Vengeance

Historical Fantasy
Date Published: Revised August 2015

 photo add-to-goodreads-button_zpsc7b3c634.png

After four centuries of political infighting with Linden, the ruler of the Marches, all Mariah wants is a little peace and quiet. Then, privateers attack her daughter’s family, leaving Norerah at death’s door. Mariah’s anger boils over. Ashton, her ring-mate and Linden’s half-brother, and Mariah seek vengeance, ignoring Linden’s decrees, only to discover a strange magic that threatens everything the three hold dear.
 
 
 
EXCERPT
Linden, the Lord High Commander of the Marches, strode across the main healing hall of the southern district, where Mariah was helping that day. One of the healers had had a family emergency, and the lead healer had called Mariah to replace him. She now stood by the door leading into the private consulting rooms, feeling the heat of his anger. The veins bulged in Linden’s neck as his face reddened when he saw her standing by the interior door. Mariah unhooked her thumbs from her honor belt and crossed her arms over her chest, ready to withstand his tirade, though she did not know what had angered him this time.
Halting in the middle of the room, Linden’s growled words boomed through the waiting room. “Stop interfering in my business, woman.”
The ruler’s head lowered as if he were a bull readying for the change. The people, waiting to consult with the healers, shrank away though both combatants were unarmed except for their boot knives used mostly for eating.
Mariah’s dark eyes blazed. Though she no longer wore her sword and seldom visited his ranger camp, Mariah still dressed in warrior’s breeches, unlaced shirt, and knee-high boots, much as he did. Only her honor belt differed, displaying healer’s insignia on its interlocking buckles, though the belt itself was embossed with as many death stars as his.
Biting her lip, Mariah longed for Linden’s younger version. The angry, stocky man had swallowed the slim, hesitant youth, who had once shared her bed with his half-brother long years ago. Linden pushed forward until his large nose almost touched hers, bringing his sharp elven teeth close enough to bite. The heat of his anger brushed against her tan skin. Mariah tensed, ready to defend all in the room.
The air in the public area crackled as elven shields snapped into place.
The common Half-Elven patients and their families cowered against the walls. The audience’s eyes rolled like nervous horses, fearing what powers the combatants might unleash. Mariah’s skin itched from the static raised as the watchers pulled what energy they could from the air to strengthen their protective shields. But she focused her attention on the ruler who had once been one of her closest friends.
About the Author

Long time fantasy reader and non-fiction writer, M. K. Theodoratus now writes about elves, mages, demons, and other preternatural creatures. While she mostly writes to amuse herself, she’s willing to share her stories.
Contact Links
Purchase Links

The Secret King: Lethao

Sci-Fi / Fantasy
Date Published: September 30, 2015

 photo add-to-goodreads-button_zpsc7b3c634.png

Kendro, King of the Aonise, can do nothing to prevent their sun from collapsing, consuming their home planet Letháo in a single fiery blast. Running out of time and options, he evacuates the entire population, setting off into the unknown galaxy in four crowded ships. Under constant danger from their ancient enemy, the Zefron, treasonous dissent seeps into his inner circle. Threatened inside and out, Kendro struggles with who to trust, until a mysterious vision finally brings hope to the distraught King. A new home awaits the Aonise, if Kendro can only unite them long enough to survive the journey.


EXCERPT
From Ch 2:
“I can’t help but worry.” Chace’s hands shook as he locked eyes with Octav. “You know we don’t have a destination.”
“You’re privy to that information.” Octav shot him a glare.  “Do not speak of it.”
Chace stepped backed, “I’m sorry, Sir.”
Octav stared at Chace’s shimmering forearm where his birthmark betrayed his fear. Wearing their traditional uniforms had been Kendro’s idea. He’d hoped to bring calm to everyone, as their open birthmarks reflected their emotions. Winter wasn’t the time of year to be showing bare skin though, the chill Octav felt inside was almost un-bearable, not all of it from the weather.
Chace’s emotions were there for everyone to see, from the flicker across his striking facial mark, to the swirling pattern of his arm. He was terrified and more.
“Listen to me,” against his better judgment Octav reached for Chace. Pulling his own croex to the surface, Octav allowed it to trickle through into Chace’s skin. “Trust me. We might not know where we’re going, but we will find a new home.”
About the Author
Dawn Chapman has been creating sci fi and fantasy stories for thirty years. Until 2005 when her life and attention turned to scripts, and she started work on The Secret King, a 13 episode Sci Fi TV series, with great passion for this medium.
In 2010, Dawn returned to her first love of prose. She’s been working with coach EJ Runyon who’s encouraged her away from fast paced script writing, to revel in the world of TSK and Letháo as an epic prose space journey.
She’s had success with a web series, co-written with ‘Melvin Johnson’, produced by Nandar Entertainment, and a short film Irobe, also co-written. This year her experience of working with Producers/Directors from the US and AUS has expanded. From Drama, Sci Fi to Action, Dawn’s built a portfolio of writing, consulting and publishing.
Contact Links
Twitter: @TeamSecretKing
Purchase Links

