Nocturnal Lives

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

Category: Writing (Page 2 of 10)

A Tease of Battle Wounds

Here’s a short tease from Battle Wounds, the next short story in the Honor & Duty Series. It is the rough draft, so there very well may be errors and, by the time publication comes around, there may be changes made. In the meantime, enjoy!

Battle Wounds

“Ready. . . Aim . . . Fire!”

Three times the order was given. Three times the sound of gunfire filled the air as uniformed Marines shouldered bolt-action rifles no longer carried by any member of the military. Even now, centuries after the last such rifle had been carried into battle, tradition required the rifles, lovingly recreated from plans long since declared obsolete, be brought out to honor the fallen. Much like the ceremony surrounding such funerals, the rifles harkened back to a different place and time.

This wasn’t the first military funeral Captain Ashlyn Shaw had attended and she knew it would not be the last. They were at war with an enemy determined to destroy Fuercon and its allies. That meant deaths were inevitable, possibly even her own. But that would not stop her from honoring the fallen.

Unlike those other funerals, each time a volley sounded, Shaw could almost feel the bullets ripping through her. Tears burned her eyes as the honor guard carefully folded the Fuerconese flag draping the casket. Then, with a precision part of her could only envy, Sgt. M. J. Adamson presented the flag to Major Paul Pawlak, their commanding officer. Expression grim, he accepted the flag and executed a precise about face before he took a step toward the four people sitting in front of those gathered to pay their respects one last time.

In the week the Wolf’s Bane had been back in-system, three other members of First Division Second Battalion Delta Company of the Fuerconese Marine Corps had been laid to rest. Each Marine had lost his or her life, not fighting dirtside as planned, not even fighting to secure the Wolf’s Bane from boarders or in boarding an enemy vessel. They had died because the ship’s commander had led Task Force Talon into a trap. Then he failed to order their withdrawal before the proverbial shit hit the fan.

Shaw remained ramrod straight as Pawlak knelt in front of Corporal Camilla Lahti’s parents and younger brothers. He spoke softly for a few moments. She didn’t need to hear what he said to know he was assuring them Lahti had been a valued member of the Devil Dogs and had died a hero. He wouldn’t tell them the truth about how she died, not here and maybe not ever. Knowing the circumstances of Lahti’s death would not help them cope with the knowledge their much loved Milla would never again return home.

“Mr. and Mrs. Lahti, the Devil Dogs are your family now. If you need anything, all you need do is ask,” he said, raising his voice enough for the rest of them to hear.

As one, the members of First Division Second Battalion Fuerconese Marine Corps responded, their voices ringing out on the wind. “Ooh-rah!”

Pawlak handed Lahti’s mother the now-folded flag. The moment he stood, Shaw called all Devil Dogs present, which meant every member not currently confined to the hospital, to attention. As one, their right hands slowly raised to salute their fallen comrade. Then, one by one, every other Marine unit represented followed suit. The Corps would honor its dead and then take care of the living.

Ooh-Rah!


Battle Wounds is the third short story in the Honor & Duty Series.

Taking Flight

Duty, honor, sacrifice. That motto meant everything to newly commissioned Second Lieutenant Ashlyn Shaw. She thought she understood the meaning of those simple words. Little did she know.

Challenged by those who believed she made it through the Academy on her family’s coattails, a roommate who just wants to see “some action” and a gunnery sergeant determined to make a real Marine out of her, Ash soon realizes what it means to be a Marine. As the signs point to war on the horizon, she is determined to do everything she can to serve Fuercon and do the Corps proud.

Battle Bound

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.

Vengeance from Ashes

(Book 1, Honor and Duty)

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

Working Weekend

Sorry for the lateness of today’s post. Between staying up late last night writing and getting up this morning and doing some more redesigning of the site, actually writing a blog slipped my mind. So, what to blog about?

I guess we’ll start with this site. You’ll be seeing more changes over the next few days. I’m going to combine the blog site (this) with several other sites I have so there is only one actual site to log into and keep up to date. Back when the pen names weren’t open, it was necessary. But now, not so much. So URLs will need to be redirected, some more redesign of this site will be done and, hopefully, by Monday or Tuesday, everything will be in place.

You’ll notice I’ve added cover images of most of my titles in the sidebar to the right. there are a couple of short stories that haven’t been added as well as one series. Eventually, the series will go up but only after I get new covers for them. Hopefully that will happen in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, the books are broken up by author and series. Yes, I know there needs to be some tweaking on alignment but, like Faceplant, WordPress often works to make what should be simple functions more than a tad difficult.

