The Sacred Stars Snippet Two

Here’s the second snippet from The Sacred Stars, coming September 9th, 2016.   You can find the first snippet here.

Chapter I


Faraday Colony, Faraday System

United Colonies

June 19, 2407


“Woohoo!” Princess Kaylee Giovanni shouted, waving the ball triumphantly over her head, “I win!  You guys can’t get me!”

Alannis grinned as the Crown Princess gave out an undignified squawk as her adopted sister talked her.  A moment later, Alannis’s son Anthony William rushed over to thump down on top of his cousins.  “Get off me!” Kaylee shouted.

“Going to miss this?” Emperor Lucius Giovanni asked of his sister.

Alannis looked over at him and grinned, “Yeah, a bit.”

She looked back at the three children at play and her grin faded as her son looked up.  At only three years old, Anthony William was of equal height to his cousins and had blonde hair and blue eyes much like his father.  He’d grabbed the ball and he ran up to her, “Mommy, I got the ball!” he squealed.

Alannis nodded, “Good work.  Now give it back, play nice.”  She hated how neutral her voice sounded and she saw her son’s shoulders slump.  I’m a terrible mother, she thought, but then again, it wasn’t like I planned on being one.  Reese had been the one with the plan.

As her son ran back to the game, Alannis grabbed for her glass of wine and took a rather larger sip than was really necessary.  “It’ll be good to finally get out there and do my job, you know?”

She didn’t miss how her brother watched her with concerned eyes.  For a moment, she feared he would actually say something about her relationship with her son.  Young Anthony had spent most of his childhood in Lucius’s care.  Alannis had used her duties as a cadet at the Faraday Military Academy as an excuse for why she didn’t spend time with him.  In truth, she didn’t have much free time, but she knew she could have spent more of it than she had with her son.  Yet the moment passed and Alannis let out a slight sigh of relief.  “So,” she said cheerfully, “how much did you have to do with my assignment?”

Lucius snorted, “You think I pulled strings to get you assigned to the Constellation?”  He shook his head, “Tell me, has being my sister made things easier or harder for you at the Academy?”

Alannis winced in reply.  Her instructors had gone out of their way to show no favors to her.  Oftentimes she had felt as if they graded her every assignment with greater stringency.  “Much harder,” she said.

Lucius nodded, “If you’d said anything differently, I would have pulled General Proscia as superintendent.”  He took a sip of his own wine and his gaze went distant, “We’re founding a new nation, which means setting precedents.  If I made certain that General Proscia and his instructors wouldn’t show you any preference, just how likely is it that I pulled strings to get you assigned to our newest, most powerful cruiser?”

Alannis gave a wry grin, “Not very.  Which means I did earn my posting, that’s nice anyway.”

“You earned it,” her brother nodded.  “Which means you get to go gallivanting around human space while I’m stuck here doing statesman stuff.”  He frowned, “Sorry, that came across as more bitter than I’d intended.”

Alannis’s eyebrows went up, “Things exciting in politics?”

“More than I’d like,” Lucius grumbled.  He sighed, “You’ve no doubt heard some of the grandstanding by Senator Penwaithe?”  When Alannis nodded, he continued, “He’s doing his best to drag his feet over new worlds joining, and when they do, he tries to extend their probationary period as long as possible.”

On the one hand, she suspected that Senator Harris Penwaithe did so out of political ambition.  Probationary members of the United Colonies didn’t get a full vote, and newer members had fewer proportionate votes dependent upon the date they had joined the United Colonies.  That gave his voters more power… and it gave him more clout.  On the other hand, the system was designed to prevent dilution of the founding principles of the United Colonies.

Since Captain Garret Penwaithe and Commander Abigail Penwaithe both taught at the Academy, she was a bit more likely to think better of Senator Harris Penwaithe’s intent.  All the same, she’d seen enough politics from inside and outside to know that the Senator from Halcyon wasn’t as pure of heart as he made out.

“Anything I can help with?” Alannis asked with a sunny smile.  After all, she was about to leave on a nice, long, show the flag cruise.  Rumor had it that the Constellation would be far from United Colonies space.

“Actually,” Lucius said, “there is something I want to talk to you about.”  He gave a look over at Staff Sergeant Timorsky.  The Marine gave him a nod in return, a clear sign that the security perimeter, to include a variety of anti-signal jamming equipment, was still intact.

