The Fallen Race cover and upcoming release

The cover for my upcoming release, due on Saturday, 1 Feb 2014
The cover for my upcoming release, due on Saturday, 1 Feb 2014

The Fallen Race, my Military SF / Space Opera novel will be released tomorrow at noon on Amazon and Smashwords.

Blurb below:

Baron Lucius Giovanni, Captain of the battleship War Shrike, finds himself without a home or nation, his ship heavily damaged, and crew in bad shape. The odds against their personal survival are slim. The time of humanity has come to a close. The great nations have all fallen, either to the encroaching alien threats or to internal fighting and civil war. The aliens who seek to supplant humanity, however, have not taken one thing into account: Lucius Giovanni. He and his crew will not give up – not while they still draw breath. If this is to be the fall of humanity, then the crew of the War Shrike will go down fighting…and in the heat of that fight, they may just light a new fire for humanity….

Science Fiction and Fantasy Gaming Overview

Sometimes your characters are gamers too...
Sometimes your characters are gamers too…

This will be a bit of a different post for me.  Mostly, I’ve focused on entertainment media: movies, books, that sort of thing.  Today, however, I’m going to give a brief overview of SF/F related games.  This is mostly to serve as a base point from where I can discuss it further later.  I’m not even going to open the can of worms that is computer games, not right now.  I’ve been out of the ‘hardcore gamer’ catagory for years (assuming I even qualified for that league).

First off, what constitutes gaming?  Generally, I’d say that there is some kind of rule set or book and there is some representation of the scenario.  Really, that’s all you need.  The rules can be as complex or as simple as you want.  I’ve played with some seriously complex rule systems, ranging from Warhammer Fantasy to Ryfts.  Rules are there to tell players what they can and can’t do, essentially, they create a level playing field where players and game masters (if any) all have a common reference point.

That common reference point is important.  It prevents players from feeling they’ve been cheated, it also reigns in some of the ‘power gamer’ attitudes that you sometimes see.  To be brief, a power gamer does whatever they can to succeed and ‘win’ (if there is a way to win).

What’s the purpose of gaming?  Well, in some ways, it depends on the game system and, in some ways, it depends on the player.  Players get fired up by different aspects of the gaming hobby.  In role playing games, there are literally dozens of ‘types’ of gamers, and very few people fall into perfect cookie-cutter types.  In war gaming, there are also multiple types of gamers… to include gamers who don’t really even like to play, just to model and paint their armies.  As far as gaming systems, there are a variety, but they’re often grouped into War Games and RPGs.  There is also Board Games and Collectable Card Games, but I’ll talk those another time.  War gaming is typically focused on strategy and tactics, but there’s also story and characters.  Role Playing Gaming is often focused on story, characters, and even tactics, character builds, and strategy.  Feeling confused yet?  It’s difficult to break down what people play for without breaking down the systems themselves.

Tabletop War Games

Tabletop War Gaming (sometimes called miniature war gaming) is a broad category that includes Flames of War, Warhammer 40k, Warhammer Fantasy, Hordes, Battletech, Battlefleet Gothic and dozens, if not hundreds, of others.  Most of these games orient around two (or more) players, each having a unit or force, who play against one another with the goal of defeating their opponent’s force and gaining victory.  These games typically involve a variety of rules to simulate weapons, tactics, strategies, and so forth.  Typically, a player will have an army list which contains the breakdown of their forces.

The point of tabletop war games is competitive… but it also can involve elements of teamwork, dependant upon the number of players.  This type of gaming can simulate historical, science fiction, and fantasy settings.  It can contain rules to represent ground, water, space, or almost any combination.  Some games can be tied together to involve dozens of players and even integrate battles in space and on the ground.  Generally there are markers or figurines for units and players take turns manuevering their forces and engaging in combat.  Often the results are determined from dice rolls to give that element of chance.

