End of Year Update

Dream_Soul_Awakens_ImaginationLast day of 2015, and all’s quiet on the western…er…blog front. 🙂 I had aspirations of posting a series of updates over the past few months, but, as you can see, they didn’t happen. (This is why I love calendars and scheduling things, because otherwise time is far too slippery.)

Life has been more of a whirlwind than usual since my last update. We finally finished our big family project in August, I got married and moved the end of September, and since then I’ve been settling into being a wife and a stepmother.

I love being married, though I’ll admit being a stepmother is not a direction I ever thought my life would take. That said, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. (It has, however, given me a new sensitivity to all of the stories out there involving evil stepmothers—after all, who wants to be in the same nominal category as the evil Queens from Snow White and Enchanted, or the evil stepmother from every version of Cinderella? Not me, that’s for sure. :P)

I’m blessed that my husband finds being married to a writer fascinating. I knew fiction writing can sound a little crazy to non-writers, but until I really started explaining things to him, I never realized how much I sound like a crazy person when I’m describing all of the different worlds and characters inside my head. He jokes that I shouldn’t tell too many people that I write down what the voices inside my head say. So don’t tell, okay? 🙂

In writing news, I’m excited to announce that not only have I finished my pirate/smuggler novel, but after months of lacking a proper title for it, I finally found one. The book is now called Galaxy’s Way, and I’m finishing up the last read-through before I send it off to my betas. It’ll be out sometime in the first quarter of 2016. I’m excited about it—writing Galaxy’s Way was definitely a wild ride.

Book 4 of The Guardians has taken me a little while to get off the ground, thanks to the spaghetti-like nature of the many plot threads at the end of Treason’s Edge, but it’s going well. The story is already taking unexpected twists and turns and I can’t wait to see how it all plays out. (No idea as to a title yet.)

At the moment, I’m calling the second half of the Ink Realm duology Ink Realm.  (I know, I know, usually the first book in a series bears the name of the series. This one’s come out backwards.) It’s off to an interesting start, and I may have already found cover art for it.

With all the general chaos of the past few months, I guess my brain decided it needed to make up for lost time, because I’ve also begun writing a fantasy stand-alone novel tentatively titled, The Stone General. The idea came to me about five years ago, on a trip to Florida with my family. (If I remember correctly, I had one of my brothers jot notes down for me because I was driving at the time.)

It’s been banging around my head since then, but, quite honestly, I’ve been scared to tackle it. I’ve been terrified that I won’t be able to do justice to the story I can see unfolding inside my head. What I’ve learned over the past few years, though, is that no matter how many years I write and how much I grow, I’ll never feel like I’m good enough. So…I’ve decided to just sit down and write it. That way it’ll be out of my head and won’t bother me anymore.

I’ve heard other writers say for years that every book wants to be written a different way, and I’ve written enough myself now to know that’s true. TSG is taking a back-and-forth scene approach with the characters that I’ve not done in a book before. It’s intriguing.

My superhero series, meanwhile, is still brewing. Every so often, it spits out new bits of story and the occasional new character, and the number of peripheral novels that will be connected to the main series keeps growing. I’m starting to suspect I’ll have a monster by the tail with this one. 😛

Hope y’all have a good end to 2015 today, and a great start to 2016 tomorrow. I’ve always thought beginning a new year was exciting—it’s a whole year brimming with promise and potential.

My goal for 2016 is to tell more stories. Better stories. Stories I’d love to read. And to post regular updates. (I also want to read more—that’s important too. Feeds the creative side.)

Happy New Year!

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Release News: ‘The Guardians: Treason’s Edge’

The pTreasonsEdgewebsmallast few weeks have been pretty busy, but very productive. I am absolutely thrilled to announce that Treason’s Edge, Book 3 in The Guardians series, is finally out!!!

The ebook is available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Smashwords.

The print edition will be available in a couple of weeks.

Here’s the jacket copy:

The Guardians

Treason’s Edge

In the wake of their unofficial NCDC mission gone haywire, twins Lilia and Kevin Strong are struggling to cope with reality. Their brother is dead, their interplanetary shipping business is space dust…and they’ve somehow got wormhole-based transporters embedded in their nano-armor. Something is very wrong in the Nanotech Coalition Defense Corp.

On top of that, someone’s trying to assassinate their grandfather.

Meanwhile, G.U. Ambassador Leo Kedis isn’t about to let the Triumvirate’s refusal to open peace talks stop him. He’s got a plan—a crazy plan—and he has his sights set on someone crazy enough to help him.

Lilia and Kevin are about to find out what it truly means to love your enemies…and they’ll have to decide how much they’re willing to risk for peace.



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Lady Ink: Chapter 3

Lady_Ink_ebook_lined_webHere’s the third chapter of Lady Ink. Enjoy!

Chapter 3

NOW THAT INK WAS WALKING IN EARNEST, her mother and nurse encountered a bit of a snag. Stairs delighted Ink. The grand staircase in the Manse was an obstacle she made up her mind to conquer—one step at a time. Getting down was trickier; she had nearly fallen several times. Only Phaidra’s quick intervention—or, on the occasions Ink had slipped away from her, one of the servants’ intervention—prevented her from having a serious fall down the steps.

One morning, however, Ink took advantage of a conversation her mother was having with Myrtle, the head cook, to head for the back stairway. She toddled down the hallway and started up the staircase, ponderously climbing one step at a time. By the time Phaidra realized she had disappeared, Ink was halfway up the staircase.

“Ink!” Phaidra made an exasperated sound in the back of her throat. “You had better not be on those stairs again, my love!”

