Storm Breakers is out now!

It’s been a whirlwind of a last few days, but hopping on to let you know that the third book in the Storms of Magic series is out now.  I hope you enjoy it. I had a very good time writing it. Here are the details:

How do you defeat a magician who can shape mountains?

Abbey and her friends travel across the sea in search of Syd’s brother, a sailor captured by a warlord years ago. To find him, they’ll need the help of their greatest enemy, the Storm Caller Dahlia.

When they arrive, they discover a land ruled by a new form of magic: the Way of Stone.

The Stone Shapers agree to help Abbey and her friends track down the missing man, but only if Abbey helps them defeat a band of rebels first.

What Abbey doesn’t know is that the leader of the rebels is the very man they came to rescue.

Storm Breakers is a fun, swashbuckling romp filled with twists, adventure, and plenty of banter.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

Storm Breakers Snippet 3

Holy cow, the release date for Storm Breakers is almost here! There’s only time for one more snippet, but it’s a good one. In this section, we get to check in on what Syd’s brother Elliot is up to. It’s sort of the answer to a long-running mystery, but I think you’ll agree that it raises more questions. Including who are these stone magic users…

See you tomorrow for the book release! In the meantime, the snippet starts after the cover image. Here we go.

Continue reading “Storm Breakers Snippet 3”

Storm Breakers Snippet 2

Welcome back! When we left off in the first installment, Abbey was about to tell Syd what Dahlia did to her brother fifteen years ago. This installment starts with some mighty salty language. But, hey, Syd has never been afraid to express herself in a colorful manner.

Thanks for all your nice comments on Snippet 1. I’m delighted to see that so many of you are excited about this book. I am too!

Okay, no more preamble. The snippet starts after the cover image.

Continue reading “Storm Breakers Snippet 2”

Storm Breakers Snippet 1 (with video)

Book 3 of the Storms of Magic series is almost here, and that means it’s time for a snippet. A few things before we get to the action:

  1. I hope those of you in the paths of real storms this week are staying safe. Even watching on TV from a distance, these storms are scary. If the people I’ve chatted with online are any indication, my readers are a tough-as-nail lot. You’re all in my thoughts. Stay safe!
  2. Storm Breakers picks up exactly where Storm Callers ended. That means if you haven’t read Storm Callers yet go do so before digging into this snippet.
  3. Now let’s take a look at that cover!

Here’s the video version of the snippet. Or scroll down to read the text version.

Chapter One

Abbey slammed Dahlia down into the chair and leaned in close. “Tell me everything you know about Syd’s brother.”

Dahlia grimaced, but the slight smile stayed on her face.

It had only been ten minutes since they’d halted Dahlia’s execution. Abbey had been in attendance to watch the event, but Dahlia had saved her own life by revealing she had information on Elliot, the long-lost stormship sailor who’d once served aboard Thunderclap. Syd had been looking for her older brother for years, and she kept her head shaved as an outward display of her ongoing mission.

They’d hauled Dahlia to a small room in Liv’s nearby home. Dustin, Abbey, Liv, and Fannar hovered over the seated Storm Caller, who sat with her hands bound in front of her, an uncannily serene expression on her face.

Abbey clenched her fists, trying to keep from shaking with anger. After everything she’d been through—they’d been through—at Dahlia’s hands, again the woman had avoided death.

This was a woman who had helped Storm Raiders sack dozens of towns up and down the Kaldfell coast and beyond. She’d orchestrated the Barskall secret invasion of the Kaldfell Peninsula. She’d compelled the Barskall king to force his people into military service and addict them to seiderdrek, the potion that gave them enhanced speed and strength at the cost of increased rage and lack of control.

And again, the woman was avoiding her rightful fate.

Not forever, Abbey promised herself. She’d let Dahlia live a little longer out of respect for Syd, but the woman’s lifespan would be measured in days.

“Like I said before,” Dahlia reminded them, “I’m not going to tell you. But I will show you.”

“That so?” Abbey asked. “I am not going to tell you what I’m going to do to you with my sword, either. That way we’ll both have a nice surprise.”

Dustin crossed his arm and sighed. “Look, we can’t sail somewhere if you don’t tell us where we’re going.”

“And we’ve spared your life,” Fannar added. He held the seax, the dagger-like weapon that he’d intended to use to execute Dahlia, tightly in his hand. “That is a big show of trust. You need to give us something in return.”

Dahlia stared back at the Barskall for a long moment, then nodded.

Abbey crossed her arms and waited.

“This was fifteen years ago,” Dahlia began. “Perhaps a bit more—I lose track. Tor and I were Storm Raiding, but only far away from Kaldfell. We’d struck the Lost Isles a number of times, and we’d also raided in the area the Arcadians foolishly call the Frozen North. As if the mountains and the sea north of their lands were the edge of the world.”

She shook her head in disgust.

“Try to keep your revulsion at the Arcadians in check,” Abbey interjected. “What’s any of this have to do with Elliot?”

Dahlia continued. “It was around that time we first made our way to Barskall. The land was in the midst of a conflict between two warlords. We thought to raid the coastal villages, but we quickly discovered there was little worth taking—most were living in poverty—so I came up with another plan. I approached one of the warlords, a man named Ragnar, and made him an offer. We would help him defeat his rival in return for his promise to send Barskall warriors to Kaldfell in the coming years to help us defeat our enemies.”

“Did he accept your offer?” Dustin asked.

Dahlia shook her head. “Afraid not.”

“I wouldn’t take it personally,” Abbey told her. “He was probably just turned off by your face. Or possibly your personality. Or maybe your weird voice. Who’s to say?”

Dahlia ignored the comment. “But his enemy Elias did. So, with the help of Undertow and Summer Wind, we harassed Ragnar’s coastal strongholds, burned any villages that supported him, and helped transport Elias’ warriors quickly by sea. It was enough to turn the tide of the war.”

