Arisia Convention This weekend!

Are you coming to Arisia, or thinking about it?  Here’s where to find me on panels, with some fantastic people!


If You Didn’t Know, Now You Know: SFF Divination Marina 2 (2E), 5:30pm – 6:45pm

Charlie Boatner (moderator), Heather Urbanski, Greer Gilman, E. C. Ambrose, Heather Albano

SFF Authors use foreknowledge of events, whether predictive models, visions, or prophecy, to give characters future knowledge, often to solve story problems. In this panel, we’ll look at the problems this foreknowledge creates, for the characters, for the author, and for the reader.


The Mushy Middle: Conquering the Midpoint Swamp Marina 2 (2E), 10am – 11:15am

E. C. Ambrose (moderator), Victoria “V.E.” Schwab, Lauren M. Roy, Greg R. Fishbone, Ken Schneyer

What happens when you come up with an intriguing premise, but around page 50, your story falls apart? Our panelists will discuss the pitfalls of navigating the second act swamp; how they plot; ways to clarify your hero’s journey; coping strategies including beat sheets, the mini movie method, and mirroring; various ways to brainstorm past a block; and other ways to cut the flab from that mushy middle.

Emotional Impact — How to Make Readers Care
Faneuil (3W), 1pm – 2:15pm

E. C. Ambrose (moderator), Timothy Goyette, Jess Barber, Jeanne Cavelos, Morgan Crooks

No matter how great your plot is, if the readers don’t care, you’ll slip to the bottom to the to-be-read pile. Come learn how to use emotional stakes to add conflict to every page, use transformational arcs to create an inner struggle, delineate compelling flaws without losing reader sympathy, make your audience connect on a primal level, and create stories and characters that break readers’ hearts and keep them turning pages.

SFF Relationship Goals Bulfinch (3W), 4pm – 5:15pm

Julia Rios (moderator), Grant Carrington, Diana Pho, Meredith Schwartz, E. C. Ambrose

SFF doesn’t always have the best reputation when it comes to depicting romantic relationships, but that doesn’t mean that respectful, loving partnerships are nowhere to be found. In this panel, we will explore the good ones, where to find them, and what commonalities they might share. What can authors do to feature good relationships in their stories?

Writing Heart-Pounding Sci-Fantasy Thrillers
Douglas (3W), 1pm – 2:15pm

E. C. Ambrose (moderator), Don Chase, Timothy Goyette, Keith Yatsuhashi, John Sundman

Everyone loves action that doesn’t quit. Our panel of thriller writers will discuss how to create a compelling, fast paced narrative, including how to jump-start the action in the first 5-page. Learn how to weave in character backstory and dialogue so it doesn’t slow down your plot. How does thriller worldbuilding differ for the sci-fi and fantasy genres; including high stakes, misdirection, and “ticking bomb” to keep the reader invested until the last page.

Writing Series, Sequels, and Spin-Offs
Douglas (3W), 2:30pm – 3:45pm

LJ Cohen (moderator), ML Brennan, Victoria “V.E.” Schwab, E. C. Ambrose, Craig Shaw Gardner

It’s no secret that book series have a better chance of discoverability. What’s the secret to writing a successful series? How do you plan and develop multi-book series that sell? Create series arcs? And how do you keep track of multiple plotlines and characters across many books? How can you expand existing material to create a series? And when is it time to pull the plug and move onto other things?

hope to see you there!

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Pitching a Novel: Nailing Your Synopsis

This is the third in a series on pitching your novel, my take on the topic–for many more answers, follow the blog chain led by Joshua Palmatier, editor and author!  In the meantime, read on. . .

Personally, I think the synopsis is harder than either the elevator pitch or query we’ve already discussed.  When you have to boil down a plot to a single sentence, or a paragraph or two, you have to be ruthless–slashing, slimming, selecting exactly the right verb, phrase or plot element to reveal the entire plot.  Yes, that’s the ENTIRE plot. One of the mistakes many new authors make is to leave off the ending of their book, thinking this will make the agent or editor so curious that they feel compelled to request the complete manuscript.

