Jack Canon's American Destiny

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

LOCK READY #Excerpt by @JimRada #AmReading #Historical #Fiction

This excerpt introduces a romantic rival for David to Lock Ready. However, Ruth has her own secrets just as David does.

Ruth bent down to pick up her baskets. She was still having trouble holding both of them as overbalanced as they were. David picked up the baskets and held them.
“Well, thank you for your kindness, but that man is right. If you want to stay around Cumberland, you probably don’t want to be seen with me,” she said.
“Why are you so certain about that? You don’t seem like a desperado to me. Maybe it’s you who shouldn’t be seen with me.”
David could guarantee that if the truth about him ever came out. If she knew he was a former Confederate soldier, she would probably run away screaming for help from a Union soldier. Then Ruth said something that surprised him.
“I support the South.”
She stared at David waiting for a reaction from him.
David paused, probably for too long, but her comment had surprised him. Finally, he said, “Is that all?”
Her eyebrows lifted. “It’s enough in a town occupied by the Union Army. I’m watched all of the time because people know where my sympathies lie. The only reason the army or townspeople haven’t run me off is because I’m a woman and my family has lived in Cumberland since soon after it was founded.”
“Is your entire family in support of the South?”
Ruth shook her head and her blond curls bounced around. “Just me. They’re ashamed of me, but not enough to turn me out.”
David knew that feeling and worse because his father had been willing to turn his back on David when he decided he could no longer fight in this war.  David had been proud to serve Virginia at first. He had seen it as a way to prove himself to his father and perhaps find his place in the world.
But battle hadn’t been like David had imagined it would be. Even winning at Manassas hadn’t been without its costs. Men had died on both sides of the battle and they always would. David’s best friend, Ben Kyle, had been ripped apart by an artillery shell that nearly landed on top of him. All David had found of his friend afterwards had been Ben’s right arm, shoulder, and head. The rest of him had been unidentifiable.
Then David had been asked to spy on the North along with two other miserable representatives of Southern life. One had been killed trying to sabotage the canal and David had killed the other when he had tried to rape Elizabeth Fitzgerald. That was the final straw that had led to him abandoning the army.
His father hadn’t understood that. How could he? His father had never fought a battle. He had only grown up on the exploits of his father and grandfather, two men who had served with honor unlike David.
“I married a soldier who was killed at Gettysburg last summer. I had a brother who was killed there, too. Sometimes, I feel like my parents think I killed my brother. They don’t seem to remember that the same battle that cost them a son cost me my husband,” she said with a bit too much anger in her voice.
David was struck by a sense of guilt. He had given up everything to stay with the Fitzgeralds. His country and his family. True, he didn’t have much of a choice at first because he had been wounded at the time, but that had been two years ago. Since then, he had had plenty of opportunities to return. He hadn’t, though; because he had believed that the Fitzgeralds needed his help and that he might have a future with Alice.
He wasn’t with the Fitzgeralds now, though. He could return to Virginia if he wanted to, but the truth was he didn’t want to. He had abandoned his duty while men with Ruth Abercrombie’s husband and brother had fought and died to do theirs.
“I’m sorry,” David replied.
Ruth took a deep breath and gave David a small smile. “I am, too. We had only been married a few years. My family doesn’t like my decision to support the South, but they already lost one child and they don’t want to lose another one. So they tolerate their Southern daughter,” Ruth explained.
“You can’t be too horrible then if they still love you,” David suggested.
“Well, they’re the only ones who do love me.”
David didn’t know how to respond to that so he said, “Can I carry these baskets for you to wherever you’re going?”
Ruth stared at him for a few moments. “You don’t have to prove that you’re a gentleman to me.”
“I’m not trying to prove anything. I’m just trying to be of assistance.”
“Well then, thank you, as you can see I need the help.”

The Civil War split the United States and now it has split the Fitzgerald Family. Although George Fitzgerald has returned from the war, his sister Elizabeth Fitzgerald has chosen to remain in Washington to volunteer as a nurse. The ex-Confederate spy, David Windover, has given up on his dream of being with Alice Fitzgerald and is trying to move on with his life in Cumberland, Md. Alice and her sons continue to haul coal along the 184.5-mile-long C&O Canal. 

It is dangerous work, though, during war time because the canal runs along the Potomac River and between the North and South. Having had to endured death and loss already, Alice wonders whether remaining on the canal is worth the cost. She wants her family reunited and safe, but she can’t reconcile her feelings between David and her dead husband. 

Her adopted son, Tony, has his own questions that he is trying to answer. He wants to know who he is and if his birth mother ever loved him. As he tries to find out more about his birth mother and father, he stumbles onto a plan by Confederate sympathizers to sabotage the canal and burn dozens of canal boats. He enlists David’s help to try and disrupt the plot before it endangers his new family, but first they will have find out who is behind the plot.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Historical Fiction
Rating – PG-13
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Connect with James Rada Jr. on Facebook & Twitter
Website jamesrada.com

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bryan Taylor on How to Write Your First Novel in only 35 Years #Humor #Politics #Fiction

