Here it is, the cover of my next rampant action-thriller, Beyond Hades, due out early in 2012. Hot on the heels of the highly popular Blacklisted, this story is sure to blow more than a few minds.
What if mythology isn’t myth? The ancient Greeks told fabulously detailed stories involving unbelievable creatures – monsters dominating all tales from that time. Were they just highly imaginative, or was their inspiration from somewhere else?
Doctor Talbot Harrison, a professor in archeology, receives a phone call one day which will destroy everything he perceives as reality. His brother has been mysteriously killed and within moments the United States Military appear at his door, literally dragging him from his home. Thrown into a helicopter under intense armed guard, it doesn’t take long until they are attacked by something which cannot possibly exist, something drawn to destroy the one man who can stop the beasts from a land beyond Hades….
“Port side! Port side! Incoming!” he heard one of the marines call through his headphones.
A massive torrent of flames poured over the entire left side of the Super Stallion, licking and probing, tilting the huge helicopter to the right. Most of the marines had heard the warning and taken cover, but the port-side gunner was engulfed in a green liquid which rapidly burst into flames – a blaze which burned a sickly blue-green. His howls filled the cabin along with the stench of burning flesh. One of his fellows crashed the marine to the floor and tried to smother the conflagration, but only succeeded in transmitting the inferno to himself. A more sensible marine stepped up and used a small extinguisher to put out the flames on both men, but Talbot could see the body of the gunner, and it was crispy. The second man’s screams echoed through the enclosed chopper.
“It’s coming around to starboard!” one of the pilots called over the internal radio. The XM218 machine gun on the right hand side of the Super Stallion instantly erupted, firing thousands of rounds out at an incredible rate.
Talbot snapped his gaze around fearfully and saw something… something incredible!
It soared gracefully, gliding through the air against any reason of logic which said a creature of such size could not be so incredibly maneuverable or swift. It had the tail of a snake, body of a lion and head and wings of an eagle. The creature calmly weaving between the tracer rounds held no place in reality; it was something out of myth – Greek mythology to be exact, the same subject Talbot’s brother had been an expert in.
It was a gryphon.
It was impossible. There was no way the thing Talbot was seeing could be real, but there it was before him, majestic wings stretching for at least the equivalent length of the Super Stallion – about one hundred feet! The beast’s body was enormous too, slightly larger than an African bull elephant. There was no way it could possibly exist. No way.
Then the thing which couldn’t possibly exist hit them with another eruption of green liquid which immediately turned into blue-green flame once it mixed with the oxygen in the air. This time it struck the starboard side of the aircraft. Nobody made the same mistake as the gunner had the last time, every single marine finding secure cover as the horrendous blaze struck.
The Super Stallion was smashed sideways in the air by the strength of the attack. Talbot heard orders being screamed through his headphones and the methodical pounding sound of the rear gun trying vainly to take down the target.
“Well it’s about goddam time!” he heard Colonel Wilson yell.
Wondering what he was talking about, Talbot followed his gaze out the port-side window. Darting towards them were four AV-8B Harrier II jet fighters – more commonly known as Harrier Jump-Jets. Talbot would have whooped with joy… if he didn’t feel like he was about to crap his pants.
The fighter planes sped in and Talbot saw them all unanimously fire missiles –AIM-9 side-winders, he guessed. All four missiles shot in curving lines towards the gryphon, smoke trails blazing out behind them.
Simultaneous contact and detonation. Flames erupted from the enormous explosion and the gryphon was gone….
Only to emerge, charred and shaken, but otherwise unscathed. The huge beast beat its wings several times, seeming to consider another attack on the Super Stallion, but instead peeling away from the conflict and rapidly disappearing towards the horizon.
“Call off the fighters, we can’t afford to lose any more,” Talbot heard Colonel Wilson call over the headset. Talbot sat back on the bench seat and stared down at his shaking hands.
“Welcome to our nightmare, Dr. Harrison,” said Colonel Wilson grimly.
