Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: The Stormlords part 32

Rowen dug his feet into the sand that mingled with the grass and bracken of the forest. He wanted to look at the ocean he would never have even dreamed of before coming to the island, but all he could think about was how the setting sun reminded him of home.

             His home that wouldn’t be saved. His parents, Lucas, even the people who had sacrificed him.

            He had learned enough to know what sacrifice really meant now. They had delayed saving his village, and his people had died. His parents had died. The storm lords had to make sacrifices.

            Rowen wanted to forget his old life, to make a new life here. But it just kept coming back. He was no storm lord. He was a well-digger. And even if he became a storm lord, he couldn’t save everyone. He would have to make sacrifices, just like Kristoff had sacrificed the people in his village by coming too late.

            Rowen hated that word. He remembered the heat spells, the stifling, choking air that made his throat feel like sand. They would just keep coming, and his village would die when another city with more people had to be saved first. It would be sacrificed for others, just like he had been. 

            Rowen suddenly wanted to go home. He was a sacrifice too. He belonged there.

            Splashing caught his attention, and he took a few careful steps toward the water. A familiar shape emerged against the evening sky.

            Volkes paused when he saw Rowen. “Don’t tell me you waited at the shore the entire day for me,” he said with a laugh.

            Rowen glared at Volkes, tilting his head.

            “So what’d you do all day then?” Volkes said. Rowen wondered if Volkes was cold in the chill air after being in the water, but then again, the notherner was probably used to colder weather than this. Water ran down his body, and Rowen couldn’t help but look. He still wore nothing but tight shorts, and his wet hair made him look less like Lucas and more like he had the night before.

            Heat flashed through Rowen, and he looked away. He didn’t want that now, did he? After all he had learned? Anger twisted inside him, anger at Kristoff and at himself. He wanted a new life, but now after all he had learned, his new life felt wrong.

            “Hey.” Volkes got closer, putting his hand on Rowen’s chin. “What’d you do all day then, just wander around?”

            Rowen nodded, not liking the way Volkes was pushing on his chin and making it harder to move his head.

            “Whoa.” Volkes put his hand on Rowen’s face, then on his shoulders. “You’re really warm.”

            Rowen curled his upper lip and shook his head.

            “Are you sick or something?” Rowen shook his head again. Volkes pushed himself against Rowen, one hand going under his shirt. “You don’t seem sick I guess, just hot.” His touch teased, and Rowen allowed it for a moment, Volke’s hands cool from the ocean.

            Then Volkes grabbed his chin again, pushing Rowen’s head up. He hated it when Volkes did that.

            “Whoa!” Volkes leaped back, taking both hands off Rowen. “What did you just do?!”

            Rowen blinked, then tilted his head.

            “That had to be…lighting, right?” Volkes grinned. “It felt like you burned me.” He looked at his hand, then shook it as though he had just touched a metal basin left out in the sun during the heat of the day. “Huh. Maybe I won’t be the only one called Lightning soon enough.”

            Rowen drew his brows down.

            “Volkes lightning. That’s what they’ll call me, when I graduate, since I can affect the air well enough to create it. It gets rid of ozone that’s part of a heat spell.” Volkes took a few steps around him. “Most talented Stormlords get nicknames like that. It’s why they call Kristoff Kristoff Hurricane.” Volkes peered at him, careful not to touch him again. “Do you even know what you did? I’ve never done something like that, but I guess it’s because I have training.” He smirked.

            Rowen shook his head, shivering a little when a chill wind blew. Volkes didn’t even seem to notice. Just another reason he missed home.

            “What’s the matter?” Volkes said. “You seem pissed off. What, mad about me ditching you this morning?”

            Rowen paused, unsure how to answer that. He shook his head, waving a hand.

            “So something else happen?” Volkes’ eyes gleamed, and he got closer again. “You’re like me, I’ll bet. You use your magic when you get pissed off. So who pissed you off? Elise?” Rowen shook his head. “Sharon?” No again. “Kristoff?”

            Rowen clenched his jaw. This was private, but he nodded anyway, anger boiling to the surface.

            “Thought so. What, you went to him for a fuck and he turned you down?”

            Rowen turned horrified eyes on Volkes and shook his head. Volkes burst out laughing.

            “Just making sure I didn’t leave you desperate this morning.” Volkes moved even closer. “Forget about Kristoff.” The name sent more anger through him. “Why don’t I…okay, whoa.” He backed off again just before touching Rowen. “You are really, really hot. And I mean that literally. Maybe calm down first? Whatever the hell Kristoff did, I’m sure it’s not that bad. Mentors always piss off their students.” His words weren’t helping. “What’s the worst he could have done?”

