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Mainstream, much to my surprise…

Mainstream, much to my surprise…

Mainstream, me?

Well, based on the review round Death is for the Living just came out of, yes, maybe?

I put Through the Hostage through Hidden Gems last September, and got a majority of 4- and 5-star reviews with the expected smattering of ‘confused!’, which is pretty much business as usual across the series. Death is for the Living went through the same process last month, and came back with much more of a ‘Marmite’ reaction (love it or loathe it). The reviews could be largely summarised as ‘Not what I expected – WTF?’ and ‘Not what I expected – cool!’.

I’m not sure if that’s because the sci-fi community tends to be more aligned with the ‘expect the unexpected’, whereas vampire UF readers have more defined expectations. It’s possible. Vampire hunters, based on a yacht, in the Caribbean, isn’t a plot I’ve come across before, and I’ve been reading sci-fi and various types of fantasy since I was six or seven.

On the other hand, it seems that based on those review rounds that by comparison to my urban fantasy, my sci-fi series is, in fact, mainstream. One day soon I’m sure I’ll be able to stop chortling hysterically about that concept. Maybe. My sense of humour has been described as malign, and since I took that as a compliment, that probably provides all necessary explanation.

I have a feeling that that reaction’s liable to remain status quo, in any case, as although my sci-fi series is biting hard right now, and I’ll probably be working through the next couple of planned books in that before I take the path less travelled again, the next urban fantasy story I have rattling around in the ‘condemned’ areas of my brain is about a half-siren, half-asshole (her description) acquisitions specialist on a quest for the peaches of immortality.

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…

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.

The art of war, or, the non-PC novel

The art of war, or, the non-PC novel

So you don’t agree with it. So what?

OffendedI see a lot of blogs, tweets, and statements about how offensive some people find books that contain (insert rant of choice here – bad language, violence, sex, religion … you name it). Look at this one again. People find a book offensive. To the point where they feel they can’t just put it down; they have to try and make sure that no-one else can read it either. Because it offends them so deeply.

Libraries are being told to ban books. Does this raise any concerns for anyone? Would it concern anyone more if I mentioned that these dangerous books include … Harry PotterThe Hunger Games? Huckleberry Finn?

I mean, we’re not talking about The Communist Manifesto here.  We’re not talking books that overthrew the worldview of the Western world, like Kepler’s Astronomia Nova, or even Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible. We’re talking fiction books.

At this point I start getting little twinges of disaster scrabbling around my hindbrain. Here’s a pop quiz. Can anyone think of a period in the last 100 years when books, including fiction books, and literature with liberal, democratic tendencies and attitudes, and writings, e.g. Jack London’s Call of the Wild, were rounded up and destroyed to keep them out of the hands of the impressionable population?

Anyone? I’ll tell you. It started on 10th May 1933, when numbers of students and citizens decided that in the name of patriotism, some material was against the principles of their culture and ran the risk of sowing dangerous ideas in the populace.

But … but … banning books that shock or anger people from libraries is nothing like that!

Yes. It is. It’s exactly like that.

It’s an offence against free speech. It’s making someone else’s choices for them. And it prevents the spread of an idea. Even a stupid, fictional idea. After all, what starts with a ban on Harry Potter can, all too easily, spread to a ban on Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. That one definitely contains some dangerous, shocking ideas to some under-educated percentage of the population.

So here’s the shocking thing about books. They’re meant to spread ideas. Think of every book like a little chunk of amber. Each contains a preserved idea, whether from yesterday or 2,000 years ago. Most of them are just beautiful things to amuse yourself with for a few hours. Others, still beautiful, contain the DNA sample that brings back the dinosaurs. It doesn’t mean you get to destroy the one you don’t like because you don’t like it. What if someone else decided that the idea you like, about the guy who walked on water, should be banned and destroyed, because it starts wars?

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