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Cleaning House

I guess there’s something about packing up the last four years of your life that makes you want to tidy up a whole bunch of other areas as well. This week, I’ve found myself creating budgets to clean up my finances and have set to work clearing out my Facebook profile, taking me one step closer to shutting it down completely.

Maybe it’s a bit of spring cleaning in there as well, but it’s incredibly refreshing to be getting some of this stuff off my back and observing it all as neat little rows instead of the chaos I’ve let it devolve into.

I’m also taking this time to clean up my website. I’m adding an FAQ page with separate sections for writers and readers that will hopefully come in handy (so if you have any questions you feel I should add, let me know in the comments below!), and I’m brainstorming some branding for the Krista Walsh image. The Fantasy Quill near Parliament Hill? Peddler of Magical Worlds?

I’m looking forward to the dust settling so I can see what a difference all these changes have made, but I’m enjoying the energy being created while I change them!

What’s the biggest change you’ve made lately that’s given you a fresh lease on life?

A change is as good as a rest

And if that’s true, I’m going to be the most refreshed human being in the world by the end of the month.

It’s been quiet here on the blog for a while, but I think I have a pretty good excuse. Hubs and I recently bought a house, so as of the end of the month, we’re heading out of downtown and returning to my atmospheric roots: the suburbs.

On the one hand, I am incredibly excited for this move. A new place to coddle and renovate, a new neighbourhood to explore, new neighbours to meet.

On the other, we’ve reached the part where we’re living around boxes, the cat is increasingly clingy as all of her safe places are disappearing, and there’s the emotional aspect of leaving a place I’ve called home for four years.

Add to that, my dayjob contract ends today. Due to housing/interest rates being what they are these days, I’m back to another muggle contract in July, but for the next three weeks, I get the joy of focusing solely on the move on my business, which has been sadly neglected of late.

So many changes!

I’m really happy about all of them. It’s a new start in many ways, and I look forward to seeing what new opportunities it brings.

As a quick writing update:

While my marketing/promotion has fallen to the wayside, production has not. VEILFIRE, Book 1 of the Nayis Trilogy, has been sent to my editor. I’m still hopeful of a 2018 release.

July, however, will bring the first draft of my new UF trilogy. The idea has been chasing me for months, making it impossible to focus on Naya as much as I would like, so I’ve decided to alternate between the two series, giving myself time to get each one into the best possible shape. So keep an eye out for news on both the new Andvell series and my Ottawa-based supernatural suspense!

What’s going to keep you busy this summer?

Limited Time Offer: DEATH AT PEONY HOUSE is FREE!

You read that correctly!

For the next little while, Death at Peony House is available for free from all major retailers. If you’ve been waiting to start off this series, there has never been a better time.

Magic is a dangerous temptation 

After lights are seen in the windows of the city’s abandoned hospital, sorceress and journalist Daphne Heartstone heads to Peony House in search of a headline.

What she discovers is a dead body and a clue to a hundred-and-fifty-year-old cold case.

Detective Hunter Avery, the man Daphne loved and lost, warns her away from the case, but the ghosts of Peony House have demanded her help.

Not to mention, her job is on the line if she doesn’t have a story on her editor’s desk for Saturday’s edition.

Daphne has worked hard to escape her past of dark magic and blind ambition, but as she walks the balance between light and dark, she’ll learn how many promises she’s willing to break to protect the people she loves.

Pick up this spine-tingling whodunit today!

 

Welcome to Andvell

As you may know by now, I’m currently working on a return to Andvell, a third trilogy in the saga focused on the next generation. Dragons! Romance! Magic! It’s going to be great.

To celebrate the new series, but also to mark the fourth anniversary since Evensong (my first novel!) was released, I have compiled the trilogy into an easy-to-download boxset. All three books, all three of Jeff’s adventures, at one click of your finger for a great price.

As of this morning, the trilogy is available on Amazon, but should be added to Kobo, Nook, and iBooks throughout the next couple of days.

