Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

To NaNo or Not to NaNo

November is almost half over and all across the internet you will find writers and wannabe writers talking about NaNoWriMo. Some are gleefully extolling on and on and on about how they have been meeting their daily word counts and will make their 50k word goal for the month. Others lament about how they haven’t been able to keep up with their goal, but they are continuing to try. Some will tell you about the book they started in last year’s NaNo or the year before or the year before, etc. Then there are those who will boldly tell you that you’re a fool for taking part.

Each year, I see someone — usually several someones — condemning anyone who takes part in NaNoWriMo. These oh-so-superior authors are convinced that nothing good can come out of NaNo. They cling to the belief that no one can write 50k words of publishable material in a mere 30 days. To them, NaNo is a gimmick that does nothing more than make fun of their craft. And, yes, I have a mental image of these authors sipping tea, pinky fingers lifted, as they look down their noses at the peons laboring away in the writing trenches.

If you haven’t already figured it out, this attitude more than bugs me. It tics me off. First, it completely misses the point of NaNo (and full disclosure here. I’m not a big fan of NaNo for reasons I’ll go into later). Second, it assumes that every writer works at the same pace as these so-called authors and who are they to tell any of us what pace we should set when we are writing?

So, what is the purpose behind NaNo? That’s simple. Some years ago, a couple of friends got together. During the course of their conversation, someone said no one could write a 50k word novel in a month. These guys took up the challenge and NaNo was born. If you take part and if you follow the original concept of the challenge, you start a new novel on November 1st and work through the month with the goal of writing at least 50k words.

The goal isn’t to have 50k words of publishable content. It is to set a goal and meet it. To simply sit the butt down in the chair and write. Editing comes after that. This is what makes NaNo an effective tool for a number of writers. It is committing to a goal and working to reach that goal. It has been the impetus a number of writers have needed to move past writer’s block or the various distractions that all too often take us away from our writing.

There is another benefit to NaNo, at least for some writers. There is a huge NaNo community. During November, there are meetings you can go to, even write-ins. For a number of writers, especially beginning writers, this means getting to know in meat space others like yourself. That’s important because writing is a solitary profession and all too often our families don’t understand the demands of the career.

My issue with NaNo is that 50k word goal. There are a number of writers who are terrified of that number. They won’t sign up because they know they won’t be able to meet the goal. In other words, they aren’t going to give themselves the chance to “fail”. When asked about it by other writers, I tell them they don’t have to take part in the “official” NaNo. They can simply set their own goal for the month and then do their best to keep to it. One way of doing it is announcing the goal on social media, on their blogs, etc., and then doing daily or weekly upstages. That will keep them honest.

I hear some of you out there asking if I do NaNo. I don’t. I have in the past and, in most instances, I met the goal. However, with my writing schedule, I am rarely in the position any longer of starting something new at the right time for the challenge. That doesn’t mean I ignore the spirit of NaNo. I have weekly and monthly writing goals. Sometimes I meet them and sometimes I don’t. In November, I do my best to hit at least 50k words. It might be on a single project or on several different projects, depending on when I end one and start another. Sometimes, it might be an editing goal. There are times when it is both.

You might be asking about my goals for the month and how have I done so far? My goal wasn’t so much a word count goal as a project goal. I wanted to have the final version of Light Magic finished and ready to publish by the end of the month. I also wanted to have the final version of an untitled holiday short story/novella in the Eerie Side of the Tracks universe ready as well. Working drafts of both have been finished. I have also done some work on the expanded edition of Duty from Ashes. But, thanks to a knee injury, I am behind on my goal. Since the short story/novella and Light Magic are time sensitive, they are getting the bulk of my attention right now.

Here’s the thing. No one has to like NaNo. It isn’t for every writer out there. But just because it isn’t right for you doesn’t give you the right to decry it where every other writer is concerned. For those of you who haven’t tried it, or who have tried it and not met your goal, don’t discount doing it again. Remember, there is nothing stopping you from doing your own form of NaNo. If the 50k word goal terrifies you to the point you feel you will self-sabatouge and not meet the goal, set a lower goal. But give yourself incentives to not only meet but exceed that new goal. You might be surprised by how much writing you can get done.

The key isn’t whether you write 200 words or 50k words. The key is that you write. You don’t have to write every day, but you have to write. So many of writers stop writing, not because they have run out of ideas but because they fall out of the habit of writing. Yes, real life gets in the way. The challenges of work, family, school, etc., all have to be dealt with before we can sit down and put ideas to paper. Once we get out of that habit, it is often almost impossible to get back into it.