“While I didn’t pull strings for you to be assigned to the Constellation,” Lucius said, “I did decide to capitalize on the situation and adjust the mission since I knew you’d be aboard.”

“Oh,” Alannis said and her smile faded.

“Yes,” Lucius nodded, “the Constellation‘s mission has shifted from a standard patrol to an escort mission.  The first turn-key upgrades for our Shogunate allies are available and we’re sending the Constellation as the escort for the convoy, along with the destroyers Regent and Crossbow.  Since we’ll have some of our civilian engineers aboard the Constellation for a final set of diagnostics, they can also assist with any issues that the Shogunate encounters getting things set up.”

Alannis sighed, “I’ll assume I’m there as Princess Alannis Giovanni rather than newly minted Ensign Alannis Giovanni?”

“No,” Lucius shook his head, “You get to wear both hats.  Congratulations.  Captain Beeson will be our official representative and Mitchel Kondas is our diplomatic envoy.  But the way things work there is they like to take the measure of the dynasty they’re dealing with.  They’re very much traditionalists.”  That was an understatement from what Alannis knew.  The Shogunate contained several colonies founded by Earth’s Japan.  All three of the central, founding colonies harkened back to a more feudal style of governance, each of them paying notional obedience to their Emperor, who had mostly symbolic authority.  They also strongly valued military tradition, which meant her presence as an officer and the Emperor’s sister should carry some weight.

“Okay, do I have any talking points?” Alannis asked with resignation.

“Nothing so pushy,” Lucius grinned.  “Just set a good example, tell some war stories, and generally make friends.  Let Ambassador Kondas handle the rest.”

“Great,” Alannis sighed.  “Anything else I can help you with?”

“That’s plenty for now,” Lucius said.  He nodded over at where Anthony had taken the ball and started running.  “Maybe you should spend some time with your son?  It’ll be a long time before you see him again.”

It was as blunt as he could be without crossing a line and it set Alannis’s back up.  She forced herself to give him a smile.  “He’s having fun, I don’t want to interrupt.”

“You’ve only got so much time before he grows up,” Lucius said, “you don’t want to miss out on this part.”

Alannis closed her eyes.  It wasn’t that she didn’t love her son… it was just that he looked so much like her ex-husband that she felt physically ill when she thought about it.  Bad enough that the bastard had hacked her implant to get her pregnant, he’d also signed on with the pirate Lucretta Mannetti.  After Lucius had captured the renegade Admiral, they’d turned up more information that showed Reese had done some extremely questionable work, often involving human test subjects and alien equipment.

At best, Reese was a criminal who had betrayed her trust.  At worst… well, he had betrayed everything Alannis believed in.  “It’s not easy for me, okay?” Alannis said.  “It’s different for you.  You love Kandergain,” Alannis waved a hand at Kaylee as the girl tackled her son.  Kandergain was some kind of super-psychic and was Kaylee’s mother.  She’d left because she didn’t want to endanger Lucius or her daughter by drawing her enemies down upon them.  “Me… I hate Reese.”

Lucius looked more than a little uncomfortable.  Long before she’d even met Reese he had been Lucius’s friend.  It was through her brother that she and Reese met.  Reese was charming, handsome, intelligent… and he only ever cared about himself, she thought bitterly.

She could see the discomfort on her brothers face and Alannis gave a sigh.  “Alright… when I get back from this assignment, I’ll take some time off, I’ll spend some time with Anthony, okay?  I’d do it now, but I’ve got to report in this afternoon.”  She didn’t mention that she’d asked for an early report time, partially out of excitement to get to her first assignment and partially because it gave her an excuse not to guilt-tripped by her brother.

Besides, she thought, it’s not like I even know how to be a parent.  Her father had led a failed coup against Emperor Romulus II and her mother had committed suicide when she was only a few weeks old.  She and Lucius had been raised by their grandmother.

Alannis could tell that Lucius wasn’t happy with her answer, but he didn’t push her.  There will be time later, she told herself, when Anthony is older, I can explain it all to him.

Somehow, that didn’t make her feel any better.



Sanctuary Station, Faraday System

United Colonies

June 21, 2407


“Sir,” Alannis said, “Ensign Giovanni reporting for duty.”  She gave a crisp salute and then passed over her orders.”

Captain Beeson returned the salute sharply.  Despite the fact that he must have known she’d be reporting, he took the paper copy of her orders and examined them carefully.  “Everything is in order,” he said and passed them back.  “Chief Donnitz will want to in-process you, but I’d like you to tour the ship, first.”  He looked over, “Lieutenant Perkins!”