In fact, it’s more likely to convince them of one of three things: 1.  the book isn’t finished at all.  2. you don’t actually know how to finish the book, so the ending is lame, and that’s why you haven’t included it. 3. you have not learned how to be a professional.  In any of these cases, they have plenty of other choices for books to request, and its highly likely they’re going to choose one of those.   If you haven’t finished the book–go finish, I’ll wait.

All done?  Good. So is your ending lame?  Ask some honest friends who read or write in the same genre to read it over and be blunt.  If your ending rocks, providing a satisfying conclusion to what’s gone before, then make it the capstone of your gorgeous synopsis.

Back to my first point, that a synopsis is hard. Because you usually have some lee-way in the length of the synopsis, it’s easy to want to include too much, or get off-track to make sure your darlings are in there.  (agents and editors often have a preferred length of synopsis and will say so in their guidelines) Yes, you want to showcase some of what makes your style and your world stand out, but don’t overdo that. Focus on delivering the key events and choices of the plot in a streamlined, active fashion.  Regardless of how the book is written the synopsis should be third person, present tense.

The best advice I’ve gotten about this is to imagine you’re telling the story of a great movie you just saw to a friend of yours.  You’d focus on the central character(s), showing their action and decisions, and the conflicts they face, then the big climax!  You’d probably talk a bit about the setting–what stands out in this milieu?  What is critical for the reader to know in order to understand that climax?

Part of the trouble that fantasy novels, in particular, have is multiple point of view characters.  How do you take a big, fat epic and strangle it into only five pages or so?  My recent approach has been to craft an initial paragraph that addresses the concept of the work, usually informed by the world-building and the principal conflict.  It’s sort of an executive summary of why I wrote the book, and what I hope will excite the reader.

Here’s one I wrote for a work in progress entitled THE FOREST OF BONE:

Kormos rose from the sea, a volcano that swallowed the gods.  A thousand years later, the children of the gods preserve their little kingdoms, playing with magic, pretending at their own godhood to the fleshborn and the mages alike, unaware that one of their number plans to raise the bones of vengeance and drown their world.

This paragraph addresses the backdrop of the world, and shows the stakes–we’ll be dealing with gods, magic, and the death of worlds.  The synopsis then flows into the plot, introducing the principal characters and showing where they are at the start of the narrative (this book has 3 POV’s), each confronting their own problems. As the plot develops, I show connections among these narratives and they begin to braid together in the synopsis. This book is about 190,000 words long, and the synopsis is 6 pages.

For my first true epic fantasy novel, DRAKEMASTER, I have five POV’s.  It’s a historical fantasy, set in a time and place many people would not be familiar with, so the synopsis is a bit unusual. It begins with an introduction to the medieval Chinese technology at the heart of the novel, then a character briefing:  a short paragraph for each of those POV’s, showing who they are and what each one faces.  I actually drafted five different synopses originally, one from the perspective of each character.  For the submission synopsis, I pulled paragraphs from each of these to reveal the overall plot as informed by my distinct protagonists.  Did it work?  Well, it got me an agent–and hopefully I’ll soon know if we’ve landed the contract!

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The Query Quandary: Pitching Your Novel

The novel pitching advice and experience continues today, with the all-important query.  For more advice, check out Joshua Palmatier’s hub of all things pitching!

Okay, so you’ve got a killer pitch line, and a finished manuscript, and you’re ready for the longer version–the query letter.  Again, you may be writing a query to attract an agent or editor, or you may be crafting back cover copy or a selling blurb to incorporate into your indie marketing campaign.  They have a lot in common.  In both cases, the goal is to convince someone to trust you to provide a good read, and then, to deliver a succinct summary of that book, hopefully one that convinces them to bite.