So, here’s my challenge to each of you. Set a goal for the rest of the month. It can be anything you want. But set the goal. Then set secondary goals. Goals that, if you reach them, you treat yourself to something special. Before you start telling me you don’t have time, give your daily schedule a hard look. Is there some way you can change your schedule or crave out an additional five or ten minutes a day or an hour over the weekend? If you ride the train or bus to work, can you grab your tablet and stylus and make notes (or even just an old-fashioned steno book and pen)? How about giving up five minutes of gaming at night or getting up five minutes early?

You’ll note, I didn’t say you have to write a story. In fact, if you have been having problems focusing on a plot, don’t force it. Do free-writing. When you get up (or before you go to bed), grab a piece of paper and a pen or pencil and just write. Write down whatever comes to mind. It can be your shopping list or it can be journaling. It can even be that letter you wish you could write to your boss or your neighbor or whoever but you just don’t dare. The key is to write.

The key is to write.

And, on that happy note, I’m going to go do just that.

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Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: LIFE

NaNoWri. . . why?

Ah, the first day of November is here. The little ghosts and goblins of Halloween are a memory and now is the time when many of us sit down at our computers with shiny faces — okay, mine’s a bit bleary right now but go with it for a moment — and eagerly poise our fingers over our keyboards, waiting for the words to pour out. NaNoWriMo is officially here. Just like New Year’s Day when we are sure we can live up to all the resolutions we’ve made, now we are convinced we can write 50,000 words in a month. We can do it, we tell ourselves. We can.

And, yes, we can.

Too many of us — and, yes, I’ve been one of them — start out with the best of intentions but we wind up focusing on the big number and not the more realistic daily word count number. So let’s break it down.

50,000 words in a month. That is a novel in some sub-genres. It is most definitely a good rough draft word count. But still, that looks like a lot of words. But is it?

Yes and no. Yes, because it is more than many of us write in a month. No, because, when you look at it in smaller increments, it does become more doable.

50,000 words in a month. That breaks down to 12,500 words per week (if my math is right. Never a sure thing since I haven’t finished my first mug of coffee). That still looks a bit scary so lets break it down a bit more. It breaks down to 1,667 words daily. Hmmm, that doesn’t look so bad, does it?

For those of you who blog, consider how many words your usual blog post runs. Mine rarely come in under 1,000 words. Now, add in the number of words you input into your various social media accounts PLUS the time you spend checking Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, whatever. That daily word count suddenly starts looking more doable, at least to me.

Okay, Amanda, you’ve proven that the word count is doable, but why should I do NaNo?

I’ll be honest, that’s been a question I ask myself each year. Each year, I come up with the same answer: accountability.

Writing is one of those professions/avocations/activities/whatever you think it is where it is easy to find a reason not to put butt in chair and just write. There is always something around the house that needs to be done. Most of us reach a point in any book we’re writing where we’d much rather be writing something else. NaNo holds us accountable, even if only to ourselves, to push through the distractions and finish.

And finishing is what’s important. No one expects what comes out of NaNo to be publishable without additional work, be it filling in the details or editing or all of the above. What is encouraged is meeting the 50,000 word goal. In other words, finishing.

Now, NaNo isn’t for everyone, at least not the “official” NaNo. However, for those of you who want to sign up and get the daily or weekly encouraging e-mails, who want to find local groups to meet up with, mosey over to the official site and sign up. It’s quick and painless. You choose a screen name, name your project, fill in as many details as you want and off you go. Each day (recommended), you input the number of words you wrote.

I’ve tried NaNo officially once and real life interfered. Most years, I set the goal for myself and run with it. I’ve succeeded more often than not. However, what I’ve found is that I tend to work on more than one project when I don’t do the official NaNo. There’s nothing wrong with that. The writing is what’s important. But still. . .

So, this year, I’m doing it officially. The main reason is I have a book due to come out the end of the month and I have to put the butt in gear to finish it. I’ve had the rough draft finished for some time but something about it kept bothering me. It was a good book but there was something wrong. It took me a bit to figure out what it was and then, when I finally, did, I wanted to pound my head against the wall.

You see, I’d made a fundamental mistake. I had forgotten a thread I’d woven into the first book, Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1). Worse, it wasn’t a thread that I could do a quick nod to and everything would be all right. I’ve made notes about how to fix the problem but it comes down to this: I have to add a new section to the beginning of the book, one that looks like it will be approximately nine chapters. Then I have to go through what I already wrote and rewrite a lot of it to fit the new opening. So, this book is now my NaNo project.

