Spotlight, Author Interview & Excerpt: Chasing the Darkness, by Cassie Sanchez

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An assassin, obsessed with revenge, undergoes a procedure giving him magic and discovers his life and purpose were built on lies and has to decide which path he’ll choose; the one of vengeance or the one of redemption.

 

By Cassie Sanchez

Romantic Fantasy

Morgan James Publishing

275 pp.

 

 

Pain is inescapable.
Suffering is a choice.
 

Azrael, the Angel of Death, knows pain. The deaths of his mother and sister, as well as his harsh experiences in the Watch Guard at age twelve, have brutally shaped him into the most feared assassin in all of Pandaren. Azrael’s role as a Hunter requires him to search for those with magic, called Spectrals, which he is happy to do. Hunting allows him to pursue his true goal—exacting revenge on the Fire Spectral who altered the course of his life.

Azrael’s obsession with revenge and power leads him to undergo an experimental procedure that gives him magic, but when this procedure has unexpected and dangerous side effects, he becomes a liability to the Hunters and the Watch Guard. Rescued by the people he has sworn to eliminate, Azrael finds himself questioning everything he once believed as years of secrets and lies are exposed. His very nature is challenged as he battles unfamiliar emotions and navigates relationships that contradict the heart of a killer.

Can the Angel of Death have a conscience? Can Azrael?

Chasing the Darkness is an escape to a land of magic, sword fights, and love, with memorable characters who must face the darkness within and journey down a path of destruction or redemption. 

 

 

 

Orilyon Palace, Pandaren

 

Torches flickered and the thump of boots echoed through the hallway as Commander Drexus Zoldac of the Watch Guard strode down the corridor toward the war room, followed by his soldiers. Castle guards and servants flattened themselves against the wall, their expressions a mixture of fear and grief. Hours before, the people of Pandaren had celebrated their victory in the war against the Vastanes. Cheers of celebration, though, became wails of sorrow as the palace and the city of Orilyon crumbled into chaos.

“How did he get in?” Drexus asked.

“We’re still working on that, Commander Zoldac.”

Drexus stopped and slowly turned toward the guard, who glanced up at him and winced. “Work faster,” he warned.

The guard swallowed, nodding.

Drexus continued down the corridor, clenching his jaw, trying to rein in his anger. Two soldiers saluted as he pushed open the heavy wooden doors into a room buzzing with activity. Council members argued near the fireplace and his generals surrounded a large oval table studying a map of Pandaren. They stood to attention, saluting as Drexus approached. Kenneth Brenet, head advisor to the king, sat in a corner holding his head.

One of the council members hurried over. “Is it true? Is King Valeri dead?”

“It’s true,” Drexus said. He ignored the questions yelled at him and walked across the room to put a hand on Kenneth’s bony shoulder. “They need you, now more than ever.”

Kenneth nodded, set his shoulders, and approached the center of the room. Drexus stood at his side, arms crossed.

“Attention, please,” Kenneth said, silencing the room. “As many of you suspect, the king is dead, murdered in his study this evening.”

Murmurs filled the room.

“How?” someone called out.

Kenneth looked up at Drexus, who inhaled, resting his sizable hands on the table as he regarded each council member, noble, and general. “An Air Spectral killed King Valeri.”

Gasps and shouts of anger reverberated off the stone walls.

“I thought the Spectrals were on our side,” one of the council members said.

Drexus fisted his hands. “So did we.”

“What do we know about the Spectrals?” Kenneth asked.

General Charlys stepped forward, her eyes darting to Drexus. “There are two main types of magic, physical and mental. A Spectral with physical magic can either control an element or is an Amp.”

“What are Amps?” one of the nobles asked, nearing the table.

“Amps, or Amplifiers, have unnatural speed and strength,” the general said. “The Mentals are a little trickier, but we’ve determined there are five types: Shields, Healers, Vaulters, Trackers, and Psyches.”

“Psyches?” Kenneth looked from the general to Drexus.

