It’s Release Day!!!
Eeeeep! Today is Blood Borne‘s book birthday! It’s on. It’s real. It’s available now. ^_^
Welcome to the dark side of The Republic. A bit grimy, a little feisty, and 100% high fantasy. I had a great time writing this one — I hope readers enjoy it just as much. Adren and Ress are a couple of firsts for me: Adren is my first non-binary character ever and Ress is my first asexual *main* character (because note: Brother Armamae from book #2 is actually aromantic asexual, he just hasn’t said it on-page yet. ^_^).
I learned so much while writing this, especially things about their world that I didn’t know until it hit the page. That’s one of the best things about my writing process: I don’t have all the details upfront, so it becomes an adventure, full of secrets and surprises and truths that craft the rest of the series. Having said that, I can say this isn’t the end of Adren and Ress. They stick around. Wreak some havoc. Make some change. There are major revelations and developments coming… and they’re in the eye of the storm.
Genres: Fantasy, romance
Series: The Republic
For Ress, survival is a complicated nightmare. Caught between two masters on different sides of the law, his life is falling apart one bad decision at a time. All he wants is to be is a good person, a loyal family man, and a successful metalsmith–a dream he can never obtain while he works for the Shar-denn, the violent gang that plagues the republic of Kattal.
To make matters worse, he works as an informant for the High Council. He scrapes through both jobs waiting for his last breath. As the Shar-denn motto says: the only way out is dead.
No stranger to living complicated decisions, Adren is caught between worlds of cir own. As the child of a Shar-denn faction boss, cir life is a conflicted tangle of expectation and duty. When cir family is arrested, Adren manages to escape, but nowhere is safe. Desperate and on the run, Adren is determined to punish Ress for turning in cir family. No one who betrays the gang can live. Ress must pay the price, even if Adren has to go against everything ce is.
(Author’s note: Blood Borne is actually the second part of a trilogy inside the larger series: Four, Blood Borne, and the next book, Soulbound, all go together. While Blood Borne can be read on its own, readers might find it helpful to also read Four for background on some of the references, past interactions, and characters.)
To celebrate, there’s a party on Facebook this coming Sunday (in four days!), thanks to Vicki Rose at Platinum Promotions. I’ll be giving away plenty of prizes, including SIGNED paperbacks of the first 3 books in The Republic, Amazon gift cards, and more! Feel free to join in and share the event!
The Blood Borne Release Party
July 16 @ 6:30 – 8:30PM CDT
(that’s 7:30 – 9pm EST!)
On Facebook, so feel free to come in PJs!
Games, prizes, hanging out, stress-free time, and the occasional silliness.
(For those not familiar with this type of event, it’s all very casual. Attendees can drop in anytime during the event and participate as much or little as they’d like.)
Now for an Excerpt…
I can’t. I can’t leave, not you. Not them. I can’t—
Adren forced cir eyes open, one hand reaching into the mocking darkness for a mother that was not there.
She’ll never be there again. She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone away. Alone in a cell for another day.
The sickening voice sang from the dark corners of cir mind. Adren swallowed back tears and plunged cir fists beneath the blankets, shivering as cold fingers touched hot skin. Cir fingertips twitched against cir palm, desperate to hold, caress. Touch. Ce needed a gentle touch. To feel loved again. To put the world right and curl up in its false security.
A foggy voice surfaced from the back of cir mind, babbling, nattering, lost to the haze of the nightmare still clinging to cir thoughts, gorging on fear. Words, so many words, none of them clear. A familiar voice with everything to say and nothing to show shepherded Adren’s thoughts to a place deep inside, slamming a gate behind them to banish what devoured cir pinned soul.
Silence descended, blocking the voice, choking the nightmare. A safe quietness, enough to clear cir mind and think—
A scream pierced the inner darkness. Adren winced, clapping cir hands over cir ears. Pitched high, the scathing scream tore at cir insides, shredding memories.
