Category Archives: Reading

New Release: A Quiet Death

A dead man just ran away from his own murder scene.

Six months ago, that would be someone else’s problem.

My name is Ari, and after hellspawned werewolves tried to rip my soul out, I made this sort of thing my problem.  Now I am working the case, well, me, my sharp-shooting partner, and my guardian angel, the Angel of Death.

It’s a case that involves human trafficking, corrupt politicians, necromancy, sorcery, seduction, and a deal with the Devil.  You know, same stuff, different day.

Unfortunately for me, that’s only the beginning, because something evil has escaped onto our world.  I’ve got to take it down, before things get out of hand.  Because if things start to go off track too much, then the thing looking over my shoulder protecting me might go off like a tactical nuke.

But that’s part of life, right?  Who wants to die a quiet death?

A Quiet Death is now available! https://amzn.to/3vvOqzT

A QUiet Death: Snippet 2

Here is the second snippet for A Quiet Death, sequel to In Death’s Shadow:

“What do you think?” I asked as we walked back to Amanda’s car.  “Zombie, wight, vampire?”

“I have no idea,” Amanda drained the last of her coffee.

“You don’t?” I asked in shock.

She opened her door and paused, looking over the roof of the car, “I’ve been doing this for all of three years.  Until a few months ago, the worst I worried about was a fire-lighting dwarf arsonist.  Bodies shouldn’t get up and walk away.  I would think your friend there would have something to do with it.”

We both looked over at Sam.  The literal angel of death.  Archangel, I reminded myself, his name was Samael, which translated to something like “Venom of God.”  “You’ve been quiet.”

“You haven’t asked me any questions,” Sam answered.

“If we did, what would you say?” I asked.

“Digging into the kind of thing that can animate a dead body is probably best left alone by your kind,” Sam told me.

“That’s what I figured you’d say,” I growled in reply.  For all that he was assigned to protect me, Samael sure didn’t seem to go out of his way to help.

“Me too,” Amanda noted, climbing into the car and waiting as I folded down into the passenger seat before she started it up.  “I figured he wouldn’t be all that much help.  That’s why I’ve got a little list of people to talk with.”

“Like Father Terrance?” I asked.  The catholic priest had served as a contact before.  From what I understood, he’d coordinated with the church’s militant anti-monster unit, the Peregrinatio Contra Umbram.  He had also helped Amanda back when she’d had her first encounter with the unnatural and helped her cope.

“I’ll talk to him later tonight,” she said.  “I was thinking of someone else, someone a little more on the gray side.”

“Like a CI?” I asked.  There were confidential informants who provided law enforcement all kinds of tips, but I didn’t know if that kind of thing existed for the supernatural.

“Eh, more like a deal broker, but he might be willing to give us some information,” Amanda answered.  She pulled out, slapping her coffee into one of the cup holders even as she accelerated out, throwing me back into the seat.

She had to slow down at the first major intersection as we missed the light.  Like most of the big intersections here in Colorado Springs, this one had four panhandlers, one on each corner.  A ragged-looking man, wearing an ill-fitting set of camouflage pants and a military dress coat had a sign about being a veteran in need.  Having served myself, I would have felt some sympathy if I’d believed him at all.  Nothing about the way he stood or moved looked military.

I gave him a baleful glare as he came up next to our car.  He still jingled his can outside the window, though, as if he didn’t care at all.

“Easy, there,” Amanda seemed to sense my anger.

“Guy there never served,” I growled.  “It pisses me off that he’s lying about military service to get people to feel sorry for him.”  In the minivan behind us, a harried-looking soccer mom brought down her window and passed him some bills.  The grifter gave her a gap-toothed smile and moved along to the next vehicle, shaking his cup.

“Nothing to do about it.  We could arrest him for panhandling, but in case you hadn’t noticed, we’d fill the jail up before lunchtime,” she noted.  “I can’t say I like the fake vets, either.  My older brother was Army and my little brother joined the Marines, after all, but what can we do?”