Stay tuned for updates.
Yes, you heard me right, Blacklisted is going to be self-published. I have reached a point where I believe the most important thing for me to do is make my books available to those who matter: my readers. We have all been waiting for over a year and a half to see what else I can produce and I am more than willing to deliver.
So Blacklisted will hopefully be out this month in eBook, but at the very worst it will definitely be out next month. The last thing I want to do is rush it and make mistakes, so for now I beg your patience. As I have said before, the eBook will initially be released at 99c in an attempt to apologize to those of you who have been waiting for more. The print version will be available soon after, as I fumble my way through this process.
But that’s not the end of it. Beyond Hades will be released as soon as I can get it ready and its sequel, Slaves of Valhalla, will also follow. I have two other novels written after these, but at this stage I’m not sure what I’ll do with them. They’re part of a four-book series which is absolutely colossal in its scale, and so I think I’ll just see where I stand at the end of my publication marathon.
I’m not about to climb into a pulpit and preach about how self-publishing is taking over the world, because we all know it’s not. I’m just trying to get my voice heard in the maelstrom, and at the moment I believe getting my work to my readers as swiftly possible is absolutely vital. To do that I must self-publish, it’s that simple. Things have been on hold for far too long through no fault of my own, and the last thing I want to do it to jump back on the merry-go-round of submissions and rejections once more.
My editor, the same man I worked with on The Dark Path, is of the highest calibre, and we are working together to polish Blacklisted to a fine shine. It is very different from The Dark Path in that it is based purely in reality, but its soul of action and adventure is just as strong, if not stronger.
People will inevitably ask if I like this book better, but I cannot answer that, nor is it for me to answer. It is for you, the readers, to decide for yourselves. These stories are my children, and to like one more than another would be the same as if I turned from one child in favour of another. I pour everything I can into what I write, and all I can do is hope it goes out into the world to be accepted and loved as much as I love it.
Click HERE to read an excerpt from BLACKLISTED.
To those of you who don’t know, due to circumstances beyond my direct control, there has been a major hold-up on the release of my second book, BLACKLISTED, and after something of a major crash it looked like things would be delayed even longer – if I hadn’t decided to take things into my own hands. I’ve chosen to bring out my second novel myself, and will be utilizing the same editor I worked with for THE DARK PATH in order to get BLACKLISTED out for those who have been clamoring for more of my novels. Also, in order to make up for the prolonged delays, I’m going to be initially releasing BLACKLISTED in all ebook formats for only 99c!!!
I feel so bad for people who have had to wait and just want to get more of my stuff out there as quickly as possible – without compromising the quality of my work. I’m not sure what the future of my other four completed novels will be just yet, but for now I’m focusing on getting BLACKLISTED out as swiftly as I can and am working feverishly to get it ready for you all.
It’s been quite a while since I read through this novel while it was under prolonged consideration by major publishing houses in New York, and I have to say I had forgotten how much fun it is. Stepping away from the tone of THE DARK PATH slightly, I decided to base BLACKLISTED completely in reality, with no supernatural themes, in an effort to cement my place as a high-quality action-thriller author. I have to point out it was not rejected by those houses considering it, and they were very serious houses indeed, but beyond that I refuse to make comment on the disaster which not only affected me, but several others as well. I may one day talk about it in the hopes of helping other new authors and advise them in ways to avoid what happened to me, but for now I just want to focus on the positive aspects of novel writing and that is satisfying those who enjoy my work. That is the most important thing to me, and I hope it always will be.
Anyway, back to the point of this post. I changed my cover art yet again today, and figured I might just post the several incarnations and ideas I’ve had for this novel along the way. The first versions were extremely clumsy since I had no idea how to properly use my photo-editing software to its full potential. I had to learn as I went. Descriptions of each image are below the picture.
This was the first cover I posted. The grunge American flag was something I wanted in there right from the start and the muscular physique of this image was kind of what I wanted to convey, but really wasn’t appropriate at all. The ugly face just looks stupid and scares the reader away instead of enticing them to read what’s inside.