The Three Sisters was first written back in 1977 when I was in college. A friend of mine, Mari Trevalyan, who had gone to Catholic school which ensured that she would never become a Catholic, gave me a picture of three nuns that I had found.  They would look perfect on a wanted poster, I thought, so I created one advising anyone who found them that they could drive them into catatonic fits by playing them recordings of Anita Bryant.
Both Catholics and non-Catholics found this funny, so since she had given me another photo with two nuns and an elderly couple, I wrote a second piece about the Three Sisters taking the elderly couple hostage.  When fellow students asked me what was going to happen next, the Three Sisters were born, and each week I put up a new episode until the plot of the novel was born.  People began checking the wall outside my dorm where I posted them for the latest episode.  Catholicism became all the rage at this Presbyterian college.
I didn’t know what was going to happen from one week to the next, but managed to figure out a new episode for the rest of the quarter until the tale of the Three came to its conclusion.  All I had were the Xerox machines at the library, scotch tape and blank paper to write on, but I managed to get each new episode up on time.
After I graduated from college and went to get a Master’s degree in 1979, I decided to fulfill my desire to write the great American novel since college always provides plenty of free time to avoid studying for exams.  I succeeded in writing the first version of The Three Sisters which could be an object lesson in how to write a novel no one would want to read.  This is one of those manuscripts that when you ask the executors of your estate to burn all unpublished works upon your death, you hope they really will.  Creative writing courses could use the first version to show aspiring authors how not to write.  The characters were poorly developed, the humor was obvious, and it lacked subtlety. I got a couple agents to read it, and luckily they declined to do anything with it.
When I moved to California in 1981 for my Ph.D., I had lots of spare time since I was going to college instead of working, so I decided to revise the novel.  The result was a vast improvement.  I was able to make the plot more realistic, thanks in part to the addition of Victor Virga, fleshed out the characters, and made changes that should have been there all along.
Nevertheless, I knew of no one in the publishing world, had never had anything published anywhere, and I was beginning to think more about writing my Ph.D. dissertation on the Economics of the Arts than getting published, so The Three Sisters was set aside.
It was 1983 now, and I couldn’t spend the rest of my life going to college to rewrite a novel that couldn’t get published. I completed my Ph.D. in Economics, became a Professor in Economics and Finance, became a stock broker, started collecting data on financial markets, and before I knew it almost 30 years had passed.
The novel had resided in my closet undisturbed throughout those years.  The only copy I had was the one I had typed on my Brother typewriter with the dancing ball before I ever owned a computer.   When I moved, I rediscovered the manuscript and decided to do something with it. Since it was now 2012, the solution was simple: outsource the nuns.  So I sent them to India to be converted into Microsoft Word after converting the original manuscript into PDF.
When I got it back I reread it for the first time in almost 30 years.  Being the author, it was difficult for me to independently judge it.  Although my friends from college still fondly remembered the adventures of the Three, I decided the real test would be to give a copy of The Three Sisters to someone who had never heard of them, so I cornered a couple friends, got them to read it, and was pleased to find that they enjoyed it.  There was hope yet!
One issue I had to quickly resolve was whether to attempt to rewrite the novel as I felt it should be today, or leave the manuscript largely as it is, “respecting” the wishes of the original author.  I decided it was best to minimize the changes in the manuscript because that was what I wanted the novel to be when I had written it.  If I wanted to revise the novel, add to it, and change the spirit of the novel, I could do that in a sequel, assuming it might be written, but I should leave the original alone.  That didn’t preclude making changes in the spirit of the original, but I didn’t want the ghosts of my characters haunting me for the rest of my life.
By 2012, the publishing situation had changed dramatically from 1983.  Now you can self-publish the book without an agent or the need to contact one of the main publishing houses.  You can produce a physical book, or go straight to an e-book.  On the advice of a fellow writer at work, I found a good editor, who provided extremely useful advice and encouragement, and now the book is off and running, and will be published in May 2013, just in time for me to send a copy to the new pope.
If it takes me another 35 years to write my second novel, it should be out by 2048, by which time I think all three sisters will hope we will have our first female pope, or maybe our second.  Pope Coito I sounds good to me.

Nuns just want to have fun! But when three former Catholic nuns have too much fun and get in trouble with the law, they become nuns on the run.
Driving back to Washington D.C. where they work at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Parts, the three sisters are arrested in Tennessee. After defeating the local deputy in strip poker, they escape from jail, and are pursued by the zealous Detective Schmuck Hole, who has personally offered a $10,000 reward for their capture on The 700 Club. Little do they know that when the three sisters visit the Washington Monument, their lives will change forever.
Set in 1979, The Three Sisters is a sacrilegious satire that skewers not only organized religion, but the government, the media, intellectuals, corporate greed and every other part of the establishment. Maybe not the greatest story ever told, but possibly the funniest.
Buy @ Amazon
Genre – Humor, Satire, Catholicism, Politics
Rating – R
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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

