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Another ending, another beginning

This past weekend I wrapped up my superhero novel, Airfoil: Origins. It was a very in-depth project that took approximately 10 months to complete, starting last January with several on and off times before I started in earnest last July. It’s a beast, weighing in at 145,000 words (about 530 pages), a length to which I haven’t resorted since writing the original Commissioned manuscript back in 2008 that eventually got split into my first two novels The Word Reclaimed and The Word Unleashed.

Airfoil is also only the second time I’ve written a story that takes place in the present, which, I have to admit, takes some of the pressure off vs. writing sci-fi. I don’t have to go into great detail to describe a certain car, other than color, make, model and such. A starship, however, is a wholly fictional construct, and so requires a great deal more imaginative effort.

But even as this project closes out with my next round of editing, there’s new stories on the horizon. Such as:

– The Bloodheart, my first and so far only fantasy novel, which I’ll be self-publishing. I’ve sent off materials to the cover designer and that design should prove outstanding, based on his prior work

– A 60,000 word military sci-fi novel I may get to write, if my outline is accepted by the company in question. Of course, I have to create said outline first. Details to come later.

– About 3,000 words of fictional background and story for an online game, due the middle of April. I’m about a third done with that.

– Revisions and rewrites on the second Quantum Mortis novel, which has been on the back burner for a while. My publisher and I are both insanely busy.

Something else I’m feeling the urge to do is revisit the world of The Word Reclaimed. To that end I’ve composed an outline and started character creation for a novel that takes place several years after the events of The Face of the Deep set and its accompanying novel Broken Sight, involving a brand new group of heroes but also catching up characters from the original books. I know they’re not real, but in an odd way, I’ve missed them. Ask another author. They’ll understand.

There’s another bit of news I’m not at liberty to divulge, but check back in soon, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I know I am.

Mile marker

Reaching certain stages of a work in progress resonates with me. I find that keeping track of word count or page count provides a tangible reassurance that yes, I am nearing the completion of a project.

That’s the case with my superhero novel, tentatively entitled Airfoil: Origins.

Last spring, I wrote a two page prologue that finds the hero in media res with the supervillain of the story. It’s meant to give a snippet of action, showing the hero’s developed potential, before I dive into the how of his superhero journey.

Today, while working in the last few chapters of the book, I came full circle to that part of the story, where the reader catches up with the prologue. It was satisfying, both to know that the end of the story is near and to see that the action ties back in nicely with the beginning of the story.

I don’t have an approximate release date for Airfoil: Origins. I am aiming to get it to my publisher by the end of March, give or take, but since there’s no firm agreement in place, nor is there a contract binding me to a deadline, it’s low pressure.

I’ll it at that with some art I cooked up while sketching from graphic novels, coloring in Photoshop and finding generic backgrounds to combine into action scenes.????????airfoil in flight 1brandon overlook 1 final

Interview and the Works

Enclave Publishing, the home of most of my books, has posted a new interview with yours truly. Give it a read if you’re interested in odd facts about me, and news about my writing.

The most pertinent update I can share here is I’ve surpassed the 100,000 word mark on my superhero novel. That translates to roughly 350 pages. I’ve got probably another 100 to go. My goal is to finish it this spring. Notice I leave “Spring” as a vague term. Writing goals are elusive when you work full time and have a family. Unless there’s a hard and fast deadline to which one is contractually bound, they don’t amount to much.

That said, I’m having great fun writing this one. It’s not space-borne science fiction, nor is it steampunk, as my previous published works have been. But for the past several completed manuscripts, I’ve tried my hand at new things, including fantasy and modern day adventure, the latter of which has a heavy sci-fi element.

Speaking of sci-fi, Riding the Red Horse by Castalia House continues to gain positive reviews. I’m glad for the publisher and my fellow authors in this anthology, but would be a liar if I said it isn’t satisfying when people complement my story, Turncoat. I’ll end with a few examples:

- Each story left me wanting more of the universe in which it takes place (my favourite of the shorts was the last one: “Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa)

- “Two stories that standout above the others were Turncoat by Rzasa and War Crimes by Cheah. Excellent stories that illustrate humanity in inhumane and even entirely non-human protagonists and characters.”

 

Red Horse arrives

Riding the Red Horse is now available from Castalia House, both on their website and Amazon. It’s gotten some fine reviews, and the biggest excitement for me is being published alongside authors such as Tom Kratman and John C. Wright. And of course, the big spoiler is that none other than Jerry Pournelle is featured in the anthology.

he short fiction I wrote for this compilation is called Turncoat and follows the adventure of a self-aware machine intelligence that is caught in the middle of a burgeoning galactic war. It takes place in the Quantum Mortis universe several centuries prior to MCID Chief Warrant Officer Graven Tower’s cases in A Man Disrupted and Gravity Killsand not long after the tale of spy vs. spy Vox penned in A Programmed Mind

Like I said, you can get it both at Castalia and Amazon, whatever your pleasure.

