Novellas in October and November

I like to have new book releases out on the 20th of the month, and for October and November, these will be novellas from two of my series. The first novellas in both. My novellas sit around a quarter the length of a novel – say around a hundred pages. I think Amazon labels them in with “90 minute reads” or something.


First up in on October 2oth is “Ortanide Steppers” from my Captain Arlon Stoddard Adventures series. Think deep space adventures with mysteries and puzzles around the galaxy. Technically a “novelette” in SF terms, but boy, keeping track of the names for the different lengths…

Ortanide. A planet with a unique geography, a rich history and a strange political system.

A political system that defies Captain Arlon Stoddard and his crew.

Restrained in a dank cell by the very people he came to help, Arlon faces the choice of violating the charters he works to uphold.

Or certain death.

A Captain Arlon Stoddard novella that pits the crew against possibly their most heinous foe yet.

 

Priced especially at $2.99 for the ebook, and $6.99 for the paperback. A bargain, right?


Next out on November 20th is “Cold Highway” from my Cole Wright Thrillers series. Pretty standard kind of thriller, adventure, gunplay stuff here. I’ve always liked those frozen highways and figured that might be a fun place to set a story. I was right, at least in writing it. I hope it’s as much fun to read.

A trip north of the border takes Cole Wright into the heart of snowbound Canada. Friendly people, vast distances, tough vehicles, isolation.

When a breakdown looms, Wright finds himself caught in the white, compacted landscape. A road thirty feet wide, hemmed in by the piled up ridges left by snowploughs. And an endless forest that could hide just about anything.

Unfriendly territory. Dangerous places.

A Cole Wright novella that focuses down on a single moment where the slightest error could be his last.

Still reasonably priced at $3.99 for the ebook, and $7.99 for the paperback.

So far all my paperbacks have come through Amazon, but I’m testing this one through Draft 2 Digital as well, in a slightly larger format, and ending up priced at $10.99. We’ll see how that goes.


As with previous months, I’ll have short stories out in the lead up to the releases. “Sea Skimmers”, which is the first Captain Arlon Stoddard short story, and followed by “Cardinals” which is a Cole Wright story with a difference – Lieutenant Ione Anders as the lead character (you’ll remember her from the first Cole Wright novel The Arrival) and Cole himself tagging along as a background character.

Details to come.

Remember you can explore the series from the pages available in the menu at the top of the page on the website here.

Thanks for reading.

Sean

Scorpion Bait – Cole Wright book 5 out now

 

Scorpion Bait, book 5 in the Cole Wright series is available now through the regular channels.

$5.99 ebook. $15.99 print, $19.99 hardback


Jerome Miller lies in scorching, gritty sand, staring up out of the rugged ditch. Bleeding and broken. The start of a very bad day, for him. Cole Wright hitches into the town of Gollick, Arizona. Somewhere between Tuscon and Yuma. Looking for a good meal and maybe a bed for the night. Not looking for trouble. Sometimes, though, trouble hides away in those out of the way places. Sometimes trouble just finds him. Sometimes Wright just meets it head on.


More Cole Wright news soon – “Cold Highway” a novella is coming in November, and all things going well, book 6 Zero Kills, coming in December. The book is complete and revised and just in the queue for final copyedit and proofread and then should be up for preorder before “Cold Highway” hits the shelves.


 

One Little Broken Leg – A Cole Wright short story taster

With Scorpion Bait, book 5 of the Cole Wright series on preorder and available from September 20th, it seemed like a good moment to post another Cole Wright short story. “One Little Broken Leg” is the fifth of these, and it was fun to write. While I love writing the novels, I love the stories just as much, but in a different way. It’s fun being concise and looking as just one event that can usually be resolved quickly.

Read the first two chapters below. Keep an eye out on the site here, I’m working on posting a story free to read for a week or two from time to time. The next one should be the first couple of weeks of December.

Check out the Cole Wright Thrillers page for other details and links to the novels and stories.


One Little Broken Leg

Blurb

Sally loves hiking. She knows her way around and knows all the pitfalls and problems. She uses the best equipment.

Caught by surprise, she injures her leg while out alone, forcing her to dig for new strength. To improvise.

When Cole Wright catches up, what he finds makes no sense.

A story of people thrown together in challenging circumstances.

 

 

Cover image © Idenviktor | Dreamstime.com

Also available as an ebook and in print, from Amazon and elsewhere.


Chapter One

One little broken leg was never going to slow down Sally. Not out here in the wilds, five miles from the freeway. Two miles from the nearest road.

Sally sat on a black rock, poking up from the mossy, earthy soil all around. An outcrop of granite or gneiss. She’d learned rocks back at NAU. Just a couple of geology courses as a freshman.

None of that had stuck.

Not that that would help her situation right away.

The sky overhead was clear, a brilliant dome of blue. A few scudding, icy wisps to the north east, and a few billowing thunderheads a hundred miles to the south. It was late in the day and the air was cooling. Behind her the range rose slowly, and the sun would dip behind soon.

Then it would get real cold.

Around her, ponderosa and Oregon pines shivered in a light breeze. Their scent was heady and strong. Invigorating. Life-giving.

The rock was nobbly and rough. It poked against her butt, but the nobbles were small enough and even enough that it didn’t hurt. Tiny pieces of it looked like they were ready to break out. Little blocks of the stuff like the tips of miniature french fries.

The fall had happened just beyond the rock, on the uphill side. A trail there that might once have been clear and open, but now was tending to weeds and saplings. Dry in places, boggy in others. Some parts, farther down, back toward Jessie’s car

The Ryeling Park Forest was eighty-nine hundred acres of old growth. It sounded like a lot, but it wasn’t really. A jagged shape, six miles long, and four miles across at its widest.

Abandoned rugged country. Too hard to farm, really. Too beautiful to mill, though the way the lumber companies were getting now, they would happily come in and fell every last tree, plant some saplings and vanish.

Sally’s leg throbbed.

She’d fallen. Distracted by the flight of a raptor. A hawk probably, not an eagle. Too small. Brilliant speckled brown feathers, with a tail that tipped left and right adjusting its flight.

The bird had been gliding along above the clearing around the rock. The bird’s head had turned and its yellow eye had glinted at Sally.

Pulling its wings in, the bird plunged at the ground.

Vanished behind the rock.

Sally had hurried to watch.

