Tag Archives: sf

New Release: Valor’s Cost

Valor’s Cost is out today!

You can get your copy from Amazon, here:  https://amzn.to/2DCqO6J

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.”  -Norman Cousins

Jiden Armstrong has seen death and destruction, visited upon people around her.  She has spent the past three years attending the Century Military Academy in the hopes that she can protect her people.  Now, though, she has lost those most dear to her.  Worst of all, the people who did it were coming after Jiden.
She’s going to have to rebuild her life.  Jiden will have to fall back on her friends and her family to recover.  She’s going to have to find a new reason to live and come to terms with her losses… and her enemies haven’t given up.  To them, Jiden Armstrong is another pawn in the game… one that is inconveniently placed.  They’re going to keep coming after her so long as she stands in their way and if Jiden can’t stop them, then the people paying the cost of Jiden’s valor may well be those closest to her.

Valor’s Duty: Coming May 18

Valors-Duty-500x800-Cover-Reveal-And-PromotionalHey everyone!  I’m happy to announce that Valor’s Duty, book three of the Children of Valor series will be coming out on May 18th!

Duty is heavier than a mountain; death is lighter than a feather.
Jiden’s life at the Century Military Academy is forever changed when she is asked to volunteer for a special program.  They want to implant her and other cadets with a special, prototype neural computer.  It will make them smarter, more capable, and able to split their attention between dozens of activities.  Her friends jump at the opportunity… but Jiden isn’t so certain.

She sees it as her duty, to her world, to her friends, to volunteer despite her doubts.  But as things begin to go wrong, as her life is put in danger once again, Jiden quickly realizes that she may have shouldered a duty that she can’t bear.  The implants might be driving her fellow cadets violently insane… and Jiden may be next.

She will need to muster every ounce of courage, every bit of intelligence, in order to save her friends.  Even then, her own survival might be too much to ask.  But Jiden doesn’t know how to back down, and she’ll do her duty no matter the cost

The first snippet is coming later this week!  Check back for more information.  Thanks everyone!

Second Snippet Renegades: Out of Time

Here’s the second snippet for Renegades: Out of Time.   Be sure to read the first snippet!


Lord Admiral Valens Balventia sighed as his communications officer notified him of another civilian ship wanting to talk with him.

“Lieutenant,” he said, “I’ve told you, give them the standard evacuation orders.  I’m trying to plan a defense, if you interrupt me again…”

“Sir,” the Lieutenant looked nervous at speaking up, but Valens had worked hard to develop a staff that trusted him.  If he had interrupted him mid-sentence, then clearly he felt it was important enough.  That meant that Valens listened as the younger officer spoke.

“She’s not a normal civilian vessel, my Lord,” Lieutenant Sicarious said quickly.  “The Aurore is a privateer… and she’s behind the Chxor battle line.”

Valens’s eyes went wide at that.  That could be very useful indeed.  “Put him on.”

“Lord Admiral, I am Captain Mike Smith of the Aurore, out of Nova Roma.” the Asian ship’s captain wasn’t wearing a ship’s suit.  Given the current battle conditions, that suggested either a blatant disregard for safety or that he misunderstood the situation gravely.  Neither of which boded well for the conversation.  I hate privateers, Valens thought.  Most of them were little better than opportunistic pirates.  Still, if it was their ships and crews dying against the Chxor instead of Nova Roma Sailors and Marines, then Valens was willing to hold his nose.  “We are currently five thousand kilometers behind the main element of the Chxor battle line.  We’re picking up survivors from one of your vessels.”  He looked off-screen, “The Kestrel, is what my salvage… uh, rescue team has heard from survivors.”

Valens Balventia couldn’t help a scowl at the word “salvage,” yet the fact that the privateer had already picked up survivors was a good thing.  He considered the rest, though, “Wait, Captain, did you say you’re only five thousand kilometers behind the Chxor force?”  That sounded absurd.  How could any ship survive that close to the enemy?  For that matter, how had he managed to get so close?

