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.

Review: The Bloodgate Guardian

From Pearl’s World of Romance:

This was my first taste of Joely Sue Burkhart’s non-contemporary/erotic work and I definitely want to read more of it. I absolutely loved the extensive look into the Mayan world of mythology. It was truly fascinating and worth reading through the few violent scenes. THE BLOODGATE GUARDIAN is suspenseful and brilliantly set up. Romance is not the focus of this book in the first part of the book and that was absolutely okay with me as I was entranced and captivated by mythology, magic and plot. However, this doesn’t mean the chemistry between Ruin and Jade wasn’t impressive. It was definitely there, threaded through everything else going on in a subtle, clever way.

There are definitely some very violent scenes in this book.  Blood Gatherer, a Lord of Death straight from Xibalba, has a terrible dark power.  Ruin’s twin is beyond desperate and will do absolutely anything, kill anyone, to save his woman.  And of course, the Maya did practice blood sacrifice, so naturally it is pretty bloody.  Hopefully the romance between Ruin and Jaid make all the violence more than worth it!

Don’t forget she’s running a giveaway this week, so head on over and comment on her blog for a chance to win some Carina Press gift certificates!

Also, watch for my interview I did with Pearl (edited: link ) — we’ll be giving away a copy of the THE BLOODGATE GUARDIAN!

Thank you so much, Pearl!

The Bloodgate Guardian Review

The first review and it’s a fantastic one!  Soleil at Black Sun Reviews says:

Ruin’s arc is extremely tragic and in overcoming that tragedy, extremely rewarding. I bawled my freakin eyes out over the heartache and suffering he had to go through for his HEA. He literally fought tooth and nail (and blood) for it. (Remember how I said I love sadistic authors? Joely makes those suckers EARN their endings. This usually means I have to keep kleenex close by. You’ve been thoroughly warned.)

Read her entire review here.  Thank you so much, Soleil!

(Don’t forget to enter the giveaway!)

Carina Press is Live!

What a journey this has been!  Carina Press launched today with great books from Carrie Lofty, Shannon Stacey, Megan Hart, and Bonnie Dee, just to name a few.  Take a look, read a few excerpts, and enjoy 20% off any title purchased.

Oh, and The Bloodgate Guardian (releasing June 14th) is available for pre-order at Carina, Amazon, and B&N!

Guest Blogging about Ruin

Leah Braemel was kind enough to host me today where I talk about the hero of The Bloodgate Guardian, Ruin: The Trials and Tribulations of Naming a Hero.  Coming June 14th from Carina Press!

For vacation day 2, Littlest Monster was home again.  She probably could have gone, but it was field day, aka play outside all day, and her ear was still hurting.  Plus she fell asleep in the car on the way home from taking Middle to school, so she just wasn’t feeling the best yet. 

I still managed to work on my plot and had a huge revelation — that totally changes everything I planned to do in this book.  Squee and sigh, because it’s a cool twist, but a pain, because I can’t keep as much of my subplots as I hoped.

I’m still struggling with the romance aspect too.  I’ll continue working on that today on my first “vacation” day with no monsters at home!

Tomorrow, I’m taking a beginning knitting class in the afternoon at a cool new yarn place that opened here in town.  I can’t wait!

Carina Countdown

I’m the featured author today over on the Carina Press blog as we count down to launch!  The first post is up, which describes the premise of the book and where the original idea came from.  Later today, the first chapter will be posted to whet your appetite for June!

Fun facts about the book and me will be posted on Facebook and Twitter today as well.  For example, I ordered coffee from Atitlan, Guatemala because that’s where the bulk of the story is set.

Friday Snippet: The Bloodgate Guardian

Since I’m not writing new material this month and June is not that far away, I decided to start teasing you with snippets of The Bloodgate Guardian, coming this June from Carina Press

You’ve been seeing bits of this story under several different names for quite some time.  The original first draft was my first NaNoWriMo project in 2007, then titled Night Sun Rising.  Over a year went by before I got around to the first round of Revision Xibalba.  I spent a lot of time expanding the book, adding subplots and tons of characters.  However, I kinda went overboard, and ended up cutting those subplots out.  Can you say too many characters? 

Now the story is leaner, tighter, and concentrates only on Jaid and Ruin (yes, he got to keep his name!!).  Ironically, exactly the story I ended up with in 2007, just revised, polished, researched, etc.  Not to worry, though — those subplots I spent so much time on will become the fertile soil for the next book.  *winks*

So, here’s part of the opening scene of The Bloodgate Guardian, Chapter One. 

