Blachart


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Life hardly ever turns out the way we expect it to, and for Mykl d’Angelo, skipper and owner of the loderunner Pegasus, it had just taken a bad turn for terrible.

Due a minor misunderstanding, his crew had stolen the ship’s only shuttle, leaving him and two others behind to crew the ailing ship on their own. As if that weren’t bad enough, just a few hours later the rickety old ship’s stardrive exploded in the middle of the middle of nowhere, killing Mykl’s two remaining crewmen.

Marooned alone in deep space, Mykl d’Angelo counted his blessings, offered prayers to any gods who specialized in miracles, and prepared to await (A) seemingly unlikely rescue, or (B) a lingering death…

Rescue takes place, but at a price – as the Antares, a cruiser dispatched to investigate the mysterious silence of a remote starbase crosses paths with a legendary and fearsome Corsair – a man whose name sent shivers down the spines of lesser mortals. Blachart… Blachart the Bloody.

“At times tense, at other times funny, Christina manages to maintain a healthy balance between humour and excitement – producing a first novel that is as easy to read as it is a joy to experience. Truly this is one of the very best sci-fi novels that I have read all year!” – Mark Woods, author of “Time of Tides” and “Fear of the Dark”.

Blachart” is the first title in the Galaxii Series by Christina Engela.

Details:

  • Published: Fifth Edition – May 10, 2018 (eBook); December 14, 2019 (paperback)
  • Words: 84,098 (Flowing Text eBook)
  • Pages: 280 (6×9 format paperback)
  • Duration: 6:17:26 min (eBook narrated by Nigel Peever)


Synopsis: [Spoiler Alert]

Blachart” is the first title in the Galaxii Series, a saga set in a distant future decades after two great wars – a devastating world war, and the even more cataclysmic Gimp War – have changed the human equation forever. Refugees fleeing Earth in the turmoil at the dawn of the new age of interstellar travel had settled on a distant uninhabited world, broken all ties with Earth – and while Earth went on in the interceding years to recover and build its own thriving colonies, this lost branch of Humanity decided that it was easier to take what they needed rather than to barter or to make it themselves…

These lost cousins of Earth had become so menacing a threat to Terran colonies and trade routes, that Corsairs – a name they chose for themselves – became ferociously and relentlessly hunted by the Terran Space Fleet – but almost to no avail. For as long as the location of their home world remained a closely-guarded secret, the mighty Fleet could do almost nothing against it – except to react feebly to seemingly random attacks too difficult to predict… This state of affairs persisted for decades… in fact, for almost a century.

Mykl d’Angelo

One of the main characters of the Galaxii series – and “Blachart” – is Mykl d’Angelo, an adventurer with a checkered past. Being only slightly an anti-hero, Mykl (pronounced ‘Michael’) is the stereotypical straight-as-an-arrow good-guy hero with a tragic past.

Having grown up on a lost-colony planet named Eden, which suffered the ravages of a devastating civil war for nearly 20 years, Mykl was one of twins, his sister having died tragically in his arms as a consequence of the civil war on Eden. Mykl d’Angelo rose to prominence as a young war hero, joining the Terran Space Fleet immediately after the war is brought to a close by Terran forces. After a successful tenure at the Space Fleet Academy, Mykl spends a number of years as an officer on several starships, before resigning his commission and striking out on his own. It is shortly before “Blachart” that he buys his own ship, a loderunner called “Pegasus”, and begins running cargo with it to seek his fortune. Things don’t always pan-out the way people want them to, and it is no different for Mykl d’Angelo.

Mykl d’Angelo is a former Space Fleet officer trying to make a living as a private loderunner owner and skipper – who has fallen on hard times – and has just had the worst day of his life in that field. Due a minor misunderstanding, his crew has mutinied, stolen the “Short Shit” – the ship’s only shuttle – and left him and two others behind to crew the ailing loderunner Pegasus – which just happened to literally lose its stardrive in the middle of the middle of nowhere! His two remaining crewmen are killed when the ship’s engine explodes, and Mykl d’Angelo is marooned alone and awaits rescue in deep space! That…really… made his calendar cycle.

In the meantime, a Terran starbase has fallen silent, and the only Space Fleet starship close enough to investigate is dispatched. Having been in space dock for a refit which is not entirely complete, the I.S.S. Antares, fondly referred to by her crew as ‘the Ant-arse‘, is not exactly in tip-top condition at the time!

