Blog Author Archive: Michelle Cameron

Cover reveal – Limerence: Book Three of The Cure by Charlotte McConaghy


No injection can cure love. Only life can do that.

Deep in the darkest tunnels hide the last of the resistance fighters. Hunted by the savage Furies and the ruthless Bloods, they live in constant peril. The only means of survival is to seek strength in family and find courage in love. So what happens when love is cured, scoured away, leaving death in its place?

In the final battle for freedom, there are no lines that won’t be crossed. And for Josi this means becoming the creature she fears most of all: the girl with a blood moon heart.

The gripping conclusion to the dystopian trilogy The Cure, Limerence is a love story for the monsters within.

Perfect for fans of Pierce Brown, Laini Taylor and Maggie Stiefvater.


Limerence: Book Three of The Cure (Omnibus Edition) is released on the 14th of April. Pre-order your copy now!



Author interview: Steve P. Vincent


Nation’s Divided is OUT NOW!

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To celebrate, we thought we’d ask Steve a few questions for you.

Tell us about the setting of Nations Divided, why did you choose this particular conflict?

At its heart, Nations Divided is a book about the extremes a group will go to in order to achieve their aims, and the strength required to stop them. In this case, after the signing of a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, a group of ultra-hardline Zionists will do almost anything to destroy the deal, because they see it as the death of Israel. And, as the cover no doubt reveals, there’s a nuclear submarine involved.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one I’ve always been interested in. Both sides have legitimate wants and needs, both sides do some things that are questionable and, at various times, the two sides have started to frame what a peaceful resolution to the political and security situation might look like. I think it’s fair to say that many authors are also afraid of writing about the conflict and I wanted to have a crack at it.

This book is also the most globetrotting of the series to date. While The Foundation had a fair bit of zooming about the place and I kept State of Emergency geographically isolated to the United States, for Nations Divided I needed to capture the truly global ramifications of this conflict and this plot. Jack Emery visits four continents and ten or so countries in the race to stop the Zionists, and the whole book takes place over about a month.


Is Jack Emery based on anyone? What/who were your influences?

No. Given how much Jack has been beaten up, tortured, blown up, stabbed, shot at, stressed out and locked up over the past little while, I don’t think I could do that to someone. If he was based on anyone, and that person found out, I’d have a restraining order slapped on me. I wanted him to be a relatively normal guy, rather than a commando or one man action hero. He has problems and stresses and pain and weaknesses.

A heavy influence on my writing, and on Jack, was the early work of Tom Clancy. I devoured the Jack Ryan books as a kid, and Jack Emery got his first name partly in recognition of that. Otherwise, Nelson DeMille, John LeCarre, Robert Ludlam, Michael Connelly, Vince Flynn, Ian Rankin and many others in the crime/political/conspiracy thriller space have influenced me in ways large and small over the years. Beyond the genre, there’s too many to name. I read pretty widely beyond thrillers.


Why did you choose to have an Aussie protagonist for a series largely set in America?

I’m not American, but most of my political interests are there, and that’s what I wanted to write. Honestly, the prospect of writing about bad stuff happening in a system I’m not super familiar with from an unfamiliar point of view was a little daunting when I was starting out. Making Jack Emery Australian was a tiny crutch that was comfortable as I was trying to figure out how to write books. The unintended benefit has been a cool ‘outsider effect’ that I’ve really enjoyed.


Can you tell us a bit about the research you did?

I made a deliberate choice to avoid the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the peace deal – who got what and the exact terms of the agreement. I did this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the detailed contents of bilateral treaties are boring to anyone without a political science or a law degree. Secondly, there was a danger that, if I included the detail, the reader would be sidetracked (and potentially outraged, depending on their views) by the detail rather than the story.

I did do my best to understand the issues, the perspective of all the main players and the history of peace negotiations to date. Though most of this isn’t in the book, and the depth of research will mostly be invisible to the reader, I had to have it in my back pocket to give me the confidence to tackle a subject this weighty. Surprisingly, by far the most difficult area of research was on nuclear submarine launch procedures. It’s hard to find that stuff!


 

And finally, what’s next?

A little bit of a break while shadowy publishing industry figures read over a plot plan for my next novel, a psychological thriller that I’ve wanted to write for a while but have had the time to. I’ll start writing it around Christmas, I hope, with the aim of having a finished draft by mid-2016.

After that, I’m discussing a new series with you fine people at Momentum, and playing with a few more concepts that haven’t really formed fully in my head yet. And, of course, potentially some more Jack Emery novels in the pipe once I’ve had a rest, and he’s sat on a beach drinking cocktails for a while.



Exclusive excerpt: The Bloody Quarrel: Episode 2


Prince Kemal looked out over the water and sighed. Then he turned to look at his family, his wife Feray and sons Asil and Orhan, and smiled.

“What is it, my Lord?” his wife asked, her voice gentle and musical.

Kemal did not need to glance around to see if anyone was listening. His people knew better than to disturb his privacy. They were alone on the high stern deck, looking out over the endless ocean that divided Kotterman from Gaelland.

“I wonder whether we will like it there,” he said. Many men, in fact most men, would not confide in their wives, let alone discuss matters of great import with them. But Feray was not an ordinary woman. He had married her because it solidified his father’s grip on a vital part of the Empire, but he had swiftly fallen in love with her anyway. Their sons were eight and six summers of age and another source of joy to him, although they were less interested in what he was saying and more curious about a pair of dolphins that were swimming alongside the ship.

“How can we not? We will be representing your father and the great Empire of Kotterman, bringing a new province into its boundaries for the first time in one hundred years,” she said.

He chuckled. “I know what we are supposed to do. I question why.”

She cocked her head on one side. “Tell me, my Lord.”

Kemal smiled and enfolded her in his arms. “Do you know why I have taken no other woman?” he asked. “Although my brothers believe an oath to Aroaril is no oath at all?”

“Because you know I would remove your manhood with a rusty knife?” she suggested with a grin.

“Well, that also. But the real reason is I could never find anyone with half as much sense as you. This business with Gaelland concerns me deeply. When my forefathers began to expand our Empire, they could not stop once they had started, because there were always enemies across the border who wanted our riches, as well as allies who wanted our trade. But we have no border with Gaelland and it is a huge distance from my father. And their King is a strange man. We talk to him because we must but he reminds me of a shark. It looks like he is smiling all the time, he even appears foolish on occasion, but then you catch sight of his eyes and you realize there is something evil there.”

Feray shuddered a little. “But surely we have nothing to fear from him? There are too few of them and they are too poor to cause us concern.”

“That is what my father thinks. But all he has done is read the reports on this King Aidan. He has never met the man. Although that is one thing about Gaelland coming under the Kotterman Empire. If we remove Aidan from the throne, it will actually help the people.”

“Do you believe that?”

He smiled. “More than that, I know it to be true. Our agents have been meeting with people from the King’s eldest son, Prince Cavan. Many of the nobles would like to see the end of Aidan’s rule and the Crown Prince assures our agents they would welcome Kottermani rule if their positions are preserved and the lives of their people improved. Obviously I will need to meet with this Cavan myself, as well as the nobles he claims support him. It will influence my talks with King Aidan, although it is up to me to make my father’s dream come true.”

“What are you going to do, my love?”

Kemal kissed her on the head. “What I must. I can never forget that I have three brothers, all of whom would love to sit on the Elephant Throne one day. As you say, Gaelland is the first new province to be brought into the Empire since my great-great-grandfather’s time. My father lusts more for it than he has for any woman. He feels the touch of Aroaril on his shoulder and wants to leave his mark on the history scrolls. If I do not do this, then he will find another who will.”

Her arms tightened around him. “I do not care if you are the Emperor or just a man. I would still be with you,” she said against his chest.

He chuckled. “Let us never put that to the test!”

He might have said more, but his sons came running over then, the dolphins forgotten, wanting to show him how they had been learning the sword, brandishing their wooden practice blades.

“Come then, let us see how good you are!” Kemal challenged them, winking at his wife’s indulgent smile as he defended himself against the children.

Asil, the older of the two, was slim and fast, while Orhan was younger but already stocky and solid through the chest and shoulders, and his blows had the same power as his older brother’s, albeit without the speed.

Kemal fended the two of them off easily, his footing sure and quick, making them bump into each other and occasionally using his wooden sword to tap one of them, all the while telling them what to do better.

“Enough!” he cried finally, as Orhan abandoned his sword and grabbed him around the leg. “I am defeated by you!”

“Really, Baba?” Orhan asked, looking up at his father in delight.

“No!” Kemal laughed, grabbing them both in his arms.

Their laughter echoed across the ship as Feray called down to servants for refreshments to be brought up.

 

Grab your copy here!



Cover reveal: Limerence episodes 1-3 by Charlotte McConaghy


Limerence: Episode 1

Limerence-Ep1

No injection can cure love. Only life can do that.

Deep in the darkest tunnels hide the last of the resistance fighters. Hunted by the savage Furies and the ruthless Bloods, they live in constant peril. The only means of survival is to seek strength in family and find courage in love. So what happens when love is cured, scoured away, leaving death in its place?

