Avian by Emma Pullar – Review.

The Blurb:

CENTRAL IS LOSING ITS GRIP ON THE CITIZENS OF GALE CITY.

Megan Skyla, who refused to play by Central’s rules and become a surrogate for her masters, has thrown the city into chaos. Corrupting those around her, she and her friends are forced into hiding – hunted by Central, the evil rulers of Gale City. Skyla’s desperate attempts to keep everyone alive ends when they’re kidnapped by feuding gangs.

Skyla cuts a deal and then betrays both gangs. Now there is nowhere left to run. It’s the desert or die. Her best friend, Crow, thinks she still wants to find a way to cure the Morbian masters of their obesity and finish what she started.

But Skyla has other plans. She’s sure there are settlements in the desert, there must be something out there … and there is. Something terrible.

Skyla is about to find out there’s more than one way to bring about change but one truth remains … Central must be destroyed in order to ensure her survival. There is no other way.

My review:

First off, I have to say, the covers in this series are truly gorgeous.

Avian is a worthy follow-up to Skeletal.

Pullar continues to impress with her creativity and her skill in subverting any expectations her readers may have.

Good character development and solid plotting, shoves the characters through Pullar’s darkly-invigorating world.

Pullar’s writing has progressed from book one, leaving behind the little foibles and bad habits of the debut writer, a visibly more confident author can be seen stretching her skills with this latest entry.

Great stuff.

Available is available now from Bloodhound Books and from Amazon.

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The Road by Cormac McCarthy– Review

Depression Trigger warning:

This is my first Cormac McCarthy novel and in all honesty it’ll probably be my last. At present I have no desire or intention of ever reading McCarthy’s work again. This isn’t a reflection of the quality of his writing, which is in fact, wonderfully creative. Staggeringly so.

McCarthy employs a very simple, but wholly immersive narrative style in this book. His characters are nameless. Cormac gives them a gender and a rough age, but that’s about it. His sentence structure is stripped down to the bare bones, in that he discards conventional use of punctuation and grammar, in favour of a flowing, short structure, cut with the occasional longer, more poetic monologue from the narrator’s point of view.

This approach is hugely effective. The short, sparse structure reflects and amplifies the bleakness of the world he has placed his poor characters into. The longer monologues are beautiful, insightful and heart-breaking at times; these moments shine a bright light onto the broken structure between, making the shadows they cast and struggles described in them all the more dark…. inescapable.

Aside from the skill in the rudimentary narrative and prose, Cormac employs some of the most immersive, descriptive settings and conveyance of the complexities of emotions his characters suffer through I’ve ever experienced.

This book is so wonderfully written, it is simply beautiful, the use of language to convey such hardship, such stark, stripped back humanity and beauty, but by God, it is bleak as fuck, and the most emotionally-draining piece of literature I’ve encountered.

The world of The Road is so very bleak, so lacking in joy or comfort or hope. Reading this book was a trial for me, I didn’t want to continue, but its beauty and humanity and raw splendour dragged me along despite myself.

If you are in any way prone to depression or periods of low moods, I would recommend avoiding this book, at least until happier times. It is a marvel, it is simply one of the most staggeringly gorgeous and horrifically desperate pieces of fiction I’ve read. I’ll never read this book again, but the gap it let in me will remain forever.

Bracha’s Origin – dEaDINBURGH: Origins Excerpt

Taking my favourite, heroic ginger Royal and twisting him into a psychotic, sadistic survivalist was (to date) the most fun I’ve had writing a novel. Please enjoy.

Mark

The following excerpt is from dEaDINBURGH: Origins and is copyright of Mark Wilson and Paddy’s Daddy Publishing:

dEaDINBURGH: Origins is currently on FREE promo at Amazon (until April 25th, 2015).

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10911321_778914578810234_2455500034362150194_o

Chapter 1

 Edinburgh

Hogmanay

2014

11:50 pm

 “I’m not interested, Jimmy. You fire in.”

He throws me a smile that’s not really a smile at all. It’s laced with sarcasm and judgement. Letting his raised eyebrows mock me for a few seconds, he finally turns his attention to the young lass.

“I will,” he says, leering at her legs.

Leaving our booth, Lieutenant James Kelly staggers on strong but wobbly legs across the carpet to unload his spiel on the unsuspecting girl in the red dress, completely oblivious to the wedding ring on her finger or the husband in the toilets. Jim’s had a few drinks, but he’s entitled. Besides, I’m designated babysitter tonight, subsequently limited to two drinks.

Harry, who’s in better shape but approaching tipsy, reaches across the table and drops a note.

“Fifty quid he earns himself a generous kick in the testicles.”

“Fuck off, Spike,” I tell him. He snatches the strangely-coloured note back.

“Right. For fuck sake.”

Despite myself I laugh. I always do. It’s his voice. It always makes me laugh when he swears using that clipped, so very proper accent of his. So at odds with who and what he actually is.

I throw a twenty of my own on top of his purple twenty, both bearing his grandmother’s likeness, and give him my thickest Lanarkshire accent.

“Right then, fanny-baws. Twenty sheets it is.”

He laughs loudly at me.

“Nice,” he says. “Don’t often let the…” He pauses for a few seconds, searching for the phrase. “Schemey. You don’t often let your schemey origins show, Cameron.” He laughs at his own use of the colloquialism.

“Aye, well. You’re being an especially excellent example of your kith and kin tonight, Harry,” I tell him. I hardly ever call him by name. All the lads call him Spike. Always have.