I addressed this in my post about how invented names can ruin your blurb.     Yes, readers want to latch onto a character, but the name doesn’t tell them anything.  Name the protagonist, and for anyone else, focus on what’s interesting about that character–a phrase that shows more, an occupation, a mood, a descriptor that will start to build an impression in the mind of the reader.

Here’s the query letter I sent to one editor before selling Elisha Barber:

I had the pleasure of meeting you at the SFWA reception a couple of years back.  We talked briefly about a dark fantasy of mine, which you seemed interested in, but my then-agent chose not to pursue submitting to you at that time.  I am the author of two published fantasy novels, The Singer’s Crown and The Eunuch’s Heir, both from Eos books.  I am currently looking for the right house to publish my new work.

In fourteenth century England, a barber-surgeon learns diabolical magic to confront a cruel king–but the cost may be more than his soul.

At the age of nine, Elisha Barber witnessed the burning of a witch outside of London. She transformed into an angel at the last moment, and a stroke of her wing inspired him to become a healer—a barber-surgeon, the lowest rank of the medical profession.

After the ruin of his family, Elisha is condemned to serve as a battle surgeon in an unjust war. The dead witch’s daughter, Brigit, armed with her mother’s prophecies, seeks him out and draws him in to the dangerous world of sorcery. Elisha discovers he has an unnatural affinity for Death. Driven by his own compassionate nature and pursued by those who would control his power, Elisha tries to reconcile his devotion to healing with his command of Death.

Elisha Barber is about 93,000 words long, an action-oriented fantasy closely focused on Elisha’s discovery of magic and his fight against the king.   While it contains a complete story-arc, it also begins a five-book cycle, “The Barber’s Battle”, set in a semi-historical Europe, and escalating a conflict with the necromancers who seek to dominate England, and maybe the world.  All five books are finished in manuscript form.

I would love to submit the complete manuscript of Elisha Barber to you directly.  What’s the best way for me to proceed?

I open with a personal note, in this case, how I met the editor–basically why you chose them.  Then, I go on to establish my own credentials (I am already a published novelist).  If you don’t have something like this to lead with, you’d probably go straight for the synopsis, and maybe end with a bit more about yourself.  In this case, the fact that I’m already a pro is my hook to the editor.

Next, the short synopsis.  You’ll need to be able to write three summaries of your book:  one sentence, one paragraph (sometimes, one page), and 3-5 pages.  So this is a brief two-paragraph unpacking of my elevator pitch.  Then, it’s on to more general information about the book–what is it like?  How long is it?  stand-alone or series?  And most important, is it ready to go?

The more clearly you can convey this information in one page or less, the more successful you’re likely to be in querying agents and editors.  And practice writing that central blurb will serve you well in creating all kinds of marketing materials.

What do you struggle with when you’re drafting a query?  Let me know!

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Crafting Your Pitch, Elevator Style

This week for all the aspiring novelists out there, Joshua Palmatier invited a bunch of us to share our stories and advice about three stages of pitching a book.  Find more entries here–and happy pitching!

I love me a good elevator pitch–I have even used mine (drumroll please) in an elevator!  Though that was to a reviewer, not an agent, it still garnered a positive response.  Many authors now are taking their books direct to the public, and thinking, “I don’t need to pitch–I just need to publish.”  Except. . .

Whether you are hoping for a New York traditional contract, or simply trying to get readers interested in your indie work, you’ll be pitching All.  The.  Time.  You’ll be pitching to bloggers to get them to cover your new release.  You’ll be pitching to the person in the check out line who says, “You’re a writer?  What have you written?”  Your elevator pitch is not just a throw-away line to get agents or editors interested, it is the easily memorable, readily deployable hook that gets a reader, any reader, engaged with your work.  You can put it on business cards, bookmarks, and blog headers. It fits in a tweet.

