Saturday, May 5, 2018

Prequel Stories to FLEET OPPOSED

So if you happened to read my earlier blog post (admit it, you didn't), then you'd know that I've begun working on a military science fiction series called The Han Wars, with the first book titled Fleet Opposed. As I continued work on that novel, I got another idea (which usually isn't a good thing, but hey, roll with me, okay?) which was...why not take a look at some of the different people within the Republic Combined Fleet which may or may not have major roles in The Han Wars?

Over the span of my military career--which was USAF--I learned how different some things were between the aviation/non-aviation communities, and even the nuke/non-nuke units. Everyone handled themselves--and viewed challenges or problems--based on their background, how they had "grown up," if you will, in the service. Pilots are completely different than navigators, navs different than Missileers, Missileers different than space geeks, space geeks different than maintainers, etc. Everyone wears the same uniform, but how a person views the world, and how they approach things, can differ quite a bit depending on what career field they're from.

I've also had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time in Joint jobs working with guys from the other services (and I still do); US Navy fast attack and boomer submariners ("bubble heads"), Navy surface warfare ("shoes," ship drivers), Army air defenders, armor, and nuke experts, Army and Navy helicopter pilots, Naval fixed-wing aviators, etc. What I've learned is the same kind of career field quirks in the USAF also exist in the other services.

So what's my point? Well, I think that when writing any sort of military-themed story, it's important to recognize that not every person is the same--a ship driver won't react the same as a fighter pilot, a submariner won't react the same as a maintainer, etc. Everyone acts differently based on their specific training and experience within their service community.

What I'm working on right now--and plan to release prior to the publication of Fleet Opposed--is a series of three short stories, each looking at a specific group of warriors--three service communities--within the Republic military structure. The Aviators, The Spacers, and The Infantry.



Each story will give you a quick glimpse into each of the service communities in the world I've built for The Han Wars series. Each story is set in a time frame immediately preceding the opening scene in the first book, Fleet Opposed. You'll get to see a little of what makes each community tick, and maybe even get to know a few characters that will pop up in Fleet Opposed or other books in The Han Wars series.

The Aviators is up first...and here's a little taste:

***

RSS Bulwark, CVA-23
Operating in the Third Fleet AOR

Alert Ready Room
Strike Fighter Squadron ELEVEN (VFA-11)