Last Light Falling

YA Dystopian / Post Apocalyptic Thriller
Date Published: July 2015

 photo add-to-goodreads-button_zpsc7b3c634.png

Arena has left the nation’s administration with a dead president and a weakened military, and while the tragic memories continue to scar her, the government struggles to regroup without its leader. For the people who still remain in hiding, it’s evident the country is all but lost, and with Russian operatives taking over, the nation’s hope of recovering is grim.
After months in hiding, Arena and her brother, Gabriel, fight to survive the aftermath while they trudge through unkindly terrain across the country to rejoin their friends, but what they soon discover may staunch their journey. The government’s failed attempt to rebirth a broken nation has caused civil unrest like no other.
After reuniting with their friends, Arena’s decision to stay changes when she discovers the secrets of a refugee camp behind a clandestine group of rebels, known as the Southern Resistance. With an opportunity to escape to a permanent safe haven, Arena risks her life to lead the new fellowship. But the darkest days are upon them, and with a new war brewing, Arena’s path will take a dark turn as her survival is in jeopardy.
Into The Darkness captures the cruel truth behind our darkest secrets which may often cause us to question our faith. In this graphic second installment of the LAST LIGHT FALLING series, J.E. Plemons continues the grim story of Arena Power’s fate, testing her faith while she and her brother search for an answer to their survival in a brooding world filled with chaos.
EXCERPT
CHAPTER 1
In the midst of tragic suffering, we all have fallen by death in one way or another, but because of His suffering, we are given hope and a gift of eternal life. I’m still hopeful for those who still remain in this wicked world, regardless of the unleashed hell that awaits us all.
The light draws dim, and Gabe and I are forced to set camp as the sun sets behind the horizon. We find a small spot beyond a brushy field where a clump of trees stands out in the middle of nowhere. The trees are packed fairly tightly, but there is very little underbrush where we can start a fire without burning everything in sight.
“How many more days you think?” Gabe asks as he clears the ground. I brush the sweat from my eyes and gaze wearily to the east. I’m afraid Carrington won’t be the same as we left it.
“Hard to say,” I simply answer. Fact is I haven’t the slightest clue. Nothing from this landscape looks familiar to home. I lay my pack on the cool soil and rest my swords peacefully against a gnarled tree trunk.
“You hungry?” I ask.
“Is the Pope Catholic?” he caustically answers. The sun quickly sets well behind the trees, leaving the horizon to glow.
“Why don’t you get a fire started and I’ll fetch us some-thing to eat.”
While Gabe dresses the ground with kindling, I venture west, anxious to hunt. Night hunting is not my forte. With-out ample light, there’s no telling what’s lurking in the high grass that surrounds us. Although the land here offers abundant species of game birds, I fear the coyotes and bobcats
will scare them away. I kneel down in the brush and wait for something appetizing to cross my path.
It’s been long since Gabe and I have had a decent meal we haven’t had to kill ourselves—not since before all this shit happened. Myra, our foster mom, was the chef of the household. Her roasted duck, a staple on special occasions, would have your taste buds hypnotized for days. And not many people know how to cook duck properly, but she sure did. Though she is dead along with my real mom, not a day goes by without some memory of her.
It’s been twenty minutes now and not a single creature has stirred. I’ve impatiently waited too long to stay here. I trek further out toward a small thicket of live oak trees about a half-mile to the west.
About halfway to the coppice a small hare hops past my boots. I lunge to grab it, but catch a handful of dirt instead. I can’t see a damn thing out here in this nest of weeds. My only hope is to nab something in that cluster of trees up ahead. I wade through the thick brush until the sound of heavy breathing halts my pace. I rest still and for a moment the labored wheezing stops. The sounds in the dark can be misleading, but this certainly doesn’t sound friendly. The tall grass suddenly rustles, but I can’t tell in what direction it’s coming from. Whatever it is, it seems to be scurrying frantically all around. I know it’s not a coyote, because he wouldn’t be moving this much; he would cowardly wait until I made the first move. A small tree limb snaps on the ground to my left about fifteen paces. I quickly bend down and hide within the scratchy underwood. I slowly draw one of my weathered arrows and carefully place it in the string of my bow, waiting for this animal to show itself. The rustling stops and the deep croaking sound of a bullfrog echoes in the distance. That is a pleasing sound, because I know there must be water nearby and I desperately could use a drink. No frog in its right mind would hop around in this barren land without water.
It’s been too long for whatever is hiding out there not to move. Just then, my stomach decides to harmonize with that old bullfrog, growling with starvation. I’m so hungry right now, I’d eat a hot dog from a gas station, but I’m not leaving this spot until I find out what’s hiding out there.
