Cover Reveal: Sword of Wrath

Here’s the cover for the next Kormak novel Sword of Wrath.

Clarissa Yeo over at Yocla Designs has really outdone herself with this one. I’m really pleased with it. The book itself is still a couple of weeks away. I’ll be writing more about it nearer the time.

K8 Sword of Wrath Cover


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Island of the Sorcerer Released

The latest Kormak short story, Island of the Sorcerer has gone live. Here’s the blurb:

A longship of giant warriors missing at sea. An ancient island of alien magic risen from the depths of the ocean. Long dead wizards returned from beyond the grave. Kormak must cope with all three in this thrilling tale of swords and sorcery.

You can find it through the links below. Unfortunately, as of the time of writing Island of the Sorcerer is not up on either Kobo or Google Play. They will get there sooner or later though.

Islandofthesorcerer

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon DE

Smashwords

Nook

Apple


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A Cold and Lonely Place Released

A Cold and Lonely Place, the latest Kormak short story, is now available.

 

Acoldandlonelyplace

 

Here’s the blurb.

To the world at large, he is a mercenary and assassin, a brutal killer with a deadly blade. In reality Kormak is a Guardian, one of an ancient order sworn to protect humanity from the servants of the gathering darkness.

Grimhaven holds a fatal secret as any visitor discovers too late. On a dark autumn evening, as the full moon glares down on the village, a stranger arrives, a man called Kormak, on a mission to uncover what happened to a friend who vanished months ago.

It’s a 6000 word tale of Lovecraftian horror and stealthy assassination set in the wilds of Taurea during the Civil War. It retails at $0.99 or the local equivalent at all the major e-book retailers.

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.de

Apple

Nook

Smashwords

Kobo


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Ocean Of Fear Preview

I am just putting the final touches to the sixth Kormak adventure, Ocean of Fear. It’s a rousing sword and sorcery tale of pirates, gigantic sea monsters and dark ancient secrets. It should be available real soon now. In the meantime, here’s a preview of the first chapter.

FEET THUNDERED ACROSS the trireme’s deck as the crew raced to their battle stations. Drums sounded the beat for the straining oarsmen. Marines strapped on shields and drew shortswords. Crossbowmen wound their arbalests and fitted bolts into place. Sweating and puffing, the engine crew on the sterncastle manoeuvred the ballista to cover the shoreline.

Standing at the prow of the warship above the great beak of the ram, the tall greying man watched the distant village burn. A frown made his scarred face even more sinister. He shaded his cold grey eyes against the sea glare and studied the devastated little township on the forest’s edge.

Smoke rose above the huts and fires crackled along the wooden palisade. Dead bodies, some pierced with arrows, sprawled on the sand of the beach. He could make out no sign of life.

He walked back towards the stern. Superstitious sailors avoided his glance and made the Sign of the Sun when they thought he would not notice. They knew what sort of man carried a sword on his back. They knew why he was aboard and they did not like it. Since he had joined the ship three days ago in the northern Siderean port of Grahal, he had done nothing but make them uneasy.

As the man approached the sterncastle the ship’s captain broke off his discussion with the ship’s chaplain and nodded permission to join him on the command deck. “You may come up, Sir Kormak,” he said.

Kormak stalked up the stairs and studied the captain. Elias Zamara, by Grace of King-Emperor Aemon of Siderea, Captain of the Ocean’s Blade and admiral of this small pirate-hunting fleet, was almost as tall as Kormak, with the copper-blond hair and hawk-like features of a Siderean nobleman. He wore the elaborate ruffled collar and purple cloak of the royal court. A gold Elder Sign with three interlocked five-pointed stars hung on his chest like a badge of office. His manner was supercilious; the easy way he strode the command deck said that he was not a man to be taken lightly.

“Have we found what we are looking for?” Zamara asked. His haughty tone could not hide his nervousness. Distant cousin to the king or not, Elias Zamara was still a young man with no great experience in dealing with sorcery, no matter how many sea battles he had fought in.

