Stories from Guan-Yu, Day 1: Kickoff!

First things first – Audiomachine, one of your hosts for this week’s Stories from Guan-Yu giveaway, has graciously offered a bonus giveaway of today’s tracks, Solace and Brain Mismatch. Follow the link to download, and read on for the rest of the goodies!

I am thrilled to announce the kickoff of “Stories from Guan-Yu,” a giveaway event pairing the world of Crucible with tracks from trailer music powerhouse Audiomachine. Over the next few days, we will be drawing you further into the world of Crucible, showcasing characters and events from the book in the context of Audiomachine’s gorgeous music, from some of their oldest industry releases to tracks off their most recent public release, Phenomena. You can enter up to once per day for the giveaway: five winners will receive a signed copy of Crucible and a signed Audiomachine CD, and one grand prize winner will win a book and all five featured albums!

I have been a fan of Audiomachine for a few years now, and often listen to their albums while writing—their music spans emotions from grief and loss, through hope, joy, and all the way to heart-pounding, epic moments. I hope that those of you who are blog regulars will get just as hooked on Audiomachine as I am, and I want to extend a hearty welcome to the Audiomachine fans who have come here to learn more about Crucible!



Day 1:

The Attack on Guan-Yu

paired with

“Solace” and “Brain Mismatch”


The attack on Guan-Yu is a truly horrifying event: a massacre of unarmed civilians by the most technologically advanced fleet humanity has ever seen. Our narrators live the terror and rage of that night, watching their loved ones die, and in the months that follow, they struggle to make sense of such ruthless slaughter. And yet, Crucible opens with one of the soldiers committing the attack, bombing the colony and going to her death with blood on her hands, believing that humanity’s survival depends on her actions. “Solace” and “Brain Mismatch” were natural choices to showcase the beliefs of Everett and her fellow soldiers, and the desperation and horror of those on the ground. The true tragedy of the massacre on Guan-Yu lies in the fact that no one, not the soldiers and not the colonists, know the whole truth of the colony.


“I didn’t plan on going out like this.”

“You didn’t?” But she could see that it was true. He was sweating, his pulse beating shallow at his throat against the desperate stillness.

“I always thought—you know.” At her unhelpful silence, his face twisted. “That I’d be able to do things that didn’t mean…” Dying. She looked down at her hands, and he let the rest of the words out in a rush: “The planes are fouled up. What if it’s a sign? What if the admiral’s wrong?”

A rush of bad temper. She hadn’t planned to spend the last few minutes of her life talking sense into some panicked kid. She didn’t want to admit that, because it seemed an awful lot like having regrets—and she refused to believe that she had any of those. Refused.

She had just wanted to sit, that was all. Sit and meditate, be calm in the certainty that this was right, until she could be in the cockpit and she could know that it was right. The bird would tell her. But if this stupid jock panicked, it would ruin the mission, and she had already staked her life on the belief that this must happen. She knew what the admiral would say, too: get it done. And this was what she needed to do.

She drew a breath to steady herself.

“A pilot like you, joining up right before this happens? Doesn’t that seem like a sign, too?”

“They said at command that we shouldn’t—“

“The admiral says we don’t let them get away with this.” Flat.

Hell of a thing for a kid to deal with, though. Must be twenty, at most. Transferred to the Minerva three days earlier, a kid they said to watch. Bright one, has a good future ahead of him. Well, not any more, he didn’t. He could choose to die quick, out the airlock, or less quick, in this run, or slow—while they hunted the admiral down. The navy’s flagship, he’d taken, no less. Jesus. And the admiral was seventy, wife dead and kids grown and not military anyway—he’d gamble more than this kid, for sure, who had everything still to do.

And so she tried not to wince when the boy nodded, but it was so damned hard not to feel cruel when he looked down at the floor like she’d slapped him.

“I hadn’t thought of it like that.” He was trying to be fair. She hated him for being so young, for that look in his eyes; she hated doing this to him. She didn’t want it to be the last thing she did. But she didn’t have a choice, did she? Not with what was going on down there. She’d spent her whole life waiting for a moment like this, and now that it came it was a shock.

He was too jittery for talk of glory, she judged. So was she.

“You can’t imagine the horrors you’ll put an end to,” she said, as gently as she could. Which was not all that gently, but at least what she said was true; he probably couldn’t. There were horrors that had already been, the admiral said, and horrors that were coming if these monsters were unleashed on the world.

“Really?” Desperate to believe it.

“Yes.” Her voice was emphatic. She had seen, and this boy could not have the first idea of it: skin stretched over metal, bodies on slabs, men and women with dead eyes and twisted limbs. And others—they looked so normal. Things on the inside, though, the admiral said, viruses and machines. And mind games. Some of them wrong in the head, even if you wouldn’t know it until…

Well, we don’t mean to find out, the admiral had said, with finality. So you do what you have to do to remember they’re not human. And don’t let the kid get sentimental. And how was she supposed to do that?

“We can’t heal them?” Of course he’d ask that.

“No.” She looked over. “You gotta put that out of your head. They’re not alive, not like we’d think of it. They don’t have souls.” He just looked at her, her words too far beyond for him to believe any of it.