I slowly stand up and walk toward where the raspy panting first started. The rustling in the grass continues when two pheasants fly out in front of me, trying to flee. I must have stepped near their guarded nest. A devilish squeal pierces the air, and two glowing eyes stare at me. In an instant, the tall grass begins to move toward me like a wave in the ocean. I raise my bow and pull the string back, but the arrow nock splits and falls from my hands. I quickly turn and run, hoping I won’t be mauled by what-ever is chasing me. The grass gets thicker and thicker, slowing me down, and that monstrous squeal pierces my ears.
I dart through the weeds as they slash against my thighs like stinging whips. The persisting beast moans with a hellish roar, closing in on my pace, until I finally exit the brushy pasture into a small clearing. There’s not a safe enough distance between this creature and me to look back. It’s fast whatever it is.
I alter my course toward an old oak tree in hopes I will climb far enough up its gnarled limbs for safe harbor. My sides ache from the exhausted running, and the muscle in my lower left calf gives in as I stumble hard to the ground beneath the old tree.
I quickly roll over, pull my dagger from its sheath, and unexpectedly recognize the beast’s twisted tusks driving rapidly toward me. The moonlight shines through the clouded skies and reveals an infuriated feral hog ready to tear into my flesh with vengeance. If I falter, or lose my grip on my knife, I will be at the mercy of its sharp, bristling tusks. The savage pig bows back its hairy ears and leaps, its jowls open wide exposing its razor-sharp teeth. I swing my arm forward and thrust the end of my blade into the back-side of his thick, hairy-coated neck. The hog violently flops about, squealing, not going down without a fight. I stab him again and again until the shrieking finally stops.
I lie there on the ground panting, the two-hundred-pound dead, bloody boar resting on my legs. I’m too tired to move, but the stench emitting from this fowl beast persuades me to do otherwise. Not what I was expecting to find for food, but it’s all we have, and unless a nice pheasant or squirrel decides to pleasantly drop in my lap surrendering to be eaten, it’s pork for dinner.
I push the hairy hog off my legs and pull out my knife. Before I slice into its belly, a small wooden cross near the tree catches my eye. It leans to the side, sitting atop a pile of rocks. It reminds me too much of my uncle Finnegan’s burial that I can’t seem to peel my eyes from it.
Six months have passed since Gabe and I left Finnegan’s grave, and yet I still haven’t forgiven myself for his careless death. If he hadn’t shielded me from the soldier’s bullet at the training facility, I would be the one lying in that grave right now. But my raging hatred for General Iakov caused more pain and misery to our fellowship, and it got Finnegan killed. Though Iakov has fallen with his sol-diers in the facility, leaving a heavy stain on this new administration, it has broken a part of me I can’t get back.
I feel less convinced of the path God has led me on with every step I take in this dark depraved place. If it is my des-tiny to help wipe evil from this world, it’s tearing me apart, because I can feel the fragility in my faith growing now. While I wish I could go back and change things, my fate has brought me here. . . hunting in the dark for survival.
I quickly cut into the hog before the meat spoils and the blood taints our meal. There is just too much to carry back to camp, so I cut and skin what I can for the night and leave the stinky carcass for the vultures. The smell is just too repulsive to continue butchering this nasty beast, anyway. It’s beyond the depths of foul. I tie up what meat I can carry with me and wander toward the small coppice where that bullfrog was bellowing. I’m sure to find water somewhere nearby.
The exposed roots twisting along the ground like a snake suggest an underground spring feeding these lonely trees. There stands a soaring cypress tree hovering over the bank of a small running creek that effortlessly meanders with twists and turns. I follow the brook until I reach the end where it pours into a clear spring. My weary eyes widen, and my dry, parched mouth salivates over this aquatic nectar.
I dunk the canteens into the cold spring water in a less-stagnate area away from the growing moss and algae. I’m so thirsty, I couldn’t care less what’s floating in this sweet, quenching pool of goodness. As long as I don’t have to see what I’m drinking, I’m just fine. Bottoms up, I say.
The unbearable frigid temperatures of winter have finally subdued and surrendered to the fresh blooming beginnings of spring, just like this water. Unfortunately, summer has found a way to creep in, because these long hot days have been murderous. It’s nearing May, I think, but I can’t be for sure. I lost track of time long ago.
For six long miserable months, our weary legs have ambled through snowy drifts of white expanding as far as the eye can see. We have traveled through lifeless towns, abandoned farms, and fields of emptiness, but traveling by foot is our only way now. The roads are no longer safe. Our nation has changed into an ever-growing evil, and those who see it for what it really is have become a liability under harsh scrutiny.