@JWMefford on Doing What Makes You Happy #SummerOfGreed #Thriller #Giveaway


Where do you get support from? Do you have friends in the industry?
I’ve never been around people in one industry that can be so supportive. At times I see their kindness, other times blunt, straight-forward feedback that will light your skin on fire. But when they’re in my inner circle, I listen and I trust them.
How much sleep do you need to be your best?
I can get by on five hours of sleep a night, but I’m much more productive and with eight, although that rarely happens.
Tell us about your new book? What’s it about and why did you write it?
I’d worked in the corporate sector for twenty-plus years and during that time witnessed some pretty disturbing things. Deep down, I knew what motivated far too many acts in the corporate world: greed. Almost subconsciously, I was driven to write a novel about how people were being treated like inanimate objects, and then I interwove a sizzling suspense, mixed in an emotional connection with the main characters and a slice of romance. And I had to add a dash of sarcasm here and there. That’s just me.
When you are not writing, how do you like to relax?
I honestly don’t have a great deal of time to relax. For instance, I love to work out. It clears my mind, provides me a rational perspective on things in my life, and has very often allowed my mind to go places I’d never dream up staring at a computer screen. When I’m truly relaxing, I enjoy reading a book with my feet burrowed in warm sand, my kids giggling in the background and waves roaring and then sizzling once the water recedes back into the abyss. I guess you can tell I love the beach.
Do you have any tips on how writers can relax?
Move to Colorado? If that’s not possible, or your thing, then do what makes you happy. Sounds simple, I realize, but I think we authors are among the worst of folks who over-analyze even the most simplistic decisions. So, I guess I’m saying that to win the anxiety battle, you need to keep yourself from red-lining within five days of a vacation. So, try to live in the moment. When you feel good about your writing progress, allow your mind to be worry-free during your relaxation task, whether that’s reading, going for a bike ride, taking a jog, lying in the snow and making a snow angel, going to the mall to people watch. Be kind to yourself. If you’re not your biggest fan, no one will volunteer to take that spot.
What’s your most embarrassing moment of your life?
I was the best man at my friend’s wedding a few years ago. It was a monster event, with friends and family flying in from all over the country, and a few from around the world. At the rehearsal dinner, my buddy’s Dad asked if I’d give a toast. I instantly looked around and saw about a hundred fifty people. Let me remind you, that’s one hundred fifty people just at the rehearsal dinner. To further set the scene, amongst the crowd was my buddy’s old girlfriend. I know, it sounds like a romantic comedy in the making. It gets better.
She had on a red dress. And, she wouldn’t sit down. For some odd reason, as my heart started hammering my chest and my palms got sweaty, I stared at this girl, who was socializing with everyone in the room. I then took another look at my friend’s Dad, who gave me the signal.
Despite my mental urging for the ex-girlfriend to take a seat, I stood up and dinged the glass with my fork. I cleared my throat, raised my glass and said, “To David and Renee!” You could have heard a fly buzzing hundred feet away—for about ten seconds. Then, I saw one hundred fifty faces explode with laughter. I had no clue why they were laughing.
Then, I turned to my table and shrugged my shoulders. The response from my closest friends and family ranged from crying (from laughing to hard) to crying (for feeling sorry for me). I don’t remember saying Renee, but apparently I said it. My buddy was marrying Jennie.
The good news is, they’re still married today, and still friends of mine. They’re some of the best people you’ll ever meet.
What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?
Maya Angelou touched many people during her life, and I read a quote from her this past week that hit me on so many levels.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
That’s why I write. To make people feel…not just one feeling, but many. That’s the meaning of life.
What is your favorite color?
Green. I used to have greed carpet in my room when I was a teenager. I couldn’t make that up.
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?
Writing this book was an odyssey unlike any other I’ve ever experienced. In the beginning, when I had no clue what constituted the end, completing that first draft, declaring victory, was a significant accomplishment for someone who’d never been able to clearly focus on one thing for a very long time. Now I look back and see a bloody trail of re-writes, edits, countless versions on my laptop, feedback from beta readers and a dead period when I set it aside for two years. The evolutionary process of growing as a person, developing as a writer taught me that persistence is essential, but still not enough. I’ve learned to persistently strive to improve in every facet of my writing, while maintaining an open mind and positive attitude. At times I think I’ve even shocked my editor. And that’s tough to do.
Can we expect any more books from you in the future?
Glad you asked. My current plan is to release LETHAL GREED (Greed Series #2) in July, WICKED GREED (Greed Series #3) in August and book 4 of the Greed Series (title TBD) in September / October.
Beyond that, I have a framework for a new series, including an introductory shell for Book 1. The title is nailed down, but I’ll share that at another time. I plan to publish four books in that new series, at least one more next year in the Greed Series and possibly a stand-alone novel. By the end of 2015, I should have ten books published, God willing.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Great question. In five years, I’ll be writing, but maybe I’ll branch out into another genre. Regardless, I plan to have ten books published by the end of 2015, and within five years a minimum of twenty-five books.

Behind the façade of every corporate takeover executives pull levers this way and that, squeezing the last profitable nickel out of the deal. But no one knows the true intent of every so-called merger. 

No one knows the secret bonds that exist. 

An Indian technology giant swallows up another private company that has deep roots in North Texas. For one unassuming man the thought of layoffs, of losing his own job to a bunch of arrogant assholes feels like a kick to the jewels. 

Until the day Michael’s life changes forever.   

Perverse alliances. An affair of the heart. A grisly murder. A spiraling string of events thrusts Michael into a life-or-death fight to save a tortured soul and hunt down a brutal killer…one who lurks closer than he ever imagined. 

Greed knows no boundaries.

Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Suspense, Thriller
Rating – R
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Connect with John W. Mefford on Facebook & Twitter
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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Beyond Neanderthal by Brian Bloom @BrianB_Aust #Thriller #AmReading #Conspiracy

Visit to a Blue Amber Mine

As Tara alighted from the vehicle, she found herself facing a ghostly white haze of wispy, low-lying clouds that hung as if suspended in time above the undulating hilltops. The peaks rose from the variegated emerald and olive valley below and stretched into the distance amid a virginal mixture of lush equatorial undergrowth. She drew a deep, involuntary breath.

‘Wow!’ There were no other words to describe the feeling of awe-inspired privilege that washed over her. The vista was about as far removed from Central Park as a New York city skyscraper was from the little pastel coloured huts lining the Carretera Turística.

Aurelio smiled. Intuitively, he seemed to understand that the most appropriate response to this magnificent sight was silence. It was a full two minutes before Tara gathered her thoughts.

‘Let’s get going,’ she said.

They made their way carefully—gingerly climbing over dead logs, negotiating their way around rocky outcrops, and grabbing onto available plant life to steady themselves as they walked and stumbled their way towards the valley below. On either side of the track, a mixture of tall, fronded plants grew in an array of shapes and sizes beside stunted and gnarled old trees with deep green foliage. Tara thought of the trees like friendly bystanders, their leafy branches protectively shading Aurelio and her from much of the glaring sunshine above. They came across a trickling stream, which they followed for a while; Tara ever mindful and vigilant, watching for any sign of wildlife in the undergrowth. Except for the background humming of insects, the occasional noisy squawking of a flock of parrots flying past overhead and, once, the silent imprint of a shoe sole on the muddy banks of the stream, they seemed to be alone.

Then, in a clearing, they came across a group of young men standing seemingly relaxed and chatting. A few feet away, under a lean-to made of branches and palm fronds, one of them squatted while cooking something on a small paraffin or gas stove. Aurelio and Tara had arrived at the mine.

Again, there was a short conversation in Spanish. Again, there was a wrinkling of noses followed by broad smiles of understanding and agreement. There were also some side comments and laughter amongst the men. The word ‘gringa’—foreigner from America—came up a couple of times. Tara thought she also heard the words ‘bonita’, and ‘sexual’, but she couldn’t be sure. She decided to keep a slight distance for the time being. They were in the middle of nowhere, miles from the nearest civilization.

Aurelio walked back towards her. ‘They will be happy to show you around, but we should remember our time limitations. We cannot spend more that half an hour here if we are to return to Santo Domingo before dark.’

‘Are you trying to protect me from these guys?’ she asked with a smile. Aurelio looked embarrassed.

‘What’s he cooking?’ she asked to change the subject. ‘It smells great.’

‘That is called arroz con abichuelas, a mixture of rice and beans. He is probably cooking some small pieces of beef with it, but it could be any meat.’

‘Can one buy that in a restaurant in Santo Domingo?’