“They can move objects with their minds,” Drexus said.

“How do you have this information?”

“When the Spectrals joined forces with the Watch Guard, I assigned General Charlys to obtain as much information about them as possible, just in case.”

“With that kind of power?” a councilman said. “How are we going to defend ourselves? Naturals can’t fight against magic.”

Drexus’s eye twitched at the whine in the man’s voice. “I’m currently working on something that will neutralize their power. But first, we need strong leadership. I think Kenneth Brenet should rule as steward until the council deems it unnecessary.”

The murmurings grew, and a few council members’ faces turned red.

“What about Queen Valeri?” one of them asked.

Drexus refrained from rolling his eyes. “She’s grieving the loss of her husband, and with her diminished health, we cannot expect her to take the throne.” He sensed a shift in the room as men and women nodded their heads—a shift in his favor. “Who supports Kenneth Brenet becoming steward of Pandaren?”

Hands raised, and Drexus smiled.

Kenneth stared at the men and women surrounding the war table. “This is an honor. I can never measure up to our great king, but I will do my best. And my first act as steward is to put into law that all Spectrals will identify themselves and their powers. We have to know who they are and what they can do.”

The room bristled with fear.

“All in favor?” Drexus said.

The motion passed unanimously.

Kenneth turned to Drexus. “Whatever you’re working on, get it completed as soon as possible. In the meantime, our priority is to defend the kingdom.”

Drexus led Kenneth away from the table. “Do I have your support to do whatever is necessary?” he asked.

The thin man stared up at him with wary eyes and nodded.

Drexus kept his expression blank.
“I’d like permission to create an elite group of soldiers specifically trained to fight the Spectrals.”

“What do you propose?”

“Hunters.” Drexus glanced over his shoulder, savoring the warmth of victory radiating through him. “Lethal assassins who will ensure the Spectrals comply with our new laws.”

The steward held Drexus’s gaze.
“Fortify our army, Drexus. And train your assassins. Create a force that will breed fear by the very mention of their name.”

 

 

 

 

 

Author Interview:

1.What inspired you to write this book? OR Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?

My younger son, Chase, challenged me to write a book since I loved reading so much. As a retired stay-at-home mom with kids going off to college, I questioned my identity and purpose in life. After attending a creative writing class, I fell in love with writing and ferociously started learning the craft. I finally had something that was all mine and got me out of bed in the morning.

How Chasing the Darkness came to be was thanks again to my kids, who were playing a video game. One of the characters grabbed my attention and the creative bug smacked me in the head. I sat down and wrote a scene that became chapter four. From there, the story emerged.

2. What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?
That writing a book is stinking hard. I bought how-to books, joined webinars, took classes, even became a member of a writer’s guild to learn the craft. Even though I’ve read a ton of fiction, knowing how to develop characters, plot, and setting was completely new and more challenging than I had originally thought. Also, I have a love-hate relationship with commas.

3. What surprised you the most in writing it?
I discovered that writing dialogue is my sweet spot. That’s how many of my scenes developed was with characters arguing in my head (sometimes out loud). 😉
I also found that I’m pretty good at writing fighting scenes. Probably because I watch a lot of action movies with my sons. Yep, I’m that mom.

4. If it’s not a spoiler, what does the title mean?
My protagonist is an assassin, your anti-hero type. But to make him more vulnerable, or more human, I had him cherishing each sunrise. In the story, he and his mother would watch the sunrise together and she would say, “here it comes, the light chasing away the darkness.”

5. Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?
Some of my characters have a few of my personality traits. For example, Azrael has some anger management issues and so do I. Another character is a tad snarky, which is also me.
Some character traits were inspired by movies or books, like Dumbledore from Harry Potter or Han Solo from Star Wars. I’m a huge movie fan as well. You just never know when inspiration will strike or from where.

6. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?
Yes. When writing, the themes I kept coming back to were redemption and forgiveness. They are woven throughout the pages of CTD.

