Archive for May, 2016

A year after the day she was rescued, Makara Angel, as she came to be called, hardly ever left Raine’s side. He raised her like his daughter in those first years as she adjusted to life under the Angels. Raine was a busy man, but still, he always found time to spend with her, and took little Makara with him whenever he could.

It was one cool, spring day when Raine, for once, had a bit of free time, and he took Makara with him on his patrol. He usually did these alone, or at times, with one of his officers. He rarely had time for solitude, so riding on his Harley to check on things was the closest he could ever come to finding inner peace.

The Angels’ had carved out a vast swath of territory in South L.A.. That part of the city had laid largely abandoned since Dark Day, and even the Reapers had had trouble taming a lot of the smaller gangs that made it their home.

Ever since Raine and Green split from the Reapers, taking with them over a hundred of their slaves, Raine had used those gangs as a buffer between himself and the far more numerous and powerful Reapers. It had worked so far – but barely. Given time, Carin would find a way to break through and end the Angels.

The Angels needed more men. Trying to recruit from the smaller gangs was hard, and often drew their ire. And a lot of the warlords were proud and resented the Angels’ influence. There’d even been a few turf wars, as there always was in post-apocalyptic L.A., and even before. Only the Angels’ resilience and absorbing of some of the smaller gangs had won them the right to stay, as well as tripling their slave count. The more slaves a gang had, the more power. That meant for food to be grown, more scavenging parties from the city ruins, more men to build walls…

Still, though, the Angels weren’t strong enough defend themselves against a gang like the Reapers. And Carin would never forgive Raine for his cessation from the Reapers, just as Raine would never forgive Carin. His blood boiled at the mere thought of…

No, Raine thought. I won’t think of that today. I won’t give him power over my thoughts.

Raine needed something, though, to grow his gang…only he didn’t know what. Recent months had been slower, the other gangs had grown wary of the Angels’ presence, not wishing the challenge their position.

And yet, no opportunity had presented itself to Raine. Not in recent months.

Raine pulled the chopper to a stop next to a large, open field sitting below the highway. That field was filled with slaves, working hard under in the cool, cloudy afternoon. They paid little mind to the armed Angels watching them over.

Raine did everything he could to give his subjects a good life; the Reapers often worked their slaves to death, seeing that gaining new ones was easy, as lightly defended settlements were numerous within the L.A. ruins, and not all of them fell under the influence of a rival gang. Many of the slaves here were grateful for the kinder life and going to bed with a full stomach.

Being a slave of the Angels certainly beat being out there, prey to any gang that happened along. Prey to starvation, or freezing to death, or countless number of things that got people killed these days.

“Why do you have slaves, Raine?” Makara asked.

Raine blinked at the innocence of that question. He didn’t turn to look at Makara…not at first. He realized then that Makara, who mostly stayed at the base, had seen very little of slavery. It was the childlike simplicity of the question that shocked him most.

“We got to eat, baby,” he said. “Without these people…we’d not have bread, corn, beans, potatoes, cabbage…all the things that’ll make you grow up big and strong.”

“But slavery is bad,” Makara said simply. “Nobody at Bunker One was a slave. They could do whatever they wanted.”

They had the luxury to, Raine wanted to say.

“Out here, Mak, things are a bit different.” How to explain that to an eight-year-old?

“They taught us in school that there used to be slaves in America a long time ago,” Makara said. She looked at Raine strangely, and Raine could guess the reason: he was black. Not all kids these days knew that, in the past, black people were slaves in America. Makara had had at least something of an education in the Bunker, and this brute fact put Raine in something of an awkward position, even if this present form of slavery wasn’t tied to race at all.

“This is different,” Raine said, trying to sound more sure than he actually was.

“Why’s that?”

“They live a good life here,” Raine said. “They got food, water, a place to lay their heads for the night. That’s worth a lot these days.”

“But why can’t they be free, too?”

None of us is free, Makara. None of us. Not even me.

Raine lifted Makara from where she sat behind him, and lifted her until she was sitting on his lap. She looked up at him with big, green eyes.

Raine was surprised to see she was almost shedding tears.

“Don’t cry,” he said. He smiled wide. “It’s like this. This might sound kind of strange to you, but sometimes, I envy them.”

Makara’s brow scrunched up in confusion. “Huh?”