The hundreds of miles we’ve traveled from the East Coast have worn us thin, but I feel our journey to reunite with our friends is not too far away. Texas is the only thing on my mind, and I won’t be discouraged by another day of swollen feet. We haven’t come this far just to give up.
There’s a glowing ember in the distance and I realize just how far away I am from Gabe’s warm fire. The air is starting to get a little chilly and I shiver. I make my way back to camp and find Gabe asleep on the ground in a fetal position. The egregious smell of pork smoking above the fire should wake his stomach up. Gabe has already built a spit-fire high enough above the flames to cook our meal. He’s a Boy Scout after my own heart.
I’m too hungry to wait for this meat slab to hang over the fire the next eight hours. I slice off small manageable pieces to cook, skewer them on a couple of sticks, and lay them on a rock next to the fire. I wrap the rest of meat around the long piece of hickory Gabe had used for a walking stick, and secure it with some left over wire from my pack. I carefully rest the meat above the fire to slow-cook overnight. Hell, maybe the stench will evaporate from the pores, leaving us with some nice tenderloin for breakfast.
I sit next to the crackling fire and dangle the small pieces on the wooden skewers right above the flames. The rendering fat drips from the pork causing the fire to flare up. The sizzling of the fat and crackling of the tissue begins to rouse Gabe, but I don’t think it’s the sound that has awakened him.
“Holy mother of God, what’s that smell, Arena?” Gabe says with his nosed pinched. It’s quite an uninviting smell, but I’ve been smelling and breathing it in for a while, so I guess I have gotten used to it.
“It’s our dinner,” I say.
“You’re kidding me. What are you feeding me, the inside of a pig’s ass?”
Not quite, but damn near close, I think, trying hard not to smile. Okay, I admit the smell is objectionable, but this is all I have to offer.
“Unless you have anything better to proposition, this is our meal. I suggest you take it and fill that empty stomach of yours.”
This salty meat may taste gamey, but when you are as hungry as we are, you’ll eat just about anything, and my stomach can’t wait until the morning to find something bet-ter. Sure I would like to have a nice juicy steak and baked potato, but this will just have to do. We both hold our noses from breathing in the smell of this wretched swine. I stomach what I can and try to dilute the taste with the fresh spring water.
Gabe eagerly falls back to sleep. I try to stay awake as long as I can to keep watch for any unwanted wild creature that may wander uninvited to our malodorous campsite. I’m pretty sure we have unintentionally attracted every wild beast for miles with the smoky scent of ass.
I watch Gabe sleep comfortably below the canvased trees while my stomach churns. The world seems so lonely. Gabe is all I have left right now, and I don’t think I could bear the thought of losing him too. There were times in my life when I detested my twin brother, but I never stopped loving him, and right now, I need him more than ever.
The harsh conditions we’ve experience in the last six months has forced us to both grow up, but none more than Gabe. He’s become a man before my eyes. His dirty blond hair drapes dingily below his ears and eyes. He’s still the same brother at heart, but he’s grown into something much different. Behind those skinny limbs and that frail body he used to carry, breathes courage now. We can never go back to what we were—time and history have changed, and so have we.
I want to believe there is purpose in all of this, but I’m not sure anymore what I’m supposed to do. I feel lost with-out Finnegan by my side. He was the only family Gabe and I had left, and now he too is gone. But his bravery will never be forgotten, and because it was his choice to follow my divine path, we’ve weakened a dying nation at its heart. My enemy may be dead, but my nightmares are still much alive.
I realize there is a reason for every event that happens to us, but I’m still having a difficult time accepting it. I may never fully understand my part in this world, but I will continue until I can no more. Many people left on this earth will accept their fate as meaningless acts of randomness. I believe now there is more to this world than just chaos and ruin. We were born with a plan, a purpose, and a choice. I choose to believe Finnegan saved my life to extend my fate, and I’m eternally grateful, but I wish not to endure any more hum-bling experiences through death.
Instead of sleeping on the padded dirt next to the fire, I nestle in between the roots of an old oak tree. I prop myself up against rough ridges of splitting bark and stretch out my legs. I grab Jacob’s necklace around my neck and stare down at the worn silver cross like I do every night. I rub the edges with my fingers as if it were a nervous tick. I’m afraid I will never let go. The only boy I truly loved is gone, but his death will remain very alive in my nightmares. I fight to stay awake, but my body isn’t willing to compromise. Sleep wins the battle.
About the Author