The tall, gaunt Lieutenant snapped to attention, “Sir?”

“Please give the ensign a tour of the ship,” Captain Beeson said.  He frowned then, “And if you see Lieutenant Commander Bowder, please introduce the XO to our new officer.”

“Yes, sir,” Lieutenant Perkins said.  He jerked his head at Alannis and then headed for the back hatch to the bridge.  Alannis gave a parting salute to the commanding officer and then followed.

“So,” Lieutenant Perkins said, “Find your way to the ship with no problems?”  The Lieutenant seemed familiar for some reason.  He had a twangy accent, most unlike the prim and proper Nova Roman or the core worlds.  He was tall, taller even than her ex-husband, with closely cropped dark brown hair and dark brown eyes to match.

“Yes, sir,” Alannis said.  Sanctuary Station was the Fleet’s new military station in orbit over the gas giant Sanctuary.  Unlike the older Skydock Station in orbit over Faraday, the Department of War had designed  station purely for construction, repair, and docking of military ships.  While some of the docks had been online and functional for over two years, much of the rest of the station still wasn’t operational.

The Constellation’s berth lay at the very first of a long chain of military docks.  Only two other ships shared the space, the Constellation‘s two sister ships, neither of which had been commissioned yet.

Most of the system’s other military traffic was in orbit over Faraday.  In fact, other than the shipments of personnel for the new ships and deliveries of materials and supplies for the shipyard, there wasn’t much of any activity around Sanctuary Station.  I suppose that was some of the idea behind putting it out here, she thought, fewer prying eyes to see military secrets.

She followed Lieutenant Perkins down the corridor.  Everything had a new and shiny feel to it. The markings on the walls were crisp and sharp, the gray paint was clean, and there were no scuff-marks anywhere to be seen.

“So,” Perkins said, “we actually finished our trial cruise and official acceptance two days ago.  Until then we only had two thirds of our personnel complement.  You’re the first of our new officers to arrive, so you’ll get the pick of the Ensign’s quarters.”

He turned down a corridor and then paused.  “This is officer country.  XO and Chief Engineer’s quarters are fore and aft respectively.  Further down the hall you’ve got the shared quarters for lieutenants… and then there at the end there’s the Ensign and Midshipman quarters.”  He hiked a thumb over his shoulder, “Captain’s quarters are back towards the bridge.”

Perkins continued on, “You saw the bridge, we have two engine rooms for our two reactors, forward and aft.  Weapons control is broken down by forward and aft as well.  You know about the new armament?”

Alannis frowned, “I’d heard some, but just rumors.  The manuals aren’t available even in secure systems yet.”

“Well…” Lieutenant Perkins gave a wry grin over his shoulder, “that’s probably because we’re rewriting the manuals just about every day.”  He ducked under a low pipe without looking and then led her down a ladder.  She didn’t know how he managed the tight confines of the ship without injury.  She felt claustrophobic as they took a particularly narrow ladder.  “The reason we’re not taking the drop-lifts, by the way, is they’re offline for calibration,” he said.

“Oh,” Alannis said in reply.  She rather hoped they’d locked down all the access doors to the shafts then, otherwise a crewman would be in for a rather big surprise when they stepped into open air and the gravity system didn’t catch them.

“This is forward weapon control,” Lieutenant Perkins said as they came into the chamber.  It didn’t look like much.  The beam generators were four bulky pieces of equipment with piping and conduits coming off.

“No, no, no, no!” A man shouted.  “You stupid imbecile, this is a piece of equipment that generates and accelerates high energy exotic particles… do you really want to kill us all!?”

Alannis turned and saw a short, balding man in civilian garb waving his hands in the air in front of an enlisted man.  Alannis recognized Rory after a moment, the short, chubby engineer was some kind of expert on alien technology or something.  Her brother had mentioned that he had him working on a variety of projects, apparently this was one.

The Weapons Tech looked like he wanted to do nothing more than escape.  “Uh, sir, I’m just doing maintenance…”

“Just following orders, is it?” Rory demanded.  “Do you think that will excuse you when you destroy not just this entire ship, but the station we’re docked with!?”

Almost on cue, Feliks, Rory’s constant companion, stuck his head out of an open maintenance hatch.  The tall, skinny engineer had a pair of glasses perched on his nose and he had a patient expression, “In all likelihood, what he has done would only destroy the forward end of the vessel.”  His rough Centauri Confederation accent gave his calm, soft-spoken tone more weight.