On the writing front, I commented the other day that I was having problems with Battle Wounds. The opening just didn’t feel right. I worked on it, massaged it, tweaked it and finally tossed the opening. I tried a couple of different things that I thought might work and nope, nada. Until last night. It suddenly fell into place and it works.

Of course, that sort of major revision means there will be some tweaking to the story arc. I don’t think it will delay me too much but it does mean the story isn’t coming out this weekend like I planned. The goal now is to have it go live on Amazon on Tuesday the 9th. Although I may delay it to the 16th.

This Tuesday will probably be a reading day. Why? Because the next book in one of the few series I still religiously follow comes out. It’s been too long since we’ve had a new Jane Yellowrock novel and I’m looking forward to this one. Faith Hunter doesn’t write sparkling vampires — thankfully. Her fantastical characters fit into the New Orleans setting and I have yet to be disappointed in her books. If you haven’t pre-ordered your copy yet, click on the image to the left. BTW, this is one of the very few non-Baen books I will buy as an e-book and pay release date prices. Of course, the fact that price is $7.99 as opposed to the $12.99 or high I all too often see is part of the reason why.

Now I’m heading back to work. I have a short story to finish and I really, really like how it is coming along.

When a story goes off the tracks

When you ask a writer what their process is, some will tell you they outline others will tell you they just sit down and start writing. Some will look at you and then shrug before saying it changes with every project. For me, it’s a little of all that. One thing is usually true, however. When I finally sit down to write, I have an idea where the story is going and how to get there. Oh, I might struggle with the opening paragraph or first few pages, but I know what the story’s about.

Sure, there are times the story might take a left turn before finally getting to the end. Sometimes, characters decide they don’t want to die even if I think the plot needs it. But very rarely do I get into a story and realize that it has gone completely off the rails and there is no nope of saving it. Usually, what happens is that I realize the short story I planned is really part of a novel and, if I begin the story, I will find myself having to write the novel.

The going off the rails is what happened with Battle Wounds. Or, more precisely, it never got on the rails. Yes, I had the story drafted but it just didn’t ring right with me. If it was a standalone short story that wasn’t populated with characters who already have a backstory and all, it would work. But, as part of the Honor and Duty universe, not so much.

Well, to be honest, it would work as a prequel novel.

And, no, I’m not going down that road. Having short stories that take place before the series opens is more than enough. (Yes, yes, I know I just jinxed myself. Without warning, Myrtle the Evil Muse will hit me over the head with the book and not let me go. Sigh.)

Does this mean the short story is off the schedule? Absolutely not. In fact, it should be ready for publication next week some time (assuming my beta readers and editor are available the first of the week). The reason is that about three minutes after I realized why I’d been so bothered with the original draft, I also realized what the story should be. It came to me pretty much full-blown. Now I just need to sit down and write it. That’s my goal over the next couple of days.

Knock on wood.

That means I’ll be announcing its release soon. In the meantime, if you haven’t read the other titles in the series, be sure to check them out. Links to the short stories are included below. Also, as I mentioned yesterday, I’d really appreciate it if you would leave reviews over on Amazon. They really do help. Thanks!

Taking Flight

Duty, honor, sacrifice. That motto meant everything to newly commissioned Second Lieutenant Ashlyn Shaw. She thought she understood the meaning of those simple words. Little did she know.

Challenged by those who believed she made it through the Academy on her family’s coattails, a roommate who just wants to see “some action” and a gunnery sergeant determined to make a real Marine out of her, Ash soon realizes what it means to be a Marine. As the signs point to war on the horizon, she is determined to do everything she can to serve Fuercon and do the Corps proud.

Battle Bound

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.

 

Series ends

No, not mine. This post actually came about because I read a book last night that represented the end of a series. Usually, if I’ve stuck with a series all the way, I feel regret to see it end. In this case, not so much. The reasons why are things I hope I can keep in mind as I work on my own series and bring them to an end.

I’m going to start by noting that this series is one of several from a best selling and traditionally published author. I started reading this particular series from her by accident. How, you ask, did that happen? Easy. I wasn’t careful when checking her Amazon author page and wound up buying one of the books in the series when I was actually looking for a book in another series.

That’s problem number one. The series titles (two different series) were close enough to cause confusion, at least to a sleep addled, pre-coffee brain. But, that’s okay. I enjoyed the book. Not as much as others she’d written but not every book can be hit out of the park.

Anyway.