Fannar grimaced. “And so King Elias was crowned.”

Dahlia nodded. “The warlord became King. But before that could happen, he had to negotiate a surrender with Ragnar. The man still had his supporters, especially in the villages on the western coast, so Elias wanted to avoid killing him, if possible. It only made sense to build goodwill with those villages if he was going to rule them. Tor and I went with Elias to negotiate the terms of Ragnar’s surrender.”

“Ragnar ended up leaving Barskall, did he not?” Fannar asked.

“Yes,” Dahlia confirmed. “He agreed to exile. He would go west to a place called Gren, a land of ice and forests. A place he could begin a new conquest.”

Abbey and Dustin exchanged a glance. Abbey had heard tales of Gren, but she hadn’t been sure the place really existed. The storytellers in Holdgate told the children of the giants of Gren, jovial but stupid creatures who were quick to anger. In the stories, stormship sailors always outsmarted them.

One story in particular stuck in Abbey’s mind. A stormship was trapped in a Gren harbor with an enormous boulder blocking its only path to escape. A giant was on the verge of destroying the ship, but the hero of the story tricked the giant into eating the boulder. The ship sailed to safety as the giant laid on the shore suffering from a stomach ache, moaning.

Dustin had heard those same stories, and Abbey could see he was wrestling with the same thoughts, wondering if Gren was even real.

Dahlia continued, “Ragnar had a strange request. He was intrigued with the way we sailed and fought. He demanded that Tor and I give him a few of our stormship sailors so he might use them to train his people.”

A look of fury appeared on Liv’s face. “You didn’t. Tell me you give sell your own people to a Barskall warlord.”

“And how many lives were saved because of what I did?” Dahlia asked.

“Spare me.” Abbey leaned toward Dahlia. “You didn’t care about ending a war. You just wanted a Barskall army of your own.”

The Storm Caller shrugged. “Does it matter? I helped end a war.”

“How many did you give them?” Liv growled.

“We allowed Ragnar to select five of our sailors. Elliot was the one he really cared about. He’d seen Elliot fight. The man was an average sailor, to be honest, but he fought with the sea’s own fury. And Ragnar had taken notice.”

Abbey imagined what it would be like to be traded to an enemy warlord like livestock and taken to whatever mysterious lands were beyond the sea. “You said Elliot’s still alive. How do you know?”

Dahlia paused a long moment before answering. “I suppose I can’t be certain.”

Fannar raised his seax. “So you’re a liar then?” He glanced at the others. “Let me end her now.”

She held up her bound hands. “But I know Elliot. And I know the regard Ragnar had for him. Elliot was a survivor. For all I know, Ragnar’s army was wiped out by the legendary giants of Gren, but even if it was, I have a feeling Elliot would have found a way to survive.”

Abbey wanted to object to that line of thinking, but if Elliot was anything like his sister, Dahlia might be correct.

Liv scratched at her chin. “From what I’ve heard over the years, Gren is a vast land, mostly covered with ice. It would be next to impossible to find him there—if Gren even exists.”

“Oh, it exists.” Dahlia smiled. “I’ve been there. As part of the terms of surrender, Thunderclap herself transported a portion of Ragnar’s army there. I can show you exactly where we set them down, and I can show you the first town Ragnar attacked. I promise you you’ll never find it without me.”

Abbey sighed. That was all the information they were going to get out of Dahlia for now. Much like Elliot, Dahlia was a survivor. She’d do everything she could to preserve her own life.

It was time to tell Syd.

****

Okay, that will do it for the first snippet. Click here to read the next installment.

Storm Callers – Snippet 1

It’s that time again! Here’s a sneak peek at the first chapter of my upcoming book with Michael Anderle, Storm Callers. 

I’m really excited about this one. It’s the sequel to Storm Raiders, which you can find here if you haven’t already checked it out. Let’s dive back into the Storm of Magic world. But first, here’s the cover. 

A young sailor named Felix clutched the rail of The Passing Fancy as the ship swayed and rocked wildly on the stormy sea. He hoped he wouldn’t vomit again. He’d grown up hearing stories of sailors who couldn’t cut it on the opens seas; newbies who spent their first voyage with their faces a sickly shade of green and their heads hanging over the rails as they tossed up their rations.

In the stories, these unworthy sailors always returned to Holdgate and spent the rest of their lives on dry land, living quiet, shameful lives as butchers or clerks at the dry goods shop.

Felix had sworn that wouldn’t be him. And yet here he was, on his first voyage on a real Holdgate trading ship, throwing up over the side.

He’d been fine for the first three days of the journey, but then this storm had caught them. It had built slowly, and he’d seen the concern growing in Captain Herrik’s eyes as the black clouds had rolled in and the waves swelled to an unbelievable size, tossing their small ship like a child might toss a ball.

Despite Felix’s concern, none of the other sailors seemed to be paying him much mind. They were too busy clutching the rail themselves, holding on for dear life.

That was when Felix realized he might have a whole lot more to fear than just embarrassment over losing his lunch. If these hardened sailors were worried, this was not a normal storm.

Felix closed his eyes and said a silent prayer to the sea.

It had never been his ambition as a boy to earn a place on one of the stormships like his friends all wanted. They had dreamed of working on a ship like Undertow or even Thunderclap, but all Felix wanted was to make his name on a trading ship and make a boatload of money. If he accumulated enough wealth, he could buy status, and maybe his son or daughter would one day win a spot on a stormship.

Of course, all of that assumed he survived his maiden voyage on The Passing Fancy, which was beginning to look less and less likely.

The sailors had been in a foul mood almost since the moment they’d left port. They’d worried that the weather was unnatural for this time of year. They didn’t like change, but things were changing quickly in Holdgate.

