Blurb for Thief:
Happily Ever After Doesn’t Come Without a Price
In the crumbling city of Eloria, there are two indisputable facts. First, everyone has a dream. Secret, seemingly unattainable, altogether irresistible, it is the kind of dream that aches and, at times, burns. For most, it will forever remain a teasing enigma, but there are those for whom dreams grow into obsession. Which brings us to the second indisputable fact: everyone has a price. Protestations of morality have little meaning when confronted with the all-consuming passion of the soul. Better judgment is pushed aside for the chance to obtain the unobtainable. The only question remaining is just how much a person is willing to sacrifice in order to get what they want.
Sevy has always been a quick study in the wicked ways of Eloria. Since childhood, she has eked out a living for herself with the help of her sticky fingers and her indomitable spirit. She has no qualms about taking what she desires, and when the unrequited love of her life is mysteriously murdered, Sevy will stop at nothing to get him back. Elvish black magic, necromancy and demonic pacts are of little consequence if it means she can once again have her beloved at her side. But is she willing to murder her only friend to get the job done? Is there a line that even this selfish, self-proclaimed bitch is not prepared to cross?
EXCERPT FOR THIEF:
The air was heavy with leaf-sweetened water. It was refreshing, but sat a tad uncomfortably in his lungs. As the forest shook off the languor of the night’s rainfall, it quivered with life, from the ambitious line of ants who had mistaken his boot for a tree stump, to the quail he had unintentionally driven to near hysterics by his presence so close to her nest.
“Would you hurry up?” he called over to a thicket.
“I’m trying,” came the grumbled reply. “I can’t get it to look right.”
“Then come out and let me see.”
Much longer and he would have pushed into the plants and pulled her out, decent or not, but a half-minute later Sevy emerged amidst a bevy of curses, clad in a blue dress with a matching handkerchief over her hair. There was a large protuberance around her stomach, so contorted that it appeared as though she were smuggling a sack of potatoes. “How does it look? Real?”
“If your baby is a two-headed aberration, then yeah, it looks perfect.”
She paused her struggles with the bulge long enough to shoot him an evil look. “I told you I couldn’t get it right. You could try helping, you know.”
“Don’t get crabby. This was your idea, remember?”
She tossed her head and punched her gut in frustration, looking more like she was attempting feticide than donning a disguise. In the end, it took their combined fussing and prodding, and a great deal more swearing, before the bundle of cloth tied round her waist took the proper shape.
“There,” Jarro announced at length. “I think that’s better.”
“How do I look?”
“I hope they buy it.” The crinkle of her nose as she inspected herself suggested that she wasn’t impressed. “I guess so long as they don’t try to touch it, it’ll pass.”
Jarro had to turn his head to hide his smile. It was just like her to make things more complicated than they needed to be. The objective: to steal a religious artifact from The Pious Progeny of Eewerel, a shrine devoted to the god of birth. It was a simple enough heist until one factored in Sevy’s flair for the dramatic, hence the ridiculous pretense. She wanted to investigate the shrine’s defenses beforehand and decided that they would arouse the least amount of suspicion if they visited as expectant parents. Too much time spent alone with her over active imagination, Jarro concluded, but he loved the excited glimmer that would come to her eyes as she laid out her plans so he always went along with them if only to make her happy.
He fondly remembered the first time she had been in charge of a job. Their client, a well-regarded member of Eloria’s elite with an unfortunate weakness for dog racing and dwarvish hookers, had been willing to pay greatly for the retrieval of certain damning documents as they made their way by caravan to his business partner’s house in Allerough. Sevy had begged and pestered for the chance to call the shots during the theft. He was reluctant at first so she turned to sulking. He gave in when she got violent and spent the better part of the day either punching his arm or pinching the back of his neck. In her wisdom, Sevy determined that their best bet to get the documents was to travel with the caravan masquerading as Judian and Wilsa Osafagrun, a newly-wed couple on honeymoon. She made up an elaborate but completely useless back story that she insisted he memorize. And she had even used an accent, so affected and unnatural that he cracked up every time she spoke. They had nearly been exposed when Jarro accidentally referred to her by her real name, but in the end they got the papers, their reward, and even a few free congratulatory meals in the interim.
