Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, writer, and possessed by cats

Tag: Honor and Duty (Page 1 of 2)

Life has been interesting

The blog has been silent for the last several weeks and I apologize for that. I won’t bore you with all the details but life has been interesting and there are just some times when it is best not to say anything. No, nothing is wrong with me or mine — well, nothing that dropping temps below triple digits won’t cure. The simple truth is that I had to pull back from social media for a bit or I was going to do or say something I would regret. This political season seems to have brought out the worst in everyone. Making matters even worse is that it doesn’t seem limited to just politics. It is as if some cosmic force hit most of humanity with a stupid bat. Or maybe a contrary bat. I’m not sure which but I swear almost every ounce of common sense seems to have gone down the drain. So has common courtesy.

So, instead of going ballistic here or on FB or elsewhere, I stepped back. Yes, I’ve been busy. I have to start out by giving kudos to everyone who helped with the Bedford (TX) Library Friends book sale this weekend. The sale was a roaring success and well worth all the hard work everyone put in on it. For those of you who live in the DFW area, if you haven’t discovered the Bedford Public Library, take a few minutes to do so. I think it is the best library around and the staff is the friendliest and most helpful there is.

I’ve also been busy on the writing front. The draft for Dagger of Elanna the sequel to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1), is finished. I am working on the second draft — which is usually what goes out to beta readers. I hope to have it done by then end of next week. I have also finished the outline (something I rarely do to the detail it happened this time) for a novel that will sort of bridge Slay Bells Ring and Skeletons in the Closet. This novel uses characters from both and brings in some of the supernatural/paranormal elements from Skeletons. I know. I know. My muse is strange but this is the book it demanded I take time out to get the details down before I could go back to Dagger. I also have Victory from Ashes, the final book in the current story arc for Honor and Duty (3 Book Series), plotted out. So there has been writing going on — plus I have been editing a wonderful first novel by a friend of mine. More on that after I send back the edits (hopefully this weekend).

Oh, I have also done a lot of reading. I highly recommend the latest in the Monster Hunter International series. Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge. I had been looking forward to this for quite awhile, ever since John Ringo started posting snippets on FB. Yes, my friends, this is what we have all been looking forward to — and what a certain group of folks have dreaded. John Ringo and Larry Correia have joined forced to product Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge. It is a great read, lots of fun and, while it is definitely Ringo, it is also Correia. I cannot wait for the next book to come out. Fair warning. I am not responsible for any lost sleep you experience because you can’t put the book down, nor am I responsible for any ruined keyboards, etc., caused during the reading of this book. Ringo. Correia. ‘Nuff said.

I also read a series of books by a well-known, non-Baen author. While most were enjoyable, I noticed something that really bothered me as the series progressed. The women in the books, each book featured a different member of a close group of women as one of the two main characters, started out being competent, strong and still women. They weren’t “men with boobs”. Initially, they didn’t need a man to “save” them. But, as the series went on, even the strongest of the women turned into something I kept expecting to have the vapors and faint dead away in an oh-so-ladylike swoon. As this happened, their male counterparts became more alpha — to the point where they weren’t particularly likable.

In some ways, reading this series was like watching a train wreck. You know it isn’t going to get any better but you keep hoping. Then you get to the point where you don’t want to look away. You want to see just how bad it will get. Then, that part of your brain that reminds you that you can learn even from badly crafted writing, you keep reading and making notes so this doesn’t happen to your books.

What I did like was the way the author made the setting and the town itself something close to characters by the end of the series. But I found myself not cheering the leads in the last few books. That’s a hard thing for me to excuse, especially in books where you are supposed to identify with the characters, when you are supposed to hope everything works out for them in the end. Instead, I was really hoping for a precision missile strike.

Characters are supposed to grow. They are supposed to meet challenges and sometimes make mistakes. They have to stumble and even fall on occasion. But you don’t take strong characters and, without explanation or warning, turn them into wilting flowers who need someone to protect them and stand up for them. If, in book one, the main lead is a strong, capable woman — be she a cop or computer nerd or whatever — who doesn’t hesitate to do whatever is needed to protect herself or her family/friends, don’t have her waiting behind like a “good little girl” while the men go off to deal with the bad guy in later books. At least don’t do it without explaining why she suddenly not only lives with a bunch of macho chauvinists but accepts and likes being “put in her place”. If you have a character who is a medical professional and who is willing to risk her life for a stranger, don’t have her agreeing not to do everything she can to save her sister a few books later because it might put her in danger — at least not without a valid explanation of why.

In other words, this particular author set up a world and expectations for their characters and then broke the rules without foreshadowing or explanation. I hate that. But it did serve as a reminder that it is easy to do — especially if you are feeling deadline pressures and decide that taking the easy way out will be okay just this once.

