I’m excited to announce that as of this morning, In the Enemy’s Service is available from Amazon.com!  Click here to order the Kindle version of this young adult action/adventure fantasy novel for just $2.99.  You can buy the paperback here for $9.99.  It is also available in other formats such as Nook, Sony Reader, and Kobo here.

Below is the prologue to whet your appetite.  Enjoy!  Please tell your friends!


Anya stared glumly at her plate.  The little half-eaten mound of cabbage seemed to stare back at her, mocking her hunger.  She took her time finishing her final bite of bread with its thin scraping of butter, trying to make it last.

“Can’t we have something else, Father?” she begged, poking at the cabbage with her fork.  “How about dessert?  I could make us a pie.”

From across the table, her older brother Arvalon chuckled scornfully.  “With what?  There’s no fruit in the house, and we’re out of sugar anyway.”

“And we need the last of the flour for tomorrow’s bread,” their father reminded them.  “I’m sorry.  I know you’re hungry, but just finish up your vegetables for now.  I’ll get paid tomorrow when that customer comes to pick up the lanterns he ordered.  Then next week we’re taking another load of tea to Malorn, and if it sells well we’ll be fine for a while.  In the meantime, we just have to tighten our belts a little.  These things happen.”

Anya nibbled at her cabbage, resisting the urge to make a face.  In spite of what her father had said, she couldn’t remember money ever having been this tight before.  Father was a merchant, and although their family wasn’t rich, they had always had what they needed.  But for some reason, everything seemed to have been going wrong with his business this summer.  Customers had inexplicably cancelled orders, suppliers had been out of the items he wanted, goods he had bought in other towns to sell had spoiled or been damaged or stolen along the way.  For weeks now, Father had worn a worried expression nearly all the time, and lately he had been spending every evening poring over the account books in his study.  He hadn’t bought meat for the table in over a fortnight, and supper portions had been growing smaller and smaller.  Now Anya and Arvalon were starting to grow worried too.  What would happen if their family’s bad luck continued?  Father refused to beg from the neighbors, and none of their relatives lived close by.  Surely the three of them wouldn’t actually starve.  Such things didn’t happen to people in real life.  Did they? 

When a knock sounded on the front door, Anya jumped up to answer it.  Customers and business associates often stopped by in the evenings, so perhaps it was good news.  Maybe someone wanted to place an order.

A young boy was waiting on the step.  “Sorry to interrupt your supper,” he apologized when Anya let him into the dining room.  “My father sent me to say he won’t be needing those lanterns after all.” 

The three of them stared at him dismay.  “Why not?” Arvalon demanded.  “We brought them all the way from Wistra.”  Anya knew that her brother had loaded the cart himself, padding the boxes carefully with straw so none of the valuable glass lanterns would break on the way.  Father was training him to be a merchant too, and he took the job seriously.

The boy shrugged.  “Father got some from someone else at a better price.  Thanks anyway.”

When the door had shut behind him, a discouraged silence settled over the family.  Arvalon was the first to break it.  “What are we going to do now?”

Their father sighed.  “Take the lanterns to the market, I suppose.  Maybe Porlim can help me sell at least some of them.”  He pushed back his chair and began pacing back and forth distractedly.  “Why does this keep happening?  I was counting on that sale.  I haven’t even paid for them yet, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to now.”

“Which means we’ll owe interest,” Arvalon grumbled.  “And those Wistran glassmakers never allow returns.”

And what about buying food? Anya wondered.  She knew exactly how much money was left in the savings box Father kept under his bed, because she had borrowed the little key from his desk drawer and checked that morning when he thought she was getting ready for school.  One silver coin and three coppers.  That was all.  She nibbled worriedly on her thumbnail, wondering what they would do when the coins were gone.

Catching sight of her expression, Father stopped pacing.  “Don’t worry, Anya.  And don’t bite your nails.  Look at us, acting as though there’s no hope.  Things will turn out all right.”  He smiled, but it was what Anya had learned to recognize as his just for the children smile.  He wasn’t really feeling cheerful.  “Times are hard right now, but we’ll get through this.”  Father looked around the room.  “Why, we have lots of things in here that we barely use.  If we have to, we’ll just do a little housecleaning and get rid of a few of them.  Someone would probably pay good money for the silver candlestick, for example.”