Jay Plemons’ life is nothing short of ordinary. From an aspiring chef, carpenter, educator, musician, husband, and father, nothing ever seems too busy when adding yet another hat into the mix as a fiction novelist. With a degree in music business, and a minor in English from Middle Tennessee State University, the aspirations to continue his journey in the arts, has followed Jay to write the Last Light Falling series, which has not only touched on some of his personal experiences, but has also helped him further explore the heightened convictions of faith.
Contact Links
Purchase Links

What the Owl Saw

Historical Fiction
Date Published: July 2014

 photo add-to-goodreads-button_zpsc7b3c634.png

“What the Owl Saw,” the second volume in the Buenaventura Series and the sequel to “The Brujo’s Way,” opens in December 1705 with a terrifying nightmare that fills Don Carlos Buenaventura, a powerful brujo in his sixth life, with dread. Feeling the need to strengthen his brujo powers, always weakened by town life, he rides out into the wild mountain landscapes around Santa Fe in order to practice his sorcerer’s technique of transforming himself into hawks and owls. Transformations are exhilarating, but they do not dispel his sense of an impending menace. In addition, as he tells his friend Inez de Recalde, he is impatient to move forward in his quest for wisdom on what he calls the Unknown Way. 
Into this picture comes a trio of itinerant entertainers, a magician and two women dancers, who offer an ambiguous promise. Can they lead him to deeper realms of consciousness, or are they agents of his enemy, the evil sorcerer Don Malvolio? The magician and his alluring companions introduce Carlos to dances that transport him into ecstatic mind states, but he remains uncertain about what master they serve. Despite the risk of exposing his secret brujo identity and of being disloyal to his beloved Inez, Carlos allows himself to be drawn ever farther into their web of dark and dangerous enchantments.
EXCERPT
Chapter One
Someone was shaking him and saying, “Alfonso! Alfonso! Wake up!” When he didn’t respond immediately, the voice came again more loudly, “Wake up!”
He opened his eyes to find Pedro Gallegos, his manservant and friend, leaning over him with a concerned look on his face. “What’s the matter?” Pedro asked. “You were shouting, ‘Go away! Leave me alone!’ What set that off?”
Still half-caught in the dream and half-muffled in sleep, he croaked, “A dream, a terrifying dream.”
“Alfonso, in all the time I’ve known you, you’ve reported many vivid dreams and never one that frightened you. What was so terrifying?”
“Wait a minute. I have to sit up.” He struggled to sit upright amid the tangle of bedclothes and restore his mind to his normal consciousness. He took a deep breath. “It started pleasantly enough,” he began. “I was in my mother’s womb. She was five months pregnant. I was enjoying myself.
Warmth, plenty of food, and relative quiet, except for my mother’s heart beating nearby. I was humming to myself and revisiting pleasant moments from previous lives when suddenly everything turned dark.”
“Alfonso. Of course it was dark; you were in your mother’s womb. No light was getting in there.”
“Not dark as an absence of light, but dark as in some lurking menace.” Pedro was grumpy about having been awakened from a sound sleep, and he was becoming impatient. “It’s the middle of the night. You’re safe
in your own bed in your own house, not in your mother’s womb being threatened by some unknown menace.”
“That’s just it. This wasn’t some unknown menace. It was the presence of Don Malvolio, my enemy through several lifetimes, who killed me in my last lifetime, aided by a treacherous woman named Violeta. He almost succeeded in using his sorcerer’s powers to destroy me, body and soul, forever. Only by drawing on my innermost resources as a brujo was I able to escape with my soul and consciousness intact. But he’s closing in on me again. It was his presence I felt, I’m sure of it, and I was shouting at him to go away.”
“Alfonso, Alfonso. It was a dream about something that happened more than twenty years ago, and in a place far from here. Today the sun will rise on the last day of 1705. You’re in Santa Fe in New Spain’s New Mexico province. You’re a well-respected government official who has served ably as the governor’s personal secretary. There’s no evidence that Malvolio is anywhere nearby. You’re confusing the imagined with the real.”
“Easy for you to say; you didn’t have that dream. Something bad is about to happen.”
“That’s possible,” Pedro agreed. “We know there are rumors that Governor Villela is going to resign and that his replacement, who supposedly will arrive in Santa Fe in the near future, may want to appoint someone besides you to be his personal secretary. But that’s all rumor, and if it happens, you’ll land on your feet as you always do. Quit worrying. Especially, quit worrying about Don Malvolio. Lie down and go back to sleep. If I don’t get back in bed with my wife soon, María is going to come looking for me, and we’d be forced to tell her that a dream has you shaking in your boots.”
Don Carlos—Carlos being the name he’d always used as a brujo, though Alfonso Cabeza de Vaca was the name by which he was known in Santa Fe— eased himself back down in the bed, pulled up the tousled covers, turned over and muttered, “I’m not wearing boots.” He quickly drifted off to sleep.
He soon started dreaming again and found himself on a trail in a desert region of northern New Spain. No one else was visible, but his sense that an invisible menace was lurking nearby returned stronger than ever. When he looked around in the dreamscape, as great brujos are able to do, no threatening animal or person came into view. No Don Malvolio; no Violeta; no one who might mean him harm, not even a future governor who would deprive him of his job. Nevertheless, he was filled with dread that grew in intensity until it woke him up.
When he awoke his heart was pounding and he was bathed in sweat. He breathed deeply until his body returned to normal and the feeling of dread dissipated. He closed his eyes and dozed off again, and this time there were no bad dreams, and in a little while he was awakened by soft kisses on his cheek and ear. Still half-asleep, he imagined that his beloved Inéz de Recalde had sneaked into his bedroom and was delivering sensual licks to his face.
Licks! He opened his eyes, and by the light of the moon that was streaming in one window he saw Gordo, the household’s guard dog and source of all-around comic relief, gazing at him with adoring eyes. Carlos burst out laughing.
