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Cortii series – now as a box set

Cortii series – now as a box set

The Cortii series box set

Well, yes, this happened. I’ve been whining about the massive formatting job it entailed since sometime in February, if memory serves, and it is now finally, as of 11th May, out and done, at least on Amazon. At some point, when I have the energy, I’ll adapt it for D2D and Smashwords.

Robin Ludwig Design made me a beautiful box set graphic, which was the high point of the process, and the other bonus is that depending on the screen size, I’ve unlocked a personal trophy on my Amazon author page… you may have to actually scroll to see all my books in the upper display (yes, yes, I know, but how cool is that?).

So what’s in this box set that I’ve been whining about for months? Well, it’s the first four books in the series plus the Unaltered novella that insisted on getting written early this year. It’s a good stopping point, as book five is going to throw a bit of a monkey wrench into the series  plot arc, after which chaos, intrigue, and in-fighting will ensue. (After all, what else do you read the Cortii for???)

Unfortunately the box set is going to be digital-only, as the capacity to actually create printed box sets rests only in the hands of the traditional publishers, vanity presses and possibly Ingram Spark, and I work with none of the above. However, if you’ve been thinking you wanted to dip an expendable appendage into the world of the Cortii, and just hadn’t taken the plunge, you can grab the four-set for the price of two books.

I am currently working on book five in the series, which I’m hoping may publish around Christmas (again). In my defense, I published my first urban fantasy in December, a novella in March, and then got a completely new day job in April, so I haven’t been too unproductive this year.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the jacket teaser:

The Cortii are mercenaries, for hire to anyone who can afford their services.

Every government uses them; no single government can destroy them.

Violence is a highly saleable commodity, and the Cortii have been the galaxy’s final solution of choice for millennia. Among them is the unit known as Wildcat; junior in the rankings and already the subject of rumour.

Wildcat’s commander is Khyria Ilan; her commanders want her dead, but so far she and her command have survived against all the odds…

Character interview: Khyria Ilan

Character interview: Khyria Ilan

Character interview with Khyria Ilan

Remote location on the Canadian West coast, with a Thermos of fortified hot chocolate.

J C Steel: I heard you took an assignment with Irin. Since it was in the news – what was Central Worlds like?

Khyria Ilan: Crawling in security. And high-tech marketing. I’m still debugging my systems of adware.

JCS: What do you expect the fallout to be?

KI: For Irin? He wants it all to go away. He’s refreshingly uninterested in anything that doesn’t have four feet and a tail. He’s been named heir to one of the most influential families in Central Worlds, and the clause he insisted on was making it temporary until another heir could be found. For Wildcat? Officially, nothing. Unofficially…I fully expect to hear from Irin’s father, in some shape or form.

JCS: What was you impression of Irin’s father?

KI: Intelligent.

JCS: And?

KI: You are aware that I was there on assignment, not a holiday.

JCS: Your personal impressions of a man are that highly classified? The Councils must have a high opinion of your intuition.

KI: [laughs] I remember when that line worked better on you. Fine. Intelligent, nasty, and rich.

JCS: Khyria.

KI: If Irin didn’t have – what’s the phrase? Daddy issues? – it’s possible he might find his biological father less odious. Or not. My personal impression of Irian do Maseka do Harek, since you ask, is that he and Irin aren’t so very different on some levels. However, unlike Irin, do Harek’s been running a business empire out of Central Worlds all of his life. There are lines that Irin has never contemplated crossing that do Harek has had to compromise on.

JCS: I see. Did you ever find out how Cahan of the Golden Valleys managed to make getting you to Central Worlds the problem of do Harek? Or even how he got an audience with the man?

KI: No. On the other hand, the link between Irin Seviki and Wildcat Cortia is publicly documented: that ill-considered rebellion Irin’s planet staged was covered by every major newscast. Once you assume that the initial step of Cahan gaining access to do Harek was feasible, as it demonstrably was, the rest was a simple matter of playing the odds.

