All posts by ka1spriggs

Kal Spriggs is a science fiction and fantasy author. His website is kalspriggs.com He is an avid reader of books, enjoys gaming, and lives in Colorado.

Now Available In Audiobook: Valor’s Calling

Valor’s Calling is now available in audiobook format!   You can find it at Audible and also iTunes and Amazon.

The past calls you back.

Jiden made the decision to join the Century Military Academy after her attempt at a normal school ended in disaster. She’s embraced this new chapter in her life and she’s ready to do her best.

But this new start isn’t all that she expected. Her relationships with her friends have changed since she’s been away, her classes are harder than she expected, and things aren’t quite what they seem. Jiden learns that she made enemies when she chose to return to the Academy, and those enemies will settle for nothing less than her death.

Jiden is going to have to dig deep, she’s going to have to fight with everything she has, not just to succeed, but to stay alive. Jiden isn’t afraid of the challenge, because the military life isn’t just a simple decision, it’s her calling in life.

Here’s the link to it at Audible

New Release: Hidden Valor

New Release!  Hidden Valor is now available on Amazon.!

https://amzn.to/36gPixW

Sometimes the best place to hide is in plain sight.

I’ve lived the past two years of my life on the ragged edge.  Kidnapped by pirates, my family murdered, I’ve lived as a prisoner and escaped only to fight for my life on the streets.  I’ve lied, I’ve cheated, I’ve stolen, and I’ve even killed to survive.
And now I’m at the center of my enemies’ most exclusive military institute, hidden under a stolen identity.  I’ve managed to earn the trust and support of a small group of allies, and maybe, just maybe, I can use that to get back home.
But if I do that, I’ll probably get them killed.  Even worse, someone has set them in the crosshairs of a plot that puts millions, maybe billions, of lives on the line.  I can’t walk away, I can’t abandon them, not when the only advantage they have is me, a hidden dagger poised to strike at the Heart of Drakkus.

Hidden Valor: Snippet 2

Here is the second snippet for Hidden Valor, third book of the Forsaken Valor series.  Hidden Valor comes out January 29th!

***

“Anyone ever told you that you have too many secrets, Armstrong?”

I froze at those words, but continued walking as Jonna Hayden fell into step with me.  “I take it we are in an area off the monitors?”  I shot her a look, trying to gauge what she knew by her expression.  That was harder to do than I would have liked.  I’d become very good at hiding what I was thinking.  Jonna could still teach me a lot of lessons, assuming she could be bothered to tell me anything.

“Answer a question with another question, you’re picking up some interesting habits,” Jonna shook her head.  “We’re in a section of the corridor where the monitors are down for maintenance.  Not just the standard monitors, either, the ones that Imperial Intelligence has in their private loop, too.  Makes it hard for someone to guess where you came from which is probably why you were told to route down this corridor.”

“Who says I was told to come this way?” I asked.  But now the Prince’s very precise directions on the route I took to and from his quarters in Iron Flight made sense.

“I am sure that you took a circuitous route to and from Iron Flight for no particular reason.  You definitely didn’t meet with Prince Ladon and report on me or the Princess,” the acid in her voice could have etched steel.

Hock.  I stopped and looked up and down the corridor.  “You knew?”

“Not until you just confirmed it,” Jonna told me.   “But seriously, making a deal with Prince Ladon, you have to know he’s a snake who will bite you whenever it is remotely convenient.”

“I know, it was the best of several bad options at the time,” I growled.

Jonna’s eyes widened, “Third Screening, Tangun’s Gate… Ladon didn’t get us, you did.”

“I needed a way to get him off our backs,” I growled.  “Look, are we really going to discuss this… here?” I asked.

She shook her head, “Let’s go.  I know a shortcut.”

She led the way down a side corridor and then out a hatch and onto one of the Institute’s many external catwalks.  We were halfway along it when she turned, hooked one foot behind my heel, and pushed.

I didn’t have time to even shout in surprise.  One moment we were walking along the narrow catwalk and the next I was over the drop, Jonna holding the front of my uniform by one hand, my feet barely on the edge of the platform and my body leaning out over from her push.  The drop below me was beyond dizzying.  The Institute was one of Drakkus’s Spires, the buildings rose taller and higher than anything else, a thousand meters across and over three thousand meters tall.  All that I had below me was clouds.  I had seen trainees here slip and fall off ledges similar to this.

“If you move your hands to catch mine, I will let you go,” Jonna hissed at me.

