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Crosswind sneak peek: Wings in combat

Got a week and change left until the book giveaway of Crosswind is over — stop by Goodreads and enter. Here’s the second excerpt from the novel, this one focusing on Cope’s skill as a daredevil pilot:

——

Cope angled his wings and zipped across the sky over Fort DeSmet. There were dirigibles. His eyes went wide. Free fliers of Sternabend? In eight dirigibles? Great blues skies above. That was one tarnal aero force sitting down there.

Suddenly Daisy’s engine increased its pitch. Cope snapped his head left. Uh-oh. More than eight, apparently.

Four more dirigibles loomed farther down the valley, on their way up from Pearly’s Bend. They came from around a bend in the mountain range. And they were dropping fighters like a teratorn shedding feathers. Five, by Cope’s count.

He grinned rapaciously. Five? Might just be even odds against his three.

His orders were to observe and report back to Colonel Cuthbert. But Cope was not going to let an opportunity such as this pass. No one would expect a reconnaissance flight to attack. It would be lunacy.

Cope accelerated into a dive. Gunshots rang out from the town below. Carbines, probably. Not that they had near the range to hit him this high up. He pulled out of the dive. Good. Daisy and Tread were right there on his wings.

He angled his biplane up and gunned the engine.

The five approaching fighters dipped their wings and dropped down at the Perch aeroplanes. Three of them were two-seater TAB IVs, definitely painted in plain old Trestleway livery. But they were accompanied by a pair of Rhoads 33 triplanes, both painted a gaudy green and gold. That had to be the free fliers.

“Bandit scum,” Cope hissed. “Wait ’til they see what I’ve got. Come in closer, dogs.”

He bore up at them, his hand poised on the lever for his Hinohama rockets. He grinned broadly, but his face froze up in a mask of confusion as the planes broke off into a trio and a deuce. They zoomed right around Cope.

“What?” He was utterly baffled. They acted like they knew. He cursed. Of course. That cussed second councilor and his goons were all at the aerodrome in Perch when he blasted the bandits from the air raid earlier in the week. Maybe they knew he had rockets, because his fighter was still painted the same garish blue and adorned with his squadron leader markings.

So they were staying off his nose.

“Fine by me!” Cope put his plane into a renversement, banking hard up, nose in toward the clouds, engine straining, then rolling over onto one side and racing back down an invisible loop until he was right on their tails.

Daisy and Tread were both dodging the gunfire the planes hailed upon them. The rear gunners of the TAB fighters sprayed bullets from their rotating Keach guns. Cope gritted his teeth and ducked his wings as a burst of gunfire ripped through the air above him. Barely missed the canvas. He pressed down in the trigger for his own gun, but he had his Vigilante jerking about so badly he was sure he’d not hit a thing.

An explosion tore a TAB fighter apart. Cope’s jaw dropped. A line of smoke and fire leap out from Tread’s aeroplane, spinning off in a lopsided spiral. Another explosion burst just feet from another fighter. At first Cope thought Tread’s shot missed, but then something, shrapnel likely, ripped the upper left wing of the TAB to shreds. It limped away from the fight.

Cope laughed out loud. “Rebekah Hawes, you fiend!” he shouted to the air. So she’d finally seen his wisdom and added Hinohamas to other aeroplanes.

The last TAB fighter wheeled around and blazed a trail back toward the dirigibles. The bandit fighters split apart. One ran away, headed toward the mountains, while the second unleashed a furious volley of gunfire at Daisy.

Cope tsked. “Not polite to pick on a lady.” He banked hard to the left. Within moments the fighter’s tail was square in his sights. The rear gunner fired a salvo. Cope slackened his grip on the controls. The wind pushed his plane from the path of the bullets. He pressed the trigger.

Flashes left glowing blobs before his eyes. The tail of the enemy fighter shredded with the force of a smilodon tearing into a bull moose. Bullets traced their way up the fuselage as Cope overflew the fighter, all the way into the cockpit and the engine beyond. Fire and smoke erupted. The fighter dove in a death spin. Cope figured it was best the men were dead already. Being trapped in a burning aerocraft was no way for a flier to go.

Excerpt: The Brothers Sark

coperniscus_winchell_v2

Original cover art for “Crosswind” by Keith Thompson, 2012.

Have you put your name in for the giveaway copy of Crosswind at Goodreads? Mine’s not the only Enclave Publishing book that’s available. We’ve got a whole raft of them listed at Enclave. Make sure you sign up. The Crosswind giveaway ends at midnight on Dec. 1.

As promised, here’s the first of three excerpts from Crosswind, which follows the adventures of Winchell and Copernicus Sark as they uncover a conspiracy aimed at their home city-state of Perch. In this portion, they’re making their escape from the rival city-state of Trestleway:

——-

The pursuing Peace Branch cars raced right through the intersection. They didn’t match Cope’s turn, apparently. Behind them, Winch heard squealing brakes and a chorus of horns.

But the gate was still ahead. And Winch despaired when he saw that it was closing slowly. Two militiamen were at the crank that controlled the mechanism. He couldn’t hear the grinding of gears, but he imagined he could feel the vibration through the street.