Do I have a full 50,000 new words to write? Probably not on Dagger of Elanna. But it will be close to it, especially when you look at editing. Besides, there will probably be one short story being written this month as well. So, yeah, I’m aiming for a minimum of 50,000 words and will be tracking it on my blog. I’ll try to remember to update it here throughout the month.

Now, all of this is a long-winded way of saying I blame Sarah for this. Don’t listen to her when she says it is my own fault. You see, we were talking the other day and I told her I was setting a new goal for myself, something I was going to try for the next six months to see how it impacted my sales. My goal is to try to bring out at least one new title a month. Don’t look at me like that. I’m not crazy enough to try to bring out a new novel a month. However, I do think it doable to bring out a short story or novella one month and a novel the next.

Why? Or maybe, more importantly, how?

It’s simple really. I can pound out a short story in a day if the plot is already firmly in mind. If not, it may take a couple of days. So that doesn’t take any real time away from the novel, especially not if I’m disciplined and use the time I’d normally be browsing the web to write it. The purpose is simple. I want to see if bringing out something new every month helps stop the sales dip that happens approximately 6 weeks to 2 months after a new book comes out.

Oh, getting back to blaming Sarah. I expected her to tell me I was insane. Instead, she said she needed to do the same. So it has become a mutual butt-kicking deal. She is supposed to kick my butt when I slack off and I get to return the favor. Since it also corresponds with NaNo, it just seemed reasonable to add that to the “encouragement” chain.

So, NaNo, here I come.

Oh, btw, to show you that it isn’t impossible to meet the daily word count, this blog post is going to come in at approximately 1400 words. It has taken me half an hour or so to write it.

Here’s my challenge to you. Even if you don’t officially take part in NaNo, set yourself a goal for the month. Post it in the comments below and, when the month is over, let us know how you did. For those of you who have done NaNo before, post your impressions and any suggestions you might have for those who are newbies to to. Finally, tell me why you are — or are not — doing NaNo.

One last thing, here’s a post from Pat Patterson that I love. He hits the nail on the head when it comes to what being a writer means. You don’t have to write novels. You don’t have to write in a certain genre. What you have to do is write. So, my friends, go out and write. If you don’t think you can, then read and do the author a favor. Leave a review. (Do that often enough and you will realize that you are a writer. You might not be a novelist but you write reviews and authors will thank you for it.)

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Filed under AMANDA, WRITING

NaNo is over. What now?

That collective sigh of relief and groan of frustration you heard yesterday came from the hoards of authors who met — or didn’t — their NaNoWriMo goals. Now they are looking at those 50,000 words and wondering what to do with them. Should they put them aside for a bit and then come back to see if they are anywhere close to a book or if they more resemble a cabbage. Others are wondering why they couldn’t meet the deadline and wondering how they can ever be an author if they can’t successfully complete NaNo. Then there are those who know they finished their 50,000 words, that they have a book (of sorts) as a result but aren’t sure it is worth the work they will have to put in to bring it to publishable standards.

All of those reactions — and more — are why I don’t particularly like NaNo. I’ve done it. I’ve failed more often than I’ve successfully concluded it. I’ve seen the faces of those in my writer’s group go pale, their features slack, when I ask if they are going to take part. I can’t blame them. For most folks, writing 50,000 words in 30 days sounds next to impossible. For a lot, it is. Real life always seems to find ways to keep them from the keyboard and adding the pressure of an artificial goal only compounds the pressure to write to the point that the muse not only goes quiet but she goes somewhere far, far away.

Still, I recommend NaNo to almost everyone, especially those who have had a dry stretch. However — don’t laugh. You knew there had to be a but to all this — I tell folks not to let the 50,000 word goal put them off. If they don’t think they can do that much, then they should set a more reasonable sounding goal. Then, during the course of NaNo, they need to do their best to stick to their goal (and be ready to tell the crit group how they did and what they think helped them meet their goal or what caused them to miss it). What I have learned over the last few years is that NaNo can and does serve as a good kick in the writerly butt for some of them and it also lets them see what sort of distractions they have started allowing into their writing time, many of which they can learn how to ignore or at least postpone until they get their writing in for the day/week/month.

I’ll admit, as I already have, that I usually don’t meet my NaNo goals. That’s because I know I can do 50k in a month and don’t adjust the word count. That is when Real Life tends to kick me in the teeth. Whether it is illness, either of me or a family member, or death or something around the house deciding to go MIA, something always seems to happen. It did this year. The difference was that I still managed to not only meet my 50k goal but I exceeded it.

So what was different?

