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Sad news that I should have been clear about sooner: Musa Publishing, the small publisher that took on my steampunk mystery series, is closing down. Which means that my novellas will no longer be available.

The good news is, that’s only for now. I’ve got plans on the horizon for the triumphant return and continuation of Captain Ramos’s adventures, and I will tell you more once I’ve got the details all hammered out.

But for now, you have a few hours left that you can use to grab the Captain Ramos collection for $1.20. If you don’t have chance to do so, well… good things do come to those who wait.

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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So… it’s a book! An anthology, more exactly, of the five Captain Ramos novellas. Just in time for more new novellas to come out. (Soon. Very soon.)

I’ve been working on this for a while, coming up with some new material to go with the five novellas. And a title as ridiculous and awesome as Sausages, Steam, and the Bad Thing: a compendium of (mis)adventures both dashing and dire of that most infamous pirate, Captain Ramos is not just going to write itself.

And it may or may not include an extra little story about everyone’s favorite, face-eating, tiny dog, Chippy. (It totally does.)

Go! While the cake book is still fresh and warm from the oven! It’s at the Musa Publishing site!

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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Yes, the next novella (and the last one for this year) now has a cover! I’m really pleased with how this one turned out, and had a lot of fun writing the novella. It’s coming soon–November 1! GET READY!

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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It’s out! It’s out!

bloodinelkcreek-500

The deadline for this novella ate my life for a week. You see, when it was time to turn it in, it was about 20K words long… and nowhere near finished. I had to go into writing overdrive and did nothing but eat and sleep and breathe Blood in Elk Creek when I wasn’t at my job. I literally just sat on the couch and frantically typed.

And I’m really, really happy with how it turned out. I hope that you like it!

Blood in Elk Creek

Once called the Great Plains, the Dead Plains are a place in which no sane citizen of the Duchies dares set foot. The Infected roam the lands in starving packs and rare is the man who returns alive from an expedition. But when one of the regiments of the Grand Duchy of Denver disappears into those wilds under false pretenses, Colonel Geoffrey Douglas dares the Dead Plains to investigate. And Captain Marta Ramos, infamous pirate and thorn in his side, is not far behind.

Foul events are afoot in the Black Hills: Lakota hunting camps leveled, and the Infected move as an army in purposeful, terrifying ways. Captain Ramos and Colonel Douglas must form an uneasy truce and venture deep into the hostile terrain of the Black Hills to discover what has prompted this invasion and how to stop it.

If the Infected don’t kill them first.

And have an excerpt:

Marta looked upstream, but the view was occluded by rocks and more pine trees. There was a loud splash, followed a moment later by another surge of clouded water.

She levered herself to her feet, then drew her machete. The heavy blade felt strange and clumsy in her left hand. Feeling a bit drunk on adrenalin, she made her way around the rock with exaggerated care.

The stream took a sharp turn on the other side of the rocks, widening. Two corpses were laid neatly out in the shallow water. A coyote stood over one, worrying at its arm—the source of the splashes and the gouts of old, coagulated blood.

Blood.

Hand still clutching the machete, Marta bent over and retched, forcibly ejecting all of the water she’d just drunk from her stomach. She wiped her mouth with a handful of grass and looked up to find the coyote now staring at her, a profoundly unimpressed look on its face and a forearm and hand dangling from its jaws.

Marta’s stomach cramped again. Stop that, she mentally commanded herself. It was a reaction entirely in her mind, nothing but fear.

Tail at a cocky angle, the coyote trotted off with its prize, though the animal did give her a wide berth.

Marta approached the bodies with more trepidation than she had ever felt when faced with any number of corpses. Neither of the corpses had heads; each simply had a stump blackened with blood and rot. She recognized the look of the cuts, knew them before she’d even pulled her goggles properly on and snapped in one of the surviving magnifying lenses.

They’d each had their head removed with two or three strikes from a machete. She’d had to make similar cuts herself before, more times than she cared to consider. Each corpse wore the tattered remains of leather clothing, just trousers and no shirts, feet yet covered with moccasins. A few decorations partially obscured with muck and blood were made from colored porcupine quills; this was not the clothing of those who resided in the duchies.

All of these small details, building readily into a disturbing picture in Marta’s mind, felt curiously beside the point. Her left hand shook as she raised it to her goggles again, flipping through the loupes until she found those of treated calcite. The delicate lenses had cracked and crazed into a thousand tiny rhombic shapes, but even through that she saw the telltale glow that oozed from the bodies, that swirled through the water that touched them and confirmed her worst terror.

