An easy minder job, watching a dignitary’s child, should be a simple payday for Flis Kupe and Grae Sinder. Sometimes their little investigations business needs the peace and quiet. Sometimes it needs the money.
But when the job turns sour, Flis and Grae might just find themselves in the firing line.
A Karnish River Navigations novel that changes everything.
Why, you ask, is this book 6 in the series, but the ninth to come out? Well, it’s one of those series that can be read in any order, and, it turns out, I’m writing it in any order. I started this when I was a younger writer, and the first book was titled Arlchip Burnout and, naively I thought that was neatly alphabetical, why not carry on? (see Toby Litt’s alphabetical series).
So then, Canal Days and Eastern Foray and so on.
But it turned out that titles came to me from different places in the alphabet. Tombs Under Vail came out long before Eastern Foray. In fact, Fantastic Fiction lists them by publication year (fair enough) rather than alphabetically:
Karnish River Navigations
Arlchip Burnout (2015)
Night Operations (2016)
Canal Days (2016)
Guest House Izarra (2016)
Persephone Quest (2017)
Tombs Under Vaile (2018)
Eastern Foray (2019)
Jackpot Kingdom (2022)
Reading order would be
Guest House Izarra,
Tombs Under Vaile
You’ll see those three titles there in parentheses/brackets – [ ] – these three are still to be written. I will be embarking on Rorqual Saitu possibly as soon as next month, so it might even be out later this year.
Then, the challenge I seem to have set for myself of coming up with the WX and YZ titles. And good stories to roll around under those. Humph. I suppose that I do like a good challenge.
Mostly I think I wait until I’m done with a book before I post about it, but I’m having a blast writing this one, so I thought I just drop by here and give a little update.
A draft cover here, with main art by Ateliersommerland with the background by Bertrandb, both through Dreamstime. I am enjoying getting a relatively consistent look to the series now. I’m still learning design of course (yes I do my own covers), and feel like I’m improving little step by little step. Trying for a unified look, but still based on the original images.
Need a little more contrast in the text there – the dark red on the yellow aren’t doing it for me. Still, there’s time. Liquid Machine should be done soon, and once it’s edited and tinkered with, and the cover is finished, it should be out in the first quarter of next year.
Then, in keeping with the alphabetical titles there, the next one I’ll write will be Rorqual Saitu or similar. Has anyone read T.J. Bass’s 1974 novel The Godwhale? That’s my touchstone there. I love that novel and, without becoming fan fiction, the Karnish canals will have an android rorqual. Am I giving too much away, for a novel that’s not written yet and likely won’t be out for at least a year?
My story “Scour”, which appeared in the December 2016 issue of New Myths magazine, (free to read at the link) is set in the same world. Different characters, but the scour of the title is a relative of the upcoming rorqual novel.
Which leads me neatly into my next little topic here – short stories and novellas which fit into the worlds of my series.
I’ve been doing it a whole lot this year with my Cole Wright series, which I’ve been working on over the last few years. With each novel, I put out a short story too. It’s been real fun writing the stories with the character. Also a good taster if you want a quick read, and want to see if the character and style matches your taste – the stories are cheaper than a cup of coffee (depending where you get your coffee I guess).
Four novels – The Arrival, Measured Aggression, Hide Away, and Slow Burn, and four short stories “Dark Fields”, “Schedule Interruption”, “The Forest Doesn’t Care”, and “The Handler”.
The cool part of this is that I put the stories up here free to read in the early part of the month when there’s a novel coming out.
September sees book five Scorpion Bait released, with “One Little Broken Leg” available free to read from about the fifth. Also available in print and as an ebook.
I guess that’s enough of a ramble from me for now. Go check out “Scour” at New Myths – it’s a little dated now, and I like to think I’ve improved as a writer in the meantime, but it’s a fun read. At least, I think so. Also, free to read.
The fifth book in my Karnish River Navigations series, Jackpot Kingdom, is available now from the usual channels.
$5.99 ebook, $5.99 print
The city of Turneith. Right at the edge of the ancient canal lands. Beautiful. Teeming. Dangerous.
Survival goes to those with the sharpest wits.
When an illegal gambling operation turns deadly, investigators Flis and Grae find themselves caught in a whirlwind of intrigue.
Technically, though, this is the eigth book to come out, but number five in the sequence. I’ve been writing them out of order (which perhaps explains why I stalled for the last couple of years on getting this out). I’m working on filling in the gaps to get the series nicely complete.
They can, though, be read in any order.
Eight books so far. Four to go. Then, I guess I’ll rethink things a little. Who know, maybe I’ll even write some more.
