A lighter shade of darkness: book one
Dust on the Altar
Jade loves her life in Sun City: their technology is cutting edge, she’s right-hand woman to the country’s most powerful business owner, and no one suspects she’s a Witch. But when her old coven’s High Priestess and last remaining family member is murdered, she’s expected to leave her beloved city life behind, regain the powers she abandoned years ago, and take her place as coven leader.
Going back to Sugar Hill won’t be easy. She’ll have to find a way to reconcile with her former best friend who’s the man she must now call partner, find the keys to her ascension ritual, and stop a Witch who will do anything to bring his daughter back from the dead.
With the coven’s magic fading and a whole township counting on her to bring it back, will she find the strength to face the ghosts of her tragic past, or will she run from her responsibilities, again?
Dust on the Altar is so much more than an urban fantasy tale. It is also a story of friendship, faith, and overcoming fear.
Tabitha Tomala - Behind The Pages Blog
The Main Characters
Character portraits by T.A. Hernandez
Jade is the last Witch in the Cerridwen bloodline, a title she would rather forget. When she abandoned her powers years ago, Jade thought she’d left magic behind. But when her aunt is murdered, she must face her tragic past and reconnect with her family’s magic, to become High Priestess and save her coven.
April is like a sister to Jade, though they couldn’t be more different. Living in Sun City has many advantages, especially when your parents are as well connected as April’s. But long ago she decided to value friendship over being a Citizen.
As kids, Jade and Charlie were inseparable. He didn’t have her talent for magic, but he loved to assist her with spellwork, or mischief. The day she left town she broke his heart. Now that she’s back, he wonders if he can forgive her, and if his hard-earned magical abilities are strong enough to save his coven, if she runs away again.
One city ruled by technology.
One township losing its magic.
One reluctant witch could bridge the divide...
or bring ruin to them both.
“The last thing Jade expected to do on her lunch break was make news headlines, but apparently all you had to do was help defend one Witch from price gouging and suddenly your loyalty was in question. She hadn’t noticed the news drone until it was too late. Only when she turned around to leave did she see its beady little eye staring her down in judgment. Its AI brain quickly decided she was newsworthy, and it beeped twice at her, the red light on its dome signaling that it had transmitted the footage to all the major news outlets. It turned and sped off in search of another news story.”
“Calling Sugar Hill a small town was an understatement. The shopping mall was Katie’s Emporium on Main Street, five hundred square feet of shopping heaven. The movie theater was the wall of the firehouse on Saturday night, you had to bring your own chair or sit on the ground. The museum was old man Flannerly’s house. He could tell you anything you wanted to know about the town’s history, or the country’s for that matter. He also had several old barns on his property that were completely stuffed to the brim with more memorabilia and trinkets than you could see in a day. The planetarium was Madame Belle’s backyard. She knew the name of every star in the sky. Between her telescope and magical talent, she could show you anything in the heavens as if it were sitting in your hand.”
Chapter 1: Witch's rights
Jade cringed as she watched herself on the video. In the background a pale woman dressed all in black, with a black W on her forehead, looked on. You could clearly hear Jade say, “I know exactly what you did. It may be common practice to charge Witches more, but it’s not going to happen here. Whetstone Enterprises is the biggest company in the country, Sammy.” She pointed a finger as she finished. “If you don’t want to lose our business, then you’d better follow the Accords to the letter. Clear?”
Jade stopped the video on her desk and closed all the headlines. “I couldn’t help it. He was charging her twice as much just because she’s a Witch. It’s barbaric enough that they brand the ones who work here, but there’s nothing I can do about that, it’s in the Accords.”
“They don’t brand them,” April said, rolling her eyes and plopping down in the chair across from Jade.
“They tattoo them on their foreheads!” Jade countered.
“It’s temporary!” April replied. “Once they leave the city limits, it dissolves. It doesn’t even hurt them.”
Chapter 2: Nightmares
Jade’s eyes flew open, and she bolted upright in bed, the echoes of a scream still fresh in her mind. Breathing heavily, she looked through the wall of glass at the city beyond. The sun was still below the horizon, and the darkest hour of morning blanketed the city in an eerie stillness. She sat there in the dark for a moment, trapped in the intensity of the dream—the heat of the smoldering house, the bruises to her fists from pounding the burnt floorboards. She rubbed her hands and tried to steady her breath as a bead of sweat dripped down her temple. Jade rarely remembered her dreams, and they were never this vivid.
She was usually an early riser, but the fear of the nightmare still lingered. Instead of rising quickly to start her day, she took a slow deep breath and told herself, You’re safe in your bed. The past is past. It can’t hurt you now.
Across the river only a handful of windows were lit. She stared at those small dots of light, silently willing more of them to shine. The seconds dragged on like hours until finally the sun began to lighten the darkness and the buildings’ outlines could be seen against the pale blue morning sky. Jade closed her eyes and waited for her body to relax. The sun’s first rays crept into her room, bathing it in their gentle warmth.
Chapter 3: The Call
The light seemed to dim, almost imperceptibly, like a filter had slid over her eyes. Jade swiveled in her chair to face the city. She stood and walked over to the glass wall, stretching the phone cord to its limit. Looking down, she could see people and cars going about their day, and across the way workers toiled in the nearby offices. They had no idea the world had just ended. Some part of her mind scolded, You knew. From the moment you woke up today, you knew. Pull yourself together.
“What happened?” Jade closed her eyes, not really wanting to hear the answer.
“We’re not sure yet. It came as a surprise to everyone. None of our healers or psychics had any sense this was coming. Crystal said even the Goddess is silent on the matter. Of course, Sun City sent a Lawkeeper, and they ruled it a heart attack, but I don’t believe that. I’ve sent for our shaman to find out what he can. As soon as I hear anything, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, you know what this means. We need you, Jade.”
She stumbled backward and sat down hard in her chair, feeling more alone than she ever had. The moment she’d been dreading was here. All these years she’d been waiting for it, knew it was coming. It didn’t make her any more ready.
“Dust on the Altar is so much more than an urban fantasy tale. It is also a story of friendship, faith, and overcoming fear. Jade ran from her fears and troubles as a child, but returning to Sugar Hill forces her to face everything she ran away from. And she doesn’t return to the town alone. Her best friend April is right alongside her. April may not have magic, but she slowly begins to accept the witch side of Jade, showing how friendship can transcend any bounds.”
“I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked up Dust on the Altar, I just knew it’s been a while since I’ve read a good witchy story and I wanted one! But this book went above and beyond anything I could have expected. It’s a fairly quick read (if you don’t have two kids) with twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the end. Then if you’re like me, you’ll probably want to go back to pick up all the bread crumbs that you didn’t know were bread crumbs at the time because you love seeing scenes in a new light.”
“Jade is both admirable and relatable, and all of her side characters are charming and heartwarming. You quickly grow to love each and every one of them and wish you could bury yourself in this book and join the coven of Sugar Hill! I read this book in one day, and it was a delight from start to finish. If you are looking for a fresh new urban fantasy, you need to pick this book up!”
In the media
Interviews & Features
October 29, 2020
I chat with Krista about my inspiration for DOTA, my thoughts on the self-publishing world, and more.
Krista Filomeno – The bookish hedgemom
October 26, 2020
For my first interview in years, Tabitha and I talked, DOTA's music, cutting scenes, and lessons learned.
Tabitha Tomala – Behind the Pages