“Correct, Admiral,” Captain Smith said.  “We also have military-grade sensors, so if you have platforms capable of hitting them, we can provide targeting data.  They’re moving away quickly, though, so we’ll probably lose quality targeting data in the next thirty minutes.”

Valens began to smile.  “Captain, send me your targeting data.  How do we have you, laser, I assume?”

The delay was painful, now.  The data wouldn’t be real-time.  If the privateer had an ansible, it would have been best.  But his ship’s crews could run simulations on the Chxor movements, program those target parameters in…

A few minutes ago, he had seen this as a final defense, a last stand.  With data on the enemy’s ships, he could actually win this.

“Yes, Admiral,” Captain Smith said.  “Though we’re having issues pushing transmissions through their screen and jamming.”

“You’ve one hell of a communications officer to manage,” Valens said.  He moved his estimation of the privateer upwards again.  “We’ll set up a relay, I think we have several platforms in place.  My communications officer will coordinate.”  He nodded at Lieutenant Sicarius and looked at his staff, “Order all fighters to launch.  We have a narrow window and I intend to hit these bastards so hard they feel it back on Karis.”



“Hold him still, I have not yet stabilized the subject!” Run shouted in his shrill “command voice” as he waved his staple gun around.  The wounded Nova Roman Marine fought hard, despite the injuries that still spurted blood.

Mandy glanced at Miranda.  The pair of them had been assigned to help with the wounded, since they both had some medical skills.  “Do you think we should tell him that the Marine thinks he’s been captured?”

They watched as the two medics assigned to Run finally held the Marine down, even as he started to scream obscenities.

“Nah,” Miranda said as she bandaged the injured Nova Roman on their table.  “Wouldn’t do any good.” She gave the young man a friendly smile, “Marines, right?”

He smiled back at her and Mandy just rolled her eyes.  She didn’t much like the Nova Romans.  Really she didn’t like most people, except for Miranda.  She finished gluing the wound shut on her unconscious patient and moved on to the next.  This woman had been badly burned.  Most of her face and upper torso was a mass of blisters and the smell….

Mandy fought down a memory, of a house in flames and the screams of children.  For a second, it seemed so real to her that she froze.  No, she thought, I’m not there and even if I was, I’m stronger now.

She felt Miranda’s hand on her shoulder and she took a deep, reassuring breath.  “Thanks,” Mandy said.  It was all she had to say.

The two of them went to work on the wounded woman.  Mandy just hoped the Nova Romans had good medical care for their people.



“Status?” Mike asked as he came back on the bridge, pulling his ship’s suit on and placing his helmet on the rack behind his command chair.

“The Nova Roma forces launched their fighters and their ships are moving into attack positions,” Ariadne said cheerfully.  “Their Lieutenant Sicarious has been very helpful in setting up a relay system.  They seem confident of victory.”

Mike’s eyebrows went up at that.  At best he would have assumed they would stage some kind of fighting retreat.  Malta was key to the Nova Roma defense, but the Chxor numbers were daunting, to say the least.

If they think they can win, he thought, good for them, but I’m not putting my ship and crew at any more risk than necessary.  “Any threats?”

Ariadne brought up a Chxor dreadnought with three cruisers in a loose formation ahead of it.  Mike frowned as he saw it.  It was behind them, trailing a line of debris… and as he watched, it opened fire on a bit of wreckage that Simon had identified.  “Looks like it’s cleaning up behind the main force… and we’re on the path,” Ariadne said.  Her voice held anger and Mike wondered if the fire he saw behind the psychic’s eyes was entirely figurative.

The wreckage it fired on was what had probably been a human destroyer.  The dreadnought chewed the wreckage into a fine cloud of debris, no doubt killing any survivors in the process.  He didn’t know if the Chxor somehow realized they had someone behind them relaying messages or if they simply had a procedure in place to cover behind them.  For that matter, it wouldn’t surprise him if the Chxor ship’s commander simply took it into his head to run target practice.  The Chxor Empire showed little care for human lives, so any of those were likely.

