Drawing up a comic

I’ve been working on a comic adapt of a scene from my novella, Waygate. I wanted to draw the fight where Jayesh first learns to summon his fire spear. Mostly I just wanted to draw a big comic-book fight scene, haha!

The pages are here and will be updated as I draw more. I’m hoping to draw another small comic after this one, but we’ll see.

Here’s a sample:

What are you waiting for? Go read it!

Book review: Sea and Soul by Shari Branning

The last few books I’ve reviewed in here have been less than favorable. So, let’s review a book I actually liked!

Sea and Soul, by Shari Branning

An evil queen sits on the throne, and the Seer has seen a curse is coming.

When empath Dylan Blaine is summoned to a gala on the Isle of Selkies, he knows it will likely spell his doom. But you can’t turn down a summons from a seer. His fears are justified when he encounters Lyselle, a sorceress who wants his power for her own.

Selkie heiress Kiah of Lomasi doesn’t know what help she could possibly be in the Seer’s game against the Witch Queen, but then disaster strikes as they’re leaving the gala, and she’s the only one who can save Dylan’s life.

Will Dylan, Kiah, and a handful of others that the Seer has brought together be able to navigate court politics, black magic, assassins, and monsters to keep their country from destruction? Or will the Witch Queen, who’s been sacrificing people with magic to feed her own stolen powers, end them all?

Sea and Soul is the first book in the Seer’s Gambit series, but can be read on its own or out of order.

Amazon link


This book is kind of like urban fantasy, but it’s not. It’s kind of like paranormal romance, but it’s not. This is almost a fairytale set in modern day. It has an evil stepmother queen, witches, princesses, selkies, werewolves, elves, and a cursed forest. But it also has guns, helicopters, motorboats, cars, and cell phones. In fact, people use magic mirrors and cellphones side by side. The setting is based on Alaska, so the city is built on a rugged coast of cliffs and restless seas. I can’t remember the last time I read a fantasy book set in Alaska.

Dylan is an empath, which means he has the ability to sense other people’s feelings. Instead of this making him touchy-feely, it makes him grouchy and snarky. Also, he’s been in fear for his life for years, because everybody wants an empath. A king with a leashed empath could always tell who his enemies are, or could control the emotions of anyone around him. The evil witch-queen wants him. Her sister, another witch, wants him. The elves want him, the selkies want him, everybody wants Dylan and his powers.

Thing is, humans don’t have magic. Dylan, as a human and being an empath, is very rare, and not exactly magic. For humans to get magic, they have to become a sorcerer and steal the magic from one of the magical races by sacrificing them and taking it from their blood. So for a witch queen to be in control of a country of magicals … this is really bad.

Dylan and a small group of others are brought together by the Seer and told that they need to become friends, because they’re going to have to work together to take down the witch queen and save their country. If they don’t, the whole country will be cursed, like the neighboring country of Marieadd, which got cursed after a war where everybody misused magic. That’s the whole cursed forest thing. The group aren’t sure about this, because everybody has their own secrets. But this isn’t a team-up book. Each of these characters will get their own books, and let me tell you, I want them all.

Dylan walks out the door and is attacked by the witch, Lyselle, who wants this empath under her thumb before her sister gets to him. She puts a subjugation spell on him, which he fights until he’s almost dead. But he’s saved by Kiah, a selkie whose only magic is sea-based. (Selkies are a sort of were-seal.) To save Dylan and break the subjugation spell, Kiah has to replace it with a stronger spell–that of her coat, which in selkie culture, is how they get married.

So Dylan wakes up with this pretty white glowing tattoo thing wrapped across his chest and back, and it’s Kiah’s coat, and it can’t come off. So … they’re married and it’s awkward because they only met the previous night. Whoops.

So now, as they work together to fight the queen and Lyselle and help their friends, Dylan and Kiah have this growing attraction as they awkwardly try to date and get to know each other. The action kicks off and never lets up, with the queen drawing the net tighter and tighter. I won’t spoil any more, but it has a heck of an ending. Dylan learns to weaponize his empath powers, and it’s terrific.