The ever-so-posh demeanour and bumbling, upper-class moron act he uses, which we call his Bruce Wayne persona, couldn’t be further from the man I’ve known for a third of my life. The soldier, the professional killer, the assassin who sits opposite me is not the man his public buys into. The jovial, ruddy-faced, red-haired buffoon he plays for the public and the media. Captain Wales, Apache-pilot. An officer and the poshest of gentlemen. This image carefully crafted and maintained by the ministry, so often useful as a mask and diversion, betrays not a sliver of who Spike really is.

Jim Kelly and I have been his shadows since Sandhurst. Employed to protect a killing machine. The thought is laughably ironic, as though Spike had ever feared anything or anyone. We trained and bled and laughed and drank and killed alongside him during his rigorous training in the Army Air Corps and then Special Division and on every Black-Ops mission since.

Captain Wales, according to official records, completed two heroic tours in Afghanistan based at Camp Bastion, Helmand province. His presence there was kept secret for the months of his tour, to both protect the men serving beside him and allow the young soldier the privacy to perform his duty. To be one of the troops.

Of course, cameras followed from a distance, filming him. Showing him mucking in like any other man of his rank and duty. A promise from the media, a gentlemen’s agreement, to not break the story until his unit were safely home was respected. A year later an admiring public watched with admiration as the news crews showed footage of the young captain doing his duty.

A substantial morale boost to the troops, his presence lingered for months following his departure, motivating the men who remained or replaced.

Ask any of the soldiers stationed there during that time, and they’ll tell you, “Great patriot. One of the lads. True professional.”

And they wouldn’t be lying: the man they served with was all of those things. He just wasn’t actually Captain Wales.

The genuine article, Spike we call him, long story, was in Syria, doing his real job.

I cut him a look, marvelling as I always do at how effectively this man masks who he really is beneath a veneer of joviality and haphazard clumsiness.

“I might be a schemey,” I smile at him, “but that lassie over there is all class. He’s getting sent packing.”

I jab a thumb at Jimmy who, one hand on her knee the other trying to get the attention of the barman, is laying it on thick for the lady in red.

“Watch this,” I say.

Harry flashes his best smile, the one we call his camera smile. All perfect teeth and carefree attitude, a mask for the iron-veined soldier underneath. The Batman persona.

“Yes, all right then, Cameron. Let’s see, shall we?”

His confidence, borne of generations of status, wealth and breeding, but also from hundreds of hours of Black-Op missions and killing, oozes from every pore.

We watch as the girl accepts the drink – a single-malt, no ice – and gently removes James’ hand from her thigh where it’s crept. She talks politely for a few short minutes then firmly ushers him back to our table. He walks slowly back to us, arms spread like Jesus, all attrition and mock repentance.

“She’s gay,” he tells us, sheepishly, despite his demeanour.

Spike’s laugh fills the booth.

“Of course she is, my boy. What rotten luck.” His affection is genuine.

I pick up my winnings from the table as Jim plonks himself back into the comfortable leather bench of the booth.

Spike juts his chin towards the bar.

“My round, I believe, chaps. Same again?”

Jim burps loudly, exaggerating the noise. “I’ll have a pint this time, Spike,” he says, Edinburgh accent thickening as his sobriety thins.

I take the fifty from Spike’s hand. “I’ll go,” I say.

His lips thin but he doesn’t argue with me. He knows we could do with some peace and quiet. It’s almost midnight and people are busy getting excited about seeing another year end and one begin, but as soon as he leaves the relative privacy of the booth, cap pulled down over his eyes and bushy red hair or not, someone will clock that famous face of his and our night will be over.

The lady in red catches my eye as I approach the bar and waves me over.

“Your pal. He all right?” Her husband’s back at her side and giving us a puzzled look.

“Aye,” I say, “he’ll cope.” I smile at them both. He looks relaxed, but you never know with some blokes, especially on the drink.

“Another admirer, eh?” he smiles at his wife and then throws a big genuine grin at me. “Poor wee bastard.” He laughs, sharing a private joke with his wife.

I acknowledge his joke with a nod, “Have a good night, folks. Happy New Year when it comes.”

The couple return their best wishes and I turn back to the bar to shout the barman over.

Whilst he’s away pouring the drinks, I scan around the pub. It’s packed, so we did well to get the booth during Hogmanay in Edinburgh. It’s a minor miracle we got a seat at all, but we have been in here for most of the afternoon and evening, leaving the table only to relieve our bladders. Hell, we’ve earned some downtime: it’s been a bad year.

There’s a band setting up through in the stage area. All low cavernous ceilings, reminiscent of the Edinburgh vaults, the venue slash pub holds a great little crowd and an atmosphere that belies its size. Down on the Cowgate, Bannerman’s has long been a favourite of ours. Whenever we are in town, which is often, this is our second home. After Holyrood Palace, of course.

The bar owner has known us for years and is one of that rare type who couldn’t care less who a person is, so long as they behave themselves and send their wages over his counter-top. Travelling and working alongside Spike, you tend to put people into types based on their reaction to His Royal Majesty: gawpers, agitators, creeps and indifferent. Jackie was the last of these. The working classes, more in common with the toffs than either group realise, tend to be relaxed around Spike.

An hour later and the bells have come and gone. A slow trickle of drunk and happy people begin to spill out onto the Cowgate. Parents who’ve managed to get babysitters begin to remember that early start the next day and grimace at the thought of their little ones bounding cheerfully into their rooms at first light. Young kids couldn’t care less about hangovers or days off.

Twenty-somethings – the three of us have recently left that particular club-dance – are out looking for their next party or nightclub. Tourists, singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and staggering on the cobbles, trying to remember which direction their hotel was in.

The barman, Jackie Naismith, gives the regulars a nod and yells, “Time, please.

