Dear Readers, Writers, and Precious Patrons,
Today on All Authors Blog, we're pleased to bring you a feature with PJ McDermott, author of the book Avanaux.
For fifty years, the Alien Corps has searched for the Son of God.
An ancient manuscript, unearthed in Turkey in the year 2095, reveals that the Son of God will appear on an alien planet at the end of days. The Corps is formed to search for signs of the new messiah. Fifty years on, hope of finding him is fading...
Hickory Lace, sacked from the Corps after a failed mission to Aquarius 4, is surprised when Prefect Cortherien asks her to undertake a dangerous assignment to the planet Prosperine. Reports of a mysterious miracle worker known as The Teacher are of concern and Hickory’s unique talents may prove invaluable
Hickory and her team journey to Prosperine’s capital city, Ezekan, where they discover a plot by the non-aligned planets to seize Prosperine's priceless resources for faster-than-light travel.
Hickory must find a way to stop the aliens and at the same time determine what manner of being The Teacher is and what he represents.
Avanaux: A Hickory Lace scifi-fantasy adventure is part 1 in the Prosperine Trilogy. If you enjoy original, well-written science fiction that is full of suspense and adventure with a great cast of characters, then you will love this unique story by PJ McDermott.
Exclusive excerpt from Avanaux: A Hickory Lace scifi-fantasy adventure
Hickory and her team have landed on Prosperine and been met by Jeb Nolanski, the Intragalactic Agency’s cultural attaché. They are making their way from the spaceport on Dominion Island to Ezekan, the capital city of Avanaux.
The trumpeting of the yarrak several hours later awakened Hickory. A dragonfly the size of a sparrow hovered a few inches from her face and she flapped at it, startled. She heard Nolanski snigger.
The forest thinned out, giving way to scrub and tall grasses. In the distance, she could see dots of animals grazing on hills.
The humidity was lower out of the forest and the temperature was kept down by a strong breeze that blew constantly into their faces. By the time Nolanski pulled over beside a stream, they were ready for a break and keen to get out of the wagon and stretch their legs. They sat on a bank beneath the spreading branches of a squat tree and ate from the ration packs they’d been given at the terminal.
Gareth pointed to the herd of herbivores. “There’s a lot of those grazing types around—yarraks, are they?”
“Wild yarrak. There are few predators on this island big enough to worry them, and, of course, the Avanauri are pretty much vegetarian,” said Nolanski.
“Vegetarian or vegan?” asked Jess.
“In between, I suppose,” said Nolanski, considering. “But not because of any moral or religious beliefs. Their digestive system simply isn’t designed to process much except vegetable matter plus some other naturally occurring foods like nuts, honey and milk. Red meat is toxic to them—or rather the myoglobin in meat corrodes the lining of their stomachs and if regularly consumed would actually lead to starvation. They eat crustaceans and there’s one particular mollusk they go mad over. Marine fish they won’t eat, except for several types of soft sea stars that are bloodless and not strictly fish anyway. There’s a big fishing industry hereabouts, though.” He swallowed a mouthful of water.
Hickory raised her eyebrows inquisitively.
“They dry and crush them for fertilizer. With such a small arable farming area, they plow in a lot of manure which helps them harvest three or four crops a year. If it weren’t for the abundance of fish and kelp, it wouldn’t be possible.”
Their guide explained that the soil on the island was too poor to support much except the native goldengrass, a drought-resistant reedy plant essential to the Avanauri culture. “The grasses produce a cellulose-based fiber that’s spun into yarn—”
Abruptly, Hickory leapt to her feet and drew her sword.
“What is it?” whispered Gareth. He glanced about quickly, searching for the danger.
Jess and Nolanski took up position on either side of the commander.
“Not certain,” said Hickory. “Something big—hiding—there.” She pointed her sword at a thicket of trees and brush about forty yards away.
“You sure it’s not a pig?” said Nolanski. “Some of those mothers are pretty big.”
“I’m sure—” she began, then stopped, transfixed. A chittering sound grew in intensity then rattled into silence.
“What the heck was that?” said Jess.
“I don’t think we should wait around to find out,” said Gareth, drawing two long knives from his belt.
“Too late!” cried Hickory. “Close up. Stand your ground.”
There was a swish of grass, and two monstrous heads emerged from the thicket.
“Violators.” Nolanski’s breath came unevenly. “Bad luck bumping into them.”
Half as tall as Hickory and black as soot, they inched towards the group, muscles rippling and shoulders hunched like panthers stalking their prey. The two carnivores stopped twenty yards away, raised their heads, opened huge maws and screeched. Yellow eyes on opposite sides of their heads swiveled to assess the humans. They snuffled at the strange scent through a single nostril located high on their snouts.
“Lucky there’s only two of them, eh?” said Gareth as he crouched to face them.
