Books, fantasy

Hot New Release! Anthology Day


New anthology! Fresh off the presses! You can find fourteen impeccably edited short stories in When Valor Must Hold, tales of derring do, heroism, and hope. When all else fails, heroes take up arms and hold. 

Read the snippet, and then click the ‘Read More!’ to buy and read the book. 

It was another day of flowers, blood, and tears. Soleh looked down at her hands, then slowly opened them and let the axe fall. It landed on the patch of Goddess’s Tears blooming out of season, and a spatter of blood from her ruined hands followed it.

She had wrought havoc, and now could feel nothing, nothing at all. With an effort she lifted her head to look at the ruins of her home. The body of her last son wrapped in white linen lay in the one unscathed room. She turned and mechanically walked toward the stables, her eyes wide and unseeing in the darkness of the world around her.

She hadn’t seen the blow that took her brother’s head, or the ones it must have taken to fell her mother and father as they rode into the ambush to buy their children time. The blow which felled Soleh senseless from her saddle had left her with no memories but that of flowers, blood, and tears for weeks afterward. It wasn’t until she was brought here, to what would become her home for long years, that she had begun to remember. Memory had been no comfort when he used her as a sadistic political tool, raising her from slave girl to Goddess-blessed wife.

Soleh had known he bore no love for her, or even kindness, although he liked that people said it of him. He simply desired to further shame the family who called him a bastard and tolerated him only because the King dictated it. She was a thorn in their side.

He drove many thorns into them as time passed, and the wounds festered. Soleh had done her best to live as Goddess commanded, until she could no longer bear it. In the dark she swore vengeance on her child’s soul. She would heal no more. She would finally lay claim to her heritage of betrayal and bloodshed. The last fragment of her mother’s seal called to her since she had been unable to save her son from the fever she herself had brought home from nursing the villagers.  

Soleh closed her hand around the broken bit of glass, concealing its glow. The darkness was complete and the grasp of death withheld itself from her soul.

The hands which had wrought such havoc to the house were no delicate lady’s fingers. They bore the calluses of rough work, and she blessed the perverse quirk in her husband that allowed her no servants. It was her hands that scoured the stone floors of their home. Her hands that split the wood, laid the fires, and that work kept the solid muscles of the girl who had been trained to fight, building on them until she was grown into a woman of great strength.

Soleh had always been careful to conceal her abilities. Her children would have suffered if she were not willing to take the brunt of his anger. Her neighbors would have shunned her entirely if they did not pity her.

But today she had lifted the axe and brought the butt of it around to smash into the apparently solid stone, and the way the mortar buckled would have sent the market-ladies fluttering in fear. Soleh had bared her teeth in the caricature of a smile as she had laid open her husband’s deepest secret. She had worked into the night, knowing he was a full day’s ride away in the Capitol, and she had not sent word of their tiny son’s illness. There had been no time.

“I must go,” she whispered, her voice hoarse and broken.

When dawn broke, she had crossed the border already and never looked back. Around her, the select string of horses tugged at their lines. Relentlessly, she kept them on the trail and noses pointed ever northward.




The men rode into the courtyard through the shattered gate. The burned stables still smoked gently in the cool morning air. Arden, Lord of Belcastle, held his hand high and the hoofbeats and creak of saddles stopped, leaving only the faint jingle of tack as nervous horses shifted restlessly under his men.

“Bergen, Tor, with me,” he said finally, after a slow survey of the wreck of his half-brother’s home. He dismounted stiffly. He was too old to be indulging in heroics, he thought ruefully as he rubbed his left knee for a moment before starting toward the broken door.

But no one was here, that was easy to see and hear. An eerie silence hung over the house. There been no lights or signs of life since they had ridden through the village a half hour before. His brother had chosen an oddly isolated location for his manor house.

The front door had been completely shattered and lay across the threshold making it difficult to enter. They stepped through the broken wood carefully and into chaos. No fires lit the house. Still, they saw feathers, cloth, and blood everywhere.