Whenever I’ve read a book with someone who can sense feelings, it’s always a girl doing it. To have a guy who senses feelings … and then makes wisecracks … was oddly refreshing and fun. Dylan smarts off to his enemies, even when it costs him. There’s a lovely theme of faith and the power that faith bestows. There’s a wonderful picture of love vs lust and how different they are.

I’d recommend this book for teens and up. Even though it has the imagination and action of a young adult novel, the characters are in their 20s, and … well, I just mentioned the love vs lust thing. Nothing is shown, and there’s only a few hot kisses, but there’s quite a lot of stuff implied, if you get my meaning. Such as what the witch wants to do to Dylan. In Dylan’s own words, “Ew!”

I can’t wait for the next books with the other characters. Also, I did the cover art!

5/5 stars

Book review: King’s Spell and King’s Enchantress by E.J. Kitchens

Buckle up, folks, this is going to be a long one.

So, I saw on a FB group that an author was looking for readers of an upcoming book. It was book 2 in a series, and it had very pretty covers, so I volunteered. First, I read book 1. So, here we go:


The King’s Spell by E.J. Kitchens:

Only a king can banish sorcerers and strip enchanters of their power. Only a king is immune to spells and potions. Only a king knows the truth behind the legends. Until now.

Magic Collector Devryn Ashby may have deserved the curse that saps his magic-manipulating abilities, but it certainly won’t help him with the task King Reginald has assigned him. Instead of allowing him to continue hunting for those who stole the powerful Enchanter’s List, the king makes Devryn trainer-in-magic to the mischievous enchantress Lady Meredith Lofton.

Except for an occasional matchmaking exploit, Lady Meredith has little use for her power of enchantment—until the king asks her to train in magical warfare techniques. This both excites and terrifies her. And irks her, for she refuses to be bossed around by the critical Devryn Ashby, a man she’s not even sure she should trust.

But as dangers increase and the sorcerers’ schemes unfold, Devryn and Meredith must choose whom to follow—their own desires and prejudices or their king. Only a king knows how much the kingdom depends on their choice.

THE KING’S SPELL, Realm and Wand book 1, is a YA Christian fantasy series with a “Jane Austen romance meets fantasy adventure” feel. It’s mystery and adventure with a slow-burn romance. It is part of the Magic Collectors story world but is a standalone series. Devryn Ashby is a minor character in The Rose and the Wand, but it is not necessary to have read that book beforehand.

Amazon link to book


My review: 3/5 stars. It’s a Regency style fantasy world with fancy dresses and top hats, and all the social and political craziness that goes with a Jane Austen novel. There are the enchanters, who are people born with magic. There are the Half-magics, who have the ability to take magic from an enchanter and use it, but they don’t generate magic themselves. There are Sensors, who can tell when someone or an object has magic, but they can’t manipulate it. Then there are the Sorcerers, who … uh … I guess do bad things with magic and enslave people and stuff. Thing is, we hear about them, but we don’t see them in action.

The worldbuilding for these books is terrific. The characters are fun. But the book is hampered by a couple of things.

First off, even though the summary says that you don’t need to have read the earlier books … you need to have read the earlier books. King’s Spell starts off with a villain from an earlier book being stripped of his magic, demonstrating just what the King’s Spell can do. Devryn, the half-magic hero, has a cursed cut on his hand that keeps him from collecting magic. How’d he get it? Whoops, if you didn’t read The Rose and the Wand, you’re up a creek, because the book is going to tiptoe around the plot of the earlier book without telling you much. Which is a shame, because his curse has all kinds of interesting conditions that are barely touched on.

Second, the cover art screams ‘romance’, but this book is not romance. It’s historical fantasy thriller. It’s all about the mystery of an assassin trying to off the king, and a lot of trying to figure out the pieces of the mystery and put them together. This is great if you were expecting a thriller. Not so great if you were expecting a romance.

