Introducing… The Demon’s Eye

Just a play cover. The real one will be better

I’m absolutely delighted to announce that I’ve almost completed a new story. It’s not quite finished yet, but a few beta-readers approve. A few more to go, final edits, cover and we’ll be good to go. It’s a 15k novelette with a passing nod to the aliens mentioned in A Matter of Trust, but it’s a stand-alone story.

Blurb:

Krystina Merkos is reluctant to leave her home planet, but agrees it’s best that her father doesn’t have to concern himself with her safety while he fights a civil war. The journey on an Imperial warship becomes much more palatable when she discovers that Ben Paulsen, an old flame from her high school days, is a senior officer on the ship.

But it’s not all plain sailing. The captain wants to seduce her, Ben’s trying to keep his distance – and pirates want to sell her to the murderous sect waging war on her father.

When the frigate is attacked by a pirate fleet intent on capturing Krys, she faces impossible choices. If she hands herself over to the pirates, she will die a painful death. If she doesn’t, everyone will die.

Unless she and Ben can contrive a way out for them all.

*************

Krys straightened her back, squared her shoulders, and smiled her public, so-pleased-to-meet-you smile before she answered the soft knock at her stateroom’s door. The young man waiting there took a step backwards and cleared his throat, his eyelashes fluttering. Surely she wasn’t that scary. And certainly the dress she wore wasn’t especially revealing. A bit of cleavage, bare back that he couldn’t see, cinched around the waist but loose to the floor. Not what she’d wear to seduce anybody.

Stepping into the corridor she put as much charm as she could muster into her tone. “I take it you’re my escort?” This lad was an officer? Lordy, they seemed to be younger every year. Krys could swear he still had pimples. But there was no avoiding the shiny bars on his shoulder boards.

“Yes, ma’am. Lieutenant Boll, ma’am.” He ripped off a crisp salute, no doubt taking solace in established protocol. “If you’ll follow me.”

He marched in front of her, not too fast, probably afraid she couldn’t keep up. Being tall enough to give most men a crick in the neck, she’d given up wearing nose-bleed high heels long ago. And her dress gave her plenty of room to stride in sensible, low heeled pumps if she wanted to. Whatever. She let him set the pace and tried to get the funeral march out of her head.

*************

The Demon’s Eye will be out late June/early July. Stay tuned for Dreams2Media’s REAL cover. I’m looking forward to seeing what Rebecca produces.

 

Cover reveal – Backlash by Sheila Hoag

cover for BackslashBacklash is the prequel novella to The Wildblood series by S. A. Hoag. Set on a near-future Earth mostly devoid of humans, this reveals some of the harsh realities facing people of The Vista, and how Team Three began.

Blurb

Before Team Three became Team Three, there was The Blackout.

Vista Security is used to the feral bands of humans wandering the landscape since a brief and devastating war wiped away civilization. Sixteen years later, they’ve adapted to dealing with the challenges facing their safe haven.

That is, until a new threat appears, one they never expected and one they have little defense against. Security throws in everything they can muster; it quickly takes a toll. Their advantage – an untested team of officers barely more than children themselves; officers with dark secrets and a hidden agenda.

In a free-for-all battle to preserve one of the last sanctuaries of man, Team Three discovers their secrets are their strength and that their future will take them far beyond what they’ve ever known.

Action, a bit of romance and a good splash of sci-fi set the scene for Backlash, the prequel novella of The Wildblood series.

Excerpt

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Shannon,” her radio crackled static, snapping her out of a restless sleep. It was Wade on his private channel.

“Go ahead,” she answered groggily. Her watch read 9:30 pm and she was supposed to go on duty at 2:00 am. An hour – she’d been asleep an hour.

“Gear up. I’ll be there in five minutes to get you.”

“What’s going on?” she wondered, rubbing her eyes.

“Don’t ask, just do.”

He didn’t sound like they might be playing wargames. Shan moved.

Her mother was in the kitchen. Deirdre Allen was five foot three, with pale blond hair, hazel eyes, and was one of The Vista’s actual doctors. She’d been twenty-nine when civilization ended. “The hospital just called me in,” she announced.

“Are you on-call?”

“I am now. Wade didn’t tell me why.”

War games?

“No,” Shan told her. “Not this time. I know you don’t like carrying, but I think this is serious. Take a sidearm, Mom, please.”

Deirdre nodded. “For your peace of mind I will.” She knew how to use it; she’d been forced to in the past and hoped she never would again. “Whatever it is, be careful.”

“I am, and Wade wouldn’t let me get away with anything else.”

She hugged her. “I mean it.”

“I’ll see you in the morning,” Shan said, hearing a car. “That’s Wade. If he tells me it’s practice, I’ll let you know.” She didn’t think it was likely, but he’d fooled her before.