The Antares suffers a variety of malfunctions and system failures, which result in numerous delays as the crew makes running repairs as she speeds in haste to investigate the sudden silence of Starbase 91. On the way, she receives a distress call from a loderunner in trouble – and diverts to intercept – resulting in yet another delay.

Ripley Jones

On the bridge, Lieutenant Commander Ripley Jones – the Executive Officer to Captain Falconer, recognizes the name Mykl d’Angelo.

A sketch of Commander Ripley Jones, one of the lead characters of “Blachart” from about 1990.

Ripley Jones is more than just Mykl’s love interest – being the second in command of the I.S.S. Antares, a starship of the Terran Space Fleet presently charged with investigating the mysterious silence of a remote starbase – and the ship rerouted to rescue Mykl from his disabled loderunner on the way.

Obviously there is some history between Ripley and Mykl, going back to their time together at the Space Fleet Academy – which evokes a slightly immature, badly-handled relationship that turned sour and didn’t end too well for either of them. A few hurt feelings on both sides set the scene for an apprehensive reunion.

The I.S.S. Antares, sometimes referred to as “the ant-arse” by its crew.

After d’Angelo is rescued, the Antares resumes course – and tension grows along the way as all parties aboard speculate as to the nature of the problem – why had Starbase 91 fallen silent? Was it a technical problem – or perhaps some other more mundane difficulty… or had the starbase indeed fallen to the scourge of the hostile space pirates? Indeed, when the Antares arrives at Starbase 91, their worst fears are confirmed – the starbase has indeed been destroyed by Corsairs! The hub of local trade has been virtually obliterated!

Ripley and Mykl re-acquaint themselves, discussing their unpleasant history and resolving their differences. When Mykl is reinstated as a ships officer to his previous rank of Commander, by the late Captain Joel Falcone – who feels he could use an advisor in all things Corsair – Ripley warms up to him again. Shortly after rescuing one lone survivor from the ruins of Starbase 91 and putting the debris to their exhaust nacelles, the Antares encounters a mysterious black ship – suspiciously like a typical Corsair raider – and fires a warning shot to get it to stop.

While leading a search party on board the mysterious ship, Captain Falcone, Mykl and Ripley are part of a boarding party sent to confront the skipper of the black ship, who it turns out is a Corsair – and they’ve walked right into a trap! But the man staring them down across the gap between the two heavily armed groups, is no ordinary Corsair!

Blachart The Bloody

As if to balance out the goodness of Mr. d’Angelo, enter stage left, the utterly terrifying and intimidating figure of the Corsair captain, Blachart the Bloody.

Blachart – whose name is on the cover of book one of the series, is a legend in his own lifetime. In fact, Terran children living on most colonies are raised with threats relating to him coming to ‘get’ them if they didn’t eat their greens or do their chores! He’s on the top most wanted list for Terran law enforcement everywhere.

Blachart is, in the beginning, a ferocious fighter, a cunning strategist, and an utterly ruthless and efficient killer. In the ensuing fire-fight on the Corsair vessel, chaos erupts! Outnumbered and outgunned, the star-marines accompanying Falcone, Ripley and Mykl are quickly decimated, and the survivors captured -except for Mykl and Ripley. She escapes back to the Antares, while Mykl holds out a little longer before being captured by the Corsair crew! The first meeting between Blachart and Mykl is filled with little more than thinly veiled hostility and contempt, behind which Blachart makes it clear that he admires Mykl for his courage and talents as a fighter – and offers him a chance to join his crew! Mykl declines. After staging a daring escape a little later, Mykl uses guerrilla warfare on Blachart’s Corsair crew and creates enough of a diversion for Ripley to return with reinforcements from Antares, to take the ship!

In the ensuing battle, Blachart although severely injured, is the only Corsair to survive. He is transferred to Antares’ sickbay for treatment. More importantly, the Corsair ship Undertaker still holds the key to the Terran’s entire Corsair problem – the co-ordinates to find the Corsair home world, Meradinis! For nearly a century, Corsairs had guarded the secret of the location of Meradinis – with special protocols in place to delete the co-ordinates from their ship’s nav-comps in the likely event of their capture – which in this case, didn’t happen! All is not happiness and joy for the Terrans however, as they mourn the deaths of several star-marines killed in the battle – and Captain Joel Falcone, who had died in captivity.

