Guest Post: Lawrence M. Schoen, author of Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, talks about writing anthropomorphic animals

Barsk cover

My friend Lawrence Schoen’s latest novel and big publisher debut, Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, from TOR Books had sold out its first printing before it even released. It is about sentient animals who have survived the self-destruction of human beings and now rule the galaxy. I asked him to talk on the blog about how to write animals as main characters of a novel.

How do you approach writing animals as characters? Do you anthropomorphize or avoid it?

I treat animal characters much like I treat alien characters, which is to say, I write them as characters first, and then add in the other bits (animal, alien, or both).

I start by asking myself a few basic questions like, “Who is this character? How does he see the world? How does he see himself? What does he want?” and then as these basics start to sketch out, I drop the character into the setting that further shapes those answers.

With the anthropomorphic animal (or as I like to call them, “raised mammals”) characters in Barsk, there were additional factors. The easiest of these was to build on the physiological differences from the source animals, and play with how that then affects the more basic characteristics and questions. This is particularly important for the reader, because she’s looking for something familiar to glom onto, something that can be assessed at a glance, be it an elephant’s trunk or the graceful gait of a cheetah or the relative lethargy of a sloth. These are signals to a reader that say, “oh, okay, it’s like a human being, only not, because it’s also like X.”

After the broad strokes of an animal character is done, the real fun begins. The bits that act as Easter eggs for more savvy readers. Little pieces from research into what ethologists and other scientists have learned about these species which when dropped into sapient characters inform their culture and worldview. As one example, we know that among elephants, after a certain age, the males all go off on their own solitary way and only return to mate, leaving the females behind to form groups of adults and children of both sexes. Take this one datum and apply it a planet of uplifted elephants and you get a society where you have households of adult females — mothers and sisters aunts and cousins, like something out of H.M.S. Pinafore — taking responsibility for all child rearing, and males who spend their adult lives as peripatetic bachelors — never settling down for long, always moving on. And from there you get to ask how this all manifests in routine things that you probably won’t actually look at in the book, but which has to exist in the back of your mind because it all influences the way the characters walk through their own world. Questions like, “What does this do to the housing market? What’s the impact on job security? What happens to individuals who don’t fit smoothly into the society’s normative roles?”

The characters in an anthropomorphic novel need to have the same quality of breadth and depth and variety that ordinary human characters enjoy and/or endure; it’s all just filtered through the specialized animal traits that is their due as well. Because at the end of the day, you’re using them to tell human stories, and while they may be furry or horned or bat-winged or something else, they must also project a basic humanity, one to which the reader can relate. In the end, the thing we always remember about the best alien or anthropomorphic characters isn’t how much they differ from us, but how human they were.


Lawrence M. Schoen holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics. He’s also one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Klingon language, and the publisher of a speculative fiction small press, Paper Golem. He’s been a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award, the Hugo Award, and the Nebula Award. Lawrence lives near Philadelphia. You can find him online at LawrenceMSchoen.com and @KlingonGuy.

 

New Blurbs and Reviews For My Newest Anthology Babies — Raygun Chronicles & Beyond The Sun

RC Arc Front coverWe have four blurbs in for my soon to be released pulp space opera anthology so far:

“RAYGUN CHRONICLES breathes supercharged life into the space opera genre with exciting and inventive new tales by a superb line-up of writers. This is why science fiction will live forever!”—Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of PATIENT ZERO.

“RAYGUN CHRONICLES is an impressive anthology with an impressive list of contributors, a real showcase of the color and scope of what science fiction can be.”—Kevin J. Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of the Saga of Seven Suns

“Wonder, adventure, romance, humor–space opera delivers all of these, and this anthology brings together some of the finest talent in the business. Strange new worlds await. So lower your shields, engage your thrusters, and prepare to jump to warp speed!” — Dave Wolverton, New York Times Bestselling author of Star Wars: The Courtship of Prince Leia

“These stories bring the reader back to the days when we dreamt of blasters and flying cars. Golden age space opera fun with a strong Western feel.” — Alex Shvartsman, Editor Unidentified Funny Objects and Official Ken Liu Hugo bearer

Now I just have been mailing out review copies for Raygun Chronicles. It takes a while, but those efforts for Beyond The Sun have landed us two major reviews and a major podcast appearance this month. The two major reviews are out this week in LOCUS’ October 2013 issue which is THE industry zine and thus a huge boost for us. These are also my first Locus reviews EVER. The first comes from Gardner Dozois, year’s best editor, award winning anthologist and writer:

There’s nothing really exceptional in Beyond the Sun, a mixed original/reprint anthology edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt, but it is a fun read, with some solid core SF work, although a similar concept was explored better last year by Jonathan Strahan’s Edge of Infinity. The theme appeals to me, as stories of exploration and adventure in space beyond the bounds of Earth remain one of the foundation stones of SF, but don’t expect to find hard science and rigorously worked-out physics here, as this isn’t that kind of book. Instead, it belongs to the old Pulp Adventure school, where spaceships flit between planets in days and sometimes even hours, and there are lots of exotic alien races to interact with and/or battle with. The best of the original stories here is probably Nancy Kress’s ‘‘Migration’’, a compelling look at the power instinct can hold over even the most rational minds, but also good are Brad R. Torgersen’s ‘‘The Bricks of Eta Cassiopeiae’’, Jaleta Clegg’s ‘‘One-Way Ticket to Paradise’’, and Nancy Fulda’s ‘‘A Soaring Pillar Of Brightness’’. There is also solid work by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Cat Rambo, Mike Resnick, and others, as well as good reprint stories by Robert Silverberg and Jason Sanford.

Also from October Locus, Karen Burnham reviews BEYOND THE SUN for Diverse Hands:

Beyond The Sun revised coverKAREN BURNHAM Beyond the Sun, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, ed. (Fairwood Press 978-1-933846-38-5, $17.99, 296pp, tp), August 2013. Cover by Mitchell Davidson Bentley. [Order from Fairwood Press, <www.fairwoodpress.com>.] 

There are many reasons people may want to settle out beyond our solar system: religious freedom, economic opportunity, exploration, contacting other life, or simply the desire to be left alone. A little bit of all of these can be found in Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s broadly themed anthology Beyond The Sun. There are aliens, religious fanatics, soldiers, and plenty of people just trying to get by in this diverse volume. 

One story about going to the stars in search of a simpler life is ‘‘Respite’’ by Autumn Rachel Dryden. In it a more-or-less Puritan couple are trying to reach the main settlement by wagon while the wife is in labor and the local fauna is about to launch into a feeding frenzy. Ann’s internal perspectives on events gives us a wonderfully dry take on a very tense story, and the troubles between her and her husband are deftly sketched. What I found particularly interesting is that the story ends up admiring a particular view of father- hood that is directly critiqued in the anthology’s strong opening story, ‘‘Flipping the Switch’’ by Jamie Todd Rubin. Rubin uses a trope similar to Joe Haldeman’s classic The Forever War to describe a father who is providing for his family but is fundamentally detached from them. The story effectively portrays the increasing tension the man feels as he drifts farther and farther away from his loved ones. 

Returning to religious themes, Jean Johnson’s ‘‘Parker’s Paradise’’ depicts a colony that’s been vastly oversold by its religious leader; the acerbic perspective of a soldier tasked to protect the first contact group makes me want to go read some of her military SF, because this was hilarious. Jason Sanford’s ‘‘Rumspringa’’ gives us the space Amish, with a team of post-humans looking to manipulate an Amish colony through one of their own that went out into the world and came back. ‘‘The Far Side of the Wilderness’’ by Alex Shvartsman depicts a man driven by religious faith to hijack a ship and try to find Earth; his single-minded pursuit leaves him dissatisfied with a most amazing journey. Maurice Broaddus’s ‘‘Voice of the Martyrs’’ gives us an interesting blend of military, religion, and colonization – no easy answers in this one. 

There’s one final story that features a religious colony: ‘‘The Dybbyk of Mazel Tov IV’’ by Robert Silverberg. Unlike most of the stories, which are original to the anthology (there are two other reprints, both from the 2000’s), this is a reprint from 1973. This is the second anthology I’ve read this year that has done this: taking a solid selection of contemporary stories and adding in a cherry-picked story from many decades past. Inevitably, the reprint by an old master (it was a Le Guin story the last time, I recall) blows the others away. Robert Silverberg’s story seems fresher, livelier, and more three dimensional than so many of the stories here – not that any of them are bad, but simply that they don’t get over a bar set that high. Some of them do; I would put Rubin’s story in that category along with Cat Rambo’s ‘‘Elsewhere, Within, Elsewhen’’ (a lovely tale of alien contact that literalizes the metaphor of being trapped in a shell of bitterness and resentment). But it really seems unfair to most of the authors involved. I understand the incredible temptation when you’re offered a Silverberg or Le Guin reprint that perfectly suits your theme, but in a mostly-original anthology I wish the editors would stop and reconsider. 

That said, there are plenty of solid and enjoyable stories here. Various forms of libertarianism feature in Nancy Kress’ ‘‘Migration’’ and Brad Torgersen’s ‘‘The Bricks of Eta Cassiopeiae’’. Massive miscommunications with and about aliens feature in Simon C. Larter’s ‘‘Inner Sphere Blues’’ and Jennifer Brozek’s ‘‘Dust Angels’’. Jumping to conclusions is ill-advised in Nancy Fulda’s ‘‘A Soaring Pillar of Brightness’’. Luckily, aliens can be just as quick to misjudge a situation when Mike Resnick depicts them examining our television broadcasts in the concluding story ‘‘Observation Post’’. 

Overall, this is a collection of solid stories in the somewhat neglected outer space exploration genre of science fiction. Post-humans are rare and garden variety humans occupy center stage, which feels a bit unusual these days. I worry that it seems that aliens in this volume are so difficult to communicate with: it often takes personal sacrifice to do so, or something improbably hand-waving to do with biology and telepathy. Compared to Silverberg’s 1973 story, in which communication with aliens is not terribly more fraught than communication with a rival human religious sect, this anthology seems a little discouraging about the real potential for relating to and communicating meaningfully with the Other. 

Nonetheless, these are enjoyable tales with serious themes, worth the time spent reading them.

Lastly, several authors, the cover artist and publisher gathered with me in San Antonio at World Con for Hugo-nominated SFSignal’s podcast as well, and you can find that here: http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2013/09/the-sf-signal-podcast-episode-204-2013-live-worldcon-panel-with-the-authors-editor-and-publisher-of-beyond-the-sun/ So lots of new stuff to enjoy.


View More: http://emilymeganphotography.pass.us/bryanBryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction including the novels The Worker Prince and The Returning, and the children’s books 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends. His debut novel, The Worker Prince (2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthologies Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (Flying Pen Press, 2012), Beyond The Sun (Fairwood, July 2013), and Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age  (Every Day Publishing, November 2013) and is working on Shattered Shields with co-editor Jennifer Brozek (Baen, 2014). He also hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and can be found via Twitter as @BryanThomasS, on his website atwww.bryanthomasschmidt.net or Facebook.

Beyond The Sun Table Of Contents Is Official!

Fairwood Press bannerToday, I officially announced the Table Of Contents for Beyond The Sun, my space colonist anthology and first Kickstarter venture, at SFSignal:
http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2013/01/toc-beyond-the-sun-edited-by-bryan-thomas-schmidt/

We wound up with typical attrition of 20-40% of writers not coming through with stories. Luckily I had some name writers who asked to contribute but weren’t on my original list so we wound up with a stellar TOC.

You can click the link to see the full thing but in addition to our headliners: Silverberg, Kress, Resnick and Rusch, we also had names like Sanford, Fulda, Broaddus, Rambo, Torgersen, Brozek, Rubin and Johnson. Very exciting!

Thanks all for your support!

Meanwhile, please consider my latest project:

Smashing Planet Tales - Raygun Chronicles
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/601968027/raygun-chronicles-space-opera-science-fiction-anth

 

Ray Gun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age Kickstarter Launched

Raygun Chronicles cover v2 with words 3It’s a big week for me. Amidst making final choices of stories for my first Kickstarter Anthology: Beyond The Sun, and awaiting my first book contract from a major, I am launching, with Every Day Publishing, a Kickstarter for Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age. This anthology, headlined by Mike Resnick, A.C. Crispin, Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Seanan McGuire, Allen Steele, Robin Wayne Bailey, Sarah A. Hoyt and Brenda Cooper, features contemporary space opera with a classic feel. 13 reprints, 10 new stories, great artwork from Paul Pedersen, an Artists Of The Future Winner, this will also be my first hardback release when it’s published in November–launched at OryCon–provided we fund.

As you can see from the artwork, and the very cool video, this story is about the dreams we all have of rayguns, heroes and heroines, space ships and more. And these stories will take you into that warm, fuzzy dreamscape again and again. All of the stories are fun and provide a nice variety. And I haven’t even seen what our awesome headliners have come up with yet. But with three Star Trek writers, a Star Wars writer, award winners, and fans of space opera, I sure can’t wait to read it. You can sponsor us and preorder everything from signed copies, ebooks, hardbacks, and tradepaperbacks, to t-shirts and a trip to OryCon for the launch. So be sure and check out the Kickstarter! Thanks for helping make dreams possible. All writers will be paid pro-rates. And I receive pro compensation as editor of my third anthology project, one of three for 2013.

Meanwhile check out the Kickstarter and the awesome video here, and thanks for your support!


BTS Author PhotoBryan Thomas Schmidt is the editor of Blue Shift Magazine and an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince (2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exoduswill appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends from Delabarre Publishing.  His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun for Fairwood Press (July 2013), headlined by Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress, and Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age for Every Day Publishing (November 2013). He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

 

 

Sprunk-Schmidt Star Wars Rewatch: Our Wishes For Future Star Wars

Star Wars happy holidaysBTS: Jon, this has been a fun discussion. It’s reminded me of so many reasons why I like Star Wars, and has me mire excited than ever at the prospect of more.  When Disney made their announcement a few weeks back, I was surprised and reticent, but done well, this could be an amazing opportunity for fans. What are some things you’d like to see in future films?

JS: I want any new films to both honor the older films (esp. the original trilogy) — WITHOUT copying them (i.e., stop reusing the same exact dialogue quips) — and reach for something new. One good thing that the prequel movies did was they introduced new depth to the Jedi-Sith conflict. I’d like to see Jedi (and Sith) presented in some new, interesting ways. I want the new directors/writers to reach for new types of characters. Stop using the “scoundrel, bounty hunter, princess, droid sidekick” archtypes. Those only worked in the originals because they were fresh takes on old standbys. Develop new characters and character types. I’d really love a series of films based on Tim Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy, but I don’t think we will.

BTS: It’s interesting to hear you mention good things the prequels did. It seems people are split on them. Old school trilogy fans tend to hate them for lacking the true spirit. Fans who had their first experience with them often call them superior for their special effects, etc. I thought the acting and character development and over reliance on CGI were their prime weaknesses. I liked the action and some of the new characters. I enjoyed the new settings and ships a lot as well. Were there other things you thought they did well? (We’ll get to the bad more after).

JS: I thought the fight scenes, especially the duel between Darth Maul and Obi-Wan/Qui-Gon, and then Yoda versus Palpatine and Obi-Wan versus Anakin in the third movie. Most of the space battles were also good. Ian McDiarmid’s performance as Palpatine was excellent, and I also enjoyed Liam Nielson and Ewan McGregor. Some of the CGI was beautiful. Other than those things, I wasn’t much of a fan.
BTS: McDiarmid, Neeson, McGregor, Portman and Jackson all didn’t need the hand holding that other actors did and did their best to rise above the weaknesses and, thus, stood out. I enjoyed the underwater sequence and the water planet concept. I really like the Council scenes on Coruscant and having the chance to see so many diverse creatures. The Jedi HQ and clone stuff interested me as well. Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christiansen were two big weaknesses. Sadly, I’ve seen Christiansen give decent performances elsewhere with director’s guidance. The films would have been much better with a director who guided the actors more. AND then there’s Jar Jar…
JS: I didn’t particularly like either incarnation of Anakin. Young Ani (ugh, that nickname… “Ani! Ani!”) was nice enough, but Lucas wasted the entire first movie by portraying Anakin as a young kid. I didn’t care one bit about his miraculous conception, his slave status, his pod race, or his crush on Amidala (and her eventual attraction to him is a little weird). And don’t get me started on his piloting of a starfighter at the climax–that was the height of absurdity. Then in the second movie we get Petulant Teenage Anikan. That was slightly better because at least his theatrics tied in somewhat with the plot, but it was still annoying as hell. I refuse to believe that Darth Vader came out of a whiny kid with a ponytail. Now, a brooding, quiet, loner kid? Yeah, that would make some sense. It kills me to say this, but the Harry Potter movies did it better, portraying young Voldemort as a dark, scary kid. That’s what the movies needed. Alas, Lucas has become addicted to candyland storytelling. I could almost stand Anakin in the third movie. The hair was a little 80s’ glam for me, but he finally came to posses a little of the Vader swagger, and his relationship with Obi-Wan started to take on a more realistic quality. As for Jar-Jar, I feel bad for the actor who played him, but it was one of the worst character choices in film history. At least Lucas started to realize his mistake and cut back on Jar-Jar’s screen time. What really makes me ill is that the prequel movies could have been good. The basic premise–the evolution of Vader–was powerful. Lucas just failed in the execution of major parts of those movies.
BTS: Agreed. They could have and should have been better. And I think we see him start to crack a bit with Return Of The Jedi, with Ewoks and other things that seem to have been part of the failure of those latter films. Empire, being directed by someone else, was still quite strong. And the first film, he’d done so many drafts and had so much input from studio, his now ex-wife, etc., that it was strong. It’s when we see those influences fade, when Lucas is so big he can do what he wants unchecked that his failures overcome his gifts sadly. I also afree that the Thrawn series would be amazing movies but given the role the original trilogy cast plays in those, and the age of those actors, I don’t see how it would be feasible without major changes. On top of that, they’d have to completely change the Star Wars timeline, unless they want to do the Tron3D aging trick they pulled with Jeff Bridges, and, even then, Hamill and Fisher would have to lose some serious weight to pass. But there are tons of storylines they can do, including something with their kids and other characters introduced later in the Expanded Universe, and I think they’d be wise to consider it. There’s a lot of mythology to build on that’s well established and well thought out and already existing and liked by fans. Why not use that stuff? I just hope they don’t pull a JJ Abrams-Star Trek scenario.
JS: Wow, you are reading my mind. I agree SOOOOOOOOOOOOO much with what you just said. Part of me wants the future movies to break away from the Skywalker and Solo families, but I understand that they could be a useful tether to the past films if handled properly. For instance, if Han and Leia’s kids kept muttering Han’s dialogue lines from the original movies (“I can arrange that! He could use a good kiss!”), I will leave the theater. Generational films/series require a deft touch that, frankly, Lucas did not possess. The new films need to be more than just enhanced-CGI versions of the previous movies. Entirely new themes and story arcs. New approaches to the Force–no midichlorians, ffs.
BTS: GEORGE, “some people are stronger in the Force” was an acceptable explanation for decades. We didn’t need you to dig deeper. *shakes head* Mid-chlorioans, my ass…. Sorry, I digress. But hey, the actors are older. I have no desire to see Leia in a bikini at middle age, and watching Han and Luke cough and grab their jiggling bellies mid-fight as two middle aged men running around would do, also has little appeal. On the other hand, give me Luke as Master of a Jedi Academy, and I’d be all over that. Han as negotiator and Leia and stateswoman also are perfect. They can still play key leadership roles without having to be the center of the action now. There’s an opportunity to recapture their personalities and the fun of their characters and use that bolster the introduction of new characters. If Star Wars as a franchise is going to have a future, they have to do that well, I think.JS: I think (hope) that’s what Disney has in mind, to allow those actors to come back in cameo roles, although they could definitely be more substantial roles if couched properly, as you said. They could also make movies about other events. The galaxy is a huge place with millions (if not billions) of inhabited worlds. What was everyone else doing while Luke and his friends battled the second Death Star? A series of films could carve out another sector of space where the war was being fought by different people, and how they react when the emperor is defeated. A galaxy of warlords–some imperial, others Alliance, and a bunch out for themselves–battling for control of the old empire is rich with possibilities.

BTS: Absolutely. I’d love to see other planets and races. This is a chance, for example, to make Lando no longer the only non-white in that era. Obviously, they had one in Amadala’s service as well as Mace in the prequels, but surely there are whole planets of humans with varied racial profiles, not to mention aliens, etc. And they could also explore some of the aliens we’ve already met more in depth such as Chewbacca, etc. I can imagine humorous scenarios with Han training pilots and getting annoyed with a cocky student and a little competition developing, etc. I also think they need to come up with a solid villain again. Vader is gone. And so is Palpatine. Maybe competing factions, maybe they can find new stories involving Thrawn somehow.
JS: I love those suggestions. I hope that someone at Disney is thinking the same way. This franchise has limitless potential. And the choice of villain, as in most action-adventure films, is key. They need a solid idea, and talented actors to pull it off. We could use a Heath Ledger’s Joker to up the ante.
BTS: A high caliber performance, yes. The darkness of the Batman films would spoil Star Wars, in my opinion. They have always had a hopeful lightness even at their darkness moments, unlike the Nolan films, and I think that’s part of the charm and should be preserved. I also think there’s an opportunity to introduce conflicting elements. With the Emperor and his lead henchman dead, why wouldn’t competing forces arise to threaten the Empire’s power? The Hutts, perhaps, or the Corporate Sector Authority as set forward in the Daley Han books. Surely there are plenty of options which could be explored to keep it more interesting. I’d also like to see them use the same level of humor. They can exploit the aging heroes and how age affects their ability to join the action as Lethal Weapon did so well, but they can also exploit the generational differences with new characters and even the cross cultural clashes inevitable with aliens.
JS: Yes, keep the charm of the franchise (lightsaber duels, starship battles, seat-of-the-pants heroics, etc…) and also strive to tell new stories. I think that’s the recipe for success. They could even do multiple film series at the same time, like the EU book series. I’m fine with a series of films that is tilted more Young Adult as long as there is also one or more series aimed at me, the aging SW nut who fell in love with the franchise back in ’77, too.
BTS: One of my writing goals, silly as it may sound, is to write a Star Wars tie-in. Just once, I want to play in that sandbox. I have several ideas but I know they’re assigned. My dream would be to do something with Han Solo in his later years, post-Chewie’s death (a storyline I don’t like but which has been done and offers great dramatic possibilities for the character nonetheless) where he takes in a young kid as apprentice. Have you ever thought of writing a tie-in novel?
JS: There aren’t many franchises for which I’d be willing to write a tie-in, but Star Wars is one of them. I don’t have any specific stories in mind, but I’m sure I could come up with a few ideas if given the chance. But my dream job (in addition to my writing) would be quality control for all future Star Wars movies. Just let me sit in during the storyboarding, the casting, the filming, and the editing and I could prevent so many problems from getting made in the first place. If we’re talking dreams-that-will-never-come-true, I’d love to tear apart the prequel movies and remake them from scratch.
BTS: I’d like to erase memory of them from my head for good and wait for your versions, sir. Heh, I’d give anything to script one of them but since my film school and screenwriting days are behind me, I consider that a “never going to happen” thing. But yeah, consulting would be a blast. We’d have a long line to wait in, though, I’d guess.  I’m glad we took time to revisit this though, Jon. And I think it’s a good reminder why we love them so much and how much they’ve affected us and inspired our work and our storytelling. Any fina thoughts as we close this out?

JS: I hope the Star Wars franchise enjoys a long life of more films, books, comics, and memorabilia. It’s a part of our national identity and it has served as a major influence in my life.

BTS: Well, I don’t know how I could say it any better than that, so, thanks for sharing this journey with us and Happy Holidays. We wish you a wonderful 2013 to come!

Intro & Invitation: http://bryanthomasschmidt.net/2012/11/11/announcing-the-sprunk-schmidt-star-wars-original-trilogy-rewatch-youre-invited/

A New Hope: http://jonsprunk.blogspot.com/2012/11/hello-friends-today-i-have-special-treat.html

Empire Strikes Back: http://bryanthomasschmidt.net/2012/11/26/sprunk-schmidt-original-trilogy-rewatch-empire-strikes-back/

Return Of The Jedi: http://jonsprunk.blogspot.com/2012/12/star-wars-discussion-iii.html

 

About Us:

Jon Sprunk grew up in central Pennsylvania, the eldest of four and attended Lock Haven University. He graduated with a B.A. in English in 1992. After his disastrous first novel failed to find a publisher, he sought gainful employment. Finally, after many more rejections and twists and turns of life, he joined Pennwriters and attended their annual conference in 2004. His short fiction has appeared in Cloaked in Shadow: Dark Tales of ElvesDreams & Visions #34 andCemetery Moon #4. In June 2009, he signed a multi-book contract with Pyr Books by whom his Shadow Trilogy dark fantasy series have been published. He can be found on twitter as @jsprunk70, on Facebook and via his website athttp://jonsprunk.com/.

 

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince(2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012.  His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun for Fairwood Press, headlined by Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress, a Ray Gun Revival Best Of Collection for Every Day Publishing and World Encounters and Space & Shadows: SpecNoir with coeditor John Helfers, all forthcoming. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

A Triumph Over Tragedy Story Preview: Duncan Derring

Recently, I had a first,  when my humorous Science Fiction story, Duncan Derring & The Call Of The Lady Luck, was picked up by Triumph Over Tragedy, R.T. Kaelin’s brilliant project to raise funds for the Red Cross’ Hurricane Sandy. Featuring stories from the likes of Robert Silverberg, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Michael Stackpole, Timothy Zahn, Elizabeth Bear and many more, it’s an honor to have my name included. The e-anthology will release near the end of 2012 and be available for a limited time. All stories are donated and so is editing time by Kaelin, Sarah Chorn, Rob Bedford and myself. The goal is to raise $10,000 for the Red Cross. You can participate and get a copy of this fine anthology for just $7 here.  For a full list of contributors, see the Goodreads listing here. While some writers offered reprints, many of the stories are brand new. I highly recommend getting a copy. You can learn more on Science Fiction &  Fantasy Writer’s Chat Wednesday, December 27th at 9 p.m. ET, when Kaelin, Chorn and others come on to talk about the project.

Meanwhile, I thought I’d give you a preview of my story. This tale also appeared in print in Wandering Weeds: Tales Of Rabid Vegetation edited by Frances Pauli & Jaleta Clegg. You can read about that on Goodreads here. Besides it being the first time I’ve shared a Table Of Contents with my favorite writer of all time, Silverberg, and had a story in a charity anthology, it’s also the first time one of my stories has been published twice, and I’m glad Duncan gets a chance to reach a wider audience, as I’m hoping this is the first in a series of adventures for him.

I hope you enjoy this snippet of Duncan’s first adventure. Inspired by love of pulp characters and Mike Resnick’s Catostrophe Baker and Lucifer Jones tales. And please support Triumph Over Tragedy.

 

DUNCAN DERRING AND THE CALL OF THE LADY LUCK
by

Bryan Thomas Schmidt

T

 he mission sounded simple: head out to the edge of the solar system and save the Princess Line’s Lady Luck from the Andromedan tumbleweeds. It was the sort of mission I was made for, and I fully expected to wrap her up in less than a day and be on my way. For once, my expectations were wildly out of synch with reality. Happens to everyone sometime, I suppose.

Duncan Derring, weapons and demolitions expert—what do you mean you never heard of me? Where have you been? It wasn’t exactly the kind of profession you’d expect tourism ventures to call upon, I know, but the galaxy held all kinds of odd dangers for these passenger ships. They weren’t outfitted with any weapons and only the barest sorts of shields. In fact, if I’d been the one hired to approve the design, they never would have made it out of concept. But no one asked me.

The Lady Luck was one of the newer liners, “a five star resort amongst the stars,” the brochures said, and they weren’t talking about the kind of stars you see in movies. She could carry a load of up to five thousand passengers, not counting certain odd-sized alien species, and provided all the dining and entertainment options anyone could imagine. She contained twenty-seven restaurants, eighteen bars, ten nightclubs, eight ballrooms, thirty-five shops, fifteen cinemas, and any number of other recreational and entertainment facilities. If I hadn’t been aboard a liner once myself, I’d have thought it absurd, but Princess Ltd. specialized in making absurdities reality.

I’d never seen the Andromedan Tumbleweeds, although I’d heard a lot about them, of course. Kinda goes without saying that, in my profession, you stay abreast of the latest developments. Floating in deep space between Neptune and Uranus, the tumbleweeds were freshly arrived from Andromeda, where the locals tired of the toll they took on ships and planets and used a fleet’s worth of force fields to drag them to the edge of their solar system and push them off on us. How nice of them, you might think, and you’d be right, but then you don’t know the Andromedans. No one ever called the Andromedans nice.

