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What next?

Posted by spooks101 Apr 9, 2018

Haldred Chronicles: Anna is out.  2 years of work and book 4 has at last been released.  I am happy with the result and it seems so are my readers!  So, after more than a month of resting, what now?




I’ve already completed one big task, and that was to submit a short story to sci-fi and fantasy publishers Black Library as part of their call for submissions.  With the able help of my wife Deborah, who proofread the submission, I sent off the 500-word extract and summary a couple of days ago.




The second big task now sitting on my to-do list is, of course, book 5.  I have taken some time to look through my various story ideas and have decided to go with ‘Haldred Chronicles: Twig’.  This story will concentrate on the Courier-fey, message passing creatures that have been a staple of Haldred Chronicles since the first book.  Now, with book 5, readers will learn a little more about these creatures.




I have a few other plans as well that I’ll work on when I have time.




I hope to go over my first 3 books and reformat the look of them.  Each of them featured slightly different font and paragraph design so I now want to re-edit them so that they are all the same.  In addition, I hope to use the re-formatted work to create better-printed copies of the books via Kindle Direct Publishing.




I’ve also been working on a synopsis of book 3, ‘Shade’.  Together with a recently completed introduction letter and the first 3 chapters, I hope to use this package as my way to advertise the series to potential publishers and agents.




There is plenty planned for the next few months.  I feel like the Easter holidays have allowed me to get back into writing and make my plans for the future of the series.




Till next time.

72 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: books, marketing, selling, book, amazon, formatting, author, self-publishing, promotion, writer, short, kindle, ebook, writing, story, fiction, published, chronicles, haldred

Book 4 release date

Posted by spooks101 Jan 28, 2018

At long last, after 2 years of work, Haldred Chronicles: Anna is finally being released!




My 4th book will be available from the 1st February 2018.  The final proof is being checked over, the cover is ready, and all I have to do is the technical stuff and it will be available on Amazon Kindle.




As a bit of history, the beginnings of this book were in 2012, as it was originally going to be the 2nd book in the series after 'Alyssa'. However, the story didn't quite fit with what I had planned at the time so it was shelved.




Now, after extensive updating to bring it in line with everything that's happened in the previous books, it fits with the series just right.




Without giving too much away, the new book takes the characters to a foreign land and will introduce the reader to several more nations of the Haldred Chronicles world.




I hope all of you will enjoy reading this latest book, just as much as I have enjoyed writing it.




Expect another blog update on the 1st February, announcing the official release and providing a link to purchase :).




One more thing.




I'm making all 3 of the previous books in the series (Alyssa, Kalla and Shade) available free on Amazon Kindle from the 1st February to the 5th February. So if you know anyone who might fancy getting into a new book series, please let them know!




Until the 1st my friends!

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Still good, still writing!

Posted by spooks101 Jul 20, 2017

I seem to be continuing the trend of long periods of time between blog posts, sorry everyone!


I've a good excuse though, as I've been very busy writing and planning.  Book 4 of Haldred Chronicles is progressing along very nicely. I'm onto my 2nd draft now, and the core story and characters are complete.


My plan now is to flesh out descriptions and details, fill in a few more scenes for key characters, and proof the entire book once done. After that, I should have a complete story that I can then confidently pass to a few trusted proof readers.  It looks as if it'll be finished by November as planned (if not before).


At the same time, I've found myself drifting back to the distant past of my writing lifetime. Years before I started Haldred Chronicles, I was writing a massive novel with the tentative title of "Adventure and other bad ideas" (thanks to Saul for the original title suggestion). This novel eventually laid the background work for Haldred Chronicles (it's set in the same time period) but was never finished, despite me writing over 77,000 words for it.


Now, with Book 4 heading toward completion, I'm thinking of giving it another go. It won't be a 5th Haldred Chronicles book, but instead will be a big stand alone novel set in the same place. Rather than concentrating on the Council of Peace and criminal investigations, this new novel will turn it's attention to a group of mercenaries and their adventures. Characters from Haldred Chronicles may pop in from time to time though. Time scale wise, it will be set after the current crop of the novels.


That's the plan anyway. I first have to finish book 4. All being well, the next time I post an update it will be to report book 4 completion!  Wish me luck. Till next time.

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A Tribute to Nanowrimo

Posted by spooks101 Nov 29, 2016

During November 2011, I took part in the National Novel Writing month writing challenge.  The objective was to write at least 50,000 words by the 30th November.  I succeeded in the challenge, writing at the time 51,000 words. A year later that Nanowrimo writing piece became Haldred Chronicles: Alyssa; my first novel.




