Two new In Love and War stories and a new Thurvok story

It’s another commercial break of sorts, because I have not one but three new releases to announce. One of them is even a short novel. In fact, I’d hoped to announce those new releases before, but one vendor (24symbols – cough) was really dragging their feet to get the books up.

Let’s start with the two new In Love and War stories.

Mementos and Memories is another story to come out of the 2019 July short story challenge. The inspiration for this story was was the backcover blurb of a Jack Reacher novel, The Midnight Line by Lee Child, of all things. According to the blurb, Jack Reacher spots a West Point class ring in the window of a pawn shop and sets out to locate the owner, because no one would ever willingly give up such a ring. When I read the blurb, I thought, “Wow, this would be a great plot for an In Love and War story.” So I sent Mikhail and Anjali shopping in an intriguing environment and had them come across a Shakyri dagger.

Now I haven’t read The Midnight Line (I’m way behind on the Jack Reacher series), so I have no idea where Lee Child took his story. According to the summary, it involves the opoid crisis. Knowing the Jack Reacher series, I suspect there will be quite a lot of action and violence. That said, I’m pretty sure that Anjali and Mikhail would get along just swimmingly with Jack Reacher, should they ever find themselves in the same universe.

I sometimes call the In Love and War series cozy space opera and Mementos and Memories definitely falls onto the cozier end of the series. For following the trail of the dagger leads Anjali and Mikhail to a sweet elderly couple and a decades old tale of forbidden love. Because in an eighty-eight year war (actually, eighty-nine years by now), it’s kind of obvious that Anjali and Mikhail can hardly be the first to fall in love across the lines.

So follow along, as Anjali and Mikhail investigate…

Mementos and Memories
Mementos and Memories by Cora BuhlertOnce, Anjali Patel and Mikhail Grikov were soldiers on opposing sides of an intergalactic war. They met, fell in love and decided to go on the run together.

Now Anjali and Mikhail are trying to eke out a living on the independent worlds of the galactic rim, while attempting to stay under the radar of those pursuing them.

At a market on the tropical ocean world of Sentosa, Anjali and Mikhail come across a dagger for sale. This dagger is the signature weapon of the Imperial Shakyri Corps, and Anjali knows that no Shakyri warrior would ever willingly part with their dagger. So Anjali and Mikhail go in search of the lawful owner of the dagger and come across a long forgotten tale of forbidden love…

This is a story of 7300 words or approximately 25 print pages in the In Love and War series, but may be read as a standalone.

More information.
Length: 7300 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

If Mementos and Memories sits on the cozy end of the In Love and War series, Honourable Enemies sits on the opposite end, since it’s grimmer, grittier and has a lot more action. And gladiator fights in space, because who doesn’t love gladiator fights in space? Though there is also a food scene, because it wouldn’t be an In Love and War story without a food scene.

The basic idea behind Honourable Enemies was “What if Anjali and Mikhail were forced to work together with their greatest enemy, Mikhail’s former commander Colonel Brian Mayhew of the Republican Special Commando Forces?”

Now Brian Mayhew was initially conceived as as a rather one-dimensional antagonist whose only purpose it was to hunt down Anjali and Mikhail, a task he was very zealous about. You can see this version of Brian Mayhew in action in Bullet Holes and also in Freedom’s Horizon to a certain degree.

However, one day I was musing about the overall arc of the In Love and War series, particularly about a later novel in the series and something Mayhew does in that novel. I can’t say what exactly, because that would be a spoiler, but let’s just say it’s something pretty awful.

And suddenly, I heard Brian Mayhew’s booming voice in my head (yes, my characters talk to me on occasion), saying, “I wouldn’t do that. What do you take me for? I’m not a villain and I’m certainly not a monster.”

“Ahem, actually you are a villain,” I pointed out. “Or how do you explain all this?” And then I listed a lot of questionable to downright villainous things he had done.

