‘Rheia’ — an excerpt (and a revised release date)

In case you missed it, my ancient world fantasy novel, Rheia, comes out later in 2018. I had announced the release date as 29 September, but — as it happens — an anthology in which I have a story is having its launch party that exact same day. That being the case, I’ve decided to push Rheia’s release date back two weeks, to Saturday 13 October. Apologies to anyone that is disappointed about this, but I wasn’t really keen on trying to wrangle two book birthdays at once!

Now, onto the excerpt. 🙂 The world in which the kingdom of Oreareus exists is inspired by Ancient Greece, and a lot of the terms I use throughout the story come from that time in history. Hopefully the meaning of the various terms in the excerpt I’ve included here are clear from the context. However, just in case, I’ve included the relevant definitions from the glossary (I wrote a book with a glossary, you guys — I always wanted to do that!). You can find them at the bottom of this post.


Every year, Rheia’s father brought home four prisoners of war, sacrifices to keep the demon Typhein bound. Rheia never gave them much thought … until her father’s enemy made her one of them. Now she has two weeks to find a way to escape death at the hands of the Beast and either save her people or condemn them to destruction.

The last thing Rheia expected was to fall in love with the Beast oath-bound to kill her.

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Rheia — an excerpt

Rheia waited, fidgeting, until the herbalist finished tying off the bundle of fennel and counting out her change. Then she tucked the herbs into her basket and followed her brother, head down so as not to attract attention: an unwed, unaccompanied woman. She would kill Aias if his running off resulted in any slight against her name. She swallowed and adjusted her veil, making sure her hair was completely covered.

She found Aias standing in the deep shadows beneath the statue. He couldn’t see into the temple from there, wedged as he was between one huge sandalled foot and an outer pillar, adjacent to the shadowed porch, but his head was cocked as he listened, eyes wide as wine cups. “You just wait until I tell Mammidon about this,” she hissed.

“Shh,” Aias whispered, raking her with a contemptuous gaze. “I’m listening.”

“And if the priests see you out here, lurking like a thief, what will they say?” She grabbed his arm and tried to pull him away, but he eeled from her grip and stepped closer to the entrance. If she tried to grab him again, he might stumble backward, out into the bright sunshine where he would be much more obvious. Grinding her jaw with frustration, she glared at him.

He glared back, head tilted upward to meet her gaze. “Rheia, something is going on. They are stirred up like an ants’ nest. Don’t you want to know why?”

“No,” she whispered, shaking her head emphatically. And she didn’t. She wanted to browse the trinkets at Phidias’s stall, see if he knew her name, see whether Galen was lurking out the back somewhere and might come over to see her.

But she couldn’t do so without Aias. “All right,” she said with a sigh, crossing her arms and looking away towards the harbour as though she was merely taking a moment to shade herself from the hot sun. “One minute.”

Resolved not to listen to the voices inside the great building, Rheia studied the mason’s mark hidden at the statue’s heel as though it were the most interesting thing in the world. She had heard of Myron, even though he’d died when her grandmother was a baby; the huge statue had been his last great work. But a babble of raised voices as they passed close by the inside doorway caught her ear: the words thysia and offering louder than the rest, as the speaker emphasised a point. They fell away, and she wondered what had happened to cause such consternation. Had the helot girl tried to escape again? Had she been successful this time? There would be a city-wide manhunt to find her if it were true. A surge of sympathy for the girl made her purse her lips. How awful it would be, to know you would be dead when next the moon was full.

Aias’s fingers digging into Rheia’s arm brought her back to herself. “Rheia,” he whispered, the sound sharp with fear. “Let’s go.”

“Finally,” she muttered, glancing up and down the street for watching eyes before hurrying him away from the temple, her hand at the small of his back so he couldn’t dart off again. But when she tried to stop at the goatherder’s stall to buy a pottery jar of milk, he dragged her on, out of the agora. “Aias, stop! Wait!”

“You heard what they said.” He shook his head, curls bouncing emphatically as he hauled her along the street, almost at a run. “We have to get home. Father will know more.”

Rheia’s heart felt strange in her chest, anxiety making it flutter. “More about what? I was trying not to listen. As you should have been.”

Her little brother stopped, staring up at her with his mouth ajar. Then he pulled her by the hand into a quiet alley, away from the bustling traffic of the main street. “One of the helots is dead,” he whispered, eyes glittering with excitement. “One of the girls. Suicide, they say.”