Yes, your book is much bigger and more complicated than any five or fifteen words, but the ability to distill it into a few phrases is much more likely to lure the reader into giving it a try.

Okay, E. C., so what’s yours? I actually have two–the micro, and the mini.  The micro gets used every time someone asks “what’s your book about?”

Dark historical fantasy about medieval surgery.

I used it yesterday on a guy at the library.  We struck up a conversation because I recognized some titles in his box of books to check out. I noticed he seemed to like dark fantasy, and he agreed. I introduced myself as an author, and gave him the pitch.  He was instantly intrigued.  I handed over the card with my website to learn more.  Done.

What makes this line so effective?  It immediately tells you what the genre is (historical fantasy), suggests the tone (dark), and tells you what sets this book apart from others in its genre (the focus on medieval surgery).  In short, it delivers several reasons to think the book might be a good fit (or not–sometimes, people are freaked out by the medieval surgery part, in which case I pitch them my other series instead, but I digress).

The slightly longer version employs my Person, Place and Problem model.  Donald Maass, agent and author of numerous books for writers, says this is all he needs in order to get curious about a book.  A character, in a unique or striking setting, who faces an important conflict.

In 14th century England, a barber-surgeon learns diabolical magic to confront an unjust king.

This one is less pithy, but conveys a few more details specific to the story, and suggests both an internal and an external conflict.  I deployed this one on an editor I discovered at a conference banquet table, and also to another editor after a conference panel.  Both times, I got the go-ahead to submit.

My basic advice to develop a good pitch line would be this:

Where does the book fit in the marketplace?  What makes it stand out from that niche?

Who is the protagonist and how can you describe them in a brief phrase?

What’s the milieu?  You don’t have a lot of time for description, just a detail or two that lets the reader know when/where the action takes place.

What’s the big problem your character is going to overcome?

Bonus points for strong verbs that convey the action of the narrative.  Then, practice!  Then, let me know if it works–where have you used it?  What happened when you did?

Happy pitching!


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Guest Author Amy Rogers Launches Science Thriller THE HAN AGENT

Back when I was launching ELISHA BARBER, I reached out to some other authors who combine medical information and historical research with adventurous plots.  One of them is Amy Rogers, whose latest novel, THE HAN AGENT, has just launched!

Here’s a brief interview with Amy about her research and writing process.  Enjoy!

What’s the role of science in your fiction?

In my thriller novels, the protagonist is a scientist and science plays a key role in the plot. Not just science-y gadgets: real science. As in, at some point in each book, a laboratory experiment is performed and the results of that experiment determine what happens next. My goal with the science is to make it entirely plausible and accessible to the non-technical reader, while also keeping it as accurate as the story allows. (I am writing fiction, after all.) For example I like to say about PETROPLAGUE, my debut novel, that you practically have to have a PhD to figure out where the scientific truth ends and fantasy begins.

That’s part of what makes the story so scary. People ask, could this really happen?

You say you write science thrillers, not science fiction. What’s the difference?

 When a reader picks up one of my novels (PETROPLAGUE, REVERSION, THE HAN AGENT), they can expect a suspenseful story set in the real world of the present day. Real science and medicine underpin the plot, women scientists drive the action, and a laboratory experiment always plays a crucial role at some point. While these things are true of some SciFi novels, for many people the label “science fiction” conjures up something more speculative.

You cover a great deal of ground in The Han Agent, from WWII history to modern DNA sequencing. How did you bind all those elements into a clear story line?

When it comes to story material, newspapers and history books are sometimes better sources than imagination. Factually, THE HAN AGENT is about bird flu and East Asian geopolitics and science policy, but the glue holding it all together is my main character Amika Nakamura. She’s a young Japanese-American virus scientist who makes some questionable choices in pursuit of her professional ambitions. Because she’s book-smart, she thinks she has everything under control. Guess what: she doesn’t, and she has a rough road ahead as the blinders come off.

 Was there anything new you discovered, or surprised you, as you wrote THE HAN AGENT?