“Well, about that…” Mayhew said and gave me a variation of the “It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it and besides, I was just following orders” monologue.

I listened to all that and finally said, “All right, so let’s assume for a moment that you’re not a villain. Nonetheless, you’ve manoeuvred yourself into a situation where you have to do something awful. And you really can’t tell me you didn’t see that coming. So if you’re not a villain, what are you going to do about it?”

So he told me. And I suddenly realised just who this character was, namely the grizzled maverick space captain who is the hero of so many traditional space operas, turned reluctant villain. He became a lot more interesting as a character after that.

In the prequel novella Evacuation Order, we get see an unambiguously heroic Brian Mayhew before he joined the Special Commando Forces and also learn just why there is such a strong connection between him and Mikhail. There’s a little bit about Mayhew’s ongoing conflict with the Santerna brothers in that story, too.

And in Honourable Enemies, we finally learn what it takes to make Mayhew act against orders and go AWOL, ironically the very same offenses for which he persecutes Mikhail and Anjali so very mercilessly. A lot of the novel is told from his point of view, so we get a lot more insight into who Brian Mayhew is and what makes him tick. We also get to see Brian Mayhew in hero mode once more (even Anjali has to admit that) and we get the first hint that Mayhew is no more happy with the things he’s forced to do for the greater good than Mikhail.

Another strong influence on Honourable Enemies were the Italian sword and sandal epics that filled the airwaves when I was a kid. Now I grew up in the era of only three TV channels, which mostly focussed on wholesome and educational programming and felt that even Porky Pig of all things was too violent. However, for reasons best known to themselves, these wholesome and educational channels would broadcast Italian sword and sandal movies, which were anything but and a lot more violent than Porky Pig, too, on Sunday afternoons.

Those 1960s sword and sandal films were one of the most exciting things on TV in those days, featuring attractive women with fabulous hairstyles, scantily clad muscular men I found oddly pleasant to look at (there is a reason Arena fighters have to wear synth-leather shorts in the novel) and danger, death traps and narrow escapes galore. And at the climax, there was always a huge fight in the Arena, where the hero, his lover and all their friends were about to be executed and yet triumphed against all odds over wild beasts, enemy gladiators and death traps (unless it was a Hollywood attempt at a sword and sandal film, where everybody would die in the end and ascend to heaven singing Christian hymns).

I loved those movies and like anything you consume during an impressionable age, they left their mark on me and eventually found their way into my writing. And so I not only wrote a space gladiator novel, but I also named the world and many of its people after characters and actors from vintage sword and sandal films.

Maciste is the hero of a long-running series of sword and sandal movies that goes all the way back to the silent era. Maciste first appeared in 1914 in a historical epic called Cabiria, which was written by none other than Gabriele D’Annunzio himself. Cabiria eventually became the name of the capital of Maciste. The actor who portrayed the character of Maciste in all his silent film appearances was named Bartolomeo Pangano and was a dockworker before his film career. I borrowed his name for the Arena champion (who also used to be a dockworker before his gladiator career). And in fact, all Arena fighters are named after actors who played Maciste in various movies.

So follow along as Anjali and Mikhail are forced to work with their greatest enemy, Colonel Brian Mayhew of the Special Commando Forces, and have to face certain death in the Great Arena of Maciste in…

Honourable Enemies
Honourable Enemies by Cora BuhlertOnce, Colonel Brian Mayhew was the deputy commander of the Republican Special Commando Forces. But now he’s gone AWOL to take out crime lord Rick Santerna, the man who murdered his family.

Mayhew’s quest for vengeance brings him to the rim world of Maciste, where he runs into his former protégé Mikhail Grikov, now wanted as a traitor and deserter for eloping with enemy soldier Anjali Patel.

Mayhew knows that it’s his duty to bring in Mikhail and Anjali. But with Santerna hot his tail, he finds that he needs their help.

