A Q&A by Arcadia Shield
Q - How would you describe the series?
A – Love wins against everything. It makes broken men heal, bitter women laugh, and damaged people use their last breath to save the things and people they love the most. It’s about the toughness of the human spirit, not giving up against something deadly and dangerous. The series is science fiction romance with a dose of dystopian sharpness and a dash of military might and muscle. There’s full on adventure and lots of romance - although not too steamy. The bonds of love, friendship, and family run through the books. Not just the brothers' bond but the deep bonds formed when people fight together in extreme adversity.
Q - Why did you write this series?
A – Heroes rising against impossible odds. Love, action, romance, all mixed up. Swoon! Science fiction opens new possibilities for forming unbreakable bonds between people fighting for their lives. I love the idea of a strong family, working together to protect themselves and fighting for something so much bigger; their soulmate and the planet.
Q - What order should I read them?
A - The books have stand-alone romances in them, but the action arc grows with each book. Characters from earlier stories appear in later books and it adds to the experience to read them in order. Here's that order:
- Arlo (coming December 2017)
- Jude (coming February 2018)
- Tobias (coming April 2018)
The Ember Quest series summary
When the world falls, heroes will rise and fight for truth, justice, and their hearts.
Overnight, a tyrannical, mysterious power takes control of the world. The State are ruthless and deadly. In the aftermath, the population is controlled by an unbending hypnotic suggestion that keeps people compliant. But some know the truth, and this group of resistance fighters won’t stop until the State are destroyed.
Heath – Book 1
In a world tipped on its head, Professor Annie Grimwald—a distinguished lecturer at Helstone University—is anxious. Her father, an eccentric dragon relic hunter, is missing. She’s tried everything to find him, and won’t rest until she's discovered what happened. In a moment of rashness, Annie contacts disgraced, brilliant, and gorgeous Heath Ember. Once a maverick, passionate lecturer, he's now ostracized and branded a criminal for arguing the State are a lie and an aberration who must be destroyed. But Annie is desperate, and Heath is someone she trusts. But at what cost?
When Heath and his brothers accept Annie’s plea, they find themselves in the brutal Badlands, infiltrating a state-run prison and discovering just how strange the world has become. Annie insists on going on this mission, determined to help her father and figure out why her memories conflict with the truth from the State. What do her flashes of memory containing dragons mean? And why does the State rule so fiercely against anyone who questions them?
Heath Ember is a fighter. He leads a group of stubborn, headstrong, brilliant warriors who fight to destroy the mysterious, deadly world leaders, restore the rightful powers, and protect the innocent. That includes his former colleague, the smart, and stubborn Annie, who makes him pause and wonder if there could be love among the ruins. Could there be hope in the dust, and a chance of happiness that seems like a distant, twisted memory? They find themselves fighting together and battling the State and their desire. Heath realizes love and Annie are the most important things. She ignites a fire in him he’s stamped on, and he never wants it to die. Whatever it takes, he will keep Annie safe.
Note to readers: This post-apocalyptic, dystopian sci-fi contains romance with action (think mysterious, tyrannical powers, gunfights, and hand-to-hand combat), battle-hardened warriors (my gorgeous, former soldiers and brothers) and life-changing, smile-inducing, heart clenching romance.
Extract from Heath
“How much farther?” The sulphuric stench surrounding Heath Ember burned his nose. Although the smell conjured nightmares, he also found it strangely comforting. It meant he was close to his goal. Swiping sweat out of his eyes, he inched along the narrow underground passageway, his broad shoulders scraping the sides.
“You should be there.” The distorted voice of Jude, his younger brother, echoed through the remote comms link in Heath’s ear.
“You said that half a mile back.” Heath kept his voice low, knowing Jude could hear him. He doubted anyone else was in this foul-smelling tunnel, but couldn’t risk being discovered. He’d only just managed to squeeze down the narrow shaft that gave him access to this site, and that had meant leaving behind his backpack of weapons. All he had for protection was a small blade tucked into his khaki combat trousers, and his fists.
A chuckle sounded through the comms link. “Didn’t want you losing motivation when you realized how far you’d have to go.”
“You’re always looking out for me,” said Heath dryly.
“And don’t you forget that the next time I ask for a share of your holo-suite credits. Got my eye on a sweet experience involving an alien predator and a canon blaster.”
