What I’m working on

I just wanted to give an update on what I’ve been working on lately.

I took the books down to re-edit them. The first one has been done and is back up on Amazon. The paperback edition will hopefully be released next week if everything goes well.

I’m waiting on the proof copy of Restless Bones so I can review it. I’m re-editing that one as well and will put it back up on Amazon when I’m finished.

I’m almost done with Fallen Queen, so that will be out soon.

I’m also working on two other projects one fantasy and one murder mystery. Hopefully, the first drafts will be done within the next few months.

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Fallen Queen Prorder Canceled

I’m so sorry to say this but the preorder for the third novella in the Moon Investigations series has been canceled and the release date has been pushed back. It will be coming out soon just not by the end of the month. I didn’t want to push the date back but I felt that the book just wasn’t ready to come out and I didn’t want to rush it. To those who have ordered it you should be getting your money back soon.

I’m so sorry. I will keep you updated.

Fallen Queen Prologue

Prologue

 

 

 

“You worthless bast—”

Victor Mason grabbed a handful of Mercy Blackstone’s moss colored hair, kicked open the screen door and flung her into the night air. His blue claws scraping her neck as he let go. Mercy skidded down the porch steps, a cloud of dirt whirled around her as she landed on the ground.

“Now, now” —Victor stepped down to the bottom step of the porch— “don’t be so un-lady like. You lost fair and square. And a deal is a deal.”

“You cheated!” Mercy spat.

A chorus of crickets and frogs led the background melody as she picked herself off the ground and dusted off her skirts.

Victor shrugged. “What kind of man cheats a lady at cards?”

“The kind of man you are.”

“Prove it.”

The other card players emerged from the house and stood behind Victor just as distant howling joined in the chorus. Mercy eyed them carefully. They were his friends, and while she didn’t know them well, she knew they wouldn’t back up her story. Victor cheated. He used magic in a no magic card game. That was the only reason she lost. Her reluctance to participate in Victor’s weekly card game melted away after she won her first three hands. She had never been invited before. In fact, although Victor had been her neighbor for years, she didn’t have much interaction with him.

“This was a trick. You just wanted my land.”

“You signed it over Mercy. A deal is a deal.” Lee Hart’s voice was as calm and cool as always. He moved next to Victor and held up the deed to Mercy’s property.

“You know he cheated!”

“You can’t prove that.” Lee stepped down from the porch into the dirt. His hooves clicking against the wood with each step. “Mercy let it go. Go home and—”

“Take one last look around because you need to be out by the end of the week,” finished Victor.

“You—” Mercy lunged at him. Just as she reached out to grab him by the collar, Lee darted in front of her and pushed her back.

“Come on Mercy. Just go home.” Lee stood between them.

“Yeah go home. While you still can,” teased Victor.

Mercy shoved Lee. “You’ll pay for this. You all will.”

 

Blackstone Manor sat on twelve acres of land next to Victor Mason’s six acres. He had coveted her father’s land for as long as she could remember.

Stupid.

What made her think she could beat him at poker? How could she have been so stupid?

It was all her fault. She had been playing Victor and his friends all night and won every hand until the last one. That was his plan all along. Make her comfortable and sure of herself so when he suggested the bet, Mercy would say yes because she was on a winning streak.

Where will I go?

Mercy was the sole caretaker of the manor. Everyone else had either died or moved away. What would she do with her belongings? Her family heirlooms. There weren’t many, just a dining room table that had been in her family for generations, some antique glasses and a painting of her great-great-grandmother. A house full of things and nowhere to put them.

As she closed the front door behind her, she took a deep breath to steady her nerves. She lit the candle that sat on a gilded table by the door. As she looked around, her sadness was replaced by anger. Mercy sat in a red velvet chair by the window in the parlor. Victor knew everyone in town. Everyone important. Even if she tried to fight him for the deed, none of the men that were a part of the game would admit Victor cheated. Lee Hart, Wilson Gallows, Henry Lovetts, and Levi Long were all a part of the game, and they would all pay.

Mercy stared at the fireplace. She wanted to remember it. Every smell, every room. How three of the floorboards in the foyer always creaked under her feet. Sitting in the sunroom and watching the sun rise and set. Or smelling flowers from her garden through the length of the house when the windows were open.

