Cheeseburger Gothic

Rejection letter for DEATH CAME WITH TENTACLES; my failed Dave Hooper romance novel

Posted April 26 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

Dear Mr Birmingham

Thank you so much for giving Harlequin Romance the opportunity to consider your manuscript DEATH CAME WITH TENTACLES. While I really enjoyed reading about Dave Hooper’s fight with an army of demonic squids, I'm sorry to say I can't offer you a contract with Harlequin Romance at this time. Dave is an engaging character and you have a compelling writing style, but neither Dave nor this particular story are quite right for our readers. May we explain why?


Harlequin Romance, as implied by our name, is a long time publisher of romantic fiction, mostly for women. Over the years our most beloved stories have been told by our most relatable heroines. Dave, while no doubt relatable to a number of men, is not by the strict dictionary definition, a heroine—what you might call a lady hero. He is arguably not even much of a hero. His character arc does not so much progress along a hero’s journey as it aimlessly weaves from one drunken encounter to the next, behind the wheel of a stolen pickup truck, which is filled with unstable explosives.


While Dave’s unexplained sexual magnetism does mean that a great many of these ‘encounters’ are with ‘super hot bitches’, the ensuing relationships are, to be honest, rather too numerous, random and short in duration to really qualify as ‘romance’; at least as far as our readership understands the word. As the only other encounters in DEATH CAME WITH TENTACLES tend to involve Dave wrestling with gigantic evil calamari monsters, there does not appear to be much room for his character to grow or for the story to unfold as a traditional Harlequin Romance reader might expect.


It is true that even in romance, story and character cannot evolve and advance without conflict, but our most successful authors tend to define such conflict in terms of emotional disconnect between a relatable heroine and the man of her dreams. Whilst you do briefly mention Dave’s one serious emotional issue—his love for Sparky, his morbidly obese hunting dog, and Dave’s distress when Sparky is eaten by a demon squid—we felt that this issue lacked depth and nuance. Dave’s response to the loss of his one true love (pulling all of the tentacles off the demon squid that ate poor Sparky, tying them into a giant calamari ball, and throwing it into an exploding oil refinery, which previously had not been mentioned anywhere in the text) did quite deftly reveal character through action, but we did not feel it was the sort of character which would appeal to our readers.


We are sorry to disappoint you on this occasion, but it is always possible that future manuscripts not involving Dave, Sparky, horror squids and quite so many super hot bitches, may find a home with us, and we hope you'll consider us for future submissions.

Yours sincerely


Joanne St. Lucia.
Editorial Department
Harlequin Romance.

Extracted from The Seven Stages of Drinking Martinis.

6 Responses to ‘Rejection letter for DEATH CAME WITH TENTACLES; my failed Dave Hooper romance novel’

jl ducks in to say...

Posted April 26
This is a classic.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon is gonna tell you...

Posted April 26
We all need a previously unnoticed exploding oil refinery from time to time.

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Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted April 26
Clearly you misspelled the publisher, you needed to submit it to HENTAI ROMANCE.

FormerlyKnownAsSimon has opinions thus...

Posted April 26
hahahaha

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Therbs is gonna tell you...

Posted April 26
Come on, who didn't cry when Sparky died? I know I did.

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Bondiboy66 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 29
Do Mills and Boon still publish? Maybe give them a go.

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[Extract] The Hard Man, by Jason Cox

Posted March 28 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

In any prison population there is a hierarchy. Most of the crims inside form groups along racial lines. The Aussies all hang together so do the Asians and the Muslims. If there are bikers inside, they hang in their own groups—often with other biker groups that they have treaties with.

Normally, the biggest group runs the jail, arrangements are made to be sure that it’s not a free-for-all every day. If you’re not connected, you’re fair game. Most people decide to get connected when they realise how hard it is in here. A few over estimate their abilities and end up bleeding from one orifice or another and then they make a decision.

The management structure of these groups is pretty simple. It’s normally the craziest, the toughest or the smartest crim that ends up in charge. Mostly it’s the smartest one, and the toughest and craziest tend towards middle management which, in this case, is in charge of smacking people senseless. In here, Lepke runs the show. It’s not his real name but he couldn’t resist using Murder Incorporated as a gang name and it just went from there.

I’m not connected. I have the sort of reputation that can scare smart people off, so I have a level of respect. Before I found my true talents as an armed robber, I used to fight in the cage. Twenty-two wins, no losses, and I can still walk. It mightn’t sound like much but if you knew cage fighting, it’s fucking amazing. This isn’t that UFC stuff you see on TV, this is bare-knuckle anything goes. Two guys walk into a chain mesh enclosure and punch the crap out of each other until one stops moving. Pretty simple and pretty brutal.

The problem with prison gangs is they get too powerful. Then they can make the guards’ lives hell. The boss ends up like some sort of king. I’ve even heard of some of them getting consulted on official jail-house decisions to make sure the prisoners will all go along with them. Lepke is that kind of boss. The head guard is too scared to come on the ward anymore because Lepke’s threatened him. They tried to transfer Lepke but no one else wanted him. All they want is a quiet life—the guards, the wardens, the decision-makers. But in return for a favour, I think I can help out a little.

I finish talking to Uncle John and I get the guard to detour me before I go back to the cells. I need a favour and, in here, you only get favours when you give them. A quick chat and a handshake, and the deal is done.

Lepke keeps his ‘office’ at the end of the rec room. He’s set up the best armchair and a small desk and thinks he’s hot shit. His two bodyguards are on either side of the chair, chuckling away. It’s not like he needs bodyguards in here but he likes the affectation of it. They top out at about six foot six, and have the sort of build you only get from steroid abuse and long hours in the prison gym. The prisoners call them the Gorilla Bros; they think of it as a comment on their physique not their intellect, which makes the truth of it self-evident.

As I approach Lepke, both the Gorilla Bros stand up and block my way, trying to look as menacing as possible.

‘Can we help…?’ And that is about as far as he gets before, I hit him straight in the throat with a right hand. My fingers are open and push right into the windpipe. It’s a sucker shot and he should have been expecting it. As I mentioned before, complacency can be a killer. The other Gorilla is caught a little off guard. They don’t really expect to be attacked, which is what I was planning on. His knees are straight, all the weight forward. Idiot. He still hasn’t moved when my heel hits the side of his knee—the crack is all the confirmation I need. I pull his head forward as he falls, and drive my knee into his nose. He falls flat and doesn’t move, unlike the other one who is rolling around and would be screaming if he could get any breath. Lepke starts to run, but there is nowhere for him to go.

The other prisoners are all moving away. They know this would be trouble for anyone who doesn’t help, so they need to be anywhere else but here. The only flaw in the plan is if someone wants to score points and tries to step in and help Lepke. No one does. Dropping the Gorilla Bros like I did was meant to deter anyone who was thinking about lending a hand. It seems to work.

I grab Lepke by the hair as he tries to run past. He likes to wear it long—no idea why, it’s just an invitation to hurt him. The brief was simple. Put him off the floor for as long as possible and ruin any credibility when he gets back. I just bash his head into the doorframe until he stops moving. The final touch is when I drape him over the unconscious Gorilla Brother so it looks as if he‘s sucking his dick. It’s the little touches that mean a lot.

The screws charge in after that, and I am hard up against the wall with a face full of capsicum spray and plastic cuffs on. They are pretty rough until I get out of sight, then it was all water bottles and eyewash. The cell in solitary even has a double thickness mattress and they send in fish and chips as a thank you. It made the wait easier.

Four weeks later, the parole comes through with time off for good behaviour being recommended by a grateful friend.

The old man buys the store before I get out.

5 Responses to ‘[Extract] The Hard Man, by Jason Cox’

insomniac is gonna tell you...

Posted March 28
I understand the need for the set up but I found the first few paragraphs hard going. After that though I found it very readable. A few lols here and there helped with that. I'll give the rest of it a go. Good stuff Jason.

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jl reckons...

Posted March 28
If y'all can find the time, please leave reviews on The Beast. They are incredibly hard to come by and they make a real difference.

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jason would have you know...

Posted March 29
Much thanks to JB and JL. Taking time out to help a newbie like me is much appreciated.

jl swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 29
Brother, everyone is a newbie once. Never a problem.

