Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday Poetry: Witch-Wife

"Poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes." ~Joseph Roux

Edna St. Vincent Millay

SHE is neither pink nor pale,
And she never will be all mine;
She learned her hands in a fairy-tale,
And her mouth on a valentine.

She has more hair than she needs;
In the sun 'tis a woe to me!
And her voice is a string of colored beads,
Or steps leading into the sea.

She loves me all that she can,
And her ways to my ways resign;
But she was not made for any man,
And she never will be all mine.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Introducing The Shades Below Shorts

Occasionally when I'm writing, certain characters just grab me by the throat.

This happened in a big way while I was writing A World Apart. Well, sort of.  Technically, it was two characters. And once they grabbed me, they wouldn't let go.

Their names are Emil and Puzzle. They exist mainly in the background, doing their own thing and minding their own business. Here's the rub:
Rev. Emil Stone is a curator of knowledge. He's part of a secret organization called The Ministers, whose mandate is to collect, catalog, and study objects of magical origin. 
Misha "Puzzle" Kaslov is a Peer, part of an underground order of knights assigned to protect the Ministers while they jet around the globe hunting down esoteric artifacts.
From the jump, I knew there was more to Emil and Puzzle than what I could show in the Shades Below novels. They wouldn't leave me alone (especially Misha), so...
I gave them their own series.

The Shades Below Shorts are a series of companion novellas all about Emil and Puzzle...and their "more-than-business" relationship.
This is a snippet from the first short, Ptolemy's Tablet:
Misha's face was so close he could taste him.  Emil struggled in his grasp.  Sweat beaded on his forehead as Misha twisted his arm still further.  The other man's face was cool, contemplative, but his eyes blazed hot.  "Do you know how easy it would be to break you right now?"
Emil didn't answer.  Misha tweaked his arm again, and he grimaced.  "So do it, then."
Misha's eyes burned into his.  "What?" His voice was quiet.
Emil didn't look away.  "Do it.  See if you feel better."
It shocked him how much he suddenly wanted Misha to hurt him.  When had he gotten so fucked up?  He didn't know.  Didn't care.  He'd made a mistake.  They both had.  The least Misha could do was punish him for it.
Emil leaned forward without breaking eye contact.  Tendons wrenched in his elbow.  "Do.  It."
He barely registered when Misha released his other wrist.  Then a warm, rough hand clasped the back of his neck.  Emil caught his breath, suspended between agony and bliss.  Misha's eyes dropped to his lips.  "Rasputnitsa," he whispered, "what are we doing to each other?"
Just one other thing. THEY'RE FREE.
Each Shades Below Short will be available via Smashwords for $0.99, but if you subscribe to my newsletter, I'll send you a coupon that will drop the price to exactly 0 pennies.
If you're a fan of m/m romance (that's boy + boy, for the uninitiated), I hope you'll check it out!

Find out more:

UPDATE (3.30.15):

You know how some things take on a life of their own?

Emil and Puzzle did that.

I initially threw Ptolemy's Tablet up on Smashwords with little pomp and no circumstance, and what happened? The boys ended up being popular! Who knew?

Thus, while my original offer of a freebie coupon when you sign up for my newsletter remains valid, I am expanding distribution. You can now buy Ptolemy's Tablet on Amazon in both ebook and print form, as well as on the usual Smashwords outlets (Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, iTunes, etc.).

Thank you for this overwhelmingly positive response!

Ptolemy's Tablet Links
Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

TEASER: Season Of The Witch (Shades Below, #1.5)

The next book in Shades Below is officially underway! Here's a peek, then off to the writing cave for me...

It was not accustomed to being summoned.

The night began like any other, not that it normally had much use for mundane notions of time. All nights bled together in the dark wasteland where it preferred to hunt. It was hot on some hapless creature's trail when it first felt the pull.


A gust of unearthly wind carried the unmistakable scent of its prey. Fear was a potent stench; addictive, impossible to mistake. It lifted its nose and drank it in.

Another pull, stronger this time. It snarled. No one, not even The Lady, had ever attempted anything so blatant, so invasive. Invisible coils wrapped around its insides and tightened painfully. Confusion. This was a magic it did not recognize.

But then, no one in its long memory had ever tried to bind it before.

