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New Release: Roar of Lions by Mark Iles

I'm happy to be hosting the third day of Mark Iles blog tour for his new release Roar of Lions.

1. How much do you think your own military experiences influence your writing of this series?

To be honest, a surprising amount. For instance, the bit where my character shoves her rifle towards a non-commissioned officer’s mouth and pulls the trigger. I was attached to the commandos for a while back in the early 80’s, and was training with them on Dartmoor one dark and snowy night. I was asleep, totally exhausted when, simulating an attack, this guy who’d been picking on me threw a thunder flash in my direction, quite deliberately I’m sure. Damned thing went off right next to my head. I leapt up, cocked my rifle, thrust it towards his face and before I realised what I’d done pulled the trigger. All I’ll say it went off exceptionally close. It pure reflex believe me and luckily my magazine was full of blanks.

That was a long time ago and luckily the guy concerned took it remarkedly well. He even bought me a pint the next time we were ashore but he never picked on me again. You don’t forget stuff like that and it makes kinda interesting reading. Guess you’d get in all sorts of trouble for that sort of thing now.

2. In my humble opinion the reality of a first contact with aliens is more likely to be catastrophic than mutually beneficial. You’ve done kind of armchair thought experiments on this topic via writing this series, so what do you really think would happen?

I think first contact with an alien species is open to misinterpretation on so many levels. I was told once that one of the first English people to talk to Bedouins was shown a sheep’s eyeball to show it was freshly killed. Thinking it was some kind of ritual or honour the chap ate it. Consequently, for many years we believed it was tradition while they thought it was something we did. Whether it’s true or not, it still gives an indication of how things can so easily be misconstrued.

In J. Michael Straczynski’s marvellous Babylon 5, the Minbari approach humans for the first time with their gun ports open as a sign of respect. The humans took it as a sign they were preparing to fire and engaged them, and so the first war began.

In answer to your question the answer is yes, first contact has the potential for disaster.

3. Is there a fourth for the series? If so, give us some hints on content. If not, what have you in mind for your next story?

I would like to return to Selena’s journey, and have left openings for such. But in ‘Roar of Lions’ her story comes full circle. Due to illness it took me a long time to write, and I now have another project demanding to be written – one I’m truly excited about. The new book has already been started and there are so many avenues to explore. As Bilbo Baggins might say, I’m going on an adventure…

4. Is there something significant behind the names of this book series doing with lions?

Only that I trained with a commando unit, and they’re truly like lions. Much of the background is from there but put into a future environment.

5. Whenever I am asked, 'Where do you get your idea for this book', I usually have a tale behind it. My ideas come from living my life. Where did you get the idea to write the Darkening Stars series from? Does this series have any of your real life experiences inside of it? If it does, can you give us an example?

In all I served for over 20 years in the RN, in both war time and in peace. Sometimes those memories come back to haunt us, and I didn’t realise a lot of what I was writing was from personal experiences – and those of friends – until much later on. Some of the tales, including the funny ones, are based on truth. Many civilians wouldn’t find them funny at the time, but it was our way of dealing with things as you develop a perverse sense of humour. There’s one where one of my characters goes to the bathroom and a marine said, in the US Marines we wash our hands after going to the bathroom. My friend replied, in the RN they teach us not to p…s on our hands… True story.

6. Will you be participating in NaNoWriMo this year?

Most definitely. I’ve already signed up and am aiming to get most of a new book I’ve been planning written. The hard part I find is just writing and not going back to edit. I belong to one of the British Science Fiction Association’s ‘Oribiter’ writing groups - in which we have to submit a piece bi-monthly – and so I have a habit of editing what I’ve written before moving on.

7. Where do you find the time to write? Do you have a certain schedule?

I’ve made several writing plans and failed all of them, ending up writing as and when. Now I’m trying to write in the morning and work on social media in the afternoon.

8. Is there a genre you haven't written in yet, but would like to try?

It’s funny you should ask that. One of my ambitions was to write a screen play and recently I’ve written one based around one of my short stories. I think that what I’ve written over the years encompasses just about most genres, including: crime, romance, war, thriller, YA, horror, SFF and scifi. I’ve even written a non-fiction book, poetry, done copywriting for the web, and I’ve written an app. I guess I’m just fascinated by writing. I’ve now settled down into science fiction, horror, and fantasy – although my youngest daughters Holly and Amy have asked me to write down a story I made up for them when they were young. A picture book for that might prove interesting.


