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.
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Ever since being kidnapped from the Illiais Jungle as a child, Yelena Zaltana's life has been fraught with peril. But the recent loss of her Soulfinding abilities has endangered her more than ever before. As she desperately searches for a way to reclaim her magic, her enemies are closing in, and neither Ixia nor Sitia is safe for her anymore. Especially since the growing discord between the two countries and the possibility of a war threatens everything Yelena holds dear.
Valek is determined to protect Yelena, but he's quickly running out of options. The Commander suspects that his loyalties are divided, and he's been keeping secrets from Valek…secrets that put him, Yelena and all their friends in terrible danger. As they uncover the various layers of the Commander's mysterious plans, they realize it's far more sinister than they could have ever imagined.
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He pressed his hand to his right ear. “Son of a snow cat!”
“You’re not thinking again, are you?” Valek drew next to Janco, halting Onyx.
“Not funny. It’s gotta be a superstrong illusion.”
Valek dismounted. “Which direction?”
Janco pointed to the right. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary. The bare branches of the trees dipped and swayed in a cold northern breeze that smelled of snow, despite it being a couple weeks into the warming season. High, thin clouds filtered the sunlight.
Valek pulled his sword. Janco slid off Beach Bunny and yanked his weapon from its sheath. The rattle and tumble of dried leaves filled the air. This patch of forest grew in a dip in the rolling terrain near the base of the Soul Mountains. To the east, the jagged snowcapped peaks stretched high, like a row of gigantic corn plants reaching for the sun.
The mountain range earned its name from old legends. Folk lore claimed the peaks snagged souls as they ascended toward the sky. These trapped souls haunted the frozen heights and sucked the life from anyone who dared climb past the tree line. Valek believed it to be just a story to explain why no one who tried to reach the summit ever returned. The lack of breathable air was the more likely explanation. Although some also asserted that mysterious people who supposedly lived on the other side of the mountains patrolled the upper regions to prevent anyone from crossing into their homeland, keeping their existence a secret.
Pure nonsense. Valek returned his attention to the task at hand. He hadn’t expected Owen’s tunnel to be this high in the foothills, but the isolated location was ideal.
Janco aimed for an ordinary group of trees and hissed in pain as he disappeared from sight. Increasing his pace, Valek hurried after him and encountered magic. The invisible force pressed against his skin. Pushing through felt like swimming in mud. He found Janco rubbing his temple on the other side. Valek scanned the area for possible threats. Nothing so far.
A mass of oversize boulders was piled next to a hill. At first glance, it resembled a natural rock slide from the mountains, but upon closer inspection the heap was too neatly stacked. It must be blocking the tunnel.
“Looks like someone beat us to it,” Valek said.
“No.” Janco’s voice strained with effort. “Move closer.”
He did. The air thickened. Another illusion. “Clever.” It would stop the smugglers from using it, but it kept the tunnel open in case Owen needed it again in the future.
“Could be a trap.”
“Indeed.” Valek tightened his grip on his sword and drew a knife with his free hand. “I’m just going to confirm there’s a tunnel behind it.”
Janco straightened. “Then I’ll come confirming with you, just in case.”
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