Welcome to my blog! This is intended to be a simple and straightforward site where I will post information about my books, along with the occasional musing.
More to come!
Welcome to my blog! This is intended to be a simple and straightforward site where I will post information about my books, along with the occasional musing.
More to come!
Zarhab Groht stank.
Unwashed bodies, chemical fumes, pungent spices. Torin Mardak could smell the putrid air even from behind his protective helm.
Damn inferior tech. The thing probably hadn’t sealed properly. He cursed his stiff, uncomfortable disguise, which had the dubious effect of making him look like a poorly paid Outer Sectors mercenary.
He would have much preferred his nanite exo-armor—an impenetrable obsidian layer that fit him like a second skin—but this was Zarhab Groht, the notorious black market trading station at the edge of Sector Eight, and he couldn’t afford to appear even the slightest bit Kordolian.
After all, he was on a mission, and he didn’t want to scare away his prey.
He sighed as he made his way through the crowd, deftly sidestepping a tri-wheeled robot as it skimmed across the patchy floor. What purpose it served and who it belonged to, he had no idea. It disappeared into the throng of bodies and machines like a bottom-dwelling insect, emitting a faint mechanical whine.
Zarhab Groht was noisy.
High-pitched machinery noises mingled with the roar of thrusters and the incessant buzz of thousands of voices, assaulting Torin’s sensitive ears. He caught snippets of conversation in various languages; Ifkin, Ordoon, Veronian, Ephrenian, Universal… It was as if the entire Universe had come out to play, without the Kordolians.
Torin didn’t want to spoil the party, but he had an objective, and if things didn’t go to plan, he had the all-clear to tear this place apart.
“Retrieve the weapons at all costs. I will not allow our technology to fall into unworthy hands. Find whoever is responsible and bring them to me. I want to have a little talk with them.”
Those were the General’s orders. According to their intel, some moron was offloading Callidum weapons onto the intergalactic black markets, and that was absolutely fucking unacceptable.
Why would anyone want to sell a blade that could cut through almost any known substance in the Universe? Why would any Kordolian in their right minds want to deliver such a thing into enemy hands?
And all for a few miserable credits?
Torin shook his head as he changed direction, avoiding a scuffle that had broken out between two large golden-skinned Bartharran males. They snarled as they circled one another, their lower jaws thrust forward to display vicious looking tusks. A group of onlookers had formed, and people were taking bets.
Zarhab Groht was dangerous.
Full of cutthroats, thieves, murderers, and sociopaths, it was a typical fringe trading station.
Here, only the strong walked alone. The weak moved in groups, because this was the sort of place where just looking at someone the wrong way could get you killed.
Not that any of that bothered Torin. He was First Division, and that made him the most dangerous thing on this floating cesspit.
Well, maybe his offsider was more dangerous, but that was only because Enki was a little bit unhinged.
Well, maybe more than a little bit.
Enki was… in a different place right now. They all crossed over to that dark place now and then, but Enki practically lived there.
Ever since he’d returned from the Ghost Planet, Torin’s longtime battle-partner hadn’t really been the same.
He was a work in progress.
They all were, to some degree.
“Anything interesting over yonder, Enki?” Torin activated his comm, not entirely sure what to expect from his mission-partner.
Sometimes, Enki could be worse than a fucking Silent One. On a ten-point scale of talkativeness, if Kalan was a three and Kail was a one, then Enki Zakanin was a zero.
Scratch that. He was a negative.
Torin made his way down a narrow alley, passing a row of old freighter-crates that had been repurposed into market stalls. A wizened old Ifkin hawker yelled out to him in broken Universal, waving some sort of blaster-weapon in the air.
“You need powerblaster, mercenary? I give discount, just for you. Three for price of two.”
Torin ignored the Ifkin. “Any sign of our cargo, Enki?”
In the background, Torin heard a soft wheezing sound, as if someone were being choked to death.
“No,” Enki said at last, sounding a little preoccupied. “I will search the upper level.”
“And I’ll go down.”
Click. The comm went dead.
That was Enki. He and Torin got along pretty well, all things considered.
“You look like you could use some loving, big boy.” A Veronian female waved her tail at him, her golden eyes narrowing suggestively. She pulled aside a silken red curtain and gestured inside her stall. A faint pink glow came from within.