Meredith, the heroine, is cute and spunky and associates with Oliver Twist-esque pickpocket kids, trying to get them off the street and into a respectable orphanage. These kids wind up knowing an awful lot about the evil sorcerers trying to infiltrate the country. But at the same time, Meredith is a happy carrier of the Idiot Ball, which she will lug for pages and pages. In fact, the end of the book is a cliffhanger in which she lugs the Idiot Ball clear off the side of a dock into a river. I liked her as a character and I kept waiting for her to put two and two together. Hm, no, she never does.

Welp, so much for book 1. Onto book 2!


The King’s Enchantress by E.J. Kitchens:

Only a king has no magic and yet the command of it. Only a king does an enchantress serve. But even a sorcerer can be a king to some.

Devryn Ashby has reluctantly accepted his appointment as Guardian—a trainer in magic—to enchantress Meredith Lofton, but the effects of his curse are getting worse. If he can’t get find a way to get around it or cure it, he might be forced to reveal his secret to the Loftons and King Reginald. He’d do almost anything to keep his curse a secret. And the Dark Mage knows it.

But with Meredith and her beloved street urchins in danger and something both magical and animal hunting enchanters for the Dark Mage, Devryn must learn to overcome his curse. Or work with an enchantress.

The King’s Enchantress is book 2 of the clean “Jane Austen romance meets fantasy adventure” series Realm and Wand.

Amazon link to book


My review: 3/5 stars

Book 2 starts right off with the climax book 1 didn’t have. I don’t know why it was removed from book 1 and installed in book 2, instead. Meredith recovers from her fall in the river weirdly fast, the terrible curse she was suffering from turns out to be only a sort of magical food poisoning. She and Devryn actually interact to save some urchin kids (GASP they actually interacted! This almost never happened in book 1).

This funky precedent is being set with these books. In between the gorgeous worldbuilding and the tantalizing tastes of magic, the fascinating politics and the mysterious notes from the Dark Mage, there is no real tension. A Bad Thing happens and then … it gets resolved with few consequences. Over and over.

King’s Enchantress is 445 pages long, and it should have been about 100 pages shorter. There are pages and pages of filler scenes where the characters diligently study books at the library and learn nothing. The best parts, where Devryn and Meredith are training in magic, are sparse and short. The pacing is S L O W. I know some people like slow pacing, and that seems to be an expectation for these semi-fairytale books. But it would be pages and pages before anything actually happened. I kept expecting the pieces to fall into place. Soon I’d reach a part where I’d understand everything. Everything would be explained. I was at 70%. They’d explain everything at 80%, right? Or at 90%?

The whole book is about tracking these magically altered animals called mage hunters. They attack enchanters and suck the magic out of them. The whole book is about these things. And then, suddenly, in the climax of the book … there are no mage hunters. There’s a sorcerer plot to enslave the heroes with a spell that had literally never been mentioned until that point. You’d think in all those 445 pages, it might have been mentioned that sorcerers could enthrall enchanters and use them as slaves. Seems like an important plot point. But nope.

I reached the end of the book frustrated at the lack of any explanation of anything. Devryn hasn’t figured out the curse on his hand despite some really obvious foreshadowing. Meredith learned something important about the mage hunters and … nothing came of it. The romance was limited to fluttery feelings and denial of those feelings. I imagine these plot threads will be explored in later books, but it made for a really unsatisfying read. I kept thinking and hoping that there would be that AHA moment when it all comes together, and it never did.

Overall, both books get a 3/5 star rating from me. Good writing, fascinating worldbuilding and politics, highly imaginative uses of magic, but hampered by a lack of cohesion and consistency in the storytelling.

