Author Feature: Symphony Of Destruction by Ken Goudsward

An extract from Symphony Of Destruction by Ken Goudsward

Hannah has finally adjusted to life on board the Ventas-341, when a series of strangely catastrophic hull breaches and a devastating viral outbreak decimates the crew. Now she finds herself stranded in the shadows of the asteroid belt. Together with the only other surviving crew-members, Colin, and the robotic Brother Anderson, she must somehow overcome their chaotic relationships if they are to have any chance of escaping the doomed ship.

Hannah stared at a small dark spot on the grey wall. Perhaps dark was not really the right word though. It was a bit dark-ish. But certainly not dark. Not dark like the dead space through which she sailed. Not dark like the blackness eating a hole in her soul. Hardly dark at all, really.

Hannah barely noticed anymore. She barely noticed the constant whine that pummeled her eardrums. She barely noticed the glaring red emergency lighting. She barely noticed the dozens of corpses surrounding her, coated in clear spray epoxy. More accurately, it should be said that she barely noticed the clear epoxy, body-shaped shells, nearly empty now, save for what appeared to be a few handfuls of dirt, and, judging by the slight bulges of the shells, some pressurized gases whose identity she could only speculate at, having never had any inkling to study the sciences. Probably carbon dioxide though, she surmised. Wasn’t that the fate of all things? Being gradually overtaken by carbon dioxide? But what did she know?

The passage of time was one thing though that had gone far beyond barely noticing. Hannah was acutely aware that she had, in fact, ceased to be capable of sensing time in any way. This was natural I suppose, given that days and years had been abandoned along with earth, and given that the computer systems were mostly non-functioning and her access had been denied long long ago, and given that anyone who ever gave a shit about what time it was was also long gone. There was, of course, the shit itself. And the piss. These had become the most reliable markers for time. But that was a very dubious level indeed. And besides, what did it matter anymore. Time was a meaningless vestige of the past. How ironic. A past with people and lives, and planets, and suns. A past with mothers singing sweet little homemade lullabies to their young daughters. “Little babe, blessed babe, there’s nothing to fear, so sleep my dear.” But there were, she knew now, many things to fear.

A Bite of… Ken Goudsward

Question 1: Facing your demons? How much of what you write could be classed as therapy?

Yes. Life is therapy. Life is also trauma. Hopefully, the life that comes after trauma can be informed by that trauma, and both can become healing. For me, poetry has been important in slowly learning how to allow myself to BE. Switching over to fiction in the last couple of years has allowed me more space to explore some of these same concepts, in a less explicit way, which I feel has been very important. Somehow, there is a certain power that can be accessed only indirectly. You can’t attack it head-on. It refuses to be grasped intellectually. In story and in character we have additional degrees of freedom to move within these conceptual frameworks. To explore without the demands of understanding. We don’t expect our characters to be perfect. Perhaps some of us expect ourselves to attain, or at least strive for, some unreal level of some perceived perfection. We are ridiculous. We have to teach ourselves to unlearn. By becoming our own characters, we may fragment our own internal conflicts into more pure representations of our own self parts. This can be healthy in that it allows one to face these parts realistically and respectfully, setting aside judgement of the non-perfection. Plus, it’s sci-fi, so we get to blow some shit up!

Question 2: Is it important to include all shades of belief and sexual orientation in a book?

It’s important to love each other and respect each person’s right to make their own choices and follow whatever cultural norms they choose to embrace. It’s important to learn to overcome our own assumptions and limitations. It’s important to learn to write from a wide variety of character perspectives. But is it actually possible to include literally all shades of belief and orientation, whether that be sexual, philosophical, political, religious, or whatever, into any book? Is it a good idea to try? It seems to me that would take a nearly infinite number of characters, causing the story to be unreadably convoluted. Aside from that, it would take an essentially omniscient author to understand and write from every possible perspective. As authors, we like to pretend we have an omniscient perspective, but no human ever has. Perhaps it is more important to concede that whatever we think we know is really a very limited and incomplete model of reality.

Question 3: What is worse, ignorance or stupidity?

We are all stupid in some regard. Nothing wrong with that. Well, maybe it’s annoying. We are also incredibly ignorant. We have to ignore so much just to survive. But we can also grow, by shrinking our own ignorance. The thing that is the worst, is the rut that people fall into of refusal to grow, refusal to reject ignorance. I guess that is true stupidity.

Ken is an author, poet, musician, programmer, ontographer and game designer. He loves windy days and rainy nights, and dreams of vast deserts, ruined spaceships, and bubbles with lines in between them. You can find him on Twitter.