The moment she dropped into the passenger seat, she knew it was real. “Can you tell me now?” She’d dressed in winter camos with body armor, both Sigs and a boot gun, clips in all her pockets, plus an array of knives. Her pack held spare ammo, food rations and various bits of survival equipment.

He glanced sideways at her, heading towards Station Two with a purpose. “We lost a Scout at Wisdom about an hour ago.”

“Lost?” she repeated, not expecting it.

Teaser Tuesday … and what a teaser! #ssrgtt

MR New2 medHi there. This is a little snippet from Morgan’s Return, the sequel to Morgan’s Choice. You don’t have to have read Morgan’s Choice to enjoy Morgan’s Return, but I think readers would agree it helps.

In this little scene, Morgan is creating a distraction and is having a hard time not distracting herself.

Morgan made sure the virtual Ravindra faced Cruickshank. Then she had him unfasten the collar so it parted, showing his Adam’s apple. Now the next button, slipping the golden disk through the material with long, strong fingers. Now the next. And the next, until the coat hung open. He slid the arm off one shoulder, then the other, and let the coat drop to the floor, where it disappeared from the display. Now his skin-tight white undershirt, that clung to every muscle, defining his pecs and his abs. He pulled the material out of his belt slowly, a slight smile on his lips. She remembered when he’d done this, just for her. Stop it, Morgan. Keep your mind on the job. He lifted the material in his fists, dragged the shirt up his torso, revealing skin like polished mahogany. Then over the swelling pectorals, up over his head, until he could flick the shirt away. The golden lines of the tattoo on his right shoulder gleamed.

Find out all about all the books in the Morgan Selwood series.

Morgan’s Return is available at

amaznButtonnookibooks

koboButton swlogo

allromanceebookslogo

Don’t forget to check out the other Teaser Tuesday snippets. You’ll find them in the SciFi Romance Group on Facebook.

 

 

Soliloquy on book prices (or How I Learned To Love eBooks)

Picture of full book shelfYou know how sometimes things you’ve been reading/talking about kind of merge? That happened to me this morning. Somewhere I read about author earnings and the cost of books. Somewhere else I wrote an article about the power of the franchise in writing and that led me to the Thrawn trilogy and mention of a book where Grand Admiral Thrawn is an important, though rarely visible, character and that led me to dig out that very same book. Troy Denning’s Tatooine Ghost, to see if I still thought it was as good as I remembered.

I’ve also been re-reading one of my favourite books, McDevitt’s Slow Lightning. It’s face down on the desk beside me as I write. And the sticker with the price is waving at me.

I bought the book (a 5×8 paperback) in about 2003. It cost AU$19.95 from Readers Feast in Melbourne. Same for Tatooine Ghost.

Wow, I thought, glancing along a row of paperbacks on a shelf (just one row). There’s over $400 worth of books there. At least, that’s what I paid for them. They’re worth squat now. And as for that glass—fronted cabinet behind me, the one full of hardbacks… Then I thought some more and wondered if these prices were from before the Big Row about book prices. I don’t recall the details, but it was all about the excessive cost of books in Australia. So I thought I’d check the current price of some of those books.

I used Dymocks online store. It’s a well-known chain of Australian book stores. I shopped at the bricks-and-mortar stores in several of Australia’s capital cities. Here is the listing for McDevitt’s A Talent for War. It’s one of his earliest titles, from 1989. I bought it for $17.95 around 2002-3.

ATfW

And here’s Tatooine Ghost, copyright 2003.

TG

So then I had a look on Amazon to see what the prices were there.

A Talent for War and Tatooine Ghost, mass market paperback on Amazon is US$7.99 – allowing for the exchange rate, that’s still less than AU$10. Slow Lightning (sold for who knows what reason in the US as Infinity Beach) is reduced from $7.99 to $5.87.

Okay, the next obvious question is what’s the price of the ebook? Answer: there isn’t one. Not for any of those titles. McDevitt’s other books are there for kindle. I can buy them on Amazon Australia for $11.99 (ouch). Oh. Except for the latest release, Coming Home. That’s $16.99, thanks very much.

There are two things you can take from this Sunday morning limited investigation:

  • we pay a helluva lot for books (and every other thing that’s imported) in Australia.
  • $4.99, which is what I charge for my 100k+ word ebooks, isn’t a bad price.

I might not have the market power of Jack McDevitt or EL James, but I like to think I write an entertaining story with proper grammar and spelling. I’m not saying you won’t find a typo. But I promise nobody ever says, “oh my”.

This is why I read Science Fiction #sfrb #scifi

Lately I’ve been sharing my views on what I think science fiction romance is. And I said that if you take the science fiction out of SFR, all you have left is romance.

