January 6th Tested Us All


January 6th tested us all.

One of the benefits of being old is perspective, yet I wasn't ready for the terrorist attack on our Capital. I usually do my best to steer clear of politics, and if you'd rather not deal with them either, you can skip this small bit of commentary.

The last time I felt this angry and helpless was when the Twin Towers came down. As with all significant tragedies, I remember exactly where I was in my kitchen in Auburn, California getting ready to drive into work for my job with Sutter Health. One of my physician friends called and told me to turn on the television.

The biggest difference between 9/11 and January 6th was that 9/11 was perpetrated by a foreign power, an enemy. 1/6 was perpetrated by a man so lost in a web of lies he'd lost the ability to sort truth from fiction.

Words have power, a lot of power. After two months of proclaiming the election had been stolen from him, Donald Trump had a whole lot of passionate followers, people who'd follow him no matter what. They maintained a shared reality, never mind it wasn't based in truth.

Nothing I can write will erase what happened, or even mitigate it. So how do we cope when faced with the unthinkable? How do we move forward? I listened to some of our lawmakers when they were back in session last evening. And I heard a lot of pretty words with a strong message. We cannot heal as long as we hate our neighbors. The culture of hatred and us versus them spawned by Donald Trump has to come to a crashing halt. We need to focus on our similarities, on what binds us. Not on shutting our neighbors out because they're from a different political persuasion.

America is a big country. There has always been room for us all. Biden supporters are not the enemy. Neither are Trump supporters. We have real problems facing us. Covid 19, climate change, unpredecented numbers of species going extinct.

Let's focus our energies on making our home a better place for us all. If we focus on the bigger picture, on what truly matters, we will stand together as a nation. Together, not divided. It's a worthy goal to shoot for.

As always, I love hearing from you.

I have a brand new series in the works. Shira, first of the Circle of Assassin books releases 3/30/21.
Shira is done. Quinn is almost complete, and I'll get rolling on Rhiana. Kylian is last of this series. I know the fellow on the cover. He was delighted with his spirit animal, the snow leopard.
Between Covid-19 and the California fires, I’ve had a lot of time to dream up ideas for books. Watching too much Blacklist and Warehouse 13 and Stranger Things probably didn’t help. And the last season of Supernatural. I will miss Sam and Dean…
Meanwhile, a concept shaped up for me. Assassins have always held a fascination factor. Death is a job for them, but what kind of people are they beneath their knives and guns and poison? Toss a few bond animals into the mix, and the bones for a darkish urban fantasy series took shape.
Within its pages, you’ll ride alongside men and women who found their way to an age-old profession. Every king worth his salt had a court assassin, and so has every ruler from olden times to modern. If you’re shaking your head saying such things can’t happen today, take a look at “suicides” that are swept under a whole bunch of rugs. Oddly enough, all those suspicious deaths had stories to tell, stories someone wanted silenced—forever.
Shira would understand completely. I can’t wait for you to meet her.
My charity project to benefit animals burned in California's fires is still alive and well. If you didn't snap your copy, there's still time..

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Fall in love with this fiery collection of 15 urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and fantasy tales! Over $35 worth of outstanding fiction for just 3.99.

All profits will be donated to the Wildlife Disaster Network, a collaborative effort between the UC Davis Veterinary School and the California State Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Wildlife Disaster Network was formed specifically to rehabilitate animals injured in California wildfires that decimated four million acres during the fall of 2020.

The authors, cover artist, and photographer who donated books and artwork to the Hearts of Fire collection hope to make a real difference in the lives of these animals. Heartfelt thanks for your support.
The first three Magick and Misfits books are out! Court of Destiny releases in February.

Review for Court of Rogues
"Five Stars!  Every now and then, you start a book, not knowing exactly what to expect, and the next thing you know you flip the page, you’ve gotten to another REALLY good part, and you see...”You’ve reached the end of....” and all you want to do is scream out loud only to look around and realize it’s 3:30 am and the family’s all in bed. Court if Rogues was that kind of book for me. I picked it up and read it, cover to cover because I couldn't put it down."

Here's an excerpt. Last newsletter I gave you Chapter One from Court of Rogues. Click the link if you didn't read it.