On their return to Antares, Ripley gives her report on recent events and their successes and losses to Space Fleet Headquarters, only to be informed that Mykl d’Angelo – who appears to have some pretty heavy fandom in the military Intelligence community – is to be appointed as the new Captain of the Antares! Instead of feeling put out and even jealous – being that she’d been the front-runner for that post upon Falcone’s abortive retirement – she embraces the change and decides instead to make the best of it. After all, she and Mykl have just rekindled their romance!

In a complete reversal of fortune, Mykl d’Angelo has gone from broken down space-bum, to Captain of an imperial starship in only a matter of days! The fact that he now has a new chance at making a romance with ‘the one that got away’ work this time, is an added bonus!

His appointment as Captain doesn’t come without a price however, and d’Angelo’s first task as Captain is to lead a daring mission into Corsair space – using the captured co-ordinates to Meradinis – to discover the Corsair base world – and take a team of Terran operatives down for a reconnaissance run! His mission is to blaze a trail for the Terran fleet to follow – right up to the Corsair’s front door – so that the Corsair menace can be ended once and for all!

Thing is, it’s never quite that simple, is it?

The Corsairs are wily adversaries, and cunning, ruthless fighters. Gaining the co-ordinates to Merdainis’ location is one thing, but what about the route there? There could be tons of undetectable booby-traps, hidden obstacles and nasty tricks along the way that only a Corsair! To do this successfully, Mykl faces an unpleasant truth – the reality that he needs the assistance of the lone Corsair survivor, Blachart the Bloody himself! Reluctantly, he accepts Space Fleet Command’s appraisal that he has to convince Blachart to co-operate, in exchange for a deal in which Blachart would receive a full pardon IF he acts as a guide to Mykl and his team to and on Meradinis! Mykl finds the whole idea offensive – and risky!

Fortunes change – and as much as they had for Mykl d’Angelo, this is no less the case for Blachart the Bloody, his wounds healed by high Terran medicine – when he awakes to find himself held prisoner in a cell aboard the Terran starship Antares. His ruined ship Undertaker has been taken in tow as a Terran prize – and his own fate appears well and truly sealed.

In the brig of the Antares, Blachart receives a visitor – a man who’s come to see him about a job. He’s faced with a difficult choice… between life in a Terran max-security prison, and a chance to redeem himself! He chooses the latter. Mykl – who is repelled by the very idea – concludes the agreement with Blachart, whom he views as an implacable foe. He’s a realist, because he knows and understands he needs him to do this.

Blachart – whose real name is a mystery to everyone except himself – and certainly is not ‘Walter Turlington’ – takes on the role of the anti-hero in the series. Throughout his life, he’s been a bad, bad man, but beneath that tough, unfeeling exterior, he’s a haunted, tortured soul. He’d do anything to find peace – in fact, he’d do whatever it takes! There are, after all, plenty of worse scoundrels in the ranks of the Corsairs than him – he knows that only too well – but of course, he realizes nobody else does. He’ll just have to show them.

After making repairs to the essential gear of Blachart’s ship, Undertaker, Mykl’s team of hand-picked crewmen – including the Corsair himself – depart on what Mykl privately considers a suicide mission. The Undertaker leaves Antares behind and enters the unexplored depths of the Omegan Quadrant alone.

After running the gauntlet of the Corsair’s defenses and detection grid, Mykl and his team finally reach Meradinis – often called “Turtle Island” – and land at a space port under the guidance of their former prisoner.

In order to complete the illusion of being a genuine Corsair ship, they need to unload a quantity of loot and booty from their cargo bay – and once this is completed, a number of recon teams debark to begin scouting the capital city – and inevitably, unwittingly getting into all sorts of trouble.

In a curious set of circumstances, Mykl and his team of infiltrators find themselves deep behind enemy lines and facing a choice of whether or not to trust Blachart – a man who may or may not betray them to the Corsairs – with all their lives hanging in the balance if they do not!

What Comes Next?

In the run of “Blachart” and the next two books, the characters visit some of the colony planets of the Terran Empire in pursuit of the dastardly Corsairs, engage them in blazing space battles, and face all manner of dangers in the process! In “Demonspawn”, the second book in the series, readers are introduced to the starship Mordrake and its crew – a new set of characters, and onboard that ship the most prominent character is its captain – Joe Lofflin. “Dead Beckoning”, the third book, brings both sets of characters from the previous titles together in a combined adventure.

The History of “Blachart”

I’ve been writing stories basically since I could hold a wax crayon, and this book is in that respect a milestone for me. Why? Well, you may ask that question, but the answer isn’t a simple one.

