Category Archives: Reading

Now Available: Prisoner of the Mind

Prisoner of the Mind, the first book of the Project Archon Files, is now available!

http://amzn.to/2zLbOMH

How do you know right from wrong if every memory, every thought in your head was put there by your enemies?

In a near-future,  humanity has begun to spread throughout the stars.  In the process, they’ve awakened abilities hidden within their own DNA.  Psychics have begun to appear at ever-increasing rates with abilities that range from mental manipulation to mass destruction and beyond.  Empowered by public hysteria and fear of psychics, Amalgamated Worlds has taken over.  Their powerful combination of military and security forces, control of media and communications, and manipulation of internal threats has created a police state that spans all of human space.

Shaden Kirroy is a product of that police state.  Designed to be a weapon for use against his fellow psychics as well as any civilians who step out of line, he is an artificially enhanced psychic.  He is a blank slate, his past erased and replaced with engineered loyalty to Amalgamated Worlds.
 
Yet, Shaden realizes that something is terribly wrong.  As his world begins to unravel, as he realizes the horrors of what was done to him, Shaden must find a way to free himself, to unlock the prison of his own mind.
Advertisements

Kal’s October 2017 Forecast

October is here and with it, a new book published.  That’s right, in case you missed it, I just released Valor’s Calling, the second book of the Children of Valor series.  The feedback I’ve received from my alpha and beta readers has been really great, and I think you all are going to like it a lot.  In case you’re not reading the series, Valor’s Child (the first book) has been on the top 20 of its category for the past three months.

So what’s next?  Well, I’m putting together the next Shadow Space Chronicles book, but I’ve also had something else on my mind… or in my brain, possibly.  In fitting with the time of year, I’ve been stuck on zombies.  I’ve got the first book done and I’m shopping it around to a couple of publishers.  If they like it, you may see it sooner than you expect.

Coming at the end of the month, you can expect to see Prisoner of the Mind.  If you’re a fan of movies like Push, Carrie, and Firestarter, then you may well enjoy this story.  It’s a near-future setting in the Shadow Space universe that covers the origins of a variety of powerful psychic/psionic characters in the universe.  I’ll be publishing it near Halloween (Expect it around the 28th of October).

In the near future, I’m outlining the third Fenris book, and I plan to deliver that to the publisher before the end of the year.  I’m way behind on that one, but expect to see more from Mel and Fenris before too much longer.

I’m also working on a couple of other projects, including a steampunk novel, the next Renegades book, and the next Eoriel Saga book, and the third Children of Valor book.

Thanks for reading!

Valor’s Calling Now Available!

Valor’s Calling is now available from Amazon!

http://amzn.to/2fuCp8I

 

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.

Jiden’s best may not be good enough.  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 made enemies when she chose to return to the Academy, and those enemies will settle for nothing less than her death.

Jiden must fight with everything she has, not just to succeed, but to stay alive.  Jiden will prove that she isn’t afraid of the challenge, because the military life isn’t just a simple decision, the military is her calling.

Valor’s Calling Snippet Three

Here’s the third and final snippet for Valor’s Calling.  You can find the first two here and here.  Valor’s Child is available today from Amazon!

The Enclave was weird. As we drove through it, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The buildings were all squat and low to the ground, vehicle garages were all underground. It wasn’t a big city, or at least it didn’t seem to be.

That was, right up until Karmazin drove down into what looked like an oversized garage… and the road kept going. I craned my head around in surprise as I saw that the road descended into the ground, winding deeper and deeper.

Karmazin gave his smirk, “My people come from Dalite Three, what we call Acrotan, where the cities are all underground. The planet’s environment isn’t as friendly as here.”

I shot him a disbelieving look. Century was a dry, dusty world. We didn’t get anything near a winter and it only ever rained near the two polar seas. I hadn’t ever heard anyone call our world “friendly.” It’s a dry, barren dust-ball, and most of us think our ancestors were crazy for leaving behind the cool green hills of Earth…

“We’re used to living underground,” Karmazin went on. “Most of the Enclave is below ground. It’s easier to maintain temperatures and it provides better defenses that way, too.”