“But that was Mother’s,” Anya protested.  She had never actually known her mother, who had died ten years ago, when Anya was a baby.  Mother’s special possessions were all they had left of her, and it felt disloyal to think of selling them.  Surely things weren’t that bad yet.

Four coins in the money box.  Yes, perhaps things were that bad.

Father retreated to his study to look over the accounts again, leaving his children to do their evening chores.  Arvalon headed out to the stable to feed their two horses while Anya cleared the table, filled a bucket from the pump out back, and started washing dishes.

“That was the last of the hay,” Arvalon reported grimly, stomping back in and scraping the mud off his shoes.

Anya stared at her brother in alarm.  How did horses tighten their belts?  Maybe they could tighten their saddle girths.

At that moment there was another knock on the door.  She and Arvalon looked at each other, neither eager to answer it this time.  Could someone be bringing them more bad news?

“I’ll get it,” Anya finally volunteered when it didn’t appear that anyone else was going to.  Drying her hands on the dish towel, she crossed the dining room and opened the front door.

A man she had never seen before stood there, holding a flat leather case like the one Father sometimes used for carrying sheets of parchment.  “Good evening,” he greeted her with a smile.  “I’m here to see Karro.  Is he available?”

Anya turned to call her father, but he was already hurrying out of his study toward them.  “Oh.  It’s you.  Well, come in.”  He didn’t sound particularly happy about it, Anya thought, as the stranger wiped his feet on the mat and stepped inside.  Actually, he seemed downright uncomfortable.  Did he owe this man money, perhaps? 

Father ushered the stranger into his study and closed the door behind them.  An instant later the lock clicked, and Anya and Arvalon turned to each other in surprise.  Their father had never locked them out before.  Even important meetings usually took place in the sitting room, with tea or coffee and snacks for all.  Arvalon, who was fifteen and would be a full partner in the business later that year when he finished school, was often invited to join in.  Anya had seldom been interested in their discussions, preferring to practice her sewing or read a book, but Father normally didn’t mind if she sat with them and munched the snacks while she did it.  So why was he locking the door now?

Beside her, Arvalon grinned.  “You want to hear what they’re saying?”


“I know a trick.  I’ll show you.”  Darting into the kitchen, he took two of the wooden cups she had just finished washing from the drain board and handed one to her.  With a conspiratorial wink, he tiptoed to the study and set the mouth of his softly against the closed door, pressing his ear to the cup’s flat base.

Anya watched him doubtfully.  “Are you sure we should be doing this?”

Arvalon frowned and put a finger to his lips.  His expression was already distant as he listened, and Anya’s curiosity got the better of her.  She placed her cup against the door beside his and pressed her ear against it.  To her surprise, she could hear faint but distinct voices from the room beyond.

“So, have you thought over my offer?” the stranger asked.

“Yes,” their father replied, “but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with it.  I want to know more.”

“You know all you need to,” the man assured him.  “I’m prepared to pay you right now if you’re ready to show me what I’ve asked.  And I have eleven potential customers just waiting to be put in touch with you from Mosra, Timenka, Drall, Sazellia, and here in Almar.  Oh, and I know an innkeeper who’s looking to buy a number of glass lanterns to replace the torches he’s been using.  You wouldn’t happen to have any in stock at the moment, would you?”

Anya and Arvalon exchanged surprised glances.  “How do you know about that?” their father demanded, obviously equally surprised.

His guest chuckled.  “I make it my business to know such things.  And speaking of business, are you interested or not?  I have their orders with me now, and I’ll send messages out to each of the eleven first thing in the morning if you’re ready to settle this tonight.”

