Shan smiled as he entered the small room. Three Ori sat in front of a large table, upon which were clearly defined a series of red-lined zones. Small figurines populated each zone, with others ranked in front of the respective players. Holographic screens hung before them and a heated debate was in progress. It was all too easy.
“You cannot change the rules now,” snarled one, “even if two of the zones have become one. No more dice rolls for you. It´s my turn.”
“But you cheated,” whined another, “you have extra pieces, undeclared pieces, which are effecting the game. I need a judgement!”
With this he whirled to the third member at the table, who seemed somewhat aloof.
“My decision is that they are valid. No one controls them. Something which has never been seen for ages. It will add a little sparkle to the Game!”
“Enough!” roared Shan, indicating for his men to fan out and secure the room, “There is a new player in town, and I will decide what is right or not!”
“Who are you to…?”
The unfortunate Ori never finished his sentence as Shan drew his pistol and shot him. He kicked the corpse aside, twisting the chair around and resting his crossed feet on the table.
“Gentlemen,” he began, “as I said, the Game has changed…anyone else care to argue?”
There was no reply as Shan flicked his finger across the holoscreen.
“This,” he said, “is the one time that I hold all of the cards.”
Zone II Unknown Location
Silence reigned within the cave, except for the dripping of a small rivulet of water onto the slime-covered rock below. The peace was broken by a grating, screeching sound and the weed-entwined grill covering the cave’s mouth strained upwards.
Inside something stirred; a grumbling, groaning noise followed by a muted growl. A large red-clawed hand grasped the bottom of the grill and heaved, tearing it free from its green restraints. A cloven hoof was planted outside as the creature twisted its body back into the cave, looking for something.
Finally it emerged, a huge axe in its right hand, flames jumping between the horns on its hideous head. Twin rows of serrated teeth were opened, and a deep, bass laugh rang out. It ripped free the pistol from the holster on its hip and fired into the surrounding vegetation, the explosive round smashing a nearby rock into dust.
“Death and destruction!” it roared, following the strange bobbing light which appeared. It always brought satisfaction.
Ruined City Zone II
Inspector Burton rolled groggily to his feet, spitting out a mix of dirt and blood. He had been left in an untidy heap, behind some sheltering rubble. Tapping on his communication link, he heard the faint hiss of its operation and spoke rapidly into it, “Sargeant, report!”
“Sir!” responded Harms, “You are alive, thank the Prelate!”
“Yes, indeed, Sargeant,” replied Burton scanning the area, “what is your position, can you see me?”
“No, sir. We had to take a detour around the back of the Taurans, fighting our way through. We should be close to you in a few minutes.”
In fact, the Sargeant was perched on slightly raised wall, hidden from the Inspector’s view.
“Be careful, when you get here." said Burton, "That magician and his follower are around. They have already tried to attack me once, although I did fight them off.”
Harms stifled a laugh.
“What’s that? Sargeant!”
“Sorry, Sir,” replied Harms, “had to cough, we’ll be with you shortly. Out!”
Just in front of him sat the ‘magician’ and his follower. Laughing to himself, the Sargeant waved his men forward.
Grishak stopped and sniffed the air. The first fight had been disappointing; one or two poorly equipped humans had tried to stand against him, their strange and antiquated armour proving little challenge. Now though, he could smell fresh blood and death. The familiar odours of burnt flesh and recently spilled guts drew him on.
His ears had heard cries in praise of his own Demon God and he knew he was close. Parting some annoying branches with his axe, he saw the city in front of him, starkly highlighted by burning buildings. The sound of rifle fire flowed like music to his starved and twisted soul.
Roaring his challenge he burst through the non-existent barrier and entered the streets, a startled group of Church soldiers turning to fire at him. This was more like it, he thought as he charged on, here there would at least be sport and without doubt death to glorify his name.
The first swing of his axe sent a head spinning into the air, his pistol firing indiscriminately into the mass of bodies before him. There would be time later to educate the Taurans to his identity, but for now there was war.
Inspector Burton had managed to round up a few recalcitrant troops; it was necessary to instil a little discipline into one or two of them, but that was why he was here. He had just ordered the troops to remove the still warm bodies, when the beast had attacked. Up until now, they had not seen one such as he, but there was no mistaking the Tauran Elite.
“Kill it!” he screamed, firing his pistol as an example and a ragged volley of rifle fire lashed out in response. Nothing seemed to affect the Tauran, as it shrugged off the weapons fire and ploughed into the Church soldiers.
Harms and his men had come up to Cornelius’ position unseen and the vain attempts of the strangely dressed man to swing his sword had been quickly suppressed. A rifle butt to the jaw had calmed him down. It was as Butt responded to their attack that Grishak slammed into the Inspector and his men. Sargeant Harms ignored Butt, quickly ordering his men into position. His Sniper, Burns, snapped off a shot which ricocheted off one of the creature’s horns, but did nothing more than infuriate it and give away their position.
As the huge beast turned to begin its assault of Harms’ men, he heard the strangest of sounds, Butt was laughing.
I was checking on my KDP Amazon site and found out that I am now available in the US, UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy. What I now need to do is get my finger out and translate something. My deductive reasoning process would suggest that the easiest would be The Wildwose, so I now have a New Year´s resolution which is to have The Wildwose in Spanish available for download by the end of January 2012.
Other resolutions are to continue posting SDIV here and to finally complete A Cold Dish and my new novel, ELDRID, Officer Of The Guard for publication before the Summer.
Curiously, I am now selling more via Smashwords (Barnes & Noble and Sony included) than on Amazon and have made the decision not to put my books on the KDP Select programme. Those that are free, remain free and I would rather have a diversity of Distribution Channels, rather than restrict myself just to Amazon.
Inspector Burton watched the two strange creatures through his gunsights as they crossed over onto the paved road. He had seen the portal open, the strange vegetation beyond and he knew it was some type of demon-spawned witchcraft.
One of the two was wearing normal clothes, in some vain attempt to fit in, but had a strange mutation attached to its neck, with another head lolling down. The second of them was dressed in a baggy jerkin, spotted with a strange variegated pattern, and ambled by its side.
“Just a little bit closer,” he said encouragingly, under his breath, “that’s right.”
He looked up to make sure that his men were in position; this war had seemed to last forever, they were constantly repelling attacks from a mixture of Tauran forces. This, however, was quite new, a change to the typical bombardment followed by assault. They had long ago lost their armour and were reduced to hand weapons and the one or two explosive charges that still remained.
Burton had tried to raise Command by communicator, but it seemed that they were isolated here. He had picked up a rag-tag band of men, from different worlds and different regiments as the fight had continued, in fact the mixture of units had called his attention a number of times. However, he believed in the command structure and as such his blind faith in their judgement kept him from taking the matter further.
Raising his hand he signalled to his Sargeant, the highest ranker apart from himself, and saw the man pat the top of the soldier’s helmet in front of him. He had already chosen his best man, Burns their sniper, to deal with this potential threat. Two clean shots and it would be over, he thought, just before the rocket screamed into view, barrelling directly for his position
“Well, it seems pretty quiet,” said Cornelius, squinting at the nearest building, “I think whatever fighting took place here was a while ago.”
He had hardly finished his sentence when the first salvo of rockets slammed into the building, sending chunks of material high into the air. Butt thought he saw a body mixed amongst them, but was unsure and covered his head to protect himself from the falling debris.
At that moment Clari decided to demonstrate her preoccupation, her scorching breath whistling past his ear.
“You …” he started, leaning forward to chastise her, and in so doing, saved his life.
The sniper had a clear shot, or so he thought; at the last minute his target had jerked violently and instead of the head shot he had taken, the slight movement caused the laser to score off the top of the creature’s head. Cursing, Burns took aim again and it was then the second load of rockets struck.
“F**k!” cursed Butt, diving to the floor, his head burning. The round had parted his hair cleanly, leaving a stripe of burned flesh where his mohican had once stood proudly. He rolled back and forth in agony and screamed for Kam to get down; the dazed Taartun stood open-mouthed, marvelling at the display of violence all around.
Cornelius grabbed his sleeve and dragged him down as a horde of screaming Taurans rounded the corner.
Groggily the Inspector climbed to his feet, the remnants of his command strewn all around. He saw the Sargeant waving at him and signalled back, speaking into his communicator.
“Get ready!” he spat, “They’ll be coming soon!”
Almost on cue, the Tauran forces attacked, storming their position. Rapidly Burton gave his commands and a volley of fire blasted forth. He had forgotten about the other two creatures as a more pressing problem appeared.