What I came to wonder as I read the books in this particular series is simple. The series was set in the same town as another series. The characters from that series made appearances in the new series. Some of the characters in the second series were related to characters in the first.

Okay, that’s fine. I’ve seen it happen before and it has been done well in some cases and not so much in others. This series, unfortunately, would have done better (in my opinion) by completely removing it from the first series. There were simply too many similarities between characters and plot points. Add in the same basic setting and, by the end of the series, it felt as if the author was just phoning it in.

I get falling in love with your characters or setting but you can’t do it at the expense of putting out new and interesting material.

There were two other issues I had with not only this series but the other one. When you write a book, or books, where your lead female character is initially a strong, independent woman, don’t turn her into someone who no longer is capable to looking after herself just because a man has now come into her life. Sure, having a partner, male or female, will change a person’s life and how they think about things. After all, you are no longer the only person you have to think about when planning a course of action. But going from independent to dependent without cause is one of the surest ways to drive readers away.

I will admit, the author didn’t do it as much in this second series as she did in the first. For one, the women in this second series were more flawed than in the first. However, that made it all the more glaring when she did it in the last couple of books with the most independent of her female characters. Especially in the last book. Suddenly, the one woman who had been the rock turned to anything but, at least for the first half of the book. The foreshadowing of the earlier books in the series led to one secret, but it was minor. There had been nothing to prepare the reader for the real “weakness” in the character. Considering the relationship between her and the other characters in the series, this threw me out of the book.

I guess this is all a way of reminding myself of what not to do when I start wrapping up my different series. The last book needs to be as satisfying — if not more so — than the first. Otherwise, the reader will hesitate to buy anything else from that author. I know that, after two series endings that were disappointments because of the way the characters were developed and the plots were rolled out, I will hesitate to buy anything else from this particular author. Sort of the old “fool me one, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me,” adage. I hope none of my readers ever feel that way.

*

If you have ever wondered what an author most wants, it’s reviews. So give an author a gift today. Write a review and post it to Amazon and, if you are so inclined, on your blog or Facebook. It really does help.

Back to Work

At least I think I am. I still need to decide on new themes for this site as well as my “official” site. But that’s the sort of thing I can do when I take a break from writing. I’ll be honest, I hate doing that sort of thing. To me, it’s like picking a fabric for a sofa or chair from a swatch or tile for a floor based on one single tile. I simply can’t visualize what it will look like until it’s installed. So, I tend to postpone it until I can’t stand it any longer.

Fortunately, writing isn’t like that. Writing is, to me, as important to my existence as is breathing. Oh, I can do for days without actually putting words to paper (or onto a hard drive). But that doesn’t mean my brain isn’t working on something even as I’m doing something else.

I’ve found some of my best brainstorming is done when I’m busy working with my hands — digging in the yard, building something, painting. Those almost mindless physical activities allow my creative side to run wild. So, that has been part of what I’ve been doing in the week since I released Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2).

Okay, okay, I’ll admit it. Part of it is because I have to keep busy or I will continually flip between the product page and the sales page to see how the book is doing. Most authors, if they’re being honest, feel that same tug. So we find ways to distract ourselves.

However, it’s helped as well because I needed to finalize in my head where Nocturnal Rebellion is going and if this would be the last book to feature Mackenzie Santos. Before anyone writes a nasty comment, no, it isn’t going to be the last book (assuming you guys like it and want more). But it will be the last book in the overall story arc that was hinted at from the beginning and really took root two books ago. And that is all I’m going to say about that. Otherwise, I’ll get into spoilers.

It has also allowed me to figure out how I’m going to move forward with the Eerie Side of the Tracks series and tie it in more closely with Skeletons in the Closet (Eerie Side of the Tracks). The solution, when it came to me, surprised me but in a good way. The one thing it means is there is a very definite publication order that has to be followed. Now to make the notes so I don’t forget anything.

Not to worry, I finished working out in my head what needs to be done with the very rough draft of Victory from Ashes and figured out the plot for Battle Wounds, the next short story in the Honor and Duty universe.

What this means is I’m going to be doing a hell of a lot of writing for the rest of the year. I like it that way. Of course, I know Myrtle the Evil Muse will ambush me somewhere along the way and disrupt my schedule. She always does. But that’s okay. Just don’t tell her that. I don’t want to give her ideas.  😉

Getting back in the swing of things — slowly

After finishing a project, it usually takes me a week or so to catch up on things like sleep, cleaning, etc. That’s been true this time as well. Of course, Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2) isn’t quite finished as a project. I still have the print version to finish putting together. But that is something I can do while working on the next project, Nocturnal Rebellion. Better yet, I know that I’m about ready to start back writing Rebellion.

