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Forge’s May eBook Deals!

April showers bring May’s flowering of eBook deals! Read below to check out what Forge has blooming on sale during this upcoming month!


The Last Beekeeper by Julie Carrick Dalton

The Last Beekeeper

Julie Carrick Dalton’s The Last Beekeeper is a celebration of found family, an exploration of truth versus power, and the triumph of hope in the face of despair. It is a meditation on forgiveness and redemption and a reminder to cherish the beauty that still exists in this fragile world.

On sale for $2.99!

The Last Dreamwalker by Rita Woods

The Last Dreamwalker

From Hurston/Wright Legacy Award-winning author Rita Woods, The Last Dreamwalker tells the story of two women, separated by nearly two centuries yet inextricably linked by the Gullah-Geechee Islands off the coast of South Carolina—and their connection to a mysterious and extraordinary gift passed from generation to generation.

On sale for $2.99!

Fire With Fire by Candice Fox

Fire with Fire

Candice Fox’s Fire with Fire is a non-stop, gripping thriller from “a bright new star in crime fiction.” (James Patterson)

A pair of desperate parents. A man on the run. A rookie cop.
Four people with everything on the line.
What will be left in the ashes of the next 24 hours?

On sale for $2.99!

A Good Family by Matt Goldman

A Good Family

New York Times bestselling author and Emmy Award-winner Matt Goldman’s A Good Family is a gripping, emotional thrill ride about the secrets hidden underneath a picture-perfect neighborhood.

On sale for $2.99!

Wake of War by Zac Topping

Wake of War

Zac Topping’s breathtaking near-future thriller, Wake of War, is a timely account of the lengths those with power will go to preserve it, and the determination of those they exploit to win back their freedom.

On sale for $2.99!

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Every New Book from Tor this Spring

We’ve got something to put a spring in your step this season! Check out this rundown of every new title from Tor over the next few months 😎


April 2, 2024

a view from the stars by cixin liuA View from the Stars by Cixin Liu

A View from the Stars features a range of short works from the past three decades of New York Times bestselling author Cixin Liu’s prolific career, putting his nonfiction essays and short stories side-by-side for the first time. This collection includes essays and interviews that shed light on Liu’s experiences as a reader, writer, and lover of science fiction throughout his life, as well as short fiction that gives glimpses into the evolution of his imaginative voice over the years.


April 9, 2024

lyorn by steven brustLyorn by Steven Brust

Another Opening…Another Cataclysm? Vlad Taltos is on the run. Again. This time from one of the most powerful forces in his world, the Left Hand, who are intent on ending his very lucrative career. Permanently. He finds a hidey-hole in a theatre where the players are putting on a show that was banned centuries ago…and is trying to be shut down by the House that once literally killed to keep it from being played. Vlad will take on a number of roles to save his own skin. And the skins of those he loves. And along the way, he might find a part that was tailor-made for him. One that he might not want…but was always his destiny.

forge of the high mage by ian c. esslemontForge of the High Mage by Ian C. Esslemont

After decades of warfare, Malazan forces are poised to consolidate the Quon Tali mainland. Yet it is at this moment that Emperor Kellanved orders a new, some believe foolhardy campaign: the invasion of Falar that lies far to the north . . . And to fight on this new front, a rag-tag army raised from orphaned units and broken squads is been brought together under Fist Dujek, and joined by a similarly motley fleet under the command of the Emperor himself. So the Malazans head north, only to encounter an unlooked-for and most unwelcome threat. Something unspeakable and born of legend has awoken and will destroy all who stand in its way. 


April 23, 2024

necrobane by daniel m. fordNecrobane by Daniel M. Ford

Aelis de Lenti, Lone Pine’s newly assigned Warden, is in deep trouble. She has just opened the crypts of Mahlgren, releasing an army of the undead into the unprotected backwoods of Ystain. To protect her village, she must unearth a source of immense Necromantic power at the heart of Mahlgren. The journey will wind through waves of undead, untamed wilderness, and curses far older than anything Aelis has ever encountered. But as strong as Aelis is, this is one quest she cannot face alone. Along with the brilliant mercenary she’s fallen for, her half-orc friend, and a dwarven merchant, Aelis must race the clock to unravel mysteries, slay dread creatures, and stop what she has set in motion before the flames of a bloody war are re-ignited.


April 30, 2024

web of angels by john m fordWeb of Angels by John M. Ford

Originally published in 1980, the legendary John M. Ford’s first published novel was an uncannily brilliant anticipation of the later cyberpunk genre—and of the internet itself. The Web links the many worlds of humanity. Most people can only use it to communicate. Some can retrieve and store data, as well as use simple precoded programs. Only a privileged few are able to create their own software, within proscribed limits. And then there are the Webspinners. Grailer is Fourth Literate, able to manipulate the Web at will—and use it for purposes unintended and impossible for anyone but the most talented Webspinner. Obviously, he cannot be allowed to live. Condemned to death at the age of nine, Grailer must go underground, hiding his skills, testing his powers- until he is ready to do battle with the Web itself. With a new introduction from Cory Doctorow, written especially for this edition.


May 7, 2024

the silverblood promise by james loganThe Silverblood Promise by James Logan

Lukan Gardova is a cardsharp, academy dropout, and—thanks to a duel that ended badly—the disgraced heir to an ancient noble house. His days consist of cheap wine, rigged card games, and wondering how he might win back the life he threw away. When Lukan discovers that his estranged father has been murdered in strange circumstances, he finds fresh purpose. Deprived of his chance to make amends for his mistakes, he vows to unravel the mystery behind his father’s death. His search for answers leads him to Saphrona, fabled city of merchant princes, where anything can be bought if one has the coin. Lukan only seeks the truth, but instead he finds danger and secrets in every shadow. For in Saphrona, everything has a price—and the price of truth is the deadliest of all.