“Over there!” shouted Butt, indicating a recently created pile of rubble and set off at a flat run for the cover. By now, Kam seemed to have realised that his life was in danger and soon overhauled the gasping Cornelius.
Sliding to a halt, Cornelius ripped out his pistol and took aim, the distorted features of the Taurans leaving no room for misinterpretation of their intent. He snapped off a couple of shots, the first one missing, but the second striking directly into the open mouth of one of the mutants.
However, as firepower went, they were vastly outgunned and a trio of Tauran troopers split off from the pack and raced towards them.
“We’re going to die!” he muttered as they came closer.
“Speak for yourself!” snarled Kam, using the rubble as a launching pad for a tremendous leap. Sword in hand, he vaulted over the first attacker, and with his weapon held firmly in both hands, used his momentum to slam into the other two. His attack obviously surprised them, knocking them unceremoniously to the floor. Kam stamped down hard onto the first’s neck with the heel of his boot, hearing the satisfying crunch of bone. He pivoted and slashed outwards, his blade ringing against the crude club in the second Tauran’s hand. The shock of the strike caused it to lose its grip and without a visible pause in his movement, Kam buried his blade to the hilt in its chest, wrenching the weapon out as he had been taught, in order to widen the wound.
Looking back he watched Butt scurrying backwards, trying mightily to avoid the serrated weapon in his attacker’s hand. He saw the little man raise his pistol, holding it against the stomach of his attacker. There was a flash, a roar of pain and the Tauran arched upwards. By now Kam had covered the distance between them and punched his sword into the Tauran’s back. Once, twice and a third time he struck until all signs of resistance disappeared.
Butt picked up one of the discarded rifles from the floor and scurried back behind the barricade. Shaking his head, Kam followed; Butt had to be better than this or else they were in serious trouble.
The Inspector knew he had a problem; he was the last of his squad, had one ugly spit-drooling face pressed into his, was bleeding from numerous wounds and more of the abominations had arrived. Therefore he took a decision.
Screaming, “For the Prelate!” he braced his legs against the floor, took a firm grasp on the Tauran’s tunic and heaved it backwards. His pumping legs propelled both him and it out of the second storey window, straight down to the welcoming floor below them.
It seemed as though his prayer was answered as the flailing inter-tangled pair crashed down onto a group of Taurans passing below. Their fall was broken and the Inspector rolled away, in pain, but alive.
That was when his luck changed, he felt the weight of a heavy boot pressed into his chest and looked up into a horribly disfigured excuse for a face. Sunlight glinted off the blood encrusted blade as the axe was raised above him and by now even he had stopped in his pleading for divine intervention.
As the weapon began to descend there was a sharp crack, the creature’s eye socket exploded outwards and he was suddenly free again. He closed his eyes momentarily, giving thanks for such intervention and apologising for his lack of faith. When he opened them, he saw the grinning face of Butt above him, his anti-mohican cut, adding even more to his strangeness.
“Thought you might need a hand,” he said, holding out what appeared to be a normal human appendage, “what do you say?”
“Tauran scum!”, roared the Inspector, kicking his foot upwards, straight between the unfortunate Butt’s legs. As Cornelius collapsed, his mouth opened in a silent scream, Kam brought his sword hilt down on top of Burton’s head. He then grabbed a handful of Butt’s shirt and dragged him back behind their shelter, muttering to himself in disgust.
Johns had discarded his armour, swapping the suit for a worn green uniform. His men moved their volunteers on board, a mixture of green troops and veterans. He had chosen his people personally, no mistakes would be forgiven on this voyage. The second most powerful man on Macaulay breathed in deeply, slapped his Sargeant on the shoulder and laughed loudly. This was more like it. Viker could stay here with his new-found pleasure and sycophants, Johns craved war. A growl bubbled at the back of his throat, a familiar sound he thought gone forever. Perhaps things were finally beginning to look up. As he heard the ramp lifting , he wondered where Alana was, and what she was doing. He could have done with her by his side.
Flagship Unknown Location
“So, how does this work?”
Shan looked puzzled. Each of the screens was extremely complex, a mix of virtual holographic technology, hard screen and table-top map-ware. The planet was divided into zones which contained their own habitat and microclimate. Troops were highlighted in one colour, non-combatants in another. Information scrolled on disposition, weapons, life signs, aptitude, power bonuses and risk.
“Games begin simply, usually in one zone. Players then can draft in further troops depending upon strict rules. You can see here how a game develops.”
The Ori flicked his fingers over a virtual keyboard, setting in motion a simulation of a Game.
“This is one of the most famous of Games. It decimated a world, causing the financial ruin of two houses and the virtual annihilation of breeding stock. It is how my family ultimately decided that they were the only true exponents and deserved to own and run the Game as they wished to do so.”
"You lost then,” laughed Shan, “how appropriate.” He waved his hand around the Control Room,
“Now, show me how...”
“We’ve already stated...aargh!”
“Not listening. This is now my Game. I want to play right now.”
His finger hovered over a rune, “What does this one do?”
“No!” screamed the Ori as the signal was sent.
Within the bowels of the Flagship, relays clicked and whined as nine non-descript pods began a short journey. Fluid was drained in the process, electronic stimuli shuddering through eight slumbering bodies. The ninth held a being who merely smiled, flexing wrinkled appendages and baring teeth in anticipation. Soon, it would be time to live again.
Alana stirred, chemicals rapidly being evacuated from her body as her enhanced metabolism kicked in. As she woke, so too did her suit, her HUD flickering into solidity and feeding data directly to her starved senses. Before she could formulate a plan the pods rocked to a stop, energy build-up causing them to oscillate in anticipation. With a huge surge they were expelled from the ship, curving away slightly, before heading for the planet’s surface.
Fold Space Unknown Location
Johns checked the read out again, they had been travelling for what seemed an eternity, but time was deceptive within the vortex of folded space. He knew where they were going, his senses still attuned to his ex-squad member. Whatever Viker had conjured, Alana somehow called to him. His initial thought was to follow the Construct’s destructive trail, but deep down he knew it was wrong. Those on board with him believed more in Johns than they did in their once angelic Lord. He trusted them to do the right thing and he knew that following Alana and her people was important.
“How much longer, Sir?”
It was a valid question and he knew one all shared.
Mechanical interlocking transit ways moved the drop pods along. They snaked their way to the allocated bay, set aside for them. Above each of the reserved slots a rune flashed brightly in a pale green light, until the pod docked. With an escape of steam and a resounding clunk, each individual pod bedded into its receiver, actuating relays which initiated the stasis rods waiting calmly for their charges. Thin sleeves of metal moved smoothly out, mating with the recessed plugs in the outer shell of the pod’s casing. Fluid hissed through the new couplings, filling an inner series of veins and maintaining the pod’s charges at an optimum level.
Seven of the eight pods acted as expected, the eighth waited a moment, gurgling in protest before it too showed green lights across the board. Inside the eighth pod Alana dreamed, her body jerking in feverish activity.
Red eyes glinted from the shadows near to the new arrivals. A wrinkled hand reached out and caressed Alana’s pod, soon it was followed by a hunched figure who withdrew a tool from inside its outer garment. Shrill, warbling sound broke into the monotone repetition of functioning equipment. One more pod moved into place, making the group nine, yet not registering as such on the main console. With a chuckle the tool was replaced and the figure climbed inside his own temporary tomb, calm in the knowledge that he would be accompanying the new arrivals on their next journey. That, or his alarms would be triggered and he would be shunted aside, to waken once more. He had done this many times before.
Kermadec Island Macaulay Disputed Zone
Viker yawned. He changed his mind like the wind, and had decided that it was necessary to stay a little longer. More people had flocked in from outlying regions and he ruthlessly culled them; the young and virile were segregated, mostly, and indoctrinated into his army of followers. Others were used as target practice or to satisfy the burgeoning excesses of chosen officers. Only Johns remained aloof, working hard to mould the new soldiery into an effective fighting force. At times, Viker wondered who he was doing it for, but his old mentor showed nothing but faith and belief in his Lord. More fool him.
Languidly, Viker rose from his makeshift throne, stretching his wings and scratching his crotch. He spat, ignoring where his spittle would land. No-one would raise a voice in protest. A line of stone-faced guards waited for him outside the room, falling in behind as he sauntered in search of some amusement.
“What now, Johns?” he asked.
“We have word of the Beast.”
For a moment, the only beast that Viker could think about was that which curled hidden within him, but then he remembered having coined the name for the possessed Construct.
“What of it?”
“It has halted. Spindle appears to be its destination.”
