It’s probably not fair to spend years on this blog teaching writing and prose techniques and critiquing other novels without ever showing my own. Here’s the prologue from my newest book for your enjoyment.
Specter of the Spheres
Priestess Elienne squinted toward the southern horizon. The blood moon hung low, and time was short until daylight burned again. The grand arch glinted in the moonlight, marking the entrance to the underground vault. They would make it in time.
Her defender swarm pattered a rhythmic beat across the ruined lands and lulled her into a trance as they pressed forward. Each defender looked exactly the same: smooth obsidian shells that came up to her knees and eight razor-sharp legs. They had no eyes or faces. They moved by sensing the priestess’s heat signature or potential enemies.
Elienne knew from her studies that people would have called them spiders in the old language, but this wasn’t quite right. They were larger, and they had an intelligence spiders didn’t have.
They also harbored the souls of dead people. This was how they got their name: specterlings. They weren’t ghosts, though, a common misunderstanding of how the necromantic arts worked. A priestess had incarnated the shells, merely giving the illusion of life.
Elienne’s head snapped toward the western hills as the lead defender cried out its warning signal.
No. A lava nethermental rushed at them, and the first crawler darted forward to protect the priestess.
She shouted, “No! Get back!”
The specterlings swarmed forward anyway, not understanding the true danger. Their only trained goal was protection. In most circumstances their leg blades would shred any threat: the swarm a stampede of razors.
Molten rock oozed out of the nethermental’s body, leaving a trail of dark pumice. The huge body rose to twice her height. It swung its boulder arms viciously at the attackers. Bits of lava and fire splattered haphazardly.
Elienne had no time to figure out who would have breathed life into such a destructive golem—probably one of the Persuader’s minions. She watched in horror as the lava hardened in an instant, trapping every one of her defenders.
A bright trail of fire arced and crackled through the air as the beast swiped at the lead crawler again. The crawler’s incinerated body melted into poison, a last-resort line of defense should all the specterlings die.
But the lava nethermental stomped over it, unfazed. No one had predicted such forces would try to stop her. Elienne needed time she didn’t have. One of her remaining specterlings had to remain alive for a banishment enchantment.
She pulled a dark purple crystal from her pack and slammed it into the sandy ground. It poked out at an awkward angle but stayed upright.
A vibrant glow emanated outward, and she began to sing in the ancient language.
Swipe: two more specterlings down. Poison pooled outward, and Elienne’s breathing doubled as she realized she might be too close to it. Her flesh body was not immune.
There isn’t time to move away, she thought.
She continued to sing with intense focus. The crystal shook under the tension in the winding melody. The song carried Elienne away from the scene. She closed her eyes. The beauty hurt. Her body shook with the pain, and she took it all upon herself. She needed more pain than ever before if she was to kill the powerful beast.
The ground now shuddered under the weight of the nethermental as it trampled closer. She opened her eyes to see the damage. Only one specterling remained. Elienne looked at where the nethermental’s eyes should have been but only saw oozing rock.
It somehow knew her location and moved directly toward her.
She needed that last specterling as a sacrifice for the necromantic ritual to work. As the nethermental’s swipe came forward, she completed the song and pushed pain into the crystal.
The crystal converted the pain to energy, which shot into the specterling. The defender called out a dying shriek, and Elienne relaxed. The specterling died before it received the blow from the nethermental.
The energy from the sacrificed life pulsed into the blazing golem in an ascendant burst. It landed with a sharp crack, and the beast collapsed into a lifeless heap of black rock, still glimmering from the heat.
Elienne fell to the ground, panting from the effort. Her small army of defenders were dead, and now she was on her own. If any more danger appeared, she’d have to fight without necromancy. She looked to where the monster had been, and the world distorted in waves from the shimmering heat.
Elienne pushed back to her feet and returned the depleted crystal to her pack. The sands tumbled under her feet, making the long journey harder than it needed to be. A heavy weight pressed on her shoulders.
She didn’t think she could continue; the ritual had taken too much out of her. Every muscle in her body drooped toward the ground, begging for rest. The singeing pain lingered from the ritual, but the sorrow at having failed her people hurt worse.
She was a priestess who had taken on vows. It had been over a millennium since the last failure, and that had wrecked the world. They almost hadn’t survived. With how things were now, all life would end this time.
Elienne glanced from her feet to the horizon once more. The arch marking the entrance to the vault grew as she approached, and she realized there was still hope. A quick flutter of energy titillated her chest, but the blood moon hung low. If the heat of the sun peaked the horizon, she’d be burned alive—darkness or moonlight were the only viable possibilities for survival.
She pressed on faster, not caring about her own life. It would be sacrificed at the coming ritual in hours anyway. Each one of the seven sects would send one priestess to complete the ritual and keep the world going.
They were seen as evil by most. Necromancy looked like an unnatural art to the rest of the world, and people had tried to squash them since the dawn of time.
But they weren’t evil. They protected life through sacrifice. Without death, there could be no life. Why couldn’t people understand that instead of sending these beasts to destroy them each blood moon?