What’s the point of all this?  Well, to paraphrase Conan the Barbarian: “To crush your enemies, to drive them before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.”  These games are inherently competitive, as I said.  However, the extent of that competition is often deceptive.  Most people who play these games do so with friends, and it often becomes a social event.  Sometimes these games will be tied into a campaign to tell a story… other times the games will take place in a tournament setting where everyone fights it out to be ‘the best.’  That said, not everyone participates for the same reasons.  Some people fall in love with the models and they’ll spend days or even weeks assembling painting up one model.  Others enjoy the story exclusively and seek to recreate those battles.

Roleplaying Games

Roleplaying games (RPGs) are typically games where each player has a character that they control.  This character may have a complex background and story or might just be “Human Fighter 1”  Most RPGs have character stats that represent the character and show how good they are at the various tasks that the players might put them through.  Most RPGs have a Game Master, or GM.  The GM controls the scenario and puts together challenges for the player or players to work though.  These challenges can range from puzzles and riddles, to hordes of enemy combatants, and even to diplomatic discussion.

RPGs often involve team work, as players work together to make sure their characters survive and acheive their goals.  Oddly enough, the GM is not there to defeat the characters (though there are some who play in that fashion).  The GM is there to guide the players through the adventures and to (hopefully) deliver to each player what they want to achieve.  As with war gaming, players play for different reasons.  Some want to live vicariously through their characters, others want to enjoy the story, and still others want to slaughter their way through millions of faceless opponents and prove their strengths.

Roleplaying Games include the infamous Dungeons and Dragons, Ryfts, Legend of the Five Rings, Alternity, D20 Modern, Call of Cthulu, Vampires, the Masquerade, and (again) dozens if not hundreds of others.  Various game types represent or provide different settings, rule types, and levels of difficulty for players, along with different tools that a GM might use to challenge their players.

 

What’s the point of all this?  Gaming provides an interactive mode of entertainment that provides a breadth of involvement into science fiction and fantasy, and is a huge component of interest in the same.  Many well-established series often have spin-off games (Star Wars, Firefly, Lord of the Rings, and more).  Gaming is also an exciting way to explore various worlds… and a fun way to spend time with friends.

The Fallen Race upcoming release and sample

The Fallen Race, my Military Science Fiction/Space Opera novel, will be released on 1 February on Amazon as both an ebook and a paper copy.  The ebook will be $ 4.99, the paper copy will be significantly more.

Here is the back-cover synopsis:

Baron Lucius Giovanni, captain of the battleship War Shrike, finds himself without a home or nation, his ship heavily damaged, and crew in bad shape. The odds against their personal survival are slim. The time of humanity has come to a close. The great nations have all fallen, either to the encroaching alien threats or to internal fighting and civil war. The aliens who seek to supplant humanity, however, have not taken one thing into account: Lucius Giovanni. He and his crew will not give up, not while they still draw breath. If this is to be the fall of humanity, then the crew of the War Shrike will go down fighting… and in the heat of that fight, they might just light a new fire for humanity….

And here is a section from teh beginning:

June 1, 2402 Earth Standard Time

Venture System

Nova Roma Empire

 The seven remaining ships of Convoy 142 writhed at the heart of a maelstrom.

 Baron Lucius Giovanni clutched at the arms of his command chair as the enemy fire battered the War Shrike yet again.  The short, dark haired man peered at his displays with dark, almost black, eyes.  His black and silver vac suit bore the eagle symbol of Captain’s rank on the collar, and his shoulder bore a patch with the snarling wolf’s head of Nova Roma.  He acknowledged the fresh round of damage reports.   His eyes went to his Executive Officer, “Tony, can you get anything past their cruiser screen?”

Commander Doko shook his head.  The confines of the battleship’s bridge seemed even tighter with the acrid stench of ozone and shorted electronics.  “No, sir.  Their cruiser’s firefly systems are too strong.”