When the second scream sounded, overlapping the first with a grating loudness, Adren sat up, struggling for breath. The screams were new, nothing like the gentle voices ce had heard since childhood. Four voices that soothed cir in the moments they were needed most. Whisper, whisper, whisper, ce chanted, rocking to the faint pulsing rhythm between the unwavering screams. Make them go away. Whisper.
Move, a voice whispered in response, floating above the screams, cutting through the pain. Familiar as it wrapped around all other sounds in cir mind, the voice filled Adren with relief. It was the voice of reason, the voice of a Goddess.
Adren leapt from the bed, scrambling to stand still. All cir body wanted to do was run. Climb. Hide. Tugging at cir bedclothes, a nightshirt and pants borrowed from Bremary and Covran, Adren cursed the chill racing from cir feet to cir neck. Ce grabbed the closest long coat and pulled it on, folding cir arms and settling into the warmth of the soft fabric lining the new leather.
Move, the voice whispered again. Beneath the whisper, the screams dampened. More voices rasped around them, without warning or apparent meaning. They wrought confusion, forcing distance between the calm Adren struggled to grasp and the sanity ce wished for.
Memories of the raid flickered, disjointed images of shadows and weapons in the dark. Bodies running, fighting, falling…
Adren yanked open the door and charged into the sitting room. White light from the windows poured over the furniture and rugs. Fists digging into the crooks of cir elbows, ce stalked towards the kitchen. Light gleamed off the sharpened knives hanging on the rack near the washbasin. One strike would improve everything. One jab would get revenge. Killing him would be easy, so easy…
Ce stopped short, two foot lengths between cir and the knives.
Too easy, the whispering voice said, louder than the screams dying in the background. Too easy to fall; too easy to run to where you can never leave. Slip this one time and you will keep sliding.
And we wouldn’t want that. Adren pivoted sharply and walked to the sitting room, cir bare feet cooled by the smooth floor. Once ce reached the hearth along the furthest wall, ce spun around and crossed the length of the open space to the side door leading to the back of the house, then back again, over and over. Inside, the screams stopped and cir ears no longer rang. The voices remained, a dozen or more scraping as they collided, each vying for attention. Fragmented shouts and rough demands offset tearstained pleas and ignored truths, beating the images of bodies into cir thoughts. Living bodies, dead bodies—each one from the past, each a ghost; bodies ce had made disappear without spilling their blood. Killing had never been cir job. Ce stole. Ce hid evidence from dangerous hands. Ce sent the right people and the wrong objects to a new existence. Never had ce killed.
All innocence is lost eventually, Adren remembered Tethe saying when ce was twelve and ready to work for the Shar-denn. So make it good when you drown it. You can’t ever get it back, so make the memory a good one. Be strong, kiss it goodbye, and give it up.
He never said the same thing about hate.
No, that one we keep. Adren continued to pace, letting the voices rattle and berate choices ce could not take back. The voices chortled at the hate spreading between cir recollections of one bad choice to another. Why was ce really in Araveena Ford? Because ce hated Ress or because ce hated cirself for not fighting to save cir family? Why had ce not hurt Ress when ce had the chance? Because there was a measure of merit to his being or because ce was too weak, too feeling, too alone? Where was the hate when ce needed it most?
I just want them back. I want to feel safe again. I want a real home. Not one I’ve had thrown at me by him. He’s the reason I’m on the run. He’s the reason Council can catch me. He ruined my life!
Adren padded into the kitchen and leaned against the counter, staring out the window overlooking the gardens in the front yard. Cir fingernails raked the stone countertop. Teeth grinding, ce pushed against the voices with justifications. Ce felt hot inside and out, the unbidden fire of cir abilities burning from cir core and spiraling out into every limb and pore. Small bumps rose across cir skin. My family was all I have. There’s no one else. There’s never anyone else. They’ll serve my father but ignore me. They’ll lick the ground my brothers walk on but avoid me. I’m always too strange, always so much trouble. Too much of a freak, too unnatural, as if everyone else is so bleeding great. I’ve got no friends, not unless I buy them. Only family distracted me from the frustration and loneliness. They kept me from the things killing me now.
