Saturday, December 30, 2017

Flame Singer is LIVE!

Today's the day, my friends! My newest book is available for purchase on Amazon. Please help me to spread the word, and be sure to let me know what you think of this next step in Idris's journey!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Flame Singer Preview: Chapter Two

My newest book is scheduled to be published on December 30th! Are you excited? Are you telling everyone you know about how excited you are? Are you offering to buy copies of "Fire Sower" for all your friends so they can get excited for the sequel with you? :) I hope the answer to all those questions is 'yes!'

Here's another preview chapter to help get all of you excited with me. If you haven't read the other previews, click here to begin. Otherwise, enjoy!

Chapter Two: Favorable Tides

Few people were out and about so early in the day. The small group crossed the grounds of the military compound without incident.

Idris’s glance slid across a pair of soldiers standing guard near the outer wall. He recognized one of them as a young man who had come from the same village as Idris. Meic’s expression was a mixture of curiosity and resentment as he watched Idris walk by. Idris gave him a wide grin as they passed.

Meic’s eyes narrowed and he determinedly turned away, as if indicating to Idris that he didn’t care what the other was doing. Idris knew it was childish to goad Meic, but he enjoyed doing it anyway.

I hope that boy does not get into trouble while we are away, Iona commented.

Idris was taken aback by her concern. Do you think it likely?

Iona considered her words carefully. I think that youth are eager to prove their worth, and they do not often count the cost.

Idris waited for her to go on, but she fell silent. Her statement left Idris feeling unsettled, but he pushed the sensation away. He knew he needed to focus on his present situation instead of what Meic might do in the future.

Cowan led them down the path that stretched through the city of Marath and down to the harbor. Idris felt his stomach clench as he realized where they were heading. He had only been on a boat once before in his life. It had not left a favorable impression.

Idris cleared his throat, addressing his leader. “Do we have to travel by ship?”

Cowan’s sharp eyes rested on the young man and a flicker of amusement passed over them. “Afraid of the ocean, young farmer?”

Idris’s face flushed. “No,” he answered quickly. “But the motion of the water makes me… ill.”

Cowan nodded in understanding. “I have some herbs you can chew to help with that. A ship will get us to our destination in half the time it would take traveling by land.”

Idris said no more, but the sinking feeling didn’t go away. He knew that they were in a hurry, but it was almost worth it to him to take the extra time and avoid the ocean.

Unlike the sleeping city, the harbor was a bustle of activity. Fishermen were bringing their boats into the docks, their nets filled with the day’s catch. Merchants were setting up their booths for the day. Impoverished men and women hurried forward to offer their services—doing any work that needed to be done in exchange for a fish or two.

“Which ship are we seeking?” asked Aherin, glancing down the long row of docks.

To Idris’s surprise, Hildar was the one that answered.

“That one,” she pointed.

Most of the ships in the harbor looked sturdy and purely functional, made of weathered wood blackened with pitch. The vessel that Hildar pointed out looked as different from the others as a horse did from a pig.

The design was sleek and beautiful, clearly made for speed. The wood was lacquered to look red, with dark green accents painted along the railing and masts. The name of the ship was painted in gold on the side. The letters were elaborate, and it took Idris—who had only recently learned how to read—several seconds to figure out what it said.


“Is that one of your family’s ships?” Aherin asked Hildar.

Her expression was rather rigid as she replied, “It is mine.”

“You own a ship?” Idris was unable to keep the disbelief from his voice.

A faint flush colored Hildar’s cheeks. “It was a gift from my grandmother when I came of age.”

Two footmen in livery stood at the bottom of the gangplank, their backs straight as nails. They gave elaborate bows as Hildar approached; she nodded absently in acknowledgement.

“Who is Dagmar?” Idris asked, staring at the gleaming letters.

Hildar stiffened, but didn’t turn as she muttered, “She was my younger sister.”

The young woman hurriedly marched up the gangplank, avoiding any further questions. Idris could have kicked himself for his thoughtless question. His face burned with shame at the inadvertent pain he had caused Hildar. Aherin shot Idris a sympathetic glance before following Captain Cowan onto the ship.

Idris was reluctant to leave solid ground, but he knew that he would be scolded if he delayed them needlessly. He clenched his eyes shut and took a deep breath, walking forward as if to his own execution.

Hildar was standing just at the top of the gangplank, waiting for the approach of a stocky man in a tidy uniform of green and red. His black hair was streaked with grey, falling loosely around his shoulders. His brown eyes crinkled around the edges, as if he habitually squinted.

“My Lady Hildar, welcome to your vessel,” he said in a brusque tone.

