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Dystopiaville

KILLING FLOOR:

The third and final book in the Dystopiaville series, Killing Floor, is out now. I say it’s the final book – I’d love to write more of these dark scary babies but to tell you the truth, they’ve kind of struggled to find an audience. We shall see.

A nationwide cull of the British population will begin immediately after this special broadcast…’


Killing Floor, an up and coming rock and roll band, are on the brink of superstardom.

But things take a turn for the worse when a joyous weekend in the country turns into a nightmare of survival.

Get Killing Floor…https://smarturl.it/kfloor

November 2019 Update

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to post something on this poor neglected blog of mine. Poor, poor thing. Honestly, I came into this website with good intentions. I would blog regularly! Become a blog wizard, buy a big pointy hat, take over the world and…

Nah.

It didn’t happen. To be honest I’m too busy writing books to keep a proper blog running. That shit takes work. But I do want to use this space to keep people updated on what I’m working on as I’ve had a few emails recently asking about particular projects and where I’m at etc…

So here we go. I’m working on a few things at the moment. My main project is Nolan’s Ark, which is the first book in a new post-apocalyptic series of mine. This will be out in early December. (Sketch of cover above).

In January I’m going to release a box set called Apocalypse Number One – this is a collection of first books in various series of mine, apocalyptic and dystopian. I think this’ll provide a great entry point to people who’ve never read any of my work before. Always good to provide the readers with options.

In February I’m putting out the third and final Dystopiaville book, Killing Floor.

March sees the release of the sequel to Nolan’s Ark (working title of Demon Sheriff).

And in April I’m planning to release a Dystopiaville box set with all three books from the first season included.

That’s as far as I’ve got with planning.

I receive a fair amount of emails asking me about the Future of London. Where the hell is book 6 and it’s a fair point, considering the last one came out almost two years ago. Regarding the future of the Future of London, I absolutely will be releasing book 6. I’m working on it but…slowly. As far as the London series is concerned, think of it trickling out in a traditional publishing timeframe, at least for now. No rapid fire release here. But yes, book 6 is on its way and with a bit of luck it’ll break the surface in 2020. Working on a second draft now, but remember – I’m taking it slow.

That’s all I have for now my friends. Thank you for being here and supporting this journey of mine. I’m eternally grateful.

Best wishes,

Mark

Killer First Line…?

It’s the piece of writing advice that annoys me the most.

Write a killer first line.

You might see it on how-to-write-a-novel lists and on these random top ten snippets of writing advice, and on blogs and blah-blah-blah. These are the things you must do or your writing will go to shit and nobody will ever read it.

Write a killer first line, so they say. Grab them from the get-go.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a bad piece of advice and if you can come up with a ‘killer’ first line then go for it. By all means. It’s better than a crappy first line, no doubt about that. But if anyone ever suggests this is a ‘must-do’ then feel free to discard their advice. Immediately. Get up and leave the room. Click away from the website.

It’s garbage. Total garbage.

Who gives up on a book if the first line doesn’t blow them away or give them multiple orgasms? Anyone who does that is not equipped to read books. What’s more important than a killer first line is an intriguing first ten pages, first chapter or first hundred pages. That doesn’t sound quite as sexy though does it? Personally, if a book doesn’t grab me after a hundred pages I put it down. Life’s too short to waste on bad books.

But after a tepid first line?

No. I’m willing to give the author a little more than that.

What’s the point of this post? Good question. I guess it’s just to say be wary of these top ten lists of things you must do if you want to write a good novel. Feel free to pick and choose what works for you. There is no hard rule to writing a great book or we’d all be doing it.

You’re in charge of your own story. Jam. Have fun with it.

The only rule is that it works.

June 2019 Update

Over the past year or so I’ve received a growing number of emails about The Future of London series. The question is always the same: will there be a sixth book?

Yes it’s been a while since the last one. If memory serves me right, book 5 came out in December 2017, and that was after me releasing about three London books that same year. It was a blitz and I guess readers had every right to expect it would continue at the same pace.

It didn’t.

So what’s happened?

Several things. I’ve been drawn to writing other things. Since the last London book, amongst other bits and pieces, I’ve written the Exterminators trilogy and the After the End trilogy. Also, despite the fact that it’s probably my favourite series, the London books aren’t massive sellers. Too weird? I don’t know but for some reason they haven’t clicked. It’s a shame but right now it means that I have to prioritise and that means working on some other things.

But…

The good news is that the sixth London book is in the works. It most certainly is. I’m working on it right now but I’m not working on it at the pace of my ‘A’ project, which is a new dystopian series premiering in August. About five days a week I’ll spend a little time on book six of FOL (Future of London) and although I’m not sure when it’s going to be finished it WILL be done.

Fear not. If Mack Walker ever catches up with Hatchet you my dear reader will be the first to know. Well…second, after me.

Take care and speak soon!

Mark

The Sinners (Chapter 1)

1

“Shut up,” Eda whispered. “Just shut up, will you?”

David’s voice came back at her – a faint vapor of familiarity drifting across the darkness. Somewhere in the close confinement of the tunnel, his whisper turned into a shout.

“What did you say?” he said. “Eda?”

Eda shook her head. She knew he couldn’t see her but she did it anyway.

“Nothing,” she said, staring into the pitch-black.

“Were you talking to me?” David said.

Eda shook her head again. “No.”

“But what…?”

“Forget it David,” she snapped. “I thought I heard something that’s all. Let’s get moving, alright? This place is…never mind, let’s go.”

“Sure.”

Eda kept walking. It wasn’t the first time she’d imagined footsteps or voices on her tail and it wouldn’t be the last either. Ever since they’d set foot in the Lincoln Tunnel things hadn’t felt right. A permanent unease had lingered amongst them like an uninvited companion. Where was the relief Eda had been hoping for? She was out for God’s sake. Where was the happiness, the joy at breaking free from New York? Damn it. Wherever the elation was, it wasn’t in the tunnel alongside the travelers. But there was something else in there, Eda was sure of it on a purely instinctive level. In the absolute silence, she could hear it breathing, just a few paces behind her. Walking when she walked. Stopping when she stopped. Sometimes she felt a gust of breath blowing on the back of her neck. 

But whenever she investigated, there was nothing there. Nothing at all.

It was the darkness playing tricks with her mind. She had to keep telling herself that over and over again, repeating it like a mantra.

The alternative was to go crazy.

