20Books Day 2

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I think my highlight of my day was getting lunch with Jay Allan, one of the best Military Science Fiction writers in the field. He was extremely gracious and let me hammer him with marketing questions the whole time. Super great guy.

Other than that, I think Dean Wesley Smith’s talk was probably the most motivational. For those who don’t know, he is MR PULP SPEED. he writes books so fast he probably wrote two in the time it’s taken you to read this short of a blog so far. He hammered the pulp mindset of releasing books fast, just writing, trusting your creative vision. Don’t WORRY if it’s too over the top, just have fun with it and go. And that’s the way to keep yourself motivated, keep yourself doing anything — I think this goes for writing, or anything for that matter. If you just trust your instincts and have fun, you’ll be far more productive in all your endeavors in life, no matter what it is.

There was a nice amazon marketing course in the afternoon that delved into facebook ads and the like. It was a little surface level and fast and I’d like a little more in depth. Maybe I’ll hunt the guy down and get some good info from him before the course is over.

3– support the blog, youtube, books, short stories. There’s gonna be a lot of content dropping this month so you’ll want to get in now!

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The Fine Line As An Artist

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As an artist it can be tempting to “play the same old hits” and keep the money train going. But artists also need to be flexible and venture out into new content too or everything will get stale.

This comes on because I saw Lindsey Buckingham last night, the former guitarist of Fleetwood Mac. He played a set of mostly rarities, things he hadn’t done in concert before, and just a couple of his hits. The crowd was wanting the same old songs (except me and a handfull of others) but he stuck to his guns and did a lot of stuff he’d never performed before. And actually, this whole tour bucking Fleetwood Mac — which would have paid him substantially more money — is because of keeping his artistry up.

He’s in a tough spot because doing this does disappoint some of the fans, but he’s also played his greatest hits train for decades now, so he’s done his time.

I think it’s important to keep balance in anything you do, whether that’s writing, art, music, because the joy of creating comes through, and when it’s not there, it shows to your audience and readers. Even if it means not maximizing dollars to an extreme.

In fiction writing, the way to maximize your dollars is to stay in ONE SERIES. Not even deviate with different series in the same genre, but to keep it all the same. I can’t do that as an artist cuz I’ve got too many books on my mind. There’s a balance there though as I’m trying to bring all of my books up to trilogies or slightly longer so that folk can get a good experience there.  And there’s also a balance to other aspects of the art making in that I’ll talk about on one of my writing youtube streams soon.

Food for thought. It was an enjoyable show last night.

Something I’m doing that’s different is adapting a sci-fi novel to comics. It’s an incredible challenge and it’s produced a very fun book. Check out the Ember War here. It’s very close to funding and needs you to push it over the top!

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I Am Writing For You: A Guide To Treating Readers With Respect

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This last week there’s been a barrage of authors out there who are taking shots at readers. We saw this a lot with the situation in the comics industry over the last year, where so many of the creators fought the fans when they’d produced a lot of politically driven narrative their fans didn’t like, and sales dropped substantially as a consequence.

Instead of owning up to the fact that they’d made product that didn’t appeal to their readers, most of the creators took to social media to throw public tantrums, telling fans to “check their privilege” and “Not everything out there has to be for you.” Well, when you tell your fans you’re not writing for them, who are you writing for?

That’s the question. It’s of course important for an artist to stretch and try to do new things and always make new fans, but being condescending to your existing fanbase because the work has changed into something they didn’t like — especially on something that’s an established property where there are sets of expectations — is not a good tack to take. I understand authors being frustrated when things aren’t selling and they’re getting negative reviews, but taking it out on the existing fans is a sure fire way to amplify that situation, not to resolve it and get back to work.

The comments this week were similar. We saw a NYT bestseller complain about receiving the question “are your books any good?”

