Promo: The Bear At The Bar

Promo

Check out J. Scott Coatsworth’s new release “The Bear at the Bar”. It’s now #1 in Kindle short reads for LGBT stories and #4 for short reads romance – get this queer magical realism short now for just .99:

“HIGHLY recommended! Loved it! Wonderful little story.” –Pat Henshaw

https://amzn.to/2Ki1DoQ

Dex is a gay Adonis.

When he walks into Seattle’s Ransom bar, heads turn. He can have just about anyone he wants, and he does, every night.

Until he meets a bear at the bar and everything changes.

“The Bear at the Bar” is a short story originally published in 2014 in the “A Taste of Honey” anthology.

GET IT NOW! https://amzn.to/2Ki1DoQ

bear

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Promo: DAY OF WRATH Release Day!

Promo

I woke up this morning reminding myself to do some very important blog posts, and then realized it’s release day! My pre-ordered copy has gone live! Guess what I read over breakfast today? *huge grin*

COVER

The award-winning Taking Shield series comes to its shattering conclusion in Day of Wrath.

About The Book

In less than a week, Bennet will finally return to the Shield Regiment, leaving behind the Gyrfalcon, his father, his friends… and Flynn. Promotion to Shield Major and being given command of a battle group despite the political fallout from Makepeace the year before is everything he thought he wanted. Everything he’s worked towards for the last three years. Except for leaving Flynn. He really doesn’t want to leave Flynn.

There’s time for one last flight together. A routine mission. Nothing too taxing, just savouring every moment with the best wingman, the best friend, he’s ever had. That’s the plan.

Bennet should know better than to trust to routine because what waits for them out there will change their lives forever.

Title: Day of Wrath

Author: Anna Butler

Series: Taking Shield

Necessary to read previous 4 books? Yes

Wordcount: c106,300

Category: Sci Fi, Gay mainstream.

eBook Publication Date: 28 June 2018

Paperback: Available now from Amazon or direct from Anna’s website

Publisher: Glass Hat Press © 2018

Editor: Val Selby-Wolfe at Scarlet Tie

Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas

Goodreads Link

More information and background on the Shield Universe here

Buy Links

Day of Wrath is available at Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords and iBooks.

Link to a digital bookstore near you

Giveaway

Rafflecoptor giveaway to win one of three prizes:

– 25$ (or equivalent) Amazon gift card

– signed copy of Gyrfalcon, the first Taking Shield book

– your pick of an eBook from Anna’s back catalogue

Rafflecoptor code

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Direct link: https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/a6cd544710/

Excerpt

(choose one of the following three excerpts)

Excerpt One

A laser bolt sizzled past him. Shit! They were after him. The scanner was still suffering from Maess jamming, but Flynn could make out four Maess fighters behind him. Another laser bolt flashed past, his scanners showing it blood scarlet against the blackness of space.

Flynn’s scanner picked up Bennet rolling his Hornet to one side. A laser bolt missed him by only a few feet. Close. Too close. There had been all too many of them in the last hour. They’d done nothing but dogfight Maess fighters since they found Jilly and Bennet took back command for their share of the battle.

“Wingover loop,” Bennet ordered. “Best chance we’ve got.”

Good call. They had to get the bastards off their afterburners.

Flynn flung his Hornet up into a vertical curving quarter loop, still at top sub-light speed. He flat-turned at the top and dived down into another quarter loop to flatten out. They were facing the Maess full on, now. The abrupt change caught the Maess by surprise. The four Maess fighters scattered as Bennet and Flynn zoomed at them.

Flynn pressed his thumb onto the firing button and kept it there. Clipped one of the Maess and sent it spinning off to one side, but Bennet got another one head on as they flew through, the lucky bastard.

“Wingover to give chase,” Bennet said.

Flynn repeated the wingover, flat turning to change direction through 180 degrees again, only a few hundred yards from Bennet’s left wing. They were bloody smooth, moving as if they were connected by wires, coming up on the Maess from behind. Best pilots in Fleet, they were. Had to be. Along with Cruz who, as Flynn had expected, was out there with her pilots on Bennet’s starboard flank. He hadn’t had time to do more than greet her on their arrival and try to keep as much of an eye on her as he could spare from watching Bennet’s back.