And now I am back — back to writing, back to blogging and back to being a pain in the backside of my muse.

A quick note

Thanks to everyone for their support of Taking Flight (Honor and Duty) and Battle Bound (Honor and Duty). I promise to get Battle Wounds, the third short story in this particular story arc in the Honor and Duty universe out in the next month to six week. I am going to take a bit of time away from the short stories, however, in order to finish up Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods, Book 2) and star the final edits on Victory from Ashes (Honor and Duty, Book 4).

When I started Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1), I never expected it to morph into a series. At least not like it has. Nor did I expect to write any short stories in the universe. But Ashlyn Shaw and company have become some of my favorites and it will be difficult to say goodbye to them when the times comes. When that will be, I’m not sure. The current plan is to finish the Honor and Duty story arc with the next book. However, I have a feeling that is most definitely not the end of Ash’s story. Plus there are other characters in the universe who want their own stories told. So, I have a feeling I won’t be leaving Fuercon or the Devil Dogs any time soon and I’m happy with that.

As I’ve noted before, I have the very rough outline done for Dagger of Elanna. One of the things that has been holding me up has been finding the voice for one of the new characters who is being introduced in this book, one who will wind up playing a major role in the series before everything is said and done. I finally found that voice yesterday. That’s one of the main reasons I want to get back into Dagger. I don’t want to lose the voice.

After Dagger, I’ll finish up Victory and start the next Mac Santos book. Somewhere in there as well will be another book along the lines of Slay Bells Ring. Whether it will follow someone from that book or not, I’m not sure — and, yes, Pat. I know you want more from those characters. But I have a plot already playing around in the back of my mind.

So I guess I’d best get back to work. In the meantime, if you haven’t seen this post from The Passive Voice, go check it out. Pay particular attention to what PG has to say about the Shatzkin article. I think PG is right on the money. Statzkin purpetuates the mindset of many in traditional publishing and, in doing so, ignores so many of the challenges the industry faces. It is time for those in their ivory towers of publishing to pull their heads out of the sand. They need to listen and pay attention to what readers and writers are saying. Until they do, and until they change their business plans, traditional publishing will continue to struggle.

Now, for the blatant self-promo. If you haven’t checked outHonor and Duty (3 Book Series), why not give it a try?




Battle Bound is Live!

About two weeks ago, I published the first in a series of short stories set in the Honor and Duty universe. Taking Flight told the story of Ashlyn Shaw’s first assignment as a member of the Fuerconese Marine Corps. The second story, Battle Bound (Honor and Duty), is now live. It takes place approximately 4 years before Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1).
Newly promoted, Captain Ashlyn Shaw has been ordered to take Delta Company to the Bennington System. Their mission is simple: secure groundside defenses and seek out the Callusian invaders. It should be a simple assignment. The Fuerconese Navy had proven itself time and again since war had been declared to be more than a match for the Callusians. Once Taskforce Liberator, under the command of Admiral Tremayne, secured the system approaches, Ash and her Devil Dogs could get to work.

Except no battle plan ever survives the first encounter with the enemy. This time the Callusians are breaking pattern and it will take everything Tremayne and Ashlyn have to lead their people to victory.

The Devil Dogs will get the mission done, no matter what the cost.

Hello, Friday

Yesterday was one of those days in a writer’s life that was both Christmas-like and the most tedious day combined. Christmas because the new laptop arrived. Better yet, it showed up by 0900 hrs. and I was thrilled. Surely that meant I would be able to get it set up and running quickly enough I could actually get some work done. Tedious because, well, that wasn’t going to happen. Not that it really surprised me. Still, it would have been nice to have managed to get something done.

Don’t get me wrong. The problem wasn’t all in the setup. No, my internet provider had a big hand in it as well. I thought things were working slowly all afternoon but didn’t stop long enough to do a speed test — okay, half a dozen — until dinnertime. That’s when I realized I’d been right. The internet was running at half speed. So, call was placed and I remembered within a few minutes why I hate, absolutely hate, dealing with tech support after hours.

First, we had to go through the script even though I had already done all of it before the call. Then I had to wait while the CSR kept stepping away from her station to ask someone what she should do next. How do I know? Because she kept her mic open and I could hear her. Then she couldn’t find a way to get her system to talk to my modem and she had to walk me through doing what she should have been able to do. Finally, 45 minutes later, I had speed back up to where it should be.

Only to have it drop back down to slow speeds less than 10 minutes later. At that point, I threw my hands up in the air and gave up. Fortunately, so far this morning, everything is where it is supposed to be.

Anyway. . . .

