Serials are fun and a mess in a dress

This is the conclusion I’ve come to as a result of (re?)starting the process of working on fixing books 3-7 of the Awakenings series. Of course, it’s a serial, the story predates the serial, and it’s all very complicated and crazy and fun.

It’s a story that I wanted to tell but it was a story that I dove into with barely half a plan which sometimes works out great and sometimes doesn’t. Sometimes writing to a deadline, while it forces you to continue to stretch creative muscles, doesn’t do you many favors.
There’s a lot that needs fixing, needs updating, needs smoothing out—this is true of books 3-7, but also specifically true of some plot and character arcs that turned out to be, in the end, not what they were originally intended to be (I’m looking at you, Matt and Hecate, who took the prize for “biggest surprise” so far—which is not to say other characters didn’t also do this to me because more than a few did). This means I have a lot of material to play with, but there’s also a lot of material that needs tightening up.

Some things will need to be pulled out, new things will be added in. In reviewing the content that ended up being book 3 content (since book 2 and book 3 ended up being mixed around a little bit from how they were originally posted—just to make some things flow better and properly link things together), there’s almost no content with the group that Aoife’s with, which is something that will need to change so their plot arc can be properly tied up in subsequent books. I can’t cut them entirely because a) it wouldn’t make sense to do it given the role some of the characters play later and b) at least one particularly important instance where we see exactly how wild talents and magic can be in the broken world.

In many ways, the books of the Founders Cycle (which comprises the first seven books of the series), is about the survivors learning exactly what they can do—the power they possess—and then stomping down hard on the war that they didn’t start but will play a role in finishing. It’s a fun, interesting arc that takes them through the first few years after the end of everything they knew and one that sets up the Ambrose Cycle that follows—but more on that story sometime to come.

Either way, I’ve got my work cut out for me with all of this.

Awakenings: Book One and War Drums are available where books are sold.

June gaming element challenge – Varuulan Empire

Item Type: State

The Varuulan Empire covers the entire expanse of the continent of Trevasse, to the west of the Immersea, and holds most of the islands within two hundred miles of its coastline. Trevasse was once home to two dozen nations, all of which were subsumed under the empire in the last thousand years. The most recent conquest on the continent was of Sladivostok, at the northern end of Trevasse, completed roughly fifty years ago. Instrumental in the victory over the Sladivosti was a Varuulani lieutenant named Lachlan Hope, a recent graduate of Sandwyck, who took command of the ironside Tania when the ship’s captain was killed at the Battle of St. Angus. Since the conquest of Sladivostok, most of the military action seen by the Varuulan Empire has been of two types: putting down rebellions throughout the empire and working to secure islands in the Immersea. Rebellions have taken place throughout the empire in the last fifty years, in coastal regions such as Sladivostok, Angevale, Punjab, and Maimac Provinces and more inland regions such as Constansa, Tuscana, and Anjoui Provinces. This has not stopped the imperial policy of expansion into the Immersea, however, a policy put in place by the late Emperor Daros III and continued by his son, Sesto VII.

Sandwyck is the most prestigious training academy for those intending to go into Varuulani military service. Many noblemen send their sons (and from some provinces, daughters) to Sandwyck in the hopes of their winning a prestigious command or even title someday. The Academy’s student population is largely noble in extraction, though some particularly skilled individuals from other levels of society can test into the institution. Then children of particularly honored enlisted personnel from the Sladivosti Conquest have been afforded the opportunity to attend the institution should they possess the right skills and temperament. Most of the admirals and all of the High Admirals of the Varuulan Imperial Navy graduated from Sandwyck.

The land and coastal waters that Sandwyck rests on are part of a grant given by the Emperor Cipriano II to the first Duke of Stafford. Sandwyck was established during the first Duke’s lifetime and have been maintained by both the Dukes of Stafford and the Imperial Crown ever since.

Sandwyck is located on the eastern coast of Trevasse, three hundred miles northeast of the Imperial capital of Varlanium, at the mouth of the River Taemes.

