From @MykeCole’s Blog: On Killing

By Myke Cole

An excellent examination of the cost of killing on killer, victim, and everyone around them.

There’ve been some recent forays into writing combat scenes on some blogs lately. A few fans reached out to me and asked why I didn’t join the conversation. That got me thinking, and not in the way you’d expect.

I’ve said in many interviews that nobody owns the military experience. My being in the military doesn’t make give me any more authority over a military story than anyone else. The same is true for writing combat. One doesn’t have to be a veteran brawler to write a great fight scene.

But I do feel like the end result of fighting, namely, killing, isn’t often treated in a way that resonates with me. I can count on one hand the number of writers who get it right. Joe Abercrombie springs to mind as one of them, a tiny band of authors, and I do not count myself among them, who evoke the consequences of killing in a way that feels authentic.

Read the full article on Myke Cole’s website.

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From @MykeCole’s Blog: What PTSD Is

If you’ve been playing along at home, you know that much of my protagonist Shaundar’s character arc is centered around his war experience and PTSD. If you’ve been reading between the lines, you know that I’m examining my own PTSD (though I’m not a war veteran, I’m the daughter of a bipolar mother who was untreated during most of my childhood) through the writing of this story.

Myke Cole is a military fantasy writer and an Iraq War veteran. He’s written a couple of particularly good pieces on the subject that I’ll be sharing over the next couple of days. The thing that struck me the most about this one was his observations about Condition Yellow.

Living under Condition Yellow for extensive periods of time is the big factor that drives PTSD. I spent my whole childhood under Condition Yellow, and school just made it worse because I was bullied extensively. So Condition Yellow was my LIFE. I didn’t know there was any other way to live, and only now am I beginning to unpack that this is not normal, and has affected every relationship I’ve ever had.

Anyway, check it out.

I’ve talked before about genre writers who have been very open about personal trials, particularly the kind of depression/anxiety conditions that I feel are a natural part of the uneven terrain all authors have to walk. I’ve always appreciated their willingness to go public with these issues, as the first (and false) thing that most people suffering from these sorts of things think is a.) that they’re alone and b.) the problem is unique to them. When your literary heroes step into the spotlight and say, “hey, this is more normal than you think and you can figure out how to live with it,” well, let’s just say I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more than a few folks still pushing air past their teeth because of a blog post they read.

The thought of talking about what goes on in my head in anything but the most general terms in the public square takes me way out of my comfort zone. But I reread the first paragraph of this post, especially that last line. Sometimes, you need to go outside your comfort zone, talk about a thing not because you need to get it off your chest, but because it might help others to hear it.

I was diagnosed with PTSD in August of ’09, just after my third tour in Iraq. Of course my first concern (like everyone in my line of work) was losing my security clearance, and that kept me from going for help for a long time. But DoD did right by me, and I kept working for another 2 years before the book deal got me out of the business.

Read the full article at Myke Cole’s website.

Editing Update and Holocaust Remembrance

So I’ve finished my major first edits of “Mr. Midshipman Sunfall” and “A Few Good Elves,” and they’re off to my editor.  I’m now making my way through what I’ve done so far on “Brothers in Arms.”  I haven’t said much in a while, but those who are following will know that I’m not finished my first draft on that one yet, so what I’m doing at the moment is catching it up to speed with the changes that have been made in the first two books.

I have to admit I’m having a lot of fun with it!  I missed these characters and their stories.  I’m enjoying reacquainting myself with them.

———

In related news, today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.  It’s the anniversary of the day that Auschwitz was liberated. I mention this here because in A Few Good Elves, the characters are incarcerated in a concentration camp.

I did extensive research, and everything that happens to the characters comes from the real stories of real survivors (minus the magic stuff, of course.)  It was hard to write.  It was harder to edit.

Sometimes it’s easier to confront difficult issues in fiction, and that’s part of the reason I’ve written these novels.  But we must never forget that this is was NOT fiction, no matter how hard it is to comprehend and accept.  The path of “othering” people eventually, inevitably leads there.

I’m here to remind everyone of that.  I’m here to try to help make sure that as less and less survivors are left, their stories, and the sheer horror of their experience, is not forgotten.

