Category Archives: Writing

Lost Valor Snippet One

Hey everyone, here’s the first snippet of Lost Valor, coming out on 14 December!  Hope you enjoy!   See the earlier announcement here for the blurb.

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Chapter 1:  Everything Changes

 

As the sandstorm howled outside like a mad beast, I couldn’t help but look over at my older sister and sigh.

Jiden was ignoring the storm, her attention focused on her datapad.  Not that she even needed to use the datapad.  She had a neural implant that could just as easily paint the data in her vision.  She was about to go into her fourth year of the Century Military Academy, if you counted her time at Academy Prep School, and she looked as if she weren’t nervous at all.

I wondered if she knew how hard it was to grow up in her shadow.

Even here at Black Mesa Outpost, there’d been some comparisons.  My sister had been years ahead of most of her year group.  Most of our instructors were either through the planetary network or were professors here doing work who contributed time towards the small population of kids at the outpost.  There had been as many as seven of us five years ago.  But then Tony Champion’s family had moved back to Duncan City, and my sister had gone to Academy Prep School and then her Champion Enterprises internship.  In the fallout of that, I’d almost missed the other two kids my age moving away as their parents finished up their research projects.

Then Tanner had graduated a year behind my sister Jiden.  He hadn’t really had the drive to do any secondary schooling and he’d started a job at New Zion.  I hadn’t been close to him or anything, but that had left Jesse and I as the only kids at the small school here.  Most of the people who came to live and work at Black Mesa Outpost were either really old, older than my parents, some of them older than Granny Effy, or they were still in university and they weren’t even dating, much less married with kids.

Jesse was only seven years old, so she and I didn’t really have much in common.  The small class sizes in general and the fact that most of the “teachers” also worked with my parents made comparisons between my sister and I pretty common.

When I was younger, being compared to my sister was mildly annoying.  “You’re smart, just like Jiden,” was something that sounded fine the first time, but around the twelve millionth time one of my instructors told me that, I’d learned to just grit my teeth and pretend to smile.

Not that I hated Jiden or anything, I just got tired of being compared to her.  Things had been even worse at the Academy Prep School, because there I had to work twice as hard just to measure up.  I’d been working for two years to get ready.  I’d done so much physical training, so much additional studies, and even dozens of her training sims on my datapad.  It hadn’t mattered though, because as soon as I showed up to Academy Prep School I’d been Jiden’s little brother from day one.

I looked down at my datapad and sighed again.  I’d earned my place there.  I’d graduated from Prep School with the highest score of any candidate.  Ever.  The first thing someone had said to me afterward in congratulations had been that I’d graduated number one, just like my sister.

Some day, some time, I wished that I’d have an opportunity to prove that just because I’d been born second, didn’t mean I was any less than her.

The wind howled outside again and I glanced at the alert on my datapad: Weather Warning.  Planetary Network Connection Lost.  We normally lost our connection to the planetary network when we got a storm.  We were way south, the furthest south permanently inhabited settlement in the northern hemisphere.   Black Mesa Outpost was over a thousand kilometers south of the southernmost town on the planet Century.  It was inside the deep desert, so far south of the northern polar region where most of the people of my world lived that life wasn’t really sustainable.  Temperatures got up to points where no real wildlife, even the native Century stuff, could survive. Plants didn’t grow down here.  The only water was what the supply skimmers brought in, and we rationed and recycled that over and over.

What our isolation and my lost connection meant just now was that I couldn’t finish off my homework assignments that I had to take care of before I started my Plebe Year at the Academy.  That bothered me more than anything.  I’d painted a target on my back by breaking all the records for scoring.  Every other candidate in my class now had a goal: score better than William Alexander Armstrong.

In fact–

The door to our parent’s house slammed open and my mom staggered into the room, wind and sand billowing with her.  I opened my mouth to make a quip about her getting sand everywhere… and then I realized she was carrying a rifle.