As part of my research for THE HAN AGENT, I read about the war crimes committed by Japan in China during the 1930s and 40s. Specifically I learned about Unit 731, a science-driven branch of the Japanese Imperial Army that performed unspeakable experiments on prisoners in their quest for a useful biological weapon. The biggest surprise? The US let the criminals responsible for these horrors off the hook in exchange for information. Unit 731 physicians and scientists never faced the Tokyo war crimes tribunals. They resumed their careers in post-war Japan, and many of them became leaders in their fields.

What’s your overall writing process like?

My writing process isn’t static. As I gain experience with each novel, I learn more about my own strengths and weaknesses as a writer. So my process evolves. For example, for my next book I’m going to experiment with writing unconnected scenes when I begin rather than writing the book straight through from start to finish. I’m more plotter than pantser. I outline my stories, think through my character arcs, and I have an idea for the ending (though that can change). I tend to under-write and have to flesh out my scenes later, as opposed to many writers who over-write and must edit by cutting from the text. Importantly for me, I do a detailed exploration of the science I’ll use in the plot. Because I’m a scientist by training, I’ll often use primary sources in the scientific literature. That information is too advanced to appear directly in the book but it guides my thinking.

About the Author:

Amy Rogers, MD, PhD, is a Harvard-educated scientist, novelist, journalist, educator, critic, and publisher who specializes in all things science-y. Her novels Petroplague,  Reversion, and The Han Agent use real science and medicine to create plausible, frightening scenarios in the style of Michael Crichton.

To learn more about Amy and her books, check out these links:

For the book:

For the author:

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Cover Reveal: Elisha Daemon!

Coming February 6, 2018, the fifth and final volume of the Dark Apostle!  Check it out:

Cliff Nielsen’s gorgeous cover art for Elisha Daemon

Just as Elisha thinks he might defeat his enemies, they unleash two terrible weapons:  the holy woman who used to love him, and the greatest plague the world has ever known.

Winter, 1348. Plague ravages Europe and the necromancers’ power grows with every death as the people sink into despair.  Some revel in society’s collapse while others take out their terror on innocents and spread the violence further.  While his allies stalk the mancers using new weapons that can sever magic, Elisha draws the eye of Count Vertuollo, the master of Rome who seeks vengeance for the death of his son.  Elisha pursues the trail of dark magic to the one place he never imagined he’d go:  medical school.

Enemies old and new unite to destroy Elisha’s reputation and keep him from the truth about the plague.  The Church loses its hold upon the faithful, with riots in the streets as too many prayers go unanswered.  A demon-haunted child, a secret magus who walks at night, a library rich with medical knowledge—any one of them might hold the key, but when one of his accusers ends up on the dissection table, Elisha’s education must come to an end.  When the pope himself starts to believe the End Times are coming, Elisha faces a terrible bargain:  save his beloved England, and let Europe burn; or risk everything on a spell that will either bring down the necromancers’ reign, or give them the means to rule forever.

In this final chapter of The Dark Apostle series, Europe awaits its apocalypse, and one man could shift the balance from disaster.  In this time of saints and sinners, could he be the savior so desperately needed, or will he rise Elisha Daemon?

Be among the first to read the thrilling (I hope!) conclusion to Elisha’s adventures.  Pre-order now through your local independent bookstore at IndieboundBarnes & Noble, or at

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Free Fiction: The Mongol’s Coffin, Chapter one

Curious about my thriller novel, Bone Guard One:  The Mongol’s Coffin?  Here’s chapter one for your enjoyment!

Bone Guard One: The Mongol’s Coffin, cover design by Jake Kerr


Provincial Museum

Nr Mazar i-Sharif, Afghanistan

Grant Casey dove behind the nearest statue, a huge sandstone lion with wings and curly hair surrounding a wise human face—at least, until the shots blasted its face into gravel.  Bullets and bits of stone pinged off the display cases and the concrete walls, leaving gouges and sending ricochets that stung his exposed hands and cheeks.  Grant scowled into his goggles.  He’d seen someone come this way, someone who should have been to-hell-and-gone before the shooting started, but now he didn’t dare to call out.

