A big plot twist in my life

As this blog post title suggests, I recently had an unexpected twist come up in my life. Something that took me completely by surprise.  Those of you who have been following me for at least a couple of years may recall this post from November 2015 where I talked about some personal troubles I had.  Many of you were kind enough to comment with your support, encouragement, and/or similar stories you’d faced in your own lives. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me.

Now I finally have an update for you and it is good news!

Back in April I discovered I was pregnant.  Yes, really, after ten years of trying.  To say I was shocked would be an understatement, and let’s just say I was certain the pregnancy test must have been broken even if signs pointed toward it being right.  I tapped at the thing, wondering if it was playing a cruel joke on me.  Then I took another test and got the same results.  This was a Saturday night so there was little I could do to confirm it further until Monday when I could call my doctor.  Like me, she’d pretty much given up on me ever conceiving, so needless to say she got me into her office much faster than expected- the next day.  I had to go to the lab first and then be at the clinic an hour later.  Apparently, she and the nurse hovered over the computer waiting for the results to come in and they had broad grins on their faces when they came into the exam room to meet my husband and me.  It was true.  I was finally carrying a baby, and though I would have preferred for it to happen before reaching “advanced maternal age” I’m truly excited.  Better now than never.

Having said all that, deep fear rode me that it could all go wrong at any moment.  Like fate would tease me with something so miraculous and then take it away, so I’ve kept quiet until I reached the second trimester even though I knew some people would be wondering about the next book, but I feared jinxing anything.  During that time, I faced all the usual pregnancy related symptoms (nausea, exhaustion, severe headaches I couldn’t take pain meds for so I just curled in a ball until they passed, and a few other things that are less pleasant to even mention).  These issues are starting to taper off slowly and will hopefully be gone soon now that I’m on week fourteen.  The baby is due in mid-December, for those wondering.

My husband and I have also had to scramble to find a bigger home because our small apartment wasn’t going to cut it with a baby on the way.  I used up the days I was feeling a little better and more energetic to go house hunting and eventually found a great place to rent.  We we’ve been busy packing and will be moving into the house next week.  It’s got a yard and back patio, plus lots of extra space inside so it’s going to be a huge improvement over my current residence.

So all of this is to say, if you haven’t guessed already, that not a lot of writing has gotten done in the last few months like I’d hoped.  Destined for Dreams has been started, but it isn’t near completion yet.  My hope is that as soon as we get settled into the new house I can focus entirely on getting the novel finished.  I’ve been reassured by some of my fellow authors that the second trimester of pregnancy was an extremely productive time for them, especially compared to the first where it’s tough to be creative when it’s all you can do to hold your food down (if you can find anything you can tolerate to eat, that is).  I’m looking forward to buckling down in my new home (new to me, anyway) and giving you all a second novel in the Dark Destiny Series you can truly enjoy to be followed by the last book of the trilogy.

Please be patient with me in the meantime.  I’ll post updates as I have them and an excerpt once I’ve got something polished enough to share.  Thanks again to those who have been supportive along the way!

April update

First of all, thank you to everyone who has picked up a copy of Darkness Wanes.  I’ve appreciated all the wonderful feedback I’ve received via email and Facebook messages.  If you’d consider leaving a review on Amazon or whichever retailer you use, I’d greatly appreciate it.

The paperback should be out within two weeks for those interested.  I’m getting it formatted now.  Many people have asked about the audiobook and my publisher has set it to release on June 21st.  Sorry it can’t be sooner, but hopefully the time will pass quickly!

As for Dancing with Flames (book 2 of the Dragon’s Breath series), I have begun working hard on it.  I’d done some of the preliminary work last year after finishing the first novel, but now I’m getting deep into the writing.  One thing I’m enjoying is that with the apocalypse and basic world-building tasks are out of the way, I can focus more on the characters and plot threads with this installment.  There will be some recap of events from the first book, but mostly I’ll be pushing the story forward.

