Message From The Author
JENNIFER ASHLEY LAUNCHES A NEW
SERIES -- WITH HELP FROM FRIENDS
By Michele Bardsley
Like most authors, Jennifer Ashley has more ideas than she has time to write. But one idea percolated in her writer's mind for more than three years -- waiting for its opportunity to leap from thought fragments into a full-fledged story.
Then opportunity knocked in November 2005.
"I had very much wanted to pitch a book for Dorchester's Crimson City series, but I had so many other books to write that I just couldn't fit it in," says Ashley. "So I asked my editor, Leah Hultenschmidt, if they were planning another continuity series. She said they didn't have a series in mind yet, but were open to ideas. So I quickly put together a pitch for the Immortals series, and they loved it and bought it."
The Immortals are five brothers who've existed since the dawn of time but have been forgotten by the humans they once helped. According to Ashley, "Immortals were created to balance death magic with their own intense life magic and keep death magic from destroying the world."
They're called back into service by four witches to stop an "Old One" -- a formidable demon intent on draining the life from the world. The Old One convinces the youngest Immortal, Tain, to help him. Put together an old demon and a rogue Immortal and you have what Ashley calls "the new big bad." Each story in the four-book series focuses on one Immortal and his bewitching love interest. Not only must each man defeat his personal demons to claim his true love, he must also find the wherewithal to rejoin his brothers and save the world.
As series creator, Ashley "conceived a rough plot and settings for each book, and came up with the four heroes and what they'd been up to since they disappeared about 700
years ago. I deliberately kept the plotlines and characters
loosely developed so the other authors would have something
to work with."
Ashley sets up the story arc and brings the series to its conclusion with the launch book, Immortals: The Calling (May), and the finale, Immortals: The Gathering (Sep.).
Immortals: The Calling tells the story of Adrian, the oldest Immortal, who works with a witch to "figure out what's going on and try to summon the other Immortals. The last book starts with the story of Hunter, who has lived the most in the human world."
As for choosing who would write the other books, Ashley says, "My editor and I discussed quite a few authors and narrowed
it down to Robin Popp and Joy Nash. Robin writes fantastic action-adventure vampire romance, and Joy's Celtic books are lush and beautiful."
Ashley has high praise for her partners. "Robin has built a
good following with her vampire series, which started with Out of the Night at Warner. She was hard at work on more of that series while she wrote Immortals: The Darkening (Jun.) -- and holding down a full-time job!"
As for Nash, Ashley says, "Her book, The Grail King, is very nicely done. She brought a ton of knowledge of the Celtic world to Immortals: The Awakening (Aug.). Her approach to magic and the world is highly imaginative and beautiful."
Besides summarizing the basic storylines and settings, Ashley brainstormed via e-mail with her colleagues to flesh out the characters and the world. "All three of us contributed to the world-building in a big way -- I loved the ideas for characters and rules that Joy and Robin came up with," says Ashley. "It was very much a pooling of creative energy."
One of the things they came up with together was the idea that each Immortal would have different abilities and be associated with a specific goddess.
Immortals: The Calling's Adrian, for instance, is the son of Isis and a priest of Amun. He helped the fledgling Egyptian civilization
deal with powerful, ancient demons. The silver armband he wears morphs into a cobra, which can also become a sword.
Darius is the son of Egyptian goddess Sekhmet and has tattoos that he can change into real weapons. Uni, a goddess of the Etruscan people, created Kalen -- who can create portals to
traverse distances. Hunter, the son of the Hindu goddess of destruction, has an affinity for animals and uses a sword that can burst into flame.
As for Tain, the youngest Immortal, he's the son of Cerridwen and has the power of healing. Once a gentle soul, he has gone insane and sided with the Old One.
The Immortals aren't Ashley's only foray into paranormal romances. She's writing a new series for Berkley Sensation featuring dragon heroes and magical heroines. Dragon Heat hits shelves in July, and The Black Dragon comes out in November. And, as Allyson James, she writes erotic tales for Ellora's Cave about the Shareem, genetically enhanced men created as sex slaves and outlawed by the society that created them.
And if that weren't enough, Ashley has also penned historical and contemporary romances for Dorchester as well as a Regency mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime under the name Ashley Gardner. Why so many names for one author?
"I took the pseudonyms both for contractual reasons and also to keep things straight for readers. When they pick up an Ashley Gardner mystery they'll get something different from a Jennifer Ashley romance or an Allyson James hot romance," she says. "I love to write and I don't consider it a hardship to always be buried in a story. I write one book at a time and focus my attention entirely on that world. I have diverse interests and like to write in different genres and different styles to keep myself fresh. It's all me writing it, whatever name is put on the cover."
And for now that name is Jennifer Ashley, and the stories are The Immortals.
Excerpt from Immortals: The Calling
Amber Silverthorne fell onto her back, stunned, as the man in the black leather coat crashed into the warehouse and started to beat off the demon.
The candles marking Amber's circle scattered, splattering wax across the dirty floor. The magic she'd invoked sputtered and died. Her terror at the demon's sudden appearance changed to amazement at the tall man facing her, a look of grim glee on his face,
a huge silver sword in his grip.
He held the sword almost negligently, as though it weighed nothing, and as soon as the demon came at him, he swung it, slicing the blade across the demon's pristine suit. He laughed as the demon retreated, snarling.
The man's long black hair was bound in a tail at his nape and again halfway down his back, keeping it well out of the way of the fight. His face was nowhere near as handsome as that of the demon he fought, being more hard and square. A warrior's face matching
a warrior's body.
The warrior and the demon were evenly matched in strength, speed and agility. Each focused tightly on the other, the demon's black eyes sparkling with fury. The man's eyes were black too, like wells of darkness. The warrior chopped downward with the sword, and the demon spun away, black blood flying from a wound and splashing Amber's skin like acid.
Amber scrambled to sit up and gather her crystals to her, chanting furiously to re-form protective magic around her like a bubble. The man in black leather and the demon fought hand to hand, the man's sword swinging in wide, deadly arcs, the demon fighting back with the steel pole with which he'd tried to murder Amber.
"Immortal," he hissed.
The man gritted his teeth in a smile. "Good guess. What gave it away?"
"Who called you?"
The silver sword went straight for the demon's throat. "No one. I happened to be passing."
Amber took her concentration from the crystals for a split second. Happened to be passing? A deserted warehouse between the tracks and the docks of Seattle? With a sword?
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