JCS: Things you call simple keep my costs for headache medication high. It must have been…odd, to see Cahan and Irin in the same room.

KI: Was that a question?

JCS: An invitation. If you don’t want to discuss Cahan, how about Warron?

KI: Competent. Intelligent enough, on Central Worlds, to focus on understanding what the security measures and the threats were, rather than freezing at the amount of the unknown. Cahan made a sensible decision  when he put him in as guard commander. He’s tough and adaptable.

JCS: High praise, from a Cortiian for a human.

KI: You’re fond of the saying that the exception proves the rule.

JCS: [grins] Ouch. Do you think Cahan’s planet is going to get its entry into the Federated Planets?

KI: That would be the positive outcome for them and for the FPA. Taking a planet back to bare earth and re-populating is expensive, not to mention hard to keep quiet. Cahan’s appearance on Central Worlds indicates that the likelihood is high.

JCS: That happen often?

KI: The eradication approach? Not that the Cortii is aware of. Perhaps twice in the last millennium.

JCS: What do you think about their entry into the FPA?

KI: I recommended it.

JCS: I know that. I didn’t ask you what you thought the most practical containment solution was.

KI: I’d sleep better if the FPA were to erase life on that planet, my personal respect for some of its population not withstanding. As it’s not likely to happen…I’ve done what I currently can.

JCS: Last question: do you think Irin’s going to hear from his father more often?

KI: Yes. Irian do Harek didn’t strike me as someone who lets go of anything useful easily.

Unaltered and writing Irin

Unaltered and writing Irin

Unaltered and Irin Seviki

Unaltered was an interesting story to write, not least because, six months prior, I had absolutely no intention of writing a novella in the Cortii series. To add to that, Unaltered is written third person, like the rest of the series, but usually when I write third person I write from several viewpoints, and this novella is written purely from Irin’s perspective.

Yes, I’m a pantser. No, there is no cure.

In terms of reading order, Unaltered is set between Elemental Conflict and the upcoming fifth book in the series. Irin himself is a key character in Fighting Shadows, where he and Khyria first meet while Khyria’s on a recon assignment. However, aside from the fact that Irin and Khyria have a pre-existing relationship, and Irin trusts Cortiian competence to keep his hide in one piece, Unaltered is pretty much a stand-alone.

Irin’s also interesting to write from because he’s a human involved with the Cortii, and most of the series is the Cortii written from a Cortiian’s perspective. Because of that, there are things about the Cortii that he doesn’t know, and, because he’s not a complete idiot, knows he’d prefer not to know.

He’s also had, at least from a Cortiian perspective, a very sheltered life, which means that writing action scenes from his PoV provided some unique challenges. To put that in perspective, Irin’s reaction to a laser waved at him is closer to ‘huh, those look smaller in the shows’, than ‘shoot back!’.

Irin himself is the principal manager, when he can’t talk a sibling or cousin into doing it, of Seviki Equines and Exotics, which is a business that breeds exotic pets, including horses, for the wealthy of Central Worlds. Living on Central Worlds, the first four planets of humanity, is seen as a status symbol by various humanoid cultures. Space on ancestral soil is therefore at a premium, which makes the ability to own and house a large pet, such as a horse, a very visible ‘my credit balance is bigger than yours’.

Irin doesn’t actually care about Central Worlds status symbols, beyond the number of zeroes he can fleece them for, and among the status symbols he really, truly doesn’t care about is the whole ‘genetic purity’ discussion. Because the vast majority of the Federated Planets Alliance, and all of the more recent humanoid governments, are space-faring, almost everyone has had some modification made to their genes to make life a little easier – a tweak to make them more comfortable in artificial gravity, a tweak to let them tolerate lower oxygen levels…the list goes on. On Central Worlds, therefore, and elsewhere, being able to prove that your genes are free of modification is an elite status symbol.