It took about two days at full on ultra-light engines to make the journey from my previous assignment, Ganymede Colony just off Jupiter. Why anyone had wanted to build resort towns in the Galileans was beyond me, but some people like looking at cool, gaseous masses, I guess. I certainly prefer them to some warm gaseous masses I’ve known. I was able to set the nav computer to auto for much of the route and catch some much-needed sleep. Despite my distaste for the location, the Ganymede Colony was a busy place and sleep had been more of a rarity than I’m used to. The custom-made feather mattress I’d installed in my quarters molded itself to the contours of my body as I slept. It took three tries and its sexiest feminine voice for the nav computer to awaken me. I warmed quickly as the heaters in my sleep pod brought my body temperature to normal and the blood raced through my veins again.

Yawning, I sat up, rubbing at the aches in my neck as I put my feet on the cold deck. The sensation got me moving faster as I slid out of my sleep jumpsuit and began strapping on my demolitions gear. At least as much of it as I could and still move around with speed and conduct ship’s business. You have to be ready to jump at a moment’s notice in this business, for both economic and literal survival, and the better prepared you were, the more successful you’d be.

As the Trini, short for Trinitrotoluene—aka TNT—slipped out of hyperspace, I found myself immediately at the heart of the problem. Until I’d encountered her, I would have never thought a nav computer could be programmed with a sense of humor. I figured a jealous woman of some sort must be behind her, because she was always pulling this sort of thing on me, and for once, I wasn’t in the mood. As accustomed as I am to dangerous situations, the sight of three tumbleweeds rotating seeming inches from my cockpit view screen stopped my heart.

I requested a location on the Lady Luck herself and found her frozen in space just inside the edge of the field. The report said she’d come upon the tumbleweeds unexpectedly and figured staying put and keeping pace was her only chance. Given the tumbleweeds’ propensity for random changes in direction with the slightest shift in gravitation, I’d say the Lady Luck lived up to her name. The readings my computer took upon arrival showed little influence from planetary gravitation at that particular moment. It was enough to make me relax again, which would turn out to be a regrettable mistake.

As I rotated the Trini and took in the view, I noted damages on the Lady Luck’s hull from unlucky encounters with a few of the surrounding tumbleweeds. The fact the liner was still functional and in one piece indicated the impacts had deflected the offending tumbleweeds away without disturbing any others. Such a disturbance would probably have caused a sizable enough chain reaction that my mission would have been pointless.

The Lady Luck hailed me as soon as I arrived. “Lady Luck Liner calling craft Trini,” the comm officer said in that annoying formal style they have.

“Yeah, I’m here,” I responded. “Just checking out the damages.”

“None necessitating more than a change of five thousand shorts so far,” she said. The Lady Luck had full on laundry facilities, too, so I figured that didn’t pose them much of a problem.

“How is it you came to be inside the field?” I asked, thinking only an idiot could have made such a colossal blunder.

“We were at full stop, under night crew. The weeds came upon us faster than we could bring her up to full and take evasives,” the Captain answered. “Our nav computer malfunctioned and the scanners read them as small debris.”

Given my own experience with nav computers, I didn’t bother to delve any further. When they weren’t in motion, the tumbleweeds always appeared smaller than their actual size to scanners. Pilots relied on nav charts and computers to pinpoint their location when they travelled this part of the system. But they always verified their presence with human eyes.

“Can you back her out the way you came in?”

“It’s not so easy to move a one hundred thousand ton liner,” the Captain said. “It’s a bit like backing Saturn through one of her rings. We don’t have the maneuverability. Backing up’s rarely called for.”

I checked my computer’s readings again. “For the moment, it appears you got lucky, but when the field reaches the influence of Neptune’s gravity, it could change in a hurry.”

“Can you try and have us out before then?” the Captain replied, as if I needed some amateur questioning my competence for the mission. But the thought of four thousand five hundred passengers suffering for the ignorance of their crew wasn’t something I could live with, so I set about my calculations for clearing them a path.

As I flew along the field’s edge, it became obvious I’d have to go in manually and set the explosives. My jetpack was quicker and I a far smaller target than my ship. The odds I would avoid entanglements with any of the weeds would greatly increase if I went alone. The catch was that I hadn’t used my pack in over a year and never in a situation rife with the risks I’d face here. All it would take is one wrong move, one wrong placement of an explosive, or one disturbance of the field to send the weeds into chaos, haphazardly spinning like their Earthen namesakes across space, colliding with each other or anything else in their way.

To complicate things further, Neptune’s gravitation was coming into range. Planetary gravity started influencing objects millions of kilometers out. On paper, the figures looked ridiculous but this wasn’t on paper. Even a slight gravitational pull could send the tumbleweeds into chaotic motion, which would be the end of the Lady Luck, the Trini, and me.

Finishing my calculations with due speed but proper care, I slipped into my suit and jetted out the Trini’s passenger airlock, making my way into the field. The tumbleweeds were even more intimidating up close than they had been through the Trini’s ports. The temperature inside my suit rose as adrenaline coursed through my veins. Spying my first target, I used the suit’s jets to swing left and approach, taking care not to lose control or come in too fast.

I reversed my jets’ thrust, slowing my momentum as I reached each tumbleweed’s surface. Then I could set each charge and use my boots to push free before jetting off to the next target. Firing the jets too close might start the weeds spinning. The Trini’s calculations determined it would take twenty-two charges to both clear a path for the liner and deflect nearby tumbleweeds away from the Lady Luck. My plan included setting five more just in case something went wrong.

Thanks to my experience and skill, the execution came off without a hitch. As I released the last charge and clicked the activation button, ready to push off and head back to my ship, a motion over my right shoulder drew my attention. A door was opening on the Lady Luck. It appeared to be a garbage chute.

I punched the button on my radio. “Captain, don’t jettison anything, until you’ve cleared the field!”

But I was too late.

Continued in Triumph Over Tragedy.


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the editor of Blue Shift Magazine and an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince (2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exoduswill appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends(forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012.  His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun for Fairwood Press (July 2013), headlined by Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress, and Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age for Every Day Publishing (November 2013). He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

A New 5-star Review for Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales 6 edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

A new 5-star review for Space Battes: Full Throttle Space Tales 6 from Goodreads:
Eric Townsend rated it 5 of 5 stars false
Space Battles is a collection of 17 different short stories centered on, you guessed it, space battles. They each have their own unique way of displaying a battle and include anything from one-on-one gun fights, to dogfights between single ships, to even full scale assaults on battle cruisers. Space Battles has a good mix of female and male characters, and generally speaking the women kick even more tail than their male counterparts, a refreshing thing to see especially in this genre. In Space Battles you will find mixtures of humor, a wide variety of sub-genres such as Space Opera and Military Science Fiction, as well as all the action you can handle and more. You will find sentient spacecrafts and Amish space truckers, that’s right I said Amish which are shown in a way you could never imagine! There is a little something in Space Battles for everyone.The character depth is excellent despite the fact that the average length of the stories is about 15 pages or so, quite an achievement when you consider that they have to pack these short stories with as much action as you can handle as well. You have some stories that will make you laugh such as The Thirteens by Gene Mederos where a particular incident involving slippers had me in a fit of giggles. Others will make you appreciate those in the military as admirals valiantly fight to save their ship, and their way of life such as in Like So Much Refuse by Simon C. Larter. Some examine the will to live and the will to die such as in Never Look Back by Grace Bridges. I was hardly able to set the book down as each new story sent adrenaline into my system.

If you enjoy anything in the realm of science fiction this is a book I highly recommend you go out and get. The writing is excellent and if battles themselves are your thing, regardless of genre, than this book will suit your fancy just fine as well. Honestly if you just want some quick reads that are done very well Space Battles is a good choice. The characters do not suffer for the short length of the stories, even in Bait and Switch by Jaleta Clegg which is a mere eight pages! Obviously if you have read this far you can tell I thoroughly enjoyed Space Battles. I really don’t have any complaints.

Sprunk-Schmidt Original Trilogy Rewatch: Empire Strikes Back

A couple weeks back my buddy and fellow author Jon Sprunk and I decided the time had come to revisit our childhoods and rewatch the original Star Wars movies that changed our lives. Knowing other fans might enjoy sharing the experience and learning how it’s influenced our writing, etc., we decided to discuss it on our blogs. You can find previous posts here, followed by the latest–a discussion of “The Empire Strikes Back.

Intro & Invitation: http://bryanthomasschmidt.net/2012/11/11/announcing-the-sprunk-schmidt-star-wars-original-trilogy-rewatch-youre-invited/

A New Hope: http://jonsprunk.blogspot.com/2012/11/hello-friends-today-i-have-special-treat.html

Bryan Thomas Schmidt: So Jon, you said watching Empire you found it to be better than you remembered. Give us some thoughts on that, please.

Jon Sprunk: Well, Empire is my favorite movie of the trilogy, and watching it again after a few years just reinforced that opinion. For one, most movie sequels are disappointing, but in Empire Lucas and Kershner flip the script on us. The imperials, via Vader, are the driving force in most of the scenes. For a kid (and an adult) who idolized Vader, that is a powerful device. I really loved the Dagobah scenes. Luke’s training is handled so deftly in scenes that are varied and well-timed that it feels like he’s actually learning something rather than an 80’s-style “training” montage to crappy music. We get more information about the Force, versed in eastern philosophical tennants, which just rings true. In fact, the entire concept of the Force always struck me as elegant–simple enough for a child to grasp, yet full of deeper meanings and symbolism. Also, watching Empire on DVD on a good television reminded how well these movies hold up, visually. Bespin city is just gorgeous.

BTS: And here’s where we diverge. I have waivered back and forth over the years about whether Empire or A New Hope was my favorite. This viewing leaves me feeling that A New Hope is a better film. For one, it’s far more imminently quotable. It’s also more hopeful and encouraging. I found Empire staler on this rewatch, maybe because I’ve rewatched it so often. I have never been a Yoda fan. Whereas you enjoy the training scenes, I found them the most frustrating part of the film. For me, the heart of Empire is the Leia-Han story and the furtherance of Vader’s journey. Luke’s takes second fiddle and is far less interesting. I found Yoda barely more tolerable than Jar Jar. Although, to be fair, in films where Yoda has appeared after this one, I found him easier to stomach. The visuals do hold up impressively. The battle scenes, etc. are amazing. The scenes with the ice monster and tauntauns a bit less so, given what technology since Jurassic Park can do but still, they pulled off amazing stuff considering when they were made. Favorite moments?

JS: The Battle of Hoth is one of my favorite battle scenes of all time. The Falcon’s plunge into the asteroid field–pure gold. I’m so glad they were able to make the ship more agile and evasive, because watching it fly through the asteroids is poetry in motion. I still wonder, though, why Leia couldn’t have been on one of the laser cannons, firing back at the TIE fighters. The scene where Luke enters the evil cave on Dagobah is haunting (and a good foreshadowing of his later duel with Vader). And, of course, the Luke-Vader duel. I still remember seeing it in the theater for the first time and freaking out when Vader reveals he is Luke’s father.

BTS: I love the battle of Hoth. I enjoy the chase scenes through the asteroid. The Bespin escape is a lot of fun as is the freezing Han scene. I also love the Vader scenes with his men, who are so ever expendable. And I too like that Vader-Luke duel in the cave and later the Vader reveal. There are some really great scenes. But I definitely enjoy the action scenes more than the drill training Yoda sequence generally. I also enjoyed the reveal of the Emperor this time around. Did anything disappoint or turn out different than you’d remembered it?

JS: Not too much. Yoda’s animations looked low-tech, of course, but that’s because I’m jaded with the current CGI capabilities. I found the Han-Leia “angry romance” angle a little juvenile in the beginning, but they got to where they needed to be at the end.

BTS: I actually enjoy their banter. It provided some of the best lines and the right amount of tension breaking/escalating humor for me. I really enjoyed the whole ice planet angle, much as I did with the BSG Ice Planet episodes in 1979, some of my favorites. The ice speeders, the Imperial Walkers, the melting in Leia’s chambers, lots of cool new stuff. Also a fun cameo from Cliff Clavin actor John Ratzenberger as the chief Rebel officer during the part where Han discovers Luke is missing.

JS: “Then I’ll see you in Hell!” Aye, I agree. Hoth was a wonderful start to the movie in many aspects. Kershner managed to squeeze in a budding love affair, Luke’s growing powers and new training goal (Dagobah), an escalation of the war (Imperial Walkers ftw!), brought back Obi-Wan for some sage advice… And I think Bespin was a good ending point for the middle film.

BTS: That’s a good point, actually.  Middle film. One thing Empire does very well structurally which very definitely influenced me is be a middle chapter. At the end of A New Hope, it feels like closure. Despite the fact Darth Vader spins off into space alive, the Death Star is destroyed, the Rebels have won, our heroes are rewarded. Sure, there are enough seeds and loose ends for us to believe that there’s more we can look forward to, but also it’s enough of an ending that if the film had not been as successful, it could have stood alone fairly well. I really modeled my Davi Rhii series structurally after that. The first book, The Worker Prince, stands alone, despite having villains still alive and loose ends. But the second chapters tend to be harder. With a second movie, you expect more. You expect it to top the first in many ways–emotional arcs, character development, intensity, stakes, etc. But you also expect it to set up future possibilities, most of the time. Like any trilogy, it becomes a challenge then to make such a film and have it truly feel like it has an ending. Empire has all of these aspects–character development in spades, intensity in its darker feel, stakes as Vader goes unchained off to hunt like a madman with no Tarkin to reign him in, etc. But it ends on a cliffhanger and yet feels complete. Because by the end of the journey, it’s almost like so much has happened that we need to come up for air. OMG, Vader is Luke’s father? OMG, Han is frozen in carbonite? OMG, Leia and Han? What about Leia and Luke? etc. Despite the fact we are dying to know what happens next, we feel a sense of the chapter ending and a natural conclusion, even though the story very much goes on. Storytellers can learn a great deal from that.

JS: I couldn’t agree more. Empire is everything I hope my second books could be, take the best parts of the first chapter and build on them in a meaningful way, increasing the stakes while making us care more. And Walkers. And the Super Imperial Star Destroyer. One thing I noticed was that everything was a little bit slicker in the second movie. The sets were more polished, and even the actors were better groomed.

BTS: It’s true. Everyone was more comfortable and prepared. The first movie was a fly by the seat of your paints independent movie with low expectations, the second movie was the sequel to one of the greatest hits in box office history with the highest expectations and the pressure to go with it, so they were extra prepared and also benefitted from everything done and learned for the first film, just as I hope each subsequent book shows author growth learned from prior books.

I also think that from storytelling craft there was growth. They had a lot of back history worked out but Lucas brought on too top notch writers in Leigh Brackett, already a scifi and screenwriting legend at that point, and Lawrence Kasdan, a very smart up and comer. They surely demanded he figure things out that he’d winged before as did the director and the actors. Having read the behind the scenes making of paperback, I know some things were worked out on set as actors like Harrison Ford forced clarifications and changes. Other things had to be worked out with a third movie in mind, since Lucas now knew there’d be one coming. So he was able to complicate and add depth and complications to backstory and character arcs he didn’t bother with or need for A New Hope but which laid ground work and took the characters in directions to allow for a much stronger follow up.

JS: Yes, there is definitely much less making stuff up on the fly in the second and third movies. It’s interesting because I understand the need to throw everything into a first movie (book) because you never know if there’s actually going to be a second or third. But then there is, and you have to figure out some things that you winged or left mysterious in the first installment.

BTS: Exactly. Let’s talk about characters a bit. Empire introduced some important and less so new characters, whom we will see again. Admiral Piett, Boba Fett, Yoda, and Lando Calrissian, most significantly.  I personally favor Lando and Boba Fett amongst these, because although he’s a small character, Boba Fett is one of those unpredictable menacing, mysterious badass characters that just keeps you guessing, and Lando fills in backstory for Han in many ways and also, it’s about time they had a major black character. Shouldn’t have taken this long. I love the way Han and Lando are parallel scoundrels yet, whereas Han is all rough edges and seat of the pants, Lando is smooth and refined. Who’s your favorite of these and why?

JS: I wish I liked Yoda more, but I’m not a big fan of puppets in live-action movies (nor most CGI ones, either. Gollum being the notable exception). I guess I’d say Boba Feet for the same reason, even though he goes out like a punk in Return. Lando is a good character, but I think he’d make a better spinoff hero on his own. I never really bought into him becoming a beacon of the Alliance. I think he would have been better served in his own element, fighting the good fight among the scum and villainy of the galaxy’s underworld. Piett… meh. Give me Grand Admiral Thrawn any day.

BTS: LOL Well, if Thrawn had faced off Vader that would have been REALLY interesting. I’d like to see that cage match. Yeah, most of the Imperial officers don’t show any backbone in dealing with Vader after the few Council members with Tarkin in A New Hope, Vader just runs rampant. But then, given his power and influence and ability to choke people, and, well, “the Emperor is not as forgiving as I am,” I’d say life expectancy put a damper on bravery and confidence. Favorite new set pieces/vehicles? The Imperial Walkers are pretty damn cool, although I like the mini-walkers in Return better, myself. I also like the Bespin fighters and the Hoth snow speeders. But my favorite new set pieces are probably Bespin and the Hoth base.

JS: Well, the Millennium Falcon isn’t a new set piece, but it acts differently in this movie. I already mentioned how it’s lightyears more maneuverable, but also it has a stronger subplot arc of its own (the malfunctioning hyperdrive). After that, I liked Bespin (Cloud City) a lot, especially the contrasts between the gorgeous white-and-silver upper city and the dark/gloomy undercity where Luke fights Vader (a second Cave!).

BTS: Yes and the Falcon is always one of my favorites and the one Star Wars toy I never had and still lust after a bit. Sigh. I could make it manuever… heh… From a storytelling perspective, another thing that’s interesting is the way Lucas has woven the subplots and majors together. At the beginning, Vader is hunting the Rebels for Luke. That’s the overarching storyline. Vader is hunting Luke throughout. Then they set up Han-Leia sexual tension that wasn’t as direct in A New Hope but was hinted at by the Falcon cockpit scene where Luke gets jealous when Han asks “Do you think a guy like me and…” That storyline begins with Han daring her to admit her feelings and her denial but then they are thrust together twice, first by fear for Luke out in the cold and then when Han takes her aboard the Falcon to flee. Now they have to deal with each other and their storyline is embossed with a chase through asteroids by the Empire, and then the Bespin visit. The third major plotline is Luke’s quest to be a Jedi and get training from Obiwan’s Jedi trainer, Yoda, which leads him to flee to Dagobah instead of rendezvous with the fleet. With the exception of Luke’s training, all three plots are intertwined throughout, but even at training, there is a sense of inevitability that Luke must face Vader, as evidenced in the cave scene and later when he goes to rescue his friends, bringing them all together again, in a sense. It’s very smart writing and crafting. They manage to pull it off while keeping up an intense pace, not easy to do.

JS: Quite right. And Empire is the first time we see the Emperor (well, a holo-image of him). This sets up the third movie, of course, and gives us a deeper insight into the machinations of the empire. It’s important to know that the Emperor places such high stock on a single person (Luke), and firmly entrenches the idea that the battle between the Light and Dark sides of the Force is just as important, if not more so, than the war between the Alliance and Empire. Then there is Yoda’s line when Luke leaves Dagobah. Obi-Wan says there goes our last hope, and Yoda replies, “No, there is another.” That one line haunted me until the third movie came out, a powerful bit of foreshadowing.

BTS:  Yes, and they paid it off nicely which we’ll discuss in Return. I think overall, if I had to sum up Empire, it’s a maturer Star Wars chapter in many ways than either of the others. In Return, Lucas used Ewoks to return to a level of childlikeness that many fans dislike but also that took bite out of the darker aspects, but we don’t see that here. Here the dark overhanging the entire story is a constant. Jeopardy is the watch word throughout: from the jeapordy of the Rebels as the Empire finds them again, to Han and Leia fleeing Vader, to the dark inevitability of Luke’s face off with Vader, and then, “I am your father” with Luke escaping, sans hand, but Han off with Boba Fett. Never in the entire film are we not on the edge of our seats wondering how one or more of our heroes will survive. That lends to pacing and tension but also to a less hopeful spirit than the first film in many ways. And speaking of, “I am your father,” we haven’t talked about big reveals yet. What were your big “Wow” moments?

JS: When Luke lost his hand to Vader, that was a pretty big surprise back when I saw the movie the first time because I had grown accustomed to the idea that the heroes would emerge unscathed from their adventures, and that moment introduced a hint of true mortality which had previously been reserved for nameless stormtroopers and rebel soldiers. Seeing the Emperor for the first time was also big. I still get chills when Yoda lifts the X-Wing out of the swamp. That is why you fail, indeed. Then the entire sequence from when Luke lands in Bespin, shoots at Fett, and then fights Vader is spectacular.

BTS: I agree about the hand and the significance of it, but the symbolism of his replacement hand looking like Vader’s after the “father” revelation also was shocking. If you’d harbored doubts before, then that moment, you just knew it had to be true.  I think the mortality of Han was brought into question as well. And we were left hanging. I think the mortality of Han was brought into question as well. And we were left hanging. The X-Wing thing was huge. I also think the revelation of Darth as being humbled by anyone was big. It humanized him as well as reminding us that maybe he wasn’t the darkest evil possible because the Emperor was worse or might be. Also, that Ben could still appear and was still alive in another realm was a really important revelation which became far more important in the next film and prequel trilogy. So that was a big moment. I also think the Han-Leia thing was a bit startling at the time because we were kinda rooting for Luke to get the girl in A New Hope and now he had other goals and needs. But it sure made it easier to transition to the revelations of the next film.

Well, it’s almost time for the third film. I actually tracked down copies of the theatrical releases on DVD and am going to rewatch those for the first time in decades. That’ll be interesting. Meanwhile, any final thoughts  on Empire?

JS: My final thought is that I loved it. Empire is possibly my favorite movie of all time. Part of that is surely nostalgia, but part is also due to its importance in the trilogy– the farmboy enters a larger world and faces his enemy on near-equal footing, the scoundrel and the princess find strength in each other, and Vader comes to the forefront as the primary antagonist.

BTS: I still can’t get over the part where you said Vader was your hero growing up, but perhaps if you cry at the end of the next film we can unpack that. Okay, all, we’ll be back next week to discuss Return Of The Jedi. Our first discussions can be found here: 

Intro & Invitation: http://bryanthomasschmidt.net/2012/11/11/announcing-the-sprunk-schmidt-star-wars-original-trilogy-rewatch-youre-invited/

A New Hope: http://jonsprunk.blogspot.com/2012/11/hello-friends-today-i-have-special-treat.html

About Us:

Jon Sprunk grew up in central Pennsylvania, the eldest of four and attended Lock Haven University. He graduated with a B.A. in English in 1992. After his disastrous first novel failed to find a publisher, he sought gainful employment. Finally, after many more rejections and twists and turns of life, he joined Pennwriters and attended their annual conference in 2004. His short fiction has appeared in Cloaked in Shadow: Dark Tales of ElvesDreams & Visions #34 andCemetery Moon #4. In June 2009, he signed a multi-book contract with Pyr Books by whom his Shadow Trilogy dark fantasy series have been published. He can be found on twitter as @jsprunk70, on Facebook and via his website athttp://jonsprunk.com/.

 

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince(2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012.  His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun for Fairwood Press, headlined by Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress, a Ray Gun Revival Best Of Collection for Every Day Publishing and World Encounters and Space & Shadows: SpecNoir with coeditor John Helfers, all forthcoming. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

Announcing Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age Contributors

Here’s the scoop on my latest anthology project:

Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age

 

Edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

 

A collection of best of stories from Ray Gun Revival’s multi-year run combined with new stories from headliners. Ray Gun Revival is all about space opera and golden age science fiction.  A Kickstarter will be running in January and February 2013 to help fund this project. It will be published November 2013 by Every Day Publishing with a launch at OryCon in Portland, Oregon.

Along with classic Raygun Revival reprints, we’ll have new stories from the following headliners:

Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Sarah A. Hoyt, Robin Wayne Bailey, Brenda Cooper, Seanan McGuire, and Allen Steele

We’ll also have new stories from up and comers:

Peter J. Wacks and Keanan Brand along with reprints from headliners Mike Resnick and A.C. Crispin, a story which has never appeared in short form before.

 

Expected Reprint contents are as follows (depending on space):
[Table of Contents Order To Be Determined]

Mike Resnick – Catastrophe Baker & The Ship Who Purred
A.C. Crispin – STARBRIDGE: Twlight World
Milo James Fowler – Captain Quasar & The Insurmountable Barrier of Space Junk
Michael S. Roberts – Sword of Saladin
Michael Merriam – Nor To The Strong
TM Hunter – Ever Dark, An Aston West Tale
Robert Mancebo – Slavers of Ruhn
Alice M. Roelke – The Last, Full Measure
Lou Antonelli – The Silver Dollar Saucer
Paula R. Stiles – Spider On A Sidewalk (Writer’s Of The Future Winner)
Jenny Schwartz – Can Giraffes Change Their Spots?
A.M. Stickel – To The Shores Of Triple, Lee!
Shaun Farrell – Conversion
Jennifer Campbell-Hicks – Malfunction

Cover Art from Writer’s Of The Future Winner Paul Pedersen 

About The Editor:

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the editor of Blue Shift Magazine and an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince (2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exoduswill appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends(forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012.  His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun for Fairwood Press (July 2013), headlined by Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress, and Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age for Every Day Publishing (November 2013). He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

Announcing the Sprunk-Schmidt Star Wars Original Trilogy Rewatch: You’re Invited

The Project: Star Wars Original Trilogy Rewatch

The Hosts: Jon Sprunk & Bryan Thomas Schmidt

The Invitation To You: Rewatch the original trilogy in order, one a week, and join the conversation.

Jon and I are of an age where the release of the original Star Wars: A New Hope to theatres in 1977 remains a seminal moment. Bef0re that, while stories were fascinating, the possibilities had limits. Star Wars: A New Hope changed all that. It opened up possibilities for our imaginations that went beyond anything we’d seen before. From its state of the art special effects to its return to a classic storytelling style, Star Wars captured the public and never let go, launching a franchise, a legend, and an empire.

For me, Bryan, Star Wars infused my sense of what I wanted stories to be and the kind of stories I strive to tell, from witty banter to lots of action and large scale, my own Saga of Davi Rhii has been said to capture “the Star Wars feel,” and my forthcoming epic fantasies surely show that influence as well. I still enjoy a good space opera book, Star Wars tie-ins included. And I still like hopeful stories of good v. evil and the possibility of real heroes one can look up to and admire. One of my all time favorite sequences is still the opening battle of A New Hope, and I also still love the escape from the Death Star and the Battle of Yavin tons. There was something about the coming of age, innocent Luke that still attracts me, and I’ve used similar elements in both my Davi Rhii and Dawning Age novel series as well as some short stories.

Jon says: “I was seven years old when A New Hope arrived in theaters. I saw it seventeen times that summer. Never before had a movie—or any story—affected me so profoundly. The original Star Wars films were basic enough that a child could understand them, with their larger-than-life battles between the Empire and the Rebellion. Yet they were also dynamic enough to enthrall an entire generation of wannabe X-Wing pilots, smuggers, Jedi, and Sith Lords. It wasn’t until I was much older that I started to appreciate these films for their technical aspects, especially A New Hope, which I consider one of the most structurally-perfect movies ever made. There is no doubt that a little bit of Star Wars infuses my writing, no matter the subject or genre.”

So, starting this week, Jon and I will watch Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope and dialogue about it. That post will go up on his blog. We’ll talk about things we like and don’t like and why, how we react to them now as opposed to when we first encountered them as children, influences on our writing, genre, and so much more. You’re invited to join us in comments. We think it’ll be a lot of fun.

So let’s take a trip back to a galaxy far, far away together. We look forward to engaging with you.

Our conversation begins on A New Hope here: http://jonsprunk.blogspot.com/2012/11/hello-friends-today-i-have-special-treat.html

About Us:

Jon Sprunk grew up in central Pennsylvania, the eldest of four and attended Lock Haven University. He graduated with a B.A. in English in 1992. After his disastrous first novel failed to find a publisher, he sought gainful employment. Finally, after many more rejections and twists and turns of life, he joined Pennwriters and attended their annual conference in 2004. His short fiction has appeared in Cloaked in Shadow: Dark Tales of ElvesDreams & Visions #34 andCemetery Moon #4. In June 2009, he signed a multi-book contract with Pyr Books by whom his Shadow Trilogy dark fantasy series have been published. He can be found on twitter as @jsprunk70, on Facebook and via his website athttp://jonsprunk.com/.