I remained very, very still.

“What have you told the Prince about me?” Jonna demanded.

I kept my voice level and met her gaze as I answered, “Only what Vars might know.  You and the Princess don’t trust one another.  You don’t seem fond of the Imperial Family.  You keep to yourself and you don’t seem to trust anyone.”

Jonna stared at me, “You haven’t told him about my procedure?  The organ transplant, any of that?”

“I’m not loyal to him, I’m just trying to keep him off our backs!” I snapped.  “And if you don’t trust me on that at this point, you might as well just drop me, because I’ve got no reason to support Prince Ladon over my friends.”

Jonna frowned, but she pulled me back onto the ledge.  I caught ahold of a stanchion and took deep breaths.  “You could have just asked, you know,” I snapped.

Jonna took a few steps back, just out of my reach, her eyes still wary.  “I had to be sure, I…”  She shook her head, “I got the word about Century falling and I was trying to catch you when you left Jade Flight, right up until I realized where you were going.”

“So you decided to push me to my death?” I shook my head.  “Jonna, I’ve dealt with you fairly every time.  Even when you kicked me out of the Ragabonds, I still dealt fairly with you.”

“Right up until Tangun’s Gate, apparently,” Jonna snapped.  “Was it the Princess’s plan or the Prince’s?  How long have you been working with them?”

“I’m not working with ‘them,’” I threw that back in her face.  “I’m trying to survive and trying to protect you, and yes, Princess Kiyu, too.  As far as I know, she doesn’t know what I did, either.”

“She downed the last two of Prince Ladon’s escort—”

“I did that,” I interrupted her.  “I took her weapon, and I took Ladon’s rifle and shot both of you.”  I gave her a minute to think that through.  “Everyone wanted me to do something.  Dekkas Richardson wanted me to support you.  Imperial Intelligence wanted me to take you down.  I realized that I could get Prince Ladon off all our backs if I gave him the opportunity to save face.”

She shook her head, “You could have said something.”

“Sure, in all these times we are under observation, I’ve had all these great opportunities to explain everything, just like you’ve been confiding with me all the time, telling me all the stuff I need to know, right?” I scoffed at her.  “Maybe if you told me where the monitors were down or where else we could talk, I could do that, but you seem to be incapable of sharing anything.”

Jonna flinched away from the real anger in my voice.  “Fine.  We’ve both got secrets.  I assume Intelligence is satisfied with you watching me?”

“Watching you, watching the Prince, watching the Princess, they want the whole package,” I growled.  But I didn’t let on that it wasn’t Imperial Intelligence that knew all that, it was one man.  Institor Dyer knows pretty much everything about me.

“You’re walking a thin line,” Jonna told me.  “You have to know that Prince Ladon is using you, and when you cease to be useful, he’ll discard you.”  She hiked a thumb back at the corridor we had come from, “Prince Ladon directing you through corridors without monitoring from even Imperial Intelligence?  That means he wants some cut-outs, which means he’s not going to hesitate to set you up for a fall if he sees any angle in it for him.”

I hadn’t thought that much about it, but it pretty much matched my impression of the Prince thus far.  He didn’t seem to care much about anyone but himself.  “I’ll have to be careful,” I told her, “I already knew that.”

She gave me a dubious look, remarkably similar to ones that Jiden had given me when I was doing something that would get me in trouble with our parents.  Seeing as Jiden had been far more likely to do that, and that Jonna was arrayed against the Emperor and Royal Family plus those Houses allied with them, the hypocrisy then and now stood out to me.

“We should go,” Jonna told me after a long moment, “Sooner or later, someone is going to notice you’ve been out of monitored areas for a good period and they’ll start to ask questions.  If you’re going to keep playing the Prince’s toady, we don’t want him to suspect you were meeting someone else.”

I followed her down the ledge, keeping closer to the wall than I normally might.  Height in and of itself didn’t bother me, but I’d have to be made of solid steel to not be shaken by my brush with the edge of the Spire.

Jonna’s “shortcut” took us into a section of maintenance corridor.  I didn’t ask her how she knew the access codes to use it, but it popped us out into the corridors near Jade Flight’s new quarters.  Each year’s cohort had their own cadre and staff and area.  My cohort, freshly minted second years, had individual quarters with sections of lab spaces, classrooms, and simulators for us to conduct our training.

“We’ll be stepping into monitored corridor in a moment,” Jonna shot me a glance, “this back corridor isn’t monitored, but it’s normally used for bringing in equipment for the labs.  Think of any good reasons why you were out of observation?”