“Only?  Only!?” Rory demanded.  “I happen to currently be in the forward end of this vessel!  And you didn’t consider the consequences of the reversed polarity on the power junction… did you?”

Feliks cocked his head as he considered that “No.”

He pulled out his datapad even as Rory turned to face Lieutenant Perkins.  “I demand that this man be fired immediately!  He jeopardized the lives of the entire crew and especially the passengers!”

“He means him,” Feliks said helpfully without looking up as he tapped at his datapad.

“I am a nearly irreplaceable engineer with both incredible talent and unrivaled credentials,” Rory said.

“What did Technical Specialist Spurlock do?” Lieutenant Perkins asked in a resigned tone.

“What did he do… what didn’t he do!” Rory waved his hands in the air.  “He could have killed all of us!”

“Rory,” Lieutenant Perkins said in a level voice, “No one on this ship was intentionally trying to kill you.  If you would please explain to me what the issue is, I’ll address it.  If you keep having histrionics, I won’t be able to fix the problem.”

“You can’t just fix this kind of thing,” Rory said.  “He used the wrong torsional wrench on the power conduit bolts, which meant they were too tight.  I’d give it a ninety percent–”

“Hmm, fifty percent at most,” Feliks disagreed, still without looking up.

“…seventy percent chance of those bolts shattering when the main weapon systems fired, which would have caused a power disruption to the the main power junction.  In turn, that would have overridden the particle generator’s regulator and caused it to detonate like a bomb!  He did that on all four of the beam generators!”

“Ah!” Feliks said with satisfaction, “I found an error in your calculations!”

“What?” Rory spun and ripped the datapad out of Feliks’s hands.  “That’s nonsense, there’s no way I made a mistake…”  he trailed off.  “Huh, what do you know.  I guess I was off, by a factor of ten.”

“So it wouldn’t destroy the ship?”  Ensign Perkins asked.

“Oh, no,” Rory waved a hand, “It would have vaporized the entire ship and station.  That’s fascinating, I’m already seeing some implications and possibilities to deliberately build some sort of exotic particle bomb…”

“Yes,” Felix replied, “the issue would be generation and containment due to the rapid decay of the exotic particles…”

Lieutenant Perkins rolled his eyes and then signaled Tech Specialist Spurlock to come over.  “Can you fix the problem?”

“Yes, sir,” the young man said.  He looked both painfully young and very nervous.  “I caught the issue and I just tried to get them to calibrate the torsional wrench to the right level, sir.”

“Right,” Lieutenant Perkins said.  “Get it fixed and then get Petty Officer Pine to look it over.”  He rubbed a hand down his face as the Tech Specialist hurried away.  “Why did we get saddled with that pair…” he muttered, just loud enough that Alannis heard.

She didn’t say anything.  The two engineers had begun a heated argument which involved much hand-waving and finger pointing.  Thank God I’m not stuck in engineering with those two, she thought.  She hoped to be assigned to the tactical department or at least the navigational department.  With her scores, she figured either one would be a good fit.

“Well,” Lieutenant Perkins said after a moment, “We’ll just move on, I’ll bring you past forward engineering next…”


Snippet Three

The Sacred Stars Snippet One

Here’s the first snippet for The Sacred Stars:



Faraday System

United Colonies

June 15, 2407


The Aurorae‘s defense screens flared as multiple beams struck.  The impacts rocked the destroyer and threw Alannis Giovanni against her seat restraints.  “Increase power to front defense screens!” She snapped.  At the same time, she keyed up a new set of targets, “I need target data on the enemy gunboats!”

“Working on it,” her sensors officer said.  “Half my target sensors are down, I can’t get a good read on them.”

The enemy gunboats were a design based on Admiral Collae’s Hellbores.  Each of those frigates mounted a heavy spinal beam, far larger than any ship but a cruiser could effectively mount as a standard weapon.

They made up for that by being fragile and slow, they simply didn’t have enough power to operate their heavy weapon as well as other high-power systems at full capacity.  They were also obvious targets under normal conditions, their reactors, capacitor banks, and the discharge of their weapons made them beacons on sensors.

But they and the other ships in the attacking force had already damaged Aurorae.  Half her systems were out and the other half were barely functional.  She had no telemetry data for her missiles at all, which hardly mattered since only two of the destroyer’s eight missile tubes remained intact.