Unfortunately for Irin, an accident of birth means that he actually is genetically ‘pure’, not that he’d ever given it much thought before Unaltered.

Much to his annoyance, his genes make him a person of interest on Central Worlds, and when he finally runs out of denial and creative avoidance, Khyria Ilan is the genetically impure mercenary he trusts to watch his back while he tries to deal with the fallout.

Arthur Dux Bellorum release!

Arthur Dux Bellorum release!

Arthur Dux Bellorum – a new release from Tim Walker!

From the ruins of post-Roman Britain, a warrior arises to unite a troubled land.

Britain in the late Fifth Century is a troubled place – riven with tribal infighting and beset by invaders in search of plunder and settlement. King Uther is dead, and his daughter, Morgana, seizes the crown for her infant son, Mordred. Merlyn’s attempt to present Arthur as the true son and heir of Uther is scorned, and the bewildered teenager finds himself in prison. Here our story begins…

Arthur finds friends in unexpected quarters and together they flee. Travelling through a fractured landscape of tribal conflict and suspicion, they attempt to stay one step ahead of their pursuers, whilst keeping a wary eye on Saxon invaders menacing the shoreline. Arthur’s reputation as a fearsome warrior grows as he learns the harsh lessons needed to survive and acquire the skills of a dux bellorum, a lord of war.

Excerpt from Arthur Dux Bellorum

Artorius (the young Arthur), Merlyn and Gawain are on the run from Mordred’s men and take to the Ridgeway path to escape their pursuers….

They set out early in a steady drizzle, leading their horses along the sheep herders’ path that wound upwards. “It is dry underfoot,” Merlyn explained to Artorius, “because of the white rock that devours the rain. We can expect to see travellers and drovers of sheep who use this path for safety as you can see a long distance in all directions. Bandits, bears, wolves and even storms can be seen approaching. There are few trees or bushes on top of the ridge. It is cold and windy because it is exposed, but it offers safety and a direct route towards the north and east. Ancient peoples live here, unaffected by the Roman occupation, and may offer us hospitality.” He stopped briefly to catch his breath, then continued, “…and the way is marked by ancient forts where our forebears protected themselves from attack by men, wild animals, giants and dragons.”

With aching legs, they reached the top of the hill and saw they were at the start of a long upland ridge that snaked into the distance before them. They were now below blue skies and above low, scudding white clouds.

“We have ascended to the heavens,” Gawain gasped in awe, as they mounted their horses.

“Follow me in single rank and keep your eyes open for movement of horsemen below,” Merlyn said, leading the line. The wind had died and their way was pleasant along a worn dirt track, lined by tufts of hardy moor grass and sage scrub, undulating across the ridgeback. After an hour they saw burial mounds on a high plateau, with sheep grazing about them and an indifferent boy sunning himself on a hillock. He briefly looked up as they slipped by, although his dog gave chase to the skittish horses. Shortly after they came upon their first hill fort.

Merlyn called a halt by the gates of the wooden stockade, the tell-tale curls of smoke signalling that it was occupied. “I’ll go ahead with Varden to speak to the occupants,” he said, dismounting. They approached and pushed the unguarded gate open, slipping inside.

Artorius sought out Gawain and asked, “Do you believe Merlyn’s story that I’m Uther’s one true son?”

Gawain smiled and replied, “Yes Artorius, I believe it. I cannot say I have evidence, for although Hector was my fellow knight, I did not see him again after Uther sent him into retirement to his farm in the west, and Merlyn also disappeared from court at that time. But you have the look of Uther – his dark and searching eyes, the same unruly hair and shape of his face. He was bigger in the body, mind, but there is still time.” Gawain squeezed Artorius’s bicep and they shared a laugh. Artorius was mildly content with his answer, but reserved his judgement.

Varden beckoned them to come to the gate and they filed into the fort. Inside, there were two wooden huts built on to the stockade side, a pen with an assortment of animals, and some crude thatched huts in a semi-circle facing a fireplace with a cauldron bubbling over it. About twenty people – family groups – turned and stared at them. Merlyn was deep in conversation with a bearded druid and they stood waiting patiently.

