Category Archives: Iron Admiral

Fun with Photos

One of my Facebook friends, who writes under the name of Kira Morgana, posted a fun photo on her timeline – a cat sitting on one of her books. “Wow”, I thought. (As you do). “I wonder how she did that?”

Photofunia, that’s how.

What can I say? It’s a damp Saturday morning and my eyes lit up. I’m like a kiddy in a sweet shop, all agog. Look at what you can do!

"Morgan's Choice" in the news

“Morgan’s Choice” in the news

The Iron Admiral - Conspiracy and Deception

“The Iron Admiral” – Conspiracy and Deception

 

'Starheart" at the museum

“Starheart” at the museum

 

The Demon's Eye poster

“The Demon’s Eye” up on a wall

You’re welcome 🙂

Teaser Tuesday – The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy

This is a snippet from one of my earliest books, The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy.

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Cover of The Iron Admiral: ConspiracyThe Iron Admiral: Conspiracy

The galaxy teeters on the brink of inter-species war

Accused of an atrocity, ex-Admiral Chaka Saahren goes undercover to clear his name. Systems Engineer Allysha Marten, takes one last job to rid her of debts and her cheating husband. On Tisyphor, deadly secrets about the past explode, as Allysha and the undercover agent scramble to prevent the coming holocaust. When the ex-Admiral’s identity is revealed, she must come to terms with her feelings for a man she holds responsible for the death of innocent civilians, including her father. In a race against time, Saahren must convince Allysha to set aside her conflicted emotions and trust a man she barely knows to help him prevent the coming conflagration.

$.99c ebook at  Amazon B&N Kobo iBooks

In this scene, Allysha and Saahren are together in a secret garden, where they’ve found a commonly grown fruit tree. The question is – how to get at the fruit.

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

She eyed the fruit hanging well over her head and his. “How do we get them down?”

“I’ll help you get into the tree and I’ll catch the fruit when you throw it down.”

He made a stirrup with his hands. “Here. I’ll hoist you up to that first branch.”

Balancing herself with her fingers resting lightly on his shoulders, she put her foot into his hands and pushed down. She slipped sideways. “I don’t think this is going to work.” She leant into him and started to giggle.

The scent of her invaded his nostrils; her breast pushed against his chest and set his pulse racing. Fruit. Think about fruit. He dropped his hands and straightened up. “I think you’d better turn around.”

“Okay. How’s that?” She stood next to him on one foot, one hand on his shoulder as he made a stirrup again, her foot grasped between his hands. She shoved down, trying to use his hands as a step but she ended up staggering against him, giggling helplessly. “That’s not going to work, either.”

He sighed and knelt down next to her, leaning forward a little to hide his erection. “Sit on my shoulders.”

She hesitated. “Are you sure? It won’t be a strain for you?”

“There’s not much of you. It won’t be a strain.” And at least he wouldn’t be in such intimate contact with her.

She swung a leg around his neck and settled herself down, hooking her knees under his arms. He stood, muscles bunching under the weight. “Okay?”

“Yes. You?”

“Fine.” He wished he was. He could smell her, female and alluring, his hands on her smooth skin, her parted legs around his neck. “Climb into the tree.” Please.

She grasped the branch and scrambled onto it, lifting herself with a foot on his shoulder. She turned around awkwardly and sat on the branch looking down at him.

“Go for the deep orange ones. Throw them down to me.” He raised his hands, ready to catch.

She reached up, wrenched the nearest off and tossed it to him. The over-ripe fruit splattered as it hit his hands.

“That’s one we won’t be eating.” He shook the sticky fragments away. “Do it gently or you’ll have to suck the fruit off my fingers.”

She chuckled. “Interesting thought.”

Far too interesting. He imagined her lips around his finger, her tongue… Concentrate, Saahren.

