I’m delighted to welcome author Scott Eder back to Thoughts in Progress. He was here some time back as S.E. Holden, but he’s here today following a new direction and will be talking about his latest release, KNIGHT OF FLAME, as well as following your passion.
In addition, Scott is also sharing an excerpt from his book to entice your reading taste buds even more.
Tainted by the very element he's supposed to control, an elemental Knight must overcome a centuries-old tragedy and find the balance to his fire-stoked rage to prevent his clandestine Order's ancient enemy from destroying all life in modern-day Tampa.
Here’s a brief synopsis of KNIGHT OF FLAME, published by Twilight Times Books:
Fire. The most chaotic of the primal elements. When wielded properly by the Knight of Flame, it burns like the sun. Otherwise, it slowly consumes the Knight, burning away his control, driving him towards dark deeds.
Stationed in Tampa, FL, Develor Quinteele, sixth Knight of Flame, waits impatiently for the predicted emergence of the last Gray Lord, his Order's ancient enemy. Hampered by a centuries-old tragedy, Dev knows of only one way to control his elemental power—rage. It broils just below his surface, waiting for the slightest provocation to set it alight.
Anticipating Dev's transition from asset to liability, his commander assigns a young guardian, Wren, to report on Dev's actions. Torn between duty and love, Wren struggles to save her Knight; but, after a brutal attack by the Gray Lord's minions for which Dev is wrongly blamed, he's stripped of his freedom until he regains control.
With the help of his fellow Knights, can Dev regain his balance and unlock his full elemental potential in time to prevent the destruction of all life in Tampa?
Now here’s Scott to talk about ‘Following My Passion.’ Welcome, Scott.
Have you ever wondered why authors write the stories they do? What makes a writer commit the time, brain power, and sliver of their soul to the creation of a particular work? Most authors will answer differently, sighting something in the characters or storyline that piqued their interest. Some might even offer a vague shrug, indicating it was more of a gut-feel type of selection. There might not have been one particular thing that drove them to create, but a cosmic blend of goodness that guided their hands.
We're talking about inspiration here, and what drives the idea selection process. For me, I follow my passion. Story ideas fly at me all the time. Some I jot down into a big ol' file for later development. Others I let slide, not jazzed about the concept. But then there are those big ones, the career changers, the ones that make you stop everything you're doing and consider the possibilities. One of those hit me about three years ago.
For those that have followed Thoughts in Progress for a few years, you may recognize the name S.E Holden. Then again, you may not. It's all good. My small collection of short stories didn't take up much room on readers' To-Be-Read lists. I'd barely gotten started with the promotion machine before that one idea took me someplace new. I left the genre and pen name S.E. Holden behind.
I'm a fantasy guy. Have been since the sixth grade. One book, The Black Cauldron, by Lloyd Alexander, launched my life-long love of the majestic lands of magic and wonder. After that, I never went anywhere without a book in my hand. Between the covers of these epic novels by masters such as Brooks, Eddings, Farland, Salvatore, etc., thrived new and tantalizing worlds. Fantastic creatures out of myth and legend struggled against the oppression of nightmare creatures. Heroes lived up to their honor code, or fell victim to their fatal flaw. Good versus evil. Saving the world. Protecting the innocent. Yeah, I ate all that up. Still do, actually. Throw in a hint of romance, and I'm a fan for life.
So when I started writing seriously about four and half years ago, I expected tales of elves and dwarves hunting deadly fire salamanders, or Conan-esque warriors slicing and dicing a horde of mountain trolls to emerge beneath my fingertips. Instead, I wrote about relationships. And not between a hero and his maiden fair, but between normal folk—a man and a woman, a husband and wife. These normal folk weren't slaying a dragon, but confronting the larger conflicts that arose during a marriage in a modern-day setting. And winning. Did I mention the sex? No? I wrote some pretty steamy sex scenes in there. They don't call the genre Erotic Romance for nothing.
There I was, Mr. Fantasy, writing Erotic Romance. Go figure. My friends didn't understand it, but they enjoyed the stories. Hell, I did too. They were a lot of fun to write, and I learned a lot. As I worked through the publishing process for the erotic romance stories, a new idea emerged. It was a serious departure from what I was currently writing, but one of those pernicious thoughts that keeps you up at night. It wormed its way into my soul, and dug in deep—the initial concepts and character ideas that blossomed into my Knights Elementalis universe.
