Iktalan and Tierra Ermosa

     Home           Origins of Iktalan           Bookshelf-Romances           About the Author   


cover of The New Fire              cover of The New Sword


Imagine a land combining the geography of California, the technology of medieval Spain and the theology of pagan Rome.

Isolated by distance and slave-hunters, the community of Iktalan has diverged from its Hispani roots. Then a rich gold find upsets the community and incites the greed of more than one enemy. Sakela has been raised in Iktalan to defend justice and charity. Francisco leads the army that comes from the old country. 

Though the story of The New Fire comes before The New Sword in the characters' timeline, it doesn't need to be read first.  If you like old-fashioned love stories, start with The New Fire. If you prefer less predictable relationships, start with The New Sword.

Have you ever wondered where a fantasy writer's ideas for settings come from? For some glimpses into the process I went through, check the posts on the Origins page.


The New Fire             cover of The New Fire

War tears Sakela away from her safe orderly life. She struggles against her fears to preserve the independence of Iktalan through a fragile alliance.

Francisco is trained in war, but Sakela’s passion for protecting her people inspires him. He urges her to bring her influence to the new territory, and then challenges her in a different way when he touches the heart she thought buried beyond any living man’s reach.

Though the urgencies of war re-ignite Sakela’s courage, the ensuing peace brings the hardest test.

370 pages

Read an excerpt

E-book available from Kindle, Nook, and the iBookstore.

Print book available from amazon.com


The New Sword      cover of The New Sword

Sakela and Francisco’s marriage was both symbol and celebration of the alliance that created the new territory of Tierra Ermosa. But what happens after the happily-ever-after?

 The reserved soldier does not enter into family life the way Sakela wishes he would. When he swears allegiance to a corrupt viceroy, she suspects he has abandoned the values she cherishes. Rebellion threatens to tear their marriage and their community apart.

In spite of his love for Sakela, Francisco feels isolated from her. He sees a way through the conflict, but only at the cost of his honor and possibly his life.

The blacksmith’s forge burns, yet it tempers brittle steel…

340 pages

Read an excerpt

E-book available from Kindle, Nook, and the iBookstore.

Print book available from amazon.com



Excerpt from The New Fire

The pounding of Sakela’s heart reverberated through her body and drowned out thought. The guardsman wheeled his mount to put it and his upraised sword between her and the thunder of oncoming warriors.

Sakela fumbled aside the hem of her culottes and reached the handle of her dagger. Her arm was as leaden as her mind. The dagger dragged from its sheath.

The guardsman fell beneath a dozen swords. His horse screamed. Rough hands twisted the dagger from Sakela’s grip and yanked the eating knife out of her cumberbund. Other hands snatched away the reins, tied her wrists together and then to the pommel of her saddle. Seconds later she was galloping southwards through the scrubby growth of the plain.

She twisted around. Tomás, tied as she was, jounced in his saddle. Ahead, in the confusion of galloping warriors, a telltale braid hung down below a round Hispani helmet. The leather of the jacket of the man in front of her was studded with dull metal pieces like the scales of fish.

After a time the pace eased to a walk and they changed direction to angle southeast. Tomás was beside her, looking shaken. “Careless, careless,” whispered Sakela, voicing the single coherent thought that circled like a cornered rat in her mind.

Tomás’ eyes questioned her.

“To ride ahead of the group like that, to get separated. Careless, stupid,” she said in a louder voice.

A warrior leaned over and struck the side of her head with the back of his hand.

The blow jolted Sakela out of her panic and she drew a few deeper breaths. She had surely let down her grandfather—ignoring his last words of advice, choosing the worst possible time to forget her fears, and riding through questionable territory as though it were his pasture. And then to freeze in panic—shame shriveled her belly.

back to top



Excerpt from The New Sword

Sakela trudged up the stairs up to Francisco’s office. His door was open and he was standing at the window with his back to the room. She stepped in and closed the door behind her. “What in the names of all the gods is going on?”

He turned to face her. “The tribute monitors have sworn affidavits that the Iktalai have falsified the accounts of the yield of gold and silver over the last year.”

How could he be so calm? What are you doing to us? she wanted to scream. “You believe them?”

“What I believe is of no account.”

“I believed you wanted to build a peaceful territory, one with opportunity and justice for all. Is that of no account either?”

He said nothing.

“The head tax is bad enough, but this accusation—this will destroy what you have built.” Her voice climbed to shrillness. “Can you stand by and let Nueva Hispania tear this land to pieces? Help them tear it to pieces?”

“I hope that in a few weeks the outcome will justify my actions.”

“What could justify your actions? I respected you for the fair way you exercised your power here. Now you have abandoned any attempt at fairness.”

His throat worked as he swallowed. “The viceroy is bringing pressure to bear. I am no longer left with such a free hand.”

Here they were, back at the question of Francisco’s loyalty. The Sword of the Hispani, the Zatalai had named him, because of his unswerving sense of honor and his valor in battle. But in the name of his honor he was turning the sword on his own community, his own family.

“Don’t your principles take precedence over your position?”

He remained silent.

Perhaps a practical problem would make an impression. “You know you are putting pressure on the people here. They will not remain passive indefinitely.”

“I am working to minimize the upheaval.”

“Minimize? You are the one provoking it!”

Francisco’s mouth tightened as if to hold back any more words.

He was like the city wall—Sakela could beat her hands bloody against him and he would not move.

back to top