“Great way to waste my credits.” Heath flashed a quick smile in the gloom. “Kade can fix you up with extra credit, if you’re running low.”
“Not for free, though,” said Jude. “He’ll only trade for coffee and chocolate. The guy loves his caffeine.”
“Almost as much as you love your alien shoot-’em-ups.”
Jude’s laughter died. “Fuck! You’ve got company. Hold your position.”
Heath did as instructed, his breathing slowing as he strained to hear. Jude might be a wiseass most of the time, but he never messed around when they hunted for fragments. There was always the chance of meeting other hunters, or encountering the creatures that had slid out of the darkness ever since the annihilation of the dragons.
“Movement one hundred yards to your left,” said Jude. “A large mass, and warm-blooded, from the heat signature.”
“Just the one?”
“Yes. But it’s fast-moving.”
“One of those freaky giant millipedes?” Heath grimaced. It had been a year since the world had been plunged into chaos, but now and then he was still surprised by the things he ran into.
“If it is, watch out for the saliva,” said Jude. “Those things spit like the devil.”
“You don’t have to remind me.” Heath had a pale scar across his left forearm where a mutated millipede had gotten too close and tried to slice off his arm. He’d been left with a jagged, broken mess of an arm which had burned for days, thanks to the venom.
“Use a flash bomb if it gets any closer,” said Jude. “They hate the noise and light.”
“I had to leave them,” Heath admitted, missing the feel of his backpack full of weapons and explosives, plus his excavation tools. “Not enough room for equipment and me down here. I’ve got the container and a few bits of kit, but that’s it. No guns or bombs.”
“You need to drop a few pounds,” said Jude. “You can’t afford to start leaving the kit behind.”
Heath grunted. “I’ll do that when you learn how to grow a decent beard.” Jude played around with his facial hair more than their sister had her actual hair. She’d be in pigtails one minute, and a halo of messy curls the next. He’d had to chase off several guys who got interested in his baby sister because of that hair.
Heath frowned, as memories of Izzie crowded his thoughts. Now was not the time to be distracted by loss.
Jude’s chuckle pulled him from his thoughts. “Looks like you won’t have to worry about going into any hand-to-antennae combat. Whatever it is, it’s moving in the opposite direction, now. Keep following your original path. You’ll find a small cave on your right. The fragments will be in there.”
“This had better not be another hoax,” said Heath. He’d wasted good hours and resources tracking rumors and jokes. He could never figure out why people thought it funny to pretend they’d discovered something of value.
“The source of the information is good.”
“The crazy bartender running the Down and Out isn’t my idea of a good source.” Heath sucked in air and regretted it as the rotten taste of sulphur hit the back of his throat. If he had to carry on for much longer, he’d need help to get back to base; a boost to shed the tiredness from his bones.
“Lion hears all the gossip,” said Jude. “He might be fond of consuming what he sells, but he listens to his customers and remembers everything. From the latest rumor about new fragments, to the newest rule set out by our friendly neighborhood dictators. Lion will know what’s happening.”
“Still doesn’t make him reliable.” Heath and his five brothers had been going to the Down and Out for years before the chaos began. And Lion McGinty had run that bar for thirty years and wasn’t about to give up because the world had gone mad. He’d moved his bar somewhere safe, made sure the right people knew where he was, and had kept on trading. His drinks were cheap, the women were easy, and the entertainment was lousy. But McGinty offered a warm welcome, and a place where trouble was excluded when you shut the door behind you.
“You should be right on top of it,” said Jude.
The near pitch-black wasn’t helping Heath’s mood. He slowed to a crawl, his fingers resting on the rough rocky surface of the tunnel. These tunnels were part of a huge underground network across much of the former United Kingdom. They didn’t link to all locations, but were an ideal place for people who’d come to the attention of the State, and for those who needed to hide themselves. Survival was the most important thing nowadays, especially against the State.
And the State were cruel and mysterious. Descending on the world overnight, killing those in charge, and convincing the population they were the rightful rulers using powerful hypnotic suggestion methods. Their shadowy leader, Emperor Endrir, rarely appeared in person. He hid behind a wall of security guards, and broadcast pre-recorded lies to the population. Keeping them tamed. Although, there were still a few who knew the truth.
“Any second now,” said Jude. “Keep going.”
