To Kill A Curse – Excerpts

TKAC (2)

As To Kill A Curse comes out TOMORROW, I thought I’d share a couple of small excerpts. :)

Excerpt 2 – Chapter 9, To Kill A Curse (Inside Evil series, Book 5 finale)

It didn’t take long for the tea to take effect, and soon Susan saw transparent limbs moving away from her physical body. She’d found it scary at first; the splitting process. But now it was exhilarating. Such lightness, such fluidity, such clarity of thought. She stood, and looked to where Sam was staring at her, no doubt wondering whether she’d left her body yet. He glanced around the room, but she knew she was invisible to his eyes now.

Focussing her full attention on the bag on the floor, Susan reached out for it, determined she’d be able to lift it the first time. She failed, and her fingers flowed straight through the handle several times before there was even the slightest connection. Finally, she managed to snag the cloth strap upon her finger and used all the strength in the world to hoist the bag to her shoulder, watching the amazement on Nastasia and Sam’s face as she did so. To them, the image of the floating bag must be quite a sight.

Monty had already completed his work, and the web was prepared. As she approached the mirror, he ran across the top of the frame, twanging each strand of silk as he passed and causing the small purple droplet to descend the full length of the glass. Within moments, the reflective surface was no more, replaced instead with a swirling glassy mass of sticky material that clung to her as she stepped through. And then, as it bounced back into shape, Susan left Earth and entered the Middlelands.

As soon as she set foot in the world that acted as a thin veil between Earth and Gathin, that prevented the two realms from explosively colliding and obliterating one another, she realised something was wrong. The pale yellow light of the world was thin, as if it had been watered down somehow. A howl filled the air, but not one that emanated from a creature, but from the beast of nature itself. Susan followed the noise, wandering through her wooded surroundings and crunching across the pine needle covered floor. The roar of the fir trees above was something she was used to; on Earth and in the Middlelands it had its distinctive sound. But this was something different; a howl, the juddering thunder of a great storm.

She walked onwards, not sure where she was going, but undeterred nonetheless. Martha had become lost in this place, but it didn’t seem important now that so many of them were gone. It was imperative she complete her task, that she return to Earth with the knowledge of what to do, how to save them. But what if she didn’t? What happened if she too became lost and weak and starved? She pushed the thought aside; she could not dwell on such matters.

In time, the ground beneath her feet became steeper, and Susan realised she must be following the path trodden by so many before her. Her inclination was correct as, ten or so minutes later, she emerged on the precipice that overlooked the vast forested landscape ahead. She’d been here before, of course. In the real world. In her world, but never in the Middlelands. She saw immediately that the roaring noise she’d heard, and the sound she’d become so sure was not from that of the wind in the canopy, in fact came from a great tear in the sky. Her skin pimpled as she felt the cold air whirling around her and saw the jagged slice falling from the heaven to earth as if a lightening bolt had been captured and caught in an eternal attack. From where she stood, Susan couldn’t work out whether air was rushing in or out of the bright void, but the noise was deafening as the atmosphere smashed, battered and tore at the edges. As she looked on, the roaring increased and one edge of the hole tore further. For the most miniscule of moments, the forest was silent and then, where the additional rip had formed, the most ear-splitting sound, as if an aircraft had exploded and sent its engines to a fiery end, filled the air. She couldn’t help but be bowled backwards by the sound, and she found herself against the trunk of a large pine that vibrated ferociously under the onslaught of the noise. Whatever the Queen had done, it seemed their worst fears had begun to happen; the fragile boundary between their worlds was fracturing.

Except 2 – Chapter 13, To Kill A Curse (Inside Evil series, Book 5 finale)

“Why were you on the North Realm’s side of the boundary?”

Roberta looked across to the two riders just above her eye level. They rode a black mare, her mane flecked with dust from the flat landscape they were meandering across. There was not a tree in sight, just a few measly shrubs here and there that sprang up in clumps amidst the fields of cereal that spread out in every direction. She’d been told they were about to cross the ‘Golden Belt’, and now she saw why.

The man holding the mare’s reigns continued with his work, but the other looked across to where Roberta and her motley crew sat in the back of the small cart, being jostled as the wheels bumped and clattered their way along the dry road.

“Rumours abound about you….about your copy,” he corrected himself, eyeing her carefully. Since she’d been freed from her chains, life had become a lot easier. That was not to say that each and every member of the procession didn’t still dissect her with a wary eye. There was less hostility, though it was clear on their faces that this was an act of will rather than natural disposition. Many simply avoided any interaction with her at all, whilst she caught others, such as the teenager, snatching glances at her when they thought she wasn’t paying attention.

“And you thought you’d just ride straight into Hilltree outright? She’d have never allowed that.”

“You think us all fools,” the man growled lowly. “You’re no better than that witch of yours.”

“I don’t think that at all, actually. It just struck me, in fact, that you’re too intelligent to think she’d have just bowed down before you.”

The man stared back as their journey continued, pausing to ruminate on her words before continuing.

“We have spies. Guess it don’t matter now who knows. One of our major informants failed to check in with us. We were sent to find out what was happening. We weren’t there for your rescue, before you think it. You were in the right place, at the right time.”