The new laptop, an ASUS ROG GL552VW-DH74, is awesome. I miss my 17 inch screen but it isn’t taking long to get used to the 15 inch on this model. Frankly, the better build quality in the 552 is worth giving up the larger screen. The only thing that will take some real getting used to is the keyboard. It has a good feel to it but it’s different. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but after three years using the other laptop, I got used to how that keyboard felt and sounded. But, all the keys work on this one and there is no drag and lag with this one like I was getting with the other. Add in this one is much more portable than the other and, well, I’m a very happy camper.

The worst thing about moving from one machine to another is having to get rid of the bloatware every machine seems to come with these days. I think I got rid of all of it and I’m figuring out the ins and outs of this system. The necessary programs have been installed and it is time to get back to work. Yay!

That means I’ll be busy this weekend trying to catch up. I hope to finish Battle Bound today. If I do, I will put it up on the blog Monday. In the meantime, don’t forget that Taking Flight (Honor and Duty) is available on Amazon. I have to thank everyone for helping take it into the Top 10 in short reads in paid SF/F and Top 30 in short reads paid literature and fiction. That is the best I have ever done with a short story.

So I guess I’ll do a bit more push for the story.  😉

Taking Flight (Honor and Duty)  is available for download from Amazon. For those who missed it earlier, this is a prequel short story to the Honor and Duty novels.

Duty, honor, sacrifice. That motto meant everything to newly commissioned Second Lieutenant Ashlyn Shaw. She thought she understood the meaning of those simple words. Little did she know.

Challenged by those who believed she made it through the Academy on her family’s coattails, a roommate who just wants to see “some action” and a gunnery sergeant determined to make a real Marine out of her, Ash soon realizes what it means to be a Marine. As the signs point to war on the horizon, she is determined to do everything she can to serve Fuercon and do the Corps proud.

Cover Reveal and Reminder

battleboundFirst the cover reveal. The original image was licensed through Dollar Photo Club (now Adobe Stock). The image itself is titled “Space Marines Arriving on a Red Planet” by Algol. Cover design is by Sarah A. Hoyt.

This is the cover for the second short story set in the Honor and Duty universe. The first snippet of the short story can be found here. I will try to get the second snippet up later today. That depends on what how quickly I can get the new laptop up and running. The current work machine is becoming more and more problematic.

That said, the short story is almost finished. Why is it that I have a harder time writing short than I do long?

Anyway, Battle Bound is almost finished. I should have it done in the next day or two. The third story, Battle Wounds, should be done by the end of July. Yes, I know that is longer than I initially said but I really need to get some work done on some other projects as well, most especially Dagger of Elanna which has the very rough draft done and is begging me to get down to the nitty gritty on it. I am also toying with the idea of doing a short story or another novella in the Nocturnal Lives series to carry through until I get the next book done later this year.

As for the reminder, Taking Flight (Honor and Duty) is available for download from Amazon. For those who missed it earlier, this is a prequel short story to the Honor and Duty novels.

Duty, honor, sacrifice. That motto meant everything to newly commissioned Second Lieutenant Ashlyn Shaw. She thought she understood the meaning of those simple words. Little did she know.

Challenged by those who believed she made it through the Academy on her family’s coattails, a roommate who just wants to see “some action” and a gunnery sergeant determined to make a real Marine out of her, Ash soon realizes what it means to be a Marine. As the signs point to war on the horizon, she is determined to do everything she can to serve Fuercon and do the Corps proud.

It’s live!

Taking Flight (Honor and Duty) is available for download from Amazon. For those who missed it earlier, this is a prequel short story to the Honor and Duty novels.

Duty, honor, sacrifice. That motto meant everything to newly commissioned Second Lieutenant Ashlyn Shaw. She thought she understood the meaning of those simple words. Little did she know.

Challenged by those who believed she made it through the Academy on her family’s coattails, a roommate who just wants to see “some action” and a gunnery sergeant determined to make a real Marine out of her, Ash soon realizes what it means to be a Marine. As the signs point to war on the horizon, she is determined to do everything she can to serve Fuercon and do the Corps proud.

Check it out!

Evolution of a Character

One of the things I love most about a series is watching how the characters grow. It is more than how the deal with a particular situation that could result in life or death. It is how they relate to the people and world around them. I want characters who aren’t cardboard cutouts. I need to be able to relate to them, to their humanity, for lack of a better word.

I’m not explaining this very well — I blame it on not having enough coffee yet. So let me try again. I want to see characters who have character faults, who have challenges to meet without becoming a cardboard superhero to do so. I want them to be realistic, within the setting of the story and their own backstories, in how they respond to a situation. But I also want them to know they have faults and weaknesses and try to work to improve, or at least work with those weaknesses so they don’t keep hiding in the proverbial corner.

I started by saying I love seeing this growth in a series but, truth to tell, I love it in single novels as well. The difference is a series gives the author more time — and more situations — which can help lead to that growth. Of course, there are exceptions. Books like Gone with the Wind, 75th Anniversary Edition or A Woman of Substance (Harte Family Saga Book 1), books where years and even decades of a character’s life are covered should also have growth. It can be growth in a good way or bad, but it should be there.