Flynn centred a Maess fighter on the targeting screen and fired. Hit it. Damaged it enough to bleed its shields, not enough to kill it. Another second to be sure of his aim, and then again, the weapons array had the target centred. Another shot, and Flynn was suddenly flying through a miniature asteroid belt of Maess fighter parts, all bouncing off his shields and making the Hornet rattle.

Best bloody noise in the world, that.

(c 400 words)

Excerpt Two

The sharp ringing of the bell on the bar cut through all the conversations and laughter. The bartender could yell too. “Quiet! Lieutenant Flynn has an announcement to make!”

Bennet turned his head and jack-knifed to sit upright. Oh, the bastard wasn’t—

“All right, boys and girls!” Flynn was almost bouncing on his toes, grinning. He always did like being the focus of everyone in sight. “We’re here tonight because of mindless military tradition—in our case, getting traditionally mindless on good liquor as we welcome our newest ensigns—but I don’t think they’d mind if I crash their party for a few minutes. Everyone got a drink?”

A host of glasses were waved at him. Bennet tried to choke down a sigh. The bastard was, damn him.

“Excellent! I like to see our old customs embraced with such fervour. We have another custom, if you remember. If someone gets promoted they buy drinks for the entire OC, am I right?”

Flynn was completely at his ease, the damned treacherous sod.

“You all know that we’re kicking the captain off the ship at the end of the month and sending him back to Shield. But what you don’t know is that Fleet’s put such a polish on the man, such a lustre, that when Shield gets him back they’re punting him up a rank. I reckon that’s worth at least two drinks each. What do you say?”

Bennet put his head in his hands. Someone’s hand connected painfully with the area between his shoulder blades as surprised silence fractured into cheers, yells and foot stamping. Pilots jumped up and down, waving their glasses at him. Another thump to the back and Carson was pulling him to his feet and into the most astonishing hug, yelling in his ear.

Bennet had to laugh. It was that or commit murder.

Flynn let it go on for a moment or two, before getting the bartender to ding that bloody bell again.

Bennet was half-enveloped in hugs, half-deafened by shouted good wishes. Yelling her delight, Cruz flung her arms around his neck, and the smacking kiss to the cheek had his ears ringing. His face felt as if it were on fire.

“Flynn, I am going to hurt you for this.” He smiled in a way that he hoped suggested pleasant anticipation. It was hard to stop grinning and laughing, but he tried. “I’m going to dangle you out of an airlock by your favourite appendage.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Flynn waved a dismissive hand to a chorus of laughter and catcalls. “You always promise me that and so far, you’ve never delivered. There’s only so long a man can hang around waiting. Point is, while we’re sad to see you go, Bennet, we’re delighted that you’re getting promoted. We’ll miss you, and Shield are damn lucky to get you back. Right, people?”

More cheers and yells that died only at the insistent ringing of the bell. Flynn raised his glass. “Charge your glasses, and let’s hear it for the captain—no! For the Shield Major elect. Shield Major Bennet!”

The roar should have split open bulkheads. Bennet yelped and fell back in a scrum of a couple of dozen pilots and more were heading his way. The breath was knocked out of him with a whoosh that could probably be heard parsecs away.

Gods. He’d kill Flynn when he got hold of him. Kill him.

At least, that’s what he promised himself until Flynn fought his way through the scrum to deliver his own bone-crushing hug, and Bennet saw Flynn’s eyes were bleak and that his mouth was drawing down, just as his own wanted to do, and he said nothing. There really wasn’t anything he could say.

(c620 words)

Excerpt three

The storeroom was empty and Flynn had long ago learned how to over-ride the door mechanism and lock it from the inside. He did so now, not wanting to be interrupted.

And, of course, now that Bennet was back and he had the privacy he wanted, Flynn’s rehearsed speeches vanished from his mind and tongue. Which was annoying. “I don’t suppose you can tell me what you were doing back home?”

“What do you think?”

Flynn managed a creditable laugh. “That I’m playing for time.” He gestured to the back wall, where piles of new uniforms made a comfortable seat. They sat side by side, leaning back against the wall. “I took a leaf out of your book and I’ve been practising what I want to say. Trouble is, I’ve forgotten my lines.”

“Keep it simple then.” Bennet’s grin was lopsided. “I’m running on fumes right now, anyway. I can’t handle complex.”

