New series begins

I can’t wait for tomorrow. I’ve waited so long already and the launch is practically upon us! The first volume of my YA series about wormholes, the apocalypse and a pair of young lovers is about to be released. January 26th to be precise. Here’s the cover for starters.

abomination_exlarge

 

Here’s the Finch Books holding page while the website clunks into action

https://www.finch-books.com/

and here’s a short excerpt from the opening chapters of Abomination.

 

Carla screamed, and the pile of dining chairs tottered and collapsed into an impossible tangle. Tully‘s face hit the floor, as the whole cellar seemed to rise and fall back with a deafening crash. From the floors above came an ominous rumbling and the cascading shriek of breaking glass.

He shoved backward, hard. A table skittered sideways, shedding its load of baskets and boxes over his back, and he was free. Carla was crouched by the door, pointing the flashlight down the corridor. She turned as Tully blundered to join her.

“I couldn’t hold him!” Her eyes were distraught. “He ran off behind the boiler.”

Tully’s annoyance dissolved instantly. Carla was almost at the end of her rope.

“Let’s go get him then,” he said, with what he hoped was a jaunty air, “before the whole bloody building falls down.”

They ran to the end of the corridor, Tully wondering if he was completely mad, playing hide and seek with a spoilt moggy in the middle of an earthquake.

“Come on, Tattoo. Time to get in your basket,” Carla cajoled. A stripy tail flicked in and out of sight in the shadows behind the boiler.

“Here. Try this.” Tully fished a squashed piece of focaccia out of his jacket pocket. “I was saving it for later,” he explained apologetically. Tattoo poked his nose out and sniffed. “Get ready.” One paw crept forward then another, nose and whiskers twitched with interest, as Tully placed the oil-scented bread on the floor just out of the cat’s reach. He flexed his hands and braced himself, ready to lose a couple of fingers.

Suddenly the cat froze, whiskers trembling in agitation, ears flicked back against his skull, and fur standing on end. Tully lunged and the cat backed away spitting, backing away not from Tully’s hands but from a round hole in the wall. It was a hole the size of a manhole cover, a hole that contained a blackness darker than any blackness Tully had ever seen, a blackness that vibrated and whined and moved like ink spreading through a glass of black water. Intrigued, Tully reached out a questing hand to the hole, the vibrating emptiness, whatever it was.

 

Carla shouted a warning, No! and grabbed his other hand to pull him away as the ground shifted and buckled again. As they staggered, falling, floundering, the hole appeared to tip toward them, growing in size, reaching out to enclose them both. Above their heads the building shook itself apart, and they plunged into the humming darkness.

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End of NaNoWriMo

And beginning of WordPress’s spray a blizzard across your blog posts campaign. Thanks WP—I love it really.

Although I didn’t sign up officially, I was a fellow traveler this year, setting my own goal. It was far short of the 50k words that most people were aiming for. Knowing my capacity for wandering off subject and fiddling around with poems and bits of short fiction, my more modest goal was just to finish the first draught of In Paradisio, the third volume of the Wormholes series. I say modest advisedly, as I was aiming for an estimated total word count of 65k, and I’d already written 45k. Idling along at 5000 words a week, I reckoned a month should do it.

In the end, I reached The End first time around with over a week to spare and 74000 words on the clock. Yesterday evening, end of NaNo, the total after another run through stood at 78000. I’m pleased with what’s come out. I have a nice bunch of characters, a world that is (I hope) original, and a plot that explores love and relationships more than superpowers and good versus evil. Nor are there nearly as many plot holes as I expected. Maybe I just haven’t noticed them yet.

Volume three???? I hear you ask. What happened to volumes one and two? I’m pleased to say that I have release dates for Wormholes #1: The Abomination:

January 26 for retail pre-order and purchase through the Finch Books website.

March 22 for general retail release.

The covers are being finalised so I’ll post when I get the final version. In the meantime, here’s a wormhole.