So I have a little bit of a back catalogue with some, well, let’s say ‘not so great’ covers. Best I could do at the time, but I’ve learned a little in the meantime. Taken some courses. Listened to some advice. Looked at other people’s covers.
I’m slowly working my way through my novels. In between writing, and getting new things published. It’s a little bit of a job. Patience is my friend.
A few years back I started a series set in the distant future, in a distant planet:
Battle weary after years of interstellar war, Flis Kupe returns home to the quiet peaceful Karnish canal lands on Paulding, her home world. Turns out, times change. The turmoil of pirates, brigands and low lives shatters the peace. All too often.
The first was Arlchip Burnout. It was fun to write, and I knew there were more stories to tell. I noticed (later, believe me it wasn’t intentional) that the title’s initials were A.B. I’d read some of English writer Toby Litt‘s books, where each starts with the next letter of the alphabet (Adventures in Capitalism, Beatniks, Corpsing, deadkidsongs, Exhibitionism, etc). I think his next book is called Quiche.
Figuring, in my naivety I could try something similar, I embarked upon Canal Days. Then my order got mixed up. I got my titles all over. Technically the books can be read in any order (though Arlchip Burnout is the origin story), but what happened was I got to the end of Tombs Under Vaile and got distracted writing other things. I’d left some gaps.
I like Amazon’s description of series being ordered (like Lord of the Rings – should be read in order), or unordered (like Sherlock Holmes – read them any old which way). Karnish River Navigations is like Sherlock Holmes – read them in any order. Trouble is I’ve given them ordered names. Second trouble is, I’ve left gaps. Many readers like to know a series is complete before embarking on it.
Guess I need to embark on filling those gaps then.
What’s cool with working on updating the covers, is that I’ve found a new energy to complete the series. I even made a cover for Jackpot Kingdom, though it only exists in rough draft form. Hope to knock it into shape to be out later next year. Then the L.M. book and the R.S. book in 2023. W.X. and Y.Z. can wait a little while. Thinking of some of the titles makes my head spin a little.
Six of the seven books reuse the original art, but in new ways. I like the font, I like the background and I had fun with the colors. I’m no expert designer by any means, but let me tell you, these are way better than they were before.
I have always liked the raw elemental nature of deserts. In New Zealand we have little in the way of desert. There are some wonderful dune fields way up north (I even considered working with a photograph I’d taken earlier this year for the new cover – left that in favour of Joshua Woroniecki’s wonderful illustration – see below), and there is the Rangipo desert, though this is a high-plateau area, most of which is army reserve, so not accessible to the public. Nor is it anything like that classic endless dune sea that you might think of when you imagine the Sahara, nor wide open hot lands as you would find in Australia, Chile and Peru, or even the Western U.S.
I have been lucky enough to travel to some of those places. The dry, hot wind whipping across a dune crest is something to experience.
I have written a few books and stories set in deserts – it’s fun to go play in these desolate places – both Raphael Marooned and Desert Creepers (part of the Captain Arlon Stoddard series) came out earlier this year. Set on distant worlds, where the rules of deserts may be a little different to here.
One thing I try to avoid with my SF worlds, is making a planet have all one environments. I have the feeling that there would be at least some variety. My new world, Tolesse, does have ice caps. It has some flora that thrives in tough ecosystems, closer to the the ice caps. But mostly, it’s desert. Bare rock. Sand. Barchan dunes. A few salt pans around, maybe. Certainly some local fauna. Oases with fruit palms. A culture of nomads, and feudal lords (I suppose) and some conflict (well, a fair bit of conflict).
I am looking forward to the movie Dune, coming out in October. I loved the first three Dune books. Transported to that wonderful place.
It may seem opportunistic to release this book so close to the movie’s release. For a moment I was even tempted to name it just “Erg”, but that would have been a little much, perhaps.
So, yes, why not put it out now? It’s ready, I think it’s a fun read (at least, I had fun writing it), and it’s not Dune. There are no sandworms or stillsuits. No spice, nor anything like the Bene Gesserit. There is technology, though it’s unequally distributed. There are ancient ruins and a megalomanic ruler.
Here’s how I describe the book in the blurb:
Essaline loves exploring the old hidden relics out on the erg. Tolesse has many secrets. A history dating back to the earliest times when humans first inhabited the planet.
But do humans belong?
A twisted tale of hidden destiny and people who will stop at nothing to get what they need.
Even from the innocent.
The Ergs – available from September 21st from your friendly online retailer, in both print ($17.99) and as an ebook ($5.99).