Yesterday, I spent some time on research I needed for the novel, going to visit a couple of sources for various information (don’t want to spoil anything).  It’s amazing how many people are patient with me when I ask crazy questions related to the series and that they’re willing to help.  I also walked through the location for one of the battle scenes and took a bunch of pictures I’ll refer to later.  There was a skateboard park nearby.  The guys there were giving me strange looks because I had to pass by them along my way while snapping photos (in another direction), but I ignored them.  Unfortunately, their colorful ramps couldn’t figure into my story due to their location.  This particular battle scene is already written, but my first drafts are bare bones with little description so I needed to get the proper lay of the land for when I do my revisions.

I know a lot of people want a hard date for when the novel will be out.  Believe me, I wish I could give it to you, but after all the delays with Darkness Wanes I’m a little nervous to do that just yet until I reach a certain point in the book.  Nothing bothers me more than letting you guys down when I miss a target date.  At the very least, we’re looking at two months from now.  That is doable, barring any unforeseen circumstances.  It’s spring, though, so keep your fingers crossed that Oklahoma doesn’t get another spat of tornadoes to distract me.  Speaking of which, there are storms forecast for the next couple of days so I should probably get off here and get some writing done while the weather is still calm.

Thanks again for all the support you’ve given me and for your patience.  I’ll post another update later in the month.

Darkness Wanes sneak preview

Progress on Darkness Wanes is coming along well.  I want to once again apologize for the lengthy delay in getting this novel out due to personal setbacks.  I finally got back into my writing groove last month and I’ve been working like mad on it ever since.  My poor family may have forgotten what I look like since I barricade myself behind a closed door most of the time.  Not to worry, though, they make me come out to eat occasionally.

The first half of the book is in good shape and I’m just revising the final chapters now before sending them off to my editor.  By the looks of things, this novel is going to end up being about 120k words.  As a comparison, Darkness Shatters was 96k and Stalked by Flames was 101k.  Darkness Wanes will definitely be the longest book I’ve ever written by quite a bit, but there is a lot to wrap up and I want to be sure to do the characters (and story) justice.  Special thanks to all the beta readers who’ve helped out along the way.  You all are awesome!

I have high hopes I will be able to release this novel by the end of the month.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.  Below are the first three chapters of Darkness Wanes (about 10k words).  Hope you enjoy 🙂

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Chapter One

Melena

Some places should be avoided at all costs.  Troll villages, the woods on a full moon, and retailers on Black Friday topped my personal list, but above them all—Purgatory.  It was an inhospitable island set outside of time and space where human souls went after death when they weren’t quite good enough for Heaven, but not bad enough for Hell.  One might consider it a sort of way station—though it was probably closer to a prison.  Unless you had a very good reason, you didn’t come here voluntarily.

The sandy beaches at the island’s edge could fry eggs or blister bare feet.  A prisoner couldn’t swim away, assuming they made it through all the guards first.  The ocean surrounding the land extended forever, an infinite mass of water with no apparent end.  Not that you’d want to be outside in Purgatory.  Blinding light shone down from a sun that appeared twice as large as Earth’s, and it generated more heat than any mortal could survive for more than a few minutes.  That is, assuming the low oxygen levels didn’t suffocate them first.

Jagged mountains rose in the middle, raw and intimidating.  All along them, human souls relived the crimes they’d committed in their past life.  These were people who weren’t good enough to enter Heaven yet, but neither were they terrible enough for Hell.  Purgatory served as a place for them to learn from their evil deeds before they went on to their final destination.

They had no bodies, only the light of their inner beings, but that didn’t reduce their suffering.  On the rare occasion I came close enough to them, I felt their pain and remorse in every fiber of my being.  Nothing could be worse than facing one’s past mistakes over and over again with no relief.  This place couldn’t be mistaken for an island vacation spot.  It was real, and it was only one step above Hell.

It wasn’t that much better for me, either.  The only difference being I wasn’t dead yet.  Purgatory also served as an immortal penitentiary, though supernatural inmates didn’t stay up top with the human souls.  The guardians of the place—sort of an offshoot breed of angels—kept us confined deep inside the mountains in a vast network of tunnels and carved-out prison cells.  Of all the inmates here, they hated me the most.  I’d broken into Purgatory twice, using modern firepower against them, to free others who didn’t deserve to be here.  Those people were now free, which made it worth it, but I had no way of escaping without assistance.  I was trapped here for my full three-month sentence.