We stay put. Jackie’s a good bloke, he’ll see us right. I watch the big barman slide the upper and lower bolts into place on the heavy doors and light a cigarette. Lock-ins, the sanctuary of the blessed man. Late night drinking behind closed doors at the invitation of the landlord. And you don’t have to step outside into the shredding Edinburgh wind when you want a fag.

Jackie slams a few heavy, old-fashioned ashtrays onto the bar followed by a bottle of Glenmorangie Pride 1978 Spike gave him as a thank-you gift three years ago. Jackie places the thirty-four-year aged single-malt gently onto the counter, yanks at the cork and takes a deep nose-full of the escaping vapours. He pours four singles and replaces the cork, returning the bottle to its locked case behind the bar.

“Here ye go, Cammy,” he says, pushing three tumblers towards me. “Don’t drink it too fast. That deserves to be enjoyed.” He glares at me but the malice he directs towards me is meant affectionately.

“Thanks, Jack.”

He gives me a quick nod then focuses his attention on the shot of whiskey he’s waited all year to enjoy.

As I gather our drinks a wee guy I don’t know nods at me as I walk past. I laugh as I hear him get told to “Get tae fuck, Johnny,” by Jackie.

Never interrupt a man with a rare whiskey in his hand.

Spike notices me coming with the drinks. A silent exchange passes between us confirming Jackie’s generosity with his prized whiskey. Spike takes his glass from me and strolls over to the bar for a chat with Jackie. Flopping into the leather booth, I cut a look at James who’s sprawled over the beer-soaked table, face resting on an arm.

I don’t try too hard to wake him and carefully I make my whiskey a double.

“Thanks, Jim. That’s good of ye,” I tell the back of his head. He grunts something unintelligible.

Sipping at the whiskey I let the off-amber fire soak in my mouth, under my tongue and slosh to the roof of my mouth for a bit, enjoying the intensity of the burn which continues along my gullet and into my stomach after I swallow. Feeling the warmth spread, seemingly to my bones, I close my eyes and enjoy the sensation. The noise of a siren nearby threatens to break the moment, but I find my whiskey-Zen again and submerge myself in the sensations.

I feel a buzz that has nothing to do with the evening, the company or the whiskey and snap my eyes open, searching for Spike. His eyes are already on me, alerted by his own device. Even James is up from his seat looking significantly more alert. A decade of training takes control of us.

Jim secures the doors and windows, Harry takes his cap off and shows our fellow drinkers his face. He uses their shock at seeing his familiar coupon to usher the remaining revellers, along with Jackie, to the rear of the pub, smiling genially and muttering apologies as he shepherds the mostly drunk crowd.

I’m on weapons detail. On sober duty, I’m the only one who’s supposed to be carrying a firearm. I pull my Sig Sauer P230 from the horizontal holster at the base of my spine. Performing an automatic check, I ready the sidearm and check with the lads.

Spike has three knives, his favoured weapons, of various size and type on his person. I know this without asking, but he also pulls out a handgun I didn’t know he had, another Sig P230. That’s fourteen rounds between us.

James, a little slower thanks to the alcohol but mostly alert, pulls out a P226 with fifteen rounds. Neither of them should be carrying. We share a sardonic smile as we assess each other from across the room.

Several other sirens have joined the first I heard in the ten seconds since our personal comm-devices issued the level 1 alert and I can hear sounds of a crowd gathering on the Cowgate. I sweep my eyes around the room one more time and pull my phone from my back pocket. As I move my thumb to speed dial our control centre, it buzzes in my hand. I answer in less than a second and bark my clearance code into the receiver.

“Confirmed,” a woman’s voice says, “please hold for Lt Colonel Melville.”

The line clicks and the calm voice of our CO speaks.

“Situation report please, Captain Shephard.”

“Unit is in lockdown in a level 2 secure building. No immediate threat present. High defensive capability.”

“Affirmative. Hold.”

I listen as Melville leans away from the phone, someone whispering updates in his ear. Spike and James, both calmly standing their zones and smoothing things out with the other occupants of the pub, look to me with questioning eyes.

I break eye contact as Melville coughs and returns to the phone.

“We’re at full-alert, Captain. Escort Captain Wales to…” Another pause for updates. “Escort the captain to Beta Location. Acknowledge.”

“Acknowledged, sir. Timescale?”

Melville, a man with a stoic reputation, unimpressed by pomp or status, sounds genuinely ruffled.

“Immediately, Captain. Expect resistance.”

In Edinburgh?

A trickle of cold sweat tracks its way down my butt crack as the significance hits me.

“Sir. Civilian or military?”

He answers and I wish I hadn’t asked.

“Anyone who gets in your way, Captain. Direct route, no detours. No other directives.”

Melville clicks off, leaving my next words stillborn in my mouth. Despite the insistence on urgency, I take a second to compose myself. From outside a choir of sirens races past up on South Bridge. The crash of twisted metal vibrates down to the Cowgate and rattles the windows. Something explodes, the pub’s frosted windows light up as a fireball warms the night sky. People outside, minutes ago laughing and dancing, are now screaming loudly. Jim and Spike both look to me once again.

“Direct evac,” I tell them. “No distractions. Level one.”

Spike waves me off and returns to calming the punters in the bar.

“Spike, I’ll force you if I have to.”

He raises an eyebrow in amusement. We both know that if he chooses to assert himself, I’ll come off worst. We also both know that he’ll have to hurt me badly to deter me. Neither of us wishes this.

“Not until these people are safe,” he says, pulling at a cellar door behind the bar.

The last level one alert issued to our team was when the plane hit floors 93-99 of the World Trade Centre’s north tower. We were in London at the time and had Spike to his safe location in under five minutes.

