Power Dynamics in Allmother Rising

Every world has its own unique power dynamic, and there are a few in my upcoming novel.

There are, of course, the gods. The Allmother created and encompasses everything, even the other god, her son, Aia. Both are powerful, but as the younger god, Aia is less so.

Both have the ability twist the heart of a mortal to their whim. Both can compel mortals to act. Only one chooses to use that ability.

And only one chooses to bestow portions of their power upon mortals to aid them.

The gods exist within a separate plane, one that the Allmother’s followers can visit via a form of astral projection when in need of guidance. But only certain people possess a strong enough connection to do so and see it clearly.

Namely, those of the Vierna lineage. Thus, they became the leaders of Kin. A High Priest and High Priestess lead, governing according to the Allmother’s will. Their child is born to the title Priest/Priestess Rising and is raised to the responsibility of protecting and guiding an entire nation.

The leaders of Jun and Fahn were once able to visit Her realm and perceive it clearly. But Jun fell away from Her, establishing a monarchy and moving into lands where Aia could manipulate them without their knowing. Then, they overran Fahn, sending those peaceful people scattering, transforming them into desperate refugees.

And they all lost their sight of Her.

But how are they connected? And what’s in that other plane of existence?

You know that warm amber light just before sunset or just after sunrise? That exact light fills the plane, and everywhere, there are gleaming silver strands. They reach in every direction, linking glittering silver balls of energy.

The ropes are the connections between people. Family, friendships, partnerships. The energies are the people themselves, their spirits, and their names are emblazoned on them in brilliant blue letters in the Allmother’s language.

The leaders, the original leading families, are directly connected to the Allmother herself. As such, the rope that ties them to their ancestors (and to her) is substantially thicker than those which connect mortals to other mortals. This allows them to better see Her… and to better channel Her powers.

But there’s a problem in Jun.

And I want to include an excerpt from the book to show you. This scene takes place immediately after Veliana and Tyrvahn meet. She asks his name, and he hesitates. Then, this: (Tala is Veliana’s dire wolf, btw.)

~~~

“Tahrn,” he finally answers, but the Allmother’s light dims behind his eyes as he speaks it.

Tala lifts her head, tipping it to the side.

But why would he lie about his name? Whatever the reason, it can’t be good…

“Tahrn,” I repeat, tasting the falsehood. “Do you know the power of a name?”

“Life or death?” The smile vanishes from his face, and he takes another bite of the deer jerky. He studies it closely, unwilling to meet my gaze.

My brows furrow, and I stare at him, wondering at his odd answer.

Is he a wanted man?

Yet again, a strange little shiver dances down my spine, defying all reason.

But… A wanted man beneath the rule of Paikon? That might not be… entirely bad.

“In some cases, I suppose it could be a matter of life or death.” Taking a deep breath, I extoll the true purpose of our names. “Surnames tie the energy of one to those of others. The Allmother laces people together with names. When we Kin are sealed, we inherit each other’s names and are tied to each other’s families. Children inherit blended names. Only the High Seal is an exception.”

A bolt of lightning flashes outside, a mimicry of that which tingled across my skin when our hands brushed.

Stop thinking about it.

Thunder rumbles outside. I wait it out before speaking, giving myself a moment to gather my thoughts.

Glancing at him, I continue, “The Vierna name is always handed down whole, maintaining a perfect connection throughout the Rising line, and a blended surname of all the Sealed forebears accompanies it.”

Under his breath, the stranger says, “Veliana Vierna Alaken.”

I nod, surprised that he knows all three of my names.

“Your kind weigh and measure bonds. The surname which affords them more power is kept, and the other is discarded. Names and power divide your land.”

He finally meets my gaze, and his mouth falls open at my assessment of his country. But he nods, unable to deny it.

Self-conscious about my rambling, I bring myself around to the point, “Given names are different. When a child is named, the Allmother braids their given name into the core of their energy. Denying your given name denies your energy, dimming your connection to the Allmother.”

I watch his chest rise with a sharp breath and tell myself that I’m only measuring his reaction. But even after he exhales, my eyes linger in the hollows of his collarbones, just barely visible, peeking out at the open collar of his shirt.

He nods slowly, and little drops of rainwater fall from his hair. Outside, the rain slows, and the winds die down.

“Now, knowing the power that your name holds, knowing how it hurts your energy to deny it, who are you?”