Social ranking structure
The Emperor (there has not been an empress regnant in five hundred years)
The Imperial Family
Dukes Imperial (including cousins of the Imperial family)
Earl (Count)
Baronet, Knights, and high-ranking members of the armed forces (if they hold no other title)
Gentry and merchant-class

Of Starships and Intergalactic Wars

Probably ten years ago, when the Internet was a younger space and podcasting and the concepts of web fiction and indie e-publishing were young, I ended up guesting on a podcast dedicated to web fiction, talking about Awakenings initially. The conversation with the host eventually drifted to my recently released book, Broken Stars, about which the host was duly enthused.

The universe of Broken Stars is in some ways more optimistic than the world of Awakenings—sure, the human race still has problems but the actual apocalypse hasn’t happened and hey, we’re in space. Sure, Earth is held by a galactic state that stands in opposition to our heroes in Broken Stars and there’s definitely a simmering conflict there, but we’ve managed to survive two wars of annihilation and enslavement by an alien race to get there.

More on that in a second.

The question—in the midst of this long-ago interview—that came up from the host, something that is probably the only thing that I remember from the whole interview, was the question whether or not Broken Stars would ever be released as web fiction, if anything in that universe would be released online as web fiction. I remember laughing and saying that I wasn’t sure it quite felt right to do it that way, that the format might not be right.

Fast forward to a pandemic, to another bachelor’s degree, to a much different point in my life than where I was in the days of that interview.

There has been an idea rolling around in my head for a little while now, suggesting that in addition to getting back to both Awakenings and at least the world of the Legacies of Lost Earth, perhaps there was hope for a web-facing taste of the Epsilon universe—of which Broken Stars is a major part.

The Preytax Wars are a historical event that takes place in the Epsilon universe, an event that planted the seeds for the status quo that exists in Broken Stars. Taking place in the 22nd century, several decades after humanity has made its way deeper and deeper into the stars (thanks to a bit of help from a few friendly alien races that made first contact in the later 21st century), the Preytax Wars represent humanity’s first encounter with a hostile alien race and two major conflicts with that race—both of which are generally characterized as life or death for humanity and human society on the whole.

Humanity won, but not without cost and not necessarily as decisively as anyone characterizing it as an existential conflict might have hoped—but no one actually thinks they’ll come back, right?

More on that to come in the future.

I have never been sure if I would actually write a full-blown book in the era of the Preytax Wars—I would have to write several, in fact, due to knowing who some of the important macro and micro stories live with. Something that I have been playing with is putting together a site that gathers fictional news reports, journal entries, sequences, etc. that would tell at least part of the story of the Preytax Wars. It’s been an idea that’s simmered for a little while now.

I suppose we’ll see what happens next.

Editing copy – Lost and Found

330 pages, about 91500 words.
12 point font, double spaced, 1 inch margins

Edits and changes got lighter the deeper into the draft I got.

No, I did not do all of the edits in one sitting.

Back to it…

UNSETIC Files: Lost and Found editing resumes. This is round one, back after a long break. Chapter 27 of 40.

On the Epsilon universe and its history

There are some universes that as readers, we just can’t shake.

Writers have the same problem, and as is the case with readers, viewers, fandoms, etc., the results can be both good and bad.

I like to think what’s happened with the Epsilon universe has largely been good, though I know the wait for some of the people who have read Broken Stars has been pretty bad, and while I regret that it’s been such a long wait, I have to admit that this universe is kind of my baby and I really want to get things right—which is an impulse I think most people can understand.

I started working on elements of what would become the Epsilon universe back in junior high school, though at the time I didn’t know it.  It wouldn’t be until high school that I produced the first extremely rough draft of what I thought was going to be a single book that told a very large but very rough story.  That draft will never again see the light of day (it was that bad) but it let me work through a lot of ideas and led to my growth as a writer in a lot of very good ways.