Sensing that it was nearly four o’clock, the hour that he usually got out of bed, he arose and dressed. He loved the quiet of the early hours when his housemates—Pedro and María and Diego, the Pueblo Indian who cared for their horses—were still asleep. Often he used the time before breakfast to read in several manuscripts that his Jesuit tutor and spiritual mentor, Father Stefano Urbina, had given him. One manuscript contained excerpts from the writings of the Desert Fathers, early Christian monks who had sought solitude in the Sinai desert. Another was a selection of sayings by Hindu mystics, practitioners of Tantric meditation, a subject to which his recently deceased friend, Zoila Herrera, had introduced him. Regardless of whether or not he read anything, every morning without fail he sat silently for at least an hour and practiced the Tantric-style meditation that Zoila had taught him, focusing his attention on the seven energy centers she called chakras that were found along his spine from its base to the crown of his head.
Those were his usual before-breakfast activities. Today, however, he felt restless, as though he had unfinished business to do. With an effort he settled himself, tried to focus his mind, and practiced his chakra meditation.
When he finished, his mind was clearer but his body was still restless. He put on warm winter clothing—the room was chilly, and he knew it was very cold outside—and started for the bedroom door that connected to the kitchen. Gordo, all white except for a black spot around one eye, hopped off the bed and danced excitedly around the room—danced, that is, as best he could with his lame left rear leg.
“Come along,” Carlos called to Gordo as he left the bedroom, walked through the kitchen, and out the back door of his compact four-room house. He turned left, heading toward the town’s main plaza a hundred feet away. Gordo jogged along at his side, eager to see what adventure his master had in mind at this strange hour for an outing.
The air was still and cold, the temperature well below freezing. A gibbous moon in a clear, star-filled sky illuminated the landscape.
When they reached the plaza Gordo let out a whine, turned tail, and ran home. The sight that greeted Don Carlos’s eyes spooked even him. The Santa Fe of December 31, 1705, with its many buildings, was gone. Except for the Palace of the Governors across the plaza, everything lay in ruins, and even the Palace of the Governors showed signs of having been partly wrecked. But the plaza was full of hundreds of human figures, grayish and insubstantial in the moonlight, but recognizable as a crowd of Spanish and Pueblo men, women, and children.
The scene was silent, although it was obvious from the open mouths of many of the spectral figures that shouts, cries, and moans were being uttered.
Directly ahead, in front of the Palace of the Governors, was a line of Spanish soldiers in full battle dress. Between the soldiers and Carlos’s position on the south side of the plaza stood dozens of Pueblo men, their wrists and ankles bound. Off to the right were other Indians, similarly bound, their faces stricken. As Carlos watched, a Spanish officer commanded the soldiers to aim their harquebuses and fire a soundless volley at the captives, who fell grievously wounded or dead. Others were prodded forward to meet their fate as the soldiers went through the awkward process of reloading their weapons to fire them again.
Don Carlos recognized the formidable Spanish officer who had raised his arm in the command to fire, and he realized at that moment that what he was seeing was an event from an earlier time. The Spanish officer in the scene was his stepfather, General Rodrigo Alvarez, the commander of the soldiers who had accompanied Governor Diego de Vargas’s 1693 expedition to reestablish Spanish control of New Mexico after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 had driven the Spanish out. Carlos had killed enemies in battle, but executing captives in punitive cold blood was abhorrent to him. As he watched his stepfather’s face he saw no sign of regret at what the man was commanding his soldiers to do. Indeed, from what Carlos personally knew of General Alvarez, Carlos believed his stepfather took satisfaction from showing the
Pueblo rebels that defiance of Spanish authority would be crushed in the harshest way possible.
Don Carlos watched, repelled and horrified, remembering the events that had led up to this moment. The Pueblo rebels, having fortified themselves in the Palace of the Governors, had defied Vargas’s demands that they surrender and submit to Spanish rule. Vargas’s soldiers had besieged the Palace of the Governors, cut off the defenders’ water supply, and forced their surrender. The Spanish victory and the subsequent execution of seventy Pueblo rebels had taken place almost to the day twelve years ago, on December 30, 1693. Don Carlos’s brujo awareness had enabled him to see the torrents of negative energies that still swirled around the town and its plaza. It was possible, he assumed, that other Santa Fe residents also felt these dark reverberations but dismissed them as products of the icy winter weather and long, black nights.
Don Carlos turned away from the scene on the plaza and thoughtfully walked back to his house. Gordo was waiting for him at the back door with an anxious expression on his face. “It’s okay, my little friend,” Carlos said to him. “Everything’s going to be all right.” Then he tried to persuade himself that this was true. What he had seen at the plaza seemed to account for his bad dreams. The dreams had nothing, he told himself, to do with the prospect of losing his job, or with the threat of Don Malvolio being in pursuit of him. And yet he wasn’t entirely convinced. He had a nagging feeling that his dreams of dark portents had other sources than the horrors that had accompanied the Spanish reconquest of Santa Fe in 1693.
The following Sunday, as had been his custom for several months, Carlos escorted Inéz to Sunday Mass. He had declared his love to her, and she and Pedro were the only people in Santa Fe who knew his secret identity as a brujo. This morning he called for her at the home of Nicolas and Lucila Archuleta, friends with whom she’d been staying, and he and Inéz, the Archuletas, and their son Gerardo walked to the small chapel in the southeast corner of the Palace of the Governors.
Carlos was not a pious Catholic, as Inéz was well aware, having probed the issue some time earlier. “Why,” she had asked him, “do you attend Mass every Sunday when you don’t believe a word of the creeds or Catholic doctrine? Is it just out of habit that stems from the education you received from your Jesuit tutors?”
“Nothing of the sort,” he had replied. “I like being seen with you in public, and even if it weren’t for that, I enjoy being with you, any time, any place.”
