Vote for Ritual Ink at ARe

Voting is now open for the Just One Bite paranormal romance contest at All Romance E-books!  You must be signed in at ARe to vote, but there are TONS of great reads!

Here’s a bit about my contribution, “Ritual Ink”:

Known as “Dirty Deeds” for the dark violence she commits at the Church’s orders, Catherine is a half-demon assassin.  For years, she’s been paired with Father Liam MacRae, who tattoos artistic designs laced with holy water into her skin to help cage her demon.  However, the spells are failing quicker than ever, and Catherine fears the worst.  One of these nights when she goes to the priest for healing, she’ll accidentally unleash her succubus.

On him.

Unbeknownst to her, Liam gave up his oath of chastity when he joined the secret brotherhood.  When violence ceases to keep her hungry demon satisfied, he’s more than eager to feed her passionate side.  If he can overcome her reluctance to commit dirty deeds with a former priest.

Reviews: The Bloodgate Guardian

First up, Sherri Meyer reviews The Bloodgate Guardian on her blog:

Once again, Burkhart blew me away with her attention to detail, research, and amazing characters. She built a fully realized world seeped with Mayan mythos. She doesn’t burden the story with her research but weaves it within the plot seamlessly. A great twist on the “end date” stories out there.

Over on Amazon, Barbara Longley gave it 4 stars!

Joely Sue Burkhart’s Bloodgate Guardian is a must read. Ancient Mayan ruins, portals leading to other worlds, one hot Mayan priest cursed with immortality, and an intelligent, sexy archaeologist determined to rescue her father from Mayan hell. What’s not to love? Bloodgate Guardian is a fast paced, high tension romance set amidst the mythology and legend of the ancient Mayan civilization. Once you start it, you won’t be able to put it down.

Thank you so much, Barbara and Sherri!

Review: The Bloodgate Guardian

Nancy reviews THE BLOODGATE GUARDIAN at My Odd Little World:

This has an edge of your seat tension, and you spend much of the book holding your breath. The secondary characters are mostly demons and are unbelievably evil, but she uses her imagination to bring these beings to chilling reality. Yes, the loves scenes are few in number, but Ms. Burkhart uses her words to best advantage, with passion and touching emotions.

Thank you so much, Nancy!

Don’t forget the Break 20 Giveaway, as well as the two giveaways celebrating HURT ME SO GOOD’s release.

Review: The Bloodgate Guardian

Harry of A Dude reads PNR fame for The Book Smugglers says:

I love that Jaid is vulnerable. I love the fact that she is smart-ass, not kick-ass. She doesn’t do the whole super ninja vixen. No leather pants and favorite blades for this chick. She’s nerdy and the Un-Indiana Jones of the faculty. Brilliant characterization, right there. Pure gold. It makes Jaid stand out from all the other leading females in the genre. I also can honestly say that Jaid’s the strong woman urban fantasy and paranormal romance has been boasting with. She’s not sure she will win and she is mortified to venture, but she does. She falls down and picks herself up, because the situation demands it. That’s what I call bravery and perseverance.

Of course there were a few parts he didn’t like.  Names.  (Oh, you know the drama we already went through over the names, right?)  Shapeshifter.  Yes, the Maya did believe that the most powerful shamans could actually transform into the sacred jaguar.  He also thought it ended too happily.  Considering the version I had originally written [Everybody dies. The end.], I can only smile.

You can read the entire review here.  Thank you, Harry!

Review: The Bloodgate Guardian

From Susi of Book Lovers Inc and the Geeky Bookworm (entire review):

…she knows how to make the couple “perfect”. They aren’t all the same but they are unique in their own way but every time I read one of her books it feels like: Yes, that’s the way they should be. They aren’t without flaws or an easy fit but just never could imagine one of them with a different character. Her couples are more real than most in romance novels- they always speak to my heart and touch me deep inside.

The story building is masterly done and I’m so intrigued by the whole setting that I can’t wait to get book 2 in this series.Highly recommended for everyone who likes a thrilling plot, breathtaking action and touch of romance.

Thank you so much, Susi!

Read Chapter One (pdf) and Chapter Two.  Don’t forget to review or rate The Bloodgate Guardian (or any of my books) by July 31st to win at least two $50 gift certificates!  (Details)

The Bloodgate Guardian is Available!

At Carina Press, Amazon, B&N, All Romance E-Books, and Books-On-Board!

Don’t forget:  if you review or rate The Bloodgate Guardian (or any of my books) before July 31st, send me the link to be entered to win at least two $50 gift certificates!  (Details here)

To celebrate, here’s:

Chapter Two

If men were as easy to decipher as Maya glyphs, then perhaps Jaid would have been able to translate “beware” carved in her boyfriend’s handsome forehead and saved herself the trouble.