Another gust of wind. Another whiff of fear. It shook itself and continued on, tried to ignore the increasingly sharp bite of this new magic. Surely no one in their right mind could actually be trying to capture it. The very idea was so foreign it barely registered; a distant, amusing flicker on the far horizon of its mindscape.

But there it was again, not a tug this time but a yank. It dropped to its knees mid-stride with a yelp that echoed across the barren terrain. An unfamiliar voice filled its head.

You belong to me.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Happy Birthday, Shades Below!

Shades Below, Book #1: A World Apart is now live!

A billion thank-you's to everyone who helped make this release day special. So many of you had nothing to gain from helping me out, yet you stepped up and stepped forward, and offered advice, reviews, spotlights, and support. It has been truly humbling, and not a second goes by that I don't appreciate it.

On that note, here's where you can find the finished product:

"There are things that go bump in the night, Mr. MacMillian.  It's my job to bump back."

Private investigator Jesper MacMillian was sure he'd seen it all.  After all, in a city like San Francisco, strange is what's for breakfast.  Following a long  recovery after a horrific accident, his life is finally the way he wants it- or at least, close enough.  The only monsters on his radar are the ones that keep him awake at night.

All that changes the day he meets Lena Alan.

Before MacMillian has a chance to brace for impact, Lena drags him into a world where monsters aren't just real, they're hiding in plain sight.  Suddenly, everything he knows is suspect, starting with his current case.  For Lena, a psychic medium since childhood, it's just another day at the office.  

For MacMillian, it's the beginning of the end of everything he thinks he knows.


March 21st through March 24th, get your copy for
just $0.99!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Cover Reveal: Sled Dogs, by Kendall Bailey

Since I started this game, I've been fortunate to meet some really amazing, friendly, and supportive authors. Kendall Bailey is one of those folks. We hit it off right away.

It's a tough reality that we can't always do everything for our fellow writers that we would like. Happily, Kendall's and my stars aligned, and today he's stopping by to share a little bit about his new novelette, Sled Dogs, as well as his journey into writing a female protagonist.
Without further ado, I give you Kendall Bailey.


I'm a little ashamed to say that I spent the first thirty years of my life not being interested in books with female protagonists. Only three stand out: Diary & Invisible Monster, both by Chuck Palahniuk and Carrie by Stephen King. Then I wrote a novel.

Writer's hear, far too often, how important it is to build a solid writing platform. In my effort to do that I found many indie authors, all women, who wrote stories with incredible ladies leading the way. In my search for an agent I discovered Red sofa Literary Agency, specifically Laura Zats. It was Ms. Zats who introduced me to the Mako Mori and Bechdel tests (if you don't know what they are, Google 'em!) which changed the way I approached writing characters.

I wanted to write a story with a strong female lead. Sled Dogs was an exercise, or warm up, for my 2nd novel which involves a woman investigating an attack on her daughter. I liked the result so much I decided to publish it.



The furry mass appeared on the opposite river bank. They sped down one side, straight through the water, and up the other without breaking pace.

"Come on boy! Come on!"

When the dogs were about fifty yards away Alia noticed the red stains around their mouths. Each dog's white underbelly was tinted pink, from this distance it looked like they'd done a sloppy job applying lipstick. Alia stifled a laugh at the image.

They were moving too fast and frantically to tell who was who. As they approached Alia squinted with concentration, trying to tell them apart. The dog at the head of the pack made a desperate full-speed grab at Alia’s left ankle. The dog lost its footing and went tumbling past.

The next one made the same attempt and succeeded in tearing out a small chunk of skin. Alia gasped and fell backwards into the kennel. The rest of the pack was moving too fast to adjust course and ran right past.

It felt like someone had poured molten iron over her leg. She scrambled to her feet and slammed the kennel gate closed, locking herself inside.

The pack came back to the gate. Dogs pressed their noses through the holes and sniffed loudly, lapping their tongues at nothing but air. Others stood back and bared their fangs; the fur on their necks bristling. Low, guttural, growls rumbled in their throats. Their eyes weren't the same, Alia saw; there was madness in them.

I need to keep them here. They can’t get to me and if I keep them here they won’t get Dad or those nice people.

Alia stood as best she could, being careful to keep weight off her left leg. The view wasn’t great from inside the kennel but there was no sign of her dad or the tourists. She did notice Chicago, however. He was going berserk. Throwing his weight from side to side, jumping around, doing anything he could to get free of the harness.