 

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince(2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012.  His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun for Fairwood Press, headlined by Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress, a Ray Gun Revival Best Of Collection for Every Day Publishing and World Encounters and Space & Shadows: SpecNoir with coeditor John Helfers, all forthcoming. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

New 4 star Amazon Review for “The Worker Prince”

This review took me to over 20 so the book will show up in more searches now, so that’s a real blessing, too.

4.0 out of 5 stars Gladiator, Moses, Skywalker, Rhii, July 25, 2012
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)

It’s not that often that a science fiction story bordering on space opera comes along that everyone will enjoy reading. That’s what Schmidt accomplishes with the Worker Prince. Revolving around a recent graduate prince who leaves home for his first assignment only to discover his slave-class origins, the story mirrors that of the Biblical Moses in many aspects.

While the main protagonist, Davi Rhii, does not spend 40 years in the dessert, he does wrestle with identity issues and the status quo of an empire built on the back of slave labor. The conflict that ensues is the classic story of one against the many. The result is watching an individual discover his unique place, and this is something most of us long for in our own lives.

Schmidt finds a nice balance between moralizing and adventure in his tale that I thought suited anyone between the ages of 13 and dead.

That being said, it didn’t hit the sweet spot for me. I prefer a little more grime and grit in my space opera. Rhii is a champion and hero more along the lines of Luke Skywalker (without all the whining) and less like Han Solo. But the prose is elegant and well-paced.

If you enjoy young adult literature, coming of age tales, and/or science fiction adventure then you’ll enjoy The Worker Prince. Read it! Review it! Share it!

The Exodus at Halfway (Progress Report)

Artist Mitch Bentley & I celebrate three Davi Rhii covers at ConQuest 43 in May
The Exodus (Saga Of Davi Rhii 3)
59,000/120,000

Almost halfway, as hard as that may be to believe for a novel I started July 3oth. So that’s my word count for 24 days. The best streak I’ve ever had since I started writing fiction, I believe.

As I’ve tweeted daily word count reports, I’ve gotten lots of questions about it, so I thought it might be good to analyze a bit about writing a final trilogy book and why sometimes that has advantages for speed.

One thing to note is that so much worldbuilding is done already. I’m working with elements that are well developed which really saves a bunch of time. I have to describe them again and try and flesh out details we haven’t seen before but I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Additionally, the character arcs and plotlines flow out of the cliffhanger in Book 2, so the basic starting points were fairly well defined. And as such, progressing from them to the wrap up is a narrower course than I worked with before on the prior books.

But another aspect of this is that I have written The Returning, Duneman, a half Belsuk novel, a half time travel novel, numerous short stories, and two children’s books in the interim between The Worker Prince and The Exodus, seen the release of two novels, a children’s book and some shorts and gotten lots of feedback and interviewed lots of writers. The lessons I learned from all those experiences have been internalized in large part, becoming part of my craft and writing process, so inevitably that will affect both my effectiveness as a writer and my speed. I certainly hope that shows. Watching other writers like Sam Sykes through the course of a trilogy and seeing how they developed and grew has been an interesting process and it’s one I hope my readers will take note of as well.

It’s important to admit that no book is perfect and looking back, as an author, one can always see many things one might change in retrospect. Sometimes the temptation to do it is overwhelming. If an omnibus of Saga Of Davi Rhii ever happens, I will fix some POV stuff and typos from the final book of Worker Prince but I don’t know how much else I’d touch. It is what it is and it represents who I was at a certain time as a writer. Paul Goat Allen’s recognition of the book for B&N also makes me think that while it’s flawed, it’s still something I can be proud of in spite of those flaws and there’s something about preserving that, flaws and all, that feels sacred to me. Maybe 20 years from now with many more books under my belt, I’ll laugh at this post. Who knows? But I’m in a place where that’s not happening right now.

But another factor in all of this is life. Although I’m still in a financial and employment crisis after two years of unemployment with benefits run out, my marriage is over and I am not dealing with the stress of that nor my ex’s health issues. I’m still grieving and healing, of course, but the stress of that period was such that it really impacted my focus and writing in ways that have only recently begun to be fully grasped. I am also in a quieter place with less distractions and family around to support. I’ve been to a lot of Cons and bonding with my SFF community at large (at least many of them–a few roughs spots of late). And I’ve had that success from the novel and anthology releases that has spurred me onward plus encouragement from the many people supporting SFFWRTCHT and this blog, especially Write Tips. So those are things which subconsciously and consciously both add to the mix and spur me onward.

Whatever the case, The Exodus is fast headed for 120000 words and I’m glad. I still have a month or so to finish but if I pull it off, despite a brief break for World Con next week, then it will be a new record for me. I’ll finish it, go back to rewrite Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter 1 and Duneman and Abe will be off to press while I look for an agent for the fantasy trilogy. I also have three anthologies in the works as editor and some exciting book editing developments as a freelance editor in the works as well.

Since October 2011, I’ve had two novels, an anthology, an ebook, a children’s book, and four short stories come out. That’s an incredible year by anyone’ s standards, I’d suspect. 2013 will have The Exodus and hopefully two or three Abe Lincoln kid’s books, possibly 2 more ebook joke books, and maybe even the epic fantasy. Some anthologies are also in the works. I’m very grateful for the support and interest and for the opportunities.

For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince(2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Lost In A Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012.  His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on World Encounters and Space & Shadows: SpecNoir with coeditor John Helfers, both forthcoming. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

 

The Worker Prince, My First Novel, Comes to NetGalley For A Limited Time

It rarely happens. While NetGalley is a goto place now for reviewers and others to get advanced looks at forthcoming books, it’s also expensive and thus, dominated primarily by bigger publishers and authors who have the cash to spend on it. Color me surprised when, in July, I was given a special one time opportunity to get my debut novel, The Worker Prince, listed there. While the listing is for around a month only, it’s a great chance to have a book named Honorable Mention by Barnes & Noble Book Club’s reviewer Paul Goat Allen on his Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 out to more reviewers and, thus, more readers.

Within five minutes of the listing going live, we had five requests already. The listing can be found at http://netgalley.com/PopupHandler.php?module=catalog&func=galleyTitleDetails&projectid=19576 and is available in various ebook formats from .mobi and .epub to pdf and palm. Members of NetGalley simply need to search for it by name, click the More Info or Read Now links and then request their copy. It’s that simple. And as soon as my publicist sees it, she’ll approve it and you’ll be allowed to download it and read it.  Of course, we’re hoping you love it, but regardless, please review it. Not just at NetGalley but at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads and Library Thing.  Why? Not just because I’m asking or out of guilt for  a free copy, but because without reviews, authors and books like me and mine won’t survive. The number of reviews increases the number of people who find the book in searches, and also let’s them know a lot of people are reading it, giving them some idea of outside perspective on what it’s about and whether it’s worth their time, and that word of mouth, above all, is what sells books.

So, if you enjoy reading and free books, won’t you please consider taking advantage of this unique opportunity? The Worker Prince has been frequently compared to Star Wars: A New Hope. People say it captures the feel of the original Star Wars. It’s been compared to pulp and classic old fashioned space operas like Heinlein’s Starship Troopers or the Jason January tales. And it’s garnered praise from authors like Brenda Cooper, Maurice Broaddus, Mike Resnick, David Lee Summers and more.

Here’s the teaser:

What if everything you thought you knew about yourself and the world turned out to be wrong?

For Davi Rhii, Prince of the Boralian people, that nightmare has become a reality. Freshly graduated from the prestigious Borali Military Academy, now he’s discovered a secret that calls into question everything he knew about himself. His quest to rediscover himself brings him into conflict with his friends and family, calling into question his cultural values and assumptions, and putting in jeopardy all he’s worked for his whole life. One thing’s for sure: he’s going to have to make decisions that will change his life forever…

It’s a space western fantasy, epic space opera with great action, space battles, family drama, political scheming, and a bit of romance. Based in part on the Moses story, but also original and takes off from that story into different directions. It’s family friendly and has been enjoyed by 8 year olds and readers in their 70s. It’s 326 pages, trade paperback at $14.95. Released October 4, 2011 from Diminished Media.

I think this is an exciting opportunity for us both. I hope you’ll agree. And if you like it, book 2 is out, too.


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011  Honorable Mention, andThe Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines.  He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited novels and nonfiction.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

WriteTip: Diligence Pays Off-Success Equals Talent Plus Work

Okay, this isn’t the usual steps process for sure, but I still think it’s appropriate for a write tip. A few months back I posted about the power of diligence quoting from a Steve Martin interview with Charlie Rose where the comedian/actor talked about how importance diligence has been to his success. Pretty much everyone in the entertainment/media business I’ve met who’s had a career of more than a decade has mentioned the importance of diligence to me, and, in an age where e-publishing has become the rage and feeds our cultural fixation with instant gratification, I think a reminder about diligence is important. In fact, the key lesson is in bold later in this post, but first a little about how diligence has paid off for me.

I started writing fiction prose in summer 2008 with a love story about a divorced couple who fall in love again. My first novel started as a novella then grew. I finished it at around 65k words but it sucked. Or at least, it was’t ready for prime time. So, I went back to school, reading, studying craft, learning, practicing, and about a year later, I started writing my first science fiction book–a Moses-inspired space opera I’d dreamed up as a teen. The Worker Prince, as it’s called, was my debut novel, released in October 2011 and made Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011, quite an honor for a micropress book. Sales are steady but slow and I’ve earned back my advance or am close at around 650 copies. Book 2, The Returning, came out last month and now I’m writing Book 3.

But those novels are far from the only thing I”ve had going on. In 2008, when I started writing fiction, I knew no one writing books besides an old friend, a historian named Leon C. Metz. Now Leon is no slouch. He’s published over 20 books on history, his most famous being a biography of John Wesley Hardin, famous gunfighter. But I didn’t know anyone in science fiction, had never been to a convention, had not taken writing workshops and no one knew who I was.

Now, to be fair, I had been writing nonfiction, screenplays and plays for twenty years, since high school. I’d had some limited success with a script in development at Disney that never got made and a couple of co-written produced plays. I’d sold some nonfiction articles to magazines and such. And I’d had devotionals published. But still, I was unknown in most regards, particularly in the area of fiction books and especially in science fiction and fantasy.

But as I met writers, Ken Scholes being one of the first and I met him on Facebook after reading his wonderful Lamentation,  they always talked about how important it was to write every day. If you get stuck, write anyway. If you’re frustrated, try something else i.e. switch projects for a bit or give yourself permission to write crap just to get words down and exercise the writing muscles. As my friend and fellow novelists John A. Pitts says: “Concert pianists at the height of fame have to practice every day, why shouldn’t writers?” And that’s the truth of it.

So I wrote. I worked on a few novel ideas. I wrote a lot of short stories. And I rewrote The Worker Prince, also starting two fantasy novels, including Duneman, which is in beta reading right now and will hopefully land me an agent and traditional publisher later this year. The main thing was that I wrote, continued studying craft, read a lot, and started going to Cons to meet writers and others. Now, I have a huge network of contacts and friends, and looking at my Goodreads and Amazon author pages, there are 7 titles listed. By the end of the year, there will be 8 and maybe 9. Of those, only 2 are self-published: The North Star Serial, Part 1, which collects a series of flash fiction episodes I wrote for Digital Dragon Magazine and Rivalry On A Sky Course, which is an ebook only release of a prequel story to The Worker Prince which first sold to Residential Aliens before I released it as an ebook. Everything else has been paid for by a publisher and put out, including the anthology I edited and others in which I have stories appearing. (Wandering Weeds comes out any time now.)

What’s my point? Well, I’ve dedicated a lot of time to writing. I’ve treated it like a job, even though it doesn’t pay the bills yet. And I’ll tell you that my total income for writing expenses last year was close to $2000 when you add print cartridges, Cons, travel, paper, supplies, postage, etc. But this year, my expenses are going to be less, but my income should be close to $3000. It remains to be seen and that estimate encompasses four book advances (two pending) and some sales income (still coming in), as well as a few sales, but it’s definitely progress in the right direction. And last year I only attended 3 Cons and 1 Workshop. This year I have attended 4 Cons with 2 more planned, done 4 signings so far and have 4 more planned–all of which involved at least some travel (shortest 10 minute drive, longest airplane, including a couple 6+ hour drives). What’s my point?

I am acting like a full time writer even though I am not one. I am also spending several hours a week on blogging, social media marketing, networking, promotion and reading and running #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat, Wednesday at 9 pm EDT on Twitter). I typically spend 2-3 hours a day writing, 2-3 editing (mostly for other people) and 2-3 on blogging and social media, plus any other work I need to do. (I am seeking full time employment and do freelance gigs from time to time.) Once I get a full time job, my goal will still be to do the 6-9 hours a day devoted to my writing career.

Why? Because I am getting somewhere, not just with the earning income progress but with the amount of material published. My third Davi Rhii book will come out sometime next year and I hope to sell a couple more novels, including Duneman. My first kid’s chapter book is going to come out this Winter (late 2012 or early 2013). I just got asked to do more joke books after my first released today which means nice advances, and I have a celebrity bio contracted, two half novels done, and several short stories, including 10 more North Stars to finish the cycle left to write.

Diligence.

Diligence matters.

dil·i·gence

   [dil-i-juhns]  Show IPA

noun

1.

constant and earnest effort to accomplish what isundertaken; persistent exertion of body or mind.
So if your passion is writing, storytelling, etc., be diligent. Make the effort to do what you love and follow your passion. Treat it like work, without discipline it won’t happen. But know that if you have the talent and you apply the work to it, things will happen. After all, talent is like 2×4 boards, it takes some tools, nails, effort, etc. to build something with it. But it can be done and will be done if you’re diligent. You may not get rich. You may not become that famous. But you will become very satisfied and you will have a body of work that shows you’re more than just a person who dreams of being a writer. You’ll be a real, published writer, and whether that ever pays my bills fully or not, to me that’s saying something.
For what it’s worth…

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011  Honorable Mention, andThe Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines.  He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited novels and nonfiction.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

Book Day Two: The Returning Comes To Print!!!

Well, paperbacks are finally here, so this is Book Day 2 for the exciting sequel to The Worker Prince, which made Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases of 2011!  Mitch Bentley of Atomic Fly Studios did some of his best work ever on the cover. Sorry again for the delay, but we’re excited to bring it to you and hope you are too! You’ll love this book. Hugo/Nebula award winner Mike Resnick even blurbed it, as you see on the cover.

The Vertullians are free and have full citizenship but that doesn’t mean they’re accepted. Someone is sending assassins to kill and terrorize them, riling up the old enmity all over again, while Xalivar is back seeking revenge on Davi and all those who defied him. Davi, Farien and Yao reunite to investigate the murders, finding their lives and friendships threatened by what they discover.

Meanwhile, the new High Lord Councilor, Tarkanius, Lord Aron, and Davi find themselves fighting all over again to preserve the unity of the Borali Alliance, while even many of their allies and friends work against them to tear it apart. Davi and Tela find their future together threatened by difficulties with their relationship, and Miri’s adjusting to her new status as a non-royal. The action packed, emotional, exciting Davi Rhii story continues.

The Returning has romance, assassins, tension, both modern and classic science fiction notions, and very smooth writing. What more could you want? Bryan Thomas Schmidt keeps improving. As good as The Worker Prince WAS, The Returning is better.” – Mike Resnick, Author, StarshipIvory

The Returning blends themes of faith with classic space opera tropes and the result is a page-turning story that takes off like a rocket.” – Paul S. Kemp, Author, Star Wars: RiptideStar Wars: Deceived

“A fun space opera romp, complete with intrigues, treachery, dastardly villains, and flawed but moral heroes.” – Howard Andrew Jones, Author, The Desert Of SoulsPathfinder Tales: Plague Of Spells.

To celebrate, we have the books continuing at 33% off signed from this site only. YEP, including ebooks, which I sign through Kindlegraph (don’t worry, still works for Nook). And if you buy the book elsewhere, use the contact form to send me your address and I’ll mail you a signed bookplate for free.

 Trade paperback Special discount this week only! 


Ebook – MOBI/EPUB Special discount this week only! 

340 pp · ISBN 978‐0‐9840209‐4‐2 ·Trade Paperback · $14.99 tpb $7.99 Ebook  · Publication: June 14, 2012

Or buy it at Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Returning-Bryan-Thomas-Schmidt/dp/0984020942/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1341255149&sr=8-3

Or Barnes & Noble here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-returning-bryan-thomas-schmidt/1108892375?ean=9780984020942

Or Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/175177

For interviews and more fun, check out the current Blog Tour.

Here’s what people said about the first book and links to reviews of book 2.

Praise for The Worker Prince:

“A significant new author in the field of space opera – Bryan is a fresh new imagination to watch out for!”— Grace Bridges, author of Faith Awakened and Legendary Space Pilgrims

“Retro-with-a-twist SF brimming with an infectious enthusiasm!” — Saladin Ahmed, author Throne Of the Crescent Moon

“If your reader’s heart longs for the Golden Age of Science Fiction–when good was good and bad was bad, and great characters fought against universal odds–then The Worker Prince is for you. Good, retro fun for the whole family.”— Jason Sanford, author Never Never StoriesInterzone

“I found myself thinking of stories that I read during my (misspent) youth, including Heinlein juveniles and the Jason January tales, as well as Star Trek and Star Wars.”— Redstone SF 

“A very well written book and a story very well told…where the heroes are heroes and the villains are villains. I would highly recommend it even if you are new to Sci-Fi.”—Ben Love, Call FM, Miami

Reviews:

http://functionalnerds.com/2012/06/review-the-returning-by-bryan-thomas-schmidt/

http://oddengine.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/review-the-returning-by-bryan-thomas-schmidt/

http://vantiltool.blogspot.com/2012/05/bryan-thomas-schmidt-publishes-second_02.html 

To find The Returning on Barnes & Noble’s website, click here.

To find The Returning on Amazon’s website, click here.

About Me:

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines.  He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

 

An Explanation And Apology Re: The Delayed Release of THE RETURNING In Print

You know, things don’t always go the way that we expect them to when publishing a book. This week is one of those times.

I expected the print release of my second novel in the Davi Rhii series, The Returning, to be the real highlight of my week. Those plans have now been pushed back a bit because somehow the book’s layout got messed up during the file transfer from my publisher to Lightning Source, our printer and distributor. An attempt was made to quickly correct that but there was not enough time to get it fixed by June 19th for the official release. It appears Barnes & Noble cancelled all pre-orders for print due to this error. The buy links for print copies aren’t up on either Amazon or B&N but the ebook version is up and available for your Nook or Kindle. I heartily apologize for this inconvenience.

I really have been excited to see this book released. I worked hard on my end to come up with a story that you’ll love. It has a great cover by Mitch Bentley, one of his best ever. It got blurbs from some great people like Mike Resnick, Paul Kemp, and Howard Andrew Jones. The reviews have mostly been great. The official online blog tour started May 29th and will run until mid-July. So much work and so many hands have been involved in the process of bringing this book to you and now technology seems to have gotten in the way. It hiccuped in a big, bad way.

I really want readers to have a shot at this book. But I also want it right. It’s important. It matters because you, as a reader, matter. Please know that I want to provide the best quality product possible and am as anxious as anyone to get this out into the world. The print copy should be up and running by Friday, June 29th at the absolute latest. Ebook versions are up now if you enjoy that instead. In the meantime, I have decided to extend the 33% off sale on copies purchased from me here. I appreciate your understanding and patience and your patience shall be rewarded. You will have a good looking, properly produced book. I can promise you that.

As a bonus, copies ordered from me will be signed personally either on the paper copies themselves or via Kindlegraph and can be personalized at your request. In addition, I will send signed bookplates or Kindlegraph signatures to anyone who requests them that buys the books at any other venue as well and this will be done at no charge for buyers of all formats, including Nook.

We appreciate your understanding and patience and look forward to your response to the book very soon.


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines.  He edited the new anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. His children’s book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing. As  a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

Happy Book Day, Paper Baby Two! (The Returning Released)

There’s something about the release of a second novel that’s really special. Despite having edited an anthology this year, adding another book to the roster, especially in the same series and another original just makes you feel like you’ve proven yourself all over again. Not just a one book wonder, so to speak, but here to stay, it says. And so, with pride, I welcome another paper baby into the world.

Book 2 in my Saga Of Davi Rhii, The Returning follows The Worker Prince in sequence and yet improves on it in many ways. It’s not the coming of age story of the first book, but an all new story with unrelenting action and a thriller feel.

My beta readers all said it was better. And I’m very proud to have three good friends’ endorsements: Mike Resnick, Paul S. Kemp and Howard Andrew Jones as well as positive reviews so far from Functional Nerds, Odd Engine, and more.

Welcome to the world, paper baby number two. I hope your adventure and life takes you places I’d never imagined and I hope we both can enjoy the ride!

For full book info including review links and blurbs, click here.

340 pp · ISBN 978‐0‐9840209‐4‐2 ·Trade Paperback · $14.99 tpb $7.99 Ebook  · Publication: June 14, 2012


 Paperback 33% off this week only! $10.11
 Ebook-EPUB/MOBI 33% off this week only! $4.99

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines.  He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

 

The Returning Blog Tour Schedule

It’s hard to believe it’s here. I get all emotional because of all the behind the scenes chaos I went through while writing it, but I’m about to be the author of two published novels and I’m thrilled and humbled at the same time. So you know what that means: another blog tour. Just last October, I was off promoting the novel I’d longed to write for 27 years, The Worker Prince. Now, it finally has a sequel, The Returning. It’s got another brilliant Mitch Bentley cover. More of the action and multi-layered plotting, larger-than-life characters and humor mixed with drama. It’s even got blurbs by three of my favorite writers, now also my friends.

It has everything, and you can find out for yourselves on June 19th! But right now, here’s the scoop on the tour and how you can preorder signed paperbacks or ebooks at 25% off on my store or at Barnes & Noble here.

The Vertullians are free and have full citizenship but that doesn’t mean they’re accepted. Someone is sending assassins to kill and terrorize them, riling up the old enmity all over again, while Xalivar is back seeking revenge on Davi and all those who defied him. Davi, Farien and Yao reunite to investigate the murders, finding their lives and friendships threatened by what they discover. Meanwhile, the new High Lord Councilor, Tarkanius, Lord Aron, and Davi find themselves fighting all over again to preserve the unity of the Borali Alliance, while even many of their allies and friends work against them to tear it apart. Davi and Tela find their future together threatened by difficulties with their relationship, and Miri’s adjusting to her new status as a non-royal. The action packed, emotional, exciting Davi Rhii story continues.

370 pp · ISBN 978-0-9840209-4-2 ·Trade Paperback · $14.99 tpb $5.99 Ebook  · Publication: June 19, 2012

“The Returning has romance, assassins, tension, both modern and classic science fiction notions, and very smooth writing. What more could you want? Bryan Thomas Schmidt keeps improving. As good as THE WORKER PRINCE WAS, THE RETURNING is better.” – Mike Resnick, Author, Starship, Ivory

“The Returning blends themes of faith with classic space opera tropes and the result is a page-turning story that takes off like a rocket.” – Paul S. Kemp, Author, Star Wars: Riptide, Star Wars: Deceived

“A fun space opera romp, complete with intrigues, treachery, dastardly villains, and flawed but moral heroes.” Howard Andrew Jones (Pathfinder: Plague Of Shadows, The Desert Of Souls) on THE RETURNING

To preorder your signed paperback for $11 + shipping, click here:

To preorder the ebook in whichever format you prefer, click here: (be sure and enter format desired in the box)

Preferred Format (epub/mobi)

To preorder from Barnes & Noble, click here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-returning-bryan-thomas-schmidt/1108892375?ean=9780984020942

And please visit these awesome blogs for more information including excerpts, interviews, guest posts and more all through June and July 2012! I’ll insert links as they become available as well as updating specific content which is still being determined.

THE RETURNING Blog Tour

Tuesday, May 29 Blog Tour Schedule & Book Release – www.bryanthomasschmidt.net/blog (You’re there now)
Wednesday, May 30 Functional Nerds Guest Post: Tools For Worldbuilding (Guest Post) 
Thursday, May 31 Anthony Cardno  Guest Post: How To Run a Blog Tour For A Sequel Without Spoiling Book 1
Friday, June 1 Gary W. Olson  Character Profile & Excerpt: Xalivar
Monday, June 4 SFSignal Guest Post: 15 Science Fiction and Fantasy Thrillers Worth Your Time
Tuesday, June 5  Andrew Reeves/Jaded Muse Video Blog: Boxes (What’s yours?)
Wednesday, June 6 Reader’s Realm Excerpt from Chapter 2/ Brad R. Torgersen Catching Up With Interview
Thursday, June 7  Linda Rodriguez Guest Post: 5 Tips On Social Media For Today’s Author
Friday, June 8 Linda Poitevin Guest Post: Approaching Book 2
Monday, June 11 Elizabeth S. Craig: Mystery Writing Is Murder, Special Write Tip Guest Post: Surprise v. Suspense / Review at Functional Nerds
Tuesday, June 12 Matthew Sanborn Smith/The One Thousand: Character Profile & Excerpt: Farien Noa
Wednesday, June 13 Leah Petersen 5 Minute Interview
Thursday, June 14 Mae Empson Character Profile Interview & Excerpt: Tela Tabansi
Friday, June 15 Joshua P. Simon Interview
Monday, June 18 Bibliophile Stalker Guest Post: Culture In World-building
Tuesday, June 19 Mary Pax Dialogue: Why I Love Space Opera / Book Day Post
Wednesday, June 20 Moses Siregar Guest Post: What Makes A Story Epic
Thursday, June 21 Jaleta Clegg Guest Post: Food in Borali System
Friday, June 22 To Be Read Interview & EBook Giveaway
Sunday, June 24 THE PLATFORM Internet Radio with John Rakestraw “Finding Your Imagination
Monday, June 25 Grasping For The Wind Turning The Tables: SFFWRTCHT Interviews Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Tuesday, June 26 Ray Gun Revival Short Interview & Character Profile & Excerpt: Yao Brahma
Wednesday, June 27 AISFP Blog Essay: The Importance of The Responsible Use Of History In Fiction: Steampunk/Jamie Todd Rubin Dialogue: Space Battles In The Golden Age & Beyond
Thursday, June 28 Oops! Glitch! Post postponed to tomorrow due to unexpected travel of host blogger.
Friday, June 29 K.D. Weiland Guest Post: The Most Important Rule Of Writing: Be True To Yourself
Saturday, June  30 Patty Jansen Guest Post: Can There Be Space Opera Without Science?
Monday July 2 FMW Podcast Interview (delayed due to editing issue)
Tuesday July 3 Book Day 2: Print Release!!!

The Blog Tour Resumes Friday, July 6, after the holiday with more fun!!!!

And if you missed the prior book’s blog tour, here’s that roundup.

I also did posts in my popular Write Tips series on Planning A Blog Tour and Preparing For A Blog Tour Even As You Write.

For specific info on this series, The Saga of Davi Rhii, click here.

For this book’s page, click here.

For The Worker Prince page, click here.

To order my debut novel, THE WORKER PRINCE, Book 1 in the  Saga Of Davi Rhii, use the links at the bottom:

 What if everything you thought you knew about  yourself  and the world turned out to be wrong?
 For Davi Rhii, Prince of the Boralian people, that  nightmare has become a reality. Freshly  graduated from  the prestigious Borali Military  Academy, now he’s discovered he was secretly  adopted and born a worker. Ancient enemies of  the Boralians, enslaved now for generations, the  workers of Vertullis live lives harder than Davi had  ever imagined. To make matters worse, Davi’s  discovered that the High Lord Councillor of the  Alliance, his uncle Xalivar, is responsible for years of abuse and suppression against the workers Davi now knows as his own people.

His quest to rediscover himself brings him into conflict with Xalivar and his friends and family, calling into question his cultural values and assumptions, and putting in jeopardy all he’s worked for his whole life. Davi’s never felt more confused and alone. Will he stand and watch the workers face continued mistreatment or turn his back on his loved ones and fight for what’s right? Whatever he decides is sure to change his life forever.