Pretty After Atlantis artwork

I’ve been doing art for my After Atlantis series lately. I feel like my skill has finally gotten to where I can do justice to the way my characters look in my head. So here we go:

Jayesh Khatri of After Atlantis

First off is Jayesh, one of my favorite characters. He’s the team healer, but is granted fire powers that were supposed to kill him. Instead, he conquered them and learned to use them without quite blowing up everything around him. Well, maybe one gas station. You know how it goes. 😀 His story begins with Bloodbound.

Gladiolus of After Atlantis

Next up is Gladiolus from the Guardian’s Awakening books. She’s half-Atlantean and has wind powers that she’s never been allowed to use. She’s also under the effects of a curse and is dying of the super vision in her left eye … unless the curse can be broken. Unfortunately, the only way to break a blood curse on a woman is for her to marry out of the cursed line. And the only one left of the uncursed bloodline is Tane, Guardian of Mercury Island. Cue the sparks and conflict!

Zero and Max of After Atlantis

Max is a teenager with a broken ice power. Zero is an Atlantean superweapon. Together, they make an unstoppable team. I’m still writing this book, but it will be called Oceanloft, and chronicle what happens when Max joins the team from Islesworn.

This series is hard to explain. On one hand, it’s framed as superheroes fighting all kinds of crazy villains. On the other hand, it’s solidly fantasy, with Atlantis and the Lost Isles. There are three Lost Isles: the Mercurion, Sanctuary, and the Lighthouse. The last two are still being built in their pocket dimensions (which is what Islesworn and Bloodbound/Sanctuary are about), but the Mercurion has already been deployed and is out in the world, where bad guys are constantly trying to hijack it.

On the other hand, you have all the drama with supers working on their HeroTube channels and being courted by networks and advertisers. You have the awful witch hunt in Bloodbound, when the HeroTubers have decided that the wrong man is the villain and do their best to kill him.

So, the nearest thing I can compare the series to is urban fantasy, or contemporary fantasy. All kind of fantastic things happening in our world, if our world had been given magic when Atlantis fell.

Cinderella retelling – IN SPACE! Of Stars and Ashes

Finally, the sequel to The Song of the Rose is here: Of Stars and Ashes! The continuing saga of the alien Rox and their home system of Beta Pictoris B continues. These books are a series but can be read as a standalone.

Cinderella in space … if the glass slipper was a warship.

Rasha l’Cervantes, a Rox girl with beautiful golden horns, has been subjected to forced servitude along with the rest of her clan. While working in a quarry, she accidentally befriends a young neurolite, an armored insect that will one day grow up to become a spaceship. She also befriends a fellow prisoner, the ex-prince of her clan.

Kraz l’Cervantes made one bad political decision and now faces the dissolution of his clan. Everyone hates him except for a brave girl at the quarry: Rasha, who refuses to let him wallow in depression and forces him to eat.

The prisoners are separated and three years pass. Rasha recieves a summons to Kraz’s Choosing, a party where he will select a bride. But it is really an attempt to find the missing pilot of a neurolite frigate: a rogue frigate who is a danger to the fleet. Now Rasha must decide whether or not to Choose Kraz … if the deadly frigate doesn’t claim her life, first.

This is the second book in the Celestial Fairytales series, but can be read as a standalone.

Contains: Sweet romance, friends to lovers, no smut, spaceships, evil space fungus, military action, chases.

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The plumbingpocalypse of 2022

Okay, so, we moved into this house in June of 2021. It’s a nice double-wide trailer with plenty of floor space for kids to run around. Well, as soon as we moved in, we discovered that we had plumbing leaks under the eastern corner of the house.

Being new home owners after 15 years in apartments, we didn’t really know what to do. We tried calling out the home warranty folks to fix it, because that’s why we pay them, right? Turns out, the contractors who worked with the home warranty people are all experts at milking the system. We had three major plumbing leaks. The plumbers would only fix one at a time, forcing us to pay the fee multiple times to get each one fixed. It took so long to do this that the third leak had time to create a massive black mold pool under the house. The plumbers absolutely refused to get under there and fix the mold until we had restoration people come fix the mold. Whereas if they fixed the leak, there wouldn’t have been any mold … so yeah.

