A Grand Experiment

Red LegionI’ve given a lot of thought over the summer to how I write and publish my books, and have come to the conclusion that it may be time for, as Monty Python might say, something completely different. I’m going to start this “grand experiment” with my latest project, IN HER NAME: RED LEGION.

In the past, I’ve used one or more editors in a first pass (after I go over it myself a time or two) to find the biggest problems, then I ran the manuscript through a group of beta readers for a fine tune. That’s generally worked well, but it placed a lot of responsibility on just a few people and also led to something of a production bottleneck with back and forth revisions.

In the meantime, the fans who were awaiting the book had to be content with little more than snippets and or periodic proclamations of, “Yep, I wrote X number of words today…” Big whoop, right? It’s really hard for me to come up with witty things to post to keep fans engaged during the long process of writing a novel, which is as much a bummer for me as it is for you: I want to be able to talk to you about what I’m writing, and I want to hear what you have to say. But the traditional process (and not just mine, but publishing in general) really doesn’t cater to that level of interaction.

So, what I plan to do with RED LEGION is as follows:

  1. I’ve published the first chapter draft manuscript on Wattpad, which is a unique publishing platform that’s also a mash-up with social media-style interaction. Everything’s free, and you can read/interact on any smart phone or your computer. It’s very simple and easy to use.
  2. I’ll add each new draft chapter as a new part/chapter to the Wattpad manuscript as I finish it, then send out a heads-up via Twitter, Facebook, here, etc. So it’ll be sort of like a serial story, with a chapter coming out – I hope – at least once a week.
  3. If you want to jump in, just set up an account on Wattpad (again, it’s all free), head over to the RED LEGION page, and read and comment away. I’ll incorporate the feedback into each chapter as I go, so you can help me write a better story while you enjoy it along the way.
  4. Once it’s finished, I’ll remove the book from Wattpad and put it up for sale on the usual platforms (Amazon, iTunes, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords). ALL I WOULD ASK of those who read the book for free on Wattpad is that they purchase a copy from their fave retailer. Sure, I know some folks won’t, but I believe that my real fans like you will so I can put food on my family’s table and continue writing for you. 🙂

So, what are you waiting for? Sign up with Wattpad and start reading RED LEGION!

Reza Gard Returns In IN HER NAME: RED LEGION

Yes, I just started the next IN HER NAME novel. No, I don’t know when it’ll be done. But I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a kick-ass story…and here’s the first (unedited) draft of the introduction!

FYI, the story takes place in timeline of CONFEDERATION between the time that Reza Gard and Eustus Camden leave the Marine Academy and when the story picks up six years later on Erlang…

Red LegionSecond Lieutenant Rachel Ortiz sat alone in her quarters aboard the Confederation corvette CSS Leander. While the compartment, which measured two meters long by one point five meters wide, was listed as a stateroom on the small warship’s deck plan, it was smaller than a solitary confinement cell in a Confederation prison. In a way, she reflected bitterly, a prison cell is exactly what it was.

Three months had passed since her assignment as the commander of Leander’s Marine detachment after her graduation from the Officer Basic Course on Quantico. She had been fourth in her class and had expected a good assignment. She had deserved a good assignment. Such was her surprise when she opened her orders to discover that she’d been assigned to the Marine Corps’ 12th Guards Regiment, also infamously known as the Red Legion. She wore the regiment’s patch on the left shoulder of her uniform. Turning to look at herself in the small wall mirror, she could see red lion, rampant on a black background. When she had first put it on, she’d felt as if it had burned her skin like a brand. The Red Legion was the dumping ground for the worst of the worst in the Corps. Half of the Legion’s personnel were prisoners, from non-violent drug users to soulless killers, who had been given the promise of a pardon in exchange for surviving twelve months of combat duty. The other half were malcontents, slackers, general ne’er-do-wells…and a few decent Marines, primarily officers, who were given the impossible task of molding them into a fighting force against the warriors of the Kreelan Empire. Some deserted, preferring to take their chances against the Internal Security Service and summary execution. Others did the minimum they could get by with, hoping to live long enough to transfer to another unit. And more than a small few reveled in the brutality and cruelty that were the rule, rather than the exception, in the Legion’s twelve battalions. Six of those battalions fought as complete units, usually used to augment Marine divisions in major engagements. Those were the cushy assignments, and generally received better personnel (such as they were) and, even though they typically fought in large battles, had a higher survival rate.