Nolanski cringed. “Not for long, I suspect. They normally hunt in packs.”
The leading animal made a decision. It pared back its lips to display viciously curved teeth. Saliva dripped from its mouth as it snarled and snapped at them. Its partner stalked purposefully towards the band of people.
Built for speed in attack, thought Hickory. The creature raised its head and let out a howling screech, then charged.
Instinctively, Hickory sprang forward to meet the leading predator. The longsword felt powerful in her hand as she heaved it overhead, poised to strike.
Jess ran straight at the second creature, aiming to stick her blade through its chest.
Startled by the sudden attack from these unknown foes, the animals reared and twisted aside.
Hickory swept downwards, narrowly missing the beast. The momentum of her attack caused her to stumble and she fell heavily to the ground.
The point of Jess’s sword pricked the second creature as it veered away, barely scratching its flank.
Hickory hardly had time to register how incredibly agile the beast was before it charged her again. She leapt to her feet and spun away from an outstretched claw then slashed upwards with her sword, opening a cut in the beast’s side. Looping her weapon overhead in both hands, she swung it downwards in an arc that half-severed the creature’s head from its body. Blood gushed from the wound and the Violator collapsed, kicking its hind legs in a death spasm.
The second creature leapt at Jess before she could rally, and fastened its huge jaws on her arm. She fell backwards from the force of the attack. The beast crunched and ripped at her arm, tearing away chunks of Jess’s protective clothing. Frantically, she smashed it on the nose with the pommel of her sword. The beast released her arm only to lunge at her neck. Jess did the only thing she could think of. Pushing her hand into its mouth, she grabbed hold of its tongue and wrenched.
Two more of the creatures crashed through the bush towards the group. Gareth screamed a warning, “Jess, look out!” and raced to meet them. The first brute leapt at him and he swung both his knives in to meet the sides of the animal’s head. His aim was true and the blades pierced its eyes. Instantly dead, the weight of the creature forced Gareth to the ground, but he pushed the animal to one side and struggled to his feet. He dashed towards Jess and was bowled over by the remaining Violator. The massive jaws of the animal had him by the back of his head, forcing him into the dust. Saliva drooled over his face and putrid breath stank in his nose.
He felt a stabbing pain as the Violator’s teeth pierced the skin on his skull, and then the pressure vanished.
“Up, Junior. Quickly!” Hickory heaved the carcass from his body and pulled him to his feet.
“God, I thought for a terrible moment I was being eaten,” he said.
Hickory had already left and was running to Jess’s aid. Jess sat on the ground, cradling her injured arm. She was saturated in the blood of the injured animal, which was jerking in agony by her side. She gasped with relief as Hickory rammed her blade through the Violator’s head.
“You ripped its tongue out?” Hickory stared at the gory object still in Jess’s hand. She realized Jess was in pain. “Never mind. You can tell me the story another time.” She bent over her friend and gently took her arm, feeling for shattered bone. “I think you’re lucky. You’ll have some painful bruising but nothing seems to be broken. Do you think you can stand? We need to wash those wounds and get some treatment for your arm.”
Nolanski leaned down to help Jess up, but she shrugged his hands away. “What the hell! Why didn’t you help me when I needed it? That thing would have killed me.” Her legs were trembling as she staggered to a rock and sat.
“You okay, Mother?” asked Gareth. “I tried to get to you, but the big doggie wanted to play with me.”
“Boyo, you are an idiot!” she said, and then she laughed with relief.
Hickory glanced around the area. “We need to get moving. No telling how many more of those things are around here,” she said, staring at Nolanski.
“I didn’t know,” he said. “I mean, I knew about them. I just didn’t realize they’d be in this part of the island. And Jess, I’m sorry I didn’t come to your aid, but I’m a diplomat, not a fighter.”
“More like a bloody coward,” mumbled Gareth under his breath.
Hickory gave him a warning look. “Zip it, Gareth.”
Nolanski turned away and hitched up the wagon. “We’re still twelve miles from Llandabra. We need to get going. More Violators will be here soon—they usually live in packs of ten or more.”
PJ McDermott lived in Scotland until he was twenty-five, working in factories, and on building sites, and earning pocket money as a performer on the Scottish folk club circuit and pub scene. Later, as a mature-age student, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Glasgow University, met his future wife, and immigrated to Australia. He has two daughters and two seriously cheeky grandchildren.
His debut novel, a coming-of age historical fiction called Small Fish Big Fish, was originally published under the pseudonym Jacob Carlisle and relaunched under the name PJ McDermott. It is available in both paperback and eBook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other on-line retailers. It is also available as an eBook at Apple.
Avanaux: A Hickory Lace Adventure is the first part of The Prosperine Trilogy. The second in the series, Rise of the Erlachi, was released in November 2015. The third and final part in the series, The Scarf, will be released late August, 2016.