In the final battle for freedom, there are no lines that won’t be crossed. And for Josi this means becoming the creature she fears most of all: the girl with a blood moon heart.

The gripping conclusion to the dystopian trilogy The Cure, Limerence is a love story for the monsters within.

Perfect for fans of Pierce Brown, Laini Taylor and Maggie Stiefvater.

Released 11th February 2016. Pre-order now!


Limerence: Episode 2

Limerence-Ep2

Killing a Blood asks for a piece of your soul.

The Josephine that has returned to the tunnels is a version broken by her disappearance. And while she is propelling the resistance fighters toward action, demanding knife-edge precision, Luke is tormented by his lost memories and the transformation of his wife. His desperation to understand grows by the day, threatening his ability to lead his people.

As relationships shift, new alliances form and secrets hang heavy, the tunnels grow ever more dangerous.

Who exactly has Josephine Luquet become, and what is she hiding?

Perfect for fans of Pierce Brown, Laini Taylor and Maggie Stiefvater.

Released 25th February 2016. Pre-order now!


Limerence: Episode 3

Limerence-Ep3

Hal spoke of taming the animal within. But I think he was wrong. I think we’re meant to let it free.

Josi is lost in the wilderness, surrounded by the savagery of an animal world. With the horror of her memories finally revealed, she becomes more and more like the creatures holding her captive.

This is what it takes to survive, and surviving is what Josephine does. If cutting ties to her once-happy life is the price she must pay for the atrocities she’s committed, then cut them she will. Love slips through hands drenched in blood, after all, and Falon Shay must die.

But what exactly is she fighting for, if she truly believes that love can be cured?

In the conclusion to the thrilling dystopian trilogy The Cure, Josephine and Luke face the greatest enemy of all: the one that lies within.

Perfect for fans of Pierce Brown, Laini Taylor and Maggie Stiefvater.

Released 10th March, 2016. Pre-order now!



Spotlight: The Jack Emery series by Steve P. Vincent


To celebrate the upcoming release of Steve P. Vincent’s latest Jack Emery novel, Nations Divided, we’re having a blog tour – kicking off today! See where we’ll be next here!

Fireplay: Jack Emery 0.5

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A chance lightning strike. A reporter in the right place. A scandal that will rock America.

Journalist Jack Emery has seen it all. Embedded for the New York Standard with the 8th Marine Regiment in the heart of Afghanistan, he has covered everything from firefights to the opening of new schools. But nothing has prepared Jack for the story that is about to explode right in front of him.

When a convoy Jack is riding in is attacked by a lone zealot, Jack asks a question that puts him on the path of a sensational story. But he’ll soon learn that his struggles to find the hook are nothing compared to the dangers of getting it out.

GET IT NOW FOR FREE!


The Foundation: Jack Emery 1

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He who holds the pen holds the power.

“Great fun. A two-fisted thriller, escaped from five minutes into the future.”

—John Birmingham, author of the Axis of Time and Disappearance trilogies.

When a corrupt think tank, The Foundation for a New America, enlists a Taiwanese terrorist to bomb a World Trade Organization conference, the US and China are put on the path to war.

Star journalist Jack Emery is pulled into a story far more dangerous than he could have imagined. Because the Foundation’s deputy director, the ruthless Michelle Dominique, recognizes that whoever controls the message controls the world. And she will take control, no matter the price.

Enter Jack’s boss, Ernest McDowell, owner and chairman of the largest media empire on the planet. In the midst of political upheaval, EMCorp is about to become the final play in the Foundation’s plan. When Dominique traps the EMCorp owner in her web, Jack’s the only one left to expose the conspiracy before it’s too late.

As the world powers smash each other against the anvil of Taiwan, Jack will risk everything to battle the Foundation and prevent them from taking control amid the devastation of a global war.

BUY IT NOW!


State of Emergency: Jack Emery 2

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What is the true cost of security?

Amid a wave of unprecedented terrorist attacks on American soil, a panicked and inexperienced president declares a state of emergency and hands over control of the country to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The quiet and unassuming Administrator Hall soon becomes the most powerful man in America. Determined to stop the attacks, Hall enforces his order across the US, using a newly empowered State Guard to deal with anyone who gets in his way.

As totalitarianism descends across the country, battle-weary reporter Jack Emery is faced with a terrifying new reality when friends, colleagues, and sources are imprisoned before his eyes. Among weekly terrorist attacks, FEMA atrocities, and the clamp tightening on every element of society, Jack becomes one of the few struggling to stop the madness.

This time though, he’s on the wrong side of the law and fighting the very government he’s trying to save.

BUY IT NOW!


Nations Divided: Jack Emery 3

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Peace has been decades in the making, but chaos is just the press of a button away.

Jack Emery is happier than he has been in a long time. Nobody has shot at him or tried to blow him up for years, and he’s learned to love the job he thought he’d hate: Special Advisor to the President of the United States.

But nothing can prepare Jack for the work to come. As America continues to heal from self-inflicted wounds, an ambitious President McGhinnist draws closer to achieving the impossible: peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

As the countdown to peace reaches zero, a desperate group of hardline Israelis invoke the Samson Option, a secret protocol that will eradicate the peace agreement and pave the way for the destruction of America and the Middle East.

Jack has learned the hard way that when a crisis knocks, you don’t always get the chance to ignore it.

This political thriller is perfect for readers of Vince Flynn, Steve Berry and Tom Clancy.

Pre-order NOW!



5 things you didn’t know about Alex Morgan


To celebrate the release of Helldiver, Alex Morgan’s fourth Intrepid adventure, Chris Allen has given us some tidbits about the man himself!

1. Alex Morgan’s father was formerly a member of the Welsh Guards before following the love of his life, a beautiful Australian girl he’d met in London, back to Australia. A soldier through and through, Morgan’s dad enlisted in the Australian Army and served with distinction in Vietnam with the 3rd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment – the very same battalion Alex Morgan would serve with many years later.

2. Alex Morgan has an eclectic taste in music. Both of his parents were jazz buffs so he grew up developing a love for the music of Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck and Stan Getz. That evolved into a love of blues and blues rock. Eric Clapton being at the top of his list of favourites.

3. It’s no secret that Morgan likes a beer or two. The offer of a pint of Guinness is like a Siren’s call to him – usually with a similar end result! In his more refined, less rowdy moments, he’s known to enjoy a good single malt Scotch.

4. Morgan has never been in any way fashion conscious, traditionally opting for jeans, boots, casual shirt and a sports coat to keep him out of trouble. Of course, General Davenport has had a major influence on getting Morgan to dress more appropriately when required, but as soon as he can he’ll return to jeans at the first opportunity!

5. Morgan considers himself a simple man who chooses to live his life based on the basic premise that everyone has the right to live their life free of the unwelcome interference of those who would do them harm. That said, he is more than willing to be an unwelcome interference in the lives of those who choose to harm others.

Helldiver is out now – grab your copy here!



Cover reveal – A World of Ash: The Territory 3 by Justin Woolley

December 2, 2015 by

Salvation is a world away.

Trapped in a city no one knows exists, Squid lies dying as Nim fights for their lives. With every minute, their hope of getting the vaccine back to civilization is fading. From the brink of death and the edge of the world, Squid must once again conquer dangers even more sinister than the undead – the future of humankind depends on it.

But Squid’s efforts will be wasted if Lynn cannot keep the people of Alice safe until he returns, and Lynn is now a hostage of the Holy Order. Forced to face punishment at the hands of the High Priestess, Lynn is at the mercy of the mad cult, as beyond the wall the undead horde continues its relentless approach.

Caught between madness and mindlessness, the odds are stacked against Squid and Lynn. Will they triumph or do they already walk in a world of ash?

The thrilling conclusion to this zombie apocalypse series is perfect for fans of James Dashner’s Maze Runner series and Michael Grant’s Gone series.

A World of Ash is released on the 14th of April, 2016. You can pre-order your copy now!



Guest post: Duncan Lay


Battle. The great redeemer. The fiery crucible in which true heroes are forged. A place where cowards can find redemption.

I’ve paraphrased that from Bill Paxton’s Master Sergeant Farell from Edge Of Tomorrow. As a speech it’s right up there with the best he gave as Trooper Hudson in Aliens, right before he sadly got snaffled by the aliens and a mournful Hicks (Michael Beihn) pumped him full of lead so no lousy stinking alien could eat its way out of him. In that vein, Edge Of Tomorrow is a sci-fi romp in which you can enjoy wacky midget Tom Cruise getting killed, over and over again. Aliens kill him, stupidity kills him, Emily Blunt kills him. I never tire of seeing it.

Spoiler alert here: Over the course of about 150 deaths, he slowly transforms from a cowardly, lying, blackmailing weasel into the man who saves the human race and gets Emily Blunt to fall in love with him. Of course, in real life, she’d use her alien-fighting exoskeleton to pound his Scientology-spouting face but in the movie, you can sort of believe it. Because battle can do that. It can change people, it can change worlds.

