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The Hero of Zegoma Beach – An Oconic Gates Story

THOZB cover v2 100517 800x1277What if you could fight a war and know that you were going to win?

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What if you could fight a war and know that none of your warriors had to die? What if you had the chance to get everything you ever wanted and more besides?

Would you take it?

For Quiga Salkand the answer was ‘no, thank you very much.’ He preferred things the way they were, happy in his job as a councillor to the King of the Crescent Isle.

The trouble was, Quiga’s king was a bonkers, nutjob of a king. A king who dreamt of leading an army to restore a long lost Kingdom and who might just have stolen the means to do it.

Quiga just wanted a quiet life. But you’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt. In addition to the mad king, Quiga must contend with two invasions, a murderous plot, ghosts, magic, and an ambitious wife who keeps urging him to snatch the throne.

He’ll be lucky to get out of this alive.

The Hero of Zegoma Beach is a standalone story in The Oconic Gates series, which includes Once Called Magic and The Oconic Prison.

Get The Hero of Zegoma Beach on Amazon (UK)

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In progress: The Hero of Zegoma Beach

Before I get to work on the Oconic Gates 2 (title TBD), I’ve finished up The Oconic Prison novella and just started work on the second spin-off — The Hero of Zegoma Beach.

Anyone who has read Once Called Magic will know that Lokke de Calvas is often described as ‘The Hero of Zegoma Beach’, but what happened that day is never quite explained. I planned to leave it unaddressed, or maybe answer it somewhere in the Oconic Gates Book 2. But an early story I abandoned called ‘Impossible Castle’ seemed a perfect fit, and so the notes for that are being reworked as an oconic tale.

As of 18 July 2016, it starts like this:

Anybody else would have fled.

As cannon fire from a thousand ships rained hot lead upon Zegoma Beach, you wouldn’t have blamed a man for running. But Caster Lokke de Calvas stood his ground, every shot that landed geysering sand and pebbles into the air. No comrades to join him in battle – the garrison lay four miles distant across the headland. Nowhere to run before the first vessels ground ashore. Just one legionnaire bravely facing one hundred thousand sword-wielding warriors, borne on a fleet that filled the horizon.

Impossible odds.

The stuff of legend…

What follows is an invasion story that shows the events leading up to the ‘incident’ on Zegoma Beach and the part Lokke de Calvas played in it.

With a bit of luck, and if the writing gods are smiling down upon me, I hope to get the novella-length story finished by the end of the year. It’s already well underway.

In the meantime, you can start the story of Lokke de Calvas with Once Called Magic, which you can find on Amazon, Apple, Kobo and all good digital book stores.

The Oconic Prison – An Oconic Gates Story

top_photo-cover-170117-800x1277He avoided going to prison, now he’s breaking into one…

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Varo Pinetta has had his scrapes with the law, but now he’s a caster – a legionnaire trained to wield magical ‘oca’ in service of the Empire. He thought he’d put his criminal past behind him. But then his Sergeant ordered him to bust into a prison to rescue an old friend.

Not just any prison. A 600 foot-tall tower of rock called a Pillar, its location unknown, a portal gateway the only way in or out. Led by a beautiful thief, Pinetta and his fellow prison-breakers hatch a daring plan that involves an explosive heist and a clever fraud. The trouble is, the prison governor knows they’re coming…

Can they rescue the oconic prisoner? Or will they die trying?

The Oconic Prison is a page-turning fantasy thriller that’s part Ripper Street, part Stargate, with a touch of The Italian Job.

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Excerpt: The Oconic Prison

This is the opening chapter of The Oconic Prison – a prison break/heist story that’s a companion to the novel Once Called Magic, Book 1 in the Oconic Gates sequence. But you don’t need to have read the novel to enjoy the novella…


“WHAT I’M GOING to ask of you is illegal, dangerous and quite possibly treasonous.”

Caster-Sergeant Arron Vellar of the Old Hundredth sat at a rough-hewn table in the Yarborough Inn. An open fire crackled behind him, logs spitting and popping. He beckoned the two casters seated opposite him to lean in closer. “Should we fail,” he said in a low voice, looking each man square in the eyes, “we could be imprisoned, even executed.”

The Yarborough’s saloon was dim and hazy, wood panelled walls painted scarlet (‘so the blood don’t show’, its proprietor claimed), mosaic floor patterned with black and white diamonds, sticky with spilt beer. At this time of day, the inn stirred together tanned farm hands and sallow-faced bale-breakers, loudmouth cotton carders and boozy loom winders. A feisty stew of the city’s working classes.

That city was the Briar, capital of Mulai, the oldest and grandest city in the Empire.

The Empire Vellar was sworn to defend.

The Empire he now found himself plotting against.

