Excerpt from Book Three in the series: Shadowfall

Fifteen minutes had passed since they had hidden themselves in a deep fissure on the moon of third planet in the star system. The gravity detector hadn’t detected any ships since the first group had passed them by. Which, by very definition, meant that the pursuing ships were at least 15 light-minutes away. But, at faster than light speeds, it also meant that they could be as little as 4 seconds away including the time needed for braking. Waiting longer could mean that they would be even further away, if they were still flying in pursuit, but could also mean that they were closer to where the Wakiran ship had hidden itself, if they had already broken off the pursuit and had come to search for his ship. No clear course of action. Myka hated making decisions without any data.

He got up from the command chair and walked over the tactician’s post. Poke was pouring over possible scenarios, attempting to find a scheme that would meet her master’s stated goal without risking the total destruction of the cruiser. Their Mother had given her a command to get the Crown Prince home safely. It was a command that she could not possibly disobey.

Myka dropped down to his haunches and looked up at his acting tactician. It is too much to put on the shoulders of a novice, he thought. She is still young, and this is her first time calling out tactics on a ship. I should let her attempt to extricate us from this predicament without insisting on us mounting an attack. Get to safety, effect repairs, wait for help from the other ships in the wing, then attack. “Pokaifashta?”

She startled. “My apologies, Commander. I am still attempting to create a suitable scheme, under the parameters set out by you and by our Mother. Simulations are currently running that I am waiting on. Two of them are balking, refusing to accept the directions I am giving them. Our Mother experienced the same problem on more than one occasion in the simulations our Lady had assigned her.”

In English, Poke. Tell me what you think and the likelihood of success in English. The rest of the command crew do not need to know yet.”

Poke blinked twice and sighed. “The gravity detector sensed eleven different disturbances in the gravity well. Four of them were at least Groodfun-class, assuming they are using Fahlusian technology,” she told him, using a mixture of English and their language.

That is newest technology for Fahlusia. How could pirates have access to – top of the line ships from the Fahlusian Congress?”

The hows are unimportant my master. Ships that size are one-third as powerful as our light cruisers. And they have at least four of them. Even if we were undamaged, they can – what is the English term – outgun us? Outgun, yes. With one emitter destroyed, and another damaged, two of them would be enough to delete us.”

Do you think we should abandon the idea of attacking, and run? This is not an accusation, Poke. I need your honest opinion, one officer to another.”

We would not be able to outrun them, Commander. They would be able to hound us into a trap where there could be no escape. Yet, we cannot hide here much longer. They will be back soon looking for us. No matter which course of action we take, it appears that the endgame will be the same.


Sample cover for Shadowfall

Here is the sample version of the cover for the third book in the Jennifer Hodges/Warrior Queen series:  Shadowfall.

I went with a different cover designer this time.  Back around Christmas of 2014, I had visions of writing non-stop through the holidays and finishing and publishing the third book. Because of this, I went with an already-made cover that Melody Simmons had available for immediate use.

As it turns out, I didn’t get much writing done at all over the Christmas holiday (I was with family) so I didn’t need it right away.  I decided to stick with the cover that Melody produced.

Here is the sample version she provided.  I asked for a couple of small changes to be made.  (For some reason I can’t find the finalized version on my hard drive.  It’s there somewhere).

Shadowfall 2b sample

The full quote that the tagline comes from is “Homeworld is wounded, Father, and many of the ships in the Home Fleet are crippled.”


Cover for Creative Differences

Here is the cover for the second book in the Jennifer Hodges/Warrior Queen series: Creative Differences.

Once again, it was created by Dawn Smith of Dark Dawn Creations.  I was stuck trying to come up with a possible cover, and I decided to focus in on the dead planet that Jennifer encounters while on the maiden voyage of a brand new dreadnought.

I asked Dawn to show a planet being attacked by ships in orbit.  I told her that I didn’t want to be able to see any discernible features on the planet.  Within a day, she came up with this design.  I think that it’s awesome.  Thanks again, Dawn!


