Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Vengeance from Ashes’

Sequels and a snippet

adjustment2I have a love/hate relationship with my muse. From what I can tell, I’m not unique in that. Most writers seem to feel the same way. In my case, it’s because I love to write but I hate when it comes time to writing sequels. That’s the situation I find myself in right now. I know the plot. I can see it in my head. I’ve been living with it for two months now. But getting it from my brain to the page has been next to impossible. That’s the really frustrating thing. As a result, I begged — well, browbeat might be more accurate — Sarah into reading the first scene of Duty from Ashes, the sequel to Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1). She did and then she told me to quit dithering — yes, I cleaned it up some. She was a bit more, um, direct than that — and finish writing the book. Since I always do what my mentor tells me, I’m going to try to do just that. In the meantime, here’s the opening scene from Duty from Ashes, book two in the Honor and Duty Series.

 *     *     *

Smoke filled the air and the ground seemed to shake 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 edged 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 her turn 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 there. Looks like one SAM and three unknown heavy weapons. We’ll give you cover fire so your team and 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.” Once again, she cycled through her filters, scanning the building. 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. “I’m not picking up any other life signs in that area, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have mechs of some sort up there. So don’t worry about being too gentle with your shot. Just 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 as well.

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 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, the 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. Angel was focused on the child in her arms and getting him to safety.

“Down!”

Loco’s tone of voice 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 had in operation, screamed overhead and opened fire on the culvert.

The ground shook again and another explosion – no, a series of explosions – deafened them. Then there was silence, the kind of silence that really wasn’t. Her 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, she 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!”

*     *     *

Needless to say, this is a rough draft, so there may be changes between this and the final version. Now, to get back to work before Sarah puts on her pointy boots and comes after me for not minding her.   😉

 

 

New project and new programs.

It would be so easy to do another Hugogate post this morning but I won’t. However, here is fair warning to all those out there trying to do their best to paint some people I respect a great deal with the brush of evil: Stop. You really don’t want to keep going after Larry Corriea and Brad Torgersen with misquotes, out of context comments and flat out lies. Your tactics will come back to bite you in the butt. Not that I expect any of those doing it to understand. Yes, something happened this morning to bring me to the boiling point. No, I won’t give the person the benefit of any publicity by naming who or linking to the comment. Let’s just say that someone who found themselves on the other side of the GHH crowd after signing the petition a few months ago now has the audacity to talk about how inclusive science fiction — and by implication because of what this person was commenting about — SFWA are.

Anyway, I am not going to let my blood pressure go off the charts and put up another rant today. Instead, I’m going to give a bit of a review on how my experience with Draft2Digital has gone so far as well as my serious attempt to use Scrivener for the sequel to Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty) .

Let’s start with Draft2Digital. For those not familiar with it, D2D is an aggregator that you can use to put your book into Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. Yes, all three outlets allow you to post your work yourself. All three have their own challenges. Apple requires you to upload with a Mac of a certain OS flavor. B&N has frankly gone odd in how they convert your files, even if you upload ePUB files. Kobo, well, Kobo can put you into review hell and never tell you why. So, when I decided to bring out Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty)  on my own, I knew I needed to find a way to get into those three stores without wanting to slit my wrists in the process (and, if you’ve read some of my earlier posts, you know I came to that decision a little late).

Long story short, D2D was simple and quick to set up. It took less than 24 hours for Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty)  to appear at BN. Better yet, I received an e-mail from D2D telling me when the book went live. A couple of days later, I received notification that it had gone live at Kobo and, less than a week after upload, it was live at Apple. So, check off the very satisfied with speed of going live in the third party stores. Better yet, it didn’t take as long as it has with Smashwords and D2D provided links to the product pages for each vendor.

Something else I like with D2D is being able to see my sales in what is pretty close to real time. While it would be nice to see them broken down by store, I will go with what they have so far. I have a feeling when I get my monthly accounting, my guess on breakdown will come pretty close.

Now, I haven’t given up on Smashwords completely. However, I have severely limited my use of it. I’ve limited it so much that the only thing I did was upload an ePUB version of Vengeance and it is for sale only on Smashwords. Now, to give Smashwords its due, uploading the ePUB version did take away a lot of the pain of the meatgrinder and, because I’m not using the expanded catalog, I didn’t have to put together a completely different file with the Smashwords legal language and odd formatting requirements. Smashwords also notifies me each time there is a sale or review posted. Both are things I appreciate. I just don’t have the time nor the inclination to deal with the meatgrinder and its additional requirements.