“Forgive me if I’m not exactly seeing things in the same light,” Roberta said frankly, realising the man’s idea of rescuing was very different from her own.

“You’d be in the belly of a wolf if it weren’t for us.”

“And instead I’m in the belly of this raiding party.”

“Raiding party?! You think us fools and a raiding party?” The man’s eyebrows arched in offence. “I’ll have you know, we are the Royal Boundary Guard! Each of us is here by official appointment.”

“If that’s true, I fail to see how you can’t compare yourself to us,” Sesane said dryly. “You call us North Realm scum, thieves, beggars, the uneducated scabs of life. And yet you expect me to believe that someone like Garner, or Antane, was royally appointed to this Royal Boundary Guard?” She mocked her last words, taking care to sarcastically imitate the man’s pride when it had come to naming his regiment.

“To the hells with you.”

The man nudged his comrade, who jabbed his sharp-spined boot into the mare’s side, causing her to trot quickly off amongst those ahead.

“Whatever got underneath his skin?” Sesane said with a smile upon her face as she nestled back against the timber frame of the cart. “I’m not sure why you even bother talking to them. We may be out of chains, but we’re far from free.”

“I was trying to gather some information,” Roberta said with slight exasperation. “Emily, you said it yourself, we’re getting through to them, getting them to realise we’re not the enemy. What’s wrong with a little fishing spree?”

To Kill A Curse comes October 15th

I’m excited; in less than a week’s time, To Kill A Curse will arrive. Having worked on this series for almost a decade, it finally comes to its conclusion when the fifth and final instalment publishes on October 15th. If you’re yet to read any of the books, Inside Evil (book one) is currently FREE across all platforms. You can find it at Amazon US and UK as well as other outlets (see links in sidebar; right). The Tower of Souls is also on offer for just $2.99 (again, see links in sidebar) so you can get the first two books for under $3.

If you’d like a heads-up when To Kill A Curse debuts, hop onto the newsletter. Alternatively, just keep your eyes peeled.

TKAC (2)Roberta’s had a year of hell. From fighting a deadly curse, to discovering a parallel realm hiding in the shadows of her own world, she’s narrowly missed death on many occasions. As both friends and foe have fallen, she’s miraculously survived. Though, with giant wolves, doppelgängers and her greatest nemesis’s minions around every corner, she’s not sure how. Now, torn from her loved ones and trying to survive in an alien land, she’s tasked with her most difficult challenge to date; destroy an ancient evil and save two worlds whilst she’s at it.

In the world of Gathin, Roberta’s had to rely on those once considered the enemy, and their relationships are strained even further in her last attempt to find vengeance for those she’s lost. Meanwhile, with Susan and Sam battling to protect Ridgewood from it’s greatest ever threat, the burden to survive and conquer until the bitter end is once again placed upon Roberta’s shoulders. 

First Chapter Preview:

To kill the enemy meant taking on herself. That was the constant and perplexing thought in Roberta’s mind. Many would think having insight into their foes was an advantage, but this time, every idea Roberta had was very likely also in the mind of the woman she sought to kill.

The Queen of the North Realms, the doppelgänger she had fought so hard to stop, had won. She’d crossed from Gathin to Earth. She’d restored the balance of nature; one Roberta living in each plane of existence. There was certainly no way to go home now. Though, as Roberta looked around her surroundings, she realised Hilltree, not Ridgewood, felt more like home than home itself.

Scooping the trailing white dress from the floor, Roberta reached out for Emily’s hand, before using the small metal step to enter the carriage. The dress was new. Actually, it was strung together from a collection of second-hand garments that Franca had begged and bargained for. But to Roberta, this second dress was a work of art. The original long and flowing gown in which she had expected to hide in clear sight, was sodden with the blood of many.

Roberta glanced across the large horse-drawn carriage to where Franca still fiddled with her daughter Emily’s dress. The crimson life force of the woman’s son, Crieg, had been so etched into the skirt and bodice of that beautiful dress there was no saving it. His body, and the others, still laid at the scene, too frightened were any of those around her to climb the great staircase and give the dead the burials they deserved. Everything was rather stark. This had never happened before. No army had ever marched between worlds. Most of those in Gathin still had no idea what had happened. But Roberta knew and she couldn’t even imagine what might happen next.

“Are we about ready?”

Roberta looked up as the doorway was momentarily filled and the carriage was cast into darkness. Soon after, bright sunlight penetrated once again as Sesane stepped into the coach and saw that Franca was still primping Emily’s outfit.

“We really must go,” she said gently, putting her one undamaged arm upon the woman’s shoulder. “If it’s too much….if you’d prefer she stayed?”

“No. She must go, she must do what small gestures of help we can offer,” Franca replied as she pushed hair from her daughter’s forehead and placed a small kiss on the teenager’s exposed skin. “Crieg did what he thought best, and ­­she killed him for it. That’s not our way,” she continued as she finally left Emily’s side and looked to Sesane’s scarred face. “Our children will not die for nothing”.

They hugged briefly, before Franca stepped out of the carriage without a word or glance towards where Roberta shrank into the uncomfortable silence. She closed the door with a slam, and her footsteps were heard on the gravel roadside.