I think there’s space here for some more books too. I know some writers plan out their series and get the all neatly scheduled up (I do have thriller series coming out like that next year – with three and a half books written and the fifth in the back of my mind), but in general I tend to let my inner writing child just write whatever it feels like, and then I put things out.
Of course, I should write some more of those Captain Arlon Stoddard books. And some more of the Karnish River Navigation series. And there’s a sequel to Hunting Shellot around somewhere. So many things to write and only 168 hours in the week.
And I also need to tidy up this site to make it actually something vaguely close to up to date (sidebar, I’m looking at you). And I have a bunch of cover updates to do. I did manage to update the two Emily Jade thriller covers recently, making something that looks closer to professional, and more on point for genre. And I have to get that mailing list going. Did I mention that there are only 168 hours in the week?
Thanks for reading. Take care in these challenging times.
Turns out I’ve still got something to learn about how to run preorders. Apparently it’s a basic for indie publishing… build momentum and generate interest and so on. There are many things about this that I’m still at a very basic level with. I’m okay at business, pretty good at writing, but definitely a novice with sales. So I’ve set up the ebook for preorder, with release on January 31. That worked fine for the aggregators and for Amazon. But when I went to set up the paperback, I must have messed something up with setting the date. Actually I couldn’t see a place to set date, it just said “Live date”. Figuring this meant a date the same as the ebook’s release I went ahead with the next steps. Turns out that the paperback went live. So you can get it now. It’s sold a copy already (someone’s got the jump on things there, thank you, I hope you enjoy it). So, rather than trying to mess with that, I’ll have another go for my next preorder.
I published seven novels this year. All with no preorder. Next year I’m looking at five novels – Eastern Foray, plus two from the Captain Arlon Stoddard series, and two from The Jupiter Files, a new series. I’ll figure out this preorder thing during the year. Hopefully
The latest installment in the ever-expanding Karnish River Navigations series is available for preorder from all the usual outlets. Release date is January 31st.
“A day learning to fly the giant Alman-Kruder aircraft over the canal lands gives investigator Flis Kupe the chance to unwind after some tough assignments. At least until someone fires a smart missile at her. Kind of changes her day. A whole lot. And as Flis and fellow investigator Grae begin unraveling the mystery, missiles might become the least of their concerns. Another episode in the thrilling Karnish River Navigations science fiction series that asks the question: who can we trust?”
I’ll post a preview sometime before the release date too.
Also, this has the new style of cover for Karnish River Navigations. I’m slowly working my way back through the other books in the series to bring them all into line.
The book is available for preorder here – Eastern Foray (universal book link – leads off to your favorite store). Ebook is $5.99. Print is $16.99. (print is a whole other thing I’ll blog about shortly).
I started my last post with the phrase “Despite the fact that I’m a fair writer… I do still have so much to learn about self-promotion”
And then went on about my new book.
Completely failing to mention anything like, oh, where to buy it, how much it costs, what it’s about, which formats or even a snippet so you could see if you might enjoy the book.
Sheesh. Proving myself right in a kind of very circular way.
So here we go.
ebook is $3.99. This link takes you through to a variety of retailers (Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, etc.), where you can purchase the book. It’s one of those Universal Book Links provided through Draft2Digital. If you’re publishing books, D2D is a pretty good platform/aggregator.
Print book is $13.99, plus shipping, from various places, but Amazon is probably the easiest. Your local independent bookstore could even order you a copy. I’m a big advocate of supporting your local bookstore.
Tombs Under Vaile is the sixth in my Karnish River Navigations series (that link leads to a little page about the other books – you’ll see I have yet to update those other covers).
Tombs Under Vaile – blurb:
The giant stone block of Vaile Max prison stands on the Karnish plains. Impregnable and escape-proof. Prisoner Cole Dugald waits, release imminent. He wants no trouble. But when authorities demand help from investigator Flis Kupe, trouble looms. For everyone. On a collision course with deadly psychopaths, Cole and Flis must team up to survive. A Karnish River Navigations novel that expands the world with unexpected revelations.
And opening chapters
Tombs Under Vaile
Cole Dugald stared at the plasteen wall. Glints of light reflected back at him from myriad scratches. The same view he’d had for the last six years.
A view he might still have for another week. If luck played on his side.
Not that he’d had much luck. Not ever.
A cell. One high, barred window. A flat bunk that also served as his daytime seat. In the corner, a tiny commode, with a washbasin above.
A gray door with a tiny air vent. Air just a shade too cool. Some kind of stale smell hanging. The door had two circles where he had to place his hands anytime he needed escorting some place. He knew the drill.
Microscopic cameras embedded everywhere. Recording his every move, interpreting his every thought. Some AI somewhere breaking all his actions down into motivation and intent.