Heath’s heartbeat quickened, as his fingers slipped off the rock and into an empty space. No matter how many times he did this, he got the same rush, as the possibility of what he was about to discover grew closer with every rancid inhalation. “I found it.”
“Go slow,” said Jude. “McGinty reckons there’s a haul to be had.”
Heath edged forward, gingerly testing each footstep to make sure he wasn’t treading on anything precious. Every fragment they found was crucial.
“Give me a second,” said Heath. He inhaled through his nose, seeking the familiar scent of calcium crystals and egg dust. He’d been accused of lying about the fact he could smell a genuine dragon egg fragment. But he’d handled thousands of fraudulent fragments and knew when he was in the presence of the truth. Everything about it was different, from its feel to its smell, he knew when he was handling a fake. He couldn’t explain it any better than that, but something in him sang when he held the real thing.
“We’re dying of curiosity back here,” said Jude.
“I thought it was only you on comms this evening,” said Heath, not letting his focus slip, despite the sweat trickling into his eyes.
“Lincoln’s hanging around, trying to convince me to take the evening off.”
“Everyone needs some down time,” said the deep, glee-filled tone of Lincoln Ember. “We can’t have Jude getting too serious about his work. You know what happens when he stops having fun.”
“He gets stuff done,” retorted Heath.
“He gets dull.”
“Get off the comms link,” said Heath, shaking his head. Lincoln was always up for a party and a pretty face.
“By the way, I had Arlo in not so long ago, wanting to know if he can test out his new plasma bomb,” said Jude.
“I hope you told him no.” Heath flinched and adjusted his footing as his toe nudged something solid.
“You’re the boss, not me.”
Heath sighed. He wasn’t the oldest Ember brother, but he often felt like it. And he also wasn’t in charge. He left that to Danni. She was welcome to the nightmare of trying to organize him and his brothers, alongside the other squads and thousands of civilians they sheltered.
He crouched and brushed the tips of his fingers along the floor. The flares were in the bag he’d had to leave behind, but Heath pulled out a glow stick and struck it against a rock, filling the cave with green light. The cave wasn’t big enough to stand in, but what Heath saw on the floor made his breath catch in his throat. There were several spiky shards of egg casing on the ground.
Heath lifted one up, not letting the hopeful sensation in his gut take over. Inhaling deeply, he closed his eyes. There it was, that familiar twinge in his gut, telling him this was genuine. To confirm his find, he slid the electro-scanner from his pocket and fitted the shard into the end before activating it. It sent a small current of energy through the shard, and instantly, readings flickered across the green screen.
The tension in Heath’s head faded, and he risked a smile. This was the real thing, egg fragments from a dragon’s egg. For every genuine piece they found, there were fifty fakes, so this was a success.
“What’s the verdict?” asked Jude, the tension in his voice clear.
“We’re onto something,” said Heath.
“Good to know, but you need to hurry,” said Jude. “You’ve got company again.”
Heath gritted his teeth as he collected the rest of the fragments. “The millipede is back?”
“And he’s got friends,” said Jude. “I’m reading six faint heat signatures and they’re approaching at speed.”
Heath swallowed. “I used a glow stick. They must have picked up on the light source.” He clicked open the small container he’d brought with him and placed the fragments inside, before sealing the latch. The container was made of toughened glass and metal, and the inside pressurized. The finds would be safe in there until he got back to the bunker and had them studied.
“Time to go,” said Jude.
“I’m on my way,” said Heath, as he moved into the corridor, leaving the glow stick behind as a distraction for the unwanted visitors. With luck, they’d get hung up on the light and wouldn’t notice him slipping away. Or rather, scraping away. This damn tunnel felt like it was shrinking, threatening to trap him underground.
He took a deep, slow, calming breath. Not far to go, then he was free.
“Lincoln will meet you at the exit,” said Jude.
“I can take the underground passages.” Heath shot a look into the gloom, but couldn’t see any sign of the unwelcome visitors.
“Too risky. And he’s already on his way,” said Jude. “State patrols have passed the exit three times. They must have had an alert that you’ve surfaced. Or a do-gooder decided to report seeing movement after dark and assumed it was people breaking curfew.”
“Then it’s even riskier, if Lincoln’s out as well.” Heath’s leg muscles strained as he ran along the corridor, his energy continuing to fade. This was not good.