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she_jedi has opinions thus...

Posted March 29
Wow Jason you write beautifully about a very ugly scene. Mad props to you, I need to see where this goes now :)

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Blood of Heirs. By Alicia Wanstall-Burke

Posted October 29 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

Alicia has been proofing my final manuscripts for a while now, usually offering more value than I pay for by picking out more than simple typos and line errors. While toiling away in my proofreader dungeons she's also been working on her own first novel and I'm very happy to have an extract below. I'm about a qurter of the way through and I think it a triumph. She worked on this book for four years and you can see the care taken in every line. The characterisation, the scene setting and world building, the intricate weaving together of narrative arcs. It earns the hastag #triumph. I have an advance copy, but I'm going to buy one for myself anyway because she earned that too.

It's Amazon exclusive, but available on KU if you're a subscriber. This link will take you to the local store.

Chapter Six
The Disputed Territory, Western Orthia

Morning broke with a shattering horn blast and screaming headache. Barely able to peel his eyes open, Ran groaned and pulled a blanket over his head to block out the cold light of day. His breath stank and his stomach rolled uneasily, not helped by the thought of what waited outside. He was due his traditional morning vomit, but this time it was not only fuelled by the overpowering stench of death and excrement, but a roaring hangover. The thought did him no favours and he fought the bile burning the back of his throat.


Another furious blast of horns cut through Ran’s head with the grace of a blunt axe and his eyes tore themselves open, heedless of the protests from his headache. There was something wrong with that call. It wasn’t the standard rouse played to wake the troops at sunrise—it was a desperate and hurried call to arms.


Ran sat up fast and the tent spun around him. Frantic shouts and the clash of steel banished the fog in his mind and he scrambled to pull his boots over yesterday’s socks.


‘Ranoth! Up, now!’ Duke Ronart bellowed and threw back the dividing curtain. ‘Get your blade, boy!’


‘What’s going on?’ Ran stumbled to his sword belt as his father’s massive hand collected him by the arm and shoved him through the tent’s rear door.


The grey light of an overcast day blinded him and he collided with an unseen soldier rushing past. Ronart’s grip tightened and dragged him into a run. Ran pumped his legs hard to keep up, blinking to clear his reluctant eyes and shift the dizziness from his vision.


His father charged on like an enraged bull, roaring orders and shoving soldiers aside as if they weighed nothing. There was nothing Ran could do but follow and hope his father didn’t lose hold of his arm.


‘Father, what’s happening?’ he shouted into the storm of men and horses tearing through the camp.


‘They mounted an attack! A fucking dawn attack! I’ll have their general’s guts for breakfast when I’m done, then I’ll ride across the bloody border and raze Wodurin to the fucking ground!’


‘The Woaden are attacking? How did they get this close?’ Ran couldn’t believe it. It made no sense. How had they crossed the lines without anyone noticing?


Cold realisation washed through him and he shivered.


The Hill…


Had Captain Denover failed to hold the advance at the Ford? Had the lines broken because Ran had lost the Hill?


The duke stopped and rounded on Ran, his hands squeezing his son’s shoulders so hard he thought the bones might pop from the joints. ‘I don’t know. Look Ran, you have to get out of here. I can’t have you here if this goes to shit. You understand me? I should never have brought you here, not this late in the campaign. You have to go…’


‘But I can stay, I can—’


A howl of rage filled the air and the duke stabbed his sword into the space beside Ran’s head. Ran spun away as a spray of blood hit the side of his face and he staggered back from the gurgling corpse of a Woaden soldier. Ronart’s sword had skewered the attacker’s throat, and blood flooded down the front of the man’s armour as his sword arm fell limp at his side.


Ran’s meagre challenge of his father’s decision died in his throat. With a flick, Ronart freed the body from his blade and resumed his grasp on Ran’s arm. He didn’t argue or resist. Instead he found himself silently praying to whatever gods were listening that he and his father might make it through this alive.


A vanguard of Orthian soldiers swarmed them as they hurried forwards, dirt and blood muting the shining silver shield etched on their armour; the crown, scythe and pickaxe of his father’s arms completely covered in muck.


‘Sir, this way!’ A marshal shouted and the group veered right, following the marshal and cutting a path through the chaos to the rear of the Orthian camp.


Ran glanced back at the battle and his breath caught in his throat. Imperial soldiers teemed through the encampment, swooping on it like ravenous vultures on a carcass.


The Orthian troops struggled to form a counter attack under the assault, scrambling to retreat and conserve their strength and numbers. Duke Ronart was right—the end of a campaign was a mess. The tired, battle-worn soldiers caught in the onslaught dropped quickly and without much of a fight. Many frantically glanced his way before turning on their heels and bolting into the woods and Ran’s heart skipped a beat.


The men looked at him, at his father, and saw their leaders not simply retreating, but fleeing. They didn’t see a duke taking his son to the rear of the fight—they saw a duke making a break for safety while leaving his troops for dead.


‘Father, stop!’ Ran snapped away from his father’s grip and the duke shuddered to a halt, keen eyes scanning the fight. ‘They’re fleeing because we’re running!’


Through the mud and blood, soldiers deserted in droves, scrambling to the relative safety of other camps dotted along the ridge. The controlled retreat formations, drilled endlessly in the fields near Usmein, collapsed into frantic sprinting. If they had any hope of forcing the Woaden back into the Disputed Territory, they had to bring the retreat under control, and quickly. They had to, or the Imperial Army would spread into Orthia and devour it from within.


‘Fuck me, Tenner sound the retreat horns and get them to pull back like soldiers, not piss-weak children!’ The duke seethed and cursed furiously at the failure of his troops to hold their composure.


Ran tightened his belt and pushed his dark, tangled hair from his eyes. ‘We can turn them back, Father, we just need to form the lines again.’ His study of hundreds of years of battle tactics and wars across Coraidin bubbled to the surface of his mind amidst the disaster of the attack.
‘No, Ran. You have to go.’


‘No, Father, you need—’


Duke Ronart shook his son violently and Ran swallowed his objection. ‘You can’t be here, son. Not my heir; not here, not today. I won’t do to you what was done to my brother. You need to get back to Usmein and raise the alarm. Get the court in order and sort out your mother and sisters. I’ll turn this herd of cats around, but you have to get home.’


Ronart glanced around as if searching for his next move in the chaos and blood. Soldiers roared around them, the deafening crash of blades shattering the morning amongst the screams of frantic horses. The stench of voided bowels hit Ran like a punch in the face, his eyes watering and his stomach lurching.


‘Fuck’s sake, I haven’t a squad to spare.’ Ronart whistled and waved at a soldier, aged in his twenties, holding the reins of a few wide-eyed horses. ‘You! Report!’


‘Brit Doon, sir!’ The soldier gave a sharp salute. ‘Watcher, Duke’s Guard.’


Ronart propelled Ran towards the soldier and the waiting horses. ‘Take him to Usmein as quick as these beasts will carry you. Do not stop, not for anyone or anything. By the gods, I’ll use your skull as an ale mug if he doesn’t make it.’


The soldier gave another salute and without a word, grabbed Ran by the knee and hoisted him into the saddle. The mount shied and threw its head, the chaos too much for it to abide. Despite his terror, Ran’s blood ran cold at the idea of leaving his father in the thick of a battle. The Empire had never broken the lines like this, not in all the decades since the war began. And sons weren’t meant to abandon their fathers when things turned sour and the fate of the duchy hung in the balance.


‘Aye there lad, let’s do as the duke orders, eh?’ Brit Doon said and Ran jerked from staring at the fight to see him already atop another of the horses. Brit gave him a quick, reassuring smile and snatched the reins of Ran’s horse. ‘I don’t fancy my skull filled with ale I’m not alive to drink.’
The watcher kicked his steed and shouted above the battle’s roar. The horses didn’t need any extra encouragement and flew into a barely controlled eastward gallop. The last Ran heard of the fight was the hiss of an arrow over his head and the thwack of several more hitting the dirt beside the horse’s flashing hooves. After that, there was nothing but his breath and the hammering beat of his frenzied heart.


