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EARTHFALL 2: A Bit of a Tiff

September 9, 2017 1 comment

“Not part of the deal, General,” Mulligan said. “This is as far as you go.”

Benchley looked up at the towering sergeant major. An icy smile slowly spread its way across his face, and Andrews caught a glimpse of what Benchley must’ve been like as a younger man: tough as nails, and ready to prove it.

“That’s funny, an enlisted man telling me what I can do,” Benchley said, though there was no humor in his voice. “I mean, here I am, an honest to God general officer. And you think you can tell me what to do, Mulligan? If I remember my military hierarchy, you’re what? Eleven stations down the food chain from me?”

“Sir, this isn’t your job to do,” Mulligan said.

“The fuck it isn’t!” Benchley roared, the fury in his voice mirrored by the expression on his face. Andrews had never seen the Old Man so energized before, and it was both an awesome and fearsome sight. “You back up right now, Sergeant Major, and you do it God damned fast!”

“Marty,” Mulligan said, “this is for me to do.”

“Make a hole,” Benchley growled. “Make it wide.”

“General—” Andrews looked from Benchley to Mulligan. “Sarmajor… listen, you can’t do this by yourself. I’ll go. I can do whatever you need me to do, and hey, I’m replaceable.”

Benchley turned his withering glare toward him. “Andrews—”

“Captain, I appreciate the sentiment, but this is something I have to do,” Mulligan said. “You have a rig to command. You need to stay here.”

“Lieutenant Eklund is quite capable of operating the SCEV, Sarmajor,” Andrews said.

“This is getting stupid fast. I’m doing this.” Mulligan peered down at Benchley. “Alone.”

“This is Old Guard business, and you are not alone in this,” Benchley said. “I realize I’m only a lowly infantryman, Green Beret, but my withered old ass is following you out that airlock. Suck it up, soldier. It doesn’t happen any other way.”

The two men stared each other down for a long moment. Then Mulligan finally gave a curt nod. “Hooah.” He backed out of the doorway, and Benchley hauled himself out of the co-pilot seat.

“Sir,” Andrews started.

“Son, you’re ruining a perfect opportunity to shut up,” Benchley snapped. “Just do your job, and keep your mouth shut. Understood?”

“Sir, you shouldn’t be going out there.”

Benchley leaned toward Andrews with such speed and ferocity that Andrews snapped his head back. He truly thought the Old Man was going to head-butt him, but instead he stopped when his face was only an inch away.

“Boy? When I tell you to shut up, it’s not a suggestion. This engagement is over, and you lost. Questions?”

Andrews felt his face grow hot from the anger he felt, but he knew how things were going to end up if he persisted. Having both a major general and a command sergeant major rat-fucking you at the same time was never the best way to make a name for yourself.

“No, General. No questions,” Andrews said, his voice tight.

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EARTHFALL 2 Available for Pre-Sale

August 1, 2017 1 comment

Breaking news–Earthfall 2: The Mission Continues is now available for pre-sale. Interested parties can click the ol’ link below to get in line for some more post-apocalypse lunacy with Andrews, Mulligan, and the rest of the Harmony Base crew! Scheduled for release on September 29, 2017.

 

EARTHFALL 2 Final Cover

June 25, 2017 1 comment

For kicks, here’s the final for the cover of Earthfall 2. Original artwork by Marc Lee, additional effects work and graphics by Jeroen ten Berge. Looks kinda sweet, to me. I have an editorial slot for on/around July 31, with a release date still pending.

EARTHFALL 2: Playin’ Footsie

June 22, 2017 1 comment

“They look so cute together,” Kelly Jordello said as she looked over the sandwich she held in her hands.

Mike Andrews glanced up from his own lunch, then turned to take in what had caught Kelly’s attention. Sitting several tables away in the Commons Area, he saw his executive officer, Leona Eklund, sitting down and enjoying her own lunch. Across from her was the hulk and bulk of Command Sergeant Major Scott Mulligan. She was a slender, tall girl of mixed parentage, blessed with a dusky skin that hadn’t paled one iota since Harmony Base had been sealed off over a decade ago. He was a virtual giant, standing in at six inches over six feet and with the mass to match, his brown hair going gray at the temples. There was at least a twenty-five year gap in their ages, but their differences were much deeper than merely chronological or physical. Leona possessed an almost regal air about her that simply oozed intellect. Mulligan, on the other hand, was about as stately as a bloody broadsword. It was a circumstance of night and day personified. Both simply sat across from each other, eating their lunches, on break from mission planning. They didn’t look at each other, and didn’t talk. To Andrews, it was almost as if two strangers were sharing the same table.

