Here’s a thought.
What if the Yoda species regenerates?
Here’s a thought.
What if the Yoda species regenerates?
I really did.
I admit to being old and cranky. I confess to LOATHING the new Star Wars films (Except Rogue Squadron and Solo. They were enjoyable. Good even.) I rewrote the script to The Force Awakens in less than an hour, and was told that was far better than the film. I did all I could not to scream through The Last Jedi, for the peace of mind of my kids.
They hate my dramatic outbursts.
So, I held my breath through episode 1 of The Mandalorian. Bit my lip through episode 2. Got ready to abandon hope on everything if episode 3 did not come through, shout verbal emesis at the world, throw up my fists to the gods, and give up completely.
And, for the record, it takes a lot to make me not like something. Like, a LOT. Mostly because I really, REALLY, want to love all the things.
But sometimes, it’s just crap. And one can not polish a turd.
But I waited. Mostly because of my huge crush on Gina Carano, and my hopes that she’ll become the huge star she deserves to be.
(Spoiler warning. Back in my day, we called that “talking”, but whatevs).
I was a kid when the original films came out in theatres. We actually had to wait for YEARS to see A New Hope and it’s sequels on TELEVISION (that’s how it was; yes, I predate VCR’s.) The only way to hear about a movie was to talk to someone who had seen it.
So, the franchise, its worlds, and all things Star Wars is very, very important to me.
So it was very difficult to witness it’s demise.
But, I am happy to say that it seems that The Mandalorian has brought redemption to at least this embittered old fart.
Jon Favreau’s Episode 3 finally brought the right elements: tough, existential choices, difficult circumstances, actual peril, and a character decision that unravels future storytelling. To me, things had been somewhat…inert…up until now.
(Baby Yoda? Force powers? WHAAAAAAT?!?) #NOTatwist.
So, Old Man Laybolt is all in. You got me, Favreau et al. I’m down.
Thank GAWD. Because I was really ready to punch the eject button there, and give up on all things Star Wars. A bitter thing, that.
So, there it is. More than happy to embark on this bold new journey with optimism, eagerness, and wide open fanboy eyes.
Go watch it. It really might be worth it.
(DISCLAIMER: Totally unlike me. Typical attitude being completely expecting my hopes to be shattered as per most other creative bankruptcy-plagued current franchise content, as evidenced by a THIRD Charlie’s Angels reboot. WHO SIGNS OFF ON A THIRD REBOOT OF ANYTHING?!?)
So here’s to The Mandalorian. This is the way.
I’ve been keeping it under my hat for awhile now, and believe me, it’s been a struggle to keep my mouth shut. (A constant struggle at the best of times).
But I can finally announce that recording for the To Drown in Sand audiobook starts in two weeks!!
My friends over at Iron Wave Studios have announced that they are good to go and will begin production in less than 14 days!
The cast has been picked, the mics are hot, and the crew is ready!
Venturing into the audiobook field is a new world for both me and the Ironworks gang, so there’s lots to learn. I’ll keep all of you blog peeps updated as things unfold (read: catch fire and trip me up as I stumble my way through this new venture).
If you haven’t read it, To Drown in Sand is Book One of my trilogy about a man who goes to a war zone to find peace. His regiment is populated by people from all the different Atlantic Canadian cultures.
Since it’s military sci-fi, those places don’t exist anymore (the earth died; sorry), their accents and cultural nuances are what stand out in their dialogues, and would make for a challenge for any production team.
That, and the signature sound of a rail gun rifle. I am dying to hear THAT.
Almost as much as hearing the people in my head given voice. Surreal.
If you haven’t heard of Warhammer, I’m sorry. Not for me, but for you.
But don’t worry. You’ll soon be assimilated into The Emperor’s Will. We all will be.
Warhammer Fantasy, and it’s bigger brother Warhammer 40,000, is a cold, terrifying, gothic, brutal, and absolutely addictive set of tabletop games and stories that is available in almost every language in every city of every country in the known world.
Warhammer 40,000 is an immersive saga in the military sci-fi genre that has been turning into a global powerhouse since 1987. I truly believe it is the only remaining modern myth, after Star Wars.
Warhammer is dense with lore. No, that’s not quite right. it’s monstrous.
While we wait to see if any original stories remain to be told within the context of our current creative, sci-fi-fantasy choices (*CoughCoughTheMandalorianCough*), Warhammer’s people have been holding back from going mainstream for decades. But that may all change with what they announced in July, which I missed, because life, but I grieve for my lapse in vigilance.
(Lapses in vigilance are VERY BAD in Warhammer. VERY. BAD.)
To the cardiac risk of a world full of fans, Games Workshop has announced it is going forward with a live TV series.
That series will be based on Eisenhorn, the creation of one of my favourite authors of all time, Mr. Dan Abnett.
This is enormous news. The Eisenhorn series is three books deep, and THEN there’s the Ravenor series, and THEN the Bequin Trilogy, where Eisenhorn and Ravenor meet…(see how crazy deep this is?)
NEVERMIND how it could possibly, if it is executed properly, tee up the whole Warhammer 40K universe, which already has millions of hungry fans waiting to consume anything this IP produces. If strategized, written, and marketed properly (an admittedly huge ask in 2019), prepare yourselves for the most immersive sci-fi world you have ever seen. And yes, I mean you, Star Wars (not knocking Star wars at all; I watched the originals on a VCR. And still have them. So there).
