The Book 20 Years In The Making

Last night I finished up my edits on what will be the first in what I hope will be many space opera / military SF novels set in this particular universe. It’s titled The Stars Entwined and follows an Internal Affairs investigator for humanity’s Interplanetary Navy as he navigates a powder keg of a political situation with the neighboring alien Aryshans, and a parallel story of an Aryshan Commander who has her doubts about war with humanity being a good option for her people. As their lives cross path, the war escalates to new heights. These characters really shine for me, and I hope they will for you too!

In Jan-Feb I first-drafted a second novel which overlaps with this one, which I’ll hopefully get edited and ready for you all mid-next year so you can see other angles of The Aryshan Wars. Needless to say, I’m very excited about bringing you a space opera with 100% my own world-building, and keeping in the rich tradition I’ve created in bringing fun novels through Rescue Run and For Steam And Country.  

As the blog title says, The Stars Entwined has been in the making for about 20 years. It’s the first book I ever wrote, which started in a high school English class when I wrote down the opening volleys of what would have been one Admiral Conley’s perspective (you’ll hear about him in the book) in fighting a war against an alien species. That assignment sparked my imagination where I began writing. Over the next several years, I wrote in spurts, pinning down the origins of the conflict and how the war escalated. I don’t have the original paper with Admiral Conley’s epic battle anymore (and I would probably cringe if I saw it!). My story ended up with a completely different cast of characters, with a completely new angle on interstellar war which hopefully will be fresh for you when you read!

I finished my first draft of this book, which at the time I had titled These That Twice Befell, a line from an Emily Dickenson poem. I liked the poem and the line, but as a title, didn’t feel quite sci-fi enough for me. The poem is:

My life closed twice before its close—
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me

So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.

The poem still fits the theme a little bit as you’ll see when you read the book. The book really has a lot of internal death and rebirth of the characters as their preconceived notions of their worlds and who they are get turned upside down.

I redrafted the book a second time in 2014-2015, still not quite there in terms of honing my work. At the time, I called the book Starcrossed — which felt a little better for sci-fi, but there’s a zillion books titled that. I set the book aside when I started writing for Doomtown: Reloaded, which eventually led into my Star Realms novel. For the time, I set aside my own worlds and works to focus on the game-related material. I learned a ton about writing in those years and pushed myself to the next level.

With Star Realms being such a huge success, nominated for multiple awards and having so many amazing reviews, I knew I wanted to stick with Mil SF/Space Opera as my primary genre for writing. Both because I grew up reading mostly this genre, but also because my fans already were acquainted with my writing in the genre. For The Stars Entwined, I definitely drew heavily on my influences: Babylon 5, Deep Space 9, Lois Bujold, Elizabeth Moon, and Sharon Lee. If you’re into their work, I know this will appeal to you, and hopefully I was able to come across in the same tradition.

After my game work was complete, I saw people finding me online and beginning to read the blog and my books regularly. I had a choice to make to try to get work out faster — did I rewrite what would become The Stars Entwined, or did I try to release a Steampunk book I’d drafted as well. For Steam And Country was much closer to being a complete, finished work. It needed a lot less overhauling than my space opera did to be worthy of your read. I knew I needed to get something out a little faster than working on The Stars Entwined would allow, and so I chose For Steam And Country, nervous about releasing a more YA Steampunk with my audience.

When I finished the book, I immediately started work on The Stars Entwined, which I retitled it during its third major overhaul around May this year — and I actually wrote most of it from scratch. I threw out almost all of the prose from the first iterations. The overall scenes changed by about 30% of the book, which is unusual for me as I usually have the plot points worked out very tightly by the time it gets out of outline form (I work hard on my outlines, which I’m doing for Von Monocle 2 right now!). I may one day show the first draft of this to let everyone compare but it was a ton of work to get this done over the summer.

While I was doing that, For Steam And Country ended up being a bigger hit than my first book. It’s a great problem to have, but I do have the issue now where people are waiting for a sequel on my Steampunk, and now I’m about to release yet another first book for a series. I didn’t plan it that way, but the cards fell as they did based on what I had ready.  At the time I was releasing my Steampunk, The Stars Entwined was my priority to get done. I wasn’t sure a steampunk would resonate with my crowd at all, and I wanted to wait and see before committing to a series there, especially as For Steam And Country works very well as a standalone. For those readers, fear not, I’ll be spending NaNoWriMo getting book 2 of Baron Von Monocle written for you with lots of updates on its progress on this blog. I did get a little bit distracted by my Deus Vult In Space concept, which I wrote because I had to get that out of my system when I had the idea, so I apologize for the delay there, but hopefully you’ll forgive me that one digression. 🙂  That book is going to be a ton of fun.

I finished this draft of The Stars Entwined in early August, and did a clean up pass on it during that month. It’s been with my editor since then, and I just completed fixing the notes he gave to me. I’m extremely excited to get this into your hands. It’s in proofreading and cover art design right now. I haven’t decided when to release it yet — it largely depends on those efforts and their timing.

But there’s a lot of stories to the background of this book, how it developed, and how it changed. I’ll share as much as I can with you in the coming months so you can see the process of how this evolved into the fun space opera story it is for you to read.

Right now the books release schedule is probably going to be this:

  1. The Stars Entwined
  2. Reach For The Stars (Overlaps with The Stars Entwined, needs an edit)
  3. Baron Von Monocle 2 / Deus Vult – depends on which is going to be faster/easier to edit as to which is first.
  4. Alt-Hero 1
  5. Alt-Hero 2

As I’ve committed to co-write those Alt-Hero books, I may need some time before I return to these universes. It all depends on speed and also my co-writer Vox Day’s schedule in working on those. But it’s going to be an awesome 2018 at the very least. I’m about one year being in this business, and it’s been phenomenal. I’m really grateful you’re reading and giving me time to do a few series (it helps from keeping things from getting stale on my end!)

That’s all for now. I could ramble about all this for hours, and I might on periscope at some point so stay tuned for in depth looks!

If you’re liking my releases so far, have you checked out my novella, Gravity Of The Game? It’s being talked about for Hugo consideration for best novella by many people. Read it now here! 

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