Focus Friday: The Devil of Light


This week’s excerpt comes from new member Gae-Lynn Woods, author of The Devil of DevilofLightShadedLight and Avengers of Blood.

Newton? Cass gasped and screwed her eyes shut as the cramp hit her calf. She pressed her lips together to quell a moan and dug her fingers into the tight flesh. Her eyes snapped open at the sound of a shrill yelp, and she caught the flash of the blade as Cronus passed it to another robed figure. The man raised a finger to push glasses hidden beneath his hood up on his nose, then raised the knife over his head in a double-handed grip, his maroon robe slithering along his strong arms to puddle around his bare shoulders.

“No way, man! Come on, Greg,” Petchard whined, fear raising his voice nearly an octave as he struggled. “Don’t do this. You don’t have to do this. Come on, man! I thought we were friends.”

“We are,” came a clear voice from inside the hood. “This is the best offer of friendship I can give you, Petchard.” He raised his arms higher, the long blade flashing with the motion, its smooth surface reflecting the fire.

Officer Greg Newton? The question and its attendant horror barely registered as Cass shoved through the prickly bush and into the clearing, gun pointed at the figure with the knife, hobbling on her good leg and dragging the heavy, cramping leg behind her.

“Drop the knife, Newton,” she ordered as his arm began a swift downward arc toward Petchard. Figures whipped around at the sound of her voice, robes swirling, and a scream split the clearing. Time froze. Vision unnaturally clear, Cass followed the sweep of the knife as it fell toward Petchard’s chest. Unconsciously, she registered that Newton had no intention of stopping. She drew a breath as images flashed through her brain past the searing, twisting pain in her leg – Newton guarding Angie’s hospital room; working with Truman on Garrett’s cell phone; leaving the neighborhood where Salter lived right before Cass and Truman arrived. Petchard was a pain in the ass, no doubt, but this was her sworn duty, to protect and defend, even against others who had taken the same vow. For a single heartbeat she hesitated, then released the breath and squeezed the trigger twice.

The gunshots boomed in the space enclosed by the trees. Twin dots pierced his chest and Newton flew back from the table, arms wide, scarlet robe billowing. The knife arced from his hand, hilt over point, glimmering as it caught the firelight before disappearing into the woods. He landed on his back with a thud, a rush of air knocked from his lungs, hood fluttering over a pair of glasses and settling to reveal a creamy chin and neck. Petchard’s eyes followed Newton’s fall and he struggled fiercely against his bindings, tiny sobs slipping from his mouth. Ears buzzing, Cass lurched forward, gun raised, praying that there was more than one Greg Newton in Forney County.

A voice rang out, calm, authoritative. “Jericho.”

At the single word, as one, they dashed from the fire. The clearing swirled with crimson but was oddly silent except for Petchard’s whimpering. Deacon Cronus stood motionless at the foot of the picnic table until another body crashed into his, jolting him from his stunned paralysis. He stumbled to one side, raising his white robe to reveal thick ankles and chubby calves as he stepped over Newton’s body and trundled toward a break in the clearing. The distant sound of engines roaring to life penetrated through the trees.

“Police, Deacon Cronus. Stop right there,” Cass demanded. He lifted a hand to his head, as if to check that his hood was still in place, and quickened his rolling gate.

She called again, ordering him to stop, but he only stretched his hands forward, reaching for a nearby tree. Cass drew another breath, her fingertips tingling, and for the third time in a matter of seconds, she fired.

About The Devil of Light

“This debut effort is further proof that there are undiscovered novelists out there who can more than keep up with the big names. I expect we’ll be hearing more of Gae-Lynn Woods in the future.” — Russell Blake, acclaimed author of The Geronimo Breach, Fatal Exchange, and the Jet series.


When young Detective Cass Elliot responds to a 911 call at the home of a prominent businessman, she finds him violently murdered in the barnyard with his battered wife unconscious near the tool that killed him. Still raw from her own unsolved attack six years ago, Cass is stunned when confronted with graphic photographs scattered across their kitchen floor that lead to a shadowy sect called The Church of the True Believer.


Cass and her partner Mitch Stone delve into a cunning world of blackmail and violence – and find a cult concealed for nearly a century beneath the genteel, small town façade of Arcadia in East Texas. Their investigation triggers a brutal response from powerful men who will protect their identities at any cost. They unleash a ruthless killer whose actions create a media frenzy and destroy the fabric of trust within the police department.


Cass and Mitch circle closer to the cult’s few members, following a slim lead into a night lit by fire. A night that begins with a blood ritual and ends with Cass holding a man’s life – or death – in her hands and struggling to walk the fine line between vengeance and justice.