“I have all kinds of solo-use pleasure devices. You’re welcome to try…”
Torin quickened his pace, leaving the crate-sellers and their strange wares behind. He passed into a small docking area where various alien shuttlecraft were parked far too close to one another. At one end, a noisy worker-bot was pushing rubbish into an ejection-chute.
“The meeting point’s down at the large-vessel docks. Let’s go. The Ephrenians aren’t going to wait if we miss this window.”
The softly spoken words cut through the worker bot’s irritating drone like an ice-pick. Torin recognized the language—English.
An Earth language. He’d taught himself basic English on the long trip back from Kythia to Earth, so he understood the words well enough.
The speaker was definitely human, and definitely female.
What in Kaiin’s hells were humans doing on Zarhab Groht? They would be eaten alive if they weren’t careful.
That bothered him a little.
Part of him felt drawn to humans. After spending time on Earth, he’d become quite fond of the contrary, soft-skinned beings. Somehow, they knew how to live in a way that was completely flawed and utterly glorious.
The human approach to life was so un-Kordolian, and Torin liked that.
He couldn’t deny that they fascinated him. He even envied them a little, and deep down, he longed to find that most elusive of prizes—a mate.
He slowed his pace as a group of armed humans emerged from between two battered, blunt-nosed shuttlecraft.
Torin counted them. Twenty-four males, wearing identical combat armor and protective helms. Each of the guards carried identical short-barreled bolt-guns.
A small army. Were they enforcers? Paid mercenaries? Official soldiers?
They strode right past Torin, paying him little attention. He didn’t blame them. Why would they be bothered about him when he appeared to be nothing more than a common merc?
Anonymity could be a wonderful thing.
Twenty-four males, and…
For a heartbeat, they parted ranks, revealing their closely protected secret.
The one who had spoken earlier.
She wore a long black cloak with a hood that concealed her hair and eyes. It draped over her body, swishing back-and-forth as she walked, offering Torin barely a hint of the form that lay beneath.
Sensible flat-soled boots hugged her calves, extending up beneath the folds of her cloak. The only part of her that was actually visible was her lower face. Torin caught a glimpse of pink lips and pale skin decorated with small brown spots.
Just as he’d thought. This one was human, female, and totally out of her element on this cursed death-trap of a trading station.
Two dark-suited humans walked on either side of her; one female, the other male. They scanned the area through reflective datalenses, their faces impassive.
What sort of humans were ballsy—or foolish—enough to travel to a shit heap like Zarhab Groht, and why would they be meeting with those dangerous, elusive Ephrenians?
Down at the large-vessel docks.
That’s where they were headed. Torin looked the other way as they passed, not wanting to draw attention to himself.
He waited until the humans were almost out of earshot.
Then he sighed, turned, and followed.
Hi there! Just thought I’d check in with an update (a “mini FAQ”, if you will), as it’s been a while. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday period (mine was unexpectedly hectic), and I wish you a fantastic 2018!
So after a mad, exhausting, unpredictable, but mostly sublime 2017, I’m trying to get my house in order. I’m currently in the process of devising a new writing strategy for this year, and hopefully this will help me increase my productivity. If I hang out on social media a little less often, or if I take a bit longer to reply to emails and messages, don’t worry, it just means I’m working extra hard to hit my daily word counts.
Now, onto the important stuff:
What’s in the pipeline for 2018? Do you have a release schedule?
I’m not doing hard release dates this year, only tentative ones. The reason for this is that I’m also doing full-time mommy work, and life with the little one can get rather unpredictable. I’ll continue to write and publish, but I don’t want to set firm release dates and then have to change or delay them. What I will try and do is put something out every 1-2 months.
My next release:
Darkstar Mercenaries will kick off with a prequel novella, A Darkside Interlude. Officially, this is Earth Files #2. Unofficially, it’s Darkstar Mercenaries #0.5. It’s set after Brilliant Starlight and provides an introduction to the new series. If everything goes to plan, this should be out early-ish Feb. It features Iskar (one of General Tarak’s five commanders–he has a special role to play in the post-imperial Kordolian-verse) as he encounters one of the colorful residents of Darkside. There’s a teaser at the end of this post.