“Where’s Laslay?” Roberta asked, noting the three women had not yet been joined by the Ammokra Acolyte.

“He’s to join us later,” Sesane replied as she considered sitting next to Roberta, saw that the ornate dress covered far too much of the bench, and took a seat next to Emily instead. “He is making a last foray into the tower.”

“It isn’t safe,” Roberta said as her jaw dropped. The Queen may have crossed, but many of her followers remained. “He shouldn’t have gone without us.”

“It is safer for him, than you or I, I assure you. And as long as she took her acolyte henchmen with her, Laslay will not be in harm’s way.”

Beneath her, the carriage wobbled into life and the four great horses that stood outside, their reigns harnessed into the large vehicle, began to snort and stamp their feet. Within a moment, the sound of gravel churning under the wheels began, and the entire vessel began to jerk as it finally moved off.

“I don’t even know why we’re going anymore,” Roberta said softly. “She got through. She won.”

“After everything we’ve been through, you go and say something like that,” Sesane replied sharply, turning her head back from the small window. “No. There is much to be done. She may have crossed through the veils of our worlds, yes, but she has not won. The Ammokra is yet to be destroyed. Her new weapon is yet to be vanquished back to hell.”

“We don’t even know what her weapon is.”

“It will be an Ammokra, of sorts. Let us not forget that it was you who discovered its being, you who found that she was building it from the souls of the original acolyte descendants.”

“And Maerthi paid the price,” Roberta said as she once again thought of the slaughter at the top of the staircase.

“Exactly,” Sesane responded sharply. “But there are souls you can still save, Roberta. You have opened my eyes. You have walked in the Gods’ Realm. There is none but you who can save the souls of those in Ridgewood. If you wish to protect your Gatekeeper and the thousands of lives she’ll use to fuel her curse, then you must find extra strength. This weapon, this curse; she brought it into being by sacrificing the lives of anyone remotely descended from the original six priests. Laslay believes those on Earth who share a similar bloodline will also be sought out to bolster the weapon’s power.”

“So Martha? Martha and every other poor, oblivious relative is in danger?”

“It is likely that they will be the first to fall, yes.”

The carriage fell silent, and Roberta looked through the small window to see scrubby wasteland rolling by. The sun was beating down heavily upon the steep and craggy hills. Their journey had been somewhat delayed by her jaunt into the forest. She’d raced to the precipice only to watch as the Queen strolled out of Gathin as if she’d never been there in the first place. The dress had been ruined, and the small group had needed to call in as many favours as possible to create a new ensemble. The carriage and horses that Crieg had originally organised had also vanished. Despite his age, he’d been well connected. With news of his and the other deaths flooding across Hilltree like a bad disease, they’d been hard pressed to find anyone who’d actually talk. The Queen was gone; that was the word on the hushed streets. She and her army had left Gathin. They’d marched into Earth, tearing through the very fabric that held the world together. But even with Roberta’s doppelgänger gone, there was fear, as if the scars left by her occupation wouldn’t ever heal. Some didn’t believe she was gone, and whispered that their Queen was simply deep in the catacombs of the tower forging some new evil. Others, though brazen enough to joke and laugh that they were free of oppression, still kept to the outskirts of town, not wanting to near the Central Circle’s gates lest a hidden wolf jumped forwards and sank its canines deep into their flesh. Gathin was not at all what Roberta had originally thought it to be; a realm of evil plotting against all those on Earth. Perhaps it had been Barry’s influence that had swayed her first impressions. Perhaps it had been the fact she’d been fighting for her life.

After several days of hiding in Franca’s shop, not that they’d been bothered remotely – for every resident was far too caught in the Queen’s web to pay the slightest attention to a bakery on the periphery of town – Roberta had been forced to wander back across the stone line and seek help in Ruinne. Her second visit was far from eventful. Laslay and Sesane had stood anxiously beside one another as Roberta was ushered across, warning her to stay safe, urging her not to die and allow her soul to be sucked into the stones and left in eternal limbo. However, given that, on her last excursion into the Northern Wilds, she’d almost been discovered by Luguolo, the knowledge he and the Queen were gone made her journey far more enjoyable. She had a huge bag of pastries and bread for trade, and she’d made her way to the remote and crumbling town by nightfall. Once again, she’d pulled her hair over her face to camouflage herself amongst the sickeningly thin and unwashed masses, made her way to Mrs Raveburn’s inn, and spent the night on a lumpy mattress after being fed vast quantities of vegetable soup with unpalatable slimy bits.

“Surprised you ain’t dead. Didnee think I’d be seeing you again,” the innkeeper had sighed as Roberta stepped down into the kitchen the following morning. “Still, y’er her copy, I s’pose. Got some iron guts about y’er. Now, I’m guessing y’er wantin’ some help.”

COMING SOON – OCTOBER 15th.

Read the first four books from Amazon US | UK and sign up to the newsletter so you’re the first to know when it hits the shelves. 

