Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Maria always had a fascination with big storms. Dreaming of chasing tornados, Maria earned a bachelors of science degree in meteorology at Penn State University. But she discovered, much to her chagrin, that forecasting the weather wasn't one of her skills. In order to chase tornados you had to predict where they might form. Creating fantasy worlds where she has complete control of the weather was more agreeable to her.
Maria's research on food-tasting methods with an expert chocolate taster, her husband, turned out to be a delicious bonus while writing Poison Study.
Maria has a brown belt in Isshinryu Karate, and enjoys playing volleyball and the cello. Traveling in general and via cruise ship in particular are her biggest distractions from writing. Maria has traveled to Belize, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean and through the Panama Canal.
Maria lives with her husband, son, daughter and yellow lab, Hazelnut, in Pennsylvania where she is at work on more LUNA novels. She is also pursuing a master's degree in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University.
Readers are welcome to contact Maria at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Once, only her own life hung in the balance.
Oddly enough, when Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. But she'd survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia. Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands and protect her relationship with Valek.
Suddenly, though, they are beset on all sides by those vying for power through politics and intrigue. Valek's job - and his life - are in danger. As Yelena tries to uncover the scope of these plots, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. She must keep that a secret - or her enemies will discover just how vulnerable she really is - while searching for who or what is responsible for neutralizing her powers.
Yes, the days of tasting poisons were much simpler. And certainly not as dangerous,
"Doing full justice to the plot of this original and entertaining epic fantasy is impossible. Suffice it to say that the action is nonstop. The many characters leap to life, particularly Yelena, whose first-person narrative is riveting."
~ RT Book Reviews on Fire Study
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☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
“Cahil.” I really didn't have time for this. “What do you want?” I [Yelena] asked.
“What? No hello for your old friend?” Cahil smiled, but the humor didn't reach his light blue eyes.
Cahil’s beard was cropped short and traced the line of his jaw. I'd once thought him handsome, but I couldn't look at him without remembering his betrayal and treachery. Even though he had realized his mistake and made amends by helping to defeat Roze and the Fire Warper, he still wished to unseat the Commander and “free” Ixia and become king—an action, that was one of my duties as Liaison to prevent.
“What do you want?” I asked again.
“I'm here because the Council believes you're in danger.”
Leif snorted. “And that's news?”
Cahil ignored him. “Seems an assassin is after you and we are to escort you back to the Citadel so we can provide you with additional protection.”
“Please tell the Council that I appreciate the concern, but I'm quite safe. And I'm not returning to the Citadel.”
“We're not here as a courtesy. We have our orders.”
“I don't care. The Council cannot order me.”
Cahil urged Topaz closer. Kiki rubbed cheeks with the horse. Traitor.
“Yelena, a word in private.” Cahil gestured and an opening between his riders appeared.
I considered refusing, but was too curious about what he had to say. Kiki followed Topaz until we were far enough away.
“Make it quick, Cahil, I plan to be in the plains by nightfall.”
“You don't seem to understand. The Council knows all about the danger you're in.”
Fear swirled and I gripped Kiki's saddle. Was he implying they knew about my magic? Impossible.
“And considering you're heading straight to the man who vowed revenge on you, it would be wise to return with us.”
“Quit dancing around the subject.”
I stared at him.
He laughed—a humorless, course sound that grated on my frayed nerves.
“Nice to know some things haven't changed. Unlike your magic. The Council knows you're powerless, Yelena. You're a regular old girl who has finally pissed off someone who is powerful enough to take you down.”
His words burned into me like a red hot pontil iron, but I used every ounce of will to keep my face neutral. “Interesting rumor. Who started it?”
“Rumor? I think not. Now you can come with us, or I can prick you with Curare and drag you back to the Citadel.”
I shrugged. “Go ahead and waste the Curare.” As I glanced back at Leif and Hale, I tapped my fingers on Kiki's neck, signaling her. “Come on guys. We're done here.”
When Cahil turned to order his people to stop them, I leaned close to Kiki's ear and whispered, “Ask the others to dump their riders and go home, please.”
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