Clifford-torus

In Paradisio

Yesterday, despite a migraine that made me feel sick as a pig, I got on like a house on fire with In Paradisio, the third volume of the Wormholes series. In the cold light of a post-migraine morning, I can see that this story is not exactly a seamless web—we seem to have gone from William Blake to Bladerunner. Migraines do have an effect on the writing style and content! See what you think.

AbasElAkaad_Night

He turned back to the path, a pale, sandy line in the darkness, and in a few moments, the ash, the yew, and the star were lost among the forest shadows. Within a few more minutes, the ‘forest’ petered out. Carla recognised the signs of an industrial wasteland, with dilapidated hangars, oil drums, plastic bags spilling their vile-smelling contents across the scrubby grass, and the quick scurry of rats. Memories of the mall and the hordes of rats that infested the rubbish heaps came back with a sharp shock and she stepped backwards. Harut held her firmly.

“You said you wanted to see other worlds.”

“But nice ones! This is too much like what Earth became.”

Harut’s teeth glittered in the wan moonlight. “Your Earth became like this, at the end. Some worlds have been like this for centuries.”

Carla shivered, dreading what the shadows of the crumbling warehouses concealed.

“Now keep quite.” Harut whispered in her ear. “We don’t want to attract too much attention. Even if we are armed.”

“Are we?”

“Of course. Remember the first exercises you ever did? What do you think you were supposed to do with the energy you transformed?”

“Self-defence, I suppose.”

Harut snorted. “Yeah. You’d better be prepared to defend yourself, then. And definitively.”

Carla looked about nervously

“There’s never much action here,” Harut whispered. “Let’s go into town.”

The pale moonlit sheds disappeared, replaced by the oppressive mass of tall buildings, some in complete darkness, others lit up like Christmas trees. A six-lane highway cut a wide gash between the buildings, joined by tiny dark alleys, not wide enough to walk two abreast. Vehicles whizzed past silently, and a skytrain flicked by on a rail that ran down the median strip. Apart from the muted sounds of rubber tyres on asphalt, there was little noise.

“Where is everybody?”

“Everywhere,” Harut replied. “Watching.”

“What?”

“Anything that moves in this place is suspect. Look.”

The shadows moved in one of the dark alleys at the far side of the highway, and something slipped into the flickering light of a passing train. Something that ran on two legs, then dropped to four. Whatever it was darted down the next alley, dragging a bag of refuse behind it. Carla started to ask a question, but Harut hushed her with a tightened grip on her arm. A scream of agony followed by a long drawn out howl broke the expectant silence. Moments later, two more hunched shapes broke from the alley, bent over cumbersome bundles, and disappeared into the darkness.

“Let’s go see,” Harut said, leaning into a running pose.

“No!” Carla hung back. “I really don’t want to get close to whatever went on there.”

“C’mon! It’ll be fun, you’ll see.”

Reluctantly Carla was scooped up in Harut’s aura to the far side of the highway, to the dark entrance to the alleyway the first creature had entered. She wrinkled her nose. It stank of something rotting, the smell that lingers in the bottom of dustbins, and the smell of corruption, of things long dead. Harut strode forward, his hands working as he gathered energy from the light sources, the electricity humming in the train rails, the fear Carla felt in the air all around her.

“There. Behind those waste containers.”

Harut pointed. At first it looked like a bundle of plastic bin bags. Until it moved. A hand reached out and clawed the ground, trying to get a hold on something, maybe to stand up. An arm reached out, a shoulder lurched from the shadows, then a head. Carla gasped. The head jerked and eyes opened, fixed hers, dark and glittering. Blood poured from the head, the shoulder, running along the arm, dripping from the fingertips. The face was the face of an ape. It grinned in terror. Its teeth were as bloody as the gash in its forehead. It scrabbled in the dirt, grabbed a bag and clutched it to its chest.