“You are welcome, friends of Merlyn,” the older druid said, indicating that they should tether their horses on the fence of the pen. Dirty children came running with arms fully of hay for the horses. Drying animal skins and clay pots, and sods of peat cut for burning were the only signs of industry in the place. They were invited to sit by the women, who served elderberry-infused water in wooden beakers to quench their thirst.

“We shall eat and rest for an hour and then continue,” Merlyn said, unpacking some object from his saddlebags and entering the hut of the druid.

Varden saw the quizzical look on Artorius’s face and whispered, “Best not to ask.”

“Is Merlyn a druid?” the curious youth asked.

The burly soldier jabbed a stick at a tuft of moor grass and considered his reply. “He often seeks out the company of lonely druids hidden in remote places. They are rarely seen in towns, where Christian priests would round on them and publicly denounce them. And so Merlyn goes creeping around in swamps and wooded places. But he is not a druid, although he shares some of their beliefs. I think he is searching for something or someone.”

Artorius regarded his companion with a quizzical expression. “Why do you think he is searching for someone or something, and who or what?”

Varden laughed, drawing the attention of others. “That I do not know, nor dare to ask. All I know is that he says he is guided by visions and the wisdom he finds in books and scripts – and he has an understanding of our world and what lies in the hearts of men beyond that of ordinary folk. Remember, he was an advisor to two kings.”

They shared some biscuits with the silent locals, in exchange for a bowl of meat and vegetable broth.It was clear they cared not for conversation, offering one-word responses when spoken to, or sometimes merely nodding in the direction of the druid’s hut.

“There is not much joy here,” Gawain muttered, drawing a snigger from Artorius.

Author Biography

Tim Walker is an independent author based in Windsor, UK. His background is in marketing, journalism, editing and publications management. He began writing an historical series, A Light in the Dark Ages (set in Fifth Century Britain), in 2015, starting with Abandoned, set at the time the Romans left Britain. This was extensively revised and re-launched as a second edition in 2018.

Book two, Ambrosius: Last of the Romans, was published in 2017 and the third installment, Uther’s Destiny, was published in March 2018 (winner of One Stop Fiction book of the month award, April 2018). The adventure continues in March 2019 in the fourth book, Arthur, Dux Bellorum.

His creative writing journey began in July 2015 with the publication of a book of short stories,Thames Valley Tales. In September 2017 he published a second collection of short stories – Postcards from London.These stories combine his love of history with his experiences of living in London and various Thames Valley towns.

In 2016 he published his first novel, a dystopian political thriller,Devil Gate Dawn, following exposure through the Amazon Scout programme. In 2017 he published his first children’s book, The Adventures of Charly Holmes, co-written with his 12-year-old daughter, Cathy, followed In 2018 by a second adventure, Charly & The Superheroes.

Types of spaceship in the Cortii

Types of spaceship in the Cortii

So what types of spaceship are there in the Cortii?

Actually, there are quite a few types of spaceship maintained by a Base. While the Cortii are primarily infiltration and shock troops, most Bases maintain a sizeable fleet, for defence and to service their contracts.

Canta Class

The most common type is the Canta class. As their hull title suggests, they’re rated for five occupants and carry deepspace drives as well as in-system and atmosphere options. They’re heavily armed by humanoid standards for their size, and it shows in the living spaces: there’s a pilot’s cabin with space for a pilot and a co-pilot, five bunks, and a med-bay that’s essentially a sixth bunk with a lot of med-tech built in. Aside from that, at the further end of the bunk corridor, there’s a cross-section that leads to the sanitary unit (be flexible) on one side and the airlock on the other. On the aft wall, there’s a pair of holosuits for training and entertainment. Because the Canta class is rated for atmosphere, it’s a fairly basic delta-shape.