“They don’t got to worry about anything,” Raine said. “They just wake up, work a few hours in nice weather like this, and go home. Spend time with their families. They get off two days a week.” Raine chuckled. “Even I don’t get that, and I’m Warlord.”

Makara laughed, too. “So, why don’t you become a slave?”

Raine shrugged. “That’s a fair question. You might be right; it’s better to be Warlord than slave. But not everybody can be me.”

“That doesn’t mean they have to be slaves. Why not make them free?”

Makara’s tone was argumentative. She was so sure she was right; her green eyes looked up at him in challenge.

Not too many people found the courage to argue with Raine these days, but this eight-year-old girl sure did. Raine found the difference to be refreshing.

He also found that he didn’t have a good answer for her.

“Say I free them,” Raine said. “What then? How do their lives change?”

Makara thought for a moment. “Then they can leave.”

“I can’t let them leave, Mak,” Raine said. “If they leave, they die.”

“Then they will stay,” Makara said. “Why does it matter if they are free or not? If you give them a good life, they will stay. Right?”

Raine frowned in puzzlement; it was a thought that had never occurred to him before.

And just from those words, he saw everything laid out before him.

“That’s it, Makara,” he said. “We’ll free them!”

“Really?”

He lifted her and kissed her on the cheek, an action which caused Makara to giggle.

“This is our way to survive,” Raine said. “If we free them, they won’t leave. They’ll fight for me. And the word will spread. More slaves will come, and when they do, we give them their freedom. And they fight for us.”

This was just what Raine needed. It wasn’t guaranteed to work, but already the Reapers’ raids were making him bleed. The Angels had everything – good territory, the will to survive, plenty of guns and ammo. The only thing they lacked was manpower.

“We can save a lot of people,” Makara said.

“Yeah,” Raine said. “I think this is it. This is how we are going to grow.”

Makara probably didn’t understand what she had just done, but with a single question, she had done more for him than all of Raine’s lieutenants combined.

Monday Progress Report

Posted: May 23, 2016 in Uncategorized

The first draft of Book 4 (still untitled) is probably over halfway done, sitting at 53,000 words. I made good progress on it last week, although I wish I could have done a bit more. Still, it’s coming along a lot faster than the third book, so I’m pretty pleased about that.

The plan this week is to add another 10,000 words or so, and once I’m over 60,000 words, it should be fairly simple to wrap things up. I’m especially excited to get to about word 75,000 because things are going to really speed up then when the surprise twist comes. Well, not really a twist, but something really cool is going to happen that will have you guys very happy.

Anyway, this one will be a fun book. It will feel much shorter than Beacon, but Beacon was also the longest book I’ve ever written. This will be more similar to the first two books in length.

Idea for a new series

Posted: May 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

First off, this isn’t me saying I’m going to be starting a new series with this in mind: it’s purely hypothetical. But I’ve been thinking about what will come after Xenoworld, which I hope to wrap up in 2-3 more books.

This was the idea I had, though (fair warning, this paragraph will contain spoilers for Wasteland Chronicles so if you haven’t finished, you might want to skip it this paragraph for the third). In most alien invasion stories, it’s usually about the humans winning against impossible odds (think Independence Day, or even Wasteland Chronicles to an extent, even if humanity’s victory wasn’t exactly complete in WC). So, what I was interested in was turning that trope on its head: what if the humans didn’t win, but instead were completely conquered in a matter of days, enslaved, and completely outmatched against an alien foe they couldn’t hope to contend with?

The novel, or series, would center on humanity’s struggle to survive under the alien invaders’ thumb perhaps twenty years following in the initial invasion, which is over in a matter of weeks since the humans are so outmatched. The humans would be mostly spared, except for those who resisted, because the aliens would be mostly interested in using humanity as subjects and slaves rather than just wanting to kill them outright.

The premise would be that humanity finds itself as just one small planet in a vast alien empire that spans a good chunk of the galaxy. Any rebellion, if it can be cobbled together, would just be swiftly crushed. While the majority of humans would live as slaves in the new social order, a few would be raised up as a new nobility to serve as puppets for their alien overlords, which would create some interesting tension within the species itself.

Needlessly to say, the idea is deliciously dark and depressing, which is how I like my fiction. I mean, there might be a happy-ish ending, but I want it to be more complicated than good guys (humans) versus bad guys (aliens).

