Blood & Tears: Coming an ereader near you very soon!




Blood & Tears, book 3 of the Icefire Trilogy is done! Just a proofread and minor edit to be done and then it will be available.

Here is a part of the first scene by way of a teaser:




It was well past midnight when the truck stopped at the gate of Sady’s house. Orsan got out of the seat next to the driver, walked around the side and opened the door for Sady, who let himself down, pulling the sides of his cloak together against the biting wind.

‘Thank you,’ he said to the driver.

‘My pleasure, Proctor. Get some rest. I’ll be back here tomorrow morning, as usual.’

Sady nodded. Thank the heavens for faithful staff.

He walked through the gate, where Orsan exchanged a few words with the young guard Farius. Then across the path flanked by meticulously-clipped bushes, up the steps to the front door.

The night was darker and even more quiet than normal. Low scudding clouds stopped any moonlight reaching the ground, and ever since the bell had rung, the people of the city kept indoors. For the first time in Sady’s memory, the famous street lights of Tiverius remained unlit.

The only light in the hall was the lamp that Lana lit every day after dark and that normally burned all night. By its flickering light, Sady turned to Orsan.

‘Any word from my house guests?’

Orsan shook his head and fixed him with an intense stare. ‘Sady, they can wait until morning. Get Lana to make you some soup and go to bed. I’ll be out at the gate if you need me.’ He gave a customary bow and left.

Sady couldn’t argue with Orsan’s reason. Soup sounded great. Bed even better, although he suspected that once he lay down, sleep would be the last thing that came to him.

After the skirmishes in the refugee camp, he had gone back to his office to deal with the polite unhappiness of the senators, and with the much more rude complaints of the citizens, who told him bluntly that they did not want this southern menace in their city. Mercy, could these people just explain to him what they would have done with all those refugees? Turn the trains around and send the poor wretches back to their ravaged country?

He took his cloak off in the hall, and with it, the stoic façade of strength. He let his shoulders sag and dragged his hands across his stubbled face. He didn’t think he’d ever been so tired in his life.

But even here, in the comfort of his house, he still saw the people on the platform. He saw the stack of bodies. A tangle of arms and legs, coated in indescribable filth. He saw the wretched survivors, with weeping sonorics wounds. He smelled the incredible stench. He saw the angry faces of the refugees in the camp. They only asked to have their dead relatives’ bodies returned to them to observe the proper rituals. They’d been robbed of all dignity, and clung onto what little they had left. But all those bodies would have to be burned to stop contamination. He didn’t look forward to dealing with the aftermath of this necessity. From what he understood, burning your dead amounted to sacrilege in the south; burying them was even worse. It made sense how the southerners left their dead for animals to eat, so that the people could eat the animals in turn. But you just couldn’t do a thing like that in Chevakia’s climate. Not to mention the uproar it would cause to the citizens of Tiverius.

Mercy. How could he possibly solve this?

Bed, Sady, go to bed.

But first, something to eat.

He walked into the kitchen where a single light burned against the back wall. The benches were empty and clean. A bowl of fruit stood in the middle of the table.

‘Hello? Lana?’ He expected to hear a voice from the pantry, I’m in here! Wait a moment. Do you want roccas or some soup?

Now that he came to think of it, he was more than hungry. It could be the reason why he felt so ill. He couldn’t even remember his last meal.

‘Lana?’

The pantry door was closed. The back door into the laundry was closed. The corridor to the servant quarter was dark.
That was strange. Lana was always here. He couldn’t imagine that she had gone to bed; she never did before he was home. But then again, it was very late, and he had told her repeatedly to go to bed if he was late. He was just… disappointed that she seemed to have taken his advice on this night, when he needed to talk to someone calm and sane.

He left the kitchen and knocked on the door to her private room. ‘Lana, I’m back.’ She would want to know; she would worry if he stayed out too long.

There was no reply.

Neither was there a sign of life from anywhere else. Him making this much noise should have brought out Serran, because he was responsible for the grounds, or the young Merni, because she was a gossip, and would make sure that she didn’t miss anything.

Where was everyone?