Lucius rolled his tongue around a mouth that felt dusty and tasted like ash.  His eyes went to the sensor plot that showed what remained of the ships of the convoy.  As he watched, the destroyer Sicarius dropped out of the formation in a broad cloud of debris and far too few escape pods.  “Very well, keep hammering their cruisers.”

Lucius looked over at his brother in law, “Any new orders from Commodore Torrelli?”

“No, sir,” Commander Reese Giovanni-Leone said from the communications section.  Everyone on the bridge had expected one command from Torrelli ever since the initial ambush.  One battleship couldn’t take on six dreadnoughts, not with any chance of survival.  But if they charged into the enemy formation they would disrupt it.  That might save the convoy.

The hell of it was, Lucius would rather take that chance than watch the convoy slowly vanish under the enemy guns.  Soon enough they’d loose enough sensors or weapons and the enemy missiles would get through.  They already had the bad luck to jump in on the Chxor force in close vicinity to Venture’s refueling station.  The escorts couldn’t survive that firepower much longer and the merchant ships would not survive after that.

 “Don’t know why he’s waiting,” Lucius muttered.  His ship rocked again under multiple impacts.  “Not like the bastard can’t be happy at the chance to give that order.”

***

 

 Commodore Vito Torrelli grimaced as the Augustus shuddered.  The elderly dreadnought had held up far better than the convoy’s other escorts.   The forty year old dreadnought had far more resilience and armor than any other ship in the convoy.  Even so, an early hit had opened the bridge to vacuum and slaughtered most of his navigation section.  Other hits had wrought serious damage on the old ship.  Commodore Torrelli was well aware that his ship was bound to Nova Roma for extensive refits even before all of that damage.  “Order the War Shrike to close in on Regal‘s aft quarter.”  He grimaced as he saw Lucius Giovanni’s ship swing into position immediately.

 He could almost see the aloof expression of the other ship’s commander.  He wants me to send his ship into the throat of the guns, want’s to die a hero’s death, Torrelli thought… as if that could ever make up for what his father did.  “I won’t give him that honor,” Torrelli muttered.  He noticed a flicker on one of the enemy cruiser’s firefly systems.  “Guns, focus on cruiser three, hammer me a gap so we can hit these bastards!”

The enemy dreadnoughts hid behind the massive, pancake-shaped defense screens of the cruisers.  Those overlapped screens and the massive jamming of the cruiser’s firefly systems counteracted the better targeting systems of the Nova Roma warships.

As Vito Torrelli watched the displays, he could hear the unvoiced criticisms from his rival.  It felt like he could feel Lucius’s breath on the back of his neck.  “Dammit, get me a shot!”

***

 

 “That bastard can fight,” Lucius said.  The Augustus had received the brunt of the enemy’s fire.  A comet’s trail of debris, air, and water vapor trailed behind the battered dreadnought, but Commodore Torrelli continued to fight.

“Cruiser three just went down, sir, I’ve got a shot!” Commander Doko shouted.  A moment later both warships poured their fire through the suddenly opened gap and into the dreadnought left exposed.  Every remaining gun and missile tube aboard the War Shrike  fired into the gap. 

Lucius snarled as explosions rocked the enemy vessel.  A massive cloud of debris enveloped the lead Chxor dreadnought.  “Looks like we gave them something to remember us by!”  The Chxor formation adjusted though, and a moment later the damaged dreadnought disappeared again behind the defense screen of another cruiser.

 “Sir! Augustus just sent Code Black!” Reese said.

Lucius felt his stomach drop.  The other warship lay only a hundred kilometers distant, close enough for visual.  He looked at his sensor repeater just in time to see the dreadnought’s port side engines erupt in a chain of explosions.  The massive ship began to rotate as its starboard engines threw it into a spin.  The stresses over-taxed the ship’s frame and the midships section ripped apart in a slow-motion avalanche of sheering steel.

Lucius watched as four thousand crew died… and he could do nothing.