            Killed my people. Lied to me. Let my parents die. Anger boiled over, his face heating.

            “Hey…” Volkes rolled his shoulders. “Don’t cry. Men don’t cry.” He stared at Rowen, and Rowen wished that he would just go away. He wished he could speak. Writing wasn’t enough, and he was no good at it anyway. He didn’t know what to do.

            “Alright, when you get your shit together, find me again. Maybe.” Volkes snorted in derision, and soon enough Rowen was alone again, with just the dirt and sea for company.

            It didn’t matter. He had only liked Volkes because he looked like Lucas. But he wasn’t Lucas. Lucas was dead.

            He had tried so hard to put it all behind him.

Monday, June 20, 2016

New Release: Enforcers series book 7!

Uncovering secrets.

Kenneth and Thorn have infiltrated a noble’s mansion as part of their mission as Enforcers. They hope to discover more about the Iris, a group of mages who threaten to overthrow their government and abuse those without magic to do it.

What they discover at the mansion of one of the oldest and richest noble mage families is more than just promises of wealth. They will have to stay hidden and fight past twisted mind magic in order to discover the Iris’ true goals. But if they’re too late, the Iris will claim even more victims.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Disaster in Orlando

What happened in Orlando is a tragedy, and one we must not let happen again. Only a combination of things can help--a reduction in guns, and of course, less hate in the world.

Tons of people are out there helping. A few things that I can help spread the word on:

20% of all profit through the Dreamspinner Press site for the next week will be donated to support the GLBT organizations in central Florida. Buy any book there and help!

Paul Richmond has designed a beautiful T-shirt with 100% of proceeds being donated. Click here to purchase.

Orders will ship within 5-7 days - these will be available in limited quantity at Columbus Pride Festival. Designed by Columbus resident - Paul Richmond. 100% of the proceeds will go to the GoFundMe set up for this tragedy - more…

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: The Stormlords part 31

Kristoff knocked at the door to Rowen’s shared house that evening, the sound of his knuckles against the wood louder than he would have liked.

He didn’t wait long before the door creaked open. “Hi!” Elise said. “Rowen, Kristoff’s back!” she called over her shoulder.

A spike of fear went through Kristoff as Rowen came to the door. His apprentice didn’t smile when he saw him, merely cocking his head, his red hair shining in the candelight from inside. All Kristoff wanted to do was protect him.

“Rowen,” he said. “Come walk with me for a while. I want to…talk to you.”

Elise frowned, then met Rowen’s eyes. “Wait!” she said. “Take these.” She dissapeared, and then ran back and shoved papers and a charcoal stick into Rowen’s hands. “We’ve been working on writing,” she said to Kristoff. “He’s getting really good.”
Kristoff forced a smile. “Good,” he said. “Come on, Rowen.”

Rowen nodded, waving goodbye to Elise. The door clicking shut behind him sent a heavy weight settling onto Kristoff’s shoulders.

They walked behind the house, a cool breeze sending the scent of salt and sea. The sun was low, bright beams lancing through the trees and spangling the path. Rowen stared at it when the wind picked up, sending the light dancing on the ground and leaves swirling down from the trees above. As they walked on, Kristoff could hear the quiet rush of the ocean.

“Rowen,” he said, clearing his throat. Rowen looked at him, and Kristoff could read the nervousness he saw there. He wished he knew why. There were too many possible reasons to count.

            “Rowen…” Kristoff sighed, staring up at the sky. His senses told him a storm was brewing in the distance, but it would likely pass them by, bringing nothing but warm rain. “Rowen, I’m sorry.”

            Rowen tilted his head, a small frown on his face. He still held his papers and the charcoal stick to write with, but didn’t make any move to write anything. Kristoff wondered if he really could yet.

            “I’m sorry that I told you Storm Lords got rid of heat spells before people died. I’m sorry about your village. About your parents.” Rowen immediately swiveled his head down, staring at the ground, and Kristoff’s throat tightened. “I swear I didn’t know.” No, that was a foolish excuse. Lorana had been right. He should have known, should have used his head and realized just how bad things could get, how bad things were all over the world. “We do our best, Rowen, but…they told me that people had died. A lot of them.” He swallowed hard. “I failed you. I failed your village.”

            He wondered how many other villages he had failed, how many times he had been too late.

