Paper Targets

I have been hard at work on the sequel to SPACE MARINE AJAX and wanted to share with you some of that progress.

Raw excerpt from first chapter of Extinction Fleet Book 2:

So little remained of the men they had once been, before the war, before the blessing and curse of the torcs they wore that captured their experiences and enabled them to resurrect in the body forge. What would make one marine feel kinship with another, out of an entire legion of warriors, much less a group of them, if not some scrap of their former identity? Such loose knit groups of comrades were common throughout the Einherjar ranks, though none could say what forged their bond, for none among them could recall the sorts of details that formed the basis of friendship amongst civilians and conventional military men.

Ajax mused to himself grimly as he added his firepower with Rama’s to bring down a ripper that attempted to sweep up on their left flank. To fight the garm they had to become similar to them, disposable combatants without the cluttered distraction of vibrant three dimensional humanity. The marines had only the most base levels of personality, himself included, and yet in the furious press of combat it was those base traits that held these thinly defined men true to each other.

We have made ourselves like them in order to win, thought Ajax as he ejected his spent carbon magazine and slapped a fresh one in the slot with the sort of mechanical discipline that took years to achieve, but we are still men. We feel the heat of victory, the sting of defeat, and the pain of loss when the warriors who stand with us fall to tooth and claw.

Indeed he had no idea what sports teams he preferred, what it had been like growing up on whatever planet he’d once called home, nor could he recall the last words he’d exchanged with his long dead wife. Such things had been sacrificed for his keen understanding of garm anatomy, roared Ajax in his mind as he shattered the knee of a sprinting drone, causing it to stumble and giving Silas a clean shot at its head. In place of a clear picture of his parents Ajax had the knowledge required to field strip his armor and equipment for cleaning and repairs, along with seemingly infinite tactical responses to the oncoming enemy.

Lost were the memories of happier times and gained was the intimate understanding of how to win.

Beowulf in Space

Star Vikings and the Bug Hunt

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I have been crazy about Beowulf since I was in elementary school, having fallen in love with the tale of a mighty warrior and his epic adventures only a few years before becoming equally enamored by the Alien(s) universe. When my brother and I were young I always wanted to play swords and he always wanted to play guns, so most of the time we had to take turns, until one day the idea hit me that we could be space guys and still battle fantasy monsters. So here we are years later, and once again (like Necrospace) I am transforming stories that I played out from my youth to fit the core Beowulf narrative I’m framing the novel with, to the point of adapting scenes based on the memories our childhood battle games.

I was knee-deep in the writing of Book 5 of my Necrospace series when my son wanted to play space marines versus angry tentacle crab monsters (yes, that’s how we roll in this family) and I found myself thinking about the story of Grendel as my son described the bad guys. That little seed stuck in my head and later that night I cracked open the Beowulf comic book I have on the shelf, and as I read it I imagined it with space marines.  Thing is, when an idea hits you and won’t let go, you have to put down whatever else you were doing and get to work, which is why Book 5 of Necrospace will be coming out this spring instead of being hot off the press now. I wasn’t sure if readers would be willing to come along with me on this, given that I was trying to present an epic poem that had been remixed as military science fiction, but it looks like overall people were happy to take the ride. That supports has been very encouraging, and now that I am putting the finishing touches on Necrospace Book 5 there will be time to once again take up the fight against the Extinction fleet.

Expect more Beowulf remixing and expansion in more Norse Mythology SciFi this summer as we follow the marines of Hydra Company into the darkness between the stars.

Call for Reviews

If there are any of you good folks out there who happen to have purchased my most recent novel “Space Marine Ajax” I could really use an honest review on the product page. If you haven’t had a chance to check this one out, and enjoyed my Necrospace novels, you won’t want to miss this one. Thanks!

Click the marine…

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Space Marine Ajax

 

The first novel in my new series, a blend of Norse myths, military science fiction, and a good old fashioned Bug Hunt…

Ajax answers the call of duty and becomes an Einherjar space marine, charged with defending humanity against hideous alien monsters in furious combat across the galaxy.

From the deepest parts of uncharted space an alien menace emerges, devouring all that lay before it, a great swarm that scours entire star systems of all organic life. This space borne hive, this extinction fleet, makes no attempts to communicate and offers no mercy.

Unified against a common enemy, humanity fights back, meeting the swarm with soldiers upon every front.

