Coming December 8th: Altar of Tyranny

Greetings Revolutionaries!

It’s that time again. The holidays are nearly upon us, but it’s also time for a new book release and an ever higher bomb, bullet, and body count. Porter Melo is still in Hong Kong, and the world is collapsing around his ears. After the fiasco of the last job for the CIA, Sam’s on the ropes mentally, Porter is exhausted, and the Yan family is waging war against the state. But there’s no rest for the weary, and a Melo always looks after his own, so Porter is right back in the thick of things as the revolution turns into an all-out war.

AltarofTyrannyCover

The book is available for preorder at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon AU, Amazon CA, Kobo, and Apple. It will be available on December 8th at those retailers as well as at Barnes & Noble.

Every writer wants the newest book to be his best work yet. I can say with certainty that The Altar of Tyranny is a big step forward for me. It’s been a year that I’ve been working on it, and it’s been through more work and re-work than anything else I’ve ever written. I’ve tried to raise the bar for characterization, detail, and general mayhem higher than ever before. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

Some News

Hello again, you handsome jumble of electrons. I have a few exciting pieces of news, which is synonymous with “I have things published again!”

As anyone following the blog is likely aware, I spent a chunk of my Spring in Shenzhen, China. I blogged about the trip at the time, but I also set to work on a novel set in the same area. I am very pleased to announce that the novel is finally finished. In addition to the novel, I also have a novella (i.e. a short novel) and a short story set in the same general area.

I grew up reading the Hardy Boys. Frank and Joe, those All American bad-asses, always running across parking lots without losing their breath, always foiling evil through cleverness and a little fisticuffs. (I always saw myself as Frank, more cerebral, more brown-headed.) From there I moved on to Tom Clancy and Jack Higgins and Micheal Crichton and grown-up thrillers with guns and spies and science. Take a few drops of spy thriller, mix in a little technothriller and dash with a trip to Hong Kong, and you apparently end up with Porter Melo, retired SEAL and CIA agent, dragged back into the shadow world.

When I set out to tell a story set in China, I looked around for historical conflicts I could use, and sure enough, there was a really obvious one right in front of me in Hong Kong and the democracy protests. Of course, I was about half-way through writing the novel when the 2014 Occupy Central protests began, and my fictional story was overtaken by reality. In my fictional world the protesters are not going to go quietly into that good night, but that’s a story for the sequel.

And so, I’m happy to share that Kowloon Sunrise and Kowloon Spring will both be available on Wednesday, November 26th. Both can be pre-ordered now at Amazon, and Kowloon Sunrise can be found at Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Nook.

The opening novella in the Porter Melo series.
The opening novella in the Porter Melo series.

After a decade of service in the U.S. Government’s black ops branches, former Navy SEAL and CIA agent Porter Melo has retired to a quiet life of fishing, sailing, and corporate espionage in Hong Kong. When a shipment of Top Secret weapons is hijacked just off the Chinese coast, Porter is yanked back into the shadow world he thought he’d left behind.

With vicious Chinese secret police, a murderous Japanese assassin, and ruthless Hong Kong Triads on one side, and a power-hungry CIA station chief on the other, Porter is in a race for his life to recover the weapons before they can be used against him… and against millions of innocent civilians.

The Kowloon Sunrise is a fast, furious story that centers on Porter, and I intend it to be the appetizer before the longer, meatier Kowloon Spring. You can find it here on Amazon, on Nook, on iBooks and on Kobo.

Kowloon Spring

When a mysterious Chinese agent tracks down former Navy SEAL and CIA agent Porter Melo in Hong Kong, Porter isn’t interested in the man’s offer: a ten million dollar payday for the high-profile assassination of the Mayor of Hong Kong, an assembly of Community Party officials, and the President of China.

But there’s one form of leverage Porter can’t refuse. When Porter’s brother Sam is kidnapped, the clock starts ticking, and Porter only has three days to find his brother and unravel a conspiracy that threatens to start a new world war with China on one side and the United States on the other.

Kowloon Sunrise is only available on Amazon for the first 90 days, but it will be everywhere else on February 27th. You can find it here.

