Update and excerpt

Well, it’s December.

WILD CARD PROGRESS

Not quite finished yet. The good news is I have only 3 scenes left to write, and they’re well sketched out in my mind. The bad news is that my editor, Lauren Sweet, has sent the third section of the book back to me with a LOT of edits to do. I’m still intent on publishing Wild Card by Christmas, but I will have to put in the hours to fix the bits that are wrong in section 3.

Part of what’s wrong with section 3 is my need to tie things up and link them together. That’s made section 3 long and not tense enough. The edits will remove some of that, so that it may be logically a little less tidy, but shorter and more compelling. I may be reducing the total length of the book closer to 160k than 180k.

SALES

The run up to Christmas is a slow period for ebook sales and I haven’t spent time marketing, so it’s no surprise that sales are sluggish, with daily average sales falling to 6 for SoH and 5 for HT. RD is averaging just under 14 daily downloads.

In total, SoH has over 18,200 sales, HT has 12,800 and RD has 18,100 downloads.

EXCERPT

I’ve included the short first chapter of Wild Card. As with the rest of my books, I tend to throw readers into the deep end and explain things later. Maybe.

That’s certainly the way with Wild Card. It makes much more sense with another couple of chapters 

It’s the Monday after the Assembly that ended Hidden Trump. Amber should be getting some rest, taking some time to recover, but she knows the world doesn’t owe her that. Life, and death, go on.

