Character Backstory

Hey all! Wow, has it really been a few months since I posted anything? What can I say other than indie life is at times a struggle. I don’t really have any news on upcoming releases or film adaptations coming up, but I thought I’d share a history I’ve been working on here and there for a table top role playing game in which I’m active. Can I just also say here that TTRPG is a life saver for me when my need to be creative is a constant thing. I highly recommend finding a group to any writers out there feeling the lag. Anyway, so this post is just for fun and very unofficial. There are probably plenty of mistakes and whatnot, so forgive any errors. Lastly, please enjoy.

I have no memories of being a child. I just woke up one day in a city wearing the most basic of clothing. I had nothing save for a small black jar, the top of which was shaped like the head of a jackal. I couldn’t open it no matter what I tried.

For days I wandered with some inherent sense of how cities were, unsure how I knew or what that one was called. I watched the people passing by from the shadows, listening to snippets of their conversations with a feeling that it was all familiar. I noticed, too, other children watching me from a distance, their dirty faces turned toward me before I met their curious attention, then they’d run away. I knew them, too. Knew them as homeless, orphans or runaways, products of life on the street, even if I didn’t really know those streets.

Something else I figured out in those first days, I could see ghosts. At first, I didn’t know that’s what they were. After weeks of seeing wagons pass through them in the street or listening to them wail at night, I put the pieces together. Nobody else ever seemed to notice them. So I just pretended I didn’t either.

I quickly learned by watching the other kids that there was a kitchen deep in a back alley that fed the destitute at least once a day. I took meals there, always distancing myself from anyone who might try to talk to me. Eventually, though, one of the women who ran the kitchen took notice of me. She waited until I was quietly eating to sit across from me at a table that was otherwise empty.

She must have seen the fear in my wide eyes because she immediately made a soothing sound and assured me that she wouldn’t be tryin’ to hurt me any time soon. Running meant I would miss out on the rest of my meal, so I sat there staring, terrified. She was an old woman, grey hair pulled up in a neat bun, deep lines etched into her face, soft blue eyes studying me.

“What’s your name, boy?” she had asked. She didn’t say boy in the derisive way the men in the traveling carts did.

“Don’t have no name, misses,” I told her. It was the first time I’d said anything in probably a week. I wasn’t even sure how I knew the language.

I remember her looking so surprised and trying to cover it, trying not to frighten me any more. She gave me a smile that soothed the fear. Even so, I didn’t trust her. I didn’t trust anyone.

“You ought to have a proper name,” she said. 

When I didn’t answer, she gave me a slow once-over, absently pressing her finger to her lips. I didn’t know then that my shock of red hair wasn’t common in the area or that my long and tapered ears marked me as strange, a most rare orphan. I didn’t know of the elves until years later, when I encountered them and their scorn for myself. I definitely didn’t know why I looked like one.

“How about Kiven?” said the old woman.

I shrugged at her. It was as good a name as any, I guessed. She smiled again and said, “It suits you.”

I didn’t learn until later that to the Kelmeti it meant an unlikely blessing. I still look back on that moment with a certainty that the woman recognized something special in me, something unlikely, as the name said. I was old for my age without having any idea what age I was or why I had woken one day into this world.

It wasn’t long after that I started getting…premonitions of sorts. Flashes of visions, rising certainties that if I stood in a certain place at a certain time, someone would drop their change purse without noticing or a bundle of clothes would fall off a wagon and go unnoticed. It wasn’t until one of those led me to save a young child, a fellow street urchin, from getting trampled by a horse that some of the children started following me. They gravitated to me like I was some kind of beacon. I didn’t know why but it felt right in a way. So I protected them as best I could. I took them to the kitchen to eat, made sure they had clothes and shoes, took the sick to the churches for care. There were always two or three trailing me, sometimes more.

Of course, my relative fortune gained some attention that I didn’t want. Older homeless, hardened on the street life, headed into doomed futures as thugs and already organizing gangs. They started following me, threatening me. After more than a few times getting jumped, I started trying to fight back.

I began to feel a certain presence during those fights, flashes of genius that let me block kicks and dodge punches. It was like there was someone else sharing my body and that someone actually knew something about fighting. It wasn’t the same as the premonitions. Like I said, it was a presence that pressed close when the bigger boys cut me off in an alley or came at me with makeshift clubs.

Then, roughly two years after I woke in that city, the biggest and meanest of the gang leaders cornered me. He had a few other guys, all at least a couple years older, to make sure I couldn’t run if I did manage to get past him. After the first few hits, my head spinning and my blood running onto the cobblestones, I felt the pressure. It was a push on my very soul. That time there was also a voice saying I should have learned more by now. That time, when the presence rose again, it consumed me. I became someone else.

He took complete control of my limbs, forcing me to stand. I fought like a demon, unlike anything I had ever known. I knew moves I didn’t understand. I anticipated each attack, countered them, turned them against my attacker. I destroyed that gang head, only barely stopped myself from killing him under the guidance of a militaristic spirit who wouldn’t leave me.

Kiloran. I would learn his name some time after that fight. And from then on I could hear him and feel when he got close. He wasn’t like the other spirits. Most ghosts stayed mostly where they were, and they didn’t take much notice of the living. Not Kiloran. He was wherever I was. When I asked him where he came from he said he had always been there.

I remember heaving for breath against the alley wall, looking up at the others with bloody knuckles. I saw fear in their awe. It was the first time I felt real power and it had damn near caused me to become a murderer. Those other goons ran from me. As the presence of the spirit faded, I realized the kids I had been protecting were cowering. When at first they had been worried for me, now they were just as scared as the guys who had tried to jump me. I was sixteen years old best as anyone could figure.