Even a hint of thinking of making an escape could bring three electro-lashes. The guards relished that kind of thing.
Three times a week he showered in the communal block, when all the other prisoners were back in their own cells. Dugald did not get to mix with the others. Not anymore.
He wore the same thing every day; orange overalls with black, soft-soled moccasins. The overalls had a silver PRISONER legend across the back, shoulder to shoulder.
Nothing ambiguous about the outfit.
From outside, through the window. came the clanking, whirring sounds of machinery. The prison’s refinery and power equipment. Not shielded nor sound insulated. Why bother? It was only prisoners who could hear it.
From the corridor outside the cell came the smells of collective humanity. Sweat and excrement. These people worked out–not much else to do here–and ate well.
Perhaps ate plenty was a better way to put it. No one in Vaile Max ate well. Maybe the governor and the guards. Not the prisoners. The slop they got served came from a recipe that had to date back thousands of years. Something like oatmeal, ground beef, oil and carrots. Maybe some herbs if the cooks got lucky.
Bland and disgusting. After two thousand two hundred and eighteen days, Dugald barely noticed anymore.
Dugald stood just over two meters tall. He worked out in the prison’s gym when he could. Worked out in his cell when he had to.
He weighed in at a hundred and forty kilos even. Some pockets of fat he couldn’t shift, but lean enough that people stayed out of his way.
Fewer than a hundred and fifty prisoners were housed here. Vaile Max’s capacity exceeded two thousand. That made for a whole lot of empty cells.
Dugald rolled his shoulders. A few tingles in there. Four days since he’d gotten to the gym. Punishment for failing to answer a question quickly enough.
Not many ways the guards could punish a prisoner, anyway. It wasn’t as if they had a lot left to lose already. Not the men and women incarcerated here.
It was the little things. Toilet paper. Gym time. A simple warm blanket. Easy privileges to remove.
One week left on his sentence. Dugald just had to make it through that.
One hundred and forty-seven hours.
Paulding’s day ran to twenty-one hours, which he still didn’t feel he’d adapted to. Back home on Kulanath the day was a shade over twenty-four hours. Closer to natural human biology.
People adapted. But Dugald had never planned on even needing that. The trip should have been a quick in and out. Less than a day on the surface. Collect the artifacts and depart.
Which all had made it look bad when the cops found him with a ship full of contraband.
And now here he was. Counting down to his release. One week. Seven days.
Assuming nothing went wrong.
And something always went wrong.
Flis Kupe stood on the end of the short vatwood jetty, the wind flitting through her hair. The sun sent coruscating glints from ripples on the water’s surface, and warmed her back. The vatwood’s surface was gray and cracked with age. Still, it felt solid.
The water that lapped at the uprights was locked into a box a hundred meters on each side, with old pitted concrete b-walls holding it separate from the surrounding flat ground. This part of Karnth, the plains rolled on for dozens of kilometers, with only a few jacarandas and eucalypts in copses, breaking up the monotony, stretching for the sky.
Mostly the plains had old corn and wheat fields. The ancient crops were generations down and growing wild now. A haze of sweet pollen drifted above the plants’ tips.
Nearby, a new autotug cruised along the canal. Approaching the lock. The autotug had a bridge probably three meters above the waterline, painted bright yellow, with numerous antennas a connectors. Its engine hummed.
The canal had grassy banks along this section. Just five meters wide. The autotug would just fit. It should be pushing just one barge.
The boxed in water formed a quiet holding place for goods and supplies. Back in the day, the tiny harbor would have held several barges, all awaiting transport to the markets in Turneith, or smaller Vaile, which lay much closer.
Two sturdy lock gates separated the canal from the area. Both stood closed, the water level within the box three meters higher than the canals. It gave the homestead a degree of separation from the canal. More difficult for pirates to plunder the place.
The heightened water level also gave access to lifting for the transfers, and as a backup supply for irrigation. The land around here, to the east of the canal, was higher than to the west, but the canal ran parallel to the rise for another kilometer before entering transit locks for the more northern farms.
A retrofitted system here had allowed the farm to continue to operate. Back in the day.
Nowadays, with so little trade, there were only occasional visitors, and even fewer trade barges.
Behind Flis, up on a small graded rise, stood a two-story white-walled homestead. Steep roofed, with some attic windows, and a long veranda along the front. A few bright flowering potplants stood along the veranda’s front edge, between the railing uprights.
The home of her and Grae’s friends Angel Guthman and Dae Deacon, and their three kids, Ben, Koi and Idz. Friends by way of Flis and Grae having helped them out with a problem.