‘Of course, but not exactly the same. This is a local dish for locals. To sell food like this to tourists would be like offering leftovers to your guests. It would not be right. In the restaurants it is much more carefully presented and is usually served with salads.’

The word ‘dignity’ popped into Tara’s mind. Aurelio seemed to have it, and that was what she had seen on the faces of the fruit vendor and the amber polisher and, now, even the miners as she approached them. Other than their initial jocularity, they seemed to consider her as their guest and themselves as hosts who happily welcomed visitors into their world. The men were just being men.

As they approached the entrance to the mine, a happy looking miner wearing a backward facing baseball cap sat with a short-handled pick in one hand, a lump of soft rock in the other.

Hola, señorita,’ he said, grinning broadly.

She smiled back at him, lifted her hand in greeting, but continued to follow Aurelio to the mine entrance. It was like standing at the entrance to the burrow of a large animal.

Beyond Neanderthal

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Genre – Thriller
Rating – MA (15+)
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@JoshVanBrakle's Thoughts on The Query Blues: Turn Rejection into Growth #Fantasy #WriteTip

You’ve put your heart into writing your first novel: years of your life, uncounted long nights, and even more uncounted tears. Finally, you’re ready. You put together a brilliant, personalized query letter and send it to an agent. Days pass, then weeks. Nothing. Not even a form response.
What a cold, cold thing to do to a writer. You’ve written a masterpiece, and some schmuck in New York won’t even return your email. I know that feeling. My first novel, The Wings of Dragons, was rejected by not one, not ten, but over fifty agents. Most never replied at all. A few wrote me that they really liked my book, but they weren’t confident they could sell it to an editor “in this market.”
Every one of those rejections hit me hard. They made me feel like all the work I’d put in – over two years – was wasted.
Somewhere in the middle of all those rejections, though, I had my epiphany. I could see the rejections as an annoyance, as some suit in some distant agency not giving my book its due, or I could recognize them for what they were: opportunities to improve. These agents, whose job it is to sell books, were telling me something valuable. “Do you want to sell books? Then go back and spruce up this manuscript.”
So that’s what I did. I studied what those agents were looking for: fast-paced plots, a beginning few chapters that screamed “Keep reading me!”, and above all, sympathetic, multi-layered characters. Agents look for these traits, because they’re what make a book stand out. With that knowledge in hand, I knew where to focus my revisions.
In the end, no agent picked me up. I had no credentials, and my only publishing credits were a couple scientific journal articles, hardly gripping reads. No one would take a chance on me, so I took a chance on me and indie published. It’s paid off; my book became a #1 best-seller in its category on Amazon. Even so, I don’t laugh at the agents who rejected my work. I thank them. They were right to reject it. It wasn’t finished yet. If it had been published, or if I’d indie published without trying the traditional route first, I would have been unsatisfied with the result. I would have known I could have written a better book. A big part of why my book succeeded as an indie is because I tried the traditional approach first, and then I used what I learned to make my novel the best I could write at that point in my life.
It’s easy to let rejection convince you that your work is garbage, or worse, that your work is awesome and agents are too stupid to see it. Instead, see rejection as someone in the industry who knows a lot about what sells giving you free advice on how to make your book even better. Kick your ego to the curb and use that advice to grow as an author.
From fantasy author Josh VanBrakle comes an epic new trilogy of friendship, betrayal, and explosive magic. Lefthanded teenager Iren Saitosan must uncover a forgotten history, confront monsters inspired by Japanese mythology, and master a serpentine dragon imprisoned inside a katana to stop a revenge one thousand years in the making.
Lodian culture declares lefthanded people dangerous and devil-spawned, and for Iren, the kingdom’s only known Left, that’s meant a life of social isolation. To pass the time and get a little attention, he plays pranks on the residents of Haldessa Castle. It’s harmless fun, until one of his stunts nearly kills Lodia’s charismatic heir to the throne. Now to avoid execution for his crime, Iren must join a covert team and assassinate a bandit lord. It’s a suicide mission, and Iren’s chances aren’t helped when he learns that his new katana contains a dragon’s spirit, one with a magic so powerful it can sink continents and transform Iren into a raging beast.
Adding to his problems, someone on Iren’s team is plotting treason. When a former ally launches a brutal plan to avenge the Lefts, Iren finds himself trapped between competing loyalties. He needs to figure out who – and how – to trust, and the fates of two nations depend on his choice.
“A fast-paced adventure…led by a compelling cast of characters. Josh VanBrakle keeps the mysteries going.” - ForeWord Reviews
Buy @ Amazon & Smashwords
Genre – YA epic fantasy
Rating – PG-13
Connect with Josh VanBrakle on Twitter