Rheia’s eyes widened as she stared at her brother. The flutter in her chest expanded to swallow her belly. “But what will happen now? It’s only two weeks until the festival. The offering!”

“That’s what they were arguing about. One of the priests thought the triremes would be sent back out, while the other said it was too late. Father will know; if the ships are to be sent, he will captain the fleet. Come on. Before he leaves!”

Rheia let Aias drag her up the hill towards their villa, her mind whirling with the implications. The Broken Ones were meant to have the thysies for a full ten days before the ritual. Something about cleansing rituals. But that would only give the triremes three days to get to the helot lands and back again. Would it be enough?

And if not, what was the alternative?


A mini-glossary

agora – a combination of a marketplace and a central point where citizens can meet and discuss important issues

helot – slave; used to describe the subdued peoples across the sea

mammidon – a term of endearment meaning mother

thysia (plural thysies) – a sacrifice or offering

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Book announcement and cover reveal: ‘Rheia’

Once upon a time, in between writing my various urban fantasy projects, I slipped and fell and wrote a fantasy novel. This was back in the days of yore (well, 2016), in between writing Lucid Dreaming and False Awakening, and I didn’t want to release this book in between the two halves of that duology.

It is now that book’s time to shine.

After going through several working titles (the highlight of which was the utilitarian Greek Fantasy, because I can’t be trusted to name things), I finally settled on the perfect name for this book — and now I can share it with you, along with the perfect cover, done by the fabulous Kim from KILA Designs.


Rheia

Release date: 29 September 2018

“Beauty and the Beast meets Ancient Greece, with a steampunk twist”

Every year, Rheia’s father brought home four prisoners of war, sacrifices to keep the demon Typhein bound. Rheia never gave them much thought … until her father’s enemy made her one of them. Now she has two weeks to find a way to escape death at the hands of the Beast and either save her people or condemn them to destruction.

The last thing Rheia expected was to fall in love with the Beast oath-bound to kill her.

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‘Guardian Angel’ book birthday and giveaway (and a sneaky secret project announcement)

It’s always exciting and nerve-racking (nervousciting?) releasing a book into the world — even a novella. For those that have missed me going on about it, Guardian Angel is an urban fantasy set in Sydney, featuring a handsome movie star lead, his friends, and his impossibly perfect new fiance. You can read an extract from the story here.

Background

Guardian Angel is both a new project and an old one. It first began its life in about 2004, when I began to experiment with longer-form fiction — until that point, I hadn’t had the stamina for anything beyond a few thousand words. (The original draft was about 15,000 words, and I was incredibly proud of myself at the time; of course, when I sat down at the end of last year to revisit and re-draft the story, it ended up at around 20,000 without me even trying. What can I say? I talk a lot more than I used to!)

Even though Guardian Angel is shorter than one of my novels, I have sought to give it the same care and attention as one of them — which means …

My obligatory thank you speech

Thanks to those who read the original version of Guardian Angel what feels like a thousand years ago now. Becca, I’m still waiting to see you publish — or self-publish — something of your own. You can do it. I believe in you! And thanks to Craig, who read the revised version of this story and helped me make it even better. You’re the bestest bestie a girl could ever want.

Also, thank you, love and cupcakes to my wonderful editor, Lauren Clarke, who asks all the hardest questions, spots even the tiniest inconsistencies, and only made me cry a little bit. (Kidding!) You’re worth your weight in gold, lady. And the cover is brought to you by the very clever Kim from KILA Designs; if you’re looking for an ebook or paperback design, you can find her on Facebook.

Thank you, as always, to my friends and family for putting up with my frequent absences and blank stares, for feeding me coffee and Bad Chicken, and for playing board games and keeping me sane: Mum, Dad, Kristy, Ali, Craig, Karen and Cassandra.

And finally, thank you to my son, who is now almost nine (wut?!). You make me laugh when I’m sad, amaze me with your quick-wittedness, and fill our house with love and wonder. Also, just so you know, little in this world makes me happier — or more conflicted — than when you beg to read “just one more chapter” at bedtime. I hope you never lose that passion for reading.

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Guardian Angel, I’m giving away a $20 Amazon voucher. To enter, click the link below and perform any (or all) of the actions to score entries. The competition closes on 25 May.

Guardian Angel book birthday giveaway

Buy links

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Australia | Barnes & Noble
iBooks | Kobo | Smashwords

Add on Goodreads

Blurb

Can her light hold back the night? 

