Black Mark Book Four: Treasure and Tribulation

The newest release for the Black Mark series is live!04 TT small

Who said work as a translator was safe? This is war!

In the fourth installment of the thrilling Black Mark series, the sly Azarola joins the aviatrix Audra’s multinational team in a race against time to decipher a cryptic message and recover an extraordinary relic before Elspia falls. Despite his crippling wounds, his valuable knowledge marks him as an asset for Inexa and a target for the Directorate. As the team hunts, Azarola learns a condemning secret about himself and his cursed fate. With his life and the outcome of the war at stake, he leverages his subterfuge skills deep within enemy territory, flirting with disastrous exposure with every step. He must find a way to close the witchgates and break the Directorate’s war machine at any cost!

Sample Chapters:
Chapter One
Chapter Two

Purchase “Treasure and Tribulation” for Kindle

Az and Audra Concept Art

131231audraaz 140108az

Doodles of Azarola and Audra from the upcoming fourth book of the Black Mark series. Az doesn’t let something like an injured leg stop him from getting into trouble. I can never settle on what hairstyle to give Audra, so it just keeps changing throughout the book. It’s become one of her quirks.

Writing to entertain

My first priority with the Black Mark series is to be entertaining. Not to show off my amazing ideas or world building. Not to spread a message. Not to prove something to myself or anyone else. My prime directive is to entertain myself first. If I write something I like to read, then there should be others who will like reading it, too.

However, I didn’t realize until I was halfway through writing the third book that I had plotted out a crucible story. Yeah, let’s make a crucible story entertaining! Let’s make a dieselpunk fantasy cognate of WWII North Africa a ~fun~ and ~magical~ experience! I’m good, but not that good.

So, I looked at my first draft and thought that I might be nuts and bit off more than I could chew. I ended up blowing my deadline goal by about two months, trying to make this story into something that wasn’t a hard sit. The last thing I wanted was for someone to think that this was getting too heavy and put it down. Because once the book is put down, there’s a risk that it won’t be picked up again. I know that there are plenty of people who like grimdark and the like, but that’s not what I’m aiming for. I’m aiming for the old pulp action adventure novel. Those ten-centers with the WTF covers.

Eventually, I reworked the trouble spots and shifted some focus around. The beta reader receptions that I got were all pretty positive with only a couple of minor, fixable quibbles. A sigh of relief from me. I can deal with little fixable quibbles. That’s usually me forgetting something in between drafts, because I suck at linear writing. I’m too easily distracted.

If you want to check out what I’m talking about, I have some sample chapters for each of the available stories under the Black Mark menu above.

Number four is on the way and I’ll just say that the Indiana Jones theme was playing on loop in my head while outlining it.

I’m sure someone will think that I should have stayed on the grimdark path, but I think that grimdark and angst are like powerful spices. They are best when used sparingly.

Az Doodles


Some spoilery doodles of Az from the upcoming fourth book of the Black Mark series. I’m liking the shoulder holster look for him. And yes, Az does get a new pair of glasses in this book. Anyone want to take bets on how long they’ll last this time?

If the first book is a twisted fairytale, the second a Supernatural episode, and the third a WWII movie, then the fourth will have the Indiana Jones theme. After writing the crucible story that is Fire and Foxholes, this next book is a welcome change of pace. Pulpy dieselpunk action-adventure fun.

Audra Sketches


Another page from my smudgy sketchbook. This time I’m trying to figure out Audra’s look for the Black Mark series. She makes her introduction in the third book, Fire and Foxholes. Here, I’m trying out different faces and hairstyles for the towering aviatrix.

Here, I had a small dilemma while redesigning her. The story is set in an equivalent of 1932. Short hair for women is all the rage and highly fashionable. Would Audra cut her hair short? Her original design called for long golden locks.

Eventually, I decided against Audra cropping her hair to a bob. She’s so tall and strong that she would keep her long hair to prevent people from mistaking her for a man.

The challenge in her design is to make her imposing, yet still feminine. I added the bangs to soften her face and keep her from looking too angular.

Fire and Foxholes

03 FF small

Fire and Foxholes is live!

Azarola awakens to pain, blood, and the percussion of bombs on a dusty battlefield. He picks up the rifle in front of him and fights his way to relief. How did he get here? What war is this? Where is Rohita?

Now a mechanic in the Seventeenth Combat Engineering Regiment of the Inexan Army, Azarola serves his country in their pitched war with Averna over the desert nation of Karifiga. While Inexa relies on tanks and planes, Averna bends sandstorms to its will and summons tank-trashing beasts and dogfighting dragons. Never short of work, Azarola and his crew struggle under fire to keep the Inexan forces fighting. If Azarola wants to find Rohita, he must first survive the war!

This is the third book of the Black Mark series.

Az Concept Art


Some concept art of Azarola during Bane and Black Mark. What exactly does his night job for Rijan entail?

Another trivia bit: Az’s personal firearm is modeled after the Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless in .32 caliber. Relatively small and easy to conceal, it previously served as his last line of self-defense on the open road and the streets of Ixpoli, before he enlisted into Rijan’s gang.

Bane and Black Mark Concept Art


A bunch of concept work for Bane and Black Mark.

The top row features costume ideas for Madame Zuri, the professional fortuneteller. The second row has a couple of doodles of Rohita, the leading lady of the book. The bottom is just fleshing out a scene in a cafe between Azarola and Rohita.