Meratis Box Set

Even authors fight their own imaginations.

Fantasy author Jeff Powell spends most days struggling with his next book from the safety and comfort of his computer chair.

So when he wakes up in the setting of his best-selling series, he is unprepared for the threats awaiting him. His characters aren’t familiar, there are problems he never wrote, and the dragons…are much larger than he pictured.

Faced with evil sorcerers, vengeful lords, and the pursuit of his true love, Jeff’s time in Andvell is a constant battle. But will his imagination be enough to save the world he created from falling apart at the seams?

This epic fantasy boxset takes you through all three of Jeff’s adventures in Andvell. Meet the ensemble cast that has so many people falling in love with this new fantasy world. Krista Walsh will draw you in with the beauty and heart of a world-within-a-world and keep you hoping that the line between reality and fiction really is so thin.

Tumble into Andvell today!

Are you already a fan of the series? If so, please consider leaving a review on the boxset. Every review helps get those algorithms chugging.

NOTICE: E-book price changes

Exciting things are happening

New projects mean a few changes, but you don’t have to miss out!

This Friday, February 9, I will be raising the prices on some of my backlist, and I wanted to make sure to give you time to take advantage of the lower prices while you can.

What’s changing

Cover art: Ravven
http://www.ravven.com

Death at Peony House will be going up from $2.99 to $3.99USD

Magic is a dangerous temptation 

After lights are seen in the windows of the city’s abandoned hospital, sorceress and journalist Daphne Heartstone heads to Peony House in search of a headline.

What she discovers is a dead body and a clue to a hundred-and-fifty-year-old cold case.

Detective Hunter Avery, the man Daphne loved and lost, warns her away from the case, but the ghosts of Peony House have demanded her help.

Not to mention, her job is on the line if she doesn’t have a story on her editor’s desk for Saturday’s edition.

Daphne has worked hard to escape her past of dark magic and blind ambition, but as she walks the balance between light and dark, she’ll learn how many promises she’s willing to break to protect the people she loves.

Pick up this spine-tingling whodunit today!


Gods of the Stone Oracle will be going from $3.99 to $4.99USD

Ten months ago, a sorceress, a Gorgon-Fae, a succubus, a semi-goddess, a daemelus, a human, and an incubus matched wits to escape a magically sealed room. Six of them survived, believing their association was over.

But again and again their paths have crossed, and now sixteen-year-old Molly Harris has been abducted by a demon cartel intent on unleashing the nefarious Project Oracle.

To prevent the cartel from tearing apart the balance between the otherworld and the mundane, the remaining five must travel to the heart of otherworldly nightmares, where they are faced not only with the uncertainty of their futures, but also the ghosts of their pasts.

Tensions rise as personalities and motivations clash, but as the clock runs down, the Invisible Entente will need to find a way to work together to save Molly and destroy Project Oracle before the final storm rolls in.

Join the heist and wrap up the series


And finally….

This is probably the biggest change, but I feel the series deserves it’s value, and it’s time. I’ve had Evensong and Bloodlore on permafree for a few years now, and they’ve served incredibly well to get people into the series. They’ve given people the opportunity to take a chance on a new-to-them author.

For the time being, Evensong will remain free, though that will likely change by the end of the month, but Bloodlore will be going up in price from FREE to $3.99USD

War is coming, and only an assassin can stand in its way. 

Peace is not a state that Venn Connell enjoys.

Give her a knife fight with a corrupt merchant’s bodyguard. Give her shadows where she can steal enough gold to buy her next meal.

A quiet, steady life? Now that is a nightmare.

So when the Andvellian ambassador in Margolin goes missing, Venn jumps at the chance to find him. She quickly learns, however, that the mystery goes deeper than one missing courtier.

Before she knows what’s happening, Venn finds herself caught in in a conflict she’s never trained for: border tensions are rising, a man vanishes before her eyes with a relic she believed lost… and something dark has followed her out of the charred ruins of Treevale Fortress.

