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The Century Military Academy is Open For Enrollment

We want you! Sign up today for the Century Military Academy!

What is the Century Military Academy, you might ask? It’s the new and improved way to get information, snippets, previews, and exclusive access to book giveaways.

I’ll  update it weekly with what’s happening, where to find me for conventions, and for those who sign up,  I’ll have a free short story: The Cost of Valor.

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New books! Kindle deals! It’s the January CLFA Booknado!

Here’s a bunch of new and discounted books that might appeal.

Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance

booknado-grfx-600wideStale, formulaic, establishment fiction cannot resist this gale-force gust of alternative storytelling. Why let Big Publishing’s cabal of easily-triggered Brooklynites decide what you get to read? Decide for yourself!

Don’t let cabin fever set in – open your mind and entertain your intellect with some fresh selections from this month’s CLFA Booknado!

New Releases

Freedom’s Light: Short Stories
The first-ever CLFA-endorsed anthology of short fiction!  Enjoy a variety of tales in assorted genres from CLFA members and supporters!

Forbidden Thoughts
This is the month for anthologies! Savor a witty intro by the great Milo Yiannopoulos and enjoy popular authors including John C. WrightL. Jagi LamplighterNick ColeLarry CorrieaBrad TorgersenBrian NiemierSarah Hoyt, and Vox Day.

Set to Kill: A Sean AP Ryan Novel (Convention Killings Book 2) by Declan Finn
Sean AP Ryan thought he was doing security for a science fiction convention…

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The Prodigal Emperor Audiobook

The Prodigal Emperor - Kindle 01c
The Prodigal Emperor, Book III of the Shadow Space Chronicles

The Prodigal Emperor, Book III of The Shadow Space Chronicles, is now available as an audiobook!

You can find it on Amazon or on Audible.

Baron Lucius Giovanni has done the impossible: not only has he held the alien Chxor at bay, he has taken the fight to them and liberated human worlds. Yet humanity’s implacable foe has drawn a line in the sand. They will hold Nova Roma at all costs…or see it a scorched ruin.

Lucius must aid Nova Roma’s Emperor and liberate his homeworld, but along the way he must also deal with old and new adversaries and with a conspiracy that seeks to usurp control of his fleet.

Like The Shattered Empire, the third book of the series is narrated by the talented Eric Dove.  Check out his other stuff, he does a fantastic job.

The Force Is With Me: Star Wars Rogue One Plot & Characters Review (SPOILERS!)

rogueone_onesheeta_1000_309ed8f6Now that Rogue One has been out for a while, I felt it is finally time to write an analysis of the characters and plot of the latest Star Wars installment.  Few people can deny that this is the prequel that captures the spirit and feel of Star Wars (those who do are entitled to their opinions, but the rest of us seem to think it’s great).

As a note, I’m adding some filler here just to make certain anyone who wants to avoid spoilers won’t have anything spoiled.  *Spoiler Warning: The rest of this review will delve into some plot and character details*

While Rogue One is a fast, exciting, and tension-driven war movie set in the Star Wars universe, the beginning is something of a mess.  There’s no opening crawl, a decision made to thematically separate the movie from the space opera feel of the others.  It arrogantly states, “We don’t need to tell you what’s happening, pay attention and we’ll show you.”

Which is all well and good, except at the very beginning it jumps around from planet to planet and through time rather quickly.  If you aren’t paying attention (and possibly even if you are, you’ll have no clue what’s going on right up until Jyn Erso is sat down at the Rebel Base on Yavin 4 when they explain everything through exposition.

It’s sort of like they made the decision not to have an opening crawl and then decided, “Crap, we need to slip it in, we’ll just have some characters explain it all.”  Which is fine.  We get some time to meet some of the characters, to establish Captain Cassian, Jyn Erso, and to see that the Director Krennic is kind of an asshole.  Still, it feels like they could have done a bit more showing than telling, but it’s a style choice that works, despite being a bit silly in some regards.