At least this time there were no pseudonyms or lines to rehearse. Just one pitiful excuse for a pregnant belly. Sevy was lucky Revik wasn’t here to rip into her, though Jarro would make sure to fill him in on all the details once they got back to the city.
“Are you ready?” he asked, taking her hand.
A quick hike through the forest led them to the village. If it could be called a village. There were barely ten buildings, very simple, very tiny, and most were made entirely out of straw and twigs. More like mounds of kindling, they certainly were not the sturdiest houses he had ever seen. In fact, a number of roofs had buckled from the weight of the night’s rain, and what villagers could be seen were standing forlornly around the sodden ruins discussing in low voices how to go about repairs. It was absolutely depressing. He couldn’t imagine this place having anything worth stealing.
A gaggle of dirty children found Sevy and Jarro more interesting than their parents did and trailed behind for a while, no doubt hoping for money or scraps of food. Jarro heard the disdain in Sevy’s sigh when he threw a few coins to them, but how could he not? They were only children after all.
The path sloped upwards to the top of a hill, upon which stood The Pious Progeny. In stark contrast to the rest of the village, its bloated pomposity was more of a shrine to excess than it was to Eewerel. Large and carefully crafted from beautiful planks of yellow pine, the shrine made it all too obvious where the money round here was spent. The decorative shrubs forming a lane to the front entrance and the blossoming trees surrounding it were not native to this part of Axlun, and their daily upkeep must have cost a week’s wages. Jarro had his doubts that Eewerel would want his parishioners to live in such squalor for the sake of one shrine, but who was he to say? He had left religion behind in childhood.
It was show time. At the doorway, they shared a smile of encouragement before Jarro rapped the hefty ornate iron knocker twice. He heard the grating of metal as a lock was undone and an elderly, bearded man in a long green robe appeared. “Welcome, my children. What can I do for you?”
Jarro stepped forward as Sevy bowed her head and placed a hand protectively across her belly. “My wife is expecting soon. She wishes to kneel before Eewerel.”
“Of course,” the monk responded, his voice dripping with manufactured compassion. “Eewerel will hear your prayers, daughter. Your child shall grow strong and healthy in His love.”
“Thank you,” Sevy whispered, bowing her head even lower, a veritable picture of diffidence and innocence. Jarro had to give her credit. She always was a good little actress. She could fool just about anyone, himself included, when she wanted to. She even managed to replicate the waddling walk of pregnancy as the monk ushered them down an aisle.
They passed other worshippers who were attempting to pray while also trying to control their squirming, impatient children as they followed the monk to the altar, upon which resided a bulky, marble effigy of a man with the head of a rabbit. Its hands were outstretched to give an air of empathy, but Jarro thought, stifling an immature snigger, that they just served to draw attention to the god’s exaggerated manhood. Sort of a ‘Hey, welcome to my shrine and, oh yeah, have you noticed my penis?’ pose. Maybe Eewerel was an exhibitionist, like those pathetic men in Eloria who got their kicks from flashing strangers. He wondered if Sevy was thinking along equally sacrilegious lines, but no, she was so completely immersed in her role that she appeared unmindful of the holy protuberance. Using Jarro’s arm for support, she made a convincing production kneeling down before the statue.
The monk beamed at them. “I’m sure you will find comfort here. Eewerel does look kindly on those who pay proper homage.”
He cleared his throat and held out his hand. Jarro scoffed, not about to give a single piece of copper to this con until Sevy reached back and pinched his leg. Reluctantly, he placed a few coins into the monk’s outstretched palm. With a cagey smile, the monk pocketed the coins and walked away.
“Damn highway robbery!” Jarro complained under his breath.
“We’ll get it back, don’t worry. Once we grab that.” She nodded to the statue before her.
He couldn’t resist. “I guess size really does matter then?”
“Ha!” The sound of his outburst resonated through the otherwise hushed shrine and Sevy pinched his leg again. “Ow. Quit it. Anyway, how are we going to get this thing out of here?”
