Archive for the ‘Marquesate’ Category

And now for something a little different…

I don’t usually write derivative works AKA fanfiction, but very rarely something grabs me and tickles my fancy. The last time I wrote anything inspired by a film was Hoot/Sanderson (Black Hawk Down) and we all know what happened: that triggered the creation of Hooch in the epic Special Forces and eventually Hooch’s and Matt’s very own novel, Deliverance (and don’t worry, the vignettes for the latter will be available shortly).

So now, inspired by the latest James Bond film Skyfall, my co-author TA Brown and I wrote a nice, substantial 59K twenty-chapter story called Vita Mortis. It has all the ingredients my novels and short stories are known for (e.g. action), just set in the 007 universe. Obviously, it was only written for fun, not for profit at all, and we own no rights to the James Bond Franchise whatsoever.

vita mortis cover

Vita Mortis

MI6’s most notorious agent and their new quartermaster are an unstoppable force and counter-force, bound to collide. Despite promising beginnings, Bond and Q seem destined to crash and burn.

Their long path towards acceptance is dangerous and paved with destruction – until death begets new life.

 

P.S. All of my derivative work is only published on AO3, not on my website.

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dan-maturedDan could see the light covering of snow out the windows of the plane as it touched down at Budapest airport. He listened with one ear to the repeated exhortations by the purser for the passengers to stay in their seats and estimated the minutes until he could sneak a fag. No matter how many times he had to chew those nicotine gums, he still got the cravings during the bloody long flights.

At last, the plane taxied to the terminal and came to a shuddering halt, and Dan unbuckled his safety belt as the light went off.

He felt more anxious to get off the damned plane and into the city than usual. It wasn’t every day an old, scarred battleship like him would soon become…he couldn’t even think that word that should be impossible. The expected date was still a few weeks off: plenty of time to get used to the idea.

Dan went through the mercifully quick – for once, he wondered what was wrong – queues to the baggage claim and, after an extremely quick fag, was in the car sent by his usual hotel. He turned his phone on again, and as always, it took some time to pick up its messages, once it had started roaming. Eventually, a couple of messages from Kisa appeared on his screen. He sat up straight and tense at the first one, but then relaxed at the second. False alarm it said. She was still in the hospital, but only for observation – and, he figured, because she was a private patient with all expenses paid for by her husband’s annoying but conveniently wealthy family – and he should meet her there once he’d checked in.

The holiday traffic was irritatingly slow, not helped by the light, yet steady snowfall, but eventually Dan arrived at the hotel, where he was ushered through the check-in procedures with the courtesy and efficiency of a frequent guest. What he liked most about the country, and the hotel, and generally just about any place in Hungary, was that he could still smoke. Until January, he was told, but he wasn’t going to look a Christmas-gift-horse in the mouth.

A leisurely fag later, Dan arrived back at reception to wait for a taxi to the hospital. He’d picked up enough Hungarian over the years to have basic conversations, and while he wasn’t as quick on the language uptake as he had been, back in Afghanistan, he still had the knack for it.

The concierge indicated that the taxi had arrived and held the door open as Dan stepped out into the cold. The taxi-driver gave a semi-grunt of surprise at Dan’s request in Hungarian, but pulled out into the traffic, heading west. After a pause, he told Dan that it would be about forty-five minutes with the wet roads.

Dan nodded at that statement, comparing the increasingly falling snow and the white roads to one particularly harsh winter in the Afghan mountains…but he better not think about that freezing encounter, since Vadim wasn’t due to arrive for another two days, on Christmas eve.

Settling back in his seat, Dan watched the winter scene unfolding outside and told the driver to take his time if he needed to.

Dan was thumbing through his emails as the taxi exited the freeway and drove up the long drive to a large building, set in the middle of what looked like expansive grounds. This place looked less like a hospital, at least not from his fairly extensive experience, and more of a stately home.

He paid the driver, then took care when exiting the car. It would have been easier had he fitted his cane with the spike he’d acquired for winter weather, but while he was an old man according to most peoples’ standards, he wasn’t going to behave like one.

Dan snorted with amusement as the door was held open for him by a uniformed doorman. The serene marble-floored foyer wouldn’t have looked out of place at a fancy hotel. Nothing so plebeian as a nurse’s station, there was a long reception counter and a number of very comfortable sofas, mostly empty. This was pretty much like any hotel he’d ever known, and unlike any hospital he’d ever had the displeasure of staying in.

The immaculately coiffed receptionist smiled as he approached. “May I help you?” she asked, in American-accented English.

Dan flashed a smile. “I’m here to see my daughter, Kisa Krasnorada.”

The woman smiled in return and tapped something into her computer, frowning for a second while Dan remembered that Kisa might be using her married name. He was about to correct himself when she looked up and asked: “that would be Mrs Kisa Farkas?”

“Aye, that’s her. Sorry, I forgot her married name.”