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Don’t forget to check out what else may be out there. On Twitter, use #sfrgtt

 

The aliens in ‘Crisis at Validor’ #amwriting

https://www.canstockphoto.com/golden-chinese-dragon-5632075.html

https://www.canstockphoto.com/golden-chinese-dragon-5632075.html

By now you all know I’m in the final stages of writing a new Ptorix Empire book. The title is Crisis at Validor and it features my decidedly non-humanoid alien species, the Ptorix. Readers will learn more about them in this book, but there will also be another, very different, alien species.

Way back when this book was little more than a bunny hopping around in my head I’d intended to write a story which included an ancient temple and something like a serpent, only smart. The berzhani have evolved since then. A lot of people don’t like snakes and while I don’t really understand the phobia, I know it’s real for many people. I’d discarded the idea of calling them dragons because this is not a fantasy and if people have preconceived notions about snakes, they have them about dragons, too.

Fire breathing, wicked, princess-eating, flying, telepathic, ridden by people, shape-shifters.

None of the above.

So about half way through the writing, I took some time off to go through pictures of serpents, serpent temples, dragons and the like, looking for visual inspiration. And I came across Jim Nelson’s fabulous work, particularly the top dragon on this page.

So the berzhani are rather like snakes in some respects (sinuous and smooth) but they are not snakes. In Crisis at Validor the berzhani live in caves on an island that is an extinct volcano. That island has become an object of contention between the Ptorix and the humans of Validor. The planet has two continents, and each species inhabits one. They don’t mix. But neither owns Bherzan Island.

The picture top left is a reasonable representation of a berzhan. (It’s actually a statue of a Chinese dragon, but you get the idea.)

What you need to know about the berzhani before you read the book is they are very, very smart, with their own skills. Like whales and dolphins, they don’t need technology and they don’t want to rule the world. They just want to be left alone. But they have a big part to play in Validor’s story whether they like it or not.

Here’s a first cut of the blurb.

Crisis at Validor

Newly-promoted Captain Brett Butcher is about to achieve his life-long ambition to command a battle cruiser. But before he takes up his new posting, he goes home on leave, hoping to perhaps catch a glimpse of his first love, the unattainable Lady Tarlyn.

When the queen is assassinated in a terrorist attack, Tarlyn’s life is thrown into turmoil when she, too, becomes a target. The last person she expects to rescue her is her childhood sweetheart, Brett Butcher.

As Validor’s Ptorix and human populations face off over a group of islands neither owns, the calls for war grow louder. Torn between love, duty and ambition, Butcher and Tarlyn struggle to prevent an inter-species conflict, while the ember of love that has smouldered for so long bursts into flame. But with planetary peace at stake, both will be forced to make a choice; love or duty.

Coming soon to an e-store near you.

PS. For those who know the Iron Admiral books, Butcher was Grand Admiral Saahren’s adjutant. And we also have a cameo appearance from Admiral Ulric Hudson of Starheart.

On the art of writing what you know

Stars in Orion's beltI guess you guys all know I write mainly space opera. So you might be forgiven for raising an incredulous eyebrow (maybe even two) when I talk about writing what I know. And sure, I take out the space opera tool kit for the space bits. FTL travel, artificial gravity, shields to divert radiation (and attacks) etc etc. But not everything happens out there in the wide black. I usually have some goings-on planetside. And the WIP is no exception.

Senior Commander Thad Butcher was Grand Admiral Saahren’s adjutant in the Iron Admiral series, but this time, he’s getting his own story. Newly promoted to captain after the events chronicled in the Iron Admiral, he’s gone home to Validor for a brief holiday before he takes up his new command – a battle cruiser. It’s a boyhood dream come true. But he arrives on planet just in time to become embroiled in an attack on the Ruling family, where he’s reunited with Tarlyn, who had been the unattainable love of his life before he left Validor, aged seventeen, to attend the Fleet Academy.

I’ve had a vague plot floating in my head for several years now, but distilling that ephemeral essence into a working story takes time. Although we’ll get back up into space later down the track, at the moment Thad and Tarlyn are on a boat, heading for a meeting with the Ptorix.

And this gives the opportunity to write what I know.