Chapter Two, Cyn
I took the nearest staircase and just kept on walking after I passed the basement. No one without magic could even see this part of the stairs, but they led through one of many gateways into my realm. One thing we did during the years we curried favor with mortals to lighten their wallets was escorted them into Faery. It was very cloak and dagger, blindfolds and all. Plus we carved little holes in their memories and dropped broad hints we were traveling through mirrors.
What a crock. Mirrors have never led into Faery, and I hope a passel of humans have dealt with serious injuries trying to force their way through glass.
The subtle pressure change that presaged leaving Earth for Faery buffeted me. Damn, it was welcome. Inhaling deeply, I shed my glamour. It’s not exactly a power pig, but keeping it in place hour after hour takes a toll. No place smells quite like my domain. It’s a cross between spring in the forest and the salt tang of a restless sea. You only get seasons in Faery if you choose. The land is accommodating like that.
Small sounds filled my ears from the creatures, large and small, who called Faery their home. Pausing to let the experience wash over me was hard to resist, but I pressed onward. I’d stop once I reached the castle. Spanning three hilltops, Dubrova Castle had provided a home for Fae royalty since the dawn of our time, which predated the beginnings of human reckoning by thousands of years.
A unicorn cantered past, golden horn glittering in the westering sun. I hailed him, but he didn’t slow down. Usually, they’re quite chatty, so his snub surprised me. The sun never actually sets here. Instead, it hangs suspended on the horizon until Faery gives the order and drags it back across the sky to begin its transit once again. Sometimes the process takes a few hours, other times a few months.
Oberon and Titania used to be our link to the land, but they’re gone. No one knows where. I’ve always believed the land is mourning for them, but that might be over-the-top sentimentality. Regardless, Faery hasn’t been the same since mortals came to visit and our regents left.
The two events were concurrent in time.
The king and queen never warmed to the idea of humans in our midst. They made their displeasure known, but none of us thought they’d pick up and leave. Even after they did, we assumed they’d return. They still might. A hundred years is nothing for us, but with each passing month, my expectations waned. Titania had dropped in from time to time. She’d never stayed long enough to have much of a conversation, but her visits had ceased abruptly fifty years ago.
Had Faery’s king and queen made another life for themselves in some distant land? Adopted new subjects—more compliant ones—and written us off?
Eh, it didn’t matter. Dubrova’s turrets popped up on the horizon, followed by the rest of the imposing structure as I climbed toward it. Built of magic and stones mined from the sea, its walls were iridescent. Their pastel shades glowed in the fading rays of the sun. A crowd was gathered at the bottom of broad graceful steps on the far side of the moat. For once, the portcullis was down.
The gate’s position gave me pause since it was never down. Were we under attack from somewhere? The resident serpents, cousins to dragons, swam lazily in the moat’s turquoise waters, their black triangular heads bobbing above the surface. They didn’t appear concerned, and they were quite the gossip mongers.
In all of Faery’s storied history, no enemy had breached our barriers. The moat and portcullis were for show. The Fae who’d built them had a penchant for the pomp and circumstance of an earlier era. One that embraced showy displays of power. Those Fae had long since retired to the Dreaming. I visited occasionally, but not since I ended up running Lady Luck.
Since I’d have to employ enchantment anyway to get past the portcullis, I jumped skyward, intent on landing in the midst of the crowd. Mostly Fae, but I picked a few Sidhe out of the crowd, along with nymphs, satyrs, a herd of unicorns, and two dragons. So this was where the unicorn had been heading in such a rush. The dragons got my blood flowing. They wouldn’t have left Fire Mountain if it weren’t important. Every once in a while one traded blasts of steam and smoke with the serpents in the moat.
No love lost there, distant relatives or not.
I tumbled to the ground slightly to the left of my target, and hit harder than I would have liked. Not the elegant entrance I’d hoped for, but my pride was small potatoes in the long run. Dusting myself off, I sprang to my feet to cries of my true name ringing sweetly in my ears.
The unicorn who’d galloped past me sidled near and lowered his head, taking care with his horn. The beasts only look whimsical. They can gore a beast twice their size, whinny up a storm while it died, and then eat what they’d killed. “Sorry for not stopping,” he neighed.
I patted his neck. “No worries. I was enjoying being home. Earth isn’t an especially commodious spot tonight.”
“Or ever.” The unicorn rubbed his horn up and down my arm in a show of solidarity.
“Good thing he saw you,” my cousin Aedan called from across the green. “Saved me from sending someone to tell you to return.” Next in line for Faery’s throne after me—assuming Oberon and Titania were truly gone for good—he swept a fall of pale hair behind broad shoulders.