If she had to leave she would, but Victor Mason wouldn’t get off so easily. She packed a small bag with the essentials, some books, and a knife. She was on her way out the room when something caught her eye. Mercy turned around and saw the music box on her dresser shimmering in the candlelight.  The box, silver with three rubies on the lid, was a gift from her mother on her birthday. She wished she could take it with her, but she had no need for it.

Mercy opened it. The whimsical tune brought back memories of lavender, jasmine, the laughter of her sister, the slowed breaths of her mother, and the sobs of her father. Her mother had been sick for months and had been confined to her bed for three weeks. What started as a fever turned into her mother’s inability to breathe properly and then at all. It was a rare disease not yet named as it only affected a small percentage of firebirds. Although her mother was only half firebird, she still contracted the highly contagious disease. Mercy and her sister were forced to stay as far from her mother as possible. Except for her birthday. When Mercy turned ten, she was allowed in the room but only for a few minutes. It was then her mother gave her the music box.

When her mother struggled to take her last breath, the music box played. When her father screamed and sobbed as he watched the life leave her mother’s eyes, the music box played. Months later when her sister was the first one to laugh again and the heaviness that shrouded the house was lifted, the music box played.

And when Mercy Blackstone plotted her revenge and walked through her childhood home one last time, the music box played.

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Victor Mason saw a shadow emerge from the woods. The closer it got the more it took shape. A woman’s shape. He watched it saunter across his property until he recognized the shape coming towards him.

“A deal is a deal, Mercy.”

There was something strange about her. No one had seen her for weeks. Not since the night of their poker game, and he won her land. Truthfully, Victor expected more of a fight from her. More of a struggle. A battle of wits or a battle of lawyers. She was so angry that night, and yet now as she stood in front of him, she smiled. A thin weird smile.

“Mercy, what do you want?”

The whites of her eyes turned black. Victor backed into the screen door as the wind whipped around him. Deeply rooted trees shook, branches slammed into the side of the house. Victor crouched to the floor as branches and rocks flew above him. He glanced in the direction he had last seen Mercy, but she was gone. Rocks crashed into the front windows raining glass all around him. Being half minotaur, Victor had no magic. His wife did, and had she not gone to visit her mother, none of this would have been happening.

Victor was lifted into the air and slammed into one of the posts on the porch. As he slumped to the ground gasping for air, she came in to view. A flash of lightning illuminated her face. Black eyes fixed on him.

“I hope you enjoy my family’s land, but you won’t be there long. I just came here to tell you that there are only two ways to get back what I’ve already taken from you. Leave or a sacrifice.”

“Sacrifice?” Victor’s voice was barely above a whisper.

“Yes. And only one of your children will do.” Mercy turned to walk away. “And it will only last for fifty years.”

“What did you take?”

“You’ll see.”

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Lee Hart

 

“Death of one or all? You choose.”

“Listen Mercy—”

Mercy stood under the large tree in Lee Hart’s front yard. “Death of one or all. You die or your entire family dies. Your line will end in your lifetime. So, death of one or all?”

Lee could barely make out her face. There seemed to be a dark cloud over her. Distorting her before his very eyes. But her voice was the same.

“I’m sorry Victor stole your land but move on Mercy. If you—”

Mercy disappeared. Lee opened the screen door and peered out into the yard. She was gone. He inched further out on to the porch, looking from right to left. Nothing.

“What was that about?” he said to himself. “What happened to her?”

The hairs on the back of his neck stood up. He spun around. Mercy stood behind him. Her black eyes staring through him. Lee stepped back, lost his footing and stumbled down the porch steps. Landing in the dirt with a hard thud.

“Death of one or all? You die or your family. Pick.”

“I’m not picking anything. You’re crazy! Get off my land!”

“You will choose.”

Mercy disappeared in a cloud of black smoke. Lee sat in the dirt trying to catch his breath. He knew Mercy was going to be angry when Victor suggested his plan for taking her land, but it seemed to him she had gone past angry. She had become delusional. No one had seen her in so long maybe she had driven herself crazy.

 

A piercing scream jolted Lee awake the next morning. He sprang up, jumped out of bed, and ran to the source. Down the hall, to the room, his daughter Nora shared with her husband.

“What is going on?”

Nora was in bed writhing in agony as her mother, sister, and husband crowded around her.

Lee grabbed her husband by the arm and pulled him away from the bed. “Jesse go get the doctor!” He turned the man towards the door and pushed him out of the room. “What is happening?”