After that I decided to leave town.

***

I went west. I left the city on foot with little else than a few sets of clothes and some coins I had managed to stash, and the jar, of course. It never had opened for me but something had compelled me to keep it close. I hardly even thought of it anymore at that point other than making sure it was secured in my pocket or bag.

I traveled with only a vague knowledge of the world outside Kelmet. I knew there were other cities out there. I had heard about them from travelers and locals. I didn’t know much about them, though, so I set out to learn more.

I kept off the paths as much as possible, traveling just close enough to keep them in my sight but far enough away to avoid other travelers. I made small camps at night in the cover of underbrush or copses. Occasionally I passed through villages, picking up odd jobs when I could to make enough coin to eat. Mostly manual labor jobs that were physically trying but could be done without small talk or prying questions from strangers.

The premonitions didn’t stop. If anything they got stronger, like strange whispers tugging on the lines of my fate, pulling me away from misfortune. Kiloran, too, was ever-present. Sometimes he rambled about military formations and sword forms I knew nothing about. Sometimes he pressed me adamantly to begin some actual training. Other times he told me stories of his war endeavors like an old soldier constantly living in the past. Though I spent the majority of my time alone, it never quite felt like it.

While living in the city I had learned that the church and the military were pretty much everything there. I did not, however, know that a war had been brewing with the city to the west. I didn’t learn that until I came upon the remnants of some Kelmeti brigade in the woods. There were five of them. One was already dead, two were wounded, and the other two were terrified. They must have fled a bigger battle.

That was the first time in my life I got the feeling that a higher power had some sway in my short years, seeing the spirits aside. Looking down at that dead soldier, not much older than I was, I knew that the dead should be honored. I watched his ghost wailing over his body and I knew I had to help him. It was like some muscle memory took over and compelled me forward.

The soldiers spooked and I found some deep well of courage, enough to sooth them with just a few words. One of them had a deep sword wound to the gut. I knew, somehow, that it would kill him pretty quickly. That was when I learned I could do magic.

I laid hands on him and a strange feeling rolled through me. I didn’t know it at the time but it was divine magic, the ability to heal. I realized I was whispering words I had never heard before. I had no idea where they came from, but they passed through my lips and I watched the hole in that soldier close itself, leaving nothing but a scar.

The others were staring at me in awe.

“Please, sir, me next,” said the other injured soldier. No one had ever called me sir before. I nodded.

I laid hands on him and the same thing happened. The slash in his thigh closed, leaving torn pants and a lot of blood but no wound. They asked me what god I served but I had no answer. I had never thought twice about any god. They kept asking me questions but all I could hear was the ghost of the newly dead, jabbering and moaning over the realization that he was dead.

I pushed out of the ring of amazed soldiers to the body on the ground. The ghost was unconsolable. I knew with an inherent sense that he would not rest until he was properly honored. I had a moment that felt like a memory that wasn’t mine.

“You must bury him here or take him home. Otherwise he won’t rest.”

The soldiers were staring at me again. I didn’t meet their gazes. I didn’t like all the attention.

Then one of them said, “Pardon me saying so, but you have the strangest eyes I’ve ever seen.”

I had no idea what he was talking about. As far as I knew my eyes were plain brown, not so remarkable. Just eyes.

When I didn’t answer one of the other ones said, “We’ll take him home to the church.”

“Please, how can we repay you? You’ve saved our lives.”

“Keep your word and honor your fallen,” I told them.

Then I walked away. They called after me but I didn’t stop. They asked my name but I didn’t give it. I just walked for a while, wondering what had just happened. How had I actually healed someone, not just one but two? Occasionally I would look down at my hands, expecting to see something spectacular. But there were still just my hands, calloused and pale like the rest of me.

Eventually I came to a small creek that wasn’t moving particularly quickly. When I leaned over it to get a drink, I caught my reflection staring back and froze. The soldier was right. My eyes weren’t the same flat brown they used to be. They were a deep amber color and my pupils had changed, too. They looked like they belonged to an animal, one I’m sure I had heard of but couldn’t place. I don’t even know when it happened.

I tried asking Kiloran but all he said was those are the eyes I had always had. Sometimes he was helpful, sometimes it was quite the opposite. More often than not he just tried to convince me to fight.

I stayed on the move for a while. When I came to villages I started to offer my hand at healing their sick and injured. I visited their graveyards and there I found a peace I hadn’t known before. There was something right in my soul about the honored dead. The best thing about those graveyards, there were no ghosts. The spirits seemed to avoid those places. Maybe it was that they couldn’t enter. I wasn’t sure, I just knew it was peaceful.

It didn’t take long for me to gain a reputation. Villagers started greeting me with gifts, food, coins, anything they had to spare to save their husbands, wives, children. The soldiers greeted me with respectful titles. It was unlike anything I had ever known. I hated the spotlight but it afforded me to live better than I ever had before.

I still kept to myself as much as possible. I also managed to avoid some recruitment efforts by several churches. Whatever divine power that blessed me had yet to reveal itself and I had no interest in willingly subjecting myself to any other gods. Along the way, I started picking up other spells. A few I learned from other mages. Some of them just came to me like the healing had.

That’s how it was for months. It was the closest to at home I’d ever felt, though I didn’t really have an actual home. Then I encountered my very first undead.