I walked over to him, and we touched palms, mixing magics for a moment in greeting. He’s shorter than my seven-foot height by a few inches, and more broadly built. The bulk I sport on Earth is part of my glamour. It’s only my height that doesn’t change. Aedan’s usually impeccable garb—leather trousers and vest—were dusty. Rather than his customary sandals, his feet were bare.
A fiery blast from behind me suggested the dragons were growing impatient. They never did wait well. My longed-for rest, where I lounged in my chamber reading books and experimenting with spells, while I mapped out a strategy to deal with the Witch who wanted to work for me, wasn’t in the cards. Lucky for me, Fae don’t actually require sleep.
I glanced at the growing crowd, hoping someone would offer up clues, but no one did. I’ve spent enough time among humans to have grown used to their communication style. It’s refreshing and direct—one of the few things I respect about them. On the other hand, we Fae pride ourselves on oblique words, dialogue that leaves others guessing. We live forever, and there are so few secrets left to uncover we savor the ones that pop up. After a few minutes had ticked past, I folded my arms across my chest and announced, “I’m going inside.”
“But you can’t leave,” Aedan protested.
“Not much is happening out here,” I retorted and turned on my heel, walking quickly to underscore my threat of abandonment.
The dragons launched their bulks skyward amid the clatter of scales. A stray spray of flames set a small bush on fire, but one of the serpents blasted it with water after bugling his displeasure.
“Cynwrigg ap Llyr.” Aedan invoked my true name and bowed low, an atypical gesture.
I spun to face him. “I’m not inclined to play games. Either tell me why everyone is gathered, or I’m retiring to my chambers. I’m due back at Lady Luck in a short while, and I am not in a good mood.”
One of the dragons, the blue one, skidded in for a landing scant inches from my feet. I angled my gaze his way. If he so much as tossed a cinder onto my boot tops, I’d send him packing.
“How does it happen you left Fire Mountain?” I asked when he appeared just as loathe to speak as everyone else.
Aedan cleared his throat. “The dragons have a problem—” he began.
The dragon sitting in front of me had curled his upper body well off the ground, so his head sat even with mine. His eyes spun like pinwheels, golden with deep-green centers. He opened his mouth, displaying triple rows of razor-sharp teeth with shreds of his last meal still clinging to them.
“Nay,” he bugled, drowning Aedan out. “All of you have a problem. Fire Mountain is merely the leading edge.”
“Leading edge of what?” I ground out.
“Ye’ll recall, Fire Mountain was the first of the magical worlds,” the dragon recited in a tone that reminded me of a million-year-old history professor.
“Of course I know that.” I kept my tone sharp and businesslike. Dragons were the storytellers of Faery. With any encouragement at all, Blue-Boy would spin this out for hours.
“The dragons’ home world will soon be no more,” he intoned. Once he’d dropped that bombshell, he waited a few seconds before adding, “If naught changes.”
“What? How is that possible?” I pressed for details.
“I was just there.” Aedan made a show of trying to dust off his leathers, but all he did was move the dirt around. “The main volcano has gone mad. Rivers of lava are coating the sands.”
A hasty search through my memory banks provided information. “Not the first time it’s occurred,” I reminded my cousin as I pictured the line of fifteen active volcanoes that made up the spine of Fire Mountain’s arid, sunbaked world.
“Aye, but three other mountains have joined in. Nothing like it has ever occurred before.” Aedan’s normally bland expression had shaded to worry with creases in his high forehead and around his silver eyes.
“What are the other dragons doing?” I asked the one in front of me. The other, a green, was still circling overhead bugling like a crazed creature.
“We have taken refuge in the sacred cave. For now. If conditions worsen, we will all come here.”
It wasn’t welcome news. Dragons had their own world for the best of reasons. They didn’t play well with others. Hundreds of them would run rampant through Faery’s delicate greenery, artistic pools, and white sand beaches, rendering them unusable. Eh, there might not be hundreds of wyrms, but even fifty of them could dish out incalculable damage. And I knew there were more than fifty dragons filling Fire Mountain’s skies.
An unpleasant thought intruded, and I asked, “Has anyone taken a look at the schism?”
Aedan’s expression was all the answer I required. “I’ll check it,” I told everyone, set a conduit built from magic, and left. The schism—a rift in Faery’s foundations—had formed soon after our regents left. I always figured it was Faery’s rebellion because we’d invited mortals to pass her gates. With Oberon and Titania absent, none of us possessed sufficient power to close the breach.
Not from the Faery side.