“I’m not sure. She just started screaming. I think it’s something with the baby,” his wife Mariel answered.

“Labor?”

“It’s too soon,” answered Mariel. She took a white cloth and dabbed Nora’s forehead.

“What do we do?” Nina, his second daughter, sat on the bed next to her sister holding her hand.

“We wait for the doctor,” answered Lee.

“Oh no,” whispered Mariel.

Blood oozed from between Nora’s legs down the white sheets; like a snake crawling in the grass. A scream erupted from Nora as more blood snaked down the bed.

By the time the doctor arrived, Nora was pale and quiet.

“I’m sorry.” Doctor Peters kept his fingers on Nora’s neck. “She has no pulse. I’m afraid she’s gone.”

“What happened?” asked Lee as he took his daughter’s hand. It was cold and pale and so small compared to his own.

“Might have been a hemorrhage that caused the loss of the baby, and she couldn’t stop bleeding. I’m not sure.”

Mariel let out a sob that turned into a scream seconds later. She doubled over clutching her belly. Blood trickling down her legs.

“Mariel?”

“Help me get her to a bed!”

Lee swept his wife off the floor and into his arms. He ran to their bedroom and laid her gently on the bed.

“What’s wrong with her?”

“I’m not sure.”

When the doctor tried to listen to her heart, Mariel’s body began to shake uncontrollably.

“What’s happening?”

As suddenly as she started shaking, she stopped. The doctor listened to her heart.

“I’m so sorry, Lee. She’s gone.”

“What? No!” Lee climbed on to the bed and shook her violently. “Wake Mar! Wake up!”

“She’s gone,” said Dr. Peters as he placed a hand on Lee’s shoulder.

Lee shook him off. Another scream turned his attention towards the door.

“Oh, what now?” Dr. Peters dashed out of the door ahead of Lee.

They ran down the hall and out the front door. Nina stood next to Jesse who was lying on the ground. The doctor felt for a pulse. He looked up at Lee and shook his head. Nina clasped a hand over her mouth and muffled a sob.

“What is happening here Lee?” The doctor stood up and shook his head.

Before Lee could answer, he spotted something in the woods. A dark figure in a dress stood between the trees. Even in the daylight, he struggled to make it out. As he strained his eyes to see what they wouldn’t, he heard it.

“Death of one or all.”

Mercy’s voice whirled around him.

She did this.

 He looked at his daughter. Nina sat on the porch stairs sobbing into her hands. He looked back at the forest, but the figure was gone. He searched the woods in front of his house, but the figure was not there.

“Lee?”

“Yes?” Lee blinked at the doctor.

“Maybe this was poison? What have you been eating lately?”

Death of one or all.

Lee looked from the doctor back to his daughter. And there she was. Mercy dressed in all black stood in front of Nina. Lee looked from the doctor back to Nina.

How is he not seeing her?

Mercy pointed at Nina.

Death of one or all.

“I’ll come back. In the meantime, don’t eat anything. I’ll send someone for the bodies.”

Lee blinked, and Mercy was gone. He nodded at the doctor as he searched for a clue as to where the woman would appear next.

Dr. Peters started to leave but stopped when he got to the bottom step of the porch. “Oh, did you hear about Mercy?”

Lee’s eyes darted towards the doctor. “What about her?”

“She hung herself. A while ago. They found her hanging from a tree at the edge of her property. She had been there for weeks. Shame, she was such a nice woman.” Dr. Peters sighed. “I’ll send someone right away.”

The doctor slung the strap of his medical bag around his shoulder and galloped away.

Lee walked up to his daughter and patted her on the head. “Nina go to your grandmother.”

“I can’t leave you here alone with—” Nina bit her lip as she stared at the screen door.

“I have to wait for someone to get them. You needn’t be here for that. Go to your grandmother’s and tell her what happened. She should know.”

Nina stood up, and Lee kissed her softly on the forehead.

“Are you sure?” her voice was weak and shaky.

“Of course. I’ll be there shortly. Go ahead.”

Nina nodded. Lee listened to the click of her heels as she trotted in the direction of his mother’s house. He sighed as he stared into the woods. He knew what needed to be done. To save his daughter. His mother. His uncle. Whatever Mercy had done to his family, he knew what he had to do to save the rest of them. He didn’t have the magic to break the darkness Mercy had cast over them.