The klaxon always sounded at the worst goddam time.
LT Blake “Scratch” Adler was seven hours into a twelve-hour alert watch and had decided to try and get a few minutes shut-eye—against regulations, but twelve hours is a long time to sit in full flight gear with nothing to do but wait, and of course listen to your suit process your bodily waste. He flew out of his chair and grabbed his helmet, promptly stumbled across the deck, tripped on his own feet, and fell flat on his ass.
The klaxon fell silent as the voice of the duty air boss came from the overheads. “Scramble alert, scramble alert, tubes one through six. Seven through twelve assume ready standby.”
He wasn’t sure how long he’d been asleep—it seemed like he’d just closed his eyes for a few seconds—but the blare of the klaxon woke him like an electric shock. That’s what you get for falling asleep, dumbass. He scrambled to his feet and felt the deck shift beneath him. The dampeners canceled out most of the inertia changes, but he could still feel it. Bulwark was maneuvering. Hard.
His squadron, The Red Rippers, was sharing the alert load this week with The Death Rattlers of VFA-323. Twelve birds in the tubes—six per squadron—with hot reactors and full weapons loads ready to launch at a moment’s notice.
Like now.
Tubes one through six were his squadron. They would launch, while the six pilots from VFA-323 would sit in their birds, spun-up and ready to launch on a moment’s notice.
On this rotation, Blake Adler was Ripper Three.
“Have a nice nap, Scratch?”
Adler gave his squadron mate, LT Thad “Rooster” Cochran, a quick glare then slammed his helmet on, hearing the hiss of the suit’s environmental suite as it came to life. His heart was pounding from being startled awake, and from the out of the blue launch order. The admiral was famous for dropping unexpected combat drills—Vice Admiral Kumar was old school, preaching the constant dangers of operating so near the slip points between Republic and Han space—and even though odds were this was just another exercise, there was always a chance it was for real. God knows she’d drilled it into everyone’s heads enough times for some of it to stick.
The overheads barked to life again. “This is the XO. Set Condition 1 throughout the ship. Man battle stations, I say again, man battle stations.
“I’m good Rooster, you?” Adler said as soon as his buddy Cochran locked his own helmet into place.
“Always,” Cochran replied.
All five Ripper pilots stood at the ingress portals, helmets locked, and as one pulled themselves up and into the open tubes, boots first. The tubes, angled down toward the launch deck below, were nicknamed trash chutes by all the non-aviator types. Over time, the name stuck with the aviators as well.
The slide to their waiting cockpits was quick, and in a couple of seconds Scratch Adler slid into his powered-up AF-206C Panther, the canopy slamming shut over him as the trash chute retracted into the tube’s ceiling and disappeared behind a sliding hatch.
The launch tubes were designed to handle any of the tactical ships assigned to the air wing, to include the larger A-107E Buccaneer bombers or the bulky C-65 Bison crap haulers, so the much smaller Cougar barely filled the space in the tube. The strike fighter was held to the launch rail by quick-release mag clamps.
As he began his quick sweep of the fighter’s displays, automatic connections clicked into place on his suit—communications, data, visual interfaces, life support—all the little tendrils that made him a part of his machine. Seconds ticked by as he made the final launch preps, moving as quickly as possible but careful not to miss a single step of a procedure he had memorized and then practiced so many times it was basically muscle memory. Life support GREEN, nav beacons and positioning lights ON, weapons SAFE and GREEN, radar STANDBY, reactor within launch limits CHECK, MPE pod ignition temps GREEN and GREEN, line and tank pressure within limits CHECK, data handshakes COMPLETE and VERIFIED, auto launch sequence ON and LOCKED, comm check
“Flight, Ripper Three, comm check.”
Five by, Ripper Three.”
Adler touched a pressure switch on the side of his helmet, polarizing his clear visor. Then his flight lead came over the comms.
Ripper One is up, sound off.”
LCDR Tom “Dutch” Van Laren, Ripper One, was flight lead for this alert cycle. A decent dude, and a good stick to boot.
Four.”
Two.
“Three,” Adler said, glad that he wasn’t last but still pissed that Cochran—Ripper Four—had beaten him to it.
Five’s up.”
Six.”
Roger,” Van Laren replied, then he set the automated launch timer. “Launch in fifteen seconds, mark. Standard departure, combat spread.” Then to the launch controllers he said, “Flight, Ripper is go. Standing by.”
Roger Ripper,” the launch controller replied. “Contact combat when clear. Good hunting.”
They were making good time. Less than a minute from klaxon to the black wasn’t too shabby, and wouldn’t give the CAG anything to gripe about. Adler made a final sweep of his instruments—his eyes trained to look for certain out of tolerance system indications. His gloved hand hovered above the abort switch until he was satisfied his bird was ready to launch with all necessary systems in the green. The whole tube launch sequence was completely automated—he could stop it with an abort command if need be, but Adler was nothing more than a passenger along for the ride until they’d cleared the ship and reached a pre-set maneuvering distance.
This was the worst time for most pilots, the last few seconds before they were shot out into the black. It gave them all time to think.
It wasn’t very often that Kumar would launch fighters and put the entire ship’s crew through their paces when she felt the need to scratch her drill itch. Sure, she’d done it before—last week as a matter of fact—but doing it again so soon was out of character, even for her. Could this be real and not an exercise? Adler pushed the thought from his mind and focused—exercise or no, it didn’t matter. Every time had to be treated as a real combat situation, no matter how remote it might seem. Another one of VADM Kumar’s preaching points. It had stuck, too.
His Cougar lurched forward slightly as the mag rail pulled the fighter’s launch clamp into place. Before him, the tube was bathed in red light, which flashed to green as the outer armored hatch slid open and revealed the unblinking starfield beyond.
Everything was good to go. When the power hit the mag rail, his Cougar would be flung out of the launch tube and into the void. The MPE pods would fire after a predetermined distance, and he’d be fully in control of his steed. He pushed his helmet back against the padded seat rest and gritted his teeth. He felt the mag clamps release.
Any second now. He grunted, tensed his muscles against the oncoming sudden, but brief, crush of g.
When it came, he yelled like a little kid.
This shit never got old.


***

Stay tuned for more!


Friday, February 16, 2018

Military Science Fiction? Hmmmm... That sounds interesting.