“Who are you defending against?” I asked.

“Anyone who might attack,” Karmazin hedged. It was a vague enough statement to make me feel uneasy. I’d heard that Enclave citizens were prohibited from service in the Century Planetary Militia by a recent Charter Council decree. Was that because they felt the Enclave was some kind of security risk? For that matter, if there is some kind of fight, which side would Karmazin pick?

I knew they were refugees, from the Three Day War with the Dalite Confederacy. I hadn’t expected them to have defenses or for their aerospace port to look so militarized.

Karmazin pulled into a side street and then into a vehicle garage. He climbed out, “I’ll help you out with your bags,” he offered, moving to open the cargo compartment.

“I’m good,” I said quickly. “I can’t stay long, this is just a quick visit on my way to the Admiral’s house.” The words came out before I could help them. I’d planned

He cocked his head at me, “You’re sure?” There was something in his voice, almost an edge of disappointment. I wasn’t going to think about that, though.

“Yeah,” I forced myself to smile. “I’ve got a lot of the pre-class assignments to knock out.” That wasn’t a lie. I still had several papers to write and three more books to read. I hadn’t even started the military ethics research paper itself yet, in part because I felt like it was sort of pointless.

I’d planned on working with Ashiri and Karmazin. I can do it on my own. The very thought of spending hours with them left me feeling sick. “There’s an evening flight I’ll need to catch, I just have a few hours.”

I had seen there was an evening flight. I had no idea if they had any seats left, but I was going to the aerospace terminal regardless. I’d spend the night there if necessary.

“Well,” Karmazin said, “I’ll give you the quick tour, then.” He gave me a solemn nod, almost as if I’d hurt his feelings. Well, he probably should have thought of that before he started dating my best friend.

I banished the thought before I could go on. I wasn’t going to resent my friends. This wasn’t their fault. I was the one who’d changed her mind. I was the one who had been wrong and I couldn’t expect things to be the way I’d secretly dreamed they’d be.

“This way,” Ashiri said, leading the way. I followed them through the door.

Alexander Karmazin’s home was far more spartan than I’d expected. There was a small dining room, a smaller living room, both with a few simple prefabricated tables and chairs. There were a couple of decorative holoprojectors, which painted two of the walls with vistas of a rainy, lush planet.   I thought I recognized the pattern as one of the default settings, one that most people typically replaced with some kind of custom display.

A tall, dark-haired woman greeted us as we stepped inside. She have Ashiri and I both nods, “Ashiri, welcome back.” Her gray eyes locked on me. There was something watchful there, evaluative and somehow threatening, as if she didn’t know what to make of me. “You must be Jiden Armstrong. I’ve heard quite a bit from Alexander about you.” She had the same olive skin, the same quiet watchfulness as Alexander, I saw.

“Jiden,” Alexander Karmazin said, “this is my mother, Diane Karmazin.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, ma’am,” I said.

“Yes,” Alexander’s mother said. I wasn’t sure if that was agreement with what I’d said or simply an acknowledgment. “Alexander tells me that you’ll be staying for a few days?” Her voice almost sounded resigned.

“I’m afraid not,” I replied. “I’d meant to clarify, I only had time to swing through and say hello, I’m quite a bit behind on my studies.”

“That’s too bad,” Alexander’s mother replied. She somehow managed to make that sound both sincere and insincere at the same time. I didn’t know if that was because she really didn’t want me here or if she somehow realized why I didn’t want to stay. Either way, I was eager enough to take that as a way to make my exit.

“Well,” I said, studiously glancing at my datapad, “I probably should get back to the terminal if I’m going to catch my flight.” I looked up, “Thank you for inviting me to your home.”

“Of course,” Alexander said. He was looking at his mother though, almost as if he sensed something was wrong. I had no idea what was going on, but I felt like leaving was going to be the best thing I could do.

All I wanted to do was get out of there and I think Alexander was really regretting the invitation to visit. I felt like an idiot, but I managed to say polite things as I backed out and Alexander gave me a ride back to the terminal. I passed the trip in silence. Thankfully, he didn’t seem very talkative, either.