But the time is ripe for a whole new world in fantasy and sci-fi. And Warhammer offers that in spades.
Want to cruise the Andromedan Belt? Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion? Settle in for the long shuttle run from Cixca to Shastre? Who doesn’t, really.
In celebration of NaNoWriMo, feel free to find the sounds in my Sci Fi playlist that work for you, put on a hot pot of writer fuel, and get back to the keyboard.
Behold! Propellant for the creation of fiction, jetted into your earholes.
From sipping perk-caff on a star liner to ducking and scrambling to avoid getting your brains blown out on the battlefield. So much space goodness.
Check in regularly; my playlists are constantly being pruned, grown, and added to. Ambiance producers are soul gardeners to me.
Hopefully it will inspire you to hit your word count today! Enjoy!
Engen books is calling.
Submissions for “pulp era” Sci-Fi From the Rock, their next collection, have a deadline of Oct. 31.
I didn’t think I had anything that quite fit, but I did find one l’il gem buried in my files (Old Man Laybolt Writer’s Rule #3: Never Throw Anything Out). I thought it might work for the anthology, if I ran it through the brain wash and rinse cycle. A quick three hours of rewrite, and a run through Cliche Cleaner and Grammarly, and I think it might be ready.
Now that I’m reading the third draft, I’m really pleased with it. Pulpy like freshly squeezed! So I’m totally hitting that submission deadline.
Stay tuned to see if it gets in!
Click on the image and grab your copy of Juris Lunence, a short story prequel about the 10th Lunen Regiment! FREE today!
There just ain’t no writing like 5 am writing.
Such things, that emerge from the gloom of the early morning dark and the waking brain.
Click on the link to my Amazon store to read Juris Lunence for free!
It’s been a long time coming. People have been waiting patiently. What a great problem to have; folks telling you to hurry up with your next book.
Well, the wait is over. To Drown in Ash, Book 2 of The 10th Lunen Regiment trilogy, is now live on Amazon.
Snowstorms, three years of 5 am sunrises, and a lot of real, actual tears (you’ll know EXACTLY when my ugly manbaby tears hit the keyboard) went into this one. If you enjoy it, please let me know.
As always, a huge thanks to Dylan Edwards for his incredible cover, endless patience, and therapeutic upload support. And to everyone that pushed me further to make this the best book I’ve ever written (See acknowledgements).
Here’s the link:
If your Canadian (high five!), here’s your link:
Annnd here’s the link for my UK fans:
Yesterday, we got whomped here in Nova Scotia with our first real winter storm this year.
In a classic moment of sheer lunacy, I broke one of my own rules yesterday: “Do NOT go out into the storm”.
But when you’re a writer, and your manuscripts are ready, it got me. Like one of my kids were stranded out there.
Luckily, I headed out into the snow before the worst hit, and made it to Staples (which is like heaven or Disneyland or church to me at this point, apparently) to pick up the last Edit Manuscripts for to Drown in Ash. During the drive I laughed at how my wife would script my obituary, should the worst happen.
Even managed to drop of one of the copies off to Kalip of the Raised Eyebrow, one of my toughest Beta Readers, who clearly thought I was nuts to deliver a manuscript in a snowstorm. But his place was on my way home.
So, not nuts.
Now begins the copy review and edit meetings before sending it to my typist and beginning the cover work with my fabulous graphics guy, Dylan Edwards. After that, we submit, order the galley copy, final read, hit ‘publish’, and release.
What a difference between this process and what we went through for Ash’s predecessor, To Drown in Sand. It’s great to have a system. I love systems.
As payment for my sheer madness, my wife demanded I obtain Storm Chips, which are a real thing now. Especially when your husband is a Mad Writer.
Happy Shovel Day!
The second book of my 10th Lunen Regiment trilogy is on its way for manuscript formatting and final read from the beta team before being sent to my lovely typist. To Drown in Ash will be the major project release for 2017 for me, and I can’t wait to see what happens when it hits.
So, I’m not.
Never have been much of a waiting type.
I started Book 3 halfway through writing To Drown in Sand, and now is the time to pull the trigger, click the dials, shove the shifter and stomp the gas. Tentatively titled To Drown in Fire, it has been almost 8 years in the making and will mark the conclusion of Kyris Issep’s journey.
(Yes, that is Burzum I’m listening to. Don’t judge; I need The Heavy. To Drown in Fire will be HEAVY. Heavy things that end epics make The Best Things).
That brings the total of writing projects for 2017 up to 4. Plus several new short stories I’m planning.
Let’s make 2017 the year we write! The year we produce! Your year to publish! Our year to crush this Indie thing!
What are you working on?
I’ve been a negligent Blog writer.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure whom I was writing to, until I checked my stats recently.
Wow. Peeps are reading stuff here.
Little surprises are the best ones.
So; quick update!
It’s my first fantasy title. I just bought the cover from Dylan Edwards over at Rootwoodpress. Needed to get back to cobblestones and sword-blades for a break from the railguns, snarling madmen bent on Triumvirate destruction, and interstellar mists for a bit. Chew the mutton and gulp the mead, as it were. This will be the cover for a short story anthology that is currently underway. The first of which is right now being edited for final draft, and will be a freebie on Amazon and Kobo.