May 14, 2024

when among crows by veronica rothWhen Among Crows by Veronica Roth

We bear the sword, and we bear the pain of the sword. Pain is Dymitr’s calling. His family is one in a long line of hunters who sacrifice their souls to slay monsters. Now he’s tasked with a deadly mission: find the legendary witch Baba Jaga. To reach her, Dymitr must ally with the ones he’s sworn to kill. Pain is Ala’s inheritance. A fear-eating zmora with little left to lose, Ala awaits death from the curse she carries. When Dymitr offers her a cure in exchange for her help, she has no choice but to agree. Together they must fight against time and the wrath of the Chicago underworld. But Dymitr’s secrets—and his true motives—may be the thing that actually destroys them.


June 11, 2024

rogue sequence by zac toppingRogue Sequence by Zac Topping

Ander Rade is a super-soldier, a genetically engineered living weapon, and has been dutifully following orders since he gave himself to Xyphos Industries’ Gene-Mod Program several years ago. But when a mission goes sideways, he’s captured, imprisoned, and forced into brutally violent fighting pits for the better part of the next decade…until agents from the Genetic Compliance Department of the United American Provinces appear in the visiting room. Things have changed since Rade was captured. Shortly after his incarceration, the World Unity Council banned human genetic engineering and deemed all modified individuals a threat to society. Overnight, an entire subculture of people became outlaws simply for existing. But instead of leaving Rade locked behind bars, the GCD agents have come with an offer: Freedom in exchange for his help tracking down one of his former teammates from that ill-fated mission all those years ago.

icehenge by kim stanley robinsonIcehenge by Kim Stanley Robinson

SF titan Kim Stanley Robinson’s breakout novel, now in a Tor Essentials edition with a new introduction by Henry Farrell

Decades before his massively successful The Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson wrote one of SF’s greatest meditations on extended human lifespan, the limitations of human memory, and the haunted confabulations that go with forgetting. On the North Pole of Pluto there stands an enigma: a huge circle of standing blocks of ice, built on the pattern of Earth’s Stonehenge—but ten times the size, standing alone at the edge of the Solar System. What is it? Who could have built it? The secret lies in the chaotic decades of the Martian Revolution, in the lost memories of those who have lived for centuries.


June 18, 2024

craft: stories i wrote for the devil by ananda limaCraft: Stories I Wrote for the Devil by Ananda Lima

At a Halloween party in 1999, a writer slept with the devil. She sees him again and again throughout her life and she writes stories for him about things that are both impossible and true.

Lima lures readers into surreal pockets of the United States and Brazil where they’ll find bite-size Americans in vending machines and the ghosts of people who are not dead. Once there, she speaks to modern Brazilian-American immigrant experiences–of ambition, fear, longing, and belonging—and reveals the porousness of storytelling and of the places we call home. With humor, an exquisite imagination, and a voice praised as “singular and wise and fresh” (Cathy Park Hong), Lima joins the literary lineage of Bulgakov and Lispector and the company of writers today like Ted Chiang, Carmen Maria Machado, and Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.


June 25, 2024

the daughter's war by christopher buehlmanThe Daughter’s War by Christopher Buehlman

Galva — Galvicha to her three brothers, two of whom the goblins will kill — has defied her family’s wishes and joined the army’s untested new unit, the Raven Knights. They march toward a once-beautiful city overrun by the goblin horde, accompanied by scores of giant war corvids. Made with the darkest magics, these fearsome black birds may hold the key to stopping the goblins in their war to make cattle of mankind. The road to victory is bloody, and goblins are clever and merciless. The Raven Knights can take nothing for granted — not the bonds of family, nor the wisdom of their leaders, nor their own safety against the dangerous war birds at their side. But some hopes are worth any risk.

foul days by genoveva dimovaFoul Days by Genoveva Dimova

As a witch in the walled city of Chernograd, Kosara has plenty of practice treating lycanthrope bites, bargaining with kikimoras, and slaying bloodsucking upirs. There’s only one monster she can’t defeat: her ex, the Zmey, known as the Tsar of Monsters. She’s defied him one too many times and now he’s hunting her. Betrayed by someone close to her, Kosara’s only choice is to trade her shadow—the source of her powers—for a quick escape. Unfortunately, Kosara soon develops the deadly sickness that plagues shadowless witches—and only reclaiming her magic can cure her. To find it, she’s forced to team up with a suspiciously honorable detective. Even worse, all the clues point in a single direction: To get her shadow back, Kosara will have to face the Foul Days’ biggest threats without it. And she’s only got twelve days. But in a city where everyone is out for themselves, who can Kosara trust to assist her in outwitting the biggest monster from her past?

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Excerpt Reveal: Rogue Sequence by Zac Topping

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rogue sequence by zac topping

It’s 2091 and independent contract companies around the world are producing genetically modified soldiers…to be sold to the highest bidders.

Ander Rade is a super-soldier, a genetically engineered living weapon, and has been dutifully following orders since he gave himself to Xyphos Industries’ Gene-Mod Program several years ago. But when a mission goes sideways, he’s captured, imprisoned, and forced into brutally violent fighting pits for the better part of the next decade…until agents from the Genetic Compliance Department of the United American Provinces appear in the visiting room.