“He’s getting pretty close,” Mike said, even as he reviewed the sensor data.  The damaged ship had engaged the remains of a cruiser before the destroyer.  Both times he’d drawn within five thousand kilometers.

Mike stared at his ship display in thought for a long moment.  The Aurore wasn’t a standard civilian freighter.  She was originally designed as a fast transport ship, and her hull had a sleek, predatory look, with angular hull facings to deflect incoming fire.  The engine pods were in tight against the hull, in a fashion designed to give them greater protection, which only further added to the sleek nature.

Yet she wasn’t a warship.  The ship had no heavy armor and its defense screen was only a single band, projected along the length of the ship.  The Aurore‘s primary weapon was a concealed energy torpedo turret.  The weapon was extremely powerful for a small ship… but it had the downside of extremely short range.

The Chxor dreadnought sweeping along the enemy fleet’s rear would be able to tell that they weren’t a standard freighter.  While Mike didn’t have much confidence in the Chxor’s ability to identify the ship as a threat, he had less confidence about whether or not that ship commander would even pause to think about his orders.

In all likelihood, he’d been ordered to screen the ships to the rear and eliminate any human survivors.  With how he was blasting active radar along with his screening cruisers, it wouldn’t be long before he noticed the Aurore in the shadow of the Kestrel‘s wreck.

With a human officer, Mike might have tried to explain that he was engaged in rescue operations.  Even a military ship might have been spared under those conditions.  But the Chxor wouldn’t care.  Mike didn’t know if the Chxor even picked up their own survivors under normal circumstances, much less in combat.

“What’s the status of the Admiral’s counterattack?” Mike asked.  Mike’s first impulse was to simply order the Aurore to jump to shadow space.  Over the past twenty minutes they had already recovered the majority of survivors from the Kestrel.  Yet they also were supplying the Nova Romans with targeting data.

Simon didn’t need to look at his screen, clearly he was a good pick as the communications and sensors officer.  “He’s launched his fighters, I estimate they’ll launch missiles in three minutes.”

Mike could do the math well enough.  The enemy dreadnought would be in range to pick them up in the next four minutes.  At that point, the data they sent to Admiral Balventia would be crucial.  If they jumped to shadow space, they’d abandon the Admiral’s forces at the most critical time.  The missile flight would need data right up until they went in on final attack mode, in order to bypass the enemy’s directional jamming.  Without that, the attack would almost certainly fail.

Mike stared at the display and went back and forth between the two engagements from the dreadnought.  While the capital ship’s fusion projectors had a potential engagement range of sixteen thousand kilometers and the missiles had a substantially larger engagement window, it seemed that the ship drew far closer than that in both engagements.

It was possible it did so from damage.  Certainly it left a debris and gas trail in its wake, a sure sign that it had received damage earlier in the battle, before the Aurore‘s timely arrival.  There could be any numbers of reasons for that.  Damage to the weapons systems, damage to its power systems, or maybe even with the cruisers providing targeting data, it still needed to approach in order to see its targets.

If it repeated that maneuver, the ship would come within range of the Aurore’s weapons.

I wish I’d shelled out for a pair of fighters and some military-grade munitions, Mike thought absently.  A few ship-killer missiles launched from close range could have damaged and maybe driven off the enemy ship.  The Aurore had external racks for interceptor missiles, but it would be reliant upon carried fighters to launch offensive missiles.

Anubus’s prowler carried two fission warheads, but Mike didn’t know that he trusted them to properly detonate.  For one thing, Pixel still hadn’t had a chance to do more than a cursory inspection of them.  For another, they were Wrethe technology… and the Wrethe weren’t known for their craftsmanship.  Killing people, he thought, yes, betraying and murdering one another and their allies, yes… but building quality ships… not so much.

Besides, replacing those two missiles would be a painful expense.  Less painful than dying under the dreadnought’s guns, but Mike knew that Anubus would demand replacement, probably with a newer, more powerful munition.  And if we don’t replace them, there’s the whole betraying and murdering allies thing to consider, Mike reminded himself.

Then again, better to be alive and in debt than dead.