And how’s business, you ask? Well, I haven’t reached my goal of being able to buy a tank of furnace oil yet, but Princess (my wife’s insistence on the nickname, not mine) and I did go for a delicious coffee date using the sole proceeds of my writing income for the first time.
It’s the little things.
Before Juris went live for free, it was crickets. A few sales once in a while, but mostly just little red mountains on my Amazon horizon:
That has changed substantially:
Only one ‘Dead Day’ since release. Every day, someone new reads a title of mine. And lots more little red mountains. That makes me smile into my pillow.
When Juris Lunence hit over 500 downloads in two months across three countries, I nearly screamed from my rooftop. (But, the pitch of my roof is too steep, so I settled for a quiet chuckle on my deck, thus avoiding startling my puppy and kids).
Then, the sweetest thing happened. My first cosplay fan, Joseph Crosby, designed a replica of Lunen gear, right down to First Squad’s shoulder-pads (Love shoulder-pads), and walked into our local Chapter’s bookstore, with a copy of Sand in hand, as a part of a Halcon Cosplay promotion:
Can’t really describe how Joe’s very kind gesture and incredible input of time affected me, but warm molasses coating my heart comes close.
And now, the planning for the new Fan Festival is underway (more on that later).
All this during my minor league football coaching season (Go, South Shore Seahawks!), replacing my deck, packing one son off to university, and working my Real Job.
None of which excuses my negligence, but perhaps explains it adequately.
Full lives are the best lives.
Thanks for reading!
So. I conducted an experiment.
“You gotta have free stuff,” they said. “Folks love free stuff.”
The Traditional Publishers still gnash their teeth, flap their tiny arms, and growl that not anyone can do this; that they have special services that guarantee quality and success.
They’re right; they do. But I say anyone can make their own success, if you learn the game, and demand quality of yourself.
Juris Lunence took only about four months to finish from initial draft, to polished, packaged, buffed, price on the windshield, and out on the lot. Plus, it was a lot of fun to write. So overall, not a loss of time in any way. It’s a short story prequel to Book 1 of my Trilogy, To Drown in Sand.
Kobo went live with Juris Lunence first, and that was intentional. We loaded it to Amazon, didn’t announce it, and read the purchased copy while Kobo chewed on the upload. Since Kobo takes considerably more time to publish a title, we used that to proof the digital copy that went live on Amazon that was still priced at Amazon’s somewhat silly $.99 price. We caught our glitches, re-uploaded to Amazon, and the final copy was live before Kobo hit the market. Then we uploaded the corrected version to Kobo. Kobo’s copy of Juris went up for free (because they do that), and we reported Amazon being undersold by Kobo. The $.99 still appeared on the Amazon copy for first three days, but buyers received it free because of price-matching. At the end of the third day, Juris Lunence looked like this:
Then, the FB group blitz. My poor followers. Their feeds must look like I’m a megalomaniac. Over 40 groups in one night, then roughly 15 more over the next few evenings. They were kind not to appear on my lawn with rage and torches.
I purchased a small bottle of Goldschlager (one of those tiny airplane bottles, I’m not a drinker), my favourite Victory Juice. Parked it next to my laptop on the kitchen table, and waited. I was only going to open it if I hit 10 free downloads.
Then this happened:
Those little buggers are hard to open when you’re excited. I had to use my pliers.
3 days later, there wasn’t a bottle big enough to celebrate cracking an Amazon Top Ten list, and the Top 100 in Kindle Books:
10 days later, here’s what the 4 months of work did for my Author rankings:
And here’s the total snapshot of Juris Lunence downloads, and what it did for To Drown in Sand (the little red lines at the bottom).
Did I sell a lot of copies of To Drown in Sand? Not really, at least not yet.
Did I sell more than if I hadn’t written and promoted a free release? Yeh.
Did I climb through the Amazon algorithm and increase my Author ranking? You betcha.
Did I gain new readers, and get over 100,000 new people looking at my title? Yip!
Is Konrath and Truant and Platt right? Absolutely.
The conclusion is pretty much irrefutable, which is rare in this Grand Indie Game.
Free works as long as it’s quality. And anyone can make that happen.
Large things start small. Like seeds in the dark. I met Dylan Edwards in Grade Eight. He had hand-drawn comics spilling out of his saxophone case that I handed back to him. Talk about epic moments in time. We were the two biggest nerds consistently from then until we graduated. Nerd legends for our hobbies, interests, and isolation. We were instant brothers, kin in suffering the glacial pressures of growing through adolescence.
We started a comic company in grade nine; and we were the guys play-testing our Zombie Apocalypse role-playing game in study hall during exams. We rolled our eyes and ignored the jibes of the typical detractors through it all, with eyes locked on one another; that precious psychic bond of survival. He went on to become one of the best fathers I’ve ever been privileged to know, and the best friend a man could ever wish for.
He also became an incredible artist. Despite my constant, frantic texts, emails, mistakes, dysfunctional uploads, and endless problems, he remains, as always, stoically patient, and everwise. And waiting for his new cover drafts is better than Christmas. His idea for the cover for my new prequel short story, Juris Lunence, blew me away.
Here’s the first draft:
And the final version:
Once you’ve read the story, I think you’ll get just how awesome this image really is. At least, it flattens me pretty effectively. Crazy to think how small things like me grabbing a dropped piece of drawing can turn into such things. Reminds me to keep looking for them.
Juris Lunence is available for free on Kobo, and, as soon as enough people tell amazon they are being undersold, free on Kindle as well.