The woman nodded. “Mr Daniel MacFadyen?” she asked. “Could I trouble you for some sort of photographic identification? I shall have someone show you to her wing.”

Dan’s brows shot up to his hairline, both at the ‘Daniel’ and at the request for ID. Particularly the latter, but he wasn’t going to cause a scene and had vowed to be the most well-behaved impending grandfather imaginable – there, he’d thought it. “Dan, it’s Dan McFadyen.” Still smiling his smile, albeit more strained now, he produced his passport proclaiming that ‘Her Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State Requests and requires in the Name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary.’ Never had it been more apt, he figured.

The woman took it and typed a few more numbers in before returning the little dark red booklet. “Thank you. Lt. Farkas is still here, though Madame Krasnorada left half an hour ago.” Clearly they were used to delicate family relations here, and as Dan nodded, he was damned thankful for Katya having already left. Their truce didn’t mean he would ever forgive her for an unforgivable deed, despite the joy its consequence had brought.

“Miss Molnar will show you to the ward,” the receptionist added.

A second young woman appeared near the lift, seemingly from thin air.

Dan followed her after another polite nod at the receptionist, and was taken to a plush looking level.

Kisa’s room was at the far end of the corridor and, after what seemed like an endless stretch of immaculate off-white carpeted floor, Miss Molnar stopped in front of the door and pressed what seemed to be a doorbell.

After a few seconds, the door opened a crack, and then wide, as Jakab saw who it was.

Dan looked him up and down with an increasingly knowing smirk, since Kisa’s husband was leaner and more tanned than he’d been when Dan had seen him last, and considerably more muscular across chest and shoulders. “Been anywhere sunny lately?”

Jakab attempted a smile, which didn’t quite work, and stepped aside to let Dan in, simultaneously nodding to Miss Molnar in thanks. “I don’t think it’s changed a bit since you were there,” he said.
“Aye, different sides and factions, same shit.” Dan knew, and Jakab knew, and everyone else knew who’d ever been in that hellhole Afghanistan. Soviets or Americans or Brits or anyone else, it was all a crock of shit.

Jakab closed the door behind them once Dan had stepped into the large and comfortable room. Kisa was sitting up in the bed, looking bored.

“Hey, kid,” Dan grinned. “I’m not ready yet to be a grandfather.”

Kisa snorted and leaned back on the pillows, the enormous swell of her belly more obvious because the rest of her had remained slender. “Tell that to them,” she said, brushing a hand on the bulge. “Can’t make up their minds about whether they’re coming or not.”

“They are probably trying to avoid being post-Christmas babies, because the presents would be crap.” Dan grinned and leaned down to kiss his daughter’s cheeks.

Kisa laughed and made an effort at a hug.

Dan grunted a ‘thanks’ at Jakab, who’d brought a chair close to the bed. “Apart from that, how are you?” He sat down.

“Do you mind staying for a bit, Dan?” Jakab asked from behind. “I was thinking of going back to the flat for Kisa’s things.”

“Sure, it’s not that I have anything better to do.” Dan winked. He really did mean it, and Kisa knew hat.

“Thanks,” Jakab replied and leaned past Dan to kiss Kisa, before picking up his overcoat and gloves and heading out of the room.

Kisa waited for thirty seconds before letting out an exhale. “Too bloated to do anything with everyone offering me stupid advice,” she grumped. “You’d think that nobody had ever had babies before.”

“Well, yes, but the point is that you have never had babies before.” Dan pointedly looked at her, but his attempt at a glare failed spectacularly, when he started to grin. “Right, then, tell me all about how they are annoying you and what you’d like to do to them.”

“I’d like to lock them all in a room with each other,” Kisa snorted, “and see how they like being hounded. If it’s not my mother, it’s his. Or my sister. Or his. What I’m supposed to eat, not eat, do, not do, and how no matter what I’m doing, it’s not the right way. Not to mention his dad decided to phone my boss every bloody day to make sure I wasn’t ‘overexerting’ myself. It’s a desk job at the Ministry. The only danger of overexerting myself is a papercut. It’s so irritating that I can’t even get a punch in.” She paused while Dan tried valiantly to hide his chuckle. “Better now with Jakab back to act as a human shield. He just nudges them out the room and quietly shuts the door. You should have seen the look on his sister’s face the first time he did it.”

Dan finally cracked and laughed out loud. “Damn, I would have liked to see that, but after the couple times I met his sister I rather stay on a different continent to her.” He leaned forward, murmuring in a conspirator’s fashion, “is there anything you’d like to eat and which had been deemed unsuitable?”

She returned the smirk, identical to his. “Chocolate. Cake. Ice Cream. No surprises there since it’s obvious where I got my sweet tooth from.”

“I approve of that sweet tooth. I bet there’s a cafe in this posh pile of stones?”

