Category Archives: Alexandria Station

Stories in the universe of Javier Aritza, Doyle Iwakuma, Jessica Keller, Henri Baudin, and, of course, Suvi

20240311

[As usual, two weeks lag here, if you aren’t reading this on my Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/blazeward). If you’d like your news fresher, and the monthly Anti-Stodgy/Redneck Chef newsletter, all I ask is a buck to help keep the lights on around here.]

A Monday that almost appears normal. Which is good, because I spent most of last week recovering from a head cold I picked up on the flight from Guadalajara. Then gave to the Fabulous Publisher Babe™. She’s a little pissed about that.

I had a moment in Mexico. Woke up one morning and a stranger greeted me in the mirror. It happens. Not a lot, but often enough to recognize.

Transition.

Becoming someone else.

Someone new.

A fork in the road taken.

2024 is likely to be full of them, when you think about it. This is the year when I simply ride out the storm as best I can sail it.

At present, I am roughly ¾ of the way through Ollie 3, and hit a wall where I had to put it aside. That was getting my head into the place to go to Mexico.

And I am roughly 13k into Ivette 1 (Gunship Commander), and had to put it aside, because I had to stop and rethink the plot that I had, in light of new ideas that came up while I was in Mexico.

That, and I simply had no enthusiasm for anything by the end of last week. That also happens. Think of it as a kind of hangover from the travel, plus being sick. Plus a bunch of other things.

Had to get up Friday morning hollow. Nothing there at all.

I had written notes for future projects while in Mexico. Took my phone with me for that exact reason.

Friday, I had to reach deep and tap a vein of pure rage.

Those of you who have only known me over the last decade or so have never seen me angry. Not even remotely close. Possibly a bit cross, at worst.

Not like the old days.

Not like when I was a machine fueled by rage.

Woke HIM up Friday to get shit done. He did not disappoint. Probably won’t go back to sleep for a few months, because there are situations upcoming where the willingness to go for someone’s throat with my teeth is suddenly a possibility. Hopefully not a necessity.

Shit’s on the table, though.

Got a guy who desperately needs to be popped in the mouth. Maybe a few times, until he shuts the fuck up. And minds his manners. Personally, I doubt that he’s capable of it, because he’s a malignant narcissist who likes to gaslight people.

Still trying to decide if I should bait him into starting something, so that I have an excuse to put him through a wall. Or a window. Whatever happens to be in the way.

Don’t like him. Don’t respect him. Have to tolerate him for reasons. For now.

Other folks involved have identified me as the nuclear option and refused to take it off the table, so they understand.

In Mexico, I simply projected it outwards like a scent, and NOBODY got that close. I could walk through a crowd and folks would shove others to get out of my way.

So he’s in the back of my mind as I work today.

Started the next Science Officer book. Have been drawing a blank for the longest time on what it should be. Letter “E” for those of you paying attention, but nothing past that.

Woke up in the dead of night in Mexico with the opening, which was good enough to get me into motion. Got 8k on paper right now, and just getting started.

Return of the Pirate Clans that we last saw in 7 and 8. ALL of them. At once. Come for Zakhar and Javier. And everybody else.

Gonna be a mess.

Good thing I’m in a rough mood as I write it.

How’s your Monday?

shade and sweet water,

blaze

West of the Mountains, WA

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Thank you so much for being my patron and for funding these essays!

If you’re reading the free version (which is published two weeks after the Patreon version), please consider joining the ones who do pay at https://www.patreon.com/blazeward. It’s only a buck and helps keeps the lights on around here.

20221219

[As usual, two weeks lag here, if you aren’t reading this on my Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/blazeward). If you’d like your news fresher, and the monthly Anti-Stodgy/Redneck Chef newsletter, all I ask is a buck to help keep the lights on around here.]

After a game of “Stump every tech who works there” and having five different folks come out over the course of two weeks, I have heat again. (I don’t do wiring, but apparently the ground from the heat pump ran all the way back into the house, through the boards, and to the main furnace ground. Tech put in a different wire that ran 10” and everything suddenly ran fine.)

And heat is good, as it started snowing last night late. Got several inches, then about half melted this morning. Except that it just started up again a few minutes ago. Fat, slow, feathery flakes, meaning a lot more is likely coming.

Yuck.

But the Fabulous Publisher Babe™ has a 4×4 pickup, so we’re not stuck at the top of the hill. Not sure when I’m going out, except that I have to GM a dungeon crawl tonight.

Anti-Stodgy update: Went to breakfast with Hawk yesterday, then spent all morning and after lunch at the park nearby, working out a series of moves and maneuvers for a spear form. Not Tai Chi, because much more focused on how to kill four people who have surrounded you, while surviving. We worked out the first four sections yesterday. I worked out four more last night, but haven’t gotten them polished yet. Guessing we end up with 10-12 sections, once we throw in an appendix or two.

And I don’t hurt this morning. Did last night, but took a hot bath and then rubbed some Vitamin E cream on my spine muscles. That stuff is useful for softening scar tissue, so I figured that it might also help with the damage I did yesterday, and to keep such tissue from forming. Seems to have done the trick, because I took an advil before bed, and nothing since.

And I have a boar spear combat form that will be useful for balance, strength, and rotation as I grow older. Still looking for Yari forms. Sensei Johnson’s gone until January, then I hope to learn an Okinawan fishing spear form he knows. And maybe reach out up my Sifu’s lineage to his Sifu, for our schools “Tai Chi Spear” form. (think ¾” dowel rod about 5’ long, rather than 1.5” killing spear. Way different weight and technique.)

Finally, words.

Finished Ollie #2 today on one hell of a cliff-hangar. As intended. Only have a rough idea where #3 picks up and goes. Not sure if the series runs four or five or longer. Doesn’t really matter right now, except setting up for emotional payoff, and I’m not there yet. Will drop them all back to back, one of these days.

After talking to a fan who has been sending me edits and corrections on Jessica and Phil, I reread Winterhome and Petron last week. Needed to remember how the series ended, so I can set up who to bring back for Heather.

Because I’m deep into planning Warlord of Yaumgan. And got a lot of surprises planned, but not gonna ruin the fun just yet. Another big cast beast, like I do. EPIC space opera, like I like. Heather, who has always been one of my favorites. And a bunch of friends, both new and old.