People often ask why I love battles in my books. Some of them won’t buy it until they know there are good battles there. One man even wanted me to count the pages of the biggest battle in the series. It had to be over 50 pages or he wasn’t having a bar of it. I’ve even signed books hoping the reader “enjoys the blood spray”. Hey, you buy my book, I’ll sign whatever you want on there!

By way of answering why I love battles, I refer you to Master Sergeant Farell. In battle, anything can happen.

History tells us that a single arrow can change the course of history, especially when (allegedly) it lands in the eye of a king. But England, in fact the world was changed by the way the Saxon King Harold was killed by William the Norman.

If there is a common theme in my books, it is that whole countries, continents and even the world are at stake. The pressure of that, combined with the fear of battle, can do incredible things to characters. And I love to explore that.

Now I should mention that, despite signing books that extol the virtues of blood spraying across the pages, I do not glorify violence. In fact, the impact of battle, of fighting for your life, has a huge effect on my characters. Some cannot handle it. All come away knowing that battle is a terrible place. When the fate of the world is on a knife’s edge, then things can get bloody.

It is in that narrow place, when things are not safe and indeed even beloved characters can be killed, that I love to play with my characters. I like to explore them, test them and see what comes out of that fiery crucible.

The Bloody Quarrel sees battles taking place unlike anything I have ever written before.

There is a battle fought in a torrential storm, where even the world around them seems to be fighting. At stake is the fate of a two nations but it will have ramifications far beyond that.

Heroes will rise and heroes will fall. Fear abounds and not just that little jump-scare type of fear but more like the bowel-loosening, end-of-the-world, where every breath seems impossibly sweet and every sense is unbelievably heightened fear.

People will change, relationships will change, countries will change.

How can you not love that?

 

The Bloody Quarrel: Episode 1 is out on the 3rd of December. Pre-order your copy now!



Nations Divided blog tour!

November 27, 2015 by

That’s right! We’re so excited about Jack Emery’s latest foray that we’re bloggin’ about it all over the place! Check out the stops below – we have plenty of exciting stuff for you along the way; guest posts, excerpts, interviews and more!

4th December: Momentum

5th December: For the Love of Books and Alcohol 

6th December: Amanda Pillar’s blog

7th December: Reading Kills

8th December: Bound4escape

9th December: Readers Entertainment

10th December: RELEASE DAY! Momentum

11th December: Storeybook Reviews

12th December: Readers Entertainment

13th December: Chris Allen’s blog

14th December: The Thrill Begins

15th December: Cheeseburger Gothic

16th December: Shelf Pleasure

17th December: Jungle Red Writers

 

Grab your copy now!

Nations Divided

 



The Ghosts of Spectre: a guest post from Chris Allen


There’s a lot of conjecture at the moment around whether or not Spectre is a great or a not so great Bond film.

I went in with mixed feelings based on many of the reviews and comments I was seeing online. And for those who don’t know me, I’m a die-hard Bond fan, Fleming first – movies second. So I have high expectations of each of the films and I must say on this occasion, I was not disappointed.

Here’s what I liked about it.

The thing that people liked so much about Daniel Craig when he was brought on in 2006 with Casino Royale – is that he took the character of Bond right back to his roots. He was an unrelenting, blunt instrument which is exactly the intention that Fleming had for the character when he created Bond back in the 1950s. 

What they’ve done with Spectre is very cleverly woven into Craig’s presentation of Bond, much of the iconography of the character that people have been enjoying for over 50 years. Traditionally all the other films have relied on five key elements to connect them: the dinner suit; the Walther PPK; the vodka martini; the fast cars and of course, the women. Add to that some megalomaniac criminal mastermind, hell-bent on world domination and you’re all set.

What they’ve achieved in Spectre with – I thought – great subtlety as well as great respect for the legacy of the films, was the referencing of a number of scenes, themes and elements from across the palette of the Eon Productions series dating back to the very first film, Dr No, starring Sean Connery.

– There’s the scene in Dr No when Bond and Honey are received as guests at Dr No’s lair – this is replicated in Spectre when Bond and Madeleine Swann are similarly received by Blofeld. 

– The contemporary take of Craig’s Bond in Tangier in 2015 is almost identically dressed and styled with dark shirt and beige jacket to Timothy Dalton’s Bond in Tangier in 1987 in The Living Daylights.

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– The train journey that Bond and Madeleine take references a number of things, most notably the white dinner jacket which we first saw in Goldfinger, and only a couple of times since.

– And of course – the fight sequence between Craig’s Bond and Hinx on the train is a direct hat tip to Connery’s Bond and Robert Shaw’s Grant in From Russia With Love in 1963, and even albeit less comically Roger Moore’s Bond and Richard Kiel’s Jaws in The Spy Who Loved me in 1977.

– Blofeld’s surveillance control room in Spectre is a contemporary take on Hugo Drax’s space centre control room from Moonraker in 1979. 

– And finally, there’s the white cat, the Hildebrand reference and of course how Blofeld got his facial scar that was so much a part of Donald Pleasant’s Blofeld in You Only Live Twice in 1967. And many, many others.

If you go into a Daniel Craig Bond – you expect a certain thing. I’ve learned since Casino Royale in 2006 to expect a brooding, lonely individual who is struggling to come to terms with loss and disappointment despite the fact that he is supposed to be a blunt instrument, last resort capability for his government. 

In this regard, I was not disappointed.

Coupled to that, all of these historic references throughout the film to the legacy of the series and I came away feeling thoroughly entertained.

But let me qualify that.

The storyline can be disappointing because Bond is a huge character and the fact that Spectre boils the entire catalogue of Bond’s most recent missions down to nothing more than a demented, former childhood friend taunting him from a distance, all the danger and intrigue has been little more than a squabble between a couple of spoiled brats.

At that to me is the major let down in that thematic element and I believe that is what has left people with a less-than-favourable reaction to the film. It’s almost like, at the time you’re enjoying it, but there is an aftertaste that is ultimately not satisfying and that is how they have framed Bond’s recent history. A little bit like eating junk food on an impulse – tastes pretty good at the time, but you feel very unsatisfied very soon after.

 

Chris Allen’s latest heart-stopping thriller is out on the 26th of November. If you like Bond, you’ll love Helldiver. Grab a copy now!



Cover reveal – The Bloody Quarrel: Complete Edition by Duncan Lay


The prince is dead.

Fooled by the treacherous King Aidan, Fallon has shot down the one man he trusted to save his beloved nation of Gaelland. And yet, when the King could grind Fallon underfoot, he draws the simple farmer and fighter closer, making a hero of him.

Embroiled in plots beyond his comprehension and weighted with the guilt of the prince’s murder, Fallon must tread carefully if he is to accomplish the task that first brought him to the cursed capital: rescue his wife, Bridgit, and the rest of his village from Kottermani slavery. If he and his hopelessly ensnared men can survive, they may yet find redemption.

Meanwhile, across the ocean, Bridgit is rallying those around her to spring an escape. But who can be trusted? The ever-present danger of traitors and liars among the slaves, and even among her fellow Gaelish, is poison to her plans.

With an ocean between them and fouler nightmares looming, Fallon and Bridgit will be driven to their very limits to escape their prisons, find each other, and bring justice to Gaelland.

This epic fantasy is perfect for fans of Robin Hobb and Joe Abercrombie.

The Bloody Quarrel: Complete Edition is released on the 11th of February. Pre-order your copy now!



Cover reveal: Dastardly Deeds by Ilsa Evans


It was supposed to be the holiday of a lifetime …

When Nell Forrest’s life hits a speed bump (which is most definitely not a midlife crisis) a cruise around the Mediterranean seems like just the ticket.

Unfortunately, that’s an idea shared by her mother, her ex-husband, his new partner, and a police detective with whom Nell has a stormy history. Fortunately, meditation is just one of the many activities offered aboard the luxury liner, but Nell will need more than that to face what lies ahead.

A tragic death in Rome is quickly followed by another in Turkey. Then an unexpected discovery provides a link between the two, and Nell must stow her plans for relaxation once and for all.

One of her shipmates is a cold-blooded murderer, and it seems that Nell is the only one with the wherewithal to figure it out. But figure it out she must, because the murderer, like the cruise, has only just begun …

Dastardly Deeds is the fourth book in Ilsa Evans’ Nell Forrest Mystery series. The other three are Nefarious Doings, Ill-Gotten Gains and Forbidden Fruit.

This cosy mystery is perfect for fans of Alexander McCall Smith, M.C. Beaton, Kerry Greenwood and Joanna Fluke.

Dastardly Deeds will be released on the the 10th of March 2016.

Pre-order your copy NOW



Exclusive excerpt: Kraken Rising by Greig Beck


PROLOGUE

Southern Ocean – Edge of the South Sandwich Trench – October 12, 2008

Five hundred feet down, the silent leviathan glided through the water. At that depth there was just the faintest trace of sunlight penetrating down to create wave-like ripples on its surface, but below it, there was nothing but utter darkness.