And then we have:
Taming Chaos (Darkstar Mercenaries #1) – Apr 2018
Darkstar Mercenaries #2 (Title TBA) – Apr/May 2018
Catalyst (Hidden Planet #2) – May/Jun 2018
With more to come…
When the $%^& are those paperbacks coming out? What about audio?
Putting the DPW series into paperbacks was on my to-do list last year, but I got overwhelmed with everything. I’m currently in the process of organizing a series revamp (pretty new covers coming up), and once these are done, I’ll get the paperback versions up.
As for audio, Tantor have picked up the rest of the books in the series, and these will becoming out over the next few months. Out of Darkness comes out on Audible next month. Then we have Forged in Shadow in March, Infinity’s Embrace in April, and Electric Heart and Brilliant Starlight in May.
Do you have a reader group or ARC group?
I’ve had some folks ask me about this recently. First of all, thank you for your interest in my writing! At the moment, I don’t have any such groups set up, and that’s because I’m not sure I have the time to organize these things with my current schedule. However, this may change in future, and if it does, I’ll let you know!
Now, here’s a teaser for A Darkside Interlude
“Check yourself, Commander.” Torin’s voice was a distant echo in the background. The First Division warrior sounded mildly surprised… and amused. “You look like you’ve just been hit by an ionospheric lightning bolt.”
Iskar blinked. He tried to tear his attention away from the human, but it was impossible. She was heading straight for him.
This was the part when he was supposed to do something, say something. As a commander, he had a reputation for being ruthless and decisive under pressure. He made swift decisions and stayed the course, never wavering in the face of a threat.
This was different.
Military matters were one thing, but when it came to females…
Kaiin’s hells. He had only the most limited experience with them, and now one of the infernal creatures was here, walking right up to him as if he were a long-lost lover.
Her dark eyes burned into his soul, and before he realized what was going on, she bumped into him. The first meeting of their bodies was electric. Iskar stiffened. She pressed her body up against his, lightly tracing her fingers along his neck, across his shoulder, down his arm.
Heat seeped into him.
Her scent—warm, earthy, and sweet, like some sun-touched Earth fruit—surrounded him.
His cock stiffened.
“Sorry,” she whispered in Universal, and for a sublime moment, her husky voice obliterated the commotion. “It was an accident.”
They both knew it was anything but.
I’m going to call 2017 my ‘slow’ year. A couple of things have happened in my world. Firstly, I had a baby earlier in the year (she’s an absolute delight and I love her to bits, but wow, what a learning curve!). Secondly, I had to have surgery on my hand for a niggling little problem that has been bothering me for some time. I’m pleased to report that my hand is now nicely healed and I’m finally back to full typing speed.
If you’ve read the Dark Planet Warriors books, you’re probably aware that Book 8, Brilliant Starlight, was the final book in the series. I decided to end the story arc there as it just felt like a natural point at which to jump off (a bit like ‘season 1’ of a TV series). But don’t worry, there will be a spin-off, Darkstar Mercenaries. I have many more stories up my sleeve for that universe, but with all that’s happened recently, I needed to slow down a bit to recharge my creative batteries after the release of Book 8. Once I get up to speed on Darkstar Mercenaries, I hope to go back to my 1-2 monthly release schedule.
At the moment, I’m also working on another sci-fi romance series, Hidden Planet. There will be new aliens, new worlds, and a little bit of the paranormal thrown in. I don’t want to throw any spoilers around, but if you would like to know more, you can read the teaser at the end of this post.
So in terms of a future release schedule, it goes (roughly) something like this:
Destroyer (Hidden Planet 1) – Dec
Darkstar Mercenaries 1 (Title TBA) – Jan, hopefully with 1-2 monthly releases after that
And maybe a few other surprise goodies thrown in along the way
I won’t give exact dates until I’m very close to release time, because I’m so terrible at keeping them, but I will continue to post updates here and on my FB page, and the mailing list always gets an email when there’s a new book out.
For now, here’s an excerpt from my WIP, Destroyer:
The monstrous ship that had swallowed the stars now swallowed the Medusa. A gaping black maw of an entrance opened up in its side, and some mysterious, irresistible force dragged them towards an uncertain fate. They were utterly helpless against it. Raphael had given up on resistance. Feeding what little juice they had left into the thrusters was a futile waste of energy, and as for the idea of using their remaining missiles…
Against a vessel of this size, that would be insanity.