The Caster-Sergeant reached for the jug of ale he’d ordered, a foamy black brew named after some one-legged dog. He topped up everyone’s glasses.

“If you need me, Sergeant, I am ready to serve.” Caster Gustus Bordo puffed out his chest, his expression stern. At least as stern as a legionnaire could look with a golden-coloured bandana tied about his head. Bordo insisted it was an ancient symbol of courage worn by the Knights of Dawn during the Oconic War. Vellar thought it looked more like a neck tie. A cheap one at that. But who was he to judge? What a man wore when he wasn’t on legion duty was his own business.

“Rakou’s Balls, Gustus!” Next to Bordo, Caster Varo Pinetta shook his head in disbelief, greased-back blond hair barely moving, like he’d set it overnight in a pudding tin. “You ain’t even heard what the sarge wants us to do yet.”

“Does it matter, Pinhead?” Bordo scowled at Pinetta, bushy eyebrows arching over black-rimmed eyes. “We’re casters.”

“Who are supposed to defend the laws of Empire, not bloody break ‘em!”

“We do as we’re ordered to. No more, no less. Or haven’t you grasped that simple fact yet?”

“I like to know what I’m getting into—”

“Hey!” Vellar kicked Bordo under the table and the caster shot him an angry stare. “Keep it down. I expect better from you, Gus. Leave the boy be.”

He wondered whether he’d made a mistake pairing the two casters together. Bordo was eager to please, a career caster who’d happily march to the edge of the world if Vellar ordered him to. Probably over it. Pinetta was younger and cockier, full of questions, still adjusting to the rigours of legion life. Vellar knew the other casters picked on the boy. Didn’t trust him. Called him ‘Pinhead’. He’d hoped to keep the boy’s past a secret. But somehow Bordo and the other men had found out where he’d come from and what he’d done.

Vellar glanced around to reassure himself that nobody was eavesdropping. Two men at the next table over seemed to be conducting a ‘who could cuss the loudest’ competition, tankards spilling the slops of some pale booze. The other side of him, a lusty couple smooched on a bench against the back wall, eyes closed, lips locked, oblivious to those around them.

Satisfied no-one could hear, Vellar reckoned it was time to reveal the truth of their meeting. “You’re probably wondering why you’re here,” he began. “The thing is, I need your help. We’re going to finish the mission that Colonel de Calvas set us before he left.”

Pinetta’s eyes widened at the news. He leaned in closer, almost whispering. “So you’ve found Merilla?”

Vellar nodded. “We have.”

“Where? Where did you find him?”

“Wait.” Bordo held his hand up, brow furrowed in confusion. “Who, or what is a Merilla?”

“Alhaz Merilla,” Vellar explained. “Civvie administrator to the Colonel. Nabbed by the Justices and unjustly imprisoned, not guilty of the murder they hold him for.” He noticed that Bordo was poised to say something, but he ploughed on before Gus could get a word in. “Look, the details aren’t important. What matters is the Colonel told us to rescue him, ‘whatever it takes’. Those were his words weren’t they, Pin?”

Pinetta nodded, seemingly lost in thought, both hands clasped around his glass.
“Which means,” Vellar continued, “that we, as sworn casters of the Old Hundredth, the Colonel’s own regiment, are duty-bound to carry that order out. In fact, preparations are already underway. But it’s a big undertaking. I can’t rescue him alone…”

The story continues in The Oconic Prison, out now.

In progress: The Oconic Prisoner

Now that Once Called Magic is out in the wild, I’ve been busy with stories that follow it up.

In between Once Called Magic and the forthcoming Oconic Gates 2 book (as yet untitled), I’m finishing up a novella that is tentatively titled The Oconic Prisoner.

It follows Caster-Sergeant Vellar’s attempt to stage a daring prison break. Of course, the prison isn’t an ordinary prison. The prisoner is no ordinary inmate. Meanwhile, Vellar doesn’t know if he can trust the people he’s working with.

Given a fair wind (and no distractions), this one should be ready by June.

After that, I’ll get back to editing the second full-length book in the Oconic Gates series, which continues the adventures of Lokke de Calvas and Ember Cobb.


Once Called Magic – Out now!

Looking back, I can see that I started writing Once Called Magic way back in 2013. The original plan was to write a 30,000 word novella, based in a Victorian-inspired world where magic powered everything — cookers, lights, carts, ships, Stargate-style portal travel and weapons.

Two years on, several rewrites later, some procrastination,  a lot of self-doubt, plus the addition of a whole new story line, and the 85,000 word book is finally finished.

Just in time for Christmas too…

For now, it’s available online exclusively at Amazon (see below), published by the wonderful people at GCC Books with a striking cover by talented artist David Leahey.

Once Called Magic (Amazon US)
Once Called Magic (Amazon UK)