2013 in review and 2014 Schedule

I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s posts, but I’m trying to jot up what’s happened this past year in my head and I need somewhere to put it down. Looking back, I suppose 2013 really was the year I got into publishing properly. Whilst I debuted on the indie author scene during 2012, with Inside Evil released in March 2012 and The Tower of Souls later on that summer, I really was still getting to grips with the industry and how it worked. It took until January of 2013 when CRYO and Pacifier 6 were published in quick succession, before Spirits of the Middlelands and New Alliances later on in they year. So, all in all, I published three full novels this year and a novella. Not actually very productive seeing as the majority of CRYO was actually rewritten and proofed in 2012. Still, a number of good things have happened this year:

  • Sales surpassed 500 books sold. I’m an indie prawn and don’t sell a huge amount. Getting to 500 is pretty amazing, and making over £1,000 in royalties is even more incredible.
  • Inside Evil was heavily edited and went perma-free. When I started I was a rookie and still finding my feet. I didn’t really understand how the world worked. When IE first went free, it was littered with problems. I picked myself up and dusted myself off from some unfortunate reviews, found a new editor and reworked the book.
  • I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time. I’m great procrastinator and will find any reason NOT to write. This year, NaNo fitted perfectly with my writing schedule so I used it to start CRYO; A Changed World. I ‘won’ NaNo and completed CRYO yesterday.
  • I branched onto new platforms. I’ve never been in Select; I’m a believer of not putting your eggs in one basket. This year, as well as going direct to Kobo when UK authors were allowed into the fold, I’ve also started getting my books onto GooglePlay. Sales have started to dribble in from B&N, Sony and iBooks too, which is always a good thing.

So, in about six-and-a-half hours, 2013 will be gone and 2014 will be here. I have a lot planned, and most of it hasn’t to do with writing. I’m going on holiday, getting married, going on a honeymoon, sorting out a visa for my other half to continue living in Britain and all manner of other exciting things. BUT, I mustn’t forget my writing. Whilst I thought I wrote a lot in 2013, the figures say otherwise and I want to increase my output this year.

  • Inside Evil. 2014 will bring the Inside Evil series to a close with ‘To Kill a Curse’. It’s bittersweet as this story has been with me the longest out of anything. I can’t wait to finally finish, but I’m sad to say goodbye too.
  • CRYO. As I’ve mentioned, CRYO; A Changed World now has a 1st draft. After a read through and then editing, I expect it to come out in February. I would anticipate getting the third CRYO book out in 2014 too, and a rough story is already formulating in my mind. I’m also intending on writing a few prequels which focus on main characters. John and Beth’s story will be free, and I have plans for short stories on Evie, Viktor, Anne and Franz too. I might even give horrid Agnes a little tale.
  • Pacifier 6. Despite loving this story, it really hasn’t sold; only a mere handful. I would love to write another novella at some point and I already have the story. However, it may not be worth my time if I’m not shifting copies, so any sequel is on the back-burner for now.
  • SOMETHING NEW. I do have another science fiction tale in the back of my head involving solar ships, disappearing planets and a small group of explorers. However, that’s about it (though I know as soon as I start writing, something will happen). I’m not yet sure whether this will be a project for 2014 or not.

So, for the coming year I have three novels planned and several short stories in the works. I’d like to get at least one further novel out (possibly two). For now, though, I’m going to go and enjoy New Year’s Eve cake!!

New Alliances is LIVE

New AlliancesI’m so stoked! New Alliances is now available on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Smashwords. As I’m a UK-based writer, I don’t have direct access to B&N, so I’ll have to wait for the novel to work through Smashwords distribution channels. It’s also uploaded at Kobo, but isn’t yet live on their site.

Book 4 of the Inside Evil series was fantastic to write; mostly because I got to venture back into Gathin and discover more about this parallel world and those who inhabit it. Whilst there’s plenty going on in Ridgewood, a lot of answers are finally found as to where the Ammokra came from and why it comes in cycles.

Now I have to think about the fifth and final book – though I’m starting NaNoWriMo today and the sequel to CRYO comes first. Then the last installment of Inside Evil will arrive, and you’ll see from the end of New Alliances, that there’s quite a fight to be had! :D

Thanks for being brilliant fans, taking the time to read and leaving me reviews. It makes my day!

New Alliances – First Chapter Preview

I’ve done it. I’ve just pressed the PUBLISH button over at Amazon so New Alliances is on its way! Whilst the link’s aren’t live and I don’t even have an ASIN yet, I CAN share the first chapter. So, without further ado, here it is.

New Alliances

Chapter 1

 

New AlliancesAnother scream rang out in the darkness and Roberta pushed her hands tighter over her ears. The torturing had been going on for hours. The cries had been sharp and prolonged at first, until they gradually quietened to a muffled and dull whimper. Then they’d stopped, and she’d been relieved that the horrendous sounds were no longer eviscerating her ears. But it seemed the victim had only been given a slight respite, for another painful onslaught was soon brought upon them.