“Too early to say,” said Kormak. “All I can see is a burned out village. Could be anything from Thurian raiders to an attack by elves who resent their lands being colonised.”

“They were most likely only heretics anyway,” said Frater Jonas. He gestured at the village as if condemning every soul in it to eternal damnation under the Shadow. The fleet’s chaplain was a short bird-like man with very black hair, very dark eyes and a neatly clipped spade beard. His olive skin, darker than the captain’s, made it clear that he belonged not to his country’s Sunlander nobility but to its peasantry.

Jonas wore the yellow robes of the Order of the Eternal Sun, an organisation said to wield power second only to the King-Emperor in Siderea. His hand stroked the solar emblem of his Order the way a man might a favourite cat. “They come here with their foul ways to escape the Holy Sun’s sight.”

The young nobleman looked at him with distaste, nor perhaps so much for the sentiments expressed but for the peasant accent they were expressed in.

“Someone certainly wanted them dead,” Kormak said. “The question is why.”

“There’s only one way we’re going to find out,” said the captain. “We’re going to have to send in a landing party.”

“Very well,” Kormak said. “Let’s go take a look.”

Scores of armed warriors from each of the fleet’s three ships filled the rowboats. Some of the marines rowed the small craft towards the strand. Others pointed their cocked crossbows in the direction of the beach.

Elias Zamara sat with his hand on his sword’s hilt. Frater Jonas clutched his Elder Sign as if it too was a weapon. He clearly expected some emissary of the Shadow to be waiting within the village to challenge his faith.

The marines kept their eyes fixed on the shore. They had the look of the typical Siderean professional soldier—stocky, dark-haired, medium height, olive-skinned. They were the same hardy breed that freed their country from the Seleneans and who were now spreading Siderean power across the Dragon Sea and the archipelagos of the World Ocean. Some said they were the best infantrymen the world had seen since the days of the Solari Legions and so far Kormak had found no reason to doubt that assessment.

The wind carried the smell of burned flesh, mingling it with the salt tang of the sea. The waves turned to white foam as they hit the sand and withdrew.

Kormak was the first to vault into the surf. Salt water wet him up to his thighs. Sand crunched beneath his boots. He made his way ashore as quickly as he could, uncomfortable with the way the water slowed his movements even for those few moments.

Silence brooded over the village. Gulls pecked at the corpses on the beach. Larger carrion birds fluttered skywards as they noticed the soldiers.

Kormak walked over to the nearest body. The dead woman’s skirt had been raised above her waist. Blood pooled between her legs. Someone had raped her then stabbed her through the heart.

A man lay nearby, his throat cut. Maybe he had been forced to watch the woman die before they killed him. Kormak fought to keep his mind from constructing narratives. It was all too easy to picture what had happened here. He had seen the like many times, the first when he had been eight years old and it had been his own people dying.

Two children lay nearby. They stared up at the sky with blank empty eyes. Their throats had been cut too. They bore a family resemblance to the man and the woman.

“It was a mercy,” said one of the soldiers. “The tykes would have starved to death without their folks to feed them.” He did not sound as if he believed it. He sounded like he was trying to comfort himself.

The state of the corpses and the fact that the fires still burned made it obvious the attack was recent, most likely last night, possibly even some time before the dawn.

The slow burn of an anger that he knew, given time, would become incandescent fury started in Kormak’s gut. He felt, as he always did, the need to make someone pay for this.

He unclenched his fists, took a deep breath and forced the rage down into the place where he had buried it long ago. A man in his line of work could not afford to give in to every spark of righteous anger. It was not his job to avenge these people. His duty was to find the sorcerer men called the Kraken and end his unrighteous career. Anything else was just a distraction.

“Silence,” said Zamara with the chill authority of the Siderean nobleman. “No talking. There may be enemies watching us even now.”

Frater Jonas bent over the children, made the Sign of the Sun, and then closed their eyes with surprising gentleness. He noticed Kormak looking at him.

“What?” he said.