Things have changed since Rade was captured. Shortly after his incarceration, the World Unity Council banned human genetic engineering and deemed all modified individuals a threat to society. Overnight, an entire subculture of people became outlaws simply for existing. But instead of leaving Rade locked behind bars, the GCD agents have come with an offer: Freedom in exchange for his help tracking down one of his former teammates from that ill-fated mission all those years ago.

It’s an offer Rade can’t refuse, but he soon realizes that the situation is far more volatile than anyone had anticipated, and is forced to take matters into his own hands as he tries to figure out whose side he’s really on, and why.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of Rogue Sequence by Zac Topping, on sale 6/11/24


PROLOGUE

Yunnan conflict zone
Myanmar/China border
August 14, 2091

Dusk had settled by the time the assault was over, the horizon turned a red smear choked with streaks of oily black smoke that drifted out over the surrounding jungle. The gunfire had stopped, the silence sinking down over the village like a weight, blanketing the stillness and filling the void left by the abrupt absence of chaos. No more belching rounds or snapping arc charges, no more screaming confusion. Just the gentle breeze scratching across the dirt, and the crackling of fire as the village’s fuel tanks burned.

The battle had been swift, and violent. More a slaughter, really.

The thought made Ander Rade uneasy, but he buried the feeling and continued moving through the ruined village. He remained cautious, keeping his SA-68 burst rifle tucked to his shoulder, letting his senses reach out to search for any sign of remaining opposition. The mission had been straightforward: locate a small rebel outpost, eliminate all resistance, and secure a weapons cache reported to be hidden somewhere in the area. But now that the chaos was over it was clear this had been nothing more than an ordinary village occupied by ordinary villagers. They’d been no match for the brutality of Xyphos Industries’ custom-built assault team, each member having been fine-tuned at the genetic level to be a perfect killing machine. Strong, fast, accurate, near impervious to damage. Utterly fearless and addicted to aggression. Few companies in the world produced such spectacular products as Xyphos Industries’ gene-modified combat operatives, and the company, based out of the United American Provinces, had no shortage of clients willing to pay top dollar for their services. This particular client—the Myanmarese government—had purchased Xyphos’s aid in quashing a rebellion that was trying to take control of the country.

The details didn’t interest Rade, though. Too many conflicts in too many war-torn parts of the world to bother keeping track of. None of it mattered. Xyphos pointed, and the team went.

Rade stopped in the street and kicked over a corpse with the toe of his boot. It flopped in the dirt, vacant eyes staring up at nothing. A battered and rust-spotted arc rifle two decades out of fashion lay just beyond the body’s curling fingers. One of the local government’s older models, and one often found in the possession of government sympathizers, not rebels. The weapon was so old it was a wonder it hadn’t exploded on the first pull of the trigger. The weapon’s operator, however, was just the opposite. Young. Too young. Not a man yet, and certainly not a rebel. Something wasn’t adding up.

Rade sensed movement to his left. The enhanced neocortex of his brain recognized the familiar pattern of footsteps as that of his team leader, and relaxed. A second later, Sevrina Fox pushed through the doors of a shack on the opposite side of the road, her own burst rifle held at the low ready. “Southeast clear,” she said as she approached.

Rade tore his gaze from the corpse at his feet and squinted at the smoke-filled sky. “These people had government-issue weapons,” he said.

“Your sector. Is it clear?” Sevrina asked.

Rade looked at the carnage around them. “These weren’t rebels.”

“Ander,” Sevrina said with an edge.

“Sector’s clear.”

The sound of a gunshot brought them both around, rifles up. Combat endorphins spiked, temporarily dampening Rade’s sour mood and making him hope for something to fight. The sound of a scuffle, followed by the familiar four-round burst from an SA-68. The door to a hut a few rows down flew open and a young woman stumbled into the street. She was unarmed, shoeless, clad in threadbare clothes. Blood spattered across her face and neck, her eyes wild with fear. She lost her footing and fell to the dirt, crawling desperately as she tried to keep moving. She caught sight of the armed mods in the street watching her and froze.

Sevrina lowered her weapon. “Handle this, Ander.”

The woman was locked in Rade’s sights, and her eyes were locked on him.

He didn’t move. Couldn’t move. The sheer terror on this woman’s face pinned him like an accusation, like she was seeing him for the monster he was. And for the first time in his life, he wondered if she was right. The thought grated against everything he’d ever believed, ever wanted to believe. Pulled back the layers of psychological conditioning he’d successfully endured to become the warrior he was.

He’d never hesitated before. Never felt doubt about the morality of his orders, but here, now, in this burnt-out and bullet-riddled village in the jungles of some distant country he barely understood, he’d been laid bare by nothing more than a look from a complete stranger.

He was a monster.

“Ander.”

He could feel Sevrina’s eyes on him. The team leader had given an order, an order handed down by the indisputable authority of Xyphos Industries. Yet his finger stayed braced on the upper receiver, and off the trigger. This was a noncombatant, no threat to himself or the team. The assault was over. There was no need to end this person’s life.

Out of the same hut the woman had stumbled from came the third member of the team, Darius Turin, marching out into the street with his burst rifle slung across his chest and a furious snarl plastered across his face. He saw the woman, saw Rade standing frozen before her, then, without losing stride, ripped the sidearm from his thigh holster and shot her through the back of the head.

Rade stared at her lifeless body and felt something inside him break.