7. What is your favorite part of the book?
One of my favorite chapters is chapter 13. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a scene that starts to shift the relationship between Azrael and Kenz.

8. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
I’d say Azrael as he’s a man and I’m a woman. I had to make sure he didn’t react or say things like I necessarily would. Plus, Azrael, as the MC, had to have the most change and growth. I needed that to happen in a realistic way.

9. What are your immediate future plans?
I’m currently working on book 2 as CTD is a trilogy.


Growing up, Cassie Sanchez always wanted superpowers and to be a warrior princess fighting alongside unlikely heroes. Suffice it to say, she lost herself in books, from fantasy to sci-fi to a suspenseful romance. Currently, Cassie lives in the southwest with her husband, Louie, while pestering her two adult men-children. She can usually be found drinking too much coffee while working in her office with her dogs warming her feet. When she isn’t writing about magic and sword fights, she enjoys golf, spending time with friends, or partaking in a satisfying nap.

Her latest book is Chasing the Darkness.

You can visit her website at https://www.cassiesanchez.com/ or connect with her on TwitterFacebook and Goodreads.

 

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Spotlight & Excerpt: Prophecy of the Guardian + Giveaway

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By J.W. Baccaro

Prophecy of the Guardian

Title:
PROPHECY OF THE GUARDIAN
Author: J.W. Baccaro
Publisher: JW Baccaro Publishing
Pages: 481
Genre: Epic Fantasy 

 

“Not darkness, not light, perhaps something in between, and is claimed by the darkness…as theirs. Though being saved by the light, that which is saved must in turn save the world…”

Darshun Luthais has never experienced the Nasharin Frenzy—the unbending will to challenge a stronger opponent, no matter the cost. He doesn’t know what he will transform into, has never bonded with an elemental crystal and has never seen any of the unearthly creatures his father talks about. Even though he’s an infant in Nasharin years, his life consists of nothing but constant training, striving to unlock the sleeping power his so-called accursed race is born with.

But all that changes when he is pursued by a Dream Assassin in the dead of night. What he witnesses will forever change his outlook on life and lead him on a quest only the strongest can complete.

This epic fantasy is action packed, all the way through. Definitely a powerhouse for fantasy lovers. It has plenty of dark magic, tons of bloody battles, and even some seductive tones.

The chosen one faces his destiny with tribulations that at times favor Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad. While reading I also felt it resembled Lord of the Rings especially due to its epic length. I can not stress enough how well detailed the story and characters are. Nothing is ever lost in the pages. The timeline is incredible and every aspect continues to build. Wonderful and fascinating!

It is involving, meeting the chosen one as a baby, watching him grow as a young boy into an adolescent, learning to fight, learning who he is, and learning to love. There are many secrets that unfold and characters to meet along the way. From witches to elves, to gnomes and trolls there is sorcery and magic around every turn. The creatures met along the way are descriptively colorful and incredibly likable. Even the darker ones! Well, there are some gross ones too as I think of it. You’ll see!

As a side note, the author does not hold back in his details of war and how brutal the effects are on the people and the land. He sets his world in a beautiful background, so exquisite and then details the destruction during bloodshed and battle.

I’m usually not into a lot of battle stuff. This series however carried so much with it, more than just a battle book. The action was absolutely a big part of the story and without it, the fantasy would not be the epic level that it is, of course! But, there is also the magical side, the mythical and mysterious wonderment. The creatures are so desirable and they stayed with me as I read the story. The colors of the world are so vivid. And actually the magical aspects are my favorite parts of all.”

~Cynthia Ellen Jones~  A Hippie’s Bookshelf: Reading, Reviewing and Bookish Vibes

 

 

 


Book Excerpt:

 

The clashing of swords began to fade as more and more men fell victim to the army of Asgoth. Outnumbered and outmatched, Asgoth had taken the peaceful city of Zithel by surprise. Human blood now painted the once beautiful infirmary gardens, vineyards, and cemetery orchards. Even the manmade fountain, where the people would cast in gemstones—a different stone for a different wish—now contained the heads of Zithelian fighters. The decapitated heads turned the water crimson as they bobbled within the pool.