Missiles, she thought.  “Set missiles to internal guidance and fire on my mark!” Alannis snapped.  They only had Mark III’s left, which had external telemetry and a secondary electromagnetic guidance package.

Alannis brought the Aurorae around.  Without telemetry, the missiles would travel in a straight line until they acquired their targets.  This was the equivalent of blind firing and hoping she’d hit something… but it was better than nothing.  “Fire!”

The Aurorae‘s two missile tubes spat their remaining seven missiles, all aimed at the formation of enemy ships.  Alannis rolled the Aurorae away just as the enemy opened fire again.

This time, at least two of the beams struck under the leading edge of the defense screens and the bridge lurched and smoke and sparks billowed through the compartment.

“Forward projectors are down!” the engineer shouted.  “Missile tubes three and seven are destroyed, and our remaining defense batteries are offline.”

Alannis grimaced as the Aurorae limped away from her pursuers.  Their sensors were so blind now they couldn’t even watch their missiles, she wouldn’t know if they were on target or wildly off-target until they detonated.

“Fighter’s coming in!” her sensor officer called.

A moment later, Alannis saw the faint signatures.  Her lips drew back in a snarl as she saw their vector, the fighters were almost on top of them and lining up for a close-range attack run.  “Roll ship, twenty degrees and engage with final protective fires!”

She saw out of the corner of her eye that several of the missiles she’d launched had detonated, but her gaze was fixed upon the incoming fighters.  The surviving defense turrets opened up, but they were firing blind as a deterrent to the enemy fighters’ accuracy more than anything else.

Those fighters fired their missiles at less than a thousand kilometers, just far enough out for the missile acquisition systems to engage and for the warheads to safely activate.  Thirteen of the fifteen fission warheads detonated around the Aurorae and the ship vanished in a ball of nuclear fire.

Alannis’s screen went black and red letters flashed: Simulation Terminated.



The tactical display froze with the damaged Aurorae frozen, angled as she fired her missiles.

“So,” Captain Penwaithe asked in a dry voice, “Just what the hell did you think you were doing at fifteen forty-eight?”  The tall, black officer was in charge of the Academy’s Final Simulation Exercise, the very last evaluation that every cadet had to complete.

Alannis sat perfectly straight and addressed him in as professional a manner as she could manage.  “Sir, with my telemetry damaged, I couldn’t control my remaining missile loadout externally, so I fired them on internal systems only.”

“A desperation ploy,” Captain Penwaithe said, his voice gruff.  “Sometimes that pays off and sometimes it doesn’t.”  His tone of voice suggested that most often it was the latter.  He activated a switch and the tactical display resumed play.

On the display, the seven missiles fired out, a rough cone as they fired across the arc of the Aurorae‘s relative motion.  She could see right away that only four of the missiles would go anywhere near their targets.  Three of those picked up the enemy gunboats and homed in.  Two detonated on target, killing the enemy frigates and the third detonated near enough that the frigate showed heavy damage.

Yes, Alannis thought with satisfaction, I got three of them.  As far as she knew, none of the other cadets in her class had managed to damage more than two of the ships, even her friend Ashtar Shan had only killed one and damaged a second.

Yet the missile tracks didn’t end.  The four other missiles continued outward, long after the Aurorae succumbed to the fighter’s close range salvo.  Three of them winked out as the simulator counted them inconsequential and erased them… but the last one blinked to show it had acquired a target on its internal passive sensors.

Alannis saw where it was headed a moment later and she bit back a curse.  The simulated missile homed in on the damaged civilian freighter that the raiders had used as bait… and then detonated.

“Congratulations,” Captain Penwaithe said.  “You took out a quarter of the raider fleet along with thirty-three simulated innocent civilians.”

Alannis flinched at that.  In reality, those civilians would be dead or worse anyway, with the raiders free to kill or enslave them.  But in the simulation, the objective had been to save them.

Not that anyone had, but the Aurorae simulation wasn’t about winning, it was about fighting it out until the end.  After over two hours in the simulator, she felt completely wrung out.  Her ship suit stank of sweat and her body felt like it was made of rubber.  She knew that they kept the heat turned up in the simulator to make it all the rougher, just as they deliberately put traces of chemicals to irritate the eyes, nose, and throat of those in the exercise.

It was also part of why they’d had her up for the past twenty four hours prior to the exam’s start.  They wanted this to be as grueling a test as possible.

“Sorry, sir,” Alannis said.