The other battalions, including her own parent unit, the 1st Battalion, were parceled out to the smaller Navy warships as on-board detachments commanded by junior officers such as herself. She snorted in disgust. Commander was a grossly optimistic term for what she really was. Prisoner, or perhaps hostage, would be more appropriate.

In frustration and anger, she delivered a savage kick to the metal bulkhead below the fold-out desk where she was doing her best to focus on the Marine detachment’s paperwork. The paint a hands breadth above the floor had long since been chipped away by the thick sole of the toe of her combat boots, revealing silvery steel that was rusting in the ship’s overly humid atmosphere.

Forcing herself to calm down, she returned her attention to the screen in front of her. The administrative tasks for which she was responsible was her only real respite, for the mind-numbing paperwork allowed her to depart from reality for a short while. She stopped as she called up the next record she needed to update, the flame of pure hatred, something she’d never known before coming aboard Leander, flaring in her core.

The name on the screen was Staff Sergeant Besarion Khutashvili, the detachment’s senior NCO, who was known by the less than affectionate name of Stalin. A convicted murderer who had been given the chance of a pardon if he fought the Kreelans as a member of the Red Legion, Khutashvili had instantly volunteered. He was big, easily twice the size of Ortiz, and the most brutal human being she had ever known. Everyone was terrified of him, and he fed on their fear, lived for it. The damnable thing was that he also boasted a chest full of decorations earned in combat against the Kreelans. Everyone might have been afraid of and despised him as a person, but he had survived more battles than anyone else in the platoon, and had even saved a few of his fellow Marines in the process.

As for Ortiz, “Stalin” treated her like he might a stray cat. The Corps insisted that an officer command the detachment, and even Stalin knew that he would never be promoted beyond his current rank. So he intimidated and cajoled the junior officers placed over him. She knew quite well from reviewing the unit records that those who went along with him lived quite a bit longer than those who didn’t. Most of the latter suffered mysterious deaths, in combat or otherwise.

To Ortiz’s everlasting shame, she had given in to his intimidation, which was tempered by the promise of protection from the less savory of the detachment’s personnel. She was willing to sacrifice her life for the Confederation against the Kreelans, but didn’t want to die at the hands of this maniac. While she would die before admitting it, she was also grateful for his protection: the detachment boasted six convicted rapists who shamelessly tore her uniform off with their eyes every time she stood in front of them. Surprisingly, Stalin didn’t care much about sex one way or the other. He just enjoyed killing. As long as she didn’t get in his way, he’d told her, she’d be just fine.

She kicked the bulkhead again, furious with herself for being such a tool, and a useless one at that.

A sudden knock at the door almost made her yelp in surprise. “What is it?” She looked at the sturdy deadbolt she’d had one of the crewmen weld onto the door. It was locked.

“Lieutenant!” It was Lance Corporal Waylon Davis, who was crazy as the proverbial bedbug, but one of the few Marines in her detachment she actually trusted. “You’ve got to come see this!”

Habitually checking that her sidearm, which was strapped to her right thigh when she was awake and under her pillow when she slept, was loaded, she went to the door and unlocked it. “Did the replacements arrive?” She’d been expecting two new bodies to replace a pair of Marines who had been killed in a brief but savage engagement with a Kreelan destroyer that had punched a hole in Leander before the cruiser Leander had been escorting had blown the enemy vessel into stardust.

“Yeah, el-tee, but…I have no words. You’ve got to come see.”

Ortiz pursed her lips as she considered venturing from the safety of her cabin. Stalin would eventually bring them around to see her, anyway, but she was possessed with the sudden perverse desire to actually do what she wanted to do, not just what he told her to do. “Okay,” she said, throwing open the deadbolt.