Just popping in to provide the means to acquire a professionally edited, reasonably well-written, and ABSOLUTELY FREE story about a fantastic character.
There. I’m done. Please return to your awesome day.
Well, that was fun. We cringed, we howled. I revised and rewrote, interviewed soldiers and rocket scientists, went back again and again to the keyboard until we all agreed that it was ready.
The short story prequel to this November’s To Drown in Sand is up and live.
It’s called Upon a Wake of Flame, and it is now up for sale. The link is here, and on my sidebar.
Upon a Wake of Flame was supposed to be a promotional piece that served as a test for the upload and editing process. It evolved into so much more; an invaluable lesson in writing, revision and completion.
And as always, Dylan’s cover and design are incredible.
Upon a Wake of Flame is available on Amazon and Kobo E-Books for $0.99 Canadian. If you enjoy it, please rate it and post a review.
As promised, Part One of the prequel for my novel, To Drown in Sand, to be released in November 2013.
Upon a Wake of Flame
A story of the 10th Lunen Regiment
Petty Officer Second Class Fiodek Berr – Callsign: ‘Bear’.
Master Seaman Owiqued – (Pipes): Callsign: ‘Howler’.
Master Seaman Thuigrae – (Manta): Callsign: ‘Stomps’.
Master Seaman Bonfodighen – (Flamer): Callsign: ‘Steambath’
Able Seaman Yuekijae – (Medic): Callsign: ‘Gauzer’.
Able Seaman Edroit – (Rifleman): Callsign: ‘Milk-crate’.
Able Seaman Clurrid – (Rifleman): Callsign: ‘Paperback’.
Able Seaman Kepeht – (Rifleman): Callsign: ‘Dogfood’.
Able Seaman Bavdemix – (Rifleman): Callsign: ‘Badmix’.
Able Seaman Rokemigveuse – (Rifleman): Callsign: ‘Migve’.
Lieutenant Bob Griare – Callsign: ‘Tailflip’.
~Orksen Isle, in the Derry Atrus Atoll, 30 kilometers Due South of the Alseiry Peninsula on the dwarf planet Shastre.
The shot cracked across the road from up high. Its echo bounced and barked across the cratered street from doorway to doorway, looking for a place to celebrate.
The heavy bullet punched him in the chest and threw him into the mud-brick wall on the wrong side of the alley, crackling the rough, hand-pressed plaster behind him. Scabs of gritty sand-plate tumbled over the rim of his helmet as he slid down into the dirt.
He watched the man who shot him nestle in behind his large black scope, high on the second floor, tucked in under a wooden kitchen table, the sides hung down to block the sun.
Black lightning-bolts of capillaries split his vision.
Shot in the chest.
And here it was his thirty-eighth Saints-damned birthday.
Petty Officer Second Class Fiodek Berr; Third Squad, Threadfin Boat, Second Company; Sturgeon Battalion, Tenth Lunen Regiment, dragged in a hissed breath that screamed against his sternum. He tried to roll over, to tip out of the sniper’s view.
“Frock!” Berr heard Clurrid, his stern-guard rifleman, holler over the rumble of his pulse in his temples. He watched as the sky stained with water-colour black. “P.O. Down! Gauzer! Bear is down!”
“Huh…Huh…Hold it!” Berr managed, and pointed his medic back to the safety of the alley wall.
“He’s waiting for you.”
Berr watched panic flash across their faces. Spearing pain rippled through his chest, hammering his ribs and breastbone with every jagged, shuddering breath.
Berr wobbled his head to check again at where the shooter was perched. He could make out a grin spread from behind the long, tubal optic.
Berr squinted at the sniper’s scope and smiled back.
The top floor of the shabby, smashed hut exploded in a roar of ripping splinters, blasting clouds of dust and clay, and wet chunks of the enemy sharpshooter.
Berr chuckled, then grimaced and let his helmet thump into the dirt.
“Oh, for frock’s sake! They got him. The bastards finally got him!”
Two sets of hands scrambled over his dented chest-plate, and grabbed the curved, heavy gorget of his vest. His boots bobbled and carved shallow trenches in the dirt as they dragged back up the alley.
Above him, the sunlight thinned and died to embers. Nine blots of shadow crowded into what was left of the sky, bumping for access.
“Nice shot, Stomps. Took dat roof right off of ‘er!”
“That’s irrelevant. Is he alright?”
“For frock’s sake! Get back! How the frock am I supposed to get at him? You know what to do! Form a frocking perimeter, cover us, and let me do my job!”
“I said is he alright?”
“And I said Steady Up!”
Mumbles of their barely-contained panic bubbled in his mind and started to swirl, lost in the reaching darkness.
Today of all days. Eight hours into thirty-eight years old, and millions of cables away from the only person who knew it.
Despite her fiery, naval language and raised voice, his wife had still, at least, wished him that much in her comm-send that had finally arrived last night. Her voice had been terse; loaded and cocked with warning.
That’s the problem with interplanetary arguments while you’re on deployment, he thought. One-way only, and weeks to send.
Takes too long to fire back.
His pulse calmed. He inhaled, and fresh pinpricks of pain riveted across his shoulders, gathering in the bones over his heart.
He had heard the dit that there was that delay in all the soldier’s sends, too. At first all the troopers had mumbled about the usual scanning for intelligence material. Tactically Sensitive information. Later, that had begun to change.