“You need to remember, cadet, that your actions have consequences,” Captain Penwaithe said.  “Now, other than your final write-up, you’ve completed the Aurorae simulation.”

“Wait… I passed?” Alannis asked in surprise.  She had thought that by killing the freighter, it would be an automatic failure.

“You passed,” Captain Penwaithe said.  He hesitated and then gave a slight shrug, as if what he was about to say wasn’t strictly speaking within the realm of an instructor, but that it was good mentorship.  “The Aurorae is meant to test your ability to perform under a highly stressful combat environment.  You managed it well enough.  While we do run scores based off survival time and how well you acquit yourself, the primary measurement is your ability to function and make decisions.  Sometimes making any decision in time is better than making the right decision too late.”

“Thank you, sir,” Alannis said.

“As a note… those cadets who participated in putting down the Dreyfus Mutiny typically test well in that regard compared to those who have not,” Captain Penwaithe gave a grim smile.  “It’s the element of having been in combat that makes the difference, I think.”

Alannis felt her face go wooden.  She’d known Admiral Dreyfus, her brother had considered him a friend… and the reminder of his betrayal still hurt three years later.  It seemed that most of the people she had respected had eventually betrayed her in one way or another.  Like Reese, she thought, letting people get close never seems to work out.

“Well,” Captain Penwaithe seemed to realize that he’d hit a nerve, “that concludes the oral evaluation.  You’re dismissed, Cadet Giovanni.”


Snippet Two

The Sacred Stars Coming Soon

The Sacred Stars, book four of the Shadow Space Chronicles, is coming soon!  You can expect it in early September (probably just after labor day).

You can never go home.

Alannis Giovanni has followed in her family’s footsteps and joined the United Colonies Fleet.  As a bare Ensign, she’s been assigned to the Fleet’s newest, most powerful cruiser, the Constellation, on it’s maiden voyage: a simple show-the-flag mission that should be good for her to learn what it is to be an officer.

But things are never simple.  At their most distant port, they come across allies in need.  The Ghornath species are in search of their origins and an array of enemies are trying to stop them.  The crew of the Constellation will have to face pirates, aliens, and uncover a ten thousand-year-old secret in order not just to save their allies, but to thwart a threat that might well catch the rest of the Fleet off-guard.
These battles will test Alannis, force her to grow and become the officer that her position and blood demand of her… yet the greatest threat may be one she is the least prepared to face.

MALCon 2016 In Review

I enjoy all of the Colorado SF & Fantasy conventions very much, but Myths and Legends Con is by far my favorite.  I think it’s the fact that there’s no drama, everyone is there to have fun, things are extremely well organized, and it’s just all around a good time.

Jim Butcher was the guest of honor this year.  I really enjoy the Dresden Files series (in many ways I think he has redefined the urban fantasy genre).  It was fantastic to listen to him talk about what he has coming next and being on a panel with him was fantastic (standing room only, too, I wish they’d put us in a bigger room).  I know that panel in particular was recorded, I’ll have to see if I can find the link.

In all, I was on eight panels, so it was a very busy schedule for me.  The nice thing was that the venue for MALCon means there’s no fighting through long corridors to get to your panel room, everything is centrally located around the hotel lobby.  So I never had any problems getting from one panel to the next, and trust me, removing that bit of stress is something that can’t be overrated.

I enjoyed every panel and even the ones without official moderators went smoothly enough, all the panelists were professional enough to talk through the subject.

MALCon is also family friendly and they had plenty of kids activities to keep children interested and having fun.  I highly recommend it for just about anyone who is a fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Better yet, they’re hosting Westercon next year, so it should be a blast.

Kal’s MALCon 2016 Schedule

Here’s my schedule for Myths and Legends Con 2016:

Kal Spriggs (7 panels):
Fri, 9:00 PM-9:50 PM, Writing Combat in Science Fiction & Fantasy (Lawrence, KS)
Sat, 12:00 PM-12:50 PM, Get’r done: Fighting the Day Job (Helms Deep)
Sat, 1:00 PM-1:50 PM, Sympathetic Villains (Helms Deep)
Sat, 4:00 PM-4:50 PM, How to Kill Your Best Friends (And Get Away With It) (Lawrence, KS)
Sat, 8:00 PM-8:50 PM, Ow, My Spleen! (The Shire)
Sun, 9:00 AM-9:50 AM, Mixed Genre Authors and Writing (Kings Landing)
Sun, 1:00 PM-1:50 PM, Humor in the Modern Action Story (The Shire)

It’s going to be a busy convention, should be a great time!