“Anubus,” Mike said, “go ahead and launch your prowler, we have inbound.”

“I am not going to be a suicide attacker against a Chxor dreadnought,” Anubus growled.

“Of course you aren’t,” Mike said.  “I’d like your missiles to back our main battery.”  He soothed the Wrethe without even thinking about it.  At this point, he knew that Anubus viewed the rest of them as expendable… but the Wrethe also knew they gave him access to human worlds, weapons, and opportunities to enrich himself.  “Besides, think about the value of that dreadnought for salvage,” Mike said.  Doesn’t hurt to lay it on, Mike thought.

Anubus didn’t respond, but Mike decided to take that as agreement.

The cruisers had drawn closer, but Mike focused upon the dreadnought.  The cruisers mounted a minimal armament, designed around intercepting fighters or missiles.  He could take the four of them, especially damaged as they were.  The dreadnought was the threat.  Besides, after they identified a target, they seemed to move on in their search pattern along the fleet’s course.

Here he comes, Mike thought as he saw the dreadnought alter course.  The slow, ponderous ship had lined up a vector that would bring it’s starboard batteries to bear on the wreckage of the Kestrel.  That spiked interest in Mike.  Combined with the dreadnought’s slow acceleration and arthritic maneuvers, the fact that the ship didn’t rotate, but altered it’s overall course suggested it was either low on fuel for its maneuvering thrusters… or that those thrusters were damaged enough that it couldn’t rotate.  Certainly the course was out of its way.

Mike began to smile as he typed in some commands on his console.  “Rastar, get your salvage team aboard immediately.”  Mike didn’t look up as he addressed the navigational officer.  “Mister Nelson, prepare to plot me a maneuver.”



Ship Commander Chxun updated his fleet commander even as he noted they were drawing close to the latest bit of ship wreckage.

He understood that the Fleet Commander wanted to clear the navigational route of debris and enemy threats for the follow-on occupation force.  He did not feel emotion, so he certainly did not think such efforts were beneath him.  Still, he thought it would have been optimal to have a squadron assigned to this duty, rather than his damaged vessel.  Certainly the remnants of the human defense fleet posed little threat to the Fleet Commander’s forty dreadnoughts.

If Fleet Commander Kxrass had peeled off a dreadnought squadron, then Ship Commander Chxun would have been free to begin repairs of his own vessel.  He could admit that those repairs would take some time.  The multiple missile hits to his port side had crippled his vessel and Chxun felt certain that the ship would need months to be brought back to full operational readiness.

“Time to optimal range?” Ship Commander Chxun asked.

“Thirty seconds, Ship Commander,” his targeting officer said.

Chxun noted that on his log. Fleet Commander Kxrass’s orders had been to clear large debris.  He had not mentioned recovery of personnel, so Kxrass hadn’t bothered to recover any humans, though he had noted the positions and vectors of Chxor survivors, should the Fleet Commander decide to expend the resources for recovery.  The three Chxor and two human vessel debris he’d cleared so far had developed a pattern.  He’d found that if he drew into close range, his weapons batteries produced the most efficient result, reducing any large debris into objects small enough to pose no real navigational hazard.

He had not noted any surviving ships on this path, though that matched his expectations.  Logically any surviving human vessels would have retreated from the system.  The holdouts, in the midst of a futile counterattack, were simply a further sign of the illogical insanity of humanity.

They should have abandoned the planet upon the Fleet Commander’s arrival to the system.  The logical tactic would be to withdraw in the face of a force they could not successfully oppose.

The humans couldn’t win this war, but Chxun knew they would lose it far slower if they didn’t insist upon dying for points of honor or for the sake of civilians who provided no contribution to the war effort.

“Ship Commander,” his sensors officer said. “One of the screening cruisers indicates they have detected a possible radar contact to our port side.”

Chxun considered that.  It seemed unlikely that a ship would be so positioned.  It would have had to either come in behind them at a high enough velocity with low emissions as to be undetected by passive sensors, or it would have needed to be present, yet hidden from the cruiser screen’s radar systems and then somehow now detected.