None of us know exactly what’s going on outside in the gothic city, but the status of the command leaves us in little doubt that something dreadful is happening to the city. Invading army, bombing, nuclear aggression, bioweapons? We can’t know. We have our orders. Go directly to Beta Location, secure Harry. Do not pass go, do not collect a hundred pounds. Do not stop to help anyone, only engage enemies if progress is barred.

I grind my teeth and crack the pub door a fraction, trying to gain some insight as Spike and James usher the pub’s occupants down into the cellar. Jackie descends the stairs last, face stern.

Spike gives them assurances that they’ll be safe in their hiding place and that he’ll make sure that someone comes for them quickly. Jackie reappears and offers a beefy hand which Spike encloses in two of his.

“I promise, Jack. Now go.”

The big bartender gives him a firm nod and disappears down into the cool cellar with his customers.

Spike wastes another twenty seconds closing the cellar door and shifting a rug over the top of it for camouflage.

James has drained two cups of coffee. He’s alert now, but walking a fine line between sobriety and the shrill over-sensitivity to stimuli that a good dose of black caffeine brings.

Peering through the door I watch people run past Bannerman’s all headed away from The Royal Mile, towards The Grassmarket. Bad news for us; our evacuation route takes us along Niddry Street, straight up onto The Royal Mile and along to Holryrood House where an underground bunker and/or chopper awaits.

I close the door softly and double-check my sidearm.

“You guys ready or do you have something else to take care of?”

Neither answers. Instead they flank me, weapons ready, and we crash through the doors into a nightmare.

 Chapter 2

Cammy threw the double doors open and they spilled out into the street. It was one of those moments, the ones you never saw coming but which changed everything you thought was certain about your world. The sequences and events a team prepared for hundreds of times in training and executed dozens of times – if you were lucky, and you were good – in the field.

Secure, recon, eliminate threats, progress.

They’d done this together so many times they had lost count. Each of them knew his respective role. The big men, so well-coordinated it looked like a lover’s dance, began to move in synchronised perfection.

James had shaken off the last effects of the evening’s alcohol. A glucose tablet and two cups of strong black coffee in under a minute had brought his senses screaming back online. All he had left to fight was the encroaching shrillness of his hyper-alert state – and whatever was happening in the city. Despite the pressure, James felt calm, in control. His training and hard-earned experience taking over, he was a virtual passenger. His best friends by his side meant that he feared nothing. Business as usual, no matter how odd the location.

Through the door, three men, back to back, pirouetted and scanned each section of their zones twice. Smooth, certain, decisive.

That was normally how it went, at any rate. Cutting a look past Harry’s left shoulder, James’ eyes widened as they watched a young man in denims and a Nirvana T-shirt run directly towards them. He couldn’t have been more than twenty-one, just a kid but crazed and covered in blood and gore and sprinting at them, lips peeled back from blooded teeth, naked fury burning in his eyes. No, not fury… hunger.

James moved his weapon up smoothly and issued the kid a warning.

“Halt.”

The kid kept coming. Snarling, he leaped over a shredded body and raised his hands as claws.

James did not hesitate and fired three rounds centre mass into the kid’s heart.

Whipping around he repeated the process, killing four more feral-looking people. The world transformed into a fury of teeth and blood and crazed eyes and death. His team had taken down around a dozen assailants but had expended almost all of their ammo.

“What the fuck has got into these people?” James asked.

“Doesn’t matter,” Cameron replied roughly. “Let’s move.”

James and Cameron flanked Harry who covered their rear as his two guards progressed up the hill towards The Royal Mile. After ten steps Harry swore loudly in that refined voice.

“What in the name of holy fuck?”

James and Cammy swung around, facing the direction they’d come from.

Every one of the people they had dispatched was somehow back up on their feet. Some looked dazed, others fixed on the three friends instantly. All had congealed jelly-like blood clotted where arterial spray should have been pumping out onto the pavement. They bared their teeth once again and ran at the team.

Harry raised his gun first and put a single round into the head of the nearest man, a policeman in torn, bloody uniform sporting two bullet holes delivered to his heart by Cameron moments before. The policeman collapsed like a marionette with its strings severed and didn’t rise a second time.

“Headshots,” Spike said, firing his last two rounds into the heads of a tourist with a rucksack on her back and an elderly lady who was running at him with the speed of an athlete. Both face-planted the cobbles, skidding to a stop a few feet from the group.

Cammy turned uphill once more and brought down two new arrivals who’d been drawn down from The Royal Mile by the gunfire. All three men took advantage of a ten-second break in the onslaught to check their firearms, confirming what they already knew. Three rounds left: two for James and one for Cameron. Spike holstered his empty sidearm and drew two of his blades, big Rambo-esque knives with one sleek edge and a ragged one. One of them sported his house emblem, while the other, a gift from his grandfather, bore his name.

The three men exchanged glances and sprinted the length of Niddry Street, dodging fallen people and shouldering further assailants from their path. Spilling out onto The Royal Mile they cut a quick look uphill and gasped.

The famous thoroughfare’s width and length was filled to overflowing with people. Some crawled over cobbles and over each other, some ran… and all were screaming. Some of those screams were gargled, the thick blood torn loose blocking the path of their dying wails. Some were screams of fledgling hunger from the throats of new-born creatures already deep in the throes of an eternally-agonising appetite for flesh.

Blood flowed in thick, fast rivulets between the cobbles towards the men. The soldiers noted immediately that a close, further along The Mile, was the likely epicentre of whatever the hell was happening. Cameron discharged the last of his ammo into the head of a heavily-built man in a kilt, slipped his knife from concealment and rammed it through the temple of another lunatic trying to force the big officer to the bloody cobbles beneath.