Thank God they were more than halfway through the one and a half mile long tunnel, which was located under the Hudson River. This creepy underwater bridge, shrouded in darkness, would transport them from Manhattan, New York, to a place that David apparently knew well, somewhere called Weehawken, in the old state of New Jersey.

“Frankie Boy?” Eda said. “Are you still there?”

Silence.

“Frankie?” she said, a hint of panic creeping into her voice. “Don’t wander off for God’s sake. Not in here of all places.”

Then she heard it. The sound of the dog’s paws skipping over the roadway towards her. A light tap-tapping, accompanied by the repetitive sniffing noise Frankie made as he took in some new, unfamiliar scent in the air.

“Good boy,” she said. She reached down and found his back. It was a tiny oasis of warmth inside the icy tunnel.

“How long David?” she asked.

“We’re nearly there,” David said. His voice sounded further away, like he’d kept on walking while Eda had waited for Frankie Boy to catch up.

“I think this place is getting to me,” Eda said. “It’s like some giant haunted cave, don’t you think?”

“Try to relax,” David said. “Take slow, deep breaths. It’s just the tunnel playing tricks with your mind. I was the same the first time I came through here and I did it alone. Not being able to see two inches in front of me – it nearly drove me bonkers.”

“Bonkers?” Eda said.

“Yeah, you know. Mad. Crazy. Off my head.”

“Never heard that one before,” Eda said.

David laughed and it felt like the tunnel was shaking underneath them. “I grew up with an Englishman remember,” he said.

“Yeah,” Eda said. She wasn’t in the mood to talk about David’s hybrid accent or his upbringing. “Well I’m right on the edge of goddamn bonkers. How long?”

“You just asked me that,” David said.

“Yeah?”

“Not long to go,” David said. “Hopefully no more than fifteen minutes if we keep a steady pace. Trust me, it’s worth it if we keep pushing on and don’t think too much. We’re nearly out. And once we are, New York and the Complex will feel like a bad dream.”

Eda groaned. Fifteen minutes. It might as well have been fifteen days.

They kept walking.

About a minute later, Eda heard David curse up ahead as he walked into the back of yet another abandoned car. It wasn’t the first time either one of them had had a collision. There were a lot of cars sitting in the tunnel in silence, like a fleet of ghost ships from a distant era. Eda imagined that people back then, not knowing what else to do, had driven into the tunnel to hide from the madness of the city. Now their vehicles were still here, cloaked in darkness. Sometimes Eda caught a glimpse of an impending trunk at the last minute and barely avoided a collision. Mostly she knew nothing about it until she’d walked into the metal and taken the hit. Pain took a backseat to frustration. It was something else to slow her down. Afterwards, Eda would use her hands, feeling her way around the car, trying not to think about what might still be inside.

That was easier said than done.

Judging by the stale rot that permeated throughout the tunnel, they were walking through a giant, underground graveyard.

There were patches of occasional debris under their feet. As Eda and David stepped over these, a sickening crunching sound filled the air. It was a blasphemous noise. Eda had by now climbed over a small mountain of bones and if the ghosts of all those car owners were still in the tunnel then surely she’d pissed them off big time.

It was enough to make her walk faster.

When the light of the exit finally appeared up ahead, Eda groaned with relief. Throwing caution aside, she hurried outside and reveled in the gray, overcast sky that greeted them. They both stood there for a while, basking in the dull light of either late morning or early afternoon.

It had been a long day so far.

“Thank God,” Eda said. She ran a hand through her long dark hair. Despite the cold she’d felt inside the tunnel, her forehead was hot and damp with sweat.

There was also a dull pain throbbing around Eda’s temple. That was the spot where Lex had punched her. Her jaw ached too. That brutal struggle in Manhattan was still fresh in body and mind and despite what David had said earlier, it would be a long time before Eda could simply pass it off as a bad dream.

At the very least they were out of New York. That was official.

“Alright,” Eda said, adjusting her eyes back to daylight. She looked over at David, who was no longer just a voice in the tunnel alongside her. His wounds from New York added up to no more than a few minor facial cuts. He was smiling, clearly in good spirits.

Frankie Boy strolled ahead, his black tail wagging gently back and forth.

“I think you’re in the best shape out of all of us,” Eda said, looking at the dog. “Talk about not giving a shit.”

She turned back to the gaping jaws of the Lincoln Tunnel – three black holes, toothless and bleak, that dared to invite them back to New York. Above each tunnel, a huge advertising billboard looked down at the travelers. The images on each billboard had long since faded into insignificance.

“Let’s go,” Eda said.

The road led uphill into Weehawken. There were more cars sitting on the road as it curved steeply away from the Lincoln Tunnel entrance. At first glance, it looked as if this pack of vehicles had just emerged from the New York side and had paused for a moment before continuing on into New Jersey. But in reality, these rust-covered carcasses had been lying there for years. Going nowhere.

Eda didn’t get too close.

“So this is home for you?” she asked David as they walked up the hill.

“Yeah it is,” David said. “Not Weehawken specifically but New Jersey. I’ve moved about over the years but somehow I always end up coming back home. It’s like a magnet. It pulls me in and I guess…”

“Frankie!” Eda said, cutting David off.

The big German Shepherd had strayed too close to the abandoned cars. Although it was unlikely there was anything to fear – at least anything that was alive – Eda didn’t want to take the chance that someone else, someone who wasn’t just a pile of dust and bones, was waiting inside one of the vehicles to ambush the newcomers. Dead bodies were harmless in comparison to the living.

Even though they’d left the Lincoln Tunnel behind, Eda still had the strange feeling that she was being watched. As she climbed the hill into Weehawken, her claustrophobia had morphed into a sudden attack of agoraphobia.

She walked faster.

“Are you alright?” David asked, catching up with her. “You look a little bit pale if you don’t mind me saying.”

“I’m just getting used to things,” Eda said. “I thought a change of scenery would be easier than this.”

“You’ll be alright,” David said.

 Eda looked at him as she walked at speed. “So where do we go from here?”

“I know a place where we can lay low for a few days,” he said. “Once we get there we can put our heads together and come up with a long-term plan.”

“What is it?” Eda asked.

David smiled. “It’s my quiet place,” he said. “Somewhere green, without a ruined car or a smashed window in sight.”

“Sounds good to me,” Eda said. “Is it far?”

“There’s a bit of walking involved. But it’ll be worth it, I promise.”

“Alright then,” Eda said. The thought of a long walk didn’t bother her, not as long as it was taking them further away from New York.  A quiet place sounded just right.