It was why I’d opted to spend time on Earth at the urging of Aedan and others in our court. Jedidiah provided a believable front, allowing me to set up shop beyond Faery’s gates. The casino was my third venture spread over an eighty-year timespan. It took a few months to whip Lady Luck into shape—because it was a smoking ruin when I took over. Once it was solvent, I returned to hunting for a companion rift on Earth’s side of the barrier. I had yet to locate one, but once I did I hoped I’d have better luck containing it. Better was relative since I’d had zero impact from my domain. The land didn’t respond to my call, and I’d tried everything I could think of.
Meanwhile, the rift had deepened by perhaps 50 percent during the years I’d sought to cure it. Oberon’s blood flows through my veins, but apparently not enough to make a difference.
All lands in Faery are linked. The dragon had said as much when he’d proclaimed we were all doomed. It might be a good argument to gently suggest he and his kin move elsewhere. Not much point in dragging up stakes if your new location is on its way out too.
My thoughts returned to the schism and my current task, which was taking a good hard look at it. If Fire Mountain was melting down, literally, perhaps the agitation wasn’t localized. As I sank into the bedrock layers beneath my world, I hoped my hunch had been wrong. Not that I’m given to hyperbole or flights of wild fancy, but neither do I believe in coincidences.
I snapped my fingers; a mage light mounted on a carved staff formed in one hand. Its multihued light danced crazily off limestone walls as I continued my descent. Finally, the bottom rose up to meet me. I should come here more often, but it’s not a comfortable spot. Faery’s power is thick, as is her revulsion for the Fae sullying her land with human visitors.
A century may have passed, but she has a long memory.
I landed next to a jagged strip cutting through Faery’s foundation. It didn’t look any wider, so I walked along the verge. And walked. And walked. Not wider, but considerably longer. Returning to my starting place, I didn’t need to trace the rift in its other direction. It had grown, which was all I needed to know.
“I feel your presence, your magic,” I told the land. “I respect it, and I am most sorry we displeased you.”
Like every other trip I’d made to this spot, silence reigned. If words wouldn’t do it, maybe magic was the ticket. I opened my power and reached for Faery’s enchantment. The moment of contact rocked me; for a nanosecond I hoped this time would be different, but it wasn’t to be. Like an overstretched rubber band, my seeking spell snapped, blasting me in the magical center. Far worse than a slap in the face or a punch to the guts, the shock wave whacked me in a wicked undulating wave that just kept coming. I staggered back a few steps.
Sinking into a crouch, I caught my breath. When I got my feet under me and stood once again, I said, “I am not your enemy. Faery’s history flows rich in me. Oberon is gone, and I am regent in his stead. Until he returns, allow me to help you. We need one another. Faery cannot die.” I hesitated before adding, “You cannot die. I will not let you. Death is the coward’s way out.”
I winced. Had I been too blunt?
A low tortured moan rose from the depths of the chasm spreading before me. Followed by another, it broke my heart and my spirit and filled me with hopelessness. Spreading my hands in front of me, I echoed my entreaty. “Let me help you.”
The temperature dropped until my breath made clouds in the chilly air, but Faery didn’t make another sound. I remained until icicles formed on the rock walls, holding my mind and my magic open. The magic part was risky, given what had happened last time, but I needed to prove my integrity.
Whatever I had to offer, Faery wasn’t interested. I’d thought the moans were a crack in her veneer, but I’d been mistaken. “It’s an open offer,” I said at last. “You can always find me.”
My magic was slow to respond when I crafted a spell to return to the lands above. It made no sense. I hadn’t expended any power standing around.
Had Faery somehow tapped into me and been draining me so quietly I hadn’t noticed? The concept chilled me and meant I’d have to take far more care when I returned. Why did Faery need an infusion of anything? The land was ancient beyond reckoning, and it had never required anything from any of us.
Or I didn’t believe it had. Oberon might know different. Or Titania.
I thought about it as I traveled upward at perhaps a tenth the velocity of my trip in the other direction. I was still considering what to do next when I oozed through into Faery next to one of the land’s many crystalline pools.
Aedan walked through a gash in the air and stood in front of me, an expectant expression his face. “Well?” He spun one hand in a circle.
“Set markers to find me, did you?” I answered his query with one of my own.
“What of it? How is the rift?”
“Much longer.”
He pinched the bridge of his nose before commencing to stare at me again. “How much longer, cousin.”
“Regent, to you,” I snapped. “When’s the last time you looked? Did you measure it?”
“Checking on it is your job,” he pointed out.
His tone didn’t do anything to temper the frustration twisting my stomach into knots. I might not require sleep, but I do need to eat. I turned away, sucked in a breath, and blew it out. I’d gain exactly nothing by lighting into Aedan. When I twisted to face him, I said, “Maybe you’d like to take over on Earth?”