James pulled at Harry’s sleeve to cajole him along in the opposite direction. His friend stiffened, resisting, and pulled his arm free. James watched as the man he was sworn to protect plunged the knife in his right hand through the top of a female tour-guide’s skull. Releasing the big knife, leaving it in her head, he continued his move by fluidly stepping on the back of a dead tourist and launching himself into a wide-arced leap. Adjusting in mid-air, he changed to a two-handed grip on his remaining blade and brought it down heavily into the base of the neck of a woman who’d made it through Cameron’s defences.

James shouted at both men.

“When you’re all done, can we get fuckin’ moving?”

He nodded down the mile towards High Street. Despite the confusion and the terror and the river of blood and madness flooding their way, the men managed a tight grin.

“Keep your knickers, Jimmy,” said Spike.

All three men continued their sprint, feeling the crowd and the enemy thin out as they crested a little hill before High Street swooped down to Holyrood.

They skidded to a halt just after the cobbles end at the entrance to a former church. Looking around at the people running past, James gasped.

“What the hell is going on here?”

Cameron shook his head and blocked a young man about to clatter into James, sending the man sprawling onto the tarmac. The guy regained his feet instantly and sprinted on without ever looking back.

“They seem like they’re infected, near as I can make out,” Cameron said.

Harry laughed, but there was no humour in it.

“They look sick to you, Cameron?” he asked.

Cameron shrugged and opened his mouth to reply when one of the people who seemed to have gone insane came tearing along the street. The three soldiers watched in horror as the assailant pulled down an elderly woman and ripped at her throat, arms and legs with his teeth.

Clinically, James started counting. He reached thirty when the madman tore himself away from the dead woman and snarled, sending blood and flesh spilling onto the concrete. He… it lashed at another passer-by, a middle-aged man this time, and began tearing at his face.

James continued counting. At fifty seconds, the elderly woman jerked up. Moving smoother and significantly more quickly than she had before the attack, she sprang from the ground and fixed her eyes on them.

All three men watched the transformation take her, burning away the frail pensioner. They stood open-mouthed and inert. A first for the unit.

Cammy was the first to recover, but only by milliseconds. The trio, with a new vigour and previously untapped speed, resumed their run towards Holyrood Palace.

End of Excerpt

dEaDINBURGH: Origins is currently on FREE promo at Amazon (until April 25th, 2015).

UK:
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Jack Thatcher – dEaDINBURGH: Alliances Preview 


The following excerpt comes from dEaDINBURGH: Alliances (Din Eidyn Corpus 2) by Mark Wilson. 

Available now as a paperback and kindle at Amazon UK and US 

Jack

Noticing light breaking through the gap in his curtains, Jack squinted at his Holo-
Screen, blinking the fog from his eyes. Seven a.m.

He’d been playing the dEaDINBURGH: Lair of The Ringed video game since
midnight, when the feed had been cut from the live show. He flicked his finger across
the air in front of him, causing the UKBC screen to pop up. The countdown until the feed
re-connected sat at 00:15. Just fifteen more minutes until they had the show back in full
High-Def Holo-Image. Jack saved his progress and kicked at the desk in front of him,
sending his ergonomic chair scooting backwards through the pile of empty energy drink
cans and takeaway boxes littered across the carpet of his living room.

Scratching at his crotch with his right hand, he lifted his left arm and sniffed at
his arm-pit, screwing his face up at the sourness.
Should have time for a shower if I get a
move on.

Jack stood with a groan in protest at the crack of his knees. It’d been a while since
he’d had quite so long a session on the game. S
cooping a handful of Cheesy-Puffs off the
desk and into his mouth,
he headed to the apartment’s little shower cube.

As he sang from the shower, the dEaDINBURGH theme began blasting from the
surround-sound speakers, eliciting a whoop of delight from him as he barrelled from the
bathroom, not bothering to dry himself, body wobbling back into his still-warm chair.

Leaning forward he made a little gesture to enlarge the screen and scanned the
info-bar along the bottom of the page to catch any updates. There were too many to
read so Jack flicked a finger at the Holo-Screen, bringing up a highlights reel on a smaller
screen within the main one. Whilst the main screen flickered into life, he jerked his eyes
to the highlights feed, gleaning everything he could about what had happened to his
favourite
Survivors during the feed-loss.

Suzy Wheels, Danny McGhee and Jennifer Shephard, his main characters, were all
more or less where th
ey’d been when the feed had cut twelve hours earlier. Jack flicked
at the screen a few more times, bringing up images of one of the less popular and least-
covered
Survivors he’d been following.

Joey MacLeod’s face filled the frame. Jack liked this kid. He’d begun to get a little
more airtime recently, mostly because he’d been in a few scraps
with Zoms of late. Jack
remembered him fondly
from the episodes where he’d left The Brotherhood a few years
back, with the old Padre. Those were amongst some of the most unexpected and
emotional scenes he’d ever watched and he’d replayed them many times in his mind’s
eye, lying in bed.

Padre Jock had been a favourite of Jack’s as a kid. As a Zom-Hunter and one of the
most colourful characters on the show. H
e’d had a huge chunk of airtime over the years
and had consistently been in the
Survivorstop ten chart for over twenty years. When
he’d been killed by Bracha, Jack had shed a few tears for the old man. For Jack’s  generation, who’d grown up watching him, Padre Jock was as intricately tied to the
show as its theme tune.