***


Brit forced Ran to ride until he thought his body would collapse in on itself, pushing the horses to the edge of what was considered a reasonable pace if you wanted the beasts to survive. They kept off the road, travelling the quiet lanes and tracks that farmers used to move between their fields and villages. At nightfall, Ran hoped they might rest awhile, but Brit wasn’t interested. He led the horses onward, leaving Ran to doze in the saddle.


‘We should stop,’ Ran suggested for the fourteenth time since sunset. The hard ride from Signal Hill the previous day had left him saddle-sore and extraordinarily fatigued, and he ached to rest, even for a moment. His backside had gone numb, along with the insides of his thighs. His ankles burned from holding the same angle in the stirrups and he hadn’t felt his toes in a long while.
‘You heard the duke. No stopping.’ Brit spat in the dirt and ducked under a low hanging branch.
Ran screwed his face into a frown. Surely his father hadn’t meant for them to ride through the night! ‘The horses need a break. If they snap an ankle in the shadows–’


‘They’re fine at a walk,’ Brit cut him off without even turning his head.


This time Ran swallowed his dissent and glared into the evening. The cold bit into his hands despite the gloves he found in the saddlebags and the north wind had begun to cut through the fabric of his trousers. If he did eventually convince Brit to stop for the night, there was no guarantee he could actually climb down or walk away from the horse. He might manage it at a crawl, but only with his elbows—there was no sensation left in any of his fingers. They would stop soon, even if Ran had to order the soldier to do so.


‘Here, this is a decent place to camp. There’s probably a stream nearby,’ Ran suggested, taking one last stab at subtlety before he had to resort to pulling rank and issuing an outright order. He was a prince of the realm and a captain, after all.


The watcher coughed and spat. ‘Can’t stop here. No one stops here. Besides, Duke’s orders. No stopping.’


Ranoth narrowed his eyes at Brit’s swaying back in the dim moonlight. ‘What are you talking about? There’s nothing here but trees and hills.’


‘Why’d you reckon that is?’ Brit glanced back at the prince. ‘Not bad land around here. Not too rocky even though we’re near the quarries and the gold mines are off to the south there. Not bad here at all, but there’s nothin’. Just these trackways and the road to the Territory.’


Passing through the area on his way to the front, Ran hadn’t taken much notice of the surrounding countryside. To him, one farm seemed identical to the next, and for miles and miles, that’s all he’d thought there was to see. Now it was dark and the only faint light fell from the moon, filtered through bands of high cloud and treetops. If anyone lived nearby, their location would be marked by the glow from a farmhouse hearth, or the soft sounds of grazing animals, or working dogs barking in the distance. A bird or two, owls by their screeching, lifted off from nearby branches. Besides the whisper of their wings in the cool air, there was nothing.


Except…


‘There’s a house!’ Ran pointed at a shadowy structure of large square stones on a cleared hill crest a few hundred yards from the road. He jerked on the reins and kicked his horse harder than the animal deserved. Why spend a freezing night in the saddle when succour was so close?
‘Oi!’ Brit’s curse echoed in the silent valley. ‘What’re you doing?’


‘Getting us a bed!’ Ran shouted back without looking. Even a pile of hay in the barn would be enough. The tenants would surely lend the duke’s son some hospitality, especially on such a frigid night. A chill in the air promised the road would be icy by morning.


At a short stone fence before the house, he swung down and stumbled through a weathered gate jammed open on the path. No light shone from the uncovered window, and Ran reasoned the owner was likely preparing for bed in another room. He rubbed his numb hands together and reached to bang on the door.


‘No!’ cried Brit.


Ranoth’s fist hit the timber panel with a boom.


The door fell inward, splintering on the flagstone floor and the air in his lungs vanished. The impact should have echoed with an almighty crash, but Ran heard nothing. Stunned and wide eyed, he dropped to his knees and stared.


Human skeletons filled the room beyond from floor to ceiling.


There was no telling if a hearth or more rooms lay further in. Mounds of bones and skulls clogged up every available space, brilliant white and dull, dusty grey in the moonlight.
‘Shit…’ whispered Ran.


‘Come back towards me, lad.’ Brit’s hushed command reached him and he obliged, shuffling backwards.


‘What is this place?’ His voice broke.


‘Come on! This is no place to have a chat!’


Deep in the shadows of the house, the hollow eyes of a thousand skulls scrutinised his retreat. Did they wonder where he was going? Did they think he’d come to join them in their lonely countryside tomb? Ran knew the souls once dancing in those black voids were with the Dark Rider in the Underworld, but the fact didn’t ease his hammering heart or settle his quivering lips. The eyes of the dead glared, unmoved by his fear, and Ran gave a startled squeak when the gate pressed into his back, barring his way.


He blinked and she appeared—white blonde hair and skin as pale as the moon, translucent enough to see through to the heaps of skeletons. She lay unmoving across the doorway, between the threshold and the bones, long naked limbs pressed against the floor, her back exposed to the bitterly cold air through the fabric of a shredded shift. Her dead eyes stared into the space between them, unseeing, empty.


A shiver prickled across Ran’s skin. His heart hammered against the wall of his chest and his throat contracted around a scream, choking him as his mouth gaped at the body in the house.
He squeezed his eyes shut.


She’s in my imagination… She’s not real… Get a grip on yourself…


His eyes opened and hers blinked, now clear and blue. She paid no attention to Brit, the soldier was close to losing his wits as he screamed at Ran to get out of the yard. He had seen the ghost and the bones and was howling curses, promising to feed Ran his sword if he didn’t move. But his voice sounded far away, as if he were shouting across a yawning abyss.


‘Go,’ said the dead girl, blue lips moving in a whisper.


A cold hand reached inside Ran’s head and wrapped bony fingers around his mind. He shuddered and winced, pain lancing through his eye sockets.


‘Go, before they find you. They take all they find. Run…. Run! RUN!’


Ran’s jaw and body tensed then the grip on his consciousness eased and the girl’s eyes faded back to stone dead. Without warning her body lurched to the right, jerking and scraping across floor as if dragged by some unholy beast, before disappearing into the house.


Ran finally found his voice and screamed.


His legs scrabbled against the cold dirt of the pathway and a pair of hands snagged the back of his coat. He struggled but the grip was tighter, stronger, and his arms were unfit to fight the doom waiting in the house of bones.


‘Stop flapping about and get over the fence! By the Dark Rider’s balls, let’s go!’ The hands heaved him over the low wall and dumped him on the ground. He looked up and Brit gripped his jacket by the collar. ‘Up, now!’


Ran didn’t need to be told twice. He sprinted wildly for his unimpressed horse and collected the reins, his weariness banished by fear. Brit sprang into the saddle and spurred his mount, not waiting to see if Ran followed.

(Available at Amazon).

7 Responses to ‘Blood of Heirs. By Alicia Wanstall-Burke’

jl mutters...

Posted October 29
This I must read. It pulled me along effortlessly, I raced to the end. Will buy now.

jl has opinions thus...

Posted October 29
Done. Hopefully the first of many US sales, Alicia.

insomniac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 29
Agreed. You really can't stop reading.

jl swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 23
Took me a couple of weeks to get to it (very busy with research for another project), but darn am I glad I did. This book is very, very good. Loved the ending. Denizens of the 'Burger, check it out.

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alfettesfalconer puts forth...

Posted October 30
Yep, that's a page-turner for sure. I love the Australianisms too:

"I’ll ride across the bloody border and raze Wodurin to the fucking ground"

"I can’t have you here if this goes to shit."

"Fuck me, Tenner sound the retreat horns and get them to pull back like soldiers, not piss-weak children!"

Does any other nationality use piss-weak as an insult like Australians do? I hope not.

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jason has opinions thus...

Posted October 31
Just picked it up for a little holiday reading, Alicia, Mr King and Marcus Zusak. Just a pity JL and JB don't have anything new out.

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AuntyLou would have you know...

Posted November 11
Jolly good stuff! So good that I bought it. Looking forward to the rest of the story.

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Extract. Immolation. Jason Lambright

Posted May 11, 2017 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

Battle Shock

December 2345 Earth Standard, planet H-476, 49.4 days after landfall

Sons of the mothers who gave you
Honor and gift of birth
Strike with the knife till blood and life
Run out upon the earth.

