Our first featured author is the beautiful, brilliant and Blacktastic Colby R. Rice, who brings us a great work of Black Speculative Fiction with Ghosts of Koa!
Let me introduce you to Colby – although, if you’re reading this blog, you probably already know her and her work.
Here she is, in a nutshell:
A shameless nerd and bookworm since the age of five, Colby R Rice is the author of Ghosts of Koa, the first novel in The Books of Ezekiel, a dystopian-urban fantasy decalogy. She was an Air Force BRAT born in Bitburg Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany and came to the States at the age of one.
Colby bounced around a lot, but finally settled in Los Angeles, where she could at last deal with her addictions to creative entrepreneurship, motorcycles, and traveling.
Now, armed with a mound of animal crackers and gallons of Coca-Cola, Colby takes on fiction writing in a fight to the death!
Current projects include: the second novel in The Books of Ezekiel series, the first novel in a middle grade SFF detective series, the first novel in an adult sci-fi thriller series, development of her first sci-fi thriller film, and the growth of her production house, Rebel Ragdoll. Stay tuned at her website and blog at Colby’s Cove!
For over one hundred years the Civic Order and the Alchemic Order have held a shaky truce, peppered by violence and mistrust. But when Koa, a Civilian-born insurgency, bombs an Alchemist summit, the truce is shattered. Now, Koa is rising. War is coming. And all sixteen-year-old Zeika Anon can do is keep moving as she watches the lords of alchemy slowly overtake her home.
But when clashes between Koa and the Alchemic Order put a final, deadly squeeze on the remaining Civilian territories, Zeika finds herself in the crosshairs of fate. She must walk the line between survival and rebellion against the Alchemists. On one side of the line awaits death. On the other, the betrayal of her civilization, her loyalties, and herself.
GHOSTS OF KOA is a fast-paced, post-apocalyptic survival tale, set in the streets of a dying city that has been crushed by alchemic law. Layered with the elements of gritty crime drama, dark urban fantasy, hard sci-fi, and horror, GHOSTS OF KOA is a wild ride to the end of a young girl’s sanity as she struggles with an impossible choice: to keep one step ahead of a war… or to be consumed by it.
CONTENT WARNING – Contains coarse language, intense violence, adult / suggestive themes, and aberrant behavior. Reader discretion is advised.
Read the excerpt below!
Excerpt from Ghosts of Koa
Shadows flittered in the night, and Xakiah jerked his head up, his eyes automatically tracking the movements. The light was sparse, but even from the passenger seat of the truck, his eyes could outline the three distant figures in the dark. About thirty yards away, the shadows of the hunted jerked and twitched with a contained haste as they assembled themselves in their sedan. It was time. The driver would be first.
He lifted the rifle and anchored the butt in the soft of his shoulder. He lowered his eye into the scope, positioning the crosshairs over the figure settling into the driver’s seat. As he began to depress the trigger, he wondered how exactly the man’s head would splatter— when the tires of the sedan screeched against the asphalt, and it shot off into the dark.
“Shit,” Xakiah hissed, letting the scope drop. “Gun it, Joseph!”
His body felt slick with a cold sweat as their truck roared to life and lurched forward. Joseph jammed his foot down onto the gas pedal, pushing nearly one hundred as the truck’s tires kicked up the slag of the country road.
My mission. Mine.
His jaw ached beneath the grind of his teeth. Their hubris was surprising, that they fancied even for a moment he’d let them get away after what they’d done.
A sharp clack of a round being chambered ricocheted through the truck as Bly, a teammate sitting behind Joseph, prepared to shoot. The only man in the van who didn’t move was the one sitting directly behind Xakiah, silent beneath his hood and cloak. He looked out of his window, even, his chin on his knuckles, as though enjoying a slow Sunday drive.
The fleeing sedan far in front of them turned and reeled off the dark path, clunking across the vast stretch of green that separated the road from the main highway.
“Don’t lose them, Joseph.” Xakiah said, his voice low in the dark.
“Y-yes, sir!” Joseph said, a whimper choking his voice. He veered off the road, leaves and branches snapping in dry whispers as he leaned in harder on the gas, following the hunted across the soft, mushy green. Both cars’ headlights made yellow eyes in the growing dark, like one nighttime monster chasing another.
Xakiah grinned, joy swelling under his frustration. They were going catch them. He was going to win— and he felt himself nearly thrown into the driver’s seat as Joseph yanked the steering wheel, sending the truck into a hard lean.
