March 1st 2020 Update

Queen of Diamonds is up to about 52,500 words, and coming along steadily. Several ideas have merged together in the story, so I now have no idea how things are going to turn out, exactly… which is half the fun, if you ask me! I know where the book is going to end, but beyond that, I’m not sure. It’s certainly exciting, if you ask me!

I’ve also been plinking away at Hives & Heroism, and I’d guess it’s about a quarter of the way done, but I’m not sure, there. I love Joy, but sadly she’s having to take back seat for the moment while I work on other things.

All that said, I believe that I mentioned that one of the options I was looking at for a book between story arcs of Lilith’s Shadow was Second Contact. However, most of you haven’t ever seen that story… so I decided to fix that. As a Christmas present to myself I commissioned cover art for the story, while my business paid for the commercial rights. Clayscence finished my commission this past week, so I thought I’d share the artwork and the story at the same time! Here’s the Link to Part 1, while you can see the ‘title page’ via a link in the name.

Second Contact Cover LR

I hope you enjoy the short story, and I’d love to hear what you think of it!

12 thoughts on “March 1st 2020 Update

  1. It’s the plan! My wife is a huge fan of the story, and has been encouraging me to continue it, so it’s mostly a matter of when I can fit it into my writing schedule more than anything else.

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  2. That story was a blast to write. I love science fantasy, but it’s hard to find stories that I like that fully meld high fantasy and magic.

    Which… is probably why I decided to write it. >_>

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  3. I just finished reading Second Contact, and I’m very impressed by it. it’s simply fantastic! The story setup is super interesting and it’s very engrossing so far. I’m not sure where the story will go from there, but the possibilities all sound great. Helen makes an amazing “first impression”, especially in the last part.

    I was pleasantly surprised every time there was another part available to read, and I got to say I’d very, very happily read more of it! If you write it, I’ll buy it for sure. The one thing I’ve found to be a bit “off” or strange is how the Esress has an arm torn off, but isn’t in shock in any way and is chatting mostly normally. Unless it’s a lizardwoman thing, of course.

    I just realized that I confused Sisters of Radiance and Broken Chains (I had kind of flipped them around in my mind somehow). Between Sisters of Radiance and Second Contact, I’d prefer Second Contact for sure personally.

    On a separate note, I’m now about 50% listening through Mortal Gods and I have to say I’m enjoying it a ton (Same for Heaven’s Fallen). It’s just a tiny and silly point, but some reasons I really appreciated how Kitania just accepted so maturely her imprisonment, guards watching over her, restrain collar, etc. It’s a bit stupid, but somehow that is the main thing that made me realize just how wise and mature Kitania.

    It’s the right and logical thing to do, but somehow I never see book / game / movie characters doing that..? Normally everyone balk and complain about such treatment and would try to escape, but Kitania did the wiser thing here and was rightly rewarded for it. Again, I realize it’s just a minor thing, but for me it really makes me appreciate Kitania more and I have to give you kudoes for that entire segment.

    I haven’t started Crisis of Faith yet despite having both the Kindle and Audiobook versions, but let me tell you the temptation is pretty strong to jump straight to it! The synopsis is incredibly intriguing, especially since it’s Tyria-focused and I greatly enjoyed that part of the story in Halls of Power. It’s probably the book I’m most looking forward to reading / listening in all my life, but as usual I prefer to take things slow and pace myself in order not to run out of awesome books… Soon, hopefully!

    Thank you again for making such great books!

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  4. The overall plan for Second Contact is fairly straightforward, as far as I’m concerned. I’m thinking of it as a sort of… planetary romance? If you aren’t familiar with the term, it’s where a book focuses on when a ship touches down on a planet, and the main body of the story is about the interactions of the characters with what’s on the planet. I’m thinking that a book will focus on one or two planets on Helen’s way back to the Empire.

    As for Esress… my comment there is that she /is/ a lizardwoman (losing bits to escape danger, like a lizard with their tail) and painkillers are likely involved. However, that’s all just me justifying after the fact. It was a mistake, and I’d probably want to adjust it if I re-wrote it.

    I’m glad you like Mortal Gods, though! Personally, when I was writing it, I felt like Kitania’s attitude had changed quite a bit between books, and I wasn’t quite sure why. Then I realized she’d been taken out of her element, which made more sense to me.

    I was also worried I might get lynched for the way I ended Heaven’s Fallen, though… so I worry a lot. ^_^

    I hope Crisis of Faith doesn’t disappoint you! It turned out differently than I planned, but that’s only to be expected.