326 pp · ISBN 978‐0‐9840209‐0‐4 ·Trade Paperback · $14.95 tpb $4.99 Ebook  · Publication: October 4, 2011

The Worker Prince: Book 1 In The Saga of Davi Rhii  Trade paperback only   EPUB or MOBI — please specify in notes on order

Or you can order at Amazon here: The Worker Prince


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, andThe Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines.  He edited the new anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. His children’s book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing. As  a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

SPACE BATTLES Author Profile: Meet Author/Editor Jaleta Clegg

The final profile in our ongoing series features Jaleta Clegg. Jaleta set her Space Battles tale in the world of her eleven novel series, which started with Nexus Point and continues soon in Priestess Of The Eggstone. With a science degree and a day job as a science teacher, including helping run Space Camps, author/editor Jaleta Clegg seems uniquely qualified to write science fiction. Her short stories can be found in publications like Abandoned Towers and Bewildering Stories magazines and anthologies like How The West Was WickedThe Last Man Anthology and Wretched Moments and in the zine Tales Of The Talisman, edited by co-Space Battles contributor David Lee Summers. An active social media user, she can be found on Twitter as @jaleta_clegg, on Facebook and through her website/blog atwww.jaletac.com. Information on her novels can be found at www.nexuspoint.info. She’s coeditor with Frances Pauli of Hall Brothers Entertainment’s forthcoming anthology Wandering Weeds: Tales of Rabid Vegetation wherein her own story will once again play lead in to a story by myself as it does in Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6.

BTS: How did you find out about the Space Battles anthology and what made you decide to submit?

Jaleta Clegg: I saw the call for subs and thought, “I love space battles. I need to write one.” I had a great idea, too, that just needed some time to finish fermenting so I could write it.

BTS: This is not your first anthology sale, correct? Tell us a little about “Bait & Switch.” What’s it about? Where’d this particular idea come from?

JC: Oh, no, definitely not my first. I’ve got over twenty different short stories in anthologies all over the place that have come out in the last two years. Most of them are silly horror. Writing those keeps my inner demons quiet. Writing the SF and Fantasy shorts keeps my inner geek happy. The full list is on my website: www.jaletac.com 

The main character in “Bait & Switch” is a cadet named Tayvis. He features prominently in my SF adventure series. I thought it would be great fun to peek into his past and find out a bit more about him. In the story, he’s a cadet on his first training flight. He gets sent to the gunnery section as an observer. When the ship is attacked and the point gunner knocked out, Tayvis takes his place even though he’s had almost no training.

BTS: How’d you get started as a writer?

JC: I’ve always loved stories. I taught myself to read when I was four. This leads naturally to wanting to tell my own stories. I didn’t actually finish anything until years later. We had just moved to a new neighborhood, it was early summer, I had four kids ages 2-7, and I knew no one. I wrote my first novel out of desperation. It snowballed from there.  Or I could say that I finally found an outlet for the voices in my head. If I let them play on paper, they don’t bother me as much.

BTS: Do you have plans to do any more with this universe?

JC: Definitely. The universe is a very large place. I’ve got lots of story ideas and lots of characters to play with.

BTS: You have a novel series with the first book out from Cyberwizard. Tell us about that, please?

JC: Nexus Point (www.nexuspoint.info) is my first published novel. It’s set in the same universe as “Bait & Switch”. Tayvis is an undercover Patrol agent on a low-tech world looking for drug smugglers. He finds Dace instead. She’s not what he expected. The book is told from her point of view, though. He’s not what she expected either. Yes, there is a teensy bit of romance in the book, but also lots of explosions and fights and chase scenes and action.

BTS: How’d that idea come about?

JC: I had several story ideas I wanted to play with and in a stroke of genius or insanity, realized they were all about the same character – Dace. I started writing one, realized it was book three, backtracked to write the other two, and watched the storyline change. Tayvis was originally supposed to be a throw-away character in the first book. I’m glad he stuck around for the rest of them.

BTS: How many books are planned for the series?

JC: I’ve got eleven books written. I don’t think there will be more about these characters. Once you save the universe, there isn’t much story left to tell.

BTS: When do you expect more books to come out?

JC: I recently signed a contract with Journalstone for the next book – Priestess of the Eggstone. It is tentatively scheduled to be released in August 2012. I loved working with Cyberwizard, but the economy caused a lot of things to change. Cyberwizard is still publishing, but they had to cut their list of pending manuscripts. I’m very happy Journalstone has offered me a contract. We haven’t discussed the rest of the series, but it’s definitely on the table for the future.

BTS: You also edited your first anthology, Wandering Weeds. Tell us about that and when it is expected to be released.

JC: My hat is off to any editor who tackles anthologies. It’s hard work! Writing rejection letters was very difficult. I know how bad it can sting to get one. But, we couldn’t take all the stories that were submitted. The ones we have are fantastic. I’m excited to see this project come together. The idea came from a writing challenge in our writers’ group. Someone mentioned tumbleweeds, someone else mentioned radiation, and the idea of mutant tumbleweeds was born. We wrote stories, loved them, but had no idea where to submit them. So we decided to put together an anthology. Hall Brothers Entertainment is publishing it for us. We’re just about ready to send them the files. I can give you a sneak peek at the cover. Wandering Weeds: Tales of Rabid Vegetation should hit the shelves sometime late this spring.

BTS: Where’d your love of SF come from?

Jaleta's Wookie

JC: I’ve always been fascinated by the night sky. Astronomy is one of my loves. When I discovered that people wrote books about space and aliens, I was head-over-heels. I remember reading a much-battered copy of The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet when I was eight, A Wrinkle in Time when I was nine, and my first Andre Norton when I was ten. I devoured all the books by Andre Norton, Isaac Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, Niven, and any others I could find. I’m still looking for copies of Jack L. Chalker’s Well of Souls series. I want to read them again. Watching Star Trek whenever my dad wasn’t making me weed our enormous garden also helped fuel my love of space. But, confession time, it was always Scotty and Chekov for me. I saw Star Wars when I was twelve. I wanted my own Millenium Falcon so bad it hurt. I still do. I’ve got a Wookie, now I just need a starship.

BTS: What other projects do you have in the works that we can look forward to?

JC: I’m up to my elbows in steampunk fairyland elves right now, working on a new novel. We’ll see where that one goes. I’ve also got a lot more silly horror short stories cooking. And some dabbling in other genres. I’ve got more story ideas than I have time. I’m playing with the idea of opening an etsy store to adopt my cutesy cthulhu items. I’ve got crocheted cthulhu toilet paper cozies and Sunbonnet Cthulhu pillows, based on an old applique quilt pattern. There’s always something to keep me busy.

Thanks so much, Bryan, for letting me stop by the blog. And thanks for the opportunity to be part of Space Battles. From what I’ve read, it’s a great collection of stories. With lots of explosions. My kind of chick lit.

Speaking of chick lit, here’s an excerpt from Jaleta’s decidedly non-chick lit Space Battles story “Bait & Switch”:

Bait and Switch

Jaleta Clegg

“Buckle up, kids, battle drill time.” Lonnis flipped his station to live. The lights in the tiny room glowed red.

Tayvis fumbled with the restraint in the jump seat next to the door, excitement making his hands shake. Cadets rarely got the chance to see the weapons in action on a Patrol cruiser. Lonnis sat to his right, straddling the control console, both hands seated in the gloves that controlled the ship’s weapons. Tish, his spotter, sat to his left, her face green in the glow of her targeting screens.

Lonnis rolled his shoulders, settling into his controls. “Watch closely, kid. This is more complicated than those simulators. No matter how good the programming is, it will never match the real thing. Comm, port forward is live.”

“Target-firing commencing in five.” Hedrik, the voice of comm control, crackled from the speakers.

“Let’s break our old records,” Lonnis said as the screens came alive with multi-colored traces.

Tayvis tried to keep track of the screens. Each object near them appeared on Tish’s screens. She marked targets with red, other objects turned gray under her rapid touches. Colored lines spread from each target, green for projected course, blue for last known heading. Lonnis twisted, firing weapons at the targets. Lights flickered and died across his screen, replaced by new targets, new tracings. Their ship position and heading, thruster settings, and other information scrolled across the bottom of his screen.

The tracings disappeared. No new ones replaced those eliminated.
Lonnis’ screen flashed once as the last target disappeared. He slipped
his hands from the control gloves. “Targets eliminated. Port forward,
locked.” His hands flipped the safety switches on. The control screens
faded to silver, the lights changed from red to normal. “How’s my
time, Hedrik?”

“You’re getting slow, old man. Three point four seconds longer
than your record.”

Lonnis grinned. “That’s because you reprogrammed the spinners
again. I wasn’t expecting that sharp spiral.”

“Keeps you on your toes, Lonnis. You’re buying the drinks next
port. Comm out.”

Lonnis stretched his arms over his head. “We should work on the
projected courses. You were off your mark today, Tish.”

“Right, blame me because you can’t shoot straight.” Tish unbuckled
her restraint. “Not as exciting as you thought, Tayvis? Real battle is
more chaotic.”

“It’s a game of prediction and anticipation,” Lonnis said. “You
figure out where the target will be and lay down a trap. Mines and
missiles.”

“Pulse beams are better,” Tayvis answered. “Mines and missiles
can be detected and detonated by counter-measures.”

“True, but not if you place them right. If you fire a pulse beam
inside your shields, the energy reflects back and blows your own ship
to kingdom come. You have to leave the weapon port outside the field,
making it vulnerable. Pulse beams are for close range combat only. Or
for salvage work.” Lonnis leaned on the doorframe. “Mines and missiles
are more effective and safer for distance combat between ships.
Of course, whether you hit them or not depends on the skill of your
spotter.”

Tish leaned back in her seat, crossing her long legs. “I’m the best
and you know it, Lonnis.”

Lonnis dropped his hand to Tayvis’ shoulder. “You’ll be a decent
point someday, if you can get past the theory. That’s what the Patrol
Academy is good for, beating the nonsense out of you before you get
yourself killed.”

The lights blinked red, on and off before settling on a steady glow.
An alarm shrilled.

“Proximity alert,” Tish said, flipping her screens on. “Incoming
missiles!”

“Another drill?” Lonnis reached for his controls.

The ship rocked. Smoke and explosions filled the air. The door
to the gunnery pod slammed shut as more alarms sounded. Tayvis
gripped the restraints as the ship’s gravity field flickered off. Lonnis
slammed into the doorframe.

“This isn’t a drill.” Tish tapped rapidly on her screen, scanning for
information. “Lonnis, we’re under attack. Lonnis?”

“He’s out,” Tayvis said, checking the older man for a pulse. Blood
trickled through Lonnis’ white hair.

Another round of projectiles slammed into the ship. Smoke poured
through the air vents.

“Central comm!” Tish hit buttons. “Nobody’s answering.

Nobody’s shooting back. I’ve got a ship out there, and more missiles
incoming. Three minutes to impact, unless someone does something.”
She waved at the gunner’s seat. “There’s a comm link to the bridge.
Activate it.”

Tayvis rose to his feet. Half the systems in the pod were dark, unresponsive,
but the gunner’s seat still showed lights. Observe only, the
captain had said. Was this a test?

“The red button to your left. Press it.” Tish tapped her screens, then
swore. “We’re rotating. I lost the ship. Starboard Aft, you hear me?”

Tayvis flexed his hands. He’d never touched a live station before.
Would they have staged real smoke and blood for a drill?

Tish slammed her fist into the side of the weapons screen. “Hey,
stupid. Get the bridge on the line, now!”

It wasn’t live weapons, it was only a comm button. Tayvis slid
into the seat, straddling the controls. He tapped the red button. The
control gloves hung empty, inviting. He slid his hands inside. The firing
screen lit up.

Speakers crackled to life. “This is Hedrik. Port Forward, what is
your status?”

“Lonnis is down, but the cadet and I are fine,” Tish answered.

“What’s going on?”

“Thank the stars someone is still down there. We got ambushed by
a Fellucian marauder. The shields are holding at thirty-seven percent.
For now.”

“The other weapons stations? I picked up another salvo headed
our way before the ship drifted. I’m on the blind side now.”

“No one else is responding. The marauder knew just when to hit
us. End of drill and we had most of the systems resetting.”

Tish frowned. “Our weapons are still live.”

“We have no engines,” Hedrik answered. “We have thrusters, but
I don’t know how much good they’ll do us.”

Tayvis flexed his fingers in the gloves. Anticipation and prediction,
he could do this. “I can shoot.”

“Cadet, you are ordered to stand down.” Hedrik’s voice crackled
over the speakers. “You have no training or authorization to use those
weapons.”

“I’ve got enough, and you don’t have anyone else. Tish, can you
track those incoming missiles?”

“Cadet, stand down. That is a direct order.”

Tayvis punched the button, shutting off comm control.

Tish stared at Tayvis. She licked her lip, a dart of red tongue.

“We’re dead if we don’t do something.” Tayvis tapped the buttons at
the end of the gloves, mentally reviewing what weapons each released.

“Hedrik gave you a direct order.”

“The comm line must have cut out. I didn’t hear anything. Give
me targets, Tish.”

Tish tapped her screens. “We’re turning to face the ship. Targeting
systems online. Incoming missiles. Impact in thirty seconds.”

“Not if I can help it.” Tayvis released a cloud of reflective debris
on a trajectory to intercept the nearest.

“That will get the lead one, but miss the other two. Drop a few
mines on a starboard curve to pick those up. And do it soon or you
won’t catch them in time.”

Tayvis tapped the buttons in sequence, launching mines on a
curving course towards the two missiles.

“Mines to port, and more missiles.” Tish spoke in a clipped voice
devoid of emotion. “Painted red and gold.”

Colored dots sprang to life on his screens. He dropped more chaff
and several mines of his own, blue dots glittering on the screen. He
launched a shrapnel missile towards the enemy minefield, hoping to
detonate the mines.

“Let’s hope the bridge detects that one,” Tish said. “And changes
vectors before we blow ourselves up with our own missiles. I’ve got
the marauder targeted.”

A red dot, with a blue line tracing its last course and a green line
tracing its predicted course appeared on Tayvis’ screen.

“They’ll use the explosions as cover and change course. It’s what
I would do.” Tayvis flicked through his options.

“And you’re an expert now?”

He fired missiles at the ship. Think of it as a game and he wouldn’t
panic. “They’re moving into that radiation cloud so they can change
vectors without us detecting it.” He launched a salvo of mines to the
left of the nebula cloud, scattering them across the far edge.

Tish swore as she scanned for new targets. “You’re wasting mines.
We have a limited supply, cadet.”

“They’ll come out the way they went in.” Tayvis launched
another round.

“Is that what you think? They’re stupid if they come out the way
they went in, and their attack proves they aren’t stupid.”

The thrusters fired, the ship veered onto a new vector. The Fellucian
marauder screamed across the screen, almost close enough to touch.

“Mines!” Tish shouted as a new round of explosions rocked the
Exeter. They grabbed their consoles as the ship shuddered and rolled.
The stream of damage reports across the bottom of his screen.

Continued in Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which you can purchase here.

SPACE BATTLES Author Profile: Meet Author Selene O’Rourke

One of the delights of editing an anthology is the chance to invite new writer friends whom you respect. Canadian writer Selene O’Rourke makes her published fiction debut in Space Battles with her story “Final Defense.” Selene lives in the great white north of Calgary, Canada, and is well connected with the Canadian Science Fiction community. She has several stories floating about and is in progress on a few novels as well. She is active on Twitter as @LenaOR but avoids Facebook like the plague. Don’t even ask. Below, we talk about her story, her writing, her projects and her future and then share an excerpt of her story.

BTS: How did you find out about the Space Battles anthology and what made you decide to submit?

Selene O’Rourke: It’s a little embarrassing, but the first time I knew any details about the anthology was when I received an invitation to submit from the editor. We’d had several conversations over Twitter, some of which discussed our shared writing experiences. A while later, there was this email in my inbox. I knew I had to submit something. When someone goes to the trouble to reach out, and extend an invitation, it’s not something to be readily refused (especially from a newer author on the scene!) The question, of course, was what to write for it…

BTS: This is your first sale, correct? Tell us a little about “Final Defense.” What’s it about? Where’d this particular idea come from?

SO: I’m so pleased that Space Battles is my first sale! Every new landmark I reach is so encouraging. “Final Defense” is the story of how a lone military vessel is pulled away from patrol duties to face a formidable foe. Of course they’re going to need a little bit of help, which is where the miner Forent Nahn comes in. I don’t want to give too much away, but I have a few surprises waiting.

Identifying the ideas from a story is always a tricky part. For this one, it began with me racking my brain about the battle, and how I could do something unique enough to stand out, but not so far as to no longer fit. After thinking about it, I knew I wanted my protagonists to use Solar Sails as the primary means of propulsion. Then the trick became the story. It took me a bit of time, but I had two concepts that I had choose between: space miners, or pod people fighter “pilots.” Eventually I decided to combine the two ideas, and the Nacre space miner Forent Nahn was born. Once that decision was made, the story started coming together, and it was time to get words on the page.

BTS: How’d you get started as a writer?

SO: So…this guy I knew on Twitter invited me to– Wrong “start,” eh? Sorry about that. Seriously, writing’s been that bug that keeps coming back to me, even when I try to ignore it. When I was much younger, I wanted to be the next H. G. Wells or the next Asimov–so much so that my work was extremely derivative of those greats. Teachers kept encouraging me, (some in more obvious ways than others,) and I kept at it until we reached today’s point.

BTS: Do you have plans to do any more with this story’s universe?

SO: Most of the short stories I write are generally intended as stand-alone works. That said, there’s enough of a backdrop in place that if the right opportunity came along, and the right kind of story came to mind, I could revisit the universe found in “Final Defense.”

BTS: Where’d your interest in SFF come from?

SO: I think I’d have to say it was a combination of factors. You start with a voracious young reader, surround her with the stories of classic Trek, Doctor Who, and Star Wars–some of it’s bound to rub off. As I grew older, my interest in science grew, especially computers. With that there was a bit of stigma, which pushed me even further into being a reader, and eventually, a writer. The Science Fiction side came easy. It took the combined efforts of the late Anne McCaffery, Monica Hughes, a certain Hobbit, and the Chicken Pox to kick me out of my Science Fiction only snobbery.

BTS: What are your writing goals? Career? Hobby? Novelist? Short story writer?

SO: I aim to make a career of writing Speculative Fiction. It’s a challenge I look forward to achieving, even if it takes a while. Thankfully, I’ve had a lot of teachers along the way. I started off as a novelist, but I seem to be doing more short work. The prophetic joke I heard when I joined my writers group (the Imaginative Fiction Writers Association) was that they’d break me of being a “primarily a novelist.” I think they may have succeeded. (Even though I have about a half dozen novel ideas in various states floating around…)

BTS: What other projects do you have in the works that we can look forward to?

SO: I have several stories sitting in the hands of editors at the moment. I have my fingers crossed for them, but there’s nothing absolutely solid quite yet. In fact, a lot of my stories are looking for homes. It could be a story about two kinds of vampires on a space elevator, or the story of a blood sorceress whose skin becomes like steel. Or it could be my novel, looking at how Arthur C. Clarke was really right about Magic and Science being indistinguishable at certain levels of advancement. Or the urban fantasy journeys of a woman and her car. (Almost like an UF Knight Rider.) I’ve also opened discussions with a publisher about an anthology (or three) idea. You haven’t seen the last of me, coppers! Err…sorry. Eventually my inner mad scientist gets the better of me. It’s so early in my career, the possibilities are truly stellar.

Here’s an excerpt from “Final Defense”:

Final Defense

Selene O’Rourke

The emergency message indicator flashed at the helmsman.

“Sir? Incoming—”

The beleaguered Captain sighed before barking at the helm. “Tell those entitled ninnies to keep their comms to the proper channels! We need these frequencies for real emergencies, not their thrice-bedamned imagined crises.”

“Aye, Captain. Sending—”

The SWSS Symphony of the Spheres exploded in a brief corona of multi-colored light.

***
In Chatspace, Forent Nahn thought, no one can tell which branch of humanity you’re from: nacre or flesh. Minute adjustments of its sails kept the Chatspace signal strong as Forent let itself drift in the solar winds.

Forent pointed its laser-bearing arm toward a nearby asteroid and slic ed a mineral snack from the hunk of rock. It grasped the small rock in its dominant arm, clutching the stone firmly—perhaps too firmly—as one of the flesh chatters began to rant.

“We should’ve taken them to far orbit and jettisoned the blasted
pods. The things’re just a waste of our DNA.”

“Have you ever actually met a nacre, friend?” Forent tried to calm
the surge of adrenaline pulsing through its veins.

“I ain’t your friend, pod-lover. Don’t need to meet one to know
they’re ugly as sin.”

Ugly? Nahn thought, Fleshie’s never seen a nacre carapace
scintillate in the sun, I’ll bet.

“Sub-human. Not a man in the bunch.”

Not a woman, either—the genetic engineers who made us figured
brains in a pod didn’t need genders. Nahn was about to shoot its
response into the ether when the emergency channel flared to life.

“Mayday! Mayday! Man down! Asteroid 238-Williams-PS! All
available to rescue duties!”

Forent unfurled its sails completely, sending the trigger signal
to its asteroid-based maneuvering laser. “Forent Nahn responding.
Making best speed. You have axes for me?”

“Rotation too heavy to give you sun or ecliptic axes. Thanks, Nahn.”

Don’t thank me yet. “Still en route to Williams. Any other
responders?”

“Not yet. You might be the closest.”

As it tacked to catch the laser’s thrust, Forent checked its heads-up
display. “Hitting maximum thrust, Williams. ETA two minutes, fortyone
seconds. Can you hold?”

“We’ll try, Nahn. Switching transmission to Rescue.”

Forent switched its focus to the Rescue frequency, transmitting
“Roger” to Rescue, while instructing Chatspace to mark it as “Busy.”

238-Williams-PS slowly grew to Nahn’s vision as it approached
the site of the neighbor asteroid. The once spheroid rock was pocked
with symmetric craters, a freckled oblong visibly spinning on an arbitrary
axis. Forent spotted a white, segmented dome hugging the surface—
a flesh miner’s habitat module. Technically the competition,
but an emergency meant all hands were to respond.

“We’ve got an incoming nacre, Nahn. You getting close?”

“Uh, Williams? I am the incoming nacre.”

“Oh.” Silence engulfed the Rescue frequency.

Well, that’s dandy, isn’t it? Forent thought as the pause grew longer.
“Williams? What’s the situation? What am I looking for?”

No answer.

“Williams. Respond.”

Nahn ran its comms through diagnostics, testing the signal.
Chatspace was still up, waiting for a status change. Time frequency
still chimed its regular interval. Forent transmitted a ping to Rescue,
the reply as instantaneous as radio would allow.

Fine. “You want your man rescued or not, Williams? It’ll be a lot
easier for me to get there on time if you tell me where I’m going.”

Several seconds later, a data transmission responded. Designate
Largest Habitat Entry North. 26.3 kilometers 98 degrees.

The nacre pulled away from the navigational laser with a shift of
its sails, letting the solar wind slow its approach. As it closed with the
asteroid, Forent altered course to let the rock pull it into a high orbit,
scanning the surface as it did.

An irregular blackened crater caught Nahn’s attention first, marred
by the pure white suit hanging limply over a stone, midway up the
bowl of the deep depression. Asteroid dust drifted slowly from the
edges, a dark cloud building above the overturned rover at the base
of the pit.

Forent’s second orbit leeched enough speed away that it could
make finer maneuvers. Nahn magnified the view from its HUD, focusing
on the other miner as it circled the emergency site. With the magnification,
it could read the lifesigns tattlers on the flesh’s suit—the
lights were amber, but the air supply was nearing dangerous levels.

The nacre withdrew its sails, letting itself fall toward the injured
miner. It activated the drill in its dominant arm, chewing into the rock
near the victim to keep itself in place. It paused, then released a single
shot from its laser arm to get a feel for the stone.

Forent spread its sails, holding them ready. Flexing its dominant
arm, the nacre drew itself close to its flesh counterpart. Its laser crawled
along the asteroid fragment, steadily cutting at the mineral prison.

The stone snapped, descending lazily downward. Nahn cradled
the patient along its opalescent body, supporting the miner as it thrust
against the crater wall with its laser arm, and rose from the pit, sails
flaring to full span. As it gained altitude, Forent spun about, catching
sight of the approaching crawler.

The large-wheeled vehicle trundled forward, shielding its occupants
from raw vacuum with its multi-segmented body. A single portal on
that body lay open, a maw that stood ready to accept whatever offering
Forent had for it. Nahn floated carefully through the opening, and gently
lay the injured miner upon the platform.

As it pushed itself through the trembling portal, Forent Nahn
signaled for its maneuvering laser, its shimmering nacre pod fading
into the depth of space.

***
“They can’t be serious!” Captain Breen Zynt slapped the e-printed
orders back to the desk in her ready room.

“Ma’am?” Commander Gavin Roberts’ stoic expression stood
counter to his captain’s ire.

“Recon! For a pleasure cruiser, no less! Second-rate captain
probably took a micro-asteroid to his sails and lost his bearings!”

Roberts took a long, deep breath, his dark eyes fixed on his
commanding officer. “We are the closest military vessel, Captain.”

“No, Gavin. We’re the only military vessel in the Final system.
Just when we were gaining ground on the pirates in the Belt, they
send us to search for a civvie who needs his hand held to get back to
mommy.”

“Captain…” Gavin’s tone was cool.

Breen slouched in her chair, running her fingers over the back of her
prematurely gray hair. “Why do you put up with me, dear friend?”

The Commander smirked. “Tenure. It’d be too much trouble
breaking in a new Captain.”

Zynt’s gentle laugh echoed through her office. “Too true,
Gavin. Besides, how else would you get someone you went to the
Academy with?”

Roberts nodded, his smile emphasizing the contrast between his
teeth and his dark skin.

“You want to tell the crew, Gavin? Or shall I?”

“I got this one, Breen.”

***
The HMWSS Wakerunner was running night shift as it decelerated
for planetary approach. Scan indicators flared to life as the naval
vessel surged along its course.

“Duty stations ready! Captain to the bridge!” The duty officer’s
voice shook as he called the crew to heightened awareness.

Breen groaned when the announcement interrupted her sleep, but
rolled out of bed, duty pulling her to action.

The squeal of the bulkhead door, followed by firm steps upon the
bridge deck, proclaimed the captain’s arrival before she spoke.

“Status.”

“Debris field dead ahead, Captain. Preliminary signals suggest it
was the Symphony, Ma’am.”

Zynt waited for her duty officer to continue.

“But we have an anomaly. Three, really.” He indicated the main
tactical display, which was surging to life with a low hum.

The image slowly clarified, interpolating details at maximum
magnification. Upon the screen were three massive ships in formation—
each half the size of Final VII’s smallest moon.

“Get us a little closer, Helm. I’d like a closer look at those ships.”

“Aye, Captain.”

Wakerunner pulled forward on the solar winds, closing with the
foreign vessels.

“Weapons fire aft of unknowns, Captain!”

“Stand ready for evasive action. All hands to battle stations!”

“Ma’am?” The duty officer’s voice sounded hesitant.

“Yes?”

“Weapons are continuing aft. Orders?”

“Why—” Breen’s thoughts were interrupted by the duty officer.

“Explosion registered! Unknown vessel has started moving
toward us!”

“Come about! Keep us away.”

“Ma’am! EMP—” Electricity leaped from the duty panel, blinding
the young officer.

“Comms! Get a line out to Command!”

“Negative, Captain! Communications went down in the EMP.”

“Get us out of range, Helm!”

“Switching to backups, Captain. Adjusting sails…” A loud pop
emerged from the system. “Backups shot, Captain. We’re drifting.”

Continued in Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which you can purchase here.

SPACE BATTLES Author Profile: Meet Author Anthony R. Cardno

Anthony R. Cardno’s family holiday tale The Firflake has already introduced him to readers. His author interview series for his blog Rambling On has also brought him notice and enabled him to build a network of writing industry friends. He’s a fan of not just science fiction and fantasy but many genres. Because his job as a corporate trainer requires regular travel, he frequents used and new bookstores all over the country.  As such, he’s gradually tracking down a complete collection of Doc Savage books and other pulp tales. He can be found online at his blog, on Facebook, at his website www.anthonycardno.com and on Twitter as @talekyn. “A Battle For Parantwer” is his first published science fiction story and is set in a universe he’s been playing with for years. Other stories he’s written have been published in Willow and Maple and online. He has another Christmas tale and a mystery novel in the works. Anthony and Space Battles editor Bryan Thomas Schmidt have been accused of being brothers, but they swear they’re only brothers in pen crime.

He sat down for an interview about Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 with Flying Pen Press:

FPP: How did you find out about the Space Battles anthology and what made you decide to submit?

Anthony R. Cardno: A lot of the good writing-related things that have happened to me lately can be traced back to Twitter. In this case, it was somehow becoming connected to Bryan Thomas Schmidt and starting to take part in the weekly #sffwrtcht sessions. Space Battles was an invitation-only call, and Bryan invited me to participate. I was flattered to be invited, but wasn’t sure I’d submit anything. Other than playing around with loose sf ideas for a print amateur press alliance (who remembers those!) I’ve been a part of since the 80’s, I haven’t written any hard-SF since high school. In the end, I decided that I needed to stretch myself and at least attempt a submission.