But first, some erotica. And another Last Stand novella, to stay ahead of everybody. Maybe some short stuff for you folks.

Dunno. Don’t gotta know. Just gotta keep writing and having fun.

You having fun?

Shade and sweet water,

b

West of the Mountains, WA

—————————-

Thank you so much for being my patron and for funding these essays!

If you’re reading the free version (which is published two weeks after the Patreon version), please consider joining the ones who do pay at https://www.patreon.com/blazeward. It’s only a buck and helps keeps the lights on around here.

20221212

20221212

[As usual, two weeks lag here, if you aren’t reading this on my Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/blazeward). If you’d like your news fresher, and the monthly Anti-Stodgy/Redneck Chef newsletter, all I ask is a buck to help keep the lights on around here.]

Well, here’s hoping this Monday goes better. Furnace died two weeks ago. Guys are out today (just arrived) for the fourth time to try to trace why the furnace is fine and the heat pump is blowing fuses like crazy. At least I’ve had heat for the last week, but would prefer not running the furnace all the time to have it.

Fingers crossed.

Words. Just about 67k into the second Ollie novel. Target 80, but I might come in higher, so 100 is acceptable. First one was 80, so in range.

Slow burn novel. No gunfights. No space battles. Lots of xenoarchaeology asking difficult questions that none of the older alien species remember the answer to. (It’s been 20,000 years in one case and 40,000 in the other. Humans only climbed up on the Web 4,000 years ago.)

Dunno how long the series runs. 4-5 feels right, given 80-100 per. And I’m cliffhangaring this one and probably the next one, so I have to have them all done so I can drop them sequentially, month over month, instead of with gaps where folks might come after me with pitchforks.

How did you like reading Gunderson and meeting some of the old-timers in capes? Planning to send you the Bellerophon origin story for New Years, and then go back and explore Eclipse and Mr. Eclipse. (She might be more fun.)

Weather around here has finally gotten better. Was out gaming Friday night and had to drive through some crap to get home. Seven climate zones running like stripes across my path from there to here. Two of them were snowing with accumulations of 1-3”. Three raining. Two dry. And all had been dry when I’d gone south five hours earlier.

Skipped Tai Chi Saturday morning because I didn’t want to deal with black ice. Good choice, too, because there was a huge windstorm all night and neither I nor the kitty slept worth a damn. (Never operate heavy equipment like cars when you are that tired. Even the coffee barely helped.)

Should wrap up Ollie this week. Then either Stephanie or Tessa. Tessa #1 is up for pre-order and a couple of you have already First Readered it, so I’m kinda excited.

And thanks to everyone who has already had nice things to say about Captain Navarre. I can’t help but flash back to that one gentleman who complained about Buried Among The Stars that the tree-roos were the most interesting characters. And how he expected that folks who were trying to stop a war would be killing more people to do it.

Because violence solves all problems, obviously. (Dumbass.)

It is not, however, always the best solution to most of them. Like stopping the next Great War that might engulf Javier’s galaxy about the time he’s retired and living back on Altai.

Unlike the Jessica Keller+ era, I don’t foresee writing series that pick up things after Javier and explore the Rising Tide. It will come. Things like this are not the result of a single actor or action. All Javier will do is cement his place in history by trying, and even succeeding on a small scale in a few places.

Mostly because Suvi will be there to make sure everyone remembers him.

On Jessica, I have started deep diving planning into the series that comes after First Centurion Kosnett. Heather Lau’s story, as it were. The War with Zerzan, because Empires never willingly cede ground, morally, ethically, or physically. They must grow or die.

And worse, they know that Yaumgan are the last vestiges of the Zerzan Monarchy. The mob will not be swayed, regardless of what Unification Commissioners might desire.

Especially ones that understand just how terrible Phil Kosnett could have been. And what his successors will do if provoked.

That’s Ground Control. And a couple of friends who will surprise and delight you, even as I map out a whole new cast of heroes and villains. At least as big as Kosnett. Possibly giving Jessica a run for the money, because Heather has always been one of my favorites. And it lets me set up some of the things I’ve wanted to do for a couple of years, where I get to eventually explore Casey and Vo’s kids, and this new galactic civilization they will grow up in, where Jessica is a War Goddess and Phil is the Explorer Extraordinaire!

Hope y’all are having even half as much fun as I am. Got a lot of new things coming over the next twelve months, and don’t want you missing any of it.

Shade and sweet water,

b

West of the Mountains, WA

—————————-

Thank you so much for being my patron and for funding these essays!

If you’re reading the free version (which is published two weeks after the Patreon version), please consider joining the ones who do pay at https://www.patreon.com/blazeward. It’s only a buck and helps keeps the lights on around here.

20221128

[As usual, two weeks lag here, if you aren’t reading this on my Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/blazeward). If you’d like your news fresher, and the monthly Anti-Stodgy/Redneck Chef newsletter, all I ask is a buck to help keep the lights on around here.]

Woke up to snow. Not much and not bad. Monsoonerated all night, so warm, but the temperature dropped early in the predawn when the wind started coming off the mountain.

Got breakfast. Skipped shooting.

Had fun on the drive, though. From my place down to Enumclaw (south about 15 miles or so), you pass through seven distinct climate zones, divided off by peaks and valleys to the east as the Cascades ripple. At my house, it was slightly drizzly when I left. Then I hit the next zone about two hundred yards down the road and it was snowing wet and sticky. Then clear. Then rain. Then snow again. Then rain. Then clear.

I can almost mark the spots in the roadway with a can of spray paint, having driven them enough times in the winter to figure them out.

Got back here through the reverse, but it was snowing slightly at my place when I arrived. That faded out after an hour and I had sun. Cloudy now.

Never dropped below 34F, though, so not particularly worried. Just know that a La Niña year is going to average colder and wetter than usual. Have already brought the kitchen camping gear in from the barn, in case of power outages. Can always cook on the flat-top fireplace in the living room. (I designed the house exactly for those sorts of situations, and there is a granite tile with a tea pot there.)

Did strenuous Tai Chi this weekend. Sifu wanted kick drills, which means down and back several times, doing different things. I hurt. And was exhausted, but that’s the leftovers from the COVID, which really messed with my endurance.