Since then almost every year, I've taken part in Nanowrimo. It has been a fantastic experience each time, and has enhanced my writing extensively.  I have met and communicated with some extremely talented authors, been challenged to improve my writing, and taken full advantage of the huge range of tips and tricks offered by the Nanowrimo community.




5 years after that first big push into the world of writing, I'm still at it. Last week I finished my 2 short story submissions for the Mantic Games Nanowrimo-inspired writing competition, and submitted both. I'm currently working on the Haldred Chronicles: Shade synopsis, with a view to submitting to potential publishers.  I also have a fourth Haldred Chronicles novel to work on called ‘Anna’.




As something of a tribute to the last 5 years, you will find on Amazon for the first time, my third book ‘Haldred Chronicles: Shade’ free for downloading on Kindle.  It will be so for the next five days so if you’ve not already picked it up, now is a good time.  Like my other books, it had its beginnings as a Nanowrimo entry.




Shade on




Shade on




To both the organisers and many participates in the Nanowrimo community, thank you all so much for all your encouragement, direction, advise, critique and most of all, for all the fun I’ve had during the many subsequent Novembers since I took my first steps into writing stories.  May the next 5 years be the same.




Until next time.

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I've not been idle

Posted by spooks101 Nov 1, 2016

Well it's true, it's just I've not had much time to write a blog, but I'm taking a bit of time now to redress the balance.   It's been four months since my last blog update, and exactly seven months since my son Logan was born. We've been a busy little family since then, and our 'wee man' has been growing up fast.  On the writing front, I've been busy with the following.  •     I finished the first draft of the Wrathborn wargames background and submitted my writing so far to its creator. We'll be meeting up again soon to expand on the background further.  •     I submitted a short story entry to Black Library publishing house, who produce Warhammer and Warhammer 40k novels. Sadly, my entry was not accepted for publication, but I did get past the first triage so I'm pleased they took a good look at my entry. I'll definitely be trying again next year.  •     Very recently I've been working again on my fourth Haldred Chronicles book 'Anna'. For a long time I've been going back to it but not feeling inspired enough. Now, with an infusion of new ideas, the story is back on track! I'm up to 22,000 words and counting.  •     I'm also writing a synopsis for Haldred Chronicles : Shade. The plan is I will being using Shade as my pitching book to publishers, so I need to write the synopsis very carefully.   •     Finally, I'm taking part in Nanowrimo, the November writing competition, but in a different kind of way. Mantic Games, a local wargaming company, are running a writing competition in celebration of Nanowrimo. They want a couple of short stories written for their Warpath and Kings of War gaming systems. So, I'm going to have a go! Closing date is 1st December so like all those taking part in Nanowrimo proper, I've a deadline to work toward.   Plenty to keep me busy these next few months. Until next time, take

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plans within plans

Posted by spooks101 Jul 22, 2016

It's been a busy few months as Deborah and I adapt to the new arrival in our life. Little Logan is now nearly four months old and doing very well. Our little son is growing up quickly and our current prediction is he will be a mischievous one!


Whilst looking after the wee man has been my top priority, it doesn't mean I have been idle on the writing front.


I have massively expanded my Pinterest account with writing tips and tricks. Everything from story structure to simple grammar has been posted up and I've found it very useful to have this library of knowledge at my disposal. If you're interested, find my pins here:


In turn, I've continued to develop the 4th book in my Haldred Chronicles series. 'Anna' is taking shape nicely and I'm aiming to have the first draft complete in a couple of months. As in my previous blog post, I will see how it progresses but am not going to promise anything just yet.


I've also continued to write background for Wrathborn, a wargame system, as well as keeping my Black Library short story submission up to date.


Finally, just within the last few days I received my copy of "Writers' and Artists' Yearbook 2017", which I shall be reading extensively for information on publishers and agents.


Till next time!


PS: this is the first blog post I've written and published completely on my BlackBerry Passport! Next, let's see if I can write a book on it!

PPS: unfortunately in my haste to publish this blog I managed to make a number of grammar errors.  My thanks to those who picked up on them and let me know; corrections have now been made.

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What should I write next?

Posted by spooks101 Dec 17, 2015

What should I write next?


Keeping to a trend, at last, a blog update!  Sorry for taking so long.



To update you all on my writing, I attempted Nanowrimo 2015 in November, but sadly I only managed 7,000 words on my concept novel ‘Haldred Chronicles: Titan’.  I got the characters and a lot of scenes fleshed out but I just didn’t make the time to finish it off.



However, I still started the novel well, and it now joins several other ideas that are more than just a few lines on a page.  Hence the title of this blog post.