***

 

A few hours later I’d boarded a commercial skimmer and had my datapad out while I worked on some of my projects. I’d been lucky to get a ticket on the flight, the only one leaving the Enclave that day… but I’d scrapped my plans of staying with Karmazin and his family. Not with his relationship with Ashiri.

I’d managed to message the Admiral to let her know I was coming a few days early, just before I boarded. Now I was buried in work. Some people hated to work on a flight, but I welcomed the chance to tune everything out, to not think about how my expectations had been completely overturned.

The skimmer was surprisingly empty for a holiday season flight. It made me wonder if Karmazin’s people celebrated Christmas… or for that matter, if they celebrated off-season from everyone else. After all they were from another world. I knew there were some Christian and Jewish sects that followed the standard Earth twelve month calendar, in spite of the fact that it didn’t remotely match up to Century’s fifteen month years and three seasons.

My mind went off on a bit of a tangent, sort of wandering as I stared out the window. I watched the hydrogen-powered gas turbine, just sort of staring at the heat distortion from the jet wash. It was mesmerizing and I just sort of watched as the superheated gasses blurred the setting sun and desert.

I had a perfect view of the missile that came streaking in at us.

My eyes went wide as I realized what I was seeing. But by the time I could open my mouth to shout a warning, there was a flash of light and the entire skimmer shuddered. The detonation was muted, but the skimmer went into a spin. I heard shouts and screams from the other passengers and the whine of the turbines altered pitch. The smooth flight became a rough spin and I was smashed against the side window. Staring out, I had a great view of the burning engine as the skimmer cork-screwed towards the ground.

I’m going to die. The thought wasn’t as jarring as it should have been. I’d nearly died several times. It just seemed unfair that I’d survived being shot down and attacked by criminals, only to be shot down in a commercial aircraft.

There wasn’t time to panic. There wasn’t time to do much of anything. I found my hands going to my seat restraints, tightening them, even as I heard the skimmer pilot come on over the intercom, “Brace for landing, brace for landing,” his voice sounded abnormally calm and some absent part of my brain wondered if he was a graduate of the Century Military Academy.

The remaining engine roared as the pilot fed it power. The skimmer stabilized and the nose swung up. I watched the spinning sky and sand transition to mostly sand and some sky. This side of the aircraft was lower, the damaged engine providing little or no lift. The sandy, rocky ground whipped past, far too fast for me to pick out details and far too close for me to focus on it.

We hit, a bone-jarring, grating, sliding, and world-ending chaos. Passengers and their possessions flew through the compartment. Something heavy struck me a glancing blow to the head and I saw stars. I saw the skimmer engine ripped away and then a moment later we smashed, hard, into something and the entire craft jerked to a halt.

I unbuckled my restraints and stood. Passengers looked around dazedly. An attendant fumbled with one of the doors up front, but I didn’t see the attendant here near the rear. I pushed past my seat-mate and moved to the door, moving on impulse. The skimmer was damaged, the hydrogen tanks were probably leaking. We had to get off the craft before the hydrogen caught fire or exploded.

I wrenched the door open and the smart-plastic ramp extended. I started to jump down it, but then I saw that no one was following me. I stared at the passengers, most of whom were either in shock or possibly denial. “Move it!” I shouted, “Get out of here!”

I reached over, popped the restraints off a nearby woman and jerked her to her feet. Without thinking I pushed her down the ramp, then grabbed the man next to her. “Go!”

Passengers started to move. Some fumbled with their restraints and I hurried to help them, pushing them towards the door. I didn’t want to think about how little time we had. Hydrogen gas would be spreading through the aircraft. All it would take would be a spark and the entire skimmer would go up like a bomb.

“Go!” I shouted, shoving a business-man ahead of me. I looked around, not seeing anyone else near the rear of the aircraft. I started towards the door when I heard a whimper of pain. I looked over and saw movement under a pile of bags. I reached down, throwing stuff out of the way and found an arm. I pulled, dragging the attendant out from under the pile. She was battered and bloodied, her eyes unfocused. “Let’s go!” I shouted, pushing her towards the door. We ran out, sliding down the ramp and then plowing into a group of passengers milling around the bottom of the ramp. “Get clear!” I shouted at them. “It’s going to catch fire!”