Yeah, it was bad

So, we spent most of the year going back and forth with various people who took one look at the problem and ghosted us. Meanwhile, I dug a drainage trench to control the water pouring out from under our house, and would bail it into a random sewer hookup that some previous inhabitant of the house had set up for a trailer.

Round about February, I was so miserable and sick of putting my hands in waste water that I begged my husband to just call a plumber and fix the leak. And this is where it gets weird.

So the plumber came out and crawled under the house and fixed the leak in about ten minutes. No problems with black mold, it was no big deal. So we ran water to make sure it was holding, and instantly all the sinks and showers backed up. So the plumber went around, trying to figure out where the blockage was. In the process, he discovered that our entire plumbing system had been ‘fixed’ by the people who flipped our house … ‘fixed’ to go into a complete circle without draining. Yes, our plumbing was an ouroboros, a snake eating its own tail.

The plumber, by this time, was furious. He referred us to some friends of his who would rip out all the plumbing and redo it for a reasonable price. The quote we got was 14k. We had to wait for our tax return, which wound up not being quite enough, not if we had to stay in an Airbnb for a week while our pipes got redone. So we renegotiated down to about 8k, which was much more reasonable.

So they came to rip out our pipes, and we relocated to an Airbnb in town. It was very small, but it was cheap. I entertained the kids with videogames and everything from the junk food section of the grocery store. They went from groaning about the tiny space to proclaiming it our best vacation ever.

It only took the plumbers about 5 days to redo all the water and drains, instead of the 2 weeks they had initially thought. They were able to get parts, and everything went smoothly. When we came back, we had water hooked up to our fridge at last, meaning the fridge with a water dispenser and ice maker that we hadn’t been able to use for a year suddenly works. Nothing drains into the yard. The washing machine doesn’t drain into the kitchen sink. The showers actually have water pressure. I can’t begin to express how wonderful it is to not have to put my hands into wastewater multiple times a day.

So that’s the tale of the plumbingpocalypse. We’re slated to have an electropocalypse next, and then a structural damagepocalypse. Word to the wise: never buy a flipped house. While I’ve heard that some house flippers do a nice job, the ones who did this house did not. They didn’t update the wiring to support an AC unit, they ouroboros’d the plumbing, and instead of redoing the ancient bathroom, they painted over the bad spots. The paint is now flaking away, revealing how gross it is. You know that movie Matilda, where the dad is the used car salesman who has all these tricks to make a car run just until he can sell it to some chump? Yeah, that’s what these house flippers did. They made the house look just good enough to pass inspection. I hope they go to jail someday.

In search of goodness in modern books

A few years ago, I was listening to Elizabeth Elliot teach on the Fruits of the Spirit. I knew what Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, etc. were, but I’d never understood what Goodness was. It’s sandwiched in between kindness and gentleness, and my thinking was that Goodness was part of both of those. Kind of like saying “He’s nice.” It doesn’t mean anything.

So I was fascinated when Elizabeth Elliot defined Goodness as being high quality. “It’s like when we say, ‘This is a good cheese,’, or ‘This is a good vintage of wine’. In the same way, we are to be high-quality people.”

This stuck in my mind, especially as applied to writing. Was I portraying Goodness as desirable? Was I showing characters struggling to become higher and higher quality? After all, the refining process takes time and pain, both of which make for great stories.

Note: Holiness is: The state or character of being holy or sinless; purity of moral character; perfect freedom from all evil; sanctity.

Goodness is: The state or quality of being good, in any sense; excellence; purity; virtue; grace; benevolence.

Speaking of great stories, the other day, we were talking in my Discord about why Narnia and Lord of the Rings are still the Christian fantasy gold standards. One person said, “It’s wrong that their writings are still the best of Christian fantasy. By now we should have hundreds of works that are way better, and they’d be mostly honoured as those who started, not … all that it’s recommended when looking for Christian fantasy books.”