The USS Sea Shadow was an experimental design submarine. Based on a miniaturized Ohio Class design, the 188-foot craft had an electric drive and high-energy reactor plant that allowed it to navigate the seas in total stealth. In addition, nano-paint on echo-free tiles reduced the chance of detection from active sonar – it was effectively an ocean ghost.

For now, Shadow, as the crew affectionately knew it, carried only conventional impact torpedoes, simply to add test displacement weight. The rest of its armament stores were empty, but when the craft was fully operational, it would be crammed with enough weaponry to obliterate anything on or below the water. The new design submarine was fast and invisible, and as far as the navy was concerned, was a high seas game changer.

The test run was watched from naval command with a mix of pride and trepidation. Shadow was in international waters, which would have made it diplomatically awkward should it have been detected. Even though the closest high-tech power, Australia, should not have possessed the technical capabilities to see or hear it, training runs in this part of the Southern Ocean were necessary and extremely useful as the environmental conditions were as hostile as they could get. And if the Aussies could find them, then the project would be determined a fail.

Today’s exercises were to be carried out on the edge of the deepest trench in the region – the Southern Sandwich Trench, just off the Antarctic’s coast. Muddy plains, abyssal mountain ranges and crevices that fell away to 26,000 feet into the Earth’s crust, dominated the ocean floor here.

Captain Clint O’Kane stood on the command deck, shorter than the rest of his crew, but his authoritative presence made him seem like he towered over every one of them. His dark eyes were unreadable, as they reflected the green glow of the instrument panels.

O’Kane was relatively young, but had been a mariner for two decades. Still, he felt his heart rate lift as he passed over any of these deeper zones. It was the trenches that worried all submariners. These cold black voids were worlds of crushing depths, permanent blackness, and were most often shielded from them as the deep water made the liquid compress enough to repel most of their sonar pulses. And every now and then, when something did bounce back, more often than not it could never be identified. In that mysterious darkness, there were temperature fluctuations and flow variations that defied explanation, and every mariner felt there were things down there that saw them, without ever being seen themselves.

This trench had an additional reputation – it was the Southern Sea’s Devil’s Triangle. Dozens of ships had disappeared down in these stretches of water. And aircraft had also vanished, like the 1920 disappearance of Amelia J – a low flying spotter plane that gave a single fear-filled message: “It’s coming up”, before disappearing from radar, never to be seen again.

O’Kane would sail into the teeth of any battle that he was commanded to, against any odds, and never even blink. But he always slept better when they were well away from this particular deep-water stretch.

Contact.”

The single word was like a small electric jolt to his gut. He casually approached his sonar officer, standing just behind him, and outwardly radiated his usual calm.

“Distance?”

The officer calibrated his sonar, and concentrated. “Five miles, coming up out of the abyssal zone.”

“That deep?” O’Kane grunted. “Biological?” He knew that sperm whales could get down to nearly 7,000 feet to hunt in the total darkness for the giant squid.

He waited. The officer’s face was creased in concentration. Beside him, O’Kane could see his screen, the winding sonar line passing over the long darker stain on the sensor. The man leaned even closer to his console and also pressed fingertips over one of his microphone’s ear cups. He shook his head and shrugged.

“Nonmagnetic signature, but unknown.”

O’Kane groaned. They had an online identification library of blips, pulses and pings for every deep-water biological creature and geological movement. Their library also stored the propeller sounds of the world’s entire naval fleets – they should have been able to isolate, and then identify, anything and everything below the water.

He remembered Fuller’s Law – nature provides exceptions to every rule. O’Kane ground his teeth. Meaning, he was back to relying on experience and his gut.

“Give me bearing and speed.”

“Sir, relative bearing is sixty degrees, three miles out over the trench and speed is at twenty knots, variable. Rising, and moving into a parallel course.”

O’Kane grunted his approval. Parallel was good, he thought. At least it wasn’t moving any closer. “Too fast for a whale,” he said.

The sonar officer half turned and pulled one of the cups away. “I don’t think it’s a whale, sir. It’s not making a sound … and it’s big, very big.” He frowned and swung back. “Doesn’t make sense.” The officer rotated dials and leaned forward for a moment, his face a sickly green from the monitors. “Whoa.”

O’Kane didn’t want to hear that word from his sonar man. He began to feel a sudden slickness as beads of perspiration popped out over his face and body.

The officer spun. “It just turned towards us, and speed increased to fifty knots.”

“Fifty knots? Not possible.” O’Kane’s jaw set. “Sound red-alert. Come to twenty degrees port bearing, increase speed to maximum.” He exhaled through clenched teeth. Anywhere else he would have immediately surfaced, but doing so here would mean exposure to the unfriendly satellites he knew were always watching. He could not risk breaking cover over a damn sonar shadow.

“Object now at 1.1 miles and closing. Collision course confirmed. Not responding to hailing, sir.”

O’Kane had only one option left – to fight.

“Ready all torpedo tubes. Come about eighty degrees starboard, and then all stop.” The huge steel fish yawed in the water as it moved to face its pursuer. O’Kane grabbed the back of the operator’s chair, as incredible centrifugal forces acted on the huge armor-plated body.

“On my order.” O’Kane planted his legs and stood straight, waiting.

“Five hundred feet, collision imminent. Closing to 480 feet, 430, 400 …”

It was too fast, and O’Kane knew it was probably already too close. “Fire tubes one and two. Brace.” He gritted his teeth.

“Firing one and two – brace, brace, brace …” The echo sounded as his order was relayed to the torpedo room.

The order was drowned out by klaxon horns. O’Kane felt the slight pulse that went through the superstructure as the torpedoes were expelled from the nose of the submarine. He held his breath, his eyes half closed as he waited for the sensation of the impact detonations, and the destructive shock wave that would follow.

Seconds stretched … nothing came.

O’Kane opened his eyes. “Status update.”

“Negative on impact, sir. Bogey seems to have, uh, vanished.” The sonar operator spun dials, and hit keys, his face dripping sweat now. “It just … ” He shook his head. “Something’s wrong.”

“Impossible. It must have dived.” O’Kane felt his heart racing. “Let’s give it some space. Full speed astern.” He felt the thrum of the engines kick in and looked to the inside wall of the submarine, as if seeing through the inches of steel plating. His gut told him it was still there.

“Come about, ahead full.” The USS Sea Shadow jumped forward as the high-energy reactor gave the drives immediate power.

Go, go, go, O’Kane silently prayed.

The operator suddenly jammed one hand over his ear cup again. “It’s back – a hundred feet, fifty …” He balled his fists and spun, his face contorted.

Where …” O’Kane almost yelled the words. “… where the hell is it?”

“It’s … on us.”

The crew and Captain Clint O’Kane were thrown forward as the submarine stopped dead in the water. He held on to an instrument panel and then started to slide, as unbelievably, the huge craft was tilted. The sound of metal under pressure immediately silenced the yells of the crew. There was nothing more terrifying to submariners than the sound of the ocean threatening to force its way in to the men living in the small steel-encased bubble of air below the surface.

O’Kane looked at the faces of his men, now all turned to him. There was confusion and fear, but no panic. They were the best men he had ever served with. For the first time in his long career he decided to break protocol.

“Blow all tanks, immediate surface.”

The order was given, and the sound of air rushing from a compressed state to normal atmosphere, as it filled the ballast tanks, was like a long sigh of relief throughout the underwater craft. O’Kane’s fingers dug into one of the seat backs as he waited for the sensation of lift. It never came.

“Negative on rise. We’re still going down.” The operator’s voice now sounded higher than usual.

The command deck tilted again – nose down, now leaning at an angle of 45 degrees.

“Full reverse thrust!” O’Kane yelled the command, and he immediately felt the engines kick up as the screws turned at maximum rotations. He leaned over the operator again and looked at his screen. He knew the result without having to see the numbers.

“Descending.”  The officer now calmly read them out. “800 feet, 825, 850, 880 …”

The USS Sea Shadow had been tested to a thousand feet, and could probably withstand another few hundred. But beyond that …

O’Kane exhaled as the sound of hardened steel compressing rose above the thrum of the engines.

“Something has us,” he said softly. It was every mariner’s nightmare – the unknown thing from the depths, reaching out and taking hold. He knew how deep the water was here, but it didn’t concern him. They would all be dead and pulverized long before they ever reached the bottom.

Anger suddenly burned in his gut. But not yet, he thought. O’Kane spun. “Get a Cyclops out there, now.”

Hands worked furiously to load and shoot the miniature wireless submersible that was a torpedo with a single large eye for a nose-cone. Inside the fast moving craft was a high resolution streaming video camera with remote operational capabilities.

“Cyc-1 away, sir; bringing her back around.” The seaman worked a small joystick, turning the six-foot camera craft back towards them.

O’Kane leaned closer to the small screen, waiting.

Sea Shadow coming up on screen, should be … oh god.” The seaman’s mouth hung open.