In addition to the novel and novella, I also have a short story that will be published in late December. “Who We Once Were, Who We Will Never Be” has been purchased by Fireside Fiction, and it will appear the January 2015 edition of the magazine. This is a story set in China, but not precisely in the world of Porter Melo. It’s a dark, twisty little tale that originated when I wandered down the wrong back alley and later wondered what the worst thing that could have happened would be.

It will be available on the Fireside website in late December.

The Ghoul Hunter’s Apprentice

It’s been a long time coming, but The Ghoul Hunter’s Apprentice is finally here! After writing Antigen, I wanted to write something that was jam packed with action and adventure and mayhem and explosions. I think I’ve succeeded. The Ghoul Hunter’s Apprentice is a young adult urban fantasy that will appeal to fans of The Dresden Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s not a book with cute vampires or sexy werewolves, though.

“So what do you really do?”
“I work for an organization that polices supernatural affairs. I hunt monsters. Ghouls, malingering djinn, rogue wizards, the odd politician. Things that go bump in the night. I’m one of the people that bumps back. That’s why no one else could come for Dr. Mason’s corpse. I’m one of the people that usually handles that sort of thing.”
It made sense, in a way. Her mom was on the road a lot and she often left in the middle of the night. No wonder Ana hadn’t seen any disasters in the news when her mom went out on a job.
Ana took a slurp from her limeade. “Vampires?”
“There’s no such thing as vampires.”
“So you’re telling me that fairy tales are real, but not vampires?”
“Right. Neither are werewolves. Pure fiction. Honestly, the worst monsters aren’t even supernatural. They’re people that find a little bit of power and abuse it for all they can.”

The Ghoul Hunter's Apprentice Cover

Look at that pretty lady masquerading as a sixteen year old girl…

There are secrets in the Greene house–dark, deadly secrets–and they threaten to tear Anastasia Greene’s world to shreds…

It’s hard being a young wizard in 21st century America. Dodging the Council of Wizards and staying out of the public eye is tough enough, but when fifteen year old Ezekial’s mentor Stanley is kidnapped by ghouls, Eze loses the closest thing he’s ever had to a family.

Anastasia Greene has lived with her mother and grandparents for sixteen perfectly ordinary years, but when her grandparents disappear, Ana discovers a world she never suspected. Ghouls lurk in every shadow and djinn walk the Earth disguised as humans.

Opposed by ghouls and genies, evil wizards and ancient nightmares, Ana and Eze are pushed together in a fight for survival. Ana must uncover her own hidden past, and Eze must develop his magical abilities if either hopes to find the families they’ve lost.

It’s currently available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Apple. The paperback is in process and will be available from Amazon and CreateSpace sometime in the next week or so.

The hardest thing for a new author (other than writing a good book), is getting the book to readers. If you enjoy the book, tell a friend about it. Or leave a review. Or both! Every little bit helps.

And now, for your reading pleasure, the first chapter:

Chapter One – Hunting Wizards
The lights in the room dimmed as the spell gained power. Eze huddled into the corner, trying to absorb everything his master chanted. There would be a test later, and the price of failure would be more beatings and more memory exercises. Majesty, the old man that had dominated his life for the last six months, wouldn’t be happy until Eze could control a dozen ghouls. Eze had a feeling that Majesty wouldn’t be happy then, either. Nothing ever seemed to the please the wizard, not even when Eze did exactly what he instructed.

“Are you paying attention, boy?” Majesty asked. His reedy voice echoed from the bare walls.

Eze snapped his attention back to the withered man. “Yes, sir.”

“Why isn’t there a ghoul standing in my circle?”

“You transposed the last two words of the spell.”

“And why am I not a smoking husk of wizard ruins?”

“You grounded yourself to iron.” That kept him from smoking. Whether he was a husk or not was debatable.

“Maybe there’s hope for you yet. Pay attention.” The wizard gripped the radiator and began chanting again. His voice rasped and croaked like a coffee can full of old stones. Purple and blue smoke formed a hurricane of color above the chalk circle in the middle of the room. Lights flashed in the swirling mists. They dissolved to reveal a writhing, humanoid shape with
oversized shoulders and protruding spikes.

“Master. Serve,” the creature hissed.