Still, I’m still in better shape than most of the men I know my age. (Bagpiper doesn’t count, because he’s a fireman and runs three miles most days, on top of equipment work.) And, I’m down in weight as I’ve been working on losing it. Weighed 202# Thursday, Friday, and this morning, in spite of the holiday, which means that getting down to 195 is within reach in not too long.

This is after being around 215-220 for too long.

[And snow just started to fall again. Or gropple. Very chewy rain. Something.]

Working on Chen Pan Ling Thunderstick, which is a short-staff/cane form. Sifu Nathan is designing a longsword combat form for me, using the compass rose, since too many Asian martial forms tend to be down and back exclusively.

Also starting to look for some spear/yari/naginata forms for upper body strength and flexibility. Wanna stay strong and limber into my 90s. Again, most Asian forms tend to use a bo (stick) instead of a spear. Think drum major, where the shaft is extremely light and thin. I’ve got a European boar spear, with a 1.5” shaft and a flanged head.

Sifu Stone said it was only good for sticking pigs. I reminded him that long pork qualified.

So I’m working on flexibility and endurance. What are you doing to stay in shape as the kids start challenging you?

Books: I’m done with the Bellerophon short/origin story and now about 16k into the second Ollie novel. Xenoarchaeology Space Opera, asking really big questions and challenging galaxy-wide assumptions about things. Book One started as a collection of short pieces some of you have read, before being collected and extended to an 80k novel. Book Two target is the same rough length. Will take me a good chunk of December to finish. After that, more Stephanie, more Tessa, more superheroic fantasy.

Novel-wise, I’m not sure what’s next. Have the first two Corsac Fox novels done. #1 was originally going to go up for a Kickstarter today, before we both got sick. New schedule is January, but I need to check closer and finish off a few things. Have a couple of other open series beyond Ollie that need to move forward. Taft Station #3 (of 5) has been whispering to me, as has Air Pirates #4. Corsac Fox #3. Marrakesh #4, but I’ve written those three since summer, so I can take a break. Those are not part of a longer epic thread, so I can drop them as I write them.

Science Officer #12 is coming out shortly. I need to write #13, but at the moment, these feel like “Every December publish one” projects. At least until I have some spare time to write more of those because I’ve finished some of the other series or written them far enough ahead.

January, I’m dropping two projects. The first Last Stand (Lost Dreams), which is the shiny space western adventure that’s filling the calendar next year (nine done so far). Also, Fugitive, which is a semi-historic action/adventure spy piece set in 1977 (I call the category discopunk, for various reasons). Need to write more about Marcus, but that requires some serious research, because they are set in the “real world” and the late 70s, so I need to make sure I have the details more correct that I normally have to worry about in SF.

Feb and March will see a pair of Pacific Force novels. Again, action/adventure (not quite thriller, as it were), this time set in 2018, so I can control the calendar and events, and don’t get surprised. Five man band sort of thing, where the team are private mercenaries saving the world from criminals out to destroy it. No more advanced tech than “Tuesday after next” but I’ve had fun, because they are set in the “present tense” and let me find a spot on the map to play.

Put Buckaroo Banzai, Batman, James Bond, and your favorite Anime Senraku (I grew up on Battle of the Planets) in the corners, then connect them with two lines. That’s Pacific Force. Have gotten pretty good comments from my First Readers, so I’ll write more, assuming these sell worth the effort.

I have so many ideas that writer-brain simply won’t bubble up ones that aren’t going to make me money. Four diehard fans won’t cut it, regardless of how life changing it might be for them. (You are somebody’s favorite author/artist/being.) If Pacific Force or Marcus generate traffic, I’m more likely to circle back. If not, then I’ll throw other spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.

Planning to put some serious cycles into planning and maybe starting Warlord of Yaumgan next year, since I’ve opened up some space in my writing calendar. And more Marrakesh. And a few other things.

Because I’m having a lot of fun. Hopefully, you are too.

What’s been your favorite thing of mine lately? Or your favorite bit of doggerel from one of my stories? Always interested in which bits stick with folks.

Lemme know.

Also, I ^think^ I have gotten all the server issues resolved. Blogs scheduled a couple weeks ahead seem to be working out. If I have not responded to an email you sent me lately, go ahead and poke me, because it might have gotten eaten by the machines. (I can explain everything to a nerd, but there was a weird DNS issue in the middle of all that.)

Hopefully, you’re turkey day went well. (Or whatever you did to celebrate the end of summer and the impending holiday season.)

Chat more soon,

b

West of the currently snowing Mountains, WA

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Thank you so much for being my patron and for funding these essays!

If you’re reading the free version (which is published two weeks after the Patreon version), please consider joining the ones who do pay at https://www.patreon.com/blazeward. It’s only a buck and helps keeps the lights on around here.

20221114

[As usual, two weeks lag here, if you aren’t reading this on my Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/blazeward). If you’d like your news fresher, and the monthly Anti-Stodgy/Redneck Chef newsletter, all I ask is a buck to help keep the lights on around here.]

More Update: was no longer contagious by wednesday. And Fabulous Publisher Babe™ stopped having a second red line by Saturday. We’d slept in different houses for two weeks, and the cat was not pleased. But then, she’s a grumpy, old lady (17.5 years old, and grumbly teenager some days).

Proceeding on the third Marrakesh novel, having finished Gunderson #10. Sitting at 23,000 words as I write this, with a target of 42,000, like the previous two. Space Adventure Military SF. Mission of the Week sort of thing, with callbacks and easter eggs related to both the Leary/Mundy books by David Drake and the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian, upon which the Leary books are also inspired.

Drake made some choices that IMO didn’t work out for the series, once he got past about book four. Early decisions kind of locked him in to a path in such a way that I found it harder and harder to suspend disbelief as we went.

I’ve been on his newsletter for maybe twenty years at this point, and I’ve heard him talk about his writing style. The man does amazing amounts of research before writing a novel. Or did, health issues recently have convinced him that it is time to retire from writing, because he doesn’t feel that he can hold an entire novel in his head and do it justice. I have a sad, because I’ve read most of his work. Some of it didn’t work for me, but he taught me how to frame a story about normal people, rising to the challenge, rather than Chosen Ones anointed to save the world.