Venn knows she has to tread carefully. One wrong move and she could lose herself in the shadows, and hurl her country into war.

One-click this action adventure fantasy today!

Take advantage of these sales while they last

 

Ill Met by Moonlight: Chapter 4

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

New Rules

[Project Oberon: Day 3, 19h30m] The third trial was carried out at 1900h. A benign black ink blob was shown to all six participants in their unconscious state. Results varied significantly across subjects. Of note: subjects who were shown stressful images prior to trial no. 3 demonstrated strong parasympathetic reactions, while those who were shown nothing or milder stimuli remained calmer. Results suggest that subjects are being influenced by external sources. Due to the extreme responses, discussion was raised as to whether stimuli should be amended to evoke more positive reactions. Decision: such a change would alter the parameters of the study and evoke milder or indeterminate results. Study will continue as planned.

[Project Oberon: Day 3, 20h15m] Vital signs of those subjects who showed immediate response to stimuli continue to be heightened. Of note: subjects who previously showed no adverse reaction have now begun to display signs of fear. Possible explanation is that they are picking up the reactions from the other subjects. Subject 526 again shows a significantly heightened parasympathetic response. Will monitor closely, but decision remains to leave subject in the study.


I back away from the black cloud reaching towards me. Josh is still yelling at me to run, and my legs are already moving, ready to obey.

It’s only when I’ve taken a few steps, the others close behind me, that I stop and realise how silly it is for me to flee. This is my dream. My mind. Even if the scientists out there in the world are pushing me to see this, I have the final say.

With a deep breath, I draw to a stop and turn back towards the cloud.

I raise my hands higher and summon my new-found power into my fingers. Closing my eyes, I imagine the cloud dissipating, drifting away into the ether.

“Regan, look out!” Mark shouts at me. I open my eyes to find the cloud looming closer. I jump out of its reach, and Mark is suddenly there to take my place. He draws the gun from his back, and I see that it’s more of a BB gun than a rifle. Yet when it pulls the trigger, nothing comes out except little balls of fire.

The cloud dodges the attack.

At Mark’s side, Mary-Ann draws her sword. I expect her to charge, but instead she takes the hilt in both hands and holds it out straight. From the end of the sword, bursts of sword-shaped light shoot forward. With every strike, the cloud breaks up, but doesn’t stop its pursuit.

“Come on!” Josh yells, and this time I don’t hesitate. None of our attacks are working. No matter how hard I might hope that wishing will make this threat go away, I can’t take the chance.

Mark grabs Mary-Ann’s hand, and they reach the path. Claire and Andrea follow Josh, who has taken an impressive lead, and I bring up the rear.

Andrea stumbles over the low heels of her white shoes, looking over her shoulder as she runs.

“Where are we going?” Mary-Ann asks. Her voice rises and falls with her shallow breath.

“The school!” Claire shouts over her shoulder.

I don’t understand why fighting back didn’t work. Is it because Josh’s fear made me doubt our success?

“There it is!” Clare yells, and we pick up our pace towards the building that has appeared in the distance.

It’s a classic high school: boxy, with square windows evenly spaced. Brick. Boring. Designed to keep the inhabitants safe.

Mark reaches the door first and yanks it open. His gun is still at his side, and he raises it again as I pass into the school’s atrium. By the expression on his face, I guess the monster is closing in. Just as I reach the centre of the room, Mark leaps in behind me and slams the door.

Mary-Ann rushes to his side to help throw the bolts, closing us in, and they both keep their weapons pointing at the floor in case the cloud comes through the crack.

Josh goes to the window and peers outside. “I don’t see it anymore. The sky’s clear.”

Something in me relaxes. Only now do I notice my legs shaking, my heart racing. Sweat has pooled in the small of my back, and no matter how many times I beat my T-shirt against my chest, I can’t catch the slightest breeze.

“Andrea!” Clare shouts, and our attention jumps to the young woman who has collapsed on the ground. Her hands are pressed against her chest, and she can’t catch her breath.