Science fiction takes me away to places I’ll only ever see in photographs. This graphic is a NASA image of Alnitak and the Flame Nebula, one of the three stars of the belt of Orion. The other two are Mintaka and Alnilam, and those three names alone show what an important place Arab astronomers have in our knowledge of the stars. I suspect the names should be written Al Nitak and Al Nilam – but that’s another story.

But a photograph is just a pretty picture. And here’s another quote from the same book, to illustrate that sometimes a picture isn’t worth more than a thousand words. A skilled writer can take you there, ignite a fire in your soul, show you the very edge of infinity. I wrote a sort of review of Slow Lightning. Should you be interested.

Orion Slow Lightning copy

You can’t take the science out of science fiction romance #sfrb

canstockphoto19305896I’m having a rant over at spacefreighters. Come on over and join the outrage.

Grrrrrr I just HATE that

canstockphoto6077467Okay, I’m getting the old bones up on the soapbox again. Look, I don’t mind admitting I’m old. But it’s not as if I’m tech-averse. After all, I worked in IT for most of my life. I’ve designed and built web sites, for fuck’s goodness sake. But some things get up my nose big time.

GIVE UP WITH THE GIFS ALREADY! Please!

Like many animals, humans are attracted to movement. It’s a primal survival response, hard-wired deep down. So if something moves, you look at it.

Enter the GIF.

It’s a fragment of movement, endlessly repeated, embedded in an online article presumably with the intention of illustrating the author’s wit or cleverness or something. Very often, there’s a succession of these things, interspersed with a (short) paragraph of text. Very often they’re nibbles from movies. Confronted with something like that, I have the following reactions:

  • I can’t be bothered waiting for the damn things to load
  • I get crossed eyes from trying to read the text between the twitching, repetitive, endless, fucking pictures
  • I spend my time playing pick the actress or the movie and that wears off very quickly because I’m not interested in the celebrity cult and I don’t watch many movies.

So I go and do something else. Like pick lint out of my navel or watch paint dry.

The author had something important to say? Sorry, I missed it.

Pant pant pant…

And another thing…

I click on a link to an interesting article. I’m reading through, and halfway down the page, halfway through a fucking sentence – a popup screen appears right over the top of the page I’m reading so I can’t read it anymore. “Hello,” says the popup, “If you enjoyed this article, sign up to our mailing list and get content just like this delivered right to your email address everyday.”

To all you Pratchett fans, it’s a bit like Sam Vimes’s pocket organiser. “Bingly bingly beep” [insert name here].

So OF COURSE I clap my hands in glee and sign up for the mailing list.

No, not actually. I say FUCK OFF and close the popup.

I’ll probably finish reading the article IF it’s very interesting, but the whole episode has caused a serious distraction. Why not just put a paragraph at the end of the article, inviting people to subscribe?

Oh wait… it’s that movement thing again, isn’t it?

Okay, I’m off the soap box. Is it just me, or am I singing with a choir? And is there anything else you HATE? Please… tell me. The soapbox is vacant.

I’m busy #amwriting but I also talk about genre

Starfield shipThe title says it all, folks. I’m writing up a storm – or trying to. Writing is just like any other pastime – cooking, hockey, netball, swimming, tatting. If you stop doing it, the skills atrophy. But I’m around 6k into what will be a longish short story, and it’s all coming back to me. Like riding a bike.

Meanwhile, pop on over to this week’s post on Spacefreighters, where I talk about genre and what it means in science fiction romance.

Batavia’s Graveyard is being excavated at last #history

TDADD-ebook-webIt’s been a while since I wrote a Batavia post. It has also been a while since Beacon Island (Batavia’s Graveyard) has been vacated and the fishing shacks removed. With those impediments to a proper investigation out of the way, teams of archaeologists and anthropologists are getting down and dirty, excavating the island for more skeletal remains from 1629, in the aftermath of the ordeal faced by the survivors from the wreck of the Batavia. If you’re not familiar with the story, please check out my historical fiction page, or make a note to do it later.

Here are three articles from the team working on the island.

Fragments point to more skeletons being discovered on island after Batavia shipwreck

Unearthed grave sheds light on Batavia shipwreck mass murder

Batavia mutiny: More human remains uncovered by archaeologists at Beacon Island

I’m hoping the searchers find the remains of the predikant’s family. (Predikant is the Dutch word for pastor) In one horrifying night the predikant’s wife, six of their seven children, and their maid, were slaughtered by men acting on the orders of Jeronimus Cornelisz, leader of the gang controlling the island. The predikant and his oldest daughter were spared – the daughter because she was desired by Cornelisz’s lieutenant and the predikant because he might prove to be useful. Pelsaert’s journal records that the bodies were dumped in a mass grave on the island.