Hearing her mother’s voice, Ink giggled to herself. She loved this game they played. Soft footfalls told her that her mother was rapidly approaching the staircase; she climbed faster in order to reach the top before her mother’s strong arms scooped her up and took her away from her fun.

At least, she tried to climb faster.

In her haste, Ink tripped over her own feet. She had one startled second to wonder what had gone wrong before her world tipped upside down and she fell backwards. All the air was knocked out of her little lungs as she tumbled down the steps.

Ink!” Phaidra cried, picking up her skirts and racing toward the staircase in a desperate bid to catch her daughter before she hit the stone floor at the bottom of the steps. She dropped to her knees on the second step from the bottom and her arms closed around Ink’s tiny form, snatching her safely up to her chest. Her heart thudded wildly against her bodice as she closed her eyes for a second in relief, visions of what could have been flashing across her mind.

Ink’s chest expanded as she sucked in a breath, and then her mouth opened in a wailing cry. Her head ached, her body ached, and she had not reached the top of the stairs. She fisted her hands in her mother’s clothes and bawled.

“My lady!” cried Myrtle. She was a stout, ample woman, with blonde hair now streaked liberally with gray. She reached Phaidra, puffing a little, and placed a hand on her side. “Is she all right, milady?” She took a closer look at Phaidra. “Are you all right, milady?”

Phaidra drew in a shaky breath and kissed the top of Ink’s head before she unfolded herself and sat back on her heels to examine her child. “I think so, Myrtle. I don’t think she’s broken anything.”

As Phaidra brushed Ink’s hair back to check her head, Myrtle gasped and took an involuntary step backward. Phaidra’s next breath caught in her throat and stuck. Ink had hit her head on the way down—and the cut oozed black liquid.

“Lady Phaidra…” Myrtle stammered, raising a tremulous finger to point at Ink while her other hand rose to her throat. “She—she—”

Drawn by the commotion, several of the kitchen maids and two footmen popped their heads out of the kitchen doorway. Their eyes were wide and round.

In the blink of an eye, Phaidra overcame her own astonishment and recovered. “Someone’s left an inkpot out again,” she said briskly. She patted a still-wailing Ink’s back and struggled to her feet. Her knees ached, but she did not feel it. Right now the only thing registering in her mind was the fact that her baby had been hurt.

“Send someone to fetch Elsa for me, please, Myrtle.” Phaidra dismissed the cook with a flick of her head and continued smoothing one hand down Ink’s back. “There, there, my darling,” she cooed softly. “You’re all right. This is why Mother and Father don’t want you climbing up the stairs all by yourself.”

Black ink continued to drip down the side of Ink’s head. Phaidra wanted to tell herself that Ink had to have been drawing on herself, but the fact that she could faintly make out split skin beneath the ink made her stomach churn. Who has black blood? she thought, a little wildly.

Common sense finally overcame shock. Black blood or no, it won’t clean itself up, said a practical voice inside her mind. The child has had a shock and so have you, but you’ve got to stop the bleeding.

Forcing her shaky legs to support her weight, Phaidra hitched up her skirt with one hand, renewed her hold on Ink with the other, and sailed upstairs to Ink’s bedchamber.

Elsa came rushing around the corner a moment later and practically flew up the stairs after them. “Lady Phaidra!” she gasped. “Is she all right?”

Ink was still wailing.

“I think so,” Phaidra said above the noise. “She’s had a bit of shock and she seems to have hit her head.”

Elsa’s face paled as she got a good look at Ink’s injury—the black liquid dripping down Ink’s face contrasted wonderfully with her skin—but she kept her head. “We must take care of this, milady,” she said, and hurried out to get a basin of water and clean cloths.

Phaidra sank down in a chair in Ink’s chamber, and cradled the little girl to her chest. “You’re all right, my love. No need for tears. You’re quite all right.”

Ink’s wails slowly turned to sobs, and then finally to little hiccups. Phaidra held her still while Elsa helped clean her up. The nurse did her best to maintain a straight face, but the frightened look in her eyes as she cleaned the wound told Phaidra what she herself had feared.

Ink’s blood was black.

Nevertheless, Phaidra forced herself to speak. “Can you tell what it is, Elsa?”

Elsa swallowed heavily. “I—I’m not sure, milady. If it were—if it looked like normal blood, I’d say it is blood, but it’s—” she cut herself off, unwilling to say more.

“But it’s not.” Phaidra held back a sigh. Turning Ink’s face toward her, she examined the cut at the little girl’s hairline. There was no trace of anything remotely resembling red blood around it. Phaidra could not even determine what color the flesh inside the cut was; her black blood—or whatever it was—discolored everything else.

The only thing Phaidra knew for certain was that Ink’s body was somehow producing the black liquid.

Shifting her grip on Ink slightly, Phaidra swiped a fingertip to along the gash and then touched the tip of her tongue. Instead of the familiar metallic taste of blood, she tasted ink. For half a second, she sat frozen in bewilderment. She could not give way to it, however; too much depended on these next few moments.

Straightening, Phaidra met Elsa’s frightened gaze and modulated her voice to sound calm and matter-of-fact. “It’s ink.”

Elsa’s eyes widened comically. “But why—”

“I don’t know.” Phaidra motioned for the nurse to hand her a cloth; as soon as she had it, she pressed it gently to the gash. “We’ve always known Ink is a little… different.”

“Where did she come from, my lady?”

Phaidra shook her head. She was not about to tell Ink’s nurse—no matter how much the girl loved Ink—that a strange man had pulled her from a piece of paper. “A kingdom very far from here.”

Elsa knelt beside the chair and looked somberly at both Phaidra and Ink. “We can’t hide something like this forever, milady.” She watched Ink rub a tiny fist in her puffy, tearstained eyes and something like deep grief settled over her features.