O’Kane stared, feeling his stomach lurch. Nothing could ever prepare any man or woman of the sea for what confronted him on that tiny screen. O’Kane pushed himself upright, and slowly looked down at his right hand, spreading his fingers, then closing them into a fist. In the hand of a god, he thought.

Into his head jumped a few lines of a 200-year-old poem by Tennyson, and much as he wanted to cast it out, it sang loud in his mind: Below the thunders of the upper deep; Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea; His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep; The Kraken sleepeth.

No, not sleeping, thought O’Kane, now awake.

He raised his eyes back to the screen and continued to stare at the thing that engulfed his entire submarine. Rivets popped in the skin of the vessel, and then the super-hardened hull started to compress. The 33-foot diameter submarine began to buckle, and he saw that the automated distress beacon had been activated.

“We’re gonna breach.”

The shout came from behind him, and he spun, roaring his commands. “Sound general quarters, increase internal pressure, close all watertight doors, shut down everything nonessential, and watch for goddamn fires.”

The hull groaned again as they continued to descend into the darkness.

“What do we do?” The seaman at the screen looked up at him with a face the color of wax.

O’Kane could feel the crew’s eyes on him; he could feel the fear coming off them in waves. His hand went to the key around his neck. The high tech, prototype submarine had self-destruct capability. He alone could trigger it.

“What do we do, sir?” The man gulped dryly, his face twisted.

If there was one thing O’Kane was sure of; while there was life, there was hope. His hand fell away from the key.

“We pray.”



Angela Slatter guest post – Worldbuilding


Amongst the sweetest phrases I’ve ever heard from my mother’s lips are “I love you”, “I’ve made lemon meringue pie” (those two meaning, essentially, the same thing), and “Once upon a time”. All three still fill me with roughly the same degree of happiness, but I don’t hear that last one anymore. It’s not for lack of trying; I do keep asking.

“Tell me a story?”

“You’re forty-eight years old.”

“And you’re seventy-one, so tell me a story before you forget how!”

So far no luck. Come to think of it, the lemon meringues have been a bit thin on the ground, too. Hmmm.

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Nevertheless, the thrill of “Once upon a time” never leaves me, never dims. It’s the story addict’s equivalent of a ringing bell and the response is equally Pavlovian. I know, when I hear those words, that I will be transported. That the room or train carriage or café or bus in which I’m sitting is about to disappear; I will be elsewhere. It might be familiar, a beloved territory visited over and again, or a place unexpectedly remade and strange. It can be as static as my memory chooses or as mutable, sometimes with just small details tweaked or enlarged, a colour shaded from pale pink to blood red, with snow-white sequins or wings as black as ebony added in for good measure.

The once-upon-a-time world is one I’m (mostly) in charge of, so when I decided to write it should have been the easiest thing on the planet to do the worldbuilding, right?

Apparently not.

All the years of being read to, and then reading myself, had laid down an entire universe (or series of them) in my messy mind. You’d think making up my own fairy tales would be a simple matter of checking the brain-shelves for tropes and motifs, then placing story brick upon story brick. Alas no. I tormented myself with ideas of how complex any ‘verse I created would have to be. There were many − oh, so many − false starts! with me trying to build layer on intricate layer of fantasy world. I made up too many rules, too many boundaries; I boxed myself and my story in. Nothing worked; failed attempts littered my life and my wastepaper bin.

But, in recent years while studying for an MA and a PhD, I became fascinated about the intersection between memory and fairy tales. About what those tales, which we’re told again and again, leave behind in the conscious and unconscious mind. About how there are triggers that get us into a certain way of thinking − for example, “Once upon a time”. About the kinds of communal knowledge that fairy tales (of no matter what culture) are designed to embed, whether it be warnings about wolves or demons or leaving paths or how to be a chosen girl who gets the prince. So, I thought, if there are breadcrumbs already there, all I need to do is suggest to the reader something that triggers those notions and ideas.

As I went back to the old tales, I realised how many versions there were of the same story, across time and continents and cultures − Cinderella started out as a story written by Strabo in the 1st Century BCE about a courtesan, Rhodopis, and later versions include Finette Cendrillon (France), Aschenputtel (Germany), Ye Xian (China), and Cenerentola (Italy). The thing they all share is this: they take place in our world or a recognisable version of it. They are partly bounded by the everyday, but what frees them and sets them apart is the idea (and acceptance of it by the reader) of a functioning magic system. All I had to do was work with what was there, rather than against it.

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The fairy tale world offers a series of ‘set pieces’ that can be deployed to set a scene and a reader’s expectations, elaborated on to add depth and conviction, then tweaked to give the story its uniqueness. You want to pull a reader in and make them comfortable − give them the best chair, a mug of hot chocolate, and some gingerbread cookies fresh from the oven − before you tell them that said cookies are made of something dreadful and they, the reader, will soon turn into a frog. Make the world seem familiar first, then scare the pants off them; that order is very important.

The other thing I realised was this: each reader puts their own overlay on the top of my words, sees my descriptions in their own particular way due to what they bring the story. So there’s a meshing of what I’m tapping into as the teller of the tale, the ideas I’m suggesting, and the cultural capital to which are my readers heir. Not being a mind-reader, I can’t know precisely what each reader carries into the story, but I can do my level best to leave enough hints to hopefully trigger something in their brain, in their memories either conscious or otherwise.

The first fairy tale I wrote successfully − or rather re-wrote/re-worked/reloaded − was ‘The Little Match Girl’. Coincidentally, it’s the first tale I recall my mother reading to me; I know she read many others before and after, yet I remember this one because I found the ending so traumatic. I knew the tone I wanted, I knew how I wanted the protagonist to fit in the story. I wrote setting descriptors that suggested a timeless medieval world: villages and healers and a drowning pool. The main character wasn’t some helpless, victimised child; she became the granddaughter of a witch, however with no magical power of her own. Writing that story and succeeding with it taught me a lot, and the techniques I picked up were funnelled into future tales. I worked with elements of myth and history and fairy tales that interested me and I twisted them away from their traditional shape − for example, the idea of the shifters in Of Sorrow and Such comes from a bit of lore picked up over thirty years ago from Mildred Kirk’s The Everlasting Cat.

Eventually, I knew enough to put together Sourdough and Other Stories, which collected some previously published pieces (they’d been waiting patiently for me to grow up − they knew where they belonged), and a whole lot of new ones written quite specifically for that collection. I went on the expand the world in The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, and it’s also where Of Sorrow and Such occurs. It’s a world more serious and dangerous than a fairy tale universe, there are ever-echoing consequences and even the happily-ever-afters have Monkey’s Paw elements. Here, enchantment is real, it is an everyday thing; in some places it’s embraced, in others it’s feared. Some girls are born witches, others are utterly untouched by eldritch power, like the novella’s Gilly who barely registers on the witch’s scale. Magic, small or large, white or black, has a cost, whether it be your blood, your love, an item of value, or a life, yours or another’s. It’s a casual thing to those blessed or cursed by it. Though in Edda’s Meadow it must be kept secret, Patience and Selke practise their sorcery with ease; it’s second nature to them and they know what they do works as it should − they’re not simply playing at witchcraft.

As for how it appears to me, the physical detail, the clutter? It’s a mash-up of my favourite clothing and jewellery, art and architecture, literature and food, leading figures and legends from different time periods − I get to Mix Up All The Things. I remember the first time I saw Neil Jordan’s film of Carter’s The Company of Wolves: it was as though the world of fairy tales in my head had leaked out. The look of the cottages and the forest, the costumes, etc, were very close to large parts of Sourdough. I must admit, however, that in my world there’s indoor plumbing. I can tell my friend and frequent illustrator, Kathleen Jennings, that a dress should look like a cross between a Victorian era housecoat and a seventeenth-century mantua; it will make her cry, but I know she’ll come back with just the right mashed-up thing. My cities and villages will, depending on the tone of the story, have elements of English, French, German, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, or Nordic architecture for extra flavour. In my head, Edda’s Meadow looks mostly like an eighteenth-century English town crossed with bits of a German Medieval town like Würzburg. No, I’m not crazy, you’re crazy. Anyway, it’s my sandbox.

I guess this means my worldbuilding is mimetic, creating a mirror image of our world before making it different; making a reader think they know how things work, then showing them that they really don’t. One of my favourite examples of this is, again, the The Company of Wolves film, where one of the tales finishes with scenes of a witch sitting on the highest branches of a pine tree (if I remember correctly), rocking her baby’s cradle while wolves sing a lullaby below. It’s such a perfect image, so rich: the very mundane sight of the mother sending her child to sleep, juxtaposed onto that strange and wild territory of treetops.

The world of Sourdough, Bitterwood, and Of Sorrow and Such has its feet firmly planted in the old fairy tales told to me long ago by my mother, those of the Grimms and Hans Christian Andersen. It’s a world supplemented over the years by my own reading of Angela Carter and Madame d’Aulnoy, Marina Warner and Marie Leprince de Beaumont, Emma Donoghue and Giambattista Basile, Margo Lanagan and Juliet Marillier, Tanith Lee and Straparola. There’s a really strong connection, in my fiction, between the worlds of the past and the present. Every time I re-imagine a fairy tale, every time I create a new piece of the Sourdough universe, I feel myself joined to a long line of tellers. I’m always aware that the old tales don’t die, they just transform, and I recall the line from Clive Barker’s Weaveworld, ‘That which is imagined need never be lost.’