“First floor, turn right out of the lifts.” Kisa grinned back.

“I’ll be back in a jiffy.” Dan winked as he stood up. “You better be hungry.”

“For anything other than milk and chicken soup.” Kisa wrinkled her nose.

“That’s not something I’d ever feed you. Not that you’d want to eat what I cook.” With a short laugh Dan was out of the room and on his foraging mission.

As expected, the cafe was stocked with a large and full cake cabinet, with both single-serve and enormous complete cakes. Dan chose several of the most elaborately iced, cream-filled and chocolate topped cake slices and pastries on offer. The waitress behind the counter gave him a slightly startled look at the number he was requesting, but apparently she had decided he did not appear to be a gastric band patient embarking on a binge, when she served him. She only asked whether he was going to be having them in the cafe or taking it up to a room, before packing the cakes away in a heavy cardboard box for him, together with napkins, and good-quality disposable plates and forks.

Dan gave her his best smile and thanked her in Hungarian. He headed back to Kisa’s room, where he proceeded to lay out the cakes and pastries onto plates in a tempting offering, worthy of a Mayan sacrifice.

“I didn’t know what you fancied, so I got you one of each.” With a positively wicked grin, he held one of the pastry forks out to her.

Kisa, who had been looking at the spread with increasing awe, returned the grin as she selected a cake that appeared to be layers of chocolate and caramel.

Dan was about to tuck into a strawberry and cream tart, when he turned his head towards the window. “Holy shit, when did it start turning from gentle snowfall to fucking great big snow white-out?”

Kisa followed his gaze to the large window, which was now completely white. She fumbled with the remote control before turning the television onto the weather report. The radar report showed a huge band of white settling over the city. “Crap,” Kisa exhaled.

“What?” Dan swallowed a mouthful of strawberry and pastry, while focusing on the TV screen. “City can’t deal with this weather?”

Kisa gave a rude snort. “Course not. Too much like actually doing their job.”

“Good thing it was a false alarm, then.”

“Yep,” Kisa replied, going back to her cake. “Hope he gets home, though at least it’s the Volvo and not my old car.

“Course you got a Volvo.” Dan rolled his eyes like a particularly ridiculous six-year-old. “My daughter is a walking talking cliché. When the fuck did that happen?”

“Around the time this, “Kisa indicated the bump, “did.” She put the empty plate and fork aside. “Don’t worry, no Labradors or Hermes scarves…yet.”

“I’m going to de-daughter you if I ever see you with a poncy silk scarf.” Dan pushed the cakes with a fingertip. “Which one next?”

Kisa laughed and picked out an elaborate sculpture of cream and pastry. “How have you been, anyway?”

“As expected,” Dan shrugged while wiping his lips with a napkin. “I’m an old, mangy dog with creaking joints. Well, except for the high-tech ones, those are hunky-dory.” He leaned back in his chair. “I don’t kill or maim anymore, nor get shot at. It’s boring, really.”

Kisa snorted around a mouthful of cream. “Only you would think that an absence of mayhem equals boredom.” She hesitated a moment, changing the subject abruptly. “It pretty much sucks being the one left at home.”

Dan looked closely at her, a smile on his face. “What are you planning to do once the twins are here?”

“I’ve got a year off to decide properly. The job’s good – considering I only got about three months in on it before they started being difficult – and they’re surprisingly short of good Russian speakers,” she exchanged a grin with Dan. “I might see if there’s a chance I can transfer the job down to Szolnok. I mean, there are Intelligence positions down there, just not quite the same as what I’d be doing in Budapest. It would save the travelling, and we could get a house.”

Dan had been nodding along, but tracked back to the beginning. “Aye, makes all sense, but a whole year? Nothing but babies? You’ll go insane.”

“I think that’s a given, what with the genetics of these babies, don’t you?” Kisa said drily. “And Jakab’s gone rather extreme in avoiding it all, though admittedly he did manage to get the rest of winter off before he goes back to you-know-where.” She paused. “Short of good Russian speakers.” she repeated, quieter.

“Damn shame he’s so good at it, aye?” Dan’s smile was soft.

“Yeah,” Kisa fiddled with her fork, “still, I suppose that’s part of what was always going to happen since it was sort of inevitable I’d go for a blond special forces type.”

“At least you didn’t go for an enemy.” Dan huffed a laugh then cast another glance at the weather outside, which seemed to be getting worse.

“No, at least there’s that.” Kisa finished her second cake. “I hope that stops soon, or the city’s going to be one great big squelching mess tomorrow.” She gave a little wince, as though she’d been kicked. “Stay,” she told her stomach sternly.

“What’s up? Too much cake?”

“No, just one of them’s probably having a sugar high,” Kisa’s hand rubbed the bump. “They’ve been running around in there and kicking and probably having fights for weeks. But they’re still not cooked yet.” She sighed. “I feel like a beached whale. I’ve forgotten what my feet look like.”