“Asmode’s Lair? How trite,” said Viker dismissively, “we received information on that location before our failed attempt to destroy it last time. What could it possibly want there?”
“I believe that we need to go and find out,” suggested Johns, awaiting his Lord’s displeasure.
“You go,” said Viker, “take some troops with you and find out what’s going on. I have work still to do here.”
“Yes, My Lord,” said Johns, “at once.”
With a wave of his hands, Viker quickly forgot about Johns; there were some new arrivals from the country and he was sure to find at least one buxom wench to satisfy him.
Gingerly, Cornelius stepped around the remains of the mangled and shattered forms. Here and there he dispensed his own form of mercy, as he moved determinedly towards the vehicle and the Taartuns within it. A low moan wafted from beneath a pile of snapped branches near to the front of the twisted cockpit and he hastily picked up one of the typical Taartun swords from the ground nearby. Poking aside the splintered vegetation, he revealed a small man, dressed in the curiously checked garment he had seen all of the Clansmen wear. Butt prodded the man with the end of the blade and was rewarded with a startled shout.
Jumping backwards, he drew his new-found laser pistol, transferring the sword to his left hand.
“W-w-where am I?” asked the individual in a dazed fashion.
“That’s exactly what I was going to ask you,” replied Cornelius, watching as the man struggled to his feet, holding one hand against the fresh wound in his side. He saw him scan the underbrush, probably looking for a weapon of some sort.
“Enough of that!” snapped Cornelius, waving his pistol for effect.
To his surprise, the man seemed more concerned about the sword than his pistol, tensing his body as though about to attack. Butt quickly snapped off a shot, which whistled past the man’s ear, causing him to collapse backwards onto the floor.
“Who are you?” he queried in a state of shock, “Where did you come from?”
“The back of your vehicle, trussed up like some piece of prime meat!” snarled Cornelius, the pistol firmly pointed at the face in front of him, which only wore a vacant expression. Suddenly, he knew that somewhere a local village was missing an idiot and groaned in frustration.
“Never mind that, you can start by telling me your name and what you were doing here!” he barked, waiting expectantly.
“My name is Kam, Kam Macadam,” he said warily eyeing the pistol, “All I do is drive, they give us papers and we go where they say. Papers. Drive. Papers. Dri…”
“Enough!” shouted Cornelius, “You’re giving me a headache!”
“Are you one of them?” demanded Kam, readying himself as though expecting a further rebuke.
“I don’t think so,” said Cornelius, “whatever one of them is. I just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time; the story of my life really.”
Suddenly from behind the remains of the vehicle came a crashing and snarling, followed by the roar of a pistol round.
“Run!” Butt screamed taking off for the uncertain cover of the rocks, not waiting to see if Kam was following. The Clansman hesitated until he saw an armoured body fly through the air, a steaming hole gaping in its chest as it slammed into the tree next to him.
“Where are we going!” gasped Kam as he ducked under a low hanging branch, trying desperately to keep up with Cornelius, who was travelling extremely rapidly.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m going in the opposite direction to that pistol fire, and,” said Cornelius, pointedly,” as fast as my stubby, little legs will carry me!”
With that he put on an extra burst of speed and left Kam struggling behind.
The Clansman stopped for a moment, trying to figure out why he was following his strange new companion. Struck by rock and wood chips, as a shot impacted close by; he decided it didn’t really matter and set off in pursuit.
One minute he was running at top speed and the next he was laid flat on his back. It felt as though he had run straight into a rock wall, and his bleeding nose tended to agree with his idea. The weird thing was that there was absolutely nothing to be seen.
“What happened?” asked Kam, concern in his voice.
“I have absolutely no idea,” mumbled Cornelius from behind the hand he held cupped under his nose to catch the stream of blood pouring down.
“Boundary shield?” asked Kam, cautiously extending his hand until it struck the invisible boundary. “Did you do that?”
Cornelius looked at him in amazement and simply pointed at his nose and raised his eyebrows.
“Ah, probably not, eh?” asked the Clansman, unbuttoning his trousers, and seeing Cornelius’ astonishment, “I desperately need to go. I can’t wait!”
Kam hurriedly went about his business, spraying urine in a childishly careless fashion. The results were unexpected to say the least. Whatever the stream of liquid connected with did not appear to agree with the procedure and Kam howled in pain. An electrical discharge shot across the distance separating the unfortunate Clansman from the force wall, making his strange hair stand on end in a most frightening manner.
Cornelius stared at the cameo for a moment and then collapsed in laughter onto the floor. “That...” he said between gasps, “...is the best thing that’s happened in a long time!”
Kam found it impossible to talk, his teeth chattering uncontrollably, until he at last finished and fell to his knees. After a short respite, he too began to laugh, and just for a while, they forgot about their pursuers.
“Hey!” shouted Kam, “Have you seen this?”
Cornelius walked over to stand next to him and gaped in complete surprise. Now the force field had vanished, what it had been protecting became obvious. A perfectly straight line cut across the verdant vegetation and beyond it was the unmistakable streets of a city. One, whose very structure looked battered and torn, as though it had suffered an interminable bombardment.
Partially hidden behind a crumbling façade was the burnt out shell of a tank, rusted and twisted it must have lain there a very long time. The streets appeared deserted and there was little noise, except the whistling of a chill wind which they could even now begin to feel.
“I really don’t like this”, said Cornelius, “someone is playing with our heads.”
“Pardon?” asked Kam, confusedly, he sometimes found it hard to understand Butts’ terminology.
“You better have this,” said Cornelius, handing over the short sword, “I don’t think it’ll be of much use, but you just never know:”
Glancing back, he could see Clari, hovering in mid-air and staring worriedly along their back trail. Quickly making up his mind, Cornelius started forward, “Come on,” he said, “it looks like we really have no option.”
“Move!” he repeated to the still gawking Clansman, and set off towards the city, Kam eventually following behind.
Butt was sure he was going to die; he had been almost convinced of it waking up bound and gagged in the crate, positive in his assumption as the first shots were fired and now there was no doubt, as the turbulence of explosive impacts buffeted him.
His luck had been running out ever since he had borrowed the golden ticket, and right now it appeared to have reached rock bottom. With a vomit-inducing lurch his world went backwards, the crate smashing into what felt like a less than welcoming earth. Over and over it rolled, bouncing high into the air and slamming Cornelius generously into every one of the walls. With one final twist and slide, it came to a halt, the rear door parting in two and letting Cornelius see exactly what was going on; chaos, mayhem and blood-letting. Normally his kind of party, but not in his current predicament.
He could see the smoking ruin of what appeared to have been means of locomotion, bodies lay half-sprawled from the cockpit and a rough gaggle of men and women were making their way towards him. What he did not like, was the efficient way they handled the assault weapons in their hands, nor the uniforms they wore. Taartuns they were not.
The creature on his shoulder screamed a defiant challenge and Cornelius began to curse in frustration as he struggled to free himself.
She did not know why her Master remained bound on the floor, whilst enemies approached. His roars were loud, yet were made from a non-defendable prone position. Cocking her head to one side, she made a decision; someone needed to take him in hand. Delicately walking down his chest, she approached the ropes tied around his ankles, and dug her claws into the soft flesh of his thighs. With a yelp, Cornelius stopped struggling, and nodding in satisfaction, she flamed. It was a little indiscriminate in target, but served its purpose, although her Master seemed less than grateful. Scolding him, she prodded him onto his side and repeated the process, at last satisfied with her work.
“Crap!” swore Butt, as the unexpected burst of liquid fire sprayed over him, “Are you trying to kill me?”
There was of course no answer, Butt’s struggles and the corrosive offering combining to part his bonds. As sharp claws prodded at him, he turned to one side and steeled himself for more pain; in that he was not disappointed. One heave was all that was needed to wrench himself free, and gingerly rolling to his feet, he looked round for some weapon. A reassuring weight settled around his neck, and Cornelius stroked one hand against the creature’s head.
“I”, he said, “have the perfect name for you … Clari; just the right mixture of bile and affection.”
Purring softly, Clari nuzzled him, and then stared greedily out at the oncoming enemies. With her Master, death and destruction were always near.
Carefully, Butt inched his way out of the crate, making no sudden moves with which to startle the soldiers garbed as Church warriors. A shrill whistling sound seemed to signal something, as the soldiers threw themselves down onto the ground. Cornelius was puzzled, but only for a moment, as a barrage of missiles streaked down, striking the earth around him. It seemed as though the floor bucked upwards, tossing him in the air, before slamming him down to the ground. He hugged the dirt, his fingers scrabbling for non-existent purchase, and Clari warbled her joy.