Perhaps, if I imagine hard enough, it might just work with lemon meringue pie too.



Excerpt – Peter Allen: The Boy from Oz by Stephen MacLean


More than ninety years after those words about Tenterfield were written, the first man ever to dance with New York’s famed Rockettes found himself once again in Atlantic City, New Jersey. This time he was crouched inside a giant champagne glass prop waiting for the orchestra down beat to start his dinner show. The solo performance awaiting him would doubtless be demanding, but the man himself was intrepid, the man was a tank. But it was also true that the 1980s for Peter Allen had started in triumph then ended in calamity, testing him personally to the limit. He had buried in the past few years more friends, colleagues and lovers than he likely had the heart to dwell on. He had also seen his dream of a Peter Allen Broadway musical soar into a fantasy of goodwill and imminent triumph, then splatter into the reality of scornful reviews and a sniping, vengeful press. The worm had turned and now the song and dance man’s most valuable resource, his energy, was beginning to ebb. The uninvited visitor illness was quietly creeping up on him.

The performer nonetheless had his vast experience and pronounced native cunning to fall back on. Once Peter’s show was humming along he would pad it out by talking and telling gags instead of singing. He would tell the audience the same story he had always told them, the story of his childhood, ‘Out in the bush, chasing kangaroos, eating koala bears for lunch.’ This was Peter Allen’s image, his show-business insurance and it made simple commonsense to maintain it. ‘Never interfere with the legend, never correct it,’ his former mother-in-law Judy Garland had decreed, and the bush boulevardier was not about to. Not that he expected to be genuinely understood, not in his racket. Truth was far too complex a matter for legend and Peter Allen had too many incongruous and opposing qualities to be understood; it was one of his strengths that this gregarious, guarded, self-contained man had never expected to be understood. So Peter Allen would joke his way around the Broadway flop and tell them about the folksy Australian town he came from, Tenterfield.

The fact that Peter had never actually stayed on in Tenterfield would not be mentioned because it would only confuse the issue. Peter Allen, real name Peter Woolnough, had in fact grown up in Armidale. But Armidale had been almost (but not quite) sophisticated for an Australian country town, and what was the value of that to legend? Best to talk about this little kid dancing in the never-never land of the Tenterfield bush, hoofing and tapping and queening it up while his grandfather made saddles; destiny’s tot rejecting the family business because he ‘didn’t want to work in leather,’ as he put it. As for the other town, Armidale, it just wasn’t funny, and didn’t sound right in a lyric. More to the point, though, Armidale was cursed by memory and blighted by personal ruin. So Peter Allen was the boy from Tenterfield and that was that for the purpose of myth.

In reality it was Dick who had grown up in Tenterfield, Peter’s father Richard Woolnough. Dick Woolnough would eventually be buried there too, in an unmarked grave, in the Presbyterian section of Tenterfield cemetery. But Dick Woolnough in the interim had taken himself to the larger town of Armidale which was a few hours south from Tenterfield along the New England Highway. Tenterfield had the looks but Armidale had the one quality that transcends all others: luck. Tenterfield was static, Armidale up-and-coming. These were the early days of World War Two and the young man hoping to better himself soon met and married a local Armidale girl, Marion Davidson. Marion Davidson was lively and, compared to Tenterfield, so was the town Dick chose to settle in.

With its population of nine thousand and growing, Armidale had its hoity-toity side and was the self-proclaimed ‘City of Arts and Cathedrals’. Australia’s fortunes at the time were tied to the land, so it was a fortunate thing that Armidale itself was ringed with land that yielded money — conservative, agricultural, animal-slaughtering money. The surrounding area had been settled by the station-owning class, many of whom lived in high rural style with full English silver tea services and private chapels for their own exclusive devotional worship. These were tough people who could now indulge in the luxury of gentility and self-improvement. The township of Armidale had subsequently flowered as a growing centre for higher education. Colleges, boarding schools and halls of hallowed learning had slowly but surely sprung up for the express purpose of turning rough colonial boys and girls into models of Anglo refinement.

All this brought business to the town, and there followed pubs, stores, boarding houses and aspects of what would later come to be known as the service industry. This burgeoning package also came with an inevitably rigid class system, fused to an outward show of good old Aussie egalitarianism.

Within this structure, Peter Woolnough when he arrived would be the product of the service industry working class. He would come with a powerfully instilled work ethic then swiftly develop an almost religious sense of vocation. Such was not the case with his father, who had very different leanings. Arriving in Armidale, Dick Woolnough found himself prosaic enough work selling and delivering groceries for Lamberts, a local retail outlet. The work was manageable but would quickly prove mind-numbing and the young man from Tenterfield would ultimately withdraw into his own shadow. Delivering foodstuffs year after year to wives with ice chests which melted with alacrity during the long hot summers would help turn the man into something similar to a phantom. As a consequence, few of these bushtown Beryls would remember with any real clarity the character, identity or personality quirks of Richard Woolnough. On the surface of things he was pleasing enough to the eye, a chap who liked his beer and cigarettes and had an index finger turning yellow from nicotine. He was also a man who liked dogs, appreciated their simple canine loyalty. Dick Woolnough lived inside himself but, in the early days, before the brooding darkened, he also had a taste for social dancing and a knack for playing the banjo.

Marion Woolnough nee Davidson was known as ‘Bubby’ to her family and friends. If Dick Woolnough was a ‘quiet chap’ as the locals referred to him, Marion herself came with a good deal more sparkle. She was the eldest of four sisters given to candidly quirky humour and the urge to laugh. Marion also had a talent for Scots dancing. She could do the intricate sword dances and the highland fling, for the outward markings of Marion’s character were derived from the more upbeat and celebratory aspects of the otherwise dour Scots soul. When it came to dancing, Marion and her sister Jean were something near to local champions in the heavily tartan town of Armidale, good enough to hold classes and pass on the dance steps they had mastered. When the Scots people of Armidale celebrated their special New Year it was often Marion who led off the twirling hogmanay dance, but at the same time surely no-one could seem more indelibly Australian than Marion Davidson.

Marion’s voice had the sound of the Queensland border to it, a lazy-sounding country drawl which came without the nasal aspect of the antipodes. Hers was the voice of Aussie fatalism and native wit, knowing and resigned, scorched by the sun and cork-tipped cigarettes which still came in tins. Marion didn’t say yes, she said ‘Yairs’, and her affirmative could bestow the flattery of endorsement or the sting of scepticism, depending on the tone. ‘Yairs,’ Marion would say, seeming to agree with life and the order of things, but the dull-minded were advised to beware, for Marion had the instincts of the unassuming rebel, the mordant iconoclast. Marion was bolder than she looked. Bright and wry, she delighted in making outrageous statements with a deadpan expression. Marion had a gimlet eye for truth and a dry, roaring laugh. Human pretensions and human disasters were favoured targets, for what could be funnier than either? Especially here in the City of Arts and Cathedrals? Both areas of observation provided the essence of humour, and humour was insurance against boredom. So was music, especially the cat-house piano of Fats Waller and the racing vibrato of Al Jolson, both of them personal favourites of Marion’s.

The stately centre of Armidale possessed temples to the Lord out of proportion to its population, praying space galore, but the township also played host to a lively, institutionalised gambling culture. Armidale had its own race track, and a profusion of pubs devoted to beer and bets; there was a porter at Tattersall’s Hotel, a weedy little guy who was said to have made himself a tidy fortune running wagers for visiting drinkers. As to Dick Woolnough, the man himself was something of a sucker for the horses. Life on the grocery route did not match Dick’s imagination and he had a penchant for attempting to gamble his way out of introversion and boredom.

 

Peter Allen: The Boy from Oz is OUT NOW!



David Rollin’s writing process


I often get asked what my writing process is. The fact is, writing a novel is a pretty romantic notion for a lot of people. But is it? Most people envisage that they’ll be sitting in their study, soothing music playing, and otherwise undisturbed while the creative juices flow. Hmm…my reality is that I write at a desk in my bedroom, facing a brick wall. I used to listen to music, but for some reason I don’t any more. I used to do that so I could block out the real world and concentrate instead on the world playing out behind my eyes. I don’t need to do that anymore. I can hold reality ay bay at will. I write sitting in departure lounges, or on planes, or in the back of taxis. I can write anywhere. Sometimes I have to because there’s not enough time for that desk in my bedroom.

For years I wrote 2000 words a day and I was religious about it. Sometimes that writing would start at 6 am and finish at 8 or 9 pm – whenever that 2000 words was on the hard drive. Some days I could peel off 2000 words a few hours. Sometimes the words come fast, and sometimes you have to lever them out with a crowbar. These days, there’s so much else I have to do that I’m happy if I just advance the story. Even a couple of hundred words, if that’s all I can manage.

