Monday, September 28, 2020

Lots of irons in the fire: THREE upcoming releases!

Somehow I now have a total of three novels in various stages of production. They started as two books, but one was so long, I had to split it into two books.

My science fiction romance Worlds Apart will come out in the spring from Crimson Fox Publishing. The book is finished but has not been edited, and it does not yet have a release date. My editor will start work in January and the cover artist in February. It's a longish book, but it does fit as one volume. It takes place on two very different colony worlds (hence the title), one where the hero is born and raised, and one very different world where the heroine has lived most of her adult life. 

The Nameless World, however, was slightly more than twice as long as Worlds Apart, and I ended up creating two books from it: The North Edge of Nowhere and Oaths and Promises. The two-book series is far future science fiction, and is set in my ThreeCon universe. It will come out from my own Cracked Mirror Press. The two books are a little different in terms of subgenre, or at least in terms of categorization of the plot. The first one is pretty much a coming of age novel, as Darius, the protagonist, is seventeen when it starts and twenty when it ends. It does have a love story in it, but it occurs between two secondary characters. The second book picks up only a few months after the first one ends. A lot happens in book 2, but a good part of the story line could be called a romance, as Darius is old enough to be involved romantically and that relationship is complicated. This dichotomy might turn out to be a real marketing challenge but I am hoping readers will find The Nameless World Saga compelling enough not to worry about subgenre categorization.  

While you could read Oaths and Promises without reading The North Edge of Nowhere first, the story makes more sense when read in order. It's a lot like The Lord of the Rings, which is really one story published in three volumes.  

Worlds Apart has no cover, as yet, so I can't show anything for that book, but for a teaser here is the initial cover art for book 1 of The Nameless World Saga: The North Edge of Nowhere.

Hopefully this gives you a clue as to the genre and style of the story. It's set on a colony world that has not been rediscovered— not officially rediscovered—  by ThreeCon. If you have any comment to make on the cover art, please do so here! 

This book is likely to see publication well before Worlds Apart, but I don't plan to release it until Oaths and Promises is ready, too, because I don't think it's fair to make readers wait for the conclusion of the story.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

BAG OF TRICKS has launched!

 My new fantasy romance Bag of Tricks has launched!  The cover was created by Najla Qamber, who also did the cover for Drifters. Here is the full cover for the paperback

The Kindle version is available on Amazon now. The paperback is for sale in online bookstores including Amazon and on Barnes and Noble.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Snippet from TRIBES

The start of Chapter One:

The scorpipede crawling up Hob’s foot tickled, which seemed odd for something so deadly. The boulder behind Hob warmed his back as he watched the insect’s dark red body undulate, rippling its skirt of silver filaments. The tickling sensation intensified. The scorpipede held its barbed tail high as it reached the peak formed by Hob’s sandal strap across his instep.

Hob debated moving his foot.  If he did it abruptly enough, the thing would almost certainly stab him with its venomous tail.  Hob’s death would be painful but quick, and Andre would probably never find his body.  He would think Hob had escaped him, and that would be a victory of sorts, even if Hob wasn’t alive to see it.

Hob lifted his head to stare out at the flat reddish-gray expanse of desert, broken only by an occasional cluster of white-flowered calla trees and the distant remnants of an old road. Here and there where the pavement was still intact, smooth puddles of water tempted Hob, vanishing when he turned his head. The deceptive shimmer in the air above the road told him the water was only a mirage. 

He had been walking for four days, and the mountains were nowhere in sight. He could sit here and die slowly, or jerk his foot and die quickly. Or he could keep walking and hope that he made it.

The scorpipede flowed down Hob’s sandal and onto the sand, still ruffling its filaments in its quest for survival. After several seconds, Hob could no longer distinguish the insect from the red-gray landscape. He didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed. He was a long way from anywhere. Probably he could have made it this far from Agra in a few hours if he’d had a skimmer. As it was, he had nothing but his own two feet—and even his feet weren’t much good with the damned manacle Andre had locked on his ankle after his first escape attempt.