      Watching Dr. Geoffrey Malcolm, golden boy of the Mesoamerica Center of the University of Texas, she wanted to march to the podium where he was schmoozing the audience and plant her fist on his perfect aristocratic nose.  He hadn’t cheated on her with another woman.  No, he’d done something much worse:  he’d stolen her research, and then compounded that theft by getting it wrong.

      “As you can see, this glyph speaks of Sky, the three-stoned Hearth,” Geoffrey said in a southern drawl as smooth and rich as a shot of Jack Daniels whiskey.  “The Jaguar God rises toward Sky each day, but then dies each night and paddles his way through the Underworld.  Xibalba is known as the Place of Fright, full of demons called cizins, which derives from ‘fart.’  Evidently, all demons in hell have a gas problem.”

      Jaid rolled her eyes.  Out of all the things he could talk about, he’d chosen farting death gods.   Of course, the chuckling audience loved every minute of it.  An annoying voice in her head that sounded remarkably like her father couldn’t resist pointing out that they hadn’t asked her to speak.

      “Now here’s another important glyph from the creation story.  This one is Tulan Zuyua, which means Seven Caves, Seven Canyons, sometimes also called the Place of Cattail Reeds.  It’s supposedly the place of origin for the Maya, but the location differs widely among the various tribes.  Some people think it refers to Teotihuacan in Mexico; others speculate it’s the Candelaria Caves in Alta Verapaz.  All we really know is it was a wet and swampy place.” 

      He doodled on the transparency, making a shaky but identifiable glyph for the Guatemalan ruin, Utatlan.  “The Maya loved building new cities and calling them some derivative of the Place of Cattail Reeds.  Even Copan has a few symbols that refer to it as the place of creation.”

      Every word drew her step by simmering step down the aisle until he finally noticed her approach.  Instead of guilt that his little impromptu lecture on her stolen research material had been discovered, he smiled to disguise the next poisoned barb.  “In fact, there are so many places of creation that some archaeologists feel compelled to visit them all.”

      Murmurs buzzed excitedly from the audience.  Those who recognized Dr. Jaid Merritt knew her very famous father, Dr. Charles Merritt, who’d spent his entire life tromping through the jungles of Guatemala and highlands of the Yucatan searching for lost Maya secrets. 

      She gave Geoffrey a hard, tight smile.  “Do you care to expand on that commonality, Dr. Malcolm?”

      To hide his discomfort, he upped the wattage of his million-dollar white smile and blinked at her innocently.  “All people have creation stories.  The commonality shows that each Maya city wanted to be the center of the world.”

      Even now, the stark contrast of the exotic dark eyes he’d inherited from his Spanish mother and his shining golden hair caught her attention.  His good looks and charm had baited the hook, but what had pulled her to the shore were the long talks they’d shared about the Maya.  Other couples talked about movies, books, or sports. They’d shared a love for Mesoamerican history.

      Too bad he couldn’t decipher a glyph to save his life.

      “Surely if you understand the creation story and how the Jaguar God travels through day and night, then you know that this glyph–” She took the dry-erase marker out of his hand and corrected his drawing.  A few dots and marks, who would notice if one was missing or out of place?  Only someone who knows what she’s doing! “Seven Caves, Seven Canyons in this situation doesn’t refer to the Place of Cattail Reeds, the place of creation, but to Xibalba.  You’re in hell, Dr. Malcolm, not heaven.”

      Chuckles from the audience made him flush hotly.  “At least I’ve been to the center of the world.”

      Inept he might be, but as her lover, he knew how best to hurt her.  She lowered her voice and leaned closer, keeping a polite smile on her face for the audience.  “If I left anything at your place, I’ll pick it up tomorrow.  Next time, you might want to make accurate copies of my translation so you don’t make such an obvious error.”

      Turning, she sauntered up the aisle, smile firmly in place.  “Who needs to muck around in the jungle with snakes and mosquitoes to translate a glyph when we have computers and digital cameras?  All the prestige, none of the malaria.”

      Laughter and applause followed her out the auditorium, but she wasn’t elated.  She wasn’t even hurt, not really.  She hadn’t convinced herself that she loved Geoffrey, so losing him was no blow to her heart.

      She no longer had a heart, because it’d been sacrificed long ago in a Maya ruin.

      #

      Ignoring the dull twinge in her right knee, Jaid trudged upstairs to her office.  If she hadn’t forgotten the midterm composition books on her desk, then she’d never have returned to campus and learned about Geoffrey’s lecture.  Okay, forgotten wasn’t exactly the right word.  Deliberately avoided was more accurate. 