Two weeks ago, the magistrate had made a proclamation declaring Tor, Dahlia, and the crew of Thunderclap enemies of Holdgate. He’d said they were Storm Raiders who attacked cities and villages up and down the coast, teaming up with the Barskall to destroy these places after removing all valuables.

The idea seemed ludicrous, but a few days after the proclamation, Thunderclap had attacked Holdgate. Many died in that battle, including six Storm Callers who had reportedly been murdered by Tor himself before he was finally brought down by the Arcadian blacksmith’s daughter, of all people. Only Dahlia, Thunderclap’s Storm Caller, had managed to escape, but without her ship and her crew, she couldn’t be much of a danger.

Still, despite the clear evidence that Tor and his crew had been Storm Raiders, there had been some grumbling among the crew since leaving port. Things had been good for the trading ships over the past decade or so. It was hard to argue that they had not been blessed by the sea. Was it possible that the sea approved of Storm Raiding? And if so, how would it react to the death of Tor, its most favored son?

And now, it seemed the sea was going to claim The Passing Fancy to appease its anger.

The sailors on the deck cried out in fear, and Felix forced himself to open his eyes. Rain pelted down on him, and it wasn’t possible to see very far. But he spotted something up ahead: a massive wave, the likes of which Felix had never seen, was rolling toward them. Its watery form stretched higher than the tallest building in Holdgate. He didn’t know how they’d survive.

Then, just before it got to them, the wave diminished, as if it were being sucked back into the sea. By the time it reached them it was no bigger than the other waves that had been tossing them for hours.

Felix looked to the east, the direction the waves were coming from, and his breath caught in his throat. A shaft of sunlight cut through the storm clouds, illuminating a massive ship.

The ship raced toward them, bringing with it clearing skies and a calmer sea. The men and women aboard The Passing Fancy talked excitedly as the storm died down and the ship grew nearer.

It was a stormship; everyone agreed on that. After all, one of the primary duties of the stormships was to calm to seas for trading ships. As the ship drew closer, the sailors’ excitement grew. This wasn’t just any stormship.

What started as a suspicion quickly grew into certainty. By the time the stormship reached them, the sailors were cheering and chanting its name. The sea hadn’t abandoned The Passing Fancy, and neither had the flagship of the Holdgate fleet.

Felix pushed his way through the crowd of sailors on the main deck to get a look at the great stormship as it drew near. It was strange seeing a man standing at the bow instead of a woman, but the iconic ship was familiar enough that he was able to put that aside. Besides, he recognized the ship’s new Storm Caller.

He thought of the many times as a child he’d watched this ship pull into port in Holdgate. Now he was doing more than watching. He was an active participant.

Thunderclap had saved him. Dustin had saved him.

***

“If we find the son of a bitch who’s doing this,” Syd said, “I’m going to string him up by his eyebrows.”

“Eyebrows?” Abbey asked. “That’s awfully generous of you. I was going to aim a bit lower.”

Captain Roy let out a soft chuckle. “Eyebrows…or whatever, we’re going to have to find him first.”

“We will,” Syd growled. She ran a hand across her bald head as she spoke.

Abbey couldn’t disagree with her friend’s assertion, and she understood the frustration. They were all feeling it, even Captain Roy, though he was a bit better at hiding it than the rest of them.

This was their maiden voyage as the new crew of Thunderclap. With Captain Tor, Dahlia, and the Storm Raiders who had previously manned the vessel all either dead or rotting in the Holdgate prison, there had been no one left to sail Holdgate’s flagship. The magistrate and the council of Storm Captains had agreed that the prize should go to Captain Roy and the crew of The Foggy Day, who’d proven their trustworthiness by taking a stand against Tor. Now it was The Foggy Day that sat unused in port.

Everyone had been delighted at the promotion to the better vessel. Dustin’s dream of Storm Calling on Thunderclap had come true, and a lot sooner than he’d anticipated. Syd and most of the crew were thrilled to be working aboard the larger craft, and Abbey, who’d accepted a position aboard only days before, had been no less excited to learn that her first real voyage would be on the great ship. After spending her first nineteen years primarily in her father’s blacksmith shop, she’d be sailing on the most famous ship in the Holdgate fleet.

The only one who hadn’t been pleased was Captain Roy. He’d accepted the new commission reluctantly and with an uncharacteristic seriousness. When Abbey had asked him why, he’d said, “We’ll be on the best ship in the fleet. That means we’ll be sent to the biggest battles and the most dangerous places. I don’t mind fighting if I have to, but I don’t like watching my people die.”

Now, on the last day of their first voyage, Abbey had to admit that it hadn’t exactly gone smoothly.

Since Thunderclap required roughly twice the crew of The Foggy Day, Captain Roy had needed to bring on nearly fifty new crew members. The other Storm Captains had reluctantly allowed a few experienced sailors to transfer to the famous ship, but the majority of were fresh recruits who had never been on anything more than a pleasure cruise. As first mate, it was Syd’s job to whip this new crew into shape, and the monumental task was making her even crankier than usual.

Training new crew members was always challenging, but training this many at once was like herding mountain goats. Abbey did her best not to cause her friend any undue stress, but she was a new sailor too, and she bumbled as much as the rest of them.

Captain Roy and Dustin were having just as much trouble. This had been planned as a one-week voyage to test the crew on open water. It should have been an easy journey: swing down around the south horn of the Kaldfell Peninsula to ensure the trade routes were clear of storms. This time of year, the seas should have been fairly calm. They expected to encounter one or two storms at the most. What they’d experienced had been quite different.

They’d encountered storm after storm, each on a trade route, and each too vicious and localized to have been natural. There was a Storm Caller working in these waters, causing havoc for Holdgate’s ships.

The obvious theory was that Dahlia calling the storms, trying to exact payback for what had been done to her captain and her shipmates. But the problem with Dahlia—or any other Storm Caller—creating these storms was that in order to call and maintain such disturbances, the Storm Caller would need to be within sight. But Thunderclap had yet to see another stormship, so whoever was doing this was somehow doing it from a distance.