~~~

Jun chooses which name advances them politically when they’re sealed (married). But in abandoning a surname, the rope connecting them to those others in the Allmother’s realm is severed, cutting them off from others in their community and in an indirect way, from Her.

Which leaves more room for Aia to move into their hearts and control them.


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A Heart of Salt & Silver: Deleted Scene

I promised, and now, it’s time to deliver. When I started to cut things from A Heart of Salt & Silver, I saved them all in a separate document. Some things were made redundant by later scenes. Others were eliminated completely because they no longer fit with character personalities.

This scene still fit with the character’s personality, but Elias was going to have to tell his story to Ness later. Including this scene and his later conversation with Ness would have been repetitive. It also got cut because Astrid and Alva (Elias’ mother and sister, respectively) don’t feature in the rest of the book outside of his thoughts and memories.

But I can show it to you here and give you a glimpse of his personality and my writing style.

***

“Elias, could you bring me your sister’s veil?” my mom calls from her bedroom.

“Of course, Mom,” I answer, grateful for something to do.

She and Alva have been locked in there for nearly two hours already, marking up the necessary adjustments to make Mom’s wedding dress fit Alva. They insisted I be present to see it pinned up, but of course, I’m not allowed in the bloody room until they’re done.

I’ve already tidied up, hauled in everything I could pick from the garden, and split some wood for the fireplace. I even stacked it carefully against the cozy, little house I grew up in.

What else am I supposed to do?

The delicate lace veil rests atop my mother’s writing desk, a dangerous spot considering the bottle of ink nearby. The cork sticks out of the top haphazardly, not at all secure. She never quite closes those things right.

Carefully, I lift my sister’s veil from the desk. I reach for the ink bottle, intending to close it properly, but stop mid-reach. Looking around, I search for a spot to place the creamy lace, but find none.

Oh, well.

I slide the band over my head.

Perhaps I’ll wear the damn thing into the room with them, get a little laugh.

I grab up the ink bottle, close it, and place it back on the desk. A stray drop, slopped over the side of the rim by the messily placed cork, falls on a letter, apparently written just before I arrived.

“Damn it all,” I whisper.

Reaching down to dab away what I can with my sleeve, my eyes notice the words next to the droplet.

“Dearest Everett,” it begins.

My brows furrow in confusion. Why, after all, would she be writing my father a letter? He’s been dead for 25 years, now.

Though prying isn’t normally my style, my hands lift the letter free of the desk, and my eyes roam the page. Not that it clears anything up. What difference is it going to make, telling him about Alva’s wedding?

He can’t exactly come. The Etherrealm doesn’t typically grant day passes.

The door behind me opens, and my mother gives a great chuckle. “I asked you to bring it here, son, not wear it,” she admonishes with another laugh.

Still holding the letter, I turn to face her. Across the small kitchen, I watch her face fall. “Oh, Gods,” she whispers, hand rising to cover her mouth.

My frown deepens. “Why are you writing to Dad?”

Taking a deep breath, my mother falters beneath my gaze. Her eyes fall to the floor, and sadness overtakes her features, pulling her entire face downward. “I forgot I’d put the veil just there,” she whispers, shaking her head.

Exhaling, she puts her hands on her hips, considering. When she finally meets my gaze, her eyes glisten with tears she won’t let fall. “Come in here. I’ve something to tell you.”

Hands falling to my sides, my mother’s letter dangling uselessly in my grip, I follow.

Stunning in cream satin and lace, Alva stares at us, mouth hanging open, as we enter the room. “What’s wrong?” she begs, dark eyes shining with worry. Blonde hair swept up hastily, bits and strands hang loose about her face.