Majesty stepped away from the radiator and shuffled around the creature. A flick of his wrist sent it a pace forward. Its head rotated; glowing reptilian eyes swept around the room and settled on Eze. It crouched, muscles straining as its expression turned from confusion to hunger.

“Do not harm the boy,” Majesty said.

The ghoul shifted its weight and looked back to Majesty. Eze realized he had held his breath and let it out with a gasp.

The wizard crossed the room to the door. “Follow me.”

The ghoul and Eze both followed him to the front of the farmhouse. The wizard’s walking stick tapped the hardwood with each stride as he led them outside onto the front porch. A distant glow lit the horizon, but everything near the house was dark.

“Stay in the shadows and await further instructions,” he commanded the ghoul.

The ghoul stomped across the porch and dropped into the darkness on the other side of the steps. It stood perfectly still, perfectly silent. It wasn’t the first ghoul Majesty had put on guard duty, but it was the first where he’d shown Eze how to do it.

“It will follow basic instructions from me alone,” Majesty said. “Are you ready to summon?”

Bile rose in Eze’s throat, burning. He swallowed it. “I guess.”

Majesty backhanded him with the stick. A line of pain erupted on the side of Eze’s face, but he kept his hands still at his side. “There is no guess,” Majesty said. “If you falter, you die.”

“Yes, Majesty.”

“And don’t even think about attacking me with a creature you summon. You’ll get a beating that will make you wish you’d never been born.” The wizard towered over him, his face contorted with fury.

“Yes, Majesty.” Eze shuffled back into the summoning room in the back of the house. He stopped by the radiator and touched the iron as he had been taught. Paint flaked under his hand. It was really an old bedroom with plywood windows, but Majesty used it for all his summoning. Eze rehearsed the spell in his head and tried to steel himself for handling magic.
Any spell he cast made his stomach heave. It was like eating peas and chicken livers, but worse. Like eating cold chicken livers. Magic made his whole body ache, but Majesty didn’t care. Eze couldn’t understand how wizards cast multiple spells a day and controlled multiple ghouls at a time. He didn’t have much choice but to try, not if he wanted to avoid another beating. Not if he wanted to eat.

“Any day now, Ezekial.” Majesty slapped his cane against his palm.

Eze closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Ash allu kan—”

Something feral roared outside the house, breaking Eze’s concentration. He stopped the spell, and a thin layer of lavender mist dissolved at his feet.

“What the devil?” Majesty stalked to the bedroom door and threw it open.

The creature roared again, but cut off mid-cry. Loose boards on the porch creaked. The front door of the house banged open and a cloaked figure swept in from the darkness, metal glinting before him.

“Inferne!” Majesty shouted. A ball of flame gushed from the end of his staff and exploded over the intruder, charring him to cinders.

Only it didn’t. The intruder dropped his arm from his face and revealed a woman with the hardest eyes Eze had ever seen. “I wish you hadn’t done that,” she said. The pistol in her fist popped twice.
Majesty’s body jerked. He dropped to his knees. As he fell, he lifted his staff again.

The pistol popped a third time. Majesty crumpled. The staff clattered away.

Eze stared at the woman, dumbfounded. She aimed her pistol at him, but didn’t shoot. His knees trembled.
“Who are you?” he asked, his voice cracking.

“I’ll ask the questions here. Hands up.” She marched forward, the dark hole of the barrel never wavering from him. “What’s your name?”

“Ezekial.” He glanced at Majesty. “You shot him.” He poked Majesty with his toe. The wizard didn’t move. “I think he’s dead.”

The woman ignored Majesty and the blood puddling out from him. Eze backed away from the corpse, his heart pounding. Majesty had talked about raising corpses, but Eze couldn’t remember the words. He didn’t want to remember the words.

“Stop.” She moved closer and motioned toward the floor with the gun. “On the ground. Hands behind your back.”

He stared at her, his mouth dry. “Who are you?” he whispered. “What are you?”

“On the ground!”

Eze settled on the floor. The old wood scratched at his knees. She had an aura of command that Majesty could only have imagined.

“Face down.” She pulled his hands behind him and tied them together with something thin that bit into his wrists. “How old are you?”