That growth is something I have had to look at with my work. I hope I have done it. I think I have, at least with my two major series.

Mackenzie Santos has probably been the most challenging to write because her world has been turned upside down. Things she once thought were nothing more than the imaginings of filmmakers and authors are the realities of her life. When Nocturnal Origins opens, Mac doesn’t know what is happening to her. She is afraid she is losing her mind. Maybe the pressures of being a cop have finally gotten to her and she’s cracked. Or maybe almost dying after being attacked before the book began did it. All she knows for sure is that weird things are happening and there is no logical explanation for them.

When she finally accepts the fact that she is a shapeshifter, something she never knew existed outside of film and book, she is faced with having to either live up to the oaths she took as a cop, oaths she has held pretty much sacrosanct for almost ten years, or stepping outside the bounds of those oaths to protect not only the “normals” but her own people as well.

It’s not a decision she makes easily nor is it one she doesn’t have second, third and one-hundredth doubts about. If she holds to the oaths she took as a cop, oaths that are a very real part of who she is, she knows her actions can and probably will lead to the discovery of shapeshifters. That discovery, she knows, would be very bad on so many different levels. There was the risk of public panic, panic that could make the witch hunts of old look tame. Then there were those with little regard for anything other than their own financial gain who would try to use the shapeshifters for who knew what, none of it good. Add to that the fear of what the government might do. . . and she is having to make decisions that don’t sit easily.

Over the course of the next three books and one novella, Mac learns more about her heritage and begins the journey of mending fences with her mother. By the time we get to Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4), she has come to a balance — sometimes precarious — between who she was and who she is now. She is still a cop but she is a shifter and that means she sometimes has to apply shifter law instead of the law on the books. But it all comes down to protecting the innocent, no matter who they are. Of course, now she is having to wrap her mind around the fact that she has to make a decision about what course to follow where her fellow shapeshifters are concerned. Does she pledge to the ruling council, even if she doesn’t agree with what they are doing, or does she follow her conscience and help find a way to ease her new people out of the shadows before their existence is revealed through modern technology? Add in government entanglements and personal desires and a younger sister who is more headstrong than wise, and her life is nothing but interesting.

And wouldn’t she give almost anything for a run-of-the-mill murder case? Things were much simpler when she thought she knew all the rules.

Ashlyn Shaw, the lead character from Honor and Duty (3 Book Series) presents a different set of challenges. Her world and those she care for betrayed her. At least that’s what she believes when Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1) opens. She has spent two years at a military penal colony. Those of her squad who had not been killed on their last mission had been court martialed and convicted along with her. Isolated from family and friends, betrayed by her government and the Corps she loved, she has had two years to grow bitter and plot her vengeance. All she has to do is survive her time at the penal colony.

Except her world is turned upside down again and she is brought back to her home planet. Things have changed in the last two years. Those responsible for what happened to her are no longer in control. At least that is what she’s told. But does she dare trust them? She had made that mistake once and she was damned if she would do so again.

When the capital is attacked, instinct and duty take over. They are strong enough to keep her from deserting and going after those she holds responsible for what happens. Not that she gives up those plans. No, she will do what is necessary to keep those few who supported her safe and then she would go hunting. She didn’t care if it meant a return to the penal colony or even her death. She would avenge those who had died because of their betrayal. Maybe then she would be able to sleep at night.

Ash is, to be honest, broken in a lot of ways. Duty, ingrained in her from birth, keeps her from doing what she wants. But she keeps telling herself she will make sure her comrades are avenged, no matter what the personal cost. Even as she begins to trust again, that need is still there. It breaks through from time to time, causing her to take action she would never have done before being brought up on charges. However, over the course of the next three books, she slowly heals emotionally. Part of it is because her champions are smart enough to surround her with those she does trust. Part is because she sees who things have changed. It doesn’t mean she believes such a betrayal can’t happen again. Politics can cause almost anything to happen. But she won’t be so naive as to not take steps to protect herself and those under her command if her instincts start shouting about something not being right.

It’s not an instant emotional or mental healing. The doubts flare up, sometimes at the worst possible moment. She doesn’t always recognize them — at least not at the moment.

I hope I get all that across, for both Mac and Ashlyn. In my mind, that growth, and the internal struggles the growth causes, help make them more interesting characters. Hopefully, my readers agree.

You can find both series, as well as my other work, on Amazon.

Gaming, inspiration and an update

I know. I know. The title of the post seems to be a little bit all over the place but there is a connection. In this instance, it is what I’ve been doing to get into the mood to tackle the final draft of Victory from Ashes.