Kormak responded to the harshness in his voice. “I thought they were only heretics.”

Zeal and humanity warred on the priest’s face. Humanity gained the upper hand, and Kormak found he liked the little man more for it. “Maybe so, but they were men and women, aye, and children…”

“Look at their faces,” someone said, despite Zamara’s order. Kormak understood what he meant. Terror twisted many of the dead’s features. It was hardly surprising under the circumstances but clearly the men found it uncanny. They were ready to be spooked at the slightest thing. The soldiers knew they hunted a mage.

The gates of the village had been torn off their hinges. More bodies sprawled in the earthen streets. The small huts had been burned. The large central communal hall, possibly a temple of some kind, was now only smouldering wreckage. Vultures rose from their feasts and flapped slowly away, as if too gorged to fly any faster.

“The attack came from the beach,” said Zamara. “No sign of assault from the forest. I think it’s safe to say this was the work of pirates.”

“But was it the pirates we’re looking for?” said Kormak.

“Split up! Search this place! Don’t wander out of earshot,” said Zamara. “See what you can find, though I doubt there will be anything. This place never had much to start with and it’s been picked clean. But look anyway!”

“I’ll need a party of men to gather up the bodies and prepare them for burning,” said Frater Jonas. “I’ll speak the rites myself.”

“Of course, Frater,” said Zamara. In the face of the death surrounding them, the mask of contempt had dropped from his face. He pointed to half a dozen men and said, “Gather the corpses.”

He selected half a dozen more. “Gather wood and prepare a pyre. We can spare some oil from the ship to send these people into the Light.”

Kormak was surprised. It was not the sort of wasteful gesture he expected from the young and ambitious Siderean nobleman.

“Sir,” said one of the soldiers who had fanned out through the village. “You had better see this.”

His words were addressed to the captain but his eyes were on Kormak.

“Lead on, Terves,” said the captain.

The soldier brought them to the corpse. It lay near the wall, in the shadow of the forest’s edge.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said and then clamped his lips shut, as if sorry he had spoken.

“I have,” said Kormak. The body looked desiccated. The skin had an ashen quality to it. The eyes were like shrivelled black olives. The flesh was flaking away. His mind drifted back to a dead child in the cold northlands of Taurea. Someone else he had been too late to save. Once more he found himself pushing his anger down.

“It looks like a mummy,” said Zamara. “I saw things like this south of the Dragon Sea, in the Necropolis in Umbrea.”

Terves nodded agreement. Kormak guessed both the captain and the old soldier had served time as part of the Siderean army holding the forces of Shadow at bay in that distant land.

“It’s no mummy,” said Kormak. “It’s dressed like a villager.”

“Look at it. It’s been dead for centuries,” said Zamara. He clearly wanted to believe that.

“It’s certainly dead,” said Kormak. “Most likely since last night.”

“Then we’ve found what we’re looking for,” the captain said.

“I think so, yes,” said Kormak. He bent down to inspect the corpse.

“When did you see the like?” Terves was white-faced but needed to ask. Zamara clearly wanted to know the answer as well for he said nothing to shut the man up.

“A few years ago along the edge of the Barrow Hills in Taurea, a wight had taken a child…”

“You think this was a wight?” Zamara asked, torn between disbelief and dread. Kormak shook his head.

“Wights rarely move from the places their bodies were interred, and there is no history of Kharonian barrow builders along the Blood Coast.”

“Who knows what lies back there in the forest,” said the soldier. “Those are elfwoods. The Old Ones dwelled there once. And some of them dwell there still.”

“I suspect it was something that feeds in the same manner as a wight,” Kormak said. He looked up. Zamara’s hand clutched the triple Elder Sign at his throat. Terves made the Sign of the Sun over his heart.

“Feeds?” The captain’s voice was flat. He was holding his fear under a tight rein.

“They devour the souls of their victims, consume their life force. Something has done the same thing here.”

“I heard the Kraken was a sorcerer but this is like something you expect from the worst sort of Shadow worshipper.”