I started working on the foundations of what would become this story when I started high school in 1986. Back then, it was called “The Red Star”, and it featured the some of the same characters, and the story plot was unrecognizable. By 1988, the basic plot had evolved into the story of a starship Captain rescued from being marooned in space, and the introduction of the formidable Corsairs – and a character then called Black Heart. By the time I’d finished high school in 1991, and been drafted into the army, in January 1992, I had a rough idea where I wanted the story to lead. But life was hectic, and tended to get in the way.

Eventually, in February 1998, I finished the last rough draft, then still in hand-written form! And then it lay fallow for some time longer, while a lot of other things unfolded in my personal life, in terms of gender identity, self-discovery, and career. In 2003 I finally typed and edited that draft on a PC, and launched into the modern way of writing novels. It was far easier and faster to type and edit on a PC than doing rewrites of my books by hand!

In 2005, after years of struggling to find a publisher to take on “Blachart“, I first self-published the book in its original most basic form on Lulu.com, and then ran several updates over the intervening years in content and cover. In the meantime, I’d also published several of its sequels.

When I was picked up by a so-called ‘traditional publisher’, a small press, in July 2014, “Blachart” was the first book they re-released with a new cover created by one of their staff. By the time it was released in late 2014, “Blachart” was around 49,600 words long! Apparently that’s not very long by today’s standards, but to put it into perspective, most novels by the great Terry Pratchett are only around 50,000 words long – and I always felt that if it was good enough for him, it was good enough for me! That aside, if a story can be told well in whatever space of words, then that should be good enough too.

But as I do so often, I digress; Since 2016, when I went indie again, I’d been working on later books and new projects. Since finishing editing and publishing of most of my parent’s works in early 2018, I took a look at the channels through which my books have been distributed – and decided that I should also place my titles at Smashwords to gain access to their distribution network also.

Smashwords has different publishing formatting requirements to Lulu, and and so I discovered that I had to reformat the entire manuscript to meet their annoyingly pedantic list of technical specifications! It looked daunting at first, but I’m a quick study and in the end it wasn’t as hard as I initially thought!

While I was at it (the most dangerous words known to humanity) I spotted a couple of editing errors left over from my “traditional” publishing days, and set off to check the whole manuscript for more.

This sparked off another edit, and then I added a little bit here, and a little bit there… and before I realized it, a drastic complete rewrite was underway!

I evaluated each sentence. I added a stack of more material… back-stories and extras that would enrich and enhance the overall experience of what I had envisioned as the Galaxii Series! Two weeks later, at over 84000 words, the Fifth Edition of “Blachart” was finished!

To complete the metamorphosis, I designed a fantastic new cover which would also form the basis of a template for the entire Galaxii Series, and which I also modified for my other series, Quantum and Panic! Again, in 2019 I revised all the covers to refine the brand and their look!

In May 2020, “Blachart” was released as an audiobook! Although a number of my short stories had been included when anthologies I’d contributed to had been turned into audiobooks, prior to this, this was the very first time a whole novel of mine had been released as an audiobook – and it was amazing to hear it!

  

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Reviews:

Why are space Pirates so mean? Because they arrrrrrrrrr

Blachart is the debut novel from Christina Engela and the first part of an ongoing series of intelligent and well constructed sci-fi adventures set in the not too distant future in a galaxy far, far away, but not that far.

d’Angelo is already having a very bad day when he is picked up by Imperial Starfleet. His crew are all dead and he has been left floating, stranded in deep space when Starfleet hear his distress call.

But his rescue does not come without a price…

Soon former Space Marine, d’Angelo, finds himself neck deep in space Pirates after being re-recruited by Starfleet to investigate a colony that has gone ‘dark’. Teamed up with his former lover and he infamous Blachart The Bloody, d’Angelo ends up going undercover on the Pirates own homeworld, but can he complete his mission and escape with his life, or is his day about to get even worse?

Blachart is a potential future, modern example of the classic sci-fi space opera genre that amuses and entertains from the minute you turn the first page. Having read many of the other books in the series already, it is great to start experiencing this series again from the beginning and I can only wish Christina every success, because with writing like this she really deserves it!

At times tense, at other times funny, Christina manages to maintain a healthy balance between humour and excitement – producing a first novel that is as easy to read as it is a joy to experience.