“Sons of bitches were playing dead until I was right on top of them,” Turin said as he holstered his sidearm and rolled up his sleeve to expose a bullet hole in his forearm. He pulled a snap knife from his belt and used it to dig the bullet out, and, once freed of the foreign object, the wound immediately began to heal. “They’re not playing now, anyway.”

Maybe it was the stress, or the combat endorphins, or the unsettling feeling coursing through every fiber of his being, but Rade’s focus locked on Turin. “You son of a bitch.”

Turin squared up. “The hell’s your problem?”

“Both of you lock it up,” Sevrina said. “We still have a mission to complete, so focus and follow orders. Did anybody locate the cache yet?”

“Negative,” Turin said, making a production of putting the knife away.

“Nothing on the sweep,” answered Hab, the fourth and final member of the Xyphos hit team, as he appeared from around the corner of the village’s only satellite station house. He was clutching a handheld frequency scanner, his short-barreled submachine gun hanging from his chest. His left eye was entirely milk-white, indicating he was still receiving video from the surveillance drone buzzing overhead, the images feeding directly into his optic nerve. The neural linkage grafted to his skull blinked rhythmically as it maintained connection to Xyphos’s private satellite network, relaying their comms and location. “The waves are dead,” he said. “There’s nothing here.”

“Not anymore,” Rade added, feeling the combat endorphins recede, and the deep unsettling feeling creep back in.

Sevrina turned narrowed eyes on him. “What’s with you, Ander?”

He was no stranger to killing. No stranger to following orders. It had never been his place to question the mission. Xyphos gave the commands and they executed. That was it. But something here had opened him up. Revealed the awful truth of what he was. Like there’d been only so much he could ignore, only so much he could bury and suppress before the dam broke, and now he could finally see.

All around him lay the lifeless husks of what had been people only moments ago. People with hopes and dreams and loved ones who had no idea what had been coming for them. Innocent people. Noncombatants, armed only with rudimentary government-issued weapons barely capable of protecting their meager village.

Rade felt Sevrina staring at him, waiting for an answer. “I . . . don’t know,” he said. “Nothing.” He wanted to tell her that this was wrong. That what they were doing was wrong and that they maybe didn’t have to do it at all. But he knew it would fall on deaf ears, and only further complicate an already unraveling situation.

Her hand gripped his shoulder. Firm, but not threatening. Her eyes grew softer, and Rade wondered if she knew how easily she pierced his armor. A smaller part of him wondered how much of that was just another of Xyphos’s psychological conditioning parameters, reinforced through pheromone-induced obedience protocols.

“We have to lock it down,” she said, the edge gone from her tone. “We’re not done here until we locate the cache and mark the location for the Myanmarese troops. Understood?”

“Understood,” he replied, wanting nothing more than for her hand to stay where it was.

But she pulled it away and turned toward Turin. “You were point man on this one. You sure your intel is good?”

Turin finally looked up, something dangerous hiding behind his eyes. “I spent weeks grooming contacts and building a network in this goddamned country. This is what I do. The intel’s good.” He was doing a poor job of holding back the venom in his voice. He stared at Sevrina long enough for Rade to wonder if he should step in, but then Turin’s glare shifted back to him. Like he knew what Rade was thinking. Which maybe he did, considering he was the team’s advance recon specialist and reading the terrain was his field of expertise.

“Fine,” Sevrina said, cutting in before things started to escalate again. “We split up, make another sweep of the village. Keep peripherals up, there may be more stragglers waiting to get the jump on us.”

“I hope there are,” Turin said before breaking contact and heading back toward the northwest sector.

Rade let it go. He had enough to contend with already, he could deal with Turin later. Right now he had to get a grip because whether he liked it or not, Sevrina was right. In order to get out of there they’d have to complete the mission.

But everything about this op was wrong. From the locals armed with government weapons to the possibly stale intel, it was all congealing into one big rotten mess. And something was prickling Rade’s senses, something dangerous, like feeling the eyes of a predator watching from the shadows.

His thoughts were cut off by a sudden piercing screech through his earpiece. The shock sent a wave of combat endorphins spiking through his blood as he ripped the earpiece out and threw it away.

Hab shouted and clutched at his head, his left eye clearing from white back to normal as the drone fell from the sky. The neural linkage blinked out.

“The fuck was that?”

“Interference?” Sevrina asked, her pupils dilated, tendons in her neck and hands flexed tight as her own combat endorphins surged through her body.

Hab was punching furiously at the controls of a manual sat-linkage device as he tried to work through the problem. He stopped suddenly, and his head snapped up. “Negative. We’ve been cut off. And we’ve got incoming.”

“Where?”

“Everywhere.”

Rade swept the barrel of his burst rifle toward the perimeter of the village. Dusk had turned the tree line into a black wall just visible between the small block buildings that made up the village. He should’ve trusted his instincts and voiced his concerns earlier. Might’ve been just enough of a warning to give them the jump. “How?” he growled.

“Not important,” Sevrina said. “Right now we need to—” She was cut off by the high-pitched whine of turbine engines as a heavy gunship cleared the canopy and swooped down over them, floodlights snapping on. The ship’s rotary turrets spun up and swiveled around, tracking them where they stood.

Roughly armored vehicles burst from the forest and came roaring into the village, rebels jumping out and pointing weapons at the three genetically modified mercenaries standing among the dead bodies scattered through the streets. Several of the rebels were clad in heavy black-market exosuits and carried sparking stun suppressors.