Several months ago I was privileged to go on a three-day sail in the Whitsunday Islands off Queensland. It was a memorable experience, and one of those appears in the WIP. Thad and Tarlyn take a boat out of a bay between two headlands. That’s based on my experience when we sailed through the Solway Passage, with its churning waters and whirlpools, all overlooked by a stormy sky and the towering red cliffs of a distant island. My scene isn’t exactly the same, but I’ve drawn on that journey to lend some colour.IMG_8524_HDR

But that’s not the end of the sea adventure, and here I dragged out another recent experience, when I went to horizontal Falls two years ago (gosh, is that really so long ago)? I wrote about it here. I’ll be using that image, of a tide roaring through a narrow gap, in another exciting scene.

See? You can write what you know, using places not too many people on this planet have seen.

Falls approaching gap

 

Stay tuned, everybody. It should be a fun read, my usual combination of action, with a slurp of romance. No I haven’t thought of a name yet.

You can find out more about my Ptorix Empire books here.

Let’s talk about admirals

Cover of The Iron Admiral: ConspiracyI have a penchant for men in uniform, the more brass the better – provided, of course, the body in the uniform matches my expectations. I know admirals are usually older guys – in our society, anyway – and I haven’t changed that. But in my science fiction romances, guys in their forties will still have the bodies of twenty-year-olds.

And this is the gentleman on the cover of ‘Morgan’s Choice’, Admiral Ashkar Ravindra.

They’re both hunks, but they’re very, very different men. Saahren is a farmer’s son who was beaten up and left to die during an uprising on his home planet. He was lucky; a visiting doctor patched up the broken bones and his shattered face, then gave him a home until he joined the Star Fleet Academy, where he rose through the ranks on sheer ability. He never had much time for women and even though his fame has spread, he still avoids emotional entanglements. He has his reasons.

Ravindra, on the other hand, was born to his position. He’s a member of the ruling military class, in fact a subset of that group from which the admirals are often chosen – provided they have the ability. His father was an admiral, as was his grandfather. His parents arranged his marriage to a suitable woman but even while his wife was alive, when he was away from home he could take his pick of willing partners. The thing about Ravindra is that he doesn’t quite fit the traditional admiral mould. He bends rules when it suits him, sees things from a different perspective. That’s why he has been assigned to a command on the outskirts of Manesa society.

They both meet women. But whereas for Saahren it’s love at first sight and a long learning experience as he fumbles his way through falling in love, for Ravindra the relationship grows in very different directions.

Here’s an early encounter between Saahren and Allysha Marten.

“Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you.” He glanced over his shoulder at his fallen opponent. “Let me see you to your quarters.”
The alarm faded from her face as she sized him up. “I’m Allysha Marten.”
“I know. I’m Brad Stone.” He’d very nearly said Chaka Saahren. He’d better keep that fact to himself until he could find out what her objection was.
She smiled and his heart fluttered. “Thank you, Brad Stone.”
“Where do you live?”
“The mine. In the old ptorix mine manager’s quarters.”
He walked beside her, not too close, not too fast, through the tunnel of jungle that led to the mine. “You’re comfortable with the ptorix?”
“Yes. Very. Where I come from—Carnessa—we live together peaceably. Well… mostly. I grew up with Tors.”
Tors. That must be her word for ptorix.
“And that’s how you understand their computer systems?”
“I suppose. I can speak their language and that always helps.”
He almost stopped. “Their language? But that’s very difficult.”
She laughed, a low, musical chuckle. “Not too bad if you learn as a child.”
The mine’s metal doors gleamed in the lights around the entrance. Saahren pressed the lock and the personnel door slid open. He stood aside to let her go first, along the wide central tunnel that led to the control room.
She turned off into a side tunnel. A few more steps and she stopped in front of a stairway. “I live up there. Thanks again.”
Those wonderful eyes held him for just a moment and then she was gone. He stared after her. He should have asked her to dinner or a drink or … or… Idiot. Fool. Standing there like a tongue-tied teenager. She smiles at me and I melt. She speaks and I just listen to the lilt in her words.
He sighed. I’m in love.