“Fifteen.”

She circled around and crouched before him, her long jacket splayed out on the floor. “How long have you been with Hiram Majedski?”

“Hiram who?”

Her mouth tightened. “The wizard.”

Eze shrugged; his cheek scraped the floor, aggravating where Majesty had hit him. “A few months.”

The woman stared at him until he couldn’t match her gaze and looked away. “You’re his apprentice?”

“I didn’t want to be.”

“But you were?”

He closed his eyes. She was going to shoot him. “Yes,” he whispered.

“Do you have a family?”

“No.” Not anymore. He blinked away the tears.

“What happened to your family?”

“My momma she… drugs.” It was believable. He hoped she wouldn’t press him on it.

“I see. Have you opened a summoning portal?”

Eze opened his eyes. “Yes,” he whispered. Here it comes. She was gonna shoot him for sure.

“What happened when you did?”

“A ghoul came through. A small one.”

“What happened to you?”

“Threw up on the floor and Majesty beat me with his stick.” He studied a splinter protruding from the floor a few inches from his nose.

Her jacket rustled. She sighed. “I’m going to give you a chance, kid. Don’t screw it up.” She grabbed his arm and pulled him to his feet. The handcuffs cut into his wrists.

“What do you mean?”

She guided him forward, toward the open door. “I know another wizard, one that’s not a megalomaniac necromancer. He’ll help you.”

“I don’t want to be a wizard. Majesty didn’t give me any choice.”

“You don’t have any choice. Once you start, you either learn to control it, or you become a public danger. You’re already a risk.”

She took out a cell phone and thumbed the front cover. “This is Helena. I found the source of the ghouls.” She paused, listening. “Just a cleanup crew. No one else was here.” The phone clicked as she ended the call.

“What was that?”

She looked at him blankly and waited a moment before speaking. “If you have any clothes, we need to get them out of here. Do you have a room?”

“In the back.”

“Lead the way. I’ll do the packing.”

It didn’t take long for him to point her to his few shirts and spare pair of pants.

“You got a suitcase?” she asked.

“No.”

She searched the room and settled on a pillowcase. His clothes were promptly stuffed inside. “Let’s go.” She motioned him toward the open front door.

On the front steps, the ghoul lay dead. The back of its head looked like a smashed pumpkin, but it stank like rotten eggs. Eze’s stomach did a flip.

She led him around it and into the darkness, seemingly unafraid of any of Majesty’s other guardians. He glanced into the night, looking for the other ghoul. It worried him that he hadn’t seen it. Those things didn’t ask first before attacking.

“You, uh, kill any more ghouls out here?” he asked.

“No. Were there others?”

“Majesty had another one on guard.”

“No, he didn’t.”

Eze wasn’t sure what to make of that. He’d seen the thing himself. Unless Majesty had sent it back.

The woman led him down the driveway to the blacktop road and along the edge a ways. Eventually they stopped at a gray sedan parked half in the ditch. She opened the passenger door and waited for him climb inside.

Eze tried to make himself as comfortable as possible with his hands locked behind his back. Whoever she was, whatever she was, she hadn’t hit him yet, and that was a step up.

Available now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Apple.

New Short Stories

I put a couple new short stories on the usual sites last night.

Steampunk airship cover
The Whirlybird Cover

When Eden steps off the zeppelin in Chadwick, he’s ready to finally put the war behind him and go see his lady love. Not long after he arrives at her father’s steam powered workshop, the war steals back into his life in the form of a rival suitor and his gang of baldknobbers. Eden’s in for the fight of his life if he wants to win his girl’s heart and not get himself strung up as a traitor.

Yes, that’s a Baldknobber steampunk short story. It has fantastical gadgets, men with silly hats and a dashing escape.

Available on Amazon, B&N, Kobo and (someday soon) Apple.

replacements story cover
Replacements Cover

When Kayleigh’s grandmother takes a cybernetic replacement body, she becomes a virtual superwoman. Unfortunately, Kayleigh’s grandmother just can’t keep up. The family is forced to explore a new world split between the young, the old and the eternally young. What they discover threatens to tear them all apart.