Chapter 1

MONDAY

She walked bravely for a woman who was going to her death.
She was dressed simply, with a warm ski jacket, and jeans tucked into flat-heeled boots. Her platinum blonde hair was caught up in a pony tail, which swung jauntily, jarringly at odds with her situation.
It took tremendous courage or bewildering stupidity to do what she was doing.
It was 3 a.m., the streets were empty and this was not one of Denver’s thriving areas. Some of the streetlights still worked, edging everything in baleful, sodium yellow. Small businesses lined the street, bolted and locked down, steel shutters like indifferent eyes closed against the night. Telephone wires, draped from pole to pole across the road, swung idly in the wind. Dark alleys sighed with fetid smells, trash spilling out into the hard light. Only two cars had passed in the last ten minutes, and no one else was on the streets.
Not a place for a woman to walk on her own.
But she knew she wasn’t alone, of course. She’d been instructed to walk without looking back, so she would know someone was behind her. And she knew who it had to be. She knew she was being stalked by a monster.
What could she possibly want that was worth the risk?
Or was this another trap?
If it wasn’t, I would listen. I had promised; I would listen first. My nails dug into my hands. My boot heels clicked on the sidewalk.
And if it was a trap, I’d take them to hell with me.
Meanwhile, I listened to the voices whispering in my head. Just sounds, I said to myself, not people, not anyone who might end up dead on my watch. Between the hissing came street names, junctions, all within a block, keeping pace with us.
Enough. It was time.
“Call it,” I whispered, and my voices answered.
“Clear on your two.”
“Clear four.”
A pause. My adrenaline surged, but eventually the report came. “Clear on your six and two in place.”
“Clear eight,” followed immediately.
“Clear ten.”
“Clear twelve.” Even through the comms, the last voice was smooth and deep, like rocks in a river rolling together. I could banish the images of everyone else, but Victor Gayle’s voice was too demanding. It didn’t bring to mind the image of him now, somewhere out in front of me, ghosting through the night and seeking out the trap I feared must be there. It forced me to see the image of him earlier, sweat and tears glistening on his dark skin, comforting the families of Reynolds and Zimmerman while the sheriff’s people argued with the FBI over jurisdiction of the bodies. Two of his men who’d died trying to protect Jennifer Kingslund, when Frank Hoben and his gang broke into Manassah. Two whose deaths I might have prevented.
After that, I felt sick over asking him to provide people tonight, but not only did he do it, he insisted on coming as well.
“We good to go?” he asked me.
“Go,” I said. I called the woman’s cell, watched her reach into the pocket of her ski jacket, hold it to her ear. My voice thickened until I had to force the words out. “A van will pull up. Get in the back. Do what they say.”
The van rolled past me, glossy midnight blue, its powerful engine muted, quieter than the rumble of the tires. A block ahead, it slowed alongside her.
The door opened. For a second, she held off, as if she’d started to have doubts. It was way too late for that. Arms snapped out, catching her, and she vanished inside. The van accelerated away just as a Dodge pulled alongside me.
“Call it,” I said again as I got into the Dodge, and the voices whispered the even stations of the clock, still all clear.
Then a final, “Tango secure. Comms and tracking clear,” from the van. Target secured—restrained in the back of the van. No suspicious activity on comms channels. Apart from ours, of course. No tracking devices found on the target.
She was clean and we were clear.
“Team Sierra, go home,” I said, and felt the pressure lighten as the outriding scouts disconnected and went away.
We stopped to let Victor swap with the Dodge’s driver, who walked off briskly without looking back. There was no sign of a trap yet, but regardless, that was one more safe. One less to worry about, I hoped.
“Hey,” Victor said quietly as we pulled away.
I reached over and squeezed his thick forearm. I said into the comms, “Phase one, complete. Phase two, green.” First part of the mission successful, target secured and scouts away, phase two commencing. I took a deep breath and picked a number. “Mike Papa three, in five. Out.”
I watched silently as Victor hauled the car around.
Just before the Platte River bridge, we pulled off into a side road lined with commercial properties. My randomly selected meeting place, the third of four possibilities I had set up. We turned in at a fading ‘For Rent’ sign and parked around the back. Two minutes later, the van pulled in alongside us.
Hillary Clinton and George Bush came out the side door and helped the driver swap the plates.
We got out; they tossed their masks and the old plates into the Dodge’s trunk. Victor gave them a nod as they took our places. We watched them drive away.
The van sat there, engine turning over. It looked crouched over its wheels, squat and dark, pointing down a path I hadn’t wanted to take. My heart rate was already climbing. I rubbed my hands together, feeling as if I needed another shower.
“You sure?” Victor said. His hand rested on my shoulder—the right shoulder, fortunately. The left shoulder was still recovering from Hoben’s bullet at the factory in Longmont. At least the Kevlar vest had absorbed most of the damage.
Victor was frowning at me. I could feel all the questions building behind the concern, and I could do nothing about it. Not now; maybe not ever.
My stomach was churning, but I nodded. “Platte River Road,” I said. “Up and down. Nice and slow.”
River one side, industry on the other. No one to hear. No one to see. No one to know.
I slid the panel door open and stepped inside, slamming it closed behind me. It was pitch black and she was effectively blind. Even the Athanate would have difficulty seeing in here, but I wasn’t just Athanate, I was becoming Were as well, and werewolf abilities were bleeding into me. I could see a little into the infrared spectrum. Certainly I could see well enough to know she wasn’t struggling as she lay there, trussed up like a chicken. It wasn’t that she was calm. She was scared, as she should be—her breath shallow around the gag and her heart racing—but she knew struggling wasn’t going to achieve anything, and Ops 4-10 kept no dummies.
The van rocked on its stiff suspension as Victor drove us out, back onto the road.
I sat facing her, cross-legged on the floor, waves of anger flowing through me.
My old covert army unit, Ops 4-10, had come after me. The same unit I’d given heart and soul to for ten years. They’d sent a team with Keith, my former boyfriend of all people, to snatch me off the streets last Friday and take me back to their scientific group, Obs. As far as Obs were concerned, once I’d been bitten by what they still called a vampire, I’d become a freak, an object to study, and I didn’t need basic human considerations.
They’d have my old cell ready for me, a bleak, windowless cubicle, where I’d never see the sun again. I’d sworn I wouldn’t go back, and when Keith’s team tried to catch me, I’d called in the FBI. They had a team investigating military units where the Defense Department had lost oversight, and Ops 4-10 had become exactly that. Or worse.
Keith and the rest of his team had been rounded up and were guests of the FBI.
And now this. Another member of Ops 4-10, trying to draw me out.
The wolf had become very strong in me. Last week I felt the first ripples of the potential to change form when I’d been attacked in an alley. Now? Now, it felt like there were claws scratching at me from the inside. I wanted to growl; I wanted to seize her by the throat, bite hard and taste her life blood.
I was fighting myself to hold it together, to push the wolf back down.
After a long couple of minutes, I felt stable enough to reach out and remove her gag.
I took a breath, forcing my voice to stay calm and even. I still sounded like a complete stranger.
“Hello, Julie,” I said.