“Nothing really comes to mind,” I admitted.

“Didn’t think so,” she sighed.  “Well, this should make your bosses happy…”

Before I could ask what she meant, she pushed open the door, giggling and looking over her shoulder, “Well, Vars, that was… educational.”  She ran a hand through her hair and adjusted her uniform.

I froze there in the doorway, realizing that anyone watching would draw the assumption that we’d been kissing.  Even as I realized that, two of Jade Flight’s Initiates rounded the corner and saw us.

Princess Kiyu was at the lead, in the midst of discussing some detail with Bahn from her team.  She spotted us and froze.  Her green eyes went wide as she looked between Jonna and I.

Jonna straightened her uniform and gave me a sharp nod, but I didn’t miss the gleam of mischief in her blue eyes.  She knew that the Princess was coming, she timed it for just this…

The realization didn’t help me in the slightest.  “Vars,” Jonna nodded and me and then strode away.  All I could do is nod back, then nod acknowledgement to Princess Kiyu and Bahn and then stride off as fast as I could, my face flushing and my ears burning.

***

 

Hidden Valor: First Snippet

Hidden Valor is coming next week!  Here’s the first snippet:

Chapter 1: The Heights I’ve Reached

Prince Ladon kept me standing as he read over the report I’d written up on Princess Kiyu and Jonna Hayden’s activities.  He had a bit of a sneer on his face.  “This is all?” He looked up finally.  “Conversations about classes?  I expected more from you Vars, much more.”

“We’ve been on break the past month, Your Highness,” I told him as calmly as I could manage.  What did the idiot expect, that the two of them would be discussing how to overthrow the Empire?  Even if I had really been his loyal spy, it would have beggared belief that I’d have something incriminating after only a few weeks of working for him.

Of course, I wasn’t his spy.  I wasn’t even Vars, the son of the late pirate marauder Wessek.  My name was William Alexander Armstrong.  I wasn’t even from Drakkus, I’d grown up on the dry, dusty world of Century and the real Vars had kidnapped me and kept me as his prisoner and slave.  I’d escaped and taken my revenge on Vars and Wessek, but in order to survive here on Drakkus, I’d stolen Vars’ identity and taken his place here at the Drakkus Imperial Military Institute.  Prince Ladon, though, thought I was Vars, and furthermore, I had convinced him that I would be his agent and spy on my only two real allies and in exchange, he hadn’t had the three of us murdered.

“All the more reason you should have had more for me,” Ladon’s lips drew back and he threw his datapad down on his desk.  “Classes are about to start up once more.  Once they do, neither of us will have time to meet frequently.  I’m giving you one week, to the official start of classes and I want to see something more interesting than…” he shook his head, “tactical preferences.  Do you understand me, Vars?”

“Yes, Your Highness,” I told him.

“You had better, Vars.  I’m taking a risk taking you on as your sponsor.  My father is still quite cross with you for what happened at Century.  It was quite embarrassing, him having to withdraw like that,” He shook his head, “And before you think I’m stuck with you, you should be aware that I still haven’t told him or anyone, really.  All I did was stop the boot pressed against your neck.”

Prince Ladon’s father, Crown Prince Abrasax, had been the patron for Wessek.  The two of them had some kind of plan to take over my homeworld, but it hadn’t gone well, thanks to my sister and my grandmother.  Crown Prince Abrasax had shown up with a huge fleet, but my grandmother, the Admiral, had found out about the arrival thanks to my sister, Jiden.  From what I’d heard, the Crown Prince had been forced to power down his weapons and withdraw.

It was the first time in decades that anyone had forced the Drakkus Empire to do anything.  That kind of black eye hadn’t sat well with the Crown Prince, and he’d blamed Wessek and his son Vars for their part in the failed operation.  Of course, since I’d taken Vars’ place and Wessek and Vars had both died in the process, that left his wrath coming down on me.

“Understood,” I told Prince Ladon.  I didn’t let any of what I felt onto my expression.  I had grown very good at hiding my real emotions, hiding everything about me, in the past couple of years.  It was amazing what the constant threat of death did for my ability to focus.

“Dismissed, Vars,” Prince Ladon waved a hand.  “And don’t let anyone see you on your way out.  I wouldn’t want our arrangement to become public.”

I left, slipping out into the corridor, keeping the hall monitors interrupted with the code the Prince had given me for that exact purpose.  I was going to have to come up with something to give Prince Ladon, something to keep him satisfied, without doing actual harm to Jonna or Princess Kiyu.