*** I became something of a local hero, the traveling cleric, though when I figured out what a cleric was I assured everyone who called me that it wasn’t true. I still didn’t invoke the name of any god, nor would I. Villagers started offering me more, trying to get me to stay in one place, preferably in their villages. I did start accepting lodging as payment. That was the first time I slept in a real bed. I was always gone in the mornings, on to somewhere else.

Occasionally the clergy from the churches would also make a bid for my presence. I would visit long enough to tend to their sick wards, but I always left. A couple times I had men from the villages offer me their daughters’ hands. I declined that, too.

In those days, I decided to pick up a basic short sword and indulge Kiloran in his insistence that I actually learn how to fight. Most of the time I was met by others with peace, but there had been a few rare times when I had to run to avoid violent and malicious men. If I had to run I also had to listen to admonishment for days after. So I started spending a little time on my own in the woods, heeding Kiloran’s guidance on my stance and my poster, on the difference in swinging from the shoulder versus having control in the wrist.

I was thin and fairly toned from walking everywhere and eating lean. Under Kiloran’s supervision, I started to gain a little bulk and muscle definition. Appearances meant little to me but I did enjoy feeling not so defenseless.

Then one evening I came upon a small settlement that was in quite a disarray. Women were screaming. Men were shouting. People were running. The first man who noticed me also recognized me. He was an older gentlemen who owned the biggest farm in the area.

“What’s happening?” I asked him, studying the panic around me that didn’t quite set in for me.

“Some sort of demon monster causing havoc in the fields. It’s going to kill my sheep!” was his answer.

I didn’t have any experience with demon monsters but my conscience wouldn’t let me stand by without at least trying to help. So I walked toward the thing that had everyone else running away. As I got closer I started to feel sick to my stomach.

By the time the thing came into view I was sure I was about to vomit everywhere. I felt actual fear for the first time in a long time, but I also felt a pervading wrongness about it. It was shaped like a man but parts of its flesh were rotten, part of it gone completely. It moved in a stilted, lurching way and it smelled terrible.

It noticed me right away. It made a wordless roar and jerked toward me. I did something then that I rarely ever did. I panicked. I struggled with the sword on my belt as the monster came at me, the whole time Kiloran urging me to draw even though I couldn’t seem to free my blade.

I stumbled backward and landed on my ass. The thing dove for me. I cast my most familiar spell by reflex, throwing my hand forward and uttering the words to heal.

The magic that came out of me was not healing. It was something else, something with the same sort of energy but was new to me. The spell hit the shambler and it crumpled to the ground with a moan. Another burst of the same magic put it down.

I sat there staring at it for a while as the sick feeling eased away, my shoulders heaving and my head spinning. That was when I realized there was a presence close the same way Kiloran was always close. This one was different. Then I heard her.

“You don’t even recognize the undead, you stupid boy?”

That was the first thing Mien ever said to me. I didn’t know then but that was the beginning of long days spent with the spirit of an old mage telling me all the ways I was a failure and a disappointment. The only good thing that came with Mien was when her presence won dominance over Kiloran, my magic came stronger and more naturally. In every other way, she was a nightmare.

The villagers fed me a veritable feast that night. They were so grateful that I had saved them from the demon monster. I didn’t bother to correct them on what it actually was. I was still trying to fully understand it myself. I didn’t know before that moment that the dead could be raised. Everything about it was wrong to me. The dead should be left alone, honored, peaceful.

That night, under the roof of that old farmer, I dreamed. I faced down droves of undead in all manner of deterioration and disfigurement. I cut them down with a weapon I couldn’t see in one hand and spells firing from my other. The whole time I was surrounded by an aura of white light. I heard a voice saying, “Seek me to find yourself,” in a language I had never heard but fully understood.

When I woke the next morning, the black jackal-headed jar was in my hand. I knew for sure that it had been in my bag when I went to sleep. I stared at it as early light danced through a nearby window and made the shadows long around me. The dream didn’t fade. I remembered everything.

I knew it was time to leave the little life I had made behind. When I said my farewells that day I told them that they may not ever see me again. There was something I had to find, though when they pressed I couldn’t tell them exactly what that was. Part of it was to seek knowledge on the undead and how it could be stopped. I knew deep in my soul that I couldn’t abide that sort of treachery though I didn’t yet know what I could do about it. That wasn’t all I was looking for, though.

“Seek me to find yourself.”

Hadn’t I wondered countless times who I was? How I had come to be in Kelmet? Did I have a life I couldn’t remember? Parents? Siblings maybe? Why did my life just start one day and why was there no one else like me? I wanted the answers more than anything.

I went south on a whim, toward a great river I had heard about that would eventually lead me to the coast.

***

Hey World, How’s It Going

Ah, the life of an indie. I know. I’ve been slacking on the blog posts. There is some good news on the other side of that coin. I HAVE been writing, currently on the sequel for my next planned release. You may ask, “What? Next release ISN’T the second book in the Order of Crows series?” Well, no, but that is also in the plans. Rest easy. That sequel is already written. I have been alternating between some much-needed revisions there and the above-mentioned sequel. I don’t have definitive dates for those releases, however I am under contract for both covers, so stay tuned for more details as I figured them out.

So what IS the next release if it’s not in the Crows ‘verse? While I would absolutely love to spill all the beans, I can’t give away too much just yet. I can say the story is a hard lean into true Urban Fantasy, it definitely involves the Fae with what I believe is a unique twist, and there’s a giant nod to my love for all things punk. I absolutely adore these characters, which is why I’m choosing to release them to the wild next.