Most of you know how much I loathe Chosen One stories. Once I know that’s what you’ve done, Epicurus wakes up and starts making annoying sounds. Remember, I’m a trained philosopher here.

If the gods are willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then they are not omnipotent.

If they are able, but not willing? Then they are not benevolent.

If they are neither able nor willing? Then they are neither omnipotent or benevolent.

Finally, if they are both able and willing? Then why does evil exist?

-Epicurus-

Chosen Ones are predicated on gods not crushing evil, but instead throwing teenagers into the grinder to handle it for them. Ugh.

Still, I love Drake. But as my skill as a storyteller improves (still not as good as him, but hey), I can see his choices and disagree with some of them. And he made certain choices different than O’Brian, but it took me this long to understand why I had the entire series in hardcover on my shelf, and had never read the most recent three or four.

I lost the joy in them.

Dunno if he lost the joy. Or painted himself into a corner (my suspicion). Or maybe age caught up with him. He’s roughly twenty-four years older than me, so he’s 77 now. And age does catch up. Another of my favorite writer people is just a wee bit younger and has also said that his most recent novel is his last, for the same reason.

I’ve told my wife and a few friends to drag me aside and have an intervention if I reach the point where my writing goes to crap, because I’d rather quit than turn out junk, which is what these two have had to decide.

Sad. At the same time, they recognized it, and were able to move on. Or retire, or something.

I’m still racing against (a hopefully way-freaking-distant) death, so even if I have to retire at some point, I will have a metric shit-ton of things I can continue to publish after that moment, and they won’t be crap.

Next year, depending on a few things, I’ll be publishing 32 titles. Novella or better, and not counting short stuff. Twelve Last Stand. Three Marrakesh. Three Augustus Derlyth. Two Corsac Fox. The next Kincaide’s War. The thirteenth Science Officer. Some Urban Fantasy. Some Action/Adventure. Lots.

And I still have a lot of stuff out there. Series incomplete, because I need to circle back and write. Oleg. Flight Officer Brannon. Taft Station. Air Pirates of Cyrenaica. Plus existing open series like Handsome Rob.

Oh, and now that #FirstCenturionKosnett is complete, I can [FINALLY] tell you the first title of the next RAN series I intend to write.

Y’all ready?

Warlord of Yaumgan.

Yup. Heather’s next on the list. Plus, at some future point, one of Casey’s kids, when they are old enough to join the RAN. If you paid attention, Jessica is the oldest, followed by fraternal twins Ekaterina and Emmerich, then by Tomas.

And to that one fan who keeps hoping that eventually the Honeymoon Yacht will make an appearance, I’m sorry, but it won’t. Jessica Keller’s story is done, so IF we see her again, she will be an old woman. At the end of the Kosnett books, she’s fifty-four, if I’ve done the math correctly. The twins are born in Imperial Year 187, so if they go off to Academy, it would be Imp. 205, graduating in 209. Jessica, for instance, was born in Imp. 136.

But never say never. I don’t know what Heather’s story looks like fully. I know that it involves a Zerzan Unification Civil War. And an ugly one.

Plus, Ambassador Kosnett is retired and goofing off these days. (Technically, writing, but I’m not entirely sure what yet.) And I would probably have to go find the former coworker who was the inspiration for Heather so she could read about her future self. (I think she would be pleased. Neat lady.)

But that’s neither here nor there. I wrote a newsletter yesterday that goes into a little more detail about what’s coming in my writing schedule. Hopefully, you’re signed up and will see it tomorrow(?) if I remember to send it.

Got a lot of fun planned. Just needing longer than I expected to recover from this fucking covid shit. Wear a mask. I’ve been weak and easily exhausted for two weeks now, and supposedly the most recent mutations are getting worse again, so it’s going to be an ugly winter.

Y’all stay tuned. Got a lot coming.

Cheers.

Shade and sweet water,

b

West of the freaking cold Mountains, WA

—————————-

Thank you so much for being my patron and for funding these essays!

If you’re reading the free version (which is published two weeks after the Patreon version), please consider joining the ones who do pay at https://www.patreon.com/blazeward. It’s only a buck and helps keeps the lights on around here.

20221107

20221031

[As usual, two weeks lag here, if you aren’t reading this on my Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/blazeward). If you’d like your news fresher, and the monthly Anti-Stodgy/Redneck Chef newsletter, all I ask is a buck to help keep the lights on around here.]

Update: I have been sick with a mild, ongoing case of covid for a week and change. Got exposed on Oct 26, and most of the gaming group came down with it over that weekend. I also got my booster and a flu shot on the 28th (don’t do that. It sucks) as I was coming down with covid.

For the last week, I have basically sat at my computer (instead of standing, I rearranged to a desk and chair) and wrote. Way ahead on words, but that’s what happens when you sit in front of a computer for 8 hours instead of 3.

Finally feeling better. Exhausted and no reserves, but the brain is back and the aches and pains are way less. Down to one side of a sore throat that isn’t broken glass anymore.

Still taking it easy this week. Didn’t go anywhere for breakfast. Sure as hell not shooting.

Woke up to snow this morning. Not much more than a footprint. Early this year. The Fabulous Publisher Babe™ is entirely grumpy, but she hates snow. Too many times snowed in while living in Wyoming. Fortunately, all melting off pretty quickly this morning.

Last week, I wrote a long Harper piece. No idea if it works. Might just be a series of vignettes, but it sets her up for some things I want to do later. We’ll see.

I just now finished Gunderson #10, which was something of a sequel to #4/Blackmailers.

Dunno why, but writer-brain wanted to deal with costumed superheroes. And in Gunderson’s context of 1955.

Sat down and thought about many of the old heroic teams from the ’40s, including Justice Society and All-Star Squadron. Already had Miss Lynx, but she’s retired in 1955. Early 40s and too old to be running around chasing down bad guys.

It is a thing. Either the heroes no longer age, or you need to set the team in a specific era and leave them there. For Gunderson, that’s the end of Prohibition and the Depression. Then Miss Lynx comes back after Pearl Harbor and stays until V-J Day before retiring for good.