Abbey left the captain and first mate and headed toward the bow of the ship.

Dustin was working night and day to quell the storms, and Abbey could tell it was taking its toll. She wasn’t sure which was wearing on him more: calming the storms, or the mystery of how the storms were being created in the first place.

The current storm was all but gone now, and Dustin had his eyes open, looking at the gently rolling sea and the trade ship on their starboard side. The crew of the trade ship was cheering and waving wildly as Thunderclap sailed past.

“Nice job,” Abbey remarked as she approached Dustin.

Dustin glanced at her, then turned back to the sea. “Thanks. For all the good it will do. Whoever’s creating these storms could be calling another one fifty miles behind us for all we know.”

Abbey nodded toward the trade ship. “Well, they’re grateful. Besides, we’ll figure it out. We’ll find them and give them the whupping they deserve. It’s what we do.” She paused, then continued, “It’s gotta be Dahlia behind this, right?” She almost scoffed as she said the name. Just that thought of that woman—and the fact that they’d failed to capture her—haunted Abbey.

“Probably.” He was quiet for a minute as he gazed out at the sea. “It’s just so frustrating. There’s so much we don’t know about Storm Calling. First, I learn that casting is possible without seawater, and now…whatever this is.”

Abbey heard a familiar voice behind her, interrupting their conversation. “You call that tying a line? Man, if Syd sees that, you’ll be swabbing the deck all night. Let me show you how it’s done.”

Olaf snatched a rope out of another sailor’s hand.

Abbey chuckled and shook her head. It hadn’t been that long ago that she’d kicked his ass in her father’s shop. Now he was a sailor aboard Thunderclap, just like her. And to Abbey’s annoyance, he was learning the things Syd taught more quickly than any of the other newbies, which only added to his already impressive cockiness. Syd grudgingly admitted the young man knew his knots better than most sailors with six months’ experience.

The whole thing had made Olaf even more insufferable, but Abbey had to admit his brash confidence always brought a smile to her face. She turned back to Dustin.

“You were the first one to crack storm magic without seawater, and you’ll crack this mystery, too. Give yourself a break.”

Dustin looked at her with a half-smile. “I guess you’re right.”

“Of course I am,” she said with a grin. “Now get us home. There’s a mug of mead waiting with my name on it.”

“Dustin!” a man called from the crow’s nest. “To the east!”

He sighed as he looked east and saw unnaturally dark skies. “I think we both deserve a drink, but first we have work to do.”

__

That’s all for now, but I’ll be back tomorrow with another snippet! 

Storm Raiders – Snippet #4

This is the fourth and final snippet from STORM RAIDERS. If you haven’t read the other installments, start at the beginning here. Enough preamble. Let’s get to the story!

Abbey carried another armload of helmets to the cart at the front of the shop. All of them were crafted in the popular style with the bit of metal that extended down over the nose. Abbey never liked that style. It seemed to her the metal would obstruct vision on the battlefield, and if you couldn’t see in a battle, what good were you? The Storm Captains kept ordering them, though, so maybe things played out differently in battles than she imagined.

Not that she’d ever find out. No Storm Captain would ever hire her, no matter her skill with a sword. It wasn’t that she was a woman; in Holdgate, men and women alike were expected to be trained in the ways of war. But she was an Arcadian, an outsider from the rich, soft south. That disqualified her from employment on a ship.

She put the helmets into the cart and then walked back to the rear of the shop where Benjamin was hammering a piece of iron into shape, humming a happy tune as he worked.

He’d been in a pleasant mood since her sword fight with Olaf an hour earlier. They had both been. Abbey knew there was nothing that put Benjamin in a good mood like watching her do what she did best.

Benjamin set down his hammer and inspected the iron. He glanced at the forge, then, instead of walking over to it, he raised his right hand. His eyes turned black, and a fireball the size of an apple appeared, floating a few inches above his hand. He held the fireball to the iron.

“You know, if you worked as hard at learning my other lessons as you do at the sword, you’d be quite the magician by now.”

Abbey sighed. This again. He was always trying to get her to practice his form of magic. “If it comes to a fight, I prefer a sword.”

It wasn’t that she couldn’t do any magic. She could create a fireball, though she couldn’t control it with the finesse her father was demonstrating now. She could move objects with her magic. She could even make her sword glow with a terrifying green flame if she really concentrated. But she didn’t enjoy the way it made her feel. It drained her somehow.

But that wasn’t the primary reason she didn’t focus on developing her magic skills.

She was enough of an outsider already. Her father’s form of physical magic was so different than the storm magic used here in Holdgate. The last thing she wanted was another thing to make her different.

She respected her father’s skill. He’d trained under some of the best magicians in the world at the Academy in Arcadia, and the things he could do left her in awe, even after growing up with him. But admiration was quite different than the dedication it would take to master those skills herself.

Benjamin held the fireball in his left hand and picked up the hammer with his right. As the fire heated the iron, he began working it with the hammer. He spoke over the clang of the metal. “Swordplay and magic aren’t that different.”

Abbey gathered another armload of helmets and headed toward the cart. “Really? You could have fooled me. One of those things lets me beat up smug bullies, and the other turns my eyeballs black.”

“They both require focus. They both channel your anger into physical force.” He set the hammer down and dispelled the fireball. “In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a bit of magic behind some of those sword strikes at the end of the fight.”

She paused. “Hang on, are you accusing me of cheating?”

“Not at all. When you know how to use magic, sometimes it comes out in unexpected ways. It was the same with your mother. She didn’t have any formal training, just a few tricks her uncle showed her, yet her magic manifested itself when she didn’t mean for it to happen.”