The corpses and stream, the stream she’d so greedily drunk from, were alive with Infection. Bright flecks showed on her left hand, which she’d used to scoop water to her mouth. A horrible sort of laugh squeezed from her throat.

She’d survived the most impressive aeroplane crash of her career just long enough to kill herself.

Order now! 

#SFWAPro

Originally published at The sound and nerdery of Rachael Acks. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

Coming 9/6/13: Blood in Elk Creek - This is the longest novella I’ve written to date – 36K words of adventure, mystery, and snark for Captain Ramos, Colonel Douglas, and a horse named Dolly. And if you’ve been wondering about the Infected, they’re coming for you now.

I’m really excited to share this one with you guys and I hope that you like it. Less than two weeks away!

Once called the Great Plains, the Dead Plains are a place in which no sane citizen of the Duchies dares set foot. The Infected roam the lands in starving packs and rare is the man who returns alive from an expedition. But when one of the regiments of the Grand Duchy of Denver disappears into those wilds under false pretenses, Colonel Geoffrey Douglas dares the Dead Plains to investigate. And Captain Marta Ramos, infamous pirate and thorn in his side, is not far behind.

Foul events are afoot in the Black Hills: Lakota hunting camps leveled, and the Infected move as an army in purposeful, terrifying ways. Captain Ramos and Colonel Douglas must form an uneasy truce and venture deep into the hostile terrain of the Black Hills to discover what has prompted this invasion and how to stop it.

If the Infected don’t kill them first.

bloodinelkcreek-500

Marta looked upstream, but the view was occluded by rocks and more pine trees. There was a loud splash, followed a moment later by another surge of clouded water.

She levered herself to her feet, then drew her machete. The heavy blade felt strange and clumsy in her left hand. Feeling a bit drunk on adrenalin, she made her way around the rock with exaggerated care.

The stream took a sharp turn on the other side of the rocks, widening. Two corpses were laid neatly out in the shallow water. A coyote stood over one, worrying at its arm—the source of the splashes and the gouts of old, coagulated blood.

Blood.

Hand still clutching the machete, Marta bent over and retched, forcibly ejecting all of the water she’d just drunk from her stomach. She wiped her mouth with a handful of grass and looked up to find the coyote now staring at her, a profoundly unimpressed look on its face and a forearm and hand dangling from its jaws.

Marta’s stomach cramped again. Stop that, she mentally commanded herself. It was a reaction entirely in her mind, nothing but fear.

Tail at a cocky angle, the coyote trotted off with its prize, though the animal did give her a wide berth.

Marta approached the bodies with more trepidation than she had ever felt when faced with any number of corpses. Neither of the corpses had heads; each simply had a stump blackened with blood and rot. She recognized the look of the cuts, knew them before she’d even pulled her goggles properly on and snapped in one of the surviving magnifying lenses.

They’d each had their head removed with two or three strikes from a machete. She’d had to make similar cuts herself before, more times than she cared to consider. Each corpse wore the tattered remains of leather clothing, just trousers and no shirts, feet yet covered with moccasins. A few decorations partially obscured with muck and blood were made from colored porcupine quills; this was not the clothing of those who resided in the duchies.

All of these small details, building readily into a disturbing picture in Marta’s mind, felt curiously beside the point. Her left hand shook as she raised it to her goggles again, flipping through the loupes until she found those of treated calcite. The delicate lenses had cracked and crazed into a thousand tiny rhombic shapes, but even through that she saw the telltale glow that oozed from the bodies, that swirled through the water that touched them and confirmed her worst terror.

The corpses and stream, the stream she’d so greedily drunk from, were alive with Infection. Bright flecks showed on her left hand, which she’d used to scoop water to her mouth. A horrible sort of laugh squeezed from her throat.

She’d survived the most impressive aeroplane crash of her career just long enough to kill herself.

Preorder now! 

#SFWAPro

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

 

bloodinelkcreek-500Less than a month away–Blood in Elk Creek releases on 9/6! I can’t wait to share this one with you!

 

Originally published at The sound and nerdery of Rachael Acks. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

curiouscaseofmissclementinenimowitz-500Marta spied a curved white shape under one of the little tables, thanks to the new angle of perspective. Curious, she bent to retrieve what turned out to be a china teacup, mate to the one Simms had found on the end table, a brown stain dried on its bottom and side. Marta took a curious sniff, only to detect something bitter, hinting of almonds. “Oh my.”

“I’m still not going to let you shoot the dog,” Simms grumbled.

Marta crouched down, looking from table to corpse. It was too far for the cup to have rolled there on its own unless Miss Nimowitz had flung it in some final seizure, and that seemed unlikely since a few drops of tea had remained within. But perhaps it had been prodded by an unwary foot and sent skittering aside. More importantly, she somehow doubted that Miss Nimowitz would have prepared tea with two cups if it was just a final drink for herself.