This was just a random idea I’ve tossed around with a couple of friends, and it also involves a killer robot empire that’s at war with the alien hegemony under which the humans are enslaved. There would be quite a few different characters from all walks of life: from the slave working in the slums, to the nobility living a comparatively easy life, and perhaps alien characters as well. It would be fun to have the invasion take place in the modern day, but after it’s over twenty years later, to have Earth completely transformed by alien technology which is incomprehensible to people because it so advanced.

This idea may or may not come to fruition. I have so many ideas that there’s no way I could ever get to them all. While I’m sure there are novels that focus on the aliens winning and enslaving humanity, or the opposite where humans go out are the bad guys (sort of like Ender’s Game), it seems the vast majority of alien invasion stories have the humans winning against very long odds. There’s nothing wrong with that type of story, but I can’t count the number of times I’ve read novels like that or books like that.

I think this idea is a lot more interesting because the territory hasn’t been trodden upon as much, even if has been trodden upon before.

What do you guys think?

So, I’m deciding to experiment with a new thing called Wasteland Wednesday. I’ve been interested in doing backstories for of the characters of Wasteland Chronicles for a long time now, but wasn’t really sure of the format.

I’m going to try this thing out, called Wasteland Wednesday, where every Wednesday I’ll post a new flash fiction story no more than 1,000 words, to be written in about thirty minutes or less.

You can think of it as episodes. These episodes will be written quickly and definitely won’t be edited to the extent as my novels (maybe just a single pass through). It’s completely winging it, and it’s more of just to do something fun rather to to write a novel. 

Could be once I’m done with a completed story, I’ll polish it up and publish it properly, but as it is, this will just be for fun and to give you guys an idea of what my unedited writing style is like.

The first character I’ll be writing about is Makara. This is the first episode, “From the Flames.”

“Get a look at that, Raine.”

Raine lowered his sunglasses, so dark that his eyes couldn’t be seen behind them. “Came close to hitting the perimeter,” he said, gruffly.”We’re lucky.”

“Who is it, you think?”

Raine shrugged. He toyed with the thought of getting out a cigar, but those were few enough as they were. Better to save it for a rainy day.

“Round up the men,” he said. “They’re might be survivors.”

Lieutenant Green looked doubtful of that, but he wasn’t going to argue with Warlord Raine.

“Hand me those binocs,” Raine said.

Green passed them over, and Raine raised them to his eyes. He squinted as he adjusted the lenses, and the field of view homed in on the site of the helicopter crash. The thing was on its side, belching black smoke into the cloudy red air. The dark column dissipated, but only a mile or two up into the red atmosphere, where it created a smoky, gray blotch on the otherwise sandy red sky.

“Who the hell can fly a helicopter these days?” Raine mused.

“Reapers?” Green opined.

Raine scoffed, then spat. “I’ve never been one to underestimate our enemies, but it’d have to be someone from the Old World.” Raine considered. “One of those Bunkers, maybe.”

“Why would a Bunker have a ‘copter?” Green asked.

Raine was about to answer, but something caught his eye in the binocs. Something…or someone…was moving, crawling away from the flames.

“There’s someone alive,” he said, not believing it even as he said it.

“What?” Green said.

Raine looked again. He could have swore that it wasn’t an adult, but a…

“A girl…” he said, lowering the lenses.

As much as he didn’t want them to, thoughts of Adrienne crossed his head.

I couldn’t save her. I couldn’t save my daughter…

“But I could save her…” Raine said.

“Boss?”

“Round up the men. Go!”

Before Green could even respond, Raine ran forward, ignoring the lieutenant’s shouts of warning.

* * *

The heat was unreal. Raine shielded his eyes and face, even as he began to hack at the fire’s fumes.

The girl wasn’t far. She was a small thing – about the same age as Adrienne when she had…

Don’t think of that, Raine thought. Focus.

The girl lifted her tiny head, her black hair a mess and filled with cinders. Her smooth, olive face was smudged with dirt, and she crawled along only using one of her arms. The other might have been broken or otherwise disabled.

How did she survive that?

He pushed himself against the heat of the flames, feeling them crackle on his skin. If it was this bad for him, then the girl…

“Got you,” he said, scooping her up in his strong arms.

And then, he ran. The emanating heat waves licked at his back, and a sudden burst pushed him forward, nearly sending him stumbling to the ground.