Hob bent his right knee so that his ankle was close and studied the bright blue band. Its smooth seamless surface, a stark contrast to the bruised and scabbed-over skin around it, seemed to mock him. He had given up smashing the thing with a rock once it was clear he would break his ankle before he would break the manacle. He groaned as he stretched his leg out again. There seemed to be no position where he could hold his foot so that the plastic didn’t touch him, and anywhere it did throbbed with dull agony.

Hob tried to lick his cracked lips, but his mouth was too dry. He shut his eyes and thought about water. Cool, clear water. He let out another groan. Thinking about water only made him thirstier. He sighed and squinted at the sun, a bright golden ball still high in the cloudless blue-green Mariposan sky. Time to get moving. He had let the scorpipede go, so he had to keep walking.

He pulled himself to his feet, feeling the full heat of the sun on his shoulders as soon as he moved out of the meager shade of the dead mara tree, the only mara he had seen so far. He limped across the dry stream bed, keeping the road on his right, hearing no noise beyond his own footfalls and the stirring of a faint, hot breeze.

He had just started to replay the text of his favorite adventure story in his mind when an abrupt, distant sound interrupted his thoughts. He glanced around, surprised, and saw nothing. The noise grew, and he realized it was behind him. He turned and saw a small shape growing rapidly larger.

It was a plain gray skimmer, nothing like Andre’s flashy red model or the large traveling vehicles Hob had seen a few times in the last few days. It was headed north, following the old road, moving fast in spite of its small size. 

Hob sprinted as fast as he could run to the nearest calla tree. The gray skimmer was less than a hundred meters away when he ducked behind the calla. He pressed against the branchless bole, ignoring the sharp stench of its flowers and the prickles sticking into him, right through his pant legs. His heart raced. Had they seen him? He held his breath as the vehicle flew past at only a meter or two of altitude.
The skimmer looked not only small but battered, with a distinct bend in one of the struts. After it passed him, Hob drew in a deep breath, then let it out with a whoosh of relief.

A second later, the skimmer banked, turned back, and circled toward his calla tree. Hob scrambled to keep the tree between himself and the low-flying vehicle, tearing his pants on the spiny bristles as he maneuvered to stay on the opposite side of the bole. They must have seen him. Why else would they turn?

The skimmer hovered for a second, then set down between Hob’s tree and a cluster of large boulders. After a moment, the pilot’s door opened and someone in a blue shirt got out. Hob pulled back, his heart thumping in his chest. He wouldn’t let himself peek again. No, no! He wouldn’t go back. He couldn’t go back.

“Anyone there?” 

It was a woman’s voice. She sounded unsure but hardly fearful.

The muffled thud of footsteps on sand came closer. “Is anyone there?”

Hob held his breath. What could he do? Even if she didn’t try to make him go back to Agra, she would likely tell someone she had seen him. On the other hand, she had a skimmer. If he could get to the skimmer first, he could get out of the desert. He had to get to her vehicle before she did—no matter what it took.

Hob gathered his strength and let his need take over. He lunged from behind the calla tree, straight at the woman. She was closer than he had expected, and she swung a weapon at him. A sharp pain stabbed Hob’s right shoulder as he jumped at her, but his desperation made him keep going. He knocked the pistol out of her hand and grappled her to the ground.

They rolled back and forth. Hob knew some slave quarter tricks, but none of them helped. Her fists punched him; her hands clamped his wrists; her feet kicked his legs. Hob dodged as her knee came up at his groin. Finally, frantic, he managed to get his hands around her throat and started to choke her. 
She croaked at him. “Look down!”

Just as he glanced down, he felt the tip of the small knife she had pressed against his heart, saw his own blood drip red onto her blue shirt.

He let go. It was over. He was a slave again. He could feel his eyes trying to tear up, but they were too dry to manage it.

When she pulled away he saw the tribal mark of two crossed swords on the side of her neck. Alone in the fucking desert and the only person to find him was a fucking Han-Lin! Whatever good luck he had had in his escape had evaporated like the morning dew in the calla flowers.

The Han-Lin retrieved her laser pistol and waved it at him. “Get up!”


For sale on Amazon and free in Kindle Unlimited.

BAG OF TRICKS — Cover reveal!

 My new fantasy romance Bag of Tricks will be released on Tuesday, September 22! The cover was created by Najla Qamber, who also did the cover for Drifters. Here is the full cover for the paperback

The Kindle version is available for pre-order on Amazon now. The paperback will be available on Amazon on September 22 or it can be pre-ordered on Barnes and Noble.