“Tell them to recalibrate their radar systems and scan again,” Ship Commander Chxun said.  He could have rotated his damaged ship to detect the vessel, but that would have used an alarming quantity of his remaining thruster fuel.  He could explain away the loss of the fuel due to damage, but it would still reflect badly upon his evaluation if he dropped below safety minimums.  Besides, it was highly unlikely that the humans had any kind of warship in position to pose a risk to his dreadnought.  Certainly if they had, they would have used it before now.

“Prepare to engage the debris,” Chxun said.



Mike smiled coldly as the Chxor dreadnought closed into position.  It had all come down to timing.  As the Chxor cruisers moved past the wreck of the Kestrel, he’d brought the Aurore out on her maneuvering thrusters, a series of slow burns timed to move them away from the Kestrel, keeping in its shadow from the nearest cruiser and just outside of radar range from the enemy dreadnought.  That had consumed almost all of their thruster fuel, but that could be replaced… and they’d only needed to move a bare eight thousand kilometers and then hold relative position.

From the other side, Simon had been able to detect the heavy damage on the dreadnought’s right side.  While it might have passive sensors, certainly its active radar was down.

“Pixel,” Mike said, “Bring up the plant.”  He looked over at Eric, the twitchy weapon’s officer leaned low over his weapons console.  “Eric, engage at will.”

This would be the first time they fired the Aurore‘s weapon outside of a simulation.  They’d already extended the concealed turret from behind the false rear “cargo” hatch.  The three fusion torpedo projectors were slow firing and they used up a quarter of what had been the Aurore‘s cargo holds.

Each of the torpedo projectors created a short-lived, magnetically condensed fusion reaction and then accelerated it in the direction of the target.  They couldn’t maintain the magnetic containment past three thousand kilometers so the weapon’s effectiveness dropped off sharply after that as the plasma released across a broad region of space.

The magnetic torpedoes weren’t terribly accurate, either, and the magnetic containment of defense screens caused a number of issues with that, making the accuracy suffer still greater against intact vessels with full-strength defense screens.  To top things off, the torpedoes didn’t travel fast, a result of the necessity to maintain magnetic containment over such distances.  In short, the torpedoes were slow, inaccurate, and short ranged.

At just under a thousand kilometers away, the damaged dreadnought didn’t have its port defense screens functioning.  In fact, jagged rents showed in the dreadnought’s armor, where earlier hits had already savaged the ship.

The fusion torpedoes crossed the distance in only five seconds.

All three hit a tight grouping directly in amidships on the dreadnought.  The superheated plasma inside the magnetic containment then released inside the enemy ship.  Fire began to blossom all along the ship’s hull, and then the dreadnought simply detonated.  At this range, the bridge ports actually darkened as the Chxor dreadnought vanished in a chain of secondary explosions.

“Target destroyed,” Simon said.

“Oooh,” Ariadne said, “pretty.”


You can pick up your copy of Renegades: Out of Time on November 12th!  (Oh, and see below for the awesome cover art!)


Renegades: Out of Time Cover Reveal

Renegades: Out of Time
Renegades: Out of Time

Here’s the cover for Renegades: Out of Time.  See below for the awesome full cover art.  I’ve made a partnership with the very talented David C. Simon to do this cover art.  If you don’t know about his online military SF comic, Crimson Dark, you should definitely check it out!

The Renegades are running out of time.

Captain Mike Noguchi has led his band of Renegades out of the heart of a interstellar war, forged them together into a privateer crew, and has learned of an ancient alien facility that may hold clues to a conspiracy which  seems bent on his crew’s destruction.

But that facility is on a planet conquered by the Chxor.  The Renegades will need to slip across the battle-lines, infiltrate a conquered world, and find their way inside a facility which has kept its secrets for untold generations.  Along the way they’ll need to fight genetically engineered monsters, a psychotic military commander, and an entire army of Chxor.
Yet even if they manage that, some secrets may be too much for them to handle.  Their enemies have already done terrible things with the knowledge found there… can the Renegades survive secrets from outside of time?
Renegades: Out of Time will be available on November 12th.