Lucius let out a tight breath.  Only five ships left remained and Convoy 142 had a new commander.  His eyes raked across his navigation display.  The civilian ships didn’t have the acceleration to escape the Chxor.  They didn’t have the time to calculate a jump through shadow space to take them elsewhere.  Even if he threw his ship at the Chxor, the remaining transports couldn’t elude the enemy, not without someone to screen them.

“Message to all ships,” Lucius said, his voice suddenly hoarse.  “Prepare and execute blind jump immediately.”

There was a sudden silence on the bridge.

 “Solarius Endeavor, Unicorn, and Trade Enterprise acknowledge,” Lucius’s brother in law said.  “Regal reports damage to their jump drive and that they’ll have it up as soon as they can.”

 Lucius felt a cold mask settle over his face.  The War Shrike couldn’t take the full firepower of the Chxor, not for long.  “Tell them to expedite and that we’ll cover them until they jump.”  He watched as the other three civilian ships jumped away into shadow.  He wondered if any of them would emerge again.

 As if on cue, a fresh barrage swept in from the Chxor ships.  Alarms wailed and Lucius felt the deck heave as multiple beams tore into his ship.  His eyes focused on the inbound missile tracks.  Without the Augustus, they’d lost most of their interceptor fire.

Lieutenant Livianus’s hands flew across his station.  He took the sensor data and picked off the missiles one after the other.  His precise shots almost stopped them all.

 Two missiles slipped past his fire.  One swept past as the helmsman continued his evasive maneuvers.  The proximity fuse detonated only five kilometers in front of the War Shrike.  The Chxor used missiles based off of captured human munitions.  Fundamentally identical to the pilum ship-killer missiles, they packed a sixty megaton fusion warhead.

 The sudden burst of radiation hammered into the War Shrike’s magnetic fields that held the plasma defense screen in place.  The massive induction coils exploded like bombs at the massive surge of power.

One exploded out into Engine Room Three and killed fifty-eight crew.  The other detonated only fifty meters away from the bridge.  The four armored bulkheads between there and the bridge absorbed some of the effect.  The aft bulkhead of the bridge shattered. 

Shards of steel whipped through crew members and equipment alike. Half the weapons techs died before they knew what hit them.  The concussion ripped Lieutenant Livianus out of his shock chair and smashed him against the forward bulkhead hard enough to leave a red smear.

One shard flew like a spear and slammed into the back of the communications officer’s chair.  Lucius’s brother-in-law let out a scream of agony as it bit through his left shoulder. 

Lucius’s gaze locked on the shard of metal that pinned Reese to his seat.  He felt something twist in his own guts as he heard Reese’s scream. 

The explosion itself vaporized fifty meters of armored hull and opened the ship’s entire forward section to vacuum.  The hard radiation and the wave superheated plasma took the lives of two hundred more of Lucius’s crew in an instant. 

 The first missile’s simple tracking system lost the War Shrike and continued past.

 The Regal had no countermeasure systems to prevent that missile from acquisition.  The missile detonated on top of the unarmored transport.  It vaporized the aft end of the vessel and sent the ship’s fusion plant into overload.  Lucius grunted in anguish as the seventy five civilians aboard died almost instantly.

Luicus shook his head.  His sensors told him that only his ship remained.  He cut his seat restraints and staggered through the smoke and noise of the bridge.  He shoved a corpse off the top of the navigation station.  Lucius flipped up the clear plastic cover, the surface slick with blood.

His fist hammered down on the jump initiation.

Hope you enjoyed!

Steampunk World Building

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So, there I was… knee deep in dead vampires and choking on coal smoke when it hit me… what was the name of this country again?

Come to think of it, why was it named that, what was its history, and why are they still playing around with steam engines in the 1950’s???

I’ve something of a confession to make: I’m a world builder.  I love to put together a vibrant, expansive world, populated by people, organizations, nations, and machines that are interconnected and that make sense.  I’ll spend days, weeks, sometimes even months thinking about the economic systems, technology, and culture.  What does that get me?  In theory, it means I know what motivates characters and what has shaped them.

