Diamond Peak Series Book #1
By- Tahlia Newland
Genre- YA Fantasy
A scream pierces the night. Ariel jolts awake and watches in horror as demons drag her mother into a hidden realm. She finds help and sets off on a rescue mission. But to defeat the demons, who feed on fear and seek to enslave the human race, she must learn a secret esoteric wisdom to awaken the dormant, but potentially explosive, power of her mind.
Walnut, a quirky old wise man, guides her through treacherous inner and outer landscapes, and Nick, the powerful Warrior who travels with them, proves a dangerous attraction. Can Ariel defeat the sadistic demon lord before he kills her and enslaves her mother?
The stakes are high, death a real possibility. Fail now, and she fails humanity.
This book has been awarded the AIA Seal of Excellence in Fiction and the BRAG Medallion for Outstanding Fiction.
And an Excerpt from Lethal Inheritance
The man, tall and—Ariel noted appreciatively—athletically built, pushed off the tree with a smile that softened the sharp angles of his square jaw and straight nose. He looked older than her by several years—twentyish, she decided.
‘Hi, I’m Nick,’ he said in a pleasant voice.
Ariel met his gaze and a blast of energy shot from his eyes into hers. It raced into the centre of her chest and exploded, knocking her breathless. She wrenched her eyes from his and staggered backwards.
‘What the hell?’ She felt as if he’d bludgeoned her with a blunt instrument. ‘What was that?’
‘What was what?’ He sounded completely innocent, and his expression, though a little tense, was carefully neutral, but he wouldn’t meet her eyes.
Had he really not felt anything?
Nick wondered how she’d managed to wrench open a door in his chest and unleash a burst of that unspeakable power. It’d raced up his spine and out his eyes, and after he’d torn his gaze from hers, it’d taken all his concentration to shut the door and keep the rest safely locked up. The girl was dangerous.
‘Nothing,’ she muttered and hurried past him, breaking his self absorption and reminding him that he had a job to do.
‘Wait, I’m going that way too.’ He raced after her. ‘Can I walk with you?’
‘No.’ She sounded pissed off.
Part of him wanted to ask if he’d hurt her, but the wise part told him to shut the hell up. He didn’t want to have to deal with it now. Actually, not ever. ‘I’m not going to hurt you.’
‘Really? So far you don’t inspire me with confidence.’
‘I’m sorry, okay.’ He wanted to say it wouldn’t happen again, but he couldn’t guarantee it.
She stopped and looked at him. ‘So you did do something.’
He avoided her gaze. ‘I didn’t do anything.’
‘Fine. Whatever.’ She walked on. ‘Just leave me alone, all right.’
Well, that worked out well, he thought sarcastically, and followed her in uneasy silence. But maybe she was always that grumpy. Good. He didn’t want to like her. What was so special about her that made Walnut ask him to meet her, anyway? She wasn’t bad looking, he supposed, if you liked redheads, which he didn’t. But her skin was too pale, unhealthy. Funny that, because her toned legs and well-worn trekking boots gave her the air of someone who could handle the outdoors.
None of that would interest Walnut though. He must see talent there, and that made her dangerous, even without the dagger at her side and the strange effect she’d had on him. He noticed the sceptre-shaped hilt and a jolt of something between horror and surprise slammed into him. Where did she get something like that? His hands itched to get hold of it, and his heart ached to think that they probably never would.
He noted his rising resentment with embarrassment, and had to remind himself that, whoever she was, Walnut wanted her safe. He would be polite, but she’d have to earn his respect. ‘What’s your name?’
She didn’t reply, just strode on with a stony expression. He trailed after her.
‘Why are you following me?’ she asked tersely.
‘It’s a public path and I happen to be going in the same direction.’
Silence. But her posture said it all, chilly. She needed some serious lightening up. ‘Okay, I’ll guess. It’s Mavis.’
She strode on without a word.
‘No? Betty, then? Dulcie? Winifred? Willamena?’ He felt her soften at that one. ‘Prudence?’
She cleared her throat.
That got a quiet snort.
‘Murtle? Gertrude?’ Nothing. ‘Do I have to beg or what?’
‘It’s Farty Blardfast.’
‘That’s Slartibartfast actually.’
‘Oh, so you’re telling me what my name is now.’
‘No, that’s what it is in the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy.’
‘I thought that’s what you meant.’
‘It was the inspiration, that’s all.’
‘Pleased to meet you, Farty. I can call you Farty, can’t I?’
She chuckled, then cut it abruptly and returned to her previous stony tone. ‘No, you can’t.’