Rade lifted his rifle, but Sevrina placed her hand on the barrel and pushed it toward the ground. “We can’t win this,” she said, and he knew she was right. The rebels had come prepared.

A setup, no two ways about it. The thought made Rade want to erupt, and it took every ounce of will to deny the storm of combat-tuned chemicals pulsing through him, begging for violence, but he did as Sevrina ordered.

The rebels closed in, shouting in Burmese. Rade didn’t speak the language but he guessed their meaning all the same. He set his weapon on the ground and lifted his hands. The only option they had now was to survive, and trust Xyphos to come get them out.

A crackling bolt ripped through the night. Sevrina grunted and fell, twitching.

Hab went to draw his sidearm. Another stun bolt flashed. He hit the dirt, electricity arcing across his fried biohardware. Rade’s heightened reflexes went into overdrive as he dove to his right and dodged a third stun bolt that passed close enough to make the hairs on his body stand up. He rolled and came up with Sevrina’s rifle, emptying the magazine at the rebels around him, trying to drive them back. Three fell to the dirt and another screamed as he spun around backwards under a barrage of bullets. There was no plan. Rade was only reacting. Someone grabbed him from his left, mechanical hands clamping down around his arm and wrenching the rifle away as another jumped on him from the right. Rade growled, twisted, and threw one of the attackers into the side of an armored vehicle. Fueled by rage and the combat-tuned endorphins, Rade gripped the frame of the exosuit still clinging to him and fought against the mechanically powered strength of the rebel who was trying to wrestle him to the ground. A brief flash of wide, terror-stricken eyes beneath the soldier’s helmet, and Rade tore the offending hand away, snapping the limb backwards to the sound of screams and grinding servos.

Someone opened fire. Rade felt the air ripple as rounds came flying in. The slap and clang as lead met steel and flesh, and the rebel in the exosuit went down. An impact in Rade’s thigh, searing heat as the bullet burned its way into the muscle. Rade fell to one knee, doing everything he could to not topple over completely.

An older rebel wearing a tattered jacket covered in mismatched ribbons started shouting and waving his arms. The gunfire stopped. Rade bared his teeth, glancing about for a weapon he might be able to reach . . .

There was a click and whine as a stun suppressor primed its charge. A bright flash, a cold, numbing punch to the chest, and Rade crumpled to the ground. He couldn’t move. Could barely breathe. All he could do was look at Sevrina lying facedown in the dirt next to him, gasping like a fish as they clamped a suppression collar around her neck.

The old rebel in the decorative jacket crouched down beside Rade and patted him on the face. Rade could do nothing to fight back. In broken English, the old rebel said, “No death. You come alive.” He leaned in, smiling. “Buyers already waiting.”

The suppression collar closed around Rade’s neck before he could even scream.

Copyright © 2024 from Zac Topping

Pre-order Rogue Sequence Here:

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Forge’s August eBook Deals!

The hot summer days of reading by the poolside or on the beach are upon us! So grab your e-readers, pack it in your beach bag, sit back, relax, and soak up the sun while reading what Forge has on sale for the whole month of August!


A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

A Dog's Purpose

Heartwarming, insightful, and often laugh-out-loud funny, A Dog’s Purpose is not only the emotional and hilarious story of a dog’s many lives, but also a dog’s-eye commentary on human relationships and the unbreakable bonds between man and man’s best friend. This moving and beautifully crafted story teaches us that love never dies, that our true friends are always with us, and that every creature on earth is born with a purpose.

On sale for $3.99!

Wake of War by Zac Topping

Wake of War

Zac Topping’s breathtaking near-future thriller, Wake of War, is a timely account of the lengths those with power will go to preserve it, and the determination of those they exploit to win back their freedom.

On sale for $2.99!

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Inspiration for Wake of War by Zac Topping

Wake of War“I just hope I’m on the right side of history.”

The United States of America is a crumbling republic. With the value of the dollar imploding, the government floundering, and national outrage and resentment growing by the hour, a rebellion has caught fire. The Revolutionary Front, led by Joseph Graham, has taken control of Salt Lake City.

In a nation where opportunity is sequestered behind the gilded doors of the rich and powerful, joining the Army seemed like James Trent’s best option. He just never thought he’d see combat. Now Trent finds himself on the front lines fighting for something he doesn’t even know if he believes in. Destroying innocent lives wasn’t what he signed on for, and he can feel himself slipping away with every casualty.

Sharpshooter Sam Cross was just fourteen when American soldiers gunned down her parents and forced her brother into conscription. Now, five years later, retribution feels like her only option to stitch the wound of her past. She has accepted Joseph Graham’s offer to be his secret weapon. His Reaper in the Valley. But retribution always comes at a cost.

When forces clash in Salt Lake City, alliances will be shattered, resolve will be tested, and when the dust clears nobody will be able to lie to themselves, or be lied to, again.

Read below to see what inspired Zac to write his debut novel, Wake of War—a timely account of the lengths those with power will go to preserve it, and the determination of those they exploit to destroy everything in the name of freedom anew.


By Zac Topping:

Inspiration is a funny thing. Sometimes it hits like a lightning bolt, sudden, intense, undeniable. Sometimes (more often than not, honestly) it’s like an elusive cryptid that you only catch a fleeting glimpse of, and by the time you get to your computer to put words to page…there’s nothing there anymore.