Chapter 2 from @ScottMoonWriter's ENEMY OF MAN (Chronicles of Kin Roland) #SciFi


FLEET troopers occupied the area. Dozens of squads moved along the next street as Kin cut between several makeshift homes to avoid detention. He could no longer see Laura but thought she was moving away from him toward the most devastated section of Crater Town. She was doing her job. He surveyed the town and started doing his.
The first three houses Kin checked were damaged, but had already been evacuated. The next three were family dwellings, and by Town Protocol, the parents should have moved their children to fallout bunkers at the first sign of a meteor storm. He ducked inside each and looked around. Finding them empty, he hurried to the home of Brian Muldoch.
Kin didn’t admire the man, because Muldoch had found religion halfway through his mandatory ten-year enlistment as an Earth Fleet trooper and decided he was a conscientious objector. After two years in a labor camp, Muldoch escaped and stowed away on the Goliath. When Fleet troopers found him, he was a dead man. The only thing that remained was how quickly they would identify him and carry out the sentence for deserters.
Kin told himself to focus on his job, find critically wounded survivors, make sure everyone in Crater Town did their part, and create a list of structures rendered unsafe by meteor strikes. He had no business interfering with the Fleet, especially since his status would earn him death, preceded by torture, yet he hurried toward Muldoch’s home.
Though the man was a deserter, much of his Fleet training remained. He performed every task efficiently and kept his quarters squared away. He had helped Kin fight raiders who came down from the mountains. He had scoured the foothills to find a missing child. Kin often wondered why Muldoch refused to fight for the Fleet. He had shown bravery many times on Crashdown.
Several Fleet troopers surrounded Muldoch in the street near his small house. One shouted, “On your knees. Don’t move.”
“I must report to the well to help with the bucket line. Can’t you see the fires?” Muldoch asked, desperation in his voice. His eyes darted from one man to the next as color left his face.
The trooper nearest Muldoch had a new helmet, though the rest of his armor was scarred and scorched. “Don’t move and don’t talk.” He pointed his rifle at Muldoch’s neck where a Fleet labor camp tattoo marked him. “This is doing the talking for you, traitor.”
Two troopers, a corporal and a lance corporal, stood facing each other, heads bent as they listened inside their helmets to an electronic message Kin couldn’t hear. When they looked up, they nodded. FSPAA helmets didn’t reveal emotion, but Kin could sense the smiles behind the visors by the rhythm of their nods. They returned to the group.
“I have confirmation. This man is Brian Muldoch, a deserter and coward,” the corporal said.
Kin watched New Helmet elevate his weapon a few inches and fire one round before Muldoch could beg for mercy. Blood splattered the street and armor of the men standing in a circle. Muldoch’s body fell forward. Nothing above his teeth remained.
“Do you have a problem?” The corporal’s tone implied having a problem would be a problem for Kin.
“What did he do?” Kin asked.
“No trial?”
“No need.” He stepped close to Kin and looked at his neck and hands.
Kin focused on the body of Muldoch and exhaled slowly, steadying his anger and fear. His tattoos had been removed. The painful procedure cost a fortune. Muldoch should’ve done the same thing. Kin clenched his fists and hoped the troopers didn’t notice the tension coursing through his arms, shoulders, and neck. Before Hellsbreach, Kin always maintained control over his unit and forbade frontier justice, but he wasn’t their sergeant and they wanted blood.
New Helmet moved closer. “Does he have a marker?”
The corporal looming over Kin hesitated. “No. I thought he would. He walks like he was Fleet.”
Kin stared at Muldoch’s body and said nothing. These troopers were as unprofessional and violent as any Kin had encountered, but he didn’t confuse their sloppy gear and mob mentality for incompetence. Killers who enjoyed killing barely needed a reason to pull the trigger.
“I asked you a question.”
“No you didn’t,” Kin said. Shouldn’t have said that. Shouldn’t have come here at all.
The trooper stared at him, shifting the weight of his armor from foot to foot several times. Without the armor, he might be Kin’s size, but in full FSPAA gear, he was a giant. “Get out of here.”
The lance corporal, the smallest in the group, slid his hand back and forth on the barrel of his rifle with increasing intensity, as though stoking his courage. “Shoot him like you did that Reaper on Hellsbreach.”
New Helmet pushed the lance corporal aside. “He never shot a Reaper. A Reaper wouldn’t hold still like this corpse and if it did, one bullet would only make it angry.”
“Don’t fucking touch me, Raif.” The lance corporal started to point his rifle at New Helmet, but lowered the weapon and backed away. Raif didn’t even look at him. He watched Kin like a hungry wolf.
The corporal stared at his men until Raif stopped advancing and the lance corporal walked back toward the rest of the platoon. A moment passed before the corporal seemed satisfied. He faced Kin, pointing his rifle at the sky with one hand. His elbow rested on his hip to support the weight of the weapon. “Start walking, dead man.”
Kin walked away, stopping once he neared the crest of the hill where the street twisted toward the center of town. He looked back. The Fleet troopers watched him. He directed his gaze toward Muldoch’s house. Like many homes in this part of town, it was built into the side of the hill, jutting out ten feet. Rough-hewn beams of wood supported the metal siding scavenged from the wreckage of the Goliath. He remembered the day Muldoch had scrubbed the metal clean and painted it, despite Kin’s warning that the paint would never adhere properly. Weather had taken a toll on the surface and the green color was uneven. Mixing touch-up paint from limited resources wasn’t an exact science, yet Kin recognized the effort put into maintaining the home.
The troopers continued to face him. How many were trying to decide if they knew him, wondering if they recognized him from past campaigns or security bulletins? The Fleet had probably buried his scandal deep, erasing every record of their failure—of his failure. That was what Kin hoped for. With his luck, the Fleet had his picture on every security threat alert for the last ten years. What could he do? Flee into the wilderness of Crashdown?
A gust of wind from the sea blew sand, dust, and ash between them. Kin studied the red dragon insignia on each of these troopers and committed it to memory. He rested his hand on his pistol in the leg holster and realized the trooper was waiting for him to draw it. Holding his gun was a habit, unintentional, but now that the familiar grip was in his hand, he wanted to use it.
He never liked Muldoch and told himself they were nothing alike. Their situations were different. Muldoch, despite the fortitude he had displayed since the Goliath crash landed, would’ve died within seconds of landing on Hellsbreach. Muldoch hadn’t been forced to choose between duty and his soul.
“Pull that pistol or go away,” the trooper said. The sound of his amplified voice came just as the wind vanished, and Kin heard it clearly. He released his grip and walked away. There were others like Muldoch, none of them deserters, but men and women likely to run afoul of Fleet justice.
Kin couldn’t protect them.
Making his way toward the town meeting hall, Kin kept an eye on Fleet checkpoints. The people of Crater Town fought fires and moved wounded to the simple hospital. He slowed as he approached the town hall, realizing he was too late.
Fleet troopers escorted the council members, though Laura seemed to treat the troopers as her personal escort rather than her jailers.
Please, Laura, be careful.
Love wasn’t the perfect word to describe his feelings for Laura, but something burned hot and miserable in his chest as he stared after her. The Fleet was a juggernaut of violence—not an organization to be manipulated, not even by a savant of intrigue like Laura.
Strykers blocked the next street. The engines of the eight-wheeled, light armor vehicles chugged. Exhaust fumes, from diesel rather than jet fuel, mingled with the cool evening air. The archaic technology remained a favorite among ground forces because fuel could be foraged or fabricated when resupply wasn’t an option. Diesel, jet fuel, moonshine—it didn’t matter. They ran on anything.
Kin crept forward until he saw two troopers arguing. Wind blew dust, obscured vision, and concealed him as he lurked in an alley near the conversation.
“We don’t have time for this,” the larger of the two said.
Surplus armor stamped with the standard Earth Fleet icon caught Kin’s attention, because the external armaments were expertly placed and easy to access in a fight, not the setup of inexperienced recruits. Elite commandos couldn’t have done better.
Strange. Why are two badasses like you slumming in that junk?
Something exploded. The ground rumbled under Kin’s feet. Flames thrust skyward from a building nearby. Townspeople screamed for help, their voices ethereal and broken in the silence following the boom. Kin wanted to know why these troopers were in disguise. Were they saboteurs intent on destroying Earth Fleet, or were they merely high ranking officers spying on their troops?