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  5. I admit I’m not familiar with planetary romance. I know it’s wayyy too early to really talk about, but would Second Contact potentially be the start of a new series? I’m sure a book that focus on one or two planets on the way to the Empire could be awesome and a great read, but by itself it sounds like it could feel “unfinished”?

    I know very little so I could be way off-base, but it feels like it would leave the “main” story elements non-concluded. I suppose they could find Helen’s daughter (and possibly Ymir) on that planet, but… Unless a lot of stuff happen there, it’d kind of feel like if “The Avatar’s Flames” was the only book, where it started with Ruethwyn having to rescue Elena and the other villagers, and it ended up with stopping a demon taking over the mage academy without even starting a rescue attempt.

    Regarding the end of Heaven’s Fallen… I personally didn’t mind at all even though I’m generally not a fan of “cliffhanger endings”. If I remember well, we do know that Kitania is (relatively) okay at the end, so it didn’t bother me. I admit that things might have been easier for me since Mortal Gods (and Hell’s Ascendant book version) was already out before I finished Heaven’s Fallen, so there wasn’t any worries for me… But even if I had finished it day 1, I wouldn’t have been worried either.

    You’ve proven to be a very reliable author: you clearly stated that a part 2 was coming, the wait between the volumes is pretty short, and you had two finished trilogies already. If Heaven’s Fallen was your first book (and Mortal Gods wasn’t out yet), I’d have been annoyed and worried about not getting an end. As is, not at all.

    I admit there’s an author I stopped reading because she literally always ended up every single one of her books with massive cliffhangers, but those were: “Cut right in the middle of the action at the most critical moments and conclude absolutely nothing in a book”; worse than Heaven’s Fallen by a good amount. There’s also books that ends in cliffhangers, where the author never did a follow-up part: those leave me kind of bitter too. But I never had that worry with Heaven’s Fallen: it didn’t even strike me as that much cliff-hangery comparatively.

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  6. Second Contact: It would DEFINITELY be part of a new series. Planetary Romance hails back to older styles of movies/comics, like Flash Gordon, Krull, John Carter of Mars, and things like that. In this case, it’d be closer to that crossed with another common story trope, The Journey Home. That trope is sourced in an old Greek story about an army trapped in enemy territory which has to get home… but I’m getting off into the weeds. The simple answer is that I’d try to make the plot of the book relatively self-contained and contribute to the overall story, while not leaving the readers frustrated. A hard balance, I’ll admit.

    As for cliffhangers, oh, how I hate them. I know exactly what you mean about a series with cliffhangers in the middle of the action (might even be the same books, but I refuse to name names publicly), and I HATE it. Heaven’s Fallen was an extreme cliffhanger for me, and I was a little wound up over it for a while. I get worried that people won’t like stuff easily, though.

    But that’s also why I try to finish my series (or at least story arcs) as promptly as I can. I’ve been on the reader side of things since I was really little, and I realized that I hate it when a series goes on forever with no real conclusion to anything. I like the long stories that have multiple series or story arcs linked together more, so I try to write things like that. Almost all of my series could be continued (I intend to continue Through the Fire, for instance), but I try to stop them at satisfying points.

    Which is the main argument against Second Contact, I suppose.

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  7. Ah, so something like Star Trek Voyager, where episodes are (mostly) self-contained but with an overall narrative of going home. However, that’s already the feeling I got from Through the Fire?

    In a way, it’s not so different: even from very early on, the goal is to go to the Golden Dominion to save the villagers. Everything before that (the Academy life, the test, the Fays, etc) is all steps toward getting to that goal. It’s kind of “episodic”, and there could have been more books in between without changing the overall narrative any.

    Ancient Dreams, Mantles of Power, Lilith’s Shadow and Beesong Chronicles (from where I’m at, at least; I’m not up to date on everything yet) change and evolve more as you read through them. The objectives change as you progress, as do the circumstances surrounding the characters. The world and the characters around our heroes change.

    Through the Fire is a lot more “fixed” in format: Only Ruethwyn herself really change. Events in the series don’t really impact anything: it’s all for Ruethwyn’s journey. The Academy gets attacked, the kitsune village raided and Korima’s mother kidnapped, but there’s really no major impact from any of the events. Remove entirely the attack on the academy or kitsune village? Nothing from Through the Fire’s overall narrative change. Events that “matter” really only affect Ruethwyn’s growth (Eye fixed, new body, learning how to deal with her fears, etc), not the people or the world around her. Even most of those could be “removed” and the overall scenario would be the same. You could add a new book before the last one, and that would still apply.