2015 has been a great year.  Haldred Chronicles: Shade was released in August, and recently all 3 of my novels are now available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback format (check them out HERE for the UK and HERE for the US!).  I’m very glad I now have a proper starter ‘trilogy’ of novels and judging by reviews, people are liking my writing.



2016 is going to be a busy and exciting year for me outside of writing, but I still want to keep writing even a little bit.



To do this, I want to start 2016 by properly kicking off another project.



That’s where you, the person reading this blog post, come in.  Help me choose which idea to pursue.



Here are the options:


        Haldred Chronicles: Titan = "Victoria and Co find themselves on the world's first ‘tourism’ ship, but someone plans on spoiling the party..." = This was my Nanowrimo 2015 novel and I got to 7,000 words with it.  Should I finish it in 2016?


        Haldred Chronicles: Anna = “Victoria and her team travel to the mighty Magra empire to investigate a series of deadly seaborne raids from mysterious attackers.” = this novel was originally to be my 3rd book but ‘Shade’ took over.  It’s set in the Magra empire, a Chinese/Japanese themed land were villages along the sea have experienced deadly raids by unknown enemies.  I’ve already written 19,000 words on this and developed some interesting characters.  Should I continue?


        Haldred Chronicles: Fey-hacking = “Courier-fey provide secure, reliable, almost instant communications across Larrick City…or do they?” = Courier-fey are like text messaging in the world of Haldred Chronicles.  After reading a brilliant book about the News of the World hacking scandal I thought to myself, what if something like that happened with the Courier-fey in my world?  This story at the moment has only a couple of introduction scenes, but I like them; one involves a talking cat.  Maybe this is the novel I should write in 2016?


        Adventure and other bad ideas: Sophie’s story = “Sophie Dalvich, a barmaid at the Broken Dreams tavern, finds her cartography and map making skill’s requested by a group of mercenaries.” = This was to be the BIG novel, way before Haldred Chronicles: Alyssa was written.  It was what established the Haldred Chronicles world but the story itself was never finished.  Despite this, even in it’s draft form it is over 75,000 words long and has an entire cast already created for it.  It concentrates on a group of adventures operating in Larrick City, from many different cultures and races, banded together on various mercenary missions.  I could go back to it, refine it, and produce it as a huge spin-off novel.  Should I?



So those are the options.  Titan, Anna, Fey-Hacking or Sophie’s story.  The titles will probably change but the concepts are there.



Vote by replying to this post with the name of the story you like.  Likewise, PM me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Tumblr (now that Tumblr has instant messaging!) and let me know which one you like the look of.



Then I’ll make 2016 the year of that novel.



Thanks everyone.  Till next time!



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Second blog post 2014!

Posted by spooks101 Feb 19, 2014

Second blog post of 2014!  Long overdue I know but life is busy.

Wedding preparations are proceeding a-pace and it’s been going very well.  We are on schedule!  Despite the busy times, I have still been writing and progress has been good.

Mat, my fantastic cover artist, has come up with a beautiful cityscape picture for the front cover of ‘Tales of Larrick City’.  Not only this, but he has also updated the front covers of Kalla and Alyssa as well!  The modifications are minor, but you all should notice a little extra unifying factor that has been added to the titles.  Check the links below to see the changes.

Amazon link Alyssa

Amazon link Kalla

As for ‘Tales of Larrick City’ itself, of the 7 stories I’ve written in the book, only 1 now remains to finish completely before the whole book is passed to the proof readers.  That and the ‘little extra something’ at the end of the book is almost done as well.  Fortunately it will be easy for you all to find out what that is as the book will be FREE!  As long as Amazon cooperate, which hopefully they will.

As well as book progress, I’ve been getting more involved in the LinkedIn writing community and have been active in several of the groups.  If you’re on LinkedIn yourself, my address is below.

As well as this, my Facebook page has seen a whole lot of extra attention since I started doing more with the LinkedIn groups.  Find it here if you’ve not already visited.

There is of course my twitter account as well which has grown nicely in recent months.

I also recently registered on  Find my author page below


So lots going on and lots to look forward too.  Whilst my blog posts won’t be as regular in the future (I’ll try to update at least once a month) I do hope that the next time I am posting I will have completed ‘Tales of Larrick City’ and it will be with my proof readers for checking.

Thanks all, until next time!

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Happy Christmas Everyone!

Posted by spooks101 Dec 25, 2013

Just a quick blog post to wish you all very happy Christmas!  As a special treat, head on over to the Haldred Chronicles Facebook page and you will find a Christmas surprise!

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A post before the battle...

Posted by spooks101 Oct 28, 2013

Well, November is almost here and with it, the November writing competition at  Preparations are being made.