Free Short Stories for Honor Con

Since I’ll be at Honor Con this weekend, I’m making two of my short stories (Look to the Stars and The Freeport Mutineers) available for free from 28-31 October.  Read below for details.

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.

Review: Desert Strike by Leo Champion

Leo Champion's Desert Strike
Leo Champion’s Desert Strike

Leo Champion’s Desert Strike is a book.  Okay, review done.  No, seriously, it’s a book.  And it’s got things in it.  Go read it.

In all seriousness, there’s a lot going on in Desert Strike.  We see war on a global scale, with a Chamberlain-esque government determined to avoid it, a hyper-violent enemy determined to murder and/or enslave the good guys, and a strange semi-benevolent star-spanning nation which supports both sides in return for the resources they’re fighting over.

Mix into this massive landships up-to and including aircraft carriers, a mix of tech that feels gritty and at the same time cutting edge, and incompetent leaders within the good guy’s chain of command, and you have a very interesting setting for the story that unfolds.

The book has several characters, and what Leo Champion does best is making those central characters seem real with believable goals and ambitions.  You have a bad-ass, general, Jaeger, driven by anger and revenge.  You’ve got a young, rookie pilot, O’Conner, who wants to leave his mark.  These are the “Tropes” the “of course he has this person” but Leo goes further than that, he makes them real.  The side characters abound, with momentary glimpses at a bigger universe, then whipping back to the central plot.

And what a plot.  The enemy has been given free rein, and they use it.  This isn’t a book where the good guys have it easy, where victory is well within grasp if they only work hard for it.  If anything, I’d say the odds are too heavily stacked against them.   At times, you feel that the only victory left is a pyrric, one, where the planet is left a radioactive wasteland… yet somehow you still cling to hope that the good guys will turn the tide.

Desert Strike is a book which surprised me in a lot of ways.  I’ve enjoyed reading several of Leo’s books, but he writes in a certain tone, one which is instantly recognizable.  Desert Strike takes his normal tone and softens it a bit, ironic in a book about combat and war.  It has a fun edge to it, one which isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself, a bit of tongue in cheek even as a character’s life is in the balance.

The aerial combat feels like Vietnam Era, the ground war feels like something from the far future, and everything fits in a way that is hard to describe.  If you’re a fan of military science fiction, I think you’ll enjoy the solid characters and gripping combat.  If you just like exploding stuff, well, there’s plenty of that here for you too.

It’s about to go hot. 

On the dry world of Arkin, the Zinj are taking over. A technologically-competent strain of Islam that make ISIS look like the Amish, they’re challenged only by the nations of the West – and a divided West without much will to fight.

Among those who do have the will are fighter pilot Egan O’Connor, a working-class kid from a tough neighborhood, ready to test himself and serve his country. He’s a chivalrous rookie ready for an honorable battle.

Jimmy Newland’s a cavalry NCO who’s earned his spurs. He’s ready to fight but he doesn’t want to; he’s seen enough skirmishes to know how bad it can be. But he’ll do his job if the cold war gets nastier – as it’s about to.

And there’s nothing chivalrous at all about Air Marshal Elisabeth Jaeger, a career intelligence officer promoted to field command. Twenty-five years ago she saw her husband murdered by the Zinj; she’s spent the time since avenging him. As she’s about do on a scale just a little bit broader than spywork…

You can find it: here.

Book Review: Glynn Stewart’s Starship’s Mage

Glynn Stewart's Starship's Mage
Glynn Stewart’s Starship’s Mage

Leo Champion described Glynn Stewart to me as one of the best authors he’s had the experience of working with. Since I also work with Leo, I took that as a bit of a challenge to step up my game, but as a reader, it made me want to check out what Glynn has written, particularly since he seems to be reading my blog and writing book reviews about my stuff.

I’m happy to say I haven’t been disappointed. Glynn Stewart’s Space Opera/Fantasy novel, Starship’s Mage, is excellent. The main character, Damien, is engaging and interesting and Glynn has created a fascinating world, one where technology and magic coexist in a science fiction setting, much like another of my favorite author’s works: Ryk Spoor.