I don’t know about other writers, but after I finish a project, I’m wrung. Mentally and physically, I feel like I’ve been on a marathon to end all marathons and I need time to recharge and make the mental shift for the next project. That has been doubly hard this time because I am not writing the book I thought I would be. After finishing Honor from Ashes, I planned to finish writing Dagger of Elanna, second in the Sword of the Gods series. Then came the debacle with the wrong file being attached to the title on Amazon and the week plus it took for Amazon to correct the situation. I won’t go back into that whole fiasco other to say that I knew I needed to do something to thank those who pre-ordered the book and stuck through the problems until the correct file could be downloaded.

I finally decided I would write at least one short story in the Honor and Duty universe and release it here for free for a limited time before taking it to Amazon. So the question became what story should I write and what character(s) should I focus on? That question has been answered and not one but three short stories have been drafted.

TAKING FLIGHTThe first, Taking Flight, should be ready to go up on this blog by the end of next week. It’s been drafted and the cover has been created. I will leave it up on the blog for a week before removing it and putting it up for sale on Amazon.

Taking Flight tells the tale of Ashlyn Shaw’s first assignment after receiving her commission. It isn’t all easy going nor is it exactly what she expected. While there will be explosions and gunfire — what space opera or mil-sf doesn’t have them? — there will also be some insight into her family background that hasn’t made it into the books. This is also a much younger Ashlyn, one who hasn’t learned some of the very hard lessons the older version has been forced to learn.

The next two stories, Battle Bound and Battle Wounds, will follow in one to two week intervals. As with Taking Flight, they will be offered for free here for a week or so before I take them down before putting them up on Amazon. Battle Bound takes place approximately 4 – 5 years before the series opens and involves Ash’s first command as a Devil Dog. Battle Wounds will give a look at the events that led up to Ash’s court martial.

So what does this have to do with gaming and inspiration? That is simple, at least this time. To get my mind away from fantasy-mode, necessary for Dagger of Elanna but not for the short stories or Victory from Ashes, I did what I normally do. I read. I reread Heinlein and Weber, Nuttal and more. But it was to no avail. My brain simply wasn’t making the transition back to the SF side. Music and movies didn’t do it either. That left one thing — gaming.

So I loaded up Mass Effect Trilogy — again. Despite the botched ending of ME3, this is still one of my favorite game series. It is highly replayable because of the different choices you can make during the games and the different classes you can play as. Because I haven’t played the games in some time, the game isn’t automatic. I have to think about what is coming next and plan my strategies and, in doing so, the switch in my head was turned on and the SF writing side came back to life.

Sometimes it takes doing something different from writing to get that switch to turn on. No, I’m not writing ME fan fiction for the next book or the short stories. There are no Krogan or Assari or any of the other characters anywhere in my work. It was the mindset, something about figuring out where to position my character and the NPCs in a firefight, as well as whether to let someone live or die, that seemed to do it.

So now the writing is coming fast and furious. The very rough draft of Victory from Ashes will soon become a workable draft that can be sent off to the alpha reader. The one good thing this inability for a couple of weeks to work in the SF world did was it gave me the chance to finish the very rough draft of Dagger of Elanna. That means I should only need two months or so to get it ready for publication after Victory comes out. If all goes as plans, that means I will be back on my publishing schedule by October.

Fingers crossed.

But to do so, I need to get off the internet and get to work. Until tomorrow!

Blogging drought is over

It is somehow appropriate that on a morning when rain is falling — and threatening to continue to fall until several inches accumulate — I am finally able to sit down and blog again. It never fails that as soon as I promise myself and those who read this blog that it looks like life is cooperating and the blog will continue on a daily — or almost daily — basis, roadblocks suddenly appear. Well, I’ve cleared them, for the moment at least, and here I am. Back again.

So, what’s kept me so busy that the blog went silent for most of the last few weeks? Nothing earth-shattering. The simple truth is that I’ve simply been busy. The first was to get the final edits done and input for Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). It was more challenging than usual because I was trying out a new editor and it took some time to get on the same page.

The second was the usual pre-April 15th idiocy we all have to go through. Income tax prep and filing. Ick. Bah. Poo. As any of you who have followed me here or on Mad Genius Club over the years know, numbers are not my friends. Fortunately, I have a great accountant. Unfortunately, I have to get organized before going to him. Which means, I tend to procrastinate until almost too late.

There were other issues as well, but they have been dealt with. So, blogging resumes.

Which brings up the question of what to blog about today. That’s easy. Buy my book(s)! Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) comes out this week. It is available for pre-order right now.

For those who have been waiting for Dagger of Elanna, the sequel to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1), it is in the works. Once I was able to sit down and get started on it, the words started flowing. Well, to be honest, I had my usual “I hate first chapters” moment for a day or two. It wasn’t that the beginning chapter was bad. It wasn’t even that I realized I was starting the book in the wrong place — something a lot of us have done at least once. That’s what rough drafts are for. It was more the shifting of mental gears from one book to the next, one genre to another. Once my brain made that transition, it’s been more of a problem to stop the words than it is to sit down and write.

