Over to you, Mark.
Thanks! I’m lucky to have known Nik for a great many years, back to when he used to run the magazine Auguries. His Write a Western in 30 Days is simply superb and filled with all manner of advice that’s helpful from the beginner to the most advanced writer, of all genres. I’d like to take this chance to say thanks to Nik for hosting this blog and to pass on my best wishes for the continuing success of his books.
Mark works for Southampton University, and also as a freelance writer in many fields including copywriting. His short stories have been published in Back Brain Recluse, Dream, New Moon, Auguries, Haunts, Kalkion, Screaming Dreams, and the anthologies Right To Fight, Escape Velocity, and Monk Punk. With an 8th Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo he’s also written non-fiction for Combat, Taekwondo & Korean Martial Arts, Fighters, Junk, Martial Arts Illustrated, profwritingacademy.com and calmzone.net. Nik illustrated his articles for Fighters magazine.
His first full length work was Kwak’s Competition Taekwondo, and he also has a short story collection available entitled Distant Shores. His debut novel A Pride of Lions was published by Solstice in September 2013, followed shortly afterwards by four novellas: A Connoisseur of the Bizarre, Sally Jane, Nightshade and Santa Claws is Coming. The Cull of Lions is Book II in The Darkening Stars series. He’s now focusing on the third book in this series, The Roar of Lions.
Selena Dillon and her team return to Loreen after their attack on Mantis, only to find the myriad worlds of Mankind once again plunged into war. As the Penal Regiments are betrayed by the Federation of Man, and fighting spills throughout the galaxy, the dreaded Manta raise their heads once again.
Selena soon finds herself trying to track down her friends’ daughter, Hope, from the rabbit holes of Loreen and then fights to free her home planet from alien invaders.
While a general amnesty means previous sins are forgiven, the Queen has not forgotten Selena’s attempt on her life. Selena is torn between obeying orders to protect the monarch, and her ravening thirst for revenge. But strange forces are stirring amidst the stars and Mankind gains surprising new allies, while a terrifying enemy that’s manipulated events from behind the scenes finally reveals itself for the very first time.
The Cull of Lions - excerpt
The soldiers slowed their breathing, picked themselves up and patrolled back and forth, searching. Their guns barked occasionally, as they found enemy survivors.
Then, with the perimeters secured, Selena finally counted her men.
“Thirty, is that all?” she asked. “Where’s Harding?
“He got minced,” Braxis replied, wincing. “He was standing right next to me one minute and was a cloud of blood the next. He couldn’t have felt a thing, it was so damn quick.”
Blood and bits of human flesh adhered to Braxis’s uniform, and she noted a few shudders from those around her. To her relief Singh, Kes and Arthur made it, although Kes had a large tear in his chest that Singh was patching with a battle dressing and Arthur had a rip in his cheek they could see his teeth through.
She left her men under Singh’s command, as he in turn sat in the dirt having a shrapnel wound in his arm tended by a medic. With Kes, Braxis and a couple of heavies in tow Selena went to a meeting called by Colonel Matthews, in the central chamber of the nest.
Above them were the platforms that once housed the alien crops, but were now filled with nothing but drifting ash.
“Hello, Dillon,” the colonel said, holding out his hand. “Glad you made it. That was fine work back there. Your prompt action with the grenades broke the enemy’s back.”
His genuine smile relaxed Selena. She was quite taken by the man’s warmth. His round face was framed by silvery hair. At five foot eight, he was short, stocky, spoke in brusque tones and was the typical image of an army officer.
“Thank you, Colonel,” she replied. “Do you know how the other attacks went?”
His smile faltered. “We succeeded at two of the other nests, but one of the regular army units was over-run and destroyed. I’m told there are no survivors at all. Luckily for us, the enemy chose to stay and defend the nest rather than send reinforcements to this one.” He paused and looked around, before saying even more loudly, “Now you’re all here, come with me. There’s something I want to show you, but I warn you it’s not pretty.”
The colonel led them down several floors, and as they went a horrible stench began to assail them.
“God, what’s that?” Selena asked.
Colonel Matthews neither answered nor looked at her as they turned a last corner.
The officers stopped mid-step and stared.
In the wide open space there were hundreds of pens, all filled with transparent maggots of some kind that were as long as Selena’s leg. They had thick leather-like skin and countless cilia, which writhed constantly. Their little dark mouths took chunks out of the pieces of plant trundling through the pens on conveyor belts. As the huge maggots chewed and gulped the food, it could easily be seen entering their bodies, bunching up in what could be termed a series of stomachs, before finally being ejected from their bodies in a dirty, watery stream.
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