Here’s an early encounter between Morgan Selwood and Ravindra.

The officer reached down, grasped her shoulder in one hand and pulled her upright so fast her feet left the ground. He let go and she swayed, regaining her balance. The light winked on the gold sunburst on his shoulder.
Well, well. Her heart beat steadied. Maybe she wasn’t for the firing squad just yet.
“Welcome back, Morgan Selwood.”
She stared at him, straight into slit black pupils in an amber field. She was supposed to look down, wasn’t she? Well, fuck him. She wasn’t beaten yet.
“You have not yet learnt manners, I see.”
“Where I come from, meeting a man’s gaze shows honest intent.”
“You are not where you come from.”
He struck her face. Her head whipped around. She staggered sideways and stumbled to her knees, her cheek stinging. She hadn’t even seen him raise his hand. He hauled her effortlessly, one handed, to her feet again. He must be enormously strong. His fingers must have left dents on her shoulder.
“So. Let us start again.” That even, baritone voice. He might as well have been at a cocktail party.
No, she wasn’t where she came from. Wishing she could rub her cheek, she bowed her head. “Admiral.”
The word stuck in her craw. She fixed her gaze on his rank insignia. Daryabod—Full Admiral. Second only to Daryaseban—Grand Admiral in the manesan fleet hierarchy. A very, very powerful man. Another bastard admiral.

So, folks… how do you like your admirals? Or generals, or whatever? I’d love to know.

Planet-hopping might not be so silly

Stars in Orion's beltMy science fiction book The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy includes a certain amount of planet-hopping. In fact, all my SF does. Now, I know that there will be some sneering and lip-curling over this. But don’t be in too much of a hurry to point a derisive finger.

Come with me on a cosmic journey. We’ll start here, on dear old Mother Earth, the only planet we know a huge amount about. Journey back in time, four hundred years… The world was beginning to open up. Intrepid explorers travelled to the other side of the Earth in search of trade and riches. Dutch merchant ships sailed from Amsterdam to what is now Jakarta in Indonesia to trade in spices. At the turn of the 17th century, they sailed down the west coast of Africa, re-provisioned at Table Bay and then set off past Madagascar and across the Indian Ocean up to Java. Makes sense, really, if you look at the journey on a map; down to the tip of Africa, then up at an angle to Indonesia. The journey took a year, sometimes as much as eighteen months if the winds were poor or the storms struck hard.

Then in 1610 Henrik Brouwer did something completely counter-intuitive and sailed south from Table Bay. Makes no sense, does it? Well, yes it does. The Earth is not a 2D Mercator’s projection on a tabletop, it’s a spheroid. The distance around the equator is greater than the distance around the lines we call ‘latitude’ to the north and south. Brouwer took advantage of that fact to shorten the distance he had to travel east and had the bonus of the reliable winds of the ‘roaring forties’ to push his ships along. All he had to do was remember to turn left when he reached the longitude for the Sunda Strait, sail up the coast of Western Australia and he was home. Taking this route shortened the journey by two thousand miles and more than halved the duration. The route was not without its dangers – as you’ll find in my book ‘To Die a Dry Death’ – but that’s another story.

Over the years, sea travel became faster and more reliable. Steam and then diesel replaced sail. When my family migrated to Australia from Amsterdam the sea journey took about a month. Apart from the improved mode of transport, the ship also avoided the long journey around the Cape of Good Hope by going through a short cut – the Suez Canal.

Eventually, the obstacles forced upon us by oceans and continents were removed, too, with the advent of air travel. These days you can get on a jet at Schiphol in Amsterdam and get off twenty four hours later at Perth International Airport. With airliners like the beautiful and now-departed Concord, you could do the journey in half the time. So in four hundred years we have shortened a journey that took about a year – let’s say 350 days – to one that routinely takes 1 day or (with the right aircraft) an awful lot less. Wow.