The rotten scent that Eda had encountered in the tunnel lingered in the air. It was like the breeze was coated in decay; now it followed them like a shadow.

They made their way onto a large road, which the signs called the 495. After that they walked west for about an hour. Eda’s legs became tired quickly but the thought of David’s quiet place encouraged her to push past the fatigue, to say nothing of exhaustion. The quiet place had turned into a fabled paradise in Eda’s imagination. It was glorious. Nothing she saw along the way of a shattered world could discourage her from the ideal of perfection that awaited them.

They walked slowly, veering off the 495 and traveling through a town called Secaucus. It felt small compared to the enormous skyscrapers of Manhattan but despite superficial appearances, the emptiness inside was identical. Broken-down vehicles lined either side of the street, some of which had the driver and passenger side doors lying open, as if inviting further investigation. Eda declined the invitation.

Shattered glass peppered the sidewalk. Eda stepped over the gleaming, crystal-like shards and was immediately reminded of the crunching noises she’d heard inside the Lincoln Tunnel when she’d walked over the bones of the dead.

Eda noticed that David’s initially brisk pace was slowing down too. His feet looked like they were sinking into the road with each step.

“You getting tired?” Eda said. She hoped he’d say yes.

David nodded but he kept his eyes on the road ahead. “I forgot how far it was to the quiet place from the tunnel.”

“The adrenaline is wearing off,” Eda said. “I know the feeling. Hey, how about this? Maybe we should rest somewhere in between here and your quiet place. There’s no rush to get there, right? It doesn’t have to be this afternoon. It doesn’t even have to be today when you think about it. Not unless this quiet place of yours is moving.”

“Yeah okay,” David said. “We’ll keep moving for now and stop in a little while. Okay with you?”

“Sure,” Eda said.

They walked through Secaucus and at the edge of town, came to a long bridge that crossed over a broad, dark blue river. Once they were standing on the bridge, Eda knew that they’d found a good place to stop. She felt safe up there. It was the elevation – standing atop the bridge, Eda and David were high above all the houses and cars and everything else of the old civilization that stretched out for miles on either side of the river. Nothing could touch them on the bridge. It was like standing on the roof of a skyscraper in New York, safely out of reach of danger.

Looking down, the water was calm and tempting. But Eda would never go in to cool off, not even on the hottest of days. She knew that large rivers such as this one had been used as mass graves during the war years. Below the surface, the riverbed was fat with human remains. The surface, so blue and appealing from afar, would smell old and rancid.

The water level was high at the moment and Eda wondered how many times this particular river had spilled over its banks and rampaged through the empty town with no spectators to witness it wreak havoc upon the neighborhood. Even if it flooded today, Eda, David and Frankie Boy would be safe up on the bridge.

“What about here?” Eda said, calling out to David. “This is the best hotel I’ve seen so far in all of New Jersey.”

“Here?” David said. He looked around, seemingly unconvinced. “You don’t want to cover a little more ground before we stop?”

Eda shook her head. “We’ve got food, water and blankets,” she said. “It’s safe up here. I say we sleep and recover a little and then start up again early in the morning. Your quiet place – it isn’t going anywhere is it?”

“You really want to stop here?” David said.

“Yeah,” Eda said. Her eyes roamed over the bridge and nearby surroundings, and she was yet again assured of its strategic advantages. They wouldn’t find anything better than this. Anything safer. “If we stop in the middle it offers us a great vantage point. We can see for miles on all sides and if anyone or anything shows up to say hi, we’ll see them before they can get close.”

“Still think we’re being watched?” David said, smiling.

Eda shrugged. “I need to sit down,” she said. “Fully digest everything that’s happened today. You know?”

David nodded. He slid Eda’s backpack off his shoulder and held onto it by a single strap. They’d taken it in turns to carry the bag so far; it contained all their supplies, a modest bundle of food and water and amongst other things, two rolled up blankets, which had been fastened to the front.

They walked to the middle of the bridge and sat down on the road. Eda put her back up against the sturdy, stone barrier and sighed with relief.

David ran a hand back and forth over his tired calf muscles. “I’ll never get up now,” he said.

“No need to get up,” Eda said. “We rest. Start again in the morning.”

They ate the leftovers that Eda had taken from the Waldorf Astoria. Before the hastily assembled farewell ceremony, Eda had helped herself to as much food as she could carry – enough for a few days split between the two humans and Frankie Boy.

She offered some cold vegetable stew to Frankie Boy who devoured it in seconds. Then she poured out a small bowl of water, which she set it down on the road.

Conversation was sparse. Exhaustion settled into their bodies and minds and when the small talk began to dry up, no one went out of their way to prolong it. Both David and Eda lay down on their blankets. It wasn’t much of a bed but as far as Eda was concerned it was a slice of heaven on Earth. She would sleep well here.

“Wait till you see it,” David said. His voice was sluggish as he drifted off. He was looking up at the gray sky that shielded the stars from view. “I should never have left the quiet place. Everything’s so much better there. You’ll see…”

“Then why did you leave?” Eda said. Her eyelids were closing over fast.

“Itchy feet,” he said. “Curiosity. Adventure. The usual. Same things that always get me into trouble.”

A minute later, David was snoring lightly. Eda rolled over onto her left side and saw Frankie Boy curled up beside her on the blanket. The last thing she did before falling asleep was slide her dagger out of the crumpled backpack. After that, she closed her eyes, wrapping her fingers around the handle and laying the weapon flat against her chest.

***

In the morning they had a quick breakfast, gathered their belongings and set off towards the quiet place.

Eda felt refreshed after the long rest. As they traveled in a westerly direction, she set a swift pace that David matched stride for stride. There was a renewed sense of purpose in the traveling party now that the horrors of New York had faded ever so slightly further into the background.

Frankie Boy walked a short distance ahead, probing the surroundings like a well-trained scout.

After about six hours on the road they reached the city of Paterson. Paterson looked like it had been hit by a bomb and of course it had many times over. But walking through the city, Eda thought the destruction looked fresh – like it could have happened yesterday. Nobody had tried to rebuild over this since it happened. Debris of all kinds – bricks, stone and glass – were scattered all over the streets and sidewalks. The burned out shells of cars were everywhere, some of them skeletal and barely upright.

David stopped in the middle of the street. There was a strained expression on his face as he spun around, taking it all in.

“I remember this,” he said. “When it happened. All the noise and confusion – the shouting and screams. The worst screams you could ever imagine Eda. It all happened right here.”

“You lived in this city?” Eda asked.

He looked at her with an embarrassed smile.