            Rowen kept staring at the ground, the paper in his hand crumpled. Kristoff wished Rowen could say something, or that he could figure out what else to say. He had to say something, to fill the silence.

            “The heat spells are bad, Rowen, all over the world. That’s why we do what we do. In the southwest, they’re growing worse. They told me about the pit seeds, about how you use them to survive, but even there they aren’t growing anymore. And other places in the world, with even more people, have heat spells too, with thousands of people suffering. Lorana, she…we have to make choices, Rowen. Part of being a Stormlord is saving people, but…we can’t save everyone. Sometimes people have to save themselves. We have to make sacrifices.”

            Rowen jerked his head up, and Kristoff sensed something. The atmosphere shivered, his storm sense focusing. Rowen had done something, probably without even realizing it, and Kristoff didn’t know what—it still felt like lightning—but clearly he was upset enough that his magic was beginning to work.

            “Rowen, please,” Kristoff said, reaching out. “Let me help you.”

            Rowen shook his head, taking a step back as Kristoff’s fingers brushed his shoulder. He dropped the stick and papers, shaking his head again, and putting up both hands, as if shoving Kristoff away. He turned and began to walk, his steps quick and hurried.

            Kristoff’s heart sank into his feet. “Rowen, please,” he called, but Rowen didn’t stop.

            Kristoff cursed his own idiocy, and Lorana, and the heat spells. He may have just lost a student. But it hurt even more than that, more than it should.

            He just wanted Rowen to be happy. But everything he had done, and failed to do, had ruined Rowen’s life.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cover reveal!

For those who want a look at Kenneth and Thorn's college days, check out the newest book cover!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: The Stormlords part 30

As much as he wanted to go to Rowen, the first place Kristoff stopped was the governor’s office.

"Kristoff?" Lissa jolted her head up from sheaves of paper on her desk, pencil in hand. "I didn’t expect you. Were you out working?”   

"No, well, I wasn’t clearing a heat spell…I need to see the governor," Kristoff said. Lissa paused at his tone, meeting Kristoff’s eyes for a moment before she headed to Lorana's office. She beckoned when she returned. "She'll see you now. Is there something wrong?" 

Kristoff shook his head and walked past her, closing the office door behind him.

 Lorana, seated at her desk by an enormous window overlooking the ocean, waved for him to take a seat. “Report, Stormlord,” she said. “Is something going on with your apprentice?” 

Kristoff ground his back teeth together, resisting the urge to tap his foot. This was his governor, and the leader of all the Stormlords. He took a breath, then spat it out. "The heat spells over the southwest are far worse than we think," he said. "People are...people have died. We don't act fast enough. We didn’t act fast enough last time.” 

Lorana closed her eyes as if pained. "I know."

"You know?!" Kristoff boomed, leaping up from his seat. “You know people died because we were too slow?!”

            Lorana’s eyes narrowed. "Kristoff, you may be powerful and have a student of your own, but you're only twenty one. Barely removed from your training. Before you shout, listen to me."

Kristoff stood, anger and shock simmering on his skin. The sight of the graves wouldn't leave his mind.

Lorana’s voice was smooth. "There are currently seventy-five storm lords currently residing on this island. Of those, only fifteen have the power to dispel moderate heat spells on their own. The others require various amounts of help. Of those fifteen who can dispel alone, all have innate talents-lightning, or working with frozen air, or working in dry air, or only being able to work with ocean water of a certain temperature." She lifted a hand. "You, for example, have the power create hurricanes, but are not nearly as effective in cold climates."

Kristoff nodded. He could see where this was going.

"I have to prioritize. And sometimes, dispelling a heat spell over a city of a hundred thousand is more important than dispelling one over a village of three hundred." She closed her eyes again for a moment as though the words hurt. They probably did. "Furthermore, the heat in the southwestern wastes is approaching uncontrollable levels. In two dozen years, maybe less, I predict that region will be lost."

Lost. “Like the regions lost already? Like Darsea?” Kristoff's heart twisted for Rowen. What would it be like, to be completely alone, a refugee from a dead people? The Darseans had fled from their homes ages ago. Darsea was…in the south. “The heat is spreading, isn’t it?”

 "It is best that the people there realize that fact and leave, rather than relying on us," Lorana finished, meeting Kristoff's eyes. "Now if you still want to shout at me, you may."

Kristoff realized then how many gray hairs Lorana had, and how wrinkled the skin around her eyes was. “Do all Stormlords know?”