Never forget, okay?

Mr. Midshipman Sunfall in On the Horizon Boxed Set!

I have exciting news!  “Mr. Midshipman Sunfall,” which was the first part of “A Few Good Elves,” will be published in the On the Horizon: Simple Worlds of Speculative Adventure Boxed Set on May 1, 2018!

From the description:

A collection of 22 Fantasy and Science Fiction full novels from an international cast of bestselling authors. This action-packed boxset features strong-willed individuals in unusual and exciting settings. Encounter queens, witches, wizards, werewolves, shifters, angels, dragons, or shadowy nemeses. Stories are character driven and set in worlds with low or no technology. You will follow their journeys to discover magical worlds, encounter dystopian lands, space stations, and galaxies they never dreamed of before their adventures. Join us On the Horizon for these deadly and dangerous quests filled with thrilling action and adventure!

Contributors:
Aiki Flinthart
Avril Sabine
Brendan Smith
Carina Merritt
Charis Joy Jackson
Connor Sassmannshausen
Diane Morrison
Donna Maree Hanson
Erin Yoshikawa
Greg Alldredge
Jason J. Nugent
Jay Michael Wright II
Jeanette O’Hagan
J. I. Rogers
Judith Rook
Katie Salidas
Katie Taylor
Mirren Hogan
Rebekah Dodson
S. A. Gibson
Stephanie Barr
Steven Turnbull

“Mr. Midshipman Sunfall” will then join the ranks of the other two Toy Soldier Saga stories officially published so far, “Survivor” (SciFan Magazine Issue 8) and “Eye of the Storm” (Chasing Fireflies: A Summer Romance Anthology).

You can pre-order this awesome collection of full-length novels now from Amazon or a variety of other e-book retailers, including Apple Books, Kobo, and Angus & Robertson.

Major Site Update & Virtual Fantasy Con

I’ve just done a major update to the site to bring most of my names and material in line with my departure from Spelljammer. Click on the link to come and check it out! There’s still a few things that need to be changed (ie. the Elven Glossary, some system information) but most characters and locations are renamed now.

I have picked a new title for what is intended to be my fourth book.  To get rid of the Forgotten Realms influence, it will now be called, “May the Airts Blow Fair & Free.”

In other news, I’ve been promoting the Toy Soldier Saga at the Virtual Fantasy Con, which is an online conference for writers & readers of fantasy. I had the pleasure of hosting three panels, and one of which, Realism in Fantasy Warfare, I think would be of real interest to Toy Soldier fans.  That will posted tomorrow!

In November, I’m going to live vlog my NaNoWriMo experience.  I invite you to join me at my Facebook page, Twitter, author blog, or YouTube channel.

That’s it for now.  I’ll keep you posted!

 

Progress Report

So the work on editing A Few Good Elves continues! The major significant change that I’ve made is to chop it into two parts!  Kill my darlings!

In order to meet Edge Publishing’s manuscript requirements, I need to cut A Few Good Elves down to less than 100k words.  Ouch!  The manuscript is currently 170k words plus!

But I realized that the main story started at Part Two, The Queen’s Dirk, so I slashed out the rest of it!  I might publish that in the future as a novella that I’m calling “Mr. Midshipman Sunfall” in my working title (those of you who read nautical fiction will recognize the reference).  Now comes the task of adding in all the important parts that I had already said in the slashed portion that readers will need to know.  And taking out other parts to make the cut.

Those of you who have read the fanfiction version: do you think I should lose the bulk of the chapter in which the characters are imprisoned in the prison camp?  Does my story lose poignancy without it?  This would easily allow my manuscript to make the 100k limit.

Or, should I lose the backstory of the characters not present, like Narissa?  Is it really part of the story or is that all about character?

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Professional Disobedience: Loyalty and the Military

“The King gave you a commission because he thought you knew when to disobey an order.”[1]

“On rare occasions in our history, the leader on the ground, at the crux of a fleeting moment on the battlefield, has decided to disobey his instructions for what he judges as the greater good of the unit and the larger task at hand.”[2]

THE VIRTUE OF OBEDIENCE
Read the full article at Real Clear Defense.
Link

Here’s my profile on FanFiction.net.  The prologue and the first chapter of A Few Good Elves have been edited and posted and more will follow at a rate of one chapter about every two days or so.  Enjoy!