“Don’t be evasive. There’s more to it than that.”
Echoing her, as though he didn’t know what she meant, he had said,
“It?”
“Yes, ‘it.’ Why do you attend Mass, really?”
“By virtue of being the governor’s private secretary, I have a high social rank. Since Catholicism is the glue that holds Santa Fe society together, it would be cause for comment if a man of my status didn’t show up for Mass regularly. Our friends and neighbors among the town’s leaders would see it as not conforming to the behavior they expect from a member of their social circle. My attending Mass, therefore, isn’t simply expected, it’s an essential part of my social role as Don Alfonso Cabeza de Vaca. You wouldn’t want there to be any hint, would you, that I am not a conventional hidalgo but a brujo named Carlos Buenaventura?”
“That goes without saying! Your true identity must remain a secret.
However, social reasons don’t explain why you seem to enjoy Mass—and even look forward to it.”
Don Carlos had paused before answering. “The best efforts of my Jesuit tutors, including Father Stefano, of whom I was fond, didn’t manage to reduce my skepticism about Catholic creeds and dogmas. But on occasion I am deeply moved by the Mass itself—the total effect of the incense, the Latin chants, the choreography, if I may call it that, and, most of all, the moment when the priest elevates the Host, which to all appearances is a simple piece of bread—yet to me it’s much more.”
Inéz had been surprised. “You believe the Church’s teaching that the bread becomes the body of Christ?”
“No, not in a literal way,” Carlos had admitted. “That’s too narrow a description, and I’m a heretic—at least by the Church’s standards. When, as sometimes happens, I’m swept up by the solemnity, the beauty, and the drama of the Mass, at the moment that the priest raises the Host above his head, I feel the Church has managed, quite unknowingly, to point to something profound, a deep spiritual mystery.”
“Is this an expression of the mystical path to which Zoila introduced
you?”
“Yes,” he had said, and they had left it at that.
At the beginning of Mass, Carlos’s mind wasn’t on anything so elevated as the mysteries of the Divine. His thoughts kept drifting back to the anxiety-inducing dreams he’d had three nights earlier and other oppressive dreams he’d had subsequently. Ill at ease, Carlos kept shifting his weight in an unsuccessful effort to evade discomforting thoughts.
Inéz leaned over to him and whispered, “My! You’re twitchy this morning. What’s the matter? I’ve never known you to be so restless. I hope it’s not something I said or did.”
Carlos vigorously denied that possibility. “Not so! You’re perfection itself.”
“Are you still pining for your lost love Camila, even though it’s months now since she married Rafael and they moved to El Paso del Norte?”
“No, this has nothing to do with Camila and Rafael.” People were looking crossly at Carlos and Inéz for having a conversation during Mass. “I’ll tell you more later,” he whispered, and in so saying he had a sudden realization that there was more to tell, more than dreams or a vision of terrible events that had taken place in the plaza a dozen years earlier.
Since the vision, he’d talked with a member of Santa Fe’s army garrison who’d been present the day the seventy Pueblo rebels had been executed, and this veteran soldier had told him that during the twelve years the Pueblo rebels had occupied the Palace of the Governors, they had converted the old military chapel, the very room in which Carlos and Inéz were attending Mass, from a Catholic place of worship into a Native sacred site. They’d removed or defaced all the Christian symbols, including the crucifix on the wall, and had built a kiva, an underground ceremonial site, beneath the floor of the former
Spanish chapel. After the Spanish recaptured the Palace, Governor Vargas had the kiva destroyed, the pagan spirits who’d occupied the place exorcised, and the Catholic chapel restored. What Carlos had just realized was that he and Inéz were standing directly over the location of the kiva and that he was feeling the suffering of both Spanish and Indian victims of the Pueblo Revolt.
The feeling persisted during the Mass, so much so that the presences in the kiva of the past coexisted for him with the ritual being enacted at the altar. He found the mixture deeply disturbing. He wanted to tell Inéz about it, and at the conclusion of the Mass he followed her out of the dimness of the chapel into the pale winter sunlight with the intention of unburdening himself immediately. Putting his hand on her arm, he asked if she would go for a walk with him before she returned to the Archuletas’.
Inéz, however, also had things on her mind. She turned to him and said impatiently, “Don’t you remember that the Archuletas are having a dinner tonight for the Beltráns in honor of their daughter Elena’s eighteenth birthday? You should—you were invited! I’ve agreed to cook the whole meal. Lucila’s regular cook, Nina, will help, but I need every available minute to prepare the menu I’ve planned.”
“I didn’t know you were responsible for the cooking,” Carlos replied, taken aback. “Is that really necessary?”
Inéz sighed. “As I’ve repeatedly told you, since that horrible man whose name I will not speak spent all my money and left me without a peso,
I have to find a way to earn my living. I’ve been cooking on occasion for the
Archuletas as a way of thanking them for their hospitality in giving me a roof over my head these past months. Tonight’s dinner is different, something of an audition.”
“Audition?” Carlos asked. “Audition for what?” “For a paid position as cook for the Beltráns.”
It should not have been a surprise to Carlos to hear that Inéz, like himself, had anxieties about earning a living. Or that what for him was only the possibility that he would have to find a new source of livelihood was, for her, a pressing necessity. She had said as much before, and frequently. But Carlos had fallen into thinking that she had become comfortable as a member of the Archuletas’ household and that that situation could go on indefinitely.
“Oh,” he said, rather inadequately. “I thought…”
“Yes,” she replied. “You didn’t think my need for a job was serious. Well, it is, and I hope this dinner will get one for me. Now, if you’ll excuse me—. Oh, I see Joaquin is signaling to you. You’d better go and see what he wants.”
With that, Inéz turned and hurried off by herself, leaving the Archuletas to converse with other leading members of Santa Fe society, as was the post- Mass custom. After watching Inéz’s departing back for a moment, Carlos went to see what Joaquin had to say.
About the Author