“Now what?” Cope slowed the ’wagon’s headlong rush.

Winch flipped through ideas in his mind faster than pages in a notebook. That was when he saw the truck waiting at the gate—the truck from which two more militiamen leapt. It had crates in the back. Stamped with the blurred black word AMMUNITION.

Winch’s hand acted before he could acknowledge the thoughts behind it. He jerked back on one of the levers, and their red motorwagon growled full-speed ahead.

“Winch!” Cope seized his arm. “I’m not one to usually begrudge a man his want for speed, but this isn’t the time!”

“It is!” Winch shouted back. He jerked the rucksack over his shoulders. “Keep us steady to that truck! It’s loaded down with ammunition and should make for quite the show, provided we have enough fuel on us.”

The gate and the truck grew rapidly in Winch’s vision. Militiamen scrambled out of the way. The crack of carbines firing broke through the rumble of the ’wagon’s steam engine. Winch and Cope ducked.

“And what now?”

“We jump.”

Cope stared at him. “Jump?”

Winch nodded. He poised himself by the edge of the ’wagon. Oh, dear. That pavement rushed by faster than an aeroplane’s prop spinning.

“You know, I think I might just be a bad influence on you.” Cope got his own rucksack on and took his gun back from Winch.

“I reloaded.”

“Thanks much.”

They were close now.

“Jump!” Winch cried.

Cope went first, with a howl that faded quickly.

“Forgive me for my insanity, Allfather.” Then Winch pushed off.

Pavement rushed up to reach him. He covered his face and tucked in on himself. For a blissful second, the cool, rushing air and muffled sounds—shouting, the blast of gunfire, the retreating rumble of the motorwagon—held him in their embrace.

Then his body hit what felt like a wall, except that he went rolling over and over and over on its impenetrable surface. He was certain, if he survived this, that his skin would resemble one tremendous bruise.

He slammed ingloriously into a barrel of water, and the air went rushing from his lungs.

Winch pried his eyes open in time to see the motorwagon, driverless and steadfast, collide with the back of the ammunition truck. It crumpled and burst apart, casting metal bits and wood frame and that lovely red paint finish skyward and streetside. The impact shouldered the truck into the gap between the gates, slamming the front end up against one of the massive wooden doors.

Somewhere in its fragmenting engine, a spark or two must have hit the fuel tank. A ball of fire erupted from the wrecked motorwagon and the backside of the truck. A gout of steam shot out of the conflagration and quickly died out.

The militiamen nearby yelled warnings to another and dove for cover.

Winch glimpsed Cope running across the street toward him, with a slight limp on the right leg, as he fired a handful of wild shots toward the scattering guards.

“Stay down!” Cope yelled. “Winch, duck your head!”

Winch ducked.

The back end of the truck exploded in a tremendous flash that threw debris and flame nearly higher than the gate. The explosion lifted the truck bodily a good six feet off the pavement before dropping it to a careless landing that broke the wheels clean off.

The ammunition crates caught fire. Munitions popped and burst, sending off an insane pinwheeling display of sparks like fireworks on the Fourteenth of Octaron.

Something impacted the barrel above Winch. It shattered the rim and sent a stream of water pouring onto him. He pushed out of the way just as Cope slammed into him. They went down in a tangle of arms, legs, and, in Cope’s case, cussing.

“Get up. Get up!” Cope dragged Winch to his feet. A maniacal grin lit his face, which was scored with dirt and soot. Soot, Winch realized, was falling like rain over everything. “Tarnal skies, Winch, when you’ve an idea, it’s one with wings.”

Winch could see that. The truck, motorwagon, and both doors of the gate were now a flaming pile of wood and metal. One of the gatehouses of stone had partially collapsed. There was no way that heap would be moved aside anytime soon. Even the militia stared in abject shock—the ones who hadn’t been blown aside in the explosion and weren’t strewn over the pavement like so many rag dolls.

Alarm bells rang. It didn’t seem the explosion had thrown the Peace Branch boys off their trail, though. Winch counted five clambering out of their motorwagons. All were armed. Someone blew a whistle.

“Don’t suppose they’re here to offer congratulations.”

“Crosswind” giveaway

Crosswind-CoverJust in time for the holidays, I’ve got a new giveaway going on at Goodreads, courtesy of my publisher, Enclave Publishing. Follow the Goodreads link and put your name in the virtual hat for a copy of Crosswind: The First Sark Brothers TaleThe link went active this morning and there’s already 15 people requesting.

The drawing finishes up midnight, Dec. 1, so you’ve got time to get someone an excellent read for Christmas… or a stocking stuffer for yourself. Be advised, it’s a 400-plus page novel, so you’re gonna need a bigger stocking.

For those of you unfamiliar with Crosswind, it and its sequel Sandstorm were my forays into steampunk, set in a fantasy version of Earth in which the coming of Christ took on a very different form. You can read about the making of Crosswind in my past posts. But here’s the blurb:

It’s been almost five hundred years since the collapse of the Great Commonwealth. The plagues left folk few and far between. City-states rule the continent of Galderica. There’s coin to be had in trade— whether you take your wares by aeroplane or ride them over the rails.