I pushed and shoved at people, even as I heard a whoosh. The sound turned into a roar and I felt a wash of heat, even as I stumbled away. The dusk turned bright as daylight and I looked back to see the entire aircraft engulfed in flames. “Go!” I shouted angrily at people as they stopped to gawk.

We weren’t anywhere near a safe distance away. I helped an attendant to herd people away from the crash site and the roaring flames. We’d managed to get two hundred meters away when the hydrogen tank exploded like a bomb. As the blast knocked me to the ground, I finally gave up and just stayed down. A moment later another hydrogen tank detonated, then the third.

I lay on the ground, listening to the roaring flames and the panicked shouts of the people around me. Someone shot at me… again. There was no reason that I thought of myself as the target, but somehow I knew that I must be. Someone had fired a missile at me. They’d nearly killed dozens of people… trying to kill me.

As I lay on the hard, hot ground, I had a dread certainty that they wouldn’t stop until they succeeded.

***

Valor’s Calling Snippet Two

Here’s the second snippet for Valor’s Calling.  You can find the first snippet here.

Valor’s Calling will be available on September 29th, 2017.

Dad was the one who flew me back to civilization. He’d raised an eyebrow when I’d asked him to drop me at the Enclave, but he hadn’t questioned it. He talked as he flew. Dad wasn’t as good a pilot as mom, so the skimmer bobbed a lot, but Dad’s stories were interesting enough to keep me distracted. It sounded like they’d found a lot of interesting stuff in this next level down of the old alien ruins under Black Mesa.

I was glad for the distraction, because I’d started to feel nervous. I’d messaged Alexander Karmazin to let him know I’d be coming by on my way to the Admiral’s house. He hadn’t responded other than to say he’d meet me at the Enclave’s landing terminal. Most towns on Century just had landing pads in residential areas. With almost all of Century’s surface being land mass, it wasn’t like we didn’t have enough room to spread things out a bit.

The Enclave, though, was supposed to be different. Karmazin had told me that they were refugees of some type, military refugees if you could believe that. His grandfather was the Enclave’s leader, his mom was some kind of important official there too, so Alexander should know.

The terminal we set down in looked like a military base. Most of it was underground, with a few buildings with sensor masts and what looked like weapon emplacements above-ground. Off to the side, past a few big cargo and personnel transports, I actually saw a row of military skimmers and beyond them I saw the big, sleek forms of Mark V Firebolt warp-drive fighters.

Okay, I thought, maybe there’s a reserve unit doing drill here or something.

Dad talked with traffic control and then settled us down near one of the personnel transports. As he dropped the ramp, I looked over to see Alexander Karmazin and Ashiri Takenata come out of the nearby terminal building.

I unstrapped quickly and hurried to the ramp. I felt a smile growing on my face, it felt good to see them in person. Alexander Karmazin stood tall, almost two meters, with dark brown hair and olive skin. Ashiri stood next to him, her short black hair tossed in the hot dry wind.   I opened my mouth to shout a welcome… and then I saw them standing close to each other, holding hands.

Oh.

I forced myself to smile, “Hey, guys, good to see you.” My voice sounded robotic and I felt like an idiot.

“Yeah,” Ashiri smiled back, her expression was wooden, “good to see you too.” She sounded nervous.

“So, these are your friends?” Dad asked from behind me.

All I wanted to do was turn around and run back up the ramp. I felt so embarrassed. Of course they were together. It wasn’t like Alexander Karmazin had showed any real interest in me. We’d been friends… and the one time he’d even hinted at wanting to be anything more, I’d thrown it back in his face by telling him I was leaving the Academy.

Instead I forced my face into something between a smile and a grimace and turned to my dad, “Yeah, these are my friends, Karmazin and Takenata.” I deliberately used their last names. It let me distance myself from it. If I thought about them as classmates, it didn’t feel like a betrayal.