First, sadly, I’ll have to suspend this Blog to give me time to write.  I’ll need to write around 1,500 words a day if I am to get anywhere near my goal of finishing a novel by the end of the month, so unfortunately I will probably only post about once in the next month; just to let people know I am still writing and how far I’ve got.  This will probably be in the middle of the month.




Secondly, I will of course suspend work on Tales of Larrick City.  I hope in the next few days to get it up to 10,000 words at least (at 7,600 now) and leave it in good form but we’ll see what time I get.  The plan is still to be in December with the 1st Draft’s of 2 books; it would be fantastic if I manage to do that.  I like a challenge!




Finally, I just want to wish all the very best to everyone doing Nanowrimo this year.  Friends, family and fellow writers, good luck to you all and successful writing!




Until the next Blog post, all the best.

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The need to blog more often

Posted by spooks101 Oct 1, 2013

Well, tonight I’m not feeling the best.  I had to cancel some gaming I was hosting, which sucks as I was really looking forward to it.  However, I have managed to write up this blog and do some profile updates whilst the meds hopefully do there work to convince my guts that being sick is not a good career path.




As the title says, I need to blog more often.  I’ve started to realize the potential of blogging.




Blogging is supposed to inform people of what I’m up to; that bit I’ve gotten right.  Via this blog in its various forms across websites and forums, I’ve kept everyone up to date on what I’ve been doing on the writing front; word counts, plot plans, book plans, character interactions and all that other good stuff.




I’ve also occasionally posted up short stories to give you a little something extra to take a look through and get a glimpse of just what goes on in this dangerous mind of mine.




What I haven’t done is promoted any particular discussion, or informed on techniques used in my writing.  I’ve been talking about writing stories but not prompted anyone’s individual thoughts on writing.  I’ve proposed characters but not encouraged any engagement on them.  In essence, I need to get people talking instead of just reading a blog post and forgetting about it.




Fortunately, a lot of very talented ebook writers and bloggers have helped immensely in advising on just how to do this and get more from book blogging.  That, and they’ve been a great help in improving my various internet profiles.




An example of good blogging is this post from an interview with the author of ‘Wool’, currently one of the most popular ebooks ever.




It can be found here =




Then there’s the advise I got from members of the Createspace community.  I’d like to publicly thank Eric from the createspace forums / blogs for helping me improve the next few links to my profiles (his own link is please visit!)




My LinkedIn profile is now =


Much easier to remember I think you’ll agree.




My good reads profile is now =


Again, much easier to remember and quote.




And he even helped me update my Author pages on Amazon too!




They now look a lot tidier and go directly to my internet pages on these sites.  Thanks again Eric!




Now for some news.  As of today I have officially started writing ‘Tales of Larrick City’.  It’s format will be a departure from the last two Haldred Chronicles books as this one is going to be a short story compendium and glossary of the series.  It’s also going to be a departure from a price point of view too, because when it’s released it will be free!  It will give me an excuse to try a few different writing styles and experiment more, as well as filling in some nice additional detail on characters and the Haldred Chronicle’s background.




In addition, I have decided that I will write book 4 as part of the November Novel Writing Month competition held by The Office of Letters and Light (  This competition is the reason ‘Alyssa’ was finished and published in the first instance, so it will be good to get back to it.




This should mean that I will have at least the first drafts of my next 2 books done by the end of November.  It’s ambitious but I’m going to try as a little extra work at the start of the process makes all the difference.




So there we have it.  New ideas about blogging, new internet profiles on websites across the board and new plans for the future.  Lots happening!  Till next time everyone (when I hope to be updating as a much healthier individual).

227 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, marketing, book, amazon, formatting, author, createspace, promotion, writer, short, review, kindle, ebook, writing, story, fiction, published, linkedin, chronicles, alyssa, haldred, kalla,

Busy, busy, busy

Posted by spooks101 May 1, 2013

Ah to be free of illness again.  At last, I seem to be back to normal.  No more cough, no more allergic reaction to penicillin.  For those following my twitter account (@jgwritesnovels) I had an allergic reaction to said medicine on Friday; woke up with red marks all over my body, looking very much like I had chicken poxes.  It scared the **** out of me as you might imagine.




Fortunately, the doctor assured me that it was just an allergic reaction and I suffered no other ill effects.  A note has been put on my medical file and the marks have now faded thankfully.




Taking advantage of my back-to-normal status, I’ve been busy.