About the author

Gae-Lynn WoodsGae-Lynn Woods is a Texan who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. The Devil of Light and Avengers of Blood are the first two books in the Cass Elliot crime series. When she’s not playing the roadie, tending to cows, fixing fence, or digging post holes, Gae-Lynn is working on the third Cass Elliot novel and the first book in a series featuring Maxine Leverman, Cass’ best friend, who makes her debut in Avengers of Blood.

Visit her

And follow her on Twitter @gaelynnwoods


Monday Musings: Sex & Spirit- A Conversation with Skye Alexander & Kathleen Valentine, Pt. 1


In January of 2012, I did a 2-part conversation with author Skye Alexander. Part One is re-posted here. I’ll post Part Two next Monday:

 Part One
 Kathleen: Skye, you and I have known each other for quite a few years now and, though what we write about is very different, we deal with a lot of the same themes. I recently read your book Sex Magic for Beginners and, even though I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the subject, I was struck by the way you link the power of sexuality with the spiritual. I don’t mind telling you I’ve gotten a lot of criticism over the strong sexual and spiritual themes in my novel Each Angel Burns. There are a lot of people who find strong sexual and spiritual themes incompatible.
Skye: Over the centuries, sex-negative religious forces have tried to separate body and spirit. In the process sex was robbed of its sanctity. But this wasn’t always the accepted view. Tantra, which began in India some 6,000 years ago, is the mystical path of ecstasy and its rituals glorify sex as the union of the Hindu deities Shiva and Shakti. The ancient Egyptians, Sumerians, Celts, and many other cultures also incorporated sex into their spiritual practices.

Sex magic, as I discuss in my new book, merges mind, body, and spirit. Although people perform sex magic for a variety of purposes, one reason is to assist spiritual enlightenment. It’s my opinion that our sense of isolation and our longing to reunite with Spirit is the root of human pain and suffering. During sex, we reconnect for a short time with the cosmic pulse of life. We glimpse our divine nature and our union with all that exists in the universe.

Kathleen: I think those are beautiful ideas but I often wonder how many people are in the kind of relationship that can support that. I know you have a section in your book on solo sex but for people already in a relationship, how do they deal with this if their partner isn’t interested? In my experience the biggest problem where sex is concerned is the all-too-human desire for emotional connection with the partner and an on-going relationship. In my novel The Old Mermaid’s Tale one of the characters, an older woman, tells a younger woman, “Never give your body to anyone who doesn’t love you with all his heart. It kills the soul and robs you of your beauty and your dreams.” I think that is especially important to consider now in the era of “hooking up” and “casual sex.”

Is it possible to “glimpse our divine nature,” as you put it, when sex is so loaded with emotion and fraught with worries?

Skye: I agree with your character in The Old Mermaid’s Tale, which BTW I think is a terrific book and one I hope we can discuss in future conversations. In my opinion, the difference between casual sex and sacred sex is like the difference between a McDonald’s hamburger and a chateaubriand. I’ve never eaten a fast-food burger and I’ve never had a one-nighter. Unfortunately, most people opt for quick-and-easy rather than quality, and settle for far less than they could have. Our contemporary, blasé attitude toward sex renders meaningless the most potentially powerful and magical experience human beings can know. Casual sex is just as destructive as the Victorian era’s restrictiveness. Both squeeze spirit out of the picture, and prevent the possibility of genuine intimacy, joy, and transcendence.

From a magical perspective, the drawbacks are even worse. Keep in mind that sex is inherently a creative force. Sex magicians believe that with each orgasm you create a “magical child” in the etheric world, whether or not a flesh-and-blood baby results. The thoughts and emotions you hold at the moment of orgasm plant a “seed” in the cosmic womb, and that seed materializes based on your thoughts and feelings at the time. What were you thinking/feeling the last time you had sex? What kind of “child” would result from that?

Kathleen, you’re right that many of us aren’t in relationships that support the sacred nature sex––our partners may not even realize such a thing exists. We’ve been taught that love, intimacy, and vulnerability equate with weakness and we’ve learned to hide our feelings. Many men, especially, have also been trained to see sex as conquest, a mark of their prowess, but that sense of one-upsmanship prevents the balance that’s inherent in union. Opening ourselves to true intimacy––not only with our partners, but with ourselves and with the divine––is essential to fulfillment. Even if you’re in a relationship that doesn’t recognize the spiritual dimensions of sexuality, you can personally approach sex as a sacred, ecstatic, transcendent, loving, and joyful experience for yourself. Or, you can find another partner who shares your perspective. Solo sex can generate magical results, just as any sex act can, but it won’t keep you warm at night. Sometimes you can encourage or entice a lover to follow your direction, but be aware that fear of letting go, of trusting the unknown, and of being vulnerable may intrude and block your efforts. The choice is really up to each individual.

