Book 2 Preview, and What's Next?

So, as some of you no doubt saw elsewhere, I managed to turn in the Manuscript for book 2 on time. Yay me! See below for a preview of the book!

Now I’m waiting for edits, and while I’m waiting, I’m preparing for the new school year and thinking about what comes next in the fiction realm. I’m teaching three sections of English 12 and two of English 11 this year, so that’s fun. Best yet, the librarian found me copies of Pride and Prejudice, so I’ll get to teach the actual novel again, which is nice. I’m currently in the midst of the usual beginning of the year enthusiasm for teaching; hopefully it won’t be dashed by the negatives until at least May.

In Fiction, I’m working on the plotline of Book 3, What Rough Beast?, though whether it gets published or not will depend pretty much entirely on sales of Books 1 and 2, so we’ll see. Book 3 will lead the Empire into a full-on war on three fronts, and Tajen will have to go on a daring mission deep in enemy territory to—ah, but that would be telling!

I’m also working on a separate IP, tentatively called Rage of the Ancients, though that will probably change. It’s another trilogy, but told by multiple 3rd-person POVs, and spread over a much wider canvas than the Remembrance War books. It’s a mash-up of Space Opera and Zombies. I’m working on the plot breakdown for book 1 now. With this IP, I’m working slightly differently than before.

With Remembrance War, I plotted the basic arc of the series, but left each book’s individual plots until I was done with the previous book. In some ways that’s worked out, as changes made to Book 1 had to be accounted for in Book 2 and later, Book 3. But in some ways it made it harder, because I didn’t really have a strong idea of where the book was going.

With Rage, I plan to plot each book fully before I start writing. I have no doubt some things will change in the process of writing/editing, but if the overall plotline of all three books is solidified before I begin writing, I feel like I’ll have an easier time with each book—I’ll just need to adjust for what happened in the series before that, instead of having to figure out the plot anew. I’m also considering writing all three before shopping them to the Publisher, so there can be a better release schedule if Flame Tree picks it up, and if they don’t, I can shop Book 1 to agents and let them know Books 2 and 3 are already in the bag. I may decide, however, this is a bad idea at this point in my career. This is the kind of thing one would normally talk to an agent about, but since I don’t have one, I’m kind of on my own.

I’m also working on a fantasy novel, Bonds of Blood and Magic, which is based on a short story I wrote for VP. The short story didn’t go anywhere, and the more I thought about it, the more I thought it might make a better novel, so I’m aiming for that now. It’s a story of a modern teenager who discovers she’s actually a Changeling. When her brother is kidnapped by a sorcerer, she has to make a series of choices that threaten to completely derail her life.

But for today, I’m going to take my kid and have a fun day together. Before I leave, though, here’s a small preview of The Blood-Dimmed Tide, book 2 of the Remembrance War series. It’s now available for preorder at all the usual places, including the publisher: Pick your preorder site by visiting the book’s page on my website.

Chapter 1, Scene 1

I was just sitting down to breakfast with my second-in-command, Katherine Lawson, and my partner, Liam Kincaid, when the sudden blare of the Earth Orbital Station’s alert klaxon pummeled my ears. My comm implant sounded, a panicked voice filling my head. “Captain Hunt, this is command. We’re reading seven ships coming out of slipspace.”

I was on my feet and running for the tower before he was finished speaking, Katherine and Liam on my heels. I took the stairs two at a time, stumbling into Command. The officer on watch, Kaz Simmons, welcomed me with a salute. I’d tried to put a stop to that, but nobody would listen to me. I ignored the salute until I realized he wasn’t going to stop until I returned it. I sketched a quick salute and snapped “Report!”

Simmons’ answered in the precise speech that I’d grown accustomed to from him. “Seven ships, all of Zhen manufacture.  They came out of slipspace, then used chain drive to get to the inner system.  They’re waiting just outside lunar orbit, as instructed.  They claim to be refugees. Lead ship is called the Stellar Wind, registered to the Faded Sky Shipping Cartel. The captain is Liz Orozco.” He cleared his throat. “She is refusing inspection, and she is asking to speak to you directly, sir.”

I motioned her to put it on the screen and stepped into the comm’s visual pickup. “Earth command to vessel Stellar Wind. As you’ve been informed, all ships coming to Earth are required to submit to inspection. I’m told you don’t want to. Explain yourself.”

The woman who appeared before me was in late middle age. She looked almost embarrassed as she recognized me. “Captain Hunt, it’s not that we refuse inspection. As I’ve tried to explain to the young woman, we’re carrying some … well, something that could get us in trouble. We wanted to explain to someone in charge what we’ve got aboard before you scanned us. Tempers flare, and that could be a disaster, you see.”

I raised an eyebrow. “And what is it you’re carrying?”

“Weapons, Captain." 

“What kind?”

“Mostly ground—about a hundred Zhen pulse rifles, some smaller sidearms. But we’ve also got fifteen starfighter-class pulse guns, ready for mounting, and a few crates of explosives. It’s all yours.”

“And you’re asking…?”

She grinned. “Nothing, sir. But I suspect you’ll need ‘em. I had ‘em sitting in my—well, my employer’s—warehouse. Thought you could put ‘em to better use here than he could.”

“We could indeed, Captain Orozco.”