“But what if they are? What if they do?”

“They don’t.” God in heaven, she could not deal with this. An alarm sounded: ships ready. “So are you coming?” Harsh; he looked like she’d hit him. These would be some of the last words he would ever hear, and that cut her up inside. Damn it. So she held out her hand, helped him up. “You’re a good man, Rios. Hell of a pilot. It’s an honor to fly with you.”

His hand was warm, his grip firm. One of the last moments she would ever have. All over soon, and right and wrong were turning over in her head, sin floating away into meaninglessness; he was beautiful.

Just a grab at life. She took her hand back, put on her helmet. Her hands were shaking now, and sweaty. She could feel her heart pounding against her chest. She had to concentrate to climb the ladder to the bird; light-headed, the spikes on the rungs biting into her palms.

The reserve pilots were watching them go, waiting by their tubes—some wishing they were her, some hoping she’d do what she had to so they didn’t have to go out. Most people weren’t made for combat, they said at the Academy, even fighter pilots. Crew of five thousand, they were bound to have a few. The admiral liked to mutter that peace was fine, only now he had a crew with no notion of war.

A measure of peace descended upon her in the cockpit. She had always felt most at home here. Tears stung her eyes; she could truly cry with how sure she was now, how relieved she was to know that.

“Everett.” A voice in her earpiece. “Are you ready?”

A moment to press her lips together. “Yes, sir.”

“No time for second thoughts.” Of course he would hear it in her voice. We have come to a moment, he told her in the still of the hallway, when what we know as goodness and mercy are not enough to guide us any longer. Your loved ones may not ever understand what you did here today, but they need you to stand for all that is good in humanity. Courage, Everett. Ours is a path of darkness and doubt. Do not waver or all will be lost. And she believed him.

“No second thoughts, sir.”

He accepted that without comment. “How’s the kid?”

“He’ll hold.”

“Good. And Everett—“

“Yes, sir?”

“See you in hell.”


Comment below (or tweet, or like on facebook!) to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway, and come back tomorrow for another track and another chance to win!

You can find Crucible HERE on Amazon, and all of Audiomachine’s music HERE on iTunes!


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Novum Flash Fiction

I debated whether or not to show this story to the world. Sandoval became a figure far beyond my expectations, in the way characters often do, and as an almost mythical character, his voice had no place in Crucible itself – he existed best through others’ eyes.

When I stumbled across my concept notebook, however, this piece hit me afresh. This is Sandoval’s story.


“It was a mercy.” The words sounded very far away. “You could have killed far more.”

“That doesn’t make this a mercy!” His voice was tight with grief. “What, because we spared the children—so that tonight, their parents won’t come home to them? The earth is soaked with blood, how is this a mercy?”

“You think because lives were lost, this is monstrous?”

“You think that because it could have been worse, this was mercy?”

“Anyone else would have taken out the city!”

“That doesn’t make this—“

“Benito.” Alex put his hands on Sandoval’s shoulders. “They started it, they rebelled, and you crushed their army without killing civilians. Whether you want it or not, you’re going to be a hero.” He stooped to look into Sandoval’s eyes. “I think you are. I do—”

“No,” Sandoval said, but his friend did not stop.

“—Yes. And when you get back to Delphi, you’re going to have to take your damned medal and make a speech and shake hands. Yes, you are. This is going to be one for the history books.”

The tentative smile died when Sandoval hefted his pistol. He thought he was going to choke. He could see the parade in his mind’s eye, and the strong handshakes of the commanders past their prime, reduced to snatching glory from another man’s brutality. They’d praise him. Alex was right, and right now the only thing he could think now was to put a bullet in his brain—as if, knowing he’d done that while looking at the battlefield, they might see, somehow, a piece of the horror. As if they might ever see this differently.

Mercy. Oh, god, he was going to be sick. The gun was shaking in his hand, slick with sweat.

Forty years later, he would still sleep with the same pistol on his nightstand, and in the mornings he would hold it and consider—and know that the moment was past. He’d lost his chance.



The Reading List (and News!)

Fullcover_for_internetA poll! Right off! If you had your choice of the following to be revealed first for Novum, which would you pick?

  • Cover
  • Character Artwork
  • Music

Leave a comment, and next Monday, the group vote wins!

Moving onwards, your friend neighborhood author has dived into a pile of books with wild abandon. First Earth’s Last Citadel, then Consider Phlebas, The Headmaster’s Wife, and Seating Arrangements. On my kindle now are The Privilege of the Sword, The Martian and How Not to Write a Novel!

I’ve got a varied and wondrous pile of things to work through in the near future, including:

…and that’s only a sliver! I’m also playing through Halo and Titanfall, as well as FFVI and FF Tactics, and have been told to watch Sherlock, Orphan Black, and Modern Family. (One of these things is not like the others, but I love me some comedy!)

As for the news …

Yours truly is working on the story and dialogue for a videogame! My goodness, yes! For now, the details remain deliciously mysterious, but there will be a blaze of concept art, story fragments, and gameplay demos coming along in the next couple of months. Stay tuned!



writers are not normal

Hello, Gentle Readers, and welcome to a new week!