Stumbled.

Fallen across part of the rock. Her foot jammed. The rest of her kept going.

The pain in that moment had been explosive.

As if her foot had been ripped off.

It had taken minutes for her breathing to come back to normal.

She’d shucked her backpack and lay there on the trail. Staring at the sky. Letting her leg throb.

Calculating how long before dark. Calculating whether she could hobble back before dark. Calculating if she could even drive the car.

Jessie’s car was a old Ford Fusion. A little beat up, with wheel bearings the squeaked sometimes.

It wouldn’t drive itself.

If only she had a Tesla, ha, ha.

But, it was kind of Jessie to let her use it like this. In exchange for a little childcare. Sally would do that for free.

Her phone had been in her back pocket. In the fall, the screen had smashed. The phone was still working, but the display was flickery and fragmented. And wouldn’t respond to her taps.

she couldn’t make a call. Couldn’t text.

So now here she was, sitting on top of a rock, miles from anywhere with her leg throbbing. No phone. No one around.

Still the view was nice.

She dragged her pack up after her and unzipped the top flap. It was a decent overnight pack. Sixty-five liter capacity. She had a quick coffin tent and a good sleeping bag. All middle of the range—best she could afford—but they did the job.

Maybe she would have to camp out for the night. She would have to drag herself back along the trail a ways. Just before the small clearing around the rock outcrop, she’d spotted a kind of flat area that would have enough space for the tent.

She could wait out the night and hobble on back to her car come morning.

When she’d bought the pack, at Wilbur and Son, the sales assistant had suggested an emergency locator. A little thing like a cross between a flashlight and a GPS. It had a secret button that sent a signal to the satellites. A kind of automated S.O.S.

She’d balked, though at the price. Not that it wouldn’t be three hundred dollars well spent, just that she didn’t really have three hundred dollars to spare.

She’d hiked plenty, with no problems. She was young and fit.

Now, though, maybe she should have had that locator.

From the zipped pouch, she pulled out a baggie with trail mix. Nuts and seeds and sultanas, with a smattering of chocolate chips and yoghurt balls. Quite delicious.

Buried below, she had a full dried meal—stroganoff—and a little camp cooker to boil it in. She would have to use her drinking water, since she wasn’t going to be collecting water from a stream anytime soon.

If she could even get the cooker set up.

Fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into, girl.

She took a mouthful of the mix. It was yum. And cheering.

From farther up the trail came a sound. Someone running?

Sally sat up straighter. Looked around.

Not from up the trail. From down. Back toward the small carpark.

Her heart pounded.

Fifteen yards away, someone burst from the trees.

A man.

Sally waved. Shouted.

“Hey,” she said. “Little help.”

He came to a stop.

Stared at her.

He had thick, lank black hair and three days of stubble.

He stared at her with piercing eyes.

“I fell,” she said. “I need…”

She trailed off.

He was just staring.

He was wearing jeans. Dirty jeans. Tan work boots. Muddy.

A plaid shirt over a white tee shirt.

No backpack.

No water bottle.

He was carrying just one thing.

A little black pistol.

 

Chapter Two

Cole Wright stepped from the passenger side of Lieutenant Ione Anders’s Tahoe. Police issue SUV with the full package. Bars on the front, lights on the top, cage in the back. Painted black and white, with the Spokane Police Department decals.

Nothing subtle about it at all.

The vehicle was starting to get a bit worn and tired. Chips in the paint and wear on the seat vinyl. A corner of the dash where the peg had failed and the plastic was bending up against the windshield glass.

“Let me read this,” Lieutenant Ione Anders said from the driver’s seat. She was looking at the vehicle’s police-connected laptop display.

“Happy to wait here,” Wright said.

They’d parked in a small parking lot out of town. In the hills. Pines stood all around, making the roadway into a canyon and sending the sweet drifting smell of pine and earth. From across the other side of the road, beyond the tinkling stream it followed, came the chirruping of a pair of hidden birds. Fighting, perhaps, over some tidbit.

A sign at the far end of the lot identified the place as Ryeling Park Forest with some logos for the Department of Wildlife and Washington Parks.

A map in the top right corner, with marked trails, and a list below showing the walking times. Camping prohibited. Fires prohibited. Dogs banned.

“Go look at those other vehicles,” Ione said, stepping out of the vehicle. “Got another call about a domestic shooting south of here. Suspect left in a Dodge pickup. Got one right there.”

“And this guy?” Wright said.

“Let me go talk to him first,”

“Go ahead. I’m enjoying a moment with the peace of nature.”

She made a face at him and headed toward the other vehicles.

There were three. An old Ford sedan, and even older Dodge pickup, real beat-up, and a near new BMW. It was the BMW she was heading for. A white-haired gentleman well into his seventies stood at the right front fender.

Strictly speaking, Wright shouldn’t really even be here. Not in her vehicle. Retired cop, fraternizing with a younger, off-duty cop.

He was happy to help, always. He enjoyed their time together, but there would always be a tension.

He’d quit the force, in Seattle. Disillusioned and jaded. She, on the other hand, was on the ascendant here in Spokane. A career. An energy. Colleagues who supported her.

Still, he had to remind himself to enjoy the moment. Live in the moment.

Later, after this little diversion, they could grab dinner at Denny’s or maybe that little Mongolian barbeque he’d spotted just off downtown. They could head back to his little leased apartment and see what happened.

“Wright,” she said. “Come listen.”

From across the road, one of the squabbling birds shot out of the trees. I flew like a bullet. Dead straight. Directly above Wright’s head. Vanished into the trees on the park side.

The other bird appeared a fraction of a second later. Followed the same trajectory.

Wright smiled to himself. Wildlife was always on its own schedule. Didn’t care a whit about people.

Wright went around the Tahoe and across a few empty slots to the Beemer. Shiny and well-kept. Dark blue. Two-seater. Little shark gills on the fender just ahead of the door.

“Listen to this,” Anders said.

“It don’t change the more times I tell it,” the man said. He sounded like he was from down south somewhere. He was wearing black chinos and a button shirt. A bolo tie with a picture of steer horns on the clasp.

“No,” Wright said, “But I might hear something different.”

The man looked Wright up and down. Frowned.

Anders was in uniform—and she looked great in it—but Wright was just in faded jeans, work boots and a tee shirt, with a black jacket over.