Along the corridor, ahead, he glimpsed a tall soldier—Nick–herding a small group of civilians out of the museum—a woman in full burka, with children, a pair of older men, looking flustered.  At the sound of gunfire, Nick placed himself between the civilians and the shots and hustled them all out of sight.  Good.

The latest barrage ended with a settling of dust, and shattered glass from museum cases glittered on the floor.  He held back a sneeze.  The statue’s head wore a mask of pock-marks .  A few other, smaller figures lay dismembered and rocking on the ground.  If they had stronger fire-power, even the stone lion couldn’t protect him.

“Chief, do you copy?”  D. A.’s voice buzzed in his ear.  Grant dare not answer

“He took off west,”  Nick replied. “Shots fired in that direction.”

“Don’t tell me the Indian’s gone cowboy on us.”  Commander Wilson, the putative leader of this supposedly joint operation.

“It’s not his first rodeo, sir.  He’s got a reason,”  D. A. answered.  “Chief, the building’s clear—team’s clear, do you copy?”

“Y’all are intel, not ops—Casey, you get your people out of here,”  Wilson barked.  “You are in defiance of orders, Lieutenant Casey, and—”

“Saving twenty-eight lives and counting, sir.”  D. A. cut in, begging to be charged with insubordination. “Chief called in the threat, you didn’t respond.  Did you expect us to sit tight while the place went up in smoke?”

“I expected you to follow orders—”

Grant snapped off his set, the argument dropping into silence.  Cautiously, he adjusted his position, settling his back to the solid stone, breathing carefully, listening.  This room sat only a corridor and a lattice-trimmed courtyard short of the entrance, where the rest of the team would be wondering, in spite of orders to the contrary, if they should come and get him now that they’d cleared the place of civilians.  Only, they hadn’t.

He caught a flicker of movement and a flash of a red heat signature in his left-hand lens, furtive, somebody slipping from the bulk of that leafy-looking column to the base of a nearby display of jewelry and tablets.  Grant tracked the movement with his rifle.

“Allahu Akbar!”  shouted a gruff voice to his right.  The shooter, seeking his compatriots.  No answer.  So the third party wasn’t his, and wasn’t Grant’s.  Civilian.

Grant jumped back to the tail of the lion, caught the flash of red, the shooter’s position.  He fired three shots and ducked away again as the shooter returned fire.

Glancing over, Grant silently urged the civilian to get the hell out while the shooter was looking for him.  Instead, the civ lunged along the display and stuck his hand over the top, snatching a jeweled diadem and pulling back, stuffing the piece into his dark tunic.  A looter, in the middle of a firefight.  Could be someone taking advantage, trying to fund a ticket out of the chaos that was Afghanistan, or maybe a museum staffer hoping to save something from the destruction.

Boots pounded up the hallway from the heart of the museum, accompanied by shouts of “Allahu Akbar!”  and a hundred other things.  Shit.  His shooter called out in reply, then the air in the room sucked dry, something boomed, and the lion exploded.  Grant dove away, toward the civ.  He ran hard, gunfire spitting in pursuit.  The civ dodged behind a wooden doorway that wouldn’t stand up to automatics, never mind the rocket they just fired.  He scooped up the civ with one arm and launched them both into the courtyard, rolling so he landed on top behind some kind of tomb. Ironic, if he bought it right then.

“Stay down!” he barked, first in English, then in Dari, the local dialect.

“Get the fuck off,” the civ growled back in accented English, shoving at him.  A woman?  Yeah, he could tell now, in spite of her genderless tunic and trousers.  The wrap slipped back from her face, revealing sharp green eyes, dusky skin, parted lips.