So, pending my first payout from D2D, I am giving it a cautious thumbs up.

Now on to Scrivener.

If you gather half a dozen writers in a room and ask them what program they use to write with, you very likely will get six different answers. I’ve always written in Word. Yes, there are issues with it but it still has the best review function and, frankly, it is industry norm if you are trying to publish traditionally. Besides, since I work on both Mac and PC, I needed a program I could use for both. However, as I’ve written my last couple of books, I’ve had an ongoing problem. I write series. I never meant to. I certainly didn’t mean to suddenly have three series going on at the same time. To say it gets confusing is an understatement.

So, as I started figuring out the basic plot for Duty from Ashes, the sequel to Vengeance from Ashes, I thought I’d finally put Scrivener to the test.

Confession time. I’ve had Scrivener for some time. Like several years. But every time I opened it, my eyes glazed and it just didn’t compute. There were too many bells and whistles. Then there was the fact that the tutorial we too detailed. There was simply too much information.

But Scrivener had one thing I liked. It had a corkboard feature that I knew could be helpful — if I could just get past that initial glazed eye reaction to the program.

So, when I decided to put it to the test with Duty from Ashes, I took to the internet and googled the program. There really are times when Youtube is my friend and this was one of them. I found a fifteen minute video that gave me all the information I needed to use Scrivener and not feel like someone had just tossed me into the deep water before first teaching me how to swim. So, off to the program I went.

So far, it’s been pretty easy and, once the early hurdles cleared, pretty intuitive. The corkboard is fantastic as a plotting tool. You can be as minimalistic or as detailed as you want — and you don’t have to use the corkboard. But to have a basic outline of the novel, initial chapter and scene breakdown is great. I can also note where I want to make sure certain threads are played back into the storyline. Making it all the more helpful, the screen can be set to display the appropriate notecard and comments to the right of the working window.

But what I really like is that there is a character sketch section to each project that you can utilize and, when you are working with a series, that is invaluable. Or at least it is to me. When I was doing my edits for Vengeance, I made notes on every character that might reappear or be referred to in the later books. When I finished, I couldn’t believe how many characters that turned out to be. Having a list of them, with a breakdown of information about each of them, just a click away and not having to open another file, is great. So is the way I can organize them.

Better yet, even though Scrivener includes a template for character sketches, you don’t have to use it. You can make your own. Or, like me, you can simply have basic information, just enough to jog your memory.

And that is the joy of Scrivener. It is highly customizable. Or it has been so far.

So, as with D2D, I’m giving Scrivener a cautious thumbs up. We’ll see how it goes as I finish writing the book. But, for now, I see only positives ahead, including the fact Scrivener will convert to ePUB for me.

Fingers crossed on both.

The Road to Indie

adjustment2It would be so easy to do anther post about Hugos this morning. In fact, I considered it, especially after seeing how one of the editors posted a diatribe of sorts on the Tor site. However, since I know Kate is fisking the situation Thursday and because Dave did such a great job looking at what’s happening yesterday — and the fact I have a feeling we’re going to be hearing a lot more until the Awards are announced, I’ll leave off on it for now. Instead, I think I’ll discuss my foray into self-publishing and the reasons behind it.

Let me start by saying that I am still firmly behind Naked Reader Press, both as an employer and as my publisher. I thought long and hard about taking Vengeance from Ashes indie. But I’m a firm believer in the adage of not putting all your eggs in a basket and, since VfA is not related to anything I already had with NRP, I figured this was the book to strike out on my own with. That doesn’t mean NRP won’t get more of my books because it will. It just means this particular series will be under my own imprint, so to speak.

So, the process. Oh the process. Even though I can do the process of publishing an e-book in my sleep, it is very different when suddenly you’re doing it for yourself. Suddenly things I was used to just emailing to another member of NRP had to be figured out or farmed out to someone else. Then I had to decide the best way to get the novel out to the widest market. Despite doing this for years, I found myself fumbling some as I looked at new aggregators and tried to figure out if I wanted to go that route or upload directly to the different stores, etc.

But before I did that, I had to think about the novel itself. I knew I needed to build at least a little interest in it before it came out. So, as I finished the first draft, I began posting snippets of it on my blog. The response was positive and enough to convince me — with a few kicks and shoves from Sarah and the others — to keep at it. Then the unthinkable happened. I realized that there were a couple of major plot flaws with the book. So, I went back, did some major rewrites and prayed I was doing the right thing. I waffled and whimpered and whined and Sarah did some more kicking and shoving. She reminded me that I’ve gotten comfortable writing the urban fantasy and paranormal books. But science fiction was different, especially since it is my first love when it comes to reading.