This got me thinking. As a Christian writer, I am obsessed with showing sinful man grappling with Ultimate Good. Evil is less interesting to me. Like, I pick up any Christian book, and yawn, it’s some lukewarm believer sinning again. You know what made Lewis and Tolkien stand out? They didn’t bother wallowing in the evil. Sauron has zero on-screen appearances. Instead, they grappled with Goodness, and man struggling to measure up. The Ring is a constant temptation, and arrayed against it are the Goodness of the elves, and Gandalf, and Gondor, and all the Good characters struggling to maintain their holiness in the face of corruption.

Goodness is treasured. It is something precious and desirable.

In Narnia, it’s each character coming to grips with Aslan. We’re not so much interested in what a pathetic waste of space Eustace is. We want to see him face Aslan and see how he changes. Each character is transformed by the end of each book by their confrontation with Good–they are either changed, or destroyed by it.

How many Christian books have been written since then that focus on man’s struggle with Goodness and Holiness and Righteousness? How many treasure goodness and constantly seek it out? I can’t think of any, and I’ve read quite a few. They kind of miss the point. Instead, they turn God into this cosmic battery that the hero channels in order to defeat the Bad Guys. Oh, and the hero wallows in evil. A lot. Like, in some books, the evil is pretty much front and center. This is no different from any book written by a non-believer.

Now, Mormons tend to get it right, and that’s why we have runaway authors like Sanderson and Meyers and Farland. They still write the stories of Man grappling with Good, although imperfectly. I think that’s why their books resonate so much.

For instance, Jeff Wheeler says in his Manifesto on Virtue:


When I was in college at San Jose State, I took Latin classes from Marianina Olcott. That is where I learned about the Roman concept of Virtus (pronounced “where-tuus”). It was a trait that the Romans respected, but it did not mean just virtue. It included other qualities too: prudentia (prudence), iustitia (justice), temperantia (self-control), and fortitudo (courage).

As I look around in the world today, I see that these traits are no longer honored and respected as they were in the past. Maybe that is why I love reading and why I have certain favorite movies I watch over and over again. You see, in my favorite books and films, the stories that grab me are about Virtus. All right, they can be cheesy sometimes. But I love that moment in Return of the Jedi when Luke throws down his light saber and tells the Emperor he failed to turn him to the Dark Side. That despite everything that will happen to his friends and (gulp) his “sister”, he surrenders and takes the blast of Force lightning full in the chest. That is Virtus.


I posted about this in a Christian writer’s group on social media. I received comments utterly dismissing my argument out of hand.

“Simple factor. [Narnia and LOTR] were not wrtten as “Christian” books. They were written for a secular audience and published by secular publishers. They were just writing great literature. They weren’t writing great “Christian” literature.

And both being classically trained lit professors probably didn’t hurt, especially considering the types of education they got. They probably wrote more during their teen years than most authors writing today have done in their entire lives”

Because Lewis and Tolkien were obviously gods among men and we can’t hope to achieve anything they did, or even study them to learn what they did. Yes. Very good lesson to draw from this.

I was also informed that stories that are dark and vile and end in death and despair have value. I have to wonder, to whom? English lit teachers? Fantasy readers seem to enjoy it with Game of Thrones, but I think that, even there, people still hope for some kind of a satisfying ending. There will probably never be one.

So, as a fellow Christian writer, I challenge every writer. Look at your books and see if you are glorifying good or evil. How many pages are devoted to villains and sin and perversion? How many pages are devoted to Goodness and Righteousness and Holiness? And I don’t mean in an ironic way. I mean in an honest, actual, doctrinal way, which shows what you know of Goodness?

Tolkien and Lewis changed the entire fantasy genre. Let’s change it again, writers. But we have to focus on grappling with the Good.