A couple of things. First, I didn’t start with a brand new project. I had one project I was close to finishing and another I had been messing around with for a year or so that I wanted to finally put to bed. The first project, Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4) , had been one of those books that fought me every step of the way. Using NaNo, I finally got it finished and it is currently available for pre-order. Publication date is December 15th for the e-book and shortly after that for the print version.  I honestly feel that if I hadn’t had the double deadlines of NaNo and of the pre-order drop dead date of December 5th to get the final version uploaded to Amazon, I might still be fighting the book. Not because I didn’t know what to write but because I started the book thinking it would be the end of the current story arc for the series, only to find there is one more book left. I don’t like change and this was a big change for my writer’s brain to take in. Any way, I did 20k words on Challenge and it will go live in a little more than two weeks.

The second book, Slay Bells Ring, is a departure. Before I get into the heart of Honor from Ashes, the next book in the Honor and Duty (2 Book Series), I needed to do something that wasn’t as intense as Challenge had been or Honor will be. So, I went back to Slay Bells Ring, a romantic suspense novel. It will be finished in another day or two, coming in at approximately 90,000 words or so. Of those, I have written 60,000 this past month. Even for me, that (added with the 20k from Challenge) is a lot to do in a month. But this past month has been one of those where the stress had to be countered with something else and that meant writing. The only downside has been that my blogging has gone by the wayside. I’ve discovered that when I go on a writing jag like I have been on this month, I don’t blog. Not even about my writing. There is something about having to switch to the blogging mindset more than once a week (MGC) takes me out of the creative mind. So . . . . the result is that I will be releasing the e-book of Slay Bells Ring Christmas week. Two books in one month is a record for me and not particularly one I want to repeat any time soon.

So, what’s the purpose of this post other than to blow my own NaNo horn? Part of it is to encourage those who didn’t manage to make the 50k goal of the “official” NaNo rules not to give up. Adapt and adjust the word count next year to what you think you can do and then add a little to it. It is also to say not to get discouraged if you didn’t meet it this year. Real life happens and, as those of us who post here can tell you, it happens more often than any of us would like. NaNo is a great kick in the pants, if you let it and if you don’t take it too seriously. Just remember that there will be times when you meet the goal and times when you don’t, times when you blow past the goal and times when you don’t come close. It doesn’t really matter as long as you keep writing.

So, to answer my question at the top of the post. What comes next? Write some more.

 

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Filed under AMANDA, WRITING

Write Me

As the month of NaNoWriMo looms in the near future, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on the one time I did it – and won – why I don’t do it every year, and what I’d suggest to those who want to succeed with it.

Here’s the thing: you can NoWri every day. Novel writing need not be packed into a month a year. However, for some of us, the sheer challenge of the thing is a great way to kick start the project at hand into action, or to complete something you started and haven’t been able to finish, or simply as a social event where for a while, writing is socially acceptable and even laudable.

The year that I did NaNo, at the request of my eldest daughter, I was working full time in an office, and I used my lunch break for a lot of the writing. I could fit about a thousand words, fingers flying madly over the keyboard of my decrepit laptop, into that hour. The rest of my two thousand daily word goal was done late at night, when the kids were in their beds. I didn’t stop to edit, or overthink what I was writing, I just wrote.

In the end, I had a manuscript that was longer than anything I’d ever written, and one that was very close to completion. Sure, it’s a YA novel so it didn’t need to be 100K words long, but for me it was enough to call it a novel. That broke me of the habit of saying “I can only write short stuff.”

I can still – and do, on occasion, like the flash fiction piece I put on my blog this week – write the short stuff. But as an independent publisher, the short stuff isn’t where the money is. And this is why you should make every day NoWri day. If you want to be successful in this business, you need to have quantity. Quality comes with time, and practice, and not writing is not practicing.

Personally, I haven’t done a NaNoWriMo since Vulcan’s Kittens simply because I started school the year after. I haven’t had the brainpower to write, and do school, and work, and… all the other stuff that is a vital part of life. Which hasn’t stopped me from writing at other times of the year. If the schedule for NaNo doesn’t work for you, do NOT let it stop you from writing. If all you can manage is a few hundred words a week, keep at it. You’ll get there in time, as the hare said to the tortoise.

For me, right now, fitting a few weeks of writing like a madwoman (current personal best was 10K words in a day. My arms were numb, but it was totally worth it) in between semesters seems to be working best. I simply haven’t time or brainpower to spare from homework in school. I keep thinking that will change, but if anything as I enter my Senior year, it’s worse. Like most of you, I have a family that would like some of my time, too.

