to further imperial goals. No longer a helpless child, Catling has other plans. As chaos shakes the foundations of order and rule, will she become the realm’s savior? Or its executioner? 

The Rose Shield Series – A blend of science fiction and fantasy.

Welcome to a world of three moons, a sentient landscape, rivers of light, and tier cities that rise from the swamps like otherworld flowers. A planet of waterdragons, where humans are the aliens living among three-fingered natives with spotted skin. Where a half-blood converses with the fog and the goddess plans her final reckoning.

Follow Catling’s journey as she grows from childhood into the deadly force that shapes the future. She is the realm’s shield, an influencer, assassin, healer, mother, and avenger. And all she wants is to go home.

Click on Covers for the global links to Amazon