Roberta had quickly realised just where in Gathin she’d been thrust into. Through the opening at the top of the tall cylindrical tomb a light shone down upon her. But it was not the blue sky she originally thought, but a mural painted on a ceiling far above. The drop from the high room to where she lay now was vast. As someone had been dragged across the floor and propped into the chair that now covered the small spherical opening above her, Roberta had realised she was in Gathin’s central tower. It was the windowless pillar that rose out of the ground in the heart of the Queen’s domain. Above her was the room where she’d fought off the Queen of the North Realms, where she’d attempted to throw the doppelgänger to her death. The small opening was covered with an iron grate; the only barrier that kept the seat from dropping into the chasm below. As Roberta had surveyed the room, she’d realised that things, creatures…..people, were dropped from that height, for there was a mound of corpses in the room in which she was now trapped. They rose towards the middle like a newly forming mountain, the peak of which was directly beneath the opening above.

Looking into the darkness with the vague hope that she might’ve gained the sudden ability of nocturnal vision, Roberta picked out the top of the mound, the place where she’d found herself sprawled only hours ago. Perhaps it was days? She couldn’t be sure. The desiccated and mummified rat corpses that littered the floor of the room in their thousands, made Roberta’s skin crawl. She allowed herself, just momentarily, to remember that her sister’s body also lay amidst the mound, Natasha’s sunken face being dry and lifeless. But she shouldn’t jump to conclusions. It might not be Natasha, it must be her sister’s doppelgänger. It had to be.

Now, Roberta was huddled against the outer wall of the circular room trying to shut out the sounds that came from above her. A thin layer of dead rats shifted as she moved, and though she’d managed to clear away many of them with her feet, a few rogue skeletons still creaked beneath her as she sat in resigned devastation. She’d fumbled her way through the dark as her fingers traced the rough stonework of her tomb, but she’d found no way out other than the obvious; a large impenetrable door that was solidly locked. At one point there’d been noise beyond, thick gravelly voices and then a deep snarl that could only have come from one of Gathin’s gigantic wolves. If she stayed in this room, she was dead. But if she alerted anyone that she was here…..it would be worse.

A scream rang out again, causing Roberta to look towards the grate and push her fingers even deeper into her ears.

“What use are you to me if you know nothing?”

The voice wrenched Roberta’s gut as she recognised it as her own. The woman she sought to kill was almost directly above her, but yet so far out of reach.

“Please…..forgive me, my Queen. I will remember, there must be something of use….please.”

“There’s only one thing you have that’s of use to me now.”

There was a small shriek of fear, and the man’s voice was cut short. Roberta drew her eyes to the floor as she saw a shadow fall still upon the grate. There was the sound of light rain, as if a sparse cloud was fluttering overhead and giving the land below a moist dusting. She knew the rain was crimson, that it splashed the mound of carcasses at the base of the tower with scarlet. The trickling ceased to be heard as a deafening roar echoed around her, and for a moment, Roberta twisted her head anxiously towards the small door, expecting it to open with a loud crunch. Movement at the top of the tower momentarily plunged her into complete darkness, until the roar was heard again and the grate was pulled back into place. Seconds later there was a sickening crunch as the tortured soul’s lifeless body from above was reunited with its lost blood. It landed on top of the mound with a thud, scattering rat carcasses and drawing the few live rodents on the edge of the room scuttling towards the centre for their newest meal.

Roberta wasn’t sure what drew her towards the body. Perhaps it was the morbid curiosity of seeing just what had been done to the man. Alternatively it was simply the chance to actually move with purpose from where she’d been stagnating in the darkness. Her fingers touched a revolting rat as she crept on her hands and knees towards the top of the mound, her only relief coming from the fact that the rodents she felt beneath her fingers were dead and not the living carnivores that seemed to have their beady black eyes upon her as an extra meal. She felt something wet on her fingers as she placed her hand down upon the gnarly head of one particularly gigantic creature. In the dark light it seemed little more than black goo on her hands, but as her eyes squinted to try and determine just what the viscous liquid smeared across her fingers was, she saw that the sound of rain had indeed been the splatter of a life force draining away. Despite appearing dark and black upon her fingers, she knew it was the scarlet ink of life.

After a brief attempt to wipe the blood from her hand, Roberta leant forward and tried to inspect the fallen figure. He’d dropped in such a way that he was sprawled on top of the heap, his arms laying at abnormal angles. His body was contorted and crushed by the severity of the fall, a limp wrist lying lifelessly before her. Such was the keenness of her eyes and the length of time that she’d been trapped in the dark, that Roberta found the light around her to be enough to perceive a diagram on the man’s wrist. She recognised it instantly, for it was the same symbol that Galdur had etched on his chest; the Ammokra. But Galdur, Roberta’s Icelandic gatekeeper, wore it to symbolise his part in keeping the dark from their door, to stop the curse breaking through to Earth and causing complete and utter devastation. Why should someone in Gathin have the Ammokra so carefully inked upon their skin? The man wore a long robe, the hood of which was covered in silver threading and feathers. A priest, perhaps? A Gathin man who wielded the curse that came to Earth every decade? Roberta couldn’t be sure, but he’d known something. Or, at least her doppelgänger had perceived that he’d held information important to her quest.

As blackness became her constant, a never-ending night, Roberta froze as she heard voices. They were deep; the grumbling of men, a sound that echoed through the tower’s many subterranean corridors and floated through the small grate in the door. They were not words meant to strike fear but sounded more like the heavy and irritable growl of souls who seemed to have contempt for the world around them, but they caused every fibre of Roberta’s being to grind to an immediate stop lest they hear her. The voices were not immediately outside the door, but way off down the tiny stone hallway, and though the fading footsteps showed no obvious threat of turning and heading back in her direction, Roberta realised that if she was to have any hope of surviving, she had to find a way out.