Winchell Sark has a fine life as a reporter for the Perch Advocate newspaper, a good family at home and a faith that seems downright peculiar to most everyone else. So when he is called out to investigate a biplane crash at the foot of Perch, the finest center of aviation in the Sawtooth Mountains, he doesn’t think much of it.

But there are dark powers at work—powers that have their eye on Perch. Powers that mankind long thought consigned to the trash heap of mythology. ’Cept they were wrong.

It’s up to Winch and his brother, Copernicus, a hotshot pilot, to save their people—and it ain’t going to be easy.

On the next three Fridays, prior to the giveaway’s deadline, I’ll post excerpts from the story focusing on the brothers Winch and Cope. Stay sharp.

Hands full with aliens and art theft: Calling beta readers

Obviously, it’s been a long while since I posted anything. Summer has been busy, to put it mildly. At my library job our summer reading program turned the place into a zoo — though not literally, unlike last year when we had a live wombat and kangaroo as part of one program.

Then there’s been the writing: I finished a draft for a second Quantum Mortis novel and sent it off to my writing partner for that series, Vox Day. He’ll work his magic on it later this year. Then there’s a superhero story that I’ve been scribbling in my notebook for the past four months. I’ve finally started transcribing that over to the more high tech Microsoft Word.

But the big news is that I finished a novel that’s been in the works for two years. Tentatively titled For Us Humans, it’s a story centering around the recovery of a stolen piece of priceless art, set in an alternate version of the world we know today. And it… well, let me have the main character tell you about it:

“My name’s Caz Fortel. I’m thirty, good looking, and a great liar. In fact, that’s my job: to lie to people who steal works of art, and get them back.

Then one day I get the big call from the FBI: a million bucks, to recover a stolen statue with huge cultural value. Downside: my partner has an unhealthy interest in Jesus, an interest I’ve tried really hard to erase from my own life.

Also, he’s an alien with four arms and a tremendous sense of smell.

Welcome to 2011.

See, the Panstellar Consociation of Worlds is the boss now, of all the Earth and everything that goes on the solar system. Aliens showed up 10 years ago and made us a deal: join us as a protectorate and we’ll leak you tech secrets, pay you real well. All so they could set up a warp tunnel in orbit.

It’s their statue that’s stolen. They want the whole job kept quiet.

Or Earth could be in very, very big trouble.”

I’m looking for readers intrigued enough to read the rough draft. It’s 95,000 words — that’s about 350 pages. The book’s been spell-checked and had one copy editor do a quick pass, so it won’t be atrocious. I’ll be generous and give a deadline of Sept. 30. Sound good?

If you want to be one of my beta readers, email me: steverzasa@gmail.com. I’ll get you a PDF or another format if necessary.

 

 

 

‘Quantum Mortis’ by Any Other Name

My Quantum Mortis co-author Vox Day has been busy signing up intrepid readers across the world to translate the current series into various languages. Most recently Gravity Kill‘s Portuguese translation hit the market. It’s free today, I should mention.

You can find the entire list of translated books at Castalia House. There’s currently 25 translations of several titles Highlights include:

French: QUANTUM MORTIS Un Homme Démoli

Finnish: QUANTUM MORTIS Hajonnut mies

Spanish: QUANTUM MORTIS Un Hombre Disperso

Portuguese: QUANTUM MORTIS Un Homem Desintegrado

Reading a book in a foreign language is not something I’ve tried. Closest I came was reading short paragraphs in the Italian and Spanish courses I took in high school, and again in college. I’m considering giving it a whirl.

While my books with Vox are available from Castalia in epub format and in Amazon Kindle format, they aren’t yet available in print. However the Marcher Lord Press (newly renamed Enclave Publishing) books are available in all three. 

A new “Crosswind” review

Found this review of Crosswind at the blog Seeking the New Earth today. I was pleased to hear the reviewers enjoyed the book, and found both their praises and criticisms interested.

I know many writers say “Hey, don’t pay attention to reviews one way or the other — they drive you crazy!” but as far as I’m concerned, reader reviews can contain valid points about one’s book.

Yeah, the reviewer’s right, there are some spots that dragged and others that blasted by. I was especially glad to hear that the setting was appreciated, because it took a ton of time to build it.

Anyway, check out the review. I found it interesting and helpful.

http://seekingnewearth.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/crosswind/#more-3793

Castalia House store opens

QM_AMD_900Very exciting news: Castalia House, publisher of the Quantum Mortis sci-fi books I co-wrote with Vox Day, has opened its online store for e-books.

Castalia is home to Vox’s Arts of Dark and Light epic fantasy series, the QM series, and several homeschooling resources on astronomy and astrophysics by Dr. Sarah Salviander. 

Several books published by Castalia, including Tom Kratman’s Big Boys Don’t Cryare not available through the store because, as Vox points out, those titles are in the Kindle Select Program.

Always excellent to see another source of independent sci-fi and fantasy become available to the masses, which I would say even if I were not incredibly biased as I am in this case.

Also, stop by to Castalia House’s blog to read reviews of sci-fi and fantasy novels of all kinds.

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