It sent cold chills pirouetting down Phaidra’s spine, and her voice, when she spoke, was sharper than she had intended. “We shan’t shout it to the world, girl, if that’s what you mean.”

“I mean when she grows up, milady. Black ink instead of blood…” Elsa shook her head. “It’s not natural.”

I know, Phaidra thought, her heart aching in her chest. But all she said was, “No matter what, Elsa, she is my daughter. You will do well to keep this to yourself.”

For a second, Elsa’s face whitened as though she had just been slapped. Then she leaned closer to rest a hand on Ink’s back. “On my word, milady, I’ll never do anything to harm this little one.”

A tight knot of grief welled up in Phaidra’s throat, preventing her from speaking. She could only nod and tighten her grip on Ink.


That night, when she was certain they were safely alone, Phaidra told Nicholas what had happened. She showed him the black ink on the cloth they had used on Ink’s head and watched his face pale behind his brown beard.

“Best not let the old hags in the village hear of this,” he growled, pacing back and forth across the length of their bedchamber. Ink lay asleep two rooms over, with Elsa to guard her. “They’d have her branded a witch by midmorning.”

From her seat on their bed, Phaidra watched him pace with worry written all over her face. She clasped her knees to her chest, taking care to avoid touching the spots where she had hit the stairs earlier. “What do we do, Nicholas?”

“Do?” He pivoted to face her. “What can we do, save continue to love her as our own?” He threw his hands into the air. “Yes, if the stranger had told me at the start about this, I might have hesitated to accept her. But…” He dropped his hands, thinking of Ink’s tinkling laughter and the joy her presence had brought to their lives, and looked helplessly at his wife. “She’s our daughter now, Phaidra. I can’t imagine our lives without her.”

“Neither can I,” Phaidra agreed quietly. She opened her arms to her husband and he came, folding his own arms around her in turn. She looked at him, the same question reflected in both their eyes.

With what looked like ink for blood, was their daughter even human?

And if she was not human… what was she?


The discovery that even Ink’s blood was different precipitated a few changes in Phaidra and Nicholas’s plans to raise their daughter. They resolved to keep this new information to as small a group as possible—which meant themselves, Elsa, Guyre (since Nicholas decided it would be unwise to keep it from him), and, unfortunately, Myrtle. They hoped the cook chalked the black blood up to Ink touching her face with inky hands; it should certainly make more sense to her than the alternative.

How to keep Ink from hurting herself again was a different—and more complicated—matter.

Having once been introduced to the outdoors and the flower gardens, not even the threat of sunburn could keep her inside for long. Vegetables thrived under her care, but her real love were flowers. It mattered little what kind; Ink loved them all. She would ooh and ahh over big, bold, vivacious blooms and then drop to her knees to cradle a delicate little blossom in her hands.

Over the next few years, Ink and her mother fought many battles about how much time she spent in the flower gardens. Phaidra always insisted Ink wear gloves and a cloak to shield her from the sun’s rays, and Ink vehemently protested this encumberment until she was old enough to understand the direct correlation between her time outside and the painful sunburns she experienced.

“Maybe you were meant to live under moonlight,” her father teased her.

“Maybe so,” Ink huffed back, wrinkling her nose, “but I’d miss the sunshine.”

Nicholas eventually promised Ink a steady supply of paper and canvas for her sketches if she limited her time out in the sun to the early mornings and late afternoons, when the odds of her being burned were less likely, and if she diligently worked with her mother to learn how to run the Manse.

This was difficult when she was little, since Ink did not always have control over when black ink dripped from her fingertips. But, just as Phaidra had hoped, she did learn how to turn it on and off. This made mundane tasks like mending, sewing, tatting, and other fine arts less likely to be ruined by an inopportune spill of ink.

Realizing Ink’s penchant for bright colors, Phaidra took care to dress her in as colorful an array as they could afford. One of their older servants, a woman who had been in charge of fabric production for most of her life, took a shine to Ink when she saw how interested she was in plants. She taught Ink the different plants used in dyes.

Ink even became a regular—and well-loved—fixture in the village. She made the rounds with her mother, cheerfully—though sometimes shyly—greeting people. The villagers themselves fiercely guarded her; the only people ever allowed to make comments about strange little Lady Ink were they themselves. All outsiders were to be pummeled for such remarks.

In the afternoons, she spent an hour drawing and an hour or two reading everything from the poetry to the history of Traxlin and its surrounding kingdoms. Nicholas oversaw this portion of her education; he was more than content to have his daughter occupy a corner of his study while he and Guyre went over various matters pertaining to the management of Dittforth.

At the beginning, Ink never used a brush, pen, or pencil. She drew with her fingers, sketching lines and curves—sometimes with both hands—across the paper. Ink flowed from her fingertips and, to her parents’ astonishment, modified itself at times to fit whatever she needed, be it thin strokes or fat.

Nicholas put a stop to that, however—or at least he attempted to. He sat Ink down one day and explained to her that from now on, she needed to use a brush or a pen like other people. He demonstrated how to dip a pen into ink and draw with it and Ink copied him, though privately she thought the entire thing was quite silly. What need had she for an inkpot when she could simply achieve the same effect with her fingers?

The day before her twelfth birthday, Ink’s life changed forever.


Ink Realm: Lady Ink is available at:

Barnes & Noble

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Lady Ink: Chapter 2

Lady_Ink_ebook_lined_webHere’s the second chapter of Lady Ink. Enjoy!