‘I know, I’ll call you Ariel.’
She stopped walking and swung around, eyes blazing. ‘How do you know my name?’
‘Ah ha, bulls-eye.’ So, he did have the right girl.
She glared at him, then walked on.
‘Why so grumpy?’ he asked, walking beside her now.
‘I’ve had a rotten day, okay?’
‘So consider me here to cheer you up.’
‘Pleased to be of service.’ He did a beautiful impersonation of the sliding doors from the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy TV series, and got a muffled giggle for his trouble.
‘Did you really just guess it?’
‘Your name? An educated guess.’
‘And the education was?’
‘You match a wanted poster.’
‘Sheesh, can you be serious?’
‘Not so long as you’re grumpy.’
‘I’m not grumpy.’
‘Then I’m serious.’
He took her cue to end the conversation and they continued along the path in silence.
Diamond Peak Series Book #2
By- Tahlia Newland
Genre- YA Fantasy
Ariel hopes that the great library at Sheldra holds the key to rescuing her mother. But in order to get there, she must negotiate a forest of evil spirits, escape a mind-numbing city of sparkling towers, travel through the treacherous gullies of Minion Hills, and avoid an attack by a demon lord intent on killing her.
At the same time, a battle rages between her heart and her mind. A relationship with her travelling companion, the enigmatic Nick, is just too tempting, but can they be together without Ariel losing her focus and falling to the demons? Her life is at stake, but also her heart. She risks encasing it in stone and denying herself the very sustenance she needs.
Will they make it to the safe haven of Sheldra, or will Ariel die at the hands of the yellow-eyed demon?
This book has been awarded the AIA Seal of Excellence in Fiction
**On sale everywhere for the entire month of November for just 99 cents!**
And now an Excerpt from Stalking Shadows
Fueled by the power of Nick’s muscular chest and arms, the boat sped through the rain-pitted water. He stayed over the pale areas, avoiding the deep blue where the Ganas, the giant water snakes, dwelled. Eventually, the rain stopped. The grey billows lifted and a pale yellow orb began to shine through the haze. Twitchet the cat crawled out of Ariel’s jacket and settled himself on the narrow seat at the bow where he proceeded to coiffure his damp fur with his little pink tongue. The travellers pushed back their hoods and Ariel looked around.
A broad silver lake stretched out around them, its surface smooth now that the rain had stopped. With the mist lifted, she could see all the way to the gradual slope of its grassy banks. ‘It’s beautiful.’
‘And dangerous,’ Nick pointed out.
‘A common combination,’ Kestril said, ‘and, unfortunately, our cover has disappeared with the mist. Let us hope that the Ganas don’t lift their heads above the water.’
Ariel looked over the side of the boat. ‘Oh my God, there are masses of snakes down there.’
Twitchet peered over as well. ‘Got any fish-catching magic, Kestril?’
‘Not unless you want to wake the Ganas. We’re in their territory now.’
‘Don’t fall in,’ Ariel said. ‘We don’t want a splash right now.’
‘So you wouldn’t mind me drowning as long as I don’t make a noise,’ the cat retorted.
‘You said it, not me.’
One of the oars splashed. Ariel and Twitchet froze.
Kestril glanced into the centre of the lake. ‘Quiet and steady with the oars,’ he said.
Nick nodded and dipped his oars without a sound.
Ariel followed Kestril’s gaze, on the lookout for something that could rise from the depths, be on them in one flick of the tail, capsize the boat and take them in one mouthful.
A ripple spread from the centre. Kestril cursed under his breath and Ariel shuddered. Nick rowed faster, arms straining as the lean, elegant lines of a giant serpent’s head pierced the surface of the lake and swivelled towards them. Ariel stifled a scream. She could feel the serpent’s ominous black-eyed gaze boring into them. The Gana’s head tilted to one side as if considering whether to bother with them or not, then it began to swim towards them. Its graceful body undulated behind it like the Loch Ness monster.
Nick heaved at the oars, and though they sped through the water, it would never be fast enough. Kestril took his wand from his belt, stared at it for a moment, then took a deep breath and muttered something under his breath. Music flowed from his wand, a fine sweet voice singing a haunting melody. The song flowed over the lake like something tangible, and it seemed as if the water took up the song until the air itself shimmered with its magic.
The huge serpent slowed, but two more heads broke the water, looked around and fixed their piercing gaze on the travellers. After a moment’s consideration, all three sped towards them.
‘Stop rowing,’ Kestril whispered.
‘Are you crazy?’ Nick snapped, still hauling at the oars.