“Like feet.” Dan deadpanned, then went to pack the cake and pastry pieces back into their cardboard box. “Did I tell you about Hooch’s latest venture? In case he hasn’t told you yet.”

“No,” Kisa shook her head, “we asked whether he and Matt might want to be part of the horde of godparents, but he went all quiet after that.”

Dan let out a soft sound while finishing the re-packing of the desserts. “Godparents equals church, aye? He doesn’t do church, as far as I know.”

Kisa shrugged a shoulder. “Neither do I, but it’s important to Jakab. For tradition, really, more than any real observance. That stopped – a long time ago.”

“Well, is there a need to have Hooch as a godparent? He could just be Uncle Hooch.”

“Not need,” Kisa replied slowly, “and he’d be great either way. Just we thought it would be nice, show that we did want some sort of official connection. Also,” her grin was sly, “gives him and Matt and Uncle Matyas a great excuse to keep in touch and for them to stay with Matyas when they visit.” She tried to leer, and failed.

“Kisa!” Dan pointed an accusing finger at her, “you may be my daughter, but that doesn’t mean you should be thinking of ‘such things’.” He couldn’t hide the grin, though.

Kisa grinned back. “Ah, they didn’t tell you? Quite interesting: the three of them took off for a spontaneous two week driving holiday in Croatia two days after the wedding. Never seen Uncle Matyas look so relaxed as he did the week after he got back. Then he got into another shouting match with the Prime Minister and he was back to normal, but still…”

“My daughter is having a vivid imagination about her uncles getting it on.” Dan fake-sadly shook his head and let his shoulders slump. “Never did I think would I live to see a day of such horrors.”

Kisa burst into giggles, but then stopped abruptly. “Dan,” she said, voice soft and quite serious, “I think I might need the nurse now.”

“What?” Dan tensed, ready for action, as if all those years of retirement hadn’t happened.

“Can you…push that button,” Kisa panted. “I think…urgh! …I think my waters just broke.”

“Fuck!” Dan’s hand flashed towards the button, pressing it. “I’ll phone Jakab.”

“Thanks,” Kisa nodded, but there were beads of sweat already forming on her forehead as the door opened to a stern-looking matron.

Dan had his phone in hand, still as prepared as he had been during his active service, and speed-dialled his son-in-law’s mobile.

The name at the other end of the line, when Jakab answered, sounded a little different, until Dan realised that it was the proper pronunciation and not the Anglicised one Jakab used around English-speakers. “Yes?” Jakab continued, realising it was Dan.

“Kisa thinks her…uh, her waters broke. That means the birth is going to happen now, aye? You better get here ASAP.”

There was a moment of stunned silence, and then a single, exhaled word. Dan wasn’t up on all the Hungarian swearwords yet, but he got the idea. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.” Jakab said, too calmly, with the tone of a man seriously considering a mad run through a blizzard.

“Aye, shall I call anyone else in the meantime? Anyone closer? Katya?”

A noise before Jakab took a breath and answered. “No, she’ll be on the other side of the river by now and it’s packed. Thanks, but I’ll text her.”

It was one of the times that Dan was glad Jakab was so logical and got to the correct answer (that Dan would have preferred to avoid any contact with Katya if at all humanly possible) by the incorrect, but most reasonable route (the little matter of Vadim, to be precise).

“Anyone else?” He kept a close eye on the nurse who was still checking Kisa, asking her quiet questions that he couldn’t understand.

“No,” Jakab said after a pause, “I’m not too far, I’ll get there as soon as I can,” he repeated.

“Aye, just me then. Got it.” Dan flashed a smile at his daughter when she caught his eye, trying to reassure her. “Looks like your kids have decided to be here earlier than expected, but I’ll hold the fort.” With that he terminated the call and turned his full attention onto Kisa, who was getting more agitated at whatever the nurse was telling her.

The nurse made a gesture over to Dan, and Kisa’s reply made the older woman’s eyebrows go up to her hairline, before Kisa said, slowly and clearly enough in Hungarian that Dan could understand.

“He’s my father.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Dan huffed, then remembered the one word in Hungarian that was going to be very important very soon. “Grandfather.” He glared at the nurse for good measure.

The nurse at least had the grace to look slightly embarrassed, before turning her attention back to Kisa, and then going to the internal phone to call someone. “Delivery Room,” she said curtly in English. “You come?”

“What?” Dan’s eyes flicked to Kisa, confused. “Kisa?”

Her eyes were huge, and the closest he’d seen to being frightened. “Will you?” she asked.

“Aye. Of course.” Dan didn’t hesitate for another second. He’d gone into enemy territory on his own, he could bloody well go and be at his daughter’s side, no matter how much this freaked him out. He got up and nodded to the nurse, “lead on, McDuff.”