Once I'd laid the foundation for the contemporary fantasy series, I was done with the other. I thought of nothing else. I ate, slept and dreamed Knights Elementalis. The elemental nature of the characters ignited my passion, and hooked me into their story.
And here we are. I am thrilled to present the first book in the Chronicles of the Knights Elementalis, KNIGHT OF FLAME.
For every author you ask why he or she chose a particular story, you'll get a different answer. For me, it's always the same…I follow the passion.
Scott, thanks for returning to Thoughts and sharing this new adventure with us. If one doesn’t follow their passion, I think they will never truly enjoy what they’re doing.
Now here’s a bit of background on Scott. Since he was a kid, Scott wanted to be an author. Through the years, fantastic tales of nobility and strife, honor and chaos dominated his thoughts. After twenty years mired in the corporate machine, he broke free to bring those stories to life.
Scott lives with his wife and two children on the west coast of Florida.
For more on Scott and his writing, visit his website and blog. You can also connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.
Here’s what some are already saying about KNIGHT OF FLAME:
"In Knight of Flame Scott re-imagines traditional fantasy and forges something new from old metal--a fast-paced thriller that delivers a healthy dose of wonder. As enjoyable as it is engrossing." - David Farland, International Best-Selling Author of The Runelords
"For centuries, the Order of Knights Elementalis has protected the world from the forces of Shadow. ...[Knight of Flame] provides a fresh take on knights and "holy" orders in a tale that provides plenty of action, both magical and physical. The author's characters shine, and he is a rising talent to watch." - Library Journal
KNIGHT OF FLAME is available at these locations: Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Kobo.
Scott is sharing the first chapter excerpt here today, but he has also provided a link to the first five chapters here. Thanks so much for stopping by today. Do you follow your passion in all areas of your life?
Now enjoy KNIGHT OF FLAME ………
Chapter 1Knights don't dance. Develor Quinteele wrung the leather-wrapped steering wheel and swallowed hard. The muted roar of the rented Jag's high-performance engine and smooth-as-silk ride did nothing to dispel his apprehension. Wren could have picked anything, but she chose dancing. He jammed a finger under the rigid collar of his first modern suit and yanked it away from his skin.
Great. Just great.
Dev stretched to adjust the rear-view mirror and ripped the seam of his jacket. Armani stretch wool, my ass. A growl rumbled in his chest and he glared at Wren, but she seemed oblivious to his distress.
"How much farther?" Wren's excitement tumbled out with each word. The sun's last rays reflected off the silver sequins of her micro-dress and sparkled across the car's dark chocolate interior. She shifted position, adjusted her dress, and crossed her legs. Despite her fidgeting, her head remained still, focused on the distant horizon, straining to get her first look at Club Mastodon.
Dev smiled through his growing unease. Though somewhere in her early twenties, Wren reminded him of a small child driving up to the gates of Disney World for the first time. Her usually tense and critical Japanese features were soft, eager and innocent. Seeing her excitement helped steady his nerves…a little.
"Just a few more minutes. You know I'm missing a Three Stooges marathon for this, don't you?"
"Whatevs." Wren brushed him off.
Dev checked his mirrors, vision in constant motion, and raked the hair out of his eyes. The thin, wavy strands felt foreign to his calloused fingers. He couldn't remember the last time he had more than a dark prickly shadow on top of his head, let alone mussed brown locks.
With a careless wave of his hand, he grazed the new bruise over his left eye. Damn, forgot about that. He prodded the tender skin, trying to gauge the size of the purpling evidence. So far, he'd managed to keep his fights at work from Wren. If she found out, he'd never hear the end of it. The last time, she went on and on about him being reckless, and jeopardizing the mission. Thankfully, she hadn't reported the incident to Stillman, his commander. It had been close, though. Cost Dev a night on the town. But it wasn't that big of a sacrifice. He loved her like a little sister, and enjoyed seeing her smile.
Brushing his hair forward, Dev tried to cover the injured area, and hoped for the best.
"This place won't be crowded, will it?" he asked. "You know crowds and I don't mix."