‘Red Horse’ roundup

RedHorse_promoFor all those of you wondering when you’ll see my next published work, here’s the answer: within the next couple of weeks. That’s the estimated release for Riding the Red Horse, from Vox Day’s publishing company Castalia House. That’s the publisher of the sci-fi murder mystery Vox and I produced last year, Quantum Mortis: A Man Disruptedand its accompanying novella, Quantum Mortis: Gravity KillsRiding the Red Horse collects works from Castalia House’s superb lineup of authors, including Tom Kratman and John C. Wright.

The short fiction I wrote for this compilation is called Turncoat and follows the adventure of a self-aware machine intelligence that is caught in the middle of a burgeoning galactic war. It takes place in the Quantum Mortis universe several centuries prior to MCID Chief Warrant Officer Graven Tower’s cases in A Man Disrupted and Gravity Killsand not long after the tale of spy vs. spy Vox penned in A Programmed MindAs a young teen, I was intrigued by the portrayal of Lt. Data by actor Brent Spiner on Star Trek: The Next Generation; stories about artificial intelligence searching for their spark of humanity are among the best science-fiction has to offer. In that spirit, when Vox contacted me about adding to the Quantum Mortis universe and said he was looking for something set in this time period, I was enthused.

You don’t need to have read Quantum Mortis to enjoy Turncoat — and the rest of Riding the Red Horse includes excellent work by myriad other authors — but I recommend at least reading A Mind Programmed to get a feel for the story world.

Stay tuned for more news regarding the release.

Crosswind giveaway — two days left

The clock’s ticking… the deadline for getting your name in for a free copy of Crosswind: The First Sark Brothers Tale is midnight on Monday, Dec. 1. Drop by Goodreads for the giveaway. To that end I’ve got one last excerpt from the book. In it the brothers Winch and Cope have taken a coded message from their mayor-general to a bookseller who is secretly in league with friends:

———————

Oneyear led them behind the counter and through a closet-sized hallway. The stairs at the back led them down to a dingy basement, lit by only a handful of bulbs suspended precariously from the ceiling. Winch spotted the two printing presses right off the bat—the main printing press, which was a massive beast of iron, steel, and wood frames, and the smaller line-puncher set off to one side on a thick-legged table.

Their guide took the punch-tape from Cope. He fixed it to the feed cylinder then threw the switch on the side of the machine. Winch saw it had a fuel tank hooked to the furnace. The boiler rumbled. Steam hissed through valves. The machine rattled to life, the cylinder spinning the tape into the innards of the line puncher. Oneyear cranked on another lever. This time, the machine’s cylinder halted and reversed direction. Then it began tapping out letters—like a tele-typer.

“Doesn’t seem to be a terribly long message. Folk sometimes bring me whole pamphlets.” Oneyear shook his head in disdain. “Then they expect me to be done as fast as lightning. Amateurs.”

“Really.” Winch looked at Cope, who just shrugged.

The smells of the ink and the warm metal reminded Winch of the Advocate’s printing presses in its own basement. That recollection gave Winch a powerful fit of homesickness. In no time, though, Oneyear yanked the piece of paper from the machine and shut it off. It wheezed a contented sigh. Steam petered out. Oneyear patted it with affection. “Probably needs its cylinder replaced. Here you are, gents.”

Winch accepted the paper. Now to see what was so important that Mayor-General Keysor demanded it be hidden in code. Cope craned his neck for a peek, but Winch shouldered him aside.

This note looked more like odd poetry than an urgent message.

Cope elbowed Winch. “Read it aloud.”

“All right. Here:

Did you find mother’s locket?

Make sure, Jesca, that you

Trim the primrose bush outside.

Such a palace for wasps.’”

Cope blinked. Before Winch could hazard a comment, Oneyear’s laugh boomed in the confined space. “Boys, you don’t have a sharp spike’s clue what that says, do you?”

“Ah, no. If we did, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be standing here catching bugs with my trap wide open,” Cope said sourly.

“Give it here.” Oneyear took the paper. He flattened it out against the wall with one hand. Then he rummaged in a pocket. Thick fingers held up a slender red pencil. “Your friend up there in Perch likes his ciphers, and he’s always keen to try out a new one on me. But he went for one of our classics this time.”

Oneyear circled words on the paper. Winch’s eyes widened—not just any words, but the middle one in each of the four lines. Oneyear smiled over his shoulder. “You see it now, correct?”

Winch nodded. “I’m distressed I did not see it sooner.”

“How’s about a bit more edification for those of us with apparent eye problems?” Cope said.

“It’s a null cipher.” Winch accepted the paper back from Oneyear. “See? Every middle word in these four lines of five words each is part of the message. The other words make it seem like poetry. But when you remove them all…”

Oneyear had scribbled below the message in red pencil four words:

“Find Jesca Primrose Palace.”

Cope frowned. “What’s ‘Primrose Palace’?”

