Blurb Drop!

Hello friends! Wow, so it’s already summer and I’ve been much too quiet lately as far as updates go. That does not mean I’ve been idle. I’m currently organizing for my next release, which is extremely exciting for me. I don’t quite have a release date pinned down, but know that I’m very close. It should be within a couple months from now.

This story is very dear to my heart. The characters are deep and intricate, the story itself is dark and twisty, and the Fae (yes, you read right) deliver an appropriate slow-burn dose of head games. This is a story of subtlety and nuance set to the tune of punk rock.

I’m not quite to the title reveal just yet, but I’m so excited I’m going to share the blurb with you today! This is also an official call-to-arms for anyone who is interested in helping me with anything release related, ARCs, sharing, brainstorming, any of that fun stuff. Okay, so on with it, right? Right.

“Being in a band used to be fun. When you can’t die, why not live on liquor and loud music? Lately, it just feels like another job.

Chance is the drummer in a three-piece punk band. His twin brother, Lucky, plays the guitar. It’s their latest in a long line of occupations. The names aren’t their real ones. They lost those over a century ago when they tried to trick a fairy and ended up cursed by a Fae queen. They haven’t seen her since.

Chance has loved and lost over the years. He’s tired of living forever, worn out by an endless existence. He’s not like his brother, the firecracker who can turn the tide to his advantage in any situation. When the twins happen to meet a woman who seems strangely familiar, things start to change. A life that has been curiously void of Otherworldly forces suddenly becomes crowded by them, and the twins find themselves woven into Court drama they don’t understand.”

Coming soon!

Excerpt from “The Night With No Relief”

Hello all. Once again it has been forever since I’ve posted here so I thought I’d share a little bit of a story I’ve been getting ideas for lately. It comes from a novella series I’ve decided to revamp and give another try. I’ve actually started releasing the first novella, “Dirty Synth”, on Kindle Vella but, if I’m honest, it hasn’t gotten that much attention and I’m not entirely sure I like the format.

Anyway, now for a quick overview of the world and general story. The setting is post-apocalyptic fantasy. Eighty years ago, all hell broke loose. Literally. When the rift was torn wide open between Hell and the material plane, a demon horde ravaged the planet. When the rift closed it left the demons trapped above world. The remaining races have since made shaky peace with one another to coexist on what little of the world can support life. Everyone except the demons. Hell blood threatens to destroy the rest of society as the throne fights to save it.

The idea behind making the series novellas is to tell it from different characters’ POVs. The shorter pieces allows for more characters to speak and expand the world and setting. I also thought it would be fun to take votes from readers on who they would like to hear from. Maybe some day if the project ever gets enough attention. If it doesn’t, I’ll still have fun writing it. Just a heads up these novellas are also NSFW though this particular excerpt is.

The second novella is told from Niko’s perspective, who you meet in the first story. Since no one has read it, I’ll give a short intro to the character. He’s an elf and demon half breed, a product of the fall that ravaged the planet, and an exile from the elven nation because of his dirty blood. He used to work for the demon-run mob but currently works for the throne as an informant and, if need be, assassin.

With all that having been said, I make this disclaimer. These words have not been through an editor. They are raw and fresh. I do hope you enjoy my boy as much as I do. Cheers!

From “The Night With No Relief”:

I came to with a jerk and a groan, except my body didn’t move. It did hurt a lot, though. My head was instantly pounding. My mouth was dry, and when I pulled my eyelids back the light shot a lance of pain through my temples. That’s when I realized I wasn’t alone.

Another twitch that would’ve put me on the defensive instead made me realize I was bound. A glance downward told me it was chain. I was in an upright position, sitting, and apparently not going anywhere any time soon. Then I remembered how I got here.

I felt my eyes get wider despite my instinct to play it cool. They also lifted to really take in the figure standing several feet in front of me. My heart took a long fall to the pit of my stomach. This was bad. Maybe even the end for me.

He was more wild than I had ever seen him. His silvery, silky hair that used to brush his ribs was done in a shaggy and jagged cut that fell across his impossibly dark-blue eyes. Those eyes used to remind me of a nighttime sky with no stars. They were hard to forget though now the whites of them were bloodshot.