I'm one of those kids who grew up on Star Trek (the original series, thank you). It came on at 4:30 p.m. every weekday afternoon right after the Brady Bunch, and watching it was part of my after-school ritual. My two favorite episodes were "The Doomsday Machine" and "Balance of Terror" (which is kind of ironic considering what I did for most of my USAF career! Hah!). In the summer of 1977, I read a paperback version of Star Wars (which was amazing), and then saw the movie shortly thereafter (which was even MORE amazing). In 1979 when I was in junior high, Battlestar Galactica hit the tube, and it was on every Sunday night for a couple of years. I loved Star Trek, but there was something a little more "realistic" about Galactica--and especially Star Wars--that I absolutely loved. The ships, the fighters, the gallant warriors and the terrible villains, all great stuff. The follow-ons as the years went by were great, too. Anyone remember "Space: Above and Beyond" from 1995-96? Loved it!

Why, you ask, am I telling you this? I'll get to that in about 5 seconds...

Fast forward a few decades, and here I am writing sci-fi post-apocalyptic, dystopian, supernatural, and psychological thrillers. It's all stuff I love to read, and I love to write. But I want to try my hand at writing something different.

[...five Mississippi] So why did I tell you what I watched on TV as a kid? Well, I was geek-a-fied (that's a word) at a young age, and I never recovered. Blend that with a 20-year active military career, and voilĂ ! I LOVE military science fiction!

"So why haven't you written any then?" you ask. Thanks! Nice segue!

Truth is, I AM writing military sci fi, and have plans for [at least] a three book series called THE HAN WARS. The first book (titled FLEET OPPOSED) is about 20% complete right now, and I'm having a blast writing it.

With any genre, an author has to do a bit of "world building"--putting together the place where you want to take your readers to for a few precious hours. With my other books, I could basically take our present-day world and tweak a few things, but with he military science fiction genre, the world building is a much more involved task. Like I said, the first book isn't even close to being complete yet, but I'd like to share some of my world building so far.

First off, though, here's the draft blurb for FLEET OPPOSED:

***

The Republic has known peace for nearly a century. Memories of the Han War have faded over time, with the pain and suffering of total war, and sense of shared sacrifice in the face of annihilation, both distant memories. Disagreements among member systems threaten to fracture the cohesiveness of a united Republic, but the Combined Fleet—an aging shadow of what it once was—still stands guard.


Beyond the outer reaches of Republic space, an old enemy prepares to strike. Fueled by the oppressive bitterness of defeat, the Han cultivate the seeds of dissent among those in the Republic sympathetic to their cause. To the Han Bloc, the third planet of the Sol system—the heart of the Republic and their ancestral home—is the prize, and this time they will not be denied from walking its soil as victors. The moment to act has arrived.

Aboard the Republic fleet defense cruiser RSS Repulse, Commander Jackson Flynn takes the reigns of command and quickly finds himself in the middle of a war no one expected, a war not only between the Republic and the Han Bloc, but also against the treachery within the Combined Fleet itself. As the fleet crumbles before his eyes during the opening stages of battle, Jackson Flynn knows one thing…

The Han are coming home again, with a vengeance. And his Repulse is on the line.



***

Sound interesting? Hope so. ;) Let's see...there's a Republic, a Combined Fleet, the RSS Repulse, and the Han Bloc...what else? Well, let's take a look, shall we?

This first picture is what I have set as my laptop's wallpaper (a motivator to keep working on the book):


As you can see, there's a bunch of menacing-looking ships coming through some sort of opening in space...and it basically depicts the book's opening scene.

So what about the Republic Combined Fleet? Like most former military, I like to gravitate toward org charts...so here's one:



Three fleets, and an order of battle. But what about the people in the fleet? Well, again being former military, I like rank structures:


A lot of military sci fi I read revolves around some sort of "Space Marines"...that's all fine and dandy, but I wanted to do something a little different:


Now that we know how the rank structure works, how about badges?


A lot of the symbolism from today's military (USAF, US Navy & USMC) is apparent in those badges, and why not? Some traditions run VERY deep, and I figured some might even survive far into the future (with a few tweaks).