I shrug and hand her the letter, hoping she can make more sense of it than I have.

“What is this?” she asks, looking to our mother.

Pulling in a shuddering breath, she closes her eyes to fortify herself. “Please, sit down.”

We do, pushing fabric aside, and clearing a spot on the bed. The lace of the veil tugs oddly as I sit, catching between my knees and the edge of the bed. Pulling it off, I offer it to Alva.

“Thanks,” she murmurs reflexively. Her fingers worry at the edges of the lace as we wait.

“Your father,” my mother begins, clearly struggling for words. She paces and turns her back to us. One hand on her hip, she dips her head, using her free hand to wipe tears away. “Oh, please, don’t hate me,” she whispers.

My heart clenches. In an instant, I’m on my feet, pulling her into my arms. “Mom, we’re not going to hate you. Just tell us. We’ll be fine. We’re tough.”

Her ribs expand with a massive breath, and I loosen my arms to accommodate her. The long braid which hangs halfway down her back pulls tight under my arms, so I lift it free.

Bending my knees, I stoop to look her in the eyes. One hand on her face, wet with tears, I say, “Mom, really, we won’t hate you.”

Long lashes sparkling with tears, face red from partial breaths, she nods. “Your father isn’t dead.”

The world around me stops, it must, for nothing outside this room exists, nothing beyond my mother’s face and the words still hanging in the air.

Behind me, Alva asks, “What?”

Yet, I still can’t form a coherent thought. My mind is a blur. Confusion and anger fight a vicious battle in my chest for, if he’s alive, where’s he been all this time? Why would he leave us to fend for ourselves? Why would he leave his children, two and three years old? Why would he leave his wife?

“At least,” Astrid goes on, “I assume he isn’t. Killing him is a rather difficult thing.”

Brows knitting themselves together, I find words, finally, “What do you mean?”

“Come, let’s have some tea. I’ll explain everything.” Then, she amends, “Well, I’ll try.”

We venture to the kitchen, and my sister perches gingerly in one of the chairs at the table, not wanting to dislodge any of the pins they’ve put into place in the dress. My mother begins to put on the kettle, but her hands shake.

Grateful for the activity, I offer to take over, pleading with her to sit.

“You’ve got to know that your father… Everett was, I mean, is a good man.”

Clearly.

He only abandoned his family.

I slam the kettle onto the stone counter a little harder than I intend. Trying to still the rage which boils in my blood, I grit my teeth. Pulling some herbs from the cabinet, I pour some into a little cloth pouch and tie it off. The string nearly rips as I tighten it.

Deep breaths.

He must have had a good reason to leave us.

I roll my eyes, thankful my back is to my mother. With everything prepared, I venture to the fireplace, careful to keep my expression neutral so she doesn’t assume I’m mad at her.

Setting the kettle by the fire, I sit on the hearth. Eyes closed and chewing away at the inside of my cheek, my temper flares. Every rough winter, all the times Mom had to work her fingers to the bone stitching away to scrape in enough coin for food, every hardship flickers across my eyelids.

All those birthdays, missed. All those nights, Mom was alone. And for what?

That bastard…

Shaking my head, I tap my fingers on the stone.

“Do you know why he left? What makes you think he’s alive?” Alva says, voice weak and small.

Finally opening my eyes, I see my mother shake her head. Bits of sunlight slip through the windows to glisten on the tears that stain her face. “I don’t know why he left. But he was part of the Pack. They don’t die easily.”

“The Pack?” I ask, incredulous. “Are you serious?”

She nods, and my world collapses around me.

“We lived with them, at first. Then, we had you two. The first full moon after your first birthdays, neither of you showed signs of having inherited it, and werewolf children don’t exactly play like normal children,” she says, words tumbling out now that she’s finally resolved to explain.

“Neither of you would have survived, so we moved here. He went back and forth, staying here most of the time, but he had to be there for every full moon, and a few days before and after them.”