“Great, well, I commed the Admiral, she’s covered your ticket from here back to Duncan City, so I guess I should get back home,” my dad said cheerfully. On impulse, I stepped forward and gave him a hug, burying my face in his shoulder. I wanted to cry, but I told myself that was silly.

He patted me on the back and gave me a last squeeze, then turned away and walked up the ramp.

I turned back to face my friends, they still held hands. It hurt, like my whole chest constricted around my heart… but at this point, I should be used to pain. “Let’s get out of his way, right?” I said as casually as I could manage. I shouldered my duffel bags and moved out of the way of the skimmer.

I was thankful for the sound of the turbines. It meant I had some time where I didn’t have to talk. Carrying the weight of my bags meant I had an excuse not to look at my friends. As the hot air blasted over us, I could pretend that the tears in my eyes were from the turbine wash.

***

 

“So…” Ashiri said a few minutes later as she and I stood by the curb, waiting while Alexander Karmazin brought up a ground vehicle. “We didn’t know you were going to be coming back. Alex and I started spending a lot of time together and…”

I realized with horror that she was going to explain how she and Karmazin had hooked up. The last thing I wanted was to hear any details. “Ashiri, it’s fine. Really, you don’t need to explain.” I swallowed, “It wasn’t like Karmazin or I were dating. We’re just friends, like you and me.” I said the words with as much sincerity as I could manage.

Ashiri shot me a look. I forced myself to meet her brown eyes. “You mean that… I mean, I thought you two…”

“There was nothing between us,” I interrupted before she could finish. “And clearly, you two are together. It’s fine. I’m happy for you both.”

“You’re okay, then?” Ashiri asked, her voice intent.

“Yeah,” I replied. “I’m okay.” It wasn’t like I had some sort of claim to Karmazin. Besides, I liked Ashiri, she was my friend. I couldn’t be angry with her. We’d been through too much together.

I’d be okay. Everything would work out.

If I just kept telling myself that, maybe I’d even believe it.

***

 

Ghost Star Wants You… To Leave Reviews!

Hi everyone, Ghost Star has been out for almost a month. As such, it’s time for me to pester my faithful readers to please leave a review!  Amazon, Goodreads, wherever you prefer… even just emailing me to tell me you hate it.

For those of you who purchased it (and I know you’re out there, I’m seeing the sales) please leave a review.  I read them all and I take what you all say into account.  This is a growing universe and your feedback helps me to improve as a writer.

Thanks for reading!  Kal

Valor’s Calling Snippet One

Hey everyone, here is the first snippet of Valor’s Child, the second book of the Children of Valor series.  First, the blurb and the cover image, and the snippet is to be found below.  Valor’s Calling comes out on the 29th of September.  Enjoy!

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.

Jiden’s best may not be good enough.  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 made enemies when she chose to return to the Academy, and those enemies will settle for nothing less than her death.

Jiden must fight with everything she has, not just to succeed, but to stay alive.  Jiden will prove that she isn’t afraid of the challenge, because the military life isn’t just a simple decision, the military is her calling.

 

Chapter One: I Should Have Known Better

While my parents had hardly been excited about me attending the Academy, I had expected a bit more enthusiasm from my best friend. After all, it would mean we’d be there together.

“You’re what?” Ashiri Takenata stared at me through my datapad.

“I’m coming to the Academy,” I repeated, feeling stupid. I’d meant to tell her and Alexander Karmazin the news as soon as the Admiral had accepted my application. But Mom had sort of freaked out about it and with all the chaos after my misadventures at Champion Enterprises, I hadn’t got around to it until now.

“But…” Ashiri shook her head. “I mean, the acceptance lists have already been posted, you weren’t on them, so we assumed…”

“I had a letter of explanation that I put in with my application packet, I’m accepted,” I answered. The Admiral hadn’t pulled any punches, either. Someone might assume that, being my grandmother and all, she would show me some favoritism. Of course, I’d say they were crazy. The Admiral had barely spoken a dozen words to me outside of what could be strictly viewed as professional terms. I hadn’t even met her before my fourteenth birthday… and as far as I knew, my Mom only spoke to her around the holidays, and then only in a formally stilted video call.