This seems innocuous at first, but he went off on a sarcastic rant about how his books are terrible, a very odd thing to do. But let’s break down the interaction that has him so flustered. Someone asking “are your books any good?” is a person taking interest in your books. That’s a POSITIVE thing. Your answer should be “yes, yes they are, try this one.” Or something along those lines. Remember, to most people, you’re an author, you’re someone who they’re not sure if they should be wasting your time, and they’re a bit intimidated to interact with you. Phrasing the question like this isn’t some slight to you, but it’s done because they’re trying not to appear too eager in posturing to you, so that you treat them a little more like an equal than (in their minds) like someone who’s annoyingly gushing over you.  Bottom line is: when someone takes an interest in your books, let them! This is something to applaud, not to condemn.

And next we had an author state “I don’t give a f*** what you want to read” in criticism to a sales elevator pitch the author gave on twitter, which didn’t talk about the story’s merits, but focused on identity politics. Again, all this is serving to do is to turn off potential fan groups. If someone’s taking enough interest to criticize in a reasonable manner, they’re doing so because they have taken enough interest in you. It’s not fun to get negative feedback, but being mindful that there’s readers out there and that this isn’t a one time thing, but your interactions mean future reads for the rest of your career is so important.

It comes down to viewing interactions with readers as people who are there to at some point buy your book. They might not now. They might not stay and might not like it, but regardless, they’re people to be treasured because they are the customers.

I, by contrast, kept getting messages about how James Gentry didn’t get enough development in For Steam And Country, and my readership wanted to see more of him. What did I do? I wrote a novella sequel to the book where it’s entirely from his perspective. Why? Because I care about what my readers want. That’s all I care about. And that’s why I’ll still be in business in a couple of years. Will these guys?

My James novella, “Knight Training,” comes out on July 18th, but for now, catch up on the first book For Steam And Country. It’s all about giving you, the reader, a fun experience. Check it out here.  

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Authors Don’t Trick Your Readers – An Analysis of The Batman/Catwoman Wedding

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DC Comics’ big event hype over the summer has been the Batman/Catwoman wedding. Now we all know how comics have worked the last couple decades, and we know by proxy that “nothing is forever” – and by forever, I mean lasts more than 2-3 years before it gets rebooted, redone, respun. How anyone can take these comics’ continuity seriously anymore is beyond me, but that’s another story for another blog.

I want to talk about the importance of staying true to your readers, and how DC failed spectacularly in doing that in this issue. Spoilers of Batman #50 ahead if you care about such things and haven’t already seen it posted all over the internet.

Over the last several months, DC has put out a ton of issues tying into a Batman/Catwoman epic. Readers have had to drop significant amounts of money to keep up, like with every event, and the big wedding shebang was supposed to hit in issue 50. Long story short, DC hyped all of this with marketing machine, invitation cards at local comic shops, dozens of books with THE WEDDING stamped onto it.

As a reader, one was being led by the marketing hype to expect Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle relationship drama on a level we’ve never seen before. While we knew this would be temporary because of the way comics work these days, it sounded like an interesting storyline to many.

The big issue, oversized, overpriced, overextended then features Catwoman leaving Batman stranded at the altar.

That’s right, after all that hype, DC Comics ended with, “Ha! We tricked you!”

Moreover, tricked Batman, the “world’s greatest detective” and beautiful billionaire playboy by getting him completely shafted, and blindsided never seeing this coming. It doesn’t make sense on a character level, and from all the promises DC made to the audience, it doesn’t make sense on that level either.

It’s so important to fulfill promises as a writer. And unfortunately what we have here is current literature’s obsession with “the twist” taken to much too high a degree. For those who aren’t into writing and the like, when you have a story going linearly, writers usually add a twist so something unexpected happens that makes sense in context of the story. This gives the reader a sense of surprise so they’re not bored with having everything happen as they’ve expected.

But there’s a fine line between that and tricking your reader. With all the marketing jazz, we needed a wedding here. We were prepped for it, and it’s not a twist to not do that, it’s a broken promise. It leaves readers feeling angry because they were led so far down a path only to have the rug yanked out from under them.

It’d be a lot as if I promised my readers a #SummerOfSteampunk with sequels to my hit novel, For Steam And Country, and then turned around and delivered a bunch of urban fantasy werewolf romance novels. When you hype something on the marketing end, it has to match the product you deliver, and if it doesn’t, you’re going to lose big.