After Atlantis: Sanctuary releases today!

I just love book launch days, they’re so exciting. Sanctuary goes live today, after two years of writing and revisions! This is superhero fantasy aimed more or less at adults, because there’s romance, but there’s nothing dirty, so kids could read it, too. I just think they’d be bored by the first half.

It’s not easy being Bloodbound.
Jayesh’s magic and life force are mingled with that of the magic island, Sanctuary, and he is desperately lonely. The girl of his dreams, Kari, has been his friend for months, but she is still grieving her dead boyfriend. When Jayesh kisses her for the first time, Kari has a vision of his magic, and she runs from him. Jayesh is crushed, and his wounded feelings begin to slowly destroy Sanctuary.
Meanwhile, in Atlantis, an outbreak of strange cobra-like centipedes attack Bygone Island. The only one who can heal their bites is Jayesh, and his friends need him at full strength. But his damaged relationship with Kari disrupts his judgment and leads him down a path toward self-sacrifice that none of his friends want.
Now Kari will have to make a choice. Her love for Jayesh must overcome her fear of him and his binding, for to love the Bloodbound is to become Bloodbound, too.

Sanctuary can be read as a standalone, but the two books before it are Bloodbound and Waygate

Currently only on Amazon, but I will update links as the other retailers go live over the next few days.


I’m going to keep doing art to promote this book for a while. Besides, it’s been fun to have an excuse to concept these characters out. 🙂

This is Cirrus Markone, (pronounced Mark One) the Shadow the Hedgehog of After Atlantis. If you’ve read the Guardian books of After Atlantis, you’ll know all about Cirrus. In Sanctuary, he becomes Jayesh’s unwilling mentor. Cirrus is a genetically-engineered wizard who looks down his nose at everybody around him and pretends not to care about anybody. His brand of mentorship is, “Suck it up, loser.” This winds up being good for Jayesh, who tends to dig himself into holes of self-pity. Also, Cirrus does not follow the Mentor Must Die trope. He’s a protagonist, himself, and has lots more awesome to do in the rest of the series.

Sanctuary artwork blitz

Sanctuary launches on the 11th, so I’m doing a ton of art to show off what the book is like. This past week, I focused on the main characters and some excitement they get into. Next week, supporting cast and some of their shenanigans!

Sanctuary is Jayesh’s book, more or less a direct sequel to Bloodbound. Jayesh is still coping with being magically bound to a magical island, even if it does rocket his healing magic through the roof. As it turns out, he’s the only person in the world who can heal manticore venom stings and bites. But all he wants is for his girlfriend to not run away from him anymore, and to not be so crushingly lonely. This is him and his tiny dragon Suntala.

This is Kari Winters, Jayesh’s longtime crush. She’s a lightning super, dealing with grief from the murder of her boyfriend, and she’s kind of using Jayesh as an emotional life raft. Not exactly the healthiest of relationships, but the events of Sanctuary force her to confront her feelings and actions, and make a choice regarding Jayesh and loving him–or not.

“I’m just going to use my powers on the quetzalcoatl,” Jayesh said to the others. “Maybe diminish his pain.”

“If it attacks you, I’m zapping it dead,” said Kari, fists clenched at her sides. “I wish you wouldn’t do this, Jay. It’s a monster, just like the manticores.”

But it wasn’t like the manticores. Jayesh couldn’t explain the sense of grief and compassion inside him. He placed both hands on the silky feathers and drew on his healing shard.

He sensed the life in the great body, life mingled with magic. It reminded him of Suntala, but not quite. This creature was huge and blazing and alive, as if a shard had melted and run into its bloodstream. But that life was leaking from many wounds, both inside and outside. He found four hearts, one central one and three secondaries. A secondary heart had been shot through, and was draining the pressure of the rest. The creature’s entire magical being strained against the damage, trying to heal it.

Jayesh focused on that heart, first. “Come on, boy,” he whispered, drawing in the creature’s own magic. “Work with me.”