Following Davis, who mumbled unintelligibly to her, the walls of the passageway, and to himself, not necessarily in that order, she made her way to the small galley that was reserved for the twenty Marines of the corvette’s detachment. As she drew nearer, she could hear her Marines (she tried to think of them as hers, even though she knew that they truly belonged to Stalin) hooting and cursing. They sounded like a pack of dogs after a cat had been thrown into their midst.

Forcing some steel into her spine while resting her hand on the grip of her sidearm, she stepped through the hatch into the galley. “What the hell’s going on in here?”

“Fresh meat!” Davis crowed from beside her, gleaming at the newcomers as he clapped his hands.

“I don’t believe it,” Ortiz said to herself.

“Believe it, lieutenant,” Stalin said, stepping forward to clap one of his big hands on one shoulder of the smaller of the two new recruits, who flinched in pain as Stalin squeezed. “This one, he is nothing, but this one…” He put his hand on the other new Marine’s shoulder, grinning as he contracted the muscles of a hand that could snap the bones of a man’s wrist. The other Marine showed no reaction at all. The young man continued staring straight ahead, his face relaxed, serene. Stalin’s grin faded, and he let go of the smaller man to focus all his energy on bringing the new one to heel. He was squeezing his hand so hard now that his entire arm was quivering, and Ortiz couldn’t believe that the bones hadn’t already snapped in the new recruit’s shoulder.

“That’s enough, Stalin,” Ortiz ordered quietly. The man glared at her for a moment, then smiled. But like with all his smiles, it never reached his dark, dead eyes.

“As you say, lieutenant.” He slapped both Marines on the back in a false show of camaraderie. “As you say.”

Stepping closer, Ortiz took a closer look at the two newcomers. The first one could have been any mother’s son, not much younger than herself, who had signed up to be a Marine.

The other one, however, was something else. His eyes were a brilliant green, like emeralds set into a face that wasn’t white, wasn’t black, but lay somewhere in between. He would have been handsome, gorgeous, even, had it not been for the scars that marred his skin, especially the one that ran vertically across the skin of his brow and cheek, above and below his left eye. Oddly, his skin was smooth, without the slightest trace of stubble or hair growth, as if all the follicles had vanished. But the same wasn’t true of his hair: it was raven black, and she felt a cold trickle of fear when she saw that it wasn’t cut in the mandated Marine style, but was formed into a single long braid that lay against his back in a style that precisely mimicked how Kreelan warriors wore theirs. His shoulders were wide, his waist narrow, and he stood with a quiet confidence that was totally out of character for a mere private right out of training.

The trickle of fear bloomed into a torrent when her eyes landed on the collar around his neck. Made of the same black metal as the Kreelans wore, it bore at his throat a strange oval sigil of a peculiarly beautiful blue, into which had been inscribed a Kreelan rune that glowed cyan as if lit from within. Then she noticed the short sword that he wore at his waist and the handle of a much longer sword, protruding over one shoulder, that he wore on his back. It was as if a Kreelan warrior, born of humankind, were stuffed into a Marine uniform and delivered to her doorstep.

“Who…what the hell are you?” she asked softly.

Those green eyes moved a fraction to stare directly at her, and she felt as if she’d been struck by a pair of emerald lasers.

Holding her gaze, the stranger said in a heavily accented voice, “Private Eustus Camden and Private Reza Gard, reporting for duty, lieutenant.”

VULCAN’S FURY Is Now Available For Download

VULCAN’S FURY: THE DARK LANDS is on the street at all the major ebook retailers! Make sure to get your copy now, because the special introductory price will be going up on 10 April.