This gets a little more complicated when you’re writing alternate history… especially steampunk alternate history.  There’s a certain expectation in steampunk for larger than life characters along with odd, sometimes absurd, contrasts between our own world and the created one.  That requires a mix of attention to detail, quirky humor, and enjoyment for building that sort of structure.

So where do you start?  Well, it depends on you, really.  I tend to like to start with whatever big thing is different in that other world than here.  Was some genius born who developed air ships and steam engines?   Did some major event change the course of history?  Why is this so important… and what impact did that have on the world, from the bottom rungs of society to the mightiest nations?

For me, it’s important to explore those changes even before I really start writing.  There’s nothing more annoying to me than to be mid sentence and realize I don’t know why something isn’t possible or where something comes from.  If something is different in this other world, there should be a reason it is different… and sometimes ‘just cause it’s cool’ isn’t good enough.

So, in example, I’ll give a run down of how I started my world building.  In my universe, there was an inventor in England who discovered aetherium, a substance that, when heated with steam, produces power for use in weapons and aircraft.  This discovery came just before the outbreak of the American Civil War.. and the British Empire intervened in favor of their trade partners within the Confederacy.  After they conquered the North, the British appointed a Grand Duke to govern their wayward colonies and turned their attention to other lands.  The Confederacy has since split up into several independent nations, all of whom have abolished slavery, mostly from pressure from their allies, the British.  The Americas have become something of a back water, while Europe has remained the center of technology.  This has changed just recently, as some bright new minds have come up with new, refined aetherium powered weapons which threaten the balance of power yet again.

This gives me a rough basis of the world, in broad strokes.  It’s not perfect, but it gets me started.  From there, I’ll go into the details of what individual nations are up to, the societal pressures which have crafted the conflicts between characters, and the setting itself, from the technologies that they use commonly every day to the way they talk and interact.

For anyone else with steampunk on the mind, hopefully this helps out in making your story work.

Playing With Minds And Hearts

An excellent post from Sarah Hoyt. For those of you who are aspiring writers, this is something essential to remember.

madgeniusclub

 

It took me till I’d been published for seven years or so, before I realized I was doing it all wrong.  Now this is fairly normal.  Okay, it’s fairly normal for me – I don’t know about the rest of you zombies.  I’m either unusually dense, or I need to have some sort of a running start to get the rest of the view of the field.

Anyway. here’s the thing: I’d been published for going on seven years before I realized that writing was not about ideas.

By then, I’d sort of gotten used to the idea that it wasn’t about words.  Okay, that took Dean Wesley Smith telling me to get over the word thing, but you get my meaning.  I’d got it.  I’d realized that while writing can use incredibly beautiful words, the one thing I got for free in the craft – words – were…

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Quick Reminder, SAD PUPPIES 2 only available until the end of the month

The excellent author Larry Corriea has an important public service announcement for all true fans of science fiction.

Monster Hunter Nation

sad-puppy2 (2)

Watch this video and feel the infinite sadness.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzGKlOkQsxY

That’s right. The clock is ticking. What have you done to end Puppy Related Sadness today? If you don’t register as a WorldCon voter before the end of January then it will be too late, and puppies will be sad. FOREVER.

For only $40 you can become a member and nominate books, stories, and related works that are actually entertaining for the Hugo awards. (Like Warbound) Go here to combat PRS: http://www.loncon3.org/memberships/

Some people rejoice in sad puppies. They say that having one tiny group of fans always vote for their favorites is “tradition”. They call popular author’s attempts to stir up their non-WorldCon attending fanbase to vote in their little popularity contest as “vulgar”. By being vulgar and super non-traditional Larry Correia’s Sad Puppies 1 campaign only missed the Best Novel cutoff by a few votes, and those brave souls who…

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