“Not the whole thing. Just the crystal.”
He examined Eewerel and saw that set in the god’s forehead was a very large, round crystal. “How’s it fastened in there?”
“Don’t know. Just mortar, I think. Probably should be able to pry it out with a knife. And look up there. The birds.”
As if he were directing his prayers to the heavens, he tipped back his head and saw song birds darting high above them. The very top of the walls were lined with stained glass windows detailing Eewerel’s various miracles in jewel-toned brilliance—breathing life into a stillborn, returning vitality to a line of dejected looking men, placing a fetus into a barren woman’s womb. One of the windows had been smashed and the birds were flying in and out up to the rafters, accompanied by blossoms that wafted in on the breeze and floated lazily about the shrine.
The monk strode past again, making his rounds, no doubt hoping to collect enough to repair the damage to the window plus a little something extra for himself. Jarro flicked another coin to send him on his way. They waited until he was out of earshot.
“Pretty straight forward, don’t you think?” he whispered. “We can climb up one of the trees and get in from there.”
“I don’t see any guards, do you?”
“No. It’s a minor shrine. Far from the main roads. I don’t think they’ll have many, but they must have some. That village is so poor, I’d imagine break-ins are pretty much a given.”
She nodded in agreement. “We’ll wait until after dark. I’ll go in while you keep watch. Shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.”
They were still marveling at the lack of security when they returned late that night. Not counting the crystal, he had seen golden chalices, candlesticks inlaid with jewels, tapestries threaded with veins of silver. Even the windows themselves would be worth something. Either the townsfolk were among the most devout in the kingdom or they knew something that Sevy and Jarro did not.
Sevy pointed for him to circle one side while she took the other. There was no light from within the shrine, no voices or footsteps. He couldn’t believe their luck. They met again at the front, shaking their heads to indicate that they hadn’t seen anything, and then they snuck over to the broken window where he lifted her up to the lowest limb of the nearest tree. Like a nimble squirrel, she climbed to the level of the window. He balked when she jumped from the branch, but she made it, catching the sill with both hands. She pulled herself up, climbed over the sill, and gave him a saucy wink before she dropped inside.
There was nothing for him to do but stand beneath the window, waiting, watching for any sign of trouble. A gentle wind picked up and blew blossoms into his face, their smell sickeningly sweet. Five minutes passed. He grew impatient.
Suddenly, the wind gusted, rattling the stained glass windows. The trees groaned in protest as they were pushed by the gale, a groan that was mimicked by something within the shrine.
“Jarro!” he heard Sevy call. She sounded calm, but there was an odd tone in her voice that made his stomach lurch.
He climbed the tree faster than he thought possible, though with none of the grace Sevy had displayed, and jumped over to the window. Straddling the sill, he peered inside, batting away the blossoms that poured in with the wind. Sevy had scaled the statue of Eewerel and was holding onto its head with one hand while the other held her dagger, her excavation interrupted.
Jarro followed her gaze to a tiny whirlwind dancing between the pews. Blossoms and pages from prayer books were caught in it, and he watched in stunned silence as the whirlwind appeared to pulsate and grow.
“What do you think it is?” she asked.
“No idea. So hurry it up.”
“Just a second.” She wrenched her eyes away, turned back to the statue, and continued to dig the crystal out.
“Sevy, I think we should go.”
“Almost got it!”
A second later the crystal popped into her hand, echoed by a loud cracking noise. The whirlwind swelled, absorbing nearly half the room, and then without warning it drilled into the floor. The shrine trembled and Sevy had to cling to the statue to keep from falling off. The ceramic floor tiles snapped upwards, revealing that the ground underneath had cleaved in two.
The shrine shook so hard that Jarro was thrown from his perch on the window ledge. He fell inside, landing face first onto the floor. He moaned and cradled his nose, feeling warm blood ooze out over his fingers.
Sevy startled him by suddenly appearing at his side. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah. Let’s just get out of here.”