Sady walked into the dark living room, feeling stupid. Here he was, the great leader of the country, and he was unnerved by being alone. Unnerved by feeling so strange in his own house.

The living room window looked out onto the courtyard, where he could only see a stone bench lit by a lantern on the patio, a little island of light in the dark. There was a statue in the middle of the yard, of Eseldus han Chevonian, one of his great forefathers. Today, Eseldus was only a dark silhouette.

The windows in the guest wing to the right hand side of the courtyard were dark. The surgeons must have already gone home. He was relieved about that; Sady had no desire to become more intimately acquainted with women’s business than absolutely necessary.

He could still see the woman’s bruised and red-blotched abdomen. The thought made him shiver. He hoped she survived. He hoped the child survived. That would be one point of light in this misery. Mercy, he’d never thought that this was the way his house would ever see a baby.

He went back to the kitchen and scouted for some food, cringing at every noise he made. The clank of a plate on the stone bench, the rummaging in the cutlery, the rumble of pouring coal into the stove, the hiss of the flame under the kettle, it all sounded incredibly loud. He found some bread and a bit of goat’s cheese, which crumbled all over the bench when he cut it up into clumsy, too-thick slices.

He sat down and ate, listening to the silence of the house.

And the sounds of the day. The ringing of the bell. The yelling of the men in the camp. He didn’t understand their language, but he could feel the despair and anger in their words. It brought back many bad memories of his youth. Hundreds of people crammed into a cellar for days without food. The stink of too many bodies in a confined space. There had been that boy, a bit older than himself at the time, who projectile-vomited on those around him.

Sady could still smell it. He could still see the mother’s embarrassment, her despair. Her son was seriously ill with sonorics, and yet her immediate concern was the irritation of the people around her.

Sady could still hear her, and the boy’s muffled cries. And the ringing of the bell. He would never forget that. And today, the bell had rung again, after more than ten years of silence.

Somewhere in his mind, he registered that the water was boiling and probably had been for a while. Now, where did Lana put the teapot?

As he pushed up from the seat, there was an enormous crash at the back of the house, and the breaking of glass.

Watcher’s Web sample chapter

Watcher’s Web is now available as ebook. Click on the image for a link to Amazon and on the image to the right for a link Smashwords.

Chapter 1

Wherever Jessica went, people watched her.
Like those two teenage boys leaning on the fence, akubra hats pulled down to shade their eyes. One of them dangled a cigarette in careless fingers, the other swigged beer from a stubby. Neither was watching her now, but she hadn’t missed their gawking, nor their low voices barely elevated over the noise of bellowing cattle, shouts and truck engines.
Wow! See that really tall one?
Bloody hell, yeah.
How’d you reckon she kisses a guy? On her knees?