She slammed the door behind her and as she turned back to us, I saw her expression.  It was hard, desperate.  She checked the rifle she carried, racking the slide twice, but the magazine was empty.  She muttered a curse and threw the weapon to the floor, “Jiden, William, I need you to listen to me.”

“Mom, what’s wrong?” Jiden asked.  I noticed a climbing note of worry in her voice.  Mom hurried over to the mantle, taking down the hunting rifle that hung there and then moving to a cabinet and pulling out a box of ammunition that I hadn’t even known they kept in the house. “Mom, where’s Dad?”

Our mother froze, her hands in the middle of loading rounds into the rifle. I noticed her hands shake, ever so much.  She didn’t look up.  “Jiden, there isn’t time for questions.  I want you and Will to go out the back door.  Head for the dig site.”  I opened my mouth, confused.  What was this about, what was going on?

But the hard expression on my mom’s face stilled any questions I could ask.  I found myself standing, halfway to the back door just from the tone of her voice.  “Go inside.  Go all the way down and hide in the lowest levels.  Don’t come up until the storm passes.  I’d come with you, but I need to buy you some time and I don’t want to slow you down.”

I was confused, until I saw Jiden’s attention go to my mom’s leg.  I saw it, then.  A spreading stain of red that leaked down her pants leg.  Jiden spoke, “Mom, let me help you…”

“No!” My mom snapped at her.  “There isn’t time.  You and will need to go, now.”

I started, “But Mom–”

“Go!” She snapped.  Just as she did, I heard shouts outside.  “Get out of here!”

Jiden rushed towards me, grabbing me by the shoulder and shoving me towards the back door.  She shoved it open, wind and sand billowing through.  Even as she did, I looked back, hearing a crash as someone struck the front door.  I heard shouts and I saw my mom raise her rifle and fire through the door.

Then Jiden dragged me out into the storm.

I knew it would be the last time I saw my mother.

I did what she told me and I turned and ran.  Jiden and I raced through the gusts, sand whipping our faces and hitting us both hard enough that every step was a struggle.  I wanted to turn around, wanted to go back and help my mom, but she’d told me to run, so that’s what I did.

The entrance to my parent’s archeological excavation lay only a short distance behind my parents’ small house.  It was a square hole, the edges worn smooth by a million years of blowing sand, carved into the side of Black Mesa.  Jiden and I dashed through, knowing the area so well that we’d run straight for it despite the blinding sand.

I skidded to a halt, though, as a rough-looking man stepped out in front of us.  “What do we have here?” He jeered at us.

Jiden didn’t stop, she drove into him, knocking him down, even as she shouted at me to run. But I wasn’t about to leave her and I stepped forward, stomping on his fingers as he reached for his rifle.  As he drew into a ball to cradle his hand, Jiden wound up and kicked him hard in the side of the head and he went limp.

Jiden took off down the corridor and I raced after her, willing to follow her lead.  She’d fought for her life, before.  I hadn’t, and all the sibling rivalry in the world wasn’t going to make me argue with her now.  Later on, maybe, but not now.

As if she heard my thoughts, my sister picked the one thing that I wasn’t willing to go with, “If we run into someone, I’ll distract them and you need to run.”  She said the words in a low voice, slowing her pace to look back at me.

“I’m not going to leave you,” We had to survive this, together.  “Whatever this is, whoever these people are… we need to stick together.”

“No,” Jiden hissed the words.  “We need to stay alive, if we can.  And if one of us survives, that’s better than both of us dying.”

I gritted my teeth in response, “Why should you…

“Mom put me in charge,” Jiden snapped.  “Besides, I have rank on you, plebe.

That was a low blow.  I bit down a retort that I wasn’t really even a plebe, yet.  I wouldn’t be until I started at the Academy.  Right now I was just a civilian… but she was still a Cadet Second Class.

I kept quiet and I followed her.  All my instincts were screaming at me to ignore what she’d said, to refuse to leave her behind.  At the same time, the logical part of my brain was telling me to listen to her.  She had more experience.  She’d fought before.  I’d had my Academy Prep School training and that was all.  I was a liability when it came to a fight… and that thought shamed me.