Flynn nodded. “Well, ‘simple’ is that no matter what I might have said when I was mad with you—and the gods help me, I was so mad with you I couldn’t see straight—you are the most important person in my life. I kinda think you always will be. But we are where we are. You’re going, I’m staying here. You’re Shield, I’m Fleet.” He forced another laugh, but it didn’t sound quite as credible. “Doomed. We were doomed from the start.”

Bennet’s laugh wasn’t any better than Flynn’s. He slipped his hand into Flynn’s. “We were.”

“Star-crossed, I said when you left to go back to Albion.”

“Yeah, and that sucks. Because, you too. No one more important.”

“It sucks balls the size of planets. Galaxies.” Flynn tightened his grip on the warm hand in his. “We only have a few weeks, and I know better than to think things can be different just because of that. We’re still star-crossed. Except, maybe, at the end…?”

He hated that he sounded so unsure, but then Bennet’s mouth curved up a fraction.

“Maybe.”

It wasn’t much of a promise, but he’d take what he could get. Flynn leaned his head back against the metal wall. An instant later and Bennet copied him, rolling his head to one side until he was almost touching Flynn’s. A better outlook than Flynn could have hoped for, even a couple of weeks earlier.

Flynn let the deep, mostly subliminal hum of the Gyrfalcon’s engines soothe him. “I don’t suppose we could stay in here and never come out?”

“They’ll come looking for us.”

“Yeah.” Flynn had to concede that. “So, did you get the Hyperion back?”

“No.” Bennet pulled a face at him. “They bumped me up to major. I’ve got a Shield battle-group to look after. Three Shield ships to command.”

“A promotion? Seriously?”

“Yeah. Not formally until I step off this ship, but yeah. Shield Major.”

“We don’t have majors in Fleet,” Flynn said.

“Well, I’m not Fleet. And the Shield Regiment doesn’t have that ‘regiment’ tacked onto the name just because someone thought the two words sounded well together. Shield started out in Infantry centuries ago, and Infantry does have majors.”

Flynn made a tchtching noise. “Some people have no shame, confessing to low origins like that. But seriously, that is brilliant news!”

“It would be brilliant if I didn’t have work going on with the Strategy Unit again. You know, I’m seriously thinking that I’ll give it a year, then I’ll get out.”

Flynn blinked. “That’s a bit drastic.”

“It’s a family tradition that we all serve, Flynn. But some days I reckon I’ve done enough. More than enough.”

Flynn couldn’t hold back the derisive snort. “Only if you have that sense of duty surgically removed.”

Bennet stared at him, mouth turned down at the corners, his lips pressed tight together. After a moment he blew out a noisy sigh and lifted one shoulder in a slight shrug. “I know. It’s a fantasy that I have choices.”

“You said it yourself to the kids, Bennet. Stand and fight.” Flynn found his grip on Bennet’s hand had slackened. He glanced down at them, his brown hand curved around Bennet’s long white fingers. He used his thumb to make little smoothing motions over the back of Bennet’s hand, relishing the almost imperceptible shiver Bennet gave. “If you did leave the military, what would you do? The history thing back at the museum?”

“Maybe. But what I’d like to do some front-line archaeology. Trace our route back to Earth and do some star-mapping and exploration, run a few digs when we find something worth investigating. Never stay anywhere long, just keep moving. I’d like that.”

Flynn saw that for the first time in a long while Bennet’s expression was relaxed, open; that the fine, tight lines of tension around his mouth and eyes had eased. “A ship of your own? You’ll need a crew.”

“Do you want to sign up?”

“Well, there won’t be any fraternisation rules, will there?”

Bright eyes glanced at him sidelong. “No. There won’t.”

“Pay?”

“A pittance. You do it for academic glory.”

“I prefer cash.” Flynn smiled at Bennet’s amused snort. He was silent for a few minutes. Beside him Bennet relaxed. “Well, I like the idea of wandering around and exploring stuff and having adventures. That sounds exciting. The digging part of it sounds more like hard work than I’m strictly comfortable with.”

“It never killed anyone yet.”

“I’m gonna have to see the medical studies before I take your word for it. It’s beside the point, anyway. I have delicate hands and shouldn’t ruin them with a shovel. But all in all, it sounds like a reasonable job.” Flynn smiled at Bennet’s profile. “I’m on—if I can sign up as First Mate.”

Bennet tilted his head until it was resting against Flynn’s. “The job’s yours. Until I get a better applicant, of course.”