They laughed, and when she came closer, faced the yard to watch the cattle as if they had said nothing.
Jessica walked past them to the gate, glaring at their straw-covered backs. Well, I bloody heard you. She was used to it, anyway.
It hadn’t been the worst thing people said about her. They hadn’t said the words ugly, or creepy, or freak, but she had become used to hearing those words, too.
They went into a little hard spot inside her where she scrunched up the hurt, forgot it, and remembered that she might look like a freak, but when she helped John Braithwaite and his mates from the Rivervale Stud Farm at a cattle show and Angus went into one of his fits, they still needed her to get him into the truck without spooking him. No one else could do that. No one knew how she did it, and no one should ever know. Because no one was crazy enough to get into a pen with a stroppy bull, right?
Well, we’ll see about that.
She grasped the top of the gate with both hands, stepped onto the middle bar and swung her foot over. Jumped. Landed in sun-baked mud churned with cloven hoof prints, and cow pats.
At least when Angus looked at her, he didn’t hide his dislike. A beady eye rolled, a gust of hay-scented air blew from his nostrils. He stiffened, all fifteen hundred-odd kilograms of Brahman bull-flesh of him. Then lowered his head, horns poised.
Someone yelled, ‘Watch it!’
No, he wasn’t going to charge. He’d charge at the boys, he’d even charge at his well-heeled owner, but never at her. Call her arrogant, but she knew that, and how she knew it would remain a secret, too, thank you very much.
She stopped a few paces inside the pen and crossed her arms over her chest. Well, bugger that. She had a bloody audience. About twenty people, mostly men, sitting on the fence, with cynical hey-look-at-this-mate expressions plastered on their faces.
Beef cattle farmers, their lackeys and other hangers-on, those clowns who had partied in the pavilion last night, those who owned the bulls that had occupied the pens next to Angus’. All their animals were already in the trucks, ready to be taken home from the Pymberton show. None of them with a ‘best of show’ ribbon, like Angus, and none with a diva mentality.
It looked like the boys had been trying to get Angus to move for a while. The gate on the opposite side of the pen was open, the ramp in place. Brendan held the door to the truck, ready to slam it. Everything about his expression said, rather you than me. The coward.
‘Come on, Angus, in you go.’
Men sniggered, including the two teenage boys. The one with the cigarette flicked ash into the pen and said something about a whip.
Now who was more stupid? Them or the bull? You did not frighten such a prize animal if you could help it. He might bolt and injure himself. An unsightly gash would take him off the show circuit for months. Sheesh!
Jessica reached through the fence into the bucket she had dumped there. Her hand came away black and sticky with molasses. Angus loved it.
She inched closer, holding out her hand Come on, look me in the eye, if you dare.
Angus blew out another snort, as if he knew what was coming. Backed into the fence. Met her eyes.
Jessica exhaled. Her breath seeped from her in tendrils of sparkle-filled mist, which sought out Angus’ fur and crept over his grey-mottled back, a bit like glitter-glue, but alive.
Jessica lunged for the rope that dangled from Angus’ collar. She couldn’t quite reach it, and while Angus backed further away from her, scraping along the fence, he planted his hoof on the end of the rope, squashing it neatly in a fresh pile of dung. Just her luck.
A bit closer.
She pulled the mist tighter around him, so his coat sparkled and glittered with lights. His outline became fuzzy. She didn’t know what to call it, and had learned not to talk about it to anyone. It wasn’t that she could communicate with him, but she could tell him what to do. Sort of. In a weird way she couldn’t explain in words. The mist soaked up emotions, as far as bulls have emotions, and dampened them, and she could override them with her own. If it worked.
Her audience had stopped talking. Anyone who watched always did that, even though they couldn’t see the mist and didn’t realise it influenced them. That was just as well, because she was making an idiot of herself. Angus was being bloody stubborn, his head still lowered, trampling the rope further into the shit. Something must have spooked him badly. Maybe it was the yapping from the dog pavilion. Well, she and Angus seemed to have something in common–she didn’t like lap dogs either.
But he was going to get into that bloody truck, preferably before she missed her flight back to Sydney. All kinds of hell would break loose if she wasn’t at the school basketball team meeting that night.
Jessica focused on Angus’ beady eye and let out another deep breath. More sparkling vapour flowed. Pinpricks of light soaked into Angus’ mottled fur. Angus relaxed, stuck out his head to nuzzle her molasses-covered hand.
But then. . .
The threads solidified and the mist spun into tightly-coiled cords, which wove into a formation like a spider’s web.
What the hell . . .?
She froze, staring at the writhing construction. It looked like someone had cast a living net over the bull, made of sparkling mist that yanked and stretched of its own volition, or . . . as if something pulled at the other end. There were shadows in a nebulous space over Angus’ back, and male voices, just outside the edge of hearing. The web vibrated and strained.
A tug of war between herself and . . . Who was pulling the other end?
In her panic, she broke loose from the construction. The shadows at the other end of the web faded. The strands dissolved into mist once more.
A wet nose touched her palm and Angus’ rasping tongue curled around her wrist. The molasses was clean licked-off, but he probably liked the salt of her sweat, because her arms glistened with it. She hoped no one noticed.
Her legs still trembling, Jessica pulled the rope and inched towards the gate. Angus followed her meekly, up the ramp, into the truck, where one of the boys was ready to tie him up.
The onlookers applauded.
Jessica leaned against the truck, forcing herself to grin at her audience.
‘Can anyone give me a lift to the airport?’