‘You can’t outrun them. We’ll have to try bargaining.’
‘You can bargain with a Gana?’ Ariel asked.
‘I can. Stay silent unless they address you.’
‘So, Nessie talks!’ Ariel said flippantly. ‘They’ll never believe this back home!’
Kestril glared at her. ‘Shh. And stop rowing. It’ll just annoy them.’
He seriously needs a sense of humour. Her humour was the only thing stopping Ariel from a major panic.
Nick stopped, though he didn’t look happy about it, and the three travellers watched as death glided across the lake towards them. John wasn’t joking, Ariel thought, remembering what the English traveller at Shifting Stones Inn had told her. The terrible beasts were as big as houses and their presence inspired a mixture of awe, fear and despair.
Twitchet scampered to the bow and buried himself behind Nick’s pack. Kestril’s frown froze on his face as if etched in stone. Nick had gone pale and Ariel’s heart raced. The ripples from the serpent’s passage rocked the boat as they drew close. Too soon, the shimmering creatures towered over them. Water dripped from their silver scales, their necks arched with a terrible elegance and their slanted eyes glistened icy blue.
Death looked beautiful in this form.
Rays of sunlight penetrated a break in the clouds and glanced off the serpents’ scales, casting rainbows all around. A cruel torture, this display of the beauty of life before the beast took it from them forever. The largest Gana opened its mouth, exposing two neat rows of sharp narrow teeth the size of rulers. Ariel cringed.
Diamond Peak Series Book #3
By- Tahlia Newland
Genre- YA Fantasy
Ariel thought she knew her travelling companion, Nick, but she discovers that at the University of Sheldra, he’s a respected translator with little time to spare. Now that he isn’t at her side all the time, she wishes he was, and when she finally admits her love, powerful emotions sweep her away.
The demon lord Emot takes advantage of her inexperience in matters of the heart and preys on her desire, setting off a struggle with addiction that threatens to break Nick’s heart and turn Ariel into the demon’s mindless slave. She must reach deep into her soul and find the mystical power she needs to kill the one who promises pleasure but delivers only pain. Fail, and she will lose the one she loves and spend an eternity in the demon’s grip.
This book has been awarded the AIA Seal of Excellence in Fiction
And now an Excerpt from Demon’s Grip
Ariel had just finished her last sausage and cleaned up the remains of the salad when the deep bass of a big drum resounded across the camp.
Nick’s eyes lit up. ‘Great; they brought the drums.’
‘Drums? What for?’ Ariel asked.
‘Yeah, but . . .’
‘You two go,’ Walnut cut in. ‘I’ll clean up here.’
‘Are you sure?’ Nick asked.
‘Quite sure. Go and enjoy yourselves.’
Nick grinned. ‘Thanks, Walnut.’
He jumped up, beckoned to Ariel and set off towards the sound so fast that she had to run to catch up. They wove their way through the trees past colourfully embroidered tents until they found a solidly-built Haba man sitting at the edge of a clearing, slapping out a hypnotic rhythm on a djembe drum. His tattoo-covered flesh rippled with the beat. A large fire crackled nearby, and Habas gathered around, bubbling with excitement.
Other drummers arrived and sat cross-legged on the ground beside him. One by one they added their instruments to the beat. Drums of various pitches rang out in vibrant syncopation and, called by the sound, more Habas gathered, their faces glowing. Ariel couldn’t help but share their enthusiasm.
Naked from the waist up, the firelight painted the drummers’ chests with gold and revealed the extent of the fine tattoos that spiralled across their shoulders and down their arms and backs. One of the drummers gestured Nick over and pointed to a spare drum. Nick didn’t even glance her way. He just strode over, ripped off his shirt, grabbed the drum and settled himself on the ground with the others. As if that were the cue, the pace and complexity of the music increased.
Excitement filled the crowd as the drums pounded out the Haba’s joy in victory. The drummer’s muscles rippled in the firelight, driving the power of the drums with strength and ease. Their faces glowed with pleasure and, completely immersed in the music, they played as one, the deep sounds of the big djembe skillfully accented with cross rhythms from smaller, tabla-style drums.
Ariel couldn’t keep her eyes off Nick. An energetic and skilful drummer, the music emanated from every pore of his being. His finely muscled chest glistened in the flickering firelight, and he played the way he fought—totally present, his power completely under control, firmly directed and beautiful to watch. Ariel’s breath hitched in her chest. She’d landed herself a gorgeous man. She wished she could share the news with Tamara, but her best friend remained a world away, outside the Hidden Realm, and oblivious of the demons that walked the ordinary world.