Angel’s brother Karl had found himself thrown in jail, alibi broken, after a couple of renegades had robbed his store. The renegades had wound up dead a few days later.
It had turned out that the other ‘friend’ who’d provided Karl’s alibi had been in on the robbery in the first place.
A complicated case, that took a whole lot of digging, but Karl had been released, and Flis and Grae now had new dinner party companions.
That first dinner party had been a doozy. Homesteaders from as far as a hundred kilometers away had come. They’d brought so much food and drink that Angel and Dae hadn’t had to synthesize anything for weeks.
The autotug’s engines changed pitch as it slowed to turn into the lock. A white bird took to the air, darting away from the canal’s edge and swooping by Flis. She ducked instinctively.
“Are you on edge over there?” someone said.
Flis turned and saw Grae, her business partner and occasional other, standing at the land end of the jetty. They had a complicated relationship, but it worked. Somehow they kept their personal relationship separate from the business relationship.
Their little investigative business did all right. It paid the bills and kept them both alert and engaged after their time offworld in the military.
Flis had grown up on Paulding, even deeper into the canal lands than Angel and Dae.
“On edge?” Flis said.
“Saw you duck for that bird.” Grae wore black trousers, work boots and a light casual shirt. They could have been twins.
“Funny. I’m relaxed. Just waiting for this delivery.” Angel and Dae had ordered some new pumping equipment their house couldn’t manufacture. They were off in Turneith, working on a new financial arrangement and had asked Flis and Grae to housemind for a couple of days.
“Only because this delivery’s coming,” Dae had said. “Otherwise things would be–”
“It’s fine,” Flis had told them. “We could use a break.”
The lock’s outer doors groaned as they swept open. The autotug slowed.
“Glad you’re relaxed,” Grae said, stepping onto the jetty. “It’s been a good break here.”
“We’ve got a job.” Grae held up his rippletalk, the little handheld device that connected them to the outside world.
“A job? Couldn’t that wait?” The time at the homestead had been so relaxing. Quiet, dark at night, easy. She’d spent hours just reading in a recliner, shaded from the sun out on the house’s back verandah. Some moments it seemed like they should sell up and move to the country.
“It can’t wait,” Grae said. He handed over the rippletalk with its display wide open, showing all the details. “Escaped prisoner. They’re on a timeline to get him back.”
Cole Dugald stared at the cell wall. Light sparkles reflected back at him from scratches in the plasteen.
The same view he’d had for the last six years.
A view he might still have for another six days.
If luck played on his side.
Not that he’d had much luck.
“Dugald!” a guard called from outside the cell. “Assume the position.”
You get the idea. If you enjoyed this and want to keep reading find the book available here.
Thanks. Long post, I know. If you made it this far, let me know in the comments – I’ll send you a download code (which I’ll say I’ll limit to ten, and I’ll remove this if I give away ten. Pretty safe, last time I did this I gave away two. And one of those was to a good friend. Still, it’s probably good to fumble and stumble along this marketing thing. Eventually I might learn how to do it all proper like).
Despite the fact that I’m a fair writer (some say I should scream about all the awards and publications, but I still have so much to learn) and that I do get plenty of my stories and novels out there (eighteen indie publications this year, including six novels), I do still have so much to learn about self-promotion. Unlike say Kent Wayne, who is doing a brilliant job of self-promotion, with his Echo series. Or Terry Mixon, or Thomas K. Carpenter, or just about any author who isn’t me.
Still. I’ve put my new novel out. Sixth book in the Karnish River Navigation series (which can be read in any order). I’ve rebranded too – see my recent post on where I rebranded my Captain Arlon Stoddard series, though in this case I’ve yet to go back and redo the covers of the previous five Karnish novels.
So it’s a new layout, a slightly different concept with cover art (this one by Ilya Shalkov | Dreamstime.com). Not sure I know what I’m doing yet. There are professional designers always making fabulous covers for my contemporaries, and I’m just me, muddling along and slowly figuring things out.
I love the series. Flis is such a fun character to write. It’s neat to take it in new directions. I have another novel in the series complete, just needing that final tune up and tidy before getting it out.
Now that I’ve posted this, I’m feeling energized for the series again. I might even get started on another novel.
My short story “Scour” appears in the December issue of New Myths.
Certain there’s something living in the canal, Ava Butler sets out to prove it. Even if her uncle disapproves. Even if it means going up against the authorities.
“Scour” is a story set in my Karnish River Navigations universe. Different characters, different tone, but the same world. (Hence my getting the Karnish River Navigations page up to date). Scour is free to read at New Myths. I hope you enjoy it.