That can be a problem, that sense of not being able to stop the words. I found myself facing it yesterday and had to force the muse to sit back and let me have a day. I am very glad I did, even if I lost a day writing. Instead of sitting at my desk working, I went into Dallas — well, one of the suburbs — and saw the very excellent one-man play “Wiesenthal”. It was written and stars Tom Dugan and takes place on the last day Simon Wiesenthal, the famed Nazi hunter, spent in his office before retiring. Dugan is excellent in the role and is a master in drawing in the audience.

While the play does deal with Wiesenthal the Nazi hunter, it is more about Wiesenthal the man. He is full of humor but also recognizes that the drive that impelled him for much of his life to track down those responsible for the deaths of so many wasn’t always what was best for his family. It is also a play about not so much forgiveness but the understanding that we all have a choice to make, it might not always be an easy choice or a popular one but that choice, in the end, defines our humanity.

I came away from it with a lot to think about — and, yes, the writer part of my brain has been processing it to decide how I can use the play< and the thoughts it evoked, in some future work.

Afterwards, there was a great early dinner at Jasper’s, one of Kent Rathburn’s restaurants. Great food, prices that still blow me away — for their reasonableness — and awesome service. It was all topped off with “Jasper’s House Coffee” that has no coffee in it but lots of good other stuff: Bailey’s Irish Creme, Amaretto, Kahlua, Frangelico and whipped cream.

Then, to close out a wonderful day, I came home to find a proposed cover for Skeletons in the Closet. The very awesome Sarah A. Hoyt did the cover and it is almost exactly like what I had in mind. I’ll be honest, I’d come close to despairing finding anything to fit because the book is so different from anything else I’ve written. This cover, in my opinion, rocks. There might be a few minor tweaks between now and when Skeletons goes live but they will be minor.



You can find snippet one here , snippet two here, snippet three here, snippet four here and snippet five here.

So, I’m back. I’m writing and I’m blogging.

For those who haven’t had a chance to read the first two books in the Honor and Duty (3 Book Series), click the link. Thanks!

One month to go

In one month, Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) will go live. I am almost done with the final edits. This book has been a blast to write. While it doesn’t finish the story arc started in Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1) and continued in Duty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2), the end is near. One more book and this particular arc will be done. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be returning to the universe. I already have an idea of a new story arc for a future series.

To kick off the final month before Honor comes out, I thought I would revisit the first two books. Today’s snippet will be from Vengeance.

*     *     *

“Prisoner Four One Niner Baker One-A, prepare for transfer,” a disembodied voice said from the overhead speaker.

Lips pulled back, teeth bared in an animalistic sneer, the prisoner sat up and swung her legs over the side of her bunk. As she stood, she turned away from the cell door. Her hands automatically went behind her head, fingers lacing. Almost without thought, she sank to her knees, legs spread, ankles crossed. Then, realizing what she had done, she cursed silently, hating herself and those responsible for bringing her to this state.

Two years. Two very long years in Hell had taught her how to act. Her body responded automatically to the commands barked at her. Only when she allowed her mind to surface, to let herself fully experience what was going on around her, did she hesitate. But not this time. There was no reason to disobey, no threat yet to meet.

Those years may have taught her all too painfully how to act, but they hadn’t broken her. Not yet at any rate. Still they had come close. Two years cut off from those she cared for, from almost all human contact. Stripped of even the most basic of human rights and dignity, she knew she was little more than an animal to break and tame to those in charge. She knew it just as she knew she could do nothing about it.

Just as she knew she’d been betrayed by the government she’d served and had been ready to die for.

What she didn’t know was why. Why had she been betrayed? Worse, why had those who’d served loyally at her side been targeted?

The soft swoosh of the heavily armored door sliding open broke the silence a few moments later. With her back to the door, she couldn’t see who entered, not that she wanted to. One of the first lessons she’d learned after arriving at the Tarsus military penal colony was not to look. That had been a very painful lesson, one that had landed her in the prison’s infirmary for several days. It was also a mistake she’d never repeated.

That had been one of many lessons she’d been forced to endure since arriving there. With the commandant’s tacit – hell, as far as she knew it was his overt – approval, the guards could be as sadistic as they wanted. Correction for even the most insignificant infraction might take the form of a rifle butt to the ribs or kidney, and that was if she was lucky. If not, the beating that followed would leave her hurting so badly she could barely move. Even then, the guards wouldn’t send her to the infirmary. After all, it was so much more fun to watch her suffer, reminding her that she alone was responsible for what had happened.