A rush of energy swept through cir, stealing cir breath and twisting it onto itself, shoving the breath back down cir throat. In the briefest of moments, death banged on the splintered door to cir soul, yanking cir across the line of consciousness and darkness before shoving cir against the wall of judgment. Frantic shadows clawed cir insides, scraping and screeching, desperate to be let out to play.
Cir magic was awake, demanding to be exploited.
Fingers numbed, ce no longer felt the smooth stone beneath cir hand. Cir skin tingled, weighted and pricked as if a hundred tiny, invisible feet danced over cir body with sharp pins on their shoes. Time ground to a stop, the present choking on the past, sputtering and wailing until breaking free. Weaving around cir, pulling cir into the spaces between the physical and the unseen, time slid over cir skin like a blanket of snow. Moments slipped back in time, falling upon each other. Cir thoughts reversed, memories playing towards their beginning.
Something needed to happen. Someone needed to disappear, scattering into oblivion. Cir magic itched and shrieked to make a new reality.
Ce needed a new future.
I’m alone, Adren seethed, digging cir fingers into cir palms. I have nothing. I certainly can’t go to the Council for anything. They’ll either arrest me or figure out what I am, then make me do things for them. He stole everything, ripped it all away. Hate him, hate him—
“Adren?” Ress’s voice asked from behind cir. Fingers clasped cir shoulder.
“Hands off!” Adren whirled around, thrusting out one hand to push him away. Heat shot into cir fingers, driving against the tightening air until the shield of cir control snapped.
Ce sent him flying towards the wall between the two bedrooms.
Ress hit the wall, back slamming the wood panels, his arms out before him. He slid to the floor, dazed. Cracked wood hung from the wall where he had hit, a dark hole attesting to the force of cir blow.
“Leave me alone! You’ve done enough,” Adren yelled. “You could’ve kept your mouth shut. You didn’t have to snitch. We all make choices, and you made the wrong one!” Swiping cir hand towards the knives, ce made a fist, pulling on the air with enough magic to yank them from the wall. As Ress lifted his head, ce thrust cir fist towards him, hurling the knives.
He ducked. The knives dug into the wall around his body, blades sinking deep.
“No, don’t. You didn’t have to rat out anybody. Of all the Shar families, why’d you have to go for mine? What did my father ever do to you other than let you help his faction? Mordane made sure you were paid well beyond what my father owed—that should’ve been enough to shut you up!” Adren stomped across the kitchen and stopped midway to Ress. Cir skin blazed, threatening to rip and shred. Outside, every sense screamed that ce was as fire, melting and shriveling, dripping liquid ash. Inside, ce was like ice, growing and pushing for more space, caging rational thought.
Caught between them, ce burned in every way. Agony pounded through cir in waves, echoing the rhythm of cir heart. “You’re all wrong. I’m all wrong. I can’t visit them in prison. I can’t see them if they die. And it’s all—” ce raised cir hand “—your—” Adren parted cir fingers wide, thrusting cir palm at Ress “—fault!”
Chaos erupted around them. Logs in both hearths split, sparked, and burst into purple flames. The bucket of water on the floor by the washbasin hit the ceiling with a thud and somersaulted, its contents raining in every direction. Furniture skidded, squealing across the floor. The settees slammed against one wall, the small tables into another. The kitchen table crashed into the cupboards, shaking shelves and popping doors. Cups tumbled and bounced. Clay plates smashed on the ground. The vase of orange flowers shattered, shooting glass across the room.
Ress lifted his head from under his arms and stared, first at Adren, then the house. His eyes widened, lips working without uttering words.
Adren stumbled back. What had ce done?
No, no, no. I didn’t—I couldn’t—I’m not supposed to. I—I—
It was too late.
Ce was never supposed to expose what ce could do. No one was supposed to know other than cir family and cir father’s most trusted men.
In a blind rage, ce had lost control and shown everything.
To the last person who deserved to know.