I am blessed, however, with a family that (mostly) understands what I’m doing. I had a lovely moment yesterday where my son was telling me that he was reading Vulcan’s Kittens (he wasn’t old enough to read when it came out. Good heavens how time flies!). He wanted to know if I plan a third book in the series, and when I assured him I did, he lit up and told me what he wanted to see in that book. So now I have notes, and my marching orders… Then, he asked me “can you send me that book? The man, the dog, and the spaceship?”

“Sure honey, who wrote that… Oh. You mean you want my book?”

Yes, he did, and I was thrilled, and sorry to have to tell him it’s not finished yet. Maybe I do need to do NaNo this year!

It’s these moments that keep us all writing. Writing sucks, sometimes, and it’s hard, and there are much more important things we could be doing, like washing the houseplants or dusting the bookshelves. Rotating the cat (but not on a spit!) or… But then you take the dog for a long walk, and this character waltzes into your head, sits down, leans forward with that intent look on their face…

“Write me. Write me, or I will haunt your every waking moment and wake you up in the night. Write me…”

Vulcans Kittens

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Filed under CEDAR SANDERSON

It’s NaNo Time Again — redux

Ah, yes, November is here. There was once a time when that meant looking forward to a long weekend of family, football and guilt-free overeating. It meant starting to think about holidays and gift buying and decorating the house. Now, November is a month that brings both fear and anticipation. It’s the month when so many writers commit to trying to write at least 50,000 words. The anticipation comes from knowing that, if you are successful, you have completed a short novel or have a very good start on a longer work. The fear comes from the knowledge that there will be days when you sit down in front of you computer and stare at a blank screen, no words coming out.

And, no, blog entries don’t count.

Or you can be in the position I’m in this year where I’m doing the last editorial pass — that horrible one most writers hate when you do the odd work/spelling hunt through your manuscript — before uploading the final file to Amazon for sale. The hard and fast deadline for that is the 10th because, on the 11th, the manuscript goes live or I lose my ability to offer titles for pre-order for a year. Since I’m not about to do that, I will do whatever it takes to make sure Duty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2) is ready to go ahead of time.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not doing NaNo. For one thing, Sarah informed me I am doing it. Seems she decided she was going to do it this year and she didn’t want to suffer alone. So she tagged several of us and “volunteered” us to share the pain — er, the fun. Yeah, that’s it. The fun. (Must remember to keep telling myself that.)

So, in between edit sessions, I’m writing. I have a short novel — as opposed to a novella — to do. It will be a romantic/suspense novel coming out under the Ellie Ferguson pen name. Once that’s done, I can get to Nocturnal Challenge. Of course, I do have another novel that’s decided now — RIGHT NOW — is a good time to demand attention. The fact I shelved the novel a couple of years ago because I couldn’t figure out where it was going matters not. It has decided it wants to see the world and I have to oblige. Sigh.

Anyway, with all this going on, I’m still trying to keep up with what’s going on in the publishing world. Sometimes, all too often it seems, doing so leaves me shaking my head and wondering just what in the world some folks are thinking. One of the first things I saw was the aftermath of someone who decided it would be a good thing to try to take on Larry Correia. I’m sorry, you’d have thought by now that folks would know how foolish that is. But this guy didn’t and, when people didn’t agree with him, he apparently resorted to calling names and not so veiled threats. When Larry weighed in, with both feet — as he should have — the troll deleted his posts, apparently blocked Larry and then went to his wall and at least one other to whine about what happened. He didn’t like it because the evil libertarian, gun-loving men and women — gasp — on Larry’s wall didn’t lift him on their shoulders and thank him for showing them the error of their ways.

Then there was this article out of Publishers Weekly that has one passage that truly has me scratching my head. Here is the paragraph in question:

Sarah McNally, owner of McNally Jackson bookstore in SoHo, speaking of Amazon, said “I don’t know what impact Amazon has had on my store.” This comment came, though, after McNally criticized the retailer and vowed to never to shop there. Her store is celebrating its 10th anniversary with plans to open another location. Despite her feelings about Amazon, McNally acknowledged that when she opened her store, “B&N had already crippled indie bookstores.”

So, here is a store owner who admits she doesn’t know what, if any impact, Amazon has had on her store. She also admits — something so many other Amazon haters refuse to do in public — that B&N had already crippled the indie booksellers when she opened her store. Since she has been in business 10 years, that implies pretty strongly that she understands the real evil — if you have to ascribe it anywhere — is in B&N and the other big box stores and not in Amazon when it comes to destroying the indie bookseller business.