She looked embarrassed. “Please, call me Liz. I’m not a captain; I stole this ship and will be turning it, too, over to your colony.”

“It’s not my colony. Liz, I’m grateful for what you’ve brought us, but I’m going to have to ask you to stand down and submit to inspection. Nobody gets—“  I was cut off by a new alarm blaring across the command deck. “What the hell?”

In the battle tank, one of the ships in the Stellar Wind’s formation was accelerating toward the station. “What the hell is this?” I snapped at the screen.

Orozco blanched. “I don’t know!” She pointed to someone outside the field of view. “Get him on comms!” she shouted. “Deveraux, what the hell are you doing?”

I couldn’t hear the reply, but Orozco’s eyes widened and she drew a finger across her throat, then turned back to the pickup. “Captain Hunt, he’s lost his mind, says he’s here to—“ 

I cut the feed and turned to the defense officer. “Fire on that ship!” He relayed the order, and the station gunners, as well as the system patrol ships that had responded, focussed fire on the vessel. I could see, though, that as powerful as our guns were, they weren’t going to be enough.  The freighter was too big, and our ships were too few. 

“Sir! Another ship on the move!” the sensor officer called.

I looked up at the holotank and cursed. “Get Orozco back!” I roared. The Comm officer signaled me, and Orozco appeared before me again. “What the hell is going on?”

She waved her hands in a warding gesture. “I don’t know!” she said. 

I started to give the order to fire on that ship, too, but stopped when I realized what was happening.  The second ship was on an intercept vector with the first. As the two connected, the smaller ship crumpled.  Her drives blew, and the small ship was gone.  

I looked at the plot and realized the freighter had been knocked off course; it wouldn’t hit the station—but it was headed right for one of the arms of our shipyard. I turned to the comms officer.  “Signal the shipyard and tell them to evacuate.” 

“Will they have time?” Katherine asked. 

I didn’t look at her as I replied, “Not all of them.” 

We watched in sick horror as the freighter slammed into the shipyard.  Moments after impact, the freighter’s drives blew, and the resulting star vaporized half the dock and numerous ships.  “Brace for impact,” the comm officer called, and we all grabbed for supports.  

When the shaking was over, I looked to the watch officer.  He scanned his boards and said “No casualties on the station, sir.  But the shipyard…” He gestured at the screen. 

Now was not the time to berate a civilian-trained crew member on military protocol.  I walked over to look at the screen. 

We’d lost over half the shipyard, and what was left was in pretty bad shape.  Barely any of our docked ships had managed to detach and get away in time. The loss in lives was devastating.  I cleared my throat and spoke softly to her.  “Get a list of the dead. The council meets in an hour; I want a detailed status report by then.” 

“Yes, sir.” 

I turned to comms. “Get Orozco back on screen.” 

“Yes, sir.” 

I looked back to the screen, showing Orozco once more.  Her face was pale, her breathing shallow.   

“What the hell happened?” I said. 

“Captain Hunt, I’m sorry,” she said.  “Deveraux… he had told us he was one of us.  But when he tried to ram your station he broadcast a denunciation.  He said that we—and you—are criminals, making things worse for people back on Zhen and Terra.” 

I blinked.  I’d known there were human elements that didn’t approve of what we’d done.  Despite finding out the Zhen had wiped out Earth and then lied to us about it for eight hundred years, despite treating us like second-class citizens routinely, despite everything—many humans still thought of the Zhen as the good guys.  Zhen Imperial news sources had taken advantage of this divide; there were commentaries all over the slipnet about us, making us out to be villains and cutthroats who had turned against the “benevolent” Empire. 

“The second ship?” I asked. 

“The Avo Grande, captained by Mel Kramer. She sent a message just before impact.  All it said was “At least I saw it. This way, my death means something.”  She paused, clearly emotional. “She was a Dreamer, captain.  The day your message was broadcast, she called me.  It was she who convinced me to come.” She paused to get a grip on herself. “She was dying, you see.  She wanted to die on Earth.” 

I nodded. “How many were on her ship?”

She attempted to smile, but faltered. “That’s the one piece of good news. She didn’t have any. Her ship was a scout-ship she’d bought second-hand; she didn’t have space for a crew. She’d planned to volunteer it for your defense fleet.”

“What about Deveraux’s ship?”

Orozco looked down, troubled. “Well… there we weren’t so lucky. The Harbinger had a crew of five, and six passengers. But he had all the weapons in his cargo.”

“I don’t care about the weapons,” I said. “Tell me there were no kids on board.”

“No, none.”

I let out the breath I hadn’t intended to hold. “Well, that’s something." I looked to Katherine. We’d been working together long enough now that we didn’t really need to speak. She nodded, and I turned back to Orozco. “Given what’s happened, I’m almost sorry to say it, but we still need to complete the inspection.”

She nodded. “I understand, sir.”

“When that’s done, though, assuming—as I do—that nothing untoward is found, you and your fleet are home. Welcome to Earth.”

She nodded. “Thank you." 

As her visual faded from my view, I turned to my chief of security. “Be thorough—don’t cut any corners—but try to be respectful to them; they’ve just lost people.”  I glanced back at the wreckage of the shipyard. “As have we,” I added.

She nodded. “I think we can handle the job, sir." She saluted and left the control room. 

I sighed. “Let’s go,” I said to Liam. “I need to prep for the meeting.”