Abbey felt her cheeks growing hot. “Olaf has the skill of a boar. If you’re saying I couldn’t beat that idiot without magic—”

“I’m not. I’m just saying that he’s much stronger than you, and you were batting his sword away like he was a child at the end there.” He gave her a serious look. “Abbey, magic is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s part of you, same as your skill with a sword. If a bit of it comes out in a fight, that’s not cheating. It’s using every tool you have to win.”

She started toward the cart again. “I still say I didn’t use magic. I could have beaten Olaf with one hand, let alone without magic.

“Fine,” her father said with a smile. “What do I know? I’m just a graduate of the Academy in Arcadia. Chancellor Adrien himself once complimented by magitech work. But I’m sure you know better.”

“Trust me, Dad, around here that isn’t something to brag about.”

****

Abbey pushed the cart through the streets of Holdgate. Every bump in the road made the helmets loudly clank together, and there were plenty of bumps. It felt good to be out of the shop. The sun shone brightly in the clear sky, warming her as she walked. It was summer, which in Holdgate meant long days. Abbey tried to cherish these times of abundant sunlight. Things would be different in the winter, when the sun only showed itself for a few short hours, and even that did little to stave off the bitter cold.

The streets were crowded, and Abbey had to weave her cart around the people milling about. A fair number of the stormships were in the harbor, as were many of the hunters and fishermen who rarely came to the city. They were all there for the festival.

Still, Abbey kept moving. Captain Stephen was waiting for these helmets, and in Holdgate, it was never a good idea to keep a Storm Captain waiting.

Sick of the crowd in the street, Abbey cut down an alley. She headed toward the beach, hoping to find more space to guide her cart down under the docks where there would be fewer tourists. From there, it would be a straight shot to Captain Roy’s ship.

She pushed her cart along the beach. The rocky ground was even worse here, and she had to keep a firm grip on her cart to keep it from toppling over. But it was still worth it to get away from the crowd. Some might have said it wasn’t a good idea for a young woman to be walking alone under the shadowy docks, especially on a festival day, but Abbey had her sword on her hip. She wasn’t worried. If someone wanted trouble, she’d be more than happy to give it to them.

The sea seemed especially rough this afternoon, especially for such a day when the wind was so calm. She looked out at the choppy water… and she saw something. No, not something. Someone.

She let go of her cart and walked toward the water, squinting to be sure she saw correctly. After a moment, she was sure. It was a man. He was a good one hundred and fifty yards from shore.

It wasn’t uncommon to see someone swimming in the ocean, even though the water was freezing year around. Holdgatesmen were always challenging each other to demonstrations of manliness, and that often included ill-advised swims. But this man appeared to be struggling. He wasn’t making much progress. If anything, he appeared to be losing ground.

Abbey watched for a long moment as the man struggled. He dipped under the water, then his head reappeared. He was above water for only a moment before he went under again, this time for longer than before.

He’s not going to make it, Abbey realized. She had to do something.

She warily glanced at the choppy water. She was a good swimmer, but if she tried to swim out there, all she’d do was end up drowning them both. But there was no way she was letting this guy drown, either. As much as she didn’t want to, she had to use another way to save him.

Remembering what her father had taught her, she moved her hands in a complicated pattern and concentrated her energy on the drowning man. Her eyes turned black, and the magic began to flow out of her.

Moving objects with her mind didn’t come easily to her, and this man was so far away. Still, she didn’t let doubt creep in. She focused on the man and drawing him to her. She didn’t need the magic to carry him completely; she just needed to give him enough of a boost that he wouldn’t drown.

His head appeared above water again, and the man began moving toward shore. He swam through the water, each stroke taking him much farther than it should have. It was as if Abbey had him on a line and was reeling him toward the shore with her magic.

The man cut through the choppy waves, and in only a few minutes, he was dragging himself up onto the shore. Abbey recognized him—it was Dustin.

When she was a child, most of the other kids had shunned her. No one wanted to play with the weird Arcadian kid who always smelled like the blacksmith shop, a distinctive combination of coal smoke and burnt honey—a product of the beeswax her father applied to his metalwork. Dustin had been the rare exception. They’d spent long hours running through the streets together, getting into all sorts of trouble. For five years, Dustin had been a fixture in her father’s shop, stopping by nearly every day to play with Abbey.

All that had changed when he got accepted as an apprentice Storm Caller. For the first couple years, he’d simply been too busy to hang out with her. But somewhere along the way, he’d seemingly realized it wasn’t a good idea for a Storm Caller to socialize with an outsider like Abbey. The last couple times she’d seen him in the street, he hadn’t even returned her nod of greeting. Some friend.

Abbey walked to the edge of the water and held out her hand. “You all right?”

Dustin tried to stand and stumbled forward.

Abbey realized she was still pulling him forward with her magic. The poor guy looked terribly confused. He looked up at Abbey, and his face went pale as he saw her eyes. He’d spent enough time in Benjamin’s shop to know that black eyes meant magic.

“What did you do?” There was anger in his voice.

She stopped pulling him forward, and her eyes returned to normal. “Um, I saved your damned life. Maybe the phrase you’re looking for is thank you?”

“Get out of here before someone sees you,” he hissed. “You’ll ruin everything!”

She was stunned. It’s not like she’d been expecting a hug or anything, but a little gratitude would have been nice. She was half tempted to use her magic to push him back out to sea.

His eyes softened a little before he spoke again. “Look, I’m not trying to be a dick, but seriously. You have to go.”

He was looking past her at something down the beach. She followed his gaze and saw a group of men approaching. She didn’t recognize all of them, but there were a few she knew all too well. Dustin’s master, Harald, was among them. These men were Storm Callers.

Abbey realized what this was—it was Dustin’s Testing.

They were standing in the shadows under a dock, so there was a chance the men hadn’t spotted her yet. She glanced back to Dustin. He was already on his feet, running toward them.

Abbey’s eyes turned black again, and she reached out with one more bit of magic.

Dustin stumbled and fell forward, landing on his face in the sand in full sight of the Storm Callers.