Truly this is one of the very best sci-fi novels that I have read all year!” – Mark Woods, author of “Time of Tides” and “Fear of the Dark”.

Reader’s Comments:

Crackin’ read

“Roughly about 13% of the way in you have “here” instead of “her”. A little further on you have “or” instead of “for”. Some of the kindle formatting means that some sentences are cut in half and drags you out of the world.

That said, what a fantastic read! I really got engrossed into the characters. The story line kept me hooked and I thoroughly enjoyed the read. Your writing “voice” is easy to fall into and the fights scenes easy to follow, you didn’t fall into the sex cliché and built the beginnings of a meaningful relationship. Great job, thank you for your book.” – Verified Purchase Amazon, July 22, 2017.

Awesome And Incredible Reads

Scott books

“Both books [‘Blachart‘ and ‘Demonspawn’ ] were awesome and incredible reads. I couldn’t put them down. They were fantastic and I was able to get vivid mental images of the scenes as I was reading them. That’s the sign of a great author. Congratulations Christina. Your writing truly ROCKS!” – Scott M. Darrah, April 10, 2016.

Great Book

“Good read, very good story!! [Blachart] Definitely should give it a shot, you won’t be disappointed. Keeps you on the edge of your seat.” – Verified purchase, August 21, 2015.

Wonderful Read

“I loved this story! [Blachart] Christina writes well, with humour and vivid descriptions, and develops a plausible tale of futuristic adventures.” –  J. Pietersen, June 16, 2015.

A Mind Blowing Sci-fi Novel

“Christina Engela’s debut novel, Blachart, is a fantastically written sci-fi novel filled with intrigue, suspense and nail biting action. From the first paragraph to the last, I was captivated by her ability to bring her characters to life. Blachart kept me on the edge of my seat! I highly recommend this read. You will not be disappointed!” – Stephanie Bothma, May 12, 2015.

Five Stars

“I love Christina’s novels. Blachart gets 5 stars from me.” – Dorian, March 21, 2015.

I Wasn’t A Fan, This Book Changed That

“I wasn’t a fan of the genre, this book [Blachart] changed that. Sci-fi gained a fan because of you!” – Anonymous, March 17, 2015.

Great Sci-fi From A Highly Under-Rated Author!

“A great read from start to finish! Blachart is another great sci-fi story from the transgender author Christina Engela and set in the same universe as her other books.

This time around the action focuses around Mykl D’Angelo, a Space trader having a VERY bad week! First, most of his crew abandon him during shore leave at his last destination, then his Engineer and Helmsman are both killed in a fatal accident when a couple of crossed wires during routine repairs cause a pulse-wave! Left drifting in space, his only hope of rescue comes when he receives communication from an Imperial Ship patrolling the area.

But when he boards the ship, he discovers that his week is only about to get worse! Communications have been lost from a local Starport and, with the strong suspicion that Corsairs are responsible, the ISS Antares has been dispatched to investigate! Not only that but a certain remember of the crew is someone he once cared about deeply and finds he has feelings for again!

When the Commander discovers Mykl is ex Space Fleet, Mykl is asked to re-enlist and help in the mission and when things go pear-shaped, it is Mykl who saves the day. This results in Mykl being asked to lead the team back on a suicide mission: namely to infiltrate the Corsair home-world, gather reconnaissance and prepare the way for a  Space Fleet retaliation. This would be fine and all well and good but he is forced to bring the notorious Blachart The Bloody along with him; a former Corsair and the scourge of the known galaxy, can Blachart REALLY be trusted to do the right thing?

This is another great adventure from a little known writer who definitely deserves more recognition! Though The Time-Saving Agency may have felt a little flawed, Blachart is far more polished and a far more enjoyable romp! The humour from the previous book is still here in droves and yet the sci-fi itself is still dealt with maturely and responsibly. In fact, this has all the ingredients of a very clever Space epic that sows the seeds for many more tales to come. It is important to note that Blachart is set long before The Time-Saving Agency and features characters and events briefly mentioned at the beginning of that book but you don’t need to have read anything else by Christina to enjoy this!

In fact, if this is your first experience of Christina Engela my best advice would be to sit back and enjoy!

Summary: A Space Trader in trouble finds his life taking an unexpected turn…..” – Mark Woods, February 14, 2015. 


If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.

If you’d like to send Christina Engela a question about her life as a writer or transactivist, please send an email to christinaengela@gmail.com or use the Contact form.

Show your appreciation for Christina’s work!

All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.

 

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