“What’s so cute about them?” he asked, turning back to Kelly.

She frowned at him and brushed a stray strand of blonde hair out of her eyes. “Dude, you’re such a guy. Take another look.”

Andrews sighed and examined the mismatched duo once more. They merely ate and sat, concentrating on what was on the trays before them. He started to shrug and get back to his own meal when he saw it: Leona had her foot snuggled up against one of Mulligan’s boots. There was no way the big sergeant major couldn’t have known it, and he hadn’t pulled away from the contact.

Andrews snorted. “I see it. A couple of smooth operators.”

“I don’t know why they’re not more open about it,” Kelly said. “Everyone knows they’re sleeping together.”

“Lee doesn’t like attention. And I’m pretty damned sure Mulligan doesn’t dig it, either,” Andrews said. “Not that kind of attention, anyway. They’re pretty private people.”

“I hope they have kids. Could you imagine? Mulligan’s brawn and Leona’s brains? It’d be, like, the beginning of a new super race.”

“Yeah, well. I’m not sure we could handle that,” Andrews said, returning to his lunch.

“I think it’s great they found each other,” Kelly said. “They fit, in a really odd way. But it works. Never though the Old Guard and New Guard would click like that.”

“Kelly? Stop staring. The last thing you want to do is rile up Mulligan.”

She waved the notion aside. “Pshaw, how could he still be one hundred percent badass when he’s with Leona?”

“You make it sound like he’s spending his off-hours knitting doilies. He’s been kicking our asses for the past four months with tactical training, and you think he’s not still a hundred percent badass? Weren’t you the one who started puking all over the place after he made you run five miles?”

Kelly frowned. “Okay. Ninety-five percent badass, maybe.” She took another bite of her sandwich. “So hey, I hear you guys are leaving the base tomorrow—I see Four’s on the deployment chart. I thought you finished all the shakedowns.”

“Yeah, we did.”

“Okay. So?”

Andrews fidgeted a bit in his chair. “It’s just a little run. Something the command group wants to keep under the radar.”

Kelly chuckled. “Yeah, like that’s even possible. The HBT is probably already fired up over it. What’s the mission?” HBT was the informal acronym for Harmony Base Telegraph, which was the local rumor mill. In an isolated, subterranean fortress like Harmony, rumors and gossip were one of the lubricants that kept things running. People needed a distraction from the monotonous existence the base provided, and the HBT was one of the best ways to add a little sparkle into an otherwise repetitious way of life.

“I’m not really supposed to talk about it,” Andrews said, even though he knew that would hardly put her off. If anything, it would be like tossing a tasty steak in front of a starving Rottweiler and telling the dog not to eat it.

Kelly’s eyes widened. “You’re going on a classified mission? There’s something more important than the Northwest run?”

“It’s not classified. It’s just… sensitive.”

Kelly put down her sandwich and faced him, putting an elbow on the table. “Mike, what’s going on? Who’s on the mission, your entire crew?”

“Me. Lee. Mulligan. And KC, because she needs more field time.”

“What about the others? Josh, Marco, Marguerite, Nancy? They haven’t gotten a lot of rig time since—wait a minute, did you say Mulligan?”

“Yeah, that might’ve slipped out.”

“Is this related to the Northwest mission?”

“It is not.”

“Then why is he going?”

Andrews clasped his hands in front of him and just looked at her. For several seconds, she just stared back at him, before the perplexed expression on her face broke. She raised a hand to her mouth.

“Oh my God… they’re letting him do it?”

Andrews’s only response was a subtle shrug.

Kelly turned and looked back at Leona and Mulligan, still sitting at their table, finishing up their lunch. She looked suddenly sad.

“It’ll kill him,” she said.

“Let’s not be too dramatic here, Kell.”

“But he has everything now,” she said. “If he does it, he won’t come back the same. He’ll lose everything. It’ll be like before San Jose, only worse this time. He’ll wind up eating his gun.”