—Robert Leckie, “The Battle of the Tenaru, August 21, 1942”


Lt. Col. Paul Thompson was making a dying world die faster. His soldiers, Third Battalion of the 405th Infantry Regiment, were assaulting the Harpies’ last holdout on the world the human forces had labeled H-476. The unlovely, devastated planet lay deep in the Harpies’ sector of settled worlds. Humanity was making good its threat to destroy the aliens’ civilization; millions of soldiers were fighting on dozens of worlds to tear out the Harpies, root and branch.

It was an ugly, squalid, deadly affair, and Paul had been recalled from retirement to participate. And here he was, driving his soldiers forward into the bowels of Aerie 325. His Bravo Company was currently the “main effort,” and as Paul watched his stats on his helmet’s visual display, the people assigned to his unit were dropping like flies.

Paul was doing his best to save his soldiers. But when a soldier’s unit was picked to be in the vanguard of an attack on a heavily defended structure, there is only so much one soldier can do. And Paul had done everything in his power for his people. He had trained his soldiers, he led from the front during forty-nine days of combat, and he had used up his assigned Punishment Battalion.

The partial body at his feet attested to that fact. Paul glanced downward and noted the corpse was shrouded in a prewar M-15 armored suit. Only the damned in the Punishment formations used those things these days. Paul and his troops were in the new M-42s.

A few of the original six hundred or so convicts were still alive; they had done their one task well. They had been driven pell-mell at the aerie with area-denial bots at their backs and shaped charges in their hands. When they opened a breach in the aerie’s walls with their sacrifice, Paul’s battalion had been right behind them.

And now here he stood, in the basement of the aerie with bat-like mounds of Harpy dead and fragments of his people. His newly promoted staff surrounded him, and they all were laboring to bring this slaughter about. His line companies were pushing upward, clambering up walls, fighting along arches and ramps, and killing everything that moved. Progress was slow, but it was steady and grim.

Paul knew that once his battalion reached Command’s chosen figure of 50 percent casualties that they would be withdrawn, and First Battalion of the 405th would take his place. But that was no comfort to him at all. It meant that precisely 325 of his people had to die before this nightmare would be over.

That meant 325 families who would have to be notified that their dear one had suffered a “hero’s death” near a star not even visible from Earth.

Having been through the process before, Paul almost wished he would die here before having to do that again.

A flying Harpy crashed to ruin by Paul’s feet. Without a thought, Paul shot the creature with his pistol. Just to make sure, he shot it again. The sounds of battle, muffled by his helmet, droned in his ears. The rattle of an auto, the grating zing of a rail gun, the explosion of a round hitting rock, the clang of a suit blasted to ruin—these sounds were his intimate companions, and they were burned into his soul like a brand.

His wearable connectivity device, his halo, crackled. John Stevenson, his Bravo Six, was about to speak. “Dragon Six, this is Bravo Six,” Stevenson said.

Paul was Dragon Six, the commander of a battalion nicknamed the “Dragons.” How original, Paul thought for the umpteenth time. He replied to Stevenson.

“Send it, Bravo Six.”

“Uh, roger, sir. Be advised, my company has hit heavy resistance at the top of the ramp, requesting reinforcements.”

Paul glanced at his battle schematic. The ramp was a structure along his battalion’s main axis of attack; it probably led up toward this aerie’s command structure. It had to be taken; it was a bottleneck for further progress. Paul’s readout showed that Bravo had taken 41 percent casualties. In his mind’s eye, Paul saw the tracers and corpses and heard the confused staccato chatter on the squad and platoon nets. If he would have wanted to, he could have pulled up the battle from any of his troopers’ halos, alive or dead, and watched for himself. But he didn’t need to. He knew what combat looked like oh so well.

Bravo was going to have to suck it up.

“Request denied, Six. Rotate your people as we discussed earlier, and take that fucking ramp. Once you have done that, Alpha will do a passage of lines, and you guys go into the reserve. Any questions?”

Paul imagined Stevenson hated his guts right about now.

A pause. “No, sir, no questions. Bravo Six, out.” Stevenson’s voice sounded hollow and drained.

Paul sent out a prompt to his battle staff. He wanted to get closer to the main effort—that is, the ramp and Bravo Company. Of course, in his suit, he couldn’t see the expressions on his staff’s faces, but he knew they despised his idea. It wasn’t safe where they were now, let alone closer to the ramp. Without a word, he and his staff moved up a wall and passed in single file over an arch to get closer to the scene.

Some tracer rounds flashed past, and his supply officer’s suit automatically dodged a Harpy round. A crater flashed in his wake. Paul’s M-372 cannon barked. The distant, distinctive clank from a dead soldier’s suit being impacted sounded across the guano-filled void. Paul’s staff started to pass through Alpha Company’s area, his battalion reserve. They were getting closer to Bravo Company; the din of battle grew acute.

Alpha Company’s commander appeared in Paul’s visual.

“Dragon Six, this is Alpha Six. What’s up?” Subordinate commanders always wanted to know the scoop when the BC, the battalion commander, showed up in the area of operations.

Paul spoke to Lieutenant Tsongas’s image. “Headed toward Bravo. Sounds hot up there.”

He watched Tsongas nod. “Rog, sir,” Tsongas said.

Paul silently wished him luck.

Paul and his staff threaded past waiting troopers. He imagined he knew what they felt—namely, that they were next and that their deaths might be upon them. Paul had been one of them once; he had stood in their ranks what seemed like an eternity ago. And now, through the tricks of a cruel God, he was in command. And he had to crack this nut.

His own mortality didn’t weigh heavily on him; he had resigned himself to death long ago. What he worried about was the deaths of those in his command, even though they thought he was cold and cruel. When his people looked at him, they saw a prewar survivor, a veteran of Brasilia, and a hard-bitten, slightly crazed leader.

When he looked at himself, he saw a mess.

And now he was getting close to Bravo. He and his group were on the leading edge of Alpha’s area. Paul knew that if he looked around the corner he was behind, he would see the ramp.

The din of combat was a roar. Purple Harpy blood was splashed about with alien mortal remains, and every other square foot of the area contained a chunk of trooper. They were Paul’s troops—his responsibility.

He placed a call.

“Bravo Six, this is Dragon Six. Am approaching your AO. What is your situation?”

Stevenson answered, his voice a low, panting monotone. “We’ve taken the ramp. Come take a look.” He dispensed with the “sir.”

“Rog, Stevenson. Good work.” Paul took a second to push orders to Alpha, and then he continued. “Coming up.” He started to move, wondering if he was more likely to catch a round from the Harpies or from Stevenson. Paul pinged his staff and directed them to stay in place, but his major sergeant, Joanna Matherson, followed him.

As Paul cleared the corner, his eyes fell on the battlefield within a battlefield. It was a collage of stuff he didn’t want to see: a Harpy intertwined with a half suit; a trooper’s head; a large streak of Harpy blood on a wall, with the dead alien beneath it; a trooper cowering behind a chunk of something, holding her helmet with both hands; craters; smoke; and blood.

As fast as hell, Paul and Matherson beelined toward Stevenson’s position, clearing a path in alternating bounds. As Paul moved, he checked Bravo’s battle schematic and statistics. A squad from Bravo had gained the top of the ramp, and they were holding. Another squad was moving forward to consolidate the foothold. The rest of the company was waiting. When Paul looked at their stats, he realized that a lot of them would be waiting forever. Fifty-four percent of Bravo Company was dead. Sixty-seven of his soldiers were gone.

Stevenson awaited him by the ramp itself, behind some fallen arcane machine with holes blasted in it. Paul kicked a Harpy out of the way and moved by Stevenson. Matherson linked up with the new sergeant first of the company.

After a minute, Paul broke the silence. He looked at his schematic and saw Alpha was passing through Bravo’s position.

“Captain Stevenson, you are relieved,” Paul said.

“Roger, sir. I’m a lieutenant, though.”

Paul imagined Stevenson followed with a mental “dumb ass.”

“No, Captain, you aren’t,” Paul said. “Gather up your troops, and go into reserve once Alpha comes through. You’ve done enough for now.”

Stevenson didn’t say anything; he just rocked his suit in a manner that signaled “yeah.” Nothing more passed between them.