After the debacle of my first attempt, I went completely to the other end of the spectrum and put together this boring piece of crap. For those interested, the pyramids are pertinent to the story and for those who are picky the swirls are part of the watermark on the test picture I used and wouldn’t have been part of the final art – but it sucked anyway and ended up in the bin almost immediately.
With this one I was starting too get the idea, but as a few of my testers pointed out it looked a bit too much like a gay-romance novel. Now there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not the right image when trying to promote an action-thriller like mine. Kinda like putting a picture of My Little Pony on a fishing magazine; it might look great, but just isn’t appropriate for what lies within the pages.
This was the one I thought would be the finished product, but it was pointed out to me that the torso floating in space was a little weird. After noticing this, it just became more and more evident to me until that was all I saw any time I looked at it.
This is my most recent version, a far cry from the original monstrosity which I remember thinking looked so good. Just goes to show how much you can achieve with the help and advice of others along with just a little bit of ingenuity. It might change a little bit as different ideas come to me and I polish it a bit, but this will almost certainly be the final cover.
Huge thanks go out to Jacqueline Remmers, Melissa Toms, Claude Bouchard, Troy James and Sarah Dougherty for their help and invaluable advice on this project, along with everyone from Twitter and Facebook who offered suggestions. I absolutely love the end result and could never have done it without any of you.
Okay, I know I’ve already posted cover art for BLACKLISTED, but I really wasn’t happy with it and have been working furiously to get something better done. Below is what I hope will be the final artwork for the cover. Let me know what you think in the comments, it’ll really help. Thanks guys.
There has been an absolutely phenomenal international response to my debut novel, THE DARK PATH, with fans clamoring for more and more and more. I have been promising another release for a while now but, due to issues beyond my control, things have been delayed… until now.
I would like to announce that I will be bringing my second novel, BLACKLISTED, directly to you, my readers, in an attempt to expedite the whole process. I am going to be working with the same editor as THE DARK PATH and hope to get it out within the next couple of months. Yes, I know it’s still a wait, but we want to bring you the best quality product possible and don’t want to rush the process just for the sake of saving a couple of weeks. BLACKLISTED will be available at all major online retailers in both print and ebook, though the print version may be released later than the ebook, I’m not sure yet.
Once again, I apologize to all of you who have been waiting so long. So in an attempt to make amends with my readers, BLACKLISTED will be initially released in ebook at a discounted price of only .99c!!!
Yes, you heard me right. For the first month after the release date, BLACKLISTED will only be .99c on Kindle, Nook, Sony, iPad, Kobo and wherever else I can release it. I am doing this in an attempt to apologize to all those who have remained my faithful fans despite the amount of time between books. Unfortunately, due to printing costs, I don’t think we’ll be able to discount the print version yet, but that may change as more information comes to me.
In the meantime, check out my awesome concept cover art below. This isn’t the final product, but gives an idea of what it’ll look like.
And as a further teaser, here’s just a snippet of what’s coming:
Two cops slammed Mike down onto the chair, snapping him back to the present. They hesitantly released his handcuffs and jumped back in case he attacked.
He didn’t. That’s exactly what they wanted, and he wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction. He just stared coldly at the detective badge on the chest of the man sitting opposite him while the other two backed out of the interrogation room.
Deep within, Mike had known what he’d been doing over the last few years would eventually catch up with him, and he’d vowed to stop a hundred times. But every time he turned on the TV, he saw another scumbag being let off over some sort of technicality.
The law system no longer worked, and something deep inside made Mike keep doing it. Why couldn’t they just stop the bad people from hurting others? He hadn’t wanted to do the things he did, but the compulsion to act when the law failed was just too strong.
Mike scrubbed at the unseen blood on his hands for the hundredth time.