"Mmhm." Wren's arm shot out, pointed ahead and to the right. "There it is." The rest of her words blurred together, "I can't believe you got us on the list. I mean, like, I've never been to a place like this." She turned her sparkling green eyes on Dev. "Do you think a lot of movie stars will be here?"
"Breathe, Wren." Dev took the exit off I-275 south, just in sight of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, and stopped at the traffic light across from the club. When Club Mastodon first opened he'd read about the local business leaders raising an uproar over how quickly the permits, zoning and associated building minutia were pushed through. But, when the club was bank-rolled by Alexander Gray, one of the head honchos at Daegon Gray, the normal red tape-covered bullshit disappeared.
Dev tilted his head as he caught his first glimpse of their destination through a ring of palm trees lining the property.
"Really? That's it?"
Wren didn't respond. Instead, she leaned forward, hands pressed tight against the dash, mouth open wide.
"It's just a big ass tent," Dev said. "I paid 10-K in advance to go to a circus?" His stomach rolled. "Wonderful."
The light changed and he pulled onto the gravel drive. Tires crunched on loose stones as they passed through the trees and drove the half-mile to the front of the club.
"I hate clowns," he murmured, "And elephants. I hate when they make those big bastards do stupid tricks."
Dev queued for the valet behind a sleek Mercedes SLR and waited his turn. The wait gave him a chance to assess the place without being obvious.
People. Damn. So many people, so many potential ways to piss me off.
A large number of the area celebrities milled about in front of the club's huge entrance. Beyond a set of giant wooden doors rose the three tall peaks of the monstrous Club Mastodon tent. Spotlights spaced evenly around the perimeter beamed on the white walls, causing them to glow. A smaller tent hung off the rear of the main, connected via covered walkway.
He couldn't see any exits other than the big main door, not even a window. They really weren't kidding about the whole privacy thing. The club was touted as the place to relax, a soothing oasis where the local aristocracy and visiting celebs could let their guard down and be themselves. In essence, society's elite could make fools of themselves without it showing up on the internet the next day. Absolutely no cameras were allowed, not even cell phones.
"It's not too late." Dev shook his head. "We could always go somewhere else." Please…anywhere else.
"Nope, we're good." Wren sounded distracted. Her gaze darted from one car window to the next. "Hey, isn't that Marcus Albright from the Bucs?"
"You know, the cornerback for the Buccaneers. Ooh, and that's the guy from that new show on AB—."
"Dennis Carlisle." The name rolled off Dev's tongue before she finished the station's call letters.
Wren oohed and ahed over a few other names he'd never heard of. Probably famous athletes or politicians or something, but he played along for her sake.
Movement. Out the window to his left. Dev tracked it out of the corner of his eye. A pair of security guards in black blazers and slacks marched down a row of exotic cars parked in tight lanes. Their heads swiveled every few feet so as not to miss anything.
More movement. Further out this time and a couple rows over. Another pair on patrol. Rent-a-cops didn't move like that. They had to be ex-military.
I bet the bulges in their jackets are compact automatic weapons.
"Geez, they take their security seriously around here." Dev spied more guards near the back tent. "Can you say overkill?"
"What are you babbling about?" Wren asked, flipping him an annoyed glance.
"Nothing…nothing." Dev moved up in line. Rhythmic burps of deep bass rattled the windows and thrummed through the steering wheel. Within seconds, the vein at his temple throbbed in time.
A valet approached the driver's side while another opened the door for Wren. Dev got out and shrugged at the tear in his jacket then met her on the curb.
"I feel naked in this." He whispered, running his hand over his chest and the expensive suit. "Out of my element."
"I feel like a princess." Wren, five-foot three, a smidgen under five-eight in her knee-high boots, twirled. Even with the added height, she only came up to Dev's chin. "Like the boots?" She modeled the right one—slick black leather that laced to the top—turning it enough to flash a red sole. "Louboutin. Got them yesterday."
Dev shrugged. "Nice, I guess. Not very practical."
She slapped his arm. "Dork. Not everything in this world is meant to be practical. I think they're gorgeous. Now, hold still." She straightened his tie and fussed with his hair, exposing his little secret.
Her eyes narrowed. "You've been fighting again." She spun on her spiked-heels, her expression blocked by the swish of her shoulder-length, ebony bob, and wound her way through the throng of socialites and celebrities.