This is the story of fearless warriors who are sent to fight the wolves at the gate, by power armor and pulse rifle they must prevail, else humanity is all but doomed.

My Muse is a Battle Tank

Strange things happen on military bases, and no time is more fraught with such oddities as the span of 0300 to 0400. As a defense contractor doing the work I do, my schedule often has me arriving on post just before or during this peculiar time, classically referred to as the ‘witching hour’. Yesterday morning I swear I locked eyes with a nine-legged coyote as it casually crossed in front of my truck’s headlights. While we let that sink in, allow me to paint the background for a moment.
I am involved in training missions, and there are usually any number of soldiers and vehicles spread out across the training area, which is often many hundreds of acres of raw nature with a few dirt roads. I’ve been doing this for several years now, and working this job has provided me with much in the way of inspiration and information for my work as an author. Prior to working for the military I wrote stories more in the vein of horror, adventure, fantasy, and bizzaro fiction. While I still enjoy all of those types of writing, my work took a hard turn towards military science fiction. I found that writing in this genre allowed me to creatively process my relationship with the real-life military industrial complex and my place in it, not to mention the fact that working with the military has provided me with a vast amount of information and experience that can be drawn upon for my fiction. While I take much in the way of creative license when it comes to my writing, as it is science fiction after all, thanks to my work with the military, especially the combat training scenarios for infantry, medics, armor, and intelligence, I am able to layer in enough of the real deal to give my fiction a feel of authenticity.
What this job also offers is continuous moments of inspiration. There are a number of scenes and characters in my Necrospace series that are derived from things I have witness in the training, people I have met in the service, and even the settings in which we train. Since I am drawing upon the modern US military as my source, those influences can be clearly seen in the writing, and that is why despite being a futuristic sort of setting the weapons and tactics have a more contemporary feel to them, even if tinkered with profoundly for the sake of the story.
Well thanks to the witching hour, I have been given inspiration that is going to take me far into the realm of speculative fiction, even if still somewhat grounded in real world military.
This morning I saw a monster, and it demanded its own story.
I was driving down a dark dirt road, looking to raid our range operations warehouse for picket pounders so that our opposition forces troops could build fighting positions for the day’s war. We are the middle of nowhere, and the starlight and my headlights just weren’t sufficiently piercing the gloom. I threw on my brights just as I turned a tight corner, and saw a row of tanks parked on the side of the road. As I drove past the row I saw a monster, doing its best to pretend it was a tank, and I was instantly reminded of how cockroaches either freeze or bolt when you shine a light on them, depending on how close they are to an avenue of escape. This thing was caught in my high beams, and didn’t move. I rolled by slowly and snapped a photo, just to capture the moment in case the thing was gone by the time the sun came up.
I might write this beast into a Necrospace story, or I might add it to the new series that is gaining momentum in my mind, but I know for sure that it will appear one way or the other. Same goes for my new friend with all the appendages.
Where did I get the ideas for a nine-legged coyote and a monster tank you ask?
On dirt roads at three o’clock in the morning.

Marine Cadets Wanted

necrospaceRedux   DeadWorldsCover   TradeWarCover2

REAPER– Resource Exploration And Procurement Engineer Regiment

Welcome Citizen, to a new life of adventure, including meal plan and hazard pay! Because Grotto Corporation is heavily invested in exploration and military ventures there is always a place for stalwart citizens, twenty-five standard years or younger, willing to risk life and limb for incredible wages and a sense of accomplishment.

As a REAPER, your primary function will be to serve as foot soldiers and salvage specialists for militarized expeditions into regions of both mapped and unmapped space in search of raw materials ready to be exploited.

To claim or re-claim machinery, equipment, and building materials from former battlefields, space hulks, and otherwise abandoned facilities.

Base wages for training and transit time are nearly twice that of the average workforce assignment, and all recovery and combat duties come with additional hazard bonuses.

See your local recruiter for details.

Sign up today!

Risky Fiction

Honorable men, well, they die hard, but they still die.” — Nicola (the film Bunraku)

As an author I want to create a sense for the reader that, once the series is firmly established, anyone could die.

DeadWorldsCover

I have approached my scifi military series ‘Necrospace‘ with this in mind. I know that for the most part (unless I surprise myself at some point) my main protagonist Samuel Hyst is going to survive any given book so that he can be around for the next installment, because though we may visit some subplots, this series is his story.