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About Mark Henwick

I was born in Africa and left out in the sun too often. An early interest in philosophy and psychology was adequately exorcised by tending bars. And while trying to enroll in a class to read Science Fiction full time, I ended up taking an engineering degree which splendidly qualified me to move into marketing. That in turn spawned a late onset career in creative writing. When not working, I get high by the slightly less conventional means of a small light aircraft. My first book, 'Sleight of Hand' is available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/Sa0D3n

20 responses to “Update and excerpt”

  1. Dee DenBleyker says :

    Dear Mr. Henwick;

    Thank you for the update and I must say I am so looking forward to this next installment in your series. I got the first book as a free download and was hooked after the first few sentences. I love your imagination and wonderful artistic ability, so if you keep writing I will keep buying.

    Thanks again and have a Merry Christmas.

    Sincerely,

    Dee DenBleyker

  2. Mark Henwick says :

    Thank you Dee!

    Not only for the praise (writer’s crack) but also for the information about the route by which you found your way into the series.

    I try to start off with a bang, as you can see from the Wild Card excerpt. With any novels, but especially paranormal stories, there is *always* a lot you need to explain, but I like that to come later. I’m glad that worked for you with Raw Deal – I had originally written it as a quiet start, but neither the editor nor I liked it, so I cut straight to the chase and unfolded it from there.

    Not long for Wild Card – keep an eye on the blog!

  3. Tiina says :

    So looking forward to this…can’t wait!

  4. Bernd says :

    Well that started with a bang as you said. Loved it. Not this is said with a big huge grin an kindness in the voice “back to the salt mines and finish the book so you can take my money”

  5. Mark Henwick says :

    Thank you Tiina and Bernd!

  6. Moritz Walter says :

    great start into the new book, can’t wait for the rest of it. Hopefully we don’t have to wait long now

    • Mark Henwick says :

      And you will be among the first Moritz, because you won the competition over on Mistress of the Dark Path website!
      Actually, you get the printed book as well, but since that takes about 2 months to organise the printers, I’ll be sending you the ebook on publication day.

      Which is getting closer…

      • Moritz Walter says :

        Thank you Mark, I finished re-reading the books today and i have to say i really like it in your series that the next book starts shortly after where the previous ones end

  7. Robert Bird says :

    Well, you’ve got me hooked with the first chapter of Wild Card. I’m hoping to have it as my Christmas present to myself. Thanks for keeping us up to date. You said that praise is “writer’s crack”. So I’ll say great stories are readers’ crack and I can hardly wait for my next fix of Amber Farrel and friends.

  8. Veneta Borum says :

    OK, I LOVE AND AM HOOKED ON THIS SERIES!! Patiently waiting for Wild Card (I say this only to not say WHERE THE HECK IS THE BOOK? I WANT TO READ NOW LOL). You do like to leave us hanging, just like the excerpt. Just want to keep reading to find out what is going to happen? I love the bit about Amber “feeling the Were that is now a part of her. Can’t wait to see how that is going to play in the series, esp with her vampire cohorts. Would love to be an “ARE” for this book!!!!!

  9. Mark Henwick says :

    Thank you Bob and Veneta!
    Not too long now. Wild Card is the real introduction to the Were and Amber has to adapt to this side of her. It’s not easy (of course).