“It’s been eating man flesh,” Harut said. His voice was cold, but Carla sensed his rising excitement. “In the bag. What the other two left.”

Carla turned her head, not wishing to see what spilled out of the bag when Harut threw a fistful of power at the creature. She heard the soft splat as the bolt hit home. She heard the beginnings of a scream of agony that stopped, strangled in the throat by death. She dragged on Harut’s hand, but he shrugged her away and strode into the alley to inspect the remains. There wasn’t much left to inspect.

“Let’s go get the others,” he said, as he strode past her back out towards the highway.

“Why?”

“Why not? They’re vermin. If we don’t get them, they’ll only jump somebody else.”

“You mean, in the bags, it was… it was…”

“Yup. It was person.”

“Harut, let’s go back. I don’t like it here.”

In the dark, in the intermittent flashes of passing cars, Harut’s face grew cold. “You said you don’t understand why Nisroc wants to keep out the hordes of dead souls. You seem to think all spirits are peaceable just because they’re dead. Well, it’s time to open your eyes. Come on!”

Carla tried to hang back, but Harut took her in his arms and she found herself at the end of another dark alley. The walls, black with filth rose so high the night sky was lost to view. The same stench caught at her throat, making her gag. Harut crept deeper into the sinister ginnel, listening for the movement. When she heard the furtive sound of whispering, Carla stiffened, getting ready to run, but Harut leapt forward with a cry, the twisted mesh of energy in his hand glowing, lighting the huddled forms cowering against the wall. The same ape-like faces, dark and malevolent, or was that dark and terrorized?

The energy leapt and the two creatures flew backwards in a sheet of flame. Skin sizzled, hair glittered like ruby light, and the screams of agony were brief. When the glare faded, Harut stepped up to the carbonized carcases and kicked one. His boot caved in the shrivelled ribs. He drew back his foot in disgust.

“That makes three more dead souls crying to get into Paradisio. That’s the kind of thing you want to have walking the green valleys with you? Filthy cannibals?”

What November has in store

First Monday of November, the notorious NaNoWriMo, and I have made a decision. I’m going to finish this novel in the month. It’s no big deal, I reckon another 20k words will finish the first draught and since I’ve set myself a lazy 5000 words a week goal, there should be no problem. I like setting myself challenges, as long as they’re easy ones.
This novel is the third volume of a duology. Yup, when I signed the contract for the first Wormholes book, I was persuaded that three is better than two, and as stories go on as long as they’re allowed, I accepted the challenge to write a third volume. I won’t go into the plot details—I’m still making them up as I go along—suffice it to say it’s a rather strange story.
Wormholes begins at the end of the world, with standard apocalyptic elements, plus some of my own invention, characters strictly my own and now personal friends, and an extremely unpleasant demise for our poor Earth. The second volume takes Carla and Tully to a parallel world, closely followed by the unpleasant elements of the first volume. What happens and how it happens is best left a closely guarded secret for the time being.
I had intended the story to end there, but of course, where there’s life there’s hope and another story. This third volume is on a different plane altogether and focuses more on relationships than exploding universes. Which doesn’t mean there isn’t a fair amount of action, it’s just that some of the action is of a more ‘adult’ nature, while keeping strictly within the decorous bounds of YA.

Here’s an unedited snippet.