No doubt the barrage lasted for a moment, but time seemed to extend itself, yet eventually it was over. Gingerly, Cornelius pulled himself to his feet, the sounds of injured and dying men permeating the air. Yet, Cornelius just was not feeling in a charitable mood. He scrambled across to where shrill moans indicated one of the soldiers lay, moving round behind a cluster of rocks. One of the explosive rounds must have landed close by, as the man lay propped against a rock, both hands pressed tightly against his stomach, whilst blood pumped rhythmically from the stump of his leg, sheared off just above his knee. No sympathy crossed Cornelius’ mind, this would have been his fate, if the fortunate counter-attack had not been successful. He actually was not feeling favourable to either side; collateral damage had been a given with their individual tactics.
A rifle was close by the man, yet he never moved, as Cornelius picked it up, checking its charge and functionality. A pistol was also clipped to the man’s belt, as was a wicked-looking knife.
Gasping in pain, the soldier now saw Cornelius and turned to him pleadingly.
“Help … me…” he prayed.
“Sure,” said Butt, raising the rifle and firing once.
After some musing, I decided that there are plenty of both dead tree and eBook reviews done. What seems to be less well covered is that of Audiobooks. Now this I don't like as I am a huge fan of this medium. Particularly when I am driving long distance, exercising or just trying to de-stress, on goes the well-known mp4 device and I lose myself. Not too much, but just enough.
There are some great FREE audiobooks, as well as some good stuff read by well-known actors. There are also popular paper books which really don't work in this medium. So, I have decided that my www.gerardawhitfield.blogspot.com BLOG will be dedicated to the audio version. Of course, there could be exceptions, but that's the plan.
I have reviewed a couple already and am just just finishing a series by Abigail Hilton, which will be next on my list. A Clue is that The Prophet of Panamindorah by Abigail Hilton is doing the necessary for me right now.
More interesting facts, and this time about sales. Since starting at the turn of the year with self-publishing I have had varying success with "sales". Publishing to Amazon seemed a huge step originally and so I first published via Smashwords. Hey, you got distributed to all those other channels so it had to be better, no? Well, guess what, the answer is NO. Right now, and only from my personal experience, the answer is that the potential market via Amazon is an order of magnitude better than anything else. Whether it's due to already ingrained purchasing habits, the kindle or ease of navegation, I don't know. All I do know is that the difference has been huge up until now.
That was Lesson One. The time it takes for some form of recognition is Lesson Two and I'm still working on that. Seven months on and I have just had my first Kobo Sales. In terms of ranking as a distribution channel I have the following list:
1. Amazon 2. Smashwords 3. Sony 4. Barnes and Noble 5. Apple (this is skewed as they do not show FREE sales and I had two books in the FREE top 100 this month). 6. Kobo 7. The rest ( and here I mean Diesel)
As I say interesting. The trend is still positive which I count as a good thing. Two more books to be published before year end is my target, and I am still on track...honest!
First Class State Room Prelate’s Light Unknown Location Fold Space
“You need to read this,” commented Shanna, throwing a rolled and partially chewed parchment in front of him, “there are things within in which concern you.”
“Cost-cutting?” grumbled Cornelius, as he put down his drink and indicated the high-tech machinery around him.
“This is a priceless relic ….” interrupted the young woman, but was angrily silenced by Shanna.
Butt grinned, feeling a little better at the effect his words had. Not malicious by nature, rather by training and at least partially vocation, Cornelius was apt to provoke instead of questioning. Unconscious responses could be extremely enlightening, but were always entertaining. Reaching for the scrap of paper, he unrolled it, using his brandy glass to weigh down one end, which again brought an outraged gasp. His little game was spoilt just a little, when he had to move the glass and turn the parchment the right way up. In order to drown out the tittering from Shanna, he began to read…
“…and then there will come to pass the birth of a mighty hero, steel-thewed and pure of heart, he will hearken to the call of the righteous. Tall, clean-limbed, of the greatest line of Taartun heroes, will he be. When the Egg, the Hero and the Blade are united, will our foes tremble.
Shattered earth and broken bones will litter the Tower. The Beast will be called forth at last, to do battle with the Taartun Hero and the …”
“Something missing?” asked Butt sarcastically, waving the parchment in the air.
“Yes!” snapped the young woman, “At least half the Mighty Hero!”
“Clari!” reprimanded Shanna, even whilst she hid her mirth, “He was rightfully chosen, there can be no doubt!”
“I meant,” stated Cornelius, as he reappropriated his drink and winked outrageously at Clari, “the other half of the parchment?”
“Ah...yes...” replied Shanna, patting her pockets, “I seem to have mislaid it, but I’m sure I’ll remember where I left it before you leave.”
“Leave?” queried Cornelius, “Not likely. I like it here.”
“Did I say anything about giving you a choice?” asked Shanna, as the muffled report of a pistol spat twice.
“No…” responded Cornelius, as the drink slipped out of his hand, in time with his hold on consciousness, “…actually…you didn’t…”
“Clari, put the weapon down!” snapped Shanna, as she spoke into her communications device, “he has been chosen.”
“As what?” asked Clari, her hostility apparent, “the favourite butt of everyone’s joke? Give me a break, learned one, which part of the prophecy does he actually fulfil? Steel-thewed, clean of limb, pure of heart, t…?”
“Of the Greatest Taartun line…”
“Do not interrupt me again, girl!” Shanna warned her, “You heard me, and that!”, she snarled, pointing at the enraged creature, which stood on Cornelius’ chest, its tail lashing from side to side. “There is not a single way to fake the choice, She cannot be mistaken!”
“But ...” protested Clari.
“Exactly ...” replied Shanna, waving the Guards,and the net slung between them, forward, “Although you, my dear, are the least of my problems. I’m worried about the Blade, the last I heard, he was in an even worse state than this one, if that’s at all possible.”
Muttering to herself, the old hag rose to her full height and swung the cane over her shoulder. Whistled notes floated back towards the still surprised Clari, as Shanna sauntered after her unconscious charge.
Prison Complex Alpha Luther
“It seems to be working, Sir,” the Inspector glanced at his assistant and the pile of papers in his hands.
“What would that be then?” he asked, “Have you some news?”
“I think I have,” replied the assistant , “true to his nature, our subject made the first contact. The Taartuns have him and things appear to be progressing nicely.”
“Speak plainly boy!” snapped the Inspector, “How many times must I remind you?”
“Our agent on board the liner indicates that Butt has disappeared, as have a number of influential passengers. The ship’s crew are not asking too many questions, they are in fact glad to see the back of him.
They dropped out of Fold Space temporarily to carry out an unexpected repair and the Taartuns demanded to leave the liner. Strangely enough one of their craft was nearby and they disembarked, taking all of their belongings with them.”
“And now?” queried the Inspector, “Where are they?”
“On their way, we believe to their final destination,” grinned the assistant.
“Oh, good,” smiled the Inspector, “send the pre-arranged message, then.”
The assistant nodded in agreement and left the Inspector alone. Time would tell whether Butt was the right person for the job or not. It did not do to have only one option though, and the call would bring just the right type of balance. He relaxed in his chair, folded his hands across his stomach and closed his eyes. He had time.
He was somewhere dark, stale and rancid. Apparently his sojourn as the Mighty Hero had been short-lived, as even he could not see anyone treating their chosen one this way. Movement by his face and the familiar rubbing of scales against his cheek reassured him that he was not alone. At least there was one thing loyal to him in this universe, and that for Cornelius Butt was a first.
Voices outside prompted his survival response and he tried to call out, but something had been pushed into his mouth, deadening any sound. All movement was practically impossible, as he was bound hand and foot and mentally he had demoted himself from Hero to Death Row occupant in one swift breath. He must be inside a crate, because he felt himself lifted, the screech of metal against metal, and the rasp of ropes indicative of such movement. With a thud, his prison was dropped and landed on something, a transporter no doubt, and the sensation of travel began again.
Twisting, he saw the twin red orbs of his favourite creature next to him, if only the thing could talk, or was endowed with some supernatural skill, then at least he could pass the time, or even escape. Instead, he resigned himself to whatever fate was to come, the comforting presence of at least some light, helping to calm him. Cornelius was not fatalistic, he knew that he always got one chance; he just had to be ready for when it smacked him right between the eyes.
As more people visit the site, join up on networked blogs or add themselves to the eMail list, analysis of verious blog statistics has some meaning. In fact the most interesting, for me anyway, is where various traffic comes from.