Yet, despite all that, McNally says she will never shop at Amazon. Without knowing if it has harmed her business — or anyone elses’s in all likelihood — and even admitting the real damage was done by B&N and not Amazon, she has drunk the kool-aid of the haters. It makes no sense. At least it doesn’t to me.

Anyway, all that is a distraction this morning as I get enough coffee in me to get back to work. I guess this is where I put in the obligatory plug. Over at my blog this morning, you can find a snippet from Skeletons in the Closet, the novel that has decided it wants to be written NOW.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Duty from Ashes is, as noted above, available for pre-order on Amazon. You can check it out here. And here is a short snippet from it. Enjoy!

*  *  *

Smoke filled the air and the ground shook beneath her boots as another explosion sounded. It was close this time. Too close. Cursing, she ducked behind the makeshift barricade she and her team had erected outside the school and tried to catch her breath. As she did, the tell-tales from her battle armor warned that her heart was racing and her breathing was labored, not that she needed the onboard computer to confirm what she already knew. This was her worst nightmare come to life and, just like the last time, there had been no way to avoid it.

But she’d be damned if it ended the same way as before.

Not this time.

Carefully, she inched forward until she could see around the edge of the barricade. As she did, dirt and rock kicked up just inches from where she knelt as yet another round of enemy fire filled the air. Even as her team returned fire, she scanned the area, flipping through the various screens of her HUD. Then her lips pulled back into an almost feral smile.

There!

Finally, she’d located the last of the areas where the enemy had dug in. Now it was time to show them just how foolish they’d been to think they could get the drop on her and her team.

“Boomer, two o’clock. The culvert near the edge of the first building.” Once again, she cycled through the various filters on her HUD, taking careful note of what each told her. “Scans show six bogies. Looks like one SAM and three unknown heavy weapons. We’ll give you cover fire so your team can move into position. Hold your fire until I give the order. We need to take those guns out before they decide to turn their attention to the school.”

“Roger that, Angel.”

“Hound, second target’s yours. Same building. Four stories up. Third window from the corner. I spotted at least one sniper.” She paused and scanned the area, looking for any indication the enemy had hostages with them. As much as she’d like to just level the building and be done with it, she couldn’t. Not if there were civilians inside and, knowing the Cabal, there would be. One of the first lessons they’d learned in the last war was that the enemy never hesitated to hide behind innocents. “I’m not picking up any other life signs in the immediate area but that doesn’t mean much. They could have hostages elsewhere in the building so remember your target zone.” She waited for his response, knowing he was calculating the best way to carry out her orders.

“Got it, Angel. I’ll be ready on your order.”

Her heart beat a little slower. So far, so good. Her team still had a chance to get out of this alive and, with a little luck, they’d manage to save those civilians sheltering in the school and elsewhere.

Knowing their next move could mean victory or defeat, she called up the last data they’d received on the enemy’s movements. As she studied it, her mind did the one thing she’d been fighting to avoid since the battle began. It went back to that terrible day more than two years ago. She’d been in this exact location, fighting this same battle. Only then she’d been given compromised intelligence. As a result, she and her squad, a different one from this time, had walked straight into a trap. So many had died. She and the six who had managed to make it back to the shuttle for extraction had been lucky to get out of there alive. At least that’s what she’d told herself. Of course, that had been before they were arrested, brought up on bogus charges, court martialed and sent to the Tarsus military prison.

Damn it! She couldn’t think about that. She couldn’t let the past distract her from what was happening right now. Not if she wanted her team to survive.

“We’re almost in position, Angel,” a voice reported over her comm a few moments later. Master Gunnery Sergeant Kevin “Loco” Talbot. Another asset, an invaluable one, and one she hadn’t had on that previous mission.

“Roger that, Loco. Let me know when you are.”

She paused, waiting to hear from the final team she’d sent out. As the seconds drew out into minutes that seemed like hours, her concern grew. She’d been forced to split her forces before with disastrous results. Was history repeating itself?

She licked her lips and fought the urge to message the last team. It was difficult, but she didn’t. Instead, she reminded herself that they needed to move slowly and carefully to avoid detection. At least she hadn’t heard anything from the direction they’d taken that might indicate they’d been discovered. Surely that had to be a good sign.

Stop it!

She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. Her emotions and doubts were running too high. She had to get them under control. This was her command, her mission. If she couldn’t hold it together, they would fail. But she couldn’t think about that. She couldn’t let herself be distracted by the dead, hers and the civilian lives that had been lost in that previous battle. This wasn’t the time to let distractions in.

Finally, just as she was about to give up and demand an update, her comm came to life.