Leaning her head forward into her hands, she goes on, “For a week before he left, he acted so strangely. I think it may have just gotten to him, being so far from his Pack, from his Alphas. I don’t know. There were a few others in the Pack that managed just fine living in town…”

My head spins.

Dad’s a werewolf?

He’s a werewolf, and he’s probably alive?

It just… doesn’t seem right. All this time, he’s been in the forest, just…not showing up for his family?

“You two were used to him disappearing for a week or so at a time, and you were so young,” she pauses, drawing the word out. “But two weeks in, a month in, I didn’t know what to say, anymore. It didn’t look like he was coming back. Eventually, after months of telling you over and again that he’d be back soon, after months of you asking when he’d be back every day, I just told you both that he was gone. I didn’t want you to think badly of him. If it was because of what he was, he couldn’t help it.”

“And if it wasn’t?” I ask.

Beside me, the tea comes to a boil. Mom notices first, rising to her feet and gathering cups from the cabinet. She kneels beside me, pouring tea into the cups. “I don’t know, son.”

“That’s not good enough,” I say. Standing, not bothering with the tea, I rush for the door.

“Where are you going?” my mother asks, concern lacing her words.

“I’m going after him.”

“What?” my mother and sister say in unison.

Alva stands abruptly, pushing her chair back with the motion. It nearly topples over behind her. “You can’t be serious!”

“This isn’t right! We deserve answers. He should BE here,” I say, voice rising with every word. Then, tone softening considerably, “He should be here to see his daughter get married.”

“So you’re going to confront a werewolf? Are you stupid?” Alva asks.

“Sometimes,” I say, placing a hand on the doorknob. “Obviously, this is one of those times.”

“What do you expect? Do you think he’s going to apologize? To offer to be a part of our lives now, after all this time?” Her voice breaks with pain.

Mom sits, hunched over the kettle by the fire with a cup in one hand. Her eyes are tight, and her braid hangs over her shoulder. Mouth working uselessly, she struggles for words.

“I don’t know what he’ll do,” I say. “But I have to try.”

Mom drops the cup, and it shatters against the stone. Pushing herself to her feet, she rushes to me and throws her arms around me. “Please, just let it rest. I’ll send the letter. There’s plenty of time for it to reach him. The wedding isn’t for another three months.”

Her tears stain my shirt, but I know I must go. My bones, my very blood cries out for answers. “I have to see him. I have to know.”

“It’s dangerous, though,” Alva pleads, approaching me slowly. “What if you don’t come back? I can get married without him. I can’t get married without you there.”

“I’ll come back, I promise. I wouldn’t miss your wedding for anything.”

I pull her into my arms, smashing her and Mom to my chest. Their shoulders tuck nicely under my arms. They fit there so comfortably, like they’re a part of me.

But I have to do this.

***

And then, he set off, all by himself with very few provisions. He ran into the Forest of Immortals, intending to cut through to save time on his journey to Tor, the city the Pack calls home.

Only, his trip didn’t quite go to plan. If you’ve read the blurb, you know that he and Ness meet while he’s being chased by a vampire… nowhere near Tor.

If you want to know more, A Heart of Salt & Silver is officially available at all major retailers. You can even ask for it at your local bookstore or library if you want to help support them.

If you want to stay home, chilling in your jammies, click here for the Amazon link.

Don’t forget, I’ll be live on Instagram at 3pm CST for a reading of the first chapter followed immediately by a Q&A session. Follow here to catch the live stream.

And as always…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

A Heart of Salt and Silver: Inspiration and Process

Do you ever struggle to turn your brain off when it’s time to sleep?

Like… it just keeps going, anxious and desperate to pick something apart, and all you want to do is sleep because you have things to do the next day and it’s already so late and it isn’t getting any earlier, except that it sort-of is because now it’s early morning instead of late at night, but that thought doesn’t really help, it only makes you more anxious, which only makes it harder to sleep.