To give you all an idea, and if we talk about ALL visits since the blog was started, visitor country ranking is a follows:
1. United States 2. Spain 3. UK 4. Holland 5. Russia 6. Germany 7. Iran 8. Canada 9. Brazil 10. Poland
If we just look at this week then we have:
1. United States 2. Germany 3. Malaysia 4. Bielorussia 5. Spain 6. UK 7. India
These countries are those with significant visits, and it's good to see such a big spread geographically. Mind you, I must admit that I was surprised at some of the new entries in the charts. More to follow as I learn how to find the information.
With A Cold Dish, I intended to draw together three plot lines. Beginning with SALIGIA, carrying on through SDII, III and IV and ultimately jumping a couple of generations to link with Urion’s Belt. Unfortunately, one of the things I have realised as I finish ACD is that it provides a MAJOR spoiler for SDIV, and we just can’t have that now, can we?
Therefore, publication/release timing will have to be altered and I will just have to finish SDIV earlier. My apologies to those of you have had a taster of ACD and are waiting to see how it turns out. The good thing is that it is all but complete, just needing a tweak and a final edit. The bad thing is that it will be after the release of SDIV before you can see the new chapters.
I will try and get SDIV finished as soon as possible, and once it is near, begin posting a serialised sample version of ACD. In the meantime, I will continue posting up to Chapter Eight of SDIV on this blog in preparation of its publication.
Returning to his previous position, his hands now clean and dry, Cornelius stared as the old woman’s skin began to change colour, the wrinkles disappeared as her neck elongated, her mouth lengthening into a snout and the eyes no longer hiding their intense green colour. Her flesh throbbed, light and sound combining, as with each deepening of shade, the initial purring became a rumble and then a growl.
The creature was no longer slumbering, but had moved to Butt’s shoulder, its red orbs whirling in tandem with the primordial beat emanating from the once-hag. Squinting at the apparition, Cornelius staggered to the bar and poured himself another drink; this was all getting just a little over the top for him. Then, when the stentorian voice boomed forth, he perched himself on the table’s edge and peered defiantly into one blazing eye.
“Witness. Listen. Silence. Mission.”
Butt snorted his laughter at what he saw as the ridiculousness of the situation, yet the now reptilian creature, its clothes sloughing off it, like some dead skin, hissed in insistence, and Cornelius wiggled his fingers in some kind of acceptance, before resting his elbow on his crossed knees. His studious pose was less than convincing, as his joint slipped free, causing him to slop brandy on his clothes.
“Shanna talks, and fools listen,” gurgled the voice, “or at least would be wise to do so.”
Realising that he could not maintain his pretence of sobriety, Cornelius had retired to his comfortable chair, and fighting off the onset of sleep, tried to concentrate, as whatever the woman had become continued. Her voice took on a sing-song quality, as though reciting a hard-learned, yet well-worn story and as she wove her strange spell, Cornelius almost unknowingly listened.
“From beyond the pale, cold depths of space, the dark forbidding emptiness and the explosive collisions of stars, comes death. It has waited long, schemed its cruel and heartless revenge, and even now steps onto the edge of our conscious knowledge. All should tremble, none will be spared, and yet, there still is hope. This chance, this impossibility, has a name and, a purpose.”
Head nodding on his chest, consciousness ebbing, Cornelius drifted into a strange twilight world, the old woman’s words painting a picture, which gradually shaped itself to existence. By his side, the little winged creature watched him avidly.
…He was standing on a strangely undulating plain, the wind swirling and whorling the waist-high grass. Ahead, far in the distance he saw a tall, fluted tower which seemed to spear defiantly into the sky. It was black, not the grey, reflective black of silken cloth, but the dead black of obsidian, of a tomb, of death itself. Tearing his glance away, he plodded forward, unable to stop, an almost magnetic force drawing him onwards.
Then, the top part of the tower uncoiled, spread huge wings and smote the sun-kissed clouds. Each beat of those wings, tore through the white cotton-like formations, destroying them as they drove the beast onwards. A huge maw opened and green fire lanced forth, followed by an earth-shaking scream of anger. Deep inside, Cornelius cringed, he knew that it came for him.
Looking down, he saw his clothing, the strange checked patterns mirroring those of the Clansmen, a sword held in one hand, and a rounded shield in the other. His body tall and lithe, muscles thrilling to the impending battle. As the horrible apparition came closer, a weight pressed down on him, forcing him to his knees, filling him with terror. The heroic warrior that was he cowered in fear and waited to die.
Butt was angry; this was not him, this beautified representative of a warrior class. He ate these idiots for breakfast, he spat on their corpses and no over-grown lizard was going to spoil his party. Reality was the suite of a cruise liner, a glass of brandy, soft sheets and a leggy brunette. Most he had, but he was short one beauty and that just wouldn’t do. Cursing and spitting, Butt tore his way forth in a shower of blood and bone. He drew his knives, spat in derision and crouched ready to fight. A tail was wrapped round his neck, a small screaming voice rose in communion with his defiance and Cornelius laughed…
Shanna watched him struggle, saw his indomitable spirit and his sheer bloody-mindedness, and smiled. Cornelius would do, he was anything if conventional, but she had a feeling that he was everything they needed and more. Slowly, she relaxed, her features returning to that of the wizened hag. When he woke, she would tell him of the prophecy, the significance of his vision and what he must do. The only worry that she had, was how to convince him that he was the one who had to carry out this mission. After a moment’s pause, she giggled almost girlishly and shouting at the top of her voice, summoned her suited assistant. Shanna had the perfect solution, one that would have Cornelius falling over himself to comply and then nothing would stand in her way.
Clopping his tongue against the roof of his mouth, and running its fur-lined extremity over painfully sensitive teeth, Cornelius struggled awake. Glue seemed to coat his eyes, sticking recalcitrant lids together, and it took a supreme effort to open them even a crack. Spasmodic focussing brought light and shadow, which suddenly coalesced into a dream-like vision. An abundant cleavage lay but a small distance from his blinking eyes and unconsciously Cornelius’ groping hands reached out.
Reality arrived with a pleasant surprise and a tremendous blow, which rocked his head backwards just as his questing fingers touched bare flesh. Once again blackness enveloped him as a mocking laugh pealed out.
It took a little while for Butt to struggle forth into the light again, and this time the vision awaiting him was different, less welcomed. Gingerly he peeked forth and screamed in repugnance, a wrinkled, saliva flecked chin loomed into his vision, like a senile turtle poking forth.
Cackling with glee, Shanna watched the man wrench himself backwards, his constant passenger protesting shrilly. By her side, a well-endowed young woman smirked complacently.
“That,” spat Butt, regaining his composure and his chair, “was uncalled for...”
“Oh, I don’t know, “replied Shanna, “it gave me a kick”
“Those, “grumbled Cornelius, “are for free...”
Shanna sucked at her teeth, regarding Butt with a less than approving expression and then she shrugged, as though her feelings were unimportant.
“I would,” she said, “introduce you to my niece, but as you are already on intimate terms, I will gloss over the formalities.”
It took a moment for Butt’s foggy mind to place the good-looking young woman, but as his eyes lingered on the top of her bulging blouse, his jaw began to ache in sympathetic resonance. No words passed his lips, rather a grim smile and a respectful nod of his head; the moment deserved no comment, only a response. That would come in his own time.
“Would you like to know, what the fates have in store for you?” asked Shanna, with a strangely respectful inflection in her voice.
“Just get on with it!” muttered Cornelius, “Your niece and I need to reconcile our differences; this cruise won’t last forever!”
Shanna heard the curse by her side, watched the doubt and confusion form in the red-rimmed eyes before her and, not for the first time, questioned Cornelius’ involvement.
AS promised, here is the notice of SALIGIA's publication on Amazon. There will be a later publication run on Smashwords later this week.
Thanks once again to those who have helped, listened and read. Opinions are always good and help to mould the finished product. A special thanks to my friend Manolo Guerrero who kindly gave me copies of some of his work a couple of years ago in Huelva, and permission to use them in future cover art. Gracias Manolo otra vez.
First Class State Room Prelate’s Light Unknown Location Fold Space
Cornelius watched her as she swirled the alcohol round in the glass, sniffing at it, sticking her tongue in, sipping then spitting it back, before she suddenly gulped the liquid down. Her neck pulsed curiously, as the liquid disappeared, swelling and turning a strange shade of red, in a most disconcerting fashion. As she finished and moved to place her glass back on the table, she glanced briefly at him over the rim. A strange clear membrane flicked across her eyes, and for just a moment Cornelius would have sworn that they blazed, with an intense green light.