Historically, superhero comic publishers more or less collapsed in the late 1940s, and didn’t come back for nearly a decade. (End of Golden Age, then the Silver Age.)

In between, you have the McCarthy Era (which should have been called the Edgar Hoover Era, knowing what we do now about that piece of rancid camel shit) and the HUAC. McCarthy gets broken by Welch and Murrow in about 1954, with the quiet help of Ike. Perfect for stories set in 1955.

So I had to create whole new teams of heroes and villains for the 30s, the 40, and then the Patriotic 50s. All of that world-building was there for the story, but not much of it got used here. However, I have it, for any of three sets of stories I might want to explore.

Anybody got a preference for era?

Prohibition ends in 1932, but once folks have a taste for corruption and vice, it is hard to stuff the genie back into the bottle. Then you have the Nazis and “Yellow Menace” of WW2. Finally, the rising Atomic Age leading to space exploration.

And I have a lot of folks to explore, if/when I get there. You tell me.

Writing newsletters and such this morning. Then I think I pivot to the third Marrakesh novel.

Marrakesh is fun, because it is a complicate reaction to something else, in an “I can tell that story better” kind of way. Probably can’t, and it will be different, but the author in question didn’t plan to write a hugely long novel series, and got themselves trapped in space opera, where the stakes had to keep going up, even though the starting point was already high.

Marrakesh is space adventure. Mystery/Mission of the week stuff. Military SF, but not epic opera. Marrakesh itself is a CTT. Cruiser-Tactical-Transport. Big tug with two spaces where modules can be plugged in for missions. Gives the ship flexibility, and gives me a reason to stick them into some of these situations, because in coming up with various modules, I have about a dozen. (Feel free to suggest other modules, because I’m sure I missed some.)

The 2023 publishing schedule is currently off, because covid hit me and the Fabulous Publisher Babe™ to the point that we can’t finish the details of a Kickstarter and launch it in two weeks. We’re both too wiped out. So Corsac Fox will probably run on KS in January. Then go up for pre-order in the summer. Not like I don’t have a lot of stuff ready for next year. I even have Corsac Fox #2 done.

At this point, the only two novels not written for the 2023 schedule are the third Marrakesh (shortly), and the thirteenth Science Officer.

Plus I have nine Last Stand novellas done, two planned, and one open slot to write something.

Y’all stay tuned. Got a lot coming.

Cheers.

Shade and sweet water,

b

West of the SNOWY Mountains, WA

—————————-

Thank you so much for being my patron and for funding these essays!

If you’re reading the free version (which is published two weeks after the Patreon version), please consider joining the ones who do pay at https://www.patreon.com/blazeward. It’s only a buck and helps keeps the lights on around here.

The Power of Novellas

A lot of folks seem to believe that you must either write short fiction, or novels in order to be successful.

The short game gets you into magazines and such, where you build up your name and polish your writing craft. I even know a few folks that do make a steady living on short stuff, mostly by turning around and selling all that short fiction as ebooks afterwards. (Lot of effort, but if it works, go for it.)

Downside is that $0.99 on Amazon nets you about 32c from a sale, so you have to move A LOT of units every day.

Flip-side of that are the folks that are convinced that only mega-doorstop novels (200,000 words+) on long series (Epic Fantasy comes to mind, but there are others) can be successful.

Today, I’d like to talk about the humble novella.

I published The Science Officer in December of 2014. And got struck by lightning in January, 2015. Dropped The Mind Field as fast as I could get it written, edited, and published, to take advantage of that incredible spike in sales that lasted about 100 days on the magic Amazon machine before it fell mostly back to earth.

After that, I wrote The Gilded Cage and I suddenly had a series on my hands. When I sat down and started the concept of following the Amazon Pulse, it was to write the next five books: The Pleasure Dome, The Doomsday Vault, The Last Flagship, The Hammerfield Gambit, and The Hammerfield Payoff, putting them up for pre-order spaced two months apart.

After that, I had enough material to go monthly (this would have been Fall, 2017)

Around that same period, I got struck by lightning a second time, in that the machines saw me dropping single genre, single series, back to back. It put me on the big advertising roundup. Plus I broke through somewhere with someone (to date, I have no idea who) blasting me all over the planet.

Put it this way, I was flying cross country in 2018 and got into a conversation with the woman next to me. Told her I was a writer and she was WAY interested, but turned out she didn’t like science fiction. Her husband was just across the aisle, so she handed him my Science Officer business card, because that was his gig.

He looks at it, smiles, and tells me that he liked the book.

Wait, you’ve already read it????

Cool.

To date, almost eight years later, The Science Officer remains my single best mover in terms of units. Every month, I release a new novel/project. Every month, Javier is my second or third best selling title in terms of movement.

Don’t make hardly anything, since it is up for $0.99, so we’re back to that 32c again. At the same time, my top twenty titles frequently contains ALL THE REST OF THE SERIES (book twelve coming in December. Y’all pre-ordered?) including the Omnibuses.

I literally make my living on Javier and the crew. Fortunately, I figured out what Season Two should look like, and am slowly working my way through that arc. Currently, they’ve been annual, but I might manage two per year for a bit, as I have a pretty good idea what the next story should be, plus the one after that.

From The Science Officer to The Hammerfield Payoff, those are all novellas. 24,000 words up to about 32,000. The Bryce Connection (#9) is actually a collection of four short stories that introduce four new sets of characters and runs about 24,000 words combined. From there: Alien Seas, Buried Among The Stars, and Captain Navarre are all novels, running 50,000-65,000 words, mostly because it gives me the space to write bigger stories.

But novellas are where it started, and you have to be to book ten to hit the first novel.

Past that, I have an erotica penname (Cole Braddock) that is currently writing a series that is (intentionally, consciously) a pastiche/homage to Star Trek (TOS and TNG for the most part). I have four of those done so far (Haunted Space, The Rift, Secrets, and Dreamer) that are all specifically targeted as novellas.

Finally, starting in January, I will publish a whole new space western series inspired by something I saw on tv, but radically altered because I wasn’t pleased with the choices the showrunners made. “I could have done that so much better” sort of thing.