A Tale of Two Covers

There’s an old saying that goes: Never judge a book by its cover.  Unfortunately, it seems to be a saying that most book buyers, whether of e-books or “dead tree” books, don’t seem to be aware of.

It has been proven by many an author that it takes an eye-catching cover to attract a potential reader in the first place.  A book may be a real page-turner, one that readers would simply be unable to put down until finished, yet still be unread and undiscovered, if its cover isn’t attractive and compelling.

The e-book space is littered (some might say overwhelmed) with books by new authors that no one will even consider looking at because the cover is poorly designed or poorly executed.  The thinking of the would-be purchaser seems to be “If the cover is that bad, the writing must be worse.”  I know that I have been guilty of that same mindset.

But not all books with bad covers are bad.  Some are probably quite entertaining, engrossing and fascinating.  But the likelihood of someone looking past the amateur quality of the cover is very very slim.  I discovered this the hard way when I decided to try and cobble together a cover myself rather than find someone who could do a much better job.  The only thing that I proved with my misadventure was that I have little artistic skill.  So, I bit the bullet, and hired someone that I discovered in the Kindle Publishers forum.

I’ve decided to put the two covers side-by-side so you can compare the quality and the attractiveness of the two — my monstrosity, and the one created by Dawn Smith.  I think it’ll be easy for you to determine which is which.

If you like Dawn’s work, you should go to her Facebook page and give her a Like.  I know that she would appreciate it.  http://www.facebook.com/darkdawncreations



Excerpt from And What of Earth

After wishing Barb a great night and a quiet shift, she stepped out of the tiny clinic out onto the corner of Twin Elm and Main, and turned left, heading to the south end of town. To her right, the late afternoon sun hovered over the western hills, ceasing its baking of the air and the streets of Jewel.

She took in the emptiness of the town. If hope was nourishment, then Jewel was gaunt with starvation. Ignored or forgotten by three levels of government, its people struggled to survive in the absence of money, employment, or support. They were fellow travellers on a long march to nowhere — each step bringing them individually and collectively that much closer to whatever destiny had in store. As she passed the houses, she waved and smiled at each one that had people sitting on the front stoops. Waved and smiled and recognized their emptiness as being the same as her own.

“Crap, Jenn!” she swore at herself. “You’re getting too fricking maudlin. Things will get better before much longer. Some company will swoop in, buy the abandoned electronics factory and bring jobs and comparative prosperity back to this forlorn little hick town.” Then she added, “Yeah, and maybe we’ll finally send men back to the moon. Dream on, Cupcake.”

Past Amethyst Road, then Turquoise, then Ruby. Coming up to her turn towards home.

“That’s what you’re here for Jenn,” she told herself. “You’re here to rebuild your father — get him able to hope again. To smile at everyone you come across. To brighten their days, if only for a moment.” She sadly shook her head. “How do I spread hope to others when I don’t have any for myself? ‘Physician, heal thyself!’ Like I’ll ever be able to become a doctor–.”

Left on Emerald. Three blocks ahead lay the football field, then a seemingly precipitous drop of the road to the high school. Then the creek, and The Rock — the one place where kids and teens would hang out. She walked diagonally across Emerald, now heading southeast. Past Briar, then Thicket, and approaching Thorn.

As she turned the corner from Emerald onto Thorn, she smelled something wonderful cooking. Seconds later, she saw that her dad was cooking something on the Stone’s barbecue. He almost looked like his old self.

“Smells wonderful, Dad,” she commented, hugging him from the side.

“They were really generous this time — three dozen eggs, two quarts of milk and two pounds of ground beef. I traded a dozen eggs at the store for a loaf of bread, some day-old buns and some honest-to-goodness relish. I harvested one of our tomatoes to add to the burgers. And we have enough meat for at least another 4 meals, I figure.” In another moment or two, the meat was cooked, the burgers assembled, and they went down the slope to their backyard to eat.

Jennifer made a point of looking attentive while her father related the work he had done on the Stevens’ farm. The story of her day was, of a necessity, much briefer and with no highlights to speak of. They sat quietly on the two beat-up garden chairs for awhile after eating.