Vulcan’s Fury: The Dark Lands

Vulcan’s Fury: The Dark Lands

Genres: Historical Fiction, Science Fiction/Fantasy
Publication Year: 2016
ISBN: 9781310224034
The Roman Empire, arisen from the ash and ice that covered the world after the wrath of the gods fell from the heavens, must confront an ancient evil that threatens the entire known world…
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A few thousand years after Old Rome was destroyed, the dream of the Roman Survivors had become a reality. Vulcan’s Fury, as the impact event was known, had become a distant but poignant memory of how wrathful the gods can be, and it was the duty of every Roman to see that they were never angered again. Over those many years, the Roman Empire had finally brought to heel the entire known world, save the Dark Lands. Hidden behind a barrier of smoldering volcanoes and the deadly Haunted Sea, the Dark Lands were at the heart of ancient legends among the Romans of terrible beasts, and worse, that had once feasted upon the flesh of men in the earliest days of the First Spring.

But ancient legends held no fear for Princess Valeria, daughter of Caesar Tiberius Claudius Augustus. Enthralled by reports of strange happenings along the coast and bored by the life of a young Roman noblewoman, she begs her father to allow her to travel to the coast of the Haunted Sea to indulge her curiosity. Tiberius grants her request, anxious to see her safely away from Rome, where the Senate is plotting against him. Together with her closest companions, including her enormous hexatiger, Hercules, Valeria sets off on her adventure, unaware that she has set in motion a series of events that will change the history of the Empire, and all Humankind, forever…

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Winners Announced for REAPING THE HARVEST Audiobook Giveaway

reaping-the-harvest-ACX-250Time to check your email, folks, and see if you’re one of the ten lucky winners of the REAPING THE HARVEST audiobook giveaway!

I just sent out notifications, so if you won you should have something from me in your mailbox (and make sure you check your spam folder, just in case). We had a total of 332 entrants. If you’re one of the 322 who came away empty-handed, don’t worry: remember that you can win a Kindle, Nook, or Kobo just by preordering VULCAN’S FURY – THE DARK LANDS (and I know you want to!). And after that, we’ll have more contests soon!

VULCAN’S FURY: Preorder And You Could Win An eBook Reader

Vulcan's Fury: The Dark LandsMy Latest Novel, Vulcan’s Fury: The Dark Lands, Is Now Available For Preorder!

The Roman Empire, arisen from the ash and ice that covered the world after the wrath of the gods fell from the heavens, must confront an ancient evil that threatens the entire known world…

Just as a little background tidbit before you read the book, “Vulcan’s Fury” was an asteroid impact that destroyed the ancient world, save for pockets of humans who managed to survive. The Dark Lands picks up the story a few thousand years later, with a rebuilt Roman Empire left with no more worlds to conquer, save the mysterious Dark Lands that lie across a seemingly impassable sea.

If you enjoyed the In Her Name series – Empire, in particular – I think you’re really going to enjoy this one. It’s part alternate history, part science fiction, has a dash of romance, political skulduggery and betrayal, along with a full dose of adventure that I hope will keep you suitably entertained.

The official release date is now set as 3 April.

Preorder The Book…And Be Entered To Win A Kindle, Kobo, Or Nook

Another thing that I hope will entertain you is this: I’m giving away a Kindle, Nook, or Kobo – winner’s choice – in a random drawing from among fans who pre-order the book. Here’s all you have to do:

  1. Preorder the book from Amazon, Barnes & NobleKobo, iTunes, Google Play, and Smashwords.
  2. Send a copy of your purchase receipt to my special contest email address. If you don’t send your receipt or other proof of purchase, I can’t enter you into the contest!

That’s it! Just remember, you must preorder the book and you must send a copy of your receipt to be eligible. The contest ends at midnight EST on 2 April, and I’ll choose the winner by random drawing on 3 April (launch day).

Note: You don’t have to live in the US to enter the contest. I’ll cough up the extra postage to send the prize if the winner lives overseas!

Help Spread The Love

Your help in spreading the word about books you enjoy is terribly important. So if you could, please do me a huge favor and share this page with your friends by clicking on any/all of the social share links below (obviously depending on which ones you happen to use):

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Thank you so much – I really appreciate it!

Join The Vulcan’s Fury Launch Team

I’m looking for volunteers who’d like to help blast the book to the top of the charts on launch day. Team members will get a pre-release copy of the book to read and my profuse thanks for helping me spread the word about it. Please consider joining up – just email me for details.