“They all figure it out. They have to. I am surprised you hadn’t yet, Kristoff. The world is dying, and we’re its last line of defense. We’re fighting a war against the environment, and in war…we lose people. We have to make hard choices. Sometimes that means delaying saving a village to save a city. Sometimes that means letting nature take its course, and giving the people there reason to leave before its too late.” She sighed. “That village should have migrated north years ago.”

Kristoff wanted to shout at her, to argue, to repeat the same points he had before. But it was pointless. He knew better than anyone how hard everyone worked, and how common heat spells were.

And there were so few students. If things went on like this, they would lose—not just one region, but the world.  

“I’m sorry for this, Kristoff. But we must keep working.”

Kristoff nodded, turning and leaving the room without being told.

He had been an idiot. Dazzled by his own power, he had been convinced that he was a hero, a savior. A god, like the villagers had called him. But he was just another man using whatever talents he could to stave off nature, the same as any engineer or sailor. And he could fail. He had failed that village, for three weeks, while people died. He had failed it before, and Rowen’s parents had died.

No wonder Rowen hadn’t seemed to trust him when he had said they saved towns and villages before death could occur. Rowen would despise him, and all of them.

But Kristoff had to tell him. The last thing he wanted would be for Rowen to find out the same way Kristoff had, years in the future, living in a bubble of ignorance like a fool. Kristoff would be honest with Rowen. He owed him that much.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: The Stormlords part 29

Rowen sat on the couch in the house that afternoon, the sheaf of papers on his lap and the charcoal stick in hand. Volkes hadn’t returned, and the only candle burned low in the corner. He was tired, but he had to practice his letters. He was so close to being…maybe not normal, but to communicating. He just needed more practice. He had to convince himself of that. Soon, he could share his thoughts with everyone.

But instead of letters, as he drew the charcoal over the paper he found himself imagining scenes, likes the ones in the paintings. They had all been so beautiful, brush and paint on canvas, and he wished he could draw the same. He had drawn small things in the dirt with his father, guidelines to show where water could be found or arrows for direction, but they had been fleeting. Paintings would last.

In his mind, he imagined Lucas. The young blacksmith’s son, blond hair bright in the unrelenting sun as he lifted and carried rock that his father somehow made metal out of. He had delivered pans to Rowen’s parents. He had been so different from Volkes, despite how similar they looked. Lucas was kind—he would never have left Rowen on the beach alone.

The charcoal wouldn’t create the wondrous colors of the paintings he had seen, but the image in his mind began to form on the paper, flowing lines and shading. Lukas, at his door with a smile, a silver pan for water collecting in his arms. Behind him, small in the distance, he drew the scrub brush. Then a frown covered his face when he remembered the bitter taste of the pit seeds on his tongue, and he scrubbed away the marks with the back of his hand.

“Hey, don’t erase it!” He jumped, turning in his chair. Elise stood over him, her eyes wide. “Is that Volkes?”

Rowen’s face heated. It wasn’t just him that thought they looked alike. He shook his head.

“It looks kind of like him, but younger.” Elise narrowed her eyes. “Another notherner, I guess. You’re a really good artist, Rowen!” she suddenly shouted. “I didn’t know you could draw!”

Rowen shrugged. Elise scooted a chair across the floor and sat down next to him, peering over his shoulder. “If it’s not Volkes, is it someone you know?” Rowen didn’t know how to answer that. “Is it someone from home?” He gave a small nod.

“Aw…” her smile shrank a bit. “I’m from Linland, but I was really young when they found me. I don’t really remember anyone from my home. I remember snow, though.” Rowen tilted his head, then reached over to pat her on the shoulder, a consoling tap.

“It’s okay.” The moment of gloom vanished as fast as it had come upon her. “You’re lucky to remember. You know what it is we’re saving. All I really know is the Storm Lord’s island.”

Rowen stifled a grimace. He wouldn’t call himself lucky. If he had a choice, he wouldn’t remember home at all.

The lead ball of fear returned to his stomach when he remembered that Kristoff would visit there. No, it was getting late—he may even be getting back by now. And he’d want answers.

He turned the page of the sketchbook. He never should have drawn that in the first place. Instead he looked to Elise, then back to the paper and drew the letter A, then back to Elise and raised his eyebrows.

“You want my help?” When he nodded, Elise grinned. “Sure thing. We’ll have you writing messages in no time at all!”

Rowen bent his head, writing carefully. Thank yu.

Elise clapped her hands. “See!”

Rowen smiled. He could do it. He had to write to Kristoff.