Three years later, Jack still felt grief whenever he looked at one of the many
images of Jock on mugs, posters, T-shirts and other merchandise around his home. Jack
had a massive poster of Jock over his bed. It depicted a scene from the show with a
young Jock, blades flashing, silencing five Zombies. It bore the legend:
Running rings
around The Ringed.

One of Jack’s online friends had a tattoo on his cheek in the shape of the
characteristic Ring o’ Roses rash of The Ringed. Despite being into its third decade of
transmission, dEaDINBURGH showed no signs of losing popularity, and if anything it
had gained more viewers than ever. In part this was
because of Jock’s protégé Joey and
his best friend, Alys Shephard. Quite simply she was the most skilled combatant the
dead city had.

Many of Jock’s fans had now latched onto the eighteen year old he’d trained out
of the need for a connection to the familiarity of the Padre. Aside from that, they’d
grown to know and love Joey during his time with Padre Jock. Many more had chosen
Alys as their new prime
Survivor because of her attachment to Joey and her own
considerable talents. The pair were fast becoming the definitive
Survivors of their
generation.

The screen Jack scanned showed Joey and Alys, from behind, in a large open field.
Joey had his bow over his back and was following along behind Jennifer’s daughter.
Their body language suggested they were tired and were both covered in grey dust. Jack
watched as the cameras zoomed out, revealing a mass of Zoms spilling out into the field
from a cycle path and a little clearing in a woodland. From the trail in the long grass, it
was obvious that the teens had come from the Zom-infested area.

It was a beautiful shot, so much so that it moved Jack to click the little thumbs-up
icon at the corner of the screen. He was only the hundredth to do so. It made him feel a
part of something special that he was amongst the first to see the beauty in the
photography.

Wondering how the teens had survived the massive congregation of Zoms and
why the infected weren’t pursuing them, he whirled the highlights footage over to the
main screen and began searching through it, hoping that he hadn’t missed something
special. He looked at the view counter at the edge of the highlights screen.

One view.
A single viewer besides him.
Jack felt a thrill surge through him and clicked the thumbs-up icon, making

himself the second person to have done so. He watched amazed as Joey and Alys moved
like crowd-surfers along a mass of the dead. They seemed completely calm, so at ease as
they slipped through and over a swarm of the Ringed. Jack had never seen anything like
it.

Nobody had.

 As the scene progressed, it was suddenly cut with footage from earlier in the day.
The pair had battled hundreds of the dead in that same clearing, Joey with an injured
foot in a tree firing arrows, and Alys a whirling, kicking and stabbing demon with her
twin Sai. The images were astounding and contrasted so sharply with the serenity of the
previous footage that Jack felt a prickle all over his skin. 

He watched Joey and Alys’ Survivor ratings rocket from around ten thousand
straight to positions two and one, respectively. Realisation suddenly made him jerk in
his seat. He motioned at the screen and watched as his viewer rating appeared. Last
night he’d been somewhere close to the ten-million region. A respectable position for
someone in Kent. The total viewing figures worldwide for dEaDINBURGH were at
around four billion.

Due to his early support for Joey, and lifelong support of Jock, whom he’d voted
for and thumbed-up hundreds of times, maybe thousands, in his lifetime, Jack’s viewer
rating would receive a boost. Factor in his support of Alys by proxy of being a Jennifer
Shephard supporter, and combined with this
morning’s early acknowledgement of both
the live-feed and the highlights package, and
Jack’s viewer rating should be at an all-
time high, perhaps in the top one million.

Jack blinked in disbelief as he looked at the numbers.
His rating had been propelled into the Top 500, worldwide. Number 1 in Europe.
His Holo-Screen suddenly lit up with emails, messages and invitations regarding

interviews, expert analysis and insights he might be happy to offer. He was being lined
up for a series of appearances across some of the biggest shows on the network and a
clutch of major blogs and newsfeeds. Hell, a news-crew were on their way to his
apartment at that very moment.

Messages of congratulations from his network-family scrolled across his screen.
In an instant
he’d gone from being another nobody – an above-average fan who spent a
little too much time watching the most-watched Holo-Programme on the planet and one
of those guys who haunted the thousands of fan sites and pages looking for insights and
extra-footage
to the hottest viewer-consultant in Europe.

Jack’s eyes glazed as he considered the possibilities. He’d always known that he
was someone special. Always felt that he was destined for something better than his
current station in life. Something more important. His great-grandmother had been an
exceptional woman, the first woman to become a true world leader. His own father,
Mark, was a world-famous author. Sure, Dad had ridden the coat-tails of his
grandmother too, but
his books continued to sell well years since the old lady’s death.

Jack conjured up an image of his father, Mark, with his arm around him,
congratulating his son, expressing his pride. He watched his fiction-writing father and
himself plan interviews and write opinion pieces together. He teared-up as an image of
himself spoke to an audience of billions whilst his father stood at his side, beaming with
admiration.

This was it. Finally.

Jack glanced down quickly at his mostly-naked wet body, edges of the towel
barely meeting around and under his belly. He gave a curt, decisive nod, to himself.
Time
to get sorted. The first thing I’ll do is get that liposuction and skin removal. And my teeth.
Get my teeth fixed. Pectoral implants. The UKBC will pay for everything, they always do for
their correspondents.

With the kudos and the money that’d be coming his way, it was time to get
himself together.

Rising from his seat, he stopped for a second, lifted his right thigh a little and
expelled a cloud of gas before heading to his wardrobe. Drying off, he pulled on a pair of
clean sweatpants, figuring that he’d aim the Holo-Camera from the waist up. Best to be
comfortable.

Jack then pulled on an old dEaDINBURGH T-shirt his dad had given him on his
thirtieth birthday, with an image of Jock in full Plague-doctor outfit on the front. It felt a
little tight, but also felt familiar.