“Thank you, Captain Morn,” Hildar responded carelessly. “I trust all is in order.”

“The tides are with us, m’lady,” the ship captain answered. “We can depart at your command.”

“Have the horses been brought aboard?” Cowan inquired.

“Yes, sir,” answered Morn.

“Prepare to set sail immediately,” Hildar ordered.

“Very good, m’lady,” Morn acknowledged with a bow. “Shall I have Lennon show you to your quarters?”

The sea captain gestured to a young man standing just behind him. The youth had curly brown hair and liquid brown eyes, with his intense gaze fixed on Hildar’s face.

Hildar waved her hand as she brushed the suggestion aside. “I know my way,” she said, walking away without looking at the young man.

Lennon’s lips tightened and anger flashed through his eyes. The emotion quickly passed, leaving his expression calm. “I doubt any of you know where to go,” he said with a small smile. “Follow me.”

As they walked, he introduced himself. “I am Lennon, the second-in-command on this fine vessel. If there is anything you need during your journey, please feel free to ask for my assistance.”

“You are quite young to have such a post,” Cowan observed shrewdly.

Lennon nodded amiably. “Yes, it was quite an honor to have Lady Hildar ask for my service.”

“She requested you for the position?” Aherin asked with a sly smile creeping across his face.

“She did,” confirmed Lennon. “I have known Lady Hildar since we were children. I suppose she wanted to help an old friend begin his career.”

“That probably did not put you in the favor of other sailors,” growled the captain of the Royal Guard.

Lennon shrugged. “If there were any hard feelings in the beginning, I have since proved my worth.”

The young man led them to the aft of the ship where a cabin sat on the deck. A set of stairs led to the top of the cabin, and Idris could see the ship’s wheel located at the far end. The nearest door of the cabin had gold letters painted on the red door that read Captain. Lennon led the small group around the side to another red door, which he opened without ceremony.

“Lady Hildar’s room is around the back,” Lennon explained. “These will be your quarters during the journey.”

Idris stepped through the door and looked around the room. It wasn’t spacious, but it was comfortably furnished. A pair of bunk beds were attached to the wall in the far right corner of the room, and a hammock had been strung up in the opposite corner. Drawers had been built into the base of the bottom bed, where they could place their belongings. A small looking glass was mounted on the wall, a pair of padded chairs were bolted to the floor, and an enclosed case held four books—a clear sign of the luxury of the vessel. The one window in the room looked out to the foredeck, where Idris could see the sailors preparing to cast off.

“Is there anything I can get for you?” asked Lennon politely.

Cowan shook his grizzled head. “No, this should be just fine.”

Lennon gave a brisk nod. “Then, I will leave you to get settled.” He exited the room, closing the door behind him.

Captain Cowan sat down on the bottom bunk, pulling out one of the drawers to put his things away. That left the two young men to decide between them who would get the other bed.

“I do not mind sleeping in the hammock,” Idris said quickly.

Aherin shrugged. “I do not mind either.”

Idris gave a small laugh. “What I mean is that I would be happy to take the hammock. I slept in one for most of my childhood, so it is quite comfortable to me.”

Aherin smiled. “Very well.”

The ship gave a sudden lurch and Idris went down on one knee. He felt the blood drain from his face as the motion sickness set in.

We have not yet left the dock and already you are ready to lose your stomach, Iona said with a tangible chuckle in her voice.

“I think I need some fresh air,” Idris blurted as he rushed for the door.

He didn’t stop until he ran into the railing, clutching it with both hands and clenching his jaw shut. He took several deep breaths through his nose and closed his eyes, willing his head to stop spinning.

Marlais loved the sea, Iona said softly. He said reminded him of his home.

The partisan rarely spoke of her former master—the pain of his loss was still too recent for her—so it caught Idris off guard to have her volunteer such information. He was always eager to learn more about the legendary Marlais Dragonspear, even in the midst of feeling ill.

“His home?” Idris asked, his eyes still closed tight against the waves of sickness that rolled over his body.

Marlais was born in a small village along the coast. Whenever he could not sleep at night, he would think of the sound of ocean waves and it would soothe him.

Idris found himself focusing on the sound of the water below. “It is a nice sound,” he admitted.

His father was a ship captain and Marlais rarely saw him as a child. As a result, Marlais developed an irrational resentment of all boats. But he always loved the sea.

Idris couldn’t help but smile. Iona made Marlais seem so ordinary, in spite of the amazing stories that were told about him.

“I thought he was the son of a banished warlord,” the young man commented.

Iona snorted. Hardly, she said in an irritated tone. His mother was part of the local gentry, but she was cut off from her family when she decided to marry a sailor. She lived a life of poverty and rarely saw her husband after they wed.