Damn this! He didn’t want to be here! He was a good man, had been trying to do good for so long, but he couldn’t just sit back and let evil go unchallenged. There was a huge, driving need within him to protect people, forged into him during his time as a bouncer, and an instinct to punish those who walked free, thanks to the death of his father at the hands of a man he would never know. These bastards could not be allowed to go unpunished; he had to stop them. And the only way he knew to stop them was to kill them.
He couldn’t be evil, could he?
At least he could afford a good lawyer; that might count for something. And then there was always the chance the police might not have done their job thoroughly enough – just like they hadn’t done their job all those times before, leaving him to clean up the mess.
Anger rose up inside Mike, warming him from within and pushing away his depression. Cops cared more about eating donuts than they did about doing their damn job. If they’d covered everything the way they were supposed to, Mike wouldn’t be in this situation. It was all their fault.
“Michael T. Swanson,” said the detective. Mike looked at him blandly, trying to appear bored. “Seems like you’ve been a very busy man. How do you find the time to go around murdering people when you’ve got that fancy club of yours to run? I guess everyone needs a hobby, right?”
Mike gazed at him blankly.
“I suppose you’ll be able to use your phase in jail to your benefit; all that extra time inside to pump up those big muscles.” He pointed at Mike’s bulging bicep. “You can make yourself all pretty for when they finally give you the lethal injection. At least they won’t have trouble finding a vein to stick the needle in.”
Mike just stared. He’d ask for gas anyway, he hated needles.
The cop slammed his palm down on the desk. “Why are you looking so smug, you asshole? They’re going to kill you. If you confess now, they’re likely to go easy and just give you life. With parole, you might even be out in fifteen years. You’ll barely be forty years old, plenty of time left to live out the rest of your life. But death is final, Mike, make no mistake about it. There ain’t no coming back from that.”
Mike yawned. This guy was so full of shit; they’d never let him go for the things he’d done.
The cop swore, pacing away before returning and leaning heavily on the desk. “Now I know you’ve got that fancy lawyer and all, Mike, but he isn’t gonna save you from this.” He grinned maliciously. “We found your DNA at three crime scenes and we’re building up a case that’s gonna be rock solid.”
That got Mike’s attention. It was possible they might have found something at one of the scenes but how -?
“How did you get my DNA?” asked Mike, unable to help himself. He hadn’t done anything since arriving at the station – and he certainly hadn’t agreed to a DNA swab.
The cop grinned. “It’s amazing what technology can get for you these days, Mike. We got your DNA from your old drug tests back when you were boxing. Did you know they recorded your DNA when they screened you for drugs? They label it as something completely different to keep the whining ninnies ignorant, but when we found a hair on the body of that pedophile you killed – um, what’s his name?”
Mike gazed at him, his expression like stone. “It’s your story, you tell me.” He wouldn’t admit defeat yet.
“Anyway, once we got that hair and ran it through the system, your name popped up. Along with similar evidence at two more scenes, it was enough to get us a warrant, and with all the crap we found at your house we’re gonna bury you. We’ll substitute the DNA from your toothbrush for the blood test results and say we got it out of your trash. It’s completely underhanded, but if it helps us keep a psycho like you off the street it’s worth it.”
Mike shook his head. Bastards.
Suddenly the door to the interrogation room slammed open and four black-clad soldiers, their features hidden behind black combat masks, strode in followed by a man wearing a crisp Armani suit. Mike glanced at the cop, but he seemed just as stunned as Mike.
“Who the hell are you?”
The man in the suit ignored the detective, looking Mike up and down before nodding slightly and indicating to the soldiers. All four moved to where Mike sat and lifted him to his feet. A set of manacles was produced by one and they secured Mike’s hands and ankles.
The cop made to grab the man in the suit, but in a move of amazing alacrity the suit spun away from him, sweeping the detective’s hands aside in the process. His right hand then shot forward, grabbing the detective by the throat, whilst his left arm wrapped around and trapped the cop’s right arm under his armpit. He clamped his index finger and thumb around the cop’s windpipe, pushing up and closing the carotid arteries. The cop made a weak cough before his eyes rolled up into his head and he collapsed to the floor.
