Thank you to all my loyal readers for waiting patiently for the Amazing Laurel C. Kriegler, Editor Extraordinaire, and me to finish SOVRAN’S PAWN the way we would have liked to have done TEN YEARS AGO!!

Laurel has been after me for years to flesh out the book that was originally intended to be a backstory novella, and to bring it into stylistic alignment with HERO’S END and BARRON’S LAST STAND.

The new, Expanded Edition is more than twice the length of the original 2012 release. It contains a more in-depth world-building, and readers will find many of their most commonly-asked questions answered.

A new book required a new cover. So here is your first look at the darker, grittier cover to match the darker, grittier edition of the first installment of THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES.

The darkness inside him slumbered once more, sated by blood and violence—but for how long this time? He flexed his aching hands and leaned back against the cold stone, crossing his arms against his chest. He’d made his point. There would be no further challenges.

Look for it to go on sale in the near future. There are plenty of surprises to keep you turning the pages and wondering what comes next!

Have You Played the Letter Game?

Have you ever heard of “The Letter Game?”

It’s very easy to play and a lot of fun. Anyone can play, writer or novice. Any number can play as well. It involves an exchange of letters or emails. The first player establishes his or her character, their situation, why they’re writing letters or emails and the identity of the person or persons with whom they are corresponding. Each player is responsible for developing their character and telling their part of the story. Plot, conflict, setting, and characters can all be developed this way.

The Letter Game has been used as a form of collaborative fiction or as writing exercises. Some books have even found publication after being written this way. In fact, that’s how I came across this game – I read one of the books!

The book was SORCERY AND CECILIA by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. I was captivated by the idea of telling a story in that fashion. I’ve since played the game several times, with friends who were writers and friends who were complete novices, but possessed of excellent imaginations. One of those books has formed the basis for a SF adventure I’ve got simmering on the back burner, UNDERNEATH DEAD STAR. If the title sounds familiar, it’s also the title of a Blade Devon holofeature.

Yes, I do like things all neat, tidy and intertwined.

The great thing about using The Letter Game to tell a story and exercise your writing skills is that the setting and elements are virtually unlimited. DEAD STAR is set on a deep-space outpost on an asteroid near a star that is in its death throes at the edge of the known galaxy. SORCERY AND CECILIA is set in Regency England in an alternate reality in which magic is not uncommon.

Think of all the possibilities!

One of the most frustrating things for writers is the solitary nature of writing. The Letter Game provides a wonderful opportunity to interact with others within our own medium – kind of like a literary jam session, if you will.

In fact, this gives me an idea that I need to pitch to some of my sf writer friends who have suggested we all find a way to collaborate…


Have you ever tried a collaborative storytelling game?

World Building From a Pantser’s Perspective – Krystal Brookes

While I’m off roughing it on top of a mountain in the Sumter National Forest listening for the sound of Dueling Banjos, author Krystal Brookes kindly offered to guest post for me until I can work my way down the river where Deliverance was filmed and find my way safely back to civilization again.  So here is Krystal with an interesting perspective on her writing.


Hi, I’m Krystal Brookes and I’d like to thank JC for inviting me to her blog today.  At first I was unsure what I was going to write about and I asked my friend on Facebook what she thought.  She suggested I write about how I go about world building in my stories. I was slightly stricken.  You see, the friend is also my editor and she edited my short story, Bounty, which I will tell you about later.  Was now the time to confess that as a pantser I don’t do any world-building.  I pretty much make it up as I go along.

Bounty was my first attempt to be published and was accepted.  My acceptance email sits proudly on a frame next to my desk.  It states that the editor “loved the world building in this short story.”  So I confessed that I didn’t know a thing about it, and my editor told me that I am able to world-build even if I don’t think of it as a technical process.

I realized that I usually start with a utopian government.  I probably choose that because I first got into science fiction watching Star Trek.  And the Federation of Planets is pretty utopian, even if they do have to fight Klingons, Cardassians and the Dominion.  The different inhabited planets are usually linked through alliances or confederacies: a peaceful galaxy with a few baddies to spoil it.

For Bounty, I had to create some kind of criminal and legal system.  In space a police force would probably not be practical.  I had to think of something else. Paid bounty hunters seem to be a better way to capture criminals.   Because it is a utopian society, the criminal justice must be fair—but that’s not to say they never make mistakes.

Then I had to decide what kind of planet to make the prison planet Alcatraz.  Coming from freezing cold and wet Scotland, the idea of a desert area is a bit disturbing to me.  I’m sure people who come from Arizona don’t see it that way.  To me, that would be the height of discomfort and no one wants to see the baddies living in the lap of luxury.  So Alcatraz became a hot, sandy, desert planet.

So it seems that I did build a little world of my own, even if I didn’t realize that it was what I was doing.  It was great to think up new technology and consider what living in such conditions would do to criminals. Bounty is a short novella so I didn’t have time to explore it in great detail.  But I’m currently working on a new project and an entirely different type of planet.  I hope you like the excerpt of Bounty.


Bounty – Excerpt


“I see you’re awake,” a gruff male voice stated.

Gemma looked in the direction of the voice. Wherever she was, it was dark and damp smelling. Her mind was struggling to make sense of what had happened. She could tell there had been an accident but the immediate events before the accident were extremely fuzzy.


“It doesn’t matter. You’re safe–for now. How are you feeling?”

“Sore and groggy,” she replied quietly.

She couldn’t quite make out the man in the dim light. She didn’t recognise his voice or where she was. Her memory was still fuzzy but something in the back of her mind scared her. She seemed to be alone with this man and she certainly was not in a hospital.

“Yeah, well, that’s what happens when you crashland your shuttle into a planet Ms. Scott.”

“How do you know my name?”

“Your ID was in your pocket. And your phase gun was in your holster.”

“Where is my gun now?” Gemma asked, trying to stop the fear in her voice.

“It’s safe.” The man moved forward into the thin shaft of light coming from the dim overhead light on the ceiling of the hut they seemed to be in. The man was tall, muscular and tanned, with a shock of medium length brown hair. She recognized him, but couldn’t quite recall from where.

“I’d prefer it if you returned my gun. I need it.”

“I said it’s safe,” he returned.

She sat for a few moments trying to remember what had happened. She knew she had to get her gun back from this man but her head was too befuddled to form a coherent argument for now.

As the details of the accident came back to her, she squinted again at her rescuer, trying to recall how she knew him. She felt her blood drain as she remembered.

“I need to fix my shuttle,” said Gemma, hoping that he hadn’t realized who she was.

“It’s dark outside, you won’t be able to do anything just now.”

She tried to sit up but a shard of intense pain ripped through her shoulder and made her fall back on the pillow.

“You dislocated your shoulder, so I had to put it back in the socket. It’s going to be sore for a while.”

She rubbed her shoulder and grimaced.

“Thanks, I think.”

“If I’d left you in that shuttle, believe me, you would have been murdered or worse.”

“What’s worse than being murdered?”

“On this planet? Not being murdered and being kept alive long enough to be aware of what they’re doing to you.”

She shuddered.





When Gemma Scott’s shuttle crash lands on Alcatraz prison planet, she’s sure of one thing. If the impact doesn’t kill her, the inmates will. She wakes up in the hut of a convicted terrorist and wonders how long it will be until the handsome but dangerous man finds she was the one who arrested him two years earlier. As their attraction grows, they work together to help Gemma escape the dangerous planet. But they can’t deny the sparks that fly between them.

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