“You’re all right now,” Mary-Ann says, kneeling beside her. She’s sheathed her sword, though the hilt still appears to be glowing with whatever energy she’d been shooting out of it. “It’s gone. Just take a few slow breaths. You’re okay.”

As she speaks, Andrea seems to calm down. Her skin has paled further, until I’m certain I could see through her if I really try. I’m worried that she’s going to have a heart attack, but that wouldn’t happen. No matter what dangers we face, ethics regulations exist for a reason. We might all need therapy when we get out of here, but that would be the worst of it.

I crouch down to let my own lungs settle and look at Mark. His golden eyes are still focused on the door, his gun firm in his hands.

“That’s quite the weapon,” I say to him.

He glances at me, then at the gun, his brow furrowed. “It’s something I invented as a kid. Designed the schematics for it and everything. Every character I drew had one. It’s weird to see it in person.”

“Shame none of it works on that blob,” Claire says with a shudder. “Anyone know what it is? When I first saw it, it was nothing. Just a cloud. But when you guys started freaking out, I watched this face start to form.”

It takes my brain a moment to understand what Claire is saying.

“So you mean that if we’d taken your lead and calmed down, it might have disappeared?”

“I hate this place,” Josh says, coming away from the window. “When they told me I’d be stuck in a dream state for two weeks, I was ready to be a badass superhero or something. Not to be chased by clouds that can’t be killed and get trapped in a high school.”

I look around us. “We’re not trapped,” I say. “We’re in a big empty building that could contain defenses if we’re imaginative enough.”

Mary-Ann frowns. “What are you thinking?”

“That we can manipulate everything in this place, for better or worse. Most of us already have weapons that have worked against other creatures, so maybe if we think hard enough, we can come up with something to fight off that cloud if it comes back. If we believe it works, it has to. Everything here is in our heads.”

Andrea gasps and shakes her head vehemently. “I don’t want to see that thing again. I want to get out of here.”

The terror on her face still hasn’t left, and I can’t help but think she should never have signed up for this study in the first place. I’m surprised the researchers accepted her.

“You can stay here,” Mary-Ann says. “No one is going to force you to leave.”

I nod. “Maybe Josh can stay with you.”

It would be a good way of getting him out of my hair, but I also think it would be smart not to leave Andrea alone.

“I don’t think any of us is going anywhere,” Josh says. He’d returned to his place by the window, and is now backing away, his eyes wide, his hammer in his hands. “It’s back.”

Andrea lets out a cry and buries her face in her hands. “It’s coming for me. I know it is.”

“It’s not,” Mary-Ann says, putting her arm around the other young woman. By the way Andrea tenses, I don’t think she enjoys the lack of feeling that comes with the contact. I can’t blame her. It’s unnerving. “We won’t let it get anywhere near you. Have a little faith.”

The doors of the school shake in their bracings, and I stand up beside Mark. I raise my hands, which seems silly and ineffective when he has a gun.

The doors stop shaking, but I don’t move. I sense the cloud outside the door, can imagine those dark arms reaching for me.

Sure enough, the light streaming through the windows vanishes, dousing the atrium in darkness. Puffs of black fog seep under the edge of the door, and we all back away, weapons raised. My pulse begins to race again. I try to breathe through it, to use Claire’s insight and stay calm. If I don’t see it as a threat, it can’t be a threat.

It makes so much sense to me that I say it aloud. “If we don’t see it as a threat, it can’t be a threat.” I keep my voice steady and repeat it.

Mary-Ann catches my eye and nods, then joins her voice with mine. Mark tags in along with us, and then Claire picks up the refrain. Josh’s gaze jumps between us and the fog, never settling, his whole body braced to run. The fog now covers the floor in swirling clouds three feet into the atrium, gradually rising towards the ceiling. For now it’s just fog, and I try not to picture the eyes I’d seen before.