EM-Drabbles – One

It never seemed fair to Tammy. Why was it when autumn came that all the trees kept their green except the River Tree? 

She sat in her wheelchair and wondered if he was sad when his glorious green mantle turned to red and gold, then lifted away when the winds blew, leaving him standing gaunt on the riverbank.

He alone must die whilst those trees around him stayed green and strong.

Tammy watched the sunset, golden behind the River Tree. At least he would come alive again in the spring. She hoped she would still be there to see him…

E.M. Swift-Hook

Sunday Serial – Dying to be Roman XXII

Dying to be Roman by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook is a whodunit set in a modern day Britain where the Roman Empire still rules. If you missed previous episodes you can start reading from the beginning.

“A copper penny for your thoughts, Domina Julia.”
“None of your never mind, Llewelyn,” she tried to sound severe but even to her own ears her voice sounded thin and strained.
“Relax, my lady, I’m not about to jump your bones. It would be a little difficult to explain to the Tribune. Not to mention a pair of hairy praetorians in the atrium.”
She snorted.
“That’s not my worry. I’m more concerned about what might happen if I jumped your bones.”
He looked at her for a moment, his eyes searching her face as if he was unsure whether she was teasing him or not, then laughed deep in his chest.
“If we were somewhere less public, I might just call you on that,” his voice was deep and lazy and Julia felt it reverberate through her body like half-remembered music. She must have blushed, because he put one finger under her chin and gave her the grin she was becoming so familiar with.
“When I first saw you, I thought you were a little boy. How wrong can a man be?” He dropped his hand, but his gaze remained heated and Julia found it difficult to regain her breath.
“Are you flirting with me, Llewelyn?” she heard herself actually purring.
“Oh no. This is far more dangerous than mere flirting.”
“Really? You think it’s not dangerous to flirt with me?”
She turned her face to him in mute invitation, wondering if he had the courage to back up his words with a deed. He did not disappoint. Dai grazed her lips with his own and she sighed. He leaned away from her but kept his eyes on her face. Julia looked away first and he touched her cheek before grunting in a dissatisfied manner.
“Not here. Not now. Not like this. Please talk to me before I get us both arrested. Or more likely just me.”
Julia mentally acknowledged the truth behind his comment. It seemed wrong to her to even consider their respective positions in society, but they needed to be thought about. Even though he was a man with a legitimate family lineage and she was a product of the slums whose mother was a whore, she was still a Roman Citizen and he wasn’t. 

She sighed.
“What would you like to talk about?”
He thought for a moment.
“The Tribune and Boudicca. Do you think they are…”
“Almost certainly, but I haven’t actually asked.”
Julia leaned forward and dipped another ladle of water onto the hot stones. When she leaned back, Dai’s face was a picture of pity.
“What?” she asked a tad testily.
“What happened to your back?”
“Oh. That. That’s what happens when a party of Mongol slavers has you and you don’t prove yourself biddable enough.”
He lifted her hand to his cheek.
“So much courage in such a small body.”
She snorted.
“Courage or stupidity. Call it what you will. I’d have been better off capitulating. They might have raped me less brutally.”
He turned her hand and kissed the pink palm.
“And yet you don’t hate men.”
“No. I did for a while, but you can’t stay bitter forever.”
“Many would. And the Tribune was right.”
“What did the old fool say?”
“Only that you have the sort of courage and integrity that shames most men.”
Julia mentally beat her foster brother about the head and face before turning a smiling face to Dai.
“So that means he told you the sorry story, does it?”
“Just the outline. He wanted me to understand how it had been for you. I don’t, of course, but I do at least know you are not a spoilt patrician.”
“Indeed I’m not.”

“May I ask you one thing?”
She lifted a shoulder.
“Ask away.”
“How did the slavers get you? In Rome?”
“I wasn’t in Rome. A group of orphan children of vigiles parents who had died in service, were sent north to the mountains to avoid the summer heat. Only the charitable patricians who organised the trip actually sold us to the Mongols and put it out that we had been abducted. The had pulled the same scam with other groups of orphans but, fortunately for me, unlike the others the Vigiles were not going to accept nothing could be done or abandon their own without a fight. It should have been a huge scandal, but money changed hands and it was all hushed up.” She paused as she realised something for the first time. “I think that is why justice is so important to me.”
Dai swore for quite some time, and, for reasons she wasn’t prepared to analyse, this gave Julia a warm fuzzy feeling in her stomach. When he calmed down, their talk became general and light-hearted, as if they both realised there were things they needed to say to each other, just not quite yet.
After steam and massage, they were forced to separate as the actual baths were segregated. Julia found herself alone in the female caldarium, and allowed herself to float in the hot water enjoying the looseness it promoted in her limbs. She let her mind drift back to Dai Llewellyn in all his almost edible masculinity and a small smile spread across her gamine features.
She was so lost in her daydream that she didn’t even feel the blow that rendered her unconscious.

Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook

Sam Nero PI – Out Today!

From ‘Sam Nero and the Case of the Dutiful Daughter’ one of the stories in Sam Nero PI by Jane Jago which is out today!

The moment she walked into my office, I knew she was trouble. Any private eye worth his salt knows that a dame like that in a dive like this spells trouble for somebody.
She was classy, and way out of my orbit. Even the sound of silk on silk as she crossed her legs spoke of money beyond my imagination. She uncrossed those legs, leaned forward, and pulled a pack of Lucky Strikes out of her handbag. I took my cue, lighting the end of her cigarette with my brass Zippo.
Leaning back in the tatty office chair, my visitor smiled a feline smile. She smoked in silence for a moment, and it crossed my mind that she looked as out of place as an orchid in a ditch.
When she spoke, her voice was almost as wealthy as her appearance. It was smoky, and sexy, and carefully modulated.
“If a person wanted to have somebody rubbed out, where would that person go?”
“The eraser factory?”
She leaned back and blew a smoke ring. “Very funny, Mister Nero. But I asked you a serious question.”
“I’m a private investigator, not a facilitator.”
My visitor laughed, low and husky. “Very good. And I’m not asking you to facilitate a murder. I’m asking you to investigate one.”
I leaned my elbows on the desk. “Aren’t the police investigating?”
“No. Or I wouldn’t be slumming it.”
“Two questions. Who died? And why not some up-level investigator with a shiny office and an even shinier reputation?”
She stared at me before leaning forward and stubbing out her cigarette with vicious little stabs. I couldn’t help noticing the perfection of her manicure and mentally pricing the job at more than what I earned in a month.
“Not so stupid, then.” Her voice lost some of its melody and grated a little on the ear. “I came to you because I heard you were honest, and maybe not afraid of getting your hands dirty. And who died? Lefty Galento. My father.”
It was my turn to stare. Then I spoke in carefully neutral tones. “Lefty died of natural causes.”
“Oh sure,” she said harshly, “if you call being smothered with his own pillow natural.”
“What do you mean, smothered? The newsfeed said he died peacefully in his bed. And Meditech agreed.”
“You have clearance for Meditech?”
I wriggled my fingers, and the ghost of a smile passed across her features. “If you had to hack in, why did you bother?” She sounded curious.
“Because Lefty and me went back a way. And I wondered which of his family got greedy.”
“That’s what I wonder too. And what I want to know before they start dividing up the assets.” She regarded me somberly for a minute, then appeared to come to a decision. “As far as the family is concerned, I am one of Daddy’s assets. I just want to make sure that whoever they want me to marry didn’t pay his nurse to hold a pillow over his face.”
She got up from her seat and reached into her bag once more, pulling out a fat brown envelope. “There should be enough cash there to engage your services. I’ll be back in three days.”
She left my office with a swing of her hips.
All she left behind her was an image burned into my retinas and the suggestion of her perfume. Oh, and an envelope of cash.
I put the envelope in the drawer of my desk and waited.
It wasn’t long before the office door was flung open with a crash. I only just had time to wonder how a holographic door could make a noise, when a pair of huge hands with black hairs crawling across the backs of them grabbed me by the shirt front. The goon grunted as he attempted to drag me out of my seat, but I’m a big boy and I don’t drag easily. I heard the material of my shirt tear, and that annoyed me. I don’t have enough shirts to destroy them without a backward glance. I put my hands around the goon’s wrists and squeezed, gently at first, then with progressively more force. The goon left hold of my shirt and started to whimper.
I waited until he dropped to his knees, then let go. He was dumb enough to go for whatever was in the holster under his left armpit. I coughed gently and he looked up right into the barrel of a blaster disguised as a vintage Colt .45. And those barrels look mighty big when they are right up close to your eyes.
“Down, boy.” The voice that spoke from my doorway was educated, with mild undertones of thug, and the goon was obviously in fear of the owner of that voice, because he scrambled to his feet and hung his head.
“Sorry, boss,” he mumbled.
“Just go. Wait for me outside and make sure we are not disturbed.”
The goon went, and I eyeballed my second visitor with some interest. He was slim and dark and good-looking, and he exuded dangerous with every breath.
He sat where the dame had been only minutes before, and I found myself thinking they had to be related.
“I understand you just had a visit from my cousin.”
“Classy broad, about so high, wearing a red suit?”
He nodded.
“Then I did.”
“What did she want?”
“Hadn’t you better ask her?”
“I’m asking you.”
I looked at him for a few seconds, noticing that the whites of his eyes showed all the way around the dark brown irises, before replying in carefully colourless tones. “She wanted me to find out who disposed of Lefty Galento.”
“And what did you say, my large friend?”
Thanking all the gods and all the techs for my excellent poker face, I looked at him blandly. “As far as I am aware, Lefty died of natural causes.”
He narrowed his eyes and stared unblinkingly at me. When I neither fidgeted nor paled under his malign regard, he essayed a smile. “Very good, Mister Nero. Keep it that way and nobody will get hurt.”
I forbore to remind him that so far the only one hurt was his muscle, contenting myself with a thin smile. He got up from his chair, brushed off the seat of his pearl grey pants, and left. Calling his dog to heel as he went.