Alia wasn’t sure if he meant to help her or hurt her. He'd been friendly with the tourists.

If he tries to help me the others will…

It was like the dogs had followed her gaze. The pack noticed the commotion behind them and turned as a group. They headed for Chicago at a trot.


Want to stalk Kendall and Sled Dogs on the Web?

Sled Dogs on Amazon

Kendall's blog:

Kendall's Facebook Author Page:

Kendall's Goodreads Author Page:


Monday, February 16, 2015

Release Date: A World Apart (Shades Below, #1)

Buckle your butts, people! A World Apart now has an *official* release date!

A few links to whet your appetite...

Add A World Apart to your TBR list (and make my day)!

Listen to A World Apart's playlist for FREE on Spotify!

Meet The Characters
Get the stats on the cast of A World Apart and the Shades Below series!

Cover Reveal
Check out A World Apart's bitchin' cover, then hop on the blog train and read excerpts up through Chapter 2!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday Poetry: The Inheritance

"Poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes." ~Joseph Roux

The Inheritance
D.H. Lawrence

SINCE you did depart
Out of my reach, my darling,
Into the hidden,
I see each shadow start
With recognition, and I
Am wonder-ridden.

I am dazed with the farewell,
But I scarcely feel your loss.
You left me a gift
Of tongues, so the shadows tell
Me things, and silences toss
Me their drift.

You sent me a cloven fire
Out of death, and it burns in the draught
Of the breathing hosts,
Kindles the darkening pyre
For the sorrowful, till strange brands waft
Like candid ghosts.

Form after form, in the streets
Waves like a ghost along,
Kindled to me;
The star above the house-top greets
Me every eve with a long
Song fierily.

All day long, the town
Glimmers with subtle ghosts
Going up and down
In a common, prison-like dress;
But their daunted looking flickers
To me, and I answer, Yes!

So I am not lonely nor sad
Although bereaved of you,
My little love.
I move among a kinsfolk clad
With words, but the dream shows through
As they move.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Cover Reveal: A World Apart (Shades Below, #1)

It's that moment you've all been waiting for!

Okay, maybe not. But I'VE been excited for this moment ever since my lovely and talented friend and cover artist sent me her newest creation.

If you're a writer, there are all kinds of questions you face when starting a new series. Questions about characters, questions about theme and plot and story arcs. If you're a self-publishing writer, you have even more questions.

To blog tour or not to blog tour?

Pay for publicity, or try to drum up buzz on your own?

Perhaps most importantly, the cover. What is your cover going to say, not just about the book it's gracing, but about the rest of the series? The first cover in a series is arguably the most important one. It's the first face people see. It's what sells your anchor book long before readers (hopefully) fall in love with it.

A World Apart--and by extension, the Shades Below series--now has a face. And might I just say, I think it's a pretty bitchin' one.

But enough talk.

"There are things that go bump in the night, Mr. MacMillian.  It's my job to bump back."

Private investigator Jesper MacMillian was sure he'd seen it all.  After all, in a city like San Francisco, strange is what's for breakfast.  Following a long  recovery after a horrific accident, his life is finally the way he wants it- or at least, close enough.  The only monsters on his radar are the ones that keep him awake at night.

All that changes the day he meets Lena Alan.

Before MacMillian has a chance to brace for impact, Lena drags him into a world where monsters aren't just real, they're hiding in plain sight.  Suddenly, everything he knows is suspect, starting with his current case.  For Lena, a medium since childhood, it's just another day at the office.

For MacMillian, it's the beginning of the end of everything he thinks he knows.



It was cold in the small concrete chamber.

A draft whistled through the tunnels, carrying with it the smell of liquid garbage and roast meat.  Duck, if he wasn't mistaken.  The man drew a deep, cleansing breath.  Minutes earlier, the only thing he'd been able to smell was fear.  All he'd been able to hear were screams.

Not anymore.

Now, the slight, dirty figure on the table before him was still and silent.  Now, if he listened closely, he could hear the sounds of traffic, the buzz of the street car lines embedded in the concrete overhead.