Dev tried to keep pace, but she melted through the crowd toward the entrance. Impressed, he admired her agile dips and whirls as she put years of his hard-core physical training to unconscious use.
On her trail, he moved left and jostled the guy on his right, "Sorry," then bumped the woman on his left. "Excuse me." Anger flared, but he forced a tight smile. The shoulder-to-shoulder press of humanity reminded him of the battlefield. He slid between a pair of athletic-looking young men, but clipped one's shoulder. "Sorry, sorry."
High on alpha-male bravado, the kid tried to shove back, but Dev caught his hand before it made contact. With a deft twist, he bent the young man's wrist back and lifted him onto his toes. Dev leaned in close and bared his teeth. Anger boiled into rage, heating his body and fueling his need to fight.
"I said, pardon me." He spoke so only the impromptu ballerina could hear. Muscles tense, he wanted to yank this punk's arm off and beat him and the rest of the crowd with it, lay waste to everything around him until nothing stood between him and the entrance except Wren.
He straightened, took a loud breath through his nose, and found her off to the side near the entrance. Safe. Arms crossed. Hip cocked. Frown in place.
Crap. He'd lost control in front of her again.
"Today's your lucky day, skippy." After a last, painful wrench on his captive's arm, Dev released him and slogged his way through the crowd to Wren's side. People reacted to his rough passage, cast annoyed glances at his broad back then quickly went back to their own lives.
Every nerve, cell and fiber of Dev's being surged inside him. It didn't take much to get him going anymore. And sitting idle in Tampa for the last two years, due to a nebulous prediction of the Gray Lord's return, was not how an elemental warrior should live.
Daily skirmishes in the shipyard got him by, but he craved more. Primed for combat, he wanted a release. He wanted, no, needed, to fight. But this wasn't the time or the place. He needed to be strong, for Wren. This was her night.
"You promised the fighting would stop." Wren said between clenched teeth. "You stationed yourself at the shipyard to watch for signs of the Gray Lord, not play around. You don't see me getting in fights at the airport, do you?"
"It was just a minor disagreement," he said. "There were eight of them, jumped me behind the scrap metal piles."
A nearby couple turned to stare at Wren. Dev took her arm and pulled her further away from the crowd.
"Look, I screwed up. They usually attack in threes. I didn't see Little Mike hiding in the garbage can. He whacked me with a crowbar." Dev looked away from her accusing stare. "It's no big deal. Won't happen again." That you'll know of.
"But you —"
"Let it go. Please."
Wren opened her mouth as if to say more when her eyes opened wide. "You're hot," she whispered, "Smoking."
Dev wiggled his eyebrows. "Why, thank you, thank you very much. You're looking pretty good yourself."
"That's not what I mean."
Dev caught a whiff of burned hair. His hand shot to the top of his head and found it still covered. As his body cooled, he found the singed stalks of the little hairs on the back of his hands. The shirt cuffs were scorched as well. That was close.
"Maybe this was a mistake." Wren's tentative, quiet voice touched him. "We should go."
"No." Dev stared at his shoes. Black. Leather. Uncomfortable. "No. I'm okay. You deserve this."
Wren's face scrunched as she assessed his attitude. She nodded. "Yeah, I do. Don't screw it up."
She laughed, wrapped her arm around his, "Come on, come on," and pulled him to the entrance.
Up close, the imposing entry reminded Dev of a smaller version of the village gates on Skull Island built to keep out King Kong. A dense collection of palm fronds and exotic, big-leaf plants, surrounded a pair of giant double doors unevenly framed by thick, rough-hewn timbers. The presence of security cameras positioned within the plants did little to deter from the primordial setting.
Dev smiled and waved at the camera tracking his movements.
Another pair of guards, much bigger than those patrolling the parking lot, flanked the entrance. Clad in nothing but loincloths, with long, black hair draped over heavily muscled shoulders and square pecks, they looked like stand-ins from Conan the Barbarian. Both stared straight ahead, boulder-crushing arms rigid at their sides. If it weren't for the slight motion of their immense chests, they could be statues. A low mist crawled around their feet and billowed in front of and under the big doors. Capping off the primitive atmosphere, flames swirled and popped above their heads in a long trench dug out of the lintel.