Once they had passed through the second wall, Carla and Tully soared skyward, passing through the realm of the waking world and into the dark, velvet world of starlight. They walked for a while high above the glitter and ghostly glimmer of Paradisio that stretched as far as the eye could see.
“Where’s Between the Walls?” Tully asked, peering in all directions.
“We can’t see it. The walls around it send images of Paradisio back to us.”
“It really is like a box then. With a lid,” Tully mused.
“There’s something behind this, Tully. And I think we ought to find out what it is.”
“Why us?”
Carla chewed the inside of her lip thoughtfully. “Because we’re not exactly like the Grigori. I know they keep telling us we are, that we’ve come home blah blah blah. But I don’t feel as though I belong here. Not the way it is. Maybe the way it used to be…”
“Speculation, sweetheart. This place is the best. The dog’s bollix, as Dad would say. We’ll settle in, and when we do, we might find we were worrying about nothing at all.”
Tully smiled and hummed a tune, and Carla wondered if he even understood what made her feel uneasy. Tully’s singing made the stars gleam brighter, and meteorites danced like synchronised fireworks around their heads. Either she and Tully had developed powers they could never have imagined even in Lutecia, or Paradisio itself was full of magic. Tully stopped humming and held his head on one side, listening. His eyes glittered with amazement.
“Can you hear?” he whispered.
Carla stood quite still and held her breath. The silence of the night sky was broken. Like ripples on a stream, faint music made by unearthly voices came to her over the waves of darkness. She looked at Tully, her eyes wide.
“It’s the stars,” he breathed, “the planets. They’re singing.”
“What does it mean?”
Tully beamed at her. “It means we’re in heaven.”
Carla grinned. “Seriously.”
“The possibilities here are endless. Nothing is beyond us if we try hard enough. You can see why Nisroc wants to protect his world.”
Carla frowned slightly as if a cloud had passed over the moon, and the music faded. “Yeah. I s’ppose.”
Tully took her hand and led her into a fiery nest of stardust. “You worry too much,” he said gently and pulled her down beside him. “Time for dreaming.”
Carla snuggled into his arms, loosening his shirt from his trousers, letting his unmistakeable Tully smell fill her senses.
“I wonder if the Grigori dream too,” she said.
“Erelah said they all do.”
“Erelah? You mean we might bump into her up here?”
“What have you got against Erelah, anyway? She’s a good laugh, when you get to know her.”
“And you have?”
“Yeah, a bit.”
Carla fought to keep her ground in what felt like shifting sands. She held Tully tighter, finding the buckle on his belt. She bit his ear and whispered, “Like this?”
Tully kissed her hard on the mouth. “You ask the silliest questions.”
“Indulge me.”
Tully kissed her again. And again. “Of course not.”
His hands were on her skin beneath her shirt. His mouth was on hers. The stars were singing. Carla let the unpleasant thoughts slip into the gentle darkness between the planets and returned Tully’s kiss with the same passion as in the old days.

Sacha Black’s writing challenge: How’s your dialogue?

I’ve just been over to Sacha Black’s blog for a bit of inspiration. She is challenging anyone who fancies it to write a short story using only dialogue. Since my next release, the first volume of the Wormholes series, is pretty heavy on dialogue, I thought I’d give it a go. Here is one of the opening scenes reduced to dialogue.
Yesterday’s pic applies.
1280px-Young_planet

“You all right?”
“Can’t see any blood. Mind you, I can see feck all, so it’s possible I’ve lost a limb or two.”
“The building must have come down on top of us.”
“Lucky we’ve got such thick skulls.”
“There has to be a way out. Seems a bit lighter over that way…”
“Careful, Carla. There could be aftershocks.”
“Yeah, exactly. I’d rather not be in here when they hit. It is lighter over this end. Tully! There’s a way out. I can see… Porca miseria!”
“I’m here, I’m here! What’s up? Are you okay?”
“Look out there.”
“Jesus! What in the name of…”
“Tully, where are we?”
“Looks like half time in the War of the Worlds. Let’s go back. There might be a back door.”
“Just for once, can you be serious? How can we go back? Back where? It was the end of the world starting, remember?”
“Looks like it’s over now, so we’re in luck there, at least.”
“I don’t fancy going out there. Not till they put the fires out and those cracks in the ground stop opening and closing like that.”
“Tough! Now just turn around slowly, and don’t try any funny stuff.”
“Who said that?”
“He did.”
“The dwarf with the Kalashnikov?”
“I’m not a dwarf! I’m eleven.”
“Whoever you are, put that fuckin’ thing away before it goes off!”
“Nah. You’re coming with me.”
“Where?”
“Shopping mall. Ace wants to see you.”
“Who’s Ace?”
“The boss. You mess with Ace and he’ll pull all your skin off. A little bit at a time.”
“Okay. Just askin’. You said you were out of deodorant, didn’t you, Carla?”
“Does your mother know where you are?”
“Nobody knows anything anymore. Now move it!”