More musicians joined in, adding wind and percussion instruments, various sized wooden flutes, gongs, clap sticks, and a Haba version of a didgeridoo that produced a deep, resonating and somewhat haunting background to the other instruments.
As the tempo increased, a line of women entered the space. Their feet pounded the earth, their arms made curling pathways through the night air and their hips swayed in an energetic and alluring dance. They wore thick brocade belts around their hips and, following the lead of a lithe old woman, wove their dance in a tapestry of movement and colour.
Intoxicated by the music, Ariel’s feet picked up the beat. The line of dancers passed in front of her, and the last in the line took Ariel’s hand and swung her into the dance. The rhythm of the drums exploded inside her and the dance took over. Immersed in the shared experience, her feet pounded, torso pulsed and hips shimmied without conscious effort. The dancers, pure music in corporeal form, were as one with the drummers, synchronised to the hypnotic rhythm. The music swelled to a crescendo, then with one resounding beat, it stopped. An instant later, the crowd erupted into cheers.
Flushed and smiling, Ariel plonked herself breathlessly on the ground at the edge of the crowd. One of the musicians began to play a slow melody on a wooden flute, and the crowd settled again. A female Haba entered the space and began to sing in a clear, high-pitched voice, her hips swaying to the beat. The words of the ancient language wove its spell over the audience. The drummers began to play again, but Nick pulled on his shirt and joined Ariel. He sat beside her and slipped an arm around her shoulders.
‘Where did you learn to play like that?’ she asked.
‘These guys,’ he replied. ‘I lived with them for a year. They adopted me into the clan.’
‘That explains it.’
‘And where did you learn to dance like that?’
She shrugged. ‘Nowhere. I just can’t not dance when the beat’s so good. This music is amazing, and that woman’s voice, I’ve never heard anything like it before.’
‘It’s a love song,’ Nick whispered, his eyes twinkling.
Ariel stared at the starry-eyed singer. ‘I thought so.’
‘Actually, it sounds better if you don’t understand the language,’ Nick whispered, his breath warm against her neck. ‘The words are really corny.’
Ariel giggled. Energised by the dance and seduced by the drums, she snuggled against Nick, enjoying the sensuality of their proximity. The intensity of their energetic connection didn’t scare her anymore, instead it merely heightened her pleasure, and she stayed in his cosy embrace while a man joined the woman and the love song became a duo. Another more lively song followed, but when they called Nick back to the drums, he shook his head.
‘Let’s go,’ he whispered.
Diamond Peak Series Book #4
By- Tahlia Newland
Genre- YA Fantasy
Ariel and Nick face their deepest fears and their greatest challenge as they search for the Master Demon who holds the key to the future of mankind. Slay him and the world goes free; fail, and it falls irrevocably into violence and chaos.
Guided by a wisdom master of a mystical tradition that uses mind power as the basis of powerful magic, the assault party travels from the ancient granite walls of the Hermitage, up the Steps of Death, and through a labyrinth of shifting gorges to the Palace of Skulls. Even if Nick wins his struggle with the scars of his past and defeats the green-eyed head of the Cogin clan, they still must cross the scree slope, where the bones of Ariel’s father lie, to get to the ice caves beneath the summit where the Master Demon awaits.
The journey is extraordinary, the enemies are deadly and the ending is mind-blowing.
This book has been awarded the AIA Seal of Excellence in Fiction
And now an Excerpt from Eternal Destiny
Ariel stroked the horse’s neck. He smelt of horse hair and linseed oil, just like an ordinary horse. But this was no ordinary horse. You couldn’t miss the great wings folded along his side. ‘I think you’re beautiful,’ she told him as she scratched him behind his ear. His saddle cloth was beautiful too, all orange and blue swirls, and red flowers on a bright yellow background. ‘Will you take me for a ride?’
The Sky Steed regarded Ariel with his big brown eyes, then bunted her gently in the stomach.
‘That’s a yes,’ Radric, his owner, declared. ‘Come on, up you get.’
Ariel took a deep breath, placed her foot in the stirrup and heaved herself, rather inelegantly, onto the horse’s broad back. Radric climbed gracefully up in front of her and helped her strap on the complex harness.
‘In case he wants to show off,’ he declared. Ariel’s stomach gave a nervous flutter as she remembered the story of Nick’s ride. He’d lost his lunch. Perhaps she should have waited until her porridge had settled. ‘Are you ready?’ Radric asked.
Ariel gulped and nodded. It was already a long way down. Perhaps this wasn’t such a good idea.