Fortunately, she’d heard the horror stories before arriving at the penal colony. Even though she hadn’t been ready to believe them, they had helped prepare her for what she’d face. Even so, it had been a shock the first time one of the guards beat her down for asking what would have been a simple question on the outside. That had been enough to convince her that the best course of action was to remain silent unless it was imperative that she speak. That wasn’t to say there hadn’t been times when circumstances forced her to break that rule and she bore the scars to prove it. All she wanted now was to live through her prison term. Survival was the first goal. Vengeance would come later. Not for her, but for those who’d followed her despite her protests and who had paid the ultimate price as a result.

She swallowed hard, forcing her mind away from past horrors, as boots clomped across the small cell in her direction. A rough hand grabbed her right arm, twisting it painfully behind her back. She flinched as a security cuff was locked tightly around that wrist. Her breath hissed out as the process was repeated with her left arm. Moments later, similar restraints were fastened about her ankles. Then a gloved hand closed around her left arm and jerked her to her feet.

Guard Captain Gavin Haritos spun her to face him, grinning sadistically. His fist caught her with a vicious backhand. With a sharp cry of pain, she staggered back. The short chain connecting her ankles tripped her. Only the man’s quick grab at the front of her jumpsuit kept her from falling. He pulled her forward and, with the ease of much practice, draped a heavy hood over her head before she could react.

Haritos’ cruel grip on her arm kept her on her feet as he hauled her out of her cell and down the long corridor. Blood pounded in her ears, almost deafening her. Fear and hatred raced through her, sparking every fiber of her survival instincts. She knew this was going to be bad, very bad. It always was when the guard captain came for her. But she could do nothing to stop him, at least not yet.

“This is your lucky day, bitch.” Haritos shoved her into one of the three lifts at the end of the corridor and she heard him slam his fist against the control panel. A moment later, the lift gave a slight lurch and she felt the car start downward. “You’re being transferred, Shaw. But don’t get your hopes up that it means the rules no longer apply because they do. If you’re smart, you’ll remember those poor bastards sentenced here with you. Everything you say and do from now on impacts them.”

A soft moan escaped her lips before she could stop it and fear raced like an open current through her. No matter how many times she’d been in this position before, she couldn’t help it. A transfer could mean almost anything, none of it good. Not as long as the survivors of her unit were still on Tarsus.

To her surprise, Haritos said nothing more. That was unusual for him. Whenever he’d come for her before, he’d taken perverse pleasure in detailing what horrors awaited her. The fact he’d gone silent worried her. Could he finally be leading her to her death, despite the fact her sentence was for only five years?

Dear God, what was happening?

Haritos remained silent as he forced her off the lift. Doors opened and then closed behind them. She didn’t know how to react when, for the first time in months, she felt the sun beating down on her. They were outside. Where were they going?

It didn’t take long to find out. Haritos led her up a ramp. The hood obscured her sight, but she could hear the muffled sounds of a crew working to prepare a shuttle, maybe even a courier ship, for launch. Haritos pulled her to a halt and told her to stand still. Then he released his hold on her arm and she sensed that he had moved a short distance away. There were soft voices. Straining to hear, she only caught a few words. Transfer. . . prisoner. . . dangerous. . . .

Dear God, was she actually being transferred out of the Tarsus penal colony?

Hope flared only to die as quickly as it had been born. She had a feeling she was the only prisoner in the staging area. That meant her people, those few who had survived the ambush only to be betrayed by those who should have stood for them, were being left behind. Was that what Haritos meant when he told her to remember them?


Before she could do anything – not that there was much she could do, bound and hooded as she was – Haritos was once more at her side. She stumbled forward as he grabbed her and led her further up the ramp. With one last warning not to do anything foolish, he turned her over to someone else. Flanked on both sides by unseen guards, she was led into another lift. A few minutes later, her restraints were removed and then her hood and she found herself standing in the center of a small cell. She didn’t need to hear the announcement for all hands to prepare for departure to know she was on a ship. But a ship to where?

And what about those who’d been sent to the penal colony with her? Where were they?

Now, almost a week later, she stood in yet another cell, this one planetside, and fear warred with anger. She’d overheard enough from the guards on the transport to know her fears were true – the others had been left behind on the penal colony.

That’s when an anger so great it overrode the fear of the unknown had flowed through her. For the first time in two years, she’d been separated from the survivors of her unit, those poor, brave souls who had fallowed her into hell and back only to find themselves brought up on charges right along with her. It didn’t matter that the commandant of the penal colony hadn’t let her see her people. She’d managed to get word of them from time to time and that had been enough to let her know they were all right – or at least as all right as anyone could be after being sentenced to the Tarsus penal colony.

It really was amazing how the prison grapevine managed to keep tabs on everyone and pass along information. It might be inconsistent, but it was there and it had been all that kept her sane. She’d never thought herself a social animal, but two years of rarely seeing anyone but her jailers had been almost more than she could handle. Thank God for the grapevine and the bits of information it brought her.