“If Imperials came through the wormhole after the battle, we’ll find them. We have time. You’re such a pussy,” the smaller trooper said. The voice was familiar and possibly a woman’s, but Kin immediately doubted himself. FSPAA vocal filters were nearly gender neutral by default, though most troopers disabled them.
“You had to go there,” the larger trooper said. “Watch and learn.”
Imperials. Whoever they were, Kin had never heard of them. His first impression was of a human, or at least humanoid, adversary. Until now, all enemy races of the Fleet had been monstrous—Reapers, Soul Catchers, Shape Shifters, and Cyborgs. War between human nations was ancient history.
Kin followed the troopers sprinting toward the burning buildings. They quickly outdistanced him. He’d forgotten how fast a trooper could move in armor. By the time he caught up, both troopers emerged from a building holding armloads of terrified children.
Cassie Davis fell at their feet, wailing for her babies.
Kin wanted to comfort her. He took a few steps forward, but stopped when the smaller trooper looked at him sharply.
Kin broke eye contact, though he couldn’t actually see the trooper’s eyes, and yelled. “Cassie! Are you okay?”
The trooper watched him a moment longer before pushing free of the Davis family reunion. “Get a support team here on the double! We have collateral damage.”
Fleet medics and firemen arrived, helping the townspeople extinguish the flames and triage the wounded. The two mystery troopers took charge of the chaotic scene.
Kin took the opportunity to leave.
Something changed after the invaders rescued Cassie’s children. The routine protocols of occupying strategic and tactical positions, detaining key people, and requisitioning resources seemed more benevolent. Kin witnessed Fleet troopers using war-fighting technology to rescue people. An FSPAA unit had to burn for a long time before the person inside became uncomfortable. Muldoch’s execution remained vivid in his mind and he wasn’t swept away by the heroics of the Fleet.
Kin scoured the town for people who needed help or direction. Laura was in the hands of the Fleet. She would either betray him or not betray him, regardless of what he did now. He faced a dangerous choice: flee the city while he had the chance or help the innocent victims of the invasion.
It wasn’t a difficult decision. Who was he? What did his life matter? He had fought for it—lied, killed, robbed people to pay for a new identity—but was his existence worth more than Crater Town?
When the sun came up he was exhausted, but felt good. Crater Town had been a better home to him than he had known before or after the Fleet. He began a final circuit of the town, drinking water from a skin and nodding at people who seemed glad to be alive.
TIRED men and women wandered the town square, wiping sweat and soot from their faces with rags. Rows of Fleet troopers stood guard, seeming like statues come to life, if only briefly. The younger Crater Town folk played fiddles and pipes near the fountain. Celebration filled the air. Children played as though they would never grow up while the adults laughed and encouraged them.
Kin walked past guards flanking each intersection—avoiding looking at them when they turned their helmets to follow his progress. He doubted any of these men or women could have been on Hellsbreach, but they might have attended his court-martial. That farce had been held in the bay of a Titan Class Battlecruiser with thousands of soldiers standing at attention. Nine generals and three admirals had presided over the hearing and passed judgment.
One friendly face at his execution cried without wiping tears or moving from her position of attention. She hadn’t dared to look directly at Kin, because discipline demanded all eyes be directed straight ahead. He didn’t like to think of Becca that way. He walked toward the town meeting hall under the stare of soldiers—trained killers with the most advanced weapons known to mankind, men he understood, men who were just like he had been.
The last time Kin had seen Becca before Hellsbreach, she had been running through a wheat field with her hair down. He still saw the girl behind her intelligent eyes, especially when she was off duty and in a playful mood. He remembered her bright-blue dress dancing below her knees, the neck line modest but open, nothing like the high collar of her cadet’s uniform. Her shoulders and arms had been bare. The fabric of her dress fit her hips and body snuggly. He thought he could wrap his hands around her waist and touch his fingertips, but never worked up the courage to try. He smiled, remembering her looking over her shoulder and laughing. He wished he could chase her again and be in love.
They had hiked all day and sprawled in a meadow overlooking a green valley of Earth VI. Farmers worked terraced fields in small, open-topped tractors. The crops were distributed locally, not to distant colonies or industrial planets with barely enough plant life to photosynthesize oxygen, much less provide their own food. Countless agriculture colonies filled that need. Earth VI was a liberty planet, a place of rest and revitalization for travelers. A day on an Earth Class Planet healed humans with almost magical power.
In his mind, Kin sat next to her. She leaned back on her elbows, wriggling her toes in the grass. He smiled, gazing at her, speaking infrequently, attending her every word as though it were music.
“I’ve been thinking of my father and brothers all day, my real brothers, not you, Kin,” Becca said. “I’m trying not to be sad. Trying so hard.”
“No one should be sad on a day like this,” Kin said. “So, I’m like a brother?”
She leaned toward him, freeing her left arm to swat his leg. “You know you’re beautiful, Kin. I’m going to have a long talk with the girl who thinks she can marry you.”
Kin tied a piece of grass in a knot, staring at each twist he made. “I miss your brothers.”
He could have avoided mandatory enlistment, but it seemed wrong to enjoy the safety the Fleet provided without doing his part. He wasn’t from a military family like Becca was. His father had been a smuggler and had taught him two things when he wasn’t in boarding school; how to fight dirty and how to survive. Good lessons for boarding school. Good lessons for storming a hostile planet. Perhaps Becca’s father and brothers wouldn’t have been killed by Reapers if they’d learned the same lessons.
“I miss them so much I can barely breathe,” she said. Tears welled in her eyes. She turned them to the horizon, fixing them on something in the distance. “The Reapers tore them apart, Kin. I have nightmares.”
Kin held her and she leaned into him. They were silent for a long time.
“I’m going to volunteer for the Hellsbreach Campaign.” He spoke softly into her hair, but his heart raced.
“I don’t want you to go, because no one returns from Betaoin. But I want vengeance. You’re the only man in the Fleet who can deliver it,” Becca said.
“I’m just one man, but only the best are allowed to volunteer for this mission. If the Reapers can be wiped out, we’ll do it,” Kin said.
He didn’t want to go. He wasn’t afraid. The reality of the battle to come was too far in the future. The danger seemed abstract. He didn’t hold the same hate as Becca did. All men die. Some die badly. He didn’t need vengeance, but Becca did, so he would deliver it. If he survived, she’d be thirty by the time the Hellsbreach Campaign ended and ships traveled back to Earth Fleet controlled space. She’d be married and barely remember her childhood friend.
Memory was a cruel sorcerer. He held the vision of Becca in his mind, but the spell was destroyed by the fires of Hellsbreach and the sounds of gunfire and plasma bolts. He saw splashes of red, explosions of orange and gold. He smelled smoke from the past and present.
He fled the images in his mind and focused on what needed to be done. Fleet troopers watched as he walked. They towered above him in their assault armor.
Kin examined the squad’s sergeant from a distance. There was something about the way he moved—arrogant and cruel. He towered over the other troopers, swaggering aggressively. They jumped when he said jump.
Kin shortened his stride when he saw the etching on the ceramic exoskeleton of the suit. The design differed from what he remembered, but the style was familiar. Sergeant Orlan decorated his armor with etchings despite regulations forbidding it. Many troopers on Hellsbreach had done the same thing, putting notches on armor for every kill, carving pictures of loved ones or enemies or religious symbols to match the tattoos on their skin, or merely decorating the ceramic shell with art. Sergeant Orlan’s talent for ornamentation was impressive, despite his large, thick hands.
Kin knew he should go around the man, yet he moved closer and saw a lion’s head skillfully engraved on the breastplate. On Hellsbreach it had been a wolf, but Kin recognized Orlan’s handiwork. It was unfair such a brute could create something so magnificent.
Kin abruptly turned down an alley. A guard noticed him and followed.
“You there, where are you going? Why are you armed? Do you have a permit?”
Kin faced the guard, taking another careful step into the shadow of the building. He glanced down the street, noting Orlan still faced the other direction. The worst danger was over, or so he thought. But then he realized this was the same trooper who saved little Kylee and Samantha Davis from the fire before recognizing him.