The first soldiers from Alpha Company passed the two men. They were moving fast and erratically across the ramp. Paul’s experienced eye judged them to be veterans. Paul heard the zing of the rail gun at exactly the same moment as he watched one of the troops die in a photo-strobe flash; the clang reached his ears a split second later. A trooper who was waiting by the ramp to cross over paused. The squad leader or platoon sergeant kicked him or her into motion.

That soldier died, too.

Paul knew that this was bad. No one else from Alpha was moving to cross the ramp, and the toehold on the opposite side had to be reinforced, now. He also knew that he hated chickenshits. He had hated them his whole career. One type of commander would order his men to die while chewing on a peanut butter sandwich, whereas another type would share the dangers and lead. Paul had known for a long time which type of commander he was.

He placed an all-call.

“Come on, fuckers.”

And he started to bound across the ramp.

1 Responses to ‘Extract. Immolation. Jason Lambright’

Rhino would have you know...

Posted May 13, 2017
Damnnnnnn

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Respond to 'Extract. Immolation. Jason Lambright'

A sample chapter before I go: The Cruel Stars.

Posted March 8, 2017 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

The rock turned silently within hard vacuum and the young woman with it. She pressed her nose to the porthole which fogged with her breath while she waited for night to sweep over this part of the base again. It would come, dark and frozen, within a few minutes, revealing the star field of the local volume, the vast blue-green pearl of the planet far below, and the lights of the nearest Hab, another naval station, like this hollowed-out moonlet, but not.

Lucinda waited for the stars. In the right mood, in a rare abstracted moment, she sometimes wondered at the way they wrapped themselves around you, seeming both intimate and infinite at the same time. As she wondered, dusk came pouring over the small mountain range to the east, advancing in a wave of fast shadows and lengthening pools of inky blackness. She could not see the darkness coming for her on this part of the rock, but she imagined it now swallowing the local area point defences and the gaping maw of the docks. The entrance to the port was always illuminated, but the lights would soon burn with a severe brilliance in the accelerated night.

She was not floating, but she still felt light and only barely in touch with the deck in the standard quarter-gee provided by the moonlet’s mass here at the surface.

“Lieutenant Hardy?”

Surprised out of her reverie, she jumped a little, reaching out reflexively to nearest wall to arrest herself before she could take gentle flight. She was embarrassed at being caught out so.

“Yes,” she said, her voice catching just a little as she turned away from the view, reorienting herself to the spare, utilitarian lines and angles of the transit lounge. As grim as were the outlines of the RAN base and the lunar surface from which its outer shell emerged, the transit lounge was altogether less pleasant to contemplate. At least she thought so after the third hour of waiting here. The glow strips on the carbon armour walls were old enough to need replacing months ago. Rows of hard o-plastic seating looked bleached and brittle under the weak lighting. She was the only other officer in the space. The only other person for the last hour. This part of the facility was restricted and foot traffic was thin.

“Sorry for the delay, ma’am,” said the young man, saluting. He was a second lieutenant, just out of the Academy she guessed from his age and eagerness and his eyes went a little wide as he took in the campaign ribbons on her jacket. He wore dark blue general duty coveralls and carried a sidearm low on his thigh. Lucinda, in her black and white dress uniform, felt awkward in spite of her advantage in rank and experience.

She returned his salute and tried to ignore the feeling that seemed to steal upon her with every new posting, that she was simply masquerading as an officer and would soon be found out.

“You have the advantage of me, Lieutenant…?”

He stared at her blankly for a second, amplifying that sense of dislocation and fragile pretence. Then he smiled.

“Oh. Sorry. You’re not plugged into the shipnet yet. Bannon, ma’am. Lieutenant Ian Bannon. Junior Grade.”

They shook hands, close enough in rank for the informal gesture. His eyes flitted briefly to the colored rows of decorations again, but she could forgive him that. He wore no decoration beyond the stitched half-bar on one collar tab.

“Sorry,” he said, when he realised she’d caught him checking out the fruit salad, but he smiled as he apologised. He had a boyish grin that Lucinda imagined had been getting him out of trouble his whole life. He looked very practised in its use. “They told me you fought in the Javan War,” he said, catching sight of her duffel bag under the front row of seats and reaching for it before she could. Lucinda almost told him not to. She preferred to look out for herself. But Bannon held the lesser rank and it would have been a slight to her if he had not offered. He lifted it carefully in the low-G, testing its mass. Nodding when had the measure of the load.

“They said you were promoted in the field,” he said, leading her toward the exit. “From ensign to lieutenant.”

His enthusiasm was getting away from him. Not looking where he was going, he banged his knee into a chair and cussed, then apologised for cussing. The bag floated up slowly, like an improbable novelty ballon.

“Whoa there,” he said, adjusting his grip and stance and nearly tumbling over while he wrestled the duffel bag and his own mass back under control.

“Damn,” he grinned. “Been in spin and ship grav too long.”

He shrugged off the moment where she would have blushed fiercely with embarrassment.

Lucinda found she could not help but like him. But also, she could not let him go on.

“Thank you,” she said, nodding at the bag. “But I went into the war as a baby Louie, just like you. And I came out a fully grown LT simply because it went on long enough for my turn to come around.”

Bannon, unconvinced, gave her a theatrically dubious side-eye as they exited the Spartan surrounds of the transit lounge.

“No. The Chief told me you were promoted in the field. And the Chief is never wrong. He told me that too.”

She shrugged and essayed a small uncertain smile.

“I would never want to correct a Chief Petty Officer,” she said—and she was not lying—“but the first promotion, from ensign, that wasn’t in the war. It was nothing, really. Just a small engagement during a counter-piracy patrol.”

“Okay,” he grinned, as though he knew she was hiding some greater truth. “If you say so.”

They walked down a long, wide corridor. The passageway twisted like an elongated strand of DNA, and curved down into the body of the rock. She could feel their descent in the slope under her feet and in the increasing pull of gravity. There were no more portholes to the surface, only screens carrying data feeds and imagery from around the base. At first they passed by no other personnel, but the traffic in automats and bot trains was moderate to busy, and once an Autonomous Combat Intellect floated past. They saluted the black, ovoid lozenge. It pulsed in acknowledgement, turning briefly purple, before a male voice, said, “Lieutenant Hardy, Lieutenant Bannon, good evening to you both.

The Intellect drifted on serenely.

They watched it disappear around the twisting curvilinear passage.

“Those guys,” said Bannon, shaking his head. “So chill.”

The corridor spiralled down for another five minutes. Lucinda’s duffel bag grew visibly heavy in her colleague’s hand. She did not so much make conversation as ride it downslope. Bannon, unlike her, wasn’t shy of talking about himself. By the time they left the long spiral passage they had completely inverted themselves relative to the surface and stood in a secure reception bay, enjoying one Earth-standard grav, provided by the moonlet’s power-assisted spin. She also knew all about Bannon’s family (wealthy but not yet ennobled), his service (just beginning), and the ship’s command group (pretty chill, except for…)

“Except for this guy,” he muttered out the corner of mouth.

“Bannon! Where the hell have you been?”

Hardy started at the barking voice, as much at the accent as the volume and sharpness. The rich, stentorian tones of someone who grew up at court on the Armedalan home-world were unmistakable, especially when the speaker made an extra special effort to gild their speech in gold leaf.

The reception bay was a small area, not much larger than the transit lounge where she’d spent so many hours. The walls and ceiling were bare rock, save for a thin but obvious coating of sealant, shining under the glow strips. Three of the four security checkpoints were closed. The fourth stood open and a man in day uniform stomped through. He wore the insignia a First Lieutenant and Bannon snapped to attention. Hardy stood at ease. The man did not outrank her. Not in any military sense.

His expression turned dark as he took in her lack of deference.

“Lieutenant Hardy?” he asked, giving her the impression that it was an onerous and unwelcome duty to even say her name.

“Yes, Lieutenant?”

She left the question open. For the merest second he had almost elicited a ‘Yessir!’ from her, his long experience of assumed privilege conspiring with her trained obedience to the chain of command to force a submission to which he was not due. Not while he served in uniform.

“You took your time, Lieutenant,” the officer complained.

He did not offer his name. Perhaps she was supposed to know him, or know of him?

“I was waiting at surface level transit, as per my travel orders… Lieutenant,” she said, annoyed by how much his tone of voice seemed to compel her to call him ‘sir’. Bannon, she sensed, remained at attention beside her.