The relief in Kisa’s eyes was worth it. The door opened to the arrival of two orderlies, who went to take the breaks off the bed. Dan followed the procession, as Kisa was being pushed along corridors and into a different room, not too dissimilar to her own one. It was cheerfully decorated, but had a variety of furniture and equipment in it, which confused the heck out of Dan. Accepting his utter ignorance came fairly easy. Holding his daughter’s hand – that was something he could do easily, as long as he didn’t have to witness the more messy aspects.

Shortly after they arrived, the doors opened again to another woman, older than the nurse, with an air of efficient confidence. She sent a questioning look at Dan, who merely uttered “grandfather” in Hungarian once more.

She started asking Kisa questions in rapid Hungarian, too quick for Dan to follow, before putting both hands and feeling, soon starting to frown.

Her frown caused an unfamiliar sensation in Dan’s chest, and it took him a while to acknowledge it as fear. Before it could turn into anything worse, there was a flurry of movement and orders, as equipment was rolled to the bed Kisa was on, and the doctor started to examine in earnest.

All Dan could do was hold onto his daughter’s hand and smile reassuringly at her. Which, he figured somewhere in the back of his mind, probably looked more like a grimace, but she didn’t seem to mind.

What he hated most was the very obvious pain she was in. He really, completely, loathed it, and all he could do was squeeze her hand tighter.

The doctor stepped away for a few seconds to pull on a pair of gloves and let one of the orderlies tie the apron on, before returning, feeling around the lower part of the bump, as Kisa squeezed even harder on Dan’s hand. The doctor’s eyes flickered to Dan, before deciding he was one degree too removed for her to explain things to directly, before going to speak to Kisa. Her expression and voice grave, but calm.

Kisa’s eyes widened and the grip on Dan’s hand tightened even further.

“What?” The fear immediately notched up to panic, an entirely new experience for Dan. This was about his daughter; his grandchildren. This was more important than anything had ever been. “What did she say?”

Kisa swallowed audibly. “One of them’s around the wrong way, blocking everything up. It’s going to have to be a Caesarean.” She gasped as another contraction hit and Dan lost all feeling in his fingers, but he didn’t care, not one bit.

“When? I mean, now? Oh shit.”

An orderly emerged behind Dan and had to tug quite hard before he noticed. The man started miming putting on a hat, and after a few seconds Dan realised he was to follow to an adjoining room.

“I’ll see you in a moment.” Dan smiled his best reassuring smile at his daughter, who looked increasingly frightened. A sight that made him feel worse than anything ever had.

The scrubs he was handed were clearly the largest size they had – tall enough for him, but far too wide. He fumbled with the help of the orderly who had been waiting in the room, before getting completely suited up, except for a mask.

By the time he emerged and was taken through to the operating theatre, it seemed that a whole lot of new people had joined the enormous cast at Kisa’s bedside. There was an empty space left near her head, and the orderly pointed in its direction, indicating that was where Dan should place himself.

With heartfelt relief that he really was going to be as far away as possible from the ‘messy end’, Dan sat down and took Kisa’s hand in both of his. He could feel the slight tremor in hers, so much more slender than his calloused ones, and he squeezed gently. “Hey, kid, never thought you’d be stuck here with me, huh?”

“Thank you.” Kisa breathed, the sweat beading on her forehead. There was a little screen set up shielding the scalpel sight, but the surgeon bending over was hardly much of a reassurance. While Kisa couldn’t see herself, Dan could, if he lifted his head. Something he was determined not to do.

“You’re my little girl, even though I never met you as a little girl.” Dan patted her hand, guessing she was being prepped for the anaesthetic right then. “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you – and your kids. Nothing, aye?” He leaned closer, murmuring with a soft grin, “I might not be fast anymore, but I’m still a great shot.”

Kisa tried to laugh, but it came out as more of a moan, as matters picked up pace at the other end of the table. There was an intense discussion between Kisa’s obstetrician and the surgeon that was too fast and too low for Dan to pick up. Besides, he had decided that distracting Kisa was his job just then.

“At least you don’t have to push. Honestly, squeezing a kid, let alone two, through that?” He opened his eyes as wide as possible, in not-so-mock horror.

Kisa tried to laugh, which turned into a little groan, and Dan felt his finger-bones crunching. At the other end of the table, he could sense more than see, a flurry of movement.

“Are you in pain?” Dan’s words were toppling one over the other in his haste. “I tell them to wait, give you more anaesthetic.Tell me!”

Kisa didn’t reply at first, just moaned and almost-whispered “get it over with,” just as a thin, furious wail penetrated the room.

Dan’s head whipped up to come face-to-face with a blood and gunk covered red and wrinkly bundle that flailed with more force than a gunky-bloodied-wrinkled thing should be able to. “Oh fuck,” he gasped out, “it’s a baby!”