“Lincoln can outrun anyone on that modified bike of his,” said Jude. “Just be sure to hold on tightly when he takes off. The guy almost gave me whiplash the last time I was on the back.”
The first flood of adrenaline Heath had been using to get back to the ladder leading to the exit faded. He slumped against the wall, his breath shaking out of him. He needed to get a grip.
“Anything wrong?” asked Jude.
“Why have you stopped moving?”
Heath hissed out a breath. Jude was tracking everything from his comms post, using the inbuilt tracker in Heath’s earpiece. He pulled the syringe pen out of his pocket and jabbed it into his thigh, through the fabric of his combat trousers, and was rewarded with a flood of energy.
“Tripped.” Heath dropped the syringe and crushed it under his boot. If the others discovered an empty syringe in his pocket, there would be unwelcome questions. He’d had enough of those. You did what you had to, so you could survive another day against the State.
“Make sure you don’t trip again,” said Jude, his tone cautious. “Those creatures are almost on you.”
Heath tilted his head to one side as the repulsive scurry of multiple limbs grew louder. The term giant millipede was a disservice to these lethal creatures. Laid out flat, they were seven feet long, and had jaws that cut through bone.
Taking a risk, he pulled out a pencil-thin flashlight and flicked it on. It would attract attention, but he needed out of here. Heath pushed away from the rock and sprinted the rest of the way. There were times to run, and times to fight. And today, he didn’t want to waste his newfound energy on fighting these creatures. Not when he had to get these finds safely back to the bunker.
He let out a sharp breath of relief when the exit came into view. Grabbing the lowest ladder rung, Heath pulled himself toward the surface, and the relative safety of the back of Lincoln’s bike.
Once he was out of this tunnel, all he had to do was avoid the night patrols, make sure they weren’t arrested, and get to base. It was another typical night’s work.
“Something wrong?” Heath continued to haul himself up the ladder, the flaky rusting metal peeling off under his palms. The drug working through his system gave him a pleasant buzz. He resisted the urge to hum a happy tune. Danger felt a long way off, now that he was wired.
“Comms are being messed with,” said Jude. “Could be an electromagnetic pulse. You might lose me in a few seconds. Doing what I can to minimize interference.”
“I can always listen to Flame if I lose you.” Flame Radio was a pirate station run by an unknown DJ with a voice like honey, who blasted out hard rock and roll, and had eerily good insider knowledge about State activities.
“She plays better music than I do.”
“Lincoln’s outside?” Heath reached the top of the ladder. He grabbed the backpack he’d discarded, shoving his flashlight into it. He could hear the juicy grinding of giant mandibles below him and was grateful the creatures couldn’t climb.
“He was thirty seconds ago,” said Jude. “You’re on your own for now. Can’t see a damn thing, thanks to this EMP.”
“Not a problem,” said Heath. “I’m almost out. See you back at base.”
All he got in response was a low hiss through his earpiece.
Heath twisted the closed hatch lid to the open position, edged it up and peered through the crack. A quiet starkness met him. He was in the middle of what was once central London, a city known never to sleep. Once, it had been full of noise and bustle at all hours, as residents and tourists found fun distractions. But not anymore. Not for a long time.
A low whistle filtered through the darkness. Heath opened the hatch wider. He spotted the dark gleam of Lincoln’s modified Harley. It ran on a quiet hydrogen engine. Removing the throaty purr of the Harley had been the best thing Lincoln had done to that bike, although he’d bitched about it for weeks.
Heath climbed out of the hatch and secured it behind him, before running to the bike and jumping on the back, making sure the box containing the egg fragments was secure inside his backpack.
Lincoln grinned at him as he handed over a helmet before powering off into the night.
A visual comms link lit up on the inside of Heath’s helmet.
“Thought you’d like to see this.” Lincoln’s voice sounded in his ear. “Just before the EMP blast took everything out, you received a coded message. Someone reported that a dragon hunter has gone missing.”
Arcadia Shield grew tired of Earth men and their obsession with Tinder. She jumped on a starship and discovered true love still exists, and those aliens are hot, sexy, and made for adventure and faithful devotion. Arcadia lost her heart, fell in love with intergalactic adventure, and never looked at Tinder again.
Author of the Vortex Warrior series and The Ember Quest, you can sign up to receive news and updates on all her book here