The young man's pleas still grated in his ears.  Poor fellow.  He'd tried to end it quickly, but there were certain things required for the ritual, things necessarily obtained while blood still pumped through his unwitting assistant's veins.  He pressed a hand to the man's pale forehead and reminded himself --not for the first time-- why he was doing this.

He glanced at the other table in the far corner of the chamber.  The figure that lay on it was covered with a shroud, but he could picture the face as clearly as if it were his own.  In a way, it almost was.
It would all be worth it in the end.  For the sake of his soul, it had to be.

He moved quickly.  The young man's chest was already laid open, the smooth, white ribs carefully cracked and pried apart.  The entire cavity was brimming with blood.  Its coppery stench hung heavy in the air, like some rare and forbidden perfume.

The rest of the ingredients waited in stinking repose on the cart beside the table: magical elixirs distilled under the full moon.  Marrow.  Stones.  Various entrails of various profane animals.  The ashes of a bird, so long extinct its very existence had passed into the realm of myth.

He'd poured his life's savings into obtaining it all, but after countless failed attempts, his supplies were dwindling.  He glanced at the other table again, and his chest tightened.

He couldn't fail again.  He wouldn't fail again.

The incantation was so familiar now he could recite it by rote.  The ancient words twisted and flowed over his tongue.  As he spoke, he began to move.  All great spells started with movement; he knew that now.  He knew many things now, many more than when he'd begun.  Movement was meditation, a journey into oblivion, a way to connect with the divine.

And so he moved.  He flailed his arms and stomped his feet and whirled around in a circle, again and again and again.  His rational brain started to recede.  Foam flecked the corners of his mouth.  He slipped further and further into the frenzied zen he'd come to know so well.

He was still reciting the incantation, screaming it now.  Just before he lost himself completely, he shrieked out the final, blasphemous word.  The energy abruptly sapped from his muscles.  He collapsed to the ground.  Waited.


He curled his fingers into the cold floor.  The sound that rose from his throat was hardly human.  Of course, after everything he'd done, he was fairly sure he'd sacrificed his humanity long ago.  What was he doing wrong?  He had followed the spell to the letter, every time.  And every time, he had failed.

He sighed, and hauled himself to his feet.  His bones creaked, and he had fresh bruises on his knees.  Failure wasn't enough; now he would be reminded of it for days to come.  He dusted off his trousers and cinched his tie closer to his throat.

At least he still had options.  He reached under the table, retrieved the pocketknife and the blank strip of leather he already had waiting.  Then he gritted his teeth, and drew the sharp edge of the blade across his palm.  Blood sprang to the surface.

He smoothed the leather flat on the table, dipped one finger into the wound, and started to write.


Release Date: March 21, 2015!

This is a blog train, and there are more excerpts to read!
I have some awesome friends I'd like you to meet! Each of these fabulous bloggers has volunteered to host a different excerpt from A World Apart on their blog. Stop by, give them some love, and read what happens next!

1st Stop: L.J.K. Oliva Books <<You Are Here
7th Stop: The DarkerSide
8th Stop: Write Bitches

Hit all the stops to read A World Apart up through Chapter 2!


Want to stay informed about A World Apart and the Shades Below series?
Sign up for my email newsletter! No spam, and I promise never to share or sell your information. See you in your inbox!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Wake Me Up In San Francisco...

"One day if I go to heaven...I’ll look around and say “It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco”. 
-Herb Caen

You ever get the feeling some places are just, well, magic?

Chicago in the summertime, when all the glorious concrete cracks are showing and nobody cares.

New Orleans in late afternoon, when it's so hot the only sane thing to do is have another drink.

New York past midnight, when one minute you're walking down a dark and deserted alley, and the next you're in the 24-Hour Technicolor Oz that is Times Square.

San Francisco... anytime.

I don't know those other cities. I've drifted through them, a traveler at best, a tourist at worst. One of the first things you're told as a writer is to write what you know.

I know San Francisco.

I didn't always. Just a few years ago, I actually thought going to "The City" was a pain. I don't live there. The drive in was okay until about King Street. After that... chaos. Traffic, jaywalkers, one-way streets, hills of Everestian proportions- it's a miracle I survived those early trips. It's even more of a miracle I kept going back.

