Monday, April 9, 2012

Book III-- Coming Soon

Coyote and I have been asked repeatedly when readers can expect The Order of the Four Sons, Book III. It has been in the works for some time-- in fact, certain scenes and characters have been percolating in my brain since 2005. We started really outlining and getting stuff down on paper somewhere in late 2008. We expect it to be the longest book of the series-- after all, the characters, both heroes and villains, are reunited, this time in a world called Corbenic. There is also an interesting cast of new characters who will be introduced this time around. We hope you love them as much as we do.
We should have a complete working draft done this summer, which means an Amazon release either late this summer or early this fall.
Until then, here’s a small excerpt below to tide you over.
The title: Where Flap the Tatters of the King.

Bill tried desperately not to turn the fishtail into a full spin as the van careened from bright sunlight and dust into winter twilight and snow. No power steering, no power brakes, no power. He was dimly aware that there was shouting and screaming in his ear, but he couldn’t focus on that at the moment. He was focused on trying to find a way of stopping the van without wrecking it, without rolling it, and without crashing into that figure who had just appeared out of nowhere, stepping right in front of—

Oh, shit!

Reflexively, he slammed both feet down on the brake and stood on it, and his voice was added to the others, shouting and screaming.

The snow piled in front of the bumper with a crumpling sound, helping to slow the van’s nightmarish slide until at last, it lurched to a halt. The loss of momentum gently, almost sheepishly, threw everyone back into their seats, where they landed with a soft thump.

They all sat, slightly dazed and blinking for a moment.

The figure in front of them had not moved, though the telltale glow of a cigarette floated up to about face level and brightened, temporarily illuminating her mouth and nose as she took a drag.

“You’re late,” the Oracle said.

Bill flicked on the headlights. She stood just in front of the heaped-up snow, looking down at a small gold pendant watch in her hand.

“Oh, like you knew it to the second!” Bill turned the door handle and gave the door a good shove, trying to clear some of the snow out of the way.

“I knew it to the inch.” She pointed to the front of the van, then paused as her gaze fell on his companions. “Why do you have MJ-12 with you? Wait.”

JD already had both guns to the back of Emily’s head, barrels cocked back. At the Oracle’s word he’d frozen, triggers pulled partway back.

Kate had opened the passenger door and stood, half-in and half-out of the van, also frozen. The Oracle strolled casually over and considered Emily for a moment through the passenger window, tilting her head first one way, then the other.

“Don’t shoot,” she said. “We need her.”

“The fuck for?” JD growled.

“Don’t know yet,” the Oracle shrugged. “If nothing else, she’s cannon fodder.”

JD reluctantly lowered the guns from Emily’s head to her back. “All right, sunshine,” he jabbed at her shoulder blades. “Move.

Emily raised her hands and cooperated. JD followed, his guns still out, then walked carefully around her.

Kate moved aside to let them out, staring all the while at JD.

The Oracle had backed away from the van and stood now with Clayton, who had come forward from the edge of the clearing. JD went over and stood with them, and the three of them regarded Emily, Clayton glowering coldly, the Oracle appraisingly, and the Colonel-- the Colonel looked simply insane.

Bill watched from the driver’s side, his eyes darting from JD to Emily and back again, his face frozen in terror and indecision. If I don’t say anything, he may just decide to go ahead and plug her. If I do say something . . . he may just decide to go ahead and plug her. Oh God.

Murphy climbed down out of the rear of the van and picked carefully through the snow to stand next to Kate, astonished at the sudden and unexpected change in the Colonel’s demeanor. But if Murphy was astonished, Kate was shocked.

There was a tense silence.

Emily looked at her three captors. “Okay. I can see where this is going. Fine.” She took off her gunbelt and tossed it forward, onto the ground. “Fuck you guys. I surrender.”

The three of them continued to eye her. Then the Colonel said in a voice Kate didn’t recognize, “Lie down and put your hands behind your back.”

“No,” Bill suddenly interjected. “Colonel-- wait.”

No one responded. Emily clasped her hands behind her back and lay face down in a drift. The Oracle stepped forward and cuffed her—not gently, her knee in Emily’s back. Emily turned her head aside in order to breathe, her cheek pressed into the wet snow. Meanwhile, the Colonel secured the gunbelt, keeping his prisoner covered at all times.

“No!” Bill said again, more forcefully this time.

Yes, Bill,” the Colonel gritted. “You shut the fuck up. This little missy’s MJ-12 and the only reason I didn’t put two in the back of her goddamn head is because the Oracle said it was a bad idea. You got a report to give? Clayton’s right over there. I got a prisoner to handle.”

Bill started making his way to Clayton. “Clayton, it’s not like that! She saved me!”

“Was this before or after she turned you in?” the Oracle inquired mildly.

“Well . . . I—but . . .” Bill stammered. “After. But you don’t understand.”

“What don’t we understand, Bill?” Clayton asked.

“She killed some of the MJ-12 people just to get me out of there! She’s on our side!”

“Did she?” Clayton asked reasonably. “Did you actually see the bodies? Or did you just see people fall down?”

Bill shook his head. “I know what I saw.”

Clayton took him in—his bruises, yellowed but still terrible, the way he limped through the snow. “You’re not looking well, Bill,” he said, still in that calm, reasonable tone. “In fact, you look like you’ve been worked over.”

“Well, I was-- they did-- but she didn’t,” Bill said quickly.

“Of course she didn’t. She would have been held in reserve, someone to be sympathetic with you.” Clayton glanced down at Emily. “She does seem awfully convincing.”

“Look, guys, I know what you’re thinking, okay? I have training, I have experience-- I’ve been out in the field more than a day or two! This isn’t some kind of Stockholm syndrome. She had a change of heart. She saved me-- she saved the team!” Bill insisted.

You saved the team,” Clayton corrected. “Although she might have helped.”

“She did—help,” Kate piped up. Murphy nodded in agreement.

“No doubt,” Clayton said kindly. “But were any of you there when she allegedly helped Bill escape from her colleagues?”

“No,” Kate said. Murphy shook his head.

Clayton nodded, then turned to Emily. “What is your name?” he asked.

“Emily Hayes,” Emily managed through chattering teeth.

“Something you should probably bear in mind, Agent Hayes. We are in a place where the Order has allies, and no one here has ever heard of the United States government. Don’t start getting any ideas about turning this situation around and calling in your superiors. It is simply not possible.”

Emily nodded. “I understand.”

Clayton nodded as well. “Let her up.”

Alyssa yanked Emily to her feet.

Clayton turned to the others. “Now. We need to get the rest of you outfitted. We’ve got a long journey ahead of us.”

“Of course we do,” Murphy burst out, at last. “Why wouldn’t we? It’s fucking cold here. We were just in a goddamn desert. What is wrong with you people?”