The ForeRunners have destroyed one of Capulet’s cities, and the joint Lenar-Human search teams are needed to root out the enemy. But when the empathic Lenars refuse to work without Selena Dillon and her team of commandos, they soon find themselves back on Capulet in an uneasy alliance with the planetary administration and in a race against time to stop the enemy from destroying other cities.

Throughout the galaxy billions are dying as the war spreads. Despite her fear that the alien Manta and their allies will turn against them, Selena needs to truly unite the Alliance of Worlds and find a way to destroy the ForeRunners before it’s too late.

Selena knows there’s no more running, and that sooner or later there will be a final reckoning between herself and the queen. But even if they survive that long she needs to discover who will stand with her, and who against her, in this final confrontation with the tyrannical monarch.


Staff remained silent, not even saying thank you as he watched her.

“You don’t approve?”

“It’s not that. I just don’t want to be here, even with the additional rank.”

“Don’t like it? Tough,” Selena growled. “None of us have a choice where we are sent, perks of you being a bad boy in the past. You’ve a job to do, Sergeant, so make sure you do it well. Because if you don’t, or if you piss me off even more—and that includes by not saluting properly—I’ll bust you right down to private, hang your balls up as an ornament in my office and ensure you’re shipped somewhere nasty. Do we understand one another?”

“Perfectly, Ma’am. I note from Daily Orders that you’ve put me directly under Lieutenant Philips, he’s a good man. But I hope you or he don’t think I play favourites, I can’t be seen to. I’ll treat you both the same way I do all the others. It’s the way I do things.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Selena replied

“Good. Now get your arse outside, Commander. You’re late for training.”

Selena stepped outside the office and into the changing rooms next door. Stripping off she selected running kit and went back outside, joining the five lines of soldiers. No-one said anything, or even acknowledged her. They knew the drill. In physical training, they were all the same. There were troops from various sections, plus her team lining up facing the office. A few moments later Staff came out, accompanied by two much slimmer female physical trainers.

Hands behind his back, he stood at ease and surveyed them, the other two behind him, his lips curled in disdain.

“Most of you know me. For those who don’t, I’m Sergeant Moore; you can call me Staff. Behind me on my left is Corporal Tracy, more commonly known as Dick. On my other side, you’ll see Corporal Al Kharsi. Address him as Kami. If I hear any of you call him Shithouse, you’ll answer to me personally. Do we understand one another?”

“Yes, Sir!” they chorused.

“I didn’t hear you,” he sneered.

“Yes, Sir!” Their reply was much louder this time.

“Good.” Staff radiated contempt. “Each of your lines is a team. Behind all of you there are wheeled trailers full of axes. I want each team to split into two and take one trailer. The first half of each group are to be at the front pulling or behind pushing, with the remainder tabbing and keeping pace. When I say ‘change over’ you do so immediately. Now get to your posts and follow me. Move it!”

Selena found herself in the front of their trailer with three others. It was hard going, even with those pushing from behind. They pushed and pulled their contraption for ten minutes before Staff shouted at them to change, then they jogged in formation behind their replacements.

“Change!” Ten minutes later they switched again, and so it went on.


Mark’s short stories have been published in Back Brain Recluse, Dream, New Moon, Haunts, Kalkion, Screaming Dreams, and the anthologies Write to Fight, Escape Velocity, Auguries and Monk Punk. With over forty years’ experience in the martial arts and a 9th Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo, he’s written features for the magazines Combat, Taekwondo & Korean Martial Arts, Fighters, Junk, Martial Arts Illustrated, and He also runs a writer’s group for the British Science Fiction Association, along with The Scribe for Veterans with the help of The Royal British Legion.

His first full length work ‘Kwak’s Competition Taekwondo’, was published in Hong Kong, while he was based there with the Royal Navy for three years in 1985. His debut novel ‘A Pride of Lions’, Book I in The Darkening Stars, was published by Solstice in September 2013. Book II, ‘The Cull of Lions’, was published a year later. ‘Roar of Lions’ is the third book in the series.

Solstice have also published four novellas: ‘A Connoisseur of the Bizarre’, ‘Sally Jane’, ‘Nightshade’ and ‘Santa Claws is Coming’ – along with the short story compilation ‘Falling From Grace & Others’.

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