A native Californian, Gerald W. McFarland received his B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley and his doctorate in U.S. history from Columbia University. He taught at the University of Massachusetts Amherst for forty-four years, specializing, among other things, in the History of the American West. During that time he published four books in his field, including “A Scattered People: An American Family Moves West,” cited by the Colonial Dames of America as one of the three best books in American history published in 1985. Since his retirement, he has written three novels in the Buenaventura Series. He and his wife life in rural Western Massachusetts.
Contact Links
Purchase Links

American Woman

 
Contemporary G/G Romance
Date Published: June 17, 2015
 
 

Rock chicks are more complicated than they look, especially when one is becoming her destiny, the other following a classical career, and the third wheel the steaming hot lead singer of the new big thing. Scarred hearts bleed pain when the pulse of love blurs to jealousy and rage. Between family, ex-lovers, and their own clashing issues, this complicated love triangle becomes a tangled mess, leaving the shy and the reckless reeling. The future is bleak, they’re isolated and misunderstood, and pride ruins passion.

Drunken mistakes haunt Molly and Justine; their spiral into misery riveting. Strumming emotions more than guitar strings, the dynamic Justine, Tessa, and Molly, will keep you on tenterhooks of suspense in this lady-on-lady romance.

 

EXCERPT

Darkness and light tango across the ceiling when wind strip searches trees, blocking the streetlight’s glow when the bluster sways branches. The eerie shapes skittering overhead would be frightening if I was a child, or if I allowed my imagination to take hold.

Instead, lying in the darkness, they are soothing somehow. I shiver as the howling outside mimics the shadows stretching in front of me.

The snoring besides me escalates, and I sigh. I love Alex, in my own way. As much as I can love him. It isn’t his fault our relationship is mundane and our sex life so routine. It took both of us to destroy the foundation of our life together. He can’t read minds.

Joanne Sexton is an Australian romance writer and mother of two. She had always dreamed of writing novels and has been an avid reader most of her life. In between being a mum and writing, she runs a small bookkeeping business. She has recently become a qualified florist.

 

Contact Information

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Blog

Publisher

 

Purchase Links

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

iTunes

Fairy Tales

Children’s Picture Book
Date Published: January 2015

 photo add-to-goodreads-button_zpsc7b3c634.png

The Old West, Cowboy Boots, Sheriffs, Mayors, Horses….
Dogs, dogs, dogs and more dogs….
Fairy Tales is a children’s story about Western pooches Spike, Princess, Rocky, Wilbert, Black Jack, Chiquita, and of course the main man Mayor Tom. Set in an old west town, follow the dogs on their adventures, even being sworn in as deputies.
The author has used the names of his real life dogs for his story because he loves his dogs and wants the world to fall in love them too. All of Gonzalez’s dogs are rescues and he has promised them that they will have a good friend in him for the rest of their lives.
EXCERPT
Once upon a time, in the town of Whasumatter, lived Rocky, the Labrador and his most trusted friend Wilbert, The Chihuahua.
The story goes that no one knew where Rocky and Wilbert came from, or what they did before they arrived in Whasumatter.
Rocky was dark and handsome, he always dressed in black and kept his hair very shinny; Wilbert always dressed in brown and black, he liked to wear bow ties.
Some say, they were gunslingers, others say they were drifters, nobody really knew.
In the town of Whasumatter, there had been some disturbance in recent days, by the bandit Mad Dog Spike.
Mayor Tom knew that the town of Whasumatter was in desperate need of a sheriff, since no sheriff had been able to stay around or last more than a week, it was time to get a new sheriff.
The Mayor knew that Rocky and Wilbert were in town, so he decided to talk go to Rocky, and offers him the job.
          
About the Author

Thomas Gonzalez is a Vietnam veteran. He served his country with distinction during those horrific days from the years of 1966-1967. Gonzalez started with a squad of marines and ended up with a platoon of marines. At the beginning of his tour, his squad of marines was known as the Santa-Ana’s raiders because the squad had a few Hispanics. The troop would confiscate anything that was not nailed down. Despite the many times they were engaged with the enemy and were fired upon with thousands of bullets, by the grace of God, they all managed to survive and come home alive. It is for this reason that Gonzalez christen the squad, the Invisible Squad. As the years went by, he started to realize that he was getting into the autumn years of his life.
Because of his love for children and animals, Mr. Gonzalez decided to write short stories because he wanted to share with the world his thoughts and ideas. He has written two books about his Vietnam experiences (Sarge and The Invisible Squad) and has also written three short children’s books (Fairy Tales).
Contact Links
Purchase Links
Giveaway
$5 Amazon Gift Card

A Wicked Truth

Mystery / Romance
Date Published: September 7, 2015
 
 
 
The wedding date is set, and life is magical for Doyle Flanagan and Cady Delafield.  Honor bound to repay an old debt, Doyle agrees to help a friend find her sister. As he searches for the girl, painful memories surface, stunning Cady when she discovers facts about Doyle’s hidden past.
 
In spite of incredible odds, Cady and Doyle’s love has flourished. But in the midst of a life threatening accident, murder, and Doyle’s secrets, their wedding date and happiness are in jeopardy. Mired in tragedy, can they overcome the turmoil with a fateful decision that changes their future forever?
 
 
 
 
Review
 
This is one of those novels that stays true to its genre. It is wonderfully Historical and takes you back to that time and feel. The author has that aspect of it nailed.

As far as the plot went, goodness there is a lot going on. These characters are going through a lot and its a lot to keep up with, but I managed it.

There are many shocks throughout this novel. Be prepared to be on the edge of your seat! The romance definitely takes a dive in this one at times as the couple is trying to deal with many issues that have come up, but the way they push through is very powerful.

 
 
 
Joyce grew up in the Midwest and attended college and grad school in Chicago. After working in mental
health, she retired to write full-time. Her first book, Eliza, was published in 2012. A Wicked Truth is the
third book in the Cady Delafield series. When she isn’t writing mysteries or historical romances, she
loves to swim, walk and is a crossword puzzle fanatic. She and her husband live in Florida and
Minnesota, in her very own little house on the prairie.
Contact Information
Twitter: @jproell1
Purchase Links