How do I know?

That’s simple. I spent the morning digging through my office, clearing off the desk, cleaning and putting away all the research, etc., that I’d used on Dagger. Now the desk is clean and everything is set for me to sit down and get back to Challenge.

Of course, as I noted in yesterday’s post,I’ve also been hit with the basic plot ideas for the next 3 or 4 titles for the Eerie Side of the Tracks series. Plus, the basic draft for Victory from Ashes is done. Everything looked great when I posted that and I felt sure Myrtle the Muse would let me work according to my schedule.

She still might. . . but. . . .

Last night, Sarah A. Hoyt messaged me. It seems she had been hit with an idea for a cover and it wasn’t something she had planned. She told her muse, it must be one of my books. So she put this together.

I’ll be honest. I love this cover. It absolutely fits for the next novel in the Eerie Side series. Of course, it also means that book is starting to get loud. The fact it can’t be written quite yet doesn’t mean a darn thing to Myrtle the Muse. At least Mac and Company are louder right now than Myrtle and all the rest of it.

Anyway, I’m off to relax after digging out the office. Back later.

Release day is here!

Today is the day all writers look forward to and fear in pretty much equal shares. It’s release day. Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2) is now available for download. Thanks to everyone who pre-ordered the book. If should be in your download queue (if not already on your devices). For those of you who haven’t bought it, why not? (Just joking folks. Remember, nervous writer here.)

There is one more thing — well, two — you can do for me. After you’ve read Dagger, I’d appreciate it if you would leave a review. Reviews do several things. The first is they help other readers by letting them see what people think about the book. Even if they don’t read the reviews, people do tend to pay more attention to books with more reviews than they do to books with no reviews. The other things reviews do is, once we reach a certain number of reviews, they bring the book up on those “If you liked this, you might like that” or “other readers bought” lists.

Also, for those of you who prefer print, I will be getting the print version out over the next couple of weeks. I’ll be honest. I’ve held off because of some changes it looks like Amazon is implementing on their print side of things. Now that the book is out, I need to sit down and do some deeper research on the changes, potential upsides and downsides, and then determine whether to go with Amazon or perhaps try out Lightning Source or some other option.

In the meantime, thanks again for your support. Now it’s back to work on the next book: Nocturnal Rebellion.

Of Mondays and time changes and pre-orders and more

I want to go on the record here and now that I hate the time change. I understand, sort of, why the government instituted it back oh so many years ago. But now? Sorry. I don’t like it. Let’s choose a time and stick with it. I know that I’m going to be dragging the rest of the week as I adjust to the new time and I feel for all the parents out there who have to drag their kids out of bed, kicking and screaming because they’re still tired. I remember those days and do NOT miss them.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I hope you guys had a great weekend. I’m moving slowly today, not only because of the time change but because I spent the weekend doing prep work and then painting part of the interior of the house. It was supposed to be a small job. When we replaced the HVAC last month, they moved the thermostat. That, in turn, left a hole in the wall. Said hole had to be patched which required the paint being touched up but. . . .So, the hallway had to be painted.

And, in the way of all things in my household, that lead to much more than the hallway needing to be painted. Well, needing isn’t exactly the right word. You see, Mom is of the mindset that you stop painting when you come to a closed door — a closed door into a room that is painted another color. Except there are only two rooms in the house painted in another color.

You get the idea. Over the next week to 10 days, I’m going to have a lot of painting in my life.

But that’s okay because it gives me time to plot and plan the next couple of books. Nocturnal Challenge is well on its way. I know the next book after that should be Victory from Ashes but I’m not sure that’s how it will work out. I could force it but I’d rather write the book when it is ready to be written. I know that doesn’t make sense but I learned a long time ago that I write better when I’m not trying to force a book to come. I think that’s why, on occasion, I get waylaid by books I hadn’t planned on writing. Those books wind up being a lot of fun and they give me a fresh mental slate for the books that really need to be written.

Something else the next week or so will include is reading. Not reading to do research but reading for pleasure. I look forward to the week after I finish a book because that I when I give myself permission to not worry about putting in a certain amount of time at the keyboard every day.

Reading’s important for a writer. At least I believe it is. We need to know what is going on in the genre(s) we write in. We need to know what is selling — and I don’t mean what makes the NYT best seller list but what Amazon and the other retailers report is selling. We need to look at other writers’ styles and compare it to our own. It helps us learn and when a writer quits learning her craft, she might as well turn off her computer and walk away.