This guy is stalking me.
“I have a permit.”
The guard accepted the paper, pretending to not recognize Kin. The mechanized gauntlets looked too large to hold such a delicate object, but Kin knew the assault armor was capable of both fine motor skills and feats of incredible strength. He also understood the suits required charging, despite the solar power they gathered to extend battery life. In time, the fierce machines would be men and women, mere mortals without shells of technology. Kin doubted this soldier would follow him into an alley alone without the armor, even if he hoped to collect a reward for capturing the Enemy of Man.
“Who wrote this permit?” the trooper asked. The depersonalized voice sounded neutered by the amplifier projecting it. The sound and deception it represented bothered Kin.
“All permits for firearms are approved or denied by the Crater Town Council. Councilwoman Laura Keen signed that particular paper,” Kin said. Prior to the arrival of the Fleet, Kin had been in charge of enforcing the permit laws, but never bothered. Crater Town was a frontier settlement on an uncharted planet. Life was dangerous. People carried weapons when they could find or make them.
“You are Kin Roland? Security officer for Crater Town?” the trooper asked.
“I am. Is there a problem?”
“Most people with that unfortunate name changed it after Hellsbreach,” the trooper said, studying his reaction.
Kin shrugged.
“Commander Westwood wishes to know who doused the lighthouse as we approached.”
Kin nodded. “I’ll ask around.” He turned away from the trooper.
Kin faced the trooper again, who seemed to be listening to a command sequence inside the helmet.
“You are to appear before Commander Westwood and the Crater Town Council in the meeting hall.”
Kin hesitated, but knew he couldn’t delay for long. “I need to check one more person, then I’ll head that way.”
The trooper shook his head and stepped closer to Kin, towering over him. “My orders are to bring you without delay.” Another pause. “Who are you looking for?”
“Sibil Clavender,” Kin said.
“Who is Sibil Clavender?” the trooper asked.
Kin pointed at the wormhole, discolored and turbulent from the disturbance of the planetary assault. “She’s the person who soothes the spirit of the wormhole.” Kin couldn’t hear if the soldier snorted without activating the helmet speaker, but he probably did. Kin held the trooper’s gaze until the helmet slowly turned toward the pulsating wormhole.
The trooper faced Kin and waited for what had to be an order from Fleet Command. “You may look for her. I will escort you.”
Kin turned, stepping through the alley to emerge on a street not much wider than the path between buildings. He trudged up the steep dune, navigating twists and turns, avoiding the direct route in order to disorient his guard.
“This is the wrong way,” the trooper said. “Our drones have already mapped this area. What are you doing?”
“Making a fool of myself, apparently.”
Kin studied the reflective visor and searched for clues in how the trooper stood and how he chose to arrange the accessories on his armor. There were no engravings or unit markings beyond the Earth Fleet emblem. “Do I know you?”
Silence. They stared at each other.
“Please continue.”
Kin waited a few moments and turned away. He walked slowly, sensing it would annoy the trooper. This type of guard duty was a waste of time. A good soldier would resent it.
“I thought you’d be looking for Imperials,” Kin said.
“Why would you think that?”
“I heard some troopers talking about them.” Kin waited. He assumed Imperials blasted this Fleet Armada through the wormhole, but had never heard of them. Whoever they were, their presence in Earth Fleet controlled space occurred after Hellsbreach.
The trooper didn’t respond.
Kin led the unhelpful guard to a cottage set into the side of a dune. Little more than the door betrayed the location of Sibil Clavender’s home. A gaggle of hopper birds loitered near the threshold. Fur grew around the faces and forelegs of the strange creatures. The hopper birds also possessed strong hind legs for running and multicolored wings in perpetual motion.
Kin squatted, waiting until each hopper bird scrambled to him and pecked his hands. “I am Kin Roland. I mean no harm,” he said several times, making sure they recognized his scent and the sound of his voice.
“Why do you do that?” the trooper asked.
“They’re my friends.” Kin stood.
“They’re messenger birds.”
“They are.”
The trooper stood motionless while receiving an order Kin couldn’t hear, but could remember from a hundred missions.
Secure all forms of communication. You’re the tip of the spear, Trooper. Report success to Command and Control. Do you copy?
Roger that.
The trooper looked at Kin. “They will be confiscated.”
“Good luck.” Kin ducked inside the dwelling, leaving the Fleet trooper to chase birds around the yard.
Dimly glowing stones illuminated the surprisingly large room. As his eyes adjusted to muted light, he noted simple items—a pitcher on the low table, a bowl of local fruit, and silver beads in a pattern representing the ring of moons around the planet. Glow stones were set in the walls, like oval windows or portals to unknown worlds.
Kin moved to the table. He studied a book Clavender never allowed him to open. Something like an angel graced the cover, with multicolored wings, noble beard, and the face of a warrior king. The eyes reminded him of Clavender.
His fingers grazed the book.
“Are you well, Kin Roland?” Sibil Clavender emerged from the shadows in all her alien glory. She wore a silk tunic narrowly covering her small breasts and gathered at the waist by a decorative chain. The fine metal made Kin think he could hook one finger under it and rip it off. Her back, naked all the way down, gave room for white wings tipped in blue and dusted with diamonds. The hem of the tunic reached her ankles—slit up the sides to her hips. Her unruly hair was tied high enough to expose her slender neck. Her eyes, blue-green like a tropical lagoon, welcomed him.
Kin stepped away from the table and cleared his throat. “As well as might be expected.”
She smiled, moved closer, sent his heart racing. The exotic way she walked fascinated him. Her wings dazzled his vision. The silver beads in her hair seemed magical.
“Have you been outside?”
She nodded, pressing against him. Kin felt the warmth of her body.
Don’t move. She’ll disappear from this dream. He held his breath. Not everything on Crashdown is dangerous. A battle scared veteran like me could be healed in this room.
“I have seen the strangers. They wear armor. Are we so dangerous?”
“I doubt they came here on purpose. Uncharted planets are always assaulted,” Kin said.
He forced himself to think. Few people could withstand Clavender’s presence for long without being enthralled. Crater Town people thought of her as some kind of spirit or goddess in communion with the weather and the wormhole. She appeared young. For all he knew she was immortal.
She touched him, gripping him with both hands. His pulse raced with something more powerful than lust or love. Clavender’s touch was like morphine, caffeine, and a childhood memory of spring pressed into a shiver.
“I am not so young,” she said.
Kin blushed, which should have been impossible for a genocidal maniac. “I worry about you. Crater Town needs you,” Kin said, shifting uncomfortably.
She smiled dreamily and took his hand. Sensation diffused throughout his body, filling him with peace.
“I wish to see the sky. Walk with me,” she said.
“There’s a Fleet trooper in your yard chasing the hopper birds.”
She turned her face up to him, still smiling like a satisfied lover but also with slyness in her eyes. She led him through a narrow tunnel that forced him to stoop as he walked. Moments later they emerged on the opposite side of the dune, then climbed a goat trail to a place where they watched the frustrated guard below.
Servomotors whirred as the trooper jumped left and right, grabbing at the local birds. Beyond that spectacle, the town spread out to the sea. Cleanup had begun with military precision. Crater Town thrived with activity.
Clavender looked at the sky. “She wants to come home.”
Kin looked at the wormhole and thought the space anomaly seemed masculine rather than feminine, as though it wanted to devour Crashdown. “You understand what that is?”
“I understand,” Clavender said. “You do not. Perhaps it is correct to call it a wormhole, but it did not come to this planet. It came from this planet. There is only one.”
Kin shook his head. “There are more than a thousand charted wormholes. I’ve been through a hundred of them.”
“There is only one,” she said, still gripping his hand firmly and nestling her small body close to his.
Kin shivered, not because her warm skin electrified his imagination, but because the thought of a single wormhole intruding into every corner of the universe terrified him. He pointed to it. “Look at the colors—red and orange and purple after the lightning flashes. Other wormholes are blue and silver, or green like your eyes.”
“Or like the reflection of the sea,” she said.
Kin suddenly imagined every wormhole looking down at Crashdown and soaking up color from the ocean. The thought unnerved him, because it felt right. Was he standing in the center of the universe? If he were, who was this young woman next to him who changed the color of the waves and the thrashing of the sea with her moods?