The girl cried in his arms. “Daddy…”

I ain’t your Daddy, girl, he thought. He’s dead, unless he somehow got out like you.

“It’ll be all right, Angel,” he said. “Hold on tight.”

The girl obeyed. Raine chanced a look back to see that the helicopter was fully ablaze now, burning through the last of its fuel like a star going supernova. The heat was incredible; if Raine hadn’t arrived in the nick of time, the girl would have burned beyond all recognition. As it was, she had a few blisters. They would hurt, and fill with nasty pus and pop, but she would live with nothing more than a few scars. Assuming those didn’t infected, but they had antibiotics back at base.

Not enough of those as is, Raine thought. For this girl, though…I’d use them all.

Then, another thought argued: She isn’t your daughter, you damn fool. Nothing will bring Adrienne back!

She’s daughter enough, Raine responded. She has no one else. If she has no one, she’s a lot like me.

Raine only stopped when out of breath, which only took five minutes. He wasn’t much of a runner, and never had been. His strength was of a different kind, good for bashing a man’s face in or cracking a neck. He’d done that a few times in his life. And now, those some hands cradled this little girl who now whimpered against his chest.

“You’ll be okay, sweetie,” he said. “You’re safe, now.”

Her tinny voice came out at a rasp. “I’m thirsty.”

Raine reached for his canteen; he watched in amazement as the girl downed the whole thing without pause.

He looked up at the sight of Lieutenant Green returning with the patrol – two men bearing rifles, and another a first aid kid.

“She’ll be all right,” Raine called out as they approached. “Just a little burnt and beat up, is all.”

Lieutenant Green looked at the downed ‘copter with disbelief in his eyes. Raine watched the inferno blaze, reflected by those blue orbs. It had been twelve years since he’d met the Lieutenant. A former Marine, Dan Green and Dark Raine had been working together for the past twelve years – first as cronies for the Black Reapers – and then for their own gang, the Lost Angels, which they’d founded together. The pairing was unlikely – even twelve years after Dark Day, the Lieutenant was still as straight-edged as they came, while Raine had run the streets with Los Lobos as an enforcer.

The two men had one thing in common, however: they were hard as nails, as were all men who had lived this long after Ragnarok fell.

Raine surrendered the girl to the medic. Her green eyes had long closed out of sheer exhaustion. Raine stood and watched, standing next to Green.

“You can’t just do that, Raine,” Green said. “You’ll get yourself killed one of these days, charging in like that.”

The girl opened her eyes, much to Raine’s surprise. Those green eyes were haunted, but even so, she gave a small, innocent smile, the kind only children are capable of.

“What’s your name, girl?” Raine asked.

He tried not to think of his dead daughter…twelve years had passed. Twelve years, and his daughter’s eyes still haunted him in his dreams.

These eyes were green, too. So much the same.

But the hardness in this girl’s eyes were different. They belied her age.

No girl should be this tough.

“I’m Makara,” she said, her voice high, yet firm.

As the girl closed her eyes again to sleep, it was if her life were laid out in prophecy. Raine saw that he had done well in saving her. A girl as tough as this, if raised well, had great potential.

“Makara,” he said. “Welcome to the Lost Angels.”

Monday Progress Report

Posted: May 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

So, I thought I’d start off by letting you guys know how the fourth book (currently untitled) is going very well. I’m actually making pretty good progress. I’m writing it far faster than I was writing the third book, and I’m pushing myself to get it done as fast as possible.

I think I was sort of in a funk for a while, but after getting back from Spain, I feel like things are in better perspective. Sometimes, all you really need is a vacation.

Basically, I’m about halfway done with the first draft, but the main action still needs to start. Without revealing too much (well, spoilers for the rest of this paragraph if you haven’t yet read the third book), this novel is sort of going to be about Shanti rising up to the mantle and claiming her identity as Anna, and sort of about bringing various political players together. Sort of “widening the world” so to speak, taking the lens off just Shanti and Isaru and making it more epic in scope to encompass more of the world (sort of like how Revelation did for Wasteland Chronicles).

The ending is going to be amazing. I’ll just put it that way. That’s a bit of a tease, but it also gives you guys something to look forward to. A lot of Xenoworld has been about it being so different from Wasteland in the beginning, but slowly connecting the two worlds as the series has progressed.

There will be definitely be something in this book that will make that connection even firmer, and I can’t wait for you guys to read it.