The brandy burned in his throat, causing coughs to wrack his body and tears to stream from his eyes. When he was composed again, he wiped his eyes and looked up. The old woman sat relaxed, a full glass in her hand.
“How ...?” began Cornelius, but she ignored him, hawking once deep in her throat and casting around for somewhere to spit. Not finding anywhere convenient, she grimaced, swallowed and then gulped down some more alcohol.
She laughed at the disgusted look on his face and leaned forward, staring intently at the creature wrapped around Cornelius’ neck, before speaking.
“So,” she crooned, “it has at last begun.”
“That’s nice to know,” quipped Butt, sipping at his drink and waiting for her reaction.
“Fool!” she hissed, “Even now, you have no idea what you have done, have you?” She did not wait for his answer, but continued on, “The Clans have been waiting generations for her birth, they’ve robbed and murdered solely to position themselves as the prophesised ones. A princess was groomed in all their foul skills and traditions, and what happens?”
Now she gave reign to her laughter, gasping for breath, “Cor...nelius Butt ...that’s ...what.”
He really did not see the reason for her seemingly incontrollable humour, after all his reputation preceded him; he had yet to totally fail a mission.
“No ... don’t ...speak,” she said, then gaining some semblance of control, “it’s just that sometimes the irony of it all is too much to bear. What do you know of the Taartuns?”
“The who?” asked Butt, answering her question in full.
“Your new comrades,” she said, indicating the door, “and the creature’s adoring followers.”
Grunting in response, Butt took another swig and the woman continued, “There is, as I have mentioned, a prophecy concerning the creature. A doom-laden tragedy waiting to happen for some and immortality for one other. Would you like to hear about it?”
“Not particularly,” replied Butt, rising from his seat and walking towards the bathroom in an attempt to annoy the hag. She had yet to introduce herself and Cornelius was getting a little bit tired of her. “I’ve got my little cruise to finish and then we’ll see what happens,” he said as he finished his pressing chore.
SALIGIA is a novella I wrote as an exercise in explanation. Many of the Tauran characters who would appear in the Sudden Dearth series needed fleshing out; descriptions both physical and motivational. Set well before SD it also helps to lay the ground for Urion's arrival, linking both SD and Urion's Belt.
I use seven short stories, woven in a plot-line to introduce and hopefully explain these characters further. Due to their inherent natures, each of the characters cameos in one of the Seven Deadly Sins, hence SALIGIA. One means of ingraining the concept of the SDS in Medieval times was the creation of the mnemonic "SALIGIA" based on the first letters in Latin of the seven deadly sins: superbia, avaritia, luxuria, invidia, gula, ira, acedia.
Two of these stories did appeared in my collection The Gift earlier this year, but here are set in their correct context. A soldier, Leftenant Geriond Devane is used as a common device, and truth be told he does not have a good time of it. I will annouce the actual publication date soon, hoping to have everything ready by the second week of July.
It is a theme which I keep touching on, but since being touched by the Amazon phenomenon it has really interested me. From a small fanbase to 10,000 "sales" in two months, seems rather surreal, but that is the reality of Kindle. Now these are FREE sales I know, but as an advertising tool invaluable. No matter which guru of publishing you talk to, read, or listen to, word-of-mouth is still a huge marketing channel. Right now, there are 10,000 (or any combination of that number) more people with a copy of one of my novels or short stories.
Well, I hear you say, they might not like your work and will give you a poor review, but Im not so sure. No, let me explain, I'm not egotistical enough to think that everyone likes my stuff, nor thinks it's perfect or couldn't do with being used as kindling. Nope, what I mean is that you have to raise passion of one sort or another in a person for them to give a review, and that's good. The majority will NOT review. How many of us buy a book in the shop, or online and write a review on it for others? A minority of us is the truth. This does not mean that we liked or loathed it any less, but we are more likely to tell somebody else about it in conversation or on a forum, rather than write a review.
When I write a review, I do so in my own way. I don't point out typo's, or whether the author has the correct POV or could improve their writing craft. Rather, I say whether I liked it or not and why. I do give a warning to those who ask me for a review, saying exactly that. I have seen too many reviews given which spark a food-fight, and to be honest, in that case it's better that the author neither asks for a review nor the reader gives it.
Getting back to the theme of this blogpost - I like FREE, in fact all of my short stories are free on one or other of the main distribution channels. I intend, for now, to keep it that way. If you want, tell a friend about them, and keep checking here as there will be new work available real soon.
I have no qualms posting this very pushy button (no pun intended) as AKnC remains FREE on Amazon.com. Latest statistics, after just over an hour, are 3000 downloads more or less. Great exposure for this and other works of mine.
In an effort to see how the information on AKnC was disseminated, i.e. the fact it had been made FREE, I went surfing. It's amazing the number of linked sites which pass on this information. All of them, rightfully so if they haven't read any of the works, add a disclaimer giving no guarantee of quality. Others clearly point out "real" publishers and those independent guys and gals, even capitalizing the word to make sure no-one misses the fact. Not sure what that means - perhaps that we are more important, with a capital I of course.
Tags and genre labels don't seem to translate well with auto-generation and I've seen some great (without a capital G) examples of this. However I can't, or at least shouldn't complain, as AKnC has reached number 39 in the Kindle Free Charts in just over a day. I eagerly await what happens next.
It's a question I have to ask as Amazon.com has now made A Knight's Charge FREE. This time there was no warning eMail, just the surprise of 400 downloads when I checked this morning!
Now, I'm not sure whether someone let them know of the fact that AKnC was free on other Distribution Channels, or they just decided to kindly give me a boost, but I'm not complaining. Unfortunately it is not FREE on Amazon.co.uk yet, but I will keep checking.
Whatever happens, it helps to give my other work exposure and hopefully it will continue to generate other sales. You will probably notice that I'm not complaining.
I said pricing, not piercing, although they probably do have something in common. The decision about whether to get body art or even which price point to go for takes time, the quellng of fear and of course the worry about what people think. Now, at eighteen it is so-o-o-o much easier to make that decision - F*$k 'em, I'm a rebel. Now though...well yeah, I'm still a rebel.
Many people ask why, or even look down upon work which is priced at 99p or 99c. It must be crap, right? If it was any good you'd be able to sell it for 6.99 at least. Personally I don't think it follows - the logic that a book priced at 6.99 is SEVEN times better than one that is FREE or costs just 99c doesn't wash. I am sure we can all point to expensive books that we thought were not worth 1c, and equally the other end of the scale applies.
So, I've decided to price my books how I like, and I reserve the right to change my mind whenever I feel like it. Right now all my short stories are free ;P, you just need to know where to look. Remember now "f*$k 'em. I'm a rebel!"
As I swim through the murky waters of book marketing, I see all sorts of advice, ideas and schemes to sell more books. There are a number of people who claim to sell immense quantities of books and yet without direct knowledge, we can only take their word. Now I am not here talking about the well-publicised small number who clearly do have large sales, share their numbers and are even snapped up belatedly by the majors. Forum threads talk of 5K this month, 120K so far this year...join the club, and especially my fellowship...you've no doubt seen the same threads.
There are author tagging threads, author mutual blog following, twittering and facebook fan pages. Tagging is something claimed to generate sales by increased public awareness. Mutual blogging gets your feed seen and potentially more feet crossing your threshold, as does the joint liking and subscription to FB Fan pages and Groups.
Me, and I readily admit this, I am linked to a lot of FB Groups and pages and the truth is that I only really take notice of the comments and posts of nine or ten. This must mean that I am not fulfilling my marketing potential, as does my brief dabble into the Tagging foray on Amazon. To be truthful the biggest impact on and exposure to me was via the Amazon free offer of A Guiding Light. This has now ended, but if Amazon is listening, The Wildwose is still free on Smashwords and Apple!
So, what have I done? I have gone back to my trusted and favourite forums, decided to start my own review thread and continued to write, posting excerpts from my work. I think that this slow and steady approach will help to build and satisfy those who like my work whilst removing the franctic stress caused by trying too hard. Oh, and don't forget Amazon...Wildwose, free on Smashwords and iBooks.
For quite some time A Cold Dish remained steady at Fifteen Chapters. It wasn't that I'd run out of ideas, rather that the rest of the novels had to catch up. Finally with the release of SDIII and with the plot for SDIV revised, its patience was rewarded.
Although set in the Urionverse, its timeline rests between the events in the SD series and before that of Urion's Belt. It is a tale of vengeance, deception, pain and retribution. I enjoyed writing it!
Here is the summary of the novel and I will post some excerpts here over the next couple of weeks.