What about the Crows? “The Murder Meets at Dusk” is slowly gaining momentum and the feedback I’ve gotten so far has been good. Ebook copies have found their way to Australia, Canada, and Europe, which is insanely exciting. Physical copies have landed in my hometown, Huntington, WV at the regional artisan center The Red Caboose at Heritage Station. I’m so honored to be a part of that collective that supports so many fantastic Appalachian artists. I may not live there anymore, but the heart never truly leaves. A huge thanks to everyone who helped make that possible, and to everyone who has purchased a copy in any format, left ratings, and shared the news. What a great community I have.

Does anyone remember the Caddy crew? My Cadillac Payback duology is still out there, available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. I’ve admittedly had a hard time pegging a genre on that story. It doesn’t really fit snugly into one. Let’s just call it a unique revenge tale with a noir vibe and a bitch of a female lead. Anyway, physical copies have found a (hopefully temporary) home with the fine ladies behind the BooktendersWV, a bookstore/bar slated to open some time in May in Barboursville, WV. I’m excited and hopeful for this new relationship. Their vision is a beautiful one.

That about does it for me! Thanks again for the reads, the ratings, all the love. Cheers!

A Moment of Appreciation

It has been a little over a week since I released The Murder Meets at Dusk into the wild. Whether it’s because the book has been around so long for me, or because of the fullness of life outside of writing and promoting, it feels like longer. The response I’ve gotten has been so awesome. That’s why I want to leave this little note here. I truly appreciate every purchase, each share, comment, and bit of energy you all have given to my release. We creative types need our community and mine has not disappointed. This first week and few days give me hope for the future of this series. Thank you, friends, readers, promoters.

The Murder Meets at Dusk Release Day!

Aleister abruptly stops walking and spits out a string of curses under his breath. Anxiety creates static across their connection. He pulls his left sleeve up to reveal a tightly wrapped bandage.

“Get this off of me! It burns!” he snaps.

She swiftly draws a knife from her boot and inserts the blade between the bandage and his skin. In one swift movement, she slices the bandage open and it falls away. Beneath, Aleister’s skin is red and irritated. Nichi gasps at the sight of the fresh, barely healed slice from his elbow to his wrist. That long red cut sears into her brain and she’s taken back to the circle when she felt this injury. Her eyes find his with wide, honey-colored disbelief and a demand for explanation.

“Something was on that wall in the cave,” he says, avoiding the probing attention by looking back to his arm.

With a quickness and efficiency of a seasoned healer, Nichi grabs the sleeve of his sweater and rips it away from its seam at the shoulder. She lets it fall to the plank in a slimy mess. Aleister stares at her, something like awe and surprise warring for dominance of his expression.

“Uh, thanks,” he mutters.

“Attached to the other sleeve?” she asks, eyes unable to leave the irritated wound.

“Not anymore,” he admits.

The word has barely left his mouth when she removes the clean sleeve with a movement much the same as the first. She’s met by a large and glaring half-sleeve of ink that occupies the skin of Aleister’s arm from shoulder to elbow. A crow is perched upon his bicep, its feet drawn so that they look like they’re latched into his muscle, and one mean eye is tilted toward the viewer.

“Oh!” she cries, startled at the sudden darkness of it against his pale skin.

“Oh,” she says again, much softer, when she really takes in the tattoo. She didn’t even know he had a tattoo.

The crow is done in black and grey with long wings that wrap his arm and end near the back of his elbow. The thing stands surrounded by fall-colored leaves that seem to blow around in a grey-washed wind, and a full moon rounds his slender shoulder. The visible eye, large and piercing, is done in grey and the same yellow of the moon. Then she clears her throat and sets to work, doing her best to ignore the intriguing, beautiful, and terrifying art.

She uses the sleeve to wipe his arm as clean as possible. The cotton is freezing, but it has collected enough moisture to remove most of the slime away from his skin. She flips it over and wraps it quickly and just a little tight around the length of his forearm, then neatly ties a quick knot at his wrist.

She turns to continue their journey and says, “Come, we cannot stay here.”

As she does, she avoids his eyes.

Aleister follows in silence for a while. Nichi can feel his attention on her but she doesn’t address or return it. Eventually, he says, “Thanks.”

“You are welcome,” she answers softly without turning toward him.

“Are you that straightforward about everything?” he asks.

Her eyebrows arch. She has been around him enough to know he’s not shy about speaking his mind, but the question still surprises her. She says, “Yes. How does your arm feel?”

“Much better. It’s kind of a weird feeling to wear a sweater with no sleeves, but you probably just saved me the trouble of needing to be healed again,” he says.

“If that has been healed already it was a shoddy job,” she says, her chin lifting. She hears him snort then laugh softly. She adds, “What happened?”

“That…is a story better left to some other time,” he says. It’s obvious he doesn’t want to talk about his experience, so she leaves it alone. He’s probably right, anyway. They really need to get off this bridge.

As she leads the way, she keeps a hand on her katana. Feeling is returning slowly as she moves her fingers one at a time. Aleister’s energy burns like a star behind her, and presently the pitch changes again to something more agitated.

“Are you okay?” she asks.

He sighs then says, “This place is a drag. My arm hurts. My throat hurts. And I’m starting to feel the effects of blood loss. I’ll be fine, though. How about you? That stunning spell was no joke. I don’t think I know anyone who would still be walking after that.”

The heat returns to her cheeks and she’s thankful her back is to him. Maybe this sort of concern is normal for him on a more personal level than he ever gives the Murder when they meet. She suddenly feels bad for bringing him here after the night he has already had.

“Half of me feels like a waking limb. It sucks,” she says. “The good news is we’re here.”