Overhead, clouds crawled by, a convoy of fist-shaped, relentless frigates shrouded in billowing white in a blue sea, stained black by the shock of the shot.
Weeks of delay. Berr thought.
The comms-monitors were scanning the infantry’s correspondence home more carefully than usual. Crawling over their words like ants on a corpse. Scouring and seeking.
And he suspected it had a lot to do with the secessionists that they were fighting here on the Derry Atrus island chain.
He was a veteran. Fifteen years with the Tenth Lunen Regiment. He had seen blood, rebellion, and his slice of the pie of war had been monstrous.
But the enemy they faced here on this small planet called Shastre were different. And the data-crawlers knew it. They weren’t protecting themselves by trying to catch leaks.
Berr knew they were protecting the innocents. Those at home. From learning the truth.
That there were monsters here.
The sound in the alley swallowed him. Third Squad’s boots ground into the grit. They mumbled curses that betrayed their panic, their fear that he was dying. The shuffle of Gauzer’s hands, digging and prodding into his chest, searching for an entry wound. The wet squish as he found the laceration of the shoulder-strap that had cut into his deltoid.
The ping of a syringe-cap tapping into the clay.
After a moment, all sounds became one, rushing through his mind like water, on a platform of another haunting, echoing noise that lingered around the walls of his skull and forced his eyes shut.
The echo of that sniper-round.
“I got him.” Gauzer, his medic, said. “He just needs a minute.” Gauzer slipped closer now, a whisper next to his ear. “You had the air punched out of you. Your armour held. I don’t know how. But it stopped the round.” His voice was shaken, but solid enough.
Berr thanked the Saints. He blinked quickly, blinded by the sky that now flooded back to blue. Gauzer reached out a hand, and he grabbed it.
Sitting up felt like having his chest ripped open.
“Third Squad. Get back in the stack.” Berr’s voice was wet gravel. “Jonah’s down.”
Berr gingerly pulled in a deep breath, shook his head, then staggered over and leaned into the scarred alley wall. He sighed, and carefully peeked out around the corner. His skin submerged into a tide of Gauzer’s warm spread of pain-narcs.
He peered down the debris-littered road, rough with tossed stones and scattered shell casings; toppled, kicked-out doors and collapsed walls that spilled out onto the hard clay road like guts. Behind him the rest of Third Squad stacked in a crouched line against the wall, pressed tight against each other.
At the end of the road squatted a fat, mud-scabbed hill, its top punched flat by aerial bombardments. Third squad’s first objective of the day. Beyond that, a field that Int had said would be spotted with more ruined huts. A small village that had been smashed open by the retreating enemy soldiers, but held intact enough to offer cover for Berr’s squad to advance.
Berr winced as he swung out and sighted down at the end of the road. The side of the hill that faced them was covered in the rough scabs of boot-prints left from the enemy’s retreat.
Hundreds of boot-prints.
The intelligence operator who briefed them had been a tall, strong-shouldered black sergeant named Omram, from Cixca, the Triumvirate’s headquarters planet. Omram hadn’t been able to accurately assess how many of the secessionists would be left in the ruins of this town, or how many had retreated over that hill to wait in the field beyond. All he had been able to tell Berr and his lieutenant, Griare, was that whoever was left of the secessionists here on Orksen Isle had nowhere left to run. The Tenth Lunen had pushed the enemy militia back all the way across the island, and now they were trapped. Their last and only option was to try to swim to the mainland from here. Or surrender.
Which these maniacs never did.
“Good luck, Bear.” Lieutenant Griare had said, with a slap on his Petty Officer’s shoulder-pad. “Don’t let anything happen to you until I catch up to you. I won’t be able to find my arse or my elbows without you.”
“Aye to that, Sir.” Berr had said. “But that’s fishguts. And we both know it.”
Griare had become one of the best officers he had ever worked with. Organized, thorough, and knew when to get out of the way. And when to listen. He was a random rarity, in Berr’s experience. They respected each other, and better yet, they seemed to be becoming friends.
“Fiodek?” Griare’s grip had lingered on Berr’s shoulder. The Lieutenant’s glare made Berr pause as he fussed with his gear.
“I mean it.” Griare had said.
Berr coughed now, spat white chips of stone dust from his teeth, and wiped flakes from the corners of his eyes. Orksen Island was covered in chalky fragments that crept everywhere, coating their hair and skin in a skin of crusty, dry white slivers. He coughed again, dry and pointless.
The Shastre cough. He was still adjusting to the change in pH on this planet, where the air was like breathing deck-cleanser. At least at first. The three weeks of injections aboard their battlecarrier had helped his lung’s surfactant adjust, but the cough lingered, stabbing fingers of irritation and pressure into the inner edges of his ribs.
Now, with the round he had taken, his chest flared into fissures of pain, angry at every cough.
Berr grunted and pivoted behind him, signaling to the male and female trooper next in the stack who squatted there, waiting on his word. They stared like tigers watching Berr decide on his orders.
“Badmix. Migve.” Berr whispered. “Cut across this street.” He knifed his hand at a blown-out, two-storey wreck across from him. “Grab cover on that corner. Sight down the starboard angle, on my two o’clock, and see if we’re clear for that side.”
“Aye, Bear.” They said.
“On my signal.” Berr said, pivoted back, and sighted down the street.
So, so quiet. Like a hunter waiting in a hide.