There was a long silence.  Then their father sighed.  “Three more of my regular customers cancelled their orders this week.  Four, counting the lanterns this evening.  I don’t understand why that’s been happening to me so much lately; I mean, I’m not doing anything different.  I’ve been working as hard as I always have, but everything keeps going wrong, and now the bills are piling up.  I must admit it’s a tempting offer.  But what are you going to do with the information?”

The stranger chuckled again.  “A friend of mine wants to know, that’s all.  What does it matter to you?  A few marks with a pen, and your financial worries are over.  Oh, and if it would make you feel any better, we never had this conversation.”

There was another long silence, and then Anya heard her father say, “Fine.  Let me see it.”  There was a crackly noise, like parchment being spread out, and a few moments later her father sighed again.  “Well, there you go.”

She heard the jingle of coins; rather a lot of coins, from the sound of it.  Were they silver?  Gold?  Surely no one would be paying for something that sounded this important in mere copper.  Anya grinned, imagining steak and mashed potatoes on the menu for next week.  Roast chicken with gravy.  Peach pie.  Apple tarts.  Vanilla pudding.  Lemonade.

“It’s been a pleasure doing business with you,” the stranger announced, and Arvalon jumped aside, dragging Anya with him into the kitchen an instant before the study door opened.  They heard Father escort his guest out of the house before he returned to the study briefly and then to his bedroom.  Putting the money away, Anya guessed.

“What do you suppose Father did to get all that?” Arvalon wondered in a low voice.

Anya couldn’t imagine.  “I don’t know, but who cares?  We’re not poor anymore!”

They both turned around as Father joined them in the kitchen, wearing his just for the children smile once again.  “Who wants to go out to supper?”

“But we just finished supper,” Arvalon pointed out, puzzled.  “Father, who was that man?”

“A new customer who paid in advance,” Father replied dismissively.  “You call what we had supper?  I’m still starving.  Come on, get your coats and we’ll go find ourselves a real meal.  How about that place by the beach that serves grilled shrimp?  On the way over we’ll see if the bakery is still open and pick up something for dessert.”

“Hooray!”  Anya ran for her room, delighted at the prospect of a proper meal and the end of belt-tightening season.  But as she yanked her light summer coat out of the closet, she couldn’t help but wonder why Father didn’t want them to know the details of this arrangement.  He had never been secretive about his work before.

When she returned to the dining room, her father was already waiting, his own coat over his arm.  He didn’t see her coming as he leaned against the doorjamb, staring down at the floor.  There was no question about it, his expression was troubled.  But he looked up quickly as his son and daughter entered the room, and Anya knew the smile he put on was artificial once again as he beamed at them from the doorway.  “Everything is going to be all right now.  Our troubles are over.  Let’s go celebrate!”

Click here for information about Prince of Alasia, the first book in the series.

This is an interview with the merchant Karro, father of the ten-year-old protagonist in my novel In the Enemy’s Service.  For an explanation of why I’m interviewing my characters, take a look at my interview with his daughter Anya.

Glancing at my directions to double check the address, I knock on the front door of the house I’ve been directed to.  It’s a two-story brick building in a middle-class neighborhood in Sazellia, the capital of Malorn. 

At the sound of my knock, the shutters on the front window open a crack as though someone is peeking out.  A moment later there is the sound of a bolt being drawn back, and then the front door opens and Karro stands there, smiling nervously.

“Come in, come in.  Sorry for the delay; I had to be certain who was out there.”  He ushers me in and gestures toward a sofa in the comfortably furnished sitting room.  A fire crackles in the fireplace nearby, and a lamp hangs from the ceiling, but with all the shutters closed, the room is still dim.  “Please, make yourself at home,” Karro urges.  “My son is out at the moment with my brother and his family, so we won’t be interrupted.  Can I get you anything to drink?”

I decline his offer and pull out my notes as he seats himself in an armchair across from me.

1. Do you like your job?  Why or why not?

“Oh, yes.  I wouldn’t want to be anything but a merchant.  I love to travel, and I enjoy making new contacts, striking bargains, picking out the best goods and planning the best places to sell them.  I’ve been training my son Arvalon, who’s nearly ready to join me in the business, and it makes me so proud to see him learning and enjoying it too.”