The split in the floor had doubled in size and continued to grow. He couldn’t say how deep it had gone and didn’t care to find out. Using his body as a shield, he pressed Sevy to the wall and they inched towards the exit.
Another tremor, this time accompanied by a long, low rumble, knocked them off their feet. The force of it kept them pinned to the ground, unable to move, until just as suddenly as it started, the quaking stopped.
He heard something coming from deep within the earth. He heard what sounded like claws digging against rock and dirt. It grew louder. Raising his head, Jarro peered under the rows of pews. Something was crawling out of the fissure.
Sevy swore. She had seen it too, and whatever it was, it was gigantic. It stood on four squat legs as thick as tree trunks, splayed out like a lizard’s. The body was fat and distended and covered in scaly armor of glinting gold. A spike-lined tail lashed about angrily, bashing into the pews, tossing them aside as effortlessly as if they were twigs. Jarro looked up, following the line of the neck to a broad head, a pointed snout, four sets of horns, and a pair of cold, black eyes.
When it spotted them as they lay huddled together on the floor, the beast snarled, drawing back its lips to reveal a mouth jammed with dripping fangs. Sevy was the first to jump up and pull out her sword. Jarro did the same not a second later.
“What the hell is that?” she cried.
He didn’t answer. The shrine did have a guard after all.
Jarro put his free hand on Sevy’s back and pushed her towards the door. The beast roared and moved to block their escape. It spun around, whipping its tail at them. They darted out of the way and the spikes crashed into the wall, splintering the wood. With a yell, Sevy leapt towards the beast and cut it across one of its back legs. It turned on her in a rage of snapping jaws.
Despite its massive girth, the creature moved surprisingly fast. Sevy jumped back and forth, thrusting her blade at the thing whenever she could, but had yet to land another blow. While its attention was on her, Jarro rushed forward and impaled the beast deep in its side. It bellowed and swung its tail. One of the spikes caught him in the arm. He was lifted bodily and thrown against the wall.
“Jarro!” he heard Sevy scream.
He felt faint as the pain set in, but there was no time to rest. He clambered to his feet, barely managing to avoid another blow.
The beast howled again. Sevy straddled it, stabbing its back repeatedly, but regardless of how many times she pierced it, it would not falter. It spun around in a frenzy, rearing up into the air, and finally flung her against the marble Eewerel where she lay stunned. Then it moved to bite her.
Jarro’s sword was still lodged in the beast’s side. He had no other weapons, but couldn’t just stand there and let Sevy be mauled. He threw himself between her and the beast, and grabbed hold of its lower set of horns. It snapped its jaws furiously and shook its head from side to side, and he was again lifted off his feet.
Thankfully, Sevy came to and scrambled out of harm’s way. Then a new problem faced him. There was no way he could move fast enough to avoid those teeth once he let go of the horns. It was a standoff, and with the blood and sweat coating his hands he was sure to lose his grip. And soon. Terrified, his eyes locked with the beast’s. Was it just his imagination or did the thing appear to smile at him when it too realized his error?
Above the din made by the beast, he heard a grating noise, rock crunching against rock. Sevy’s voice came out of nowhere. “Jarro, move!”
He took the chance and let go off the horns, diving to the side just as Eewerel came smashing down.
Viscous lumps of blood squirted across the room as the creature’s head exploded under the weight of the statue. It was all over so quickly, it took Jarro a moment to grasp what had happened. There was no question. The creature was dead. Jarro spat out a chunk of something nauseating, brain matter perhaps, as it ran down the side of his face into his mouth. Panting and clutching his injured arm, he collapsed onto one of the remaining pews.
“Hah!” Sevy yelled in triumph. She scrabbled atop the fallen statue, jumping up and down on it to squish it further into the gory mess. “I think it’s dead,” she said as she kicked through the muck to retrieve their swords. “What was it anyway?”
She looked up, noticing his wound. “Are you all right?”
The wind suddenly screamed through the shrine again and another infant whirlwind appeared. Without another word, they both bolted towards the entrance, threw open the door, and raced out into the night.