Just like it was a second before that bastard shot me.
A dry, crisped leaf tumbled across the two ruts in the clay road, pirouetted in a breeze, and tumbled against a shattered curb.
He held up a finger.
“Go.” He grunted, and pointed across the road. He squinted through the twin alloy pins at the end of his muzzle, and waited to kill anything that twitched.
Badmix outpaced Migve as she sprinted into the alley opposite Berr, followed fast by her larger counterpart. They slammed the backs of their dirt-scuffed, blue armoured vests into the clay-brick wall of the building and looked to the clouds overhead as they caught their breath. Badmix swung into a low crouch and leaned out over a pock-marked set of mortar steps, scanning down Berr’s side of the street. Migve’s rifle muzzle panned just above her head. The solid azure line and arrowhead, that designated her rank of able seaman, crested to the brow-rim of her black helmet and pointed down the road of roofless homes and smashed-out stores.
Berr remembered painting the arrow’s wings on her helmet just four weeks ago to celebrate her promotion. He had never seen Badmix cry before. That night, around a blazing beach-fire, he had seen tears rise in her eyes in a tidal creep of pride.
But she had managed to keep them contained.
They perched on the corner for three minutes, waiting. Badmix peeked over at Berr, and then nodded at him.
Berr turned and pointed at the next two in the stack.
“Gauzer. Dogfood.” Berr said, thumbing at the medic and his best friend. The two were inseparable; their matching tattoos read Not for glory; For my brother in scrolling script on their right shoulders. “Haul taut up into the starboard line. On the lee of the staircase and doorway. Clear it and stack it. Then lie to until you hear otherwise. On my signal.”
“Aye, Bear.” they said in unison.
“And knock that bilge off.” Berr muttered. “It’s creepy as frock.”
The two men grinned and bounced on their heels.
Berr glanced back over to his two prone shooters across the road, and signalled them that he was sending more forward. Migve nodded. Berr saw that his shoulders were anxious and tight, his hand wrapping and re-wrapping around his rifle-grip.
“Go.” Berr said, and they loped around him and sprinted off, their shoulders scraping against the cracker-dry bricks as they picked their way to safety, sighting into the shadows and blown-out windows ahead and across from them.
Just five more to tuck in to safe slots along this road. That’s all he had to do. Three more positions, including himself, just one more time, all safe, all fine, all ‘Lunen Blue’.
Then repeat it a hundred times until he got them all home. Or at least back to the battlecarrier. Then he could finish his argument with Lois.
It would take forever to be able to send back to his wife now. He’d have to wait until he could breathe without her noticing the pain, or any hesitation when he spoke.
Better not to bother, he thought, and not try to hide the hit I just took.
She’d only see it anyway. Somewhere.
We’ve been married so long, we’re probably psychic.
He nodded behind him at the next two.
“Paperback. Milk-Crate.” He pointed laterally across the street, to a doorway that arched open like bowed legs. “Doorway, Port side. My eleven o’clock. Go.”
He listened at the scuffy, reassuring slaps of his men’s boots as they dashed for safety across the killing zone, then thump into the solid haven of cover in the doorway.
Berr counted them all again. Even though he didn’t need to, even though he knew he only had three left to send, and that they were accounted for. He counted them again.
He rolled back against the wall. Next to him, his comms operator perked his eyebrows.
“De Big Dogs, eh?” Howler said, in the clipped, twisty accent of the Chireesh. It had taken Berr four months of their eight-month voyage aboard the Tenth Regiment’s dropship-battlecarrier, the Whaleshark, to master the accent and decipher Howler’s subtexts.
But, as difficult as it had been for Berr to learn the Chireesh’s accent, Howler’s keen intelligence had made the struggle worth it. He’d been thrilled to discover his Pipes was a genius with languages. Howler had already pieced together the basics of the enemy’s tumbling, guttural dialect through his careful monitoring of their sparse comm-sends.
The black shark-fin antennae of Howler’s Tactical Information Management Array System, the Timas, bumped the back of his helmet as he nodded at Berr and waited.
“Big dogs.” Berr said.
Behind the comms-op, the massive, brooding black shroud of the Manta mech-pack cloaked Stomps, his heavy gunner. The turbine housed in the rear of the mech whispered and whined, and the servos in the mech-arm hissed a thin hydraulic thread of noise as it helped the muscular woman hoist her Narwhal heavy-gun. The gun clunked as she thumbed the barrel selector, and threaded a round into its receiver. The three barrels of the weapon yawned, waiting to smash her enemies apart with torrential rapid-rounds, large-bore shots, and grenades. Hungry for more devastation like she had wrought on Berr’s sniper.
She had originally balked at Berr using himself to flush out the shooter and leaving his safety up to her. But as always, she had proven herself.
The mech’s legs unfolded silently as Stomps stood up from where she crouched, silently hoisting the massive turbine that powered and cooled the gun. Fingers of her brown hair spilled down from her helmet and curled around her determined face, framed by the Manta’s cowl. Behind her, Third Squad’s flame-man, Steambath, squeezed out around the Manta and leaned forward.
“We’re ready as that wind now, my son.” The Torcher muttered to Berr. “Today ain’t getting any younger squatting here on our arses. Let’s get at her.”