Lord Adeleric and his wife remained trapped in the upper chamber of the tower, having no choice but to witness their people slaughtered. Heavy footsteps from outside of the chamber door neared as the enemy stormed up the stairway.

“Rosa, stay behind me!” Adeleric said, stepping in front of her quickly. “Don’t resist them. We may have a chance.”

“Are you sure it’s not our guards?” she asked.

He sighed. “…They’re all dead.”

Suddenly, what could have only been a dozen fists smashing against the door caused Rosa to scream.

“Stay calm,” Adeleric urged. “Let them come.”

The door was breeched and in rushed a horde of lizard-like men, each of them double the height of a common man. They looked around the chamber, seeing no other besides Adeleric and Rosa.

“You can have me,” Adeleric said.

“No!” Rosa begged, clenching his arm.”

He grabbed her hand and squeezed it, trying to reassure her. “You killed my army yet spared our young boys and girls. Spare my wife as well. Let her go and take me. Whatever it is you want of me.”

One of the lizardmen snarled, showing its teeth that dripped with a discolored saliva. It spoke in its own tongue to the others, and they separated. Six lined up against the left wall, the others against the right.


Around the corner and into the doorway stepped a woman. In one hand she held a staff, the other a decapitated head, swinging it back and forth by its matted and bloody hair. She stood at the entrance, smiling.

Adeleric cringed, recognizing the corpse’s face, one of the fallen guardsmen.

“This one especially wanted me to spare you,” the woman said. “His tone was desperate, unlike your other guardsmen. So, I ended his life painlessly.” She released the head. Striking the floor with a loud thump, it rolled off to the side.

The morning sun shined through the chamber window brighter now, illuminating the woman who had yet to move from the entrance. Adeleric got a better look at her. She was not dressed for battle, no protection except maybe her leather
boots.  She wore a long flowing purple dress with a thigh high split. Because of the split, and the way she was standing, her right black boot was exposed and dripping with blood; likely from the decapitated head she had carried. Slowly, she began to walk toward Adeleric and his wife.

“I noticed a working fountain outside,” she said. “Beautifully carved from stone, with an abundant number of gems sitting at the bottom of the pool. I do love gems.”

            “What do you want?” Adeleric said, clenching a fist.

“Your home is the highest point of this mountain. The only source of water flows at the base of this mountain, the Azriel River. So, I ask, where are you receiving your water source?”

“Water has always flowed here, coming from within, spouting upward. We utilize it for drinking and ornamental purposes.”

“Water doesn’t flow upwards, you fool. Not unless affected by another source. You have no such source. No higher elevations, no way to channel it. Unless of course it is by magic. Perhaps this phenomenon is due to Arabeth’s crystal—his water crystal.”

“I am not aware of any such crystal.”

She grinned from ear to ear. “I am, and one of the four resides within this mountain.”

“One of the four?”

“The crystals of power from the first age, lost at the end of the second.”

“I repeat, I… know…nothing!”

She stopped abruptly, now standing an arm’s length from him. Her icy breath and violet gaze caused him to shudder. “Are you lying?”

“…I am not. Do whatever you want with me. Just let my wife go, please.”

She turned to Rosa who had been squeezing Adeleric’s hand. She leaned in closer to her, staring into her fearful eyes.

Rosa turned away, cringing.

She ran a finger across Rosa’s cheek, her long black nail scraping the skin. She stroked her hair, sifting her fingers through the strawberry blonde locks. “So beautiful, you are, dearest Rosa.” Her eyes fixed on Rosa’s jewelry; earrings made from amethyst and spinel necklaces of blue, red, and citrine. “Your husband must feel blessed, to have been given such a woman of splendor. Surely, your deities have been good to you. I too am somewhat of a deity, a goddess. Queen Talvenya is my name—”

“Do not compare yourself to my Rosa!” Adeleric shouted.