Which is why I get more than a bit perturbed when I hear other writers say they don’t read. Some are proud of it. They talk about how they don’t want to spoil their voice by reading other people because their voice is so unique and special. It might be but if you don’t read, you don’t know what is out there and you sure as hell don’t know what readers are responding to.

Then there are those writers who say they don’t have time to read. This I can buy more than the other but it still is a crock. If you have time to watch TV or sit in the morning reading blogs, you have time to read. You don’t have to read a book all at one sitting. But read. You have to. As I noted above, you need to know what is going on in your genre, you need to know what readers are being exposed to and what they are buying. Besides, reading exercises your mind and that is something we all need.

Okay, climbing off my soapbox with apologies. Mom has GMT on this morning and Danielle Steele just said she didn’t have time to read anything but her own books and that set me off. So I’m backing away from the TV to finish up this post before getting to work.

Finally, don’t forget that Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2) is available for pre-order. Publication date is — gulp — in two days. I’m so proud of this book and where it takes the story begun in Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1). I also had a blast writing it. I think that’s why I’m biting my nails. I’m hoping you enjoy it as much as I did. Anyway, here’s the blurb.

Plots form, betrayals are planned and war nears.

Cait Hawkener has come to accept she might never remember her life before that terrible morning almost two years ago when she woke in the slavers’ camp. That life is now behind her, thanks to Fallon Mevarel and the Order of Arelion. Now a member of the Order, Cait has pledged her life to making sure no one else falls victim as she did.

But danger once more grows, not only for Cait but to those she calls friends. Evil no longer hides in the shadows and conspirators grow bold as they move against the Order and those who look to it for protection. When Cait accepts the call to go to the aid of one of the Order’s allies, she does not know she is walking into the middle of conspiracy and betrayal, the roots of which might help answer some of the questions about her own past.

Countdown – 6 Days

The edits are done. Input from beta readers and editor have been reviewed and incorporated.  Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2) has been converted into ePUB and one last read-through has begun. Later today, I will upload the final version in preparation of release on the 15th.

It is different reading the book on a tablet in e-book format than looking at it on the screen as a Word doc. My brain thinks more about it as a “book” instead of work. Yes, it does let me see little things that might have slipped past me — as well as the others — on the Word doc but it does something else. It lets me think about it as reader and not so much as a writer.

All I can say is, damn. Do I put my characters through a lot in this book.

I’ve had a blast writing the book. I already know what happens in the next book, at least the general outline of it. If it plays out the way I think it will, the next book will be just as much fun to write — and to read, I hope — as this one has been.

Now, I’m off to find another cup of coffee and finish checking the ePUB version. Once the few proofreading changes are applied, I’ll upload the final file to Amazon. Then I’ll take a day or two before getting back to Nocturnal Rebellion.

Don’t forget, the picture and the link above will take you to the pre-order page. Have you bought your copy yet? (Hey, don’t hat the writer for doing promo. I have kitty kibble to buy. BratCat has this thing about eating several times a day and he’s looking hungrily at my ankles right now.)

Tuesday morning thoughts

It’s going to be a short post this morning, mainly because I’m blogging at Mad Genius Club today. Go check the post out. I talk about Books-a-Million and their indie publishing print platform as well as some of the changes over on the KDP side of things.

The other day, I posted a brief snippet of what I thought might turn out to be the opening to Nocturnal Rebellion, the next book in the Nocturnal Lives series. I’ll be honest. I had hoped by writing the scene, the muse would be satisfied and let me finish the final tweaking on Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2). But noooo, the book has taken hold and the muse is demanding my attention. So, it looks like the next couple of weeks will see me splitting my time between the two. Fortunately, all that is needed on Dagger is minor tweaking and the final check of the print file before taking the book life. For now, however, the e-book is available for pre-order and, hopefully, the print book will be ready to go by the time the e-book goes live.

If Rebellion continues as it started, it is going to be a roller coaster ride. When I started figuring out the plot for the book several months ago, it did not look anything like what is happening now. Of course, as I’ve said before, my muse is an evil bitch and she is loving not only throwing me for a loop with the book but also in not letting me know what is happening more than a few pages ahead at a time. So far, it’s working — or so my alpha readers have said. Well, they also told me I had to keep writing it, so I guess something is working right.

Now I’m off to find another cup of coffee — idiot dog and BratCat decided 0430 was a wonderful time to get me up. It didn’t matter that I disagreed. Sigh.

Later!

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