Until it isn’t.

Do I plan on killing off my main character?

Not really, but I’m open to it, which is why I’m building up all the supporting characters. I don’t know who is going to get killed in this book or that book, because I’m following this story only a few steps ahead of my readers (keeps it fun to write!). Maybe there will come a point in the series where its time for Samuel to meet his end and for one of the other characters to step onto the main stage. In the first book ‘Salvage Marines‘ all of the supporting characters began on equal footing as far as development, though as we go into the second book ‘Dead Worlds‘ not all of the supporting characters survived the first story, and now new ones are taking their place in book two, though a core group of supporting cast have now managed to survive not only one but two installments. They are growing as characters, and while not to the degree of the protagonist, I am confident that I could, if I wanted to, kill off Samuel Hyst and pass the protagonist torch to a supporting character who is ready to take the lead.

As an author I like having that option, and as a reader that is exactly what I want out of a series. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Dresden Files, but I know that Wizard Harry Dresden is never going to die, at least until the author decides to write one last novel and call it quits (because final installments all bets are off!). I want to create a story where we have multitudes of characters who can take center stage when a protagonist bites the big one. I’m not writing from so many perspectives as George RR Martin or anythying, though I am certainly taking a page from his style and continuing in my Necrospace series without the certainty that it will always be “The Samuel Hyst Show”, and that he might die or disappear and someone else could take the helm.

I’ll miss Samuel, if he goes, the same way I miss several of the supporting characters in Necrospace who have already come and gone, but that is what I like about what I’ll call ‘risky fiction’, the fact that after the setting and the characters are established the crosshairs of mortality could come to rest on anyone, even the protagonist of an on-going series.

That’s the great thing about stories… those characters that you loved and hated can rise and fall over and over again, in all their glory.

“I live. I die. I live again!” — Nux (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Gold and Glory

“There is time enough for civilization when we are at war” — Wargir proverb

I love space marines.

Whether they are the genetically engineered super-soldiers of the Warhammer 40k universe, the Terran marines of the Starcraft games, the seminal warriors of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, or the hundreds of other incarnations of these future soldiers throughout sci-fi fiction, films, comics, and video games… I think they are awesome, and I have been meaning to contribute to this genre myself for a long time.

And so I give you the first installment of the Necrospace series … SALVAGE MARINES

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The synopsis:

It is the Age of The Corporation. The common man toils under the watchful eye of the elite and their enforcers. The rules of law have long been replaced by the politics of profit. The dark ages of feudalism have returned with capitalistic ferocity. There is no peace among the stars of mapped space and business is booming. Samuel Hyst is an indentured worker who seeks to better his fortunes by joining the ranks of a militarized deep space salvage operation as a hired soldier. The young man’s hope is to earn enough hazard wages to pay off his debts and expatriate his growing family away from the totalitarian industrial society ruled by Grotto Corporation. To reach his goals he must survive a grueling tour of duty in Necrospace, a name given to the abandoned scrapyard quadrants of a war-torn universe.

This is a novel that I have had simmering in the back of my mind for several years, and it finally clawed its way to the top of my list of writing priorities during the 2014 National Novel Writing Month. I worked with my favorite editor Terry Bland and we got this thing polished and ready for press as of last week. I’ve decided to set this book up for an Amazon Pre-Order, with the title being available on March 1st. If you pre-order then the ebook will be loaded to your Kindle/Cloud on March 1st. It will be DRM free so even if you don’t have a kindle device you can read it on your computer, and the print edition will be available on that same day.

Why a pre-order?

You aren’t a famous author OR even in brick & mortar bookstores, so why bother?

My answer is Reader Awareness.

I’ve been writing and publishing for some time now, and before that I was making movies and distributing them. One key element that I’ve never fully managed was a ‘proper release’ of any book or film. By the time a book gets finished I’m already moving on to the next project, and I haven’t given enough time and effort to promoting the book. Usually that shows in the sales numbers, and at the end of the day the sales numbers are just as important as the story… because if people are buying the book (or borrowing through Kindle Unlimited) then that means the Story Is Being Told. That’s right, I’ve realized that being an author, or more specifically being a storyteller, is just as much about the ‘gold’ you get from sales as it is the ‘glory’ you get from telling a good story.