To keep reading, pick up your copy of Sam Nero PI by Jane Jago with a cover from Ian Bristow.

A Game of Thrones

The King now old and paper thin
With marching wrinkles in his skin
Who on his deathbed silent lies
With failing breath and fading eyes
His son, the prince, is pink and smug
And quite as charming as a slug
Inside he smiles, but hides his eyes
While outwardly he cries and sighs
The tall princess in silence stands
And carefully regards her hands
The doctor looks and shakes his head
Then baldly states ‘the King is dead’
The prince looks up with gladsome face
At last he gets to rule the place
His sister pours him golden wine
He savours it and takes his time
‘This truly is a wine of note’
But then he coughs and grabs his throat
The princess laughs and makes no bones
‘That’s how you play the game of thrones’

© jane jago

Protagonist in the Hotseat of Truth – Madelyn Lawrence

Welcome to the Hotseat of Truth, a device in which your protagonist is trapped. The only way to escape is to answer five searching questions completely honestly or the Hotseat will consume them to ashes!

Today’s victim is Madelyn Lawrence who you can find in Contact (Instinct Theory #1) by Ian C Bristow.

Why did you become an anthropologist?

There is something about culture, the way it defines a bigger picture of human existence and exemplifies our need for a social connection, that just fascinates me. Always has. Or at least for all my adult life and most of my teens. So, basically, I became a cultural anthropologist because I wanted to better understand how differing cultures affect the human experience and share that with others so they might better appreciate the beautiful diversity of humanity.

If you didn’t have your fiance Jonathan’s support would you still have gone on the mission?

If I didn’t have the support of Jonathan and we were together, I would have stayed. He means more to me than my work, though it has taken this great uprooting of my daily norms to show me just how true that is. But if I didn’t have his support because he wasn’t a part of my life, I’d have been all over this mission without a second thought. Well, barring a bout with the typical fear anyone might experience facing the unknown.

Is there anything in the world you would consider killing to defend?

The helpless. The weak. The preyed upon. Anyone who couldn’t defend themselves. It’s easy to say, of course, but when it came to pulling a trigger or thrusting a blade, I’m sure there would be a far more complex battle taking place in my head. But that is how I feel about it when I can just say how I think I’d act.

In a few words can you give us your philosophy for life?

Wow, in a few words? Let’s see… Be kind and just to the best of my ability, and let others live as they please with the hope they will let me live in as I please just the same. Clearly, life is far more complicated than that, but it’s a good place to start.

What is your favourite musical genre?

Well, I really enjoy the different tribal music I’ve been exposed to, both in Africa and South America, but as for more mainstream stuff, I really like ambient beats. Like lofi or ambient jazz. It helps me think and creates a nice space for my head.


You can read more about Madelyn in Contact (Instinct Theory #1) by Ian C Bristow.

Jane Jago’s Drabbles – The Knight

Dying might not be so bad. It was living that had broken him. Taken from his family at eight years old, vowed to celibacy before he understood what the word meant, and sold to the highest bidder time after time. His sword had eaten the blood of so many enemies that he felt today was no more than reparation. As the hooded figure came to his side he looked into its compassionate eyes.
“Am I dead?”
“Nearly. Say farewell to your loved ones.”
The Knight spoke the saddest three words under all the stars.
“I have nobody.”
Then he died.

A Drabble by Jane Jago inspired by original artwork from Ian Bristow.

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