    Compare that to the assassination party sent against Rose and Isalla in Heaven’s Fallen for example. You can’t “write-off” that event without changing the whole story. The biggest part is obviously Kitania’s being teleported away, but besides the obvious effects on Kitania herself, it also affects the world at large. Not only does Kitania’s presence change the forest where she is, it also causes Firewatch to be attacked in retaliation, with all those angels captured. The narrative is changed by those events, and can’t be removed. It doesn’t feel “episodic” at all.

    So in my mind, Second Contact would “feel” like Through the Fire as far as structure go. Steps on the way back to the Empire, with mostly self-contained adventures focusing mostly on the growth of the protagonists. As long as a good amount of “plot threads” are neatly tied as you go by (like it was for Through the Fire) instead of letting absolutely everything open until a never-coming end, I definitively wouldn’t mind a long Second Contact series personally. I really enjoyed Through the Fire and I wouldn’t have minded if Ruethwyn had more adventures on the way to the rescue; in the same way I wouldn’t mind to read Helen’s adventure on her way back home. As long as it’s not stretched endlessly (it’s nice that the next adventures will be after the rescue, like Helen’s adventure wouldn’t be over by simply reaching home) and that each individual book is interesting, of course.

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  8. You’re right about it being similar to Star Trek: Voyager. Or like The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, for that matter. It’s a common trope, if a little odd. The difference with Through the Fire is that I consider the primary trope of the trilogy to be The Quest.

    That said, the thing that I disagree with was that the events didn’t change the world around Ruethwyn. The problem (if you can call it a problem) is that I tried to keep as much of Through the Fire’s perspective to what Ruethwyn could see as I reasonably could. While things changed, most of the time it was in the background, where she wouldn’t be able to see it.

    As I think about it, I think the big difference is the scale of things. Through the Fire is a much more personal quest, with things that don’t impact or matter to most of the world. Mantles of Power is world-shaking, so events are bound to cause an impact all over.

    Now, as for Second Contact… my idea for it is for ~6 books, at a guess. There are (if memory serves) 13 worlds that need to be visited along the way to where Helen’s going. Most of those worlds aren’t going to have much of interest to them, but some are. Assuming 4-5 books for all of that, then 1-2 books for the homecoming… I think it would work well. I doubt it’d tie up everything there, though. I have a terrible habit of littering plot seeds all over. I blame my years of being a Game Master.

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  9. Just to clarify, I didn’t mean it as a “problem”.

    The scale is certainly one big difference (And I’m definitively don’t mean that the scale has to be huge in every book), but I meant it more in general. For example, the Academy nearly got taken over by a demon, but it seemed completely unchanged in the aftermath. The kitsune village got attacked, but everyone got revived so besides some property damage, nothing really changed. That’s what I meant by more “episodic”: if the attack on the academy had occurred earlier (or slightly later), it would still have fit the story. Well, in my opinion anyway: you certainly know your story more than I do :)

    Anyhow, for the record, I’m perfectly happy with the level of “tying up lose ends” you have in your books so far. Personally, it’s perfectly fine to leave some stuff open like you did in your previous books… Part of why I enjoy your books is how you tend to close them up actually, with enough settled to be satisfying, while keeping some open for the future.

    What annoys me is books where basically nothing is concluded. Plot threads getting opened one after the other, but none closed. You start the book with 5 open mysteries, finish with 10, and none of the original 5 are solved. As long as Second Contact is more like your previous books (even if more open due to the nature of it) instead of that style, I’m an happy camper. Roughly 6 books with the format you talked about sounds pretty awesome to me!

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  10. Regarding the Academy, in all honesty it /didn’t/ change that much. Mostly, the teachers were exasperated because a student did something that stupid outside of the rooms intended to /contain/ stupidity. Mostly, in the aftermath they adjusted the wards to make it harder for someone to change them without it being noticed, which isn’t something Ruethwyn would know about. Amusingly, they consider incidents like that something that just… happens, at a mage academy. Similarly, once Master Mara found out about Essryl, he talked to the headmaster, and they began making changes behind the scenes to try to keep her out. No sense in causing a panic. But I do see what you mean. Most of the plots were pretty self-contained, like the bits with Lord Elisir.

    Incidentally, I /loved/ writing about the Lightweaver clan. Figuring out their history, society, and life cycle was just a delight for me.

    Re: Plot Threads. Oh… yeah, I hear you. I abandoned following the Girl Genius comic recently when the story was going to finally tie up a plotline… and it was a fake-out. That was frustrating beyond belief for me.

    Second Contact, things will be odd. There’s the question of how the war has gone against the Ravagers, their actual origin (which I figured out when I first wrote them up), how the ancient empire of demons reacted to them, Helen’s full background, and more things to explore. I’ve got a lot of things I’d like to write about, there.

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