Idris’s brow contracted. “That is sad,” he said quietly.

Yes, it is, agreed Iona.

“Why are you telling me this?” Idris asked.

To prove a point.

“What point?” he urged.

That you are only as sick on water as you choose to be, farmer.

Idris was startled by her blunt words. “What?”

Open your eyes.

Idris complied and saw that the ship had pulled away from the harbor without him noticing. The Dagmar was sailing smoothly into the open water.

He laughed. “You told me about Marlais to distract me.”

Yes, and it worked, Iona said smugly.

The motion of the ship began to grow with their increasing speed, causing Idris’s stomach to rebel.

Stop thinking about it, Iona ordered sharply.

“I cannot help it,” Idris moaned.

You are a weak and foolish farm boy, Iona reprimanded.

Idris didn’t dispute her statement. “Exactly,” he said through clenched teeth, “and farm boys belong on land.”

Perhaps you should go lay in your hammock and pretend the rocking has nothing to do with the ocean. Iona’s voice was laden with disgust.

Idris was quite willing to follow her suggestion. But not before he emptied his stomach into the rushing water below.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Flame Singer Book Cover

I always get so excited when I see the final product of my book cover! I've worked with such talented artists for all of my books, and I'm grateful that they're still willing to work with me. Haha! So, here is the cover for "Flame Singer" which is my newest book coming out at the end of this month. The artist is the amazing Dustin Foran, who did the art for "Fire Sower" too. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Flame Singer Preview: Chapter One

Here's another sneak peek to whet your appetite for my newest book! As you probably already know, it is the sequel to "Fire Sower" and it is planned to be released within the next month. As always, I love getting feedback from readers, so tell me what you think so far! And, of course, help me spread the word.

If you haven't read the previous preview, click here.

Chapter One: Leave Taking

Idris’s eyes were already open when the knock sounded at his door. In spite of Captain Cowan’s urging that he get some rest, Idris had been unable to sleep. He had heard the soft sound of footsteps approaching from down the hall.

“Idris?” a familiar voice called.

He sat up immediately. “Just a moment, sir.”

Idris pulled on his boots and walked across the room to open the door. Captain Cowan stood on the other side, his heavily scarred face pinched and weary.

Idris straightened his scarlet tunic. The dragon and starburst embroidered in gold on his chest glimmered in the lamplight. “Are we going to see King Nikolas now?” he asked his superior with more confidence than he felt.

Cowan shook his grizzled head. “I have already spoken to the king.”

Idris was secretly relieved. He suddenly understood why the captain of the Royal Guard looked so harried. “What did he say?”

“He has given his blessing,” the old soldier answered shortly.

It was clear to Idris that it hadn’t been as simple as that, but he knew better than to pry for details. King Nikolas the Bold was a warrior in every sense of the word, and he never gave ground without a fight. Captain Cowan had likely engaged in a lengthy argument in order to gain the king’s approval.

Idris felt a surge of anxiety as his thoughts naturally turned to the journey they were about to take—the reason they had needed the king’s blessing. Captain Cowan and the three youngest members of the Royal Guard were about to depart from Marath for an unknown length of time during a turbulent period in the king’s capital city. There were less than a dozen members of the Royal Guard to begin with. Losing almost half of their number would leave the royal family more vulnerable than any of them would like.

Yet, it had to be done. If they did not undertake the journey, they would lose one of their number permanently.

Cowan handed Idris a bundle. “Change your clothing.”

“Yes, sir,” Idris answered automatically.

The captain walked away and Idris closed the door to his room. He set the bundle on his bed before unwrapping it. He found it contained the clothes he was expected to wear. The tunic was brown and nondescript, as was the rest of the ensemble. It could have been worn by just about anyone, which was probably why Cowan had selected it. The belt that went around the waist had a couple of pouches attached to it. Idris filled them with items that would be of use as they traveled—a flint, a small knife, a medical kit.

Idris changed his clothes, then tidied his topknot of black hair. When he was finished, he pick up the weapon that had gained him admittance into the king’s most elite group of soldiers.

It was a partisan, with a black lacquered shaft about six feet in length and the bottom capped in etched steel. The top of the polearm was sculpted steel overlaid with gold and jewels to form a dragon’s head, and the blade looked like a tongue of flame issuing from the dragon’s mouth. Idris admired the beauty of the priceless weapon, just as he always did when he set eyes on it.

The craftsmanship of the weapon was extraordinary, and the detailed expression on the dragon’s face made it look alive. The glittering rubies of the scales and the sapphires of the eyes were so bright they almost glowed. Idris knew that was due largely to the power of the weapon.