Free Short Stories

Because of Myths and Legends Con in Denver this weekend I’ll have Look to the Stars and The Freeport Mutineers available for free.

Look to the Stars, a short story by Kal Spriggs
Look to the Stars, a short story by Kal Spriggs

Mason McGann is a smuggler, a liar, and a cheat. With his ship impounded by customs, he figures he has no choice left but to auction off information about the lost Dreyfus Fleet. But things are never what they seem when you hold information that can change the course of history.

Look to the Stars is a short story in the Shadow Space Universe

The Freeport Mutineers, by Kal Spriggs
The Freeport Mutineers, by Kal Spriggs

Young Midshipman Wachter is about to face the rope.

Troubled by the rumors spread throughout the Southern Fleet, the young officer turned to the Marines and Sailors under his command… yet he and they were betrayed, arrested, and convicted of mutiny, all under the orders of the ambitious Lord Admiral Hennings.

Faced with the prospect of not only his own death, but that of the men under his command, Wachter must somehow find a way to do the right thing. Yet there is little hope with he and his men jailed, weaponless, and condemned, while the town of Freeport lies under martial law and the threat of dark sorcery.

Only one course lays open to him, to break his oaths and to swear allegiance to the cause of another, to become exactly what his enemies have accused him of being: a mutineer.


Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond

star-trek-beyond-ff_justinlin-kirk_2-1200x798I saw Star Trek Beyond on Friday.  I’ve got to say, I’ve been somewhat amblivient about the reboot of the series.  It often felt like the first two movies were riding the coat-tails of the original ones.  With the latest movie, the rebooted series finally seems to have come into its own.

Star Trek Beyond still has the playfulness of the previous movies and the ability to be self-referential without taking things to parody.  The continued adventures of the Enterprise and her crew are exciting and in this movie they finally got into the purpose: exploration.  Star Trek Beyond managed to capture that elusive sense of wonder that is what gives Star Trek its broad appeal.  This isn’t a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.  This is a vision of our future and ideals that we can all aspire to: seeing strange new worlds and discovering strange new civilizations.

Yes, there’s a dastardly threat and James T Kirk and friends have to foil it, but they take that in stride.  They don’t bemoan things or grow cynical, they take it in stride and view this as an obstacle to overcome so that they can go back to what their normal mission is.

The characters are vibrant, the story is acceptable, and the science at least doesn’t give me a headache.  As far as science fiction, it’s a great movie.  For Star Trek, I’d rate it as better than any of the other recent movies, better, in fact, than any since the original Kirk (and possibly better than a few of those, too).

It’s a modern movie for a modern audience, so drawing comparisons beyond that is pretty much impossible.  I enjoyed Star Trek Beyond from the beginning to end and while I didn’t leave the movie theater wanting more, I did linger at the end to see if they’d slipped something into the credits like Marvel does (they did, but it’s simply a couple of acknowledgments for Leonard Nemoy and Anton Yelchin, both of which I appreciated).

I’d recommend seeing it in theaters.  My only complaint there would be the shaky action scenes which made following some of the action early on in the movie a little difficult.

Writers Toolbag: What to Write

It’s commonly said: write what you love.  Yet at the same time, there’s still a strong push (not as strong as it once was, but still present), to write what is “marketable”.

That kind of thing presents a bit of a conundrum.  Do you write to what you think the market is or do you write to your personal preferences?  The short answer is: yes.

This is actually a tremendously complicated question and the real answer comes back to what you want out of writing.  You can be successful writing purely for market and you can be successful writing what you love.  Most people don’t get into writing unless they really love it and when you’re gauging your success, it comes back to your feelings about writing.

Writing to market is when an author knows something is selling so they write that.  This happens for new authors and it happens for well established authors.  With new authors, they often see “X” is selling really well, so they set out to write their version of “X” and make lots of money.  Most often what happens for the established authors is that one series sells really well or receives critical acclaim, so they write more of that.  It’s human nature to seek approval for our work, and writing to market is a way to seek “guaranteed” results.   The problem, of course, is that if you don’t enjoy what you’re writing (or worse, if you view it as a chore or even painful exercise), then that emotion carries over into what you write.  At best, you end up with a sort of generic result that is devoid of much of anything, at worst… well, you end up with a disaster.  The key to writing to market is blending in the things you love about writing.  Take that hot-selling genre and put your own spin on it, make it interesting and into something you are passionate about.