Lucinda guessed herself to be in the presence of some minor scion of the Royal House, serving his three years before taking up a directorship on one of the Habs or possibly even down on the planet below. He was a First Lifer, like her. Like all of them. Junior officers were always First Lifers. After all, who would go back for a second bite of that cherry?

The anonymous princeling, or count, or whatever he was, lost focus while he consulted his neural net. A lieutenant, she reminded herself, he was just a lieutenant, like her, possibly with even less time in service. He stared through her and Bannon, who was still standing rigidly to attention and saying nothing. It was the first time he’d shut up since she’d met him. Lucinda was tempted to grab an image cap of the nameless officer and run a personnel search while he made them wait. See if she could track down his ‘legend’, the public record of his naval service. See if he’d been the sort of second or third tier wastrel who kept the scandal services and gossip archives busy before he had to sign on.

But she kept her interface shut down and her expression neutral. She didn’t want to give him the satisfaction. He seemed to getting altogether too much satisfaction from Bannon’s discomfort and her irritation.

His eyes came back from searching the middle distance and he smirked.

“A charity case, eh?”

She felt her cheeks beginning to burn and knowing that she was blushing only made it worse. Lucinda stared at him, refusing to drop her gaze. Her anger growing. Beside her, Bannon remained as silent and still as the hard vacuum outside.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “Did Naval Records get it wrong?”

He made a show of checking his neural net again, although she doubted he even bothered pulling it up. He simply pretended.

“It’s says you were recommended for officer training school by Habitat Welfare because…” again, the play of consulting records, “…because your father was transported to a debtor colony.”

The still anonymous lieutenant sucked air in through his teeth. “I wouldn’t go lending money to this one, Bannon,” he snorted. “Would you?”

Bannon took just half a second too long to answer.

“Well?” asked the Lieutenant, sensing more fun to be had in that moment of hesitation. “Would you?”

Still at parade ground attention, Lieutenant Bannon seemed to be struggling to lift a great weight, as though Lucinda’s kit bag, which he still carried, had somehow increased its mass tenfold.

“If Lieutenant Hardy was in need of a loan, Lieutenant Reence,” he said at last. “I would be happy to help her. As, I’m sure, she would do for me.”

Lucinda smiled. She knew who he was now. Or who his family, at any rate. House Reence. And that was the same thing really.

“Of course I would, Ian,” she said.

Reence did not smile. He seemed about to double down on whatever game he was playing when he suddenly came to attention as rigidly as Bannon. Lucinda followed his lead. Something or someone behind her had brought the young man’s theatre of cruelty to an end.

“Ah. Excellent,” said a gruff male voice. It sounded bearish but kindly.

Lieutenant Reence performed a textbook salute.

Lucinda and Bannon followed suit as the eerily glowing, spherical jewel of an Autonomous Combat Intellect floated up at chest level. It was smaller than the Intellect they had passed on the upper levels. That had been oblong in form and at least a metre in length.

This entity was much smaller, a ship’s Intellect, rather than a Fleet Level adept. About the size and shape of a baseball, it looked like nothing so much as an itinerant blackhole, turned sentient and footloose.

“Is this our new tactical officer?” it asked, although it knew full well who she was. The Intellects knew everything. “Lieutenant Hardy? Welcome aboard, young lady. I’ve heard marvellous things about you from Admiralty, and from the Intellect 4717, who was with you during that spot of bother with those dreadful pirate fellows in the Archon System. Come along, Reence!” The Intellect scolded. “We have a genuine hero piping aboard. I hope you’ve seen to the supper arrangements. Captain Dickinson will expect the silver service. It’s not every day we welcome a Medal of Honour winner to the wardroom. Remind me again, Reence. Do you have a Medal of Honour? I can’t quite recall you winning one, which is odd, because as you know my memory is virtually infinite and actually infallible.”

The Intellect moved off with regal grace, clearing a path through the security barrier and humming a tune Lucinda thought she recognised from a musical she’d seen back on Armedale, during a rare weekend off from the Academy.

“You didn’t tell me about the medal,” Bannon stage whispered as they fell in behind the merrily humming super-intelligence. Lieutenant Reence stalked ahead of them, but behind the Intellect.

“The records were sealed,” she said.

The Intellect should not have known, and if it did know it should not have revealed that it knew.

But the Intellects were like that.

You never really knew that the hell they were thinking.

44 Responses to ‘A sample chapter before I go: The Cruel Stars.’

EMM mumbles...

Posted March 8, 2017
Benevolent asshole AIs? Sign me up!

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WarDog swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 8, 2017
Oooh, I'm going to like this one. How long do we have to wait?

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted March 8, 2017
Who knows!?! It's trade published and I'm submitting in about six weeks. Could be later this year. Could be next.

Jerre is gonna tell you...

Posted March 12, 2017
HELL YES!!!!I like the sample...a lot.

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Therbs swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 8, 2017
I'm thinking that Reence gets his beans cashed in the maw of a Space Lizard's laser cannon set on full auto. Globules of Reence floating in zero g.

insomniac reckons...

Posted March 8, 2017
I'm guessing Reence is a reference to Reince Priebus, of Trump's admin fame, who reminds me of Christopher Pyne, so yes, I agree wholeheartedly to the bean cashing and more.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted March 8, 2017
I do love Reince Priebus as a villains name. And Reence is too close to that. But maybe Reinz?

insomniac puts forth...

Posted March 8, 2017
I dunno, but this is why you need us

she_jedi mumbles...

Posted March 9, 2017
Yes you should totally get us to choose your villain names for you :)

LOVE THIS! Can't wait to see more.

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Surtac mutters...

Posted March 9, 2017
I'm loving this already. Want moar. Now.

<Goes to wait (im)patiently in the corner.>

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Myriads has opinions thus...

Posted March 9, 2017
Very good fun. I like the world building already. Excellent character definition in so short a space.

Typo on the bottom of page 6: "He wore the insignia a First..."

I assume that should be "...of a First...'

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Gutz mutters...

Posted March 9, 2017
Coming from someone with zero writing chops and better suited to a Steve Buscemi style comic relief, i say Schwing!!

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Oldy asserts...

Posted March 9, 2017
Possible typo?

P2
"...reaching out reflexively to nearest wall..." should it be "the nearest wall"?

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Bondiboy66 mutters...

Posted March 9, 2017
Nice little appetizer! Looking forward to the main course!

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Surtac puts forth...

Posted March 10, 2017
Oh, and should it be 'what the hell' rather than 'that the hell' in that last line?

(Just had to re-read it this morning.)

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Gilligan reckons...

Posted March 10, 2017
Super excite. The "Cruel Sea" audiobook was a staple of road trips in my youth (that and "633 Squadron"). I'm also loving the clear world building and 40s/Napoleonic mashup of tone re; officer class, etc..

For my devalued 2c, I'd suggest Reinz reads a bit easier and is nice and punchy. Will he be a Bennett, all shirker and bluster, or do we get a grudging respect 'cause he can actual do stuff?

10/10, would military sci-fi again.

Spanner reckons...

Posted March 10, 2017
Brilliant. I read the Cruel Sea as a kid many times. J.E. McDonald's Gimmie the Boats.

Imma go download these to listen to again.

Gilligan mumbles...

Posted March 15, 2017
Several of the audio books we used to listen to Canberra-Sussex Inlet and 1CAMD-Sussex Inlet (both about 2-3 hours, depending on traffic) have particular passages that have stuck with me.

"Cruel Sea" has a post-torpedo description of dealing with casualties that includes a seaman holding an arm "flayed from wrist to shoulder by scalding steam", and the interaction between the new toff-y officer and the more experienced officers discussing Bennett and his use of the phrase "do not come the acid with me".

And all the Hitchikers' Guide audio book versions with partial soundscapes and a bit more production value than just some guy in a studio. And ready by Stephen Moore, so Marvin was definitely Marvin.

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Dave W is gonna tell you...

Posted March 10, 2017
I very much like.

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Spanner reckons...

Posted March 10, 2017
Shut up and take my money.

Oh wait you did that already.

Refunded it.

Dammit now take my money again.

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Blarkon swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 10, 2017
There's space lizards and splosions coming though right? Character development kinda has to be there I suppose, but splosions and space lizard turn Space Opera into Space Literature.