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

A Snippet from BAG OF TRICKS

 This is from the first chapter of my new fantasy romance Bag of Tricks, already available for pre-order on Kindle and releasing in paperback as well on September 22. This scene describes how Aveline meets Zarek, who becomes her companion on the road and an ally in her goal to rescue Princess Inessa. 



Aveline inched through the trees, staying parallel to the road. The aroma of roasting rabbit nearly drove her wild, but caution made her move slowly. She ducked down to peer through a scraggly whortleberry bush.

A lone man sat beside a campfire, the leaping flames making an island of color in the growing sea of blackness. For just one second, Aveline thought he had a magician’s aura, but then she realized it was a trick of the firelight. At the man’s back stood a two-wheeled cart, a modest vehicle with slatted sides and an open back end.

Tied to a nearby tree, a dusty, dun-colored donkey flicked its tail as it grazed on a stand of bastard balm. Beside the man, a large gray dog lay with his muzzle on the man’s thigh. His eyes followed the man’s hand as it turned a spit on which a rabbit carcass sizzled.

“Almost ready now, boy.” The man scratched the animal’s head, then took a scrap of something from a pack that leaned against the cart and tossed it to the dog.

Aveline looked the two of them over. The man looked well past his youth as his black hair was streaked with white. His teeth showed white under the black mustache that matched his short beard and thick, short eyebrows. His eyes were deep-set in his scarred and sun-weathered face. A bend in his nose suggested he had been in a fight.

Beside him, the huge dog looked muscular and shaggy, both his long muzzle and his pricked-up ears made him appear more like a wolf  than a dog.

Aveline inhaled a deep breath, trying to use her gift to assess the man. What manner of man was this who spoke to his dog as a friend? She scented none of the sour smell of evil, the rank odor of violence. Weariness, bitterness even, but no venom.

She glanced around, still anxious about the possibility that the Duke’s men could issue forth from the woods. How should she appear? A transformation spell would weary her quickly and kill her if she kept it up it for long. But a trust spell could impose goodwill without harming this stranger. Aveline would offer the heart-shaped trust charm as a gift and mutter the spell while he held it. He would believe anything she said after that.

The dog lifted his head and stared right at Aveline. He knew she was there.

The man’s short, bushy eyebrows shot up. “What is it, Burden?”

Forced to act, Aveline pushed her way through the bushes, conscious of the tattered blue taffeta of her skirt, and the grubby brocade of her bodice. “Good evening to you, good sir. Might I share your fire?”

The man had jumped to his feet as soon as she moved, one hand reaching under the cart. When he came upright, his right hand held a sword. The weapon had a long, slightly curved blade and a plain but serviceable steel guard. He held the weapon out as he looked her up and down, surprise and wariness written on his face.

Aveline realized she had judged his age wrongly. His face might have been scarred and deeply tanned, but it was unlined. He couldn’t have been much more than twenty-five, thirty at the most. His hair had a single wide streak of white over one ear, but the rest of it was as black as jet.

Aveline tried to think as she patted her own brown hair where it had escaped the silver hairpins Inessa had given her. What story could account for a lone woman wearing a tattered court dress in the deep woods?

The sword point wavered as the man looked her over. “Who are you?”

Aveline sank into her best curtsy. “My name is Lady Aveline of Helg, and I’m quite lost.”

His eyes opened wide as he took in her black wool cloak, ragged, but lined in red silk, and her once dainty satin slippers, now filthy and shredded. “I should think so.” He lowered the sword and peered into the darkness behind her. “Are you alone, madam?”

Her heart lurched at having to admit the truth, but she had no choice. “Yes. Quite alone.”

He suddenly glanced down at the dog. The animal had risen when his master stood but had made no offensive move or even any sound. Instead, he held his head cocked as he studied Aveline. His tail moved in a tentative wag.

“Burden seems to trust you, at any rate.” The stranger picked up the scabbard and slid the sword into it. Aveline noted the thick curved ridge of a scar on his left cheek, and a longer rope-like scar that started below his right ear and disappeared into his collar. “Sit down and welcome, Lady Aveline of Helg.”