      The only thing she hated more than grading was lecturing. However, if she wasn’t actively researching a dig for the university, they wanted her to teach.  Publishing research with her father was good, but it wasn’t good enough. 

      “Do you know what the students have started calling you?”  Geoffrey strolled down the hall as relaxed as though he promenaded in the park.  “The Un-Indiana Jones, because you never go on a dig.”

      The name stung but she refused to show any emotion.  None of them knew what she’d gone through on that last dig over twenty years ago.  No tremendous discovery was worth such a terrible price.  “I was called Jaid ‘the Ferret’ Merritt as a kid, too.  I thought you were above such grade-school games.”

      Sighing softly, he nodded.  “We can’t be at each other’s throats and hope to work together.”

      “I’m not at your throat.”  Jaid unlocked her office door.  “I was very polite.  I’ll continue to be polite, no matter how much I want to hit you.”

      She flipped on the light and set her leather carryall on her desk.  Opening the bag, she shifted her current research notes aside to make room for the towering stack of composition books.  This would take her the rest of the night to grade, and at least a glass or two of wine.

      Maybe she’d grade half tonight and half tomorrow.

      Or wait until the weekend and do them all at once.  She heaved a long-suffering sigh.  This might take the whole bottle of wine.

      “I really am sorry, you know.”  Geoffrey propped a shoulder against the door.  Even slouching, he managed to look elegant.  “You’re always doodling glyphs and leaving them lying around.  Even when we’re at dinner you draw on your napkin, or reach into that pack and pull out the latest photograph from your father.  I can’t help but see and be intrigued.  I love the Maya as much as you do.”

      “The Maya are all I know.  Thanks to my father’s research, I was practically born on a dig, so I can’t help living and breathing glyphs.”

      “Do you translate glyphs because you love doing it, or for your father?”

      She shot a glare at Geoffrey.  “Don’t bring him into this.”

      “You translate one new glyph and the first thing you do is send it to him.  Meanwhile, he’s scanning in a dozen more for you to translate.  Don’t you get tired of doing all your work for him?” 

      He stepped closer and reached out to touch her, but she flinched away.  His hand dropped to his side and he actually looked hurt.  The bastard stole her research and he managed to look hurt.

      “I understand the desire to dedicate yourself to a cause in honor of your parents.  You know what happened to my mother.” 

      Biting her lip, she nodded but didn’t meet his gaze.  His mother had been killed at the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City when Geoffrey was just a boy.  His father had never forgiven himself for being away at a dig when the massacre occurred, and he’d refused to ever return to Guatemala, even after the civil war had ended.

      “I honor my mother’s memory, but I don’t study the Maya because she was killed by a corrupt government trying to wipe away the last traces of their indigenous people.  I study the Maya because they fascinate me.  When was the last time you allowed yourself to enjoy what you’re doing, instead of slaving away for your father?  Don’t you see that he’s using you?  If you spent a fraction of your time writing up your own research, you wouldn’t have to teach so much.”

      “He puts my name on all his research findings.”

      “So you’ll settle for always being the famous Dr. Charles Merritt’s daughter, not Dr. Jaid Merritt who singlehandedly translated and documented hundreds of glyphs.  Do you know what a treasure you’ve created in that database?  How easily you could publish your own definitive book on the Maya written word?  And you’re only twenty-seven!  You’d be the most famous epigrapher in the world, and you’ve still got an entire lifetime of research ahead of you.”

      “This isn’t about me.  This is about you stealing my research.”

      “Oh, give me a break, Jaid.  You left one scribbled note at my place, half wadded up and thrown on the floor by the trash can.  I unfolded it, smoothed it, and immediately saw how I could use it.  It was your trash.  You’re too brilliant to waste time on something as insignificant as what I presented tonight and you know it.”

      “Don’t turn this back on me,” she retorted.  “You never loved me at all, did you?  You were merely biding your time to steal something.”

      “I never took anything from you.”  His brow creased and he held his hands palms up.  He certainly appeared to be confused and honest, but she’d been blinded by his smile and charm before.  “I do care for you, but you’re right.  I don’t love you.  How can anyone love you when it’s impossible for you to love anybody back?  But I am worried about you, Jaid.  For the last few months, you’ve been running yourself ragged.  How many times have I helped you catch up on grading this semester?  Or covered your office hours so you could cram in one more translation?  You’re killing yourself to make another great discovery for your father.”

      Jaid picked up her satchel, marched to the door, locked it, and headed for the stairs without a word.

      Following her, Geoffrey said, “At least let me give you a ride home.”