“Serves you right, asshole.” Abbey stifled a chuckle andwent back to her cart.

There we have it. Abbey and Dustin have no idea about the trouble they’re about to land in, and the lengths they’ll have to go to in their fight for justice.

The book will be out VERY soon. In the meantime, follow the Facebook Page, and check out the Rise of Magic books by Chris, Lee, and Michael and Shades of Light by Justin and Michael.

Storm Raiders – Snippet 3

This is the third snippet from STORM RAIDERS, the first book in my new series with Michael Anderle. If you haven’t read the other snippets, check out #1 here and #2 here.

It’s been a bit since the last snippet, but there’s a good reason for that. We have been working on a new and even more awesome cover. Check it out!

Now that we have the cover squared away, let’s get onto the story. In this meaty section, we meet our secondary lead character, Dustin. He’s a storm magic user with something to prove, and he’s just about to take his initiation test when we meet him. Let’s get to it!

“This is a day you’ll long remember, boy.” The old man gripped the staff lodged into the notch in the fore section of the small boat.

Dustin muttered a semi-polite response that he hoped wouldn’t encourage any more conversation. In truth, looking at this man made him sad. Maybe the old guy had been a Master Storm Caller once, but those days were long past. Now, his eyes were dyed a permanent pale blue-green, and he barely seemed able to conjure enough wind to fill this pathetic craft’s tiny sail. Once, he’d conjured fog, and storms, and lightning to battle Barskall Warriors. Now, he was consigned to ferrying young apprentices out to Testing Rock.

Dustin looked away from the old man. He couldn’t afford to be distracted right now.

In a few short hours, he’d be a full-fledged Storm Caller. He’d trade in his skinny little apprentice’s staff for a thick, twisted staff carved from old wood. He’d earn his place on a stormship. If all went well, he’d soon be going into battle, defending the world from the Barskall. But first, he had to pass the test.

“Ah, there she is.” The old man pointed a crooked finger at a rock jutting from the sea a few hundred years ahead. “Many men have been made on that rock. Many have been broken, too.”

“It’ll take more than a rock and a few waves to break me.” Dustin figured if the old man wasn’t going to shut up, he might as well talk to him. Maybe it would help quell his unexpected nerves. “The rock’s what? Half a mile from shore? I’ve been swimming farther than that since before I was ten.”

The old man shot him a stern look over his shoulder. “Underestimate the sea at your peril. She’s a fickle mistress.”

Dustin stifled a laugh. Despite the nerves, he was confident in his chances. He’d stand on the Testing Rock while a Storm Caller brought on choppy waves. All he had to do was calm the sea and swim to shore. If he made it back alive, he’d pass the test.

He was twenty years old and had been training for this for the last twelve.

From his first day as a Storm Caller’s apprentice, he’d performed better than his peers. He had a natural connection with the sea. He always had ever since his father—a fisherman—had taken him on a two-day voyage when he was barely old enough to walk. His friends struggled for years to conjure even a bit of light fog; a task Dustin accomplished in his first three months. He didn’t understand why it was so difficult for them. He simply touched his staff to seawater, asked, and the sea answered.

Not that it had all been easy. He’d struggled mightily with dispersing weather after he’d conjured it, but he was getting better at that, too. Now, even before he was officially named a Storm Caller, his eyes were already taking on the vibrant blue-green hue of the sea.

Some of his fellow apprentices had already passed this test, and if they could make it, he was confident he would, too.

Dustin wasn’t one to downplay his natural abilities, but he wasn’t one to flaunt them, either. Most days, he enjoyed using his skills to help the other apprentices grow theirs. But today he had to flaunt his skills. That was the whole point of the Testing.

The old man glanced back at him again, as if reading his thoughts. “Would you like a bit of advice from one who’s passed the test?”

Dustin glared at the man, his patience finally at the breaking point. “I highly doubt there’s anything you could say that would help at this stage. I’ve been training for this for twelve years. I don’t want anything else in my head messing me up right now. I need to focus.”

The old man turned back to the sea ahead of them. “Fine. Suit yourself.”

“I meant no offense. But the tests were different in your day. Storm Callers weren’t as powerful.” His master, Harald, had told him all about the old days when Storm Callers were still learning how to commune with the sea effectively to call forth storms. Today’s Storm Caller was a different breed. The best of them were able to call down lightning that could hit a ship a quarter mile away.

The old man sighed. “It’s true. We had much to learn in my day. Perhaps that’s why I kept an open mind, unlike some in this boat. I always kept learning and never thought I was too good to listen to the advice of my betters.”

Dustin didn’t dignify that with a response. If this old man thought he was Dustin’s better just because he’d been a Storm Caller once, he was dumber than Dustin thought. Dustin would be Master Storm Caller of the fleet one day. The old man should have spent the trip befriending him instead of berating him. “Can we just go the rest of the way in silence? I need to concentrate.”

“Of course,” the old man said.

They reached the rock a few minutes later. It was smaller than Dustin had expected. Two full grown men couldn’t have stood side-by-side on it. Dustin was going to have trouble staying up there all by himself.

The skiff pulled alongside the rock, and Dustin hauled himself onto it. He stood up and held out his hand. The old man passed him the apprentice’s staff. Whatever the result of the Testing, this would be the last time Dustin would use it. He was to leave it on Testing Rock when he swam for shore. When high tide came in, it would be carried out to sea.

Dustin stared back at the shore. He knew it was only half a mile, but it looked much farther. “Do you know who my Storm Caller is?”

An apprentice wasn’t allowed to know what Storm Caller they’d be facing in their Testing. Dustin assumed the old man wouldn’t know, but it was worth a try.

The old man smiled up at him, revealing a large gap where his front teeth had once been. “I certainly do. It’s me.”

Dustin blinked hard, confused.