Interesting, that.

“I’m less inclined to shoot it now,” Marta said, rising back to her feet. “The dog is a witness to murder.”

Simms gave her one of those looks at which he seemed to excel, his expression caught somewhere between disbelief and resignation. “Did you really just say that with a straight face?”

“I’ve rarely been more serious in my life.” Marta waggled the teacup at him. “Miss Nimowitz was poisoned.”

“And shot.”

“Tough old bird.” Marta smiled. She checked the teapot on the end table, but could detect no hint of poison in the liquid still within. “Unless our little friend there has developed opposable thumbs, she had outside help with at least one of those activities.”

“Murdered twice and then robbed. Not a good week for her,” Simms commented, but his expression had become markedly less grudging. While the man wasn’t averse to firefights and throwing the occasional security guard off a train, his feelings about murder were generally in line with Marta’s—it was the sort of thing that gave honest criminals a bad name.

I loved writing this novella. I loved it. I do so hope you love it too.

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

theuglytinorrery-500

“You wouldn’t dare.” The conductor, a fit man in a crisp blue uniform now unfortunately stained with sweat and powder thanks to his insistence on resisting rather more athletically than had been necessary, gave her a wide-eyed look. Recognition and horror dawned in his eyes as he took in her scarlet coat. There was only one pirate who had that particular quirk of dress, after all. Perhaps he’d missed the memo explaining that the infamous Captain Ramos was female.Marta smiled at him. It was an expression she had, quite literally, practiced in front of a mirror for years to perfect. In her role as pirate captain, that smile was calculated to state, why yes I am quite mad and have a fraction of concern for human life so small, you might as well save your time and round it to zero. “Pirate, Mister…” she peered at his little name badge, “…Lewis. I’m a pirate. Is there anything my ilk does not dare?”

Mostly a bluff, that. Captain Ramos was not one to slaughter droves of innocent civilians, though she had in fact shot a conductor once, because he’d gone after her with a paring knife from a nearby fruit bowl. It had been an embarrassing incident for all involved—terminally so for the conductor in question—but Marta had made good use of it nonetheless in the cause of convincing other potentially brave souls that she really was that mad.

“You’re a madwoman.”

“If I must keep repeating myself, this conversation will become intensely dull.” But she examined him carefully, taking in the signs of distress and mentally calculating which way he would crack if just a bit more pressure were applied. She drew her pistol and pointed it squarely in his face.

The man’s eyes went wide, and he tried to jerk his hands up defensively, only to be stopped by the firm hands of one Lucius Lamburt. Lucius played his part beautifully by growling into the man’s ear, “Now then, sonny, you don’ want ta give us no trouble.” Lucius also played the part beautifully of having been born, as far as anyone could tell, as some sort of gorilla who was subsequently partially shaved and outfitted with the surprisingly well-tailored clothes of a man.

…though knowing Lucius, Marta reflected, he was quite likely serious. The man was unhinged in all of the most useful ways. “If you please, Mister Lewis. I wouldn’t want to overexcite our Mister Lamburt with the sight of blood.”

Lucius laughed in the conductor’s ear, accompanied by a fine spray of saliva. That, at least, was more obviously an act. Lucius had a bit of a thing about bodily fluids.

The conductor was quick to lead her into the third freight car then, and rip up the floor paneling that hid the safe. While the main point of the raid had been the train’s cargo-a shipment of steel bars and some much-needed, delicately machined replacement parts for their various engines-there was really no reason to leave the store of gold and silver on the train behind. It was just good business.

“Captain, this ought to be the last of the crates,” Simms called from behind.

Marta glanced up to see the tall man walking down the narrow hallway toward her. He held one end of a wooden crate that had been painted a rather odd shade of green. “Are you certain, Simms? That doesn’t look like the rest.”

“The maker’s stamp–” Whatever Simms might have been about to point out was lost when the door to the car crashed open and a man with a shock of wild yellow curls flung himself through. His dove-gray jacket was torn and his tie in complete disarray, one glove missing as well, the other stained with ink or possibly grease, it was difficult to tell from this distance.

With wild desperation he flung himself at Simms, arms flailing. “That is my trunk! Mine! You can’t have it!”

The attack was sudden and ferocious enough, despite the almost comical size difference that was revealed when the short, slight man proceeded to cling to Simms like a monkey, that Simms dropped his end of the crate. It hit the floor with a crash and the man who had been holding the other side lost his grip as well, cursing as he did so. One side of the crate lost its integrity, boards splintering outward.