Waiting until the voices faded completely from earshot, she breathed a heavy sigh and attempted to pull her thoughts together. She was in a small circular stone tower. There was no way out other than a vastly thick door, and the only hole was a small slit where it didn’t quite reach the floor. Even though her fingers were slight, there was nothing to be done to get at the lock on the other side. High above, far out of reach, the single grate shone the slightest of illuminations into her cell, and scuttling around the edges were the rats who must be finding their way into the room through the small ground level grate. Roberta had held her hand to it upon her first circuit of the room and found it to be hot. The only conclusion she’d come to was that it was a funnel from the furnace, a way to push warmth up the tall tower and heat the cold rooms above that protruded high into the sky. It also accounted for the dry atmosphere that caused the corpses around her to mummify rather than rot into a sludgy hell.

Pushing herself down the heap, and momentarily realising that she was becoming used to the texture of corpses beneath her fingers – a fact which made her shudder more than the death around her – Roberta was quickly at the grate. When she’d first entered the tomb, her fingers had recoiled at the touch of warped and leathery heads, sharp and bony teeth. But now they dug into the bodies without concern. The hope in her chest rose as she realised that the grate was far more than a small sliver at the bottom of the room, but was deeper than she’d imagined, hidden beneath layer upon layer of rat. She threw corpses over her shoulder without concern, pushing mounds of spindly tails and flaking fur out of the way as she dug deeper into the pile before her. Within a few moments, the grate in the wall had emerged to be far greater than she had even dared hope. It was big enough for her to slide through, albeit on her stomach, but it was the one and only way out.

Placing her fingers carefully through the small holes on the barrier, Roberta gripped the metal carefully and gave it an almighty wrench. Nothing moved, not even the slightest jiggle that the needle of hope in her chest could get behind. She pulled again, still nothing. The metal grate didn’t budge in the slightest, and Roberta feared she might’ve given too much over to the hope she’d escape the dark dungeon.

She pulled her fingers from the metal and traced around the edge of the grate, looking for a crack, a weakness that she could take advantage of. There was none, but her fingers touched the outline of a screw and she dared to become excited again.

By now, her surroundings were of little consequence and she reached down to one of the decaying corpses, felt carefully along the brow of the rodent and then, with a swift crunch, broke one of the grossly long incisors from its skull. Attempting to unwind a single screw was extremely hard going, and several times Roberta had to stop as voices floated through the darkness. Behind her, there were the sounds of rats gorging on the fallen victim, incisors similar to the one in her hand, gnawing and chewing on fresh flesh.

Only the very tip of the tooth was any good to her plight, and the darkness and the fact that the bone continuously slipped out of the screw’s groove, caused Roberta to curse in the darkness. But, eventually, the screw became so loose that her nimble fingers were able to pull the fastening from the metal and the grate slipped on one side, making a muffled thud as it fell away. Roberta wasted no time in attacking the remaining screw in the opposite corner, the last fastening that prevented her from sliding into the horizontal shaft. It seemed easier this time, and whether it was the screw and tooth combination, or the increased urgency, the grate came away from the wall in no time at all.

Taking a moment to peer into the black void in front of her, Roberta wondered what lurked in the darkness. She placed a hand upon the inner side of the vent and felt warmth on the metal, nothing so hot that it scorched her skin, but the soft warmth as if a towel had been hung on a bathroom radiator. The exertion in the cell had caused Roberta’s hair to fall around her shoulders, and she scraped it back into a tight pony tail before dropping to her stomach and slithering into the vent. She inched forward several metres before realising that she didn’t want to alert anyone to her presence, and though contortion had never been her strong suit, she managed to twist herself around enough to pull the vent back into place. It wasn’t precise and she couldn’t replace the fallen screws, but it should evade being noticed for a while.

Inching through the vent was almost as painfully slow as removing the first screw had been. The tiny metal shaft was hideously small, a suffocating hot and grimy environment that made Roberta feel as if she was being suffocated from every angle. Her arms continuously smashed into her chin, and on the rare occasion where she managed to flick her head away in time, she simply banged into the top of the funnel instead. Every knock sent a low thudding sound flowing through the duct, and though the echo quickly died, Roberta began to increasingly fear that her stumbling around in the shaft would wake the entire tower.

After what seemed like forever, a time during which she wondered on several occasions whether she’d made the correct decision to venture into the hot air system, Roberta realised that the funnel had widened slightly. The knocks and bumps were becoming less common, not because she was more adept at navigating the maze, but because the space through which she slithered was larger than before. The metal beneath her fingers was becoming hotter, and providing that she wasn’t singed to death, there was the hope that she was nearing the furnace, coming to a possible place where she could escape the confines of this venting system and actually have room to stretch out. Room to attack if she needed to.