The purpose of a story is to be told (in this case read) and the more people who read this story the more that purpose is realized, and as a storyteller that feeds my soul. What puts food in my belly (and my family’s) is that the people who read this story paid to read it. I know it sounds hilarious to even say it, but honestly it has taken me this long to see that increasing Reader Awareness in what drives sales, which feeds my soul and my belly. By giving myself a few weeks to promote the book before it is released gives me a chance to make sales, which boosts sales rank, which raises visibility on the Holy Grail of publishing (Amazon Top 100 in genre). As such here I am, working on a blog that I hope gives a bit more insight into the novel, to entice you to pre-order and experience the story in depth.

It feels Good to tell people about this story, because I think this one is worth sharing, especially in these troubled times. We live in a world not dissimilar to that of Samuel Hyst and his comrades, and we can see our own struggles reflected on the page (or kindle screen), even if in a more dramatic science fiction action kind of way. I see myself in this story, at various moments, behind the eyes of several of the characters, as I see other people I’ve known in my life. I imagine that you will too.

Space marine stories are generally rather grim, and this tale is no different, though it does have a unique element that sets it apart from most space marine genre fiction. Samuel Hyst has a choice. He is not defending earth from alien invaders, nor is he fighting the forces of some galactic evil. Samuel’s situation hits us closer to home because he is a debt-slave, and only marginally more dramatically than what we see reflected in our own modern world. Our protagonist chooses the life of a mercenary, a salaried corporate soldier to be exact. At any point in his troubled journey he can ‘opt out’ and return to his civilian life, unlike the average space marine protagonist in the greater genre. Samuel Hyst explicitly fights for money, that is his ‘gold’. He tells himself that he will use the money to escape the corporate world and find a new life, that is his ‘glory’. We must struggle alongside him to reconcile his dubious occupation with his humanity, his goals more elusive than he ever imagined, knowing that we don’t get the ‘easy out’ of saying that we are ‘defending earth’ or ‘fighting evil’. In many ways, the excerpt below illustrates the struggles, of both mind and body, that Samuel must endure as the story unfolds.

“The wargir waved an invitation to Samuel and the marine trudged up the dune hill to join the mercenary in surveying the battlefield. The fighting was all but finished, and for the first time that day Samuel began to feel confident about the mission.

“Well, uh,” Samuel wracked his brain for the other man’s name. Imago. “Imago. Looks like we won,” said Samuel off handedly as he sat down next to the mercenary, “Good day for Grotto and bad day for Helion. Can’t say it feels all that victorious though, a lot of bodies out there that belong to us.”

“Hyst Samgir,” the mercenary said, “you must understand that when war is stripped of ideology, all that remains is the simple reality that it is nothing more, and nothing less, than the violent redistribution of wealth.” He cocked his head at Samuel as they sat perched upon the burned out hull of a Helion battle tank. “Anyone who says differently is just trying to lower your pay rate.”

As a defense logistics contractor and a self-published author, in many ways I feel as if I’m right there alongside our protagonist while I work to balance the Businessman and the Storyteller during my own quest for Gold and Glory.

Fable: A Cinematic Sucker Punch

WARNING: This post is meant to be entertaining. I hope you can laugh along with me.

As the director, a producer, a contributing writer, and overall core storyteller of the film I am duty-bound to take responsibility for the final product. Actors lacking good direction, a confusing script, shoddy post-production, all of these are on my shoulders. As a filmmaker I have been through some bad reviews in my time, and no film of mine has been so vilified as Fable, and no film so deserving of it as Fable.

The reviewer, Derek the Bard, made a scathing-yet-hilarious video review for his web-series “Chasing the Muse” about a year ago, and recently shared it with me. He got in touch and wanted to create a second review after reading my book “As Above So Below: And Other Unborn Cinema”, where I delve into the making of Fable in several chapters appropriately titled “Anatomy of a Trainwreck”. Using the book and some of our discussions he created a second, equally brutal and equally entertaining review, which I would like to share. 

He is merciless, and you’ll be holding your sides laughing as much as you’ll be covering your mouth in shock at the film-ripping he puts on my movie, but after this review you’ll be loving to hate Fable: Teeth of Beasts along with the rest of us.