The man in the suit gently laid the cop on the floor before standing once more, completely at ease. A few inches shorter than Mike and a good deal lighter, the suit returned his stare evenly and Mike felt a chill deep within. This was not a man to be trifled with.
Around thirty-five years of age, the strange man had a fair complexion with sandy-colored hair parted evenly to the left and lightly oiled. It gave the impression of someone more scholarly, but even without the display Mike had just seen, he would never have taken this man lightly. Behind those brown eyes flecked with black laid a deep intelligence bordering on what seemed like insanity… or fanaticism.
“Who are you?” asked Mike, trepidation creeping into his voice. He’d been so sure of what was going on with the police, had run it through his mind a thousand times before getting caught so that nothing was a surprise. But this, getting busted out of jail by a bunch of guys who beat up cops and dressed up like they were with the army, this was something he was totally unprepared for and he felt dread rising within him. It was a strange sensation to arrive so soon after he had so recently been prepared to die. He stared at the man in charge, waiting for some kind of explanation.
None came. The man in the suit pointedly ignored Mike and motioned for the soldiers to take him out of the room.
As they marched through the police station, other soldiers came in behind them at various points from other areas. Mike saw cops lying all over the place, some with what looked to be tranquilizer darts sticking out of them.
What the hell was going on?
His heart began to race, his palms for once feeling free of blood as sweat poured from them.
The soldiers wore no markings of rank or country, were dressed completely in black from head to toe, but moved through the place with a coordinated efficiency that impressed the former bouncer. It impressed him as well as unnerved him; something on this scale was almost beyond belief. They slid through rooms with a precision that spoke of years of training, their black boots barely making a sound as they glided swiftly from place to place, completely securing the station. No emotion emanated from the eyes within the black combat masks, and Mike felt his trepidation mount once more.
These guys were definitely not amateurs.
They finally exited out the rear of the station and into a car park where Mike saw several unmarked military-looking Humvees parked – all painted uniformly black with dark-tinted windows. He was bustled into the back seat of one of these while two soldiers climbed in and sat either side of him, pinning him in. Both had their Beretta M9 handguns drawn before sitting and held them ready on their laps. Mike saw the safety mechanisms on both guns were clicked off, the little red dot staring up at him like a promise of blood if he decided to resist.
The front passenger door opened and the man in the suit entered the vehicle. Flipping open his phone Mike heard him say, “Implement clean and sweep of entire station. Use G-67 formula on all subjects and create a cover story of a gas leak resulting in temporary amnesia accompanied by loss of consciousness. That is all.”
As the vehicle moved away from the police station, Mike couldn’t help but wonder yet again who these men were and what agenda they had.
And why did they want him?
Mike’s bladder was uncomfortably full, and yet his mouth seemed completely dry. He shouldn’t feel like this; he was the killer, the one to be feared, but he sensed only terror. Not at the thought of death, merely panic at the unknown. Why the hell was this happening? What could they possibly want?
Copyright(C) 2009 Luke Romyn
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Even the Empire loves THE DARK PATH!
PROBABLY EXPLAINS HOW THIS HAPPENED:
HUGE thanks to Miranda ‘Spoox’ McHenry for her brilliant Stormtrooper images. You are seriously the coolest nerd I have ever met.
Vain gazed through the crowd. He knew the little drunk hid in Mason’s somewhere and he needed the information he could provide. He also knew the man wouldn’t want to be found and that would be why he loitered in such a public place. He would expect Vain to avoid Mason’s because of the amount of people gathered here; he knew the Dark Man’s abhorrence of crowds.
What he did not know was that the Dark Man would go to any lengths to get what he needed, and right now he needed to find the man known on the street as Squirrel.
Vain found Squirrel in a darkened corner booth nuzzling up to a toothless prostitute who looked like she’d recently devoured an entire buffalo. Either he nuzzled up to her or she was simply so enormously fat that he had to squash his face into her ample bosom to avoid being dumped onto the floor. Vain approached them, smoothly gliding through the crowd. Squirrel looked up and very nearly swallowed his tongue at the shock of seeing the assassin standing before him.