FPP: This is your first anthology sale, correct? Tell us a little about “A Battle For Parantwer.” What’s it about? Where’d this particular idea come from?

ARC: Honestly, not only is this my first anthology sale, it was my first anthology attempt. I’ve submitted short stories to magazines, but this was my first try at an anthology of any kind. Once I’d decided to take Bryan up on the invitation, I realized I actually had to write something that had a chance of fitting. But I’ve never, in my own opinion, been very good at military/battle type writing. My first attempt, part of which survived into the version of “Battle” you’ll see in the anthology, was to tell the story from the point of view of a captive on a ship under attack – the intent was to show the effects of a space battle on someone who can’t even see what is going on. That didn’t quite click, so I shifted POV. “Battle” is about the Denthen System Ship Parantwer doing battle with a pirate ship they’ve been pursuing for quite some time, and it’s also about the ship’s captain, Marijen Parantwer, living up to the legend of the ancestor her ship is named for. The POV character is an experienced system Ambassador, through whose eyes we see both struggles.

FPP: You have written other stories in this world, correct? Tell us about those. 

ARC:  The Denthen star system, comprised of the planets Tarasque, Gemin, Adon and the remains of the planet Refarael, have been bouncing around in my head for several decades. The characters started out as a costumed super-team of aliens who visit Earth. I had the concept, but never really did much with the characters. This story introduces two of those original characters, sans costumes and super-heroic code-names, and two of the original supporting characters. I’m excited to actually be working in this world, though, after all the world-building I’ve done for it. I’m knee-deep in two other Denthen System stories at the moment. Both stories are un-named, because I’m horrible at naming my stories. Both stories take place on the planet Tarasque and fill out some of the social structure of the system and, in one case, some of the history.

FPP: How’d you get started as a writer?

ARC:  I started out writing stories about my favorite super-heroes when I was in 6th or 7th grade. Batgirl, the Teen Titans, those characters. Those stories, as well as the hard SF novel I wrote in 10th grade, have long-since disappeared. High school was also when I joined the Super-Team Amateur Press Alliance (STAPA) and started creating my own super-heroes instead of writing about DC or Marvel characters, doing more serious writing to actual deadlines.

Do you have plans to do any more with this universe?

ARC:  Oh, absolutely. I’ve always intended to, and now seems like the right time to pursue it, at least in short story forms. I do have a novel idea, something I tried working on for NaNoWriMo two years ago that just didn’t click at the time.

You have had other stories published, right? And a Christmas story. Tell us about those.

ARC: My short story “Invisible Me” was published by Willard & Maple magazine in 2005, and is now available to be read for free on my website. My short story “Canopus” is also on my site. The first is more of a character piece, the latter a nice little slice of light horror.

My Christmas novella “The Firflake” is available from iUniverse in print and ebook formats. It’s the legend of the First Snowflake (“firflake”) of winter, and the story of one family’s traditions which hinge on the arrival of that first snowflake. It’s also the story of how the elves met Santa. Each chapter includes an illustration by my good friend Don Cornue.

Where’d your love of SF come from?

ARC: Friends and television, mostly. My parents were not big readers. I was hooked on Star Trek reruns from the first time I saw an episode (it probably helps that the episode in question was “City At The Edge of  Forever”). I always credit my friend Terry Wynne, though, for really hooking me on SF and fantasy. He’s the one who got me watching the English-dubbed Star Blazers and Battle of the Planets cartoons; he’s the one who got me hooked on the space opera of Perry Rhodan, on Niven & Pournelle (Lucifer’s Hammer), Tolkein, Silverberg, Farmer and so many others. Although in 6th grade I discovered Robert Silverberg’s To Open The Sky all on my own, and it remains my favorite SF novel of all time.

What other projects do you have in the works that we can look forward to?

ARC: I’m inching slowly closer to completing my mystery novel Ambergrin Hall, in which a student’s death threatens to reveal aspects of Croton College’s history that some would prefer forever remain hidden. I also have a second Christmas book in the works, Christmas Ghosts, which will be longer than The Firflake and aimed at a slightly older (MG/YA) audience.

And of course, every week I feature interviews with various creative folks (writers, editors, actors, singers and more) on my website www.anthonycardno.com

Finally, I’d really like to thank Bryan for the opportunity to appear in Space Battles, and thus for re-igniting my love of writing short stories.

Here’s an excerpt from “A Battle For Parantwer.” Note, Parantwer is both the name of the ship and her Captain:

A Battle for Parantwer

Anthony R. Cardno

Jespeth slammed against the bulkhead she could barely see as the ship shuddered under another direct impact. She was already bruised across a good portion of her body, so one more swelling spot was the least of her concerns. The impact reopened the cut above her right eye and warm blood trickled down. Had it been light enough to see, her vision might have been impaired by the blood; in the dark it didn’t matter.

She wasn’t sure how long she’d been wandering around the bowels of the ship and she wasn’t really surprised that her captors weren’t looking for her yet. The attack on the ship was surely keeping them distracted, but even if it hadn’t been under attack they’d probably not bother looking for her. It’s not like she could go anywhere. The ship simply wasn’t that large, and she had no access to whatever lifeboats might be available.

She was torn between hoping the attack on the ship would cease so she could stop slamming into walls in the dark, and hoping that the attack would be successful and blow them out of the sky. Either way, her life as she’d known it was over. She only wished she’d had time to say goodbye to her brother. He’d be alone now, the last surviving member of the family.

The ship lurched again but this one felt different—not an attack, but a jump to hyperspace. They were running once more. Attack or jump, the effect was the same: Jespeth was thrown off her feet. She sailed through the short space to the opposite wall of this small passage she’d hidden in. Being an internal wall, it was slightly more forgiving than the bulkhead. But only slightly. She hit face-first. The last sound she heard as she slipped into merciful oblivion was a high-pitched squeaking. She allowed herself to imagine she was falling asleep under a nest of hectets somewhere on Tarasque.

***
The barrage started seconds after the Parantwer dropped out of warp.
Ambassador Kcaj Opul was glad he’d hesitated that extra moment
before unbuckling himself to stand and stretch—the momentum of the
first blasts glancing off the ship’s shields would have sent him sailing
right past most of the bridge crew and the captain and directly into the
hulking mass that was Revanian i’Matoth. Opul and Revanian were
both guests on this ship, and they had a history; slamming into the
man from behind in the midst of an attack would not help tender their
dislike for each other.

“Where in Denthen’s Name are they?”

The question, barked as it was, was not tense. It came not from
Revanian but from the Parantwer’s captain. Captain Marijen Parantwer
had what could be either described as a blessing or a curse: commanding
the ship named after her own illustrious ancestor. Ilgallen
Parantwer had been one of the most famous military leaders in the
known history of Tarasque, and not a generation had gone by in several
centuries without some member of the family being in the military.
Not many had been able to live up to Ilgallen’s legend. Marijen
Parantwer, in Ambassador Opul’s humble opinion, was well on her
way to matching, and possibly surpassing, her kinsman. She kept a
cool head in tense situations.

How many other current ship captains, military or not, could have
stayed on the trail of a pirate vessel of unknown origin outfitted with
advanced tech through six—or was this seven?—warp jumps and
three—or was this four?—actual confrontations?

A member of the ship’s tactical operations crew called out some
coordinates as a second spray of fire hit the Parantwer’s shields. The
ship rocked again, and to Opul it felt like the fire had come from
the same direction and hit the Parantwer in the same place. He was
no expert, of course, and his sense of direction had been thrown off
thanks to the six—no, seven, he was sure of it—warp jumps the ship
had made. Most diplomatic missions consisted of two jumps at the
most, with fair warning ahead of time for those whose systems were
adversely affected by the sudden change in motion.

Opul had spent most of this last jump seated, belted in, and feeling
more than a bit queasy. In point of fact, he had left queasy behind
at least three jumps ago and progressed to outright, if controllable,
nausea. These missions are for younger men, he thought, with stronger
constitutions.

“Hard about,” Captain Parantwer ordered, following the order
with a string of coordinates the Ambassador knew better than to try
to comprehend. Opul could follow the most byzantine social behaviors
to get to the root of a political problem, but spacial vectoring and
astro-navigation made him feel like an illiterate child.

Before the captain had even finished speaking, the Parantwer
was moving in what felt like three directions at once: up, sideways
and about-face. As the ship moved, the image on the front viewscreen
moved with it. Stars swung by. Opul caught and then lost sight of a
large planet with a debris field ringing the equator.

As the planet fell behind them, another object came into view—
the pirate ship.

This pirate ship looked nothing like any ship built in the Denthen
system.

As the senior Far-Range Ambassador of the Denthen planetary
system, Kcaj Opul had made it a point to learn to recognize every
space-faring ship built under Tarasquen and Geminid control, which
accounted for the majority of the fleet. There were a small handful of
Refaraelian ships remaining since the destruction of that planet, but
none of those had ever been intended to be extra-system fleet-worthy
and Opul would have recognized them as well. And of course Adon
had no ship-building capability, nor did it need it.

The fact that the ship on the viewscreen was slightly smaller than
most of the pirate vessels operating in Denthen or any of the neighboring
systems was not what set it apart in Opul’s mind. No, that wasn’t
unusual at all. But there was something about the design; even to a
man accustomed to dealing with other societies’ aesthetics, this ship
felt alien.

Which made it all the stranger that the crew controlling it were
absolutely from the Denthen system. Like the Parantwer itself, what
they’d seen of the unnamed pirate ship’s crew had been a mix of all
of the races found on Tarasque and Gemin; the captain—or, at least,
the captain’s spokesman—was an Uda from Gemin, and behind
him had stood a female F’ren from Gemin and behind her a small
complement of Tarasquens of every skin color. A home-grown pirate
crew who had been caught smuggling off of Tarasque, among other
things, a colony of hectets—a highly endangered species. There was
also the possibility of human cargo other than the crew itself.

Every jump the pirates made with their alien tech allowed the
opportunity for complete escape or at the very least for a vast outdistancing
of the Parantwer. Opul’s mission was to determine which
of their allied or enemy systems the ship originated from. They had
not yet lost the pirates because Captain Parantwer had made all the
right battlefield snap judgments, just as her ancestor had been known
to do. There was more than just luck involved in so consistently
predicting where the enemy was going, and even more so when they
were going.

She seemed to be making another of those snap judgments right
now. Her command crew fed her a constant stream of information, a
non-stop chatter that had increased in overall sound level, but not in
urgency, since the drop from warp and the first barrage of fire. She
responded with coordinate changes and weapons commands in an
even, crisp tone that said exactly what she needed it to: based on your
information, this is what we are going to do. Not a face among the
command crew showed any doubt as they carried out her orders and
fed her fresh information.

The pirates had fired immediately as the Parantwer dropped out
of warp, from a vantage point on a slightly higher plane. They continued
firing at the exact same spot on the Parantwer’s protective shields
until the ship began its convoluted spin-and-dodge maneuver.
This was a classic move among the pirates who operated near the
Denthen system: take a ship by surprise, hammer the shields in one
spot until you blow them—possibly doing some serious damage to the
target’s hull as well—and put the target in a position where they cannot
run and must be boarded. It was no surprise that they were finally
trying that tactic on the Parantwer, despite the fact that it was not a
poorly-armed merchant vessel but an actual fighter of the Fleet. The
question that mattered was: what would the pirates do now that their
classic move hadn’t worked?

For the moment, the pirate ship sat silently in front of them.

“This has gone on long enough.”

Captain Parantwer seemed to be talking to herself but Opul could tell that
despite the soft-spoken  nature of the statement, it was intended to be heard
by everyone on the bridge: crew and guest alike. As a younger, greener
diplomat, Opul might have tried to impose some sort of authority
inherent in his title in order to force the Captain to action. He knew better,
especially having met Marijen Parantwer and aligning rumor to reality
about her. He, like everyone else on the bridge, waited for her to continue.

“We cannot keep jumping around known and unknown space in
pursuit of these pirates.” Her voice was louder now, to be sure it carried
throughout the bridge. “Tactical, prepare Maneuver Eighty-Seven for
deployment. Engines and Helm be prepared to initiate fast pursuit.”

A quarter of the bridge staff began tapping on their station consoles.
Opul had no idea what Maneuver Eighty-Seven was, but he noticed
Revanian nodding in approval. If the Refaraelian representative of
Denthen’s Gladiators approved of a tactical decision, chances were
good it was more than sound. Especially considering the Gladiator’s
possible personal stake in this operation.

If the F’ren helmswoman was suddenly more alert or tense, her
posture didn’t show it. Like her captain, the helmswoman’s body radiated
a sense of calm readiness. It was highly unlikely that she would
jump the gun and initiate pursuit too soon, or have any lag in reaction
once the order for pursuit was given.

“What is Maneuver Eighty-Seven?”

The question came from the seat to Opul’s right, which held the
only other person on the bridge actually strapped into a seat: Gepyg
Liborel. Liborel was a scientist from Tarasque, that world’s foremost
expert on hectets. She was here simply to aid in the safe return of
the smuggled colony, should the Parantwer succeed in its mission.
Captain Parantwer turned slightly in her seat, so that she could see the
scientist.

“We have reached the point where all reasonable attempts to
capture that craft have failed. We’re lucky, in fact, that we have not
suffered worse damage while trying to capture without inflicting
unnecessary damage on ourselves. Maneuver Eighty-Seven will, ideally,
stop that ship in its tracks. There may be some collateral damage, but
it will prevent them from jumping again.”

“Collateral damage?” Liborel’s voice pitched slightly higher. Not
in hysteria, as Opul expected, but in a tone of righteous indignation.
“Is that what you call the hectet colony? If that’s the case, then why
am I here?”

“You are here,” the captain said firmly but not unkindly, “because
our intent is to get all, or barring that some, of the colony back alive,
along with any other living contraband that the pirates may have …
taken. We will do what we can to bring this mission to a successful
close, but we cannot allow the tech that ship possesses to get away.
The next time they strike, it may be more than hectets they take, and it
may not be simple black-market piracy they intend to perpetrate.”

“And you approve?” Liborel had turned her attention to
Revanian.

“I do.” Revanian barely spared the scientist a glance. In Tarasquen
society, that would be an incredible slight. For surviving Refaraelians
like Revanian, it was simply an indication that Liborel was as important
as whatever else Revanian was thinking about. No response at all
would have been a slight.

Even though her back was still completely to him, Ambassador
Opul could read the captain’s body language. Her posture implied that
she was mainly paying attention to the forward viewscreen, but that
she had at least half an eye and a certain amount of her attention on
the data streaming across her console. She seemed to be studying the
pirate ship’s current behavior.

In each of the three—not four, he was sure of this now—encounters,
the pirates had not acted at all unusually. While they had waited until
this current confrontation to trot out the old standard “bore a hole in
the shields” attack, it wasn’t like they had done anything at all out of character
for Denthenian pirates during the previous encounters.

“Full power to forward shields,” Captain Parantwer quietly
commanded. Again, hands flew across control panels.

Almost before they were done, a burst of bright green energy,
the same as they’d seen in earlier encounters, flashed from what
they’d determined was the prow of the pirate ship.

Continued in Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which you can purchase here.

 

SPACE BATTLES Author Profile: Meet Author C.J. Henderson

If you don’t know who he is, you probably should. CJ Henderson’s story have appeared in two of the previous Full Throttle Space Tales anthologies. He’s Author Guest Of Honor alongside Cheri Priest at MileHiCon this Fall in Denver, and he’s authored seventy novels, including five novel series: Jack Hagee, Piers Knight, Teddy London, Blakely & Boles, and Dragonlord. And his numerous Rocky and Noodles short stories are just a small part of his story collection. The recipient of Honorable Mention in the 1997 Best Horror Of The Year edited by Ellen Datlow, and Best Newcomer Of The Year from the Academy of SF, Fantasy and Horror Motion Pictures, his short stories and nonfiction have appeared in  countless venues. He’s a regular contributor to the SFWA Bulletin. He can be found online at http://cjhenderson.com. His Space Battles story “Space Battle Of The Bands” continues characters and setting from other FTST stories and his Rocky and Noodles stories.

BTS: How did you find out about the Space Battles anthology and what made you decide to submit?

CJ Henderson: I got the invitation because I’d already been in “Space Pirates” and “Space Horrors.” What made me submit was that it was another opportunity for me to do a story with my continuing crew, the wacky boys and girls of the E.A.S. Roosevelt.

BTS: Tell us a little about “Space Battle Of The Bands.” What’s it about? Where’d this particular idea come from?

CJH: “Battle” is the sixth story I’ve done in the Rocky & Noodles series. It all started with “Shore Leave,” the first story I did for the Defending the Future, sci fi military series. They wanted me to be a part of their launch volume, “Breech the Hull.” I knew everyone involved (editor, publisher, etc), but was hesitant because I’d never done a sci fi military story before. But, finally I struck on the idea that no one said it had to be hard science, and grim battlefield blood letting. So, I wrote a story much more like a 1940’s MGM musical about two gobs on leave … just on leave on another world. It went over very well.

Then, before I knew it, Space Pirates came along, asking for a story. Well, I had felt I’d dodged a bullet, coming up with a way to be in the DtF series without doing a typical sci fi military story. And really had no thoughts of ever doing another. But, I’d had the phrase “space pirate cookies” stuck in my head for 30 years (honest) because of some silliness carried out with some pals … and it just got me skimming along. I wrote my second story in this universe, with the title “Space Pirate Cookies,” and suddenly had a second sci fi military musical comedy with no trouble, and that was kind of it. Before I knew it, I was churning out Rocky & Noodles tales for both DtF and Full Throttle on a regular basis.

For Space Horrors I did “Oh Why, Can’t I?” which was a real send-up of some of the cliche’s created by Classic Trek. Now, when Space Battles came along, the phrase “Space Battle of the Bands” popped into my head, and I was off and running again. This one didn’t have songs in it, but it was musically inclined, so I figured it was close enough. And, the characters have grown to the point where now some of the stories aren’t even musical at all. But, they’re still funny (at least, the fans say they are), so I figure I’m okay. It’s the comedy that seems to have kept people coming back for more, tracking down the other books, et cetera.

BTS: How’d you get started as a writer?

CJH: I started out telling stories to the other kids at night under the street light. In the 8th grade, someone said, “You ought to write stuff down,” and I did. Then, after doing 100s of stories over the next few years, when I got out of college, someone said, “You ought to send stuff out,” so I did. And that’s how it got started. Good thing I’m suggestible, or maybe nothing would have ever happened.

BTS: You’ve had quite a number of stories and novels published. Is writing your full time career?

CJH: Yeah, pretty much. There are 70 books on the shelves, hundreds and hundreds of short stories and comics published, and thousands of non-fiction pieces. So, this is what I do.

BTS: Tell us about some of your other work?

CJH: There’s so much. I mostly known these days for doing supernatural investigators. My Teddy London series (9 books) is coming back into print for the third time right now. He was my first occult detective. I’m currently working on the third book in the Piers Knight series. He’s my newest guy. He’s a curator at the Brooklyn Museum, and battles menaces from beyond with the artifacts stored in the museum.  There are other supernatural detectives, but there’s also my non-supernatural P.I., Jack Hagee. And Dragonlord, my sword and sorcery series. And Lai Wan, who is a character from the London series who got popular enough to get her own stories and comics. And Blakley & Boles, my college professors that routinely get involved with the supernatural. And my two steampunk series, and Masters of Tarot, and my continuation of “Kolchak: the Nightstalker” for Moonstone, and well … you get the idea.

I get bored working on just one series, or even one kind of story, so I find I’m always shaking things up. It just helps keep me fresh.

BTS: Do you have plans to do any more with this universe? A novel perhaps?

CJH: Not a novel, but Mike McPhail, the editor from DtF, who inspired the whole Rocky & Noodles thing in the first place, is keen on collecting all the stories and putting out one big book. I’ve already written some material that will go in the front to kind of set things up, and then in go all the stories. There’s already a large enough word count to almost fill a book, so what I’m working on in my spare time is a novella that will cap the book off, tie everything together, and give it a novel-like feel in the end. I’ve done this several times before. I like to give my characters a sense of closure so fans don’t feel disappointed when stories stop coming out about this or that group. That way I can always go back later, but if I don’t, people don’t get upset.

BTS: What other projects do you have in the works that we can look forward to?

CJH: Well, I’m waiting for the first Masters of Tarot novel to come out right now, as well as the new “Kolchak in the Lost World,” and “The Shadow of Evil,” which is a pulp-action-adventure novel, the first new novel for the character The Spider in 65 years. He was as big as Doc Savage and the Shadow back in the day, and they have me writing a series of new adventures for him. There’s Radio City Knight, the 3rd Piers Knight novel which I’m finishing right now, and …You know, I don’t want to drive folks crazy. Just tell them to go over to www.cjhenderson.com, and check things out. There’s info about what I’m up to, and free short stories to read … oh, and if they’ve read any of my previous Full Throttle stories (or, well, anything of mine) there’s also that “Contact Us” spot. I’d love to chat with anyone who wants to tell me what they think of my stuff. I’ve got my fingers crossed that “Space Battle of the Bands” will be a crowd pleaser like the rest of the stories have been, but … well … you know, the public is in charge of that.

So, without further adieu, here’s an excerpt from “Space Battle Of The Bands”:

Space Battle of the Bands

C.J. Henderson

“Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, to soften rocks, to bend a knotted oak.” ―William Congreve

“Now ya gotta admit, Noodles, that was really something cool.” The speaker was Chief Gunnery Officer Rockland Vespucci, and on a casual, or even close inspection it would have to be admitted by most anybody that he indeed had a point. Machinist First Mate Li Qui Kon, the person to whom he had been making his point, did not answer. At least not at first, which was also perfectly understandable. What they were seeing before them was a sight not oft seen by anyone.

“Rocky,” the gunnery officer’s friend said finally, his voice a whisper as had been his companion’s, “I see those understatement seminars the captain insisted you attend really have done the trick.”

As members of the crew of the E.A.S. Roosevelt, the pair of swabbies had witnessed many of the most inspiring, dreadful, and even down-right goofy things the galaxy had to offer. It was a rare moment, however, when they managed to see something that combined all three emotions so completely as the one they were sharing at that moment. The Roosevelt, as the most advanced of all Earth’s warships, was often times sent into situations merely to allow its admittedly awesome presence to be observed by others not in possession of such a presence. That particular segment of current reality in the ship’s already grand history was another one of those times.

At present, the Roosevelt and her crew were on display in the Belthis System. More specifically, they were in orbit around Belthis Prime,
one of the newest candidates for entry into the grand Confederation of
Planets, of which the Earth was the big cheese. The Roosevelt was the
ship responsible for exposing the Pan-Galactic League of Suns—the
galaxy’s former big cheeses—as somewhat of a fraud when it came to
ruling the universe. Thus the ship had earned itself the job, desired or
not, of being present at every official Confederation Entrance Ceremony
that the Confederation could manage.

At this particular ceremony, those members of the crew not on
duty were pressed up against the ship’s various view ports, or at least
crowding around a monitor with an external feed, watching as the
Belthin Navy put on a display of their weaponry. The demonstration
was part fireworks show, part how-do-you-like-them-apples, but it
was, nonetheless, most effective.

Out beyond one of Belthis’ third moon, a wide range of target
vessels had been arrayed for systematic destruction, and so far it had
been in the parlance of the average fellow, “a hell of a show.” The
Belthin ships were knocking off their objectives one after another with
an array of light beams which lit the ebony of space with a astounding
splash of interwoven colors, and something else the crew of the
Roosevelt could not quite believe.

Sound.

Yes, of course, they were all aware that sound could not travel in
a vacuum. Travel? It could not even exist. And yet, somehow the destructive
rays were slathering the area with not only color, but for lack
of a better word, music, as well.

It seemed that Belthin science had, over the centuries, developed
a defensive/offensive capability unknown anywhere else in the galaxy.
And, on the Roosevelt’s forward bridge, it was that very factor which was
the topic of conversation between the ship’s captain, Alexander Benjamin
Valance, her science officer, Mac Michaels, and a rather average looking
Belthin, DixWix Plemp, Supreme Defulator for the Regime.

“You like our ships, yes? Impressive in their furious manner, are
they not, hum? Magnificent in their ferocious demeanor, no?”

“Absolutely,” answered Valance, only being partially diplomatic
by praising the event, “it is, I must admit, one of the most outstanding
military displays I’ve ever had the privilege to witness.”

“I have to agree,” said Michaels, the all-around big-brained whiz
kid of the Roosevelt. “This branch of defensive weaponry you folks
have created has to be singularly unique in all the cosmos. I mean, I’ve
certainly never heard of anything even remotely like it.”

“It is very impressive,” added the captain. And, to be fair, he was
not just doing so to keep the oddly-shaped alien smiling. In fact, the
human contingent actually had no way of knowing if their current
could hosts could smile. The Belthins were basically a race of beings
that resembled nothing else more than a stack of meat pancakes. They
did not possess heads, persay, but heard and saw and spoke through
a variety of slits located around the summit of their conical bodies.
Their means of locomotion consisted of puckering their rounded base
and then moving by tilting themselves back and forth as they wobbled
along. Needless to say, the Belthins did not believe in stairs.

Most of them fell within the range of three to four feet tall with
few exceptions. They were also quite a symmetrical race, the majority
of them being almost exactly equal in their diameter to their height.
Indeed, the ship’s utility crew had been called upon to construct a
platform affair for the Supreme Defulator to perch upon so he might
be able to view the display along with Valance and Michaels as more
of an equal—and without looking so much like some manner of pet
waiting for one of them to take for a walk.

“Can you tell us anything about these systems, Defulator Plemp,”
asked Michaels in a clearly admiring tone. “Not looking to cart off
your secrets, of course, but … oh, seriously … how did your people
stumbled across such an astounding technology, or was it a conscious
search? And, how long ago did they do so … or was it was it merely a
lucky stumble? Did some Belthin visionary actually set out to unravel
such secrets, I mean…”

Plemp formed a hand-and-arm-like appendage with a thought,
extending it in a casual manner, gesturing with an impressively fluid
bow that he would be most happy to answer such questions. The
Defulator was not worried about revealing any of his people’s secrets.
As he explained, he was not scientist or even mechanic enough to give
away any important points about their defenses. He was, however, a
politician through and through, one dedicated to getting his race into
the Confederation of Planets and thus ready to brag about anything
Belthinian at a moment’s notice.

“We Belthins are quite ready, willing as well, to discuss such things,
yes? All our weapons have been developed, constructed, designed upon
these lines over our centuries, hum? You understand, no?”

“You’re telling me,” asked Michaels, more excited than ever,
“you have in-atmosphere weapons which work using this same basic
technology?”

“All Belthin weapons work thus, you see? You follow? From the
slightest personal protector, to our deluxe line of planet smashers …
yes? All are music to the ears, no?”

Valance and his science officer did not hesitate to agree. The Belthin
weapons were extraordinary, both in that they possessed devastating
power, and yet did not use very much energy at all to create their devastation.
And, unlike the old style nuclear weapons of Earth, they were an
utterly clean source of destruction which left no undesirable residues or
contaminants behind.

“Very long time we possess these principles, yes? But, to use in
space, new this is for us, you understand? You follow? Did not need—
did not know there was need, did not suspect, hum? You are with us,
no? You—”

“Captain,” interrupted Lieutenant Drew Cass, the weapons officer
on duty, “we’ve got three unknowns approaching the display sector.
Running silent.”

“Confirming silence is intentional, sir,” added Iris Feng, the
communications officer, “identical requests sent out in Earth 9.8,
Belthin, and Pan-Galactic—no response.”

“Defulator Plemp,” asked Valance, “any idea whose ships those
are?” Puckering violently, swelling to his full extension of some four
feet, three inches, the supreme ruler of Belthin shouted;
“These are known, yes! Enemies! Hostiles, you understand? You
know? You—”

And then, the weapons fire began, and the darkness of space
exploded in flame.

Continued in Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which you can purchase here.

 

 

 

 

SPACE BATTLES Author Profile: Meet Author Sarah Hendrix

“The Gammi Expriment,” Sarah Hendrix’s Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 story was her third anthology sale but wound up being her first SF story published.  She does a little bit of everything from publicist work for Apex Publications to slush reading for Dagan Books and co-hosting #sffwrtcht on Twitter. She staves off insanity by untangling her kitten from yarn and working with tiny beads. Despite her heavy workload, she still finds time to write and edit her own stories and game with her fiancé. Her stories can be found in the In Situ and FISH anthologies, both from Dagan Books. You can follow her on her blog at http://shadowflame1974.wordpress.com.

BTS: How did you find out about the Space Battles anthology and what made you decide to submit?

Sarah Hendrix: You invited me to submit,

BTS: Oh yeah, I forgot. *winks* This is your first SF sale, correct? Tell us a little about “The Gammi Experiment.” What’s it about? Where’d this particular idea come from?