Who would have that power? he thought as he grabbed some rope from the shed. He would do anything for his family. With the help of a ladder, he tied the rope to the strongest looking branch of the biggest tree in the front yard. Lee looped it around his neck. His hooves kicked away the ladder.

Mercy smiled from the porch.

One down three to go.

 

 

Empress Miko Moon: A tale from Taraushi

Empress Miko

A tale from Taraushi

 

Why can’t they just slip into the river and float away? she thought. Empress Miko Moon, eyed her family spitefully. The Lotus Palace garden gave her a clear view of the white river located just outside the palace gates, where her husband and two children played.  The three of them were so close to the edge, the softest breeze could blow and knock them into the water. She closed her eyes and prayed for a strong wind. Or better yet a tidal wave or a monsoon. Stranger things had happened in that river. She knew her husband would probably survive but her children would not. Her husband, Emperor Pan, would probably be so distraught over their deaths he’d kill himself. Miko smiled at the thought.

A breeze did come. After her family moved to a tree away from the edge of the riverbank. Miko sighed. The wind whipped through the trees and carried pink, purple and white blossoms to the clear water of the lake. The smell of jasmine wrapped around her. She sat on a marble bench in the middle of the garden under one Piat tree and one Lithe tree. The vibrant green bark of the Lithe tree was a strange contrast to the black bark of the Piat tree. A plum-colored flower fell from the Lithe and landed in her lap. She brought it to her nose as she stared at the river.

They seemed so happy. Her children’s laughter filled the air as her husband chased them around a tree. Miko glanced away in disgust. What right did they have to be happy? She balled up her fist.

“Aren’t you a peculiar mother,” commented a familiar voice from a hidden source.

“It’s not like you to hide.” Miko glanced around the garden. Trees, black and green, outlined the garden. Flowers were in full bloom and the shrubbery was well groomed. There were many places for someone to hide. If they could get pass the water giants at the gates, protection spells and scale the azurite walls to get in the garden.

“Didn’t want your family to see me.” Rabe stuck his head out from behind a tree in the far corner of the garden.

“What do you want?”

“I was sent to check on you. How are your plans? Any pro—”

“My plans are fine. Tell him not to worry about my plans. I know what I have to do.”

“We were just checking.”

“What about Haven?” asked Miko. She glanced at Rabe before turning her attention back to her frolicking family.

“We are working on getting rid of them. First the parents and when the girl comes into power she will be next.”

“Why wait? Why not just kill them all at the same time?”

Pan waved and smiled at her. She returned the wave and gave a half smile. She rolled her eyes when he looked away.

“Reasons. We just need—”

“I know what needs to be done. And it will be. Stop worrying.” Miko glanced back at Rabe.

“Just making sure you weren’t having second thoughts.”

“Don’t worry about my thoughts. I suggested it, I will do it. It’ll be done soon. Now go before someone sees you.”

Rabe gave a short bow before disappearing.

How dare he question my commitment? Her part of the plan had been her suggestion. And it would get done. At the right time. After all, killing one’s family could not be done impulsively. Planning had to be done first.

 

 

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“What was the meeting about?” she asked her husband. Her handmaids swirled around her, tucking her into her red and black kimono and pinning her hair.

“Nothing to worry your head about.” He gave her a light pat on the head. “Just Emperor Prin trying to get me on board with his horrendous agenda. Nothing for you to think about.”

“But don’t you think—”

He husband turned to face her and smiled. “Miko, darling, it’s not for you to think about.”

“I was just—”

He placed a finger to her lips. “I won’t hear anymore. It’s no business of yours.” He slipped on his shoes and headed for the door. “I will be late for dinner. Do start without me.”

“Yes dear,” she replied with slumped shoulders. Miko clenched her fist. She took a deep breath.

“Empress?” asked one of her handmaids.

Miko eyed the girl carefully. “Leave me. All of you.”

With short courteous bows, the handmaids left the room. How dare he treat me like a child. Miko sat on the edge of the bed. It had always been like that. Since they married when she was sixteen. She never wanted to marry. Him nor any other man. Her parents in their infinite wisdom arranged the marriage with his mother. And how lucky was she? To marry the Emperor. How lucky indeed.  Miko seemed to be the only one who knew she wasn’t lucky in her marriage. She was married to a man who she was smarter than but insisted on treating her like a child. He never listened to her or her ideas. His favorite phrase was ‘stay in a woman’s place.’