Josh joins in, our volume getting louder as the cloud grows thicker and larger. Finally, Andrea’s soft voice sneaks under ours. The only reason I can hear it is that her breath wheezes on the inhale, a faint whistle cutting between her words.

At this point, I don’t know if we’ll win. I have to have faith that my mind is still in control here, but if the cloud transforms into that reaching monster, I know my sanity will snap.

Nothing happens. The fog hovers, but remains against the door, blocking our way, but leaving us be. I try to imagine it dispersing. I raise my hands and try to guide it away.

I think it’s working as it drifts in swirls and eddies, but then I realise it’s coming closer. In my mind, it’s still a harmless cloud, but when Andrea starts screaming, I understand what’s happening. She’s saying the words, but she doesn’t believe them. For her the threat is very real, and is rapidly closing in on her.

“Andrea, close your eyes,” I tell her. “Tell yourself it’s not there. Tell yourself that you don’t believe it. That you’re safe and sound and nothing is coming for you.”

But she doesn’t close her eyes. Her breaths come faster. Mary-Ann tries to shake her out of it, but how can it work when she feels nothing?

The cloud reaches Andrea, and although I can’t make out anything other than dark condensation, Andrea is panicking, She’s flailing her arms and trying to get away. The fog presses in on her, wrapping around her. Her eyes are wide and there’s no longer any noise coming with her screams, only hoarse whispers.

My worries earlier—that if I looked at her from the right angle, I could see through her—begin to come true. Her skin is growing paler, her dress whiter. She’s thrashing against the ground, her limbs jerking as though trying to get away.

Suddenly, she falls still. The fog vanishes as though it had never been, and when I blink, Andrea herself is gone.

The five of us stand there, staring at where she’d been.

No one seems to know what to say.

What just happened? I, for one, can’t wrap my head around it. Did she wake up? Did she… die?

Either way, it opens my eyes to the danger we’re in. It doesn’t matter that this is all in my head. What happens here affects the real world, and all I want right now is to wake up.

I need to wake up.

WAKE UP.

I pinch myself and shout in my head. I’ve backed up until I hit the wall, moving without noticing, but nothing is working. I’m stuck here, trapped, just like Josh said, and I have no idea how to move forward.

“We should leave,” Mark says. “Staying here won’t help us get through this.”

“What good will leaving do?” Josh asks. He’s gone as pale as Andrea was. “We’re not getting out of here for another week and a half. We’re at the mercy of these creeps. Why not just spend them here where we can hide? Wait it out.”

I don’t know what I want to do. Transforming the school into a fort is appealing. If we can’t escape, we can at least defend ourselves. That has to be better than venturing into the unknown where the rats and banshees live.

But staying here where Andrea… disappeared…

I look to the others, unsure what choice to make.

Does Regan stay behind or see what else is out there?

Vote!

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NEW RELEASE: Gods the Stone Oracle

The end is here! I have mixed emotions about this, but it’s here!

If you’ve been plagued by the questions popping up throughout the series, then prepare to have your curiosity sated as you race through this high-speed, high-stakes conclusion.

Gods of the Stone Oracle is available for a limited time at $3.99 before it goes up to full price next week.

Grab your copy today!

Ten months ago, a sorceress, a Gorgon-Fae, a succubus, a semi-goddess, a daemelus, a human, and an incubus matched wits to escape a magically sealed room. Six of them survived, believing their association was over.

But again and again their paths have crossed, and now sixteen-year-old Molly Harris has been abducted by a demon cartel intent on unleashing the nefarious Project Oracle.

To prevent the cartel from tearing apart the balance between the otherworld and the mundane, the remaining five must travel to the heart of otherworldly nightmares, where they are faced not only with the uncertainty of their futures, but also the ghosts of their pasts.

Tensions rise as personalities and motivations clash, but as the clock runs down, the Invisible Entente will need to find a way to work together to save Molly and destroy Project Oracle before the final storm rolls in.