Now I'm not even sure if I'm going to use anything from this next picture, but I tried to imagine what a carrier air wing might look like in the world of FLEET OPPOSED. All of the squadron patches are based on actual US Navy & USMC flying units (active and deactivated), with a little of my imagination thrown in for good measure:


Is that geeky enough for ya??? Don't worry. It gets worse. ;) Following the same basic theme, here are the rank structures & badges for the Han Bloc:


In the blurb I happened to mention CDR Jackson Flynn, the commander of the Republic Combined Fleet cruiser RSS Repulse. The story revolves around him, but there's also someone else who plays a major role: Junior Captain Sasha Dracon, commander of the Han battle cruiser Mnementh. Every ship has to have a crest, right? Of course it does:


Another thing I do when I'm writing a book is try and envision what the cover might look like. Here's a couple of raw attempts (basically something I can provide to a professional cover designer as initial ideas):


So there you have it, a little taste of the FLEET OPPOSED world I'm building. If you're a fan of the military sci fi genre, I'd be interested in what you think! Feel free to hop on over to my website & shoot me a message.

A LITTLE DISCLAIMER: Some of the images above were brazenly snatched from the internet--I'm not using any for profit, just for personal motivation only as I write the book. There, I said it. ;)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Get a sneak peek at THE WIDENING GYRE, coming 9.5.17

My fourth novel, THE WIDENING GYRE, will be published on Tuesday, September 5, as a Kindle exclusive.

Here's a sneak peek:
***


“Is there something wrong with me?” Peyton asked. A tear slid down her cheek.
Justine smiled and took Peyton’s hand. “No, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you, honey. You’re just in the middle of something right now that—” She paused, correcting herself. “No, we’re in the middle of something right now that neither of us understands. Yet. It’s going to be okay.”
Peyton nodded, and took another sip of her tea. She had at least stopped shaking, and more of her normal color had returned to her face.
“Are you feeling better?” Justine asked.
“Now that I’m home, it all seems like a bad dream. But I really did see something, Justine.”
“Then let’s start from the beginning. Tell me what you saw.”
A loud thump sounded through the house, and they both jumped.
“What the hell?” Justine exclaimed, whipping her head toward the front window. “What the heck was that?” At first, she thought someone had pounded on the door, but as she approached the front of the house, she could see a small smear on the window glass.
Something red.
She looked at it closely, peering through the glass. It looked like—
“Is that blood?” Peyton asked.
Justine looked at the front porch, and couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. She opened the front door.
Lying on the porch directly below the window was a large black bird. “Jeez, it flew right into the window,” Justine said.
They both stepped outside. The rain had cooled the air considerably, and they both hugged themselves against the chill.
The bird lay on its back, wings spread open as if in flight. Its head hung at an odd angle, and a small drop of blood clung to its beak. It was big, much larger than a common grackle. More like a raven.
“Is it dead?” Peyton asked.
“Looks like it broke its neck,” Justine answered. “Flew smack-dab into the window.” She knelt down to take a closer look. Its chest wasn’t moving, and she gently touched it with the tip of her finger, and immediately pulled her hand back.
It was cold. Icy cold.
“What’s wrong?” Peyton asked.
Justine looked at the bird’s head, and couldn’t look away from its eye. Small and black, wide open, a round shadow staring right at her.
Seeing.
“It’s—it’s dead, all right. Poor thing.” But it wasn’t a poor thing. She wanted to get rid of it, right now. Grab a shovel and scoop it into the trash can out back. And maybe give it a good smack with the blade just to make sure. Close that eye for good.
“Justine?”
She jumped at the feel of Peyton’s hand on her shoulder.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, honey,” Justine said. She stood and rubbed her fingertip against her jeans, fighting the urge to run inside and wash her hands. “I’ll get the shovel.”
“Are we going to bury it?” Peyton asked.
Justine wanted to take the shovel blade and separate the head from the body, pour lighter fluid on it, and burn the damn thing . . . but it was only a bird, right? It wasn’t the first time she’d seen a bird fly into a window, but the body felt as if it had already been dead for hours. “I’ll take it out back and leave it by the field. The
eye is staring dead eye is staring at me dead eye is
coyotes can take care of it.”
Justine did leave the bird beside the field, at the edge of the corn, just as she said she would. As she walked back to the house, she knew it wouldn’t be there in the morning. The scavengers would take it. Tear it to bits. But she wasn’t about to turn around. She was afraid it might just get up, its head lolling sickly to one side, and fly away.
She couldn’t explain why its body had felt so cold, so quickly, nor could she fathom why she felt so unclean after touching it. And it had hit the window so hard.
Like it was trying to break through, and get inside.
She forced herself to turn around, to prove to herself that her mind was only playing tricks.
The bird’s body was there, right where she left it.
It’s just a bird, for cripes’ sake.
The night animals would take it away.
 ***