Kisa gave a gargled chuckle. “Really? What else did you think it was going to be? And wait, there’s more…“

“Aye, of course, a baby, sure, but shit, it’s really, I mean,” Dan stood up, unthinking, looking at the controlled flurry of gloved hands and blood, skin, flesh, movement, child and fluids and body and open and tiny hands and head and…the sound his unconscious body made as it crashed into the chair and onto the floor had everyone stop in their tracks.

After a moment, the bigger orderly crouched down at Dan’s side, slapping his face none too gently a couple of times. When Dan jerked awake, disorientation immediately replaced with embarrassment, the orderly shook his head, commenting drily in heavily accented English, “I’ve had fathers do this, but never a grandfather,” as he helped Dan up.

Kisa was looking as though she was about to burst out laughing, no bad thing when the activity had resumed and a second screaming, flailing bundle emerged. A moment later, the first-born was laid onto her chest, bundled up warm.

By that time, Dan had made his way back onto the chair. Face a blotched mix of sheet-white and flaming red, as he held onto his daughter’s hand once more. “Don’t you dare tell anyone!” He pleaded. His eyes fixed onto that remarkably ugly bundle of tiny human that couldn’t have been more precious to him, unless he counted the second one that was soon placed beside the first.

They were tiny, with heads of dark hair and screwed up faces, and a mighty wail. Evidently very unhappy at being so unceremoniously introduced to the world.

“We’ll stitch you up now,” the surgeon spoke in English for the first time. “All went as it should be and we’ll move you back to your room.”

“They are…” precious, wonderful, tiny, amazing, a complete miracle, “ugly as fuck.” Dan grinned shakily at his daughter, “but I guess they will have to do.” The twinkle in his eyes wasn’t caused by emotions that made his voice just as shaky as his grin. Honest.

Kisa understood the true meaning behind his words. “Amazing,” she breathed out, “they look so much smaller than they felt.” She brushed back the hair of first one, and then the other, who had by then calmed with the contact.

“Aye, amazing.” There really wasn’t another word that could describe those miniature humans. Dan looked up as the orderly who’d coerced him back into consciousness gestured at him. “I’ll be right with you, just getting de-scrubbed.” He leaned down to brush a calloused fingertip oh so carefully over each of the tiny, messy heads, then kissed Kisa’s clammy forehead. “Thank you,” he whispered.

Kisa looked right back. “Thank you,” she replied, still looking at her babies in wonder. One of the nurses hovered at the other side of the bed, keeping one eye on Kisa and one on the concluding procedures.

“Anytime.” Dan winked as he stood up, and added, “just never again, please.” With a grin at Kisa’s tired chuckle he watched her being taken out of the operating theatre, before he went into the side room to change clothes and splash water into his face. He really was never going to live this down; he, Dan McFadyen, ex-SAS and ex-Mercenary, fainting at the sight of blood.

I am delighted to announce that Basic Training, my new novel set amongst the Royal Marines, is now available from MLR Press.

Title: Basic Training
Author: Marquesate
ISBN# 978-1-60820-461-8 (print) $14.99
978-1-60820-462-5 (ebook) $7.99
Paperback 276 pages, 76,000 words
Publisher: MLR Press

Joining the Royal Marine Commandos is a challenge that only the toughest men should take on.

Platoon Sergeant Col ‘Bulldog’ Wilson’s world of work, gym, exercise and discipline is heaved out of its angles when the new recruits arrive with Chris Thompson amongst them. Twenty-one, handsome, tall, university graduate, triathlete, and … openly gay in an environment of institutional homophobia.

Col finds himself thrown into turmoil that is nothing like any conflict he’d ever encountered, nor any operational theatre he’d ever fought in. When this particular battle becomes personal, he has to ask himself who is the enemy.