During transport from the penal colony, no one had told her anything. She’d been held in the transport ship’s brig. A guard brought her food and drink at regular intervals but he never said anything that wasn’t necessary. He certainly hadn’t volunteered any information. Still, she’d managed to work out that she was alone in the brig by the way his steps never stopped before he appeared at her cell door and she never heard anyone else trying to make contact.

She had just noticed the slightest change in the rhythm of the ship’s engines, indicating it had assumed orbit somewhere, when another guard arrived with a change of clothes for her. She’d looked at the plain black jumpsuit with suspicious eyes. Nothing about it marked her as a prisoner. It could have been something worn by any worker on the docks or in a warehouse. That should have reassured her but for one thing. There was nothing about the guard’s manner to indicate she was about to be freed. In that moment, she’d come the closest to breaking her rule of “never ask a question you don’t know the answer to” than she had been since her first few days on Tarsus.

Half an hour later, she’d been seated on a shuttle. The guards had secured her hands behind her back before locking her safety harness in place but they hadn’t hooded her. They obviously weren’t worried about her recognizing where she was. Of course, the only way she could do that was if she could actually see something of the lay of the land. So she’d craned her neck in an effort to see into the shuttle’s cockpit. One corner of her mouth lifted ever so slightly at the sight of the high rises ahead of them. Her heart beat a bit faster as she recognized the skyline of Fuercon’s capital city. New Kilrain. She was home. But why?

Now, after being processed into the same military brig where she’d been held during her trial, she still didn’t know why she’d been brought back home. It couldn’t be good. They may have taken away her prison issued jumpsuit, but she’d still been brought there shackled and had been processed into the brig as quickly as humanly possible. It had almost been as if FleetCom was afraid word of her return might leak out. But why?

Damn it, what was going on?

Of course, there’d been no explanation. Nor had she asked for one. It would be a long time before she forgot that lesson. Too much talking, too much curiosity was a bad thing that almost always resulted in painful punishment. She might not be on Tarsus any longer but that didn’t mean things would be any different here. After all, who policed the jailers? No one, at least not on Tarsus and she wasn’t willing to risk it now that she was home.

Freed of her restraints and alone, she looked around. One cell was pretty much like any other. Across from the door was a narrow bunk. Hygiene facilities were at the foot of the bunk. Almost exactly like her cell back on Tarsus. Nothing she could use to escape and nothing she could use to kill herself, not that she planned on taking that route out. At least not anymore. No, there were others who needed to die before she did.

“Prisoner is secured,” the guard who’d brought her to the cell radioed as he stepped back.

Ashlyn Shaw, former Marine captain, didn’t move. Instead, she stood in the center of the small cell, her brown eyes focused on some point beyond the guard, her hands behind her back even though the restraints had been removed. As the security field across the cell door activated, she gave no sign of realizing it even though the faint, high pitched hum was something she’d learned to listen for over the last two years. That sound, like a distant bunch of angry bees, meant she’d fry her nervous system long before pushing through the field. Freedom might look close, but she’d be dead – or worse – before she actually found it.

At least the guard didn’t close the physical door. For the first time in what had to be months, she could look beyond the confines of her cell. It might not be the same cell she’d occupied since her conviction. Hell, this wasn’t even the same planet. That didn’t matter. All that did was the fact that the open cell door gave her at least some semblance of not being completely cut off from all other life on the planet.

As the guard disappeared from sight, Ashlyn remained where she was, motionless except for the rise and fall of her chest and the slow blinking of her eyes. She listened, counting his footsteps as they slowly faded away. When she’d been escorted to the cell, she had focused on what was directly in front of her. She had not wanted to give the guards on duty the satisfaction of seeing her look around in curiosity. Now, with only silence filling the air, she allowed herself to relax a just a little.

Once convinced the guard was gone, she moved to the door, careful not to get too close to the security field. Looking to her left, she couldn’t tell how far away he might be. All she knew for certain was that her cell was located at the end of the corridor, the door situated so she couldn’t see much beyond the far edge of the cell. So there might be any number of other prisoners close by but, for all intents and purposes, she was alone – again.

That was fine. Alone meant fewer chances for anyone to figure out what she planned. But it also meant she had to keep up appearances. She couldn’t let them guess what she had in mind. So she lay on her bunk, her back to the doorway. She wouldn’t let those she knew were watching over security monitors see her curiosity or her concern.

This was as close to home as she was likely to get in a very long while. If the opportunity to escape presented itself, she’d take it and be damned with waiting on the military courts to finally get it right. Once free, she’d deal those who’d betrayed her and then she’d find a way to free those who had been sent to the penal colony with her. After that, she really didn’t give a damn about what happened.

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