I think writers tend to think they’re clever when they’re tricking readers. And the end result of what it does is makes readers feel like their intelligences are being insulted. And they are. Readers aren’t stupid, but they are buying into several event tie-in books based on what the event’s supposed to be. If the book hadn’t been hyped for what it is, there are still so many character issues with the story, but at least the readers wouldn’t have been tricked into their purchases.

And that’s where comics have gone wrong for a long time. It’s always about a hype gimmick, it’s never about the story, the characters, real development. It’s not always about politics with these companies, sometimes they just treat their readers with disrespect in other ways. It’s leading to their downfall, but also giving independent artists a new avenue to compete.

If you like character development that goes in a direction where I promise, then do read For Steam And Country. It’s the #SummerOfSteampunk after all, and there’s going to be a lot more adventures to come. Read it here.

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Creative Energy Is In The Air

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It’s been all over for the last month or so, and it’s reaching a peak right now. Think of what Kanye West has been doing, putting out 5 albums all within the span of a month. That’s a crazy amount of creativity and work. You might think, “I can’t possibly work that hard on creative stuff. I have too much to do” — but you’d be wrong.

Passion, drive, focus, they are all related, and in a lot of ways they’re trainable. If you want to harness your full creative potential, force yourself into doing the work an hour a day. Stick with it for 20-30 days, no breaks, no days off. It’s doable even if it seems daunting. Let nothing get in your way. That is the first step. Then, when you can do it for 20-30 day blocks with no problem, up your commitment to 2 hours. Then to 3 hours.

I have the same struggles as anyone else, with work, family, a life to be had outside of simply writing, but I always dedicate my first hour of the day here and to Bible study, which gets me mentally prepped for the day in a lot of ways, and also forces me to come up with a unique thought for myself to write about. At my lunch time, I bring my food, don’t go out, and I hole myself in and write for an hour. At the end of the day, when the kids go to bed, I write or edit. I get 3 hours in every single day even with a lot going on in my life.

And it’s a great time to be an artist–perhaps the best in history. Though the gatekeepers of the industries are lashing out and trying hard and making it daunting, know that those institutions won’t be respected within a generation. They may not even be there. The institutions are something that’s been strived fro for decades only because they used to be the only possible outlets in order to reach an audience. They had real power, the prestige only came from them being the loudest voices because they had the capital behind them to mass produce. Now we live in a world where you can find audience here on the internet. Get involved in communities with other artists, add value there Over time, you’ll build your audience of your own, it’s a skill in and of itself that has to be worked on and developed.

But focus on the art first. That’s the important part. Create because we as humans were designed to want to create, as we emulate our Creator. It’s summertime, and it’s light out for long hours, energy is high all around. The economy is going great, energy is out there for you to harness. Go forth and produce!

My last production was my most polished and hardest worked on. It took me over a decade to get this story right. And I’m glad i took the time and energy. Check out The Stars Entwined here.

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How To Know If The Negative Voices Are Right Or If You’re On The Right Track

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As you progress in any field, or really anything in life, you’ll find that you will get a contingent of negative voices toward whatever you do. They’ll come in a variety of forms from outright hostility, to some subtle passive aggressive remarks, even to quiet concern over the direction you’re heading. It can get overwhelming at times, and if you’re got a unique enough a vision, sometimes you’ll have the weight of an entire industry on you.

But at the same time, great artists have unique visions, ones that are in their own direction, and that’s what makes them great. Sometimes, great artists aren’t even recognized when they’re alive, though with the internet, it’s much easier to find your niche and connect with those who might be able to connect with your work than in ages past.

There’s a few simple things you can do to know if you’re on the right track, or a few observations you can make. At the end of the day, it’s hard to know conclusively if you made right moves in anything, and mileage may vary, but there’s guidelines.


First thing to do is pray to Jesus Christ. His will is far more important than mine, yours, or any of the people surrounding us. And remember, “A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” It may be his will for you to bear some suffering. But don’t worry, light is up ahead and so is eternal salvation. If you pray and listen to God, you will always be on the right path.