Writing to preference is the flip side of the coin.  You may have this really great idea that you can’t wait to get down on the page.  Oftentimes it isn’t even hard to write this stuff… but when you go to sell it things get a bit problematic.  Publishers like stories that can be summed up in a few words.  For self-publishing, if you have to take ten minutes to explain it all, you run the risk of potential readers shutting the door or moving on before they give it a look.  Writing to preference is often innovative and exciting, but it’s a hard slog on gaining readers.  You have to work hard, build up a readership, and it only works if you get people to be as passionate about it as you are.  The problem is that readers as a whole are very conservative.  They like the familiar.  Most readers want to know, going in, the genre, topic, characters, etc of the book.  When you go to write your idea, if it doesn’t fit into one of those easily defined categories (or even if it just isn’t what you normally write), you risk turning away readers before they even open your book.

At the end of the day, you need to identify why you write.  Do you want big sales?  Are you writing for yourself or for others?  Do you have a message or story you want to share?   These things shape whether you should write more creatively or more focused.  In a perfect world you can blend the two and finding a good balance point is always something you should work on.  The worst possible thing, of course, is getting burned out, writing things you don’t want to be writing.

Writing is hard.  Make it easier on yourself and understand your own motivations for writing.  Then you can decide whether you’re really writing that Kaiju Paranormal Romance Noir story because you want to or because you think it will make you money.



Kal’s 2016 August Forecast

August is here.  I’m excited because I’m doing edits on The Sacred Stars, the fourth book of the Shadow Space Chronicles.  I’m also outlining and starting an as-yet untitled urban fantasy story that’s destined to be sent off to a publisher.  My next book after that is the third Renegades book, which I’ll write in September.

This month is Myths and Legends Con (MALCON) in Denver, 12-14 August.  I’ll be there with a busy schedule (7 panels, yikes!), but I’ll also have an author table.  So if you get time and you’re here in Colorado, swing by and see me.

The Sacred Stars will be released in early September, but if you really want to start reading it, I’ll be giving a sample of the first five chapters in my monthly newsletter.   I’m also doing a drawing for undetermined free swag which includes stuff from my store and maybe a signed book.  So if you haven’t signed up yet, now’s your chance!

That’s all for now, thanks for reading!

Review: Monster Hunter Grunge

Monster Hunter Grunge by Larry Correia and John Ringo
Monster Hunter Grunge by Larry Correia and John Ringo

I’m a prolific reader of a variety of books.  My current favorite author right now is Larry Correia and I’ve been a longtime reader of John Ringo… so when I’d first heard about Monster Hunter books written by Ringo and edited by Larry Correia, I was pretty excited.  It was a long wait for me, just under a year from when I first heard about the books.

I wasn’t really sure quite what to expect: the quirky humor of John Ringo, the snarky humor from Larry Correia, the impressive gun fights from Larry or the bombastic, over-the-top action that you find in a John Ringo book.  Both of them tell excellent stories, so that certainly wasn’t something I was worried about.

In the end, I’m still not really certain what I came away with.  There is humor and action and a story… but it all had a sort of manic energy to the writing that made it feel uneven.  Yes, there are hilarious sections and good action, but overall I’m not sure it fully pulled together.  It felt more like a series of “hey, cool, you’ll like this” scenes that only loosely followed a narrative.  The hints at future events both within this series and in the mainline series were entertaining but also jarring.

To be clear, it’s written as a journal, set before the events of the other MHI books.  It removes a bit of the tension, in that you know the main character will survive (until he finishes writing those journals at least).  The quips and references to future events are part of the “Unreliable Narrator” theme and they work… mostly.  The story jumps forward, from section to section and in parts the writing is brilliant and in others…

Well, I don’t want to spoil things, but there was a section that was clearly meant to be very moving and it didn’t have the profound impact it was meant to have.  The main character is so centrally focused that the other characters in the book aren’t fully fleshed out.  This is what threw me, I think, in that normally both authors put a lot of work into their characters and in this book, the side cast were utterly forgettable.  The main character is so over-the-top, so central to the story, that the others just fade out.

It isn’t a bad book by any margin.  There’s action, excitement, and Ringo and Correia fill in a ton of backstory that I loved to see.  It just didn’t hit the level of awesome that both authors can hit on their own.  By all means, I recommend picking up a copy.  I enjoyed it and I’ll read the other books in the series.