“Wouldn’t work,” he reminded me. “My energies aren’t a good blend with—”
I chopped a hand downward. “I recall well enough. I’m the logical patsy for Earth duty. Perhaps we might parcel out some of my other tasks to compensate for the fact I’m not here as much.”
“What happened down there?” He pointed to our feet.
“Nothing.” Mentioning the moaning seemed ridiculous, so I changed the direction of our discussion by asking, “Why were so many gathered in front of the castle? I understand why dragons would be there, but nymphs? Sidhe?”
Aedan’s grim expression softened. “It’s their world too,” he said. “Once the dragons arrived, news traveled like lightning.” He slugged me in the shoulder. Not hard. More to get my attention than anything else. “Come on.”
“Come on, where?”
“Back to inform the others what you found. They’re all waiting.”
I started to tell him he could do as well as me with that task, but I was regent. Only so much I could avoid. “Take us,” I said.
An odd look crossed his face, but he didn’t ask after my magic. Good thing. I wasn’t about to divulge my suspicions about Faery using me as a fueling station. It would make me sound like a paranoid idiot.
The pool vanished, replaced by the stout timbers and glittering stones of Dubrova Castle. Everyone’s eyes zeroed in on me, and I felt the subtle click of my link to all of them, even the damned dragons. That part of Oberon and Titania’s magic had transitioned to me after they’d been gone about twenty years.
It was when I’d first suspected they’d never return.
I pushed my shoulders back, painfully aware of how shoddily I was garbed to stand before them as their prince. There’d been no time to change, so I still wore the black pants and white shirt that were de rigueur at Lady Luck. It was stupid. No one cared if I wore sumptuous robes or nothing at all.
“The rift has grown,” I told the crowd. “Not wider but longer. It shouldn’t affect the integrity of Faery’s foundations, but we don’t want to allow it to grow bigger still.” Here was where the rubber met the road. Many eyes were glued on me, seeking direction.
My gaze shifted to the dragons, both on the ground this time. “Return to Fire Mountain. Report in if things worsen.”
The blue spread his wings, but I held up a hand. “I do not believe it will come to this, but designate a few small teams of dragons to investigate other worlds where you might settle.”
“We’re coming here.” The green dragon tossed his snout.
“What sense is there in that?” I asked. “If Fire Mountain crashes and burns, Faery won’t be far behind. Better to find a spot where you don’t have to move again.”
The blue puffed smoke. “Good point, Regent. We shall be in touch. You can always check in on us too.”
“We shall,” I assured him.
Once they’d left, I turned to Aedan. “You’ve already been there.”
He understood my drift. “I will visit the dragons’ home world every other day beginning tomorrow.”
I held up my palm. He touched it with his own to seal his commitment.
“What can we do?” A tiny fairy with dappled wings and violet hair fluttered near.
“Aye.” Another joined her, scarlet wings thrumming with concern. “Dragons are strong. We cannot relocate so easily.”
I spread my arms to encompass the group. “We will figure something out. I cannot believe Faery will desert us. Believe in her. In the meantime, be on the lookout for anything unusual magically. Report all incidents to the court.”
“What will you be doing…Regent?” A satyr leered at me. The pause before my title told me exactly what he thought about the current state of affairs and my ability to guide us through rough waters.
“Taking care of Faery and all her people—including you.” Before I said more, including things I was sure to regret, I executed a leap. The maneuver landed me in front of the castle’s imposing front doors. The structure recognized me, allowing access, and I waltzed through its twelve-foot, richly carved entrance.
Aedan caught up before I was halfway across the great room. “I’ll check on the schism too,” he reassured me. “Any ideas about chasing down Oberon?”
I shook my head. “Not a one, but I still have to try. We need him. Titania too. Everything is connected somehow. It’s like putting a puzzle together and discovering some of the pieces are wrong or missing.”
“What do you mean?” he asked as we mounted the stairs. My chambers were on the top floor tucked away in a corner.
“We’re missing something,” I told him. “I hold the link to Faery’s people, but not the one to the land…”
“They were designed to go together.”
“Aye, I know. Hence my statement we’re lacking something critical.”
“Let me know what you need from me.” Aedan stopped on his floor and executed a formal bow.
Nodding in return, I continued upward, but guilt nagged. Aedan had said he would check the rift. “Guard your magic when you go below,” I called after him. “Something’s off down there.”
“Got it,” drifted back. “Thanks.”
No thanks needed, I thought sourly. The other option would be picking up still more pieces if Faery recognized Aedan for the soft touch he was and sucked him dry.
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