He was wearing a loose-fitting black jacket that draped around his slender shoulders, the zipper undone so the jacket was dangerously close to sliding off of him. A black chain hung around his neck bearing a large arcane symbol with a red jewel in it. It rested against a white shirt that had fresh red smears on it.

I almost wouldn’t recognize him if it weren’t for the faintly-glowing familial tattoos that rimmed beneath each eye in silver. There were metal plugs in the bottoms of his long tapered ears and multiple hoops through the pointed tips of them. He looked like some kid who just wandered out of the club I guessed was now above us by the faint thumping of the music. His face was the same ageless smooth it always had been but now there was a gleam of madness in his regard. Maybe a lifetime’s worth of infernal influence would do that to any psyche, but he seemed to have taken to it.

He was staring at me in a way that made me wonder if he even remembered me. He was standing utterly still, rolling a joint between his thumb and forefinger like maybe he had forgotten he was holding it. One end was lit. The smoke drifted between us. I knew the smell right away. Elven Redleaf, good shit by the potency of the tang in the air. It wasn’t a drug that could be safely consumed by the general population, anyone who didn’t have elf blood. The problem was I did.

My muscles relaxed in a wave. I couldn’t help it. The smoke filled my nostrils and I couldn’t move to stop it. All I could do now was hope I had enough concentration to keep my head straight and enough constitution to resist the rising tide of pleasure that I knew would be coming any time.

This time when the joint moved against his fingers it was captivating. He lifted the thing to his lips with a patience only old elves could achieve, so unhurried and deliberate it threatened my own madness. The way the smoke rolled into then out of him was a force of nature. The cloud hit me in the face in slow motion.

For the elves across the Southern border, the ones who turned me out as a child, Redleaf was a contemplative trancing substance. For me, it silenced the hell blood that was always at war for my self-control. It drew out a side I hadn’t found anywhere else but him because he was the only elf I had ever known after my exile.

A’Meko, my old boss. More than just a boss. He taught me damn near everything, got me set up in the ranks of the demon overlords I eventually betrayed. He was the biggest enigma I had ever met. He didn’t leave the elves because he had to. He did it because he wanted to and he fell in naturally with the hell bloods. He never would tell me why they accepted him so fully, but he was basically family when it came to the big three who ran the entire underworld.

“Where’s your dog?”

I thought I sounded pretty convincingly unconcerned that I was bound to a chair by enough chain to stop an army, staring down the man I did dirty, and his right-hand man who was never far away didn’t seem to be here. I thought I was doing a great job pretending I wasn’t still panicking even through the ebbing euphoria that threatened the edges of my composure. The lines in my vision were starting to blur.

The question didn’t even come out as bitter as it could have considering he took Go’Ren as his student even before I left. A’Meko’s decision to do so had always rubbed me raw because Go’Ren was arguably more exotic than I was. Shifters were about as common as demon-elf mixes, and he was a fox. I never did like to be outshone.

A’Meko didn’t answer. He just crossed one arm across his chest and cradled the elbow of his smoking hand. The smoke curled around his delicately featured face and, though his expression didn’t change at all, there was a quiet menace in his attention. I damn well knew there was no mercy behind that impassive expression.

It was my own fault I was going to die in that room. I got sloppy, wandered into enemy territory with a confidence that I wouldn’t come face to face with one of the bosses, secure in my old knowledge of how they operated. And I was wrong. So wrong.

I could hear my heart beating in my ears. The Readleaf was in my bloodstream and it seemed to make my pulse hammer in time with the music that now felt like it was pressing against me like a tangible shadow. The room was hot suddenly, impossibly so. Sweat immediately rose to my surface and made my black button-up stifling. Right, how could I forget that A’Meko effortlessly wielded heat and light magic? Maybe because magic was so rare it was easy to forget it even existed. Ironically, he was also one of the few who could use healing magic, but I had only ever seen him to do it to extend the suffering of someone by his hands.