Book One in the space western is 31,000, because I needed to introduce eight characters (not counting the ship, who is also important), a universe, technology, culture, and tell two separate story arcs in one spine. Book Two came in at about 18,000. Three through Six (so far) are all right around 22,000.

I learned to write screenplays under a mentor who was good at them (though we never got the money to make them. Anyone got $5m they want to invest? I have five that are all pretty damned good. Horror to Animated Kids Adventure.)

The software you should use is called Final Draft, because it handles all the formatting. (On Linux, I use a variant called Fade-In, which is almost as good, and have not yet paid for the full product, because I might not ever open it again. Different story.)

In a screenplay, one page of text is traditionally one minute of screen time, depending on dialogue. The timing rules are STRICT, so you have to hit 90-120 pages of screenplay. Period.

It also taught me how to write to length. And identify genre, sub-genre, and expected tropes up front.

An American one-hour drama on TV, with commercials, is about 38-40 minutes of show, plus opening and closing credits and 18-22 minutes of commercial breaks.

I wrote the Science Officer as a one-hour episode of a TV show. The Space Western and the Stephanie Machesky erotica are all targeted to that same length. The Space Western is even listed as Episode One, rather than Book One, because I want someone to make it into a TV show or animation, one of these days. (Options available cheap, serious inquiries only, expect contract redlining otherwise.)

Novellas. My goal is 20-24k each. And I’m greedy here. They’ll sell for $2.99 (for now, not counting inflation later) so people can get a good fix for not a lot of money. I’ll clear about $2.05 per unit at that rate, instead of $4 for a $5.99 novel, so I have to make up for it in volume.

I tend to write about 120,000 words per month, when I am on pace. (That comes down from time to time due to reasons.) If I write a pair of Space Western novellas, plus an erotica, that’s a good month’s work, and I’m not putting those out that fast, so I can write ahead and still keep the monthly pulse going. (Flip side is the second book in Kincaide’s War, which came in at 157,000 words, because that trilogy requires mass. Took me two months to write, with other projects slipped in as I went.)

For folks that many can only write 20,000 words per month (average 5,000/week, or 1,000/day with weekends off), you might consider writing a whole series of novellas, rather than spending a year writing a magnum opus doorstop. It will get you in front of fans faster and regularly. It likely makes you more cash, assuming the quality of your craft is high enough to draw the reader into a high read-through. (The Science Officer series has a read-through above 50% to book eight, for example.)

And it will force you to write tight, taut stories, because at 24,000 words, you do not have any time to side quest. In fact, 24,000 words might be a complete side quest loop in the longer arc of five or ten such novellas, but then you can make it entirely self-contained and hype up the energy to draw the reader in, instead of taking forever walking to Mordor. The Pleasure Dome literally set up the next four titles, with The Doomsday Vault and The Last Flagship being side quests to get to the Hammerfield duology (cliffhangered in the middle).

So you might look at your writing speed. Your commitments outside of writing, and what you could reasonably expect to produce in a year. Half of a 200,000 word doorstop, or 4-5 individual titles on that long arc, each making you money now? (And you can go back and collect them into a single spine later. Javier has Omnibus One and Two for those first eight.)

There are no rules anymore. If you publish it, folks will find it and read it. (Your craft and especially your luck will factor in, because I have been very lucky, but I was also poised to take advantage of that luck, both times it hit so far, as well as any future occurrences.)

YOU need to find that story length that makes you happy. I grew up on comic books, so incredibly long, serialized arcs are my wheelhouse, broken down into monthly, digestible lumps, with occasional cliffhangers. Comic books, ya know?

What will fill you with joy to write? How do you make your writing compelling? And anyone that tells you you can’t do something is either a fool or a foe.

I’m telling you that you have more options, and that you need to consider what you can do with them.

Because we’re all here to make money and have fun, aren’t we?

Fanboy Report – 20220502

I got to fanboy yesterday. Phil Kosnett (the now-former Ambassador) and his lovely wife Alison have been on a west coast swing, visiting their daughter in LA and then their son in Portland, OR. And they were gracious enough to carve out time for me and Fabulous Publisher Babe™ to have dinner with them last night.

Drove down Monday morning to see one of my step-daughters for the first time since before the plague (medical issues have kept her isolated from any possible infection) and we got to have lunch and hang out with her all afternoon. That included a trip to a hydroponics shop south of downtown where I got to watch the Babe nerd out entirely with the guys that worked there and buy bulk supplies for the hydroponics facility just off my kitchen in the main house.

Then the three of us sat in Rose City Coffee off Milwaukee and talked until nearly 6pm.

I love collecting interesting people. It makes life so much better when you can sit and lose hours jabbering about all sorts of things.

Then dinner. German place on East Division. Olympia Provisions Public House. Great food. Great staff. Fabulous dinner.

Went in expecting Phil and Alison. Also got to meet Alex and Nik (up from Los Angeles) and talk to everyone for several hours over meat and coffee. Four more interesting people to sit and listen to. All of them lead interesting lives. Interesting people. Lotsa fun.

Best part was when I got to ambush Phil. Brought along my Dad’s old briefcase that I stole from him some thirty-five years ago, because it was big enough and had the hard sides I needed.

I had brought along all seven Kosnett books currently available in print. Phil got a chance to read the whole series in Advanced Reader Ebook Copies last fall, because I wanted him to know the whole story while he still had Redshirts to taunt at the US Embassy. And I’ll ship him two sets of copies of 5 & 6 in the fall. One set I’ve signed and one for him to sign and ship back to complete my set.

After dinner, I got him to sign all seven.

Best part, however was having him sign my copy of the original Star Fleet Battles rules from 1983. Gonna scan the actual rules pages and put them back in the folder, because I’m framing this one for my brag wall.

And you can see the genesis of the whole CS-405 trilogy right there in Historical Scenario SH1.0 – Sabotage.

While on a special mission during Y161, the Federation cruiser Kongo was suddenly confronted by a Klingon Battlecruiser. Fearing possible interference with his mission, Captain Phillip Kosnett ordered the warp engines brought to full power and discovered that they had been sabotaged! The First Officer and Chief engineer began frantic repairs as the enemy cruiser closed for the kill.