100 word story: Red planet

I found this intriguing picture among the NASA images on Wiki. My first thought was, I’ve been here. Or rather it’s the kind of place my intrepid heroes from Wormholes could have been. Here’s a 100 word snippet.

1280px-Young_planet

“Where in the name of feck are we?” Tully wanted to know.
“Jurassic Park?” Carla suggested.
“I think we should go back and try again. If there is life out there, I, for one, have no wish to meet it.”
“Hang on.” Carla pointed. “Over there. I thought I saw…”
“Those gobbets of chewed-up rock?”
“Look more like teeth to me. Rotten, broken, pointy teeth.”
The ground trembled. Meteors wizzed through the red sky. The ragged rows of rocks moved. All together.
“They are teeth,” Tully whispered. “It’s jaws. And I have a horrible feeling we’re inside them.”
“Porca miseria!”

500 word story: Apocalypse Soon

As promised/threatened, here is an expanded story on the theme of yesterday’s photo.

A hush fell on the city as flames licked the night sky, a sheet of burning light rising in the east. The two watchers shielded their eyes, peering into the glare to glimpse the next sign, the host of giant locusts, human-featured, vengeance streaming like comet tails in their hair.

That was what it said in the book anyway, and what the loud speakers had been shrieking all day across the city. There was no safety, nowhere to hide. Nothing would be beyond the reach of the creatures of the Apocalypse. Scorpion-tailed horses and leather-winged Harpies would pour from the skies in a torrent of poison and blood. Pale, monstrous worms would burrow up from the bowels of the earth, eating through rock, concrete and steel. Behemoths, forgotten by all but the Earth, would wade in from the ocean depths. All would be flesh eaters, and their pasture would be humanity.

The end is nigh! Screamed the message. The vengeance of the Earth is upon us!

Only the righteous will be saved!

Pleas for misericord wailed from the churches, the mosques and the synagogues. Thousands flocked into every religious edifice, and there was such a weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth that the worms heard in their subterranean galleries. The sound rose from steeples and minarets, calling down the riders from the sky with their mouths full of pointed teeth and scorpion poison in their scimitar tails. The air vibrated with lamentations, shuddering in the river waves that carried the plaintive, desolate sound into the ocean. The behemoths heard in the deep ocean rifts, the rocky clefts full fathom five and two thousand times five, where no pearls shone. And they slid their bulk, encrusted with living fossils, into the light for the first and last time.

The two watchers saw all this because they had eyes to see. Their heads were not bowed to the dusty ground in terror, they asked for no mercy because there was no one to give it. They stood on a hill, high above the city, raised their eyes to the skies, and in the livid light of midnight, they saw the first stars fall.

“It has begun,” the older watcher said sadly and cast a last lingering glance across the once majestic city that hunched now in a cringing, quivering mass around the hot-blooded fodder.

“How long before they finish the task?” his companion asked.

“If they take their pleasure slowly, we may have months. Perhaps only weeks if their fury is blind and blood red.”

“And then…?”

“We are next.”

They turned their thoughts from the stricken world and fixed them on home. Both watchers raised their ash staffs and opened a portal in the night. The kindling air spun and whirred, turning gradually from the colours of the apocalypse to the blues and greens of a gentler place. With heavy hearts full of dread, they strode into the vortex, bringers of terrible news to the next world that lay beyond.

Clifford-torus

This short story could also serve as a prelude to my story, Wormholes, to be published by Finch Books this autumn. More info to follow.