Blessed fire. Dev focused on the flames. He felt their lure, their potential, and the fire's raw power. A taste. That's all he needed. A quick fix to steady his nerves and help him through the night. With a thought he called to his element, drew it into him. His body tingled. Invisible tendrils of heat trickled into his chest and coalesced into a fireball behind his ribcage. It churned and roiled and intensified.
"Dev." Wren's harsh whisper seemed to come from far away.
That's nice. With another thought, he capped the flow and dispersed the warmth throughout his body. It calmed his spirit, dispelled his rage.
"Dev." An elbow to the ribs punctuated her call.
Awareness rushed in as his wind rushed out. Damn, that girl knows right where to hit a guy. He wheezed, tried to refill his lungs, and ignored the curious stares of the other patrons.
#Alexander Gray stood in front of the floor-to-ceiling penthouse windows and scowled at the world far below. Streetlights bathed the Tampa Bay Times Forum and Channelside shops in a sickly yellow glow. People, ants from this height, scurried through the darkness from one light post to another while a few late drivers braved the downtown Tampa streets.
His dark power surged, burrowing beneath his skin like angry wasps. With a thought he could make the shadows rise up and lay waste to those insignificant specs of life beneath him, but he reluctantly held back.
Out of the flat screen mounted in the corner, a local news anchor droned on about the rash of unexplained disappearances that baffled police.
A small brown bird thumped into the window and fell dazed to the ledge. Stupid birds. Alexander crouched and tapped on the window. He knew neither the sound nor the vibration would penetrate the hurricane-proof glass, but he did it anyway.
"Hey there," he cooed, "Are you okay, little one?"
The bird got to its feet, shook his feathery head and leaned against the glass out of the wind.
"I have something for you." Alexander pressed his index finger against the thick pane and exerted a sliver of his will. A dark ribbon of inky-black energy oozed through the window and wriggled on the outside.
Startled, the bird hopped down the ledge.
"Take it." Alexander's face twitched. "Take it."
It hopped closer, its curious little head bobbing from side to side.
A little peck to taste the darkness.
The bird struck, tore off a hunk of black flesh, and bounced backward.
Alexander stopped the flow, folded his hands between his knees and studied his prey.
Its beak opened once, an unheard chirp of distress lost in the wind, and its chest expanded until hollow bone and skin could no longer contain the pressure. It exploded in a puff of gray-feathered clumps that floated away on the breeze.
Alexander stood, smoothing the imagined wrinkles from his pants, and stared at the human infestation below. If only the rest of you were so easy. A picture came to mind, one in which thousands of people writhed on the ground while their life force drained into the soil, and their skin turned the color of ash. A pleasant notion indeed.
A lightly spoken, "Sir?" accompanied a soft knock at the door. Alexander Gray, Master of Shadow, son of the last Gray Lord Bestok Molan, transformed into Alexander Gray, Regional President of Daegon Gray, philanthropist. Tight features relaxed and he coerced a false smile from his lips.
The intern from the mayor's office minced through the room reeking of Chanel and French fries.
"Yes, Miss White?" Smooth, confident, and charismatic, that's what all the local papers wrote about him. His warm, deep voice put people at ease. "How can I help you, my dear?"
"M-m-m…Mr. Gray, the reporters are st-still waiting, sir." Straight blond hair framed an attractive face. She regarded him with bright-eyed innocence tinged with a delicious helping of fear. "Are you r-r-ready to start the press conference?"
Alexander savored the uncomfortable silence when he did not answer immediately. Fresh. Young. Barely out of college. Dressed in a grown-up's business suit and conservative heels. Even in the dim lighting, he noted the slight tremble in her limbs and her delightful habit of nibbling her lower lip. Mmmm. Her life would taste sweet.
A slight buzz tickled the back of his neck, but he ignored it. Not now.
"Yes, yes. We can start." Alexander walked over, placed his hand on her lower back and escorted her to the door.
The buzz increased to a sustained tingle, urgent, insistent. I do not have time for this.
At the doorway Alexander grabbed the back of his neck as it started to burn. "I am sorry, sweetheart, but I need to make a call first. I will only be a few minutes." He pushed her out and shut the door.