Sounds an awful lot like a broken JumpSail behind enemy lines, doesn’t it? And his daughter laughed that this misspelled his first name back then. (Only one L, like Alison.)

And it turned out that I was wrong on where he found me. I thought he had a Google Alert, like many of the folks I know famous enough to pay attention to that. Nope, he had a subscription to Scrib’d and typed his name in to see if he got any hits. Boy, was he surprised. At the same time, he is the subject of various fiction from the Star Trek/Star Fleet universes, and even has his own Star Trek action figure. (I’m too cheap for action figures right now, unless someone knows a way to do them for less than like $500 plus printing costs for design, et al.)

He found Queen Anne’s Revenge, and had to read it. And reach out. ’cause he’s awesome.

Finally, we headed out and got several pics of everyone. I cropped this one to only show me, Phil, and the Babe, because it’s too early in the day to check with the other three that its okay to show them as well.

From there, the long drive home. Left the house Monday morning at 9am. Got home about 11:15pm. Grumptacular kittie only partly mollified by sitting on someone’s lap and purring as we unwound. I’d had coffee in the afternoon and with dinner, which I don’t normally do, because I knew I’d need to stay sharp. It had been monsoon all the way down, but the drive back was lovely dry.

And I got to fanboy all over Phil. Better, he took it graciously, because he’s such an awesome person.

Right now, he and A live on the east coast in a Carolina vacation home they’ve kept while being assigned all over the damned world doing things for the State Department. As both of the kids are on the west coast, possibly permanently, I’m hoping they maybe decide to live close enough that I get to see them occasionally.

They both have such interesting stories to tell. This is a picture of Alison holding an M203 (M-16 with underbarrel grenade launcher) while in Iraq, apparently as a joke with the troops guarding her while she was in the field.

To counter it, I also have a meme pic that has Phil in it, originally produced by his friends at State. He’s even putting that image on the cover of a book of essays he is editing right now.

 

This is why I like them so much. And look forward to hearing more of their stories. Fantastically interesting people.

Better, now that he’s no longer a formal government employee, he’s allowed to have his own opinions. And part of that might be writing some of the science fiction he’s been such a nerd for for so long. He suggested at one point a story that was basically Murder On The Orient Express, but told as a formal diplomatic cable, by someone who’s an expert in such language.

Y’all should lean on him to do it, because even set in space on a luxury liner or transport of some sort, it sounds like something utterly unique and really fun. The Babe looked him dead in the eye and said “You write it, and we’ll build an anthology around it.”

Snicker. Not like I haven’t already done that four times between Blaze Ward Presents and the Special Editions.

So that’s my show and tell this stupendous Tuesday morning. And my utterly amazing roadtrip ADVENTURE on Monday.

Sorry that I’m taunting you over leading such mundane lines but I got to have WAY TOO MUCH FUN yesterday, after too long cooped up in the house hiding from other weirdos. And then to hang out with two sets of fun folks I could talk to for hours.

What are you doing to make your world a more interesting place, and yourself the sort of dinner guest that people can’t wait to invite over?

Shade and sweet water

b

West of the Mountains, WA

Eden Package and the Power of Inspiration

When I first became convinced that I could write fiction and make enough money to call it a living, I had a number of ideas I wanted to pursue. The first and most important turned out to be The Science Officer, which led us into the entirety of the Alexandria Station Universe (minus only a few parts I don’t consider canon at this point).

Another was the idea that became Kincaide Kataragama and The Eden Package. At the time however (2014), I knew that I wasn’t a good enough writer to pull off something like that. Too big. Too many moving pieces, considering that I expected six main characters who were all radically different people with different motives, goals, methodologies and even species.

So I waited.

I used to have a job doing Business Intelligence Systems design. Database Architecture and the like. Lived in t-sql and wrote incredibly complex filtering systems. (My favorite query started out with 17,000 lines of code, all well documented internally because I had a system, before I managed to refine it down to about 9,000 after polishing. Big. Any time you have 20+ internal temp tables, shit gets messy.)

On my machine I work, I had a notepad++ file and would keep story ideas there any time something interesting came up, emailing it home to myself regularly. For years. What became the Eden Package was huge, in the number of lines of ideas, notes, and other things.

Eventually, I reached a new plateau of my craft that I felt like I could go beyond the three chapters I had in my head (which came out pretty close to how you will read them in January). It was the rest that took a lot of work.

Eden Package came in at a little over 160,000 words. By far the single longest title I’ve written to date, mostly because I tend to keep novels shorter and use them as punctuation in much longer series arcs where 250,000-400,000 words is my goal. Jessica et al runs closer to one million, but I originally only intended to write a trilogy and go on to something else. (That’s a story I’ve talked about elsewhere, and might again later.)

Eden Package took time, because there were so many moving parts. Cloning, but a new form of cloning, where you walk into a booth that acts like a transporter beam from Star Trek, except that you don’t go anywhere. Just get reduced to information and stored in a database. Forever.

Or at least until they need a copy of you and decant one.

Maybe an earlier you died of old age. Maybe they needed your genetics for some experiment. Something. Personal timelines don’t have to line up with anything, because a hundred years might pass. Or they might Index you to have an updated copy, then immediately print you again, if you are important enough.

But where did the idea come from?

As you can see, my copy is a bit worn. I got it new, back in 1978, and kept it when I passed most of my old comic book collection on to a friend for his kids a decade or so ago. (Had I known that SOB would immediately turn around and sell them instead…)

There is a ship. It is fleeing ahead of some catastrophe that is never fully explained in the comic, mostly because these titles were always one-off things designed to see if they wanted to expand it into a full title, or maybe do a four-issue run like they did in those days. There have been a few reboots that went beyond that final frame, but they never went anywhere and were nearly impossible to find print copies these days for a reasonable price. (Haven’t looked lately, so that might have changed.)

The idea of a telepath as an organic component for the FTL drive is fantastically fun, especially if you have one who was built, instead of born. Or rather, some mad scientist (that fucker Hasan Ildar in this case) started with a woman who had telepathic abilities, then started pushing the envelope. Radically. She’s not human any more. Part squid. Part other things. Extremely powerful. Designed to never achieve maturity in body or mind, so perpetually twelve years old.