If you want to see the Toy Soldier Saga completed in its original Spelljammer format, consider supporting my Patreon!  Thank you!

Alternative Physics for the Toy Soldier Saga

Adapting the alternative physics of Spelljammer to something new was the sticking point for me in turning the Toy Soldier Saga into something publishable.  I have worked on this concept for a long time, and I think I’ve finally come up with something that works but is its own thing.  Right now it’s a very loose idea and I will be working out the bugs as I write, but here it is, in a nutshell.

Crystal Spheres

Spelljammer’s “bubbles in space with crystal shells” idea is unique.  However, it’s based in Ptolemic physics.  How that worked was that the Earth was the center of the universe (and then the sun later on,) and everything we see in the sky is on the inside of a “crystal sphere,” interlocking within one another like Russian dolls.  Later theories of universe construction discussed the idea of the “crystal” actually being something a bit more ephemeral, something that holds the stars and planets in place but can be passed through like a veil.

That’s sort of the idea I’m running with.  Each system exists within its own interlocking series of crystal spheres.  The beauty of this is that one could still see the stars of other systems through these permeable membranes, so it’s a bit more like the universe we know, and less lame excuses have to be created to explain why we can see stars.

Gravity Wells

Gravitational forces move in currents.  Now that in real-world physics we have confirmed the existence of gravitons, I’m sure that’s not as difficult to imagine as it might have been.  Instead of odd, semi-two-dimensional “gravity planes,” each body, when sufficiently separated from other bodies, has its own whirlpool of gravity that surrounds it.  Lining up these competing maelstrom currents so that they interact instead of compete dangerously with one another would require the same sideways approach as gravity planes would and would have very similar consequences of failure.  These currents draw smaller, less dense bodies in, but also might swing them right around in a circle and out again.  A ship might seem too small a body to create a gravity well of its own — but wait, I have an explanation, and I’ll get there.

Airts

Because gravity moves in currents between bodies, it creates slipstreams that travelers refer to as “Airts.”  Their existence would a) explain why ships can move at light speed or faster, and b) what sails on a ship are for!  The crew is needed to navigate the Airts.  In which case, the function of the Pilot (Spelljammer) becomes twofold.  The first is that a Pilot can actually sense the Airts, which most people cannot.  The second . . .

Starfaring Ships

Starfaring ships are constructed around special materials.  Those materials are the seed-pods of giant cosmic trees, something like a cross between the starfly plants you remember from Spelljammer, and Trees of Life out of myth.  These Trees of Life use Airts as a natural part of their life-cycle; their seeds are evolved to be carried along the Airts to find new systems to settle in.  They can influence and create their own Airts to a limited extent as well.  They bond in a symbiotic semi-telepathic link with Pilots because Pilots can help them to consciously navigate the Airts, and thus, they can travel through a much broader and larger area of the Universe than they would otherwise be able to, eventually picking a spot to plant and grow in.  Elves know the secret of this and have been using the Trees of Life for millennia, but the other races don’t, and so they have been building devices around seed-pods or their fragments, unwittingly creating plant cyborgs.  Also, it’s important to note that the elves have forgotten many of the things they used to know.

Trees of Life

Trees of Life have a special significance in my universe aside from this, but I’m not going to explain that, because that would be a major spoiler, as this is one of the mysteries that my characters must discover!

Phlogiston

Phlogiston doesn’t exist, per se, in my universe.  The areas between systems in my universe will be taken up with competing Airts, and will look no different from how things actually look in space in our world.  How do you know you’re entering a system?  The Oort Cloud will give you a clue, being the outer edges of a system’s gravity well.  Some theorize that Airts might be powered by Quintessence, which can be explained either as the fifth element Aether, or a kind of dark energy in modern cosmological physics.  I will still have it be a dangerous process to enter and leave a system, but that’s because of the Oort Cloud and the currents of Airts surrounding the outer edges of a system’s gravity well.

So, loosely, this is a rough look at my adapted physics.  I welcome your thoughts!