As Simms tried to pry away the fingers of the much smaller man free, bearings cascaded from the splintered crate. Swearing, Simms stumbled and then began to slip freely on them, arms windmilling and legs skating to and fro as the much smaller man pummeled him about the head and shoulders with one hand.

Marta, Lucius, and the conductor, momentarily forgetting he was a captive and this might have been the perfect opportunity to escape, openly stared.

“Ah… shouldn’t someone help that man?” the conductor said, after a moment.

“Naw, ‘e’s fine. Winning even, I’d say,” Lucius answered.

The sad truth of it was, Marta wasn’t entirely certain to whom they were referring.

Released today at Musa Publishing! If you liked the excerpt, there’s more where that came from!

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

Coming 3/15/13!At long last, my steampunk murder mystery novelette is available for pre-order from Musa Publishing! The phrase “unspeakably excited” doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel about this. The novelette will be released on April 5th! Get it while it’s hot!

Here’s a taste of what it’s about:

When theft turns to murder, retired Colonel Geoffrey Douglas knows only two things for certain. The Air Ship Titania carries 300 passengers and crew. And any one of them could be the murderer…

In the wake of global Infection and hard-fought wars to drive the disease out into the wilds, the survivors have slowly rebuilt a polite society that relies upon airships and steam engines to travel safely between the remaining Grand Duchies. In times of peace, old war heroes must find new ways to make themselves useful. But where there are ships, there are pirates, and darkness waits in the most unexpected places…

After years at war, retired Colonel Geoffrey Douglas tries to accustom himself to a more tame career as the Grand Duke’s chief of security, but he can’t seem to let his guard down. He sees danger around every corner. Worst of all, he’s often right. And when a simple mission to deliver precious cargo for the Grand Duke goes wrong, Geoff finds himself in a race against time to find a murderer before the Air Ship Titania lands and the murderer can escape.

But there are 300 passengers and crew aboard, and the murderer could be any one of them. When Geoff discovers a second murder victim, he realizes this isn’t just a fight to prevent the murderer from escaping: it’s a desperate race to stop him from killing again.

I had a lot of fun writing this and hopefully you’ll have just as much fun reading it. As you can tell, Colonel Douglas is a very serious investigator with a very serious mustache, and he’s not about to let a murderer get away with a crime under his watch. Technically if you’ve read The Jade Tiger you’ll have one over on poor Geoff for most of the story, so enjoy your advantage!

Here’s an excerpt so you can get a feel for my writing:

Geoff sat up with a gasp, for a moment disoriented in the darkness, recognizing neither the bed nor the thin strip of light leaking in under the door. He heard only snapping tree branches, the crack of distant guns, shouts, and screams as the Infected slammed into his company’s defensive lines. No, he realized, those sounds were in his mind, mixed with someone pounding frantically at his door, rescuing him from a thoroughly unpleasant dream. He took three deep breaths to calm himself, then felt along the wall to find the lamp and turn the power back up.

“A moment,” he shouted. “A moment if you please. I’m awake. Let me make myself decent.” He slipped from bed and quickly dressed. His shirt was rumpled, collar and cuffs undone, and his tie nowhere to be found, but he deemed it good enough for the ungodly hour.

There was a young officer other side of the door, face pale, ginger hair disheveled. His uniform had a lieutenant’s stripes on the shoulder.

“What is so important that it couldn’t wait for a decent hour?” Geoff demanded.

“Something awful’s happened, sir. Captain told me to fetch you quick as I could—”

“Is it my luggage?”

The lieutenant shook his head, swallowing hard. “No, sir, it isn’t. It’s much worse.”

Geoff nodded, then dug his lorgnette from his traveling case. The little device was rather battered and showing its age, but still serviceable. “Then you’d best show me the way, Lieutenant…?”

“Collins, sir.”

Geoff followed Lieutenant Collins along several hallways and down two flights of stairs. Soon they were at the top of another set of stairs, these ones plain metal that led down to the crew quarters.

There was a small crowd gathered at the bottom of the stairs, most of the people dressed in the uniforms of the crew or servants. More to Geoff’s interest, there was a body sprawled untidily across the deck plates, a pool of dark red spread out in a halo from the back of its head. The head itself was turned at an unnatural angle, far back and to the side.

It took only a moment for his sleep-muzzled mind to place who it was at the bottom of the stairs: Lord Caraway. It made little sense for the man to be in this area of the ship, but the truth was inescapable: he was very much there, and very much dead.

And now I’ll get back to work on writing the third novella for the series – because that’s right, there will be at least four more after this one!

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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Tetsugawa Katsuhiro

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