 Chapter 2

WITHIN HOURS, EVERYONE IN THE MANSE KNEW Lord Nicholas and Lady Phaidra had adopted a child. Indeed, with Ink requiring a wet nurse, there was really no way to keep it a secret. Rumors as to how they had come by the child varied wildly—as did descriptions of the stranger from those who had been in the Great Hall when he arrived.

The wet nurse, Deirdre, was understandably taken aback when she first laid eyes on the child. Her face paled to a shade comparable to Ink’s when Phaidra first proudly held the little girl out for her to see. She had to swallow several times, swaying uncertainly on her feet, her hands fisted in her skirts, before she could say faintly, “My, she has the clearest complexion I’ve ever seen on a wee one, milady.”

“Doesn’t she though?” Phaidra cooed at Ink, laughing in delight as the baby smiled at her. “And isn’t her hair lovely?”

Deirdre could agree in complete honesty that Ink had the loveliest black hair she’d ever seen on a child’s head. It was the rest of Ink she remained unsure about. “She’s got no color at all, save for shades of gray and that black hair,” she told her husband that evening. “White as flour, she is.” But then her voice and eyes softened. “The Lord and Lady are as taken with her as if she’d really been their own little one.”

The rest of Nicholas and Phaidra’s tenants and servants took longer to warm up to Ink. The idea of a child with skin whiter than their whitest linens alarmed people, as did the fact that she had been adopted.

“Faery child,” whispered some of the younger women.

“Witch’s child,” countered some of the older women.

“Not a son,” sighed the men.

But as the days slipped past, Ink began to win people over. Phaidra took her everywhere; she refused to be parted from her newfound daughter. In her eyes, Ink was a perfect miracle child. Phaidra cared not a whit that her adopted daughter looked different from other children. Neither did Nicholas.

Despite the sleepless nights they spent with her at the beginning, when Ink cried for parents who no longer lived and perhaps her godfather, she adapted quickly. Within a few short weeks, she had accepted Phaidra and Nicholas as her parents. She thrived under their care, growing into a fat, happy little baby. Her laughter made everyone else around her laugh; her wide, toothy grin brought joy to her new parents’ hearts.

Seasons passed and Ink grew with them—a happy, healthy child. The people of Dittforth relaxed when no strange tales wended their way from the Manse, and some even began to speculate that perhaps little Lady Ink had simply been born with a rare skin condition. It happened to some people, after all, the older villagers said sagely.

Everything sailed along smoothly until Ink learned to walk. Her steps were tiny and faltering at first, with frequent tumbles, but as her little muscles grew stronger, she grew more confident. Her newfound mobility enabled her to explore the Manse… and she did. Phaidra and Ink’s new nurse, Elsa, had a job on their hands trying to keep her out of trouble.

They soon noticed something strange: Ink’s little hands were often covered in something that looked suspiciously like black ink.

The first few times this happened, Phaidra and Elsa found Ink leaving black handprints on the walls and the floor. They thought nothing particular of it in the beginning. Phaidra blamed herself and Elsa for not keeping a closer watch on Ink; obviously the child had found a bottle of ink somewhere.

But when they continued to find Ink with black hands, they began to suspect something else was at work—namely that someone in the Manse had decided it would be amusing to give Ink an ink bottle.

“The problem with that theory, my love,” Nicholas pointed out one afternoon, glancing up from a sheaf of papers on his desk, “is that no one has actually found Ink with an ink bottle yet.”

“I don’t know what else it can be, Nicholas.” Phaidra set Ink down on the rug in one corner of the study and sank onto a footstool beside her. Ink squealed in delight and tottered forward to pick up a cloth doll lying on the rug, waiting for her. “Someone must be playing tricks on us.”

“He’ll regret it when the maids catch wind of it,” Nicholas said wryly. “If they knew who was behind it, I’m sure they would have already given him a good thrashing with their broomsticks.”

Phaidra sighed in mingled exasperation and frustration. “True.” The maids, she knew, were not particularly fond of Ink at the moment, on account of the recent spate of black handprints and other assorted smears she was leaving for them to clean.

“I wouldn’t worry about it, Phaidra.” Nicholas sent her a smile. “Everything will sort itself out.”

“I certainly hope so. We’re having trouble keeping her in clean clothes.”

Ink giggled, and Phaidra glanced down at her with a smile that slipped when she caught sight of fresh black stains on Ink’s doll. “Ink!”

Tsking in disappointment, she scooped Ink up in her arms, being careful to avoid her inky hands and gingerly pried the doll free. “What have you gotten yourself into now, child?”

Ink babbled in distress, reaching for her doll, but Phaidra dropped it on the corner of her husband’s desk. “Nicholas, she’s done it again.”

“What?” He looked up in surprise. “How?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea.”

Propping Ink on one hip, Phaidra produced a handkerchief from her sleeve and attempted to clean Ink’s hands. The more ink she wiped off, however, the more there seemed to be. After several bewildering moments of this, she was forced to concede temporary defeat.

The ink was not coming off that easily, and Ink was not happy with her mother.

“You’d best have Elsa bring some soap,” Nicholas observed.

Shaking her head, Phaidra called for Ink’s nurse to bring her a basin of warm water and some soap. A stout young woman with honey-brown hair, a round face, and kind brown eyes, Elsa had been a farmer’s daughter from the far side of Dittforth before she came to the Manse. She smiled at Ink as she entered with the basin.

“Thank you, Elsa. That is all.”

Elsa curtsied and departed, while Phaidra sat down on the window seat with the basin and proceeded to rinse Ink’s little hands in the water.

That was the moment Phaidra realized the black ink was actually seeping out of her daughter’s fingertips.