The metal creaked as she slithered forwards in the shaft, aware that her surroundings were quickly becoming too warm to deal with. There was something ahead of her, a break in the black surroundings on the floor of the vent through which she crept. The hole became more obvious as she dragged herself along, and soon Roberta saw that the opening was a small grate looking into a room below. There was no getting through it; it was far too small. But it brought a slight sense of relief that somewhere, in this maze of metal, there’d be somewhere to escape.

Dropping her head so that she could peer through the small window, Roberta realised that she must be close to the furnace. From the little she could see, the room below looked to be a storage facility for a vast number of metal canisters. There was another funnel dropping from the ceiling on the other side of the room, underneath which was an expanse of cushioned flooring to protect whatever fell from the heavens. As was usual with Gathin, there also seemed to be the grisly signs of death, with dark stains on both the floor and wall indicating that something, or someone, had had their blood spilled in the vicinity. Roberta shuddered; at least it wasn’t her own – yet.

As she was about to pull herself away from the grate and find one that was actually big enough to crawl through, Roberta froze. From below her came a deep rumble as if an earthquake was slowly erupting from under her very feet. A nose twitched and a huge hairy and black muzzle stalked into sight. Roberta ceased even breathing as she saw the nostrils below her sniff the air as if they knew she was there. The enormous hulk of Luguolo filled the room beneath her, the thin mohawk of ebony coloured fur that ran along his back, upright and bristling in the dry air. He could tell she was there, she knew it. But he didn’t look up, he just stood transfixed to the spot as a drop of moisture pooled on the end of his quivering nose and fell to the floor. From where she hung above him, Luguolo’s fearsome orange eyes were hidden, but she’d seen them devouring her before and knew he was preparing for a fight. Then, content that he’d surveyed the room and found it empty, he turned slowly and padded away, his tail almost brushing the very grate upon which Roberta lay as he did so.

It was several minutes before Roberta even dared move for she feared that Luguolo had simply sauntered out of sight and was now quietly crouched outside the room, awaiting his prey to stir. As she tried to regulate her heaving lungs and prevent an obvious gasp escaping her lips, she was aware of distant voices. They became gradually closer, accompanied by an odd clunking, until two men trundled into the room with an ancient wheelbarrow that looked on its last legs.

“’nother one gone then,” one man said, the top of his shiny bald head bobbing up and down as he leant over and pulled a canister into the barrow. “She won’t have any left at this rate.”

“Ain’t your concern,” the other warned as he held the barrow firmly whilst the canister was thrown in.

“Will be when she’s run out completely.”

“You ain’t the one who’s gotta cut out the symbol and feed what’s left to Luguolo. If it ain’t bad enough she’s got her fist upon us all, we ‘ave to bow to her flea bitten wolf pack.”

The man heaving the heavy metal cans stopped what he was doing and looked up warily at his companion.

“Don’t be sayin’ stuff like that.” His voice was lower and quieter than before. “She’ll hang us both just for thinkin’ it, let alone sayin’ it.”

“I’d like to see her try,” the man holding the barrow spat viciously whilst the other fell silent. “A’right then,” he said after a pause. “Not another word. C’mon, we gotta get this furnace stoked.”

After heaving one final canister into the barrow, the two men disappeared from Roberta’s sight, though the sound of them trundling along the stone corridor lingered in the air for some time. She wasn’t sure who she was more worried about; Luguolo or her own doppelgänger, The Queen of the North Realms. But there wasn’t time to pause for thought as she was keenly aware she was far from escaping and saving herself. Why did you put me here? She cursed the spirits of the Middlelands yet again for putting her in such a position. Surely a small and secluded lodge somewhere in the woods would have been a far better starting point?

With realisation that the metal beneath where she’d lain for several minutes had becoming increasingly hot, Roberta took a deep breath and forged ahead. She gave in to the risk that those wandering the tunnels below might hear her, and dragged her tired and aching frame through the network of funnels and tubes with the desperate hope that an exit could be found. The metal had become cooler than before, and she wondered whether the two men she’d seen had lapsed in their stoking responsibilities. That, or she’d actually bypassed the furnace completely. It seemed like hours later, but must’ve only been thirty minutes at most, when Roberta slithered around a particularly tight junction in the vent system and saw an opening ahead. It was larger than the previous grate had been, possibly wide enough to drop through, but what really caused hope to swell in Roberta’s chest was the fact that there was a dull glow emanating through it. It was one thing to navigate a maze of metal furnace vents, it was quite another to find a way out when, aside from the tiny occasional opening, there was no light at all. Here, as she edged closer and saw that the gaps within the vent were smaller than usual and more like bars, at least illumination was finally brought into her world.

Peering through the narrow slits into the room below, Roberta saw that she was hanging above a small square room with a taller than average ceiling. A faint glow emanated from an oil lamp pushed into one corner, the flame casting shadows across a collection of ancient and dirty chains that were securely attached to the wall. Beside one of the rusty metal fastenings, there were blood-covered and lifeless fingers. Roberta’s eyes scanned a hand and followed an arm to where a figure with long hair was collapsed on the floor, the legs pulled into a foetal position.

Vrony.

Find the previous books in the series, Inside Evil, The Tower of Souls and The Spirits of the Middlelands, by clicking the links.