Berr couldn’t suppress his grin. He bore a genuine reverence for the older flamer operator. Steambath was a genuine shellback. He had burned his way across every island in the atoll, always at the front of the flanks and immune to fatigue, like most of his people from his rocky, barren island back on Lunen. His eyebrows and close-trimmed hair, shingled with thin grey patches, were permanently singed and curled from the charring burn of his weapon. The flamer in Steambath’s hands seethed and drooled droplets of fire from its charred muzzle, sizzling into a puddle of black sludge next to his dirty, chipped boot.
“Aye.” Berr said. “You two have the farthest. Get up to the bow. I need you in the nose when the rattle starts. Up the deep starboard, ahead of Gauzer and Dogfood.”
“Right where I should be.” Stomps said, and thumbed her gun onto large-bore. The weapon thunked as it primed a fist-sized sabot round, and the turbine’s high whine lowered to a growl.
“On my signal.”
“Aye to that, Bear.” Stomps said. She turned back to the Torcher. “You ready?”
“Stomps, by’s, don’t be wasting my time with fishguts interrogatives.” Steambath chuckled and waggled the long cylinder of flame-fuel screwed into his weapon’s belly. “I was ready when your father’s seed was swimmin’. Let’s get on with it, now, my sons.”
Berr levelled his rifle out. The tether-cable that attached his gun to the hub in the center of his chest-armour squeaked as it spooled out. He sighted down the street.
Potentially hundreds of them.
Saints-damn this place.
“Go.” Berr said.
He watched Stomps and Steambath jog around him, then hug the cover of each building’s buckled walls as they bolted to where Gauzer and Milk-Crate hunched into balls of aiming tension in the recesses of their crumpled stairway. The Manta-mech and Torcher swept past their two squadmates, and crunched into cover ahead of them all.
Howler stiffened next to him. “Movement.” He said, his voice twisted by the butt of his rifle.
“Where?” Berr said, and cursed. Howler had eyes like a Heron-gunner. But Berr should have seen it.
“Down d’air. Deep Port. End of dat road.” The Pipes-man whispered. “Two ‘eads. Peekin’ out around deh corner. I think d’air gonna do deh run for deh ‘ill. Stragglers, maybe.”
“Let everybody know, Howler.” Berr muttered.
The rest of Upon a Wake of Flame will be released on Amazon for Kindle and on Kobo in August 2013.
© 2013 B.C. Laybolt
Catherine Croft and her gang did a wonderful job organizing a great day for the kid-nerds at Mill Village Consolidated School for the May the 4th Be With You event, and I was lucky enough to get to go.
The gang from Maritime Heavy Armour (https://www.facebook.com/MaritimeHeavyArmour?fref=ts) thrilled the kids, and me, by showing up and posturing with us all in an appropriately menacing way.
We played some tabletop 40K, chatted about figs and gaming, and I got to do a dry run of my book promotion in front of real people. So that was cool.
And my mom bought me fries.
It was the only event of it’s kind permitted by the Lawyers of the Empire (Star Wars, not Warhammer, the Inquisition would never have allowed such a thing) to show a screening of all the Star Wars movies. Catherine even had a large outdoor projector, and showed it as a drive-in feature.
The Vulcan intimidated me most.
One never usually gets this close to a Space Marine. And Deathwatch sightings are especially rare. And one never, never gets to actually HUG a Deathwatch Space Marine. But I did. Turns out I shared an ancient secret Mechanicus armour technique, and he was most grateful. And hugs are nice. He deals with a lot of Grim Darkness, so I thought he could use the bro-love.
And then there was THIS, which the caricature guy did for me, which shall now be framed in my office. Terribly, I never caught his name:
Awesome time had by all!
After much research and fussing, I took the advice of my graphics designer, the amazingly talented Dylan Edwards. About eight months ago, when we were discussing the blurb for my book, he gave one of his priceless pearls of wisdom to me:
“I don’t think writers should write their own blurbs. They’re too close to their story.”
However, I don’t think he realized what he had said. Because last week, I took him up on his advice and asked him to write one.
After some editing (which was hilarious, ME editing HIS work for a change), we came up with the result below, which thankfully, he thinks will fit on the back cover:
To Drown In Sand – A Novel of the 10th Lunen Regiment
by BC Laybolt
No matter how far you run, your shadow follows.
Centuries ago, they fled the doomed Earth. Their damaged flotilla stumbled on a new star system and colonized the worlds they found there. The ragged remnants of mankind fought the elements and each other to survive. Out of terror and darkness, the Nar Exus Triumvirate was created, enforcing a fragile peace between their planets.
But on the dwarf planet called Shastre, the people’s simple life along the rivers and in the mountains, unconcerned with the politics of the Triumvirate, has backslid into superstition and savagery under the sway of a murderous warlord known only as Ter Ense. The Triumvirate has responded to reports of genocide on Shastre by sending the 10th Lunen Regiment to restore order. But danger dwells deep in the jungles of Shastre. An ancient darkness that predates the flotilla is awake after a long slumber.
To escape his tragic past, a man named Kyris Issep arrives on Shastre as a fresh recruit. He has come to a war zone, seeking peace for his damaged soul. His commanders see him as a weapon they hope to wield against the enemy. His squadmates see him as a bad omen they fear will get them killed. Issep is not sure of the truth himself, only that something in the jungle is calling to him, and he will travel into the heart of darkness to confront it.
The blurb also fits well into the Wiki for the book.
Another step closer!