A few updates for you, and assorted coolness from around the web…

Comments, questions, concerns? Queries about Novum?




I admit, I’m having an incredible amount of fun with NaNoWriMo. It was only two or three weeks ago that I was feeling very derisive and smug. Ha! I thought. NaNoWriMo. That’s every month for me! So, that’s a very short turnaround. But then, writers can be fickle.

Truth to tell, NaNoWriMo inspires a lot of strong emotions, and you may be hearing contradictory messages about whether it’s a good or bad thing. So I’m taking some time when I really should be finishing my manuscript (due for professional critique by December 20th) to tell you a bit about my experiences.

novum quote 1

As with any other writing tool, part of NaNoWriMo is about choosing what works for you–very rarely do all of the rules work for anyone. Rules I am breaking include: starting a new piece in November (I was many months of planning and a few thousand words in at the start of the month, so November is about me getting down a middle 50k of words), writing without editing, and probably others I have not read all the way through.

The ideal of the program is to get things down on paper (or word processor) without letting that little downer voice in your head, well…get you down. This is, on the one hand, a very fine plan. I have never seen a quote from a career novelist to the effect of, “I like my first drafts.” A first draft is the exhausting process of flailing around with words until you find one gem of a sentence, and then starting all over again. A lot of it will be crap. A great deal of it will seem almost right, and your inability to find the right words will drive you crazy. So “just write and write and write and write” is a very good starting point. You may (and in fact, probably will) stumble across some incredibly cool plot point or turn of phrase, but at the very least, you’ll learn things about writing that you can only learn from experience. This brings us to our first point: No time spent writing is wasted.

novum quote 2

However, the imperative to write must balance with good storytelling. Venturing forward with a gaping plot hole in my wake feels like walking on rotten floor boards: eventually, everything will come tumbling down. A poorly-written passage may nag at you. Do not honor the mandate of, “write in November, edit later” above the mandate of storytelling. If you want to edit something, go right ahead. Just avoid Perpetual Revision Land, where you obsess over the same five passages, continue to hate them, and get nothing else done. It’s bleak in Perpetual Revision Land. No one likes it there. The problem is, it’s surprisingly difficult to extricate yourself once you get there. Remind yourself frequently that when the first draft is completely finished, you may have new ideas about how to edit these pieces. So point the second: Edit, but don’t obsess (yet).

An unexpectedly cool part of NaNoWriMo for me was the community aspect. Many writers, myself included, can be solitary people by nature. NaNoWriMo gives you a group of people cheering you on, offering advice and encouragement when you get stuck, and in general, being passionate about writing. This can be very heartening. Point the third: A good writing community is gold.

The fourth point is so important that it comes at the start of the paragraph: Write. Write joyfully, write with meaning, write when you don’t want to write, carve out time to write.

So should you do NaNoWriMo? If it helps you write, sure. Just have fun with it.


Welcome, Fussy Librarian Readers (and an update)!



If you are here from the Fussy Librarian, thanks for stopping by, and take a look around!

For those of you who have not yet heard of the Fussy Librarian, it is a daily book email…with a twist! Not only do you tell them about the genres of books you enjoy, but also the levels of profanity, violence, and sex you are comfortable with. Also, that name is genius. You can sign up by going to

Now, an update: one of the best, but also most infuriating, talents for writers is the ability to know when the story is…lacking. After plotting out the Novum trilogy, I could not shake that feeling, and I have spent about a week at this point re-focusing each plot line, adding in or taking out elements until each one is not only super cool, but ends with a bang and not a whimper! I am extraordinarily pleased with the result, and I hope you will be, too, in a few months.

Shadow’s Reach is in its final stages! Look for an email sometime next week to tell you it’s been released!

I am working on the next Author Feature – if you have any requests, leave a comment below.

I hope fall (or spring, for readers in the southern hemisphere!) is going smashingly, gentle readers!


Update: Novum, Indie Authors, and Shadow’s Reach!

Shadows Reach for Email

Hello, Gentle Readers!

I have a few absolutely wonderful updates for you!

  • Novum is beginning to get into gear: characters coming into focus, obsessive bolting awake at night to jot things down… I will be keeping you all up to date here, on Facebook, and over on twitter as well. You can follow the hashtag #NovumTrilogy if you want to see where I am in the story!
  • There will be a new feature coming up on the website shortly: indie author features! In the lull between Shadow’s Reach and the Novum Trilogy, I will be featuring other authors and their works, so that you hand-picked recommendations of things to read! I have three features lined up for the coming weeks, and if you have an author that you would like to see featured, let me know and I can reach out to them!
  • As you can see above, Zezhou has come up trump again on another beautiful cover, this time for Shadow’s Reach, a series of short stories set in the Light & Shadow universe!
  • Speaking of Shadow’s Reach, the tentative release date is October 21 – don’t worry, I’ll send an email! (This would be a good opportunity to sign up for the mailing list. I will absolutely only send you Cool Things.)

I hope your weeks are going well!