Moving on, we’ve got the Imperial defector, Bodhi who gets captured by an apparently unhinged Saw Gerrara, the leader of a splinter faction of rebels on the planet of Jedha.  Bodhi is carrying a warning about the Death Star, sent by Jyn’s father, Galen Erso.  Now this is another area where I feel the film sort of loses it’s course.  Saw is an enigmatic character, who seems to have lost touch with reality, one moment being helpful and the next… well, the next he’s accusing Jyn of being there to kill him.  It doesn’t make a terrible lot of sense, and there’s so much odd stuff about Saw that we’re left wondering: what’s up with his legs, how was he injured, why exactly has he lost it, why did Jyn’s father trust him with his daughter’s life?

We can extrapolate a lot of this, but it’s all distracting from the overall plot for a character who gets killed so early in the movie.  There might have been some wider idea for the character in other outlines for the film, but what we’re left with is sort of a box of crazy that distracts overall.  His splinter group of rebels, on the other hand, fits in very well with the overall “dirty” theme of the movie.  Not all of the rebels are going to be idealistic, kind-hearted folk like Luke Skywalker and Leia.  Saw’s rebels are scary and violent, opening fire on the Empire in a crowded market place and using grenades indiscriminately.

The torture of Bodhi, the Imperial defector sort of serves that point too, but it feels like another rabbit hole at the same time.  The Bor Gullet seems like a random thing to throw in there, particularly when it’s stated power didn’t seem to convince Saw Gerrara of anything.  And the “madness” that it caused didn’t seem to last long enough to serve any plot point.  Mostly it leaves you with some confusion about what the thing is and how it does what it does… then it’s gone.

Rolling onwards, we see the rivalry between Moff Tarkin and Director Krennic, which culminates in Krennic utilizing the Death Star to obliterate the rebellious city and the old Jedi Temple in a display of the Death Star’s potential.  This is a fantastic scene for a number of reasons, many of them fairly subtle.  We see the casual disdain for life that the Empire’s senior officers hold, where Krennic feels nothing but relief that his weapon worked and then anger that Tarkin steals the credit.  We see Tarkin’s arrogance in how he only cares about how the Death Star will improve his standing with the Emperor.  All the other Imperials just seem to want to lick up scraps of power from the two officers, their shock at the destruction turning to support for Tarkin as Krennic is sent scurrying to plug security leaks that made him look bad.

The “beautiful” comment from Krennic is particularly good as it shows that he has an appreciation of beauty, yet lacks any morality to consider that he just killed thousands, possibly millions, of people.

In a not-so-subtle detail, the Death Star eclipses the sun for the city, circling in an orbit that blocks out the light to the planet just before it obliterates the city.  It’s an ominous omen, one that sets the viewer on edge as they realize what’s about to happen.

Another subtle detail is that, unlike Alderaan, we actually see the place they destroy.  The audience sees Jyn Erso rescue a young girl in a firefight on the streets, delivering the child to her mother.  That girl, her mother, and everyone else in the city is annihilated.  We don’t see their last moments, but we see the city vanish in a cataclysmic explosion that also kills off Saw Gerrera and his rebels.

The main characters barely escape, witnesses to the terrifying might of the Empire.  They also come to the decision to go to rescue (well, Captain Cassian is there to kill) Galen Erso, after Bodhi gives them the location to find him.

Their travel to Galen’s research facility is an excellent use of characterization.  We see the different characters play off one another.  Chirrut and Baze were earlier introduced well and their few words in this scene establishes them further.  Chirrut is obviously a force sensitive, not a Jedi, but in tune with the Force.  Baze is cynical, but his bond with his friend is strong, showing that there’s some depth to his character.  The way they address the destruction of their home is subtle but strong.

The interaction and chemistry between Cassian and Jyn also works well.  Cassian, dark a character as he is (lets face it, he shot a former friend in the back at the start of the movie), wants to believe in Jyn, but at the same time he’s determined to follow orders.