      “It’s not far,” she replied stiffly, refusing to look at him.

      “Jaid, please.  I know it’s only a few blocks, but it’s dark.”  He touched her elbow, and when she didn’t jerk away, he settled his hand more firmly.  “I’ll drive you home and pick up anything I might have left at your house.”

      Ah, her knight in shining armor.  She’d yelled at him, dumped him, yet even now, he insisted on seeing her home safely.  A cold, hard lump swelled in her throat, trying to choke her.  Why did she insist on seeking out every little tarnish and ding in any man’s armor?  She knew why, and so did Geoffrey. 

      Some things a girl never outgrew, let alone forgave, once she finally realized nothing she did would ever win her father’s love.

The Bloodgate Codex Blurb

I’m sure this will change many times before everything’s finalized, but this will give you an idea of what Ruin and Jaid’s book is about.  I might have to have a contest to get help in coming up with a world/series title!

Called “Ruin” because he destroyed his entire civilization, the Gatekeeper is sworn to kill anyone who tampers with the Bloodgates, which are portals to the mystical realms of the Maya gods.  After countless centuries, he believes his curse will end with the current calendar cycle — until humans discover the ruins of his city on the shores of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, and unbury the last copy of a codex detailing his magic. 
 
When Dr. Jaid Merritt’s partial translation of the codex accidentally sends her father to Xibalba through one of these Bloodgates and releases demons from the Maya hell, the “Un-Indiana Jones” is forced to face her fears and travel to Guatemala on her first dig in twenty years. 
 
To save her father, Jaid must survive the Gatekeeper’s wrath and help Ruin reclaim — and relock — the Bloodgates before the bowels of Xibalba empty into our world.

Ruined

Adrian Paul, Clive Owen, and Dwayne Johnson were in my office. 

Okay, okay, it was actually Gregar, Conn, and Ruin.  Gregar and Conn were shooting the bull so loudly that I could barely read my e-mail.  Gregar had challenged Conn to an arse competition–something I would pay a great deal of money to see, actually–but Ruin moped in the chair beside me.
 
He arched that infamous Rock brow at me.  “So?”
 
“I don’t think they like your name.”
 
He blew out his breath in a miserable huff and slumped even further in his chair.  “I told you Ruin was a stupid name.”
 
I rolled my eyes.  Yeah, sure he did (remember?).  “Your real name isn’t much better.”
 
He jerked upright and glared at me.  “What’s wrong with Dwayne?”
 
“Nothing.”  I smiled innocently.  “Your real name is Xbalanque.”

“Bless you,” Gregar called out. 

Ruin flipped him the bird. “What else did they say?”

“That I killed you one too many times.”

He groaned like I was murdering him with my bare hands. “You didn’t give me a happy ending?”

Gregar smirked. “She does enjoy killing us off.”

“Some of you can’t die,” I retorted. “No matter how many times I kill you.”

“A Death Rider never stops, never quits, until his mark is dead.”

“Shut up, bub.”  Ruin growled, flexing his bare chest to draw my attention to the tats marking his arms and throat like the dark spots of a jaguar.  “This isn’t about you.”

Laughing, Gregar bent over and slapped his thighs as though the other man had made a great joke. “It’s always about me.”

Hope may vanish, but can die not;” Conn quoted his favorite poet.  “Truth be veiled, but still it burneth; Love repulsed, – but it returneth.

Ruin leaned forward, gathering himself like a great cat preparing to pounce.  “What the Xibalba does that mean?”

“Win some, lose some,” Conn drawled.

Gregar jerked his hips so the memsha fluttered dangerously high.  “Challenge me, lose them all.”

Shadows thickened about Ruin.  Snarling, he crouched.  His eyes glowed like lamps in the darkest jungle night.  “You do know that I can crack open your chest and remove your heart while it’s still beating, right?”
 
“Bring your blood, bub,” Gregar purred, unsheathing his ivory rahke.
 
Of course, this was all just fun and games for warriors like him and Ruin, but I decided to put an end to the dramatics.  My coffee was getting cold, and Conn couldn’t wait to get back to grading his stack of Freshman essays on dead dudes who write crappy poetry.
 
[Conn glared at me as though he could read my mind.]
 
“Enough, already.  There will be no exploding chests or blood sacrifices, at least not today.  You have your happy ending–I already fixed it–although we may still have to change your name.  Let’s wait and see what the editor says when we get the first round of edits.”
 
The taunts and growls suddenly ceased and three pairs of eyes drilled into me. 
 
Ruin straightened, all thoughts of blood magic forgotten.  “What did you say?”
 
I smiled.  “I got the call from Angela James.  Your paranormal Romance is going to Carina Press!”