Basic Training Excerpt

Wednesday, 3 September 2003
Lympstone, Devon, UK
“Sergeant Wilson,” the platoon commander called out and Col turned, saluting.
“Yes, Sir?”
“I’d like to see you in my office.”
“Yes, Sir.” Bloody one pip wonder. Twenty-nothing and barely passed out of the officer course, now proving himself on his first post. Commissioned, just because he’d been born with a silver spoon … but Col swallowed the grumble and made his way to the Lieutenant’s office.
“Please take a seat.” Col did, noticing the stack of papers on the officer’s desk. “I’d like you to look through some of the applications, especially the equality forms.” The second lieutenant produced a smaller bundle. “And in particular this one.” Col found a piece of paper under his nose and he took it, quickly scanning through.
“Triathlete, not bad.” Muttered to himself, “Graduate? What the hell’s a student …” and then he came to the next column. Reading it once, twice, a third time, just to make sure. “Homosexual?” He stared at the officer. “You must be kidding me.”
“Apparently not.”
“I hope the lad keeps that to himself.”
“One would hope so, wouldn’t one?” The lieutenant shrugged his shoulders and sighed. “I advise you to keep an eye on him. The recruit sounds extremely promising; high achievements in sports and intellectually above average. In fact, I was told they tried to recruit him directly into an officer career, but he refused to take the chance.”
“Why?” Col studied the form once more, then placed the bundle in his lap.
“According to the report from the recruiting officer, he was adamant that while a commission was certainly the ultimate goal of anyone, he wanted to experience the ranks, first.”
“And you believe that bullshit?” Col stood up. The ‘anyone’ was grating, and he felt targeted. Demoted, with no chance at this stage of his career to get close to a commission. But then he’d never been officer material. Too stuck in the dirt and best suited to the midst of the action. ‘Bulldog’ alright. They’d got his nickname spot on.
“Why wouldn’t I believe it? What other motives might be feasible?”
“I reckon the guy’s got something to prove.” Col shrugged, kept the forms under his arm. “And if he isn’t wise, and I don’t think he is, judging from that little tick in the wrong box, he’ll cause a hell of a lot of trouble.”
“Then watch him. Besides, we cannot be seen to discriminate against him nor anyone else, because of religion, gender, race…”
“Sexuality,” Col finished for the lieutenant. “I know, I know.”
“Indeed. If we don’t take care, we will get into trouble with the equality officers, and we cannot afford to bring ourselves into disrepute.”
“Of course not, Sir. I will keep an eye on the recruit.” Col saluted and left the office.
Christian Thompson. Twenty-one. Six foot. Green eyes. Brown hair.
He’d already memorised the vitals.

At long last! I know it has been an awfully long time in the making, but here it is and it shall be available very soon, most probably in October.

Basic Training

Joining the Royal Marine Commandos is a challenge that only the toughest men should take on.

Platoon Sergeant Col ‘Bulldog’ Wilson’s world of work, gym, exercise and discipline is heaved out of its angles when the new recruits arrive with Chris Thompson amongst them. Twenty-one, handsome, tall, university graduate, triathlete, and … openly gay in an environment of institutional homophobia.

Col finds himself thrown into turmoil that is nothing like any conflict he’d ever encountered, nor any operational theatre he’d ever fought in. When this particular battle becomes personal, he has to ask himself who is the enemy.

  • Publication date: October 2011
  • Publisher: MLR Press

Basic Training was written in 2009, but because of personal reasons, the novel’s publication was delayed for over two years. Thanks go to MLR Press for their understanding and patience.

Question 5: By age, who is your youngest character? Oldest? How about “youngest” and “oldest” in terms of when you created them?

I shall stick to the published characters, because I might just … well, you will see. The youngest characters are probably Tom’s nieces in HMM, because they have “lines”, while Kisa in SF doesn’t, until she s around 12. My oldest character is probably Baroness Margaret de Vilde at the end of SF. She’d be in her 70s then.

As for when they were created, if I stick to published ones again it would be Tom, he is the first one ever who got published (still love him to bits) and the youngest one would be Phil and Jon in Friendly Fire. Of course, if I took all characters into consideration, including the non-published ones, the picture would be a very different one. 😉

Question 3: How do you come up with names, for characters (and for places if you’re writing about fictional places)?

That’s easy regarding location: research, research, research. I can’t possibly get it wrong, because I write contemporary or modern history stories (AKA 1980s) and if I set a regimental HQ in the wrong place … oh dear.

Since I write about British squaddies I look for the simplest UK guy names that I know, and/or the simplest abbreviations. Anyone in the Forces tends to abbreviate anyone’s name to a one-syllable name, or a nickname that is just as short. For example, someone called Andy Ure will be known as Midge. (and if you are not old enough you won’t get this one). What my most coveted resource for names is, though? Well, that’s an Excel file which contains many names of squaddies. It’s a fantastic resource of real life squaddie names/nicknames.

Well, it is spring, or at least it should be. Whatever it is on the calendar, it was definitely time for a spring-clean AKA re-design of my website. With the publication of the original Special Forces as paperbacks, and with two more short stories waiting in the wings at publishers’ to come out fairly soon, I was energised to stamp my mark onto Marquesate. 😉

All pages are still there, but most have been re-arranged, so if you get a 404 error, don’t worry, just follow the new navigation.

http://www.marquesate.org/

What, did you think I was joking? Of course not! While I very much enjoy the simplicity of clear and simple covers and layout, with images that embody the story, I also love colour coordination. And to prove that the whole epic will look gorgeously coordinated in your bookshelves… 😉

This is it, it is done. The complete Special Forces epic has been published in paperback in its original version, and for non-profit print costs only.

Special Forces – Veterans in paperback.

This print version is the original version of Special Forces (1st edition), as it was edited at the time of first publication on Marquesate’s website. The Veterans cycle was published between November 2008 and April 2009. The ebook versions are available for free download and the original chapters remain on Marquesate’s website: http://www.marquesate.org/special-forces.html

This is the only version that is authorised by Marquesate.