The truck’s tires lifted a couple inches from the ground, and the far right side of the windshield exploded open, fragments of glass flying inward as hot metal grazed the SUV in a messy swarm. A rogue in the scattered cloud clipped Xakiah across the high crest of his cheek, kicking up a curl of flesh, a splash of blood. As his mind made sense of the pain, his joy eroded. Bullets. The thieving bastards had the audacity to shoot…
He focused his thoughts on the wound, and his flesh began to heal itself. “Vassal—?”
“I’m fine, Proficient,” the man behind him cooed.
Joseph jerked the truck to the side again as more bullets whined in the night. They were already just a couple minutes off the freeway, which budded with shining cars and vans.
“Christ, Joseph! My granny burns rubber better’n you!” Bly shouted from the backseat.
“What the hell are you waiting for, then?!” Joseph cried. “Shoot back!”
Bly leaned out his window and sprayed, aiming for the tires of the fleeing sedan.
The truck lurched from side to side as Joseph avoided the returning gunfire. “We’re losing ground!” He yelled.
Xakiah leaned forward, realizing that he was right. The rebel’s muscle car skirted the mud with ease, whereas their truck was in danger of toppling over if Joseph made another turn like that…
“That Page is the heart of the Order, Proficient.”
The simplicity of his Vassal’s statement threaded calm through the dark belly of the car, but the threat in his voice was unmistakable.
Xakiah locked his jaw, nodding as much from obedience as from the tightness in his throat that had stolen his voice. If they didn’t get the Page back, he’d be punished. But far worse than that, his Vassal would be disappointed. He wouldn’t fail. He couldn’t…
“Take them out,” his Vassal murmured. “I know you can.”
Xakiah swallowed and nodded at him, fear and pride swelling in his chest. He rolled down the window, and wind blasted into the truck. With a smooth slide, he navigated his body through, positioning himself on the ledge.
White bursts of fire lit the night as Bly’s shots knocked out one of the sedan’s tires, slowing it down. Thirty seconds until they hit the freeway.
“Steady, Joseph,” Xakiah said, lifting the rifle scope to his eye. He focused his thoughts on the driver’s head, searching for it in the long dark stretch in front of him. He had homed in on the driver right before they sped off, and he could do it again. He just had to feel it.
He stared down the scope, letting it drift across the swerving sedan, and something aligned, linking his slamming heart, the rifle, his eye, and the bobbing head of the driver in far front of them. He pulled the trigger—
Shp! —and the driver’s head snapped forward, slamming into the steering wheel. Metal squealed high, and rubber peeled from the rims of the sedan as it veered off its path. It crashed into the bordering thickets of the highway, the hood folding in on itself like an accordion, crushed.
Bly roared with triumph, slamming his fist into Joseph’s headrest. “Xakiah, man, you’re an animal!”
Xakiah frowned as he looked back at him.
“Uh, I mean—” Bly stuttered. “Nice job, Captain.”
“Badges,” Xakiah commanded.
Joseph maneuvered the truck a few feet away from the crash. They had barely rolled to a stop before Bly popped open his door, jumped out, and ran over to the wreck. Joseph hurried after him, his gun up.
Xakiah followed, holding up his rifle, aiming at the overturned car. The fools. The hunted could have any number of traps prepared, and the young rookies were ambling over, hooting in celebration. He, on the other hand, kept his distance, and his eyes remained ready for even the slightest movement. Joseph and Bly were good cops, for what flatfeet were worth, but neither of them understood the true magnitude of this mission.
Behind him, Vassal Moss seemed to glide out of the truck, never once making a noise in the night. The leaves didn’t even crunch beneath his feet as he followed them to the crash.
Bly and Joseph had already made their ways over to the steaming wreckage and were fumbling with something in the front seat. There was scuffling, and a scared whine wound its way out of the twisted metal as the two agents dragged something out of the front passenger seat. One of the hunted was still alive.
Bly threw the rebel to the ground and spat on its shadow. “Lay down, scum!” he snarled.
Xakiah tightened his grip on his rifle. Bly, like a jackal, was stealing his kill.
“Calm, Proficient,” Vassal murmured from behind him.
Xakiah nodded tightly at the warning. His Vassal knew him well, too well, but he was right. Closing out this mission was more important than a few seconds of glory. Resigned, Xakiah slung his rifle on his shoulder as he approached the two agents.