There are two things actor Jordan Woodrow always swore were true: that there was no such thing as love at first sight, and that he could never love a fangirl. But after he met Brianna at a convention, everything changed.

Now, hallucinations creep at the edge of his days and nightmares scuttle through his sleep, and only Brianna can keep them at bay. When she is with him, everything is fine. No, it’s better than fine—it’s perfect.

Why can’t his family and friends see that?

P.S. A sneaky announcement

As well as working on Guardian Angel, I had another project on the go. Also a novella, this one comes out on 5 May — so next Saturday — and will be released under my Tammy Calder pen name. Please note that Tammy writes erotica*, so, unlike Guardian Angel, this link is for adults only. Not for kids. And definitely not for my mother. (Hi, Mum!)

Now that you’ve been warned, here is the link for more information on Tammy’s books. Possessed: His Ghostly Game, an urban fantasy ghost erotica, has been out for a few years, and Kiss of the Succubus, a high fantasy erotica, is now available for pre-order.

* Yes, I refer to my erotica pen name in the third person. Shush.


‘Guardian Angel’ excerpt and pre-order links

It’s less than a week till Guardian Angel hits the e-shelves (shush, that’s totally a thing) — 28 April is the big day, and I’m not at all nervous, ahahahaha. D: Seriously, releasing a book, even a novella, is always nerve-racking. But I am proud of this little story, and I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

All the pre-order links are live, so you can buy Future You a present. And as Guardian Angel is a bargain at US$0.99 (around AU$1.30), Future You will be super-impressed at your frugality!

If that price doesn’t convince you, you can find an excerpt below. Enjoy.

Pre-order Links

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Australia | Barnes & Noble
iBooks | Kobo | Smashwords

Add on Goodreads

Blurb

Can her light hold back the night? 

There are two things actor Jordan Woodrow always swore were true: that there was no such thing as love at first sight, and that he could never love a fangirl. But after he met Brianna at a convention, everything changed.

Now, hallucinations creep at the edge of his days and nightmares scuttle through his sleep, and only Brianna can keep them at bay. When she is with him, everything is fine. No, it’s better than fine—it’s perfect.

Why can’t his family and friends see that?

Excerpt

Jordan was dreaming.

He knew it was a dream, because he was on the set of Beyond Deathgate, and he knew, even dreaming, that he’d finished filming that movie three years ago. It had already premiered, and it had been a hit. They were negotiating the sequel.

But knowing that didn’t change the dream.

He was back in the spideresque cavern, but he was in his pyjamas, not Aldron’s trademark blue leather armour. There were no film crews hovering around the edges of the room, no cameras on tracks or scurrying assistants carrying messages or coffee. The domed ceiling was full of heavy cobwebs and shadowed darkness, not a lighting rig.

He turned around to look behind him … or tried to. He couldn’t move. A thick, sticky web was wrapped around him, cocooning him, its strands gleaming sullenly in the uncertain light. He looked down at himself; his hands were crossed over his chest, like the corpse at a funeral, and bound as tightly as if he wore a straitjacket. His feet were bare in the thick detritus on the floor of the cavern. The frail skeletons of small animals looked up at him with accusingly empty eye-sockets from amid the decomposing leaf matter.

Something squirmed against his toes.

Oh, god! Jordan made a small, panicked sound in the back of his throat. He tried to lift his feet, but he couldn’t—the web didn’t have enough give in it for him to bend his knees. His pulse thundered in his ears. What the—?

That was when he smelled it.

His brain struggled to find a word for the foul reek that drifted through the tunnels. Struggled and failed. Maggot-infested meat rotting in the sun? The stench of untreated sewerage? It was both those things, and more. His eyes watered with the acrid stink of it, and he thrashed against the web that bound him. He knew what was coming. The spideresque: half human, half spider, all black malevolence and aching hunger. She was going to scuttle into the cavern, and she was going to devour him. And this time he had no Ring of Emrys to save him.

The huge, bloated shape of the spideresque appeared, silhouetted against the roughened stone of the far wall. Her stench washed over him, stronger now. He coughed, retched. It’s a dream, he told himself. It has to be. But that initial certainty seemed far away now. A second thought came, barely a whisper: I’m going to die. Despair flooded him, weighing down his limbs and settling like a rock on his chest. What’s the point in fighting?

There was no point. He hung in the web, a fly ready to be eaten.

“Get back!”