Inside Evil Book 4 – Cover, Title and Blurb Reveal

I know, I’ve been banging on about it for weeks, but I can finally reveal that the new Inside Evil book is called New Alliances. This novel was an absolute blast to write. I loved getting back into Gathin, explaining some of the intricate details of the curse and the world where it came from and getting the gang back together. My editor is currently about 60% of the way through the work, so I’m hoping New Alliances will be published before the end of the month! Then there’ll only be one book left to write to wrap this series up!

New Alliances

Blurb: 

When Roberta was infected with a curse, she never realised the hidden world waiting for her. Ridgewood was a quiet and slumbering town, but it seemed there was a great menace waiting in every shadow. With the initial horror having been abated, Roberta’s cast back to another realm where it’s quickly apparent that forces of doppelgangers are waiting to break through to Earth.

But Roberta’s not alone, and there are many friends left behind who are still fighting. Whilst the gatekeepers fight to uncover secrets and develop a plan to protect themselves, new alliances are forged. And, with new and unexpected allegiances created, the protectors of Earth are finally realising that there’s more than one war being fought.

So, what’s next on my plate? I’ve now started work on the sequel to CRYO; Rise of the Immortals which also has a new cover and blurb – take a look. I left John and his escapees at a precarious point, and I’m eager to find out what their new world has in store for them. I’m going to write as many words as I can for NaNoWriMo and then finish it (hopefully) during December with the aim for a late Jan/early Feb release.

Then I’ll go straight back to Inside Evil to write the final tale to this series. I’m excited and quite sad about that – Inside Evil was the first book I ever wrote and it’s been with me for a LONG time. But it’s time to wrap everything up! So, lots to do!

 

EDIT – I forgot to mention; before the Inside Evil Book 5 release I’ll be offering a competition. I’m still drawing up the exact details, but prizes will include paperback copies of the series, ARC copies of the fifth book and the chance to get YOUR ideas into the pages of the final instalment.

Sample Sunday – An Inside Evil book 4 excerpt

I’m currently forging my way through the fourth Inside Evil book, and I have to say, I’m discovering a lot. Whilst Spirits of the Middlelands was set largely back on Earth, I’m excited to be back in Gathin for this latest installment. There’s a lot being explained in this new novel as Roberta finally starts to get some real answers. I thought I’d share this little excerpt today from the first chapter. Roberta’s been flung back into Gathin and is, like usual, trying to avoid being caught.

If you haven’t read the Inside Evil series, you can find them on Amazon (Inside Evil (1), The Tower of Souls (2) Spirits of the Middlelands(3)).

*****

As she was about to pull herself away from the grate and find one that was actually big enough to crawl through, Roberta froze. From below her came a deep rumble as if an earth quake was slowly erupting from under her very feet. A nose twitched and a huge hairy and black muzzle stalked into sight. Roberta ceased even breathing as she saw the nostrils below her sniff the air as if they knew she was there. The enormous hulk of Luguolo filled the room beneath her, the thin Mohawk of ebony coloured fur that ran along his back, upright and bristling in the muggy air. He could tell she was there, she just knew it. But he didn’t look up, he just stood transfixed to the spot as a drop of moisture pooled on the end of his quivering nose and dropped to the floor. From where she hung above him, Luguolo’s fearsome orange eyes were hidden, but she’d seen them devouring her before and knew he was preparing for a fight. Then, content that he’d surveyed the room and found it empty, he turned slowly and padded away, his tail almost brushing the very grate upon which Roberta lay as he did so.

It was several minutes before Roberta even dared move for she feared that Luguolo had simply sauntered out of sight and was now quietly crouched, awaiting his prey to stir. As she tried to regulate her heaving lungs and prevent an obvious gasp escaping her lips, she was aware of distant voices. They became gradually closer, accompanied by an odd clunking, until two men trundled into the room with an ancient wheelbarrow that looked on its last legs.

“’Nother one gone then,” one man said, the top of his shiny bald head bobbing up and down as he leant over and pulled a canister into the barrow. “She won’t have any left at this rate.”

“Ain’t your concern,” the other warned as he held the barrow firmly whilst the bag was thrown in.

“T’will be when she’s run out completely.”

“You ain’t the one who’s gotta cut out the symbol and feed what’s left to Luguolo. If it ain’t bad enough she’s got her fist upon us all, we ‘ave to bow to her flea bitten wolf pack.”

The man heaving the heavy metal cans stopped and looked up warily at his companion.

“Don’t be sayin’ stuff like that.” His voice was lower and quieter than before. “She’ll hang us both just for thinkin’ it, let along sayin’ it out.”

“I’d like to see her try,” the man holding the barrow spat viciously whilst the other fell silent. “A’right then,” he said after a pause. “Not another word. C’mon, we gotta get this furnace stoked.”

After heaving one final canister into the barrow, the two men disappeared from Roberta’s sight, though the sound of them trundling along the stone corridor lingered in the air for some time. She wasn’t sure who she was more worried about; Luguolo or her own doppelganger, The Queen of the North Realms. But there wasn’t time to pause for thought because Roberta was keenly aware that she was far from escaping and saving herself. Why did you put me here? She cursed the spirits of the Middlelands yet again for putting her in such a position. Surely a small and secluded lodge somewhere in the woods would have been a far better starting point?