2. Do you have any friends?  Significant others?

A shadow seems to pass over his face.  “My wife passed away ten years ago.  But my son and daughter are the joy of my life, and we have a large extended family here in Sazellia.  With my business, it’s been easy to make friends almost everywhere.  In fact, I’d say I have friends in a dozen different towns back in Alasia, and nearly as many in Malorn.”

3. What is your idea of success?

Karro smiles.  “Striking a good bargain.  Buying a cartload of goods from someone who’s glad to get it off his hands for that price, then finding just the right people to sell it to somewhere else for just enough profit to make it worth it, while they consider it an amazing bargain and can’t wait to do business with me again.”

4. What do you hate?

He considers this.  “Being cheated into buying damaged or low quality goods, though that doesn’t happen often.  Heavy rain when I’m out on the open road.  Being talked back to by one of my children or nieces or nephews.”

5. What do you do in your spare time?

“I’ve tried to spend as much time as possible with Arvalon and Anya since they lost their mother.  I try to do some of the things she used to do – plan picnics, take them fishing or out to play on the beach in summer or in the snow in winter.  In the evenings the three of us often cook dinner together, and sometimes I’ll read aloud to them afterwards.”  He chuckles ruefully.  “Arvalon thinks he’s getting too old for such things, and I suppose in a way he is, but Anya still enjoys it.  Sometimes I’ll pull one or both of them out of school for a few days if I need a hand on one of my longer business trips.  I really think the life experience and time with their father will do them more good in the long run than sitting in a classroom.”  He sighs.  “I’m glad I brought Arvalon along this time, but I would have brought Anya too if I’d known what was going to happen.  Our family has never been separated for this long before, and I’m not sure how long it will be before we’re together again.”  His expression is worried.

6. What did you have for breakfast? 


“Molian sweetbread and a cup of coffee.”

7. Did you ever have a pet?  Describe it.

“I have two horses, if you can call them pets.  They’re work animals.  My wife liked cats, so we had a few back when she was alive, before Anya was born.  When I was a boy, I kept turtles.”

8. Do you believe in luck? Why?

He hesitates, and I see that his expression has grown uncomfortable.  “I don’t know.  I suppose so.  I mean, I would probably have said no if you’d asked me a year ago, but….”  His voice trails off.  I wait expectantly, and finally, reluctantly, he goes on.  “A few months ago I had what I can only describe as a run of very bad luck in my business.  You know, deals turning sour, customers cancelling orders for no reason I could understand.  Finances got tight, and I was worried.  I couldn’t figure out why everything was going wrong all at once.  I had to make some difficult decisions.”  He fidgets, running his fingers idly along the arm of his chair, and as I watch him, he won’t meet my gaze.  “So, do you have any more questions, or was that all?”

Wondering what it is he isn’t comfortable talking about, I turn back to my list.

9. What is your favorite scent? Why?

Karro seems relieved to be on a safer topic.  “The tang of salt air, perhaps.  I spent most of my childhood here in Malorn where my father is from.  As you may know, Malorn only has a few miles of coastline before the mountains get in the way, and what there is is mostly rocky.  The water is all swampy and silty around the Grenn Delta, so it isn’t exactly an ideal place to enjoy a day at the beach.  But every now and then we’d travel to Alasia to visit my mother’s parents, and they lived close to a beautiful beach, perfect for sandcastles and swimming and all sorts of fun.  Sometimes we’d see dolphins out in the surf, or seals sunning themselves.  That beach was one of the reasons I chose to move to Almar almost as soon as I was grown.”