When I’m in the middle of a manuscript, I go over and over the dialogue in my head until it sounds about right. Sounds cool, right? But often this happens at 4 in the morning when I’m trying to sleep. Or when I’m trying to exercise. Or when I’m watching my daughter play soccer. Or driving. Or at a restaurant with friends. In fact, sometimes I wish the voices in my head would just fuck off and leave me in peace. My wife will often say, “Hey, where are you?” because I won’t be in the here and now, I’ll be in someone else’s skin, in some other place, and, recently, in some other time. It’s relentless.

I also don’t always know exactly where the story will go, though I’m reasonably clear on where it will end up. I write a kind of an outline and this includes several key scenes I can see clearly. The outline is important – if it works, I know the book will work. This is my “spine” or “railway tracks” – I’ve heard a number of writers call this different things, but it’s all the same. If I don’t have something like this – even a paragraph – I know I might lose the plot.

You want to know one of my most favourite sounds? It’s the clatter of fingers on the keyboard of a computer. What a beautiful sound – all those words and thoughts being created. It’s like a rush of new life.

Is writing a novel romantic? Maybe it is, I don’t know. What I do know is that no one else will write it for me. If the words get written that’s me. If the words don’t get written that’s also me. So instead of going to the pub, I write. Instead of going to watch a game of rugby, I write. I’ve missed quiet a lot over the years. And maybe lost a friend or two also. But in their place I now have 10 novels and each one has been its own adventure. I went to Siberia to research The Zero Option. And the Thai-Burma border for A Knife Edge. For Standoff, I went to Colombia, Panama and Texas and hung out with The Texas Rangers and watched drug couriers come across the Rio Grande at night. I’ve also met some great people, though admittedly some of these have been conjured in my own brain.

And when you write the novel, you live with these people in your thoughts for the duration. That’s not always a good thing, believe me, because a novel has to be convincing. If you can’t convince yourself that the characters and the situation (or plot) is real, you can forget about convincing your readers. So when I’m deep in the story, the lines of what’s real and what’s in my imagination can get a little blurry. My family is used to it now, but the outcome is that I’m thought of (I believe) as being either vague and dreamy. There’s no room left in my head for names or faces or places that aren’t in my current book. It’s weird, I guess, but that’s how it rolls for me.

 

Field of Mars: The Complete edition is out on the 8th of October! Grab your copy now!

 



Face to Face with Rasputin: by Sophie Masson


The long shadow of one of Russia’s most fascinating and enigmatic characters, Rasputin, hovers over Trinity: The False Prince, in several ways—which I won’t reveal for fear of spoilers! But I will tell you about a spooky visit I made to the scene of Rasputin’s murder, in St Petersburg: the basement room in the canal-side palace once owned by Prince Yusupov, the chief of the plotters against Rasputin.

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It’s in one of the grand gilded living rooms of the palace that you get the first glimpse of the horrible events of December 30, 1916. A group of rather creepy waxworks representing some of the conspirators is huddled around an old phonograph. ‘Waiting for Rasputin,’ the guide says, ‘they listened to the same record over and over.’ They were nervous. Rasputin was a favourite of the Tsar and his family and they could not be sure how he would react over his death.’ But it wasn’t here this room that Rasputin was lured to his death; oh no, though the prince, pretending friendship, had invited Rasputin to come and take tea at the palace, he had no intention of letting this ‘dirty peasant’ set foot in the fine rooms of the palace. No, Rasputin was to come to the basement. The conspirators only waited upstairs so as to be on the spot after Yusupov had done the deed and they could get the body out of the house.

Wax figures Rasputin & Yusupov

The basement room is even more chilling. There’s not much furniture, apart from a table, a couple of chairs, and a tall Orthodox cross in a niche. There are more creepy waxworks—the tall, bearded, long-haired figure of Rasputin sitting at a table with food and drink in front of him; the elegant figure of Prince Yusupov staring glassily at the lowly intruder. Though Yusupov and his ilk despised Rasputin as a vile commoner, they were not immune to his reputation as a sorcerer, and fear was also present in the room that night. The guide tells us the famous story—of how Yusupov, plying his guest-victim with poisoned food and wine, grew desperate as none of it seemed to have an effect; how Rasputin, feeling perhaps the weight of hatred and fear in the place, got up and went to the cross, and falling on his knees, began to pray; how Yusupov chose that moment to stab him in the back; how Rasputin fell, and the prince, thinking he’d finished him off, rushed off to fetch his friends so they could drag the body out; and how, returning to the basement room, they found Rasputin gone, and a trail of blood leading outside, by the canal where they cornered their victim and shot him several times, but to make sure he was dead, threw him into the water.

The cross

I’ve read the story many times; but there is something deeply disturbing in hearing it again here, in the place where it happened. And when we go into a nearby annex and are shown the autopsy photos of Rasputin’s body–‘It was clear from the autopsy he had died from drowning, not shooting or stabbing or poisoning,’ says the guide—I feel overcome by horror at what was done here. It was a vile scheme, a cowardly plot—and a vicious own goal which far from ‘saving’ the Tsar from bad counsel, actually helped to precipitate the cataclysmic events which would lead to the destruction of the monarchy and the triumph of the Bolsheviks.

There’s a weird coda to the story of Rasputin. When the Bolsheviks took power, one of their first acts was to dig up the body and destroy it—such was the power, even after death, of the legend of the man. But as the body was put on a bonfire to destroy it, suddenly, driven no doubt by chemical reactions, it sat up, causing panic. Though the body was eventually burned and the ashes scattered in an undisclosed location, it was yet another piece in the puzzle that was Rasputin—a puzzle that fascinates people to this day.

 

Trinity: The False Prince is released on the 8th of October.

You can grab a copy of Trinity: The Koldun Code now!



Cover reveal(s): The Bloody Quarrel by Duncan Lay


The prince is dead.

Fooled by the treacherous King Aidan, Fallon has shot down the one man he trusted to save his beloved nation of Gaelland. And yet, when the King could grind Fallon underfoot, he draws the simple farmer and fighter closer, making a hero of him.

Embroiled in plots beyond his comprehension and weighted with the guilt of the prince’s murder, Fallon must tread carefully if he is to accomplish the task that first brought him to the cursed capital: rescue his wife, Bridgit, and the rest of his village from Kottermani slavery. If he and his hopelessly ensnared men can survive, they may yet find redemption.

Meanwhile, across the ocean, Bridgit is rallying those around her to spring an escape. But who can be trusted? The ever-present danger of traitors and liars among the slaves, and even among her fellow Gaelish, is poison to her plans.

With an ocean between them and fouler nightmares looming, Fallon and Bridgit will be driven to their very limits to escape their prisons, find each other, and bring justice to Gaelland.

Perfect for fans of Robin Hobb and Joe Abercrombie.

Bloody Quarrel 1

(Released 3rd December 2015)

Bloody Quarrel 2

(Released 10th December 2015)

Bloody Quarrel 3

(Released 17th December 2015)

Bloody Quarrel 4

(Released 31st December 2015)

Bloody Quarrel 5

(Released 7th January 2016)

Pre-order The Bloody Quarrel: episode one now!



Cover reveal: Nations Divided by Steve P. Vincent


Peace has been decades in the making, but chaos is just the press of a button away.

Jack Emery is happier than he has been in a long time. Nobody has shot at him or tried to blow him up for years, and he’s learned to love the job he thought he’d hate: Special Advisor to the President of the United States.

But nothing can prepare Jack for the work to come. As America continues to heal from self-inflicted wounds, an ambitious President McGhinnist draws closer to achieving the impossible: peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

As the countdown to peace reaches zero, a desperate group of hardline Israelis invoke the Samson Option, a secret protocol that will eradicate the peace agreement and pave the way for the destruction of America and the Middle East.

Jack has learned the hard way that when a crisis knocks, you don’t always get the chance to ignore it.

Perfect for readers of Vince Flynn, Steve Berry and Tom Clancy.

Nations Divided: Jack Emery 3 will be released on the 10th of December. Pre-order your copy now!



Excerpt: Hammer of God by Greig Beck


PROLOGUE

Soran, Northern Iraq, late afternoon.

Arki Bapir and Mohammed Faraj watched as the huge man lumbered down the road toward them. He was headed toward the city center. A thick shawl covered his head and body, but still could not hide his powerful frame.

Strapped to the man’s back was a huge pack – oil drum size, and covered in an ancient script. And even though it looked to be of considerable weight, the man came on steadily, bowed forward for balance, but not staggering or straining.

“What is he carrying?” Mohammed asked his friend.

Arki shrugged. “Not sure, but it looks heavy. Maybe dumbbells?” He turned and grinned.

Mohammed snorted. “Well, let’s find out if he is selling something worth buying… or taking.” He turned the car around and pulled up beside the man, slowing. He nudged Arki. “Go on, ask him.”

Arki wound down the window, letting in a blast of hot dry air that mingled with the warm humidity in the car. “Hey, hey, my brother, what is it you bring us today?”