Is it time, farmer?

The voice sounded in his mind like a familiar melody.

“Yes, Iona,” Idris answered aloud. “It is time.”

The partisan—like all magical items—was sentient and worked in partnership with Idris. Not long ago they could barely exchange a civil conversation, but now Idris was pleased to acknowledge that they were friends.

Idris gently pulled a fitted leather covering over the head of the partisan, tying it closed. The cover hid the riches from view. There was no way to hide that he was carrying a polearm, but onlookers would not suspect its true worth.

Idris attached the partisan into a holder which he then strapped to his back. He glanced around the room to see if there was anything else worth taking, pausing as he looked at the mantel over the fireplace.

When he had first come to Marath to train with the Royal Guard, his family had given him a bundle of gifts. Among the items was a chain of colorful yarn with beads woven into it—each bead representing a member of his family. The family chain was a traditional gift to those who left home, so they could symbolically carry their family with them as they traveled. Idris picked up his family chain and tucked it into the pouch on his belt.

How sentimental, Iona commented. Her voice had a teasing tone, but it was affectionate as well.

“I do not know when I will be back again,” Idris explained needlessly.

With a final glance around his room, he walked to the door and stepped out to the hallway beyond. A small group of Royal Guards stood waiting near the exit. Captain Cowan was speaking quietly to Drusi, his second in command, and Farah, Idris’s instructor. Aherin, one of the new members of the Royal Guard, stood slightly to the side talking with Demas and Palti.

Idris’s eyes fell on Hildar, a young woman with the chestnut hair and fair skin that told of noble bloodlines. Her delicate face was pale and her eyes were weary with strain. She looked at Idris and nodded in greeting, a show of their recent friendship.

He smiled in return, but his stomach gripped with anxiety. Hildar was the bearer of a weapon of power that had been corrupted at some point in its history. That dagger was fighting to take control of her. Idris had seen firsthand how destructive Hildar’s weapon could be. He had no desire to witness it again.

His eyes automatically dropped to the belt around Hildar’s waist, where she normally kept her dagger.

“Where is Savion?” he asked in what he hoped was a casual tone.

Hildar’s hand moved to her belt, clutching at the empty air. Her expression became one of chagrin as she became aware of her reflexive action. She cleared her throat and determinedly dropped her hand to her side. “Captain Cowan has sealed the dagger in a special case.”

Hildar gestured as she spoke. Idris’s eyes followed the motion to the case in Cowan’s hands. It was long and narrow, just the right size for a dagger. Idris couldn’t tell what the box was made of, but it looked like crystal. The case looked to be solid, without seams or hinges. If the outline of the dagger hadn’t been visible, Idris wouldn’t have known that the rectangle was anything more than solid rock.

Captain Cowan overheard the exchange between Idris and Hildar. He turned to address the group. “Now that we are all assembled, I shall share with you the plan for our journey.”

An expectant hush settled over the hall.

The captain of the Royal Guard held up the crystal case in his hand. “This is a special item taken from the king’s personal treasury. It was made during the time of Lyndham, the first king of Calaris, and has been handed down through the royal family. It acts as a barrier around magical items, rendering them useless until released. In this way, Hildar’s dagger will be contained during our journey.”

Idris felt as though a large rock had been lifted from his chest. He was relieved to know that Savion couldn’t hurt Hildar anymore.

Cowan continued. “King Nikolas has given me permission to take Hildar, Idris, and Aherin on a journey to reforge this dagger. I have been told that it is a dangerous process, and we are not guaranteed success. However, I believe that it is necessary for us to try.”

Several heads nodded in agreement.

“Drusi is in charge while I am away,” he went on. “The remaining Royal Guards are to stay vigilant in protecting the royal family. We know that there are traitors in the Water Palace, and it is likely that war with Roshum is approaching. It is not possible to be too cautious when it comes to the safety of the king and his heirs.”

Idris could see that Cowan’s warnings were unnecessary. Every member of the Royal Guard took a solemn oath to protect the royal family. The fervor of that vow shone in each soldier’s eyes. In fact, the reason that Jerin and Roth were not present for this meeting was because Cowan had ordered that the king never be left unattended.

“Where will you go?” Drusi asked quietly. “The art of forging weapons of power was lost long ago.”

Cowan gave a small smile. “There are people who may know where to find what has been lost.”

If Drusi was bothered by the cryptic answer, she gave no indication. Instead, she nodded as if he had said exactly what she expected to hear. “I wish you luck on your journey.”

Her statement signaled the end of the brief meeting, and everyone broke into smaller groups to say goodbye.

Demas and Palti walked over to Idris. The former clapped Idris heartily on the shoulder.