But go back I did, and little by little, the place grew on me. I learned how to slip in unnoticed, which streets made a modicum of sense, how to parallel-park at a ninety-degree angle (okay, not really- that one still scares the piss out of me. Insider tip: curb your wheels). I found some great places to eat, and made a few friends.

Magic can be quiet at first.

Every city has its ghosts, but San Francisco's are so close to the surface you almost feel like you could sit down with them and have coffee--an organic, fair-trade, artisanal roast, of course. History isn't just history there. San Francisco is a city of layers. Literally.

During recent excavations for a new downtown subway system, trash heaps were discovered dating back to the area's first Ohlone settlements. Symbols marking the long-defunct electric and telegraph lines can still be found on Market Street. A few blocks down, a Dogpatch park festers quietly as a monument to the bygone days of punk. Head the opposite direction to Chinatown and take a pleasant stroll down Ross Alley, once the most infamous street on the Barbary Coast.


There are monsters, too. It's not difficult to picture The Haight as a witch's stomping ground, not a stretch to imagine vampires stalking Marina co-eds as they stumble home after last call. A boat trip out to the Farallon Islands might reveal a wayward mermaid fighting for its life amid the sharks.

Most of San Francisco's monsters tend to be of the human variety, however. Certain names still echo through the ether: Milk. Capone. Jim Jones had a congregation on Fillmore. The Zodiac Killer still sends chills down the spines of those who remember.

San Francisco is good at forgetting.

I'm still a stranger in this town. I don't have the same perspective, the same love-hate relationship with it that locals do. I'll never have a neighborhood market within walking distance of my apartment. Muni routes are a mystery to me. I don't have to pay a cool $3k a month to live in a broom closet because of those GODDAMN TECH YUPPIES AND THEIR FUCKING GOOGLE HOUSING SUBSIDIES.

I'm an outsider, a fact I'm constantly, almost painfully, aware of.

But while I'm not a local, I'm not quite a tourist, either. I've done "the knowledge." I know how to get from the freeway to the waterfront, and from there how to get to North Beach. And once I get to North Beach, I have this great little Italian place where the staff actually know me and my husband. Every time we visit, they exclaim over how big our son is getting.

Next door to that little restaurant is an empty lot. Its original inhabitant was a small Orthodox cathedral, destroyed in the 1906 Quake/Fire. For years afterward it was the site of a vaudeville theater. Now it houses an extraction shaft for the subway project I mentioned earlier.

Said shaft may or may not have a ghost problem.

Not quite a local. Not quite a tourist. Now when I go to San Francisco, I go as a writer.

Like I said. Magic.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sunday Poetry: Wraith

"Poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes." ~Joseph Roux

 Edna St. Vincent Millay

"THIN Rain, whom are you haunting,
That you haunt my door?"
--Surely it is not I she's wanting;
Someone living here before--
"Nobody's in the houe but me:
You may come in if you like and see."

Thin as thread, with exquisite fingers--
Have you seen her, any of you?
Grey shawl, and leaning on the wind,
And the garden showing through?

Glimmering eyes--and silent, mostly,
Sort of a whisper, sort of a purr,
Asking something, asking it over,
If you get a sound from her.--

Ever see her, any of you?
Strangest thing I've ever known--
Every night since I moved in,
And I came to be alone.

"Thin Rain, hush with your knocking!
You may not come in!
This is I that you hear rocking;
Nobody's with me, nor has been!"

Curious, how she tried the window--
Odd, the way she tries the door--
Wonder just what sort of people
Could have had this house before ...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Poetry: The Haunted Palace

"Poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes." ~Joseph Roux

The Haunted Palace
Edgar Allan Poe

In the greenest of our valleys
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace—
Radiant palace—reared its head.
In the monarch Thought's dominion—
It stood there!
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair!

Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow,
(This—all this—was in the olden
Time long ago),
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A winged odor went away.

Wanderers in that happy valley,
Through two luminous windows, saw
Spirits moving musically,
To a lute's well-tunëd law,
Bound about a throne where, sitting
In state his glory well befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.

And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing,
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.

But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch's high estate.
(Ah, let us mourn!—for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him desolate!)
And round about his home the glory
That blushed and bloomed,
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.

And travelers, now, within that valley,
Through the red-litten windows see
Vast forms, that move fantastically
To a discordant melody,
While, like a ghastly rapid river,
Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever
And laugh—but smile no more.