The pair waited for the man to respond. Mohammad coasted to stay alongside him, but the man continued to lumber forward, his face lost in the long folds of his shawl.

“Is he deaf?” Arki asked as he half-turned toward Mohammed. “He doesn’t know who we are.”

“Or maybe just rude?” Mohammed replied. “Shoot him in the leg.”

“Perhaps he’s stupid.” Arki leaned out the window. “Hey you.”

Mohammed’s eyes narrowed. “Be careful, he is big.” He dragged his aging AK-47 up onto his lap.

The lumbering giant was approaching the center of the city now, wooden single story dwellings giving way to multi-level concrete and glass blocks.

“Hey, brother, no need to be rude … oops.” Arki pulled back into the car.

The man stopped, seemed to orient himself. He shrugged out of the pack and it made a resounding thump as it hit the ground. He straightened to his full height of around seven feet, making the men in the car gasp.

“He truly is a giant. Let’s leave him be.” Arki shrunk back into his seat. “We are supposed to be gone by now anyway.” He watched as the huge man reached forward to pull open the backpack.

Mohammed squinted. “I think it’s some sort of machine in there.”

The man drew his hood back, and momentarily looked skyward as though praying or listening to something. His face was now revealed, its patchwork surface scarred and waxen. There was more of the ancient writing, but this time it was carved or branded into his very flesh, along with the zippering of deep stitches.

Mohammed recoiled. “Ach, mother of horrors, what happened to him?”

The giant man’s dead eyes never flickered as he reached into the pack and pressed a single button.

The pair of fighters from Mosul never knew what happened at the moment they were vaporized. The twenty-kiloton nuclear device detonated at ground level. The hypocenter of the explosion reached ten thousand Kelvin and was hotter than the sun. In the first few seconds it melted a crater down a hundred feet, and, within a mile, buildings, streets, trees, and men, women and children were all fused into a black, glass-like slag.

The thermal compression wave then traveled on at around seven hundred miles per hour, crushing everything before it – a heat and pressure tsunami straight from hell.

Before the blast, the city of Soran had a population of 125,000 inhabitants. By sundown, the remaining eight thousand souls, who were unlucky enough to survive, would then die slowly from burns, or from radiation poisoning, as their cells simply disintegrated within their own bodies.

Soran, the ancient city that had stood for nearly two thousand years, had ceased to exist, and the now toxic land would ensure it never existed again.

*

The winds blew the radioactive dust and debris back over the western desert, where it would settle over the dry plains. In the mountains to the northeast, Leyla ba Hadid, a girl of just ten, sat and watched as the mushroom cloud rose thousands of feet into the sky.

Her home was gone; everything was gone. Her father had said there would be trouble as soon as the bad men from Mosul had arrived. But even he could not have foreseen this. She sat and hugged her knees tight, her face wet and the skin on her neck peeling and raw.

Her father had told her to run and hide as the bad men maimed and killed, and then finally rounded up hundreds of men, women, and families, and bundled them all into trucks, along with her father, still in his favorite blue shirt. No one fought back – they just let themselves be taken and driven away. Leyla had followed, staying on the mountain slopes. She had cursed their ill fortune. But that changed in a heartbeat. Now, she realized she had been one of the lucky ones.

Soran was now ash and smoke. God had reached down a finger and touched the city, and taken it from them. The back of Leyla’s neck still stung from the heat flash and she wrapped her shawl there to dry its sticky rawness. Her eyes were sore, but it was pure chance that she’d been looking away from the blast and hadn’t lost her sight.

Leyla rocked back and forth, wondering how she would tell people of this moment. What would she say of Soran? Of all the poor souls who stayed; of her friends, neighbors, and when it came to it one day, what would she tell her children?

Leyla knew immediately how she would remember this moment. She would say to them:

I was ten when my world vanished in the flames. When the bad men came and beat us, we didn’t fight back. When they raped and killed us, we stood silent. And when they finally smashed God’s house and took us as slaves, we still did nothing. We were weak and maybe that’s why we were punished. God turned our world to ash.

She rocked faster, feeling tears on her cheeks. Father always said that when things were darkest, when evil was everywhere, then the angels would come – and they would strike like the hammer of God.

She lowered her head. I pray they come soon.

 

You can grab your copy of Hammer of God here.



The Last Quarrel – book tour!


To celebrate the release of The Last Quarrel in print, Duncan Lay will be touring around NSW, the ACT and Victoria in October, hitting up some book conventions as well as book stores.

If you come along to one of those days then you could take part in a fun Twitter/Facebook giveaway that could see you win a book pack or maybe enjoy a discount for the eBook to go with your print edition …

Lay_Duncan

(This is Duncan, he’ll be the man near the table with the sharpie.)

Here’s where you can catch Duncan:

Thurs Oct 1:

Dymocks Canberra: 11am

Dymocks Tuggeranong: 2pm

Friday Oct 2:

Dymocks Belconnen 10am

Hooked On Books Batemans Bay 2.30pm

Saturday Oct 3:

Shoalhaven Superheroes convention (booksales for DeanSwift ABC Books Nowra)

Tuesday Oct 6

Galaxy Books 11am

Wed Oct 7

Dymocks George Street store: 12pm

Thurs Oct 8:

11am: Dymocks Penrith

5pm: Dymocks Macquarie Centre

Friday Oct 9:

11am: Dymocks Burwood

2.30pm: Dymocks Chatswood

Sat Oct 10:

Dymocks Tuggerah 1pm

Sun Oct 11:

Dymocks Rouse Hill 11am

Wed Oct 14:

Dymocks Collins St Melbourne: 11am

Dymocks Victoria Gardens: 2pm

Thurs Oct 15:

Dymocks Knox: 10am

Dymocks Glen Waverley 1pm

Dymocks Southland: 5pm

Fri Oct 16:

Dymocks Eastland 10am

Dymocks Doncaster 1pm

Sat Oct 17:

Dymocks Parramatta

Sun Oct 18:

Sydney Book Expo at Olympic Park

Thursday October 22:

Event night at Berkelouw Hornsby: 6pm



Cover Reveal – Field of Mars: Complete Edition by David Rollins


Marcus Licinius Crassus’s lust for gold and glory was legendary. What became of his army is myth.

In Crassus the tyrant, Rufinius the soldier, Appias the historian, Mena the hag and Lucia the Golden Whore, David Rollins brings to life a mystery that has plagued historians for centuries. The only constant in this world is Mars, the god of war, and who he will favour is anyone’s guess.

Desperate to write himself into the pages of history, proconsul Marcus Licinius Crassus marched 40,000 Roman legionaries into the heart of the Parthian empire. More than 10,000 were never seen or heard from again.

In a story that spans empires and generations, this vanished army’s fate is finally unveiled. From the streets of Rome to the deserts of ancient Iran, around the globe into the heart of an empire vaster than anything Rome ever imagined, a young Alexandrian soldier is borne on the tides of the age of empires from soldier of Rome to slave of Babylon to commander of armies.

Perfect for fans of Robert Harris and Conn Iggulden, this sweeping historical thriller takes the reader on an epic journey across ancient empires and into the unknown stories of myth and legend.

Field of Mars: Complete Edition will be released on the 8th of October – pre-order your copy now!



Guest Post: David Rollins

August 21, 2015 by

Change of pace – from Contemporary Thriller to Ancient Adventure

Field of Mars is very different in many ways to my other nine novels, although I guess it too could be loosely classed as a political thriller.

9781760300975_Field-of-Mars_cover.jpg

My last six books featured OSI Agent Vin Cooper and were more or less set in the here and now.

After the dust had settled on Standoff, the last Cooper book published, it came time to begin on the next adventure. Trouble was, I had nothing. Always, at least up till now, with Cooper I’ve known what shenanigans he’d be diving into next. But this time, cue white noise… I couldn’t think of anything for him to do. That wasn’t writer’s block – I had lots of other ideas, but none for the protagonist I’ve been hanging out with for the last decade or so. Maybe that was Cooper’s way of tell me we needed a break.

itsme

Fortunately, I had this other idea for a story… I’d read years back about a city in China whose people claimed to be the decedents of the lost legion of Crassus. That really captured my imagination and I started kicking around story thoughts. Maybe the break from Cooper was a sign to write it – an itch I had to scratch! And the rest, as they say, is history.

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Read more about the Liqian’s here.

Usually I like to walk the weeds of any story I write. This one was going to prove tricky. Sure, I could go to Rome for a few weeks (who needs an excuse to do that?), but the bulk of the story happens in southern Turkey, Iraq, Iran and further east. And of course I’d have to ride a camel for most of it. Unfortunately, the folks of Islamic State have put an end to most of that, but I hope to go to Li-jien, the city in western China claiming to have a connection to the lost legion of Crassus, and ride east from there until the borders are closed.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Field of Mars. I’m already well into the second book of the trilogy, Blood and Empire. The third novel of this “Collision” series will be titled, Sword in Hand.

 

Field of Mars: episode I is out now! Episode II is released on the 27th of August. Pre-order your copy here.



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