Striding back through to take his seat, he flicked open the Comm for his first
interview with an American news network, allowing himself to enjoy a moment of
satisfaction at finding his rightful place.

Jack Thatcher smiled warmly and connected his call.


End of excerpt  

This excerpt comes from dEaDINBURGH: Alliances (Din Eidyn Corpus 2) by Mark Wilson. 

Available now as a paperback and kindle at Amazon UK and US 


dEaDINBURGH Excerpt – Michelle MacLeod

The following excerpt is taken from the upcoming second volume of the dEaDINBURGH: Din Eidyn Corpus and details the insertion of Michelle MacLeod into the dead city.

Michelle is the mother of one of my lead characters from Book 1 and is thirty one years old at the time of the excerpt.

*****MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD******

IF YOU HAVE NOT READ dEaDINBURGH: BOOK 1 DO NOT READ ON

The following excerpt is Pre-Edit and copyright of Mark Wilson and Paddy’s Daddy Publishing Ltd:

Michelle 

Early Spring, 2032 

Part One

 

Michelle woke to find herself laid face-down on a very cool-feeling white tiled floor. The cool-sensation wasn’t entirely unwelcome and helped her focus on something and pull her tangled thoughts together into a semi straight thought process. Her hand went immediately to her abdomen and lay there for a few seconds. Unsure what reassurance she gained from the gesture, she welcomed it regardless of how superficial.

Rolling onto her back, her head swam and her neck ached with the effort. Opening her eyes seemed an insurmountable challenge, a mountain too steep to conquer. An image of her student days, waking on Darcie’s floor after a hard night’s drinking and dancing came to mind, but left as quickly as it came. Not many nuggets of information were presenting themselves to her ever more alert mind regarding her current whereabouts or situation, but she knew for certain that alcohol hadn’t been a factor, having eliminated it from her life some fourteen weeks before.

She blinked hard six or seven times and finally managed to get her eyes in focus. Nothing she looked at made any kind of sense. Michelle sat up groggily and rubbed at her gluey eyes. She felt her pupils contract in response to the clinically harsh, xenon glare of the lights blasting the unfamiliar too-white room and laughed at the absurdity of the dream she was surely having.

Looking down at her own body, she found herself clothed in rags. Filthy sack-like canvas shirt covered her upper body loosely. Men’s trousers three sizes too big and rancid, really truly rancid, draped her lower half. She fought down a familiar nausea as the waft from them hit her senses. She wore no underwear and subconsciously pulled her arms around herself.

As the brightness became normal, she became aware that she wasn’t alone. Far from it. Moving her eyes was painful, so she rotated her pounding head on aching vertebrae and scanned the room. Perhaps ninety people lay in various states of consciousness. Men, boys, women and girls, lay around her on the pristine, sterile floor of the very white room.

All were clothed as she was. Some looked at her, like a child looks at a parent for answers, for reassurance, simply because she was the most alert-looking in the room. Many were too busy looking down at themselves or around the room, wondering what they wore and where they were. Michelle’s eyes teared-up as they flitted from one face to another. Some were scared white. Others shook their heads certain, as she herself was, that they’d awake somewhere warm and familiar at any moment. Most were starting to panic as they became fully awake. None of them looked to be anything other than very ordinary, very scared people.

One man started laughing loudly, causing Michelle to jump at the suddenness and intensity of his Sid James-esque bray. In other circumstances she’d have laughed along with the man and described his laugh as the dirtiest she’d ever heard. Today, in this place the man’s laugh was the sound of his sanity rustling as it left him and breaking against the white walls. Today the laugh was truly terrifying and corrupting to the tenuous grip on sanity held by the room’s inhabitants.

Michelle shut the noise out and focused on a group of seven people who still lay prone near the only door visible to her. A few others had started to move towards them also, drawn by their relative stillness. As Michelle drew nearer the group of people- a mixture of adults and children, male and female- she noticed that each of the group weren’t as still as they’d seemed from the other side of the room.

They were twitching and jerking, only slightly, like someone in the depths of a nightmare. Michelle felt a laugh of her own escape. Irony always had made her laugh.

Pushing her way gently past the little group of stunned people gathered around the apparently asleep people on the floor, she mentally swatted away the mist of a thought that was beginning to surface and placed a hand on the nearest boy’s forehead. The boy was burning up with fever. A quick glance at the other sweat-soaked faces in the group confirmed that they all were fevering. And then she saw the wounds.

Michelle’s eyes widened with horror as her subconscious pushed harder and filled her mind’s-eye with thousands of images of people she’d seen in the same condition. People in the latter stages of infection. People who’d been bitten. Infected.

Without guile or embarrassment she pulled the filthy clothes from her body and searched every visible inch of herself for bite marks. She pulled a man who stood next to her close and asked him to look in all the places she couldn’t see. Without asking, she pulled his shirt and trousers from him. Too stunned to protest, he allowed her to check for bites. Word spread, quickly. Within minutes everyone in the room was naked and checking each other for any signs of broken skin.

Eventually each of the room’s occupants, silently dressed once more, relief smashed aside with returning panic. Why? Why were they here? Three things happened in the next five seconds to make their question the last thing they needed to worry about.

 

Michelle

 Early Spring, 2032

 Part Two

 A loud clang rang out and bounced around the tiles of the room. Many of the people jumped in fright. Some of them disappeared, dropping through the large trapdoor that had fallen six feet from the pristine white floor to a barely-lit tunnel below, forming a slippery white tiled ramp into the darkness.