At first, the serpent’s magic blocked him out, like the tide running contrary to a swimmer’s path. But gradually, little by little, Jayesh’s healing magic soaked into the creature’s body and bone, redirecting its native magic. The damaged heart struggled, and the other hearts spasmed. Terror shot through the serpent and into Jayesh, potent as Kari’s lightning.

But Jayesh had enough empathy built into his healing shard to catch that fear and quiet it. “Shh,” he whispered, closing the holes in the wounded heart. “You’ll be all right. You won’t die, I don’t think. Come on, boy, you’re strong. Feel how the healing works? Work along with it.”

Rodion stepped up beside him and lifted the Mender’s Rod. Jayesh’s sense of the serpent’s wounds grew clearer, and it became easier to heal. “Thanks,” he said softly.

“No problem,” said Rodion, flicking his white hair out of his eyes.

After a moment, Kari joined them and laid her own hands on the feathery coil. All along the great body, wounds began to expel bullets and to close up. The serpent’s own magic surged in response to their assistance.

For the first time, the creature stirred, lifting its head out of hiding. For a moment it hung a few feet above the humans, watching them with its yellow eyes, the feathery crest standing upright, like a question mark. Then it relaxed and rested its chin on the coil they were touching. A third eyelid closed over the eyes like a gray film.

“I didn’t know he had eyelids,” Kari said. “Snakes don’t.”

“I notice that he only has the third,” Rodion said, “and not the first and second. Possibly because his flight ability demands it.”

Jayesh said nothing. He was in tune with the serpent’s magic, conducting their healing like a concert, and euphoria crept through him. His weariness, fear, and hunger fell away. All that remained was the ecstasy of healing, directing that energy, mending and regenerating. He was aware of his friends as beacons of light on either side of him, the serpent as an ocean of magic, and life, and potential. And nearest of all was Fith, watching, adding subtle hints to Jayesh’s magic, directing him in ways he wouldn’t have attempted.

He didn’t surface from that sea of bliss until the serpent slid its head forward and touched his forehead with its snout. “Little human,” it whispered, “stop before you die.”

Startled, Jayesh opened his eyes and gazed into the strange, narrow face of the serpent. The eyes were bright as jewels, the mouth turned down in a frown, then up in a smile. The tongue fluttered in and out through a hole in the lips. It brushed Jayesh’s forehead like the touch of an eyelash.

“My magic is overwhelming you, Bloodbound,” said the serpent. “Thank you for closing my wounds. I will manage the rest.” It turned its attention to Rodion and Kari. “I extend my thanks to you, as well. Because you showed me mercy, I lay no curse upon you, but a blessing. May Fith accept this offering.”


Sanctuary launches March 11th, preorder available here!

That moment when your mojo crashes

So, this week wasn’t supposed to be a nightmare week. It was supposed to be a nice week. I was going to catch up with the weeds in the yard, and it rained a bit, and it was nice.

Then on Tuesday one of the big girls landed on the 20 month old on the trampoline and broke the baby’s ankle.

Nice week instantly shot. I’ve gone back and forth to the ER, bounced around appointments for the orthopedic surgeon, etc. etc. all week long. The baby now has a massive cast that she uses to club people with. (Her ankle is already well enough to do that, which I find amazing.)

In the midst of this, I tried drawing a golden age of scifi book cover for a friend.

Me: Hee hee, this is fun.

Her: Wait, the girl is supposed to be black.

Me: mojo crashes and burns because that means the whole pic has to be redone

So now it’s Saturday and my poor hubby has to work. Next week, 3:30 wakeups, which turn both of us into zombies. I just can’t catch the mojo again.

This morning, I scraped out a quick drawing, just to keep in practice:

So that’s been my week. I’ve been so tired and stressed that when I sit down at my computer, I’d rather stare at the wall than create anything. But maybe things will calm down now? Maybe?