The Murder Meets at Dusk Playlist

Her gaze rolls over him as it would the map to the Fountain of Youth. He can feel her magic stir with the presence of death. Brown fingers twitch against white gauze and the door. All the lines soften around her. Aleister experiences a nauseating desire to bleed again. She makes it feel okay. His arm aches. His clothes are heavy.

Marisa slowly steps back and the gravity in her eyes pulls him forward. They are all intense connection and strange silence. Everything seems off about him. He is dirty and smudged, torn, injured. Her spirit calls out to him, urging him toward soft death. Hunger wraps around him like shadowy fingers from within her.

He finds himself stepping toward her, ushered across her threshold by a force both menacing and inviting. Their surroundings are a blur, her personal life smudged away by malevolent undertones radiating from her depths. A warmth envelops his tingling limbs, warmth with a certainty that she will help him leave everything forever. She will make pain and weakness pass from him. She will take away the dawn’s dominion over him and she will take him away from hell.

“Aleister,” she whispers in her way, rolling the last syllable into a subtle ebb and flow of tension. It is her nature to urge the souls she faces down her unearthly path, reserved for those who take their deaths and escape servitude. “What has happened to you?”

She stops, so he stops. He warily watches her, intrigued. She seems to be standing on needles as her body leans forward slightly. Her fingers reach toward him and then stall halfway, hanging in the humming air. Aleister notices her blood has soaked through the dressing on her hand. He steps away from her reach, though his body screams to yield to her touch. And he would reopen his veins and die.

“Would you grant me my own death, Marisa? Do you have a place to keep fellow crows?” he asks pointedly, muscles awakening with adrenaline. His instinct is to fight, though she’s supposed to be his ally. He has made a mistake, misjudged this force. He must still stink of death to her. She’s weak and he has tempted her.

An angry light splits the jungle sky in two. Violent winds pelt water droplets from a recent rain in all directions so that, suddenly, it stings against the delicate skin of his eyelids. He has been thoroughly entranced in her gravitational summons. There are no stars. There is no sky, only the drab haze of mist on a hot, humid night. He’s compelled to squint through the assault to meet her eyes.

  She takes another step toward him, unaffected by the fury, and earnestly asks, “Do you want to die?”

Nighttime dances around her like dark smoke. Her feet are bare and brown against the lush green. He feels a rising certainty that the goddess in her would not be able to resist his suicide, if he would just consent.

“I came to bring you this,” he says.

He reaches the large wrapped-up leaf holding Izavel’s blood powder into the gap, doing his best to shut down his sensory responses to her power. He can almost ignore the sound of slow slithering.

Simultaneously, he attempts to grind his emotional response system to a halt. Emotion is a hole in his defense big enough for her finger, enough to shatter him with a touch. His goal is utter indifference toward her and the fact that, at the moment, she would like him dead. He achieves, rather, a gut-wrenching impulse to give in, to see if he can look death in the face and defeat it.

His fingers release the leaf and he jerks his hand away just as she reaches for him. The packet falls to the floor between them, unharmed. If she touches him, she’ll win. A familiar sluggishness is creeping over him. The sun is beginning to rise. He has to go, or dawn will drag him to sleep on her porch.

“It’s best brewed as a tea,” he says as he takes slow steps backward out of her door. She watches him leave her, hand outstretched in a failed attempt to let him die without a god.

Music has always been an integral part of my writing. It helps set the mood and represent the tone of a scene. Sometimes a song will fit a character perfectly. In this case, I did my best to reconstruct what I was listening to twelve years ago. These aren’t all the songs and albums that contributed to The Murder Meets at Dusk, but it’s a decent representation of where my head was. I will say Muse was the prominent band that played while I was writing. Like…several albums straight through on repeat. So a special shout out to Showbiz and Origin of Symmetry specifically and the band in general for, in fact, speaking to my muse. Hope you enjoy!

View playlist here:

https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSgJKLWWisA8JjHz48vx3bYSpaQzfku5J

The Murder Meets at Dusk, excerpt

“Aleister,” Montague sighs, his whole form rising and falling, “I cannot say I have brought them all back. Not everybody can withstand the way, especially humans. Seeking knowledge this way could kill you.”

Aleister stares into the giant sunglasses, denies to himself that he is human, and says, “Just keep a firm hold and I’ll be fine.”

Montague’s old black features harden. He can’t refuse a formal request. He is the tree of knowledge.

“I never wanted your blood, kid,” he says as he pulls a large silver basin from a nearby shelf without turning his head.

The thing emits a dull, ambient shine, a reflection that is perhaps from another place. He sets it on a small table at his side, then moves both the table and the basin between them. His movements never falter despite his lack of physical sight.

Aleister dares not exhale his relief, so he stands steadily instead. He removes his coat with forcibly deliberate movements and places it on the back of the chair. His sarcasm rises to mask his nerves and he says, “Are you kidding? I know my blood will keep you for many years to come.”

Montague is in the process of removing a foot-long wooden case from the shelf when he turns a nasty, narrowed look on Aleister. He bitingly asks, “What good is that when I watch the strong souls kill themselves with their own vanity?”

He removes a long gleaming kukri blade from the case with grace that reveals he has used this tool for a time immeasurable. The curved tip could split a hair. Its handle is wrapped in black cord, and the blade literally glows of its own power.

He says, “Pull up a seat.”

Aleister scoots his chair forward and the noise is like an explosion as it bounces around the space. He has rolled up his button-down sleeves above his elbows. The black fabric makes him look like a ghost, even to himself. He extends his left arm in offering, wrist facing upward, hand shaking, and somberly says, “Thank you, old friend.”