Watch this space...
A violent storm can pick up an innocent babe, whirl it high and deposit it unharmed many miles away. Annihilation is more likely though
Cruel mistakes are terrible things. James McBride made his first one when he murdered a woman and her two children under the hidden influence of the Church. His greatest error was to leave her husband alive. Caught up in his own plans for power, he unknowingly awoke a violent storm. This storm had a name, Juan Escola, whose response was swift and deadly. When Juan was finished, there would be little left of McBride, the Church or the world.
The yacht’s forward velocity bled slowly away, as the warring tug of gravity took hold. Without the braking kiss of atmosphere it still moved away from the Flagship, yet the remote drone busily went about its duty. Light flared from the bow of the drone as twin cylindrical shapes shot out. Once past the yacht they opened, a microfine net spun free, linked equally to the two cylinders. The Princess Marie ploughed into the net, the movement activating retro rockets which fired, burning their payload madly as they drove themselves back towards the drone. Twin arms clicked into place, catching the net as it was drawn back. Clamps locked in place and the drone fired its own thrusters, killing the yacht’s forward motion and dragging the now immobile craft back towards the Flagship.
Alana woke, her mind groggily trying to make sense of the lights and sounds around her.
“Hit her with another shot,” said a disembodied voice, “awake she could be a handful.”
“Should we remove the armour?”
“Fool!” the first voice snarled, “This one and its companions will be a useful trump card. Sedate them and prepare them for delivery, then freeze them.”
She tried to move, her armour responding to her mental commands for a brief instant, before she once more was overcome by a muggy haze. Drugs, she was being sedated. No!
One ceramic wing flicked open, its serrated edge cutting deeply into one of her captor’s legs. She was unaware of the damage caused and missed the sardonic laughter which followed her into slumber.
“This one looks promising,” said the disembodied voice, “I know just where I’ll use her.”
Asmode's Lair Spindle
A new moon hung threateningly in the night sky, its arrival had stressed the seas, causing further damage to an already battered land mass. The Construct was massive; it had grown gradually as debris and detritus had been attracted and absorbed during its journey. Its owner collected souls, yet they came with baggage and so that had been accepted too.
“As melodramatic as ever, Brother,” whimpered Beelzebub, the pain of his Brother’s mind had driven him to his knees. His followers lay bleeding and moaning by his side.
“You will join me...”
It was a statement, not a request and Beelzebub was too weak to refuse.
“Of course,” he replied, trying desperately to hide his real thoughts.
“You were always transparent. Your thoughts and desires are inconsequential at this time. Keep it that way and I will let you live.”
Laughter greeted his response and Beelzebub began to pray.
I was recently asked what my timings were with respect to future works. It gave me pause to think and try and flesh out the timing on the rest of the year, well the next couple on months anyway. So, here goes:
A Cold Dish - this novel has been waiting in the wings whilst I waded through the process of editing, formating and publication on Kindle and Smashwords. My expectation is to finish editing and publish before the end of July.
El Juego - Sudden Dearth Bk IV - This one is scheduled for end August/early September, as I have been tweaking the plot line a little.
SD Book V - The plan is to have a little rest and begin this work near year-end ready for Publication Feb/March of next year.
In the meantime I will be inaugurating the first reviews on my review blog.
As I am learning all of the time, I decided to see what different widgets and gadgets may be useful for this blog. This particular one allows direct links to Amazon via their associates program. Not sure whether I will use it, but useful to see how it works.
On seeing the Buy Now box, please don't panic...this novel is still FREE to download on Amazon.com.
Sudden Dearth Book IV Chapter Four Part II will be following soon.
So, decisions made, first reviews in the works and there's no turning back now. What will become obvious is that the first reviews are of perhaps less well known and/or more independent authors. They are authors I have found or who asked to be part of my Kindle Trip.
I had a large selection of works to choose from and I will begin with those that I enjoyed as a sample, before the full novel version. This is a good way of looking at and "tasting" novels, wetting the toe so to speak. My view was that if they hooked me as samples, then it boded well for a more complete version.
As I said previously they are a mix of SF and Horror and I will be posting the reviews on my separate blog. The first four are:
Something Evil by Cal Noble The Ultimate Choice by Lisa Hinsley Elysium Burning by DDD Bryeton Invasion by William Miekle.
A while ago on the Amazon Kindle forum, I asked people to pitch me in order to get onto my Kindle for a business trip I was taking. The rule was that people asked, I downloaded a sample and those I liked went on the trip with me (well their books anyway...). I tended to stick with SF and Horror, although no-one got turned away.
Having worked through the list, chosen my companions and completing the trip, I was left with a fair few review notes. Another promise I made was to post my thoughts somewhere. Having done that it came to me that I should have a seperate Blog to this one, in which I could give my opinion, do reviews and genrally cover things not specifically within the Urionverse. So that is what I will do.
I'm working on the page now and hope to kick it off this week. First reviews will be my notes from that trip, and I'll post the list of those books shortly. Having linked this blog to Goodreads, the reviews will be available there too.
This collection of short stories is made up of a strange mixture. The Urionverse has become fixed within my mind over the last few years, with the original outline drawn within my novel Urion’s Belt. This novel, strangely enough, has yet to be published, but it does lay down a flagpole in terms of the general timeline of other stories. My Sudden Dearth series is set four to five hundred years before the events in Urion’s Belt, and its task is to explain how Urion’s Belt came into being. The Wildwose, A Knight’s Charge and A Cold Dish are placed on the timeline before Sudden Dearth and are intended to describe a little of the worlds and cultures formed within the burgeoning sphere of the Protectorate. Euthan Palace is set three hundred years after Urion’s Belt and describes a more technologically developed Urionverse. At the other end of the scale sits SALIGIA, a novella made up of seven short stories and a common theme. Its purpose is to describe the pantheon of Tauran demons and the reason for their interaction with humanity.
So, finally we reach this collection which is made up of four separate stories, each set in a different time zone on this convoluted story path. The Dark Wheel fits closely with the timeline of Urion’s Belt, with the Protectorate well-established and confident, willing to use every means possible to maintain its power. Four Minutes, and its three following and interlinked companions, take place on or around the time of The Wildwose and introduce a memorable character who takes part in the Sudden Dearth Series. Superbia and Luxuria are two of those seven deadly short stories which make up the whole that is SALIGIA.
I hope that this provides a little bit of background and, particularly for those who have already dabbled in some of my work, context.
The vagaries of Fold Space affected everyone differently. There were some who spoke of psychedelic nightmares, yet to Alana it had always been a gut-wrenching entry, weeks of boredom and an even worse exit. Not this time. From the exact second of entry she had suffered; vomiting until there was nothing left to project, blood dripping from nose and ears and the awful wailing sound which threatened to collapse her skull. Something had changed and she could only think that it had been Viker.
Their pilot was unconscious and so the craft continued on its unknown course, with no indication of the duration of their torture. Alana just wanted it to stop. Her last conscious thought was of the pain increasing, heightening her agony and then darkness claimed her.
Space shimmered and the Princess Marie re-entered reality smoothly. Those within her protective steel shell whimpered and cried, vomited and bled, and some even died with the strain of their passage. Faint tendrils of light clung for a brief instant before dissipating into the surrounding blackness. This was the last touch of their erstwhile Lord, whose pique had turned him into a murderer. Momentum continued her flight as she left Fold Space, yet it was the only velocity she had. Her engines lay idle and the craft drifted until gravity caught her and pulled her relentlessly in.
Game Control Flagship Unknown Location
There was a grunt of acceptance and the console whirred.
“Small yacht. General rabble...although we do have armoured personnel.”
“The scan shows a pleasing level of technology...and something else,” the silver-haired man slapped his hand against the screen, causing the readout to shiver and then clear.
“Nope. It’s gone now.”
His companion laughed, “Segregate the soldiers and place the others in Zone Two. If nothing else, they will make a useful food source.”
In response to the hammering of fingers on the keyboard, the Flagship’s main hold opened releasing a bulky craft which moved purposefully towards the yacht. On board the private vessel, Alana still slept oblivious of her impending danger.
As promised, here is a resume of my experience of being free on Kindle over the last month. A Guiding Light (SDII) was picked up by Amazon as being free on Smashwords/Apple/B&N and hence the price was adjusted on Amazon, in both the US and UK. Around 200 other books were adjusted at the same time and we had a mass download frenzy. Since that date, people have continued to visit and download AGL at a steady rate.
True to form, Amazon put the price back up with no warning, first in the UK and then in the US this morning. It will be interesting to see what the download pattern changes to.