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Turlogh Dubh O'Brien ducks in to say...

Posted March 11, 2017
I'd like to know more about the Javan War...I love little side notes like that. Needless to say, I'm hooked.

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NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted March 11, 2017
Good.
Tricky to put human scale drama in a very spacious neighbourhood.

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Sudragon is gonna tell you...

Posted March 11, 2017
Physics problem.

The base is spinning to produce 'gravity', with our protagonist 'not quite floating' in a quarter G (mass of rock gravity) at the outside edge of the asteroid and walking in one G (spin gravity) at the reception bay deeper within the rock. This is backward. If the spin produces one G at reception, the transit bay would have the windows in the floor and be running at more than one G, not a quarter.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted March 12, 2017
Would it, though. It's not just under the surface, or 'shell' of the moonlet. It's ON the surface. A quite conventional moonbase. That's why they have the DNA loop to turn you upside down as you go int the interior.

Sudragon has opinions thus...

Posted March 12, 2017
Is the whole base spinning...or just an internal structure?

insomniac is gonna tell you...

Posted March 12, 2017
It's a hollowed out moonlet so when they do the DNA thing are they now standing on the inside of the shell? Like an easter egg perhaps. I'm no physics genius but that works doesn't it? You're being pushed onto the "floor" by the spin, whereas on the surface you're being held by conventional mass gravity, although you have removed a lot of the mass now. The more mass you remove the weaker the gravity, and you'd need a pretty big moonlet to get quarter g. Earth sized maybe.

Sudragon would have you know...

Posted March 12, 2017
Hokay.

Using spin to make 'gravity', you have minimum radii you can use to prevent side effects from Coriolis forces (basically..things falling in curves from the viewpoint of the people spinning with the vessel. It's going to make Cricket interesting in the big habs, but I digress). One of these things is pressure gradients in the plumbing. (Human body...lots of plumbing...Bad Things happen)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_torus
1 rpm at 900m equals approximately 1 G. Outside edge of torus is moving at 2*pi*r per minute

thats 5655m/minute or 1.5m/s. 5.4 km/h.

Let's look at 'surface gravity' One quarter 'G' is about 2.54 m/s^2, putting the base in a body between the size of the Moon (1.62m/s^2) and Mercury (3.7m/s^2)

Surface gravity of Ceres, biggest local 'rock' (not counting Pluto) is one fortieth of a G (.27 m/s^2) and it has a diameter of 945 km.

I am not an astrophysicist. Or a rocket scientist.

insomniac would have you know...

Posted March 12, 2017
Agree on the moon/mercury g thing but that's the mass you need. A hollowed out moonlet would have to have a larger radius to achieve the same mass, and resultant quarter g.

insomniac mumbles...

Posted March 12, 2017
All that plus
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrarium_(space_habitat)

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted March 13, 2017
Insomniac gets the gold star.

insomniac asserts...

Posted March 13, 2017
I will proudly display it alongside my next greatest physics achievement: a C+ in an open book physics 101 exam.

Sudragon mutters...

Posted March 13, 2017
A question, if I may? Does our erstwhile Author confer with Military types concerning details of military attitudes, weapons and tactics?

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted March 14, 2017
Sometimes. Mostly with Murph. IN this case though, because the series is so far in the future, I can just make shit up.

jason ducks in to say...

Posted March 14, 2017
Jason Lambright is my go to guy for any weaponry and tactical advice. Just reading his books gave me a good education in that sphere.

sharky is gonna tell you...

Posted March 15, 2017
When is it supposed to be, in an Earth timeline like 2645 AD, or just "once upon a time, a long way away"?

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted March 15, 2017
It's about a thousand years from now

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pedrogb has opinions thus...

Posted March 11, 2017
You guys are so thinky.
I enjoyed it, looking forward to a good read.
Splodey is good.

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Don Bagert would have you know...

Posted March 12, 2017
Space opera?

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Rhino puts forth...

Posted March 13, 2017
Get in my Kindle!

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jl puts forth...

Posted March 14, 2017
This is the type of stuff that drew me into sci-fi as a kid and never let up. When it comes out, I'll put more pennies in the Birmingham Bank.

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Dave C is gonna tell you...

Posted March 15, 2017
Finally had time to read properly. Like much.

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HAVOCK21 ducks in to say...

Posted March 15, 2017
FKN YEAH BABY!. Not to shabby at all bimminghum. She reminds me of a younger version of Jane Willet! yummy, very very fkn yummy!

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Varley mumbles...

Posted April 13, 2017
Thank God another book from John, I can't find a decent thing to read and am reduced to trolling through the sci fi section at amazon.

Cant wait for all of the projects you mentioned.

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Respond to 'A sample chapter before I go: The Cruel Stars.'

A Girl in Time. Chapter Two

Posted December 1, 2016 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

Georgia had argued that sushi was not a great choice on a cold, wet night in November. She wanted Greek, of course; her last name was Eliadis. But Cady loved sushi. They had hot dishes, too. And BuzzFeed Guy was paying.

“Matt. His name is Matt, not BuzzFeed Guy,” Georgia stage-whispered. He was away from the table when Cady arrived. “And you're going to give him a great interview, because he's going to be my new boyfriend, and he's going to give it to me six ways from Tuesday.”

The restaurant was about ten minutes from being crowded. The seats at the sushi train were all taken, and all but a couple of booths were full. They were in one of the booths, because you never ate from the train unless you wanted to catch an express ride to food poisoning. Four empty beer bottles on their table spoke to how well Georgia and BuzzFeed Guy—Matt—were getting along.

Cady made herself say his name five times so that she wouldn't forget. She would make herself say it at least twice in the first couple of minutes, just to fix it in her memory.

“Stop saying his name,” said Georgia, digging a knuckle into her ribs. “He's mine. You were too late. So don't think you can come in here with your sad little Jessica Jones look and steal my future husband away from me.”

Cady squealed and laughed and tried to slide away from her friend, and completely forgot the name of BuzzFeed Guy when she looked up and found him smiling at the pair of them from the end of the table. He was good-looking. Movie star good-looking. And even though she had promised herself she would remember his name, because that's what grown-ups did, one look at this guy and all rational thought climbed aboard the sushi train and choofed away, possibly never to return.

“Hi, BuzzFeed Guy,” she said.

“Hi, Murder Girl,” he volleyed back, sliding into the booth across from them, carrying three beers.

“Matt,” said Georgia, emphasizing his name, “this is Cadence McCall. Cady, this is Matt Aleveda. He will be your BuzzFeed journalist tonight.”

They shook hands while Cady struggled to think of something to say other than, "Oh my, you're cute." She could see why Georgia wanted to rush him out the door and into bed. All of her strategies for this interview, all of the carefully prepared little pull quotes she had already imagined featuring on the front page of the site between “Tay Tay and Beyonce’s Cage Match” and “37 Pictures of Dogs Who Just Can't Even Anymore” … they all flew right out of her head.

“You want to order?” he asked, saving her from the vast embarrassment of staring at him and saying nothing, just grinning like an idiot.

She nodded and swigged at her beer, mostly to hide behind the bottle for a couple of seconds to regain her balance. She felt Georgia kicking her under the table as if to say, "See, see, I said he was cute."

“I like the hot ones,” she said, before hurrying on. “The hot dishes, I mean.”

A bright hot flush bloomed somewhere beneath her tee shirt and spread to her face. She knew it was coming. Knew it was going to be bad. And that just made it worse.

“That's why we should’ve had Greek,” said Georgia. “Do you like Greek food, Matt?” she asked.

“My grandmother was Greek,” he said, his smile completely authentic. “She was a cook on a big cattle ranch down in Arizona. That's where she met my granddad. He was a vaquero, a cowboy from Mexico. So yes, I do like Greek food.”

“Then next time we go to Lola, and moneybags here pays.”

“Hey, I don't get paid for another month, you know,” said Cady.

“Okay then. Yanni's, and then Lola.”

“So you haven't made any money off the app yet?” Matt asked. “That seems almost weird. It's been number one for weeks now.”

“It takes a while to confirm the sales,” she said. “Sixty days, usually.”