Kathleen: Sex is such a loaded issue for most people. Even people who profess not to follow a particular religion or spiritual path have a lot of trouble dealing with it. I know that you write erotica, I’ve read parts of your Tarotica book, and, as you know, I’ve tried writing erotica but I just have no gift for it. I think it is because I do regard sex as a sacred and powerful force that I find most erotica to be counterproductive to that. I struggle with it because I love writing sexy, romantic scenes––I’ve had people tell me the scene between Clair and Pio in the backseat of the Thunderbird (in The Old Mermaid’s Tale) is one of the hottest scenes they’ve ever read. But it’s not explicit. It’s more about what the two people are experiencing than putting Tab A in Slot B, so to speak.

There is a scene toward the end of Each Angel Burns where the two lovers, both of whom are in their fifties, have a highly intimate encounter, that brought down the wrath of quite a few reviewers! I got a scathing review on Amazon over it and one popular Christian reviewer said it was appalling that I spoke of sex “in sacramental terms.” I wonder how you view non-explicit love scenes that are infused with the sacred and how they compare or contrast to most popular erotica.

Skye: I think one of the reasons sex is such a loaded issue for most people is that it touches on what’s real and profound and, yes, sacred in all of us. It brings us into dimensions beyond what we normally confront. It connects us with our vulnerability and our power––two sides of the same coin––and that can scare us silly. Sex, if you let it, takes you out of the mundane world and catapults you into the mystical realm––and that can be unnerving for many people. Sacred sex brings you up close and personal with the real deal, and it truly does rock your world.

Kathleen, I love that scene in your book Each Angel Burns, for several reasons. First, it shows that sex and passion don’t end in middle age––in fact, they can become more joyful, genuine, and intense later in life. I’ve always admired your ability to express these sentiments through your characters. Second, I think it’s more erotic if the writer doesn’t tell all and instead allows the reader to project his/her own emotions and fantasies into a situation. Holding back can heighten the experience. Remember that beautiful erotic scene in The Age of Innocence where Newland Archer kisses the wrist of the Countess Olenska? Within the strict confines of their Victorian culture, this daring foray is far more sensual than any X-rated film today.

I don’t know if I can speak intelligently about popular erotica today––it’s such a broad topic, and in the publishing world it has a multiplicity of subsets. I don’t agree that you have no talent for erotica––quite the contrary. I’ve read some of your erotic literature, including “Gone Fishing” which was published in Ravenous Romance’s Green Love Anthology––a highly underrated collection of erotic fiction––and found the story sensitive, sexy, and real. Our ideas about erotica are highly personal, and they keep evolving. Today’s erotica is yesterday’s hard-core porn. An old question asks what’s the difference between erotica and pornography? Answer: Erotica is something you find sexually enticing. Pornography is something another person finds sexually enticing, but you find disgusting. It’s all personal perspective.

But to answer your question, I think most popular erotic literature lacks the sacred dimension, and for me, that leaves it flat and mechanical. Sex is inherently magical. Sex is a sacrament, perhaps the holiest of all acts. Without it, none of us would exist. Maybe it’s no surprise that your reviewer missed this, but our ancestors were very aware of the sacred power of sex and they honored it in multiple ways. We can still do this today. I hope we will.

Continued next week_________________________________

Skye Alexander is the author of more than two dozen fiction and nonfiction books, which have been translated into ten languages, and is best known for her work in the body-mind-spirit field. Her web site is Kathleen Valentine is the author of three novels, many novelettes and short stories, as well as books on knitting lace and a cookbook/memoir of growing up Pennsylvania Dutch. Her web site is


Win-A-Book Wednesday: Forbidden Call

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Bi-focal Friday: TWO new books from Toby Neal


Can you say "prolific"? Bestseller Toby Neal is releasing two books in two months.   Fire Beach,  the eighth Lei Crime novel set (where else) in Hawai'i, launched October 17 ...     And now she's striking out in a new … [Continue reading]

Win Sydney Landon’s newest: No Denying You


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Monday Musings: When Honor Brings Inspiration


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Focus Friday: Rise of the Faire-Amanti


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Monday Musings: Scattering Breadcrumbs


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Focus Friday: The Crazy Old Lady’s Secret


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