Surround Yourself With Smart Friends Who Understand Your Vision

This is so crucial. It’s kinda like don’t be unequally yoked, another Biblical truth, in some ways. There will be people who get what you’re doing, and what you’re going for. Those types are invaluable because you can bounce ideas off of them before you start to move. If those people are maintaining you’re doing good work, the outside voices are more likely the ones in the wrong about what you’re doing. The opposite is also true — don’t surround yourself with the naysayers. The voices can be overwhelming and can drag you down so you don’t actually produce your vision, and that doesn’t help you accomplish what you’re setting out to do. You’ll be able to tell who’s who by their general way of being and if it’s aligned with yours. Is this person seeing what I’m going for? Is the advice they’re giving toward my goals? Haven they even attempted to ascertain what my goals are? Drive by negative comments vs. someone legitimately interested in helping and providing critical feedback are also easy to spot.

Set Yourself Tangible Goals And Deadlines – Are You True To Your Own Vision?

If you have very specific goals and things you want to accomplish, write them down. Make yourself a list of what you want to do today, what you want to accomplish this week, month, and also in the long term. Revisit these and make sure you stay on path. If you have your work clearly organized, odds are you’re going to do something good. It’s hard work, but everything in life that bears fruit is always hard work. There’s no easy path.

How’s Your Passion Level? 

If you’re taking heat and you’re finding yourself still excited, still energized, there’s a good chance that you’re on the right path. The whole point of most of the naysayers is to get you down, slow you down, bring you back to earth, but if you’re still flying high, that’s the most important thing. Follow your passion.  Sometimes you’ll get a little tired too, but recognize when that’s a temporary thing vs. a not wanting to do this anymore sort of situation.

Is Your Work Resonating? 

We get instant feedback in today’s age. For every negative person out there that loudly spews hate, is there an equal and opposite reaction? If you have that going for you, then it just means your work has an audience of one sort of person and not of another. That’s okay.  If you’re finding people are giving acclaims, buying your work, loving your work, not only does it make it easier to bear the negativity on the opposite end, but it likely means there’s a different motivation for the negativity than for your success.

All of these examples are not cut and dry metrics, and except for the last one, they all require action on your part to make sure you’re going in the right direction. Artistry is hard work, whether it’s in the form of writing fiction, making other content, reporting on important events, performance art, whatever it is, if you’re dedicated and have a clear vision, don’t worry about the naysayers. They’ll be there no matter how good your work is, they won’t always see what you see. It’s a part of life. Now go forth and create and be free from fear, because fear is what’s used to hold us back.

Zaira wasn’t sure if she was on the right track when she inherited an airship from her missing father. He was the adventurer. He was the leader. What was she but a simple farm girl? Could she really bear his mantle? Her lessons in persistence and passion, and how to stay determined to vision, are exactly what we’re talking about in the blog today. Read it here.

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Friend Friday: Daniel Humphreys On Proper Word Counts For Indie Authors

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This Friday I’m happy to be joined by my good friend, Dan Humphreys. He’s best known for his Dragon Award nominated zombie series, but he also does really cool urban fantasy work with Fade, his recent book out by Silver Empire Press. He stops by to talk about word counts for indie authors, and how long your book should ideally be.

For regular readers of Jon’s blog, it should come as no surprise that he has strongly held opinions, and that he’ll stick to his guns.

On one particular issue, he and I don’t agree, and as much as he’s tried, he’s never been able to change my mind.

Lest you think this is something serious, I’m talking about word counts.

Not too long after we met, Jon was absolutely flabbergasted when I offered him a copy of my first book, A Place Outside The Wild. At just shy of 180,000 words, Wild weighs in, literally, at over 600 pages in trade paperback.†”Dude. Write shorter books,” Jon said. As I recall, the larger conversation was about publication speeds. Since Wild came out in September of 2016, I’ve put out three novels, with a fourth due next month. All in all, that works out to two books a year, which is pretty solid if I do say so myself. In the release aspect, obviously, writing shorter books is the way to go if you want to go quarterly or more frequently.