“In your dreams.” Flynn let it all smooth away, slip into a comfortable silence. He had less than four weeks of this before Bennet was gone again, and he wasn’t going to waste any of it. Not one second.

He brought his other hand across to enclose Bennet’s in both of his, and let his eyes close.

(c1000 words)

About Anna

Anna was a communications specialist for many years, working in various UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to organizing conferences for 10,000 civil servants to running an internal TV service. These days, though, she is writing full time. She lives with her husband in a quiet village tucked deep in the Nottinghamshire countryside. She’s supported there by the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockerpoo, who is assisted by the lovely Mavis, a Yorkie-Bichon cross with a bark several sizes larger than she is but no opinion whatsoever on the placement of semi-colons.

Website and Blog | Facebook | The Butler’s Pantry (Facebook Group) | Twitter | Sign up for Anna’s occasional newsletter

Sometimes I Can Be A Bit Slow.

Writing

I just figured something out.

Ages ago, I had a friend read my current WIP, Firestorm, the one that’s galloping towards its release date, 08/13/18. And some of the comments left me scratching my head, because I just couldn’t figure ’em out. Well, I get it now! This person was griping because my characters have… wait for it…

Character flaws.

Oh, man.

The complaints boil down to “Why would he do that? It’s not nice!”

I feel better now. I don’t like writing perfect characters. I want them to screw up, to make wrong choices. Perfect characters are boring as anything, and haven’t got lives interesting enough to write about. If you doubt me, go look up Mary Sue online. She’s perfect. She’s almost universally hated by readers. I’ve been viciously guarding my work from Mary Sue for years now.

So yeah. There you have it. My characters are not perfect. And, in fact, they do some pretty shitty things to each other.

And I, for one, am one hundred percent okay with that.

Oh yeah, promotional crap…

Promo, Writing

Other authors do this stuff all the time. I always admire their promotional skills, their ability to promote their own work without blushing brighter than an average bonfire. But I tend to hide in a shadowy corner and shove my stories out in the wild and let them stand or fall on their own.

But… that’s hardly a strategy used by successful authors. Instead, they do this thing called “engaging the audience,” and that other thing called “promotion.” Yes, I have indeed used that word several times now, all within two paragraphs. But I’ve got a new release coming soon, and my usual hiding in the shadows approach won’t help it succeed.

So here you go. I’m pushing myself out into the internet’s face, waving around my author flag, and saying Read my stuff! I can write! See? I tell stories!

Cool stories. Fun stories. Remember Eternal? No? Damn, then who bought it and bumped it up to #1 on Amazon for a while?

Well, fine. It wasn’t you. So have a sample.

(excerpt from Eternal)

eternal

The full repair of the drive and all its crystals took three more days. It was exhausting, but so worth it. I learned a lot, as previously mentioned, about history, deep inside those spells. I even fancied I knew the mages who’d assembled this drive and all its component spells. There had been three of them, each with his—or her, one was a woman—own style and signature. Absolutely fascinating work.

Kai watched some of it. Not all, because clearly, for all his potential, he was no mage and couldn’t see most of the good stuff, but some. Like the connections getting re-established in the spell matrices. That had to look pretty cool, a complex, glowing matrix weaving itself out of nothing right there in the air over the drive pedestal. And as soon as I finished repairing the main flight spells, we took off into space. I could work on the others while we flew between planets and D-gates. Most of spaceflight consisted of boring plodding back and forth between planetary systems and the dimensional gates that warped space anyway, might as well use the time for an important purpose, right?

I finished the entire repair shortly before we reached the D-gate. That meant I was atop my cabin, on a sweet little observation deck complete with railing to make it look like a boat, when we approached it. The concept of observation deck took a little getting used to, at first. Because, of course, the containment spells are fully invisible, so it looks like I’m out in the vacuum of space, leaning on a fragile, thin railing, a feeling sure to incite panic in most sensible souls. But I’m hardly all that sensible. I love the feeling of space surrounding me in all its immensity. And more than that, I love watching the stars. This stretch of space is pretty bland and boring, no nebulae or anything interesting like that, but who cares? The stars are enough for me. Of course, now there’s a D-gate to look at, too, and only a fool wouldn’t be fascinated by one of those.