As I worked my way through various drafts of several different projects, the universe of the Epsilon series began to take shape—I used to call it “UoC,” short for “universe of conflict” which was a terrible, if accurate, name.  As it grew, the universe became increasingly complex and gained a history—and historians—of its own.

The in-setting history of the Epsilon universe starts in the 2050s with the foundation of a unit called Freedom Alpha—the exploits of the unit itself were less important than the people it brought together.  Eventually, after official first contact with several of the major alien races present in the Epsilon universe (most notably the Pharridan and the Menah) and humanity’s forays into interstellar space, the unit name comes up again, this time attached to a unit of the Stellar Marines assigned to an off-world post.  That unit, among others, is one of the few to survive humanity’s first encounters with a hostile alien race relatively intact.  It becomes the core of the 14th Stormer Elites, a unit that becomes important during the First Preytax War (circa 2105-2115) and remains important during the Second Preytax War (circa 2120-2127).  These wars are the ones that Korea Cooper—Sam Cooper’s MIA older sister, Luc Ross’s lover, and the former head of the Resistance in the sector Luc now runs—studied as part of her graduate work in history.

Those wars are far more important than anyone appearing in Broken Stars and Redeemer realize—at least at this point—with the possible notable exception of Alexander Sotheby (but more on that another time).

Up until recently, I thought the Preytax were some kind of hyperevolved reptilian species, bipedal, highly intelligent, and brutal.  That’s changed thanks to something someone brought to my attention via tumblr and I honestly wish I could find the photo credit for this thing because it’s incredible—and I have no idea where it originated, but it was like a lightning strike when I really took a good hard look at it.

It is the face of a collective nightmare, something that folklore has often warned cultures about for centuries—creatures with pale sink, black eyes, sharp teeth.

Why wouldn’t that be the face of a hostile, hungry race that has preyed upon the sentients of the galaxy for centures?

I don’t know who’s responsible for the original picture, but I am grateful to them because they finally showed me the face of a race that has reshaped the history of humanity in the Epsilon universe—and continues to do so up through Broken Stars and its sequels.

But more on that later.

Epsilon universe snippet – in the alley

                I felt the heat of the explosion almost before I heard it, saw the light of it.  I spun, swearing, not knowing what to think or where to run to until I saw the fire’s brightness not too far from me, down the street a little ways.

                I’d last seen Wil headed in that direction.


                Nothing–but if he’d been anywhere in the vicinity of that explosion, no doubt his ears were still ringing and ringing loud.  I gulped in a breath and ran in that direction, away from where I could see the lights of landers in the distance.

                When the Imperium had come to Caldin, they’d come in force, just like we feared they would.

                What the hell just happened there?  The Imperium wasn’t supposed to have made it this far into the city by now.  Nothing should have been exploding.

                Moving at a dead run, I almost tripped over him.  He choked back a moan as my foot banged into his in the darkness.  Backlit by the flames from across the street–the Alliance post was burning–I could see the blood on him.

                It was all over and it looked bad.


                “Get out of here,” he rasped.  “I’m fine, get out of here.”

                “Liar.”  I crashed to my knees, pulling his head and shoulders into my lap.  He hissed in pain, choking back a scream.


                “Shut up,” I snapped.  “What the hell did you do?”

                “My job.”  He squeezed his eyes shut, his breathing labored and shallow.  I swore heartily.

                I thumbed a mayday on my comm, knowing Luc wasn’t far.  He’d be here fast, I knew it.

                He’d better be.  We need him now.

                “Ren,” Wil breathed.  “Ren, please.”

                “No,” I said through gritted teeth.  “I am not leaving you, dammit.”  I caught a glimpse of Luc in the light of the burning building beyond the alleyway.  “Luc!  Luc, get over here, I need your help.”

                He pivoted and swore when he saw Wil, just like I had.  I couldn’t stop the tears anymore.

                “Please,” I begged in a voice that was barely more than a whisper.  “Please, help him.”