“I don’t disagree, but we both know Mulligan. He has to do it,” Andrews said. “No man could just leave them out there. He has to do it.”

“I can’t believe Benchley approved it,” Kelly said softly.

“Well, there’s the catch. And that’s what makes the mission sensitive.”

Kelly looked at him. “What?” When he didn’t respond, she reached out and punched his shoulder, and not in a playful manner. “Damn it, Mike, don’t lead me on like this!”

“Benchley’s going, too.”

What? The Old Man’s leaving the base?”

Andrews held up a hand. “Hey. Keep your voice down.”

Kelly looked around, then leaned toward him. “Why is Benchley going out into the field? Isn’t it enough for the senior NCO to be doing that?”

“I asked the same question. Benchley’s words were, ‘It’s an Old Guard thing, Andrews. That’s all you need to know.’ In other words, shut the fuck up, boy, and drive me to where I want to go. I hear Baxter was the last holdout, but if she couldn’t change the Old Man’s mind, then no one could.”

Kelly looked back at Mulligan and Leona again. “We just think of them as a general and a sergeant major, but they’re friends. That’s why he’s not going to let Mulligan go by himself. I get it.”

“Yeah, well, you need to keep this to yourself, at least until after we hit the vehicle lift,” Andrews said. “Don’t even mention it to Jim.” Jim Laird was Kelly’s immediate superior, though he didn’t have much of a command at the moment. But since Self Contained Exploration Vehicle Five was destroyed almost a year ago, he and the rest of that rig’s crew had been filling in on other missions. In fact, Laird and Jordello had both made the return journey to San Jose, to begin sustainment operations of the small group of survivors that remained there. Unsurprisingly, the survivors had welcomed the assistance Harmony Base could provide. All it took for that to happen was for Andrews to kill their violent, paranoid leader Law. It hadn’t been easy thing to accomplish. Law managed to kill two of his top crewmembers and demolished SCEV Four, though enough of the rig had remained to repair and rebuild. It had taken months, and Andrews had to oversee the entire operation.

“I won’t tell anyone, dude. Seriously,” Kelly said. She gazed back at Mulligan and Leona. “I hope she doesn’t get hurt. He might not be the only casualty.”

Andrews regarded the remains of his lunch, and found he was no longer hungry. He pushed the tray away from him. “I know,” he said.

 

As always, all the above is unedited and not guaranteed to make it to print.

Anatomy of a Cover, and Dead In L.A. Update

May 30, 2017 3 comments

Book covers, like musical scores for motion pictures, are one of the most exciting parts of the process. Here’s the current evolution of the cover for Earthfall 2 to date:

 

 

 

 

Obviously not finished yet, but well on its way. Final graphics and touch-up to Marc Lee‘s artwork will be done by Jeroen ten Berge.

With regards to Dead in L.A., that product has been pushed back until June 15, 2017. Sorry for the delay, but these things happen…and it’ll be better (and longer!) because of it!

 

 

 

 

 

Changes…

April 24, 2017 5 comments

As always, change is unavoidable.

One of the truisms perpetuated by the despised traditional publishing industry is that once you’re “branded”—i.e., once you’re known for a certain product lines—breaking out into other products is difficult, in not outright impossible. I’d always thought that was a load of crap, but after several years of plugging away and finding that some of my richer fare doesn’t sell very well…hmm, maybe those “taste makers” in the traditional industry might be onto something.

Yeah, just one thing, so let’s not all get excited. Apparently, every dog really does have his day and a broken clock is right every twelve hours.

This observation isn’t particularly new to me. I have some great product out there under the name Stephen Knight that doesn’t sell at all, like White Tiger and Charges. Both generally have good reviews, but after three or four people buy them, that’s it. I’ve been trying to breathe new life into Charges with a fully immersive audio book, and while that seems to be coming along nicely, it’s also a brand-new release—I need more time to evaluate how successful this very expensive addition to the product line will pan out.