Jordan lifted his head, relieved at the sound of that familiar, beloved voice. Brianna stood before him, facing the beast. She was dressed in lambent white, a vision of Emrys herself; her hair glowed with its own golden light, casting soft shadows across the webs that ensnared him. She held one hand before her, palm outward toward the spideresque. “Get back,” she yelled again. Her light grew brighter—so bright his eyes began to water. “Leave him alone!”

The monster shrieked, rattling its forelegs together. Dust rained down from the ceiling with the force of its cry, and it paced back and forward—but it drew no closer. Finally, unable to face the purity of her light, it retreated into the shadows with a final, protesting wail. The reek of its body faded.

Brianna turned to him, her brilliant emerald eyes wide, and reached out to touch the webs. They disappeared, and he collapsed into her arms.

“Let’s get out of here,” she said.

At her words, they were transported onto a field of grass whose blades were so soft they were like feathers beneath him. Flowers bobbed in the breeze, yellow and perfect. The trees whispered at the edge of the field, and the sky was a brilliant, aching blue.

Brianna cradled him against her chest like a baby as he wept with relief. “It’s okay,” she murmured, “I’ll protect you. Don’t you worry. Your guardian angel is here.”


Book announcement and cover reveal: ‘Guardian Angel’

So, for those who’ve been following along, I’ve had a bit of trouble getting started when it comes to my next novel. But I haven’t been wasting time (well, not just wasting time — ha ha awkward!). I’ve been working on a handful of shorter projects, including a sci-fi short story for an anthology coming out later this year, and getting my ducks in a row to release the fantasy novel I finished a while back. That one will come out in the second half of 2018, but, for now, I’ve got something new for you to sink your teeth into.

Guardian Angel is an urban fantasy novella, which will only be available in ebook format due to its shorter length (about a third of the length of one of my other novels). I’m working on edits now, and am aiming for a May release date. In the meantime, I have a blurb and cover to share with you — this cover, like my others, was made by the talented Kim at KILA Designs.

Blurb

Can her light hold back the night?

There are two things actor Jordan Woodrow always swore were true: that there was no such thing as love at first sight, and that he could never love a fangirl. But after he met Brianna at a convention, everything changed.

Now, hallucinations creep at the edge of his days and nightmares scuttle through his sleep, and only Brianna can keep them at bay. When she is with him, everything is fine. No, it’s better than fine—it’s perfect.

Why can’t his family and friends see that?

Goodreads

Add to your “to read” shelf on Goodreads today!

Cover


‘A Hand of Knaves’ anthology — a quick announcement

jack4-dinergirl-ferretboy-215x300

Rogues, thieves, pirates and ne’er-do-wells abound in speculative fiction. Sometimes heroic, sometimes villainous, often somewhere in between, rogues are as likely to steal one’s heart as one’s purse, and show little remorse while helping themselves to either.

So why do we love them? Because they’re imperfect, fallible, and even vulnerable under that carefully-maintained, world-weary exterior.

Rogues represent something we rarely see in our daily lives: ordinary people prepared to take on the “powers that be” by way of guile and subterfuge. But are they only in it for the loot, or are they – deep down – romantic at heart?

Above is the summary from the call for submissions for the A Hand of Knaves anthology, which is being published by the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild in the second half of 2018. And I’m very excited to announce that one of my short stories, ‘The Best Heist Yet’, has been picked for inclusion. You can see the full list of authors and story titles here.

I’m thrilled to be working with the CSFG on this project, and will keep you in the loop as new information comes to hand.

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Me, keeping my cool about this announcement. (Image belongs to Disney etc etc.)

And now, returning you to your regularly scheduled long weekend (or not)…


Book release: ‘False Awakening’ by … me (plus an excerpt and giveaway)

It’s here! It’s here! False Awakening, the second and final book in the Lucid Dreaming duology, releases today. The buzz of releasing a book never gets old, and I’m especially excited to be able to share this story with you as Melaina is my favourite leading lady so far (don’t tell Isla).  I’m going to miss the sound of her not-so-delicate footfalls as she stomps her way through my imagination. She’s left some big boots to fill.

Before we get to the excerpt-y goodies, I’m going to be self-indulgent and say a few thank yous. Feel free to scroll right on past if the sight of an author blubbering on screen bothers you. :p

Firstly, let me fire the party cannon for my excellent support team. Stacey Nash, Kim Last and Craig Lawrie, who read the drafts in various states and gave me valuable advice and encouragement—thank you. I adore you all. Group hugs! Also, thank you to my wonderful editor, Lauren Clarke, who has an eye for plot holes, asks all the hardest questions and spots even the tiniest errors. Seriously, you guys—she noticed that an apostrophe was the wrong font. An apostrophe. She is truly my people.