“A hotel with a fine coat of paint on the outside and all the hedonism and seedy types that you could fill jail with on the inside.” Oneyear shook his head. “Sorry to say, boys, but if this Jesca is there, well…she’s not likely serving drinks off a silver tray,”

“Huh. Sure. Well, you’ve been a tremendous help.” Cope smiled. “We do appreciate it.”

Oneyear nodded. “And I’d appreciate my fee.”

“Fee?” Winch asked.

“One hundred.” Oneyear crossed his arms. Muscles rippled.

“What? That’s banditry!” Winch was appalled. So much for his assumption this man was some kind of patriot for Perch…

“Here, steady your wings, Winch.” Cope dug into his rucksack and, to Winch’s shock, produced a roll of red-rims, the paper currency of Trestleway. “One hundred, you hulking thief. Your employer’s much obliged, I reckon.”

“Reckon so too.” Oneyear pocketed the money. He gave them a broad smile. “Pleasant day, gents.”

Crosswind sneak peek: Wings in combat

Got a week and change left until the book giveaway of Crosswind is over — stop by Goodreads and enter. Here’s the second excerpt from the novel, this one focusing on Cope’s skill as a daredevil pilot:

——

Cope angled his wings and zipped across the sky over Fort DeSmet. There were dirigibles. His eyes went wide. Free fliers of Sternabend? In eight dirigibles? Great blues skies above. That was one tarnal aero force sitting down there.

Suddenly Daisy’s engine increased its pitch. Cope snapped his head left. Uh-oh. More than eight, apparently.

Four more dirigibles loomed farther down the valley, on their way up from Pearly’s Bend. They came from around a bend in the mountain range. And they were dropping fighters like a teratorn shedding feathers. Five, by Cope’s count.

He grinned rapaciously. Five? Might just be even odds against his three.

His orders were to observe and report back to Colonel Cuthbert. But Cope was not going to let an opportunity such as this pass. No one would expect a reconnaissance flight to attack. It would be lunacy.

Cope accelerated into a dive. Gunshots rang out from the town below. Carbines, probably. Not that they had near the range to hit him this high up. He pulled out of the dive. Good. Daisy and Tread were right there on his wings.

He angled his biplane up and gunned the engine.

The five approaching fighters dipped their wings and dropped down at the Perch aeroplanes. Three of them were two-seater TAB IVs, definitely painted in plain old Trestleway livery. But they were accompanied by a pair of Rhoads 33 triplanes, both painted a gaudy green and gold. That had to be the free fliers.

“Bandit scum,” Cope hissed. “Wait ’til they see what I’ve got. Come in closer, dogs.”

He bore up at them, his hand poised on the lever for his Hinohama rockets. He grinned broadly, but his face froze up in a mask of confusion as the planes broke off into a trio and a deuce. They zoomed right around Cope.

“What?” He was utterly baffled. They acted like they knew. He cursed. Of course. That cussed second councilor and his goons were all at the aerodrome in Perch when he blasted the bandits from the air raid earlier in the week. Maybe they knew he had rockets, because his fighter was still painted the same garish blue and adorned with his squadron leader markings.

So they were staying off his nose.

“Fine by me!” Cope put his plane into a renversement, banking hard up, nose in toward the clouds, engine straining, then rolling over onto one side and racing back down an invisible loop until he was right on their tails.

Daisy and Tread were both dodging the gunfire the planes hailed upon them. The rear gunners of the TAB fighters sprayed bullets from their rotating Keach guns. Cope gritted his teeth and ducked his wings as a burst of gunfire ripped through the air above him. Barely missed the canvas. He pressed down in the trigger for his own gun, but he had his Vigilante jerking about so badly he was sure he’d not hit a thing.

An explosion tore a TAB fighter apart. Cope’s jaw dropped. A line of smoke and fire leap out from Tread’s aeroplane, spinning off in a lopsided spiral. Another explosion burst just feet from another fighter. At first Cope thought Tread’s shot missed, but then something, shrapnel likely, ripped the upper left wing of the TAB to shreds. It limped away from the fight.

Cope laughed out loud. “Rebekah Hawes, you fiend!” he shouted to the air. So she’d finally seen his wisdom and added Hinohamas to other aeroplanes.

The last TAB fighter wheeled around and blazed a trail back toward the dirigibles. The bandit fighters split apart. One ran away, headed toward the mountains, while the second unleashed a furious volley of gunfire at Daisy.

Cope tsked. “Not polite to pick on a lady.” He banked hard to the left. Within moments the fighter’s tail was square in his sights. The rear gunner fired a salvo. Cope slackened his grip on the controls. The wind pushed his plane from the path of the bullets. He pressed the trigger.

Flashes left glowing blobs before his eyes. The tail of the enemy fighter shredded with the force of a smilodon tearing into a bull moose. Bullets traced their way up the fuselage as Cope overflew the fighter, all the way into the cockpit and the engine beyond. Fire and smoke erupted. The fighter dove in a death spin. Cope figured it was best the men were dead already. Being trapped in a burning aerocraft was no way for a flier to go.

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