Still with me? Trust me, it’s all relevant to space travel. Imagine what reaction a person would have received if, in 1600, she’d said that in four hundred years, we’d be able to travel from Amsterdam to that southern continent we didn’t know anything about, in less than a day.

Yes, but that’s just the Earth, I hear you say. We’re talking inter-stellar distances. For Pete’s sake, the nearest star system from ours is over 4 light years away. Very true. We have no way of spanning these vast distances in anybody’s lifetime. Regardless, the notion of ‘hyperspace’ in science fiction to allow for the possibility of space travel has been around for a long time. I don’t think I ever saw an explanation of hyperspace – just that the ship entered another dimension, if you will, travelling externally to our normal, 3D + time. But hey ho; never let the facts get in the way of a good story. The Grand Master, Isaac Asimov, did rather a lot of planet-hopping. Have a look at his ‘Foundation’ series. Many of the more modern writers like Mc Devitt and Moon have FTL (faster than light) travel but show it as still a very time-consuming business with journeys taking weeks or months..

I don’t believe that restriction is cast in concrete. Even Mc Devitt in his book ‘A Talent for War’ postulated a quantum drive, where a ship moves from one place to another instantaneously. We don’t hear so much about worm holes these days, but they would also allow for an instantaneous transfer.

I refer to my version of hyperspace as ‘shift space’. I’ve done that deliberately because in my universe the ships use the geometry of extra dimensions to get around. Ships ‘shift’ to another dimension for the duration of a journey. It’s pretty much accepted that our 3D notion of the universe is just a perception, that there are many other dimensions we are not equipped to see. Such an understanding certainly helps to explain the apparent complexities of quantum physics and the anomalous behaviour of sub-atomic particles. Way back in the 1980’s Carl Sagan in his wonderful TV series ‘Cosmos’ showed us a tesseract  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesseract), a four-dimensional object portrayed as best we could in a 3D world. To understand what you’re looking at, think about a standard, 2D drawing of a cube. According to mathematics, there are many, many more than four dimensions out there, not to mention parallel universes. The biggest limitation imposed upon us in reaching a real understanding of things like this is that we are constrained by our own world view and our ability to perceive. As far back as 1884 E.A. Abbott in his book ‘Flatland’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flatland) described the problems of seeing three dimensions in a 2D world. We are faced with the same thing, on a 3D scale, if we attempt to visualise four, five or six dimensions. Or many, many more.

However, I can give you some sort of idea of where I’m coming from. Take a piece of A4 paper. Let’s label two diagonally opposite corners as A and B. Starting from B, we can reach A by going straight up one side then along the top to A. Hang on, you say, wouldn’t you just go across the diagonal, thereby reducing the distance and time taken? Sure you would. Now curl the paper over into a cylinder. All you have to do to get from B to A is move along a straight line. The length of the line will depend on how you make the roll (short edges together or long edges together).

Now take point A in one hand and point B in the other and bring them together so they meet. Getting from B to A in this instance is like walking from one room into another.

That’s my notion of ‘shift drive’. I have included some duration in the journey in the book because I found it useful. Don’t ask me how the shift drive (the engine that makes it possible to take advantage of the geometry) works. I’m speculating a fusion drive to do something or other. When I work it out, I’ll let you know.

********

Since I wrote this article, I’ve come across the Sabre engine, which can operate in both atmosphere and vacuum, and can travel at 5 times the speed of sound. Such an aircraft could make the trip from Sydney to London in 4 hours. That’s four (4) hours. http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/sabre.html So a trip from Amsterdam to Perth would probably be a little bit less. Say 3.5 hours? So we’ve come down from 350 days, to 1 month, to 1 day, to 3.5 hours. Rams the point home, doesn’t it?

27 Jan 2013 And now there’s this. http://www.space.com/19416-hypersonic-spaceliner-fly-passengers.html. A spaceliner which will do the trip in 90 minutes!!! Wow. Just wow.