Crown-of-Ash Given that my posting frequency is on the light side and I don’t talk much about my writing projects, you probably don’t know that my days revolve around writing. Not only do I work daily on my own novel (in fact, it’s finished!), but I also work with a lot of other writers, providing feedback on their projects, too. Because of this website, I get a lot of requests from other writers — sometimes so many that I have to say no, just so I can stay on top of my own projects and still have time for my writing posse.

Which brings me to the point of all this. One of my posse is a guy you know: Steven Montano. Steven’s been a frequent commenter at this site since its beginning, way back when I was writing the Vote Your Adventure series. During The Relic, I gave away copies of his first novel, Blood Skies.

Yeah. That Steven. He’s one of us.

Anyway, since his Blood Skies release, he’s written three more novels and a few short stories. (He puts me to shame.) And I’m honored to say that I’ve had a little involvement with the last three of his novels, in that he always asks for my feedback before the book goes to print. I’m a huge fan of his series, so to be a small part of his process is a big privilege. I’m excited to tell you that his newest book in the saga, Crown of Ash, is being released today. If you enjoyed my Vote Your Adventure series, you should love Crown of Ash. It’s the fourth book in the series but a terrific place for new readers to jump in. The story revolves around three very charismatic (and sarcastic) characters: the gun-toting mercenary, the hot, ass-kicking mage chick, and the paramount character, who actually seems to be the most normal of the bunch, Eric Cross. There’s such a wide range of personalities featured that there’s something for everyone to enjoy. And I think you guys would like the book a lot, so I asked Steven to stop by and answer a few questions about it.

JK: Welcome, Steven! Your latest novel, Crown of Ash, is out today. You’re pretty familiar with my site so you have an idea what my readers like. Can you tell us, in our lingo, what the book is about?

SM: It’s an action-packed slugfest between humans, vampires, and ugly things. And undead. Lots and lots of undead. It has magic, horror, a bunch of trippy dream sequences, monsters, dry wit, races, underground prisons, giant icky flesh things that like to hunt people down, vampires, guns, darkness, and characters you love most likely getting blown to bits. All that and a bag of chips.

JK: If there isn’t a bag of chips in this book, I’m going to demand a rewrite. But I do know of your penchant for abusing your characters. I feel like everyone should be handed a red shirt — well, all except for one character in particular: the Blood Skies camel. The camel started as a joke between us, but you’ve made it a recurring element in your series. People who catch snippets of our Twitter conversations know how serious I am about the camel. Do you even remember how that started?

SM: Minor spoiler territory: You were reading Blood Skies, and you came to a section of the novel where… well, let’s just say not all of the characters make it. You were upset.

JK: Correction: I was pissed!

SM: Your comment was something along the lines of, “Dude, WTF, you even killed the CAMEL?!” And then the camel came back, and you forgave me.

JK: When the camel disappeared and the main character, Eric Cross, was alone and destitute in the middle of nowhere, I realized just how horrible you intended to make life for your characters — but you do it in the most unexpected ways. I never anticipate what happens in your stories. That inspires me. You probably didn’t even intend the camel that way, but that’s how I took it. The camel has been an element in the story since.

SM: Sadly, there is no camel in Crown of Ash. But he (it’s actually the third camel Eric Cross has used, but that’s besides the point) will make a triumphant return in Book 5.

JK: Viva la camel! Okay, let’s move on. Tell me about your vampires. I confess I’m a little burned out on them. They don’t want to date me, do they?

SM: Last I checked, you’re not pale, fanged, and filled with a desire to annihilate the human race. You don’t have incisors the size of steak knives or an entourage of zombies who carry around your combat armor, do you? Oh, and vampires don’t date — they eat. You’re too skinny to interest them.

JK: I’m too skinny? I’LL BUY 50 COPIES AND BE YOUR BEST FRIEND! Wait, what were we talking about? Oh, the book. Thanks for coming over and sharing the white space of my site, Steven!

Now here’s the book blurb:

Marooned in the remote criminal city of Blacksand, the only way for the mercenaries to get home is to help a local crime boss protect his territories from the Ebon Cities. To complicate matters, Danica Black is also being hunted by The Revengers, a powerful band of corrupt prison wardens, while Eric Cross himself is trapped in the Whisperlands, a realm of darkness controlled by a cadre of evil mages known as the Shadow Lords. The team will battle their way through corroding wastelands and deadly vampire outposts, but even their considerable skills might not be enough to save them from the cruel machinations of the Shadow Lord’s mysterious master, a malevolent creature who has manipulated their destinies right from the beginning…

Steven’s latest novel, Crown of Ash, is available at Amazon and Smashwords! If you need further evidence of what a fantastic book this is, Steven has graciously passed along a short action scene to whet your whistle. It’s told from the perspective of a character on which I’ve developed a weird crush. Hit the more link to read it.

Ronan ran at Kane and tackled him, knocking the wind from his lungs. They both rolled out of the path of the flaming wreckage. He saw an inverted image of the burning ship as it slid and tumbled down the dune. Black fire plumed into the air. Drifts of ash came down like snowflakes.

The fliers approached, and the tank drew within a few hundred yards. Chains dangled from the cannons and tore the sand. Shadowy Razorwings soared in low and nearly touched the ground with their oily black bodies. Kane saw dark armored vampire riders with bladed hand-cannons and serrated swords.

Jade’s spirit was the first to strike. Undulating saws of purple light cut a swath across the sand. The Razorwings avoided the attack with ease, but she bought the team enough time to split and run in different directions.

Her arcane blades kicked up a dust storm that twisted violently into the air. The storm expanded until it enveloped the entire crash site. Kane couldn’t see more than a few yards out, but he knew that meant he couldn’t be seen, either. The sand somehow stayed out of his eyes and throat, which meant Jade shielded them from the storm’s effects.

Kane and Ronan lost sight of the others, but he knew Jade would be able to find them – he felt her telepathic presence at the edge of his mind.

The sound of the tank faded as it struggled through the desert storm, and the fliers’ reptilian cries echoed in the distance as they desperately searched for their prey.

Kane and Ronan kept low and used the dunes for cover. They saw the silhouettes of the fliers in the grit-filled sky and heard the metal roar of massive wheels, but the sand mist concealed them, and soon they moved a safe distance away from the crash.

–Excerpt from Crown of Ash, by Steven Montano.

Awesome, yes? Go grab a copy. You won’t regret it.