Many of the people in the room stood and gaped into the darkness, but only for a single second. Only until the loud scream of a child at the rear of the group snapped everyone’s attention around to the fevering group of almost dead at the main doors. Almost dead, now fully risen and attacking people closest to them with a bottomless, vicious hunger that tore flesh from bone and limb from socket. All of those present had seen the show. It didn’t need said, but one man, the still-laughing man, felt the need to shout out the obvious.

“We’re in dEaDINBURGH”.

He was positively gleeful. Until a newly animated Ringed tore his throat out with its clawed hands and devoured the flesh.

Like a wave of pestilence The Ringed moved throughout the room, tearing, biting and clawing with the strength and speed of the newly risen, at the room’s panicked occupants.

Michelle MacLeod saw none of this. As soon as the trap door had slammed into the darkness, she’d become a blur of movement. No thought, just deed. Launching herself along the tunnel, Michelle shouldered each of the people in her path aside. Leaving them in a wake of bewilderment, she cut through the darkness, one hand grabbing the loose waist of the men’s trousers she wore into a fist, the other reached out in front of her, searching through the darkness.

Her fingers cracked against a wooden panel, causing a jolt of nerve pain to lightning up her arm and the panel to dislodge. A crack of very strong sunlight lasered through the gap she’d made. She saw the dust and dirt she’d swept along with her swirl around in the biblical shaft of light that cut through the tunnel’s blackness and took a second to shout back to the other people, if people they still were.

“This way. There’s a way out.”

Shouldering through the panel of MDF, Michelle clattered onto the earth outside and shut her eyes against the brightness of the day. Beneath her eyelids, her eyes still hurt, such was the intensity of the Edinburgh, sunshine and the contrasting darkness of the tunnel. Placing a hand over her closed eyes she gave her pupils the dangerous few seconds they needed to contract and tentatively peered beneath her eyelids.

The world was a cacophony of colours in the air and the flora and fauna. She looked down a landscaped apart of the countryside. Trees and bushes, grasses and shrubs, all filled with bright berries, flowers and fruit shone alongside a straight, concrete path cutting through the beauty of the landscape. The fauna, perhaps a hundred yards along the path, hadn’t noticed her yet, but with the screaming coming along the tunnel behind her, their desiccated faces and mouldering teeth would turn her way soon.

Michelle blinked stupidly into the sun and let out a quiet sneeze. She’d always been a sun-sneezer. Her friends had mocked her playfully for it, but she’d always liked the trait she shared with her mother. Her eyes darted to a meadow to her right and picked out the unmoving body of a dead, truly dead, Ringed. She moved with speed towards the partially-rotted pile of bones and decayed flesh that not even the maggots feasted on.

Picking up the fleshiest part she could see- badly putrefied quadriceps- Michelle covered her exposed flesh and already rancid clothing in the black, jelly like fluids of the decaying Ringed. She coated her face, and carefully applied congealed fluid that had once been blood as though it were her favourite make-up. Taking her time, she flicked away the little clots that threatened to make her vomit despite the state of cold calculation her mind had entered, and smoothed fold blackened paste-like flesh over her own skin. When Michelle had finished her task she looked as though she’d fallen into a container of rotted offal.

Taking a belt from the trousers of The Ringed she’d coated herself in, Michell tied it around her waist, gathering the folds of fabric together, hurting her waist with the tightness of the leather. She shut herself off to the loud moans of dusty hunger and the wet tear of torn cracked teeth on flesh coming from the cycle path at the tunnel’s exit. Nothing to do. Nothing I can do. Just move. Years of images flooded her mind once more. Information on operation she’d been privy to as a board-member of the UKBC flooded her mind along with detailed layouts, blueprints and maps of the dead city.

Subconsciously she placed her hand over her slightly protruding uterus, absorbed strength and purpose from it, decided on a destination, and used the other gift her mother had given her. A lifelong stamina athlete, Michelle MacLeod ran like she’d never run in her whole life.

dEaDINBURGH: Din Eidyn Corpus 2 is due for release by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing in late January, 2015.

deadinburgh-Book2-barbb-yeallow-cover copy

dEaDINBURGH: Din Eidyn Corpus 3 is due for release by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing in late February, 2015.

deadinburgh-book3-red-cover-alley copy

You can find Mark Wilson and his books at Amazon, US and Amazon, UK.

dEaDINBURGH: Cover reveal and blurb

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Here is the final blurb and cover image for my upcoming fourth novel, dEaDINBURGH:

Edinburgh, 1645:
The bubonic plague rages. In a desperate attempt to quarantine the infected, the city leaders seal the residents of Mary King’s Close in their underground homes.

2015:
Mary King’s Close is reopened, unleashing a mutated plague upon the city residents.
The UK government seals the entire city. Declaring it a dead zone they seal the survivors inside alongside the infected. dEaDINBURGH is declared a no man’s land, its residents left for dead and to the dead.

2050:
Joseph MacLeod, born onto the cobbles of the Royal Mile and stolen from the clutches of the infected is determined to escape the quarantined city. Under the guidance of former marine Padre Jock, he leaves the confines of the city centre and hones his archery and free-running skills.
Alys Shephard, born into an all-women farming community believes a cure lies in the south of the quarantined zone. The finest combatant in the dead city, Alys burns with anger. The anger of an abandoned child.

Something much worse than the infected waits for them in the south, in the form of a religious cult led by a madman named Somna who collects gruesome trophies and worships the dead body of a former celebrity. Added to this the enigmatic Bracha, a supreme survivalist and sadistic former Royal with his own agenda, stalks the teenagers.

A self-contained story, dEaDINBURGH is a character-driven Young Adult/Dystopian novel exploring the human capacity for good, evil and for survival.

Released on March 31st 2014 by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing.