Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Tag: Ashlyn Shaw

Battle Bound is Live!

About two weeks ago, I published the first in a series of short stories set in the Honor and Duty universe. Taking Flight told the story of Ashlyn Shaw’s first assignment as a member of the Fuerconese Marine Corps. The second story, Battle Bound (Honor and Duty), is now live. It takes place approximately 4 years before Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1).
Newly promoted, Captain Ashlyn Shaw has been ordered to take Delta Company to the Bennington System. Their mission is simple: secure groundside defenses and seek out the Callusian invaders. It should be a simple assignment. The Fuerconese Navy had proven itself time and again since war had been declared to be more than a match for the Callusians. Once Taskforce Liberator, under the command of Admiral Tremayne, secured the system approaches, Ash and her Devil Dogs could get to work.

Except no battle plan ever survives the first encounter with the enemy. This time the Callusians are breaking pattern and it will take everything Tremayne and Ashlyn have to lead their people to victory.

The Devil Dogs will get the mission done, no matter what the cost.

Evolution of a Character

One of the things I love most about a series is watching how the characters grow. It is more than how the deal with a particular situation that could result in life or death. It is how they relate to the people and world around them. I want characters who aren’t cardboard cutouts. I need to be able to relate to them, to their humanity, for lack of a better word.

I’m not explaining this very well — I blame it on not having enough coffee yet. So let me try again. I want to see characters who have character faults, who have challenges to meet without becoming a cardboard superhero to do so. I want them to be realistic, within the setting of the story and their own backstories, in how they respond to a situation. But I also want them to know they have faults and weaknesses and try to work to improve, or at least work with those weaknesses so they don’t keep hiding in the proverbial corner.

I started by saying I love seeing this growth in a series but, truth to tell, I love it in single novels as well. The difference is a series gives the author more time — and more situations — which can help lead to that growth. Of course, there are exceptions. Books like Gone with the Wind, 75th Anniversary Edition or A Woman of Substance (Harte Family Saga Book 1), books where years and even decades of a character’s life are covered should also have growth. It can be growth in a good way or bad, but it should be there.

That growth is something I have had to look at with my work. I hope I have done it. I think I have, at least with my two major series.

Mackenzie Santos has probably been the most challenging to write because her world has been turned upside down. Things she once thought were nothing more than the imaginings of filmmakers and authors are the realities of her life. When Nocturnal Origins opens, Mac doesn’t know what is happening to her. She is afraid she is losing her mind. Maybe the pressures of being a cop have finally gotten to her and she’s cracked. Or maybe almost dying after being attacked before the book began did it. All she knows for sure is that weird things are happening and there is no logical explanation for them.

When she finally accepts the fact that she is a shapeshifter, something she never knew existed outside of film and book, she is faced with having to either live up to the oaths she took as a cop, oaths she has held pretty much sacrosanct for almost ten years, or stepping outside the bounds of those oaths to protect not only the “normals” but her own people as well.

It’s not a decision she makes easily nor is it one she doesn’t have second, third and one-hundredth doubts about. If she holds to the oaths she took as a cop, oaths that are a very real part of who she is, she knows her actions can and probably will lead to the discovery of shapeshifters. That discovery, she knows, would be very bad on so many different levels. There was the risk of public panic, panic that could make the witch hunts of old look tame. Then there were those with little regard for anything other than their own financial gain who would try to use the shapeshifters for who knew what, none of it good. Add to that the fear of what the government might do. . . and she is having to make decisions that don’t sit easily.

Over the course of the next three books and one novella, Mac learns more about her heritage and begins the journey of mending fences with her mother. By the time we get to Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4), she has come to a balance — sometimes precarious — between who she was and who she is now. She is still a cop but she is a shifter and that means she sometimes has to apply shifter law instead of the law on the books. But it all comes down to protecting the innocent, no matter who they are. Of course, now she is having to wrap her mind around the fact that she has to make a decision about what course to follow where her fellow shapeshifters are concerned. Does she pledge to the ruling council, even if she doesn’t agree with what they are doing, or does she follow her conscience and help find a way to ease her new people out of the shadows before their existence is revealed through modern technology? Add in government entanglements and personal desires and a younger sister who is more headstrong than wise, and her life is nothing but interesting.

And wouldn’t she give almost anything for a run-of-the-mill murder case? Things were much simpler when she thought she knew all the rules.

Ashlyn Shaw, the lead character from Honor and Duty (3 Book Series) presents a different set of challenges. Her world and those she care for betrayed her. At least that’s what she believes when Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1) opens. She has spent two years at a military penal colony. Those of her squad who had not been killed on their last mission had been court martialed and convicted along with her. Isolated from family and friends, betrayed by her government and the Corps she loved, she has had two years to grow bitter and plot her vengeance. All she has to do is survive her time at the penal colony.

Except her world is turned upside down again and she is brought back to her home planet. Things have changed in the last two years. Those responsible for what happened to her are no longer in control. At least that is what she’s told. But does she dare trust them? She had made that mistake once and she was damned if she would do so again.

When the capital is attacked, instinct and duty take over. They are strong enough to keep her from deserting and going after those she holds responsible for what happens. Not that she gives up those plans. No, she will do what is necessary to keep those few who supported her safe and then she would go hunting. She didn’t care if it meant a return to the penal colony or even her death. She would avenge those who had died because of their betrayal. Maybe then she would be able to sleep at night.

Ash is, to be honest, broken in a lot of ways. Duty, ingrained in her from birth, keeps her from doing what she wants. But she keeps telling herself she will make sure her comrades are avenged, no matter what the personal cost. Even as she begins to trust again, that need is still there. It breaks through from time to time, causing her to take action she would never have done before being brought up on charges. However, over the course of the next three books, she slowly heals emotionally. Part of it is because her champions are smart enough to surround her with those she does trust. Part is because she sees who things have changed. It doesn’t mean she believes such a betrayal can’t happen again. Politics can cause almost anything to happen. But she won’t be so naive as to not take steps to protect herself and those under her command if her instincts start shouting about something not being right.

It’s not an instant emotional or mental healing. The doubts flare up, sometimes at the worst possible moment. She doesn’t always recognize them — at least not at the moment.

I hope I get all that across, for both Mac and Ashlyn. In my mind, that growth, and the internal struggles the growth causes, help make them more interesting characters. Hopefully, my readers agree.

You can find both series, as well as my other work, on Amazon.

Meet the Character

The inestimable Sarah A. Hoyt tagged me to take part in a “meet the character” blog tour and I, in a fit of madness, agreed. You’ll understand the madness in a moment. To find Sarah’s introduction of her character, Seraphim Ainsling, the Duke of Darkwater, main character of Witchfinder (Magical Empires) , click here.

The reason I say I was in a fit of madness when I accepted the “invitation” is that I knew better. You see, I have two characters, from different series, who really think they should be getting my undivided attention right now. So when they found out I was going to take part in this blog tour, they both demanded to be the one featured. When I told them that wasn’t going to happen, I got the stare. You know what the stare is. It’s that look your mother used to give you when she asked you something and you didn’t answer quickly enough or, worse, you didn’t give the answer she was looking for. Yep, that’s right. The stare. Let me tell you, it is even worse when you get that look from the imaginary characters who reside in your head thanks to a muse that is all too often fickle and who takes pleasure in torturing the poor writer.

coverforvfaSo bear with me as I try to keep the two in check and only  introduce you to Ashlyn Shaw from Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1) and the upcoming Duty from Ashes (both written under the pen name Sam Schall).

1.) Is he/she fictional or a historic person? 

I could go all crazy author on you and say she believes she is as real as you or I (what, don’t all your characters believe they’re real and you, the writer, are simply a figment of their imaginations?). However, she is fictional and lives on a planet far, far away .

2.) When and where is the story set?

In Vengeance from Ashes, much of the action takes place on the planets of Fuercon, Ashlyn’s homeworld. A secondary location is the military penal colony on Tarsus,. Ashlyn had been sentenced to serve 5 years on Tarsus and returns there after she’s been pardoned to free those who had been sent there with her. In Duty from Ashes, the action will expand to include exploding spaceships, boarding parties and dirtside fighting on Cassius Prime.

3.) What should we know about her?

Ash is mother, daughter and comes from a military family. She is a SpecOps Marine, commanding the Devil Dogs. She has a deep sense of duty, both to her family and to the Corps. As a Marine during a time of war, she knows that the monsters exist within each of us and has seen the attrocities one person can commit against another, all in the name of God and country. What she never expected was to find herself and those under her command betrayed by her own commanders. That betrayal led to the deaths of most of her unit and saw herself and the survivors court martialed. It took two years and a change in political and military leadership to correct the wrongs done to her and the other survivors but she isn’t satisfied and won’t be until every person responsible is brought to justice. For the moment, she is willing to work with the system. But the memory of how the system failed her is always there and her patience is growing short. If something doesn’t happen soon, she might just take matters into her own hands.

4.) What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

See the above. Ash needs to know that those responsible for not only what happened to her and her people but the unnecessary deaths of so many civilians have been made to pay for their crimes, crimes that include betraying their homeworld. Add to that the resumption of hostilities with the Callusians and she is now preparing to lead the Devil Dogs back to war.

5.) What is the personal goal of the character? 

That’s simple — honor and duty. To the Corps, to her homeworld and to her family and not necessarily in that order. The specific goals for Vengeance from Ashes were to free those who had been sent to Tarsus with her and to see that the injustice done to them was answered for. She managed to accomplish the first and, in Duty from Ashes, continues to work on the second.

Added to that is her determination to prove that she is still a good Marine and deserves to have been cleared to returned not only t duty but to command. The one way she can do that is to make sure the Devil Dogs are ready to go to war and that, once in action, they accomplish their mission goals and help end the war with the Callusians once and for all.

6.) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it? 

Vengeance from Ashes is currently available DRM-free on Amazon. You can check it out Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1).

Duty from Ashes will be available the end of the month. You can read an excerpt from the rough draft here.

As for who I’m going to tag, I decided on Jason Cordova, Pam Uphoff, David Burkhead and Cedar Sanderson. All four are great authors, imo, and good friends. You can check out their “Meet the Character” next Monday. In the meantime, here’s come information about them.

David Burkhead

David L. Burkhead is an Indiana writer of Science Fiction and Fantasy. He has also written on technical topics for The World & I magazine and High Technology Careers. In addition to his writing, he works in a consulting laboratory in Atomic Force Microscopy and Nanotechnology. His work ranges from measuring samples in the Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) to refurbishing used AFM’s for resale to writing software for measurement of AFM images. More than half the DVD production in the world, and the development of Blu-Ray, is supported using measurement software he wrote.

Check out his blog, The Writer in Black.

Jason Cordova

Well, what is there to say really? Judging from the emails I get, quite a bit I suppose.

First off, I want to clear the air a bit about a common misconception. I wasn’t one of those kids that walked around telling everyone that they were going to be a writer when they grew up. Heck, when I went to college Istill had no intention of becoming a writer. I had dreams of being a historical journalist (don’t ask, it made sense when I was 23), not writing fiction. I wanted to travel the globe, study native cultures and teach them how to record their history for future generations. How to preserve their folklore and family history. It was a noble idea, and one that fell flat on its face the moment I faced the harshness of reality.

You have no idea just how hard it is to get funding for something like that.

Up until about two years ago, I still didn’t consider myself a writer. Sure, I had written four books by that point, but I didn’t think of myself as a writer. I just figured I was killing time in between jobs, filling those lonely days by creating worlds in which people might want to play in. Well, people being me, but you get the point.

My friend Leo told me one day while I was discussing this new project I had started that, under no uncertain circumstance, was I allowed to deny being a writer any more. I asked him why, and he replied with “Dude, you’ve written more books than most writers”.

So yeah, that’s how I became a writer.

The story about how I came to be in movies is far more convoluted…

Oh, details about my life? Well, I was born in California and grew up very nomadic, bouncing around the state (and Oregon) until I was about 12 when I settled down in southern California. Joined the Navy, went to college (three times!) and played some baseball, wrestled, and water skied a lot. Moved to Colorado, then Virginia, back to Colorado, down to North Carolina, back to Virginia, over to Kentucky, then back to Virginia.

I can’t help it, I like to travel. And I really like Virginia.

You can find out more about Jason here.

Cedar Sanderson

Cedar Sanderson is a writer, blogger, and businesswoman who can be found in her office pounding the keyboard when she isn’t at school studying to be a Mad Scientist. Her work has been published by Stonycroft Publishing, Naked Reader Press, and Something Wicked. She is the author of the young adult novel Vulcan’s Kittens, and her contemporary fantasy series that began with Pixie Noir will continue with Trickster Noir, scheduled to be released in May 2014. She writes regular blog columns at the Mad Genius Club, occasional appearances at According to Hoyt, in addition to her own writing blog,www.cedarwrites.com. She prefers science fiction, mostly writes fantasy, and dabbles in non-fiction when her passion is stirred.

Pam Uphoff

Pam Uphoff was born and raised in California, but she’s now lived more than half her life in Texas.

She claims that it’s a wonderful place, and that she caught almost the first bachelor she met there. Rumor has it they coming up on their thirty-fifth anniversary.

Pam’s college degree is in Geology. After working for an oil company for almost ten years as a geophysicist, she “retired” to raise children. As they grew, she added oil painting, sculpting and throwing clay, breeding horses, volunteering in libraries and for the Boy Scouts, and treasurer for a friend’s political campaign. Sometime in those busy years, she turned a love of science fiction into a part time job reading slush (Mom? Someone is paying you to read??!!)

Pam has always written, and published a few short stories. But now that the kids have flown the nest, she’s calling writing a full time job. She has so far published fourteen novels, four collections of novellas and short stories, and five separate short stories.

You can find out more about Pam here.

 

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