The old man appeared to be standing a bit straighter now. “You have until I return to shore to prepare yourself. I suggest you spend the time wisely.” He closed his eyes for just a moment, and a strong wind filled his sail, sending his skiff gliding back the way they’d come.

The old man turned back and yelled over his shoulder as he sped away. “If you’d been nice to me, I might have gone easy on you. Since you weren’t… Well, I hope you’re a good swimmer.”

Dustin swallowed hard as the skiff raced toward shore.

****

Dustin gripped his staff and jammed it down into the hole in the rock, so it touched seawater. Full Storm Caller staffs were longer, many nearly eight feet tall so they could be placed in the notch in the bow of stormships that exposed them to the exterior of the ship and the spray of seawater. His current apprentice staff was shorter—only about six feet, slightly shorter than he was. Sunk into the hole in Testing Rock, it only reached his waist.

He could see in the distance that the old man was almost back to shore now. It would begin soon.

He gripped his staff and moved into a wide stance that would allow him to keep his balance once the waves started crashing against him. He talked to himself quietly while he waited. “Come on; you can do this. You were made for this. He’s just an old man. You’re a Storm Caller of the future. Okay, so maybe he’s faced Barskall Warriors, and maybe he’s led troops into battle. Big deal. He’s old.”

The words seemed hollow even as he spoke them. The man was a Storm Caller, and Dustin had foolishly mouthed off to him. Now, he was going to pay the price.

There was nothing he could do about that now. The only thing he could do was prepare. He closed his eyes and centered himself.

“The sea is my ally.”

He reached out, not with his hands or even his mind, but with something deeper. With his spirit. He gently touched the sea and began the wordless conversation that was storm magic.

The old man was right about one thing: the sea was a fickle mistress. She couldn’t be forced to do anything. Even asking outright was often fruitless. She had to be coaxed. Dustin needed to take the energy flowing through the sea for its own purposes, ask to borrow just a little of it, and then gently reshape it. It was a bit like riding a wild horse—it took a combination of gentleness, firmness, and the wisdom to know when to use each of them.

He felt the power of the sea thrumming up through his staff and into his hands now. He was connected. He was ready.

On the shore, he saw the old man appear on the wall that overlooked the sea. The top of the wall had a trough filled with seawater, Dustin knew, so Storm Callers could touch their staff to the water, thus allowing them access to storm magic for defense of the city. The old man stood still for a long moment, both hands on his staff, and then the sky began to darken.

Waves started to crash against the rock as the previously gentle swells around Dustin grew into angry waves. He felt a momentary surge of panic but quickly pushed it away. What he needed was a calm mind and spirit.

The waves were crashing over the rock now, slamming into him with a cold, wet force. It was all he could do keep his grip on his staff. He risked a look up at the wall and saw the old man was walking away. Dustin breathed a sigh of relief. It was bad, but since the old man was leaving, it wouldn’t get any worse. He’d conjured the storm, and it was up to Dustin to dispel it so he could swim safely back to shore.

He closed his eyes and tried to concentrate. It was so chaotic. The noise, the way his body shivered as the wind whistled past him, the slippery feel of his staff. He tried to get hold of the sea’s energy as he had so many times before, but that felt chaotic, too. He silently asked the sea—begged it, really—to give him control, but it seemed to be listening to a louder voice.

He worked for over an hour, struggling in vain to get the sea under control. Every time he thought he was starting to get it under control, it slipped away from him, and the waves seemed to slam against his rock with renewed fury.

His master, Harald, talked about how the great Storm Callers had a breakthrough during their Testing. How they left Testing Rock with a strengthened connection to the sea. Dustin kept waiting for the moment, but it wasn’t happening. Worse still, the tide was beginning to rise. If he didn’t figure out something soon, Testing Rock would be underwater.

He had to act now.

Taking a deep breath, he concentrated on emptying himself of ego and conscious thought. He put everything he had left into one more attempt. Reaching out with his spirit, pleading with the sea to let him shape it.

To his utter surprise, this time there was a response. The familiar power of the sea flowed through him, and he went to work.  He shaped the energy in his mind, smoothing it, dispersing it to calm the waves.

A gust of wind hit him, and he momentarily lost his grip on his staff. It was only his left hand that slipped, but it was enough. His concentration was broken, and the power he’d felt a moment ago was gone.

“Damn it all to hell!” he yelled into the wind. But as he opened his eyes, he saw the sea was much calmer than it had been only a few minutes ago. He hadn’t calmed it completely, but he’d certainly improved his situation.

He watched the swelling waves as he considered what to do. It was beyond idiotic to attempt swimming a half mile in this choppy sea, but what choice did he have? If he waited much longer, the rock would be under water anyway.

He carefully removed his staff from the water hole and placed it on the rock. It had been with him for twelve years, but he couldn’t use it anymore. If he made it back to land alive, he’d be a Storm Caller. If he didn’t… Well, there probably wasn’t much use for a staff in the afterlife.

He took a deep breath and dove into the water to begin the swim to Holdgate.

There we have it. In our final snippet, we’ll get back to Abbey, and she’ll finally cross paths with Dustin. Click here to read it.

Also, be sure to follow the Facebook Page, and check out the Rise of Magic books by Chris, Lee, and Michael and Shades of Light by Justin and Michael.

 

Storm Raiders – Snippet 2

UNEDITED – This is the second snippet from STORM RAIDERS, the first book in my new series with Michael Anderle. If you haven’t read the first snippet, check that out here.

Before we get to the story, check out the cover!

Abbey marched to the front of the shop, a dull-edged practice sword in each hand.

Olaf scoffed when he saw them. “Practice swords? Is the girl afraid to face me in real combat?”

The girl is not,” Abbey said.

Benjamin held up a hand. “I won’t have bloodshed in here. It’s practice swords or full price.”

Olaf looked questioningly at his father.

Lawrence shook his head, as if disgusted. “Do as they ask, son. They’re southerners. They don’t understand our ways.”