Montague grumbles in a language Aleister doesn’t recognize as he reaches into his pants pocket. He extracts a gold pocket watch with a long chain and “3 x 3” engraved into its top. He plops the watch into Aleister’s palm, where it shines like a large chunk of lost treasure in the hand of a child. He says, “You have three minutes, less if you bleed out first. For fuck’s sake, don’t dawdle.”

Aleister flips open the huge thing. The clock face bears only the numbers one through nine and they are spread evenly around it. There are middle and quarter markings between the minutes. Its big hand keeps the minutes instead of hours, the small hand counts away the seconds. The watch is almost to the seventh minute of its cycle.

Aleister pockets the clock, though he wants to study it more, and Montague wraps the long fingers of his right hand around Aleister’s thin wrist. He positions their arms above the basin and squeezes. He says, “Get ready, kid.”

He raises the knife in his left hand and plunges it into the white flesh of Aleister’s forearm.

For this excerpt I chose a continuation of the first one I posted. This is a glimpse of how Aleister’s journey begins, dramatically and mysteriously. It’s also the beginning of the first time the reader gets to see him travel the planes.

Allow me to give a little history on this story. I started writing it somewhere back in 2009. In roughly ten months I finished my first draft. After a brief and mostly failed publication, the story stalled and I lost a lot of heart. It took me…six years, maybe, to finish the second book, and another five or so to finish the third. I kept writing it, though, through life’s ups and downs. To say I’m ecstatic to finally share it with the world is an understatement.

Aleister Corigan is hands down my favorite character I’ve written. He has been a part of my life for so long that he feels like much more than just a character. Sure, there have been times when his reluctance to accept the role that has unfolded has been palpable. That’s understandable, considering I’ve never taken it easy on him. Quite the opposite.

What else is there to say about this story? Well, it’s huge. For my first venture beyond fan fiction one-shots and ridiculous high school vampire tales, I didn’t just bite off more than I could chew. I took the whole cake and ran. There are nine members of the Order of Crows, not to mention all the peripheral characters and the villains in the shadows. It was overwhelming at times to try to develop everyone. Hell, when I started the first installment, I actually believed I was going to fit everything into one book. That didn’t work at all. It took me three books to tell the story arc I started in Dusk, which then produced a fourth (WIP) book that I wasn’t even expecting. I’m so glad it did. As I said, the Crows have been with me for so long that now I can hardly imagine a world in which I’m not writing them. Here’s hoping that you love them as much as I do, and that they’ll never stop talking.

As always, many thanks to those who have been there along the ride, reading unedited files on a computer screen, supporting me, and pushing me to keep writing. Cheers to those who have believed in the Crows’ story. Here’s hoping the polished, published version lives up to those expectations.

The Murder Meets at Dusk Cover Reveal!

Synopsis:

The Order of Crows has existed for generations to protect the magical and divine community of New Verona. The current Order is mostly young and untested, having lost their parents in a tragic and mysterious event. Not surprisingly, they don’t get along very well.

Aleister Corigan is at the heart of the discord. The Murder’s planar-walker black mage, he has made it a point to alienate himself from the others. He is rude and stand-offish at best when they meet. That is until an obviously powerful enemy makes an attack on the city’s protective shield. As the enemy remains in the shadows, Aleister’s domain, the Corigan is forced to put aside his natural distrust of others and step into the spotlight. Just as he has to learn to put some trust in them, they must do the same for him.

As the Murder finds some footing in their cooperation, they also begin to uncover an ominous bigger picture. It’s not just one enemy at their doorstep but seemingly an army. They are the ones who have to make the choice, do they willingly put their city in the middle of a war, or do they try to avoid the enemies who won’t back down so easily? Can they trust Aleister in his element or will they crumble from within before they ever get a chance to defend the city and the plane as a whole?

Excerpt:

Before him is a man who appears to be two-hundred years old, with black, leathery skin and ash-colored dreadlocks that reach almost to his waist. He wears a white linen shirt over tan linen pants and giant black sunglasses. He smells like garlic. He pauses for a heavy moment, then smiles so large he could swallow the city.

He says, “You’ve been busy, kid,” in a thick Caribbean accent.

He has grown fatter since the last time Aleister saw him and he leans on a cane these days, which hinders the don’t-give-a-damn stature that always captivated Aleister’s attention. The man isn’t much taller than he, but he feels the presence of countless secrets and feels small in their shadow. Aleister knows that despite the appearance of this being, immeasurable power lies beneath it.

So Aleister says, “Of course I have. You know, idle hands and all that.”

The old man chuckles like rolling thunder and says, “Why else would it take a massive attack to bring you back to my door?” He gestures in the air with his free hand. His giant smile is firmly in place when he continues. “I know, I know, you have business all over. You Corigans are all the same. Fucking with the vampires, the skates, the shadows, but you always come back.”

Aleister’s proper posture eases the tiniest bit and his shoulders relax. Already he has been granted access to the truths the old man can see. The attack was a huge deal and, regardless of the magnitude of this information, the pale one can’t help but grin. His host’s energy is contagious, and those who cheat death have one thing in common: they’re always bat-shit crazy from the wisdom they achieve.

“It seems you are also as lively as ever,” Aleister says, feeling the gravitational pull of the force in front of him, a being who surely knows more details about what has happened than any of the parties involved. He probably knew Aleister would come, for he sees many things.

The old man shrugs his whole form and gestures the other closer. Aleister breaks to the inevitable and allows himself to be drawn near as the other pulls up his giant shades to reveal pearly white-covered eyes. A heavy arm falls around Aleister’s shoulders, and the old one says, “Pshhhh, no one has come to see me in some time, but I’ll still be here to see your son’s son. Now let me have a look at you.”