SH: First space themed sale. The other two sales are SF related. When I was first invited to the anthology I tossed around several ideas, but they weren’t going anywhere.  Then one evening I was listening to my fiance play EVE Online. His corp was getting ready to fight a battle. They were discussing the advantage of small ships doing bombing runs. It got me to thinking.  Where would smaller ships have the advantage over a large fleet?  What kind of people would have these ships? Why would they want to fight if they were so outnumbered.  The ideas for “The Gammi Experiment” was born though it took a few drafts to hammer everything out.

“The Gammi Experiment” is about a former Federation pilot who is asked to be a liaison between some hard headed space miners and a General who desperately needs their assistance against the Ukra pirates.

BTS: You’ve had other stories published. Tell us about those.

SH: I have two other sold stories: “Rachel’s Journal” will be in the upcomming In Situ anthology from Dagan Books. The anthology features artifacts found on other worlds. “Rachel’s Journal” is a story about a dying world. “Never to Return” will be in the FISH anthology, again from Dagan Books. In this book, a girl goes to visit her grandmother. She assists with a team of scientists trying to bring stability back to our poisoned world.

BTS: You also are involved with SFFWRTCHT and do an Urban Fantasy Column, Edge Of The City. Tell us about those please.

SH: I got involved with #SFFWRTCHT in its beginning. I had already been participating in #UFChat and we’re friends. Hopefully, my suggestions at the very beginning have helped the #sffwrtcht gain a following and become as large as it is now. Once  the #sffwrtcht blog, I volunteered to do some posts. One of my favorite sub-genres is Urban Fantasy so it was natural to want to do those. I feel that UF has a very broad range of readers and potential story lines.  I mean, where else can you get action, adventure, a bit of romance, self reflection, character development and kick (tail) story lines?

BTS: How’d you get started as a writer?

SH: I’ve been writing since I was young. I still have my very first story I wrote in 1st grade. My first stories were of course FanFiction, but I don’t think anyone saw those. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I decided to get serious. I’ve still got a way to go, but enjoying it every step of the way.

BTS: Do you have plans to do any more with this story’s universe?

SH: Actually I do, the Gammi universe deserves some exploration and I intend on doing that sometime.

BTS: What other projects do you have in the works that we can look forward to?

SH: Well, right now, I’ve got a lot of work to do with the stories I have.  After taking some great classes with Cat Rambo, I’ve got a better idea of where I need work.  It’s going to take some time, but I’ll have more out there in the world soon. *grin*

Here’s an excerpt from “The Gammi Experiment”:

The Gammi Experiment

Sarah Hendrix

As he reached the door of the General’s office, Naz Othran straightened his flightsuit. It was general distribution, grey and didn’t fit well around his shoulders. He would have preferred the worn jumpsuit he used on his own ship, but General Akinda insisted that all the pilots wear what her crews wore. He ran a hand through his dark hair acutely aware that it was longer than normal and wished he had enough time for a quick shower. After nearly fifteen years, he never thought he would be flying under an actual commander again. Not after the court-martial even if he had been acquitted of all charges. After his discharge, he’d thought Gammi Sector would be a good place to make a new life, to hide what he had once been. It was an outlying system, out of the way, and no one asked questions so long as he completed the jobs he was hired to do. He paused a moment outside the door, feeling he was going to be asked to do the impossible.

He stepped through the door and closed it, standing at attention before the older woman behind the desk. “You wanted to see me?” Even though he wasn’t a part of the Federation Fleet he knew about General Akinda. One of the few females to make it through the harshest officer training and command a battle fleet, her face was featured on the news vids often enough for her to be recognizable.

She didn’t look at him as she paced in the shadows. “Seven fights in the past two days. Hard headed, sub-space idiots the lot of ’em.”

Unsure if she was speaking to herself or to him, Naz remained silent.

She paused and spun on her heels. Her wrinkled face was furrowed into a tight frown, making it seem much older than her sixty years. “This isn’t working. I can’t make miners into battleship captains in a few weeks. No one can.” She waited for Naz to reply as she glared at him.

Finally he shook his head. “They aren’t Academy recruits, sir. They aren’t disciplined.” Before he’d left the core system, he hadn’t heard of Akinda often but, in those fifteen years, he hadn’t thought much about the Federation fleet except for the war against the Ukra pirates. When her ships arrived in system, he’d done a bit of research and was pleased to find she was at least a competent commander. Tough but in his opinion fair. Still even the best commanders made mistakes.

Akinda sighed and moved to her desk. In the brighter light, her skin was darker than he expected and the streaks of grey hair more pronounced. Naz had a touch of nostalgia as he remembered his grandmother. Akinda shared the same skin tone, a warm brown with a slight build. He almost chuckled at the thought of comparing the two women. One kindly and soft, the other hard and demanding. But even his grandmother had a streak of stubbornness that could not be denied.

“I know that.” Her answer startled him. She sounded tired, defeated, though the fight hadn’t even started. Sitting on the high back chair, she picked up a small stack of papers. “I’ve looked over your file. You were quite a pilot once.”

He couldn’t stop the flinch in his shoulders. “I’m still a pilot.”

Her eyes flicked up to him then back down. “Captain Othran, I’ll be frank. We don’t have a lot of time. The Ukra fleet will probably arrive here in this sector within the next few lunar cycles. And without some sort of defense, all of those hard headed sub-space idiots out there are going to be slaved to their ships until the ores are played out or they burn up.”

His lips pressed harder together with every word the General said. “In the past three weeks, I can’t get anything resembling a squad together let alone a fleet. They agreed,” she paused and pointed at him, “you agreed, to work with us. Yet all I’ve had is trouble.”

“It isn’t like we had much of a choice.” The snarl escaped before he could hold it back.

Akinda’s eyes narrowed. “What did you say Captain?”

He slowly released the fists he had clenched. “You come into the system unannounced, claiming that the Ukra are coming here. You claim we can’t stand against those pirates. They’ve ignored us until now, at least until we opened the Adrian belts. And if it weren’t for the Utobian you wouldn’t be here either.”

“The Federation protects…”

Naz slammed his hand down on the table. “The Federation protects only what it has to. Akinda, you aren’t talking to one of those sub-space idiots here. I spent most of my life in the Academy and in the Federal Fleet. I saw what your Federation protects and doesn’t protect.”

Before she could protest, he continued. “The Ukra build ships faster than the Federation. For every ship taken out, the Ukra supply three more. I’m not stupid and neither are most of those pilots out there. You didn’t just come here to protect the Utobian; you came here to make a point.”

Akinda slowly leaned back and crossed her arms. “What makes you think that, Captain?”

“Why else would you bring in equipment and supplies to refit our ships?”

“Have a seat Othran.” She gestured to the chair opposite her. As soon as he was comfortable, she leaned forward. “You’re right, the Federation doesn’t have enough ships to defend this or any other outlying sector. However we can’t let the Ukra fly in where it wants and take resources. If we don’t have enough ships, we’ll have to find them somewhere. The best option is to use what’s here. Your mining ships. The Federation sends you the equipment and gives the sectors some training. And we are paying you well.”

He couldn’t argue, seven hundred Federal credits a day was a better rate than a day’s haul in the belts. Safer too, at least until the Ukra showed up. “The Council agreed?”

She tried to avoid his gaze. “Let’s just say you are the first experiment. If it works out well, we’ll leave you the equipment, station, and a few ships here in the sector to protect it on your own.”

He knew how the Council worked. Unofficial tests held in out of the way corners gave enough feedback for the Council to make a definite decision. Naz Othran nodded. “How long until they reach us?”

She shrugged. “Another full lunar cycle at least. Maybe more. Since there are no available warp gates, we will know before they reach the system. The Ukra will have to rely on their subspace drives to travel this far. We should have a few days’ warning before they arrive.”

Nervous, he ran a hand through his hair. “It’s not enough time.”

“Captain, it’s all we have. That’s why I need your help.”

“My help, General?”

Akinda leaned forward and put her elbows on the desk. “You know these people, their ships, this system. There isn’t enough on the uplinks for us to even guess about how the asteroid belts flow. Our ships cannot use short distance warps, they’re too large. But your ships can, and do. I want to make use of that advantage. I’ve wasted enough time trying to train them. The ships are almost ready. We need to be flying drills, not sitting in simulations. You’re the only pilot here with officer training. My crews like you. I want you to serve as liaison between my
fleet and the Gammi pilots.”

Naz shook his head. “You read my file?”

The General nodded. “I don’t care about that court-marshal. In fact, I think your commanding officer was a fool to order you to fly against those ships. You saved lives, Captain.”

“I’m not going back.”

Akinda shook her head. “I don’t need you as a member of my fleet. I need you to help me train these pilots so we can break the Ukra.”

He was silent for a very long time. Leaning against the chair, he arched his back and looked at the ceiling. “Don’t treat them like recruits.” He shook his head as he leaned forward again. “The miners pride themselves on being able to work alone. Break them up into smaller groups. Make them compete.”

Akinda nodded as she listened.

***
The sirens didn’t even make her jump anymore. Once the lights began to flash and the howling started, Akinda simply dropped what she was doing like every other pilot and made her way to the ship. Things were more organized now; pilots and crews broken up into squads. With Captain Othran’s help, she’d chosen five pilots to serve as alphas for each squad. Fewer fights, fewer complaints, even if it meant she had less control.

Her ship wasn’t the first out, so she took just a bit longer getting into the command seat. “Everything ready?” she asked her crew.

Her second gave her the all clear signal.

She motioned to her captain. “Rendezvous point.”

In moments they were sliding through space at warp toward where the rest of her fleet waited. She switched comms as soon as they came within range.

“They’ve been training on the sims, but let’s see how this goes,” she said to the captains of her regular fleet, then listened as various affirmatives answered her.

She was taking a huge risk by having the Gammi fleet practice with the few ships that had been able to keep up with her command vessel. The rest of her fleet—slower, larger ships— would arrive behind the Ukra fleet, days perhaps even weeks. Half of the Federation Council felt this was a joke and a waste of time, but the other half saw the need to protect the valuable resources here. If she lost any ships, even the half-rusted frigates the Gammi pilots flew, it would be one less ship in the air.

But she didn’t see any other option. Sims weren’t enough. The pilots needed real-time practice in their own ships.

As the ships in her own fleet moved into a typical Ukra formation, she watched the local scan carefully. It didn’t take long for the first blip to appear.

“Mouser on scan, sir,” her navigator reported.

Akinda nodded as the fast moving ship sped in their direction before suddenly darting off into the asteroid belt nearby. Hopefully the Ukra would think the Mouser was a lone ship out on patrol, not a scout sending coordinates back to a fleet. As the three-man ship disappeared from the scans, her screen blipped indicating her fleet was in place.

“Remember, only light pulses, no weapons. We want to give them a taste of what this fight is going to be like, not scare them into the next cycle.”

Her fleet had seen the Ukra fleet up close more than once and knew the basic attack formation by heart—command ships in the center of the fleet, battleships to the front and sides, tech and repair ships to the rear. As the battleships received damage, they would fall back, allowing fresh, undamaged ships to the fore. It was that constant cascade of relatively undamaged ships that made the Ukra fleets so difficult to defeat. Using standard tactics, she’d never be able to hold them off for more than a few minutes with the half fleet she had.

The Gammi ships had the advantage in the scenario she wanted to fight. Able to warp short distances, the miner’s fleet could assemble just out of sensor range and jump into the battle at any time. Because of their smaller size, they were more maneuverable and able to make quick attacks before warping out of range again.

“Five ships on scan,” her navigator said interrupting her thoughts.

“All ships, full shields,” she commanded, hoping to at least save her fleet ships from damage if anything went wrong.

“Yes, General.”

She felt the faint vibration as the shield generators came up to full power. The blips on the screen scattered and disappeared. Leaning forward, she watched carefully as the local scan remained clear. Her heart beat, counting time.

“We have torpedoes on the starboard side,” one of her battleship commanders reported from the front of the formation.

“Hold steady,” she replied as the torpedoes, light pulses, sped towards the battleships. Two more salvos appeared on the scans before the ships uncloaked and warped away.

Told to react like a Ukra fleet, the head battleship began maneuvering to align with where the five ships first came out of warp. The light pulses exploded harmlessly against three of the frontmost ships of the formation.

Working quickly, she signaled those three ships. “React as though you have been neuted.” In battle, the Gammi ships would be carrying torpedoes that carried electrical charges. The ships in range of the blast would at least be temporarily crippled as electrical systems such as navigation and weapons went off line. If they got lucky, there would be one less Ukra ship to worry about.

Not waiting for a reply, she watched on her vidscreen as the three crippled ships started to drift. Expecting the next wave of ships to warp in at the same point the rest of the fleet turned away from the drifting battleships. Her ships attempted to align to the coordinates from which the Gammi ships warped in, as the disabled ships drifted, causing confusion.

Akinda knew the Ukra counted on the repeated actions of the Academy trained pilots. Many of the fleet commanders had less imagination than her pinky finger. It was no wonder the Ukra had decimated ship numbers greater than their own. But the more she studied their actions, the more convinced she became that even the Ukra had become complacent.

Her fleet completed maneuvers, aligning to the proper coordinates.

Pulse engines engaged, they began to close the distance.

“Port side, incoming!” another ship relayed moments before five more blasts hit several of the ships.

Continued in Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which you can purchase here.

Write Tip: 7 Things I Learned About Working With Editors From Editing SPACE BATTLES

In Spring 2010, I got the chance to pitch publisher David Rozansky of Flying Pen Press some anthology ideas I’d been developing and wound up hired to edit the next installment in the publisher’s long running Full Throttle Space Tales anthology series, Space Battles, which release last week, April 18. After three years now of significant work editing books, stories and now an anthology with authors, I can tell you I have come to the conclusion every writer ought to get experience being an editor. There’s so much helpful stuff to learn but this was particularly true from editing an anthology. Here’s 7 things I learned:

1 ) Meet Deadlines — As an editor, there’s nothing worse than sitting around waiting on writers. If you set a deadline, particularly as I did, many months out for your project, and hardly any stories come in by deadline, you start to worry. I had invited 37 people and needed 17-19 stories, and I had 6 come in by deadline. Unsurprisingly, two of those were by my headliners Mike Resnick & Brad R. Torgersen and Jean Johnson. There’s a reason Mike Resnick gets so many awards and has such a body of work: he’s a pleasure to work with. He’s a professional. He’s reliable. You never appreciate that more than when you’re editing something like this.

2 ) Be Courteous — I invited you to submit to my anthology, in many cases because you’re friends or I like your work. Some of you expressed an interest beforehand and I honored that. Okay, then how come I can name at least 10 “friends” I’ve never heard from since? They didn’t thank me for the original invite. They didn’t respond to the reminders as deadline approach. Not a word after the post-deadline pleas for more stories. I have heard nothing. How do you think that makes me feel about their professionalism and their friendship? How likely do you think I’ll be to invite them to my next project? I leave it to you to figure that out but I’d bet it’s pretty obvious after what I said about Resnick. Resnick’s already invited to my next project.

3 ) Work With Me — Editors edit. It’s what we’re employed to do. My job is to help both your story and the anthology as a whole be the best it can be. I want us all to win. I don’t want to ruin your story, so don’t be difficult. Yeah, I’m not perfect. I don’t know everything. But neither do you. When I ask for changes, I expect you to discuss it yes, but I also expect you to make the changes. If there’s something you feel strongly about, I am fair. We can discuss it. But don’t make me do it for you from stubbornness and don’t nitpick every single minor change. I had some authors who asked to keep a couple things for various reasons and I agreed because they willingly made every other change I asked for. I didn’t ask for a lot. I hate asking people to change their precious words. But sometimes it’s necessary for good reasons. One of my authors wrote enough backstory to fill several novels and his story dragged and suffered for it. He refused to make changes, even after I went through and marked stuff out for him. Most editors would have just rejected it, but I went the extra mile. I wanted to help him make it work. Then this same author kept bragging about how this was “the most brilliant story” I’d gotten of all of them. I passed. And I won’t be inviting him to future projects. I asked for a couple tweaks in Resnick & Torgersen’s story and had it back in less than 24 hours. Who would you rather work with?

4 ) Editors Want Your Story To Be Good — Not only is hard to ask writers to change their precious words, but it’s really hard to reject their stories. It broke my heart. The first story Jean Johnson subbed, I rejected. It didn’t have a core ship on ship battle in space. I did the same with trunk stories from Jay Lake, Kevin J. Anderson and Chuck Gannon. The stories were all brilliant. I’m sure they will find homes. They just didn’t fit the guidelines for this. Yes, I couldn’t believe I was rejecting stories from such talented people. But then I also rejected a couple off sub-par stories as well. And one of them was by a good friend. That was really hard. It hurt me to say it. I didn’t want to be another rejection for any writer. We get enough. I wanted their stories to be good. I wanted them all to be ready and right for the anthology. They weren’t. Thank God I chose not to do an open call. Imagine how many more painful rejections I’d have had to make? As it was, at least I could personalize and praise the good along with saying “no.” And although I know I did the right thing by saying “no,” I still wish I could have said “Yes!”

5 ) Editors Have Deadlines Too — Yeah, I set a deadline for story subs, but you know what, your missing that deadline creates issues with my deadlines for having stories picked and submitting a manuscript to the publisher. I actually had to push it back waiting for stories. How does that make me look professionally? Oh, the publisher was gracious. He understood. But if you continually put me in a spot where I can’t meet deadlines, how likely am I to want to work with you in the future?

6 ) Editors Work Hard — I don’t think you realize how much work it takes to edit until you do it. I’m not talking revision passes on your manuscript. I’m talking editing someone else’s precious work so that it comes out shiny and make everyone get the praise they deserve. It needs to not just fit with the stories around it and flow well, but you need to polish it for typos, get their name right, format it, polish it. It takes a lot of passes reading the stories and it takes a lot of time nitpicking little details. Sadly, I just the other day found a typo in one story near the end of the anthology which I should have caught. I am going to be kicking myself about that forever. I let those writers down. It’s a lot of pressure and work to not just sell the anthology to the publisher, but figure out the best story order, manage the budget wisely, recruit writers, control deadlines, meet deadlines of your own, etc. It takes work to keep fresh eyes rereading the same stories over and over because of all the details. You want to make sure they’re as good as can be and yet you’ve read them so many times it becomes a bit like editing your own work. So writers, don’t think editors have the easy job, because they don’t. And they’re reputations are dependent not just on picking great stories but lots of other factors too.

7) It Feels Just As Good — The sense of pride and accomplishment you get from seeing an anthology you edited published is not that different from that you feel when your novel comes out. It feels really good to help fellow writers achieving career goals even as you achieve your own. It feels really good to know someone finally made it into print with you. It feels good to see them published alongside respected colleagues like Mike Resnick, Jean Johnson, or David Lee Summers. It’s not entirely your own work, gestated for years, pounded through many drafts, yes, because it’s a community effort, but that doesn’t make the success of that any less different. Especially when, having finished, you feel like the writers have become better friends and people you’d welcome working with in the future and who would welcome the opportunity to work with you. And when the publisher asks you ‘what else have you got?’ Boy, that’s a great moment, too. I never looked down on editing as lesser–less of a craft, less significant than writing– but I also never realized how good it could feel to do it and see the end result published professionally. I’ve been proud of the books I edited which got published and were well received, but this pleased me more because I really played a more significant role in its creative design and overall final form by choosing stories, cover, writing intros, bios and the cover copy. It’s a really good feeling and I doubt anyone who takes it on would disagree.

Well, there’s 7 things I learned from editing Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6. What lessons have you learned from editing, working with writers, or editing others? I’d welcome comments. For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, the children’s book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing and editor of the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which he edited for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction.  An affiliate SFWA member, he also hosts Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter and is a frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and Hugo nominee SFSignal. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via www.bryanthomasschmidt.net.

SPACE BATTLES Author Profile: Meet Author-Editor-Publisher Grace Bridges

Our next author is Grace Bridges whose Space Battles story “Never Look Back” is about two sisters alone on a ship in the aftermath of a battle. In addition to writing, Grace is the editor and publisher of Splashdown Books, a leading Christian speculative fiction publisher in New Zealand. Her novels, Faith Awakened and Legendary Space Pilgrims are out from Splashdown as well as several anthologies. Her  short story serial “Comet Born” is currently ongoing at Digital Dragon Magazine. Grace can be found online via http://www.splashdownbooks.com/, on Facebook, or via her blog at http://blog.splashdownbooks.com/. She’s @gracebridges on Twitter and does occasional book reviews at http://reviews.splashdownbooks.com/.

BTS: How did you find out about the Space Battles anthology and what made you decide to submit?

Grace Bridges: Well, that would be you, Bryan, who sent me an invite. I had this story I’d written some time before without a particular purpose in mind, and the theme fitted so it was definitely worth a try.

BTS: You’ve had stories in several anthologies, correct? Tell us a little about “Never Look Back.” What’s it about? Where’d this particular idea come from?

GB: I am in a couple of anthologies so far: Underground Rising (ed. Frank Creed) and Forever Friends (ed. Shelagh Watkins) as well as a few where the “sale” happened some time ago, but the books are yet to appear: The Book of Sylvari (ed. Chila Woychik), Year of the Dragon (ed. Randy Streu/T. & J. Ambrose) and The Cross and Cosmos, Year 1 (ed. Glyn Shull/Frank Luke) which are all three due out this year. However, Space Battles was wrapped up the fastest of any – well done! “Never Look Back” was initially my attempt to deal with a very hard time in my life, at a point where I wanted to stay in a particular place, for my own reasons, but had to accept the effect of this on the people around me. So the emotions are very real, although I sent them into space.

BTS: You’ve also had a couple of novels published. Please tell us a little about those.

GB: Faith Awakened (2007): A computer technician gets more than she bargains for when she plunges herself and her companions into virtual reality cryogenic stasis to escape a raging plague. Cyberpunk dystopia, set in a future Ireland. Legendary Space Pilgrims (2010): If Pilgrim’s Progress happened in space, this is what it might look like. A pair of freedom-seekers escape the mind-controlled slavery of Planet Monday and follow the Voice to unknown worlds where wonders and challenges await.

BTS: You also are the publisher of Splashdown Books in New Zealand. Tell us about Splashdown please.

GB: Too many great manuscripts and not enough publishers led to the conclusion that I should use my publishing knowledge for their benefit. It’s been a great ride over the last three years – we now have 19 titles (18 books and one CD) with 8 more coming this year, plus the shared storyworld ezine AvenirEclectia.com. Splashdown has a different workflow to most publishers – our authors join the team and contribute collectively to everyone’s edits, design, marketing and more. You can get a taste of all our authors to the end of 2011 in the group anthology Aquasynthesis (http://www.splashdownbooks.com/anthologies/aquasynthesis).  [A Transcript From a Chat with Grace and Aquasynthesis authors Fred Warren and Rick Copple on SFFWRTCHT can be found here.]

BTS: How’d you get started as a writer?

GB: I was homeschooled, and one day when I was eight or so, my Dad gave me a one-word story starter and said “go for it!” The word was Zebra… and even then I managed to twist it into a science fiction tale full of planetary colonists and convertible rocketships. Homeschooling for me also meant lots and lots of reading, mostly fiction, adding to my arsenal of words and styles, which has been a huge influence on my writing.

BTS: Do you have plans to do any more with this universe?

GB: Not at this point, but I’m certainly always open to new ideas hitting me!

BTS: What other projects do you have in the works that we can look forward to?

 GB: I recently completed the sequel to Faith Awakened and a prequel series is also underway. There are the other upcoming anthologies mentioned above, plus I’ll soon be editing an Avenir Eclectia anthology which will have a few of my pieces in it. Four of my short stories are available as Kindle Singles and I will be adding more to that collection as well as making them all available on Smashwords and B&N.

BTS: Anything else you’d like to say?

GB: I recently got started on Pinterest and I’m really enjoying it: http://pinterest.com/splashdown/ Seems like a great way to collect links to the things I like as well as showcase my own work. I’m always happy to meet new people on Facebook and Twitter, too!

Here’s an excerpt from Grace’s Space Battles story ” Never Look Back”:

Never Look Back

Grace Bridges

I have heard tell of the battle frenzy, from times of old, but I never experienced it until now. Out here in the reaches of space, there may not be much comparison to Arthurian wars on muddy plains—but surely as heck, I feel the same righteous anger against my unjustified opponent. My blood boils at the thought of his attacks, even as I clutch at the arms of my chair to keep from being thrown around the room. I could attach the harness … if the ship stopped shaking for a moment. Something’s wrong with that design.

My companion, bending over her console, turns to look up at me. “He’s swinging round again! Coming straight at us—like he wants to ram us!”

“Hold her steady. He won’t do that. He’d be dead too.”

We become still and watch the displays. Closer and closer
the dark ship comes. At the last second he veers away. I
breathe again.

“What did he do that for?”

“Just trying to scare us. Cat and mouse.” Harrumph. “But I won’t
be the mouse in his trap.” We. I should have said we. But she appears
not to have noticed. It may be my battle, but now I have drawn her into
it, never ever what I wanted.

He shoots. A split second later, the ship bucks under us. My last
thought: I forgot the harness again…

I gazed at the star-encrusted universe and the huge curve of
Neptune, with its vivid blue bands and posse of tiny moons. I had seen
it countless times through a telescope in earlier days, but now it was so
close, it felt as if I could reach out and touch the shimmering surface. I
held out my gloved hand and watched the soft swirls of condensation
drift between my fingers like soap suds in a basin.

Somewhere out there was my enemy … dying or adrift? I
hoped we had incapacitated him enough that he wouldn’t return.
Somewhere, too, was the repair ship Kasif, coming to fix us. But she
was days away yet.

One last look, then I entered the airlock and activated it. Its hiss
roared in my ears after the silence of the vacuum. I glanced at the toolkit
I dragged with me, its pieces worn with the extreme strain I’d had
to place on them. I prayed it was enough. After twenty hours spacewalking
to mend the deadly puncture, all I wanted was to get out of
this suit. The airlock light moved to orange, and then after an age, to
green. I hauled on the handle and swung the thick inner door open.

The main hallway of the starship loomed before me, still lit only
by emergency panels. That wasn’t good. Things should have gone
back to normal once I’d repaired the damage.

Stars spin around us as we pitch end over end through space …
away from the scene of the battle, never to return. Why did he give up
now?

I shook the images from my mind. The Namaste was my home.
The only place ever worthy of the name. I sighed inside my helmet,
and the faceplate fogged a little more. Stepping over to the nearest
wall computer, I checked the oxygen level. It was almost normal, so I
flipped the catch on my helmet and yanked it off, my hair escaping its
ties to cascade down my back.

Never look back, that’s what I’d told myself after my last big
failure, back at the Explorers’ base on Mars. My personal vow was
to keep travelling outwards from Earth till old age got to me. Never
look back. Only forward. Get away.

Flash. Boom. The ship swaying madly. I don’t want to die…

Think forward, girl. You’re alive. Breathe.

The lights came back up just then and I smiled. One small victory.
I made for the bridge, letting myself bounce and feel the all-but-flying
sensation of low gravity. I’d keep it minimal to conserve power, just in
case the repair crew took longer to get here than we hoped.

I landed on my toes, slipped through the door, and commanded
a systems check to begin. Another minute and I’d be peeling off the
sweaty clothes under my spacesuit, once everything came up green.

“Marit! They’re coming about … their weapons are coming online
again. Incoming!”

The ship reported all systems marginally functional, except
propulsion. I’d managed to reduce the dizzying tumble to a torpid roll
right after the attack, but then we’d lost power. We would be stranded
until the rescue ship arrived. I sent off a brief message requesting full
towage—the base bosses mightn’t be happy about that, but the shipmonkeys
would be glad of the technical challenge. I strode back into
the hallway. Where was Lauren? I stretched my neck after the long
day in confinement. Piano music sounded from the central area, and I
hurried to unzip my outer suit. It fell to the ground and I stepped out,
leaving it where it lay. What was that odd smell?

Fear, then hope, in my colleague’s eyes. I think we got ’em!
High-five.

I shook out my clothing and entered the room. No one was there,
but the music player was illuminated. I peered at it. Bach’s Sinfonia
No. 4. Set on repeat. My eyes flicked here and there in the dim light
reflected from the hallway.

“Fire at will, kid!” Beams streak out from our ship’s bow.

“Lauren?” She wasn’t here. Perhaps she was in the bathroom, or
in her cabin. But why would she leave the music playing? Something
was wrong. My heart began to thud in my chest just as it had when I’d
spilled a whole week’s milk ration on the way home from the store at
nine years of age. The memory of the silent disapproval on my stepmother’s
face sent a chill down my back even now. To this day I was
determined to be the best at everything I set my hand to. I’d certainly
messed that up bigtime.