In the caves we inhabited, it dropped to bone-numbing temperatures and the stone walls wept with the icy tears of its denizens.  That wasn’t meant to be poetic.  Purgatory had a way of torturing you with both your darkest memories and your most cherished.  I’d had a lot of time to think since arriving.  One moment I’d feel the pain of my worst mistakes, including those that led to the loss of good friends, and in the next moment I’d remember my lover, Lucas, or adopted daughter, Emily.  They were part of the good things in my life, but the longer I stayed in Purgatory, the more I wished I didn’t think of them.  It would have made my time easier that way.

This was an ugly place where nothing good belonged, especially in the bowels where I’d been confined.  The walkways were frozen except for the occasional numbing cold stream running along the path.  Sharp icicles hung from the ceilings, often falling on hapless victims.  I’d had my head struck more than once—made worse by the fact it took considerably longer to heal in Purgatory than on Earth.  It was also eerily dark.  If not for the greenish-blue glow emanating from cracks in the stone, even those with the best night vision wouldn’t have been able to see anything.  Then again, it didn’t seem to bother the guardians who lorded over their prisoners.  They moved around just fine.

Clink. Clink. Clink.  The sound of pickaxes droned on in an annoyingly familiar rhythm.  I suspected I’d hear them in my head long after I left this place.  I blew a strand of my auburn hair from my cheek where it had come loose from its braid and continued chipping away at the blue-gray stone in front of me.

This section of the tunnel and I had become well acquainted since the archangel, Remiel, dropped me off here two and a half months ago.  In that time, I’d managed to extract about five pounds of ore.  The older and stronger supernaturals working alongside me gathered much higher amounts.  Not that it really mattered.  A cavern several levels above us had at least a dozen piles of it wasting away.  The guardians had long since gotten enough to make all the chains and weapons they needed.  They just wanted us to continue adding to the heap.

I rubbed at my aching lower back.  Even an immortal body couldn’t handle fourteen hours of crouching in mines every day without getting sore.  By the end of my shift, my spine always became so bowed out of shape that I could hardly stand up straight without a lot of effort and pain.  If I never saw an underground tunnel again it wouldn’t be long enough.

The clinking of the axes slowed and whispers rose among the other prisoners.  I took a surreptitious gaze around to find our guards had wandered down the tunnel out of earshot.  It happened so rarely I had to seize the opportunity while it lasted.

“Eli,” I called softly to the dark-skinned nephilim hunched ten feet away.

He turned his head toward me.  “What?”

Eli wore the same basic uniform as me—buckskin trousers, a matching sleeveless top and leather boots.  We hadn’t gotten utilitarian clothing when we first arrived in Purgatory.  They’d given us long robes that chaffed at our skin and no footwear.  It made it difficult to navigate the treacherous tunnels.  After a few days, I’d had enough and went on strike.

No one else joined me at first.  I was a sensor, and the rest of the prisoners were nephilim.  Our races were eternal enemies, but I was trying to change that.  I’d mated with a nephilim, Lucas, and he’d made me immortal.  Most of the supernatural world knew about us and how we’d found common ground.  Some of them had grown to accept me, mostly in Alaska where we lived, but we had a long way to go before our races got along entirely.  The majority of the sensors and sups still didn’t trust each other.

For three days, my prison mates watched me get whipped every morning because I refused to leave my cell for work in the mines.  On the fourth day, Eli was the first to join me.  We’d met a couple of times before, and he’d seemed more open than most.  Eventually, all twelve nephilim participated in my little strike.

It wasn’t just the poor clothing choices I’d protested, but also the awful gruel they fed us every day.  The lack of oxygen and stronger gravity of Purgatory drained us too much already.  Poor nutrition made things worse.  Immortals might not be able to die, but they could become severely weakened if their basic needs weren’t met.  We needed humane treatment if we were going to have the energy to work.

The rest of my companions were centuries or even thousands of years old.  They’d lived during times when the weaker always submitted to the stronger.  It didn’t occur to them to demand more for themselves.

I was a modern woman and military veteran who believed in standing up for my rights.  The ancient guardians running Purgatory had no idea how to handle me, but I had experience dealing with their kind before.  In fact, I’d helped rehabilitate one of the worst among them.  I just had to suffer through their punishments for a while before I got my way.  Though it wasn’t easy—they nearly broke me more than once.