Something like a shockwave passed through the room, slightly heating the air, and splitting a section of the wall. The lizardmen kept still. Adeleric noticed sweat dripping from their scaly brows, as if they were afraid.

“Your jewelry, dearest Rosa, give it to me,” Talvenya commanded.

Fearing for his wife, Adeleric stepped in between the two.

Casting a glare, Talvenya reached for his left shoulder. Gripping the cap, a cracking of bone brought a smile to her face, and a scream out of Adeleric’s mouth. Next, she forced him to his knees, pushing down on the fractured shoulder.

“Please stop hurting him!” Rosa begged, quickly removing her earrings and necklaces. She placed the jewelry into Talvenya’s hand. “Keep them. They’re yours.”

“I do love gemstones,” she said, smiling delightfully. She put the necklaces on and then the earrings. “Each one tells a story, just like the four crystals of power you claim to know nothing about.”

“I don’t. Please, leave my Rosa alone,” Adeleric begged.

“You’re awfully fond of your Rosa. It’s quite precious.”

“We grew up together—share everything together.”

She scoffed. “And that makes her special?”

“…Please, I am the one you must deal with. I am the Lord of this land.”

Talvenya pursed her lips. “Lord of what land, this pathetic little mountain top I so easily dominated?” She stepped closer to Rosa.

“Speak with me, I beg of you!”

“Oh, but dear Adeleric, you’ve already stated your ignorance of the crystals,” Talvenya mocked. She slid her hand down Rosa’s chest, pressing her fingers against her left breast and tearing the clothing with her nail.

Rosa quivered, keeping her head aside, avoiding Talvenya’s stare.

Your Rosa…” She smiled. “I’m going to kill her.”

Adeleric rushed at her. Talvenya smacked him across the cheek and he fell to the floor, smashing his face against the granite tile.

“Adeleric!” Rosa cried.

He stood, wiping the blood trickling from his nose. “Queen Talvenya, goddess, deity—whoever you are, don’t do this. I beg of you…”

Ignoring him, Talvenya placed a finger under Rosa’s chin, and lifted to see her face, smiling at those terrified eyes and cascading tears.

“I’ll do anything you command,” Adeleric pleaded. “I’ll search the mountain for you, will not stop until that crystal is in my hands—for you. Only, don’t harm my Rosa.”

She grinned. “Tell your husband to get down on his knees.”

“My knees?” Adeleric asked, before receiving another blow to the face from Talvenya’s open palm. This time, he cried out in pain as his body hit the floor once again, face-down. His cheeks were black and blue, swelled and bleeding, and his chest throbbed because of the hard tile he had crashed onto. For a moment, he could not breathe.

“Stop hurting him!” Rosa shouted.

Talvenya grabbed her by the throat and lifted her off her feet.

Adeleric could hear Rosa gasping for air as her little legs wiggled back and forth. Quickly, he stood. “I’ll do whatever you say, just put her down.”

She released her, and Rosa almost toppled over.

Adeleric rushed over, stretching an arm around her waist to keep his wife steady.

“While you are standing so close to her Adeleric, you should kiss your wife goodbye,” Talvenya said coldly. “It shall be the last time you taste those blush-red lips of hers.”

Adeleric wanted to fight her. He wanted to reach for his sword and separate Talvenya’s head from her body, see if such a cold-hearted creature drew blood. But he knew he would have no chance, especially with several lizardmen gathered around. So, he complied with Talvenya’s suggestion, only he tried imagining the idea as his own. He would kiss her goodbye, passionately, believing he would see her again someday in another world, another realm, where hate and brutality ceased to exist. Reaching for her, he pressed his lips against hers wetting them, messaging them, and inserting his tongue to taste her sweetness.

Her eyes were full of tears and overwhelming passion.

Adeleric wiped the tears as their gazes continued to lock. Then, slowly, he pulled back.
“Do not be afraid, my love. No matter what happens, we will always be together. That I promise you.”