A massive, octagonal metal frame hung in space, a technological monstrosity to build the spell matrix on. An assortment of traffic surrounded it, and a heavily armed Gate Patrol craft hung menacingly over it all, keeping the peace. Every gate in the huge network, Imperial or not, had at least one Gate Patrol boat assigned to it, because no one could ever be allowed to take over a D-gate. The survival of modern civilization required the gates remain neutral, and functional. Otherwise… well, I’m no political genius, but I can see where there would be a big problem if someone started messing with the gates. So the Gate Patrol formed up, a neutral, independent force that protected and maintained the D-gates for all to use. And, of course, collected fees from all users.

The gate spell itself looked like a rainbow of shifting energy. The beautiful, shimmering sheet spread across the physical gate like a soap bubble on a wand right before a child blows it. I wondered if maybe someday I’d get a chance to work on one. Gate maintenance sounded utterly boring to some, I know, but I’d always been attracted by the complexity of the spells. They had to be so generalized, and at the same time so precise! Parameters for touching each and every other gate in the network, for the dimensions ships went to in transit, for protecting human life and the ships themselves, for keeping other entities out of our universe… and so on. Hundreds of complex spells, and every one had to be in perfect working order to let ships pass through safely. Not that I have any say in the matter, but if I ever do get the chance to work for the D-gate service, I’m on it.

Kai appeared on the deck beside me, and I’d been so wrapped up in thoughts of the beautiful gate that I twitched in surprise when I saw him. Starlight and shadows played across his skin, making him look rather magical himself.

Huh. That was an odd thought.

“What’s it look like to you?”

“Um… you mean the gate?”

“Yeah. To me, it’s just a big thing, something to get from one place to another. But what’s a mage see?”

I smiled a little. “Beauty. Complexity. Hundreds of interwoven spells, each depending on the other, each forming a perfect web of functionality.”

“Much more interesting than a shiny patch in space.”

“Yeah.”

“Well, we’ll be going through the thing shortly. We’re number twenty-four in the line.”

“Where we going, anyway?”

“Monrovia.” He grinned at my startled reaction.

“Whatever for?”

“Same thing everyone else goes to Monrovia for. Shopping.” He poked distastefully at my robe, my bland, boring, ordinary as the day is long robe. “Can’t have you running around like that, after all. I’ve got an image to maintain.”

I snorted. Today he wore a full-out Romance outfit, burgundy, cream, and black, complete with poofy sleeves and tights. “Huh. Great. I’ve got no fashion sense, you know. Never even been shopping.”

“Really?”

“Nope, never. Not even once. No money, remember?”

“Huh. No need to worry about that now. I may be an exile, but I’m still smarter than the damn Emperor. He thought he’d do me real damage by exiling me. He even tried to have me declared officially dead, since he couldn’t kill me the ordinary way. But I could see it coming miles away, so I took my accountant’s advice. I liquefied all my assets and had accounts set up out here before he even thought about blocking that sort of thing. The exile didn’t do much except get me out of his sight. Which is probably why there’s so many assassins on my tail these days. Anyway, there’ll never be a need to worry about money.”

“As long as you like me, anyway,” I said, all too aware of how transient good fortune is in my life.

He smiled. “No worries there, either. You’re far too useful to have around. I’m not about to run you off.”

“Good.”

We stood quietly for a moment longer, watching the traffic around the D-gate, then Kai left for the control room. I didn’t. Are you kidding? When there’s a chance to watch a D-gate translation from what amounts to right in the middle of it? I know the containment spells on this ship, which I’d found out is named the Chaos Rider, will hold. Of course they will, I’d done ’em myself. So why pass up the chance to see the translation in action? Most people never saw such a thing, not even mages. Because, of course, most space-going vessels kept passengers safely locked away, with walls in between themselves and the black. One more reason to love a space schooner. There’s nothing that can adequately describe the feeling of flying through space with nothing but invisible spells and a big balloon between me and the stars.

We crept slowly forward, towards the gate, taking our position in line. Well, slow relative to normal space travel. Propelled by freshly-repaired spells, the schooner moved along at a speed utterly impossible in an atmosphere, where the gas-filled envelope kept the ship aloft and air dragged at its bulk.

Watching the variety of other ships out there, each waiting its turn to transit, I wondered what it would be like if we were in one of the other ship types. Boring, I’d bet. They were all so ordinary, more like stereotypes of spacecraft than anything distinctive. Why not do something more interesting with your spacecraft than make it either ovoid, or boxlike? Come on, there’s no drag in space, why not have more creative and fanciful shapes.