Lost Hero

Changed by captivity and torture, hunted by the Reapers of Hellsbreach and wanted by Earth Fleet, Kin Roland hides on a lost planet near an unstable wormhole.

When a distant space battle propels a ravaged Earth Fleet Armada through the same wormhole, a Reaper follows, hunting for the man who burned his home world. Kin fights to save a mysterious native of Crashdown from the Reaper and learns there are worse things in the galaxy than the nightmare hunting him. The end is coming and he is about to pay for a sin that will change the galaxy forever. 


Enemy of Man: Book One in the Chronicles of Kin Roland was written for fans of military science fiction and science fiction adventure. Readers who enjoyed Starship Troopers or Space Marines will appreciate this genre variation. Powered armor only gets a soldier so far. Battlefield experience, guts, and loyal friends make Armageddon fun. 


If you love movies like Aliens, Predator, The Chronicles of Riddick, or Serenity, then you might find the heroes and creatures in Enemy of Man dangerous, determined, and ready to risk it all. It’s all about action and suspense, with a dash of romance—or perhaps flash romance. 

From the Author

Thanks for your interest in my novel, Enemy of Man. I hope you chose to read the book and enjoy every page. 

If you have already read Enemy of Man, how was it? Reviews are appreciated! 

Have a great day and be safe.
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Genre – Science Fiction
Rating – R
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