A’Meko took a languid step toward me that had all my other trigger responses failing in the face of the fear that took over. He did it as slowly as he did everything else, unbothered by the rest of the world’s definition of urgency. He simply wouldn’t be rushed. I used to find the trait fascinating and even enviable. It wasn’t a state I could achieve for the impetuous nature of my demon half. Just now, I didn’t find it anything but terrifying.

It felt like a year watching him approach me, like time just distended and broke around him. Even though he had fully embraced Hell his movements were still the pure grace of the elven race. It was a stark contrast to the brute force of demons and it was almost enough to distract me from the way my breaths were speeding up.

The Redleaf had a firm hold by then. I felt like I was floating above the floor. The chains and the pain felt far away. The fear became a distant cloud in my chest. Everything looked fuzzy except for him as he stopped just inches away from me and looked down. It was another eternity before he spoke.

“How many of my ranks have you killed, Niko?”

It took me a moment to realize he was speaking Elvish to me. The cadence and the slow perfectly-pronounced syllables sounded like a song that nearly lulled me into a trance that would usually have been impossible for me to enter. The moment prodded at memories that had been locked down for years, quiet moments spent with A’Meko, smoke listing between us just like now, with him guiding me in meditation the likes of which I had never known.

I shook my head to try to clear it some. It wouldn’t help. The hand holding the joint was too close to my face and I couldn’t help but breathe in more smoke. I would face down any one of the big three no problem but there was something inherently different when it was an elf with endless patience and no qualms with making someone suffer.

Then it occurred to me that he asked me a question. He didn’t really expect me to answer that, did he? Like I had a concrete number anyway.

He lifted the joint to his lips and took a long draw without taking his eyes off of me. If I could move I’d have been squirming under his scrutiny. He blew his smoke at the ceiling this time, not that it mattered, I was already high.

Then he said, “You have managed to do so with a ruthlessness and efficiency that impresses me. You’ve applied everything I taught you with great efficiency. However, in the end, you have become a rat, lesser than all the trash that populates this city, and for a throne that would put you down as quickly as any wounded animal. You have become my greatest disappointment. And you have served yourself to me so readily.”

He reached down with his free hand and tilted my chin up with the gentlest touch. My nerves turned to static at the contact and coherent thought went skittering into chaos. My breath was hanging painfully in my chest. His fingers were so hot they scalded my skin. The steady way he met my gaze told me there would be no taking this gracefully.

“Si’Krey suggested making you the next feature upstairs, and while I quite like that idea, the public shame to go along with the torture, this is a rather more personal matter that I choose to handle myself. The bare truth here is that you betrayed me after I gave you the world.”

The Redleaf had disconnected the speech center of my brain by then, but it also gave me an insight I could’ve done without. By engaging my deep elven center of awareness he had assured that I would see my own pain from new heights. It would be a brand new level of agony.

The realization, the very real fear, all of it must have been plain to read in my eyes because he made a tiny smile, glaring in its modesty, that gave me chills despite the heat that radiated from him. I knew one thing for certain, none of the demons, not even the three bosses could rival A’Meko’s zest for cruelty and knack for exacting it at an excruciating pace. I was about to have a very bad time.

Podcast Alert!

I recently had the opportunity to join my old friend and fellow writer, Terry Bartley, on his podcast, Most Writers Are Fans. We go way back to our college days when we were part of our public radio station. We were two of the original members of a show called Snobrock Live where we would interview local bands live.

I had an absolute blast talking about indie publishing, genres, and our journeys as writers. Huge thanks to him for having me on the show. Give it a listen!

Caddy History

Maybe it’s the way Fall has finally found us here in Florida or just me being sentimental but I’m feeling a little nostalgic. Right in the middle of writing a chapter for a certain sequel I find myself thinking about the Cadillac Payback crew. Though I have no intentions of writing in that world anymore I still think about those characters sometimes. Any of the few souls out there who have read the Caddy books can tell you those characters are nothing short of tragic. Any writer out there who has began a story with a dead brother can also tell you that as you build a character from the hearts and minds of those who knew him, as you get to know him, you grow to love him. So today I’ve decided to share a little glimpse of history I wrote some time around the release of Rising Tide. If you’ve read the story, you’ll recognize this as the moment Frederick joined the crew. This piece has been living in a notebook all this time. I hadn’t even typed it up until today. For some reason it feels right to share it now.