10. What is the strangest thing you have ever seen?

Karro thinks this over for a while.  “I’ve seen a lot of interesting things in my travels, but strange?”  Then he chuckles.  “Ah, I know.  A few years back I was crossing the Grenn River on the ferry, heading back home to Alasia with a cartload of Malornian coffee.  It’s always a little frightening, standing by the horses on that big flat raft, hoping they don’t spook and capsize the whole thing, while the ferrymen pull you across on their pulley system.  I always try not to look down at the water so close to my feet, but this one time, my attention was caught by a glimpse of something moving.  You may not believe this, but it was a shark – a huge one, too; the biggest I’ve ever seen.  Its dorsal fin cut through the water not three feet away, and the water was so clear I could see its whole body.  It was longer than my cart; longer than the whole raft.  I suppose it was lost, maybe disoriented in the fresh water, trying to find its way back down to the ocean.  Don’t ask me how it managed to get thirty miles upstream from the coast.”  He shakes his head in wonder.  “I think about it every now and then, wonder if it ever did make it home.”

11. What is the most frightening thing that has ever happened to you?

Immediately, Karro grows uncomfortable once again.  His gaze shifts to the floor, the fireplace, the tightly shuttered windows, but he doesn’t look at me.  Finally he licks his lips and starts to speak, pauses, starts again, and stops.  I wait, and finally he tries again.

“I’m sure you know about what happened two weeks ago.  The Malornian army invaded Alasia; rumor has it they’ve killed the royal family and wiped out the Alasian army.  It’s very disturbing, especially since my daughter is over there right now.  She’s staying with my neighbors, who’ve always taken good care of her and Arvalon when I’ve been gone.  But still, I’m worried about her.”  He pauses, and I can tell he’s struggling between the need to get something off his chest and reluctance to speak about it. 

“The thing is, I’m afraid I may be partly to blame for -” he begins, then breaks off abruptly.  Rising to his feet, he begins pacing the room, chewing on his lower lip in distraction.  “I didn’t mean any harm, but -”  He breaks off again, pausing at one of the windows to pull the shutter open just far enough to peer out.  “Anyway, as long as I stay in Malorn, what’s the worst that can happen?  Nothing, of course.  No one’s allowed across the border at the moment, so I know I’m safe.  It’s just that -”  He glances at the door.  “I just have this awful feeling that someone’s going to – but of course that’s silly.  Not with the Malornians in charge over there, and the Alasian government nonexistent now.”  He sighs.  “I love Alasia.  It’s my home, or it was.  I love Malorn too, but I don’t know what possessed Prince Korram to attack a peaceful kingdom the way he did.  And I don’t know what’s going to become of Alasia now, but in the unlikely event that the kingdom ever struggles back to its feet and somehow throws off Malornian control, I don’t think I can ever go back.”  His voice catches for a moment, and he turns away. 

“I don’t dare,” he whispers finally, desperation in his voice.  “But I’ll be safe as long as I stay on this side of the river, right?  Even in peace time, the Alasian authorities would never -”  He breaks off once more, shaking his head with a sigh.  “I’ve got to send for Anya as soon as they start letting people across again,” he tells me finally.  “There’s no future for us in Alasia anymore.”

Click here to read my other character interviews.

Want to meet an Alasian?

With my second novel, In the Enemy’s Service, (hopefully) coming out this spring, I decided to create a series of “interviews” to introduce friends and fans to some of the main characters. Thanks to Tina Morgan at Fictionfactor.com, I discovered the idea of creating imaginary interviews with characters to help develop their personalities. Not all of her questions really apply to some of the characters I plan to interview, but I’m choosing to stick with them anyway. It helps me look deeper inside my characters as I consider how they would answer the odd questions. Never mind whether or not they would actually sit down and have a conversation like this with a stranger – if they did, this is what they would say!

I stop at the table in the palace dining hall where Anya has just finished her lunch. She looks up curiously as I take a seat on the bench across from her. “Hello. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”

She drains the last of her glass of milk and shrugs. “No, but I might get in trouble if Lieutenant Talifus sees me just sitting here after I’m done eating. He’ll tell me to get back to work.”

“I’ve already cleared this with Captain Almanian,” I assure her. “Talifus will leave us alone.”

“All right.” She brushes a lock of brown hair out of her eyes. “What do you want to know?”

I glance down at my list of questions.