First up, on Monday past I attended a crime writer’s seminar hosted by the fantastic No Alibi’s bookstore, held in Belfast Museum.  Attending were 3 crime writers.  From Sweden, Jan Arnald (pen name Arne Dahl).  From Finland Antti Tuomainenand from Northern Ireland Stuart Neville.  Each of them read extracts from their latest books and also chatted about work, as well as answering a few questions from the audience (and it was a big audience!).  I was very well impressed and will admit to being a little star struck when I approached Jan to get my newly purchased copy of ‘the blinded man’ autographed (a police procedural set in Sweden.  Am reading it now, very, very good!).  Sadly I’d only money for one of the books so couldn’t get Stuart Neville’s excellent Rat Lines (about Nazis harboured in the irish state after World War 2) or Antti’s ‘The Healer’ (set in a near-future dystopian world).  But I shall prehapes purchase both in the future.  The extracts were very good so think I will definitely give them both a go.




Enthused, I have been working hard on book 2 all week and have written a lot.  Word count is up to 36’000 now and continuing to grow.  In particular, a lot of Act 1 and Act 2 A (to use recently learned screen writing lingo) is done.  I now need to finish things off with a good Act 2 B and Act 3 (climax!).




I have also had a lot of little ideas for short stories and subsequent books in the series.  I won’t say too much, but survice to say that right now I have at least 10 direct sequel ideas (many of which already have scenes and characters mapped out and one is pretty much a whole book ready to go, just not yet!), 3 spin off ideas (same universe as the current novel but different characters and situations, maybe even different writing styles too) and 9 other novel ideas (again ranging from one sentence possibilities to a lot of scenes, characters and dialogue already written).  So I definitely have variety to keep me interested in writing.




I also completed the most recent short story challenge between myself, K and Matt.  That of a poetry challenge, the subject being ‘cats’.  Now, when I say completed I mean that I’ve done the challenge; doesn’t mean I did it well.  The poem isn’t my best work, indeed I think it’s too short and the ending sucks.  However, in my defense, it’s the first time I’ve written poetry since primary school (we didn’t do any in high school as far as I can remember).  I definitely think I can do better and fully intend too.  In the future when I’m feeling braver I will show you all the cat poem.  You will laugh at least.




For now, instead, I present to you another one of my old short story challenges.  This one was ‘smuggler on a train’ and is quite short.  I hope you like anyways.  Till the next blog update everyone.








* * * * *




One last job




One last job; after this, no more.  No more smuggling, no more running the gauntlet.  He was too well known to the cops and too well known to bloody border patrol with their bloody sniffer dogs; bane of his existence.  This was the last job.




He sat in the train cabin, pretending to read a newspaper.




The other passengers didn't seem to notice him.  There was a young trendy looking girl in the corner busy on her Iphone.  An older man sat beside him, reading the Daily Mail, whilst directly across sat a prim and proper business woman idly reading a book.  No one was paying any attention to anyone else.




“This train is bound for Southport,” intoned the automatic announcement system.  “the next stop is Branston.”




Good, one more stop after that and he was home free.  Then the briefcase full of counterfeit notes sitting between his legs would be dropped off with the courier and hay presto, he was off to a condo in the Mediterranean!




The train came to a halt at Branston station.  Several burly looking men in suits got on board at the nearby train entrance.  They immediately looked toward him and his blood ran cold.




“Mr Anderson.”


The voice came from the trendy looking girl in the corner, her authoritative tone at odds with her appearance.  She wasn't playing with her Iphone anymore.  She was looking right at him too.




“I'm Constable Mckee.” she said, the barest hint of a smile playing across her face.  “I'm afraid you’re under arrest.”



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I hate having the cold :(

Posted by spooks101 Mar 18, 2013

Unfortunately I have had the cold this past week on and off so haven't had a chance to write a proper blog update.


However, progress is being made on the 2nd Novel, 2nd draft.  I reached the halfway point on the 16th March and am continuing to write well.  In between sneezing of course.  I've also been reading the Writers and Artists Yearbook and its making a lot of sense.  Starting to get a strategy for publishing together but its slow going.


As a little treat, the short story I present to you this week is my Paradiso Fan Fiction competition entry from a couple of months back.  I hope you all like, especially the Infinity the Game players. 


Hope you all manage to avoid the cold.  I can advise against the experience!


* * * * *


Friendly Fire

By Vedal Slayer

Marie-Ann, 1er Regiment de Para-Commandos, stood up, reaching for the computer tablet secured on the transport planes low ceiling.  Long blond hair, tied in twinned braided ponytails, cascaded down her back.  Her sharp feline features frowned ever so slightly as she unlocked the two security tabs that held the tablet in place.  She paused for a moment, green eyes blinking.  She let out an exasperated sigh.

“They're called hips Jean-Paul, and you can stop staring at them.”