I grew up reading Tom Clancy and Stephen King. If a book wasn’t a doorstop, more often than not, I didn’t regard it as worth reading. That more than anything probably informs my predilection for epic tales, but for me, at least, I usually feel like the story demands what it demands in terms of space. Could I have trimmed a bit from Wild? Possibly. Being honest, probably. As a reader, long books always struck me as a better value proposition. And growing up in Phoenix, I wanted to make those trips to the library on my mountain bike†count. There was less opportunity to melt into the pavement if I got enough big books to tide me over for a week or two.

The funniest part, of course, is that I’ve gotten better. My novel Warhawks, will never be for sale because I have no desire to go back and put in the work that it needs. It’s the first book in what I always planned to be a space opera trilogy, written over twenty years ago. It’s also almost a thousand pages wrong. I’ve been serializing it and poking fun at myself with the moniker #FreeAwfulNovel over at my own blog. On the bright side, scanning it to PDF is letting me recycle a†lot†of paper.

So in that regard, darn it, Jon is correct. Writer shorter books. The sequel to Wild, A Place Called Hope, is a mere 130,000 words for a total of over a quarter-million words of zombies, explosions, and heroic deeds. My urban fantasy series is a hiccup in comparison–the first two books in the series combined are only a bit larger than Hope. Somewhere, Jon pumps his fist and declares victory.

The real question is what you, the audience, thinks. Do you prefer shorter, more frequent works, or waiting a bit longer for something hefty? The tradpub model has long been one release a year for established authors. The indie revolution has turned that notion on its ear, and writing teams like Nick Cole and Jason Anspach, or Chris Kennedy, Mark Wandrey, and their crew, are pumping out new releases every other month if not more. I’d love to hear your takes in the comments.

–The first book in Daniel Humphreys’ Paxton Locke urban fantasy series, Fade, is available now from Amazon. Book two, Night’s Black Agents releases June 19, and the third book, Come, Seeling Night, will be available early 2019. (Sooner, if Jon can keep pushing Dan to ‘write shorter books.’)


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For Steam And Country Discussion At Lorehaven Books

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Lorehaven is a Christian book club highlighting sci-fi and fantasy books by Christian authors. I wrote an article for their speculative faith a couple of weeks ago, and a brief summary of what steampunk is that led on their site this morning, including a little bit about what I wanted out of the genre that’s missing.

It’s meant to kick off a discussion of my award winning novel, For Steam And Country, which they’re going to be running on their facebook group. Join up with the group as I’ll be discussing the book a little bit in depth over there, talking about different scenes and what I enjoyed about writing the book. If anyone’s got any questions it would be great to help spur discussion.

Book 2: The Blood of Giants is complete, cover’s done, just getting some proofreading done so we’ll have a sequel soon. It’s a great time to get on board and read For Steam And Country along with me and some other folk. Pick it up here if you haven’t already.

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Speculative Faith Article: Let’s Talk About Sex

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Speculative Faith, a Christian magazine dedicated to SF/F writing for Christian authors had me write an article. As sex is such a crucial plot component to The Stars Entwined, I decided to write about what I’ve seen in the Christian genres, and gave my thoughts on the place of sex in fiction.

Sex is a difficult topic in the Christian book community. A lot of readers demand pure, PG or even G rated content, and understandably so. But does sex have no place in Christian-authored work?

Often, Christian readers come out with pitchforks when the topic of sex is remotely broached in fiction.

Read more here.

If you’re intrigued, do check out The Stars Entwined. You’ll be… satisfied.

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Friend Friday: V.R. Konner On Overrepresentation of Minorities In Fiction

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Today we have a wonderful guest, V.R. Konner, who is an author and graphic designer responsible for the maps which will be in future installments of the Baron Von Monocle universe books. He stops by the blog today to talk about his experience in writing, and how he avoids the trope of overrepresentation which is used just to signal politics by so many authors.