I didn’t know what to say to that.  There wasn’t anything we could do.  Colorado Springs had laws against panhandling, but there were so many homeless, many of them drug users, that the police would do nothing but arrest people if they did.  The Springs had a number of charitable shelters that helped to get people back on their feet, but the area also had homeless camps that had taken over several of the parks.  There were thousands of people, and this intersection was a pretty good demographic, about half or more claimed to be military veterans, half of them were drug addicts, and more than half were subject to mental illness.

It wasn’t just an eyesore, it had become a public health issue, with the Riverwalk area being contaminated with human waste and discarded drug needles.  That was bad enough, but I’d heard that the unclaimed bodies at the morgue had become a bigger issue, they had hundreds of bodies in storage, corpses from overdoses and the like that nobody wanted and nobody claimed.

The city had asked for more money to deal with that, but for now, they’d pulled in a couple of refrigerated trucks to deal with the excess.  They were parked out right behind the coroner’s office and every time I had to drive past it was a grim reminder.

Sam, of course, seemed to find it amusing.

The light changed and Amanda wove her way through traffic, driving with a single-minded focus and complete disregard for little things like physics and passenger comfort that left me white knuckled.  My guardian didn’t seem fazed, but that didn’t reassure me, either.  He liked living on the edge and he’d as much as admitted that he could, if he wanted, pull me right out of the car, right out of reality if my life was under real threat.

Amanda pulled us up out front of a new-age holistic medicine store in a strip mall, one of the ones with a pot dispensary on one side and a bong shop on the other, two doors down was a sign for a “gentleman’s club.”  “This is your CI?” I asked.  The sign over the shop read The Hidden Hand.

“Sometimes things are more than they appear,” Amanda answered.  “Follow me.”

She didn’t walk straight for the door.  Instead she walked over to the side, squeezing between a no-parking sign and a scraggly-looking dead tree, then walking back towards the door.  The behavior was odd enough that it left me standing there, wondering just what she was doing.

I knew enough not to argue, but I felt pretty silly as I did as she’d done.  “Why did we do that, wards or something?” I asked.  She’d warded her house before, but we hadn’t had to do anything special to get in.

“It’s a path,” Samael growled behind us, “I didn’t know she knew about the pathways.”

“I’m learning,” Amanda shot over her shoulder at him, even as she pushed the door open and stepped into the shop.

“What’s a pathway?” I asked quietly, but Sam didn’t answer.

Stepping into the shop, I felt as if the sounds of the outside world cut off immediately.  The lighting in the store seemed off as well.  Some kind of purple coating on the inside of the windows dimmed the outside sunlight to a dull purple glow and a few scattered lamps gave little pockets of light, leaving the shop with an otherworldly feel.

“This is not a good place for you to be,” Sam growled.

“Afraid we might learn something?” Amanda jeered at him.

“Nothing you can learn here would be good for you,” Sam told her in a deep voice.  I shot him a look and realized with shock that he’d shifted closer to his full form.  His eyes had gone jet black and the air around him seemed to shudder and crackle a bit.

“Ah, customers, welcome,” a friendly voice spoke.

I pulled my eyes away from Sam, and noticed the speaker right away.  He was a tall man, dressed in robes of Middle-Eastern origin.  He wore a keffiyeh, though I didn’t recognize the tribal pattern and the light made it difficult to differentiate the colors.  I suppose even in the light of day I wouldn’t have been surprised if I didn’t recognize the pattern, since most of my experience in that region of the world had been focused on small areas where I’d been deployed.

“Kasah, my partner and I are here to ask you a few questions,” Amanda answered.

He came forward, “Ah, Deputy Ashburn, I hadn’t recognized you in work clothes, normally you wear something more comfortable,” Kasah answered.  He had strange, golden-tinted irises, and his perceptive gaze swept over Amanda and then me.  To my shock, that gaze went to my guardian.  “Powerful one, are you here on business as well?”

Sam’s voice answered in that same deep tone that I could feel in my bones, “Peddler, I am here in my role as guardian.”

“Ah,” Kasah shot me a look, “he must be very important to have so powerful a guardian.”  He smiled at me, “Anything you want in the shop, on the house.”

“I’m good, thanks,” I told him.  I hadn’t really looked around the place and with how Sam’s back was up, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do so.

Kasah’s smile didn’t waver and he looked back at Amanda, “What can I do for you Special Investigator Ashburn?”

“How much does a human body go for in your circles, Kasah?” Amanda’s tone was accusatory.

Her CI blinked, a slow, almost serpent-like motion.  “My shop has no trade in slaves, Deputy.  That sort of thing might draw the wrong attention, no matter how willing the merchandise may be.”

I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what he was talking about.  “No, we’re talking about a dead body,” I blurted, hoping to head off any forays into that kind of topic.

“A corpse?” Kasah smirked.  “There are values to different aspects, of course.”  He moved over to a row of shelves, upon which there were rows of jars.  “Sinistra Kidney, for example, is quite valuable.  Bibitor Liver, hmmm, less so in these times.  Fortem Heart, oh, so very precious…”

“Not pieces, the whole thing,” Amanda snapped.

“A whole body… how very distasteful,” Kasah pulled a silk handkerchief from inside his sleeve and covered his face, as if he were nauseated.  “Unless it were processed, the valuable pieces extracted and prepared, it would not be valuable for sale to my customers at all.”

I thought about the damage that the three-fifty-seven rounds had done to the body, about the blood and bits of tissue splattered all over the floor and walls.  “There wouldn’t be much left of any organs,” I told him.  “Lots of damage to the body.”

“Then I would have little interest for my shop,” Kasah waved his other hand, even as he kept his handkerchief over his mouth and nose.  “Please tell me you did not bring such a thing?”

“A body is missing,” Amanda growled at him.

“What?” Kasah seemed surprised enough that he lowered his hands.  “Missing, as in someone took it?”

“From a crime scene,” Amanda went on.  “And missing as in a witness says it stood up and jumped out a window.”

“Perhaps this body was not a corpse after all,” Kasah smirked.  “Tell your people they should make certain of such things.”

“They were certain, and there was enough blood that no one would be standing up, much less diving out a window,” Amanda snapped.  “Got anything here that could do that kind of thing?”

Kasah’s gaze flitted to the beaded curtain to the back room and back to us, a motion so quick I barely caught it.  “There is nothing dealing with necromanticrituals in my shop,” he told us.  “And what you’re describing is either dark art of the worst sort or…” he trailed off.

“Or?” I asked.

“Or we’re dealing with something that isn’t human at all, right?” Amanda asked.

Kasah gave a slight nod.

“If you’re not dealing in that kind of thing, it doesn’t mean your customers aren’t,” Amanda said after a moment.  “I’ll need a list.”

“I can’t give out a list of my shop’s customers,” Kasah shook his head.  “They would never trust me again!  Half of my dealings are built upon trust and discretion!”

“And bodies don’t get up and run about on their own.  This is bad, Kasah, it was a normal person who saw this.  If this happens elsewhere, it could draw attention.  We could get a panic,” Amanda gestured out the purple-tinted windows.  “We get large numbers of people seeing things, it will draw official attention… you know, like the fellows that came to town a few months ago?”

Kasah hissed, “The Peregrinatio Contra Umbram.  I don’t want them poking their heads in this.”  There was venom in his voice, hate and… fear?

“I warned you when they came to town last time, Kasah.  But if you don’t give me what I need to move forward on my own, I’ll have no choice but to talk to them to see what they know, and they’re not going to draw any lines between the gray and the black.”

Kasah brought his handkerchief up and covered his face, “Fine,” he spat.  “I’ll get you your names, but don’t tell them where you got them.”  He went into the back of the shop, sending his bead curtain rattling.

***

A Quiet Death comes out 30 April 2021!

A Quiet Death: Snippet One

Chapter 1

Rolling to a stop just outside the small house on the edge of town, my partner, Special Investigator Amanda Ashburn somehow managed to unbuckle her seatbelt, scoop up her coffee, and open her door in one smooth motion.

It took me rather longer than her to get my tall frame unfolded from her car.  A few months ago she’d had a comfortably large government-issue SUV.  Apparently wrecking it in a battle with hellspawned werewolves and cartel hitmen had meant Colorado’s El Paso County Sherriff’s Department had allocated her something rather more economical.

By the time I’d unfolded myself from the car, she was already walking up the steps to the small house, “What have we got?” She was asking of the two deputies who stood to either side of the door.

“Shooting,” the one answered.  I recognized Damien Garcia as I came up.  Mostly because we’d done our in-processing together.  He’d transferred down here from Denver, taking a job here in Colorado Springs over a better paying position up north, mostly because things in Denver were getting out of hand and, as he’d told me, he was a family man who wanted to be there while his kids grew up.  He and Deputy Alison had been partners for a month now, since he and I had run

“Perp is in the first room, Detective Haley is with her,” he told us both.  He gave me a nod and then went back to spreading out the crime scene barricades.

“Nikki, huh?” Amanda asked.  “Glad she got the perp.”  I could see she wanted to ask more questions.  Questions like why she and I had been called out if they already had the shooter.  She settled on, “Where’s the vic?”

Damien flinched a bit, “Uh.  You should talk to Sergeant Haley.”

His face had gone a bit pale as he said that and I saw him swallow nervously.  Whatever had spooked him, it was something that he didn’t even like to think about.

I felt a chill go through me as I realized that.  The last time I’d seen the law enforcement so spooked, it had been because werewolves had infiltrated a good chunk of the Colorado Springs police force, mostly by ripping their victims to shreds, consuming their souls, and then taking their place.  It had been in an attempt to track me down and obtain a certain artifact in my possession, but the police didn’t know that and they hadn’t been mentally, spiritually, or emotionally able to deal with the profoundly unnatural events.

I followed Amanda inside, doing as she did and taking care to avoid the splintered doorframe, “Somebody likes impressive entries,” I noted.

She pointed at the dusty bootprint on the sagging door, right near the deadbolt.  “Human,” she said in a low voice.  “Hit it right next to the deadbolt.”  She pointed at the doorframe, where the deadbolt had shattered right through.  “Just a simple locking latch, anchored in with half-inch bolts to the frame.”

“Yeah, one kick and that’s all she wrote,” I nodded.  Helping out with the county during my trial period, I’d seen the aftermaths of plenty of break-ins and forcible entries.  Most homeowners thought a deadbolt meant their door was secure.  After seeing just how easy it was to kick in a normal door, I’d drilled my latch plate at my new apartment with two-inch screws right into the frame.  If I had the chance, I was going to try and talk my new landlord into letting me swap out the wooden door for a steel one, too.

“Like you need to worry about a home invasion,” Sam chuckled in my ear.

I shot my guardian a look, but he just gave me a toothy grin in return.

Amanda went into the front room.  Sergeant Haley was there, the senior deputy of Major Crimes Unit, she looked a bit like a bear with a sore tooth at the moment.  “Took you two long enough,” she growled, “did you stop for coffee or something?”

Amanda sipped her cup of coffee in response.

Oh, it’s going to be one of those days, isn’t it?  I thought to myself.  Haley had transferred in from Colorado Springs Police Department, just as a lot of the Sherriff’s department had transferred over to the police in the wake of the horrible losses the department had suffered.  There’d been a lot of restructuring during all those transfers.  As part of that restructure, Special Investigator Amanda Ashburn and Probationary Deputy Kiehl (that was me), got folded under Major Crimes Unit.

Colorado Springs Police Department and one Special Investigator Ashburn hadn’t gotten along very well.  My partner had been investigating what most would term the supernatural for years, and she’d been given a lot of leeway so long as whatever had happened stopped happening and there was a nice, believable story about what had happened.

She’d lost a lot of that leeway in the wake of seventeen dead police officers.

No one suspected the supernatural, of course.  Even when three of the werewolves had materialized inside the police precinct, all most of the normal people had seen were deranged bikers swinging big knives.  The bodies of otherworldly beings seemed to just… unravel, and all the footage of the various attacks seemed either horribly out of focus or hard to look at or showed nothing out of the ordinary at all.

It reinforced what my guardian angel had told me: the human mind was not designed to understand things outside of the natural order.

“Sorry we’re late,” I told Sergeant Haley, “We were down south.”

“Traffic is getting awful,” Haley admitted.  “Glad you’re up here, though, this is…”  She made a face.  “Well, I don’t know what the hell this is.”  She gestured at where a woman sat, Henry “the Hunk” Alison stood next to her.

Henry was a tall, good-natured Provisional Deputy who’d gone through the Academy with me.  When they’d been calling off names the first day of our academy and they’d called off “Alison” and he’d replied with his soft, deep voice, it had thrown our instructors off and their constant calls of “Alison” had becomes something of running joke until they’d resorted to calling him by his first name, Henry, then Hank for brevity, and then finally someone had turned that into Hunk and finally, “the Hunk.”  The moniker had followed him after he graduated, in good part because no one could look at the tall, handsome young man and call him “Alison.”

With his blonde hair, blue eyes, height, and features, he probably could have gone into acting or modeling or something.  With how seldom he spoke and his friendly nature, he tended to put people at ease with no issues.

“That’s Angela Gowther.” Sergeant Haley gestured at the short, brunette woman seated on the couch.  She looked jumpy and nervous and her gaze kept going to the kitchen, almost like she was worried she’d left the stove on or something.

“Victim or perp?” Amanda asked.

“Little bit of both,” Haley shrugged.  She pulled out her notepad and read off it.  “Twelve forty-five, she hears a knock at the door, goes to check it.  It’s a man, one Andy Chin.”

“That guy,” Amanda scowled

“Chin?” I asked.

“Chin is suspected of multiple home invasions.  He also has ties to the local mob, acts as their enforcer, real nasty piece of work,” Sergeant Haley growled.  “His daddy got deported back to China, but Chin was born here in the US so the couple minor felonies he’s got just meant a few stays down in Canon City.”

“Great,” I shook my head, “so he broke in?”

“He did, and she shot him six times with her three fifty seven,” Sergeant Haley held up an evidence bag, with the weapon inside it.  “Then she reloaded and shot him another six times.  Then she called us.”

“She reloaded?” Amanda raised her eyebrows, “Good on her.”

I couldn’t argue with the sentiment, but Haley gave us a glower.  “She didn’t need to shoot him that many times.  Undue force.  That’s why she’s in cuffs.  Now that you’re here, I’m taking her back to the station for further questioning.”

“Seems pretty open and shut as self-defense,” Amanda noted.  “But I suppose that’s up to the DA’s office.  Where’s the body?”

“That’s why you’re here,” Haley told us.  “Garcia and the Hunk got on scene nine minutes after the shooting.  Garcia confirmed Chin’s ID from his wallet.  The Hunk confirmed no pulse and called the coroner.  They both started interviewing the shooter.  When I showed up, there was no body.”

My partner and I both stared at her.  “What the hell do you mean no body?”

“Check the room across the hall,” Haley told us.  “But it looks like either he stood up and walked off… or someone took his body before it even got cold.”

***

Any hope I’d had that this was some kind of joke to play on the new probationary deputy went out the window, along with what had to have been Chin’s body.

I paused to take pictures of the broken glass while Amanda was taking pictures of the huge swathe of blood across the floor.  She paused and pointed at a twisted bit of metal.  “See that?”

“Jacketed hollow point?” I asked.

“Yeah, still bloody, must have blown out of Andy Chin’s back along with a few pints of his blood and plenty of bone and organs,” Amanda shook her head, pointing at the bits fanned out around the obvious impacts.  “What have you got over there?”

“Something went through the window,” I told her, feeling like I wasn’t too smart as I did it.  But what else was there to say?  “Glass is broken but there are… well, bits, attached.”

“Yeah,” She walked over and pulled a set of tweezers and picked a bit of what looked like skin and hair off a remaining shard of glass.

“Werewolf?” I asked hopefully.

“Nah, it looks human.  And this is the middle of the day.  Plus there’s blood and remains.  Anything preternatural should have been gone by the time we got here, or on its way out.”  She dropped the skin and hair in an evidence bag.

“So…” I cleared my throat, trying to get the words to come out, “What you think happened is that Chin, after taking twelve rounds of three fifty seven to the chest, he what, just stood up, jumped through the window, and ran off?”

“Let’s talk to Garcia,” Amanda answered.

We went out front.  A news van had shown up, parked next to the coroner van.  I recognized the coroner, Doc Leo and a couple of his assistants.  The stooped man looked pale and wan in the bright sun.  They didn’t seem particularly disappointed not to be loading up a body.

Garcia was standing down by his patrol car.   He still had a wary look to his eye and his expression sank as we approached.  “Hey Damien,” I nodded at him.

“Ari,” He nodded back.  His gaze, though, went to my partner, “Look, Special Investigator Ashburn—”

“I don’t think you did anything wrong, Garcia, I just want to know what you saw,” Amanda told him.

I saw sweat bead his forehead and he looked around, as if he were looking for his partner or any backup.  “I told Sergeant Haley what I saw,” he told us.  “I pulled the guy’s wallet out, found his driver’s license, recognized Andy Chin’s face and name, and then left the Hunk to confirm he was dead while I interviewed the shooter.”

“What did the Hunk do, then?” Amanda asked.

“He called it in that there was no rush on the coroner,” Garcia told us.  “I mean, you could see the guy’s internal organs, blood everywhere, guy was toast.”  He shook his head, “Then the Hunk joined me and we interviewed the shooter, took her firearm, and then when I went back out in the hallway, the body was gone.”

“Just like that?” Amanda asked.

“Yeah… yeah, just like that,” Garcia told us, but his eyes looked a little wild.

“You didn’t see anything else, Damien?” I asked.  “Like maybe he got up off the floor and dove out the window?”

Damien didn’t answer.  He didn’t really have to.  His face had gone gray and his hands shook a bit.

“Ah, shit,” I shot Amanda a look.

“You know, you tell anyone that’s what you saw, they’ll have you in an ‘I love me’ jacket and on happy meds before you could finish, right?” Amanda noted.  “Which is why you won’t even tell us.  And that’s why we won’t be writing any of this down.”

Damien gave us both a grateful look.  “I’ve seen… well, I’ve seen a lot.  But nothing I’ve ever seen before is like what… what happened.  But you two aren’t saying I’m crazy…”  He trailed off and he looked between Amanda and me.  “I heard a lot of strange things about what happened a few months back…”

“Some drug cartel hired guns went rabid, that’s all,” Amanda told him in a relaxed tone.  “Don’t worry about it.”

“Yeah, yeah, sure,” Damien let out a tense breath.  “And Andy Chin must have been wearing body armor or something.”

Anyone who got a look at the room where Chin had been shot wouldn’t believe that.  But then again, if there wasn’t a body, there probably wasn’t going to be a whole lot of forensics.  In fact, if Chin was considered to be on the loose, then the shooter wouldn’t be charged for his “murder.”

“Yeah,” I nodded.  “Body armor, that makes sense.”

Damien gave me a nod, “I hope you guys find him.”

I shuddered a bit at the thought of what might make a corpse get up off the ground.  Nothing good, I would bet.  Zombies, vampires, do those sort of things really exist?  I hadn’t asked.  My introduction to the supernatural had been a thousand-year-old werewolf trying to kill me and the follow-up had been his entire pack trying to finish me off… and the werewolf lord himself escaped from hell.

I’d survived those encounters, but I still hadn’t learned much about the powers that be.  I didn’t know what was possible.  I had no idea about the supernatural or preternatural.   For all that I had a guardian angel, he didn’t exactly tell me anything of use.  A glance at Sam showed him smirking at me as normal, his dark eyes sparkling as usual in the presence of recent, graphic death.

“Well, we’ll take it from here, Damien,” I told him.  “Thanks for your help.”

I hoped I had time to get more of a crash course on all this.

***

Coming Soon: A Quiet Death

A dead man just ran away from his own murder scene.

Six months ago, that would be someone else’s problem. My name is Ari, and after hellspawned werewolves tried to rip my soul out, I made this sort of thing my problem.  Now I am working the case, well, me, my sharp-shooting partner, and my guardian angel, the Angel of Death. It’s a case that involves human trafficking, corrupt politicians, necromancy, sorcery, seduction, and a deal with the Devil.  You know, same stuff, different day.

Unfortunately for me, that’s only the beginning, because something evil has escaped onto our world.  I’ve got to take it down, before things get out of hand.  Because if things start to go off track too much, then the thing looking over my shoulder protecting me might go off like a tactical nuke.

But that’s part of life, right?  Who wants to die a quiet death?

A Quiet Death will be released 30 April on Amazon. Check back here for snippets coming soon!

Kal’s April 2021 Update

Hey everyone, we’re halfway through with April, but I’ve got some updates.

A Quiet Death, the sequel to In Death’s Shadow, is all done.  I’ll be dropping snippets and doing a cover reveal (and believe me, the cover is awesome) throughout the rest of the month.   The release date will be April 30th, so expect it soon!

I’m working on finishing The Star Engine, the seventh Shadow Space Chronicles book.  It’s been a long time since I last published in the series, but I’m really looking forward to getting this one out.  There are a lot of cool events happening there, plus it sets the ground for the future books in that universe.

Speaking of series that need more books, I’m looking to get out the fourth book of my epic fantasy series, the Eoriel Saga, in the near future.  I’m also outlining and prepping the next Children of Valor book, where I get to revisit Jiden Armstrong and see what she’s been up to while her brother has been having oh-so-much fun on Drakkus Prime.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading!

Kal’s March 2021 Update

Hey everyone, it’s been quiet around here, and in a large part that’s been to a lot of things I’ve been struggling with, between work , family, writing, and the ongoing insanity of everything.

But I digress.  On the writing side of things, I’m trying to hit my stride again and I think I can feel comfortable making some early predictions on what I’ll have coming out soon.  I just did a “freshen up” of Renegades: Origins, where I went back through, cleaned up some issues, added an updated bibliography, and republished.  That’s feeding into talks I’m having with someone about re-releasing it as an audiobook.

I’m doing the same with the Shadow Space Chronicles, and those will be updated over the next month or so.  That’s part of me prepping to start writing in the series again.   If all goes well, The Star Engine will be coming out soon, and further books out over the next few months!

I’m finishing out A Quiet Death, the sequel to In Death’s Shadow.  I already have the cover done, so once I have it done and out to my readers, the only thing I’ll be waiting on is final edits.  That’s up first in the queue and I hope to have it out by the end of the month.

Lastly, I’ve been outlining the future of the Children of Valor series as well as the Forsaken Valor series and where those tie in together and just how I’ll write them.  There are plenty more stories coming there, so don’t worry, I’ll update here as I get closer to more releases in both series.

That’s all for now, thanks everyone for reading!

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.

***

 

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.