She glanced over her shoulder, as the young Jean-Paul rather lamely found the ceiling of the MX-47 assault transport suddenly very interesting.  The new paratrooper was a youthful eighteen years old and evidently straight out of boot camp.  For a paratrooper he seemed very wet behind the ears and despite excellent scores in parachuting and heavy weapons use, Marie-Ann had her doubts as to whether he was the right kind of soldier for the Ariadnian Expeditionary Force.

But needs must.

Moi-du.” muttered Claude, seated opposite the young man and shaking his head, doing nothing to mask his amusement.  Claude was the most veteran of the three of them, two years on Marie-Ann's four year service.  He was a big man, perhaps too big to be a paratrooper.  He had wide shoulders, thick powerful muscles and a wicked sense of humour.  He was the groups support gunner, cradling his light machine-gun as they awaited the drop point.

Rolling her eyes, Marie-Ann retrieved the tablet regardless and twisted to sit down again.  As she activated the battered computer and waited for the digital display to boot up, she glanced over again at Jean-Paul.  He was still managing to look embarrassed behind his jump goggles.

“Were there no beautiful jeunes filles at the training academy?” She asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Yes madam, but...ah”

“But what?”

There was a long, awkward pause.  Mercifully for Jean-Paul, Claude broke the silence with typical directness.

“But none of them had as perfectly formed an arse as yours, Madam Sergeant.”

Jean-Paul seemed to go bright red, while Marie-Ann glared across at her partner.

“You know the rule.  You get one per jump, that's it.”

Claude shrugged his huge shoulders with an accompanying boyish grin, seemingly unaffected by Marie-Ann's demeanour.  “That's why I made it a good one.”

“I'm surrounded by man-idiots.” muttered Marie-Ann as the tablet came alive at last, the aged and scratched interface screen lighting up.   Immediately it displayed the mission area overlaid by a 3D satellite geo-image.

“The coordinates command passed to us mean we should be able to rendezvous with the patrol party relatively quickly.  That's assuming we've been provided with accurate maps this time.”

“Hmpt.  Lots of trees.”Claude said sagely, leaning over to look at the tablet display.   “Did our honoured hosts remember we don't use the fancy jet pack toys?”

“The exact words used were 'be assured the clearing will be large enough to allow for parachute drop'.”  She cast both of them a sideways look.  “The O-12 people use the word 'assured' far too often for my liking.  At least we're not jumping into a fire fight this time, just a meet up with a standard combat sweep.”

“Assume the LZ will be tight” Marie-Ann said next, reaching above her to stow the tablet.  “Keep good control of your chutes and a close eye on your oxygen.  Don't get dispersed, we want to all land in one piece.  Understood?”

“Yes ma'am” replied the boys in unison.

“And Jean-Paul.” Marie-Ann eyed the new recruit as she spoke, flicking her twinned ponytails back behind her head and securing them with a hair clip.


“If I catch you staring at my *** on the way down...”

She locked him with her brokers-no-argument stare and paused to allow him time to go red.

“I will eat your spleen.”

Claude leaned in, his expression one of mock seriousness.

“She will too.” he stated truthfully.

* * * * *

“Not bad,” commented Marie-Ann as she kept her rifle up, covering Jean-Paul who was busy pulling his pack and chute into the safety of the clearings edge.  “you jump well.”

“Thank you ma'am.”

They had jumped successfully onto the O-12 cleared area.  Their hosts had at least got the location information right.  Around them the forest was awash with trees and creepers, the atmosphere thick with moisture and unnaturally silent.

“I could almost forgive you for leering at me on the way down.  I do hope you enjoyed the view.”

Marie-Ann was rewarded with another deeply embarrassed expression from the young man, an expression that was all too quickly becoming his trademark.

“Now, hand me your spleen.”

“Comms appear awfully silent madam.”reported Claude, interrupting the two of them as he moved up to crouch beside them.  The cheekiness was gone, replaced with the veteran soldier that Claude truly was.

“We should at least be getting background chatter from other units.” Marie-Ann frowned.  “I don't like it.”

“Could be the forest?” Claude hazarded, casting his eye round the seemingly endless greenly that encompassed them.  “This planet is strange, even more so than home.”

Marie-Ann had to agree.  Paradiso was alien, much more alien than Dawn and that was saying something.  The clearing they had jumped into had only been cleared a few hours ago, some of the trees still showing signs of chemical destruction.  Yet it had still been hazardous.  The lush forests here were voracious, regaining the land they had lost with vigour.  The native species were openly hostile; Marie-Ann had already crushed the head of a snake that had snapped at her as she was clearing her chute .

The planet doesn't like us.

“Claude, take point, we'll proceed on mission.  I'll take the comms.  Jean-Paul you'll take six.”