It seems 13 bodies have been found so far. When you consider that many of the victims – numbering around one hundred – were drowned, or their bodies thrown into the sea – that’s a good start.

Here’s a short excerpt from my book To Die a Dry Death. The predikant (Batiaensz) and his daughter Judyck are dining with Cornelisz, his lieutenenant (van Huyssen) and Lucretia. Cornelisz and van Hussen have been talking about hunting with hawks, back in Holland.

________________________________________

Lucretia sipped her wine. Hunting. The animals they chased with hawks were almost as defenceless as the poor people on this island. She heard noises, muffled voices in the night. The cold of dread froze her hand. A woman’s cry, abruptly ended. Then a high-pitched scream that curdled the blood, as quickly silenced.

Judyck jerked to her feet, lips parted, eyes staring. “Roelant.”

Van Huyssen pulled her down. “It’s nothing, dearest. Not your concern.”

“That was Roelant. I’d know his voice anywhere.” Judyck pulled away from van Huyssen, but he held her fast.

“Not your concern,” he said again, the words sharp, commanding.

Lucretia caught the girl’s eye. Hopeless terror. Not fear for herself, but for the child. She wondered if Bastiaensz would say anything but he sat rigid, watery eyes fixed on Cornelisz.

Cornelisz ignored him, ignored Judyck and continued the previous conversation as if nothing had happened. “Did you catch hares, rabbits?”

Chuckles from outside, voices muttered. Lucretia was sure she’d heard Mayken’s name. The knot in her stomach twisted, tightened. Silent, appalled, she signalled to Judyck with the barest shake of her head. Say nothing, stay still.

“With snares.” Van Huyssen kept his hand tight on Judyck’s arm. “Although sometimes we let the dogs loose and let them run. Often, there isn’t much left when they bring the prey back, all battered and bloody.”

Somewhere in the settlement, a scream swiftly ended in a gurgle.

One hundred years of #Anzac Day. Lest we forget.

AnzacOne hundred years ago today, 25th April,  thousands of young men stormed ashore on a beach in the Dardanelles into a hail of machine gun fire from the Turkish defenders, well entrenched upon the heights above. So started the tradition of ANZAC, the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps.

Lest we forget.

Today we commemorate their sacrifice, and those of the many Australian and New Zealand men and women who fought and died in defence of our countries, or to support our allies in their conflicts.

It’s somehow very fitting that we have chosen this day to commemorate the fallen. Because this assault was, to me, a shining example of the stupidity and futility of war.

Lest we forget.

Those young men went off on their Great Adventure in support of Mother England, far from their homes in the new lands in the south. Australia’s population in 1914 was approximately 4.9 million. Around 420,000 Australians enlisted for service in the First World War, representing around 39% of the male population aged between 18 and 44. Of those, around 60,000 never came home and many, many more were left sick or wounded. Source

WW1 gutted Australia. You have only to travel around the tiny country towns and look at the war memorial you’ll find in every one. They were erected after 1918, listing the names of those who died overseas. Many, many surnames are duplicated, or triplicated or more. Brothers and cousins, all the men of their generation – gone.

The landing at Gallipoli, on the beach now known as Anzac Cove, was futile from the start. Von Clausewitz would have turned in his grave. The Turkish defenders were well entrenched in the heights above the beach, fighting for their homeland. In contrast, for the aggressors the Dardanelles were a strategic objective. The Anzacs stayed for eight months, then somebody finally saw sense and evacuated them in the dead of night. From there, they went to the hell on earth of the trenches in France, where they consolidated their reputation as formidable soldiers, especially at Villers-Brettoneux where Australians are welcome to this day.

But I don’t believe the rhetoric, that they fought for the freedoms we enjoy today. The only time that truly happened was in the dark days of WW2, when in 1941-2 the Japanese advanced down through Asia into Papua New Guinea to menace Australian soil at Darwin and Broome – and Sydney Harbour. The Eighth Army, hastily brought back from the Middle East despite Churchill’s disapproval, pushed the Japs back, foot by weary foot, over the barely passable Kokoda trail.

This is in no way to belittle the courage and suffering of any Anzac soldier, merely to cast a critical eye on the people who send young men and women into conflict. Why were we in Vietnam? Iraq? Afghanistan?

Today I pause and reflect on not just the Anzacs who died at Gallipoli. Many Turks did, too, defending their homeland under the command of the great General Kemal Ataturk, who would go on to create the modern state of Turkey. For the Turks, of course, Gallipoli was a great victory. It’s truly fitting that both sides will come together to jointly honour their dead.

And I’ll end with this, Eric Bogle’s wonderful song And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

Lest we forget.

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