“We’re in position, Angel. We have four bogies ready and we’re ready to paint them,” Captain Lucinda Ortega reported.

“Hold position, Sorceress. I say again, hold position until we confirm air support.”

“Roger that, Angel.”

“Eagle, are you ready to paint your target?”

“Eagle is ready, Angel,” the squad’s sniper replied.

“Alpha Team, prepare to lay down cover fire. Boomer, the moment we do, you and your team haul ass and take out those heavy guns and that SAM.”

“Roger that, Angel. Beta Team is ready.”

She nodded, not that the demolitions expert could see her, and drew a deep, steadying breath. A quick check of her battle rifle and she was ready. It was now or never. With a glance at the four Marines crouching behind the barricade with her, she snugged the butt of the rifle against her shoulder.

“Now!”

She leaned around the corner of the barricade and opened fire. Instantly, the sounds of weapons – battle rifles, railguns and more – filled the air. Three of the four teams laid down heavy fire to cover the fourth team as it moved into position. On her HUD, three small green lights moved quickly toward the target zone. So far, so good.

“Almost there,” Boomer’s voice said in her ear.

“Keep it up, Devil Dogs. Don’t give those bastards time to breathe, much less regroup.”

“Fire in the hole!”

Boomer’s shout was the only warning they’d get. Instantly, she set her visor to block the flash from the explosion even as she kept firing. At least this time when the ground shook, it would be working for them instead of against them.

“Keep firing!” she ordered. “Eagle, Sorceress, stand ready. I repeat, stand ready. Paint the targets on my signal. Once the air strike begins, we move in.”

Without waiting for the teams to respond, she activated her ‘link once again. “Angel to Kali, we are a go for the airstrike. I repeat, we are a go for the airstrike.”

She waited, scanning the battlefield in front of her for any movement. Smoke and dust from the explosion filled the air. From the distance, she could hear the enemy. Some called for help. Some, those caught in the blast and not lucky enough to be granted a quick death, cried out for their mothers. A small part of her felt sorry for them. But another part, the soldier in her, knew it was either them or her and she much preferred living.

As she knelt there, ready to swing her rifle toward anyone who came her way, she imagined each member of her team wanting to look skyward, but keeping their eyes on the enemy locations, as they waited for the air support to come.

Air support that hadn’t come that first time. Would it now?

“Angel, this is Kali. We are on approach. Paint the target. I say again, paint the target.”

The voice coming over the battle-net was like an answer to her prayers. She relayed the message to the rest of her squad. As she did, she inched further around the edge of the barricade. Once in position, she raised one gloved fist, knowing the others were watching for her signal. Then she waited, knowing any number of things could still go horribly wrong and praying that they didn’t.

Moments later, t sounds of the fighter wing racing in their direction filled the air. The target, six heavy ground transports that had been moving closer and closer to the Devil Dogs exploded into a wall of flames as the fighters dropped their payloads. Instinct and training had the Marines diving for cover, any cover, as shrapnel from the transports flew through the air. Screams from the enemy soldiers unlucky enough to be caught in the open followed. Then, before the screams died out, she gave the order to move in.

“Take out those snipers!” she yelled as she sprinted across the clearing in the direction of the school.

Damn it, this time she would save those huddling inside.

Hound, moving at a speed no human could without the assistance of powered battle armor, leapt from where he’d been taking cover. The moment he landed, he turned and leveled the grenade launcher that was currently his armor’s primary weapon at the target. The building she’d identified for him a few minutes earlier was soon missing part of its far side. Smoke billowed from the area where the sniper had been holed up. Someone would need a new office or apartment when this was all over. But, hopefully, they’d survived the fight and would be able to return home soon. Even as the thought came, she knew the truth could be far different. War was never clean, no matter what the politicians wanted. There was always the possibility of collateral damage, especially when the enemy had no compunctions about hiding behind a shield of innocents.

Ahead and to her left, a head popped up from the culvert. A split second later, it exploded. She smiled slightly as Eagle gave a war cry that almost split her skull. She’d remind him later about how that sort of thing sounded through the battle-net. Not that she blamed him. They’d spent too much time hunkered down behind makeshift barricades and hiding in the shadows. It felt good to finally be on the move again. Now it was time to make the enemy pay for all they’d done.

“Angel, to your right!”

Loco’s warning came at almost the same moment that her armor’s sensors warned her of someone – or something – suddenly appearing and moving in her direction. She turned, bringing her combat rifle to bear. Her finger slipped behind the trigger guard and she felt her combat implants coming to life as she focused on the figure running hell bent for leather in her direction.

“Hold your fire!”