Absolutely astonished, she sat frozen with Ink in her lap and watched black droplets drip from Ink’s tiny fingers, slowly turning the water in the basin a watery black. She was too numb to notice the black droplets Ink splashed on her green skirt.

This, Phaidra thought with a heavy heart, is not natural. Her mind flashed back to the stranger’s hesitance. Ink is different. She had to clear her throat twice before she could say, “Nicholas.”

“Yes, dear?”

“I know where she’s getting the ink.”

Surprised, Nicholas glanced over his shoulder. “What? Already?” The smile forming on his lips died when he saw his wife’s face. “What’s wrong?”

Phaidra swallowed and nodded down to the basin of inky water. “It’s coming from her fingers.”

Nicholas laughed.

Ink laughed too, and clapped her hands together, spattering watery ink on herself and her mother.

Phaidra’s expression did not change. “I mean it, Nicholas. Look.”

His laughter died away as she rose to her feet and moved closer, lowering Ink to the desk and allowing her to trace black streaks on one of his papers.

“Well,” Nicholas said at last, when he could speak, “it would seem you named our daughter better than we knew, my love.” He took Ink from her and settled her on one knee so he could examine her fingers.

Ink chattered happily at her father before reaching for his papers again.

Phaidra wrung her hands together. “What are we going to do, Nicholas? How do we make it stop?”

“No, no, darling. I’m afraid the King won’t appreciate your artistic efforts.” Nicholas moved his papers away and bounced Ink on his knee when she protested. He looked up at Phaidra. “I don’t know what to tell you. I’ve never heard of anything like this happening before.” He shook his head slightly. “It seems to be something she can control, at least partly.”

Phaidra continued to look worried.

Nicholas glanced over his shoulder at the bright sunlight streaming in through the window. “The weather has warmed up,” he said thoughtfully. “Have you considered taking her outside?”

They both looked at Ink, who was now leaning forward against her father’s arm with hands outstretched for a shiny letter opener. Nicholas rescued it before her little fingers closed around it. “No, no, little one. That’s too sharp for you.”

“I thought it still too cold yet.” Phaidra sighed as she took in the new black smears on Ink’s blue dress. “But, we’ll just have to try it. At least the grass won’t mind if she paints it black.” She sighed again. “I don’t know what I’m going to tell Elsa.”

“Tell her the truth,” Nicholas advised, “but tell her to keep it to herself. She’s a good girl, Elsa.”

“All right. If you think it best.” Phaidra scooped Ink up in her arms again, mindful of the fresh ink, and planted a kiss on her hair. Softly, she murmured in her ear, “I don’t care if you do drip ink—” the child looked up at her as she heard what she thought was her name, “—I’m so glad I have you.”

Elsa took the news with less fuss than Phaidra had feared. In a halting voice, the young woman explained that she’d had her suspicions about Ink, but she had not said anything because she was half-convinced she must be imagining things. She would happily keep the secret.


Until the weather warmed enough for Phaidra to deign it suitable for Ink to be introduced to the outdoors, she took a pragmatic approach to dealing with the child’s inky fingers. She knitted little black gloves and put them on her daughter’s hands. Needless to say, Ink did not like this at all. She cried and fussed whenever her mother or Elsa slid the gloves on her hands, and did her best to pull them off. The two women ultimately resorted to tying them on her little wrists.

They were all happy the morning Phaidra carried Ink outside and set her down in the grass beneath a big oak tree near the gardens. She took the gloves off and allowed Ink to toddle around and explore. Ink found grass fascinating. After an initial hesitation at its strange, prickly texture beneath her feet—for a few minutes, she clung to her mother, unwilling to step on it at all—she plopped down and began grabbing it in fistfuls.

Phaidra intervened to keep Ink from eating the grass, but otherwise left her alone while she enjoyed the sunshine and balmy spring air. After a little while, she registered absolute silence and swiftly turned to see what her daughter had gotten herself into now. A quiet child meant one of two things: she was either asleep, or she had found something that spelled trouble.

To her amazement, Ink had made her way over to the edge of the flower beds and was staring at them in rapture. She stuck a finger in her mouth and sucked, but quickly yanked her finger away, leaving a faint black smudge in her mouth. Instead, she stretched out a hand for a bright red bloom.


Before Phaidra could reach her, Ink had pulled the first bloom off and was staring at it in wonder. When she started to grab another bloom, this one bright yellow, Phaidra stopped her. “No, Ink.” She helped her daughter stroke the flower gently. “Don’t pull it off. You’ll hurt the flower. You can touch them like this.”

Following her mother’s cue, Ink gently stroked the flower with her tiny finger.

“That’s a good girl.” Phaidra took in the wonder and delight on the little girl’s face and made a decision. “Would you like to see more flowers?”

Over the course of the next half-hour, she carried Ink around the flower gardens and showed everything to her. When they came in for lunch, she was laughing and jabbering in the few words she could say so far and a musical baby language all her own. Her paper white skin, however, carried an angry gray flush of something they concluded must be sunburn.

From that point on, Nicholas and Phaidra could safely say three things about their little girl. One, she loved to draw. Two, she loved flowers. And, three, she did not do well out in the sun.

This concerned Phaidra greatly, because having tasted the outdoors, Ink wanted to be outside at all times. Particularly around the flower beds. A few of them, such as pansies, were in the shade, since some of them did not need as much sun as others, but Phaidra soon learned that Ink, much like her namesake, could not be confined to any one area. And, just like flowers, she craved the sun.

Even if prolonged exposure raised painful, weltering gray blisters on her porcelain skin.