From her vantage point inside the bridge’s observation dome, all Calexa could do was stare as they flew into the abyss. Raphael had chased them away from the navigation pod, demanding absolute silence so he could concentrate on keeping the Medusa’s failing systems online.
Their usually laid-back navigator was tense. They were all fucking tense.
“We’re totally screwed. I mean, we’ve been screwed before, but this time we are screwed.” Beside her, Mai let her Irradium cannon drop to the floor with a heavy thud. The bloody thing probably weighed close to a hundred pounds, but Mai carried it around as if it were as light as a feather. Like Calexa and Zahra, Mai had undergone enhancement therapy on that shit-hole of a planet called Dashki-5. Her bones had been coated in a metal composite, enabling her to carry some very heavy things around.
Calexa didn’t know what to say, because Mai was absolutely right. She shook her head as she pressed her palm against the cold surface of the observation window, trying to see beyond the small halo of light that surrounded the Medusa. The ship’s navigation lights could only penetrate so far into the inky blackness.
Darkness engulfed them, obliterating the glittering tapestry of space. Without the familiar backdrop of stars, Calexa felt anchorless and rudderless. They were in freefall, and it was utterly terrifying.
Calexa’s breath misted in the frigid air as she exchanged a look with Mai and Zahra. The dim light was unkind to her companions, accentuating their tired faces, deepening the dark circles under their eyes, and highlighting the pallor that came from too many days spent away from the warm caress of a decent sun.
They were wide-eyed, ashen-faced ghosts.
She had no doubt she looked just as bad. A good night’s sleep was a luxury she hadn’t enjoyed in years. In real life, there was no such thing as a deep, dreamless sleep. There were only snatches of fitful rest, stolen in-between visits to grim, charmless destinations.
“Do the girls in the passenger bay have enough thermal gear?” Instead of worrying about her chronic insomnia, Calexa turned to more practical matters.
“Monroe magicked some thermal skinsuits and blankets out of God-knows-where.” Zahra said absently, her attention held hostage by the inescapable void.
“Monroe did that? Since when has he been even remotely approachable?” The Primean half-breed could fix anything and everything, but he was the surliest individual Calexa had ever met. It wasn’t unusual for him to go for days—even weeks—without speaking a single word to anyone. She couldn’t imagine him doing anything nice for anyone, let alone a group of Humans who had pledged their loyalty to one of the Primeans he so despised.
Calexa tensed as a dull groan echoed throughout the cabin, followed by an eerie metallic tapping sound. The ship listed to one side, throwing Calexa off-balance as Mai’s Irradium cannon rolled around on the floor. Mai swore as it hit the wall with a heavy, metallic clunk. An odd sensation—like gravity being pulled out from underneath her like a rug—churned Calexa’s stomach as the Medusa dropped.
“Grab a safety hold,” Calexa barked. They all scrambled to the corner of the cabin, fighting the topsy-turvy motion of the ship. They should have been strapped into their landing chairs, but Calexa had been unable to drag herself away from the observation dome. It was like watching a multi-freighter wreck in slow motion; she knew disaster was imminent, but she couldn’t look away.
She curled her gloved hands around the nearest safety hold and waited. The ship rocked some more, then a deafening crash shook the cabin. It was accompanied by a series of powerful shudders.
The three of them didn’t say a word until the movement stopped and everything went quiet.
Calexa took a deep breath. “I get the feeling we’ve landed.” With a sigh of relief, she released the safety hold. The impact hadn’t been as bad as she’d feared. Raphael must have worked his magic and had the presence of mind to drop the landing gear.
She looked outside and saw nothing but endless darkness.
There was no sound, no light, and not a single sign of life. She was acutely aware of the heavy rasp of her breathing and her thundering pulse.
“This really fucking sucks,” Mai whispered.
Zahra let out a cynical snort. “I’ve changed my mind. I’ve decided I am afraid of the dark.”
Calexa nodded in agreement. There was no way in hell she was going to lead them out into the darkness, not when they had no idea what they were up against.
All they could do was wait. Eventually, whoever—or whatever—was out there would show themselves.