Boring or not, the other ships made their transits in smooth succession, and I got to watch the way the spells handled each from the outside, with tendrils reaching out to a ship as it approached, touching and identifying, interfacing with shipboard systems, then pulling the ship in. Then a great flash, and the ship vanished, to come out the other end somewhere else entirely.

Our turn arrived. I saw the seeking tendrils come out, felt one catch onto me, watched them pull us right in. Then came the transit itself. It went fast, but I still managed to catch a glimpse of the pocket dimension we made the transfer in, then the hand-off to the spell-tendrils of the receiving gate. Awesome!

I think I could watch gate transfers all day. I grinned and shook my head at myself. What a ridiculous obsession, a branching off from the whole thing I’d had with transportation as a kid. But whatever, everyone needs some kind of interest to keep them going.

* * * * * * * *

Oh hey, look at that, you made it through the excerpt! Awesome. Have an image. This is, after all, the thing I’m supposed to promote.

firestorm_med

Coming soon, to an Amazon near you. 08/13/18.

What’s a… FIRESTORM?

Promo, Writing

Hmm. A Firestorm. Well, a personal answer is that it was a musical suite, a seven minute long symphony I played in a long-ago honor band, written to express the horror felt by the composer when he thought about the Allied fire-bombing of Dresden in WWII. Not ’cause the composer was a Nazi sympathizer or anything crappy like that. He wrote it because of all the beautiful art, architecture, music, and history that got destroyed. The word Firestorm, and all the crazy sounds that were rolled into that tiny symphony, have stuck with me since high school.

Okay, none of you care about that, but that’s one answer to the question. The more important answer is that FIRESTORM is the title of the novel I’ve been working on forever now.

Anyone read Eternal? No? Okay, go read it now. I’ll wait a week for you to finish it.

[time passes]

Right. You’ve read it. Now we’re all on the same page. Firestorm is the sequel to Eternal. It takes up the story of Kai and Jericho a few years down the road, eight to be precise. And guess what? After working on this sucker since NaNoWriMo 2016, otherwise known as November, 2016, it’s in the final editing stage. I think I might have even committed myself to a release date. That’s 08/13/18, if you’re curious.

It’s coming. It’s coming soon.

And because I’m feeling moderately evil, I think I’ll put up the cover image. Only… it’s not the cover image. It’s just a teaser. Because I’m a moderately evil author, mwahahahahaha!

firestorm_pre

WIP Chapter 2: Horses

Writing

black eagle stable

Nika stumbled into the Big Barn, listing badly to the right from the drag of the gold. If she didn’t know she’d regret it, she’d drop the damn bag and just take a handful of the stuff. But she’d brought it this far, all she had to do now was haul the heavy load down towards the far end of the barn, where the horse she wanted should be.
She fixed her eyes on that distant stall, ignoring the calls of the horses even though they made her heart hurt. Stablehands weren’t immune to the illness, and most of them were gone, lost to the Blue Death like the rest of the Dominion. She knew at least two were still alive and working, but two people to care for hundreds of horses couldn’t do a very good job. The horses were bored, lonely, hungry, and the stable smelled worse than it should have. Flies buzzed everywhere.
But she made it. Plodding deliberately down the center aisle, Nika remained focused on the single horse she wanted. It wasn’t hers. Her horse was in here too, and she’d use it gladly as a pack horse. The gelding was a decent one, but nothing special.
She felt a tiny hint of desire for the lovely golden parade horse used by the Prince of Eagles, but passed it by. Beautiful coloring, absolutely perfect conformation, and not a brain in its perfect head. They’d gone ahead and gelded the horse a couple years back, when the young stud couldn’t figure out which end of the mare was meant for breeding. Pity, it would’ve been nice to see if the beauty would pass to the next generation, but mares had definite ideas about what to do with a stud that tried to mount her front half, usually involving teeth.
No, the horse she wanted, now hanging his head over the rope used to keep horses in place when the stablehands didn’t want to mess with the heavy stall doors, was a soft dapple grey. Not as flashy, no, but large and well-made, with speed to spare and enough endurance to outlast most horses currently alive. He’d belonged to Nika’s superior and good friend. Her own horse was six stalls away, a nondescript red chestnut named Berry. He could match Wraith in size, but not much else, and for some reason she’d never much cared for the gelding. The grey, on the other hand…
“Hey, Wraith,” she panted, dropping her bag with a clunk. The horse let out a shrill whicker and thumped her chest with his nose. “Watch over this, will you? I’ll be back.”
She scratched behind the horse’s ears, then moved far more easily towards the tack room.
What a mess.
Not her problem, though. She felt bad for the stablehands, but they’d figure it out. Maybe they’d find some helpers.
Sure. In this city where the dead outnumbered the living by far.
Nika paused for a moment, one hand on a sturdy field saddle, to let the bleakness wash over her, make her feel horrible, and then go away. Because she meant to leave, damn it, and that meant none of this was her problem. Not one little bit.
Field saddle. Pack saddle. Bridles. Halters. Blankets, brushes and hoof picks.
Methodically Nika worked her way through the tack room, recovering from the heavy workout as she did so. She piled her chosen gear in the middle of the floor, then started hauling it out and getting the horses ready.
One thing certain, this business of striking out on her own and making a new life for herself would get her back in shape in no time at all.