And Stephen Knight is known primarily as a zombie apocalypse guy. It was never meant to be that way, of course—The Gathering Dead was done on a lark. It was just going to be a one-shot deal, done for fun, without a great deal of deliberation behind it. Instead, it spawned a franchise. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. There are worse things a guy can do than provide some high-octane zompoc adventure every now and then. And Earthfall was the single best standalone work I’ve released, so that’s a bright ray of sunshine all by itself. If I released one of those every year, I’d buy the Playboy empire and restore it to its former glory.

Unfortunately for Knight? I’m bored shitless writing about zombies.

After The Last Town and even These Dead Lands: Immolation, I feel that I’m really just writing the same thing over and over and over again. While I do my best to people the stories with different characters, the story line is almost identical: zombies, fear, build, defend, collapse, retreat. Purists complain when you introduce new elements, even though what they complain about is the province of motion picture zombies, not literary. Thank God I have Earthfall 2 on the rack, because otherwise I’d be spending more time browsing vintage collectible tequilas online than I would be writing.

And it comes down to this: I want to write other stuff.

Enter Stephen Moore and Stephen Garrett.

Moore is my real surname; Knight is the professional alias I boosted from my father, as astute followers might have divined by now. Garrett is a family name from my mother’s side of the ancestral tree. For the longest time, I eschewed using my real name, as I a) don’t have an ego that needs to be fed with that kind of exposure, and b) I’m not sure I want to surrender my usual real-life anonymity in meatspace. (And also, Moore just isn’t as cool a moniker as Knight.) But Moore will be the guy who writes the police procedurals and techno-thrillers, and the odd dramatic work that parallels those worlds but doesn’t cross over into them, such as the still-nascent Hackett series. Moore’s first foray, aside from rebranding White Tiger with a new cover to kick things off, will be a police procedural about NYPD Detective Nick Avvento. Been wanting to do this one for years, and I have some great characters and a blood-chilling story line to go with it. There’s also some potential to release an upcoming work, Tribes, under this name; it’s a techno-thriller adventure story that was originally slotted for Knight, but I might change it up.

Garrett will be the hard, clanking science fiction guy. This is my native territory, writing stories about exploration, faraway places, bug-eyed aliens, and the thrill of adventure splashed across a canvas as wide as the universe itself. I’ve touched on it in past works under Knight, but only just barely. I’m itching to get into this. I have a huge series planned here, called The Reaches. Also some more free-booting military SF stuff which I have done, though it’s a bit dated and will need to be refreshed. Most of these are in my Continuum of Conflict story line which I’ve not revealed previously, and will be more “consumer-friendly” than The Reaches. Consider CoC will be more like the works of Robert Heinlein, while TR will be more like those by David Brin.

But it’s far from curtains for Knight. I—he?—still has to finish the next edition of The Retreat, and of course These Dead Lands will need to be completed. Then there’s the final installments of The Gathering Dead series, with the prequel Whispers of the Dead and the finale, Echoes of the Dead. And Earthfall 2, of course, along with the continuation of the Charges trilogy. So that’s like eight books, right there.

Does this sound confusing? It probably does, but it’s out of necessity, not preference. I’ve spent a lot of time getting Stephen Knight established; spinning off into new names doesn’t exactly thrill me.

Hopefully some of you will come along for the ride. I’ll keep you updated here as things begin to manifest themselves, but for the short term, don’t be alarmed.

And Now, For Something Completely Different…

March 19, 2017 1 comment

…how about some Self-Contained Exploration Vehicle designs from none other than Singapore’s finest graphic artiste, the intrepid Marc Lee? This is to inform the cover art for the upcoming Earthfall 2, and I offer two pictures for you to contemplate.

First off, the initial draft, created with the simple guidance of “base it off a HEMT-T.” (And a HEMT-T is the acronym for Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck.)

Revisions followed, of course. Likely fearing a neverending circle jerk of “Well, yeah, but it’s really more like this…”, Marc responded with a series of potential uses for the rig:

Now of course, this doesn’t match what’s in my head, but what I see isn’t necessarily translatable into actionable artwork. What I see is something crossed between the Landmasters from Damnation Alley and the vehicle from Ark II. And if that isn’t an unholy union of absolute nonfunctionality, I don’t know what is. So I’ll just nod and accept Marc’s suggestions and go back to writing. Anyway, cover artwork is probably the only exciting thing about the writing process, so I hope you’ve enjoyed the glimpse into a rather desultory future.