Elienne shook herself free of these thoughts as she felt the sun burn her shoulders. She despaired that she had failed in her duty. She had been trained as a priestess for this one moment. The ritual kept the gods appeased. Without the ritual, during the full blood moon, the caverns would crack open and be exposed to the sun. They would all die, and without them, the humans would die as well.
Elienne ran with all her might. She couldn’t let that happen. A vicious scream came from her lips as the sun rounded the horizon. The lava nethermental had caused too much of a delay.
She reached the steps leading down to the vault, but the heat was too much; she collapsed. And with that, the end of the world began. The fools who had sent the monster knew not what they had done.
Six figures towered over Elienne, each adorning the black robes of a priestess. Every part of her body hurt. She could tell there were bruises all over. Flashes of the scene struck her memory: tumbling, crying out, and cracks of flesh on stone.
Elienne blinked several times as she tried to get her bearings.
One of the other priestesses said, “You made it. We didn’t think you were coming.”
She didn’t say anything. What was there to say? They’d all be dead the next night when they sacrificed themselves—no need to make friends. They had a job to do.
She looked around in fascination. Elienne had wondered what the inside of the vault looked like since she was a child. Now she had a single day to explore it. She cautiously pushed herself to her elbows. Her voice was shaky.
Another priestess said, “We don’t know. We heard screams and rushed over. The vault sealed itself, so we’re safe now.”
Another said, “You should rest. You’ll need your strength for the ritual.”
Two of them swooped in with bizarre coordination, and Elienne felt too exhausted to resist. She gave in to the arms as she was carried to a different chamber. Seven beds were lined along the wall, and the two priestesses set Elienne on the first one.
She let the blackness overtake her.
The sound of whispered voices woke her, and she had no idea how much time had passed. They wouldn’t have let her sleep through the ritual. One of them noticed the stirring and called over.
“It is time.”
A pang of disappointment filled Elienne. She had dreamed of the vault her whole life, and now that she was here, she wouldn’t get the chance to see it before sacrificing herself on the altar.
She stood from the bed, still shaky from the pain song. A sudden fear filled her. What if she didn’t have the strength to go through with it? The upcoming ritual sacrifice would take much more concentration and intensity than the simple banishment spell she had done on the nethermental.
Elienne pulled herself from the bed and limped to the huddled group. Each step brought a sharp pain to her ankle, and she wondered if she had broken it while falling down the stairs.
One of the priestesses asked, “Can you make it to the altar?”
Elienne nodded. The group trudged along, up the stairs to the altar on top of the vault. She didn’t expect the simplicity of it. It appeared to be a stone statue with none of the intricate flair of the temple they worshiped at back home.
Seven circles rounded the altar, one for each priestess to stand on.
The group knew exactly what to do. They had all trained for this moment intensely. They waited for the proper alignment of the blood moon through the aperture in the statue. When the moment hit, a dark blood stain appeared across the altar symbolizing the first sacrifice that saved the world.
They held hands, and the priestess from the Haiel faction began the song. Each faction had a separate part of the song, and none had heard any of the other parts. A thrill filled Elienne now that she would get to hear it in full. After a few measures of the melody, the second priestess joined in.
The harmony produced a dark, strange sensation inside of Elienne. It was nothing like the painful beauty she was used to. Her turn came third, and she started the song. She focused hard at producing a clean tone when the first notes came out raspy.
The sounds meshed, and her voice cleared. Pain entered the song with her voice, and she saw the others cringe who hadn’t started their part.
They needed to take on the pain. It was essential to the completion of the ritual.
The rest of the parts joined, one by one, and each brought its own emotions to it. The cacophony of the counterpoint almost made Elienne falter. It was hard to focus on her own part when so many strange sounds kept coming at her and making her feel intense sensations: rage, lust, and even joy.
As the song intensified to the point of no return, the blood stain brightened. Elienne feared they had sung all the way to morning, and now the sunlight would burn them before they succeeded.
The light brightened more and more. But it wasn’t the fire of sunlight. It had no heat, just an intense whiteness.
She was blinded by it but kept her focus on the song. A burst of ecstasy exploded in Elienne’s gut, and she couldn’t sing anymore. It didn’t matter, because the song ended, and all that remained was the light.
A note on genre and buying options if you’re curious:
The full novel isn’t quite as fantasy-oriented as it sounds. It fits better under the category of magical realism or slipstream (if you know what that is). Here’s the description:
The world ends each blood moon.
But a faction of priestesses sacrifice themselves to keep it going. What happens when Aceline wants more for her life and decides not to do it?
Wallace has chased his dream of becoming a poet for a lifetime. It leads him toward a mysterious aurora.
Robert just wanted to connect with other humans in a world dictated by screens, algorithms, and addiction.
These three become linked across worlds, and each must uphold their end of a quest to prevent catastrophe at the hands of a tyrant in a land full of necromancy.
It officially releases tomorrow as an e-book. It will be free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers and can be pre-ordered now. Also, the paper version can be ordered now, and you will get the e-book free if you get the hardcopy.
Amazon page here.