She was business-like as she gave her orders.

“During which,” she added, “You will keep your eyes everywhere except my backside.”

She glared at the young recruit and he had the good sense to cower before her.

Satisfied, the three of them headed cautiously into the deep jungle.

* * * * *

“What the **** is going on?” Marie-Ann hissed to no one in particular, leaning up against the nearest tree for cover and sighting down her rifle.

“I do not know madam,” said Claude next to her, training his weapon likewise.  “but it sounds very much like our patrol is in contact and raising Merovingia brand havoc.”

They had been moving through the jungle for only ten minutes when the sounds of fighting had drifted through the dense foliage; the whip crack of automatic weapons mixed with the tell-tale rumble of explosions.  It was not a good sign.

“But with who?  That doesn't sound like alien weaponry.”

“No.” agreed Claude.  He cast Marie-Ann a rare serious look,  “Sounds more familiar.”

Marie-Ann put her hand to her ear, activating her short range comms link.

“Delta four, this is Maverick six, we're moving in on your six o'clock, requesting sitrep.”

“Maverick six...Delta four.” replied the radio almost instantly, the connection heavy with interference, a strong French accent responding.

“Heavy co...multiple tan...pan ocea...”

Jean-Paul looked round from a few feet behind the two veterans. “Did he just say...?”

“Watch your six!” snapped Marie-Ann almost automatically, causing the youngster to flinch and resume his watch.

“Delta four, Maverick six.” Marie-Ann again spoke into her microphone,  “Repeat please, did you just say Pan Oceania?”

“Maver...confirmed...heavy con...oceania!”

**** it.

“What do we do?” asked Claude.

Marie-Ann's expression hardened.  “Our job.”

“Claude, weapons free, you know the drill.  Jean-Paul with me.  We'll flank them.  Wait for my signal.”

Oui madam” said Claude.  Immediately he rose from his position and was bounding quickly through the thick jungle, making his way through the creepers and trees toward the fighting.  Marie-Ann beckoned Jean-Paul to follow her, her posture hunched as the two of them took the route at an angle to the source of the shooting.

“Time to go hunting.” she stated bluntly, rechecking her rifle and flicking the fire selector to automatic.  “And time for you to live up to your grenade launcher scores Jean-Paul.”

“I will Madam.” stated the boy.  Marie-Ann looked over to find the newbie rechecking his weapon, winding the clockwork mechanism of his grenade launchers circular magazine in preparation.  His reply had been very businesslike; she decided that was a good sign.

“Lets go.” she ordered.

* * * * *

“In position” Claude radioed 5 minutes later.  Perfect timing thought Marie-Ann as she and Jean-Paul made it to their own starting position.  What they saw brought back painful memories of the corporate battles that had ravaged their own planet.

They had come out on a low ridge, over looking a battle in progress below them.

The area was obviously a drop ship landing site, though by the looks of it not one that had been recently used.  The whole area was encompassed by thick tree's and creepers, the buildings obvious only by their outlines amongst the greenery.  A battle was in full swing.  Tracer fire criss-crossed what seemed to be an evenly matched fight between Ariadna troops and a Pan Oceania squad.  Even through the tree's and bushes Marie-Ann could see the dark blue uniforms of several Metro's exchanging fire with Fusiliers taking shelter in a bombed out and overgrown bunker.  Nearby the bulky form of an Orc trooper, braced by a tree trunk, was blazing away with his MULTI-rifle at a heavy machine-gun Moblot position.  Individual or group duals were taking place all across the site but mostly around the smoking remains of a dropship visible at the far end of the relatively clear landing strip.

Here and there, bodies lay where they had fallen, evidence of a battle that had been taking place for some time.

Marie-Ann took it all in, grim faced.  Determination gripped her.

So much for friendly fire.

She pushed her comm-link.

“Cover us Claude, I'm going for the left flank.”


Seconds later the familiar angry rattle of a Ariadnian manufactured machine-gun echoed through the forest.  With a hand signal Marie-Ann bid Jean-Paul to follow her.  They ran quickly, dodging through the low hanging vines and tree trunks as Claude blazed a path in front of them.

An Orc trooper emerged from the tree line to their left, MULTI-rifle up and scanning for the source of the machine-gun fire.

Marie-Ann fired a three round burst into the giant armour suited figure, causing him to stagger back into the foliage, his own return fire flying wide.  She dived for cover behind a thick tree trunk as Jean-Paul came up beside her.  Sensibly, the boy had switched to his rifle, his grenade launcher slung over his back.  She patted him on the shoulder, and signed to him their attack plan.

Three, two, one.