He falls to introspective silence.

Aleister bites down on the surprise that rises at the sight and the news. The blindness that covers the other’s eyes is far worse than the last time Aleister saw him. He doesn’t stare into those wide, opalescent orbs, and still he feels himself being measured.

“You’re a bit skinny, don’t you think?” the man says finally, slightly crinkling his wide nose.

Aleister laughs, softly. Again, he can’t help but do it.

“If you say so, Montague,” he answers, shying away from the long, skeletal hand that pokes unerringly at his ribs.

“You’ve always been skinny,” the seer says. “You boys couldn’t gain weight if you ate a fifty-pound block of dry cheese. Let’s go.”

Then he heaves himself along with aid of a fat cane made of blackened, polished wood, into which are carved long, exaggerated characters engaged in all types of sexual encounters. Aleister watches the thing and lets the crude statement further amuse him as he follows. He’s also aware of the underlying tension in the other, a sense he attributes to his highly agitated energy. He does not, however, permit his memories to play along the vaulted ceilings that open above them, or the elaborate stone moldings that tell of a much older time. They both know there is a darker reason for this visit.

“Listen, Gue,” he says to the old man’s back, and he feels like the kid who first walked in this room. “I’ve got a real bad feeling about this one, bigger than anything before. I need your help.”

Montague hesitates at the use of his old nickname, one Aleister used to use when he was just a small child, one Aleister’s father had also used. Aleister wonders if the same memories of his youth are what gives Montague pause, or if it’s something else. He thinks the old one is about to speak, but he just presses onward with the rhythmic, dull thuds of his cane on tile flooring.

They enter a room where the ceiling again opens to something larger, and the air is slightly better. Montague navigates onto a large, tiled dais to his right. He hefts his old bones onto a huge ornate chair whose arms and legs are made of carved cherry that’s surrounded by a dusty, carved sculpture of a tree made of the same red wood.

Aleister takes a smaller but no less antique chair from its waiting place on the opposite wall and places himself a few feet in front of the old man upon the dais. He sits, then waits respectfully.

“What is it that you seek, child?” Montague asks. The joviality is gone from his tone and his smile has straightened itself into neutrality.

Aleister knows the only other eyes in the room are physically glazed over by time, but he feels great attention on him. Not a facial expression nor hitch in breath would be lost on this ancient being before him. He proudly pushes shoulders back and his chin upward.

He says, “I seek the city’s greatest enemy.”

“Are you sure you do not seek your own greatest enemy?” Montague asks. His head cocks to the side just a bit, but his expression doesn’t change.

“They are the same,” Aleister answers.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

Aleister steadfastly refuses doubt, but he finds he’s gripping his thighs to keep his hands steady. The air is suddenly stifling. The old façade crumbles into an open expression of disdain, and Montague’s hand grips his cane tightly. He looks as though spider webs should veil him and dust should cover him from view, like he’s been there for centuries.

The blind man says, “I have seen that look of determination so many times, and I have seen many enemies as well. If this happens, your blood must spill. There are paths to what you seek other than mine, especially for you.”

The Murder Meets at Dusk available 02/16/22!

HUGE thanks to The Illustrated Author for this amazing cover design!

https://www.theillustratedauthor.com

Title and Synopsis Reveal!

Hey everyone! I’m super excited to start sharing goodies about my upcoming release. So excited that I’ve decided to drop the title and synopsis here, now. I don’t actually have a definitive release date, but I can say SOON. Very soon. There are just a few more details that need to fall into place, so I feel confident in putting this out there.

Let me start by saying this book is a long time coming. About twelve years. After a brief, failed publication when it was still a young story, these words have been quietly waiting for me to release them to the wild once again. Since then, I’ve been steadily working on sequels, among other series. This is a modern fantasy story that borrows elements from myths and magic of all kinds.

So without any more delay, I give you book one in the Order of Crows series, The Murder Meets at Dusk.

Synopsis:

The Order of Crows has existed for generations to protect the magical and divine community of New Verona. The current Order is mostly young and untested, having lost their parents in a tragic and mysterious event. Not surprisingly, they don’t get along very well.

Aleister Corigan is at the heart of the discord. The Murder’s planar-walker black mage, he has made it a point to alienate himself from the others. He is rude and stand-offish at best when they meet. That is until an obviously powerful enemy makes an attack on the city’s protective shield. As the enemy remains in the shadows, Aleister’s domain, the Corigan is forced to put aside his natural distrust of others and step into the spotlight. Just as he has to learn to put some trust in them, they must do the same for him.

As the Murder finds some footing in their cooperation, they also begin to uncover an ominous bigger picture. It’s not just one enemy at their doorstep but seemingly an army. They are the ones who have to make the choice, do they willingly put their city in the middle of a war, or do they try to avoid the enemies who won’t back down so easily? Can they trust Aleister in his element or will they crumble from within before they ever get a chance to defend the city and the plane as a whole?

Stay tuned for more details on cover reveal, release date, and availability!

Home for Wayward Writers: Ascension

It’s late. It has been a long day. I’m not exactly feeling inspired. I find myself sitting in an overstuffed chair, staring at a fireplace that never seems to run out of fuel. 

I can smell the books that line the shelves around me. There are infinite worlds here and they are constantly changing. The writing tables are empty now, but they’re not neglected. Admittedly, it has been a while since I visited this creation of mine.