“I wish I was coming with you,” Demas said regretfully. “Adventure and glory awaits you, while I stay here to keep an eye on the royal children.”

Idris grinned at his friend. “I think you mean that mud and snow and scant rations await me, while you get comfort and hot meals.”

Palti chuckled. “He has a point, Demas.”

“Just think of how the ladies will swoon when you recount your harrowing tales of blizzards and danger,” Demas pressed on with a theatrical tone of voice.

Idris felt a small catch in his throat as he laughed. “I will miss you, my friend.”

Demas’s expression became more sincere. “I wish you safety on your journey.”

Palti reached out and gripped Idris’s hand. “As do I, duwado.”

The large man’s affectionate nickname for Idris meant ‘little brother’ in his native language. He truly treated Idris like a younger brother, which was something that Idris treasured. Being away from his family had been a difficult transition, but the friends he had made during that time had made it bearable.

Captain Cowan gestured to his three youngest Royal Guards. “Let us waste no time. Our ship awaits.”

Do not worry, Iona said comfortingly. You will see them again, in this life or the next.

Idris knew she meant well, but her words were anything but comforting.

He turned and followed his companions as they walked out of the quarters of the Royal Guards and into the winter’s cold.

***For the next preview chapter, click here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Flame Singer Preview: Prologue

Hello, dear readers! I feel bad that I've had to push back the release date for my newest book, so I thought I'd start posting preview chapters a little earlier than usual. I hope it will tide you over for now. Just know that I'm hard at work and we'll be ready to go soon! Until then, I hope you enjoy this sneak peek.


“Where did you get this?”

The harsh question caused Arik to straighten his back. “It has been in my family for generations,” he said defensively.

The questioner grunted dubiously, but said nothing further for several moments. He stared into the leather pouch as if it simultaneously contained the greatest treasure in the world and the thing he feared most.

Arik studied the giant form before him—a man doubled over from habitual stooping. Arik wondered if that was from his work at the forge or from the years of suffering that had clearly broken the man.

“Has it ever been touched?” the former Forger asked next.

Arik’s shoulder jerked guiltily, but it went unseen by the giant man staring into the pouch. “No,” Arik lied.

Arik’s grandfather had given him the leather pouch when Arik had come of age. It was a family heirloom—their greatest pride. Arik had not believed that it was truly the eye of a chimera. After all, the creatures had been extinct since his father was a child.

His grandfather had warned him never to touch it, and so Arik had first dumped the lump of metal-looking material on his bed. It looked so ordinary. So… disappointing.

But then, he had reached out to run his fingers over the smooth surface.

Arik shuddered involuntarily at the memory.

It had been like an explosion of fireworks in his mind, full of vivid colors and strong emotions. The rush of adrenaline was unlike anything Arik had ever experienced before.

Over the next few years, Arik spent most of his private time holding the chimera eye. He reveled in the flow of raw magic that emanated from the stone. He obsessed over the possibility of harnessing that power. He studied every known text concerning the forging of magical items, searching endlessly for the elusive Forgers.

Finally, his searching had paid off.

“What do you want from me?” the former Forger asked, tearing his gaze away from the contents of the pouch.

“I want you to turn that into a weapon,” Arik answered promptly.

The large man’s expression darkened. “I am no longer a Forger, boy. You should have been told that by whoever gave you my name.”

Arik wrestled down the desperation in his voice. “But surely you still know how it is done,” he said quietly.

The former Forger’s brow contracted sharply. “Yes,” he whispered, “I remember.”

Arik switched to a soothing tone, as if speaking to a wild animal. “It would be such a waste to let this beautiful material remain as it is. It was meant to be something more.”

The giant man nodded slowly. “He has been waiting…”

Arik wasn’t sure what the Forger meant, but he could sense that he was close to getting what he had wanted for so long.

“I should not,” the man murmured to himself, “but it truly would be such a waste of the sacrifice that was made.”

Arik held his breath, waiting for the Forger to convince himself it was the right thing to do. Arik knew it was only a matter of time. All of his research had shown that the Forgers had strict beliefs regarding magical materials.

“I will do it,” the large man said finally. “But I do not do it for you. I do it for him,” he nodded to the pouch.

Arik’s rush of elation was so powerful that he could hardly contain himself. It didn’t matter to him what the Forger’s motivations were. All that mattered was that he would finally have a weapon of power. He would be able to wield the magic that had been at his fingertips for so long.

And then, nothing would stop him…

“Will you give it a name, like all those other famous magical weapons?” Arik asked excitedly.

“He already has a name,” the former Forger said softly. “His name is Savion.”

***To read the next preview chapter, click here.