  10. HuginActual says :

    I’m really exited to read Wild Card. This is one of the best urban fantasy series out there. I re-read the first three books in three days! I should have waited longer before re-reading them, now I still have to wait!

    I wanted to point out that Amber was leaving her weapon a lot. I know that the Mark 23 is pretty big, however she should be used to carrying it or another weapon since she is a PI with a CC license. The first time, OK people make mistakes, but several times? Even after she recognized the mistake and planned on not doing it again, she did it again.

    Thank you for writing one of my favorite series of books out there!

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks Hugin! Yes, Amber does leave her HK behind sometimes. It’s so damn big. I’m sure Tullah is going to propose something more suitable soon. I tried raising it with Amber, but she just gave me one of those looks and I was too scared to say anything else. 🙂

      • richard says :

        maybe she can get a holster that sits in a dimensional pocket. that way she always has access to her guns. she would think its cool to always be packing not matter what she is … or is not wearing/doing… SMOKEINN!!…. LOL

  11. Daniel Dobbelstein says :

    I love those books, a realistic story in a paranormal world, with a Heroine who at the same time is tough, but human. really good.
    Love the description of the vision at night, with the blend into the Infrared, though in the first chapter here you say its something unique to her or from her wereside, in book 2 it appeared as if it was Athanate ability? Just curious. On the other hand, does that vision not make it difficult to see or interprete details? I have used Infrared and Nightvision goggles on occasion, and interpreting what those pictures are, can be very difficult. Its in reality sadly not as easy as in movies. Also you use alot of detail in Nightvision and especially in infrared vision. For example distinguishing between people is getting close to impossible.
    In the last news section you where discussing about Ambers throaty voice coming from being a sergeant, in the army, and some people where argueing against it, with some credibility as i must say.
    But then Amber did get her throat halfway torn out, in that attack in south america, and the voice could be a result of that. (just food for thought)

    Well thank you for your lovely books
    Daniel from Germany

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you Daniel.

      Well spotted. Athanate and Were abilities overlap to a certain extent. I originally had a half chapter explaining the limits of various abilities (in Hidden Trump), but I had to edit it out because it slowed the flow of the story too much. Both Athanate and Were can see at night, but the Athanate sight is like image enhancement (just more sensitive) and the Were sight is like infrared (actually see further into the red part of the spectrum).

      Yes, sight in infrared is blurred because a hot body at night will radiate heat and you’ll be able to see the hot air. As you say, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between two similarly sized people who were stationary.You *might* be able to tell them apart from their style of walking/running.

      You will love some of the night vision scenes in Wild Card!

      Yes, I’ve got into a bit of a problem about the throaty voice. In truth, I want her to have that sort of voice just because I find it attractive 🙂

      I just love it that I have readers in Germany – actually, there were more sales in Germany during November than there were in the UK!

      • Daniel Dobbelstein says :

        Hello Mark, just a quick reply, especially on the vision thing.

        Actually, a moving person, gets even harder to distinguish, because in infrared vision you see blurs, from said warm air, that is being moved by the person who is doing the moving. When someone walks, in cool air, you see something like orange afterimages of the person, from where his arms have been to where they are now, Makes judging a persons size and stature very hard. They train people in the military exactly with the purpose to compensate for that, especially drone operators and snipers who use such instruments often and need to work with some kind of precision with it.

        Now thats naturally just the technical side of it. Eyes who are able to supernaturally see into the red spectrum might have an easier time to compensate for such a thing

        Sorry if i am a nitpicker of such things
        Daniel

        PS: “About the throaty voice, i can totally imagine it, and i understand that sentiment. Thats why i think making it maybe a result of her injury instead of her Army sergeant work, would work nicely, and also might give some kind of Conversation hookup with her Sister or Mom.

  12. Mark Henwick says :

    Gold dust Daniel!
    I need nitpickers who have experience of tactical use of these kind of things to give me a feel for what’s available these days or will theoretically be available. I try and use that in my worldbuilding. I really don’t like saying ‘oh it just works somehow, it’s magic’.

    Thanks!

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