“How do you call on an archangel without a summoning stone?” I asked Eli.  There was a bit of Denzel Washington’s features in him that always struck me, especially in the eyes and chin.

He frowned at me.  “Why?”

He was constantly telling me to keep my head down and stay out of trouble.  Not that I did, and more often than not he got caught up in my battles with the guardians.  It wasn’t like I forced him to do my bidding.  Eli just had a need to help people no matter what it cost.  We had that in common, which was why we were both stuck here.

“Because I need to know.”  Working in the mines gave you a lot of time to plot.  I estimated that in about two or three weeks—they wouldn’t give an exact date—I’d be out of here.  I had things to do as soon as I got back home.

“Melena,” he said in a warning tone.  “I’m not helping you again.”

I glared.  “It’s important.”

“Let it go until we return to Earth.”  He turned away and began swinging his pickaxe again.

“Come on,” I said in a pleading tone.  “I just need to know how to summon an archangel.”

He ignored me.  I considered throwing my pickaxe at him, but I couldn’t risk drawing the attention of the guardians.  Not to mention the chain stretching between my ankle and a hook in the floor would keep me from getting the tool back.  All the prisoners were restricted so that we couldn’t move more than a few feet.

“Eli,” I growled when he still wouldn’t answer me.

A female nephilim with shoulder-length blond hair turned toward me.  “Be quiet!”

Sabelle’s golden eyes were filled with hatred.  It never ceased to amaze me how a woman with such a sweet nature could become that hostile toward someone she hardly knew.  When I’d first met her, her heart-shaped face had seemed welcoming and kind.  That only lasted until she discovered I was a sensor.

“What is your problem?” I asked her.  Not that I expected a logical reply.

Sabelle’s nostrils flared.  “You! Your kind are nothing but…”

“I can tell you how to do it,” Bartol interrupted, putting a stop to the hate speech.  He worked on the wall to my right and spoke so rarely that I was startled to hear his voice now.

I turned toward him.  Bartol’s long brownish-gold hair fell past his shoulders in light waves.  The oily strands didn’t quite hide the horrific scars on the left side of his face.  The burns marred what had once been handsome features.  Nephilim could usually heal from anything, but a magic spell had been infused with the damage so that he’d never be whole again.  Not even my ability to nullify magic could do anything to help him now.

Bartol had been in Purgatory for nearly a century as his penalty for seducing an angel.  Not long after arriving an overzealous guardian, Kerbasi, burned him as part of his own personal brand of punishment.  Bartol had faced many horrors since arriving here, but that was probably among the worst.  By my estimates, his sentence would finish around the same time as mine.  He was a friend of Lucas’ and we planned to help him as much as we could when he got out.

“You know?  How?” I asked. Continue reading

November update

This is one of those posts I put off writing because I know it’s going to upset people.  Those of you who have followed me for a while know I don’t get into my personal life much on my blog because I generally feel that should be kept separate from my professional one.  Every once in a while, though, it affects my writing. I feel it’s only fair you all get some explanation as to the reason why you might have to wait longer on a book.  Now is one of those times.

My husband and I have been married for over eight years.  We have yet to conceive despite doing nothing to prevent it.  I wasn’t terribly worried about it in the early years of our marriage because it gave us time with each other to build our lives.  Once I started writing, I wanted to focus on that for a while and get a few books out before adding a baby to my daily routine.  Still, I didn’t do anything to keep from getting pregnant either.  This past summer I turned thirty-five.  My husband and I both agreed we couldn’t ignore the issue any longer and that we were more than ready for children.  Clearly, we needed to take further steps to make that happen.

A couple of months ago we went to see a specialist.  Neither of us have anything in our history that stands out as an obvious cause for infertility.  Other than my chronic migraines and my husband having COPD (which he has under control through meds) we don’t have any major health problems.  I’m not going to get into the fine details since not everyone wants to read that, but suffice it to say we are healthy enough that conception shouldn’t be a problem.  Since that first doctor visit we have been undergoing a number of tests which have all come back normal.  I am told that fifteen percent of cases have no identifiable reason for why there is a problem.  We appear to be falling under that category.