As we went further down the tunnel, I realized that the noise of the storm had faded and the murmuring that I’d thought was the wind was actually voices.  My first hopeful thought was that someone else had come down here to hide.  That was, until I heard what they were saying.

“…even know what we’re looking for?” A woman whined.  “Wessek and the others are up at the outpost having fun, we’re down here for what?  A couple of computers that are thirty years out of date?”

A man answered her, “Wessek said to grab all their research notes.  You saw the alien stuff down here, these sand grubbers are onto something and Wessek knows it could be valuable.  Besides, we’re almost done.”

“Yeah, yeah, but you know they’re going to keep any good loot,” the woman grumbled.  These people were here to steal, which probably meant they were with the man at the entrance and the people who’d attacked mom.

“Just shut up and help me with this pad, will you?” The man grunted.

Jiden moved up and peeked around the corner.  I could guess where they were without looking, since I’d been spending a lot of time down here helping my dad.  That area was well lit and it was the narrowest part of the entrance shaft.  A network of metal struts, connected together with metal latches, held up this part of the ceiling, though now and again, trails of sand cascaded down.

This was one of the alien complex’s old air shafts and it had been entirely filled with sand tens of thousands of years ago.  My parents and the other archeologists had tunneled through, bracing the sand above with sheets of metal held by those braces… but they had only tunneled a relatively narrow gap.  Jiden waved me forward and I took a look.

The man and woman were just outside that gap, loading up a couple of crates on a lifter pad.  We couldn’t sneak past them.  My heart began to race as I realized we were going to have to fight them.

Jiden looked over at me and spoke in a low voice, “Alright, Will, I’m going to go in first.  I’ll keep them busy, you run through.  Once you’re on the other side…”

“No,” I whispered back.  “There’s only two of them.  We can take them.”  This was my chance, my opportunity to prove that I could be useful.

“They’re armed, Will.  They’ll kill us both if we stay here fighting them,” Jiden sounded ridiculously calm, her voice reasonable.  She didn’t have any right to sound so calm about the fact that she was offering to sacrifice herself so I could escape.  So I could run and hide like a child, more like.

“I won’t leave you,” I snapped. I wasn’t a child.  I wasn’t really an adult, yet, but I was fourteen Century years old, almost eighteen in Earth years.  I was not going to run away, not when the two of us could work together and both survive.

“Let’s go,” Jiden gave me a nod.  I never felt so proud as when she acknowleged tha I could be helpful.

We crept down the tunnel, moving as quietly as we could and keeping to the shadows until we were only a few meters away from the two of them.  Jiden tapped me on the shoulder and pointed at the man.  I gave her a nod.  The man was tall and broad-shouldered, but I wasn’t exactly small.  I was close to two meters in height and I’d put on a lot of muscle from all the physical training I’d done.  I’d never exactly fought before, but I’d rough-housed at Academy Prep School and they’d taught us some basics of hand to hand fighting.  I hoped that would be enough.

The man and woman both had rifles slung over their shoulders, so their hands were free to work.  Jiden waited until both of them were bent over a heavy box and then ran forward, charging at the woman.  I wished she’d given me a signal or something, because I was a few seconds behind her as she charged.  She caught the woman mostly by surprise, but the man dropped his end of the box and met my charge with some warning.

Instead of bowling him over, we slammed against one another and we bounced off each-other.  He growled some curse at me and I lunged in a tackle, trying to knock him off his feet.  The man grappled with me and after a minute or so, I realized this wasn’t a fight I was going to win, not quickly, anyway.  I punched at him, but he was too close.  I heard shouting and grunting, I just hoped my sister was having better luck than me.

Even as I thought that, I caught a blow to my stomach that took all the wind out of me.  I dropped back, gasping for breath, but the man came at me, swinging wild punches at me.  I kicked out, like trying to kick a ball and managed to land a solid hit on him, sending him staggering back and giving me a second to see what was going on.