But the power to alter genes and print out new experiments means there will be men who want to create sex objects. (There will be. Human males today are like that. Maybe we change later, but I’m not holding my breath.) So another Bio-god created Monster Wives to have sex with. All the worst nightmares he could come up with, because the man was an adrenaline junkie and had to keep upping the dosage, as it were. Until it killed him. Hopefully, he’s enjoying his time in hell.

The species that originally found Earth (the Alvar) realized that humans would be far better than any of the slave species they had been using to power their engines, so they immediately conquered the planet and rounded up all the survivors they could. Then they filtered those for the one best suited to some mental abilities and bred them.

And let their human slaves tinker on one another.

Dashavatara is the Tenth Avatar of Vishnu, come down to kick ass when things go wrong, so that was what they named the ship. The humans, working in a little conspiracy, built it to carry them beyond Alvar reach, where they could be free.

Then Kincaide and friends change a few things, in order to rescue those Monster Wives, and leave  that asshole Ildar behind.

And run like hell for the warp-shroud.

Big. Messy. Complicated. I had a lot of space to cover what could have easily been two novels, but I wanted it all in one space, because the emotional arc was tremendous here.

It will be a trilogy. Today (12/20), I am about to finish the sixth and final First Centurion Kosnett novel. My plan is to start writing the second volume in Kincaide’s War in January. It will also be huge. Target again 160-170k. The series should be a trilogy, with Eden Package, Vehicles of Epiphany, and Ships of Heaven as the titles right now.

Eden Package, however, does stand on its own. And is an entire step bigger and more complicated than Jessica Keller or the Alexandria Station Universe, because I have aliens. Lots of them. History where the Alvar individually live 5000-8000 years, and their ruling dynasty has been on the throne since before humans emerged as a distinct species.

Book two will have an even older foe out there, because I enjoy contemplating the sorts of things that can happen when you really build for eternity in space.

When does somebody cross over and present as a god, anyway?

Personally, I’m looking forward to folks commenting on Eden Package. Something of a labor of love, but also a big sandbox that warrants the term Epic Space Opera.

Who will end up controlling the galaxy, when all is said and done? Or the universe?

Because humans and Alvar will never be able to live in harmony. Not unless there is a revolution.

Coming January 10, 2022.

Kosnett

As everyone remembers, I started playing the Star Fleet Battles (SFB) tabletop board game in the early 80s. Played a LOT. Had the early editions, then the collection when they redid everything. And a lot of SSD books and expansions. It was good. Played up until I came back from Los Angeles in 95. (broken and angry. Different story for a different day.) Haven’t really played since because none of my gamer buddies were into that.

Instead, I played Warhammer 40k for a while. (Small Eldar and Space Marines forces, then large Imperial Guard Heavy Armor. Then super orky cavalry army.) Got out of that and played Flames of War for a while in the mid oughts and later, before selling everything off again and calling it good.

Between 1990 and 2001, I moved a shit ton of times. Usually zip codes. Frequently time zones. My SFB stuff took up a heavy double milk crate. It is currently in my office, tucked under the shelf where the kitty watches the hillside for bunnies.

When I needed names for Republic of Aquitaine officers, Phil Kosnett was one that had been used in SFB. (Those folks tuckerized a buddy who went on to become a Foreign Service Officer and eventually Ambassador. Phil recently returned from being the US Ambassador to Kosovo, and I think (haven’t confirmed with him yet) that he is done and retiring.)

CS-405 was the ship I needed, to tell that story. At the time, I had no idea Kosnett existed as anything but a James T. Kirk stand in for SFB. But he was the guy who got things done in various historical scenarios in SFB, so obviously he made a good impression back then. And I used him.

I had completed writing Petron before I discovered he was a real person. Which just made it all the more awesome.

With that in mind, I had promised a follow-on series to Jessica for Phil. (Plus three others, if you were paying attention. And hopefully I’ll get to them eventually, as well.)

Encounter at Vilahana was written with Phil and Alison Kosnett directly in mind (though I didn’t know she existed at the time either and she occasionally wants to know why I don’t retcon everything to include her. She is in the opening of Vilahana. Phil actually sent me the idea for that opening commentary on the former Alison Smith.)

All this is on my mind because just now, I wrote the final bits of book five. Empire at Gloran.

So:

  1. Encounter at Vilahana
  2. Consensus at Aditi
  3. Hegemony at Dalou
  4. Princes at Ewin
  5. Empire at Gloran

As I’m writing the last epilogue this morning, it’s Phil and Heather, reviewing what they’ve done and looking forward to the ^final^ novel in the series, which will be Domain at Yaumgan.

I’ve written them in pairs up until now, but didn’t really have the terrible problem that needed solving for Six. These have not been your typical military space opera with grand, epic space battles filling whole chapters. Its been my chance to create a handful of random new cultures, somewhat isolated from everyone else, and then explore them.

Because Phil is an explorer. A diplomat. He’s also a hardass who will punch you in the mouth if you need it. (The First Centurion. I haven’t asked The Ambassador, but he’s like 6’3 tall, so I wouldn’t recommend needing to find out.)

If you pay attention, you will see a lot of Star Fleet Battles in the cultures of the Balhee Cluster. I appreciate that most of you have only read Vilahana, but trust me, if you look, you’ll see them. That was intentional on my part. Part of the homage to Star Fleet Captain Phil Kosnett and the Constitution-class Heavy Cruiser USS Kongo (NCC-1710. again, in there, because I can). Partly my way to say thanks to Phil for being such an amazing guy.

So I have just finished #5 a few minutes ago. And I have a few projects to complete before I go after #6, because writer-brain finally decided to tell me the plot and story arc. Thus, I have to go invent a whole bunch of new cultural notes and issues to address.

And it’s gonna be fun.

At some point, I also plan on Heather having a series, set another stretch in the future from Vilahana. Because I can. And you’re having almost as much fun as I am.

So get Aditi when it comes out in November. Dalou and Ewin are (currently) April and May of 2022. Gloran and Yaumgan are going to be in the fall.

I still don’t know if there will be a book seven. I’m leaning against it, if only because it really needs to be its own series spun outward, considering where things are headed right now.

But it will be fun. Epic. Interesting.

Hope you come along for the ride.