Special Forces – Veterans is 447 pages and is £8.88 print-cost only.

Special Forces – Mercenaries Part I: the Original Version and Special Forces – Mercenaries Part II: the Original Version are now available as paperback. The Mercenaries cycle is so large, that it had to be published in two parts.

Special Forces – Mercenaries is the second cycle of the Special Forces epic, the first cycle is Soldiers and the third one is Veterans.

This print version is the original version of Special Forces (1st edition), as it was edited by the authors of the time of first publication on Marquesate’s website. The Mercenaries cycle was published between May 2007 and November 2008.

This is the only version that is authorised by Marquesate.

The print versions of Special Forces – Mercenaries Part I and Special Forces – Mercenaries Part II are strictly non-profit and print cost only. The ebook versions are available for free download (Part I and Part II), and the original chapters remain on Marquesate’s website: http://www.marquesate.org/special-forces.html

Mercenaries Part I has 607 pages and is print-cost only £11.60 and Mercenaries Part II has 565 pages and is print-cost only £10.89.

Just to remind you, if you are ever being charged more, and especially for less pages, then whoever charges you does receive a profit. It’s quite interesting to see what the actual print costs are, isn’t it? I am publishing Special Forces in paperback as a labour of love for all the wonderful readers who have shared their of this story with me over the years, and to all the fantastic friends I made through writing Special Forces. 🙂

The third cycle, Veterans, is currently being prepared and will be published soon. Currently available in paperback are:

Special Forces – Soldiers

Special Forces – Mercenaries Part I
Special Forces – Mercenaries Part II

The pictures speak for themselves, aye? It’s a wonderful feeling to hold the first tome (of four!) in my hands.

Download is free and the paperback is (print cost only) £10.78. The printing costs aren’t the cheapest, because Lulu doesn’t do bulk discounts unless we are talking BULK, but with 559 pages there’s a lot of book for one’s money, and the quality is lovely.  Just to fondle the book … mmmmm … 🙂

Special Forces – Soldiers: the Original Version, is now finally available as paperback.

Special Forces is the story of a Scottish SAS soldier and a Soviet spetsnaz soldier. Two enemies who meet in the line of duty during the early days of the Soviet Union’s last war in Afghanistan. Behind enemy lines respect and finally love grow … but that’s only the official version. This epic spans across over twenty-five years of their lives.

Special Forces – Soldiers is the first cycle of the Special Forces epic, the second cycle is Mercenaries and the third one is Veterans.

This print version is the original version of Special Forces (1st edition), as it was edited by the authors of the time of first publication on Marquesate’s website. The Soldiers cycle was published between July 2006 and March 2007. This is the only version that is authorised by Marquesate.

The print version of Special Forces – Soldiers is strictly non-profit and print cost only. The ebook version is available for free download, and the original chapters remain as on Marquesate’s website: http://www.marquesate.org/special-forces.html

The lovely reader who won the charity auction for Her Majesty’s Men signed copy and the two unpublished episodes after HMM, is so generous to let me sell a PDF copy of the episodes for charity.

So, once the auction has been settled and the parcel has arrived, I’ll make those two episodes available for purchase via Lulu – strictly all money goes to MSF as well and thus to charity.

Hoorah for the generous bidders and the winner and a resounding hip ip hooray for a whopping £88 (yes, that is eighty-eight pounds sterling!) for Medicins sans Frontiers for Haiti relief!

I was asked if the two episodes offered in the Haiti charity auction, which show a glimpse into the lives of Tom & Alex after the end of the book, would only be made available once – for the winner of the charity auction – or if they became available.

Actually, the idea was of course that the episodes are uniquely available to the winner of the auction. However, I intend to ask the winner if they were happy with other readers being able to purchase the two episodes in PDF version (not as a print one ever, this will be absolutely unique to the auction) with every little bit of the money (the price would be very reasonable) going to MSF and for Haiti relief as well. So watch this space. 🙂

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=220540804311

british-bulldogI’ve been thinking about this question for a while. After all, I am in Britain (Scotland), am a British writer who writes British stories in British (mainly) settings with British soldiers. As anyone knows who’s read my stories, I very firmly believe in writing dialogue how it would  be spoken as in: yes, soldiers swear – a lot – and they use country, area, and work specific slang. Of course, that might very well mean that readers who are not from Britain, and/or not familiar with specific terminology, won’t easily understand. I made the decision, as a writer, to take that risk, to stay true to my characters and to keep the authenticity.

But what is your opinion? Do you, as a reader, want my squaddies to natter about egg banjos, eat scran and get some shut-eye in a maggot bag they’d been carrying in a bergan? Or do you want my British Army soldiers to talk about sandwiches with fried eggs, eat food, and get some sleep in a hooded sleeping bag they’d been carrying in a large, reinforced issue backpack?

What’s your opinion, and why?