Radric chuckled. ‘You look a little nervous.’
‘I’m fine,’ she said, then remembered that the letters of the word could stand for freaked-out, insecure, neurotic and emotional. Nah, she could handle it.
‘Wait for me!’ a small voice called from near the ground. Twitchet, the little ginger cat, streaked across the open space and leapt onto the saddle in front of Radric.
‘You cannot come,’ he said.
The cat’s eyes grew big and round and terribly cute. ‘Please.’
‘There isn’t a harness small enough.’
‘Ariel can hold onto me.’
She shook her head. ‘I might drop you.’
‘I can sit inside your coat.’
Ariel shrugged. ‘I guess you could, but only if it’s all right by Radric and the horse.’
Radric shrugged. ‘I’ll let the steed decide.’
‘I’ll arrange it then.’ Twitchet padded forward, rubbed his cheek against the horse’s neck and purred loudly.
‘What a suck up,’ Ariel said.
The horse snorted quietly and Radric nodded. ‘The steed has agreed to take the little furry beast.’
Twitchet dashed around Radric and Ariel tucked him inside her coat and buttoned it up so that just his head stuck out the top. She smiled. Not only did Twitchet look unusually adorable, but also his warm furry body felt good against her belly.
The horse lurched forward. Ariel grabbed onto Radric, and Twitchet’s ears flattened. Great hooves pounded beneath her. Broad leathery wings unfurled at her side and beat against the air with powerful strokes. The steed lifted into the air. Wind tossed Ariel’s hair and whipped her cheeks with its icy breath.
‘Hey! Get back here,’ someone shouted.
Ariel glanced down.
Kestril glared up at her. ‘Walnut would forbid this!’
‘Do you want to go back?’ The wind tossed Radric’s words away.
‘No,’ she yelled.
‘I don’t want to get you into trouble.’
‘It’ll be fine,’ she reassured him, though Kestril’s expression said otherwise. Fury sculptured his face in hard lines and, though she couldn’t see the green of his eyes, she felt their intensity fixed on her. The Magan lord’s son wouldn’t be used to being disobeyed.
The steed circled the Hermitage. Orange lichen grew on its grey slate roof and tufts of green peeked between the cobblestones in the courtyard, touches of colour in a grey-toned canvas. Kestril grew smaller. His thick black hair lifted in the wind, and Ariel thought that though he wore no jacket, just the usual Magan loose shirt and leather jerkin, his beard would keep his chin warm. It was a ridiculous thought, but she wasn’t going down, and Twitchet didn’t say anything, so she figured that he, at least, thought she’d be okay.
‘Are you sure?’ Radric asked.
‘I’m sure. Keep going.’
Radric shrugged and the steed flew higher.
Regardless of what Kestril or anyone thought, Ariel deserved a bit of fun. Here she was, nearly eighteen and Warrior lore had laid the fate of the world on her shoulders. They couldn’t seriously begrudge her a ride on a Sky Steed, could they? Kestril’s face assured her that they could, but he wasn’t her guide. She didn’t have to do what he said. She didn’t have to do what anyone said.
‘It might be the last bit of fun I ever have,’ she muttered.
‘It may well be,’ Twitchet replied from his spot in her jacket.
Ariel rolled her eyes. That was exactly the sort of truth she wanted to escape. Just let me be an ordinary teenager, she thought, just for a little while. But, of course, no ordinary teenager ever got to ride on a flying horse.
The air grew colder as they climbed, and Ariel wished she’d grabbed her beanie to keep her ears from freezing off. At least her chest was warm. Twitchet made a fine hot-water bottle. The cat’s eyes grew wide and shiny, though whether with excitement or fear, Ariel didn’t know. An intoxicating mix of both emotions coursed through her veins.
She didn’t look down, not back to where she’d been, but up towards the future. Much of the mountain rose clear before her, but thick clouds shrouded her goal—the summit.
About the Author-
Tahlia Newland, author of the multi-award-winning Diamond Peak Series, writes heart-warming and inspiring magical realism and contemporary fantasy. She is also an editor, a reviewer, an occasional high school teacher, and a mask-maker who loves creating digital art and sitting on her veranda staring at the rain forest.
Tahlia has studied with top Australian editors and has a Certificate in Editing and Proofreading. Before writing full time, she had over 20 years’ experience in scripting and performing as a dancer/mine in Visual Theatre and Theatre in Education. She has had extensive training in meditation and Buddhist philosophy and lives in Australia with a husband, a teenage daughter, and a cheeky Burmese cat called George.