“It may not have been him,” Kormak said. “Perhaps he has bound a soul-eater to his service. Some sorcerers do.”

Terves let out a small scared groan. His face was stony. If Kormak had not heard the sound he would not have known the man was afraid.

“In the name of the Shadow what manner of man are we hunting for?” Zamara asked.

“A very bad one,” Kormak said. “One who deserves to die.”

“If man he is, sir,” said Terves.

“Man or demon, this will kill him,” Kormak said, touching the hilt of the dwarf-forged blade that protruded over his left shoulder.

A noise from the far side of the village drew their attention. Frater Jonas came striding up. “It appears we have some survivors,” he said.

“Let’s see what they can tell us,” Captain Zamara said.

Read Stealer of Flesh Free Online

You can read the first book in the Kormak Saga free online here. This is a result of my project to archive all of my books in markdown format for easy future reference. To create it, I found the original production copy of Stealer of Flesh, converted it to markdown then to HTML and uploaded it to the site.

Unfortunately, the process of creating my archive was not quite as simple as I had hoped. First of all, my various ebooks were scattered all over the place in different formats usually Word or Scrivener. I had to find them and do the conversion.

For the Scrivener files this was easy. I simply compiled them as MultiMarkdown. For the docx files, I used iA Writer, a markdown text processor I bought from the Apple Appstore for the princely sum of £2.99. I used it specifically because it can automatically convert docx files into plain text.  It was after this step that I encountered a few small problems.

It turns out that my word-processor derived method of paragraphing using a carriage return is not quite what markdown expects. Markdown indicates a new paragraph with two line breaks. In addition, I use the classic method of indicating scene breaks with two carriage returns. These were converted into the only true paragraphs in the document. The result of this was something that seemed fine when I looked at it in my text processor but when I came to export it, was a bit messy.  You can see how export filters could get confused under the circumstances.

The solution was not hard. I used the excellent TextWrangler (available free here) to search through the plain text files and replace one line break with two line breaks. I then replaced all quadruple line breaks with section breaks. (The previous double line break paragraph markers had increased to four line breaks during the first step.) That was it. Job done.

Once this was done I stored the finished markdown files inside a dropbox folder, Ulysses and a VoodooPad document so I can find them again easily in the future. The version of Stealer of Flesh you can read online is a product of HTML export from markdown. It was all a little more work than I expected but I now have (hopefully) future proof archives of all my work.


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Taker of Skulls Released

That’s the fifth book in the Kormak series, Taker of Skulls, released. It’s a rip-roaring adventure in which our bold monster hunter is dispatched on a potential suicide mission among the ruins of the once-great dwarven civilisation of the  Kingdoms of the Sun. The book features demented hordes of mutant goblins, survivalist dwarves and one of the most terrifying Old Ones Kormak has ever faced.

Taker of Skulls is available amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. It may be available on Apple’s iBookstore by the time you read this but, as ever, Apple are a law unto themselves.

As a special introductory offer, the price will be $2.99 or the local equivalent until midnight Thursday Central European Time when I will be raising the price to the usual $4.99 or equivalent. If you’re interested right now is a great time to buy!

Just to whet your appetite here is the blurb for the book.

LAST HOPE OF A DOOMED WORLD

To the world at large, he is a mercenary and assassin, a brutal killer with a deadly blade. In reality Kormak is a Guardian, one of an ancient order sworn to protect humanity from the servants of the gathering darkness.

TAKER OF SKULLS

Kormak is ordered to guard the enigmatic sorceress Karnea  with his life as she ventures into the Dwarven city of Khazduroth. What awful knowledge is Karnea really seeking amid the ruins of an ancient civilisation? Why has the sinister and mighty Old One known as the Taker of Skulls chosen this moment to return to the place where he was once worshipped as a god? And will anyone survive the deadly journey into the forsaken homeland of the once proud dwarves.

Join Kormak as he battles his way through a gigantic underground city in search of one of the most dangerous secrets of the Old Ones.