I’m not sure how long I’ve been here when I notice the mist creeping along the floor. I make a small smile. I guess it’s not surprising that he would notice me first.

“All this time, I imagined my muse to be…something else, but you’ve been around longer than most. It might as well be you, wizard,” I say quietly.

I feel him pause somewhere behind me to my left. The air shifts and a slight chill surrounds me despite the fire. There’s suddenly a glass of white wine in my hand. My fingers are cold.

“I know, I left you again,” I add without looking for him.

“You used to fear me,” he says, his deep voice like a haunting lullaby.

“That’s true,” I say then take a sip. The wine is crisp, just a little dry, exactly the kind of white I like.

“You don’t anymore,” he says.

He’s still playing in the shadows. Maybe he thinks I’ll search for him. I won’t. I don’t need to. I say, “Not at all.”

The tiniest laugh comes from him. The sound sends the usual chills through me. He’s confident if a little forlorn. He steps into the edge of my field of vision. There was a time when that would have seemed menacing. Now it just seems coy in an entirely different way from the Genie.

“It may be true that you haven’t been here in a long time, but I’ve been everywhere that you’ve been,” he says.

That’s enough to garner a turn of my head. I realize he’s not wearing his robes and I can’t quite stop the little gasp that results. His black curls shiver against bare shoulders, and his olive skin is cast in flame-and-shadow variance. There are silver runes glowing along his arms, across his chest, and along his stomach until they disappear beneath a pair of black pants. It’s so fitting I’m not even surprised.

“So no brooding this time?” I ask with a smirk.

“Not exactly,” he answers. His eyes finally slide sideways to land on me. He doesn’t match the sentiment.

“Did you come to offer me the moon yet again?”

I don’t know why I’m teasing him. He just looks so serious. He usually does. It shouldn’t be so jarring.

“You keep taking it,” he says with a shrug I know is exaggerated.

“That’s true,” I say again.

I draw my legs up into the chair. I’m barefoot. Of course. I haven’t had much to drink but my head already feels a little fuzzy. My gaze trails from him to the fire.

“The same words on the tower walls run along these shelves,” I say.

Is that me sounding so far away? It’s a thought that bypasses all filters and comes straight across my lips. They have the feel of an epiphany.

The Muse chuckles and says, “That’s true.”

There’s the sly boy I’m used to. Of course I recognize his echo of my own words. The motion of him stretching out his hand inevitably steals my attention from the dancing flames. He looks from me to the fire as silver script extends along the floor from him toward the fireplace, then it scrawls up the mantel. The symbols on his skin glow brighter. 

He’s beautiful and mysterious, his midnight curls framing his slender face and the intensity in his silver-green eyes. The light of a full moon shines from him and, suddenly, I can hear whispers as though the books themselves are speaking.

“You wrote a novel since I saw you last,” he says. His eyes slip back to me.

“Another beginning,” I answer with a half-shrug then take a sip of wine.

“A lesson in discipline,” he says and his lips twerk at the corners.

I cock my head to the side and angle toward him so there’s no mistaking that I’m looking at him. I deposit my wine glass onto a table I just decided should be beside me. I reach my chilled, damp fingers toward the floor.

The curl in his lips falls. Now his attention is calculating. Could it be I’ve surprised him?

A thread of script veers away from that which is moving toward the mantel. The tight cursive snakes across the floor in my direction. The words are moving too fast for me to read. They weave through my fingers then twine up my arm. They make it to my shoulder before they start to absorb into my body. It’s my turn to smile.

“Yes it was,” I answer.

One of his eyebrows slowly lifts.

“Allow me to do the honors this time,” I say. “Dear readers, for this prompt I bid you talk to your muse. Literally. Write out dialogue with your muse. Do you want to ask why you have writer’s block? Maybe you want to discuss a certain character who’s misbehaving and doing his/her own thing. Perhaps you just want to chat over a drink at a fictional bar. It’s up to you. Or should I say it’s up to you and your muse. Have fun with it. Happy writing.”

I lift a questioning eyebrow in his direction. How’s that? I don’t need to actually say it.

He lowers his arm and the script flowing toward the fireplace slowly grows faint, then fades. He doesn’t retrieve the cocky smirk either. His eyes glow a pale green. They have me pinned in place. The words flowing from him to me get brighter.

“Not bad,” he says.

Exciting News!

Wow, it has been a while since I posted anything here. What can I say? Life is full and some things fall through the cracks. The good news is that I spent the last five months feverishly devoting any time scrap of free time to writing a new book in a brand new Urban Fantasy series. That book is currently waiting out its mandatory down time and I’ve redirected my attention to another exciting project.

Fantasy in general was really my first love despite the fact that my Cadillac Payback series is decidedly non-magical. Urban Fantasy, though, was where I really found myself at home some twelve…thirteen years ago when I got really serious about my writing. That’s why I’m ecstatic to announce that I’m currently working on releasing the first-ever book that I finished writing and the first in my oldest series. First round revisions are finished on Order of Crows: The Murder Meets at Dusk. I’m working now with the fabulous Genie Rayner at Magic Lamp Editing as I await the cover from extremely the talented Illustrated Author Melissa Stevens.

I don’t have a definitive release date just yet but keep your eyes open early next year for this dark and far-reaching tale of a magical Order who must step up to save their world. As an added bonus for the future, this is a series that already has two sequels and one in progress. These books have a little bit of everything from vampires to gods and the Fey. Stay tuned for news, teasers, and an inside look at the characters from this series.

Happy holidays, folks! Don’t forget, especially this year, to consider your indie authors and local artists when doing your Christmas shopping.