“Detective?” the man said.

“Retired,” Wright said. He’d been a regular beat cop, but some days it had felt like he knew more than the detectives.

“Heck, look at you? You’re all of twenty years old, and retired. I’m seventy-five and I have no plans to retire.”

Wright was well into his thirties, but there was no need to correct the man.

“What did you see?” Wright said.

“Guy there comes screaming around the corner from down Abernathy way.” The man pointed to a curve in the road where Wright and Anders would have found themselves if they’d continued on.

“Must’ve been doing eighty,” the man said. “His tire blew. You can see it there. Strips of it.”

Wright looked. Sure enough, black strips from a ruined tire. And now that he looked more closely, he could see that the pickup was parked at a poor angle. And that it was down at the front left, with the back right corner of the tray higher. Lifted on the rear suspension.

“The whole tire stripped off?” Anders said.

“Yes ma’am. You look at these two tires on the near side, you can see they’re old and bald. Retreads, at best. Shouldn’t be on the road, let alone doing eighty up in here in the hills. You see how narrow these roads can get?”

“I saw.”

“He was lucky to make it into the lot here. Lucky he didn’t total my car.”

“Then what happened?” Wright said. He walked around the rear end of the Beemer. Out on the road there were black skid marks. Some gouges in the tarmac that looked fresh.

Easy to picture the tire blowing. Shredding. The driver fighting for control. Automatically slamming on the brakes. Shuddering along, barely making it into the lot.

The front bumper was actually right up against the low log fence that separated the parking lot from a grassy berm, and the start of the forest.

To the right of the pickup was a gap in the fence, with a sign.

Black Rock Loop. Allow 6 hours.

Wright read the pickup’s plate number and called it out to Anders.

“That’s the one,” she said.

Wright turned. Looked up into the trail. It was bright for a ways, but soon the thickness of forest got the better of the sun and it turned into a dark tunnel.

“Then he got out,” the man with the Beemer said.

“Where is he now,” Anders said.

“Took off into the woods.”

“This way?” Wright said, pointing up Black Rock Trail.

“Yep. Guess he didn’t want his head blown off.”

“Excuse me,” Anders said.

“Well, he tried to carjack me. That’s why I called.”

“Carjack you?” Wright said.

“Yes.”

A squirrel ran from the woods and through the grass. Climbed onto one of the uprights on the log fence. The squirrel’s tail twitched. Black eyes stared at Wright.

“He tried to carjack you,” Anders said. “But instead ran into the woods?”

“Yes.”

“Why did he run into the woods?” Wright said.

“Well, he got out of the junk heap there and brandished a gun.”

Wright saw Anders stiffen right away.

“What kind of gun?” Wright said.

“Glock 18.”

“That’s very specific.”

The man shrugged. “I know a little about guns.”

“So he had a gun,” Anders said.

“Yes. Told me to give him my keys. I declined.”

“And so he ran into the woods.”

Wright could see where this was going.

“He did,” the man said.

“What kind of gun do you have?” Wright said.

The man smiled. “Let me show you.”


The full story is available in ebook and as a paperback from the usual channels. ebook $2.99, print $5.99

Links and details on the Cole Wright Thrillers page.


Book 5, Scorpion Bait is available for preorder now. Full release on September 20th

Blurb:

Jerome Miller lies in scorching, gritty sand, staring up out of the rugged ditch.

Bleeding and broken.

The start of a very bad day, for him.

Cole Wright hitches into the town of Gollick, Arizona. Somewhere between Tuscon and Yuma. Looking for a good meal and maybe a bed for the night. Not looking for trouble. Sometimes, though, trouble hides away in those out of the way places. Sometimes trouble just finds him.

Sometimes Wright just meets it head on.


 

The Handler – except from a Cole Wright short story

With the fourth Cole Wright novel, Slow Burn, coming out on July 20th, we once again put up a Cole Wright short story, free to read here on the website for a week or so.  The first couple of chapters remain, and the story is now available from the usual locations as both an ebook and in print. $2.99/$5.99


The Handler – blurb

The mugging happens so fast that Marc barely has time to react.

For Marc and Sonia, a trip to Spokane means visiting family, a little shopping and some eating out. Not having someone accost them in the street.

When Cole Wright happens by, things might just take a different turn.


The Handler

Chapter One

Marc adjusted the time on his watch. It was an old Asterion, and amazingly still fairly reliable after all these years. He pulled the winder out two notches, enjoying the little clicks it made as the gears inside moved from the date setting to the hands setting.

So much more satisfying than those electronic things that barely made a sound and never lost a moment.

He wound it back, from 11.07 to 10.06. It was kind of satisfying. That sense of gaining a whole hour in the day. Plus the minute which the Asterion had gained over the last week or so.

Marc double-checked the time against the clock just inside the store, and clicked the winder back into place.

He was standing outdoors, at a window, looking into the store. They sold all kinds of sharp-looking clothing, men’s on the left and women’s on the right. Nothing tailored, probably all shipped from sweatshops in Asia, but it was crisp and tidy, with interesting trim.

Exercise leggings with panels down the legs, almost like marching band trousers. Tops with straps that looked as if they could barely hold the rest up. The mannikins seemed as if they had originally been made at regular human size, but then ground and shaved back until the waists were somewhere under ten inches. Perhaps that helped to sell clothing.

Sonia was in there somewhere. Looking for something comfortable. Good luck, frankly. While, at forty, she was still slim and fit, it didn’t look like anything in there would be comfortable.

She’d left him in charge of getting lunch while she shopped. Sending him to the hole-in-the wall burger joint three stores on from the store.

Behind him, traffic moved. Easing through the lights, engines humming and tires hissing against the damp pavement. They’d just missed a shower when they’d gotten parked and ready for the expedition.

So here he was, with the two most delicious smelling burgers ever, waiting for her. The burgers were fat and stuffed, held inside cardboard boxes that boasted “Best Burgers in Spokane”, and “Recycled Card. Please dispose of with care.” Clutched in a tough brown paper bag with a smaller bag with fries and sachets.

He peered into the store again. No sign of her.

Spokane wasn’t that big of a place. Not really. It was Washington’s state capital, but Seattle was much bigger. But when you were out of Slickton, Wyoming, everywhere seemed big. Caspar seemed big.