If you decide you like the tone and style of this piece, the Cadillac Payback books are still available on Amazon, for Kindle and KindleUnlimited, and also in paperback.

In what seems like a flash, there’s a chrome piece pointed in my face. It takes every ounce of my resolve not to reach for my Glock. I’ve been outdrawn by one of the rare people I don’t want to fuck with, someone on my level. The kicker is that I didn’t see him coming.

His finger is indexed so I know he’s in control of his emotions, but there’s murder in his eyes. I haven’t seen him in a long time and it’s clear that time has done little to heal the burn of getting shut down by the Feds. That’s fair. I can actually relate.

“You know it wasn’t my fault,” I say quietly, my tone flat and, with effort, not menacing. 

Everyone knows it was Derrik who fucked up. That doesn’t seem to matter to Charlie just now. Again, I get it. For once I’m not here to fight. If anything is true, it’s that. I’m not stupid. The thing is neither is Maria. She had to guess this would be Charlie’s reaction to seeing me. I did.

He is someone ranked enough that he used to deal directly with Gram, someone ranked higher than I was, if not by much. Still, Charlie’s reputation as ruthless and cunning is well-earned. If I’m completely honest, he’s someone I actually respect in a world where few such people exist. Not that any of that matters in this moment. My hope here is that he’s catching the significance of the fact that I haven’t even tried to draw.

Movement to my right catches both our attention though we don’t look away from each other. In the next three seconds, Maria is standing in front of me, facing her brother. He immediately lowers his gun.

I have no doubt he recognizes the pang of fear that rises in me when she steps into his sights. I don’t quite stop my eyes from widening and, like me, he doesn’t miss anything. I see the exact same reaction in him.

He doesn’t speak at first, but his head leans to the side. I can’t see Maria’s face. I can see that she doesn’t relax her defensive stance. I shake my head a fraction to the left then right in hopes that he’ll interpret correctly that I don’t mean to start trouble.

Que estas haciendo?” Charlie asks in a tone that rides the line between a growl and a whisper. I know by the Spanish that he’s not talking to me. The language rolls from his lips with perfect inflection. It comes less natural for me, but I do understand.

“He’s with me,” she says defiantly.

I can understand why it would never occur to her to fear him, but it’s still unsettling to hear her speak to him that way. I have to wonder if she really knows how dangerous he is.

His eyes haven’t left me. I swear the emotion in his glare slides from rage to calculation. I’m not the type for peaceful gestures, but that might be the thing that makes or breaks the tension. I lift my open hands to shoulder height and shrug slightly. His eyes narrow and, finally, he looks away from me to his sister.

“You’re hanging out with Reapers now?” he asks, his tone a mixture of incredulous and admonishing.

Her hand lands on her hip and her head cocks to the side. She says, “You know damn well he isn’t with them anymore.”

“That doesn’t change anything,” Charlie says. The lines of his arm have softened some but his gun is still in both hands.

“It changes everything, actually,” I say in a forcibly even tone.

My hands have fallen back to my sides. I lift my eyebrows the tiniest bit. I won’t walk into his territory and start shit, but I will defend myself. I have that right. Charlie’s shrewd gaze rolls back to me, searching. I’ll be damned but I do believe he’ll read my sincerity in my eyes before he’ll ever trust my words. It’s a strange thing for me, but I leave myself unguarded.

I never meant to get tangled up with Maria. I actually tried to avoid it, but once her sights were on me, I didn’t stand a chance. The truth I don’t like to admit is that I enjoy being around her in a way I can’t say for anyone else I’ve ever met. Now that I know that feeling, I don’t want to lose it. The only way not to is to find some shade of acceptance from her brother. He won’t tolerate my presence otherwise, and if he believes I’m enough of a threat, I’ll be left with little options. Get the fuck out of town, let him kill me, or kill him first. I don’t much like any of those choices.