I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I was going to have to figure something out.  Some part of me whispered that it didn’t matter what I figured out in the short term, Prince Ladon wouldn’t be satisfied until both of my friends went down, and he saw me as a means to that end.

I was going to have to figure out what to do about that.  One thing at a time, I told myself.

***

Coming Soon: Hidden Valor

Coming Soon!  The 3rd book of my Forsaken Valor series:

Sometimes the best place to hide is in plain sight.

I’ve lived the past two years of my life on the ragged edge. Kidnapped by pirates, my family murdered, I’ve lived as a prisoner and escaped only to fight for my life on the streets. I’ve lied, I’ve cheated, I’ve stolen, and I’ve even killed to survive.

And now I’m at the center of my enemies’ most exclusive military institute, hidden under a stolen identity. I’ve managed to earn the trust and support of a small group of allies, and maybe, just maybe, I can use that to get back home.

But if I do that, I’ll probably get them killed. Even worse, someone has set them in the crosshairs of a plot that puts millions, maybe billions, of lives on the line. I can’t walk away, I can’t abandon them, not when the only advantage they have is me, a hidden dagger poised to strike at the Heart of Drakkus.

 

It’s Alive, Allliiiive!

Sorry, a little Frankenstein humor.  I am happy to announce that Jormungandr’s Venom is live once more.  Apologies all for the delay.

 

https://amzn.to/2WSOFWI

 

“It poisoned the sky, and the world died.”

A terrible weapon is hidden on Harmony, a planet still reeling from worldwide revolution. Melanie Armstrong and the crew of the Fenris have hired on as mercenaries to ensure a peaceful transition to an elected government, but not everyone is satisfied with the change in power.

Enemies old and new battle for domination… but something far more dangerous lurks in the heart of Harmony: Jormungandr’s Venom, a poison said to be so deadly it could kill gods, spread across all worlds, and wipe out humanity.This world-killer is now the key to victory for the competing factions: loyalists to the former regime, corrupt peacekeepers, and a terroristic organization willing to destroy entire planets in its quest for power. The crew of the Fenris will have to best fleets of opponents determined to seize this weapon… and if Mel fails, Jormungandr’s Venom will poison the skies of countless worlds.

Mel and the Fenris have taken on psychotic terrorists, corrupt military officers, and genetically engineered horrors – but never anything like this.

A Very Belated Update

Hey everyone.  Sorry it’s been so long between updates.  I’ve been dealing with personal issues, helping out family, and trying to help salvage a major exercise at work that has basically collapsed into a flaming pile of cards.

On top of that, the societal events and emotional isolation of the Coronapocalypse has basically left me pretty drained.

That said, I’ve finally got some bandwidth to take care of writing stuff again.  First off, I have to apologize.  Jormungandr’s Venom never went live and I missed the email from Amazon that there was a problem.  It was a simple problem, it didn’t take me long to fix, but the book has been held in limbo for months.  It should be fixed now and I’ll post a link when it goes live.

Next up, I’m trying to figure out all the different strands of novels at various positions of being finished.  I’ve got two or three that are almost ready to go out the door.  I actually have a set of covers ready to go and everything.  Hopefully I will be able to get them all out the door either later this month or early August.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading!

Welcome to the Party

In the immortal words of John McClane, “Welcome to the party, pal.”

I say this in response to the mass hysteria and panic induced by the current COVID 19 fears.   I say this in response to the people who have shut down the schools, the economy, who have brought our society to a grinding halt because, to put it bluntly, they are afraid.

I get that.  I get the soul-grinding, all encompassing fear.  The anxiety that keeps you awake at night, the panic attacks that set your heart racing and your hands trembling, where your heart beats so hard that you can feel it thudding against your ribs.

And those of you who give into that fear are fucking cowards.  You need to hear that, you need to understand that.  Fear is a natural human reaction to risk and potential loss.  We fear change.  We fear risk.  It is a survival mechanism.  The appropriate response to fear is to take appropriate protection measures and continue to live your life.

Those who give into fear, they clutch at anything they can to give them an illusion of security, illusion of safety.

I tell you this.  There is no safety.  There is no security.  We all live just one heartbeat away from death.  As a society, we have become so risk adverse that we have given ourselves the illusion of safety, of civility.  Risk surrounds everything we do, whether it is slipping in the shower or falling down the stairs or choking to death on our breakfast.