Snarling, he strode to his antique mahogany desk, threw himself into the high-backed leather chair and spun to the portraits on the wall. The largest, an older gentleman in a high-collared black waistcoat and black cravat, hung in the center. Dark brown eyes, small and deep-set, stared out from narrow, emaciated features under a thin fringe of white stringy hair. Brown spots littered his pallid face like dead leaves over old snow.
Alexander took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and tried to calm his murderous thoughts, but the intensity of the pain made it more difficult than usual. He had been told his impatience would get the better of him and he didn't want to let on just how frayed he was. Frustration, anger, anticipation—feelings of any kind were considered flaws, and it would not do to show weakness in front of Bestok Molan.
Emotions masked. Breathing and heartbeat normal. Body still and relaxed. He opened his eyes and met the stare in the portrait.
A gnarled head pushed out from the painting, stretching the canvas into three dimensions while the background colors drained away. Bestok Molan's likeness blinked its black eyes rapidly then jerked from side to side, searching. "You are alone?" A breathy voice, like a harsh and well-articulated hiss, issued from the gaunt visage. "I hear someone."
With the contact established, Alexander's pain dissipated and he stifled a relieved moan. "That is only the television, Father." Calm, flat and deferential. No hint of emotion.
"Television." The Gray Lord spat the word out as if it were a rat hair in his porridge. "The harvest is progressing, no?"
"Good. Good." Thin, dry lips over-enunciated every word. "Tell me."
"The club has been operational for four months and produces two hundred shadow orbs per week."
Bestok Molan's dead eyes flickered, and his upper lip twitched. "That few?"
"If we drain any more of the people's energy, they will feel it. It would not take them long, even as simple-minded as they are, to trace it back to us. With the current harvest setting, they go home feeling weak and tired, which they attribute to a hard night of revelry." He gripped the arms of his chair. "As it is, the stupid sheep have no idea we are sucking out their very life essence."
The head behind the canvas tilted. "So be it."
"Father? I wish to test the orbs on something small."
"But are we sure the death magic works? That the orbs can kill?" It galled Alexander, this asking for permission to do what should be a natural act for any Shadow Lord.
Bestok Molan pushed his bulbous head further into the room, testing the strength of the canvas, and the temperature dropped thirty degrees in less than a heartbeat.
"Do not question me again, boy." An evil grin split the Gray Lord's face. "Or have you forgotten the last time?"
"No, Father." Alexander's words puffed out in a white mist as he flexed the fingers on both hands. The painful memories of that first and only time haunted the dark recesses of his mind. Changing the subject and, hopefully, the homicidal atmosphere, he steered back to the plan. "The orbs will be ready when you need them."
"They had better be." Bestok Molan melded into the painting.
"And when is that?" Alexander knew he was pushing his luck, but could not help himself. The lack of inactivity made him reckless.
"When I am ready." Bestok Molan's head flattened out and the background colors reappeared, but the distant hiss carried one more message before fading, "Wait."
I hate that word.
The portrait was solid again, ugly.
Alexander also hated that picture, and those of his three brothers to either side.
"I am tired of waiting." Alexander got to his feet, strolled back to the window, and clasped his hands behind his back.
Another light knock sounded. His hand rose out of reflex, enwrapped in rippling gray shadow, but he stopped before he blasted the door with a bolt of dark energy. It was a close call. He needed an outlet for his frustration, or he would explode and take out Tampa in a shadowy swirl of death and destruction.
That's what he should be doing, bending the world around him to his will and that of Bestok Molan's.
But the old Gray Lord says, 'Wait.' I have waited centuries for his grand plan to take shape, bounced from one menial post to another. I had hoped this time would be different, but it does not look promising. He preaches that the world must not know of our existence until we are ready to strike. That there is no need to alert the sheep that greater powers exist, for it would give them time to prepare. It is tough enough evading the Knights' constant vigil, let alone the billions of mortals on this world.
Billions. Their numbers are too vast. Time to cull the flock.
The knock sounded again and he turned toward the door with a broad, friendly smile plastered across his face.
"Come in, Miss White."
As the door opened, he swooped to her side and took her hand. "After the press conference, how about we get a drink? I know a little pla—"
Alexander's cell phone rang.
"Excuse me, my dear. I have to take this."