Rediscovery

Writing

A while back, before I got so sick I quit doing much of anything, I worked through a map-making tutorial in Photoshop. I liked the result so well I named it Rulan and made up a bunch of countries and different cultures to inhabit the imaginary lands, and even wrote a respectable start to a novel or a novella, currently at 30K words. And then…

Sigh.

I lost the world map.

Yeah, that’s right, all my hard work went bye-bye. I couldn’t find the finished map, couldn’t even find the Photoshop file… you know, the one with all the layers, each bearing the name of a different realm. To this day I have no idea where it went.

But now that I feel better, and have infinitely more energy, and I have this massive amount of time off to work with, I’ve been poking around in old files. And I found a copy of my finished world map! Not the actual PSD, which is still lost, but the world itself. And looking at it I was able to remember a few of the names for the islands and sub-continents. This makes me very happy. 🙂 I even managed to come up with a few new names, and scare up some inspiration to get back to writing on the story, because I really like this crazy world called Rulan.

And just because I have time to do so, I decided to shout the good news to the whole wide internet, in case there’s any fellow authors or other creative people who can understand the joy of finding the Lost World. Here it is:

Rulan world

This here’s the part I never lost, the one that kept reminding me I had a whole world to play in:

rulan.png

And now, back to writing, after a brief time out for a happy dance.