Jiden was on the ground, in the access tunnel.  The woman she’d been fighting was standing over her.  Things didn’t look good.

I looked back, wondering if maybe we could run that way… and then I saw more people coming down the corridor, rushing along with flashlights.  I looked back at Jiden and saw her expression set.  She knew that we were trapped.  There was no way out.

I saw her kick at a stanchion that supported the thousands of tons of sand above her.  I started to shout to her, to tell her not to do it, then the man I’d been fighting tackled me to the ground.  “I got the boy!” he shouted.  “I got him!”

Two more of the attackers rushed forward and I lost sight of Jiden.  But I tried to fight, tried to struggle, because I knew exactly what Jiden was going to do.

I heard a loud crash, and then a roar.  I heard the men fighting me shout and scream in alarm.  And then a black wave of sand roared through the room.  It picked me up and flung me, tumbling end over end and the last thing I saw was the back wall of the room coming up to hit me like a flyswatter.

***

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Kal’s December 2018 Forecast

At this point, there’s 21 days remaining to the year and boy has it been a busy year.   I’ll do a blog post around the end of the year as a wrap up, but for now, here’s what’s going on in December.

If you hadn’t seen last week’s announcement, Lost Valor, book one of the Forsaken Valor series, comes out on Friday December 14th.  I’m finishing Jormungandr’s Venom, the third book of the Fenris/Rising Wolf series this week.  I’ve started work on the fifth and final book of the Children of Valor series and my goal is to finish it this month.  I’m also working on the next Argonauts book for Chris Kennedy Publishing (4HU).

Next month I’ve got a lot going on, so be sure to check back here for more posts and updates!  Thanks for reading!

 

From a Certain Point of View

A while back, I was riding in a pickup truck.  This is notable only for the fact that the girl driving it was consistently using about three feet of the right lane while driving in the left.  As a passenger, I found that pretty terrifying and said something to the effect of “Jesus, what the hell are you doing?”

She insisted she was fine, she hadn’t had any issues and seemed to think I was making fun of her driving or calling her crazy.  This went on for a bit, her insisting everything was perfectly fine and me growing more and more concerned, particularly as we narrowly missed side-swiping other vehicles and pedestrians.

I finally demanded just why she thought she was centered in her lane.  She told me that her driving instructor had taught her to center the white lines on the hood of her vehicle and she’d always be in the center of the road.  When I quite testily replied that she’d probably learned to drive in a car, rather than a pickup truck, she went silent.  It was a thoughtful silence.  After she considered the fact that a truck was several feet higher than the car she’d previously driven and the geometry was therefore different, she shifted over to something rather more like the middle of the lane.

The world and circumstances had changed.  Her point of view had shifted, but she’d been operating under the same assumptions as before, not taking into account the changing conditions.  It wasn’t that she was stupid, or that she was crazy, or even that she was reckless, it just hadn’t occurred to her that some of her basic assumptions were no longer valid.  The paradigm had shifted and that had endangered her and fellow drivers around her.

The Star Wars quote, “From a certain point of view,” applies pretty strongly.  Obi Wan spun the truth for Luke when he told him that Vader betrayed and murdered his father.  He told Luke what he needed to hear, a simpler “truth” that set him on his journey of change, hoping that Luke would have the resilience and wisdom to understand the full truth as he gained experience.  That’s what many teachers do, they give us the basic “rules” and hope that as time goes on, we fill in the blanks, we learn the “why” as well as the deeper complicated details.

It’s something to consider both in writing and in our lives in the real world.  Be willing to re-examine some of the facts.  Be willing to question those basic rules that you’ve lived by.  Be willing to adapt and change.  Your characters in the stories you write should learn from their mistakes, but they should also change and grow.  Their beliefs and concepts of the world should adapt and grow with them.  And perhaps we should hold ourselves to as high a standard.

Kal’s November 2018 Forecast

It’s November already, jeez, where’d the month go?  October is come and gone and it’s been a busy month, with not just one, but two book releases.