They’d flown from Caspar to Seattle, via San Francisco. Stayed at an airport hotel and bundled themselves on this morning to Spokane.

Exhausting.

Thankfully, their daughter Millie wasn’t going to get herself married too often. This was the first, and hopefully the last. But who knew in times like this.

One of Millie’s bridesmaids was on husband three already, and, from what Millie had mentioned, it wasn’t going well.

A bus chugged by and came to a stop thirty yards away. A couple got off and strolled away. An older gentleman climbed aboard.

Across the next intersection, a huge, old stone edifice stood. Bank of America. Beside it, a newer, glassy building with banners announcing “Sale Prices” and “Bargains” and “Permanently Reduced”.

Could he live here?

Millie could, that was clear. She’d studied well and landed herself a job as a designer with Cobbert Ross, which was apparently one of the bigger interior decorating firms in Washington.

The dollar amount they were paying her made Marc’s eyes water. Fresh out of college and they’re just handing her cash in wheelbarrows.

Pleased for her of course.

Pleased about Davin, her fiancé. A few years older, but then who was Marc to point that out?

The bus pulled away, puffing out a cloud of thick black smoke. Spokane’s plans for becoming a green city apparently were still underway.

Another vehicle pulled up. A low-slung black Cadillac. Paint buffed to a brilliant shine. Chrome just about everywhere. Windows tinted.

The engine sounded like a straight eight, as if in the customizing they’d dropped something else in there. Something a little souped-up to give the vehicle a little extra oomph.

Marc smiled to himself. Cities, huh.

The Cadillac’s back door opened and a slim man got out. He wore jeans, a leather vest over a black tee shirt and black cowboy boots. Kind of thing they sold down at Lee Taubert’s in Caspar.

Marc had a pair himself.

Marc stepped aside. There were few people on the sidewalk. A businesswoman striding along. A mom and dad with a kid swinging between them. A single man with thick hair and big shoulders.

But the guy from the Cadillac headed for Marc.

Marc took another step back.

“Excuse me,” he said.

“In the car,” the guy said.

“Excuse me?”

“Now!”

Marc frowned. Big city or not, people still had manners.

He glanced into the store. Sonia was at the register. Just taking a bag from the counter.

So she’d made some purchases.

The mom and dad with the kid sidled around Marc and the guy from the Cadillac. The businesswoman was well gone.

“In the car?” Marc said. Surely he’d heard wrong.

“That’s what I said. Quit stalling. Get in.”

“But why?” His voice must have gone up a few tones. Nervous.

“You know why. Get in now. Or I will put you in.”

Marc bent a little to see inside.

A woman sitting across the other side of the back seat. Burlier than the guy.

A driver. Staring back at him. Maybe someone else in the front passenger seat.

Marc looked at the store again. Sonia was heading for the door.

“I’m not getting in there with you,” Marc said. He might be a naive bumpkin, but he wasn’t an idiot.

“The hard way, then,” the guy said, and grabbed Marc’s elbow.

The burgers splattered on the pavement.

 

Chapter Two

Cole Wright watched along the sidewalk as he walked. People out and about. The air was crisp and the traffic was light.

It was good to be back in Spokane. Starting to feel like this might just be a good fit for him.

Like a pair of old shoes you found in the back of your closet. You put them on and they felt just right.

Little stores and coffee carts. Old sidewalks and plenty of trees. The river, the power plant, the bridges.

Right at home.

Or maybe it was just that he couldn’t really leave Washington behind. You can take the cop out of the state, but you can’t take the state out of the cop?

Nah. That was terrible.

But maybe there was a security in staying closer to Seattle. Easy to talk with Turzin and some of the other guys.

And then, there was Ione Anders.

Based right here in Spokane.

That was better than half the attraction of the place right there. Maybe even well into the nineties in terms of percentage.

Just ahead of him a mother and father had their daughter between them. Somewhere between two and three. Running along on little legs and swinging up.

Wright admired parents, that was for sure. Endlessly patient.

Wright sidestepped, balancing his takeout coffee, as a woman in a business suit strode near him. Hair tied up and manner completely oblivious to the world.

A bus had pulled away, and traffic was coming through from the cross street.

A guy holding a paper sack peered into the window of a women’s clothing store. Seer and Lane. Nice how the stores in the city, at the edges of downtown, could still compete, what with Target and Wal-Mart and online shopping seemingly corralling every dollar.

A black Caddy pulled up and a guy got out of the back door. Jeans, leather vest and a black shirt. Black boots on his feet. He went to the man who’d just been looking in the window.

Spoke to him.

The man seemed startled.

Wright kept walking. Ten yards off.

The startled man was wearing black chinos and black dress shoes. A tan jacket on top. He seemed even more startled.

The mom and dad and kid went by. The kid stared at the guy in the vest.

He was talking. The man in the tan jacket said something. The guy in the vest gestured at the Caddy.

It was shiny. Black, with plenty of trim. Modified. Riding low.

Wright was used to that kind of thing from back in Seattle, but here in Spokane, it seemed out of place. Too flashy.

He was just five yards off now.

The man looked back into the store.

The guy in the vest grabbed his elbow.

The paper sack fell to the sidewalk. Landed with a splat.

The guy hustled the man into the Caddy’s back seat.

Wright sped up.


Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the excerpt from “The Handler”.

Full story available for $2.99, ebook, and $5.99 in print – Universal Book Link.

Check out the other Cole Wright novels and stories on the webpage here, and come back at the start of September for another free to read Cole Wright story.

Cheers

Sean


Check out Slow Burn, the next Cole Wright thriller – out on July 20th

Cole Wright heads for Spokane. A simple trip. Back roads. Quiet towns.

But when one of those quiet towns proves to be anything but, Wright finds himself unable to stand aside.

Preorder available from the usual places. ebook $5.99, (and print soon, $16.99)


And Scorpion Bait, the fifth Cole Wright novel – available on preorder with release on September 20th.

Jerome Miller lies in scorching, gritty sand, staring up out of the rugged ditch. Bleeding and broken. The start of a very bad day, for him. Cole Wright hitches into the town of Gollick, Arizona. Somewhere between Tuscon and Yuma. Looking for a good meal and maybe a bed for the night. Not looking for trouble. Sometimes, though, trouble hides away in those out of the way places. Sometimes trouble just finds him. Sometimes Wright just meets it head on.