I have noticed a creeping disease in Speculative Fiction. Ranging from simple over representation of specific demographics (that are only 2% of the actual population), to outright propaganda.

For example, socialism will never work because there’s always going to be that one job no one wants to do, and you expect us to believe someone’s doing it without pay? That it’s for the betterment of society? That he’ll grow as a human by scrubbing toilets?

Or how there’s a lack of male role models on these shows. If there’s a white straight male, he’s the bad guy, or at least of dubious morals. Westworld Season 2, for example; the only main white guy is the capitalistic black hat who is out to kill everyone for his own selfish reasons. The other white guy is a supporting character for the white woman who is on a mission of RIGHTOUS VENGENGE. The other female lead is out to save her daughter. And no surprise, she’s being helped by a pair of white guys in tow. The only good guy who has a main role is the poor confused African American robot caught in the middle, trying to hide his identity, least he is executed for who he is.

Another example is Star Trek: Discovery, aptly initialed STD, with the evil white Lorca, who has studied war, WAR, WAR! He’ll stop at nothing to get his way! Everyone is expendable! Then there’s the ditsy airhead white girl. But the gay guy is like SUPER SMART and sassy and he’s one of the heroes and they work together to save the poor mistreated tardigrade that is being abused by the Federation. Which, did you also notice the Federation is a little more gray in its morality? Of course, the heroine is a woman, colored, full on Mary Sue, and is oppressed by everyone. Even the vegan alien oppresses her. The most evil character of all, The Empress, is redeemed. An evil Klingon turned into a straight human kills the gay doctor, but even he gets his redemption, by following the Heroine of Color. And that’s not even touching on the obvious racist overtones of the Klingons, with their “Remain Klingon” chant. Remember, the directors flat out admitted they were representing conservatives.

Then there’s the Walking Dead quoting from the Quran. Awww, how adorbs. Quran quotes inspired the lead character to turn away from his evil sadistic vengeful ways, and forgive his enemy. They even had the white boy die to save a Muslim. Symbolic? Probably more so than some curtains being blue.

And don’t even get me started with the disaster of Disney’s Star Wars.

What we consistently see is the demonization of certain “identities” that hasn’t been done since the 50’s. A blatant and racist forced characterization that white straight men are evil, greedy, and care for nobody but themselves. Imperialistic and war mongering. GONE are the days of The Original Star Trek where people worked together in spite of their differences. Now, everyone’s differences are at the forefront, in the audience’s collective faces, and its only by following the hierarchy of modern day victimhood can the not quite so good guys succeed. Why do I say not quite so good? Because they aren’t. Everyone is now morally gray. The bad guys aren’t REALLY bad, they are just misunderstood. The good guys aren’t GOOD, they just have a different point of view. We need to compromise with our enemies.

Remember, “If we kill our enemies, they win.”

It is with all this in mind that I set out to write a book that showed the follies of socialism, the benefits of capitalism, the dangers of unbridled mass migration from a culture that is diametrically opposed to ours, and how a wide range group of people can work together without a care over the personal specifics of their “identity.” Yeah, the hero in my story may be a bit of an anti-hero, he might do things that are distasteful, but there is no doubt he is the GOOD GUY. The bad guys are THE BAD GUYS. I wrote the book I wanted to read. Our society needs an end to identity politics, and the idea that certain groups of people are automatically virtuous or despicable based on some minor characteristic.

Oryan’s Pact is the fruit of 2 years of my life dedicated to this idea. That capitalism can lift the poor, that working together for a common goal in spite of our minor differences is the only way we as a species can succeed.

Support our friends! You can buy Oryan’s Pact here. 

Three centuries after the Third World War, conflict has erupted once more. The forces of Earth are not respecting the rules of engagement, and the leaders of Mars are too cowardly to bring their superior firepower to bear. 

When Commander Jack Oryan and his Mars Orbital Defense crew are convicted of war crimes against Earth, they’re given a choice: redeem themselves by taking on a poorly planned mission for their bloated government, or rot in a reeducation facility. With tempers on edge and wavering loyalties, can Oryan find a way to complete their suicidal task?



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