That’s the kind of evening that A Heart of Salt & Silver is born of.

Or rather, a series of those nights.

You see, there’s this little thing that I do on nights like that, a little trick to calm my restless mind.

I curl up and close my eyes. I picture a character, just fabricate them on the spot. Then, I drop them down in the middle of my head and see where they end up. My brain starts scrambling to put together a world for them rather than scrambling to assemble a to-do list for the next three months.

And then, I just watch it play out in my mind, letting that character wander through some random scene, some random event.

And it centers my mind.

Gone are the worries of the day. Banished are the stressors that have yet to hit me, the arguments that I’ve never had and never will have that my brain insists on playing out.

All that remains is that character, that scene, that world.

And I relax.

And eventually, I fall asleep.

If I have several of these terrible nights in a row, or if I have one a few weeks later, and happen to like the person my mind conjured, I’ll pick the scene up where I left off. Because my mind is a bit of a steel trap for these things. I’ll pick up the thread, and follow it wherever it goes until I decide that I like it enough to start actually writing.

And that’s how I got this book.

I imagined Ness, this demi-demon hiding in plain sight, disguised in human form, out in the middle of the forest. I conjured a man being chased into the little meadow she was trying to relax in, crashing through brambles and sprawling across the ground. I pictured the bandits chasing after him, one of them even stabbing him.

Then, Ness unleashed hell.

And I had to write the book.

Now, I don’t plan my books. But of all my books, I knew less about this one when I started writing it than with any others, with the exception of my current WIP.

What I said above is all I had.

I didn’t know why Ness was trying to relax in that meadow or any of the things in her past that she was hiding from. I certainly didn’t know the route her thoughts were travelling or the… act she was about to attempt, laying there thinking about her ex, Nolan. I didn’t know Nolan was werewolf.

I didn’t know that the bandits weren’t bandits, that one was a vampire and the other his pledge, a Nether witch, or why Elias was wandering through a forest chock full of dangerous immortals to begin with.

I just knew that those lives all converged at that one point, and I wanted to figure out why.

So, I started writing.

I got a few chapters in and realized that one of the bandits was a vampire, so I had to go back and adjust the first chapter to reflect that. Then, a few chapters later, I realized that the “bandits” were assholes.

More adjustments in chapter one.

And it just kept going. I found out more about the characters’ internal lives and even the premise for the book in chapter two, or at least part of it. I started pulling at that thread, and quickly realized that I didn’t have the whole plot yet.

About halfway through the first draft, I had an epiphany about the characters, one that solved all the problems I was struggling with at that point. It, quite humbly, stared me in the eyes and demanded an entire rewrite of everything I had, including the complete elimination of a few chapters, one of which I’ll be sharing with you tomorrow.

Things just kept spiraling, and what I thought would be a simple romance novella that just happened to be set in a fantasy world with immortals quickly became a dark and gritty novel with stakes so high that their world could shatter and so many fucking love triangles that it was more like a square with an X inside.

Normally, I hate love triangles, but the story had many demands. They were just one of them.

And it actually ended up being one of my favorite character dynamics in any of my books, because it isn’t just a simple “Oh, no, two hotties are into me, how will I ever choose?” type thing. (Btw, if that’s what you like to read, go for it. It just isn’t my thing.)

These love triangles are rooted in genuine psychological and emotional struggles.

And if you’ve read any of my books, you know that psychological and emotional struggles are always at the heart of every story. They’re my bread and butter. They’re the thing that hooks me.

The ones in this book, though not the darkest I’ve ever written, certainly aren’t light.

But I love the way they turned out.

It’s been such an amazing journey getting this book written and edited and ready for you to read. I sincerely hope you enjoy it.

Release day is tomorrow! Can you believe it? I can’t.

I’ll be posting a deleted scene tomorrow around noon (CST) and going live on Instagram for a reading of the first chapter and a Q&A session. Follow here so you don’t miss it.

Preorders are available here.

And as always…

Keep writing. Keep reading.

Later.