The Gilded Cage

The third Javier Aritza novella, entitled The Gilded Cage, is coming out December 15. It’s available for pre-order now (and somebody already did, which was weird, but thank you).

Last of the Immortals will drop in about two and a half days. At least two of you already ordered paper copies, since I had to make those available ahead of time. Hope you got them already and have enjoyed them.  Drop me a note if you did. The rest of you will hopefully start enjoying it in a bit.

So on the way home the other night, as I’m approaching the pass in the dark and the rain, thinking about the final version of The Gilded Cage that just got approved and sent off for type-setting, when Javier taps me on the shoulder and whispers the title of the fourth story in my ear. (And no, I’m not telling you yet.)

It’s been interesting re-arranging my writing cycles this year. I needed to get the first three Jessica Keller novels done and out so she would leave me alone to write anything else.  Those of you who’ve met her will understand.

So I got those done over the spring and summer and the last one is coming out shortly. After Last of the Immortals was done, I finally got to get back to Javier Aritza. He kind of started the whole mess a year ago (I checked, Science Officer came out 12/15/14, which is why Gilded Cage comes out 12/15/15.)

The moment I finished Science Officer, I knew what the plot was for Mind Field.  I had actually had the idea for Mind Field first, for about five years, however, when I got serious, I had to tell Science Officer in order to set up the second novella.

I had no idea what the third one would be.

Things had been left in an interesting place, having rescued Wilhelmina Teague and sent her on her way. I knew I wanted her back at some point because she brings a curious outsider eye to things, having spent 488 years in cryo-hibernation in the middle of A’Nancia’s orbital mine field.

At the same time, I have had any number of complaints and questions that Javier and Djamila weren’t already in bed together. Secret: Ain’t happening any time soon, pal. After you read Gilded Cage, you might understand better.

I went dark with this one. I always remember Science Officer and Mind Field with a shinier memory. When I re-read them to get ready for Gilded Cage, I was struck by how dark Javier is, once you strip away all the sarcasm and cracking smart. He can be an asshole, but he generally doesn’t go out of his way to do so. It’s more just the sharp edges and hard corners of a man who is not at peace with himself. He might learn, one of these days, but he’s not there now.

He is, however, a former officer in the Concord Navy. That means gentleman, of a sort. Hero, if you will. Ruthless marauder if you want to push him hard enough. It’s one of the reasons he and Zakhar get along. They both know how the other thinks, because they both come from the same place.

Even Javier and Djamila might have learned to get along, if they had met in other circumstances.  They might yet, but that’s several more episodes in the future. (Again, you’ll understand in a few weeks.)

What I wanted to do with Gilded Cage was really explore identity as a cloak we put on when we leave for work in the morning. The you that you are at home is not that same person you are at work, or out with friends.

Javier takes you through some dark passages in his soul as part of his quest. He is not an especially pleasant fellow, underneath all the bonhomie. But he can be relied upon to do his job, and do it with excellence. That is not something you can say about everyone you know, and yet it should be.

The true friend is probably the guy you call to go pick up the body and hide it, while you stay where you are and have a good alibi. And he won’t ask you anything other than where it is and where you want it moved to. Javier can be that kind of person. Djamila would (probably) never bend the rules that far, instead settling for calling in the authorities and making sure you went to jail for whatever it was she thought you had done.

I used a term to describe those two in Gilded Cage, from the point of view of someone who knows and respects both of them. The term was Lovers in hatred. They are bound together by their fire. It may consume one or both of them one of these days, but it is not the sort of thing where they suddenly fall madly in love with one another.

This is not thwarted love. This is raw hatred. They really do consider how to make it look like an accident if something happened to the other. Neither would simply walk up and pull the trigger themselves, because that would be an admission of failure. “You couldn’t beat me, so you had to just kill me. I win.”

If you’ve never run into that level of emotion, I feel sorry for you that you might never have truly lived. (Not that it is always the happiest place to be, but that’s a whole different can of worms.)

I am hard pressed to think of two people, characters or IRL, who are more alive. Jessica Keller has her moments, but they are only moments, and not a sustained level, except when she is at blades. Javier and Djamila are the kind of people who crack your bones longways in order to suck out the marrow. It’s one of the main reasons I enjoy writing their stories.

So, today, I’m about 30k into the next novel (a book one in a new trilogy). When it’s done, I’ll either do the fourth Javier Aritza novella, or the fourth Jessica Keller novel (Goddess of War.) Both are muttering in my ear when I try to sleep, right now. Either way, they’ll come out in the spring or summer of ’16. After them, I’ll probably go back to the book two in the new set. I’m not sure if I will write all three before I publish any of them. That will be up to my first readers and Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) to decide.

Until then, enjoy more Jessica and more Javier, sure in the knowledge that there will be yet more coming.

shade and sweet water,


West of the Mountains, WA