He never hated his magic until it compelled him to kill.

From the broken shadows of his temple, the priest watched the encroacher attempt to work his doomed magic.  Brilliant ruby pooled in the pocked basin of the altar and overflowed, streaming across the hand-carved stone in vibrant filigree.  The blood glowed like molten rock hot from the earth’s heart, releasing magic into the night.

The once all-powerful priest shuddered, his skin crawling with the caress of power.  His nostrils flared to catch the tantalizing scent of sweet copper.  Such temptation.  He tightened his grip on the starved jaguar pacing within him.  Such power.

The city once known as the Mouth of Creation had kept his secrets for a thousand years.  Now he must kill this man to protect that forbidden knowledge.  Keeping to the shadows, the priest called out, “As Gatekeeper of Chi’Ch’ul, I command you to leave my city or die.”

The man whirled and whipped the bloody heart behind his back.  At least this one’s victim had been a goat and not human.  “Nobody else should know the name of my dig.  Who are you working for?”

The priest stepped into the moonlight, and the other man recoiled.  With the jaguar prowling the cage of his body, he knew all too well the image he made:  eyes gleaming like golden lamps, jaguar spots dotting his arms and blending with the tribal tattoos on his upper body, angular cheekbones and sharp forehead compounded by the stark topknot pulling his hair back from his face.   The man had discovered the city, unburied it stone by stone. He could not help but recognize a priest of what had once been a grand and powerful nation.  “My city has already been destroyed.  Would you destroy the world as well?”

“I have powerful, rich friends,” the man said, backing away slowly.  “Name your price.”

So be it.  Small golden lights began buzzing around the priest and his bones throbbed with magic.  “Nothing you can offer will stay my hand.  As long as I live, these sacred waters shall lie still and silent.  My curse demands your death.  The Gates must remain locked until the Return.”

Ignoring his threats, the man smiled with elation.  “We were right!  I knew it.  After all these years, I finally found the center of the world!”

The balls of light blazed brighter.  A golden swirling wave obliterated his vision.  Bones cracked and twisted.  His scream of pain rumbled bass, a jaguar’s roar piercing the night. 

Tail lashing, the jaguar crouched in a pile of torn denim.  The sharp stink of his prey’s fear burned his nose. It had been a very long time since he’d hunted. The big cat knew his purpose.  He was only called forth to kill.

The foolish man turned toward his modern equipment stationed on the nearby boulder, presenting his back to the jaguar.  “Jaid, don’t come here!  Don’t trust anybody and don’t let the codex out of your hands!  Especially don’t give it to Venus Star!” 

The jaguar growled a threat.  If this person possessed the codex, he must die too.

Whirling, the man ran up the peninsula that extended over Lake Atitlan.  He slung the goat’s heart out over the water and threw his weight off the side, angling toward the beach instead of the lake.  Effortlessly, the jaguar leaped after him.  The man gasped in pain and rolled away, narrowly escaping the slashing claws.

Wet with rain, a sudden gust of wind swept across the shore.  Clouds boiled across the sky to hide the moon and stars.  Thunder rolled through the night and the ground trembled.  Lightning split the sky, winds increasing until the trees thrashed and waves whipped the surface of the lake.

A shape formed in the darkened waters.  Thrashing, bulging outward, a hand rose from the depths.  Water broke, cascading down the sceptered arm, which was white and blotched with spots of age and disease.

The jaguar clamped his ears and tail tight to his body and terror rippled through his fur.  Oh, stupid human fool!  Why had he opened Xibalba, with no wards to lock the demons beyond?

Shuddering with horror, the man whimpered.  “Where are the golden plumes?  The jade feathers?  This isn’t Great Feathered Serpent!”

The jaguar swiped at the man’s abdomen.  Jerking away, the man screamed and fell backward into the lake.  He thrashed helplessly, then sank like a stone through the Gate as a Lord of Death crawled onto the beach with another demon right behind.

Snarling, the jaguar slammed into the first demon, trying to knock it back through the Gate.  Even weak as a newborn babe, it refused to go back to the Place of Fright.  The other Death Lord crawled out of the lake clutching a small hunk of flesh.  Cradling the now-cold heart to its mouth, the demon feasted, while the other sniffed the air.  His gaze turned unerringly to the goat carcass above.

Every drop of blood would give them power.  Power that could destroy the world.