I’m currently putting the final touches on Lost Valor, the first book of my spin-off YA series, Forsaken Valor, which ties directly into the Children of Valor series.  I’m also finishing off the last chapters on Jormungandr’s Venom, the third Rising Wolf book (The stories of Fenris, the AI controlled warship).  I plan to have those out this month, but I want to see what my beta readers have to say.

I’ve started on the sequel to The Colchis Job, which I’ve titled “A Cold Day in Hades.”  If things go well, I should have it done soon and off to the beta readers (man, they’re busy).

Last month I started my Patreon page and I’m adding more content.  I just added the full-length novel, The Eden Insurrection, which is remaining exclusive to Patrons.  As a reminder, if you want to have a character named for you, I pull names from Patrons first, so this is a good opportunity, plus it’s a way to help me focus on writing and producing more.  The link to my patreon page:  https://www.patreon.com/kalspriggs

What have I got planned for the rest of the month?  I’m writing the fifth and final Children of Valor book, Valor’s Stand.  I’m also back to closing out the seventh Shadow Space Chronicles book, The Star Engine (it was The Lost Heir).  I hope to have that one out by Christmas, but I’ve got a lot of work to do to get there.

So, I’m hoping that November is a two-book publishing month.  If I can pull it off, you can expect Lost Valor mid-November and Jormungandr’s Venom sometime after that (though that’s up to the publisher).  If I can meet my writing goals this month, it’ll make December a two book month, too.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading!

 

 

Introducing Kal’s Patreon

Hey everyone.  As of today, my Patreon page is online.  So what does that mean to you?  Well, any number of things.  If you like my content here and my books and stories, that’s another way for you to help me to make more of it.  Also, if you really want to be tuckerized (see your name appear in one of my books) then this is a chance to make sure that happens, those who become my patrons get their names on a list, and as I write, I’ll draw names directly off that list.

Also, if you like swag, I’m doing a giveaway for the first ten people to sign up.  That’s right, the first ten people get gifts.  These range from shirts to mugs to signed books.  I’m also going to do a monthly giveaway, one gift to my patrons each month.

Additionally, I’m going to post one of my unpublished short stories to the page tonight and, if we hit 20 patrons by the end of the month, I’ll add the full length unpublished novel The Eden Insurrection.  I also plan to add a variety of other content there, much of it exclusive to my patrons.

You can find my Patreon page below.

https://www.patreon.com/kalspriggs

Kal’s October Forecast

Hey everyone, October is here!  I’ve got a lot on my plate right now, so here’s what you can expect:

I’m happy to announce that I plan to release the first book from my post-apocalyptic series, Dead Train: All Aboard.  This series follows the adventures of a group of survivors in a zombie apocalypse, who are travelling by train as they seek safety.  You can expect Dead Train: All Aboard on October 12th.

I’m currently mostly done with my latest work in progress, which is titled Lost Valor.  Lost Valor is the first book of the spin-off series Forsaken Valor, which is a spin-off of the Children of Valor series.  Those of you who read Valor’s Cost can probably guess the identity of the main character.  My goal is to finish it up and publish it 26 October.  I’m really excited to get this one out, because it’s a very different story-line and set of experiences from the Children of Valor series but just as action-packed.  I’m hoping you all will enjoy it just as much as I have writing it.

Finishing off the month, I’m putting the finishing touches on book three of the Rising Wolf series.  Yes, I’m finally getting back to Melanie and Fenris.  This third book closes out the initial story arc and brings their initial arc to a close.

What I’m working towards with all three of these series (Children of Valor, Forsaken Valor, and Rising Wolf) is to set the stage for the greater conflict that’s been brewing in the Periphery.  I hope to tie all three series to a close and then start a series I’m currently labeling The Colonial War, which will cover a greater conflict involving Drakkus, the Star Guard, Century and other systems.  That in turn sets the stage for more events yet to come.  Suffice it to say, there’s lots of exploding space-ships in the future of the Star Portal Universe.