They both ducked round the tree and fired at the same time from kneeling positions.  The Orc trooper, not expecting two attacks from different angles was caught unawares.  Both paratroopers emptied a clip into him, bullets ricochetting off his armour plate.  He staggered back before one of the bullets hit a weak spot in his neck armour and tore out his throat.  He collapsed back, gasping for breath with sickening wet gurgles.

Marie-Ann wasted no time, bounding toward the fallen enemy.  She dropped her empty magazine as she ran and had rammed home a fresh one by the time she covered the distance to the fallen warrior.  She kicked the MULTI-rifle from the mans grasp as he brought it up in a last futile gesture, before stamping on his already wounded neck.  She heard the distinctive crack of bone and the trooper lay still.  Jean-Paul joined her, having switched back to his grenade launcher.  The boy's adrenaline was up now.

She patted him on the shoulder again, pointing off to the left.  The boy nodded, moving up from his position and...

The bullet impacted through his shoulder, spinning him round and rolling him onto the ground.  Marie-Ann's weapon was aimed and firing half a clip in the direction of the crack of the sniper shoot.  Up a tree her bullets shredded the timber to dust and caused something to flinch, its form translucent like water.


Wasting no time she was up from her crouch and grabbing Jean-Paul by his backpack.  The boy was in pain, cursing through clinched teeth and trying to bring his grenade launcher round to fire.  Marie-Ann fired another long burst one-handed in the direction of the Croc.  She must have succeeded in keeping the snipers head down for no more deadly rounds came chasing her.  She was able to drag Jean-Paul round behind the tree they had previous used to ambush the Orc.

The boys breath was coming in short rasps of obvious pain.

“Lie still.” she ordered, dropping her guns empty magazine and reloading a third time, now more concerned as she cast around for more enemies.  Her hand went to her comm-link again.

“Delta four this is Maverick six, I have one man down, requesting medic.”

“Confirmed Maverick six, this is Delta three.” came a surprising clear reply.  “I'm inbound.”

“Watch your route, we're under sniper fire.”

“I know.” said the Emergency 112 medic as he leapt down beside Marie-Ann.  He was fortunate not to get a face full of rifle-butt.  She didn't bother to ask were the **** he had come from and just let the man do his job.

“Watch yourself.  He's up in the trees.”

“Not for long.” said the medic, nodding to his right before he bent to the task of checking Jean-Paul.  Marie-Ann frowned before looking to were the medic had indicated.  From the undergrowth nearby rose the formidable form of a Moblot, carrying a primed panzerfaust.

Their was a flash and hiss, then a thump as the rocket hit the tree were the Croc trooper had been.  A body fell with the shower of leaves.

Good shooting.

“Delta six to all Delta call signs.  Enemy is falling back to a dropship.  Let them go.  We'll deal with them later.”

“He's just letting the bastards get away?” cursed Marie-Ann, looking to the medic for an explanation.

“Yes I am.” Said the Moblot coming up on the three of them, dropping his panzerfaust as he approached.  He evidently didn't fear any additional sniper fire for his pose was relaxed.  “They didn't come here to fight us.  We just happened to interrupt their little party.”

He pointed across the clearing.

From the direction of the destroyed dropship, Marie-Ann could see a Metro and a Chasseur hoisting a wounded man in muddy work fatigues, his leg a bloody bandaged mess.  He looked Asian, his uniform dark orange and yellow.

“Yu Jing.” stated the Moblot bluntly.  “Engineer by the looks of him.  He should be able to tell us why this mess happened.”

“Bastards.” muttered Marie-Ann, her attention now returning to Jean-Paul.

The doctor had removed the boys jump goggles and his face was contorted in pain.  He was very pale.

“How is he?”

“In pain, but stable.” Stated the medic.  “He's lucky, the bullet went straight through him.  For once we should be thankful they use armour piercing rounds.”

Marie-Ann nodded.  Losing a rookie on his first combat jump was the height of bad luck.

At this point Claude appeared, coming upon on them as the Ariadna forces regrouped.  In the distance, the sound of weapons fire had been replaced with that of chopper engines; the extraction craft were inbound.

“**** of a first day for the boy.” commented Claude as he looked over the rookies wounded body.

“Doc says he's stable.” said Marie-Ann.  She looked up at the big man and gave him a rare smile.  “But your right.”

“At least...I'll have a war wound.” breathed Jean-Paul.  Marie-Ann looked to him in surprise, finding the boy looking up through his pained expression, trying to smile through the discomfort and the effects of the medics meds.

Despite the situation both she and Claude laughed.

“That you will boy.” chuckled Claude.  “For the jeunes filles!

* * * * *

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