“Think so,” he said. “I can’t remember to tell you the truth. All I remember is running with a gang of street kids in a place that looked just like this. A big city in New Jersey – how could I forget the name?”

“I grew up in a city,” Eda said. “I don’t remember what it was called either.”

David sighed. “They were right when they called it the wild years,” he said. “The things I saw Eda. I’ve never been so scared in all my life and yet I had to act tough if I didn’t want to be one of the victims. There was no way I could have kept that up for long. It would have worn me down sooner or later.”

“You got out?” Eda said.

“Yeah,” David said. “Thank God, one day someone found me. He took me and some of the other kids and got us the hell out of here. He saved our lives. Took us somewhere better.”

He looked at Eda.

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” Eda said.

“Are you really going to do what Shay asked you to do?” he said. “Are you going to become an ambassador for the Complex, find men and lure them to their death in New York? I mean, it’s none of my business but why should you? You’re free of those women now – you can do whatever you want without having to satisfy Shay’s bloodlust.”

Eda shook her head.

“I don’t know,” she said. That was the truth. She hadn’t really stopped to give it much thought since leaving Manhattan. “I’m not going to go out of my way to look for anyone. But at the same time, if I ever meet some gaping asshole who deserves it then why not? It’s an ugly way to die, that’s for sure.”

David nodded. He pointed to the backpack on Eda’s shoulder.

“Want me to carry that for a while?”

“Nah,” Eda said. “I’m good.”

“How are our supplies?”

“We’re not going to starve or die of thirst just yet,” Eda said. “But we’d better think about topping up soon or we just might.”

David’s eyes fell on the road that led west. “We’re close to our destination.”

“So tell me,” Eda said. “What exactly is this quiet place of yours? You’re not giving much away you know.”

“I’m not?”

“No.”

David laughed, jerking a thumb over his shoulder.

“There’s a massive stretch of wetland that way,” he said. “It’s like a big wooded swamp, that kind of thing.”

Eda shrugged, which made David laugh again.

“It’s about as far from New York City as you can imagine,” he said. “There’s a beautiful river that runs through it, trees, flowers, and things growing like that. Great Piece Meadows – that’s what it was called before the war. I call it my quiet place. It’s not like anything we’re walking through right now. Not like Paterson or New York. In the quiet place, everything looks just like it did before everything happened. You’d never even know there’d been a war. Nature takes care of you in there. There’s deer. Rainwater. It’s got everything you’d ever need to survive.”

They traveled west out of Paterson and onto a long stretch of blacktop highway with surprisingly few vehicles on it. It wasn’t long before Eda saw a vast ocean of trees looming in the distance. This blurry, mirage-like vision was every bit as inviting as the bright blue river of Secaucus. This time however, Eda was going to take up the invitation.

After walking for another twenty minutes straight, they came to a small, winding road that ran parallel to the highway. David led them along this road until gradually they began to enter the wetlands of Great Piece Meadows.

But before the swamp took over completely, the travelers passed by the remains of a few shack-like houses. These tiny abodes were lined up neatly on both sides of the road, the last hint of old civilization to be found in the region. From there, the path into the swamp narrowed further and the trees got larger and closer. For Eda, it was like walking into a different world and so far at least, it felt welcoming in a way she’d never encountered before. New York, Paterson and all the concrete skylines in her mind began to recede slowly, figments of a dream fizzling out in the morning sunshine.

Muddy puddles leaked out of the lush greenery and spilled onto the road. It was as if the swamp was trying to escape from itself, one tiny piece at a time.

“Great Piece Meadows,” Eda said, stepping over one large trail of mud. “So this is it? This is your quiet place?”

There was a smile on David’s face. His eyes drank in the environment, filling him up.

“You can see the appeal right?” he said. He stopped and held up a hand. “Listen. What do you hear?”

“Nothing,” Eda said.

“Exactly. Best sound you’ll ever hear.”

“Uhh, sure,” Eda said. “It’s different, I’ll give you that much. And right now, anything different is good.”

David kept walking. “Don’t worry,” he said. “You’ll like it here.”

It was a while before either one of them spoke again.

Eda peered into the swamp from the road. She couldn’t see anything in between all the trees and the long, overgrown grass. It looked like the Meadows didn’t want to be found.

“You really lived in there?” she asked.

“I sure did,” David said. “It’s not quite as empty as it looks from out here on the road. There are a lot of animals living in the Meadows. There’s life everywhere you look, even if you can’t see it at first. I have weapons stored away – bows, knives. I’ve got plenty of traps too. We can…”

“Shit!”

Eda jumped when Frankie Boy started barking. She knew that bark, fierce and frightened all mixed into one head-splitting noise. It was a warning. The dog’s body was as stiff as a board, the tail erect. He was facing the swamp head-on, barking at a blanket of trees and jungle grass.

Eda crouched down beside him. Her heart sped up as she stared into the swamp.

“What is it Frankie Boy?” she said. “There’s nothing there.”

David stepped over beside them and Eda straightened back up. They stood side by side, frozen on the narrow path, staring into the swamp because they knew that Frankie Boy wasn’t barking at nothing. But they couldn’t see anything, just a dense blanket of foliage swaying back and forth to a gentle breeze.

“C’mon boy,” Eda said. She patted Frankie on the back several times, hoping he’d snap out of it. “Let’s keep walking. We’ll go…”

Eda was interrupted by a rustling noise in the distance. Like something big pushing through the trees.

They heard the distinct sound of twigs snapping under feet.

“David?” Eda said. “Is that a deer?”

David shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

Eda looked harder, not allowing herself to blink.

There was something there, directly up ahead. A man’s face had appeared in a small gap in between a couple of bloated tree trunks. He was looking at them through the gap, staring at the travelers with a calm, unblinking expression. The man was so perfectly still that Eda thought she might have been looking at a statue. And then he moved. It was like watching something step out of a dream and set foot in the material world – a two-dimensional image slowly coming to life in the three-dimensional realm.

More twigs snapped.

The man came through the Meadows, gliding towards them like a phantom.

And he was smiling.

The Sinners (After the End Trilogy #2) is available on Amazon (Kindle Unlimited)


The Sinners

The Sinners (After the End Trilogy #2)

It feels like a long time since I released The Curse.

Hasn’t been that long, think it was around December 19th off the top of my head. Since then I’ve been working on the sequel and I’m delighted to say that The Sinners (After the End #2) will be available on February 27th.

Here’s the blurb (roughish draft – I’m still working on it!)