Without waiting for confirmation, she broke into a sprint, racing toward the small figure. The child couldn’t be more than five or six. Where he had been hiding during the fighting she didn’t know and, just then, she didn’t care. Not when her armor’s onboard computer was telling her that several of the enemy were bearing down on them.

She had to get to t child before he was hurt – or worse.

Without conscious thought, she switched out her battle rifle for her sidearm. Using the targeting system of her HUD, she laid down fire in the direction of the nearest enemy soldier. A scream of pain followed. Good. One down but who knew how many more to come.

Three more steps and she scooped the child up in her arms. He cried out as an enemy trooper appeared to the right and opened fire. Reacting on instinct, Angel shifted the child so he was shielded by her armor before returning fire. Then she pivoted, running in the direction of Loco and the rest of his team. They were laying down cover fire, forcing the enemy troopers to duck back down into the trench. At the same time, Sorceress was calling in air support. But that was all in the background as Angel focused on the child in her arms and the need to get him to safety.

“Down!”

Loco’s shout was all the warning she needed. She dropped, sliding feet first toward the barricade. At the same time, Loco stepped forward, Tank and Hound on either side of him, and all hell seemed to break loose. As they opened fire with everything they had, so did the rest of the squad. If that wasn’t enough, three Sabres, the newest and most deadly fighters the Fuerconese Navy currently had in operation, screamed overhead and opened fire on the culvert.

The ground shook again and another explosion – no, a series of explosions – deafened her. Then there was silence, the kind of silence that really wasn’t. Angel’s pulse pounded and her breathing was ragged. The crackling of fire mixed with the heavy smoke that filled the air. She heard someone, one of her people, offering up a quick prayer of thanks. Someone else uttered a curse. For once, she agreed with both sentiments. Then she heard the boy whimper. Much as she wanted to reassure him, she couldn’t. Not yet. She had to make sure the area was secure first.

Still cradling the child in her arms, Angel twisted around so she could look in the direction of the culvert. Nothing moved except for the smoke rising from it. Without warning, the silence was broken by a single shot to her left. Instantly, half a dozen battle rifles responded. Then nothing.

Barely daring to hope that it was over, Angel went to active scans. For several long moments, she studied the readouts on her HUD. The locations they had tagged as being held by the enemy were either showing red, indicating they were too hot for anyone – even armored – to survive or there were the tell tales of the dead and dying. Could it finally be over?

“Sound off!” she ordered as she carefully climbed to her feet.

As she did, the medic assigned to her squad hurried forward to take the child from her. Except the child had other ideas. He wrapped his arms and legs more firmly around her and burrowed in. with a jerk of her head, she motioned the medic off. She could spare the child a moment as she caught her breath and her people reported in.

One by one, each member of her team sounded off. A few sounded the worse for wear but she’d lost no one that day. Thank God. The nightmare hadn’t replayed in all its horror. It had come close, though, and she wanted to know why.

Relieved, she looked down into the child’s face and the world came to a crashing halt. No! He couldn’t be there. Damn it, he couldn’t be there. As bad as that time had been, that would have made it worse, so much worse.

“End sim!” she ordered, ripping off her combat helmet. “I said to end the damned sim!”

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Moving Day

by Amanda S. Green

Well, this is my last regular Sunday post for MGC. No, I’m not leaving, just moving. For those of you who might have missed the earlier announcement, Rowena is stepping down from the blog. We’re going to miss her, but we understand that there are times when you just have to step back from some things so you have time to do the really important ones. This is one of those times for Rowena. It’s been fun having her in the madhouse with us and I know I speak for the other MGCers when I say that we hope she drops by often.

The MGC lineup starting this week will be the same as always, except that I’ll be taking over the Tuesday slot. I’ll continue writing about the state of the industry, breaking news, tech and, well, whatever comes into my head. Weekends will be for promotions, snippets, and other fun stuff.

Now for my own confession. I don’t have anything for you today. Sorry. I’ve been up to my eyes this week trying to finish a novel. I’m only a little late with it — of course that’s if you define “little late” as almost a month late. I’d hoped to finish it last night but couldn’t kick start the brain into functioning after returning home from a banquet. The only problem is that my brain decided to play through the end of the book — over and over and over again — all night long. So now I am trying to pump enough coffee into my body to be able to think well enough to finish the book.

So, here’s the deal. I know a lot of you guys are doing NaNoWriMo. Post your progress if you want.  Give us your goals. If you need a cheering section, here it is. If you have a question, this is yor chance.  If there is anything about the publishing industry you want to discuss, go for it. The floor is yours.

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