Lauren’s voice sounds in my helmet. “Weapons are back online. I
have no idea how, but they are!”

I moved back into the hallway in light bounds that hardly touched
the floor. “Hello?” No answer. I passed the open bathroom door. No
one inside. The smell grew stronger. I reached the row of cabins and
passed by the unoccupied ones.

The whump this time is deafening even through the helmet, the flash
steals sight, and it is all I can do to keep hold of the thrashing chair.

We weren’t set up to fight. We were explorers, and everyone knew
it. There shouldn’t even be anyone else in this sector of space. The
mission was dying, as all could see. Only Lauren and I remained, and
if either of us left, it would be closed down. We were in agreement to
decide together if it came to it, since one officer’s choice would mean
the departure of both in any case. But we were still here, clinging to the
spirit of adventure. After all, one never knew when new recruits would
come to us and restore the full potential of this ship. I lived in hope, and
in terror of having to return. But my worst fear had found me.

“He’s coming back! Quick, brace!”

A dim light burned in Lauren’s cabin. I wrinkled my nose. What
was that smell? It was almost like the heavy, sweat-tinged air you get
in a sealed room where someone has been sleeping a long time, only
it was even heavier, and made me feel tired just to breathe it. I pushed
the door all the way open and slipped inside.

I glance at the main viewscreen and remain transfixed at the sight
of a silhouette far too close for comfort.

A tall, fat candle burned on the nightstand, spent wax stalagtites
dripping off at odd angles. Lauren lay motionless on the bed, in her
spacesuit but without the helmet, arms and legs laid out ramrodstraight.
Mercy!

“Weapons are not responding.” Huh. Pitiful little defense lasers
that were only intended to deal with very minor asteroids in the ship’s
path. Like they’d help, even if they were working.

“Lauren!”

No reply. I perched on the edge of the bed and reached for her
hand. I pulled off her glove. Her fingers were cool to the touch, and I
rubbed them in both of mine. Still she did not move or wake. Her faint
breathing was steady. I poked her shoulder and my heart raced as she
showed no reaction.

They’re firing at us. Still! Can you imagine the nerve of them.

“Lauren, you wake up right now and tell me what you’ve done!” I
grabbed her by both shoulders and shook violently, continuing to yell
at her. She floated up off the bed as I rattled her, but she was as dumb
as a rag doll. I shook even harder, putting all my muscle into it. Lauren
must wake!

Continued in Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which you can purchase here.

SPACE BATTLES Author Profile: Meet Author-Editor Dana Bell

Although she got her start in fanfic, which she continues to produce, Dana Bell has authored a number of short stories and her debut novel, Winter Awakening, released from Wolfsinger last year. Her stories and poems have appeared in Space Horrors: Full Throttle Space Tales #4 and Tales Of The Talisman, edited by David Lee Summers,  Lorelei Signal, All About Eve, Throw Down Your Dead: An Anthology of Western Horror, Frost Bitten Fantasies and Zombified: An Anthology Of All Things Zombie, amongst others.  She has a number of stories forthcoming in anthologies besides her Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 appearance and edited Of Fur And Fire, an anthology of cat and dragon stories and poems last year as well for Dreamzion in 2011 and is editing two anthologies for Wolfsinger at present, Time Traveling Coffers and Different Dragons. Her space opera tale, “Isis,” features a ship as alive as her crew. You can find her blog at http://dragonlotsma.blogspot.com.

BTS: How did you find out about the Space Battles anthology and what made you decide to submit?

Dana Bell: It’s amazing what you can find out about on Facebook, but then I hear about many submission opportunities there. Not to mention I’d met the editor at ConQuest a couple of years back and enjoyed working with him as a writer when he submitted a story to an anthology I edited called Of Fur and Fire.

I’m a writer who likes to stretch beyond my comfort zone. Much of today’s publishing world is about ‘branding’ yourself, I’ve recently read a blog by an agent who said the more diverse a writer can be the more sales they can make. ‘Isis’ stretched me because I’d never attempted a battle story, outside of Fan Fiction, and wasn’t sure I could do it. My first anthology sale was for ‘All About Eve’ when the editor, Carol Hightshoe, asked me at MileHiCon to send her a story. I also had a story in FTST#4 Space Horrors. Both were about cats. I have quite a few stories in several different anthologies.

BTS: Tell us a little about “Isis.” What’s it about? Where’d this particular idea come from?

DB: ‘Isis’ is about the relationship between a Spacer and his/her sentient ship as they transport a group of refugees from a missionary camp after a recent attack. They’re pursued by the Buton who are unable to produce their own young and take human children captive for purposes that are not really explained, but hinted at.

The idea for this story came from many sources. I borrowed a couple of ideas from Alan E. Nourse, whom I dedicated the story to, from his book ‘Raiders from the Rings’. In Raiders the men who lived in space could only produce male children due to radiation damage and they made regular raids on Earth for supplies and women. Their main base is protected by an asteroid maze which can only be safely traversed with the correct course.

I also do a great deal of research on the Old West. In South Dakota there’s an area called the Badlands, which I’ve visited, and where the bad guys hid regularly. It’s absolutely beautiful and dangerous if you stray from the marked paths.

Some of the other concepts in the story are ‘old school’ and have been used quite a bit by writers like Anne McCaffrey in ‘The Ship Who Sang’, except in her story it was a human who was placed in the ship to run it, or the twist used in the new BattleStar Galactica and Caprica about where the Cyclons came from and why the Colonials developed the absolute terror of interconnected computer technology.

BTS: You’ve also had a novel published and edited an anthology. Please tell us a little about those.

DB: My first novel Winter Awakening was released in 2011. It took me six years to write between the in depth research and field work I needed in order to complete the book. It follows Word Warrior, a cat who leads the others to the next level of evolution by learning to read the human language. He breaks tradition by protecting his females and helping to raise and educate his kittens. It is also the story of Mute or Snow Fur as he’s called who loses his mother as a kitten. He is rescued by wolves who take him to a Spotted Ghost, who fosters him. He too, learns to read despite his disability. He also adds writing to the new skills cats are acquiring along with learning how to use a computer. The lurking danger is the constant snow and ice with the continual threat of the two legs returning, who just might be the ancient humans the cat elders tell stories of.

I edited an anthology called Of Fur and Fire for Dreamzion Publishing, along with a couple of co-editors. It’s a mix of stories about dragons and cats, sometimes in the same story. Most of the pieces were Fantasy. Seems writers can’t think of dragons in any other setting. I did get a couple of good stories using them in Horror and Science Fiction. It was an interesting and a good learning experience for me. Not to mention working with several already published writers and a couple of newcomers. I’m not an easy editor. As I warn people, I’m your worst nightmare English teacher.

BTS: How’d you get started as a writer?

DB: *chuckle* I wrote a play in third grade that the teacher allowed me to rehearse with my classmates and present. Thinking back, I suspect it was because it was the last day of school and she wanted to keep the class entertained. I’ve also had encouragement from various writing teachers and a wonderful long time fanzine editor I worked with.

BTS: You got your start in fan fiction. How has that experience formed your writing or helped your craft?

DB: Years ago, writing Fan Fiction was a black mark on a pro writer’s record. Still is depending on the publisher. However, writing in other people’s universes was a great learning experience for me and taught me the following.

  1. How to work with an editor. As I mentioned earlier I worked with a wonderful long time zine editor whose edits I always looked forward to. She taught me some wonderful tricks on how to mix description with conversation, something many other writers don’t seem to know how to do. She never accepted a bad story and always justified the changes she wanted made. I learned to work with her instead of against and this will help me in my pro career.
  2. World building. Yes, there is world building in Fan Fiction even if it’s already created. The writer has to know the show well so the story, plot line and characters don’t seem unbelievable and it could be an episode. My story ‘New Hope’, a post Serenity/Firefly tale, was nominated for the Fan Quality award. My editor said, ‘You really know the show.’ I presented the characters realistically saying, doing and wearing clothes they really would. Since I tend to use regional locations, there are very few I haven’t experimented with in a FF story before doing an original piece.
  3. How to write fast and practice. I’ve talked to other pros and am amazed at how slowly they all write. I spent thirteen years writing Fan Fiction both for zines and online. I learned to write an entire story in one sitting or a chapter with an average of ten pages in about two to three hours. I call it the splat. Get the story out. The real writing is in the rewrite, which I also learned from my zine editor. It also gives me a place to try ideas to see if they’ll work before writing an original story using the same concept. An interesting note here. My first novel took me six years to write. The Second three years and the third one. One Fan Fiction novel of 100,000 words took five months.
  4. Feedback and developing an audience. My online stories get feedback from readers all the time. Sometimes they’re just ‘thanks for the update’ and other times they’re more in depth telling me what they liked or maybe didn’t like about a story. It helped me learn to handle bad reviews as well. And since Fanficition.net has a tracking system for hits, visitors, etc. these are figures I can approach an editor, agent or publisher with because it shows I have an established audience. Blogs can be used the same way I recently found out. It will also give my readers a place to read more of my fiction while I’m working on my next novel.
  5. Crossovers. I have a very hard time staying in one universe in Fan Fiction. I have a few where I do, like Planet of the Apes and Firefly, but I tend to cross them with something else just to see what would happen. An example would be a story that mixed Dr. Who, Highlander, and Babylon 5 told from the viewpoint of a cat. By the same token, I have a hard time confining by novels and short stories to one genre. It’s not uncommon for me to cross a Post Apocalyptic with Animorphic with Christian Speculative.

BTS: Do you have plans to do any more with this universe?

DB: Currently I don’t have any plans to write more in this universe but one can never tell what future opportunities may present themselves.

BTS: What other projects do you have in the works that we can look forward to?

DB: I will have stories in several anthologies this year: ‘Darkness in the Heartland’ will be in Ultimate Angels from KnightWatch Press. It features tiger angels who are assigned to stop a crazy cult leader. ‘Smothered’ told by a narrator who wanders off topic about how the Earth drowned in a dust bowl will be in Earth’s End: An Apocalyptic Anthology from Open Casket Press. ‘Keeping the Tradition’ accepted for The Mystical Cat from Sky Warrior books. Tells the story about a light house keeper in space complete with her cat and a ghost, all part of traditional lighthouse lore. ‘Tumbling Tumble Weeds’ a funny little tale about tumbleweeds attacking and overwhelming a house while two children are left at home alone will be in the Fall edition of Tales of the Talisman. ‘Justice’ is a fictionalized true life horror story based on the Sand Creek massacre. None of the gory details are made up. They’re all part of the historic record. It will be published in the Dead Rush anthology from Wicked East Press.

I’m currently editing and taking submissions through May 31st, 2012 for Time Traveling Coffers with WolfSinger Publications and will be editing Different Dragons. Guidelines are on the publisher’s site. I may be editing an anthology for Open Casket Press in 2013. My next two books have been submitted and I’m waiting to hear back from the publishers. God’s Gift is currently at WolfSinger Publications. My pitch line: ‘“God told us you were coming. Tell us about His son,” were the first words the aliens spoke to the human settlers.’ Possible prequel to my Winter trilogy with the cats, wolves and spotted ghosts. Titles are Winter Emergence mostly about the surviving humans, and Winter Moon, introducing the mother of two cats whose name is, oddly enough, Moon. My first romance Worth the Wait I’ve submitted a query letter to the Love Inspired Suspense line at Harlequin. I already have another small press who has expressed interest in the event Harlequin says no. Features two characters in their fifties who fall in love after a fatal shooting in a parking garage leaving four security agents dead and endangering my heroine’s life or else her senator cousin’s.

So here’s an excerpt of “Isis”:

Isis

Dana Bell

Dedicated to Alan E. Nourse

Explosions sounded, their vibrations rocking Isis in her launch cradle. I sensed her desire to flee and reached up a hand to glide my fingers across her pearl and ebony wing. “Easy,” I reassured her. “Just a few more minutes.”

Screams sounded beyond the wired gates. Women and children, many dressed in gray jumpsuits, trickled through the opening, scattering to whatever safety they could find. The men fired weapons to cover the retreat. Sometimes, I heard a shout as someone died.

Some of the needle-nosed ships vanished in flares of orange and blue. The fleeing refugees changed course, charging toward another.

One of the missionaries ran toward me. In her charge were about a half dozen children. “Please,” she pleaded, “please.”

I nodded, like I’d really ignore her plea. We spacers aren’t as heartless as the whispered tales the humans tell of us. Isis opened her
hatch and I motioned the group inside.

Another group came and we took them onboard. Nearby a neighboring ship erupted in a storm of fire and raining metal.
I noticed the enemy was careful only to destroy the empty vessels. Any with passengers aboard were spared. That didn’t surprise me. They were desperate to take the children alive.

“I’m full,” Isis told me.

“Time to leave then.” I stepped up the ramp and Isis closed her
door behind me. I glanced into the storage hold now full of frightened
children and their sparse caretakers. “Hang onto something.” The
adults nodded instructing the children to grab the railing along the
glittering blue walls.

My steps echoed hollowly as I went down the pastel corridor to the
control room. Not that Isis actually needed a pilot. She could launch
on her own. Still, her designers thought it better to give her limited
intelligence so she could be controlled. They didn’t want a repeat of
what had happened on Earth in years past.

I shook my head. No need to think about that.

Slipping into the gray seat that curved to accommodate my long
limbs, my fingers immersed themselves into the spiky tendrils and
watched as they wrapped around my hands. The sensation still bothered
me. It was like holding warm slimy worms.

“Go now?” she asked.

“Yes, you can launch now.”

I sensed her bunch her strength and launch her bulk into the night
sky. On the overhead holo-vid I could see the ground below. Several
spike-nosed ships barreled up as the invading troops poured through
the gates, overrunning the defenders. The soldiers scattered, gathering
up those unfortunate enough not to escape. I turned my attention away.
There was no way to help the captives now.

Deep blue changed to a ruddy purple before we reached the blackness
of space. Isis hummed to herself as she “shook” her wings and darted to
freedom.

On the vid I could see the enemy cruisers as they concentrated on
capturing any who tried to escape. They netted one ship while another
barely managed to slip past them.

They didn’t see us. I’d counted on that. Isis’ dark colors caused
her to blend into the star-studded jet. She also glided on the solar and
planetary winds. No output to be tracked.

“Where?”

“The Badlands.”

She “questioned” but didn’t argue. The Badlands were tricky
and unpredictable. Still, they’d be the safest place. The big battle
cruisers couldn’t navigate them. Neither could most other pilots.
Too many uncharted asteroid fields and many—more than could be
counted—had died.

“Are we safe?”

I turned to look at the woman who had asked. Her dark hair was
askew, framing her face in an almost lion-like mask. Her gray robes
showed traces of dirt. She clutched one end as if to anchor herself or
perhaps as a way to deal with her fear.

“They haven’t seen us.”

“I’ve heard about this ship.” She bit her lip. I think she was afraid.
There’s a deep seeded fear of AI’s in our culture. Ever since … I
stopped my train of thought. No need to upset my ship.

“We’re headed for the Badlands.” I glanced at the vid. There was
a dark dot trailing behind. I frowned.

Her voice crept up a notch. “They’re following us?”

“I doubt it. There’s no way for them to.” Or at least I hoped not.
“We need food and bedding.” Practical as always, despite a hovering
threat. Most of the nuns were like that.

“In the lockers outside the hold.” I gently removed my fingers and
wiped them on a towel I hung nearby. They weren’t really wet but they
felt like it. “I’m Captain Blair M’Tok.”

“Sister Sharon Louis.” Her brown eyes frankly took in my lean
form as I stood up. I stretched, aware yet not envious of the obvious
differences. My people are all the same; tall, slender, and with a bulky
upper torso. Most of us cropped our hair short. I’d done the same with
my dull black mop.

“You’re a Spacer,” the sister said.

I nodded not ashamed. I was among the few who understood why
the Buton’s wanted our children. There was a price to be paid to roam
the stars. We spacers had paid it gladly.

“I’d appreciate it if you kept to the hold as much as possible,” I
said. “Latrine and sonic showers are right next door.” They weren’t
standard in ships but I’d insisted. I didn’t always just carry cargo.
Settlers paid well to be transported for a possible new start on another
planet. I had no idea how many actually succeeded and didn’t really
care. Their credits paid docking fees and other supplies I needed.
The Sister glanced nervously at me before her eyes found the
deck. “Do we need to worry…?” She didn’t finish her question. She
didn’t need to.

“No. You won’t be aboard long enough.”

“But there’s nowhere to go in the Badlands.” I could hear the
bewilderment in her voice.

“Nowhere official.” I grinned.

She frowned and her expression turned to anger. “You’d take us to
be with the scum of the galaxy?”

“They’re good people.” I should know. I’d sheltered with them
more than once. “And they’ll take you in. Besides,” I pointed at the
dot, “where else are you going to go?”

“Humpf.” She finally released the edge of her robe. Her frightened
gaze darted to the dot and she straightened as if to show no fear. “Thank
you, Captain.” She stomped away.

I shook my head. I could hear the sounds of several children
laughing and a few crying. Their guardians murmured quietly trying
to reassure or quiet them.

“Going to be a long trip.” Or so it would seem. The Badlands
were only a few light years away. My over-large yellow—green eyes
drifted to the dot. It had crept closer. “I know you can’t see us.” At
least I hoped not.

Continued in Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which you can purchase here starting now (preorders end April 17).

SPACE BATTLES Author Profile: Meet Patrick Hester

Every Tuesday night, a new episode of the Functional Nerds podcast is posted at www.functionalnerds.com with hosts Patrick Hester and John Anealio chatting with authors like Blake Charlton, James Enge, L.E. Modesitt, and more. In addition to running the podcast, Patrick edits and records podcasts for www.sfsignal.com (for which he was just nominated for a Hugo) and author Mur Lafferty and can be found at www.atfmb.com. But beyond podcasting, he recently signed with Agent Bob Mecoy and is marketing his first science fiction series to publishers. His Space Battles story, “First Contact,” is his first SF short story sale and has a lighter, more humorous flair than many of the others.

BTS: How did you find out about the Space Battles anthology and what made you decide to submit?

Patrick Hester: You contacted me about the anthology.  At first, I was flattered but uninterested; I’ve had a hard time with short fiction.  I think I’m wired for novels.  It wasn’t until a second message that I thought I should at least give it a try.  Now, I’m glad that I did.

BTS: This is your first anthology sale, correct? Tell us a little about “First Contact.” What’s it about? Where’d this particular idea come from?

PH: Yes, this is my first anthology sale.  I like an adventure, and this anthology lent itself to the kind of story I wanted to tell.  “First Contact” has a pilot and his navigator out on the rim looking for the enemy.  They’re at war, and what they find is more than they bargained for.  Where this came from is complicated.  I had two ideas for a long time and neither one worked right until I decided to put them together.  In this case, a fighter jockey on the rim was one half-written story, and the second part, what they find, was actually a different, earlier story.

BTS: Does it tie into any of the other fiction you’ve written?

 PH: I have two universes that I write in.  Yes, this ties to one of them.  If I sell more stories, you’ll get to see more of this universe.  🙂

BTS: Yours is one of the more humorous stories in this collection. What’s the trick/challenge to writing humor successfully?

PH: Oh, boy.  It has to be natural.  You can’t force it.  I know writers who try to force it and you can tell.

BTS: You recently signed with an agent and have some novel series in the works. What can you tell us about those?

PH: Yep, I have an urban fantasy series, set in Denver (where I live).  First two books are written and currently being shopped by my agent, Bob Mecoy (http://www.bobmecoy.com/).  My pitch for the first book is: SAMANTHA KANE: INTO THE FIRE is a 95,000 word, fast-paced, first-person detective story, full of adventure, magic and flagrant smart-assery.  The book follows a week in the life of my protagonist, Samantha Kane, as she tries to hold her family together while learning to control a new power growing inside of her.  Before it kills her.

BTS: You are also a master podcaster, constantly busy. How’d you get involved with that and where can we find and listen to your work?

PH: A few years back, I became aware of the idea of an author platform; essentially, this comes down to your visibility, online presence, marketability and networking.  I was already blogging and dipping my toes into the burgeoning social media platforms, and podcasting felt like a natural progression, so I did a little research and started producing my own podcast at www.atfmb.com.  This got the attention of John DeNardo from SFSignal, who was talking about a musician named John Anealio.  Anealio and I started chatting.  He was doing his own podcast and we decided to meld the two, creating the Functional Nerds podcast (www.functionalnerds.com).  About twenty or twenty-five episodes in, we approached DeNardo about producing a podcast for SFSignal.com as well.  He liked the idea.  Today, Functional Nerds puts out a new episode every Tuesday (we’re nearly at a hundred), and SFSignal.com has two episodes a week, Mondays and Thursdays (we have passed a hundred episodes!). And we just got nominated for a Hugo for that.

BTS: Congratulations! What other projects do you have in the works that we can look forward to?

PH: There are some things on the horizon for Functional Nerds, but John and I are still in the planning stages so I probably shouldn’t say too much just yet.  I have a space opera I hope to add to my agent’s plate soon.  Also, I’ve been working on a space western series, a throwback to the old-time serials I used to watch with my grandmother years ago.  But I want to get the novels published first.

patrick@thenewuniverse.com

My blog, All Things From My Brain: http://www.atfmb.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/atfmb
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/atfmb
The Functional Nerds Podcast: http://www.functionalnerds.com
The SFSignal Podcast: http://www.sfsignal.com

Webcomic: ShadowBytes.com
Skype: guitarbluesman

Here’s a sneak peek at Patrick’s Space Battles story, “First Contact:”

First Contact

Patrick Hester

“I hate this.”

“Know what? I love it.”

Xyn banked hard to port to let the chunk of rock in front of them pass by harmlessly. The asteroid belt before them was full of such natural missiles whizzing past, and this had been a little stray rock breaking away from the rest of the group. The nav deflectors would take care of the smallest bits, but he’d need to keep his eyes open for
the larger rogues. Seated behind him, Zian manned the scopes and watched for League ships. “Best hit the shields, Z. We’re getting close now.”

“You would love this,” Zian replied sourly. “All alone on the Edge. Two hours from the nearest help and looking, actually looking, for League ships. It’s madness!”

“It happens to be our job to look for League ships. We signed on for this when we joined up in the first place. Besides, it’s fun! We’re actually on the Edge, Z. On the other side of these rocks is the Great Unknown! Billions of worlds could—no, should, be out there just waiting to be discovered. When this war is over, we’ll be able to go out there with the fleet. We’ll be explorers, not fighter jocks.”

“Why do they always hide in asteroid fields anyway?”

“No clue. Maybe they’re looking for something.”

“Like what?”

“Who knows? Shields in place?”

“Yep.”

“Good. Keep your eyes peeled for—”

Alarms started squealing and the HUD lit up with fireflies seconds before the ship shuddered and shook violently.

“What the hell?” Xyn banked hard, kicking the thrusters up to max and spiraling away from the attack.

“Where’d they come from?”

“No idea! They just appeared—the scope was clean and then they were just there!”

“Some sort of cloak…?” The ship shuddered again, and again Xyn took her into a spin, trying to come around and bring his own weapons
to bear on the enemy fighter. “I can’t shake em…”

The forward view flared and popped as the fire from the enemy pulse cannons impacted the shields and lit up the debris from the asteroid field. There was something different about the fire, coming in faster than he was used to with League ships. He needed to get them away from that fire if they were going to make it out alive.
Staring out the view, he got the craziest idea he’d ever considered. Throwing the engines into full, he tucked his tail and flew for cover.

“What are you doing? You can’t go into an asteroid field!”

“I can, I just shouldn’t. There’s a difference.”

Setting his course for the biggest asteroid he could see, Xyn made a beeline for it while the cannon fire intensified behind him.

“They really don’t want us going in there,” Zian commented. “Huh.”

“What?”

“The ship is different. Computer can’t identify it.”

“Great. That’s what we need, the League with new ships. Intelligence should’ve warned us.”

“Maybe they don’t know?”

“Dump the power from the forward shields into the aft. I won’t be able to avoid all the fire if I want to keep us on course. Too many asteroids, not enough room to maneuver.”

“You do realize that you’re insane, right?”

“I’m a pilot. Part of the job description.”

“If you get me killed, I will haunt you.”

The ship lurched as the League fighter found its mark. Xyn let them hit the aft shields, then pulled back on his speed just enough to make it seem, he hoped, like he’d been damaged. Behind him, Zian was muttering about energy signatures. “What was that?” he asked.

“The energy signature is all wrong.”

“New ships and a new energy source? Intelligence my ass. Kobo will lose her mind.”

Kobo was Fleet Commander, Third Division, and Xian’s mother. She never wanted him to enlist, but the war kept dragging on with mounting casualties and fewer pilots. Convincing her to let him sign on became easier over time. Now he was one of the best pilots around, according to his direct superior.

Waiting for the League fighter to close the distance between them, Xyn kept his eye on the giant asteroid looming before them and the fighter behind them. When the computer told him he was in trouble, he counted to five, then fired his aft torpedo. The torpedo shot out and shattered into a thousand pieces halfway between his ship and the enemy, each bit of what looked like shrapnel glittering with energy. Arcs jumped between them, dancing along to build strength and intensity. The energy web expanded. The enemy fighter altered course, trying to avoid collision, but the net formed too fast. As soon as the fighter struck the corner of the web, it contracted,
wrapping the fighter in crackling energy, rippling across the hull.

Momentum kept the ship moving forward, but the pilot would not be able to navigate or fire weapons for a few seconds.

“Got ’em!” Zian whooped.

“Only slowed ’em. We still need the cover of the asteroid field to turn this whole thing around. Put the forward shields back up.”

“Aye.”

Xyn turned hard to port, already feeling the pull of the giant asteroid before him.

“Um,” Zian said. “We’re pretty close.”

“Hush,” Xyn ordered. The ship shuddered violently. He guided her around without crashing, but it was closer than he would’ve liked. Diving to put the asteroid between him and the enemy, Xyn started firing torpedoes at seemingly random targets. Each torpedo impacted after they passed, shredding the rocks, scattering debris behind them.

“Why blow up the rocks?”

“Makes it harder for the enemy to follow us, all that garbage flying at ’em. Hold on to something.”

The sleek ship curved, banked, and spun to avoid the chunks of rock that could easily destroy it. Xyn charted his course by relying on his sight alone, what the old-timers called ‘seat of the pants’ flying.

The only path he saw open to them was to pass through the asteroid belt. Rocks of all sizes zipped along; most he avoided, some landed blows that shook the ship. The trip was shorter than it felt, then they were staring out at open space and into the Great Unknown.

“Um.”

“Calm down, I know what I’m doing.”

As he stared out at the deep, dark nothingness between galaxies, Xyn wasn’t actually sure he believed that statement. Keep it together, he thought.

“Contact aft!”

“Already?”

Xyn kicked the engines back into maximum, trying to build up a little speed and bring his weapons to bear. The League pilot was better than he gave him credit for. He expected to have more time. The shields flared and popped.

“What in Fel is that?”

“What?” Xyn launched an aft torpedo, but the League pilot shot it down before it could even arm. New coordinates popped up on his HUD. He blinked. “That…what is that?”

“I don’t know. Something big out here where there isn’t supposed to be anything.”

“No wonder he’s trying so hard to kill us. We better have a look.”

“Can we kill the enemy first?”

“Don’t rush me.” Xyn spared a glance at the shields. “We have forty percent left on the shields. That buys us time.”

“Great. I will haunt you. I’m not kidding about that.”

The League ship’s fire intensified. Xyn cut his engines, spun the ship and started firing wide of the League fighter, driving it to bank starboard. Trailing it with fire, he landed a few blows, but not enough to do any real damage. Kicking his own engines back up to full, Xyn shot towards the asteroid belt. Angling his course, he skirted the edge, cutting a zig-zag pattern in and out, heading towards the coordinates Zian fed to the HUD.

“I—What? The computer doesn’t even know what that is.” Zian breathed.

Through the forward port, he saw a massive ring, wider in diameter than any ship of the line. Lights pulsated all along the rim, bits of energy arcing along the surface. Xyn found his eyes fixed on the armada of League ships assembled before the ring. More ships than he’d ever seen together in one place before. The reports he had seen said the League couldn’t pull a fleet like this together. Obviously, they were wrong.

“That,” he said to Zian, “is the end of this war.”

Continued in Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which you can purchase here starting now (preorders end April 17).