Single Point Failure – New story in Analog Science Fiction and Fact

The July/August issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact is out now, and includes my novelette “Single Point Failure”

Full list of contents here – cool to see that I’m sharing that with another New Zealander – Melanie Harding-Shaw. Kind of humbled to be there alongside her – Mel is one of the shining lights of the NZ Speculative Fiction Scene..

Available from Amazon and elsewhere.


My Aurealis Award Finalist novella from Analog last year, “Problem Landing” is now also available as a standalone in print and as an ebook. Universal Book Link here.

Toughing out life on Mars, Ciananti Burrows finds herself constantly repairing failing equipment and pushing research aside. But when new arrivals declare an issue with their landing vessel, all those learned repair skills might come in handy.

They might even save some lives.


For some reason I seem to give my protagonists names beginning with C – Ciananti, Cody, Cole Wright.


July will see the release of Cole Wright book 4, Slow Burn, available for pre-order now – UBL. By way of promotion, again, we’ll have a short story – “The Handler” available to read free here on the website from the start of July (the 4th), then available as a standalone book and in print.

The Handler –

The mugging happens so fast that Marc barely has time to react.

For Marc and Sonia, a trip to Spokane means visiting family, a little shopping and some eating out. Not having someone accost them in the street.

When Cole Wright happens by, things might just take a different turn.


In other Cole Wright news, happily the work is complete on book 5, Scorpion Bait and it’s heading into preorder for September 20th. And, yes, there will be another short story free to read in the lead up from around the start of that month.

I’m having fun writing the Cole Wright short stories too, so will likely put out a collection of the five, plus a couple of extras in October or November. If I can ever figure out how to set up a mail list, I’ll be giving away another story for sign ups.


 

 

 

 

 

 


Thanks for reading.

Hide Away is available, and news on the Cole Wright series

Hide Away, the third novel-length Cole Wright thriller is out now from the usual channels – find the link here.

_

Cole Wright sits in a sparkling bright Route 66 themed diner in a small Montana town. Kind of town you could walk side to side in five minutes and leave behind.

In the mountains nearby, Joe Bridger consults his phone. Any moment and he will get the go ahead. A simple job.

He can get out of the snow and grab himself a meal.

The two should never meet. No need to.

Practically nothing in common.

Wright finds himself on a collision course. Suits him just fine.


We’ve struck a little copy-editing glitch with the intended next book. in the series – Scorpion Bait – originally due on July 20th, and that’s going to need another run through. So, to keep things moving, we’re moving up the release of Slow Burn from September to July. The books can be read in any order, so in theory, there’s little material difference. The new order appears on the Cole Wright Thrillers page. Preorder coming soon.

We’ll get Scorpion Bait wrestled into shape and have it out in September.


 

The Forest Doesn’t Care – A Cole Wright short story

My Cole Wright thrillers are out now. Visit the page for the full rundown.

The third novel Hide Away will be out on May 20th, so to entice you, I’m putting up this story in the lead up to release day. The story will be up for a week or so from May 10th (and then available for purchase as and ebook and in print). I hope you enjoy this taster.


Blurb

Charlie and Suze just want a quiet, relaxing hike through Crater Top park. A beautiful, tranquil and hidden in the mountains.

Helping out with the park’s trails, Cole Wright enjoys the change. The chance to do something different.

No one expects trouble. Not way out there.

But then, trouble has a way of showing up.

Available in ebook, $2.99, and paperback, $2.99 – from the Universal Book Link.

Read on for the first couple of chapters



The Forest Doesn’t Care

by Sean Monaghan

Chapter One

A speck of rain struck Charlie’s ragged old peaked cap. Right on the brim. Louder than rain had any right to be. He reached up and touched the brim, running his fingers along the threads there, feeling the softness of the edge where it was fraying.

It was a Cardinals cap bought at a game when his grandfather had taken him umpteen years ago. Some game that had been too. Drosser had smacked it clean out of the park, but the Cardinals had still lost.

Now Charlie touched a spot of damp right there on the peak. Definitely rain. On the way. It had seemed distant for a while, the swish of a squall coming through. Others had passed them by.

Charlie looked back along the rugged trail. He’d stepped over roots and rocks, now not even sure if it was a trail. The ground was boggy, reeking like old compost. There was a clear path back through the pines. Either side it was dark. The overcast sucking light from everything, especially here in the woods.

He adjusted his pack, the straps were cutting a little into his shoulders. Wrong kind of thing really to take out on this kind of walk.

Just a little generic daypack. Practically the kind of thing a down on their luck mom or dad might purchase at one of those dollar stores so their kid had something to take what little lunch they had to school

Charlie had just tossed in a raincoat—a light one, fat lot of good that would if it really rained—some tasty chocolate protein bars and a half liter of Jungle Juice.

The trail sloped up here, heading for some peak or other. There had been tantalizing glimpses of light, as if there were clearings, or a road or even the peak itself.

When he and Suze reached them, though, each time, it was just a deceptive, momentary change in slope.

Suze was somewhere ahead. Better prepared, that was for sure. She’d bought herself a Fairbreaker coat. A layered jacket that keeps rain out, but wicks away sweat in some kind of magical transference. She had a proper pack with wide straps and some kind of spout that reached over her shoulder, connected to a built-in water flask. Kept her hydrated.

If this rain came to anything, hydrated wasn’t going to be a problem.

From nearby, something squawked. Some kind of bird, chasing down a rodent or smaller bird.

There was wildlife here. Half the reason for coming. ‘Crater Top Nature Park’. Sixty acres of beautiful old growth forest, so it said on the webpage. Didn’t mention that it was sixty acres set in thousands of acres of clear-felling. The view from one of the little ledge clearing they’d reached seemed to encompass just a vast swathe of broken land. Brown, churned earth, with stumps and branches and abandoned lodgepoles that had broken or split on felling. A rusted, yellow trailer of some kind with one of the tires canted and twisted at a bad angle.

The idea was to focus on the surrounds. The pretty mosses growing in around the roots. The bursts of mushrooms from rotting trunks. The swish and sway of the trees in the gentle wind.

“Charlie?” Suze called from ahead. She was around a bend and hidden from sight. He’d last seen the flash of her guacamole-green pack a few minutes back.