It’s Here: The Audiobook Edition of REAPING THE HARVEST

reaping-the-harvest-ACX-250It’s been a long wait, but at long last the audiobook edition of REAPING THE HARVEST is now available!

The audiobook is available now from Audible and iTunes, and should soon be available from Amazon, as well.

But before you buy it, why don’t you try winning a copy? From now through 14 March I’m giving away ten coupon codes for free copies from Audible! You can enter by clicking here.

I hope you enjoy it, and If you know anyone who enjoys audiobooks, please do let them know about the Harvest series!

Oh, and before anyone asks, In Her Name: First Contact is next up for audiobook production!


Vulcan's Fury: The Dark LandsThe rough draft of VULCAN’S FURY: THE DARK LANDS is nearing completion! Of course, it won’t be published for a while yet, as it has to go through the red ink car wash of the editorial process. But it’s definitely time to start teasing you about it! Herewith is the premise of the story:

A few thousand years after Old Rome was destroyed in Vulcan’s Fury, as the ancient world’s fiery ruination was known, the descendants of the Roman Survivors finally achieved what their predecessors had not: domination of the entire known world, all save the Dark Lands. Hidden behind a barrier of smoldering volcanoes and the deadly Haunted Sea, the Dark Lands were at the heart of fearful legends of terrible beasts, and worse, that had once feasted upon the flesh of men.

But ancient tales held no fear for Princess Valeria, daughter of Caesar Tiberius Claudius Augustus, Emperor of Rome. Enthralled by reports of strange happenings along the coast and bored by the life of a young noblewoman, Valeria begs her father to allow her to travel to the coast of the Haunted Sea to indulge her curiosity. Tiberius grants her request, anxious to see her safely away from Rome, where the Senate is plotting against him. Together with her closest companions, including her enormous hexatiger, Hercules, Valeria sets off on her adventure, unaware that she has become part of a chain of events that could once more bring humanity to the brink of extinction.

And now, a small snippet (caveat: totally unedited, as yet!) from the book for your enjoyment…

The beast wove its way with great care through the lush vegetation as it stalked its prey. It stalked its prey in slow, sinuous movements, so low to the ground that the white fur of its belly brushed against the manicured grass. Its coat of black stripes against dusky orange made it nearly invisible as it wended its way among the shadows, its long fur-covered tail trailing behind it like a serpent. Through the sweet fragrance of the many flowers in bloom it could make out the smell of Man. It was a pungent mixture of sour human sweat, spices and wine on their breath, and the oil and polish used on metal and leather. Drawing in a silent breath, it could make out eleven individual Man-scents nearby. They were not prey, but obstacles standing between the beast and the one it truly sought. The prey-scent was altogether different from those of the Men, for the prey was a young human female. She, like all living things, had her own unique scent. But here, amidst the many flowers, it was difficult for the beast to locate her, for she smelled much like a flower herself.

Hearing a deep voice call out, the beast froze, its amber eyes staring through the foliage in the direction of the Man-sound, its six legs tensed to seize an opportunity to attack, or to turn and flee. One of the Men, far to the beast’s left, crashed into the greenery, calling to its fellows, no doubt hoping to have found the monster stalking them. The other Men, demonstrating far greater wisdom, remained silent. But even standing still as a stone, the Men made noise. The great beast could hear their tense breathing, whispered Man-speak, the subtle sigh of grass as they shifted weight from one foot to another, and the clink of metal on metal or the soft squeal of leather. Only one among them, the eldest and most fierce, was truly silent. Of the Men the beast now faced, he was the only one it had any reason to truly fear. The beast likely would have chosen a more direct approach to reach its prey, save for this particular Man. The others were as helpless, bleating goats compared to him, and it was the fear of this one Man that dictated the beast’s oblique approach.