I listened — she was making sense, even if I didn’t want to admit it — and finished the novel. I let it sit for a bit and then did my first round of edits. That’s when I realized I needed someone who could check the book for consistency and proof it for me. Hmmmm. Oh, and I needed a cover. Hmmmmmmmm. So, I thought and talked and everything got done. With a few hiccups along the way. There are always hiccups, whether you realize it at first or not. The edits turned up a couple of minor plot points that needed to be tied up. So, back to the keyboard I went. Yep, that helped. The story was stronger. The cover was done and I heaved a sigh of relief. Everything was ready to start the publishing process.

Or so I thought.

The Amazon account was set up. No problem there. Amazon has a very simple interface for setting up your KDP account. Quick, easy and no sweat. Whew. On to B&N and the rest. No real problem, although the banking confirmation on a couple of them seemed to take longer than necessary. But soon, the accounts were set up and I was ready to move on to the next stage.

Except there was a problem. Or at least there was something I had to ask myself — because Sarah asked me. Damn her 😉 — I use a pen name (Ellie Ferguson) for the paranormals and my own name for the urban fantasies. If I published Vengeance from Ashes under either of those names, would my readers buy it expecting shifters and/or romance? So, after some back and forth, a new pen name was born. Ashes would come out under the name Sam Schall. The name has family ties and has the added benefit of seeming to be male for those who still think women can’t write sf. But, as I pointed out to someone, it is also a name that can be seen as the shortening of Samantha. So, the reader can decide for themselves if the author is male or female. The only problem is that I hadn’t told folks ahead of time that the book would come out under a pen name — head meet desk. Desk, sorry for the dent, but this is my head.

So, title page changed.

Now, finally, I was ready to convert the manuscript for uploading to the different sales sites. I followed my usual process and took the DOC file and converted it to ePUB and then fro ePUB to MOBI. The MOBI file was uploaded to Amazon without any problem and all I had to do was wait as it went through the review process. So, on to B&N where everything came to a screeching stop. I uploaded the ePUB file and checked the converted file. WTF?!? There were formatting errors all over the place. Okay, maybe I mucked something up. Tried another ePUB file. More formatting errors, but not the same ones. Huh? Fine. I uploaded the DOC file. OMG, now the entire book was italicized. I started banging my head against the desk again.

Grumbling and grousing, I decided that I’d use an aggregator. That meant I had to look at Smashwords or one of its competitors. Since I hate Smashwords with a passion because of the meatgrinder and the lag in payments, I started looking around. After spending more time that I wanted to on the problem, I settled on Draft2Digtial. I liked several things I read about them. First, there was no arcane formatting required like there is with Smashwords. So I didn’t have to go back and make a different DOC file to get rid of section headings, replacing them with bookmarks. Nor did I have to add any odd legal language and disclaimers like Smashwords requires. Then there is the monthly payout and a much quicker post time to B&N, Kobo and — hopefully — iTunes.

So far, I’ve been very happy with the experience with D2D. It’s been extremely easy to use. I can see daily sales and updating the files is simple — or it was once I figured out where the “edit” button was on the page.

Which brings up the two problems I had after Ashes went live. The first happened when Sarah pointed out that I’d accidentally uploaded an earlier version of the cover. Okay, no biggie. I went through and uploaded a new cover image on each of the three sites — Amazon, Smashwords (for their site sales only, not as an aggregator) and D2D. I edited the book file to include the new image and uploaded those files as well. No harm, no foul. Then I sat back and waited, sure that was the last of the problems.

Nope. I’d jinxed myself. It turns out that I’d managed to mangle the names of two characters and it had been missed through all the edits and review process. Yes, the dent in my desk is now the size of a small crater. But, after my head quit hurting and my eyes could focus again, I went back to the manuscript, made the corrections and uploaded the new copies. And I thanked the kind reader who’d pointed out the problem to me instead of posting a scathing review.

Now, like so many other authors, indie and others, I’m watching my sales figures. And trying to figure out how to get the word about the book out to a wider audience. And hiding under the kitchen sink. And, well, being a writer with all the fears and neuroses that attach to it.

So, I guess what I need to do now is give you the links to the book and ask you to spread the word — and ask the if you’ve already read it, you leave a review on Amazon or wherever you purchased it.

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Smashwords