Next Chapter


Ink Realm: Lady Ink is available at:

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Lady Ink: Chapter 1

Lady_Ink_ebook_lined_webWriting Lady Ink took me on a wild adventure. The characters were a blast, and, as I might have mentioned in a blog post or two, they held the ending hostage until I promised them a sequel. 🙂

Here’s the first chapter. Hope you enjoy!

Chapter 1

IN THE KINGDOM OF TRAXLIN, ON THE edge of the Black Forest, there lived a young lord and his lady. Traxlin was poor, having suffered several years of terrible drought, and Nicholas and his wife, Phaidra, were the poorest of all the nobles. They were scarcely better off than the tenants who farmed the lands around their manor house and the village of Dittforth.

But Nicholas and Phaidra were an optimistic pair, and cheerfully set about restoring his family’s lands. After several years and much hard work, they succeeded in turning the tide. Dittforth was far too small and humble to ever bring them great wealth, but they had enough to keep themselves and their tenants comfortable—and pay the king his taxes.

As the years began to roll smoothly past, however, the Lord and Lady of Dittforth encountered another troubling problem: Phaidra remained childless.

“They’ve had no heir,” said the village men gravely. “His Lordship needs a son.”

“Her Ladyship still has no wee one to hold,” sighed the women.

After four years, news raced throughout Dittforth that Lady Phaidra was with child. They only had a month or two to celebrate before she lost the baby.

“It happens,” said the older women sagely. “Always a terrible thing for any mother to lose her first child, but these things happen.”

As disappointed and heartsick as he was over the baby’s loss, Nicholas did his best to console his wife. “We’ll have another, my love,” he said tenderly, holding his weeping wife in the early hours of the morning and resting his brown-bearded cheek against her glossy brown hair. “Just wait and see.”

There were other children—but not in the way either of them wanted.

Over the next eight years, Phaidra miscarried five more times.

With each baby’s loss, she gave up a little more hope of ever having a child to love and took to staring out the window with a soft, sad look in her eyes. For his part, Nicholas gradually resigned himself to the fact that he would have no child to inherit Dittforth. The Manse, the village, and the surrounding lands would pass to his younger brother’s family.

And then one day, when both of them had relinquished all hope of ever having a child of their own, a cloaked and hooded stranger appeared in the Manse’s Great Hall.

Nicholas and Phaidra sat at dinner, their usual company seated up and down the table with them. They all became aware of the stranger at approximately the same time—and a hush fell over the Great Hall. Every eye watched the man as he moved soundlessly toward the table.

He was of medium height, though his features were obscured by a long, gray cloak, slightly tattered about the edges as though it had recently seen a good bit of wear. He carried no weapons, not even a staff, yet something about the way he carried himself commanded everyone’s attention.

When he reached the table opposite the dais on which Nicholas and Phaidra sat, he bowed. “Lord Nicholas?” His voice had a strange, lilting quality, as though every word literally rolled off his tongue when he spoke.

“I am he.” Nicholas’s answer rumbled through the silent Hall.

The stranger deepened his bow. “May I request an audience with my Lord and Lady?”

Green met brown as Nicholas and his wife exchanged startled—but strangely unconcerned—glances.

“A private audience,” the stranger added, coming up from his bow. Sharp gray eyes glinted from within the depths of his hood. “It concerns a subject I believe to be dear to your Lordship’s heart.”

“Show yourself,” Nicholas commanded.

Gloved hands rose to push back his hood, revealing long, colorless hair that seemed to glow in the reflected light from sconces and torches set in regular intervals along the walls… and strange gray eyes set in a face as white as a sheet of paper.

Soft gasps echoed around the Great Hall.

The stranger was a young man, with sharp, almost hawk-like features, but he did not look like any individual anyone in the Great Hall had ever encountered.

Nicholas traded glances with Phaidra again, and then looked at his right-hand man. Sir Guyre was his age, and they were brothers in spirit and heart. They had fought together, bled together, worked the soil together, and Nicholas trusted him implicitly. “Escort him to my study. We’ll join you presently.”

With a nod, Guyre left his seat and moved around the table to flank the stranger. In a voice that brooked no disagreement, he said, “Follow me.”

With a gracious nod and another bow, the stranger departed the Great Hall with Guyre.

Nicholas and Phaidra finished their meal—Phaidra with a slight loss of appetite due to a combination of concern and curiosity—and exited the Great Hall.

Slipping her arm through her husband’s, Phaidra asked, “What can he possibly want?”

Nicholas only shook his head.

They hastened through the corridors of the Manse and climbed the staircase to the second floor. Just before Nicholas opened the door, Phaidra squeezed his arm and gave him an encouraging smile. He smiled back and pushed the heavy wooden door open.

Warm air and the cheerful crackle of a fire met them as they entered the room. In addition to being Nicholas’s study, it also served as Phaidra’s sitting room. In the winter, they often sat together by the fireplace; in the summer, they sat together on the deep window seat behind Nicholas’s desk. Sometimes they took turns reading aloud. Phaidra liked that best; she loved to listen to her husband’s voice as she sewed or knitted.

Instead of finding the stranger warming himself by the fire, as they expected, they found Guyre by the fire and the stranger standing six feet away in the middle of the room. For a second, Nicholas and Phaidra both had the brief, fleeting impression that the cloaked man seemed a little wary of the flames dancing merrily before him. It passed, and Nicholas settled behind his great desk, while Phaidra curled up in her usual spot on the window seat. Guyre remained by the fire, ready to intervene should the stranger do anything unexpected… or unwelcome.

“Now, then.” Nicholas cleared his throat. “What’s this all about?”

“My lord, I did request a private audience,” the stranger said mildly, his strange gray eyes flicking to Guyre.