The trials and tribulations of young Damien are vast and varied, as he tries to fix one problem only to create three more in the process. Damien is smart (possibly too smart for his own good), and he is hard working and a loyal friend. He’s also painfully naïve and far too eager to please, which make fun character flaws in a character as powerful as a wizard can be.

Overall, the book definitely feels like the first book of a planned “epic” series. While young Damien grows powerful, we still see that not only does he have limits, but those limits are profound compared to his opponents. The other characters, from ship’s officers to pirates are robust and rewarding in their own ways and in general, it was a fun read.

That isn’t to say it is a “perfect” book. There were a few minor gramatical errors (less, in fact, than some books I’ve recently read from major publishers), but there was also a nagging repetition where some things would be explained multiple times. I can understand the urge, in case the reader wasn’t paying attention, but for me, it actually broke my immersion a little bit as some of the technology and universe was explained once and then again, right before it became pertinent to the story. That said, it’s a very minor pet peeve in a book that I really enjoyed.  (Further note: I hadn’t realized it was originally released as novellas, so it suffers from the same problem as my own Renegades: Origins, so disregard)

My only question, at the end of it, is what do you call this genre? Space Fantasy sounds… trite and doesn’t adequately describe it. It feels like “Hard” fantasy, where the magic has rules and the story revolves as much around those rules as the characters. Science Fantasy just sounds odd. Whatever it is, it’s fun, fast, and enjoyable.

You can pick it up here from Amazon.

In a galaxy tied together by the magic of the elite Jump Magi, Damien Montgomery is a newly graduated member of their number.
With no family or connections to find a ship, he is forced to service on an interstellar freighter known to be hunted by pirates.
When he takes drastic action to save the Blue Jay from their pursuers, he sets in motion a sequence of events beyond his control – and attracts enemies on both sides of the law!

Starship’s Mage was originally released as five separate episodes.

Author’s Toolbag: Creating Science Fiction and Fantasy Languages

One of the things that impressed me about reading Tolkien for the first time (and even more so, years later) is how he crafted entire unique languages for all of the nations and peoples in Middle Earth. The same has been done (with varying levels of success) by many authors. Some have created languages that are memorable, others crafted ones that add some flavor but not much more than that, and still others create a mess that serves as a hindrance to the reader.

When someone goes about crafting a language, Tolkien is often held up as the example. Of course, he was a linguist, so he had some advantages. He knew and understood languages on a level which most authors don’t really have time to do. Don’t forget, that he spent years developing his languages.

So, other than spending years working on developing a language, how can an author produce something that adds value to their work? There are a number of techniques that I’ve seen and used myself. The first one is to “borrow” from other languages. Tolkien borrowed heavily from Welsh, Finnish, and Gaelic. This of course requires finding or knowing languages that sound or look right for the culture you’re dealing with, as well as some vague familiarity with the language.

Another great technique is using a few words to add a bit of flavor to your text. A greeting here, a curse word there, can give the reader a feel of a distant land and new people. A great example of this is the Firefly series, where they used Chinese greetings, exclamations, and curses. Never enough that a listener was confused, just enough to add some spice.

Crafting languages with other alphabets or runic symbols is another method to add a bit of variety. Where this becomes an issue is formatting, especially with ebooks. If you fancy yourself an artist, you can spend hours, weeks, or even years crafting a unique alphabet (or borrowing from existing ones), which may then only appear in cover art or pictures within the novel.

Pitfalls of writing with your own fantasy and science fiction languages are things most well-read readers have encountered.

By and large, most readers tend to avoid big blocks of text they can’t read or understand. Now, if your intention is to confuse the reader, having long sentences in your own created language can work, but otherwise, I’d advise against it. Unless you think you’re as good as Tolkien (and even then) you probably won’t have people spending hours or days figuring out how to read your invented language.