The battle at the research facility is fantastic.  Confusion between Cassian’s superior and the team sets up a series of mistakes that results in the rebels bombing the facility, killing Galen in the process.  Cassian is given a moment to kill Galen, but decides to trust Jyn instead, only to see a rebel Y-Wing blow up the platform anyway.  We get to see Bodhi, Chirrut, and Baze all do what they do, all in interesting ways.

The rest of the movie moves along with an inevitable feel.  The rebel council reject an attack to seize the Death Star plans.  The main characters decide to go anyway and Captain Cassian comes forward with a grizzled host of warriors who volunteer for the mission.  Without going into detail, he establishes them as desperate, hardened fighters and they look and act the part.

The final fight is a chaotic mess and in that they do a fantastic job of capturing the feel of combat.  The rebel plan goes well enough as Cassian, K2, and Erso infiltrate the facility.  I had a moment of eye-rolling as the unshaven Cassian walks around in an officer uniform, but other than that, the scenes play out well.  The firefight kicks off, many of the rebels knowing that they’re going to die just to create a distraction and buy time for Cassian and Jyn.

The firefight kicks off, quickly becoming a mad scramble as more and more Imperials flood the area, an entire garrison against a handful.  We get a moment of excitement as the rebel fleet goes to help… but that’s dampered by the fact that the rebel arrival results in the closure of the shield gate, trapping Rogue team on the planet.

At this point, every character seems to realize there’s no escape and the movie does a fantastic job of showing that realization.  Every one of them reacts in a different way.  Bodhi is shaken, almost panicked.  Chirrut seems to accept it.  Baze scowls.  Jyn and Cassian are all about how to accomplish the mission.  It’s a fantastic bit of storytelling that sells the characters even more.

As an observer, I’ve got to say that it’s the second time that the rebels seized defeat from the jaws of victory (the first being where they kill Galen Erso with a bomb when he would have known best how to destroy the Death Star).  Granted, there’s no guarantee that Jyn and Cassian could have got the plans out of the facility, to the shuttle, and then escaped, but they aren’t left with that option as the fleet arrives and the Imperials close the shield.

At this point, characters begin to die.  K2 goes first, the quirky and humorous droid going out in a poignant fashion, saving Cassian’s life and doing his duty to the last.  With the realization that they need to transmit the plans, Bodhi has to get a message out, setting up a sequence of events where a transmission switch needs to be activated in the middle of a firefight.

rogue-one-star-wars-baze-malbus-chirrut-imwe-death-scenes-218390-640x320Chirrut by far has the standout scene here, chanting “I am one with the Force.  The Force is with me.” As he walks through blaster fire to activate that switch, in a scene where every other rebel who tried was cut down.  This scene is fantastic and as he blindly flips the switch, only to be blasted the next instant, we’re given both a heroic moment of self sacrifice and a gut-wrenching blow as a character we’ve grown to enjoy dies in his moment of triumph.

Bodhi transmits to the rebel fleet to prepare for the data transfer, but then he dies a moment later as a stormtrooper grenades him.  It’s a quick, abrupt death, Bodhi not even having time to say anything before his shuttle explodes.  Yet he’s done his job, he got the message through.

Then we come to  Baze.  Here he has an excellent moment, where his faith in the Force is restored as his longtime friend, Chirrut, dies.  This crowning moment results in Baze taking up his friend’s chant… only to kill a few enemies and die to a random grenade.  In my mind, it’s the one flaw to he end sequence.  Baze should have either died with his friend or had some suitably essential role.  His death as it is is just sloppy.

We’re then back to Jyn and Cassian, the latter who has a brush with death.  Jyn sets up the dish to transmit, nearly dying in the process.  She gets to confront Krennic, Cassian saves her, and she transmits the data to the fleet, not even knowing if they received it. Then she and Cassian stumble out of the facility just as Moff Tarkin fires the Death Star.