We have reached the point now where they are referring me to another specialist to start treatments that should “help” things along.  I am both excited and nervous about this.  The success rate isn’t very high, but when it does happen it could result in multiple births.  It’s a risky move.  Yet I’m running out of time and don’t have a lot of other options.  If this is the only choice I have, then that’s what I’m going to do.

Through all of this, there’s been a part of me that feels like a failure.  It should be such a simple thing to get pregnant.  Millions of women do it every year with no problem at all, but I’ve never managed to do it once.  A lot of stupid things go through your mind when you face this sort of dilemma.  Am I just not good enough to be a parent?  Did I do something in my past and now karma is coming back to bite me? Is it simply my fate to never experience giving birth to my own child?  Yes, there are other options if things don’t work out, but I really want a chance for my husband and I to have a child together.

For the past couple of months these thoughts have been going through my mind.  With every visit to various doctors I’ve grown more frustrated.  None of them are very reassuring and their answers to my questions are often vague or unhelpful.  It’s been rather depressing and has affected other parts of my life.  While I’ve managed to finish writing most of Darkness Wanes, it’s not finished.  I hate to even admit that out loud.  The final chapters are completely plotted out in detail (that was easy because I’ve known how I wanted to the series to end for a long time), but getting those last chapters written has been difficult.  I’m pecking away at it now and finding my “zone” again.  It’s just been a matter of finding a way to push my personal problems aside.  Once they’re done, I’ll go through revisions next and get chapters out to beta readers.  For those of you who have beta read before, expect an email from me soon asking if you’re up for it again.

I can’t give a definite date for when Darkness Wanes will be published.  There are no more doctor’s appointments for the next few weeks as I wait for a referral to go through so at least I won’t have that to distract me.  I’m going to use this time to buckle down and get the novel done.  My hope is to get it finished by early December, but we’ll have to see how it goes. I don’t want to make any more promises I may not be able to keep.

I know this is going to upset some people.  You’ve been waiting for this book for a long time now and I hate that I let my personal problems get in the way.  I have some of the most awesome readers an author can ask for and you all deserve better than that.  Please just be patient with me as I work to get it done.  That’s all I can ask.

If it helps, here’s the cover for Darkness Wanes.  Usually I do a big reveal post, but I’m just going to let you all see it now.

Darkness Wanes medium cover

 

Self-publishing and expectations…

Recently I had a visitor to the website who asked several questions about my self-publishing experience. There wasn’t a good way to keep my responses short, though I tried at first. Instead I’m putting my answers in a regular post so that anyone else who is curious can read them as well. Here goes:

“Could you please talk about your experience?”

Publishing is a lot like riding a rollercoaster. Some days I’m on top of the world writing good stuff and hearing back from readers who enjoy my work. Thanks to all those awesome people who commented on my last post! Other days I might have trouble moving forward while working on a scene and/or catch some criticism of one of my books that makes me think I’m the most horrible writer in the world.

There are days I can’t imagine having any other job and that it’s the absolute best. Then I have days where I question why I released my stories for anyone else to read because, obviously, I completely suck. What was I thinking letting anyone see the crazy ideas that come into my head?

Writers have to be deeply in touch with their feelings in order to produce quality work. This is important, but can also make the whole experience more difficult from an emotional standpoint. If a reader is disappointed with your latest book you feel like you let them down though you honestly wrote it the way you believed it had to be written. I thank God for all my encouraging fans. They’re what has kept me releasing the next ones, though I’d probably never stop writing regardless.

“How you went about it. What was the process like? What pit falls did you encounter?”

For how I went about it, you must keep in mind I was writing for a few years before I published and that Darkness Haunts was not my first book. It was simply the first I thought worth sharing with the world. So when I made the big decision to publish I waited nearly a year from the time the first draft was completed before self-publishing it. I queried agents, entered it into ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards), and also learned everything about publishing I could.

I researched cover artists, editors, ebook formatting, paperbacks, and a lot on marketing. Though I refused to change to a genre that might be more salable (people were saying urban fantasy was a dying genre), I did study my market so as to gauge my expectations. I also followed other authors and read about their experiences, soaking up every bit of information I could.  At the end, I even changed the title to something more fitting and catchy than the original.  It wasn’t Darkness Haunts until two months before I released it.

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