When the temperature in the room plummeted a few degrees as both Nicholas and Guyre just stared at him, he sighed and spread his hands. “I mean you no harm, my lord. My lady.” He nodded to Phaidra. “Believe me, however, when I say that if I had intended you ill, no mortal man could have stopped me.”

Guyre growled at this and took a step forward. “My lord—”

Nicholas held up a hand and opened his mouth to speak, but the stranger interrupted.

“I’ve come about a child.”

That brought everyone up short.

It was Phaidra who finally broke the stunned silence. “What do you mean?” she asked in a soft voice. “What child?”

Something like satisfaction shone in the stranger’s gray eyes; he devoted his attention to her. “A child I rescued from slaughter, Lady Phaidra. A child whose entire family is now dead.”

At this, Phaidra gasped, one hand flying to her throat.

Nicholas and Guyre exchanged startled, half-angry glances. “Where did this occur?” Nicholas demanded. “Who dared to do such a thing?”

“This did not happen in Dittforth, my lord.” The stranger inclined his torso in a slight bow. “Nor in the lands of anyone in your kingdom. I have journeyed far in search of you.”

This floored the men again.

Phaidra looked at her speechless husband and then back at the stranger. “Why? Where is this child now?” Despite herself, a thin thread of hope unfurled inside her. She clenched her fingers in the heavy folds of her burgundy winter gown and tried to tamp it down.

“She is safe for the moment, my lady,” said the stranger. “But not, I fear, for long.”

“She?” Nicholas echoed. For a second, an old ache filled his chest as a nascent hope he had not even realized had sprung to life quietly died.

The stranger bent his head. “She is the last of her line.”

“What happened?” Phaidra asked in horror.

“The story stretches back years, my lady, and would take far longer to tell than any of us have time. Suffice to say, her family was destroyed in an internal conflict that has wracked our…” he paused briefly, as though searching for a word, “…realm.”

Guyre spoke suddenly. “How came you to save this child, if she is not of your family?”

Pain and shadows that hinted at dark things best left unseen and unsaid filled the stranger’s eyes. “I loved her father and mother like my own family. I am her sworn godfather, but I cannot keep her.” Deep regret colored his next words. “She will never be safe with me.”

He met—and held—Phaidra’s gaze, and she nodded slowly in understanding. “So you have come here.” Hope continued to swell inside her breast; her hands began to tremble in her lap.

“So I have come here,” the stranger agreed. “Her father was—” he hesitated, then plunged ahead. “Because of her father, she is of noble blood. I have been searching for a family fit to take her and raise her as their own for some time now.”

If Nicholas had not been sitting down, his knees would have given way beneath him. “You mean you came expressly to Dittforth to give this child to us?”

“I did.” The stranger inclined his head again. “There are… other… considerations, but I shall come to them in a moment. If I may?” He looked from Nicholas to Guyre and indicated his cloak.

Guyre granted him permission with a nod.

“What is your name?” Nicholas asked belatedly.

The stranger was reaching into the folds of his cloak, but he paused long enough to offer Nicholas and Phaidra a grim smile. “My name is not important. Indeed, you will all be better off without it.”

At this, Nicholas and Guyre both looked wary, but Phaidra asked, “What is the child’s name?”

In lieu of an answer, the stranger produced a piece of paper, which he laid gently down upon the polished wooden surface of Nicholas’s desk.

Phaidra pressed a hand to her mouth, tears springing to her eyes. “She’s beautiful.”

On the snowy paper, a sketch of a baby girl had been inked with delicate strokes. Tendrils of black hair fell over her forehead; her rosebud mouth was pursed in sleep. One tiny hand was curled in a fist.

“Will you keep her, my lord and lady?” The stranger’s eyes glinted. “Will you love her and cherish her, and raise her as your own blood?” His words had an odd, heavy cadence to them.

Nicholas looked at his wife; Phaidra stared back at him with imploring eyes. “I would like to see the child,” he said at last.

The stranger hesitated for only an instant. “Very well, my lord. I will fetch her.”

Instead of turning to the door, however, he stepped closer to the desk—and the ink drawing that lay upon it. To Nicholas, Phaidra, and Guyre’s complete and utter astonishment, the stranger then proceeded to sink his hands into the drawing.

Before they had time to gasp, the stranger lifted a squirming little bundle wrapped in a slate gray blanket from the sheet of paper. “Here she is.” He sounded just the slightest bit wary himself, as though he was suddenly unsure of their reaction.

As Nicholas and Phaidra got a good look at the child, they understood. She looked just like the stranger. Her lips were the palest shade of gray imaginable, and her fuzzy hair was indeed black as a raven’s wing, but her skin…

Phaidra touched one tiny fist in sheer amazement. The baby’s skin was as white as the very paper from which the stranger had somehow conjured her. “Incredible,” she breathed.

Nicholas’s green eyes dropped from the baby to the piece of paper… which was now blank. He found his voice with an effort. “How—how did you—”

“That does not matter.” The stranger brushed Nicholas’s stumbling words aside and looked down at the baby cradled in his arms. “She is… different. Like me. Like her family. That is why I have taken such care in searching out a home for her.” Raising his head, he pinned Nicholas and Phaidra both in turn with a steely, penetrating look. “What is your answer? Will you raise her as your own?”

Nicholas looked at his wife again. He saw her answer—it was written all over her face—but the ultimate responsibility was his own. He glanced at Guyre, whose expression held wary confusion, but no repulsion. The child, though different in her complexion, was just a child. A helpless little orphan, who likely had no idea her real parents were dead. How can she? he thought.

Straightening his spine, Nicholas reached for Phaidra’s hand. “We will raise her as our own blood.”

A gleam of hope mixed with triumph shone in the stranger’s eyes. “Will you love, cherish, and protect her?”