“For someone like you to have no loyalties is more dangerous and suspicious than you being a product of the Jester,” Charlie says.

Someone like me. Yeah, he’s not the only one who one-hundred percent earned his reputation. I don’t miss that low blow of him throwing in my past, but I refuse to be provoked. I could be wrong, but I believe he’s testing me. I guess I should expect as much, but it’s still unusual to talk to another man who isn’t intimidated by me. I know he’s older and, admittedly, more experienced. I’ve scared the shit out of those types before. Not Charlie. He’s unshakable.

The only way I’ll ever be on the other side of his gun is if I’m completely real. So I say, “Loyalties can change. Dead men can’t. I lost a crew because of him.”

Maria half-turns to look at me. Instinct…and desire…say to meet her eyes. Training says not to break the connection with her brother, who is still closely watching me. Emotion flickers in his eyes, something I want to call pain, but it doesn’t come through in his expression and he buries it quickly. Have my words found a mark beyond his emotional armor? I’m not the only one who lost a crew.

Fucking finally he holsters his pistol. The gesture reclaims Maria’s attention and, in my periphery, I see her shoulders relax. That tiny reaction is enough to tell me that she wasn’t sure if Charlie could be convinced that I’m not a rat.

He reaches one long arm forward. When his fingers hook around Maria’s upper arm and he pushes her out of the way, I expect her to resist. She doesn’t. She opens her mouth like she’s going to speak, but he steps forward into my space and her mouth closes without a word.

My body goes rigid, a reaction I can’t quell with any amount of resolve. He’s taller than I am, enough that I have to look up to maintain eye contact. Other than that, I don’t move. I’m afraid if I do instinct will have me undoing what progress I’ve made by taking a swing. I understand he needs to assert his dominance in the situation, I’m just not used to restraining myself when it comes to fighting. He’s close enough that I can smell cigarette smoke on him.

“So you think you want to fuck with my sister?” he asks. His voice is low, a quiet assurance of the violence that lies beneath the surface.

It’s my turn for my eyes to narrow. He’s trying to rile me. I’m determined that it’s not going to work. I say, “I’ve never had any friends.”

I hear her breath catch, but there’s no way in hell I’ll look away now. For a moment suspended in time, we’re both utterly still. Then he steps back and looks from me to Maria. I’m silently seething, still afraid to move.

They don’t say anything. They just stare at each other. I can tell from the dynamic between them that they don’t need words. Maria is not the brazen woman she was with him just minutes ago, but she doesn’t exactly back down from him either. My brain wants me to look at her, but something compels me to keep watching him.

There’s a warning that comes across loud and clear in everything about him – his tensed-up stance, the tightness in his jaw, the way he slightly flexes the fingers of his gun hand. I believe he has decided to trust her in regards to me, but without a word he’s letting her know that if she’s wrong about me, there’ll be hell to pay that he won’t necessarily be able to protect her from. He’s right.

The anger at his ballsy confrontation fades quicker than I expect. My thoughts reel at that single realization. He’s doing what he should as a leader. He’s watching out for his sister, but also the rest of his people and his grandmother’s operation. It’s his job to screen the people who get close to the heart of his territory and he’s damn well justified in not trusting me.

I expected trouble when he realized I was with her. I sure didn’t think I’d find someone so relatable in him. I sure as hell didn’t think he would validate the vague respect I regarded him with from afar. When he turns away and joins Isaiah, who’s looking at Charlie like he can’t believe what he’s seeing either, the breath I’ve been holding goes with him.

When I finally slide my eyes sideways toward Maria, she’s not looking at me. She’s watching Charlie quietly talking with his crew. I know without a doubt that he’s her world. I could never compete with that and I don’t even want to. There’s a feeling between them that I don’t really understand. Love.

Beneath his steel exterior, Charlie cares about his people. It’s almost enough to turn me out the door. I could never fit in with people like this. Then Maria meets my gaze because, damn it, I’m still looking at her, and she smirks like she won something. She has to know better, but I can’t read past the mask of confidence. She’s good. She learned everything from him.

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:

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.