WIP Chapter 1: Fallen Eagle

Writing

new world 1_2

“Finally!”
The sound of a voice managed to penetrate the cloud of gray depression surrounding Nika Finmoralyn. She opened her eyes.
“You are alive, right? And an officer?”
The voice belonged to a man in the uniform of the Eagle Guard, Clerical Division. Nika nodded and struggled to her feet, trying to shake off the bleakness. The best she could do was push it aside a bit, enough to let her speak.
“Lieutenant-General Nika Finmoralyn. What do you need?”
The man, wearing insignia that marked him a Captain of his Division, sighed with relief. “You’re in charge now, aren’t you. Good. Tell me what in blackened hell I’m supposed to do with the payroll! Please.”
The despair came back, and Nika sagged back onto the bench. It overlooked the garden in front of the barracks, which had once been a pleasant, refreshing sight. Now the plants were straggly, untrimmed, with weeds sprouting all through the flower beds.
“Do whatever you want with it,” Nika said. “I don’t care. There’s no one left to pay.”
“What are you saying?”
Nika made herself look at the payroll officer. “The Eagle has fallen.”
The man shook his head in denial. “The Dominion is forever!”
“No.” Nika shook her own head slowly. “No, it isn’t. There is no more Dominion. I… I was assigned to complete a survey, a census, of the city and surroundings. Nine out of every ten people from the last report have died. The Blue Death has destroyed the Dominion.”
“But there are still people living! We can recover from this.”
“No.” She shook her head again, more emphatically. “I returned this morning, just in time to witness the death of the last Shining One. The Eagle has fallen. The Dominion is no more.”
“The Shining Ones… are gone?”
That news broke through to the payroll officer, and he sagged into a crouch, head hanging.
Nika felt the same. The Shining Ones had led the Dominion ever since the beginning. Without them, the Golden Eagle Dominion was nothing, a name without a meaning. Nothing but a rapidly dimming memory, doomed to fade into the dust of history.
“Right,” the man said, lifting  his head. His face looked decades older than it had moments ago, haggard with sadness and despair. “The Shining Ones are gone. But we’re alive, you and I, and there’s a future ahead. It may not look like the future we’d expected, but I’m not going to lay down and give up. That’s not the Dominion way. Are you?”
Nika started to say yes. What did this world hold for her? Death. Everywhere. The city had suffered the worst, true, with nine out of every ten residents lost. But the Blue Death had chewed through the entire Dominion, nearly the whole known world, with a viciousness that left maybe a third of the world’s population alive, and it hadn’t finished yet. Who knew when the illness would run its course and leave humanity, whatever was left of it, to recover. The future looked unrelentingly bleak, and horrid. What point to living, when the force she stood second in command over had shrunk to less than a full division? She could take command, yes, because the true leader had fallen a week and more ago. But what was the point?
But then something stubborn, some little spark of life, flared up and Nika lifted her head higher. Officers in the elite Shining Home Division never gave up.
“Fine. No. I’m not going to lay down and die. But the Dominion is ended. I can see no future here, without the Shining Ones.”
“Good. Here’s what I propose. We can split the payroll between us, and use it to fund a future life. Go where you will, it won’t matter. I’ll record it properly in the books, no one will come hunting you as a thief. Is that a good plan for you?”
Nika shrugged. “Fine. I don’t care. Money is good.”
She followed the man out of the garden to a back gate into the Palace. A solidly built wagon stood there, drawn by a team of eight heavy draft horses. It held ten iron-bound lockboxes.
That’s the payroll?” Nika said, incredulity beating out depression for a moment. She even felt a tiny spark of greed, having decided to live.
“Yes. Drawn from the vaults just this morning, that’s the normal amount to pay the entire Eagle Guard, from the Shining Home to the farthest-flung shock troops.”
“Mother of Eagles. And you offered me half?”
The man nodded.
“It’s too much,” Nika decided, despite the spark of greed. “If I’m to head away and start a new life, I mean to really head away. Out of the Dominion. Leave the past behind.”
“Fine. I’ll wager you can still carry more than enough to succeed. Here, look.”
The payroll officer hopped onto the tailgate of the wagon and opened one of the boxes with a key from his belt pouch. Nika tried to see, discovered the wagon sides were too high. So she scrambled onto the wagon beside the man.
“Mother of Eagles,” she said again. The box contained eight bags made from scaly ogroid skin, one of the strongest leathers known to humankind. “How much is in there?”
“Each bag holds a hundred thousand tarkins.”
Nika could scarcely imagine that much wealth all in one place, even while looking at it. Her own generous pay amounted to two tarkins a month, and she was the second in command of the whole damned army! “A hundred… Damn! I never knew there was so much money in the entire Dominion.”
“There is,” the man nodded, pulling one of the bags free with a grunt. “Here.”
Nika took it. Heavy, seriously heavy. Right at the edge of her ability to lift. “That’ll do,” she said quickly, catching his arm before he could pull out another. She had to set the bag down before she could move.
“You sure? I mean,” and he gestured at the other bags, the unopened boxes. “There’s more than enough to share. And just think, this is only three months’ worth. There’s a whole lot more where this came from.”
A hundred thousand tarkins. She opened the bag, looked inside at the fat gold coins. “This is plenty. Thanks.”
“Suit yourself,” the payroll officer shrugged, closing and locking the box. “Anybody left alive inside?”
“About half a dozen from the Shining Home Guard. The rest have deserted, or been sent out to various places throughout the Dominion, to see if they can help before they die.”
“Think I’ll share some of this out, then. Out of your half.”
He grinned, and Nika smiled back. “Go right ahead. And good luck in your new life.”
“Same to you.”
Nika picked up the bag and slung it over her shoulder. Why not, it didn’t weigh as much as a fallen comrade would, not that she’d been in the field recently. She staggered a little, shifted the load for balance, then started towards the stables at a slow, steady pace.
Started being the key word. She had to rest five times between the wagon and the stables. Not only was the bag beastly heavy, but the air was still thick with the smells of smoke and death, along with more ordinary stinks from garbage left uncollected and horseshit left to pile up on the streets. There was even a pyre out in front of the Shining Home Palace itself, watched over by a single gray-robed monk.
Yes, the Golden Eagle had truly fallen.