“Only one survivor, Captain,” Joseph announced. “The driver’s head is dog meat, and the one in the back died in the crash.”
Joseph tossed him something, and Xakiah caught it, already knowing what it was. A porcelain mask, just the bottom-half of it, hard and smooth. A tell-tale trademark of the Knights of Almaut— Koa— terrorist dogs who fancied themselves men.
Xakiah cradled the mask in his hand, feeling the ridges of the molded nose, cheeks, and mouth, all of them together barely the size of his own palm. It was the captive’s. He looked up at the squirming rebel, finally noticing the long red hair that spilled out onto the grass—
He smiled, somehow feeling impressed amidst his annoyance. Her face was speckled with a constellation of freckles, acne even. She couldn’t have been any older than 16.
“Show her to me.” The soft command had come from the shadowed man at Xakiah’s heels, the Vassal.
Joseph and Bly hoisted the rebel to her knees and lowered their heads in the Vassal’s direction. Xakiah cast down his eyes and stepped to the side, allowing his Vassal to pass before he lifted his gaze again.
The Vassal stood before the captive, staring at her with soft eyes. Finally he spoke: “How young. I might have known Koa would send pups to do a dog’s work. What should I do with you, I wonder? What purpose will you serve?”
“No purpose, sir,” Bly said. “I say kill the Koan scum.”
“No. We’ll do no such thing. We are to honor the Articles39,” the Vassal replied. He turned to Xakiah. “The car.”
Xakiah nodded and went to work. He tossed the sedan, cast the corpses aside, ripped up carpet, gutted the trunk, seats, and glove compartment, or what was left of it. Nothing. There weren’t even any signs of it. No traces of energy, not even a ripple in the air where it might have passed through. Nothing betrayed its location.
He frowned, turning to his superior. “Vassal. This faction must have been a decoy so that the real transport could get away.” Bitterness coated his tongue, almost forcing the words back. “They’ve hidden it somewhere else.”
His Vassal’s cold gaze flickered, and Xakiah tensed, expecting words of admonishment or worse, disappointment… but to his surprise, the Vassal said nothing. Instead, he turned to the rebel.
“Lift her up,” he ordered.
Joseph and Bly hoisted the woman to her feet so that her gaze was level with his.
“You Azure bastards can go to Hell,” she said, the pubescent snarl clear. “You can’t kill me. Even your own code won’t allow it.”
“Oh no, we aren’t going to kill you at all,” Vassal agreed. “That’s barbaric.”
The man balled up his hand, and— schhhleck— the girl’s face fell from her cheekbones and cartilage, slapping wetly against the grass. She howled, a long wailing sound that whistled from the milky shine of her jaw. As she screamed, the large white balls in her eye sockets rolled, like slippery hardboiled eggs, and her teeth, exposed to the gums, clacked together with frenetic snaps.
“Xakiah, if you please,” the Vassal said.
Bly and Joseph’s faces paled with terror, but without so much as a flicker of disgust, Xakiah scooped the dripping wrinkles of skin from the ground, gripping it in a fist.
Xakiah held the sagging flesh in front of the woman’s eyes. The cheeks and lips of it drooped, as though lamenting the girl’s disfigurement.
“Three cc’s of morphine, please, Joseph.”
Trembling, Joseph pulled the kit from his side pack and began to prepare the anesthetic. Bly held her, still turning his eyes away as Joseph slid the needle into the base of her neck and emptied its contents. Then the Vassal stepped forward, bringing his nose close to her face.
“I can imagine that you are in incredible pain,” he said. “The morphine is to numb that for you so we can talk.”
“Ooou astards!” She screamed, but without lips, the curses just sounded like angry jibberish. She began to sob.
“Not to worry, my dear. You are going to get your face back. How much of it is returned, however, is up to you. Now. I am going to ask you some questions. For every answer I think is a lie, my Proficient is going to slice away an inch of your face and burn it.” The Vassal motioned to Xakiah, who still held the sagging flesh in the moonlight.
“Lllease… llease don’t…” Her sobs crescendoed, forming echos in the night, and her body heaved with each cry.
“And we’ll begin,” And with almost a lover’s touch, he took her chin in his thumb and forefinger. “Now. You tell me. Where is the Final Page?”
Ghosts of Koa: The First Book of Ezekiel
Get it now in ebook or paperback (and audiobook coming in June)!
And coming soon on IBookstore & Google Play!