I’d say, though, inspiration is usually a mix of both. An idea may bloom suddenly, but it’s most likely been growing for a while, hidden beneath the surface feeding on all the experiences and data we absorb throughout our lives. We love, laugh, cry. Watch, listen, learn. We rage, and we vent, and we wonder how things came to be, and how they might be different. Then a simple detail, a single thought, or a random word sparks an entire idea.

That’s how I discovered the idea for my upcoming debut, Wake of War, a near-future military thriller about a second American civil war and the terrible trials faced by those who fight in it. The concept for the book was part real-world experience, part observation, and a good amount of reflection. But beyond my own experiences as a US Army soldier during the early years of the war in Iraq, there were also a number of other external influences that helped shape the story that would become Wake of War.

First, let’s go back a bit to the HBO miniseries, Generation Kill, from 2008, based on the book by Evan Wright (published in 2004) about the actual accounts of the Marines of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion during their initial push into Iraq in 2003. This show is hands-down the most realistic depiction of the war in that place at that time that I have ever seen. Everything from the gear, the dialogue, the sets and location, right down to the depiction of the infuriating logistics that govern any kind of military maneuver, it’s all spot-on. The show doesn’t shy away from the tough parts and it captures that chaos of combat in such shocking detail that it might be hard for some to watch. It’s rough, it’s abrasive, and it’s honest. That honesty is what makes this stand out, and I wanted to bring that same level of honesty to my own writing.

Beyond the military genre, I’m also fascinated by near-future stories grounded in reality, and Richard K. Morgan’s 2004 novel, Market Forces, is just that. The book follows a young associate of an investment firm that funds small wars around the globe in exchange for a sizable share of the host nation’s gross domestic product. Employees of these investment firms don’t move up the corporate ladder by promotion, rather they duel to the death in up-armored vehicles on city streets. It’s American Psycho meets Mad Max. Pretty much every character is a train wreck, but it’s fascinating to watch them tear through their world and spiral out of control until every last shred of their humanity has been burned away. Now, that may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I love a good cautionary tale—especially when it’s written in such a distinct style like Morgan is known for. The story takes place in the not-too-distant future and although some of the elements are far-fetched, the majority of this book is based on real life and the kinds of terrible things that happen every day around the world. Like I said, it’s a cautionary tale. It’s supposed to hurt. Because that pain forces us to reconcile some of our own true-to-life issues that might need to be addressed sooner rather than later. If you’ve read the blurb for Wake of War, I think it goes without saying that it is absolutely a cautionary tale as well.

I’m a very visual writer and I find a lot of inspiration from film and TV, especially of the compelling and thought-provoking variety. The Netflix documentary, Winter on Fire, about the 2013-2014 riots in Ukraine and the country’s struggle to move out from under Russia’s control is a must watch. It’s heartbreaking to see how hard the Ukrainian people fought for freedom and to see where they are now, but it’s important to not look away or put it out of our minds. The documentary captures the terrifying speed in which stability can give way to chaos and violence. And it was while watching this that I wondered if it could ever happen here in the United States, and just what it might look like if it did.

The other film that I recommend to absolutely everyone I can is Waltz with Bashir, a 2008 documentary about director Ari Folman’s search for his lost memory of his time serving in the 1982 Lebanon War. It’s filmed in a rotoscope-type animated style that plays with the concept of the distortion of memory and the lengths the human mind will go to preserve itself. I will warn you, this film has one of the most brutal endings I’ve ever seen, but it is incredibly powerful. Like, take your breath away and leave you speechless. But no other film has ever moved me as much as Waltz with Bashir. If you are inclined to check out any of these recommendations, make it this one.

This last one isn’t a movie, or a TV show, or a book. It’s a spoken word poem by Kae Tempest called Ballad of a Hero about a young child watching their father go off to war and return home broken. I first heard this one recited live at a public reading and it was captivating. Tempest’s lyrical style and heartfelt commentary makes this yet another hard-hitting important piece of work that plays with irony and all the familiar themes of the consequences of military service during times of war.

Now I know this has been a long list of heavy material, but it’s important to reflect and make sure we’re not just repeating the same mistakes that’ve already resulted in so much damage. Sometimes it’s easy to ignore hard truths when we can change the channel or look away, but in order to move forward, in order to heal we need to remember where we came from, and where we have yet to go. The shape of that future is up to us.


Click below to pre-order your copy of Wake of War, coming July 19th, 2022!

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Excerpt Reveal: Wake of War by Zac Topping

Wake of War“I just hope I’m on the right side of history.”

The United States of America is a crumbling republic. With the value of the dollar imploding, the government floundering, and national outrage and resentment growing by the hour, a rebellion has caught fire. The Revolutionary Front, led by Joseph Graham, has taken control of Salt Lake City.

In a nation where opportunity is sequestered behind the gilded doors of the rich and powerful, joining the Army seemed like James Trent’s best option. He just never thought he’d see combat. Now Trent finds himself on the front lines fighting for something he doesn’t even know if he believes in. Destroying innocent lives wasn’t what he signed on for, and he can feel himself slipping away with every casualty.

Sharpshooter Sam Cross was just fourteen when American soldiers gunned down her parents and forced her brother into conscription. Now, five years later, retribution feels like her only option to stitch the wound of her past. She has accepted Joseph Graham’s offer to be his secret weapon. His Reaper in the Valley. But retribution always comes at a cost.

When forces clash in Salt Lake City, alliances will be shattered, resolve will be tested, and when the dust clears nobody will be able to lie to themselves, or be lied to, again.

Zac Topping’s Wake of War is a timely account of the lengths those with power will go to preserve it, and the determination of those they exploit to destroy everything in the name of freedom anew.