She was the serious hiker. He was happy to do day walks here and there, but she was in the club. Trailblazers. A bunch of early to late middle aged women who would rise at the crack of dawn, march over a mountain range and sleep on some windswept plateau in rustling tents.

“Not far behind,” he called back.

Ahead there were gaps in the trees. Daylight. Or, at least, the overcast. Another of those tantalizing shifts in the slope that made you think you were coming up on the ridge.

From off to his right, east, came the patter of rain. Coming closer. The leading edge. Probably heading straight for them.

Easing through the curve in the trail, he spotted Suze forty yards ahead. Her red coat already on and the hood up. Her pack on the ground, leaning against her legs.

Facing away from him. She had her hands out. Moving her head as if talking to someone.

There was a definite slope change where she was. From his angle it looked almost as if she was on the ridge. But beyond, there was a bank, then more trees.

The road cutting. She’d mentioned it. Shown him on the map. An old forestry road, used by the park’s people now to service the various amenities. There was some kind of vault toilet near the top, apparently.

For rescues too perhaps. If Charlie tripped and busted his ankle here, he would need carrying out.

As he drew closer, Charlie saw the back end of a pickup. Big and new. Black. Shiny. Chunky tires. A tow ball.

The tailgate was open. The front end was hidden by the foliage.

More rain was coming in. Still just a shower, but pretty soon it would be torrential.

Charlie kept walking.

There was someone else there. Standing just the other side of the pickup. Head and shoulders visible.

Older guy. Lot of gray in his thick beard. He had a maroon beanie on his head. He was saying something to Suze.

Charlie drew up almost to them. Maybe these guys could give them a ride back down to the parking lot at the trailhead. Save them a walk in the rain.

Charlie came up almost level. Just a few yards from Suze. The guy stepped forward.

“Hey,” Charlie said. Now he could see into the pickup’s tray.

A body lying there.

A woman. Blood all over her face. Eyes staring blankly.

“Welcome to the party,” the guy said, stepping around.

He was holding a rifle.

Level.

Aimed right at Suze.

Chapter Two

Cole Wright Stood by the open door of the park’s busted and beat up SUV. A twelve-year old RAV4. Bought secondhand on a very tight budget. Bought from donations a few years back.

Jim Targell, who’d employed Wright, said that it had been one of the best investments they’d ever made.

Right now, at the rocky, exposed crown of Crater Top, Wright had a fabulous view across the local landscape. There were tall trees below, but around the top they only grew a few feet high. Too rocky and dry and barren. The air was filled with their sweet pine scent.

Across the valley, on private land, some huge acreages of forest had been clear-felled. Every single tree cut down, leaving stumps a foot high. In five years it would look better, with neat rows of green saplings.

Farther off the hills turned to blue, fading into the distance. An to the east, a curtain of rain was drawing in. Maybe another few minutes and Wright and Targell were in for a drenching.

“One minute,” Targell said from nearby.

The crown hosted a cellphone tower. Something put in by T-Mobile. They paid to have it here, and made a contribution to the road. Even made a grant to put new tires on the RAV a year back. Targell liked to tell the stories.

The name Crater Top was kind of a misnomer. There was a crater, but it was far below and lost in the forest. The peak might have been part of the rim a hundred thousand or a million years ago. There was a flat area with just enough room to turn the vehicle around, and the tower.

A trail led off to the south, and fifty yards farther down, occupying a flat spot, there was a functional toilet hidden in the trees. Functional in that you could use it. It stank and attracted flies. A half hour back Wright had replaced the rolls of paper and the squeeze bottle of sanitizer. Before he left he’d squirted a couple of good dollops onto his hands and rubbed it around. Still didn’t feel quite clean.

Wright was just here for a few days, probably. Help out with maintenance on the trails and amenities. Another grant, from the county, was paying for it. Suited him. It came with a simple room in the park’s office, meals and a little spending cash for his back pocket.

He and Targell were up here tasked with maintenance on the cyclone wire fence that protected the base of the tower. T-Mobile were paying. Tightening bolts and wires and sending photos back to the technicians who would do the regular and more technical maintenance.

“All right,” Targell said, closing up his toolbox and loading it into the RAV’s rear. He came around and got into the driver’s seat.

Wright got in next to him and they closed their doors with groaning, squeaky thunks. Wright was tempted to donate his meagre salary back to the park so they could get a service done on the vehicle.

“The phone company could do all this themselves,” Targell said, reaching through the gap between the seats and pulling out his little blue cooler.

“They could,” Wright said, knowing what was coming. The company has to charge out their own workers at seventy dollars an hour. Two of them for a full day really added up. Cheaper to give every second inspection to the park volunteers and make another donation.

Targell folded down the top of his cooler and handed Wright a plastic-wrapped sandwich and a Coke can.

“Got a bit warm there, sorry,” Targell said.

“No trouble.” Wright unwrapped the sandwich. Targell lived fifteen minutes away, in Clawville, a town of nearly four thousand. He’d been a doctor, but become a part-time ranger—part-time paid, full-time employed, he would say—because things weren’t working out. Wright figured a malpractice suit that wasn’t worth fighting.

Targell always made lunch for them both. Trout in the sandwiches, that he’d caught and gutted and seared himself. Wright wasn’t sure about trout sandwiches that had been warming in a cooler all morning, but it was food and he wasn’t fussy. With rocket and mayo, the sandwich was pretty delicious.

He sipped from the cola as Targell ranted on about the phone company and their generosity, but with a level of corporate cynicism.

The vehicle was parked facing east and the rain was almost upon them. The first scattered drops already impacting the windshield.

“Well,” Targell said, balling up the plastic wrap from his sandwich, “we’d better head on down before there’s some landslide that does the job for us.”

He started the engine and the old vehicle shook and rattled. Targell put his own soda in the central cup holder, adjusted the shift and backed carefully around. It took three goes. A K turn.

Then they were on the road. Gravel crunching under the tires. The angle was steep. The little vehicle was ideal. Light and agile. Targell was a cautious driver.

But he had to throw on the brakes as they came around one of the switchbacks to see a big black pickup blocking the way.

End of Chapter Two


Continue reading “The Forest Doesn’t Care” in ebook or paperback – click here. For more intrigue check out the Cole Wright page on the website. And feel free to drop me a line.

Cheers

Sean

 

Hide Away – Cole Wright book 3 available for preorder

It might just be me, but I have a sense that when a book series has three titles, then it’s got a real foundation.