“We will,” answered Nicholas and Phaidra together.

“Then I give her to you gladly.” Bowing his head, the stranger kissed the sleeping child’s forehead and held her out to Phaidra. “My lady.”

Phaidra took the child from him with trembling hands and cradled her in her arms. She marveled at how light the child felt. Biting her lower lip, she touched one downy cheek with a finger and felt tears well up in her eyes. She looked up at her husband and gave him a watery smile. “We have a daughter, my love.”

Nicholas smoothed a gentle hand over the baby’s dark head. For a moment, he and his wife stood together, looking down at this new, amazing addition to their family. Then Nicholas thought to turn back to the stranger, who was watching them almost wistfully. “What shall we call her?”

“Anything you like.” One corner of the stranger’s mouth curved up in a sad smile. “She is yours now, my lord. Her real name would prove too dangerous, I fear.”

All eyes turned to the child in Phaidra’s arms again. She raised the bundle in her arms and pressed a gentle kiss to each cheek. The baby stirred in her sleep, but did not wake. “I think we should call her Ink.”

For a second, neither Nicholas nor Sir Guyre thought they had heard her correctly. “Pardon, my love,” Nicholas said slowly, “but did you say you wanted to name her Ink?”

Phaidra nodded serenely. “It’s unusual, true, but I think it suits her, don’t you?” She smiled at her husband, her expression as radiant as the dawn breaking over the morning sky. “She came from an ink drawing, after all.”

The stranger coughed, though it could have been a smothered laugh.

“Ink.” Nicholas let the name roll off his tongue. “Our daughter, Lady Ink.” His brow furrowed in thought. “I must admit, Phaidra, it has a ring to it.” He glanced at his best friend, who could only nod in bewilderment.

“Lady Ink.” The stranger lingered over the words. “I believe you have chosen well.” Drawing himself up to his full height, he inclined his torso forward in a graceful bow. “My lord, my lady, I must bid you farewell.”

Startled, Nicholas looked up from the pretty picture his wife made with the baby in her arms. “You may spend the night here, if you like.”

The stranger shook his head, his colorless hair glinting in the firelight with the movement. “I thank you for the invitation, Lord Nicholas, but I must most respectfully decline. My task here is finished; I must return to my own people.”

“Will you visit her?” Phaidra asked.

“If only I could, my lady.” The stranger shook his head again. “It is impossible. My presence will only place her in danger.”

Guyre now stepped forward. “I’ll show him out, my lord.” This was something within the realm of the things he could do.

“Very well.” Nicholas nodded to Guyre, imparting with that one look an injunction against breathing a word about this child.

Guyre bowed and turned to usher the stranger out of the study.

“Wait!” Phaidra called softly. She glanced from the child in her arms to the stranger. Ink was clearly not a newborn, but she was too small to be a year old. “When was she born?”

Again, shadows flickered through the stranger’s eyes. “I cannot tell you the exact day, my lady, but I can tell you she was born when flowers bloom.”

“Thank you,” Phaidra breathed. It was better than nothing.

The door closed behind the two men, leaving the new parents alone. Later—much later, after he’d had a drink or two to help him wrap his mind around how a man could pull a baby from an ink drawing in the first place—Guyre would tell Nicholas that as far as he could determine, no one in the village had seen the stranger once he left the Manse. The man seemed to have vanished into the thin air from whence he came.


Inside Nicholas’s study, Phaidra still cradled the little girl. Tears of joy continued to stream down her cheeks. “I know she’s not a son, Nicholas, but we have a child.”

Ink finally stirred, coming slowly awake. She began to whimper, and Phaidra bent over her, whispering soothingly. It did little to help. Ink’s whimpers turned to squalls, and no amount of rocking or hushing on Phaidra’s part could comfort her.

After a few moments, Phaidra thrust the child toward her husband. “Perhaps she needs to hear a man’s voice. She’s been traveling with her godfather, after all.” She bit her lip. “Perhaps his voice carried through the—through the paper.”

They shared a look; neither of them had any idea how to explain what had just happened.

Nicholas held the child against his chest awkwardly; he, too, noted how very light she felt in his arms. “Here now, Ink,” he said softly, his voice rumbling in his chest. “No need to fret. We’re your new parents.”

The rumbling in his chest did exactly what Phaidra had hoped for; Ink quieted. She blinked up at Nicholas and waved a tiny fist. She had soulful black eyes, framed by gorgeously long eyelashes that fluttered adorably when she blinked. He smiled down at her, feeling something in his chest expand, and said tenderly, “Welcome to our family, little one.”

Next Chapter


Ink Realm: Lady Ink is available at:

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Release News: ‘Ink Realm: Lady Ink’

Lady_Ink_web_300lineThis release announcement is horribly overdue (see this post for details as to how I managed to overlook it, if you’re so inclined), but E Minor Press published Ink Realm: Lady Ink back in June.

Ebooks are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, KoboKobo, Itunes, Smashwords, and everywhere else.

Print editions are available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Book Depository.

Here’s the jacket copy:

Ink Realm Duology

Book 1: Lady Ink

Skin white as paper…blood black as ink.

Lady Ink of Dittforth is no ordinary girl.

Pulled from an ink sketch as a baby by a mysterious stranger and adopted by a noble family, she grows up hiding the fact that ink flows from her fingertips…and she, too, can pull objects from sketches.

In the wake of tragedy and betrayal, Ink, together with her mother and beloved nurse, flees Dittforth to escape the clutches of a sinister figure known only as the Shadow King.

Along the way, Ink learns about friendship, love, and sacrifice…and discovers that the truth about her heritage is out of this realm.


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