Mikhail and Anjali know that Brian Mayhew is a threat to their freedom and their new life together. But now they are faced with a hard choice. Should they risk their lives to help a man who could condemn them both to death or should they let Mayhew die in the Great Arena of Maciste?

More information.
Length: 57000 words
List price: 3.99 USD, EUR or 2.99 GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

However, I’m not the only one who has a new release to announce. Richard Blakemore, hardworking pulp fiction writer by day and the masked vigilante only known as the Silencer by night, also has a new release to announce.

Now one of the risks of having a character who’s also a writer is that he occasionally wants you to write one of his stories for him. This is how the Thurvok series came to be. And now Richard wants to branch out into science fiction, too, though you won’t get to see the results until next year. Initially, I never wanted to use a pen name, but by now I actually like having a name under which I can publish deliberately retro stories and distinguish them from my other work. And besides, I make it very clear that Richard is me.

Like most of the Thurvok stories to date, The Temple of the Snake God came out of the July short story challenge. Like many of the July short story challenge stories, The Temple of the Snake God was partly inspired by a piece of fantasy art, namely the 1970 painting “Green Death” by Frank Frazetta.

The other inspiration was what eventually became the first line of the story, as uttered by Meldom, “It’s an easy job. Go in, grab the eye of the idol and get out.” Of course, anybody who has read any of the Thurvok stories knows that Meldom’s easy jobs inevitably come with a catch.

Zanya did not appear in the initial draft of the story. But when I was looking for cover art, I came across the perfect image. There was only one problem. The image featured a beautiful black warrior woman, but there was no such character in the story itself. So I thought, “Why don’t I write such a character into the story?” And so, Zanya was born, a young woman who wants to save her sister from being sacrificed to the snake god Tseghirun. In retrospect, the story works actually better with the addition of Zanya, because she gives our heroes a concrete reason to deviate from their original plan and rescue the girls. The girls actually did get rescued in the original draft, too, but our heroes simply deciding to do the right thing made for a weaker story overall. Not to mention that I like Zanya a lot and will certainly revisit her one day.

Some people will probably believe that a black woman would never have appeared as a heroic character in an actual 1930s pulp story. They are wrong, for in fact, there were quite a few pulp stories which featured characters of colour in non-stereotyped and even heroic roles. The most famous examples are probably Eric John Stark, Leigh Brackett’s interplanetary adventurer, and Josh and Rosabel Newton, an educated African American couple who aided the pulp hero The Avenger, but there are several others. Of course, Zanya would likely not have been featured on the cover of an actual 1930s pulp magazine. Even Eric John Stark was not depicted as a black man on the covers of his own adventures until 2008, almost sixty years after the character was introduced in the pages of Planet Stories.

So accompany Thurvok, Meldom, Sharenna, Lysha and Zanya as they venture into…

The Temple of the Snake God
The Temple of the Snake God by Cora BuhlertIt was supposed to be an easy job. Go in, grab the eye of the idol and get out.

But the temple of the snake god Tseghirun turns out to be unexpectedly busy, when Thurvok, the sellsword, and his friends, Meldom, thief, cutpurse and occasional assassin, the sorceress Sharenna and Meldom’s sweetheart Lysha attempt to steal the eye. Not only is there a ceremony going on at the temple, no, the cultists are also about to sacrifice several young girls to the snake god Tseghirun. And so what started out as a simple heist quickly turns into a rescue mission.

This is a short story of 6200 words or approximately 22 print pages in the Thurvok sword and sorcery series, but may be read as a standalone. Includes an introduction and afterword.

More information.
Length: 6200 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

By the way, you can also get both the entire In Love and War series and the entire Thurvok series in a handy bundle at a reduced price at DriveThruFiction.

And that’s it for today. There will be at least one more new release announcement before the holidays. I hope to publish a Christmas story this year – after all, I have been publishing a holiday story every year since 2013. And Richard Blakemore has also been busy, both as the Silencer and the author of the Thurvok stories. I’ll also have some non-book announcements to make.

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