Two people and a dog wandering through post-apocalyptic America.

Where will they go next?

After the events of The Curse, Eda and David have left New York behind in search of new horizons.

But a new threat lies in wait for the travelers and it’s lurking in a swamp in the former state of New Jersey.

A mysterious cult.

An all-powerful demon called Uncle Sam.

A giant bombsite turned mega-crater.

And the strange, terrifying man at the heart of it all…

After the horrors of New York, things couldn’t possibly get any worse for Eda and David. Could they?

But what if the nightmare had only just begun?

October Update!

 

Hi everyone,

Hope you’re keeping well wherever you are in the world. Here’s a very brief update to let anyone who’s interested know what’s coming up book-wise over the next few months:

On October 31st (otherwise known as Halloween), I’ll release the second short story in the pulpy twisted horror madness that is GrimLog. Air Nosferatu is the title of story number two and if you like the idea of vampires on a plane then I think you’re going to like this one. Working hard to get it ready. The story will be 0.99 on Amazon or it’s free if you subscribe to my newsletter.

Then approximately halfway through November, I’ll release The Exterminators Trilogy Box Set. You might recall this is the post-apocalyptic horror series I penned earlier this year featuring Black Storm, Black Fever, and Black Earth. We’re working on a cover for the box set right now (when I say we, I mean my designer Vincent is). Look forward to sharing the artwork soon.

The final release of 2018 will be in mid-December and it’s a post-apocalyptic thriller called The Curse. I’m in the early draft stage right now. Won’t say too much because a lot will probably change between now and December. That’s the way it goes. This is the first book in a new trilogy – ‘After the End’.

Also, hoping to get back into The Future of London series early next year. Just going to revamp the covers before I put book number six out.

Lots of stuff happening.

That’s all for now. Take care everyone, thanks for the support and see you soon!

Mark.

Apex Predators (Preview!)

 

Apex Predators

 

“What the hell’s wrong with that TV?”

Bill Bridges growled at the television screen that was flickering on and off like a strobe light in the living room. Damn thing wouldn’t stop. It was getting painful to look at but Bill had to suck it up – he was trying to watch the news.

And the news was pretty big.

Bill was standing at the kitchen sink of a beautiful two-story beach house in New Smyrna Beach, located on the central east coast of Florida.

His soap-drenched hands writhed furiously under the warm flowing water, working off the last of the filth that he’d acquired after a hard morning’s work doing various bits and pieces around the house.

But Bill’s mind wasn’t really on the clean up job at the sink. He was more focused on the news broadcast blaring out of the TV in between regular spurts of crackle and flashing light. A woman with a troubled expression was sitting behind the news desk. She was dressed in a conservative yet stylish blue suit; the make-up on her face had been applied flawlessly, the hair perfectly rigid, and yet there was something wrong – it was right there in her eyes. They were constantly on the move – jumping back and forth between the sheet of paper on the desk and someone behind the camera. Bill found this jerky habit to be distracting, almost dizzying, but he tried to block out the woman’s body language and listen to what she was saying.

Most of the details passed him by due to the constant electrical interruption, but he caught the essentials:

Outbreak.

 Beyond control.

 Spreading…

 …thousands moving across the south-eastern coast in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida…

 Military strikes…

 …advise people to stay in and lock their doors.

 Repeat…

 …lock your doors. They’re c…

The TV screen went blank.

Bill turned off the tap, grabbed a dishtowel and dried his hands.

He shook his head, thinking about how all the other big news stories of recent weeks had paled into insignificance in the wake of the outbreak. All those things that were such a big deal at the time – the growing tensions with North Korea, the inevitability of climate change, the guy who’d performed the highest tightrope walk ever in Melbourne Australia, the serial killer in Florida who liked to chop off the heads of his victims, the World Cup semi-finals and last but not least, the discovery of a horde of Nazi relics in Patagonia which led many people to believe that Adolf Hitler had survived the war and fled to South America.

None of it mattered anymore.

There was a scream outside.

Bill didn’t flinch. He knew it was nothing to worry about. He’d been hearing screaming like that outside on the beach all morning and fortunately those weren’t your regular high-pitched George Romero shrieks of terror. Those were happy screams, accompanied by raucous fits of laughter and frequent yelps of delight.

Loud music was blaring too – the good stuff from the 1980s like Prince and Michael Jackson.

It sounded like a helluva fun time.

From what Bill could gather, the people in one of the houses further down the beach were having a fancy dress party. The party had long since spilled out of the house and onto the beach and Bill had already spied a variety of impressive costumes through the kitchen window.

Fair play to them, he thought.

The zombie apocalypse wasn’t going to spoil their fun. Damn right. And now that Bill had finished his work for the morning, he planned to go out and join them.

A cold beer sounded very nice indeed.

He looked at his hands one more time, checking they were thoroughly clean. Then he walked over to the TV and gave it a hard slap on the back. A loud thud was all that happened – the TV was dead, the news report long gone.

Bill tilted his head.

Was it the TV? Or was the problem back in the news studio?

He tried some other channels. Nothing but a blank screen.

“Stupid,” he said.

Bill wasn’t so much bothered about the prospect of zombies on his doorstep as he was about missing the World Cup semi-final later that day.

Italy versus France.

That was must see TV for God’s sake. Bill was at least a quarter Italian.

Besides, they’d been talking about zombies for days. Or was it weeks already? Scaremongering sons of bitches on the TV, Internet and anywhere else that served up fake news on a daily basis. Everyone knew what the media was like. Hype machine. Zombies – that was a joke! It was probably a bunch of drunken rednecks in Alabama who’d strayed beyond the state line and who just happened to put the fear of God into a couple of hysterical, oversensitive old ladies in Georgia.

The next thing you know, Fox News are talking about zombies.

Bill laughed out loud.

Oh really? So why don’t they show any footage of the monsters? Because it would upset the kids?

Bullshit.

As far as Bill Bridges was concerned, if they weren’t on his doorstep then it wasn’t happening. The zombie apocalypse was nothing more than the media up to their old tricks again, trying to control the non-thinking population with fear tactics.

“And I ain’t gonna miss that soccer game,” Bill said, wagging a finger at the TV. “So you’d better start working mister. Got it?”

Outside the music came to a sudden stop.

Bill glanced towards the window. His face scrunched up in confusion. The immediate silence that followed that long run of breezy 1980s mega-hits that had been playing all day was unnerving.

He walked out of the living room towards the kitchen window. Before he got there, the sound of a woman’s scream forced Bill to clap his hands over his head.