Wake of War will be available on July 19th, 2022. Please enjoy the following excerpt!


CHAPTER ONE

Welcome to the War

The TC-27 Chariot banked hard to port and began spiraling toward the ground, the g-force pinning Specialist James Trent to his seat. The sudden drop caused a terrible weightless feeling to slither up his guts and for some reason made his feet tingle. The others packed in around him were handling the frantic descent in their own ways; eyes squeezed shut, lips quivering in rapid prayer, white-knuckle grips on rifles and seat straps. Like it would do any good. Might as well suck on a lucky rabbit’s foot for all the difference any of that shit would make.

But on the plus side, after hours of being crammed on the aircraft, at least it was finally going down.

The main lights blinked out and LEDs in the floor switched on showing the way to the exits. The indicator over the emergency jump door was still red though, which was good because no one had parachutes equipped.

Compensators hissed and the airframe stabilized. There was a sudden flattening feeling as the craft slowed its drop and Trent’s guts were pressed down into his feet. Much more of this and he’d retch.

Trent tried to play it cool, focusing on anything other than the drop. He looked up at the ceiling, taking note of the interior of the craft which was completely naked, all the exposed wiring and piping and coolant lines running along the skin of the craft. A real genius design that was. Sure, it probably saved production costs, but it wouldn’t be hard for some disgruntled soldier to get up out of his seat and start yanking on shit and destroy vital flight systems.

He’d seen some guys lose it before. One too many deployments to combat cities and they came back all scrambled up. Did all kinds of crazy things. Wouldn’t be much of a stretch to imagine someone like that just up and deciding to go out with a bang.

The TC-27 dropped again. A quick, sickening lurch for two to three seconds and Trent knew they fell another few hundred feet closer to terra firma. He felt his throat tighten, a bead of sweat forming on his brow, and knew his complexion must be somewhere between yellow snow and filthy bath water. He closed his eyes and tried to swallow it down.

Suddenly the ship sagged, slowed, then with surprising ferocity crunched down on solid ground. Shock systems sent power to the landing gear, which shook the craft like it was in a blender. Reverse thrusters roared to slow the heavy piece of machinery until the brakes could take over and bring the entire thing to a stop.

Trent peeled his eyes open in the sudden silence that filled the cargo space as the flight systems powered down. The lights came back on and a pair of flight assistants in dark gray jumpsuits came out of the cabin and began assisting soldiers off of their craft. Trent unclipped his harness, loosened the damned chin strap that was way too tight, and dragged his rucksack out from under the seat. He strapped his rifle onto his chest rig, slipped into the aisle, and walked toward the rear of the craft where the bay doors had folded open. His boots thumped down the grated metal gangway as he disembarked.

The heat was the first thing to hit him. A dry, heavy air that squeezed around him, forcing sweat to immediately soak through his combat uniform. He squinted against the brightness of the early summer sun.

The airfield was huge, but only a handful of aircraft were on it. A few other TC-27s were parked by a maintenance bay nearby, and a pair of AC-65 Wasps sat on the opposite end of the runway staring out like hungry predators basking in the afternoon sun, their sleek armor and inverted grav-engines angling down and back like the wings of their namesake, 30mm cannons poking out the front. With the Federal Reserve collapsing and the government spending freeze in place, Trent hadn’t expected to see them here. He’d heard somewhere that the entire payload of an AC-65 was somewhere near three million dollars, American. Even if they were just intended as a show of force, it was good to know they were there.

Everyone was rounded up and marched across the tarmac into a hangar where they began the in-processing ritual. Trent shuffled along in line, constantly shrugging the weight of his rucksack in search of a more comfortable position, which was apparently impossible. After a while the line stopped moving and someone gave the order to smoke ’em if you got ’em. A moment later a cloud of carcinogenic smog hovered over everyone’s heads. Trent bummed a cigarette from the guy next to him, cupped his hands over it while the guy lit for him, and nodded thanks.

No one spoke. There was a silent sense of dread that lived just under the veil of military enthusiasm. Trent let the smoke out through his nose and gazed at the towering mountains surrounding the valley. The mountains that were home to the enemy, the violent militant faction known as the Revolutionist Front who were stoking the flames of rebellion while the country was imploding.

Trent finished his cigarette and was called forward. The soldier behind the counter was another specialist, tapping away on a touch pad. She looked up at Trent as he approached. “ID and Nat-Reg.”

Trent gave her his ID card and she entered his information into her pad. A printer whirred and spat out a few sheets of paper that she gathered up, stuffed into an envelope and thrust toward Trent. “Specialist Trent, James Oliver. Assigned to the 117th Infantry. Head over to supply for loadout. Enjoy your stay in the valley. Next.”

“Wait, I’m sorry, you said infantry?”

She glared at him. “That’s correct.”

“I’m supposed to go to a supply unit,” Trent stammered, throat going dry.

“The needs of the Army, Specialist. And the Army needs you in the infantry. Now move along.”

Trent took his file, reeling from this unexpected development, and went over to supply where he was issued tactical body armor, a various assortment of interchangeable ballistic plates, a med kit, and 210 rounds of ammunition in seven separate magazines. He signed for everything and moved off to the waiting area where he was assured someone from his unit would retrieve him shortly.

He bummed another cigarette and tried to calm himself. Fucking infantry. No way. He hadn’t practiced basic combat tactics in months, and even then it had only been half-assed attempts to appease qualification paperwork. But here he was in a real combat zone with real fighting and real enemies, not holographic targets with score meters ticking away like a fucking video game.