Fighter class

After the Canta class, there are two single-occupant hulls that serve very different purposes. One, the smallest of the Cortiian fleet, is really a cockpit on a whole lot of armament and a massive in-system drive. This is the fastest of the Cortiian ships, and because of its size, unless its drives are running full-bore, it doesn’t show up very well on most types of scanner even if it is being actively hunted. It is not deep-space capable, although it is just about atmosphere-capable. They can’t take a lot of damage, but because they’re almost impossible to pinpoint on weapons targeting and can out-accelerate most tracking estimates, it takes a lucky shot to damage one.

Scout class

The other single-occupancy hull type in the Cortii is known as a scout, and it does exactly what it says on the packet. It’s based on the same hull as the fighter, but with about a quarter of the armament and a deepspace drive and a lot of stealth tech instead. It also offers an extended cockpit that allows for a bunk unit and very basic sanitation behind the pilot and surveillance area. Because there’s a whole lot of active and passive jamming systems bolted onto a hull that’s close to impossible to catch on a scanner in the first place, these are the ship of choice when a Base needs eyes on something and doesn’t want anyone else to know about it. They have basic armament, but the main idea with this ship class is not to get caught in the first place.

Cortia class

These are the Cortiian equivalent of a battle platform, at about a quarter the size of the FPA equivalent. As the name suggests, they’re intended for a Cortia-unit, but can be handled short-term by as little as a single Canta. They are only borderline atmosphere-capable (as in, you’ll probably survive re-entry with a good pilot, but getting off again might be dicey), and can be configured differently for different missions. They’re designed to operate independently for extended periods of time, and can carry twenty fighters in their bays if need be. Because they’re capable of taking out anything up to and including a planet, they tend to induce anything from extreme respect to outright panic.

Short-haulers

There are some, but they’re the Cortiian-manufactured equivalent of load-haulers anywhere, and are mostly drives. If they’re going anywhere where they might conceivably run into danger, they’re escorted. The Cortii use an instantaneous transport system under treaty from the species that invented it, unlike most of humanoid space, so unless there’s some actual reason to send items via a shorthauler, by and large they’re sent through that system.

Accidents, unfriendly fire, and escape pods

….Cortiian ships do have them. All except for the fighter class, which simply doesn’t have space aboard and which requires a spacesuit to pilot, the bunks serve as the escape pods. They’re built as self-contained cryo units, and if jettisoned, will seal and put their occupant into deep-sleep. There’s enough of a drive to get them away from an exploding hull, and enough of a sensor array to look for breathable atmosphere. However, as they only broadcast to Cortiian receivers, and tend to explode if tampered with, getting picked up in one relies on a Cortiian ship being the in right place with its scanners turned up to full gain.

Etymology Excavation: Judas goat

Etymology Excavation: Judas goat

What is a ‘Judas goat’?

Originally, a Judas goat refers to a goat trained to make its way into a herd of beasts marked for slaughter, so that they will follow it into the slaughterhouse. The Judas goat itself is then spared from slaughter so it can do the same thing again. (Wikipedia)

The animal in question varies, but the reference is to the figure Judas Iscariot in the Christian Bible, who betrayed Jesus’s identity and ultimately led to his execution. The details of the story vary widely, but the use of the term ‘Judas’ for a traitor has been in use since the C15th (Etymonline.com).

Some examples of Judas goat used figuratively:

  • ‘He’s a Judas goat. He led the whole army into a trap.’
  • ‘That girl’s a Judas goat. Any stupid decision she makes, the entire squad follows.’

It can be used figuratively for a person being used to bait a trap, or for any figure leading others to disaster. All you really need, in terms of world-building, is a rumoured or actual figure who through design or stupidity, caused a disaster. It doesn’t need a lot of build-up (ancient scroll, anyone?) and can be used for local colour in a range of situations.

What is etymology, and why are you excavating it?

Etymology is like the archeology of a language (definition: the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history).

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