What can I say, my family is a mess.

“Did you tell Alex?” Ashiri asked.

“Karmazin?” I replied. I didn’t really think of him as an Alex. I mean, he was far too… imposing for that. Alexander Karmazin was almost two meters tall. With his olive complexion, curly dark hair, and handsome looks, he could have passed for an actor on one of those daytime shows.   When I’d first met him, I’d instantly hated him, he’d seemed to be everything I wasn’t: tall, confident, and his father was the richest man on the planet. Now I considered him a friend, maybe something more. He’d certainly hinted that he was interested in something more, the last time we’d talked in person, almost five months ago.

I flushed as I considered that, “No, I just had time to call you. I’ve been digging into all the course work. Did you see we have an entire research paper due on the first day of classes for Military Ethics?”

“What, yeah, I knocked that out a month ago. We… that is, Alex and I, we’ve had the past five months to do all that stuff,” Ashiri said, looking distracted. “You really should tell Alex.”

“Yeah, I’ll do that,” I said. “The welcome packet mentioned we can select our roommates, do you have one, yet?”

Ashiri looked nervous, “Uh, yeah, we can talk about that later, after we get in. You might change your mind, you know. Oh, I’m hitting the limit on my bandwidth for the month, got to go, see you later!”

She cut the call and I stared at my home screen for a long, puzzled moment. I’d met Ashiri at the Century Military Academy. We’d been in the same squad of Sand Dragon. We’d slept on the ground together, been shot at together, and struggled through some really rough times together. I wasn’t sure why she seemed nervous at being my roommate. It wasn’t like I was anything like her old roommate, Rakewood. I wasn’t going to dump on her or anything, I could pull my own weight.

For that matter, I had no idea why she was out of bandwidth. I sort of remembered that her family didn’t have the best financial situation. They’d come here as refugees or something, back when the Guard had annexed their homeworld in the Ten Sisters system. But bandwidth for video calls was plentiful. She’d have to have been spending eight or ten hours a day to put a serious chink in even a basic bandwidth plan with the planetary network.

It was different out here at Basalt Mesa Outpost. It was an archeological and research station, with a permanent population of only thirty. The video call had used up a lot of my family’s non-research bandwidth. In fact, I’d probably talked longer than I should have, but I’d wanted to see Ashiri. The past five months had been rough. I hadn’t really had any friends… well, none besides Ted. He’s dead now, I reminded myself. The accounting intern who’d been friendly to me had been kidnapped and probably killed by the smugglers who’d been buying stolen military equipment from rogue elements of Champion Enterprises.

Officially he was missing, but I’d talked with Ted’s parents. They planned on holding a quiet funeral after all this blew over. I felt horrible for them. If I were them, I would have blamed me. But they hadn’t. They’d actually thanked me for uncovering the corruption at Champion Enterprises… and for bringing their son’s killers to justice.

That left me feeling adrift. I shouldn’t have got Ted involved. I should have handled it all differently, should have gone straight to the Admiral when it all started, but I’d screwed it all up. I’d been kidnapped, nearly killed. Ted was vanished, as if he’d never been. I’d been able to fall back on my military training from the Academy Prep Course, which had saved my life… but I’d killed six men in the process.

I wasn’t fifteen Century years old yet and I was a killer. That was one more reason I’d chosen to attend the Academy. Someone should have been there to protect me, to protect Ted. Maybe I could prevent someone else’s family from having to hold a quiet funeral for their child.

For just a moment I felt the urge to call Alexander Karmazin. Of anyone, I felt he’d understand. He’d had to fight for his life, too. But some measure of Ashiri’s nervousness made me hesitate. Why had she been so insistent that I call him?

It can wait, I told myself. In a couple more days, I’d fly to Duncan City, and I could meet him and Ashiri there. I could talk to them in person and figure out any problems. Besides, I’d already used too much bandwidth and I had a full ethics research paper to knock out.

I flipped my datapad back over to the course material and got started.

***