1. Do you like your job? Why or why not?

“Here at the palace?” She glances around thoughtfully at the half empty dining hall and the tired and wary workers finishing their lunch. “I guess so. I mean, I’d rather be back at school with my friends, but it’s fun helping Eleya and Tonnis in the clinic. I’m learning a lot about different herbs and how to use them to make medicines. And most people here have been pretty nice to me. But I’m scared of Lieutenant Talifus,” she admits. “He hates me. I’m afraid if he ever catches me doing something wrong, he’ll kill me.”

2. Do you have any friends? Significant others?

Anya frowns. “What are significant others?”

“Boyfriends,” I explain.

She blushes. “I’m only ten! I don’t think Father would let me have a boyfriend even if I wanted to.”

I shrug. “Maybe not, but aren’t there any boys you’re interested in?”

Anya hesitates, fiddles with her fork, not making eye contact. “Well, sort of. But I don’t actually know him. I’ve just heard about him. He sounds like someone I might like, though.”

“Yes?” I encourage her.

“Well, his name is Erik, and he’s Prince Jaymin’s bodyguard. He’s only twelve, like the prince, but people say he can fight better than most grown men. I just think he sounds really impressive. I’d like to meet him.”

“What about friends?” I inquire. “Do you have many friends?”

Anya laughs. “Of course! I have dozens of friends. But most of them go to my school or live in my neighborhood, so I haven’t seen them in the last few weeks. We have lots of fun together, though; or we did. My favorite thing to do with them is make up stories and act them out for our families to watch.” She grins, remembering. “I always get to play the part of the tragic heroine. You know why?”

I shake my head. “Why?”

Anya glances around as if to make sure no one is listening and leans forward conspiratorially. “Because I know how to make myself cry whenever I want. You want to see?”

I chuckle and glance around as well. “Maybe not right now. People might notice and wonder what’s wrong.”

3. What is your idea of success?

Anya considers this. “Finding out something important from Captain Almanian or Regent Rampus, like information I can pass on to the people helping Prince Jaymin. I’d love to be a real heroine and help him return and defeat his enemies.”

4. What do you hate?

“Traitors, like Lieutenant Talifus and Phenniel.” She scowls. “The king and queen are dead because of them.”

5. What do you do in your spare time?

Anya brightens. “I sew! I love sewing. I made the dress I’m wearing; see?” She stands up and pushes the bench back so she can turn in a circle, arms outstretched. I see that her dress is faded and stained near the collar with what looks like blood, but is of a stylish cut and well made.

6. What did you have for breakfast?

“Bread with jam, and scrambled eggs and sausage.” Anya plops back onto the bench again. “The food here is pretty good, but it’s always cold by the time we Alasians get any. We’re not allowed to eat our meals until after the soldiers have finished.”

7. Did you ever have a pet? Describe it.

Anya nods. “We have two horses back at home. My father’s a merchant, you know, and they pull his cart when he takes goods to and from Malorn to sell. It’s fun to ride them.”

8. Do you believe in luck? Why?

“Luck?” Anya frowns, considering. “I don’t think so. I think bad or good things happen because of choices people make. I guess you could call it unlucky for us that the Malornians invaded Alasia, but they made that choice.”

9. What is your favorite scent? Why?

This seems to stump her. “I don’t know. I don’t really care much about how things smell. I’m not really interested in flowers and perfume like some girls.”

10. What is the strangest thing you have ever seen?

“That’s easy.” Anya’s face lights up with excitement. “A blank wall that turned out to have a hidden door that opens on a secret passageway. I can’t tell you where it leads, though. I promised I’d never tell.”

11. What is the most frightening thing that has ever happened to you?

Anya’s expression turns sober. “It was when Lieutenant Talifus dragged me out of my neighbor’s house and forced me to come work here in the palace. I didn’t know where he was taking me at first, or what was going to happen to me. I thought I might be killed.” She stares down at her plate again. “I guess I still might. And I don’t know for sure if I’ll ever see my friends or family again,” she confides in a low voice. “But that’s one reason I’m trying to find out everything I can from the Malornians. If I can help Prince Jaymin defeat them, we’ll all be safe again.”

Click here to read my other character interviews.