“Do you want any help with cleanup, Dad?” she asked, breaking the silence.

“No honey. Go for your walk. You need some fresh air. You may run into someone you know from high school.”

Jennifer hoped not, but didn’t say so. “I won’t be out late. Think I’ll hop the fence and wander around the grounds of the school. I’ll be back before dark.” With that, she stood, kissed him on his head and side-vaulted over the backyard fence onto the pile of compacted gravel that sat behind their backyard.

She walked down the scrub-covered gravel slope that emptied into the southern endzone of the dilapidated little high school stadium. To her left, the sun was easing itself behind the rooflines of the houses on Thorn. Ahead, a group of three boys stood around midfield, looking eastward up into the sky. Up on Emerald, above and behind the north endzone, two more people were staring up in an easterly direction, one of whom was pointing.

Jennifer looked up in that direction. In the distance, she could make out some sort of black dot. Not something that should attract any attention. She almost stumbled after her toes hit a divot in the slope. “Crap!” she said under her breath, and took her eyes off the dot and looked where she was walking. Once she got down to field level, her gaze went skyward again.

The dot was bigger. It was descending, seemingly heading straight for the stadium. She quickly glanced over at the boys at midfield. One of them had started backing away. With her attention once again placed on the object, she saw that it had acquired a definite shape. Triangular. Like a lifting-body type of aircraft, except it was descending almost straight down. One of the boys let loose a barrage of expletives. Jennifer winced at the curse words. Looking in their direction, she saw that they were running for the stairs that ran from field level up the 100 feet to Emerald Street. The two people on Emerald had started slowly backing away.

The object was clearly making a controlled descent. It wasn’t a helicopter, or any sort of VTOL aircraft. No exhaust plumes — scarcely any noise at all. And it was getting bigger. Much much bigger.

Jennifer backed up to the western sidelines to give the object more room in which to land. The others were now out of sight. And still the vessel, because quite clearly it was some sort of vessel, grew ever larger.

“Oh wow!” she thought. “This is it. This is really it! First contact!” Followed a moment later with a tongue-in-cheek “I wonder if they know Klingon too?”

The vessel was beginning to look like some sort of stealth aircraft — boxy, angular, black, and big. As it cleared the trees at the eastern edge of the stadium, she came to realize that it had to be at least 200 feet long. The descent was now much slower, still with no exhaust to be seen, and almost no sound whatsoever.

Jennifer tried to control her excitement. She felt she had to appear relaxed and calm and unperturbed when whoever was inside came out. Exude friendliness, she told herself. Be open, friendly, and helpful. Why weren’t there any courses in first contact procedures in high school? You couldn’t hope that everyone who might be part of the first contact group would exhibit any common sense.

The landing pads touched the 8 year old artificial turf, and the vessel gently eased down into its resting posture. Jennifer took two slow steps forward, then stopped and waited for someone to exit the ship. Seconds later, a door opened, and a handful of bipeds dressed head to foot in shiny black and armed with weapons of some kind rushed out to take up defensive positions. “Crap,” she said to herself. “Just like a bad 1950s SF movie. ‘Klaatu borado nicto’.” Another small group of bipeds came out and slowly walked towards her. “Nope. No giant robot.” She took another two slow steps forward and waited. “It’s showtime, Jenn.”


Hi.  Welcome to this blog and website.  My name is Stuart Collings, and I’m the author of the “Warrior Queen”/Jennifer Hodges series of novels and short stories.  While I first started writing as a child (I’ll tell you more about that in a later post), I haven’t created anything good enough to stick out there for people to see until now.

The first novel, And What of Earth, introduces us to our protagonist, and sets the stage for the subsequent stories.  As I have laid them out, there are several story arcs that fall under one “super-arc”.  Each story will be complete in and of itself, and hopefully, I’ll manage to write them in such a way that people will be able to “get into” the scenario of each story, without having had to read the entire series thus far.

As the series progresses, we’ll see how living amongst an alien civilization changes Jennifer, and, how her presence with them, and how much she sacrifices for them, changes them.

It’s going to be a wild ride–.