Jesus.

That wasn’t a happy scream anymore.

Bill heard the muffled roar of somebody shouting. It was a wild, panicky noise. He took his hands off his ears, eager to catch the gist of what was going on out there.

“They’re coming!” somebody yelled.

“Not that way,” a woman shouted. “You can’t go that way. Stay away from the road!”

“To the water!” a man’s voice cried out. “Everybody. Get into the water! Now!”

Bill looked outside, his heart racing. The kitchen window offered a gorgeous view of the Atlantic Ocean, usually so tranquil and sublime. Not today. A screaming stampede of people were fleeing down the beach towards the water, the majority of them wearing fancy dress costumes. Some small groups of five or six were carrying rubber dinghies between them. Most people however, were jumping into the water with nothing. They were charging towards the deeper water, swimming for their life.

Bill saw a lot of frightened faces looking back towards the shore as they hit the water. Their eyes bulged with terror, gawking at something behind the row of beach houses.

 

***

Want to keep reading?

Apex Predators is the first story in the GrimLog (Tales of Terror) series. It’s available to buy here for just 0.99. 

The Music of Writing: The Space in Between the Notes

 

What can music teach you about writing?

Translating the lessons learned from one craft and applying them to another. Is this possible?

Of course it is.

Before I wrote books, I was a musician. I’d been playing guitar since the age of fifteen and switched to bass in my early twenties.

It was fun.

I was a bit of a show off in the early days to be honest, especially on the bass. I took to the instrument quickly. I was a busy player. Playing too many notes. Playing to get noticed by the girls (it worked – I married one of them in the end!)

Compare that to when I started writing. Writing too much. Too many words. Telling, telling, telling. Trying to get noticed by the girls again? Eh, well no.

But there are similarities between the two types of busyness.

In music there was no space in between the notes. No room for the listener to insert something of themselves. Their thoughts and feelings and longings – all the things that a great piece of music can evoke in us. You need a little space for that. This is something that you learn to add in when you mature as a player and it applies to so many other aspects of life, including writing – what you don’t play or write is just as important as what you do play or write. Sometimes what you leave out is more important.

I am of course talking about the space in between the notes. Where the gold is.

Similarly, I left no room for magic in my stories. Too many words. Trying to cram too much in there and that meant I left no room for the reader’s imagination to fill in the gaps. It was tell, tell, tell. Busy, busy, busy. It was all about me and not about you. I was that same little show off in the rehearsal room again, doing it all wrong and thinking that it was great.

Sometimes it sucks to get old.

Not all the time though. A mature author and a mature musician (mature, not old!) learn to go beyond the superficial, eye-catching stuff as they progress in their chosen art. They realise with some certainty that the old saying ‘less is more’ is more than just a good line.

It’s the truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So how does this translate to writing?

Black Storm (Chapter 1 – With Author Notes)

 

 

BLACK STORM

Chapter 1

(With Author Notes)

 

“We gotta run okay? We need to get out of here.”

(Yikes! This is me trying to go for a killer first line. They always say that – write a KILLER first line. So important, so they say! Personally I think the first ten pages are a lot more important than a single line, even if it is the first one. Who gives up on a book after one sentence? This one’s not bad, I don’t know if it’s KILLER though. At the very least, I want to make the reader curious or unsettled enough to read on.) 

Cody MacLeod kneeled in front of his daughter and squeezed her gently on the upper arms. She felt fragile, like a china doll. “Whatever happens, we can’t let the bad woman catch up with us,” he said. “She makes people do bad things. You know that don’t you?”

Silence.

“Do you understand Rachel?” Cody said.

Rachel nodded her head.

“We’ve got to stay one step ahead of her,” Cody said, pushing a few loose strands of blonde hair off Rachel’s face. “Two steps, three steps.” His voice was shaking and he took a deep breath before saying anything else. This wasn’t a good time to lose it and even if he was on the brink, he couldn’t let Rachel see.

(Bad woman. Her. No names given. Who is Cody talking about? This is me trying to be all mysterious and not give too much away. What do they call it – intrigue? Something like that? I’m still trying to reel you in. Thing is, if you’d read the blurb (and most readers would have before buying) you’ll know who/what is being referred to here but if not, great. I’m writing to you people!)

They were in the hallway of their house in Spring Branch, Texas. Cody turned towards the front door where two bulging backpacks were sitting. One of them was plain black and the other featured a rainbow colored sky with two silver ponies grazing in a field of green grass.

(Why Texas? Ehh, why not? It went like this – I had an idea about a burned out actor living a reclusive life far from the mad temptation of Hollywood/Celebrityville. I wanted somewhere that it would be easy to disappear. Texas is big and there’s a lot of room there. It could’ve been Alaska too – that would’ve been cool. Shit, it might have been better. Anyway, I googled for ages before I landed on Spring Branch. It felt right and yet not too far from San Antonio, which I also felt drawn to. Might have been the Alamo thing. By the way, Google Maps is incredible. A writer’s dream.)

“All we gotta do is walk out the door,” Cody said.

“Are we leaving for good?” Rachel said. Cody saw the confusion in his daughter’s indigo blue eyes – the same indigo blue eyes that he’d possessed as a child before the years had dulled them.

He nodded. “Yeah I think so.”

Cody heard the Black Storm blowing outside. The wind was howling and moaning – a crude B-movie sound effect that had escaped from the big screen into the real world. Still it was relatively calm, at least compared to the gale force winds that had been blowing the night before when Cody had made the decision to leave home. It was a decision that would either save their lives or seal their fate.

There was doubt in the little girl’s eyes. Cody could tell that she wasn’t sure he was making the right call and Jesus, who could blame her? He wasn’t sure about it either.

“Geez kid,” Cody said. “Don’t look at me like that. You’re looking at me the way other people used to look at me back in the eighties and nineties. That’s Grandma’s eyes I see in you right now. You don’t trust me? You don’t think we should go?”

Rachel managed a lazy shrug of the shoulders.

“I’m not on drugs honey,” Cody said. “I swear on your Mom’s soul.”

(A note on former child megastars. I chose the name Cody because it’s close to Corey. The character of Cody was conceived as a cross between Corey Haim, River Phoenix and Robert Downey Jnr. Troubled former child/teen stars, all of them. If Black Storm the movie ever gets made you’re up Downey Jnr. The role of Cody is all yours. Unfortunately the other two aren’t around to contest that anymore RIP Corey and River.) 

“I know Dad,” she said. I’m just scared.”