Consequently… you can shoot yourself in the cinema-face with the purchase of Fable from Amazon by visiting the “Tragedy” section of this blog, and you can check out the Unborn Cinema book in print or ebook Right Here

Enjoy the review!

Antiheroes and the Hard Six

SPOILER ALERT: Walking Dead Season 3, Man on Fire, Voodoo Cowboys, and 300

 

Classically a ‘hero’ is a dead man, venerated because of wide fame, the compounding of great deeds, a particularly epic death, or some combination therein. I’ve always thought of myself as a fan of the ‘antihero’, that being someone who fills the role of the protagonist, though exemplifies more villainous qualities than traditionally heroic ones. Recently I have been watching the zombie drama series ‘The Walking Dead’ and like most fans I really liked Daryl Dixon, and I had a soft-spot for his older brother Merle Dixon, because those guys were rough around the edges and reminded me a bit of growing up in the south. 

In the final episodes of Season 3 of the Walking Dead there is a scene where Merle has left one group of survivors and joined another, only to find that he doesn’t fit in there either.  His final act is to launch a one man assault against a vastly superior force, and dies in the process. I found myself deeply moved by the character’s arc, and that after several seasons of him being a somewhat reviled character he has his moment of heroism. Upon watching this I started to think about the classical definition of heroes, and thinking back to other heroes I’ve felt a connection with who went out in a similar fashion. 

As I sift through the list I begin to see a pattern, in which I find a particular interest in characters who  lay everything on the line for one perfect moment. It brought me back to Battlestar Galactica, where Captain Adama talks about how “sometimes you just have to roll the hard six”. Its a gambling phrase, about beating the dreadful odds against and coming out with a victory. When I apply that hard six idea with heroes, I start to see some interesting beliefs that I apparently hold to in my own fictional works. 

In the comic & film ‘300’ King Leonidas brings his Spartan warriors out into the open, instead of retreating into the hot gates where he can still fight, so that he can lure Xerxes within range of a well-thrown spear. When the trap is sprung all of the Spartans are killed, and though Leonidas wounds Xerxes, he fails to roll the hard six. Leonidas dies, but in such a heroic way his story is inspirational regardless of his failure. 

In the Walking Dead Merle Dixon leads a horde of zombies into an ambush laid by the Governor, and under cover of the zombie attack Merle manages to shoot down eight of the Governor’s men before he is killed. For a brief moment Merle has the Governor in his sights, and fires, only to hit a man who crosses in front of the Governor at the last moment. Merle dies, having also failed to roll the hard six, but damn what a way to go. 

In Man on Fire John Creasy is waging a war on the drug cartels in Mexico City, and is severely wounded early in the film. He fights his way through the film, all the while struggling with the increasingly debilitating wound. Somewhere deep down you as a viewer know he’s not going to survive, and you are ok with that, because he is too, so long as he can “do this one last thing”, which is save the little girl. Ultimately he rolls the hard six, and successfully trades his life for the little girl, managing to die before his captors can do anything worse. 

In my own film Voodoo Cowboys, a spell-slinger named Doctor John barely survives a battle with shaman-sorcerer Duvalier in which his comrades (Shaner and Reese) were killed. In order to gain the power with which to defeat Duvalier the slinger must make a magical bargain with a bloodthirsty god, exchanging his own vital life energy for the god’s favor in battle. Doctor John faces off high noon style with Duvalier and kills the shaman, then pays the price for his chance to roll the hard six and dies himself as he walks towards the setting sun. 

In the third Star Wars film Darth Vader sees his son being tortured to death by Emperor Palpatine, and decides to intervene. After years of serving as the dark champion for the Empire Darth Vader chooses to abandon his duties and attack the Emperor, though doing so would surely mean his death. Vader fights through the deadly lighting coming from the Emperor and manages to kill Palpatine before succumbing to his own wounds. Then, to top it off, he survives long enough to tell his son “you were right about me”, and that there was some good still left in him, before dying. To me that sounds like the gold standard of hitting the hard six. 

These are generally dark tales, with grim endings and hard choices, and I do love them so. One of my friends told me, after reading several of my stories, that I seem to kill all of the protagonists by the end of the story, and now perhaps I am beginning to understand why he was right. At the end of it all the way I see it is that whatever a person is, it’s that act of making the attempt to roll a hard six that makes you a hero, and the outcome, whatever it is, isn’t your concern, because you’ll most likely be dead anyway.