“Leave us,” commanded the Dark Man without even looking at the hooker.
“Why should I, cutie? The three of us could have a great party together.”
“If you don’t leave now, you fat slut,” whispered Vain venomously, “I’ll cut off those lumps of lard you call tits and feed them to you raw.”
Her look of enticement turned swiftly to one of terror, glimpsing the fury within the Dark Man’s eyes. She almost tore the diminutive figure of Squirrel apart in her haste to escape. Vain calmly took the seat she had so agreeably vacated and sat in silence, pinning the fretting young drunkard with a withering glare.
“Well, um, ah, sir. What brings you to this part of the neighborhood?” Squirrel asked nervously.
“You do,” said Vain simply. This increased the sweat popping from the rapidly sobering Squirrel’s temple.
“Ah, me, um, ah. What can I do for you today?” Squirrel was clearly uncomfortable in the Dark Man’s presence, but the scrawny little man would never find the balls to refuse him, Vain thought contemptuously. Something about the Vain made normally brave men think of mortality. Men who weren’t so brave, like Squirrel, turned to water at the mere sight of him.
“Why are you trying to hide from me, little man?”
“Hide? Me? From you? No, um, no sir. I’m simply laying low after your most recent exploits–I mean your last job,” he corrected hastily.
“You call this laying low? And why would you need to lay low after a job of mine?” inquired Vain quietly, casually scanning the room for anyone who might be watching them. No eyes met his.
“Well, sir, some people might think I knew something and come after me for information,” said Squirrel.
“You know nothing of my actions, or me, so don’t try to bullshit me with those stories. Save them for your drunken friends. Why did you try to hide from me? Or should we dispose of the Squirrel’s nuts?” Vain pressed a short bladed knife against the squirming man’s testicles, pricking the skin through the cloth of his pants.
“No! God no!” squealed the little man. “Dante has been contracted for you! He’s been paid to collect your head, and has sworn to kill anyone associated with you. That’s why I’m hiding. I swear it,” he finished huskily.
Vain drew back the knife, and considered Squirrel’s words. Dante’s exploits were well known as both effective and painful, almost as notorious as his own. Unlike the Dark Man, however, he reveled in his kills and enjoyed the notoriety his position entailed. Everyone from the lowest drug dealer to the Mayor of New York knew who he was, but no one had ever been able to touch him. The man had an almost sixth sense for traps and danger of any kind. Thus, even though elite task forces and assassins had been deployed to entrap him, he always escaped, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.
“Dante is hunting me?” Squirrel nervously nodded and the Dark Man chuckled hollowly. “How unfortunate for him. Has he come to see you yet?”
Again Squirrel nodded, “But I told him nothing, I swear.”
“Of course not. Like I said, you know nothing about me anyway. However, you must have given him something for you to have enough money to entertain Big Bertha there. What did you tell him?” asked Vain.
“Nothing, I promise you sir,” Squirrel began, but at a dark look from Vain he flushed. “I might have said you were looking into the Marcello contract, but that’s all, I swear on my pecker.”
“You must know more than even I give you credit for Squirrel. Only a select few have even heard of the Marcello contract, let alone know who’s been contacted for it.” Vain offered no hint of emotion. “However, for your own sake, I’d try to keep that sort of thing to yourself from now on. Don’t you think?” He punctuated the last comment with a sharp jab from the knife still in his hand. Not enough to wound the man, just enough to make his point. Squirrel swallowed heavily.
Without another word, Vain rose from the booth and started towards the exit.
“Wait sir, one more thing before you go.”
Not turning, the Dark Man grunted, “What is it?”
“It’s said that Dante is staying at the Royal Hotel. Possibly on the sixth or seventh floor, in case you were wondering.”
“I might just pay him a visit,” whispered Vain maliciously, striding out into the night.
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