Today, Guest author Mark Iles shares information about his latest novel, A Pride of Lions, available on Amazon this Friday, August 30–and an excerpt!
A Pride of Lions
When Selena Dillon is caught in an assassination attempt on her planet’s ruler, she finds herself sentenced to 25 years servitude in mankind’s most feared military force, the Penal Regiments. Much to her surprise she enjoys the harsh military life and is quickly selected for officer training.
But something’s wrong; worlds are falling silent. There’s no cry for help and no warning, just a sudden eerie silence. When a flotilla of ships is despatched to investigate, they exit hyperspace to find themselves facing a massive alien armada. Outnumbered and outgunned the flotilla fight a rearguard action, allowing one of their number to slip away and warn mankind.
As worlds fall in battle, and man’s fleets are decimated, Selena is selected to lead a team of the Penal Regiments’ most battle-hardened veterans, in a last ditch attempt to destroy the aliens’ home world. If she fails then mankind is doomed. But little does Selena know what fate has in store for her, that one of her crew is a psychopathic killer and a second the husband of one of his victims.
Can she hold her team together, get them to their target and succeed in the attack? Selena knows that if she fails then there will be nothing at all left to go home to.
Sentenced to 25 years penal servitude for her crimes, Selena Dillon undergoes basic training:
Three weeks later the depleted remnants of another class joined them, to make up their numbers for their qualifying survival exercise. This was to be held on one of the other planets in the system and much to Selena’s delight she recognised one of the newcomers.
“Well, I’ll be damned. Linda McKenzie!”
The girl gasped. “Selena, is that you? This is fantastic! I was there at your trial.”
“Yeah, I know. I heard and saw you, so did the rest of the planet. If I remember correctly they threw you out of the courtroom.”
That same old smirk graced Linda’s face. “It’s a shame you didn’t manage to kill that bitch of a queen. I’ll be frank, Selena, and say a lot of people were shocked when you took the Penal option. But when they thought about it, most of them didn’t blame you at all. Naturally there were some that hated you for it, particularly the Queen, but it’s becoming common practice now.”
“What do you mean ‘common practice’?”
“More and more people are getting sent to the regiments these days, some for things that would have only received a small or medium sentence a few years ago. Guess they must be strapped for soldiers, huh?”
“Or something’s going on we don’t know about…” Selena replied, thoughtfully.
“Yeah, makes you wonder what’s got them all so worried.”
Selena reached out and hugged Linda, looking up at her green eyes and pitch black hair, remembering back to when they attended the same school on Capulet and had similar interests. Her friend’s ready smile and easy-going manner were to prove a balm to Selena’s sometimes fraying nerves and flagging spirit. It turned out that Linda had been caught red-handed committing armed robbery, to help fund the freedom fighters back home. One of the gang had been killed during a shoot out with the police, while she and two others were captured and volunteered for the Penal Corps. One of the other gang members had been killed only a week ago in a freak accident, leaving just her and a guy called Fish out of their original gang.
“Damn, Linda, it’s so good that you’re here. I was beginning to think I would never see a friendly face again. You’re joining us for the final test, huh?”
“Yup, we’ve had a few fall by the wayside, as no doubt you have. We’ve also got one guy in hospital at the moment, the bloody fool. At least he’ll remember to check his weapon next time before firing it, and that breech explosions tend to hurt. I’m looking forward to getting through this test and into the proper army. This shit is starting to bore my tits off.”
“Yeah, but its merits from the complete course, particularly this part, that determine what post we get,” Selena mused. Of course they could volunteer for a specific job, or role, if they so wished. Most would be sent to the battle units on ships or bases that were scattered throughout the galaxy, but a few would find homes elsewhere. Some might become pilots or navigators for the many starships or landing craft, perhaps even the new class of fighter that was coming into service. The list of positions seemed endless.
“Do you have anything specific in mind that you’d like to do?” Linda asked.
“Not really, just want to score high so that I get a decent choice. Has to be something exciting. An office job would bore me to death.”
“Ha, an office job sounds perfect for me,” Linda retorted. “I just want to get my time done safely and get out alive, then figure out a way to beat the system and get home to see my parents. And that queen still needs killing.”
About the Author
Mark Iles works for Southampton University, and also as a freelance writer. 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.
His first full-length work was Kwak’s Competition Taekwondo, and he also has a short story collection entitled Distant Shores. A Pride of Lions is the first in The Darkening Stars series. Having written features and fiction for over 30 years Mark applied to do an MA in Professional Writing. Pride had been bouncing around in his head for some time, and he seized the opportunity of the MA to produce this first novel as part of the course. Mark says it’s without doubt the best choice he’s ever made, as it really focused him, and that getting this novel accepted is the perfect conclusion to a wonderful experience. He’s now focusing on the second book in this series, The Cull of Lions.
Mark Iles’ Other Work