He pulled her closer. She was so beautiful and innocent – the only perfect thing in his life. And she’d remained perfect – thank God for that. Had Cody stayed in Hollywood to try and claw back his career, the industry would have noticed her. It would have sunk its teeth into Rachel and ruined her like it did for her mother, Kate. No chance – that was one of several reasons that Cody and Kate moved to Texas ten years ago. Cody would die before he gave those bigwig assholes in LA the chance to get their hands on his daughter.

He smiled at Rachel.

“I’m scared too,” Cody said. “But we have to go. You’ve watched the reports on TV. You’ve heard it on the radio. You know what people are doing to themselves, to each other out there. You know how dangerous it is and you know how dangerous she is.”

(Still haven’t said who she is…tension and all that. This chapter probably reads better if you haven’t read the blurb. It’s like going into a cinema and knowing nothing about the film you’re about to see.)

Rachel didn’t blink. Despite her saying she was scared, she looked calm –older than her ten years. Sometimes Cody thought, kids did adulthood better than most adults.

“Is it the woman in the long black dress?” she said.

“Yes honey. It’s the woman in the long black dress.”

Rachel nodded.

“I saw her in my room last night,” she said.

Cody’s hands fell off his daughter’s arms. His mouth hung open and the cold air that haunted the MacLeod residence slid down the back of his throat. He looked at Rachel, his eyes racing over her blue denim dungarees and the white long sleeved t-shirt that she was wearing underneath. He ran a finger down her blue and white basketball shoes, not sure what he was looking for. Damage – but what sort of damage?

With cupped hands, he touched her face.

“She was in your room?” Cody said. “Last night? Did she say anything? I mean, did she try and talk to you – to make you do anything? Did she tell you to hurt yourself?”

Rachel shook her head.

“She was just standing at the edge of the bed looking at me,” she said. “Her face is like a mannequin. That’s what they said on TV. She looks like a giant doll with silver lights instead of eyes.”

(Dolls scare the hell out of me. If ever you want to give me the creeps, just show me pictures of dolls. Please don’t ever bring one to my house though. Dolls are my evil clowns…)

“Weren’t you scared?” Cody said. His heart was pounding.

“No,” Rachel said. “Well, not really.”

Cody buried his face in the palm of his hand.

“Jesus Christ,” he said, almost losing his balance and toppling over onto the hardwood floor. “Tell me something kid,” he said. “This is really important. Is that the first time you’ve seen her?”

“Yes.”

“Well then it’s definitely time to go,” Cody said. “She’s starting to pay too much attention to this family for my liking.”

Rachel’s eyes were wide open. “You’ve seen her too?”

Cody nodded. “Yeah.” Several times.

“They’ve been talking about her on the radio Dad,” Rachel said. “People are seeing her everywhere. China, Europe, Australia, Brazil and lots of other places that I’ve never heard of.”

“Yeah I know,” Cody said. He was itching to leave. He wanted to grab Rachel and get her out of the house immediately.

“All the people who see her end up dead,” Rachel said. “That’s what they say, isn’t it?”

(Where did the Black Widow come from? It’s a vague memory to be honest. I read an article online somewhere about a woman in America who’d been spotted walking the streets dressed in old-fashioned mourning clothes. I can’t quite remember the context but the article made it sound like she was almost ghostly – or perhaps that was just my interpretation. It was weird and that’s why sometimes I think it was a dream. I can’t find anything about it on Google and yet it struck me as noteworthy. I can’t remember, honest! Whatever it was, it gave me the idea of this phantom woman walking not just across America, but across the world, dressed in black, punishing us for our wrongdoings. The Black Widow. It developed from there but that’s where this entire trilogy started – with an article that might not have even existed.)

Cody squeezed tight on her hand.

“Not everyone,” he said. “Like I said, I’ve seen her too.”

“In the house?”

“Yeah, in the house. That’s why we need to go.”

Rachel looked thoughtful. Her eyes darted around the living room before returning to him.

“Is she chasing the world? The whole world?”

Cody straightened the collar of his black cotton shirt.

“Yeah honey,” he said. “I think she’s chasing the world. And that includes us – you and me. We’ve got to get away from this house because I’m not going to let anything happen to you. Okay?”

Cody was glad to see that Rachel could still smile.

“Okay,” she said.

Outside the Black Storm grumbled. It sounded like it was an angry giant sitting on the roof of their house, waiting impatiently for them to come out.

Cody tugged gently on Rachel’s arms. She didn’t move.

“Where are we going?” she said.

It was a good question.

Cody nodded. “You remember my friend?” he said. “A big guy called Nick Norton?”

Rachel shook her head.

“Sure you do,” Cody said. “You met him once. He works on Alaska Airlines, flies out of San Antonio all the time. He’s an old school buddy of mine from LA. He was in the movies too when he was a kid, just like your old man.”

(I might have chosen Texas but I managed to get Alaska in there somewhere. On a side note, if I ever lived in America, I’d choose Alaska. Yes it’s cold but it’s so beautiful.)

“I don’t know,” Rachel said.

“Big black guy, all mouth and muscle. He was over here about four years ago. You must remember – it’s not like we have a ton of guests or anything like that.”

“What about him?”

Cody leaned in closer. He felt the need to whisper.

“He’s got a plane,” he said. “It’s a big plane – Boeing 737-800, fully fuelled and ready to go. He’s invited us along – some of the other pilots and their friends and family will be there too. I got a text from Nick about fifteen hours ago – the plane is at the airport right now, waiting for everyone to arrive. You understand? We’re going to drive down to the airport and get on Nick’s plane.”

(Airplane stuff! Having flashbacks to some seriously boring moments looking up info about Boeing 737-800 planes. Capacity, that kind of thing. Some research is fun. This wasn’t. Zzzzz…)

Cody’s face darkened.

“Only problem is I can’t get in touch with Nick anymore,” he said. “My phone keeps jamming up.”

Rachel’s eyes lit up – a mixture of fear and curiosity.

“Because of the Black Storm?”

“Maybe,” Cody said. “But it doesn’t matter, not as long as we get to the airport in good time. He’ll wait for us, I know he will.”

Rachel’s expression was grim.

“We’re going up into the black sky?” she said, pointing to the ceiling. “What’s up there?”

Cody followed her finger towards the ceiling. Kids and their questions, damn it. Who knew what was up there in that black shroud that had wrapped itself over the Earth? Something, maybe nothing. Everything was black these days – even the inside of the MacLeod residence. The curtains were pulled over all the windows, shielding them from the sight of the Black Storm, the mysterious force that had come out of nowhere and robbed the world of sunlight.