Preorder SPACE BATTLES & Get My Other Davi Rhii Short Story Free

To celebrate the release of Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6, my first anthology as editor, I am giving away Rivalry On A Sky Course free at smashwords. If you preorder Space Battles and send me your order number via email or here, I’ll send you a code to download Rivalry for free. Rivalry and my Space Battles story “The Hand Of God” are the only current short stories set in the universe of my Davi Rhii novels, The Worker Prince and The Returning (forthcoming this June). For info on Space Battles , Rivalry On A Sky Course and The Worker Prince, click the links below the pics.

http://bryanthomasschmidt.net/the-worker-prince/ - Read about my debut novel here

 

 


 

 

Read about my debut novel here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read about Rivalry here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more about Space Battles here. Through April 17, Flying Pen Press has it at 40% off on preorders!

 

 

SPACE BATTLES Author Profile: Meet Simon C. Larter

The third story in Space Battles is the third anthology sale for Author Simon C. Larter. A construction worker by day, who describes himself better than I ever could as: “Flash fiction specialist and writer of short stories that range from depressing to violent and depressing. Not a poet. Novelist-in-the-making. Tragic aesthete and lover of martinis. A tad ornery, most days.” He’s also a respected expert (at least in his own mind) on Vodka, of which he is an unabashed fan. Larter’s other stories can be found in the anthologies Notes From The Underground and Short Story America, Volume 1. A husband and father based in New Jersey, Larter can be found on Twitter as @simonclarter, at Facebook or via his blog/website at www.simonclarter.com.

BTS: How did you find out about the Space Battles anthology and what made you decide to submit?

Simon C. Larter: I found out about the Space Battles anthology through some guy I met on Twitter and then at World Fantasy Convention in 2010. He turned out to be the editor. Win!

 BTS: This is your first science fiction anthology sale, correct? Tell us a little about “Like So Much Refuse.” What’s it about? Where’d this particular idea come from?

SCL: Yes. “Like So Much Refuse” started out as a much longer story, but was mercilessly hacked down to meet the word count requirements of the antho. I’d wanted to tell a multiple-POV story that highlighted the senseless slaughter of war while avoiding the traditional “good” protagonist and “bad” antagonist trope. I lost a lot of dead bodies in the editing process, but still tried to maintain a kind of moral ambiguity when it came to the two main characters. Rarely is war about moral absolutes, and I wanted to explore that idea in a futuristic setting. Also, I just liked the idea of guerilla warfare in space.

BTS: How’d you get started as a writer?

SCL: I wrote for most of my life, up through high school, but got all practical in my first run of college and decided to get an engineering degree. (Something about being able to make a decent living really appealed to me, I guess.) It took a helluva long time, during which I wrote next to nothing, but I eventually got that degree. The last liberal arts class I took before graduating, though, was a fiction writing course. It lit the fire in me again, and I’ve been writing ever since.

BTS: Do you have plans to do any more with this universe?

SCL: Nah. This was a one-shot deal. The Outworlders are just going to fall to squabbling amongst themselves after the fall of the Confederation anyway, and how much fun is it to write about squabbles?

BTS: Where’d your love of SF come from?

SCL: I would read anything and everything as a child, if it looked even remotely like fantasy or science fiction. Probably the first sci-fi I ever read was Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet, but I’ve devoured everything from Brian Aldiss’s Helliconia series to Tad Williams’ Otherland books since then. Anything that lets me escape into another world for a while is okay in my book.

BTS: What are your writing goals? Full time? Novelist? Short story writer? All of the above?

SCL: I’d love to supplement the dayjob income with novel sales, and the occasional short story or flash fiction publication. Writing full time, of course, would be the ideal, but I’d be happy with enough extra money to keep me in vacations and vodka. You know how it is.

BTS: What other projects do you have in the works that we can look forward to?

SCL: I’ve a spec-fic novella in the works for a friend’s micropress, and a noir novella that’s almost submission-ready. After those are loose in the world, it’s back to the full-length novels, with occasional forays into shorter fiction when the mood strikes me. Which I’m sure will be often. Apparently the ideas don’t stop just because you don’t have time to write them all. Why is that, anyway?

Here’s an excerpt from “Like So Much Refuse,” Simon’s thrilling adventure about a saboteur taking on an experienced Admiral and her crew: 

Like So Much Refuse

Simon C. Larter

Engel left the airlock at a dead run and leaped outward, snapping his body rigid as he plunged into open space. He felt the vibration in his chest as he engaged the thrustpack, the shift in direction. Below him, the Galaxy gleamed dully in the light from the distant star at the center of the system. Its exhaust cones, black and mountainous, bulged from its aftsection: his destination. He triggered the thrusters again, briefly, then settled into the drop, the only sound in his ears the mild hiss of his rebreather and the crackle of the propaganda transmission from the distant command ship.

Behind him, his shuttle’s autopilot engaged—flames flared in Engel’s peripheral vision—and then shut off, the tiny
Mark IV shorthopper drifting out and away from the planet’s
gravitational field and 
the starcruiser’s light guns. He’d watched
several of his comrades’ 
ships strobe space with their atoms as he
made his approach run.
Damn amateurs, he thought. Who trained
them, anyway?

But now there was nothing for him to do but plummet planetward,
watching as the Galaxy grew ever larger through the visor of his helmet.
His jaw tightened as he let his gaze glide across the gun batteries
and launch tubes ranked along the cruiser’s broad flanks. How many
lives had those weapons snuffed out? How many friends had tasted
vacuum because of them?

No more, he thought grimly. It ends tonight. If not me, another
will make it through.

Explosions winked in the darkness like static sparks as the Galaxy’s
flak guns opened fire in earnest. The city-sized exhaust cones loomed
closer. Engel grinned.

***
“It’s nothing but small craft, sir,” the scanner tech said. He turned
in his seat to regard the Admiral. “They come almost within flak range
then peel off or go adrift. Most of them are short-hop, single-man
shuttles, too. Not even interceptors.”

Admiral Johanna Stanche ran stiff fingers through her graying,
close-cropped hair and glared at the tactical projection at the far end
of the bridge. The threatening twinges that had been spiking the base
of her skull for the past two hours were coalescing into a serious headache.
She grimaced and kneaded the back of her neck. “Shuttles,” she
repeated.

“Yes, sir. The light cruisers and corvettes are keeping well back.”

“They’re testing our defenses,” Commander Martin Vandermeer
said. “Feeling us out.”

Stanche glanced toward him. A good man, she thought. Textbook
leader, but terminally lacking in imagination. For a moment, she
allowed herself to miss Marta’s sharp mind and ready grin, her
quiet support. But Vice-Admiral Marta Janowik had been killed three
months ago when the second to last remaining Confederation starcruiser
had been blasted to particles by the betrayers’ fusion bombs,
shredded and scattered like so much refuse. Now the Galaxy was the
last symbol of a dying dream, she the dream’s last line of defense.
Vandermeer’s stolid face was set in a scowl as he watched the
shuttles drifting in the TAC, an image winking out every so often as
the flak guns did their work. Beyond the swarm of small craft, hovering
at the edge of scanner range, the larger ships crouched, spider-like,
a promise of violence to come. And at the center of the projection,
the lifeless bulk of planet Arturus K-384 spun slowly on its axis, the
Galaxy a silver shard in its orbit.

“What’s the lower limit of our scanners?” the Admiral asked
suddenly.

“Sir?”

“Minimum energy signature. Craft size. What’s the smallest thing
they’re set to detect?”

The scanner tech turned to face her again. “Two meters, perhaps,
sir? Energy sig about half a kilowatt.”

“Dammit,” Stanche muttered. Then, “Dial it down. Fifty
centimeters and one hundred Watts. Do it now.” She turned to
Vandermeer. “And scramble the Falcons. All of them. Set the scanners
to rescue mode.”

“Admiral?”

“They’re jet-jockeying in, Vandermeer. Get those Falcons in the
mix, now!”

The Commander saluted crisply and turned to bark orders into the
nearest comm console. Stanche watched as the TAC image blurred,
then resolved into sharper focus once more. She clenched her jaw.
“There you are,” she said softly.

Between the ranks of light craft and the Galaxy, hundreds—perhaps
thousands—of small, humanoid shapes were closing on the starcruiser,
a diffuse, insidious wave.

“Recal the flak guns,” the Admiral said through her teeth. “Set the
bursts to go off closer. I want those jumpers vaporized.”

The bridge snapped into activity as her orders were relayed. On
the TAC, the slight, deadly shapes of the Falcon interceptors began
to appear, streaking out of the launch bays to chart a course for the
incoming enemy.

“Nice try, you sneaky bastards,” she said under her breath. “But
not good enough.”

***
Engel kept his arms tucked tight to his sides as he plummeted
toward the immense engine cowls at the rear of the cruiser—minimum
cross-section. Since his first jetbursts, he’d avoided using the
thrusters—minimum heat signature. With his right hand, he touched
the sleek bulk of the microfusion bomb strapped to his thigh and
grinned through gritted teeth—maximum damage.

The exhaust cones loomed large in his visor. The range numbers
in his HUD spun down so fast they blurred. He turned his head briefly
to watch pointillist flashes of strafe-fire rake through what he knew
was the main drop zone. The kill rate there had to be staggering. He
grimaced. “Requiem in pacem,” he murmured. “Poor bastards.” He
watched for a moment longer, then turned back to regard his target.
It expanded rapidly in front of him, a mountain of metal, coldwelded,
beaten and hardened to withstand the rigors of deep space and
warp travel. When the engines fired, the heat rippling from the metallic
skin would be enough to flash-fry human blood at a distance of a
quarter kilometer. But they were not firing now, and if all went well,
they would fire only once more: to end it. The technology that had enabled
the Confederation would be the means to its final destruction.

He engaged the thrusters, then executed a sustained burn that leadweighted
his body and sent him surging sideways. The blackened edge
of the exhaust cone shot past in his peripheral vision. Engel snapped
his torso forward, jackknifing to switch directions, and cranked the
thrustpack to full. The suddenness of the deceleration rattled his teeth
and tunneled his vision, but when the burn finished, he was floating
again, weightless, staring at a gigantic maw of blistered metal.
He feathered the thrusters once more, pushing himself into the
cavernous space. Tension he didn’t know he’d been retaining drained
from his shoulders as he drifted forward; there were no strafing batteries
in the exhausts. For the moment, he was safe—as safe as anyone could
be while hovering in front of something that produced sun-hot gas and
enough power to propel a million tons of metal death through space.
The deep dark of the exhaust cone swallowed Engel. He was a
glimmer, a speck against its immensity—a speck bearing death. The
bomb at his hip seemed to pulse with potential.

***
The muted buzz of proximity alarms and penetration alerts was
almost constant now, each one a spike in Admiral Stanche’s throbbing
skull. On the TAC, the rain of small craft and jumpers continued,
an unending wave of attackers. The Falcons were carving huge
swaths of destruction through the attack, wiping out jumpers in their
tens, hundreds, yet the assault continued.

And—more worrying—out beyond the thousand and one small
craft, the corvettes and light cruisers were beginning to edge closer.
It didn’t make sense, any way you cut it, she thought. The losses
were staggering on their part. Did they really have so many lives to
throw away? Even in the assault on the central planets they hadn’t
wasted soldiers like this. It was a distraction; it had to be. So what was
coming next?

“How many penetrations now?” she asked.

“One hundred and twelve,” Vandermeer responded without turning.

“All neutralized.”

“Check and recheck every error message in the system. Any other
anomalies, I want to know about them.”

The techs bent again to their work. The Admiral wiped the moisture
from the corners of her eyes with thumb and forefinger, wishing
her headache would subside. But the meds that took the edge off also
felt like they dulled her mind. She couldn’t afford that on a good day.
This was not a good day.

She walked over to lean down next to Vandermeer. “It’s a covering
maneuver,” she said, speaking for his ears alone. “Otherwise it’s
just throwing away lives.”

He glanced sideways at her. “Yes, sir.”

“I get the feeling we’re not going to like what they’re trying to
distract us from.”

“No, sir,” he said. Then, after a pause, “There’s some alerts from
the aft beam injectors. Channel integrity monitors are showing a break
or two. We get those regularly, though—those systems are touchy.”
Stanche didn’t hesitate. “Run a full scan anyway, and get teams on
the way there. Reroute the maintenance bots to those locations. I want
their camera feeds piped here directly.”

Vandermeer saluted. The Admiral nodded a brief acknowledgement
and returned to her station once more. Over a hundred hull penetrations,
she thought. They were getting through. She was going to start losing
people soon, if this went on—a further fraying of the Confederation’s
last tattered shreds. And they had no choice left but to continue fighting.
Every man and woman aboard knew what the PLM did with survivors.
Every channel in the galaxy had broadcast the fate of the Constellation.
She’d had friends on that ship.

“Nav,” she said, still staring at the TAC, “prep the mains. I want
those engines hot and ready.” There was a surprise coming, she knew
it. Perhaps it would be better if they didn’t stick around to find out
what it was. Live to fight another day, she thought wearily.

***
The glow of melting metal hummed in Engel’s peripheral vision
as he floated, weightless, near an injection port at the rear of the blast
chamber. If he engaged the zoom lens on his helmetcam and squinted
back the way he’d come, he could just see the tiny case of the microfusion
bomb where it hung in the chamber’s center, anchored by several
thousand meters of now-invisible fiber. The setup had been painstaking,
but he’d taken more than the necessary time, checking and doublechecking
the location, the connections. To come so far and fail due to
a foolish mistake would be inexcusable. He turned back to watch the
white-hot metal cool to red, the last shreds of his thermocord graying
and flaking to dust.

A circular chunk of alloy loosened and drifted away from the
exhaust cone wall. Engel batted it aside and leaned close, flicking
his miniflood to life. A beam of light pierced the darkness, hazed
by residual gas from the vaporized metal, and gleamed on the walls
of the injection port beyond. He played the floodlight over the blank,
metalloid walls for a moment, then reached forward and pulled himself
through the hole.

Reaching for the second thermocord coiled at his waist, Engel laid
it in place on the wall and retreated into the immense dark once more.
White heat lit the tunnel and triggered the autodim on his visor. When
it had subsided, he placed his palms on the melted metal edge of the
hole and drifted into the port again. Now the miniflood illuminated a
ragged, empty circle in the polished perfection of the injector—beyond
it a near impenetrable tangle of ducts, wiring, coolant hoses. He
slipped through the hole, twisting to avoid the thin traces of sensor
wire, and reached for the floating disc of metal set loose by the thermocord
burn through.

Turning, he replaced the disc in its hole and began to weld it back
in place. Wouldn’t be a perfect repair, he thought, but Command had
been clear: it only needed to hold for a few seconds. Once the subatomic
stream hit the burn chamber, the bomb he’d planted would do
its work in short order. The major portion of his job was complete.

And should the bombs fail to work as designed? There was
always plan B.

Through the dark plastic of his visor he watched the spitting,
sparking light of his welding arc trace its slow circle, a countdown
clockface, measuring the minutes until the end of it all.

Continued in Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which you can purchase here starting now (preorders end April 17).

SPACE BATTLES Author Profile: Meet Author Gene Mederos

The second story in Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 is by Gene Mederos. Born in Cuba and raised in Brooklyn, he wrote his first story in second grade. Mederos received a BFA in Theater from the University of Miami and has worked as an illustrator, graphic designer and various odd jobs including a seven year stretch at the The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in NewYork City. In 2007, he discovered filmmaking and currently teaches editing and filmmaking at the Santa Fe Community College. Most recent stories in print include the stories “Moons of Blood and Amber” in the Tangle XY anthology published by Blind Eye Press, and “A Touch of Frost” in the Space Horrors: Full-Throttle Space Tales #4 anthology published by Flying Pen Press. He can be found online at Facebook or via his website at http://lostsaints.com.

BTS: How did you find out about the Space Battles anthology and what made you decide to submit?

Gene Mederos: I was in the Space Horrors anthology and I like the imprint, it hearkens back to yesteryear.

BTS: Tell us a little about “The Thirteens.” What’s it about? Where’d this particular idea come from?

GM: At the core, the story is about tolerance for diversity, even toleration for the intolerant. It’s an old Sci-Fi trope, that the only thing that will unite warring parties is a bigger, badder alien or even the unknown.  As for the inspiration, I have friends from the extreme left to the extreme right, politically, so it wasn’t hard to craft the mindsets for the characters.

BTS: You’ve contributed to multiple anthologies in the Full Throttle Space Tales series. Are they tied to this story in any way?

GM: They nominally take place in the same universe, one where physics is not as abridged as on Star Trek and Star Wars, but faster than light travel is available, and about two hundred years in the future.

BTS: How’d you come to be involved with this series?

GM: My friend Trent Zelazny put me in touch with David Lee Summers who was putting together the Space Horrors anthology. It’s all about who you know…

BTS: How’d you get started as a writer?

GM: I’ve always loved stories, and am always telling stories.  It was a natural progression to start writing stories to share with others that way.

BTS: Where’d your interest in SFF come from?

GM: Comic books, the original Lost in Space and Star Trek, and the first musty hard cover edition of Dune I found at the local library.

BTS: Do you have plans to do any more with this universe?

GM: Yes, as a vehicle, or a common canvas, not necessarily with any of the characters already seen in print, but cameos are fun.

BTS: What other projects do you have in the works that we can look forward to?

GM: I have lots in the works, lol, most writers do. I’ve submitted a story to Bad Ass Fairies 4 which I hope they’ll publish, and am hunkering down to write an extreme planet story for another anthology, and I have the requisite novels.  But I believe mastery of the short story form is a prerequisite to a good novel, so I consider myself still in training.

Here’s an excerpt from “The Thirteens,” Gene’s exciting story from Space Battles:

The Thirteens

Gene Mederos

Nestled deeply in the foam mattress of the semi-luxurious hotel suite her rank afforded her, Captain Andromeda Sax was sound asleep when her com went off. The double pulse told her it was something important enough to warrant a secure connection. Even less than half awake her hand automatically flew to the spot on her jaw below her right ear. She pressed the small stud embedded there under her skin.

“Go ahead.”

“Captain, a bogey has entered the system,” the officer of the watch on board her ship, La Espada de la Libertad, informed her.
That could have been anywhere from four to six hours ago, depending on which of the outer system beacons had first detected
the incoming ship and transmitted the alert. A bogey was a ship that did not, or could not, transmit a valid ID code. It could be a smuggler, a legitimate freighter with a screwy comp—or it could be the enemy. Sax allowed herself a small smile; after all, there was no
one around to see it.

“Recall the crew, priority one.” That gave the crew ten minutes to
get back aboard the ship. She spared one last glance at her room. Aquarii
Station was on the frontier, but it still managed to offer most of the comforts
of the more cosmopolitan stations of the home-worlds. Accommodations
on La Espada were much more austere. She smiled again.
Five minutes later she strode onto the bridge. She hadn’t really had
time to dress, just comb her short-cropped jet-black hair and throw on
her officer’s greatcoat, but the voluminous garment covered her from
neck to ankles. And if anyone noticed she was wearing slippers instead
of boots, they wouldn’t dare comment on it. The guards at the
door snapped to attention. The crew on the bridge was all in uniform
and seated at their stations. She always kept a full watch on duty while
the rest of the crew took liberty.

“Inform the stationmaster we are launching to investigate,” she instructed
the com officer, then requested the general hail. “Emergency separation from
Aquarii station in T-minus four minutes.” That was sure to make the stragglers
scramble, for anyone left behind would have to fend for themselves out of
their own pocket. Stations were notorious for separating crew from their coin,
and the community service often imposed to pay off a debt was the most odious
of station maintenance work. Some of the crew would not return, for the
ship had its own share of odious duties as well as providing a greater chance
of getting killed. She’d deal with any of those persons when she returned. She
never thought ‘if’.

“Release hook-ups,” she ordered on the mark.

“Hook-ups released,” the officer at conn replied. She heard the
usual chorus of clicks as everyone strapped themselves in.

La Espada was now completely on its own power, air and water.
Sax strapped herself into her chair.

“Cast off.”

The station’s magnetic clamps released the ship and she imagined
the hiss of air as the powerful propellant tanks pushed them away
from the station and felt the familiar tug as the gravity provided by the
station’s rotation gave way to the gravity generated by the ship’s sudden
acceleration. She felt the weight ease an instant before the conn
announced they were standing clear of the station.

“Full sail,” she ordered. The most insane and courageous members
of her crew were the riggers. At her command they jetted out in EVA
suits along the masts and struts to unfurl the giant micro-thin solar sails.
The riggers claimed watching the golden sails catch the rays of the sun
was akin to a religious experience. She’d never seen the phenomenon
herself, but figured it must be quite a sight if it could induce one to hurl
oneself into the void to see it.

Acceleration under sail would increase slowly, but surely.

“Begin rotation,” she ordered.

“Beginning rotation,” the engineering deck replied on the ship-wide
hail, the only warning the crew would get that up and down had to be
taken into account again. The sound of the engines that rotated the cylindrical
ship within its frame of struts and masts starting up did not need to
be imagined. It reverberated and shook throughout the ship. Fortunately,
once the ship began to spin at speed, inertia was maintained by magnetic
induction and the engines would be almost silent.

The captain felt herself sink ever so slightly into the cushioning. A
thought, via implant and wireless transmission, was all it took to make
the chair turn slightly on its horizontal axis. She, like the crew, enjoyed
the automated, computer guided functions on the ship while she
could. During battle, with the comp taken offline, everything had to
be done manually. The navigator’s station came into view and with it
the senior nav officer, Poole. This was the one crewmember she would
never leave behind. As she understood it, the ship ran on numbers, and
this was the man who crunched them when the comp was down.
Poole raised his head from his displays, as if he could feel her
scrutiny like a sensorite. Like all the human beings from his planet,
Cygni-I, his skin had a slight blue cast and his hair was colorless.
These obvious and innocuous signs of the genetic modifications
undertaken by his ancestors to survive on their relatively oxygenpoor
world were all that the Purists needed to hate Poole’s kind. Sax
thought them fools. If anything, the Cygni were far more dangerous
for what they had done to their minds.

“Have you correlated a course, Mr. Poole?”

“Yes, captain.”

“Let’s have it then.”

Immediately, a heads up display appeared before her, La Espada’s
course outlined against the current layout of the system in a bright
certain blue. Lines shaded from yellow to green showed the most
probable courses of the bogey, extrapolated second by second as more
sensor data came in from the beacons arrayed throughout the system.
She was pleased to see that the most probable vectors would intercept
with her ship well above the plane of the ecliptic, where there would
be plenty of fighting room, if necessary. She knew that the universe
was more empty space than matter, but to her the Aquarii system had
always seemed cluttered with asteroids, comets and other debris.

Debris that could damage her ship.

She willed La Espada to go faster, and closed her eyes to imagine
the nonexistent creaking of the rigging and masts as light pushed
the solar sails out against the star’s pull on the ship. She’d been on a
sailing ship once, on the oceans of Maravilla, before the Associated
Worlds lost the Lalande system to the Purists. Someday, she meant to
win that world back. But since the faster than light engine could not be
used anywhere near a star’s gravity well, the ship could go faster only
as they got farther from the star. She could order a burn, and kick the
ship up to her full speed of a hundred kilometers per second, roughly
a third the speed of light. But if she were headed for battle, she would
be wise to reserve all the fuel in the tanks for maneuvers.

It would take a little under thirty hours for the ships to meet, and
there was much to be done. “Steady as she goes,” she ordered Poole
as she turned her chair to line up with the exit from the bridge. This
brought Augusto Lo into view. His bronze-brown skin was a few
shades lighter than the captain’s, his eyes and tousled hair darker. He
was actually earth-born, yet had rejected the Purist philosophy and
immigrated to an Associate world as a youth. He was slouched at his
usual station at the rear of the bridge, his eyes half closed, his head
resting on his fist, his other hand fiddling idly with the buckles on his
disheveled jumpsuit. To all appearances he was oblivious to what was
going on around him. But it was all an act. The captain knew that the
‘State Liaison Officer’ never missed a thing that happened on the ship.
So she wasn’t the least bit surprised when he came up behind her in
the corridor as she waited for the lift. The guards wouldn’t stop him from
coming after her like that, after all, they ultimately answered to him.

“Odd, isn’t it?”

She raised an eyebrow in reply.

“If I’m not mistaken, that bogey is following the same trajectory
as the last Purist ship that attacked this system.”

The captain nodded. “Yes, I’d noticed that.”

“But that approach gives you, the defender, the weather gauge. The
bogey has to expend fuel to fight the same solar wind that La Espada
has at her back, filling our sails, leaving it less fuel to maneuver. These
were decisive factors in our victory against the last incursion.”
Again, the captain raised her brow.

“And your superior skill at command and tactics, of course,” he
amended with a small grin. Sax smiled in return, more because of his use of
the archaic term ‘weather gauge’ than his sardonic compliment. “Everything
means something,” he said in return.

“Then figure it out,” she said, after pausing for a moment to visualize
her deck number.

Lo nodded. “Nice slippers,” she heard him say as the lift doors
closed.

An hour before intercept the captain was touring her ship as she
was wont to do before a battle. And she had no doubt that there would be
a battle—the bogey’s course was lining up exactly with the last Purist
ship’s incursion. A statistical impossibility, Poole had assured her.
So this ship was using the last ship’s comp data, possibly retrieved
from the latter’s logs, which would have been downloaded into a locator
beacon before the ship went into battle. It made no sense to her,
but then, she thought the whole Purist agenda made little sense. She
entered the rigger’s loft in the core of the ship. Since the ship rotated
around the core, there was no gravity in the long, cold cylinder. It
was the perfect place to store cargo, house the ship’s engines and, of
course, the riggers.

A rigger spotted her and snapped to attention, his elongated
prehensile toes grasping a length of cable to steady himself. He
was blond and blue-eyed, not too bad looking, with a crooked nose
and a wry twist to his mouth that suggested he was always smiling.
He was tall and thin, his arms and legs of equal length, with all twenty
digits being equally dexterous. His name was Jaller. He’d served on
her ship for the past four years and she knew him to be brave, loyal,
and kind. And even though the rigger’s section of the core was only
partially heated, he was naked, as was their wont. Diversity. The idea
and the reality that the Purists condemned as unnatural.

She drifted among the riggers, male and females both, for no few
minutes, praising their courage, thanking them for their service and
exhorting them to battle. Despite her duty uniform and her boots, she
still managed to skillfully make her way in Zero G among the giant
web of cables that the riggers called home. Their ancestors had destroyed
their world in a paroxysm of industrialization that had seen the
world laid waste in just six generations after colonization. The riggers
had been forced to evacuate onto space stations and ships and had
during the centuries of the sundering, when all of humanity’s worlds
had lost contact with each other and faster than light travel had been
abandoned, modified themselves to live in micro-gravity.
Members of no fewer than five of the existing seven modified human
races served on her ship and of the remaining two, the Aquarii had inadvertently
made themselves highly susceptible to space sickness and the folk of
Twobit were devout pacifist.

Her last stop on her tour was always the medical deck. Doctor
Stures was a sensorite, his people hailed from the dust-cloaked planet
of Gliese 876, Umbra. The world was metal poor and had erratic
magnetic fields so technology had been difficult to maintain.

Without much artificial illumination, the people of that world had
modified their other senses to compensate for the gloom. His skin
was blue-black with raised oblong bumps that ran from his hairline
to his jaw. She knew them to be receptors, allowing the doctor
to feel minute changes in temperature, in air pressure and displacement,
even vibrations. His eyes were hidden behind a band of dark
glass, to protect them from the ship’s bright illumination. He greeted
her in his usual way.

“Ah, Captain, in excellent health I see.” And by see he actually
meant by smell, by feeling her body temperature and by hearing her
heart beat in her chest. “All is in readiness for the coming battle.”
She had expected no less. His people were sensitive by nature and
design, but they were also pragmatists. He wasn’t one of those medical
officers who questioned the need for battle.

“We don’t know that the bogey is hostile—” she began to say.

“Pshaw,” the doctor interjected. A liberty he could take here, on
his deck. “From what I’ve heard, how could it be anything else?”

“Indeed,” the captain said, raising her brow. News travelled fast
on a ship. She believed the ancient term was ‘scuttlebutt’. Satisfied
that her ship was in order, she headed for the bridge.

As the captain stepped onto the bridge, the ship’s executive officer,
Commander Ortencia, saluted and left. The XO’s station during battle
was located close to the core, half the ship’s length from the bridge, a
hopefully safe distance from anything that might happen to or on the
bridge. The commander would monitor all activities on the bridge from
there and issue orders in support of the captain’s activities during battle.
In exchange, Major Drummond, the Captain of the Guard, took a station
on the bridge. When ships sailed on oceans his troops would have been
called marines.

“We are coming to transmission and targeting range,” Poole said.

“Furl sails, retract masts,” she ordered the riggers. “Advise the
ship and begin viral transmission,” she ordered the com officer.
She waited until all decks had acknowledged.

“Take the computer network offline, Mr. Poole.”

A few seconds later she saw the board at the Armscomp station
light up.

“Bogey firing missiles!”

Continued in Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which you can purchase here starting now (preorders end April 17).