Which was his way of saying shut up, bear my children and never have any thoughts of your own unless they involve making me happy. How could anyone live like that? She never even wanted children. She didn’t even like them. Not her own or anyone else’s. They were just a nuisance. A contractual obligation. Her life was a contractual obligation. Her smiles, her courteous behavior, her kind words, every ounce of the façade she had to wear daily was part of her obligation.

A knock at the door spurred her form her thoughts. “Yes?”

“It’s time for dinner.”

“Thank you.” Miko stood up, dusted off her Kimono and sighed. Let’s get this over with.  Lotus Palace was a series of flower-lined hallways. She followed white lotus flowers to the dining hall.

In the middle of the large room sat a large brass table littered with hot dishes. The walls teal and gold. As the sun began to set the candles on the table and in the lanterns on the walls lit themselves. She found her seat at the opposite end of her husband’s royal chair. As soon as she sat next to her father the servants put the last dish on the table and left the room so the family could dine in peace. Her daughter Aiko smiled at her. Her big opal eyes twinkling in the candlelight. Miko returned the smile and gave her a light pat on the head, messing her jet-black hair. Her son Ken sat next to his grandfather, reading a piece of paper. The twins looked alike but couldn’t be more different. Where Ken was outgoing and loud, Aiko was quiet and observant.

“Mommy you should eat,” whispered Aiko.

“I’m not hungry. You go ahead.”

“Sorry I’m late,” announced Pan as he stepped into the room ten minutes later. He sat at the head of the table and immediately shoved a dumpling into his mouth. He looked up at Miko. “Not eating?”

“I’m not hungry dear.”

He nodded as he stuffed a piece of fried pork into his mouth. Her family ate and ate as she watched. She took a sip of piat flavored wine and leaned back.

The children were the first to go. Their nine-year-old bodies slumped against the table, blue and cold. Then her parents. Then Pan’s parents. His sister and brother went soon after and his uncle followed. The poison came upon them so fast they didn’t realize they were dropping like flies until it was too late.

“What. Did. You. Do?”

“What needed to be done.”

“The children,” Pan gurgled.

Miko glanced at her children There was nothing. Not a tear, not a tug at her heartstrings. Nothing. “They were never mine.”

And they weren’t. Yes, she had watched them grow up, but she didn’t give birth to them. She had only pretended to be pregnant and bought a baby from a pregnant girl who already had five children and couldn’t care for the one in her belly. It was only supposed to be one but when twins came it made her husband so much happier. To fulfill her marriage contract she had to give her husband an heir and she did. No one said she had to give birth to the children and technically they were hers. She bought them, she owned them, they were hers. “They weren’t yours either.” She smiled.

Pan gurgled in response.

Miko stood up and sauntered over to him. “You should have taken Prin’s deal. This wouldn’t have happened. But you not taking it works out great for me because now your whole family’s dead. Your whole line. So now I rule. We destroy the leaders of Haven, Prin get’s what he wants and then I get everything I have ever wanted.”

“Not. The. Whole. Line.” His lips quivered into a blue smile.

“What do you mean? Who else?”

His eyes closed but the smile never left him.

Who? Who else is there? Miko knew her husband’s family. All of them. His father, mother, sister, brother and his uncle. That was it. Everyone else was dead. Who else could inherit the crown instead of her? Miko searched her brain and came up with nothing. “Unless—”

 

“Is it done?”

Miko spun around and stumbled back. “Yes Rabe. You can tell Emperor Prin it’s done.”

He stood in the far corner of the room, shrouded in shadows. “Well all hail the Empress of Taraushi,” he gave a low bow.

Miko nodded.

“Shame about the children though.” Rabe nodded towards the table. “And he has no other family?”

“Right, everyone’s dead. It’s just me.”

“Good then. We will be in touch.” Rabe disappeared as quickly and as quietly as he had appeared.

Miko glanced around the room. She clenched her fist as she stared at her husband’s body. She wanted to hit him. Punch him right in his smug mouth. He had another heir. But who and where were things she would have to figure out later. She picked up a piece of fried pork and took half a bite. It was enough. Just enough to make her sick but not kill her. Now she had to put on her best performance.

“Help! Help! They’re all dead. Someone help me! Save my children,” she sobbed.

Servants rushed to her rescue just as the small bite of poisoned meat sprang into action.