 

 

This Saturday, February 3, 2018, you’re invited to the Gods of the Stone Oracle release party over on the Facebooks. There will be prizes and games, and a whole whack of fun. Hope to see you 

there!

 

You’re Invited

On Wednesday, January 31, we bid a final “good luck” to the New Haven gang as they once more work together to save Molly Harris and the future of the world as we know it.

GODS OF THE STONE ORACLE marks the conclusion of The Invisible Entente series — a 7-book run that I thoroughly enjoyed writing and will miss immensely.

To send the team off, I’m inviting you to join us to celebrate the release of the book.

Saturday, February 3, come hang out with us on the Facebook event page from 3pm to 9pm EST. Chat with some fellow readers, talk books, and enter to win some fun prizes, including paperback copies, bookmarks, trading cards, a poster, and a gorgeous tea wallet from a wonderful reader/entrepreneur.

Hope to see you there!

Ill Met by Moonlight: Chapter 3

Chapter 1
Chapter 2

unnamedThe Subjects

[Project Oberon: Day 3, 07h50m] Subjects have shown activity in Broca’s area, suggesting some semblance of speech or communication is being carried out in the dormant state. Whether or not this simultaneous reaction indicates a significant finding as a response to stimuli remains to be seen.

[Project Oberon: Day 3, 0810h] The second trial has been completed. Photos of a sea monster were shown to subjects 315 and 526; subjects 536 and 325 were exposed to a photo of a banshee; subjects 335 and 345 were removed from the trial to provide a baseline measure. Results varied by subject, though again subject 526 showed a delayed return to normal range of vital signs.

Though it is still too early to form any conclusions, discussion currently leans towards a positive outcome of results for the study at hand.

The next trial begins at 1900h.


I don’t bother waiting for Josh as I storm down the lane, no matter how much I hear him wheezing behind me. He asked me to slow down once, but  hasn’t again since it became clear that I wouldn’t. If he wants to follow me, that’s his prerogative, but after the stunt with the lake monster, I’m not about to accommodate him.

I have no idea where I’m going — I just know I need to get away from that cabin and the disturbing lake. The forest looms to my left, the shadows stretching out towards me, and as I follow the curving path, the beach falls farther and farther away until it vanishes from sight.

The moon follows us overhead, never seeming to move, a fixed point in the sky. It’s odd, the way it just sits there. Like it’s watching me. I shiver and wish it was gone, and then just like that, it is. Instead of the moon, a bright sunset has taken over the sky, spilling reds and golds across the fields and lush trees.

The light doesn’t make the forest any more welcoming.

“This is weird,” Josh pants behind me. “Don’t you think it’s weird?”

“It’s a dream. Of course it’s weird. This whole thing is weird. Or did you not get that from both of us being in the same place? However that happened.”

That is the question that has plagued me since I accepted it was true. It’s enough to make me wonder what the scientists are doing out there in their lab. Are they crossing wires? Messing things around so we won’t know who we are when we wake up?

Either they have no idea, which means they might not know the repercussions, or this is on them, which hardly seems ethical. Not for the first time, I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into.

With this thought, I finally let go of some of my anger towards Josh. Sure, he might have tried to sacrifice me to the lake monster to save his own skin, but the fact is we’re in this together. Both of us trapped in our own psyches. It’s an experience not many people get to claim.

So I slow down and allow him to catch up. His duster blows in a non-existent breeze, and I turn in the direction of the wind in time to spot movement coming towards us.

“Get down!” I hiss, and shove Josh into the bushes along the side of the road.

He grunts and starts to protest my manhandling, but I clamp a hand over his mouth and point at the two figures coming up over a slight dip in the path. He ducks farther down, his eyes widening over the edge of my fingers.

For a full minute, we remain silent and still, watching these people approach. At least, I think they’re people. As they get closer, I find myself unsure. The figure on the left is male — tall, broad-shouldered, dark skin, wearing a pair of faded jeans and a grey T-shirt, with a denim vest overtop  — but his eyes are that of a wolf, and his nose is crinkled as he scents the air. Something that looks like a machine gun is slung over his shoulder.