The above mentioned runic language is another pitfall. Even if you consider yourself a professional artist, take the time to make sure what you are putting into a novel is what you really want there. Even in traditionally published novels I’ve seen crudely drawn bits of runes that I’ve mistaken for doodling in the margins.

By and large, the most important aspect is when you edit your novel. You may have spent years developing your languages, but if your story flows better without those, then you’ll need to cut it. By all means, throw some things in there to make it a bit more exciting or exotic, but not enough to eject the reader from your story.

Book Review: A Call to Duty by David Weber and Timothy Zahn

A Call to Duty by David Weber and Timothy Zahn
A Call to Duty by David Weber and Timothy Zahn

I first read David Weber and Timothy Zahn’s A Call to Duty last year.  I’ve long been a fan of both authors and I purchased the eARC (Advanced Reader Copy) from Baen’s eBooks without hesitation.

I’ll say right off that the book is every bit as fantastic as I had hoped.  The characters are fantastic, the setting is great, and the story is very engaging.  I particularly love seeing the great Star Kingdom of Manitcore in its infancy, watching the growing pains as it develops, and seeing it evolve.

The main character, Travis Uriah Long, has his flaws.  He’s got a painfully narrow focus and an inability to keep quiet when he sees something as being wrong… no matter how much trouble it gets him into, along with a social awkwardness that only gradually begins to fade.  To make matters worse, his half-brother dabbles in politics and since Travis is in the military and his brother is in league with the politician swinging against the military, things get a little difficult for poor Travis.

The book comes with all the exploding spaceship goodness that you can expect from a Baen read, along with the above mentioned fantastic characterization and gripping story.  Even though we know where the Star Kingdom will eventually end up, there’s enough tension because we have no idea what will happen to our characters in the process.  While our intrepid hero might well make it through the series, there are no guarantees.

All in all, if you are a fan of anything Weber or Zahn, this book, and the series it begins, is definitely worth a read.  You can find it on Amazon here.

NEW SERIES FROM NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLING AUTHORS. Book #1 in Manticore Ascendant, a new series set in David Weber’s best-selling Honorverse, from multiple New York Times best seller David Weber and #1 New York Times best-selling author Timothy Zahn. FIRST TIME IN PAPERBACK.

Growing up, Travis Uriah Long yearned for order in his life . . . some things his neglectful mother couldn’t or wouldn’t provide. So when Travis enlisted in the Royal Manticoran Navy, he thought he’d finally found the structure he’d always wanted so desperately.

But life in the RMN isn’t exactly what he expected. Boot camp is rough and frustrating; his first ship assignment lax and disorderly; and with the Star Kingdom of Manticore still recovering from a devastating plague, the Navy is possibly on the edge of budgetary extinction.

The Star Kingdom is a minor nation among the worlds of the Diaspora, its closest neighbors weeks or months away, with little in the way of resources. With only modest interstellar trade, no foreign contacts to speak of, a plague-ravaged economy to rebuild, and no enemies looming at the hyper limit, there are factions in Parliament who want nothing more than to scrap the Navy and shift its resources and manpower elsewhere.

But those factions are mistaken. The universe is not a safe place. Travis Long is about to find that out.

Treat for Halloween: Odin’s Eye

51O6OQ2eEDL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Odin’s Eye, the sequel to Fenris Unchained, is now available on Amazon!

The crew of the Fenris are back from the halls of Valhalla to pluck out Odin’s Eye.

Mel Armstrong has prevented an AI warship from destroying a planet, but she and her friends made many enemies along the way. Unless they can disappear, those enemies will come for them, backed by a computer program, Odin’s Eye, which will find them wherever they manage to hide.

Yet not everyone is happy with the abilities that Odin’s Eye gives to the government. They’re willing to pay Mel and her friends to do the impossible: to slip into a maximum security facility on a corporate-run planet and make certain that no one has the power to know everything.

It’s the equivalent of taking on a god, but Mel and her friends have one advantage: for now, no-one knows they still live. Mel is banking on that fact… and the hope that the eye of a god can’t see them coming.

You can find Odin’s Eye here on Amazon.