Gunfire cracked outside the perimeter wall no more than a few hundred meters away. Trent’s head snapped around, heart hammering in his chest, and that awful tingling feeling shot through his feet again.

“You’ll get used to it,” said one of the soldiers sitting nearby in a faded, dirty uniform. “Soon enough you won’t even notice it.”

Trent tried to relax, however the hell he was supposed to do that. The gunfire continued to pop sporadically for another minute before it ceased. No one on the airfield or anywhere on the FOB seemed to care. It was just another summer afternoon in the valley.

Not much later, a GV-6 Prowler—one of the military’s all-purpose utility vehicles—rolled up to the holding area. Trent recognized his new unit numbers stenciled on the grill and waved it down. The truck crawled to a stop as a soldier climbed out of the passenger side door. He had dark skin and dark eyes that stared at Trent without emotion. He wore the rank of specialist and his name tape said SIMARD.

“You the new armorer?” Simard asked.

Trent handed Simard his files. “I’m Trent. You guys are the 117th?”

Simard handed the files back without looking at them. “You got it. I’m Simard, this is Jenson.” He gestured to the private sitting behind the wheel, a young white man, couldn’t be more than eighteen years old. His bottom lip stuck out and a string of brown spit ran down his chin. He waved.

“Come on,” Simard said.

Trent crammed himself into the back seat. For such large vehicles there was surprisingly little room inside. Trent’s knees were jammed in tight and the rigid upright seat back was at such a severe angle it practically had him leaning forward. Comfort was clearly not part of the military design.

Jenson shoved the transmission in drive and hit the gas. They pulled away from the airfield and onto regular blacktop, passing rows of Quonset huts and bunk pods as they crossed the FOB.

Simard twisted in his seat and faced Trent. “You ever been to combat before?”

“No. Not until today.”

A grin spread across Simard’s face. “You ain’t been in combat yet. But it’s cool, I got you. We were all pumped to get here at first. Ain’t that right?” He looked at Jenson.

“That’s fuckin’ right,” the private said. “Gonna serve justice to the rebels an’ all that shit.”

Simard continued. “All that shit. That’s all it is, Specialist Trent. What do you think about that?”

“Just Trent,” he said. “Or James. You don’t really think things are gonna go bad here, right?”

“Why? You scared?”

“No. I mean . . .” Trent swallowed a lump in his throat and recovered. “I’m not here for glory is all.”

“What are you here for, then?”

Truth was Trent had enlisted for the Military Granted University Scholarship, but somehow didn’t think that would sound cool to admit. So far in his three years of service he’d been able to maintain easy gigs on comfortable East Coast stations, far from any combat. Another year and he’d be free of the Army’s bullshit, and free to subject himself to an all new type of bullshit at the University. But the prospect of working in an office with climate control sounded much better than working in the ditches for the rest of his life. Thing was, that sentiment was sometimes hard to get across to other soldiers who would forever be grunts and ditch-diggers and were happy about it. Every time he admitted that he joined the military for anything other than killing he was ridiculed and looked down upon.

Simard broke the silence, sparing Trent the admission. “I’m just fuckin’ with you, man. We ain’t hard-asses here. Shit’s all a joke in my opinion.”

“Wanna know why I joined?” Jenson asked. He continued without waiting for an answer. “To get my plumbing cert.” He laughed at his own joke, belting out a backwoods kind of chortle.

“You ain’t layin’ shit, Jenson,” Simard said, turning back around. He hung his elbow on the open window. Outside, more barracks trailers flashed past. A few units were standing outside in formation. “Anyway, Trent,” Simard continued. “This is Forward Operating Base Spearpoint.” He waved out the window. “Too many dicks, not enough equipment, no end in sight. But hey, at least we got someone to fix our busted-ass weapons now.”

“Yeah man,” Jenson said. “There’s some chicks on base, but every one of ’em’s got at least a hundred dudes houndin’ after ’em.”

“Would you fuckin’ stow it?” Simard cut in.

Jenson shut up and focused on the steering wheel.

“Anyway,” Simard said, “you’re in Alpha Company, Fourth Platoon, Third Squad. Got it? That’s us. And as far as things not getting bad, you’re outta luck. Intel says the RF just put out a new video, only this one wasn’t a PR statement like the usual.” Simard paused. “Joseph Graham just declared war on all government forces in the city. Which means this shit is real as it gets and we’re in it for the long haul, so watch your step cuz this place is a shithole.”

“Yeah man,” Jenson said. “Bet you still notice the smell? Don’t worry, that’ll go away.”

“The smell doesn’t go away,” Simard said. “You just get used to it.”

In the back seat, Trent fought down another bout of sickness. The Revolutionist Front wasn’t playing around. Joseph Graham was the charismatic and completely psychotic leader of the Revolutionist Front who’d already earned himself a top spot on the government’s most wanted list for his role in orchestrating numerous crimes against humanity. Graham, who’d once been a backwater preacher and cult leader, had managed to use his gift of persuasion to lure enough fellow crazies out of the woodworks to put together a substantial following that eventually turned into a legitimate rebel army. A rebel army camped out in the mountains surrounding the valley Trent currently found himself trapped in as a new member of a frontline infantry unit.

From the driver’s seat Private Jenson reached back and offered Trent a cigarette.

“Welcome to Salt Lake City.”


Click below to pre-order your copy of Wake of War, coming July 19th, 2022!

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