“How touching,” Talvenya commented in a voice cold as ice accompanied by impish laughter. “Now, I command once more, dear Rosa. Tell your husband to get down on his knees.”

She whispered, “Adeler—”

“Speak the words aloud!”

She looked to Talvenya, a submissive gaze accompanied by a sigh of sorrow, then faced her husband once again. “…Adeleric, get down on your knees.”

Adeleric obeyed but tried imagining the command only came from his Rosa—not inspired by this so-called deity queen.

“Tell him you love him.”

“I—I love you,” Rosa cried, “…with all my heart.”

“And with all my heart, I love you,” Adeleric pled.

“Now, extend your hand,” Talvenya commanded.

Rosa obeyed.

“Adeleric, Lord of Zithel, take your wife’s hand.”

Adeleric passed her a glare, and then looked to Rosa. Tears were still cascading down her cheeks. “Do not be afraid, Rosa,” he said, firmly gripping her palm.

“My heart—shall always belong to you,” she answered, lightly rubbing her thumb over his palm, letting him know she was aware of his warm touch, aware he was there by her side, no matter what fate awaited her.

“And I shall carry you in my heart, always and forever.” Adeleric closed his eyes and leaned over to kiss her palm. The warm sensation of her skin disappeared suddenly, replaced by what felt like cold stone. He noticed the same feeling on Rosa’s hand. Opening his eyes, he fell back at what he saw. Rosa, from head to toe had become stone, like someone had carved a figure of her—immaculately.

He turned to look at Talvenya. She was holding her staff high, pointing it at Rosa. She cast the spell.

“Beautiful,” Talvenya said.

Adeleric sat speechless, his eyes still, never blinking. A difficult thing to accept; one moment he held Rosa’s hand, speaking with her, the next, she is a figure of stone. He squeezed her hand, perhaps to see if the hard element was real, and when the reality of it finally sank into his heart, he fell to tears.

Talvenya tapped the statue’s forehead with her finger. It fell back, cracking to pieces as it struck the floor. The severed head rolled toward Adeleric and bumped into his knee, stopping. He looked down on it, the face positioned upward, as if it returned the gaze. A smile sang on her cheeks—the last emotion his Rosa felt, happiness while Adeleric had been holding her hand. Teardrops spilled onto the face as he began to weep bitterly. He meant to pick up the head, perhaps to keep it to remember Rosa’s smile, but even that was taken away from him. A black leather boot stomped onto the head of stone, crumbling the face to pieces, grinding it to bits under the sole.

He peered up to see Talvenya, standing above him, smiling like a demon with a gaze of midnight darkness.

“What was the point of this…? Why did you—you do this?” he asked.

“All enemies are mere insects in my path. I do as I like.”

“That cannot be the reason…”

She stared at him a moment, her face going expressionless. “Why should she
have what was taken away from me? Why should you not feel what I have felt?”

“But I know you not!” he shouted.

“…It matters not.”

“Then kill me—kill me too!”

“In time, I promise to.”

 

 

 

 

 

J.W. Baccaro is the author of Prophecy of the Guardian, The Coming of the Light and Blood Dreams. Always a lover of creativity, from works of literature to writing music with his electric guitar; even baking and cooking. When not working on his next story or lost in a good book, J.W. enjoys kicking back with a couple of tasty craft beers and binging on Kaiju movies, 80’s action flicks, Japanese animation and slasher films (particularly the one involving a hockey mask). Heck, he even enjoys a good romantic comedy. Feel free to email him at jwbaccaro@yahoo.com. He lives in upstate NY with his wife Melissa, his son Alexander, his German Shepherd and his three cats.

J.W. Baccaro is giving away a set of paperbacks – Prophecy of the Guardian, The Coming of the Light and Blood Dreams!

Terms & Conditions:

  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive the set of books
  • This giveaway ends midnight July 30.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on August 1.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

 

 

 

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