The woman beside him is moving with a lithe, cat-like stride. Her long black hair reaches her waist, and her dark skin catches the bizarre sunset in a way that makes it look like she’s glowing from within. Her eyes are a piercing green, and she wears a sword strapped at her hip over a pair of beige corduroy pants and a long green T-shirt.

I raise my hands in front of me and test the powers that have twice presented themselves in my time of need, using my mind to move the trees around us to create a screen.

“Josh, I’d arm up if I were you.”

His mouth falls open. “Are you serious? I can’t do that.” He gestures vaguely at the trees that have folded around us.

I try not to roll my eyes. “You’re in a dream. Come up with something.”

He blinks a few times, wrapping his head around what I’m saying. Then he squeezes his eyes shut, his entire face contorted with concentration. He reaches towards the ground, and when he pulls his arm back, he’s wielding a wooden hammer the size of his head. I raise an eyebrow, impressed, and he shrugs.

At least now I feel more confident finding out who these new people are, though I have my guesses.

Keeping my hands raised, I step onto the path. Immediately, both people on the road draw their weapons. They exchange a glance and adjust their stances, as though not sure how to react.

“Who are you?” the man asks. Seeing them up close, I place both of them in their mid-twenties, though it’s hard to tell with their eyes the way they are.

“My name is Regan,” I say, opting to skip over the second round of confusion. “This is Josh. We’re part of a dream study, and I’m going to take a wild stab that you two are, as well.”

The two exchange another glance, and the woman nods. “I’m Mary-Ann, and this is my brother, Mark. We’re twins, so we figured we found each other because of that. But if you’re here…”

I understand their expressions. Everything seems to be making less sense as it goes.

“I’m not sure where you’re headed,” I say, “but I’d steer clear of this road. It goes to the lake, and thar be monsters.”

Mary-Ann frowns.

“Then I guess we’re between a rock and a hard place,” says Mark. “We just fought off a Banshee in an old warehouse. I don’t think she’s coming back, but there could be more.”

Josh groans. “So I guess that leaves…”

The four of us turn to face the field stretching away from the forest, and we make out the wide arena of a baseball diamond. On the other side of it, two more figures approach.

“I would guess they make five and six,” I say, but just in case, we keep our weapons ready.

Two women come into view as they cross the field. One of them is shorter, with bright blue hair, and dressed in leather pants and a black T-shirt covered in skulls. A series of knives line the belt at her hip. The other woman is tall and willowy, with long silver hair and a kind of paleness that hints at illness or a complete loathing of the outdoors. She’s the only one dressed in what appears to be normal clothes: a white sundress that almost fades into her skin. She looks as though all the colour has been leached out of her.

“Are you the rest of them?” Blue Hair asks.

I’m relieved that we don’t need to go through the whole conversation again as I confirm that we are. Blue Hair introduces herself as Clare, and Colourless as Andrea.

“Any reason we find you standing in the middle of a baseball diamond?” Clare asks. “Planning a bit of in-dream sports?”

“Thinking about it,” Mary-Ann says. “Thought we’d invite the banshee and the lake monster to join in. You have any partners you’d like to sign up?”

Andrea turns paler – if that’s even possible – and Clare frowns. “I can’t even pretend to know what you’re talking about.”

“What about the rats?” I ask.

I worry Andrea’s about to be sick, and this time even Clare reacts, her throat bobbing with a hard swallow. “Yeah, those we’re familiar with. Suckers came out of nowhere. A whole whack of them darting in like flies.”

Andrea shakes her head. “It was the size of my hand and ran right up my leg.” Her voice is soft, barely above a whisper. “I felt it in my hair.”

She runs her hand over her head and tears fill her eyes.

It strikes me as odd that we’ve all seen the same thing, but interpreted it in such different ways. Add in the lake monster that two of us saw and two didn’t, and the banshee that had revealed itself to only two others.