The cover is brought to you by the aforementioned Kim. She has done all my book covers to date; her eye for design and her talent for turning my bumbling suggestions into something beautiful leave me constantly in awe. If you’re in need of a cover designer, look up ‘KILA Designs’ on Facebook.

Thank you to my friends and family for putting up with my inattention and vacant looks, for letting me rant over Messenger, and for waving pompoms most enthusiastically: Mum, Dad, Kristy, Ali, Craig, Karen, Cassandra, the BC09 girls (especially Nicole, Isla’s biggest fan!) and the AOR girls.

And finally, as always, thank you to my son, Nathaniel. There is more laughter in my life when you are with me.


Summary from Goodreads

How can you fight your nightmares when they’re real?

Melaina, half-human dream therapist, just wants her life to return to normal. Yes, her Oneiroi father is in prison and, yes, the place she worked burned down, but she has a cute boyfriend and a new house. She beat the bad guy. She’s earned a break. Right?

Unfortunately for Melaina, people are still getting possessed by nightmare spirits; the police are investigating her past; and the bad guy’s brother, the Morpheus himself, is coming to town to demand answers. When a deranged ex-nurse checks himself out of hospital on the same day her cousin runs away from home, Melaina is dragged into a fight not just for her life but for her soul.

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Buy links

Ebook

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Australia
Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Paperback

Createspace | Amazon (coming soon)

Giveaway

Enter for a chance to win:

* A $20 Amazon gift card
* One of five ebooks of Lucid Dreaming (book one)

 Click here to enter!


Excerpt

Leander studied me from the other side of the trolley. I could see the shadows of fatigue under his eyes, which shocked me. Leander never looked tired. Cocky and self-assured? Yes. But tired? No. Not even when Ikelos had bound him with barbed wire. Despite his relaxed manner, increasing the hold of Daniel’s memory over the dream and destroying so many blights was draining him. And he was too proud to admit it.

I clenched my jaw and took a breath. I’d wanted to look for matches and maybe some reams of paper, but we didn’t have time. Another blight was about to hatch. “Alright.” I pulled several packets of nails down and tossed them onto the top of the trolley with a sick feeling. I’d seen enough news stories to know real-world lunatics packed their bombs with shards, to cause additional damage. “Can you get this up there, and then explode it?” I glanced at the nails. “From a d—”

The floor erupted beneath us.

Tentacles, each as thick as one of Leander’s well-muscled thighs, smashed through the floor. The blight hadn’t been as helpless as I’d assumed … and corruption hadn’t been the only thing it had been spreading. My cheek burned as a shard of floor tile sliced it, blood welling. The trolley tipped and I ignored the pain, lunging forward to steady it before its contents spilled into the sticky darkness below. Leander leaned over and gripped the frame, placing one hand on either side, his fingers brushing against mine as I let go. His grim gaze held mine for a moment, and then his wings pumped. Air washed over me as he lifted the overstuffed trolley into the air, towards the central body mass of the blight.

For a second I felt relief as he carried the improvised bomb above the thrashing tentacles. Then one of those tentacles slid around my waist, barbs as long as my palm tearing through the scorched armour of my motorcycle leathers. I gasped and prised at them with bare hands, trying to wiggle free but succeeding only in cutting my palms. Above me, the muscles in Leander’s back worked as he strained to haul the trolley upwards, ignoring the now-free baby blight buzzing around him like an oversized mosquito. He was dragging the bomb up there with brute force. Pain caused my vision to blur, but not before I realised he was going to ignite the trolley’s contents while he was holding it. The damned fool Oneiroi had no idea what would happen.

The tentacle dragged me towards the jagged hole in the floor. I didn’t look down, not wanting to see what awaited me. The wet smacking sound and the putrid smell were bad enough. Sweat beaded on my brow and I set my jaw against the pain, blinking to clear my vision, staring up at Leander.

He drove the end of the trolley into the breeder blight’s wet mass, leaning against the handle to brace it there as he conjured a spark in one hand.

The spark descended towards the makeshift bomb.

I cried out, using the last of my energy to fling a shield, a wall of force, between Leander and the trolley.

Fire and exploding chunks of meat raining down around me. My vision blackened, and I tumbled out of the dream.

For another excerpt, see this post from May.