Closing out October, I plan to start the second Argos book, the sequel to The Colchis Job, to be published with Chris Kennedy Publishing.  I expect to finish it sometime in November, so ideally you can expect it late November to early December.  After that, it’s the fifth book of the Children of Valor series and the second book of Forsaken Valor.  I’ve got a very full plate at the moment, but I also intend to get the seventh book of the Shadow Space Chronicles out as well as to finish the fourth book of the Eoriel Saga.

Did I mention I’ve got a lot on my plate?

 

Assistant Dog Watcher: Jobs of the Future

Humans evolve and grow and human ingenuity being what it is, we’re problem solvers and we’re always trying to find new ways to do things.  As a consequence, the things humans do to earn their pay have evolved and will continue to evolve.  Those who don’t agree, I invite to talk to their local thatchers and shepherds, and if you can’t find them, as your operator to put you through on your wall mounted phone.  I’ll be here, waiting.

Humor aside, the constant is that human jobs have diversified.  The vast majority of humanity used to live on subsistence farming (before that we were hunter-gathers).  Now we have artists, engineers, pet groomers, farmers, scientists, philosophers, and even those layabout writers.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there will always be the roughneck-type jobs like welding, pipelaying, machining… skilled labor is something that will be in demand, the artisans of our era will be around long into the future, because they often do unique problem solving of the type that computers often can’t.

What jobs are out there in the future?  I don’t think the jobs people do now will necessarily disappear, mind you, but I do think that many, especially the low-skill jobs, are going away.  Managerial positions will be there for as long as there are humans in employment (or robots, because robot workers still need direction).  The typical futuristic jobs in science fiction are ship-related (Captain, Navigator, Pilot, Engineer, etc), but there’s a variety of cyber-punk jobs like hackers, programmers, and information brokers.  These are projections, drawn from current events and times.

Most of these require skill, training, and knowledge.  There’s no entry level master-hacker positions posted on job-boards of the future… or if there are, I recommend thinking twice before showing up for your first day of work.  Those who sail the stars can begin training, too, but as what?  Apprentices?  Midshipmen?  Cadets?  What’s the pay like and who pays them?

There’s presumably job opportunities for the less-skilled, too, and those with lower ambitions.    Most minimum wage jobs now are positions where someone can build up some basic skills and move on to bigger and brighter things.  Other than a post-scarcity society, everyone has to earn their ration packets and their single bed habitation pod, right?  The problem being, when I think of masses of unskilled labor in a futuristic setting, it’s rarely in a good connotation.  Labor that’s dirty, dangerous, and unpleasant is the norm in futuristic settings, often when humans are seen as cheaper and more expendable than robots.

So what’s an unskilled person to do?  It’s a question I struggle with when I world-build.  Robots can do things with massive efficiency.  they’re always on, they don’t have holidays or breaks, you do the maintenance and they work… and the maintainers are skilled labor.  We’ve begun moving a lot of the menial jobs towards that route.  Janitorial robots don’t steal, they don’t get drunk and fail to show up for work.  Computer kiosks allow restaurants to cut down on wait staff and minimize their overhead.  There will be some of these jobs in the future, but they’re likely to be fewer in number and rather more selective (possibly even highly technical).

What’s a fresh out of school space-boy to do, then?  Technical schooling is obviously going to take priority, there’s always going to be a need for those who can design, build, and maintain machines.  Military service is an option, too.  And there’s always positions in customer service and human relations, after all, someone has to manage both employees and customers.  There’s still a need for farmers, doctors, nurses, lawyers (shudder), politicians (sigh), and all the rest, too.

Where’s the growth?  What are the new fields that will erupt?  Sort of like Information Technology has, which has then split out into a dozen or more fields ranging from Information Security (who make information harder to access) to the polar opposite, Knowledge Management (who make information easier to access).

This is one of many questions I tangle with as an author.  My futures, tellingly, still have many of the jobs and job descriptions that they have now.  There are still archaeologists, historians, and entertainers, because we’re still human.  We still have problems to solve and we’re willing to pay (employ) people to solve those problems for us.