This was my entry for last quarter’s Writers of the Future contest. It didn’t place. I’ve sent it out to a few of the scifi magazines and had it rejected, so I’ve decided to make it generally available. I was going for a scifi Glass Menagerie thing, but I’m not as talented as Ken Liu (yet).

Available on Amazon, B&N, Kobo and (someday soon) Apple.

I did these covers myself. The Whirlybird I like fairly well, though that particular image has to be the most overused piece of steampunk stock art. The image for Replacements wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but I’m not good enough with Photoshop to put that kind of effect onto someone’s face. If I were, I would have found a picture of an elderly woman since it would have fit the story much better.

New Story

I wrote a short story for the girls a few weeks ago. Then I looked at the word count and compared it to some of the chapter books Sophia has (that are emblazoned with the Scholastic ribbon), and realized that for the first and second grade age group, 4,000 words is a book, not a short story.

I wrote a children’s book for the girls a few weeks ago. That sounds weird. It’s a fun little story, and of course it includes a dog. One can’t write a story for Sophia without including a dog. And since both girls are now in ballet lessons, I’ve worked that in, too.

The Girl Who Danced on the Moon Cover

After the older girls in ballet make fun of her, Jersey wants to quit dance forever. The only thing that can cheer her up is her dog, Bromley. When Bromley leads her into the trees near her house, she discovers a world unlike any she’s ever known–a world of fairies. The fairy Luna flies her high into the clouds and dances with her in the moonlight. Luna teaches Jersey what it means to believe in herself, but will it be enough for her return to ballet?

I’ve looked into getting it published in dead tree form through CreateSpace, but once I got the proof back I decided that I didn’t like how Word made the text look. I’m in the process of learning Adobe InDesign so I can make it look better, but InDesign is hard and I end up finding that I’d rather write something else or read something else, so I haven’t learned it well enough to get the book layout finished yet. Someday. Maybe.

Available for Kindle
Also available for Nook
And let’s not discriminate against Kobo
I’m discriminating against Apple because their process for self-publishing is terrible.

Snow Dog: A Short Story

I wrote a short story my oldest daughter. Among her favorite things she lists snow and dogs, so I went for an obvious title, but perhaps not an obvious story.

The story is currently available on Amazon, though I’ll put it on B&N soon. You can find it here.

Here’s the blurb:

Ellie, an elementary school aged girl, and her mother wake up to discover that it’s a Snow Day and Ellie doesn’t have to go to school. They go outside to build snowmen and go sledding with Ellie’s dog Max, but Ellie’s sense of adventure leads them into danger.

This 5000 word short story is appropriate for middle grades children through adults.

Self Publishing: Mechanics

I ran across some excellent documentation for self-publishers today. David Gaughran has a write-up of his own experiences formatting and selling his self published work earlier in 2011.

He has an ebook for sale that describes the publishing industry and explains why one might choose to self publish. It’s available for sale on Amazon, B&N and the other usual places, but he also offers a free copy on his website in pdf. It’s worth checking out in general, though for the most part it contains information I’ve read on other blogs in the last six months. That’s not a knock on him by any means. There’s a lot of information on the internet about self publishing and he’s done a fine job collecting a bunch of it into one nicely formatted place.

The really interesting thing I found in his book was the pointer to check out Guido Henkel’s articles on eBook formatting. Mr. Henkel walks through the steps needed to go from Word (or the word processor of your choice) to a cleanly formatted HTML document that’s ready to be converted to any other eReader format.

It’s amazing. I write code for a living, so I skimmed the introductory bits and jumped straight to the technical bits, but he does a solid job explaining WHY as well as HOW. If you’re trying to figure out how to get from your Word document to something you’d feel good about uploading to the world at large, this is an excellent read.

The answer is clean HTML. You use the word processor to do some formatting to make your document HTML friendly then you use a proper text editor (I use notepad++ on a daily basis for work) and regular expressions to automate the process. Calibre closes the loop and gets you from HTML to EPUB and MOBI with a cover and table of contents. Henkel says it takes him about 15 minutes to format a full novel now. I imagine it will take me an hour or two to convert Antigen this weekend since I haven’t followed the steps before, but much less to convert the short story I wrote last night once I have a little experience.