Abbey ignored the comment. Even though she’d lived in Holdgate since she was three years old, she heard similar statements all the time. Her father had come from the city of Arcadia and set up shop here after his wife’s death, a young Abbey in tow. The topic of why Benjamin would have left the wealthy city of Arcadia and chosen a life in the harsh climate of the Kaldfell peninsula was fiercely debated in town. Benjamin wasn’t forthcoming with answers, even with Abbey. All he ever told her was that it was too painful to stay in Arcadia after Abbey’s mother died. He’d needed a change.

So, Abbey had grown up here in Holdgate, an outsider from the time she was three. She’d spent most of her life in this blacksmith shop, playing with swords like other kids might play with blocks. Her father had schooled her himself, drilling her on reading and mathematics as they worked the iron together. Holdgate’s educational system seemed to be focused on throwing axes and navigating by the stars, and Benjamin said he wanted a daughter who could read.

Now, she was nineteen. Many of the girls her age were married, but Abbey still worked in her father’s shop. She still loved making weapons as much as she had when she was a child. Perhaps she’d open her own shop someday. Until then, she was content to be near the weapons she loved.

Abbey held out both swords to Olaf, offering him his pick. He looked at them for a few moments like they were a particularly challenging riddle before finally grabbing one.

Though she hadn’t spent a lot of time with other children, she’d seen Olaf around enough to know he was a bully. He was big, even by Holdgate standards. While his beard still had a wispy, boyish look, the rest of him was fully developed. His arms were as big around as Abbey’s legs.

Abbey stood six inches shorter. Her slight frame hid her lean but strong muscles. Her black hair was pulled back with a ribbon as it always was when she worked in the shop.

She took ten paces back and turned to face Olaf. She raised her sword and held it at the ready.

“You’ll fight until we signal it’s over,” Benjamin said.

“Yes,” Lawrence agreed. “Keep going until Benjamin signals his surrender, Olaf.”

Olaf held up his sword and smiled at her. “I’m going to enjoy tussling with you. Maybe we can do a bit more of it later. When our fathers aren’t around. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

Abbey wanted to laugh at the way he held his sword. He gripped it tightly in his ham-like fist as if it were a snake trying to wiggle free. There was no finesse in his stance, either. Clearly, he was used to winning battles with sheer strength. “Somehow, I think I’m going to be the only one who enjoys this. Call the start, Father?”

Benjamin crossed his arms and leaned back against the wall behind him. He wore the easy expression of a man preparing to watch something amusing. “Begin.”

The instant the word left Benjamin’s lips, Olaf charged.

He held his sword two-handed, raised over his head. It might as well have been a club.

Abbey’s instinct was to rush to meet him, but she remembered her father’s most frequent instruction: Patience. It was something he reminded her of nearly every day in her sword practice.

She’d been sparring against her father for more than a decade, so she was no stranger to facing bigger and stronger opponents. She’d learned to use her smaller size as an advantage. Your opponents will underestimate you, her father had often reminded her. Don’t let them see what you can really do until it’s too late for them to stop you.

So, she waited with sword raised as Olaf charged. Then, when he was almost to her, she made her move. She thrust her practice sword forward, driving it into Olaf’s stomach. The air rushed out of him in an audible oof. She then spun out of the way as his momentum sent him careening past. The young man stumbled to a stop, dangerously close to the kiln and put his hands on his knees as he tried to regain his breath.

Abbey could have gone after him and finished it then and there, but she was having too much fun. “Are you enjoying tussling with me?” she asked sweetly.

Benjamin laughed.

Lawrence threw his hands up in the air. “What’s wrong with you, boy? Get after her!”

Olaf slowly rose to a standing position. There was fury in his eyes now. “Gladly, Father.” He moved toward Abbey again, more slowly this time, his sword held in front of him.

Abbey jabbed her sword forward, testing his defenses, but he batted it away. It looked like he was done underestimating her. He fired back with a surprisingly quick thrust. Abbey parried, but the deflected sword still managed to whack her upper arm.

Shit! If these had been real swords, she’d have blood pouring out of her arm right now. As it was, she’d have a nice bruise on that arm tomorrow.

Enough messing around. It was time to end this.

Abbey swung her sword in a wildly obvious attack. When Olaf took the bait and raised his sword to block, she pulled back, and thrust her sword under his defenses, again jabbing him in the stomach. He managed to keep his feet, but she had him off balance. All she had to do was keep attacking.

The time for finesse was over. She let loose a barrage of blows, hitting him in the arms, the chest, the stomach. He managed to block some of them, but he was desperately off balance, so she easily knocked his blade aside again and again.

“Enough!” Lawrence called. “The price is forty. We’ll pay forty!”

Abbey immediately stopped her assault. She held out a hand to Olaf. “You all right?”

He looked at her hand like it was covered in shit. “Like I’d shake hands with a piece of Arcadian filth.” He threw down his practice sword and stormed out of the shop.

After Lawrence had paid and left with his sword, Abbey allowed herself to rub the spot on her arm where Olaf had stuck her. “That went well.”

Benjamin stroked his short beard. “Not bad. Your defense was a bit sloppy. If you’d been fighting a skilled swordsman, you might have been in trouble.”

Abbey picked up the other practice sword off the floor. “Perhaps you’d care to test me?”

Benjamin laughed. “After what I just saw you do to Olaf? No thanks. The boy is going to be sore for a month.” He picked up his apron off the workbench and put it on. “We’ve got a lot of work to do before the festival tonight. Let’s get to it.”


So that’s a brief introduction to Abbey, our main character. What do you think of her? All I know is, I’d pay full price for her father’s swords.

Click here to read the next installment.

Also, be sure to  follow the Facebook Page, and check out the Rise of Magic books by Chris, Lee, and Michael and Shades of Light by Justin and Michael.