© 2013 B.C. Laybolt
Well, revision of the first draft of To Drown in Sand is properly underway. While my theme editor, the amazing Chad Horton, performs his surgery, I’m working through each scene with surprise and a sense of wonder.
After following Mr. King’s advice, and not touching or looking at the manuscript since about September (alright, I’m fibbing. I may have tweaked and toggled bits here and there, but nothing committed. I actually dug pretty deeply into the sequel), I pulled out my copy of the book and my red pen, took a deep breath, and flipped open the last scene. I like to rewrite backwards, apparently.
I admit to thinking that the manuscript actually wouldn’t need much.
Which is great. Because, in this case, I’m glad I was wrong.
I didn’t really know what revision was. But after researching it thoroughly, and discovering how critical it is to the process, I’m getting genuinely excited when I start to carve into a new scene.
Because every page I find myself slicing through with my red scalpel tells me that I’m doing this right. The real way. Necessity for rewrite means it can be improved. And improved means becoming a better writer. And that’s very redeeming.
Observe; page 237 of the manuscript. All my pages looked like this at first, and in my blissful naiveté, I thought most of them would remain so.
Same page, after surgery:
I am still a little shocked at the amount of rewrite required for each page.
Same for page 240:
A lot of pages are so covered in red scars now that they are barely recognizable:
And there have been many surgical murdering of darlings. Ouch.
Rather than seeing my edit notes as an indicator of how much work there remains to do, or how long the total writing will take (which could be a real drag), I’m looking at clear evidence, in crimson no less, of my writing getting better. Every note is like a gram of writing knowledge in ink; things that I’ve learned since finishing the first draft are adding up in pounds.
The red is FAR more important that the 300+ pages of crisp, black, Courier New.
Like any scar, they are signs of growth and change.
Looking back, my fear came from the same place most of ours do: the unknown. But I really am overjoyed to find myself enjoying this part of the process. It’s exciting. It gives me a chance to sand the edges smoother, and insert slices of art and thought that I know can work better than the version I started months ago.
If there’s a sequel, one can wedge in themes that you know will be incorporated later that weren’t in your head when you first started.
And I’m surprised by how quickly it goes. It’s not really arduous, if you drink lots of coffee, take breaks, and don’t think about things like missed workouts and clocks ticking on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, and other waiting markets that might miss your genius if you don’t hurry up. I think that’s all very silly.
Time creates quality.
So, with my reasonable self-imposed deadline in mind (upload date 3rd week of October, then tests on the platforms, then announce the release on POD and eBook November 2013), I’ll be taking mine.
It’s really too much fun not to.
© 2013 B.C. Laybolt
So, Edit copy 2 of my manuscript arrived from my second Beta reader who graciously agreed to provide me with an edited hard copy. Matt is a pretty voracious reader, and cross-genre fan. I actually had reservations about him editing the book, because I was fearful he’d find it too juvenile and contrived.
I was pleasantly surprised.
Well, to be honest, I was blown away.
I am wary of compliments; they usually precede the thrust of a knife in my world. And, praise is not uncommon when someone reads your work who knows you personally. That’s one of the risks inherent to finding Betas for independent writers.
But this stuff was too good not to share.
It’s not that I think he’s right with some of these; the book still requires substantial revision. I freely acknowledge the potential for friend bias from my Betas, despite my adamant encouragement (at some points, outright pleading), for their ruthlessness.
But perhaps they can prompt some others to take what you think of as a “this- might-be-okay” idea, and run with it.
What happens after that can surprise you.
Super-grateful thanks to Matthew for taking time out of his business life and the manic pace of being a young dad of two awesome kids to edit his copy of the draft.
Joyful Writer Moment 1: Discovering you’ve succeeded at grossing out a veteran horror reader:
Joyful Moment 2: getting a veteran reader to buy into the dread and suspense one has carefully constructed:
Joyful Moment 3: After HATING writing a section in which one of your all-time favourite characters is killed, then spend days polishing it again and again to give the character the final scene he deserves (making you hate it that much more), and then, when its done, and you feel like you’ve bled into your keyboard, you read it one last time, and you realize…
…this might actually be good…
and then your jaded, experienced Beta Reader writes this on your copy (the notebook at the top is to cover a spoiler. Trust me, you really wouldn’t want it spoiled):
So, yeh,…THAT had impact.
Granted, as hoped, this was not an exercise in adulation; there were several things he found that needed tweaking, and a few of these:
And some excellent examples of my writing silliness, like when I described a villain’s career that would ‘rise like a meteor’:
But they were all balanced, in my fragile writer’s ego, by things like:
What was especially redeeming for me was when he ‘got’ another of my favourite characters:
So that’s always a good feeling.
Of special value was his response to my name creation system, which produces sometimes complicated, worrisome names for characters, but they are original in style:
Overall, just the shot in the arm for a grey, wearisome winter of pre-dawn mornings spent working on the sequel while waiting for these copies to find their way home.
This and Ademir’s copy makes two returned, with just two to go.
My revision pen is getting itchy and hungry. He requires satiation soon. Perhaps I’ll just putter a bit with their copies, just to get a head start…
In the meantime, I’ll celebrate this milestone, and take Matt’s praise as it reads in red. Hopefully, others will feel the same with the finished version. And, even if they don’t, that’s okay, because all I need to know is that I got it right even just once.
And can get it better next time.
‘Cause that’s why writers write.
Just a crazy middle aged lady trying to find sanity in the chaos of life.
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