So what is an appropriate precaution?  Do you stop eating food for the risk of choking to death?  Do you refuse to go up stairs (or get in an elevator) because you are afraid of falling?  Or do you lock yourself in your home and refuse to leave at all, for fear of being killed in traffic.

We should weigh the costs versus the risks.  And the cost I am talking about are the ones we have already paid over hysteria.  Lost jobs, ruined businesses, destroyed lives are the ones that get put around the most.  Talk about the risk of disease to someone who has a mortgage and a young child at home and whose new business just went under.  Talk about the risk of disease to someone who has lost human contact, become isolated and depressed, and is contemplating suicide.  The cost in lives taken by the disease versus the cost in lives ruined and cut short by the preventative measures is one of quantitative versus indefinable but undeniable cost.  It’s a hidden cost that may never be fully measured but which each of us pay every day.

More importantly, though, let’s talk about the cost to our society, to our children.  What has this mask up and avoid people taught our young children?  It teaches them to trust no one, that anyone could be the carrier of disease.  It robs them of the human interaction, of seeing smiles, grins, and laughs.  It distances them from one another and destroys societal trust at a time when societal trust is already strained.  

What is the impact on this generation from this hysterical response.   When the entire country shut down over the risk of contagion… what will they do over other risks?  How will they trust their friends, their neighbors, how will they have trusting, lasting relationships?   Everyone says think of the children, but what about the psychological impact of telling them that they can’t trust anyone, be around anyone, that everything and everyone is a risk.  Think of the anxiety and fear you are building into an entire generation.

And that’s what it comes back to: fear.  Media hysteria where fear and shock sells.  Where the headlines of doom get people to tune in and makes them the advertisement revenue.  Fear that we, as a society, have embraced and encouraged rather than overcome.  Where we have become so risk adverse that (at the most gloomy reports) as many as 1% of the population can die.   I hate to break it to you, but all of us die.  Life has a 100% mortality rate and if that scares or shocks you, then you need to take a good look at yourself and wonder what it is that you fear so much.  For the shrilling harpy harridans who feel the need to terrorize their neighbors into greater protective measures, maybe take a look at them and wonder if it’s really the fear that drives them or if it’s the power they can exert over others, the rush of authority where they can force other people to comply.

I want to live.  I want my family members to live.  I don’t want to experience loss.  But I also want to enjoy my life.   It’s a measure of quality of life.  To live, holed up in my home like a bunker, is not really a life worth living.   To not experience human touch, human contact, to not experience life in it’s fullness… this is what we should fear.  We are social creatures and we need that interaction.  Isolation is  a punishment.  I’m an extreme introvert and even I feel the need to associate with people and interact with them.  The human element is what makes life worth living, shared human experience gives our lives greater value.

I say this as someone who has maintained personal space since I was a kid.  I don’t like people touching me, I typically stand feet away from folks if given the chance.  I also say it as someone who has worked in high-risk environments: industrial, construction, and combat positions.  I’ve seen people lose fingers, limbs, and suffer crippling injuries.  I have sat and had tea with people who, we knew, were supplying –at the least– material support to people who wanted to kill us.   I say that having  done missions, day after day for months of looking for IEDs on the roads of Iraq, where missing the slightest detail could kill not just me, but the men and women whose lives were entrusted to me.

Life is full of risk.  Life is fragile and all the more precious for it.  Nobody gets out of life alive.  We can be swallowed by fear and consumed by it, in which case… are we really alive?  Or we can acknowledge it and live our lives regardless.

I leave you with a quote from Frank Herbert’s Dune:

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Kal’s April 2020 Forecast

Well, I suppose this COVID-19 business is what we all get for making the 2020 vision puns, right?  Well, if you’re like me and trapped at home, I hope you’re all able to get some things done and find distractions from current events.

So what am I working on this month?  I’m midway through with revisions to Fenris Unchained, Odin’s Eye, and Jormungandr’s Venom, which I’ll have ready for re-release this month.  I’m also prepping the third book of the Forsaken Valor series, Hidden Valor, for publishing later this month.

After that, I’m finishing the sequel to In Death’s Shadow, outlining the sequel to Vernian Space Gun, and then I may even get some free time to work on some other books.  Working from home without any distractions for my son is hard, though, so we’ll see how productive I am, especially doing the day job from home as well, which still requires a lot of my attention and time.

Anyway, that’s all for now.  Thanks for reading and take care of yourselves!