What I do know is that 4000+ copies were downloaded, some liking AGL enough to then purchase the other two books in the series. Traffic to this blog and my Facebook page increased, which bodes well for later in the year when El Juego (SDIV) is published.
Curiously enough, Amazon did not discount The Wildwose which is also FREE at SW/Apple/Sony/B&N. AGL continues to be FREE at these other sites and Kindle lovers can download AGL FREE at Smashwords in the right format for their machines. This will not change and I'll be publicising this elsewhere. Maybe whoever told Amazon about AGL, will also tell them about The Wildwose???
Just a quick blognote to say that all of my completed books, novellas and short stories are now available on Kindle in both the US and the UK. Also in Germany, but as they have yet to be translated into German I don't think we'll see much traffic from there.
The big Kindle Freebie resulted in 4000+ downloads, from which I would expect to get some feedback as people get round to reading and enjoying their Kindle contents.
Thanks to Diggory Steele-Perkins and Manolo Guerrero for their brilliant Cover Art.
El Juego is real close to completion and I will make sure there is an update on status and full publication date.
First of all an apology and an addition has now been made to the blog post Chapter One. It seems that I forgot to post Part 2 to the Chapter. Now corrected, hope you enjoy it and here below is Chapter Three.
Prelate’s Light Geosynchronous Orbit Luther
It was dark inside the crate; cold, dark and distinctly uninviting. She had been waiting for Millennia for the call and yet when she responded, there were none to hear her. Nothing stirred outside the prison and so she began the laborious task of breaking free. One egg tooth was all she had in order to rupture the membrane and wall surrounding her. Once clear of that, she would take whatever further steps necessary to secure her freedom.
Cornelius strode down the corridor, taking small detours whenever he heard the approaching sound of footsteps. He realized that his predicament was less than optimum, in fact so far everything that could hit the fan, had suicidally charged forward to do so. Butt knew that if he could get to the main hanger, there was at least some chance of his finding an escape pod or some small craft, with which he could make good his escape. That was his theory anyway.
At last he found, by more trial and error than knowledge, his way to the main hanger deck, and the sight that faced him, really made him think again about the intelligence of his actions. Skulking forward past the last crates, he came to an open area and two ranks of Clansman, swords drawn, and waiting for him.
He knew that it was him that they were looking for, as their roar of anger and the subsequent charge, really emphasized the point. Being a little short, of weapons that is, he kicked the nearest crate forward, watching it slam into the shins of the first two of the onrushing horde, to subsequently cause a minor traffic jam. With the apparent success of his first attempt, he began to toss some of the smaller crates forwards, anything to buy himself time.
When he had just about run out of ammunition, he looked frantically around for the exit and there above, he saw a walkway which seemed to run around the upper tier of the hanger. Not waiting for further options, he ran up a series of wooden boxes, using them as an improvised stair. Just when he thought he was clear of his followers and about to reach his goal, his lead foot broke through the lid of one of the boxes, unceremoniously dumping him, his makeshift tower and all the surrounding merchandise back onto the hanger floor.
Eager hands tugged the debris free and pulled him, despite his protestations into the centre of the circle of angry men. The whine of a contra-grav chair, told him that his day was complete, as Jenna’s shrill voice caused the sea of men to part before her.
“Now...” she shrieked, “you will p…”
Her voice dwindled away, about the same time as Cornelius felt the scrabbling of claws against his back. Sharp points pierced his skin, as a fairly weighty something dragged its way up him. There was no desire within him to turn and see what abomination was there and he stood rigid as it reached his shoulders and a sinuous tail curled around his neck. Hot breath sawed against his cheek and turning his head slightly he saw a bright red reptilian eye, staring back at him.
Looking towards his would-be enemies he was astounded at the change in them; complete silence, mouths open and some form of stammered salutation. Never one to miss out on an opportunity, Cornelius moved forwards, the creature’s small head butting lovingly against his cheek. This looked like it might be fun.
Jenna was just about to savour the demise of the biggest, relatively speaking, thorn in her side, when her world caved in around her. That which they had searched, killed and tortured for, sat hissing at them from its perch on Butt’s shoulder. Of all of the possible scenes she had replayed in her head of this triumphant moment, never in her wildest dreams had the piggy-eyed and Mohican-topped face before her, played a starring role.
The site of the lop-sided and self-satisfied grin on Cornelius’ face caused something deep inside her to snap. With a screech she dragged a laser pistol free from the belt of the Clansman next to her and aimed directly for the leering countenance in front of her. Her action was met by a scream of rage, and Cornelius newest and, truth be told, only friend launched herself forward. With outstretched neck and her body tautly in line, she appeared as an arrow launched directly from a bow. Straight and true she sped, at the last moment opening her mouth once more as though to cry a challenge. No sound came from her scaled visage, rather a spurt of greenish liquid, whose coruscating force burst directly against Jenna’s snarling lips.
A scream was heard, a shrill protestation of agony as the bright fluid melted its way through skin and bone. No laser fire came forth, the pistol dropped and forgotten as useless hands clawed in desperation at a ravaged and disappearing face. Wings spread, the creature looped round past the dying woman, a haughty stare passing briefly over the shocked and cowering Clansmen, before she lovingly came to rest on Cornelius’ shoulder, her head once more caressing the ugly man’s face.
“Well,” said Cornelius after a few moments of stunned silence, “it really hasn’t been her day, has it?”
Reinstalled back in his stateroom, Cornelius was more than a little confused. In fact, he was approaching the state of incomprehension, usually reserved for a heavy session of drinking in the Forked Tongue. Strangely though, the glass of brandy still sat on the table in front of him, untouched. His new companion lay curled around his neck, like a leathery stole, her chest rising and falling in contentment. She had fed off his dinner plate, eating just about everything placed before her, and then slowly crawled up Cornelius’ chest, until she found her current resting position.
The other extremely disconcerting fact, was the Honour Guard, apparently he had gone in an instant from reviled, to be spat upon, enemy, to some type of revered personage. Two of the Clansman now stood permanently on guard outside the door of his suite. At first he had thought himself a prisoner, but his rebellious stroll around the upper deck had merely seen the men fall into line behind him, hands on swords and eyes alert and protective.
It was all rather galling, his plan to remain unseen in his cabin for the whole journey had now become intolerable, and all because of this strange, scaled and winged creature. Angrily he raised his hand as though to wrench her off him, but as soon as his fingers touched her soft and contented body, he relented. No-one, not even the parents who had sold him to the local Parish Circus, had ever defended him before. She had killed in his defence, and all she wanted was to be with him. That was enough for Cornelius now, and he leaned back in his chair, determined to take advantage of the momentary lull in attempts on his life, to catch up on his rest.
This was not to be, as just as he had closed his eyes, the door chime sounded and shortly after, one of the Clansman ushered in a wrinkled old crone, a supercilious looking suit and the Ship’s Captain. Cornelius grinned as the old woman used her cane to whack the suited man’s hand away, as he tried to help her, and prodded the Ship’s Captain in the backside, causing him to yelp involuntarily.
“Out of my way”, she snapped, “the Dwarf and I have lots to talk about!”
Now, Cornelius knew he was short, had come to terms with his height restrictions and in fact generally played on them, but no-one called him a Dwarf and got away with it.
“What do you want, you old hag!” he snapped, taking his feet off the table.
“Ooh, I think I’m going to like you, Shorty!” she cackled, plumping herself into the chair opposite him, “Not a lot, of course, as I really don’t like anyone!”
Butt stared at her for a moment and then roared with laughter, “Do you want a drink?” he asked sarcastically, as the witch-like creature appropriated and downed his brandy in one.
“That would be nice,” she said, proffering the empty crystal glass to the suited man, “but pour me a proper-sized drink this time”, she ordered the cowering man, “I know they call them Shorts, but come on...”
Again, Cornelius howled with laughter and shambled over to the bar himself, making sure that his drink was every bit as charged with alcohol as hers. He retook his position in his chair once more, gulped down some brandy, smacked his lips and bade the woman continue.
“You!” she snarled, pointing at the Captain, “and you!”, she continued, her finger stabbing weapon-like towards each of them, “are not needed. Begone!”
With that she sank back into her chair and grinned mischievously at Cornelius, who winked back at her, called for his Guards and waited for them to escort the unwanted men out.
“Now,” he said, “How’s about telling me what this is all about?”
The old woman held up her hand, motioning him to wait, poured the brandy down her throat in one, belched in satisfaction and smiled her wicked little smile again.
“Be a good boy and get me another drink, and I’ll tell you how you’re going to save the Universe!”