Talking about her game, Cady started to recover her poise. It was as though the earthquake which had threatened to knock her on her ass stopped, leaving her shaken, but suddenly surefooted. The restaurant was getting noisy as more people came in to take the last seats, and the patrons who were already there raised their voices to talk over each other.

“Do you mind if I ask what sort of a payday you're looking at?”

She didn't mind at all.

“Four and a half million dollars initially. It'll fall away after that, after Murder City drops off the front page and then the best seller lists. But I can probably make do.”

She felt Georgia's foot tapping her ankle again.

What? Was she being a jerk? This was why her friend had come along with her. Cady wasn't always the best judge of what to say in these situations.

“Sweet,” said Matt, clearly impressed. “Explains all the clones.”

“They're garbage apps,” said Cady, and Georgia kicked her. Hard. Matt noticed.

“It's true,” Cady insisted. “They are. And I feel really strongly about this. I spent a long time working on that game. I maxed out my credit cards. Ate grungy rice and fish heads. I slept in a cot in front of my computer. I did the work. It paid off. I'm not going to be modest about it.”

“No reason to be,” Matt said as a waitress appeared to take their order. “If you were a guy, it wouldn't be an issue.”

Georgia dug her fingers into Cady's arm.

“Mine,” she whispered.

Matt reminded them he was picking up the tab, and they over-ordered. Cady doubled up on the tempura seafood platter with an extra serve of Dungeness crab.

“Rice and grungy fish heads, remember?” she said when Georgia gave her The Look.
They discussed the games industry: “Nintendo should just give up on hardware.”
Sushi trains: “Most of the time they're like, “This is what comes back on the train line from the toxic waste factory.”

And the latest superhero movie, another failed Green Lantern reboot. A particular hate-favorite of Cady's.

“The love interest dragged. Again. The super villain was more sentient smog bank than relatable nemesis. Again. And while you have to love the idea of the green man's powers—your flight, your mad awesome combat skills, a workable indestructibility, and that whole of energy-into-mass conversion thing—they just didn't sell me on the Lantern having any chance at kicking Superman's ass, which is the gold standard in these matters. One star. Would not even torrent.”
Matt was recording the conversation by then.

“So, you guys. You're besties, right? Where'd you meet?”

“College. At a self-defense workshop,” said Georgia.

“Seriously?”

“Seriously. Have you seen the data on campus rape?” said Cady, using a pair of chopsticks to awkwardly move a large piece of fried crab meat into her bowl.

“So you're like unstoppable killing machines of death?” he asked, with poker-faced sincerity.

“Worse,” Georgia answered. “Female game devs.”

“Our superpower is ruining everything,” said Cady.

“So, Georgia, did you help Cady on Murder City?”

“Nope. It's all her own work. She doesn't play well with others.”

“It's true,” said Cady. “I'm just a girl with mad coding skills, but no people skills.”

“And your diagnosis,” Georgia prodded. “Don't be modest. You're a high functioning sociopath too.”

“According to 4Chan.”

Matt took out a Field Notes reporter’s notebook. It looked to be about half full already.

“According to Reddit,” he said, flipping through the pages, “you're an insufferable lesbian, and every boy you ever dated died mysteriously after placing five-star reviews of Murder City in the gaming press.”

“The technical term is ‘corrupt gaming press’.”

“I stand corrected.”

“You're actually sitting down,” Georgia teased. “This is why nobody trusts the media anymore.”

More food arrived. More food than they needed.

The restaurant was uncomfortably hot and noisy with the crowd by then. A family moved into the booth behind Matt, a single dad and three daughters. They looked young, the oldest possibly not even in school yet, and they were hideously excited. Their father looked pained as the girls launched themselves at the moving buffet.

“Choose careful, girls. I only got thirty bucks to get us through. Maybe some avocado rolls?”

Cady was looking directly at him when he spoke, and his eyes locked on hers, his voice trailing away at the end, the three hungry children ignoring him completely. She felt herself blushing again. Without asking Georgia or Matt, she grabbed the plate of hand rolls which had just arrived at their table, stood up, and walked them back to the next booth.

“We over-ordered,” she said. “You should have these.”

The girls fell on the food.

“Rocket ships!” the oldest one cried out.

Their dad started to say, “That won't be necessary—”

But Cady spoke over him.

“Yeah it will. We ordered too much. Chill. It's all good.”

She spotted their waitress a few tables over, and before anyone could stop her, she marched over, pointed out her booth and the family next to it, and explained she would be paying for the little girls and their dad. Satisfied, she returned to Georgia and Matt. He was smiling crookedly at her. Georgia was not smiling at all.

“What?” she asked, slipping back into her booth.

“Nothing,” said Georgia, in a tone of voice that said everything.

“I'm gonna just … go the bathroom,” said Matt.

“What are you doing?” Georgia whispered fiercely when he had excused himself.

The embarrassment Cady felt when the girl's father had caught her looking at him returned, doubled in strength. She dared not look in his direction.

“Shut up,” she said, in as low a voice as she could and still be heard. “I was just helping.”

“You're not,” said Georgia. She flicked her eyes over the back of Matt's seat. The guy was still sitting in the booth, his daughters oblivious to any disturbance in the Force.

But even Cady could tell now there was a great disturbance in the Force. The man was concentrating fiercely on his food, staring at the hand rolls—“rocket ships!”—as if defusing a time bomb. The three girls feasted merrily, but he did not eat at all.

“We'll talk about this later,” said Georgia, “but promise me you won't do anything stupid to look good for Matt again. Anything else,” she added.

Embarrassment threatened to flare into anger then, but Cady got a hold of her temper before it broke free.

“I don't know what you mean,” she said.

“Yes, you do,” Georgia shot back. “You were being selfish in that very special way you have, Cady. When you don't think about anyone else. Just yourself and what's best for you. But I said we'd talk about it later.”

“No, we'll talk about it now.”

Her anger was returning, like a wrestler who had been pinned suddenly finding a way out of the hold down.

“I wasn't being selfish. I was thinking about—”

Georgia leaned right into her personal space.

“You were thinking about how it would look when Matt wrote you up as the most generous girl in the world. But that's not how it will turn out, trust me, because that's not how it is.”

She almost left then.

Almost stormed out into the cold.

She could even see herself slamming her last sixty-three dollars down on the table of the booth next door. And it was only that image, of a crazy woman throwing money and shade at three little girls and their poor single dad which brought her up short.

Maybe she had been a jerk?

Maybe she was insufferable?

Considering the possibility was enough to drain her foul temper. It was like losing herself in the effort of solving a really complex coding problem.

She took a sip of her beer.

“Okay,” she said, quietly, being even more careful not to catch the eye of anyone in the next booth.

Not the children, and certainly not the father she'd probably embarrassed.

Humiliated, even.

“But now I gotta pay for their dinner, too,” she said quietly, knowing Georgia would understand what she meant. Georgia knew her better than she knew herself. “Can I borrow some money? Or do you think we can hit up BuzzFeed Guy for it?”

11 Responses to ‘A Girl in Time. Chapter Two’

Peter Bradley swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 1, 2016
Again with the strong female characters! Outstanding work!

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insomniac has opinions thus...

Posted December 1, 2016
What if I spot an error?

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted December 1, 2016
Let me know.

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insomniac reckons...

Posted December 1, 2016
Top of page 9 Matt's line... go to the bathroom

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted December 1, 2016
Ta

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted December 2, 2016
Actually, now I look at it, I did that on purpose. Some people do speak like that. But I might change it, since it obviously brought you up short.

insomniac reckons...

Posted December 2, 2016
I thought it might have been deliberate, but yes it did stand out a bit, but then I'm the type of person who writes out texts in full. You're the master, I'm the slave I mean alpha.

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balri mumbles...

Posted December 1, 2016
So...ah...chapter 3 tomorrow? I'm hooked

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted December 1, 2016
Oh all right then.

GhostSwirv would have you know...

Posted December 2, 2016

No keep it as is ... Matt's a reporter, he's picked up on something and he's given Cady and Georgia a moment.

I heard it right in my head - saw it too!

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Therbs has opinions thus...

Posted December 2, 2016
I don't now what the hell to expect with this book. I'm now figuring what I need to finish on the Kindle before you get all PETA on this thing and free it from its cage.

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Respond to 'A Girl in Time. Chapter Two'