So, May 20th sees the release of Hide Away, book 3 of my Cole Wright Thriller series. A foundation, I suppose.

The books can be read in any order, so if you want to start here, feel free to jump in.

_

Cole Wright sits in a sparkling bright Route 66 themed diner in a small Montana town. Kind of town you could walk side to side in five minutes and leave behind.

In the mountains nearby, Joe Bridger consults his phone.Any moment and he will get the go ahead. A simple job.

He can get out of the snow and grab himself a meal.

The two should never meet. No need to.

Practically nothing in common.

Wright finds himself on a collision course. Suits him just fine.


As usual, $5.99 for the ebook, but $16.99 for the print. This is the longest yet, pushing 400 pages (okay, I do that Patterson thing of having all chapters start on the right hand side, so sometimes there’s a blank page on the left… maybe 360 pages, then).

See the whole series here at Smashwords. Or Amazon. 

Universal book link for Hide Away is here

Check the Cole Wright page on my website for more details on the series.


Stay tuned – as with the previous releases, at the start of the month I’ll have a Cole Wright short story free to read on this page. It’ll stay up for free for a week or so, then be available through the usual channels. That’ll be $2.99 for the ebook, and $5.99 for the paperback.


The Forest Doesn’t Care

A Cole Wright short story.

Charlie and Suze just want a quiet, relaxing hike through Crater Top park. A beautiful, tranquil and hidden in the mountains.

Helping out with the park’s trails, Cole Wright enjoys the change. The chance to do something different.

No one expects trouble. Not way out there.

But then, trouble has a way of showing up.

[Free to read here on this website from May 10th through to May 18th]


Links to the other novels

 

 

 

 

 

 

and stories

 

 

 

 

 


Thanks for reading.

 

 

“Schedule Interruption”, a Cole Wright short story

Measured Aggression the second Cole Wright thriller novel will be out on March 20th. In the meantime, here’s a little taster from the latest Cole Wright short story – the first couple of chapters of “Schedule Interruption”.


On his way toward Spokane, Cole Wright rides a rickety old bus. Local service. Regular schedule. Few passengers. Small town to small town. Heartland people.

Wright plans to pick up the long distance service when the bus reaches the freeway.

Plans, though, have a way of getting interrupted.

A standalone Cole Wright story that comes right down to good people in tough circumstances.


Schedule Interruption

Chapter One

Dust devils flickered to life along the side of the highway. Little whips of wind, picking at the desiccated ground. Whirling it up into momentary, insubstantial wavery ghosts that seemed to follow the old clanky bus chugging along under the beating sun.

Cole Wright sat in a tacky, faded window seat toward the back. On the right. The window itself was dark and patinaed. Someone had managed to scratch Sally 4 Patrick near the bottom. Bored on a long trip, and had scraped away with the edge of a dime or a quarter. No one would have heard a thing over the rumble of the engine.

The bus was maybe a fifth full. About forty seats. Most people clustered toward the front. A few pairs, but mostly alone. A college student with an open laptop. A farmhand in a white cowboy hat. A couple of women in their seventies, both spry and well dressed. One of them kept up a constant monologue about the government, the weather and her former husband Trevor who’d absconded some thirty years back with one of the high school teachers. The woman’s voice was almost soothing.

The air in the bus was cool and dry. Wright sipped from a half liter bottle of Dr Pepper he’d bought outside the bus station back in Kelles. A little town on the crossroads of couple of state routes. Forty miles south of the freeway. Eighty miles from anywhere with more than a vending machine and a gas station with pumps from last century.

The bus station hadn’t even been more than an old store that someone had converted into a waiting room. The bus to Gransfield ran three days a week. Gransfield being on the freeway, and boasting a couple of gas stations some fast food places and an IGA. At least according to the folks he’d talked with while waiting.

The bus itself had to date from the 1950s. Maybe a little newer. Small windows and hard seats. The kind of thing that, polished and scrubbed, would show up on some movie screen, delivering new Vietnam war draftees to their muster.

Wright capped his soda and watched the prairie slip by. There were hills in the distance, blue and dark, barely showing above the plain. The country here rolled ever so softly. Like a slightly mussed blanket. Not table-flat, but no one would mistake it for mountainous, or even hilly.

Wright was heading for Spokane. He’d wandered enough and it was time for a break. Maybe get a job again. If he could handle the routine of regular hours.

Something straightforward, like packing vegetables to be shipped to supermarkets, or laboring laying bricks, or maybe looking up one of those big online gift shipping companies and vanishing into a gigantic warehouse filled with conveyors and rollers and every product you could think of from shampoo to tires to bread makers.

Anything but police work, really. Which included a whole mess of things, like security guard, bouncer, investigator.

For now, though, it was good just to let it all wash off and ride the rails. Or highways, as such.

As he twisted the lid from his soda again, the bus lurched, slowing. The liquid fizzed and ran out over his fingers. He was forced to lick them clean as the bus came to a stop.

They weren’t anywhere.

Just the plain, rough and dry farmlands lying around and hoping for some rain. Telegraph poles and mile markers. About two hundred yards north, back from the road, stood some farm machinery. A big rusty old combine harvester, and red dump truck with a long snout.

Beyond those stood a plain white clapboard house. Two stories, with some smaller, less well-painted buildings around. Equipment sheds and outhouses, presumably.

The bus hissed. Came to a stop.

Wright removed the cap from his soda and sipped. The bus’s door clanked. The driver reaching across and throwing the handle.

Through the front windshield, which was in two pieces, separated by a vertical strip and had a crack running from about eight o’clock a third of the way up, Wright could see a town. Maybe a mile, mile and a half off.

The tall signs, edge on from his perspective, indicating gas and fast food, and maybe even a motel or two. A few low houses there, dark and anonymous. Some tall, bushy trees, like oaks a hundred fifty years old.

That would be Gransfield. On the freeway.

The bus’s destination.

Outside, from just at the bus’s open door, someone called something. From his angle Wright couldn’t see them.

“Two fifty,” the driver said. “Each.”

More inaudible words from outside.

The driver turned in his seat and sighed. He was probably mid-seventies. Slim, but what little hair he had on his head was pure white. His face was lined with the grizzle of years and he had a thick, white mustache.