(Going back to names for a second, I chose MacLeod as the family surname because…wait for it…I watched Highlander for about the fortieth time just after starting the book. The characters even talk about the film at one point so I was definitely on a Highlander buzz.  What a film. That soundtrack! I miss the 80s so much.)

“It can’t all be bad up there,” Cody said. “We gotta try. Anything’s better than staying down here on the ground while people go mad and do bad things. I’ll bet you it’s safer up there. Yeah?”

Rachel looked down the hall towards her bedroom.

“I want to take Bootsy with me,” she said. “If we’re not coming back.”

(Sticking with names – Bootsy the bear was named after Bootsy Collins, the great funk and soul bass player who worked with James Brown and Parliament. Didn’t that teddy bear just get a little bit cooler?)

Cody sighed. He couldn’t hide his growing frustration any longer. They should have been gone already. He didn’t want to hang around the house one second longer than he had to. He tugged gently on her arm, with more urgency this time.

“You’re too big for that teddy bear,” he said. “You’re ten.”

The look on her face stopped him dead.

“Mom gave him to me,” she said. “Remember?”

Of course he did.

“I’ve packed a ton of photos of Mom in the bag,” he said. “Lots of photos. We’re not going to forget her.”

“I want Bootsy,” Rachel said. Cody almost smiled – it was like Kate all over again. If she wanted something, she was going to have it.

“Alright kid,” he said, letting go of her arm. “Get Bootsy but don’t stay in that bedroom one second longer than you have to. I’ll grab the bags.”

Cody watched her run down the hallway. He felt uneasy watching her go through the bedroom door knowing that the Black Widow had been in there last night. Cody had already seen the ghostly figure several times in the house but there had been no words spoken. That was something to be grateful for at least. And now the Black Widow was coming after Rachel? Any doubts Cody might have been having about leaving had shattered with that revelation.

A few seconds later, Rachel came running back down the hallway with the beat-up teddy bear swinging at her side. She looked content.

“All set?” Cody asked. “Can we go now?” He picked up the two backpacks and flung one over each shoulder.

She nodded. “Just one thing?”

“Oh c’mon Rachel. Let’s get out of here.”

“Who is she Dad?”

The two backpacks slid down Cody’s arm in slow motion. He squatted so that he was almost eye level with Rachel.

“She came out of the Black Storm,” he said. “At least that’s what people say but we don’t know for sure. Everything – the black sky, black rain and the Black Widow – they’re all connected. All these things are part of the Black Storm.”

“And it makes people do bad things?” Rachel said.

Cody nodded. “Very bad things.”

Rachel smiled. It was a great smile – sudden and unexpected.

“We’d better go,” she said.

“Right honey,” Cody said. “Now you’re talking.”

He opened the front door and they stepped outside.

It was dark. A permanent state of dusk hung over the world – a rotten, simmering blackness and it was everywhere. It was unending too. Blue skies and sunlight were a distant memory. The air was thick and muggy and scentless. A stiff wind was blowing and the trees that surrounded the remote two-storey house were swaying.

They walked towards the car in the driveway. Cody’s white 1970 Dodge Challenger was one of only a few references left to his Hollywood past. He was probably the only part-time freelance writer in the world who owned such a vintage car. It was a little much but Cody loved the Challenger with all his heart. It was a perfect replica of the car used in Vanishing Point, one of his top five all time movies. It wasn’t just an ornament either – he kept the Dodge in outstanding driving condition and a good thing too – he was going to need it firing on all cylinders if it was going to get them to the airport.

(I was so happy to finally have found an excuse to put a white 1970 Dodge Challenger in one of my books. It just felt right this time. Have you seen the original Vanishing Point? If I say Kowalski and Super Soul do you know what I’m talking about?)

The surface of the car was covered in a thin layer of dirt. Cody didn’t have time to worry about it – he opened up the trunk and threw the bags in, pushing them all the way to the back. As he did so, Rachel jumped into the back seat taking Bootsy with her.

“Take me somewhere nice!” she called out. She always said the same thing when she got in the car.

“Sure thing Miss Daisy,” he said.

(Hands up if you didn’t get this reference? I’m sorry for you.)

Cody opened up the driver’s door. Before he sat down, he reached a hand underneath the seat, checking that the Glock 19 he’d stashed earlier was still there.

It was. He gave the pistol a quick pat and hoped that he wouldn’t need it.

Cody climbed into the Dodge and turned the key in the ignition. He heard the 426 Hemi engine growling and hell yes it was a satisfying sound, even under the most trying of circumstances. Taking a deep breath, he gripped the wood grain steering wheel and allowed himself one last look at the house where his wife had died, knowing that he’d never see it again.

Move it mister. That’s what Kate would have said.

Cody backed the car down the driveway and onto Rittiman Road. It was a quiet area with houses spaced far apart, but it had never been so desolate as it was now. Was there anyone left around here?

Rachel was quiet in the back – perhaps thinking about her Mom, a woman that she’d barely known and yet someone who had cast a long shadow over her young life. Or maybe Rachel was thinking about the house – it was the only home she’d ever known after all. She was leaving her friends and school behind – but none of those things mattered now. Keeping her alive, that’s what mattered.

The Dodge set off, picking up speed.

Cody looked back at the house in the rear-view mirror. One last look.

That’s when he saw her.

The Black Widow was standing on the narrow road that stretched north behind them. Her porcelain doll-like skin glowed against the surrounding darkness; it was a nightmarish beacon that offered anything but hope to those who had the misfortune to see it. She was tall – at least seven feet and rake thin like a skeleton with a thin layer of flesh wrapped around her bones. Her bright red hair was styled in an old-fashioned Edwardian coiffure. It was a look that went well with the long black Victorian-style mourning dress that trailed behind her.

The Black Widow’s eyes – dazzling silver orbs, devoid of pupils watched them go. She didn’t try to stop them but Cody felt little in the way of relief, even as the phantom faded into the distance behind them.

She was letting them go. At least for now.

(Okay then. I think the first chapter does a decent job of setting up the rest of the story. It’s a race against time. We’ve met the two main characters, we have an idea that something terrible is happening in the world, and that this something terrible has set its sights on our main characters. It’s clear what it is though – it’s a chase thing. Most of all, it’s a post-apocalyptic family story. Father and daughter against the end of the world.)

 

Black Storm (Book 1) and Black Fever (Book 2) are now available to buy on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

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