“They’re playing with us,” I say. “Whatever the scientists out there are doing, they’re dropping these images into our heads and seeing what our brains make of them. That’s why the rats were all different.”

“But what about now?” Mark asks. “We’re all here, seeing the same thing.”

“Are we?” I wonder. “Or are we all seeing the same scene in slightly different ways?” I wish there was a way to test it, but for now the baseball diamond is empty. Probably for the best. I don’t want another run-in with the lake monster. Speaking of which… I look to Clare and Andrea. “So there were no monsters the way you came?”

Andrea shook her head. “I was in the old school when Clare found me. I didn’t want to leave, but she wanted to see what else we might find.” She dropped her chin. “And I didn’t want to wait there alone.”

“If we know that way is clear, we should head in that direction,” Josh says.

“And do what?” Clare asks. “Go back to the school and pick our noses, waiting for something to happen?”

“I doubt we’ll have the chance to get bored,” says Mary-Ann. “Not if these scientists want to get a reaction out of us.”

“And if that’s the case, I think we should stick together,” I say. “I doubt banshees and rats are the worst things we’ll see around here, so it might not be a bad idea to have each other’s backs.”

Mary-Ann’s eyes widen, and her gaze tracks something over my head. A shadow passes in front of the setting sun, dousing the baseball diamond in darkness.

“Funny you should mention it,” she says.

I don’t want to turn around and see what’s coming for us now. If I’d known that signing up for this study would mean walking into a two-week nightmare, I doubt I would have signed up.

If I ignore it, maybe it will go away. I repeat the thought to myself even as Mark and Mary-Ann take a few steps backwards. Clare turns to look and jumps away, but appears otherwise unfazed, while Andrea’s lips wobble and I brace for her to faint. Josh glances over his shoulder, then grabs my arm. I feel nothing where he touches me, and the experience is so bizarre that I’m tempted to shove him away.

Unable to remain in denial, I finally turn around to get a look at what everyone else has seen.

Looming in the sky is a black shape. At first, I can’t make it out. It’s a blob. A smear in the clouds. But the longer I stare at it, the more it takes form: a wide, gaping mouth opening wide, red eyes glaring down at me, staring right into my soul. Long arms stretch out from either side of it and reach towards us.

Josh tugs on my arm – a gesture I see instead of feel – his eyes are wild, and his feet are already moving towards the road. There’s a panic in his eyes that spreads to Andrea, and my own heartbeat responds with the need to flee.

The shadow hands try to grab me, and although I know this is only a dream, and that it would be wiser to face it and fight, all I can think is that Josh has the right of it when he gives me a final tug on the arm and shouts, “RUN!”

Does Regan run or fight the shadow monster?

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Giveaway!

I was on such a good streak with my Monday posts, but then holidays. Hopefully I’ll be getting back on track next week. At the very least, Chapter 3 of “Ill Met by Moonlight” will be posted next Monday, so there’s that!

I know I said I would have it ready for January 1, but I confess I shifted my priorities. Gods of the Stone Oracle has now reached the proofreading stage, which means I should be able to stick to my original goal of having it available before the end of the month.

That is correct — in another few weeks, you’ll be able to hold the finale installment of The Invisible Entente in your hands.

To mark the occasion, I’m starting the #IEAssemble giveaways! Every week from now until release day, I’m going to be giving out a full set of The Invisible Entente series. That’s seven books. Free. And all you need to do to enter is to help me spread some love for the series.

The contest is open across Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook*. Use the hashtag #IEAssemble and share the image below for your chance to win. Easy peasy. The image will keep changing week by week, so you might want to follow my social media accounts to grab the new one.

As well, the call for review readers will be going out to my newsletter subscribers on January 15th, so if you’ve reviewed my books in the past, enjoyed them, and want to help get the word out about this new book, be sure to sign up for the “Regular Updates”.

Good luck!

Coming January 2018

*This giveaway is solely the responsibility of the author. No third party is affiliated.