He’d smiled at Wright, back in Kelles, when Wright had boarded. The kind of smile that was welcoming. Acknowledging that here was someone new. It was pretty obvious that the other passengers were all familiar to the driver. Even the college student.

“I don’t have a choice,” the driver said. “I know it’s not far, and I know you could walk it, save for the heat we got. But the thing is I have a boss. All these good people have paid.”

The person outside said something. Louder, more forceful, but still inaudible.

Wright capped his soda. He slipped it into the netting pocket on the back of the seat in front.

“No, not at all,” the driver said. “It’s a set price. A minimum. You know when you’re in the city and you get a cab, there’s already three dollars on the meter before you’ve even left the curb? That’s the flag fall. I’ve stopped here, because you waved me down.”

Another word from outside. Could have been an epithet.

Wright stood.

“It’s two dollars and fifty cents,” the driver said. “Each. You got a problem with that, you go talk to my boss. His number’s painted on the side of the bus.”

The driver swung back around into his seat. He reached for the door lever.

The kind of lever that’s been in buses since forever. A simple system. An aluminum handle, vertical, with two pieces of flat aluminum on a pivot fixed just below the dash. Between the handle and the pivot, a rod, also on a pivot, connects that part of the mechanism to the door.

The door, then, folds in half, right into the footwell. The handle is designed so that the door can be opened or shut without a driver having to leave their seat. They have to stretch a little, but it’s not much effort.

The driver pushed on the lever to close the door.

The lever didn’t budge.

“Let go of the door,” the driver said.

Another epithet from outside.

Wright stepped into the aisle.

 

Chapter Two

Out on the road, a black pickup was heading south, coming toward the parked bus. Coming from Gransfield.

The driver glanced toward it.

The pickup slowed a little. A late model F150.

The bus’s engine thrummed, sitting at idle. The floor under Wright’s feet shivered.

The college student had closed up her laptop. She was leaning into the aisle a fraction. The older woman had stopped talking.

Wright took a step forward.

The F150 didn’t stay slowed for long. It picked up speed and sped by the bus. Wright glimpsed the driver as he went by. Three days of stubble and a cowboy hat. Staring dead ahead.

“Let go,” the bus driver said, “of the door.”

A mutter from outside. Probably ‘No!’

“It’s two fifty from here to Gransfield,” the driver said. “I can’t do no more favors. “

Wright took another step forward. This brought him level with the farmhand. He’d set his hat on the seat next to him.

Wright put his hand on the seat back.

The farmhand looked up. He smelled of hay and earth and beer. He met Wright’s eyes. Almost eager.

“Stay put,” Wright said.

“They’re holding us up. I should go talk to them. Or pay the fare.”

“Do you know them?”

A nod.

Wright stepped back. “Go talk to them. I’ll pay the fare.”

“Mikey,” the farmhand said

“Wright. Cole Wright.”

Taking the back of the seat in front, Mikey pulled himself upright. He was tall. Had to duck so that he didn’t his head on the steel framing of the webbing luggage rack that ran front to back. One on each side. A few parcels stuffed in. Some more hats. A pair of roller skates that looked as if they’d been left from when the bus had been manufactured.

Mikey stepped into the aisle and started along.

The driver saw him coming. Held his hand up.

“Hold on, son,” the driver said. “No need to make this any of your business.”

“I can handle myself.” Mikey was wearing a white singlet with a plaid shirt open and over the top. Sleeves rolled up. He had ragged jeans and black steel-capped boots.

“Mikey,” Wright said. “Hold up.”

Mikey didn’t stop.


The story continues here (Universal Book Link), through the usual channels. ebook $2.99, print $5.99.


 

There’s more Cole Wright around – check out the full Cole Wright page right here on the website. The Arrival, the first novel, and “Dark Fields” the first story are out now. Measured Aggression will be out soon. The third and fourth books, Hide Away and Scorpion Bait will be out in May and July respectively.

Also in May and July, I’ll be posting free short stories for a few days again. I like the rhythm of that. The novels are fun to write, but so are the short stories. By the end of the year there will be six or seven or so, and I guess it’ll make sense to put them into a collection.


 

 

 


 

Measured Aggression – Cole Wright Thriller #2 available for preorder

Following book 1, The Arrival, Cole Wright book 2 Measured Aggression will be out on March 20th – the ebook is available on preorder now.

_____

The sign at the edge of town announces it as Cooperville, Pop 3516.

Small town. Big problems.

Passing through, Cole Wright just wants a meal and to get back on the road.

Always happy to have a nice meal.

Always happy to avoid problems.

Sometimes, though, problems just demand attention.

ebook $5.99, print $15.99, hardback $19.99 – UBL here


To promote the book’s release and give you a taste of Cole Wright, I’ll be putting up a Cole Wright short story – “Schedule Interruption” – for free on this site for a few days, starting Monday 7th March. From the 10th, the story will be available for $2.99/$9.99.

On his way toward Spokane, Cole Wright rides a rickety old bus. Local service. Regular schedule. Few passengers. Small town to small town. Heartland people.

Wright plans to pick up the long distance service when the bus reaches the freeway.

Plans, though, have a way of getting interrupted.

A standalone Cole Wright story that comes right down to good people in tough circumstances.


If you wanted a taster right now, well, there is The Arrival, but there’s also another short story – “Dark Fields” – available now. Again $2.99/$9.99 – UBL link here.



In other news, the third novel Hide Away is about ready to go and will be out in May, and the fourth, Scorpion Bait, is set for July. The fifth novel, Zero Kills, intended for September, turned out to have more than zero kills, so it’s been retitled Slow Burn. I have a couple more short stories written, so should be able to pair a short with a novel in each release month. And I’m going to power on and write a novel with zero kills to fit that title. Might even be able to have that out in December.


In other, other news, for those who might prefer my science fiction to my thrillers, I have a standalone SF novella The Chule coming out on March 10th as well.

Setting up a quiet, simple colony on planet Barchime should be idyllic.
Eliza, Della and the others have high ideals.
Sparsely populated, the gorgeous planet offers everything they need.
But when something riles up some local wildlife, the simple life might just come to an end
A very sudden end.

ebook $2.99, print $9.99 – UBL here


More news next week, about the next Captain Arlon Stoddard novel, and the next in the Karnish River Navigations series (finally), and, remember, the free story too.

 

Thanks for reading

Sean