Certain now that it had not been detected, the beast used the noise made by the Man beating through the greenery to mask its approach. Still staying low to the ground, it moved forward in a series of rapid but silent steps, its tail low to the ground, shifting slightly from side to side to help it maintain perfect balance. After a momentary pause to make sure it remained undetected, it made another dash to a dense hedge, beyond which lay the prize. After sinking to the ground, it slowly, ever so slowly, crept forward until it could see through the hedge. Just beyond the living wall was a large circle of grass upon which stood the humans. At their center was the prey, and beside her was the One-To-Be-Feared, the metal armor girding his chest gleaming silver in the sun, as did the helmet with the red crest. He was never far from the prey’s side, and his eyes were never still.

With a tremor of excitement, the beast saw that those eyes were now fixed on the Man still stomping through the greenery. The Man gave a startled yelp, then cried out in pain as he stumbled upon the nest of bees the beast had earlier steered well clear of during its approach. The Man crashed back through the hedge into the grassy circle, slapping at his tiny tormentors. The other Men laughed at their companion’s antics, and even the attention of the One-To-Be-Feared was riveted on the spectacle.

It was an opportunity the beast could not pass up. Backing away from the hedge, the beast quickly retreated several paces. Then, turning back in the direction of the humans, it dashed forward. At the last possible instant it leaped into the air, clearing the hedge with room to spare, before it landed on the grass on the far side. Dashing past the nearest Men, it let out an ear-splitting roar as it bore down on its small human prey, her defenders too far away now to save her.

The prey, eyes wide, whirled around and beheld the nature of her doom. She opened her mouth and screamed…

P.S. This post is part of a giveaway contest – click here to learn more!

December Update on VULCAN’S FURY

Vulcan's Fury: The Dark LandsVulcan’s Fury has been coming along nicely, and I’m on track to finish the working draft by mid-January 2016, if not before. My target is 100,000 words (that’s just a rough estimate, obviously), and I’m at 89,000 now, so we’re getting there!

That brings me to a strategic decision I’d like to get your input on. In the past, I’ve generally alternated projects between story lines. For example, I wrote Legend Of The Sword (one of the In Her Name novels), then Season Of The Harvest, then jumped back into the In Her Name universe to write Dead Soul, then Bitter Harvest, etc.

I honestly can’t tell you why I originally decided to do things that way, but after a lot of thought I’ve come to the conclusion that a better way might be to take a story line – be it something new like Vulcan’s Fury or in an existing universe like In Her Name – and just keep writing until the story line is finished (which, in the past, has typically wound up being a trilogy), then publish the sequence of books as they’re completed.

As with most things, there is good and bad news with that. The good news is that for those who enjoy Vulcan’s Fury (and I hope that’s most of my fans, because in my mind this story is in some ways akin to In Her Name: Empire), you won’t have to wait too terribly long to get the whole thing, although it’ll probably still take a year-plus, as I can only write so fast.

The bad news, such as it is, is that if I do this we won’t be returning to the In Her Name universe until after the Vulcan’s Fury story line is finished. But once we do, you’ll get a big dose of bad-ass Kreelan warrior mayhem.

Anyway, I’d appreciate any input you might have on this, so please feel free to post a comment below!

P.S. Hey, if you haven’t already don’t forget to enter the holiday giveaway contest!

December Giveaway: Autographed Redemption Trilogy Set

To help celebrate the holidays and the coming New Year, I decided to run another little giveaway for my fans! The prize this time is a complete set of the Redemption Trilogy books – Empire, Confederation, and Final Battle – autographed and with a personal dedication to the winner. While I can’t say that it’s worth anything other than the cover value of the books themselves, there are very, very few of these sets out there (maybe only two or three), so I hope this will be a bit of a treat for the winner!


This contest is also going to be a bit different, as it’s going to be for points, rather than a random drawing. There are multiple ways to score points, like joining the newsletter (note: even if you’re already a subscriber, just sign up on the contest page again if it allows it, as that list is separate from the “real” list), sharing the contest info with your friends, or retweeting. It’s all in a few button clicks and takes no time at all.

So toss your hat in the ring and head on over to the Giveaways Page to enter! Good luck!