Krennic’s death is appropriately ironic, dying from his own creation, given just enough time to realize it and then vanishing.  Jyn and Cassian have a heartbreaking moment, long enough for them to say that they did the right thing, that they gave the rebellion a chance, a bit of hope, before they perish.

Then Vader arrives.  His star destroyer smashes several rebel ships as they try to escape, and he boards the rebel command ship to regain the plans.  His scene where he appears in the corridors is again, excellent.  The tension and terror is raw.  This isn’t a scene where the death of these nameless rebels doesn’t matter.  They’re dying as one of their number tries to get the plans to safety.  It’s a brilliant scene because, like their compatriots on the planet, they know they’re going to die.

The last bit of the movie, as the plans are passed off was done perhaps a little too smoothly.  I see some logic issues with the command ship having the Tantive IV docked inside it for the entire battle.  Couldn’t they have used that firepower in the battle?  For that matter, why not have a last desperate transmission… and why didn’t Vader’s star destroyer block it’s escape?  We know it’s got to have the plans in A New Hope, but couldn’t they have showed that in a less orchestrated fashion?  It’s a small thing, but it disrupts what is an otherwise fantastic ending, giving us a “feel good” for all that the characters all died before the movie really ended.

Thematically, the film is an odd mix of darkness filled with hope.  The rebels really are fighting a desperate battle against tremendously long odds.  They’re always outgunned, always on the run, they are never safe… yet they fight on.

The movie gives fantastic depth to the older movies.  Rewatching them afterwards, there’s far more impact as rebels die, knowing that each of them has their own story and seeing the terrible cost to the rebel alliance for each victory.

Rogue One is a fantastic story.   It’s a fitting prequel, the prequel that many fans wanted from the beginning.  This is a tragic story, one about normal people caught in a terrible time.  Yet at the same time, the characters exhibit some of the best traits of soldiers and humans in general, exhibiting faith, self-sacrifice, and loyalty unto the end.

There’s some flaws overall, but those are small things, minor imperfections in an overall fantastic movie that had excellent characterization and a powerful message of hope.

 

 

 

 

 

The CLFA December Booknado!

Some cool-looking new books and some books discounted.

Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance

booknado-grfx-christmas

A furious blast of fiction freedom blows away the tired, the formulaic, the predictable, and the didactic! Click on any of the images below to learn more and buy the fresh fiction listings in the December 2016 installment of the CLFA Booknado!

NEW RELEASES

planetPlanet of the Magi: A Space Fantasy by Erin Lale
Expected to grow up to become a Magus, a wielder of dark magic, Dije rebels by seeking the forbidden white magic — and then faces an alien invasion.

Quest to the North: A Minivandians Tale by Tom Rogneby
After the battle that ended the first book in the Minivandian’s series, Ruarin and her companion search for their friend in the deadly lands to the North.

Scout’s Law by Henry Vogel
Terran Scout David Rice put the long-lost colony of the world of Aashla back in contact with the rest of the galaxy. Now he must fight to protect Aasha’s early-industrial…

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It’s the November CLFA Booknado!

Renegades: Out of Time along with a lot of other great books, check them out!

Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance

The November CLFA Booknado churns across a darkened literary landscape, demolishing tired, old, ideologically Progressive pap and blasting fresh fiction choices all across the land! Pick up one of our featured titles today and join the movement.

Click on the book image to learn more and shop!

(Titles are considered new releases and/or sold at featured promotional price points as of November 14 and 15, 2016.)

NEW RELEASES

   Keeping the Faith (Book Two of the John Fisher Chronicles) by William Lehman
It was suposed to be an easy case, a good way to “get back on the horse” and because it looked like a ‘Thrope case, it was right up Detective Fisher’s alley. Of course, nothing is ever easy when Fisher is involved, and when they found the murdered Marine, it all went south…

  Blood of Invidia (Maestru Series Book 1) by Tom Tinney and  Morgen Batten
Aliens, Vampires, and Werewolves…Oh, My!

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The Sacred Stars Snippet One

Here’s the first snippet for The Sacred Stars:

Prologue

 

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