Women had every reason to need the cash to fund a getaway. He couldn’t blame her for taking advantage.  “Get out of here, lady. I’ll cover you.”

For a moment, their eyes locked, and those lips gave a slight quirk, then she gave a nod, and he rolled aside, taking a knee behind the low tomb, weapon in hand.  When he popped up, peppering the stone lattice with shots, she checked her stolen diadem, tossed it aside, and ran:  straight back into the chamber.

Grant ducked down again, the shooters taking pot-shots at his head, while the crazy woman flanked them, making for the same case she’d robbed moments before.

Leaning left, aiming upward, Grant fired again and heard a shriek as a bullet struck home, then he pulled back, yanking out the magazine and slamming in another.  His last.  On the other side of the lattice, the shooters snapped at each other, loud enough to hear, too soft to make out the words.  Draw their fire, or make for home?  One last civ, and she was nuts.

When the rocket roared, Grant plunged left, rolled, and pounded down the side hall to come up next to their hide-out, already shooting, turning them away from the civ.  Three heat signatures, one of them meeting his eye as he fired into the man’s chest.  The next one brought up his automatic, then he fell forward, blood spilling from his lips.

The crazy woman pivoted out of her stance, the gun still in her hand.  Okay, not the usual civilian, not at all.

Between them, the last shooter froze, glanced behind him, then shouted a stream of fury at a woman in pants and swung his weapon toward her.

Two shots, chest and head, one from each direction, and the shooter went down.

She shoved the gun into her waistband and swung around the corner of the lattice.

“Hey!”  Grant held up his off-hand to stop her.

Too late. She slipped her hands and feet into the diamonds of the lattice surrounding the courtyard and scrambled up, climbing fast to the roof and disappearing, even the patter of her steps fading in a heartbeat.

“Chief! We should be out of here–what’re you doing?”  Nick lead with his gun around the entrance at the far end of the hall.

“Finishing the job.”  Grant released his gun and stepped back, the tether keeping it handy.  Four insurgents lay in the wreckage of the museum, bleeding onto the remnants of what should’ve been their heritage.  Maybe the crazy lady had it right, taking something away, rescuing what she could from the chaos.  “I spotted a civilian, but she took off across the rooftop.”  He gestured up.

“Up there?  Fuck. You sure about that?”  Nick came up beside him, half a head taller, maybe seventy pounds heavier, a running back compared with Grant’s track-and-field physique.  “Commander’s raising Hell on the radio—you heard?”  Behind his helmet and goggles, Nick’s dark face looked grim.  “Could be bad news back on base.”

“Twenty-nine lives and this place still standing?  I’ll take it.”  Grant swept the room, listening, watching:  no more sounds, no heat signatures he could see.

“They all down?”  Nick leaned a little closer.

Grant scanned the insurgents.  The first one to fall shifted a little, moaning, his breath hitching.  A living insurgent meant a chance to get some intel and get back to doing their job.  Would it appease the commander?  Unlikely.

“Trauma kit,”  Grant ordered as he stepped over the bodies, pausing to roll a body from the wounded man’s legs.  “Lie still.  We can help.”  The words rang a bit hollow, given he was the guy who’d shot him, but it wasn’t personal.  Nick held out the trauma kit, edging into the space on the other side. The wounded man moved again, muttering, his arm underneath him as if he were trying to sit up.  Nick’s eyes flared, then he shouted, “Chief!” and launched himself over the downed man, knocking Grant aside as the insurgent’s hidden explosive went off in a shower of blood and bone.  Grant flew backwards from the thrust of Nick’s tackle.  He tumbled past the bulk of that wise, ruined lion, the stone wings fluttering in a breeze of fire, shielding him from the worst of the blast, and the even worse anointing of Nick’s blood.


Want to know what happens next?  Bone Guard One:  The Mongol’s Coffin is now available in e-book and trade paperback!

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