When I tell people that I primarily write fantasy, I nearly always get a slight sneer or knowing roll of the eyes. Either that or I’m faced with trying to tactfully answer the “You mean like Harry Potter/Twilight/Lord of the Rings?” for the thousandth time.
Both reactions come from the same limited perception of what the fantasy genre actually represents. The average, non-fantasy reader has no clue that “fantasy” is an umbrella term that covers many different sub-genres , and that those sub-genres themselves are comprised of sub-sub-genres (Side note: Is sub-sub-genre even a term? It is now).
And this is why I love writing fantasy. It can be anything I want it to be. It can be romantic or scary, historical or contemporary. It can feature classic tropes or create entirely new standards. It can be all of the above and so much more. The only limit is the writer’s imagination.
As a avid reader since I was in kindergarten (yeah, I was one of those kids), I gravitated towards the fantastical because, you know what, it’s just so much more FUN than real life. I mean, no offense, but who wanted to be an accountant when they were five? Anyone? Bueller?
No. We wanted to be princesses and pirates and cowboys and wizards and superheroes. We all had the expectation that when we grew up, life was going to be one awesome adventure. And as we grew up, reality sort of snuck up on us and instead of chasing dragons out of our castles, we’re struggling to meet our mortgage payments.
So why do I write fantasy? Because I want that same giddy thrill I used to get clothes-pinning a towel around my neck and strutting around my back yard. I want the excitement that my 9-5 day job can’t provide. I want fun. I was mystery. I want an escape.
And more than anything, I want to share this with my readers. When someone picks up one of my books, I want them to be so utterly wrapped up in my make-believe worlds that they temporarily forget their worries. I still want to be a wizard and I want my readers to get caught up in my spell.
So roll your eyes and think I’m a D&D geek if you’d like. Assume that I’m only trying to capitalize on current money-making fantasy series if you need to. I’ll continue to weave magic into words and have a hell of a lot of fun while I’m doing it.
Blurb for Shades of War:
There is More Than One Road to Redemption
Sometimes the past can’t be forgotten. Sometimes the truth refuses to be buried. And sometimes the dead won’t stay dead.
It began as a simple request: Journey to the Northern Jungles and bring a wayward son back to the safety of his farm and family before the racial tension that is building between humans and dark elves erupts into civil war. But life is never simple for Sevy, and she soon finds herself entangled in a bloody battle of good versus evil, love versus hate.
Old friends and enemies reunite, familial bonds are broken, and loyalty is tested. And in the midst of the steamy, sultry jungles, the ghosts of a serial killer’s victims come out to play. Sevy, as petulant and irascible as ever, must overcome her personal demons in order to expose a madman and bring peace back to the kingdom. But just how much of her sanity must she sacrifice to help her friends? And how can she save anyone when she can’t even save her own soul?
Blurb for Masquerade:
Never Trust a Liar, especially when they’re telling the truth.
Starting over isn’t easy, especially when the world isn’t ready for you to change. Sevy, thief turned assassin turned mercenary, isn’t having any fun adjusting to a normal, law-abiding life. Luckily for her, an old partner in crime arrives with an irresistible proposition: a getaway to a tropical island, an adventure of a lifetime, and an amazing friendship ready to blossom into an even more amazing romance.
Things are looking up for Sevy. That is, until a pack of maniacal fairies with a taste for human flesh arrive on the scene.
Now she must unravel a web of magical intrigue hidden behind the outwardly idyllic atmosphere of the islands of Belakarta. Nothing is as it seems, and no one can be trusted. Trapped under the spell of a handsome and mysterious stranger, Sevy must fight fairies and tricksters to regain her freedom.
Or spend an eternity as a sorcerer’s plaything.
Sarah-Jane Lehoux has always had a passion for storytelling. From grade school tales of cannibalistic ghosts, to teenaged conversations with God, to her rebellion against adulthood with fantasy kingdoms and fairy magic, she has attempted to share her love of the quirky and unconventional with her readers.
She currently resides in Southern Ontario with her husband and her horde of Machiavellian cats. In addition to her own writing, Sarah-Jane works as an editor and freelance cover artist.