Author's note: I wrote this piece in 2016 for Tor.com, and revisited it this morning. Loss, death, and tragedy have been on my mind. Considering the news from Florida, how could it be otherwise? So, I decided it was time to pull this over to my blog, and share with you today.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? At best that was a hollowed-out truth. What failed to kill you still exacted its own pound of flesh, and not even sleep offered an escape. The nightmares were definitely getting worse.
Surely there was a gaping hole in her heart that must have turned black by now. Perhaps all that remained of it was a deathly hollow, carved out by the worst kind of flesh eater. Survivor’s guilt."
Death and Mechsuited Marines. Nothing wreaks havoc like them. Indomitable is as much about the one as it is the other. My protagonist, a young Marine named Promise, has a habit of storming into trouble. With the help of a plucky AI assist, she cuts a wide swath. Death’s her second shadow. But the fallout haunts her. And the pain slowly fades.
Charles Dickens christened death “Our Mutual Friend.” It has certainly been for me. I’ve buried a sister and a daughter, all the grands, and a cousin of mine named Jack. Death reaped each of them at inconvenient times. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. Absence has made a poor bedfellow.
Promise is no stranger to loss either. Her full name suggests as much and, for good or bad, it’s a bit on-the-nose. Promise. Paen. I’ve caught flak for her name. Flak flak (like the shells thrown by the German Flugabwehrkanone, or anti-aircraft cannon). When I named her I was playing with words, sure. But I also meant to convey something deeper…that life is dualistic…both tragic and hope-filled, like yin and yang. We will all be wounded by something and probably by many somethings in this life. Many someones too. Loss is unavoidable. Death has a habit of being on the nose. But life is always ahead. Hope is out front, out there. It has to be.
Promise first came to me at age seventeen. Orphaned. Jaded. Congenial like a rusty bayonet. She was mad at the universe. She enlisted to start over, to slake the pain, and to maybe dish out some cold-served retribution as a mechsuited Marine. But war had other plans. It kept taking the people she loved from her. The pain only grew worse and to continue she had to turn and face it. What Promise didn’t anticipate was that she’d learn, while pivoting toward mortality, to care again and to let the women and men she served with scale her walls. Turns out death’s sting is not something to be shouldered like a rucksack, on a solitary march through life’s tempest. Death is our mutual friend. We’re meant to greet the reaper together.
Sometimes we write for our lives. For me that’s involved marring my love (truth be told my guilty pleasure) for military fiction and mil-speced battle scenes with a need to draw out the deep waters of my soul. I had to crank the well-wheel to find out what was down there. Up came a traumatized character who talked with her deceased mother on a regular basis, a centuries-old, semi-automatic GLOCK named Janie, a suit of interlocking armor that begs for a 3D printed cosplay, and a veritable band and of sisters and brothers as real as any family.
Up came the reaper too. He likes to howl and gnash his teeth. But I’ve seen the fear in his hollow point eyes. He has a spot at the table, over there, where he sulks while I share a meal with friends. The food is good. The company, better. Reap sulks because death doesn’t frighten me so much anymore.
(article originally posted at Tor.com, July 25th 2016)
Sprechen sie Deutsch?
Thankfully, the good people at Cross Cult do. UNBREAKABLE, the German-language edition, releases in just over a week!
Now, for some unexplained reason, I'm craving schnitzel.
Die Kolonisten des Planeten Montana sind es gewöhnt, ignoriert zu werden. In der Pufferzone zwischen zwei rivalisierenden menschlichen Imperien gelegen, ist ihre Welt provinziell und unabhängig. Selbst als vorläufiges Mitglied der Republik verbündeter Welten wird Montana kaum beachtet – bis es zum Krisenherd eines drohenden interstellaren Kriegs wird.
Als Piratenüberfälle die Region zu destabilisieren drohen, beauftragt die RVW ihre Panzergrenadiere damit, der Situation Herr zu werden. Der Angriff wird von Marine-Corps-Lieutenant Promise Paen, ehemaliger Bewohnerin von Montana, geleitet. Vor Jahren schloss sich Promise den Marines an, nachdem ihr Vater bei einem solchen Überfall getötet wurde. Rache ist süß, aber sie hat einen enormen und verheerenden Preis. Und Promise ist keineswegs glücklich, wieder auf ihrer Heimatwelt zu sein, nicht mal, als die Bevölkerung des Planeten, einschließlich seines schillernden Präsidenten, sie als Heldin begrüßt. Was die Sache noch schlimmer macht: Promise wird immer wieder von der Stimme ihrer toten Mutter heimgesucht.
Währenddessen hat der erbittertste Rivale der RVW, das Lusitanische Imperium, die Ereignisse im Montana-System mit Interesse verfolgt. Die Truppen haben nur auf den richtigen Moment gewartet, einen Brückenkopf im Territorium der Republik an sich zu reißen, und nachdem Promises Marines drastisch dezimiert wurden, halten sie den Moment geeignet, um zuzuschlagen.
I'm so excited to have the first book in the Chronicles of Promise Paen in a paperback format, and at a lower price point.
Now there's no excuse not to get your copy and dig in. Do me a favor and let me know how it goes. If you'd like a signed bookplate email me at write(dot)wcbauers@gmail(dot)com. I'll send you one on my dime.
Don't forgot the audio edition, here.
YOU WANT THE TRUTH? YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!
How 'bout a #giveaway?
I have three, signed, advanced reading copies (ARCs) of INDOMITABLE to give away.
In the first few chapters of INDOMITABLE, Promise Paen and Victor Company are on the march, keeping time with Saw An Old Lady, a real military cadence that I've modified for the twenty-eighth century.
Cadences are traditional call-and-response songs sung by military personnel while marching or running. In the United States military, cadences are sometimes referred to as Jody Calls, after Jody (Jodie), a recurring character in some traditional cadences.
To win yourself an ARC, all you need to do is sound off! Share your favorite military cadence here, on my blog. Better yet, write your own. Better still, record yourself singing a cadence, and post the vid for all to share. Do that and you're entered to win. I'll draw names from a combat helmet. (I happen to have one handy)
Don't just stand there. Get singing. Move, Move, MOVE!
The guys from "Geekside New" were great hosts. We talked about our favorite TV shows (I'm currently enjoying the Shannara Chronicles), the rise of Streaming services and Netflix/Hulu/Amazon "originals" and the death of the networks, and of course my books, UNBREAKABLE and INDOMITABLE (out July 2016).
Zoe is a HUGE fan. I need 5000 rabid fans just like him. Someone, please help Zoe clone himself.
I hope you get a chance to check it out.
“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
― G.K. Chesterton
I'd read this quote before. But hearing it repeated in its entirety by Coach Urban Meyer stirred my soul.
Promise certainly believes this. She fights for Kathy and Maxi, Tomas and Tal, and the rest of her Marines in Victor Company.
At her core Promise fights for the love of her Marines.
I think that's why I was so drawn to Promise as a character to begin with.
She inspired me. The best way I knew how to say thank you was to write her story.
Cover Reveal! INDOMITABLE, a Hardcore Cover for a Hardcore Military SF novel, hits shelves July 2016
Award-winning artist Stephan Martiniere hit the cover of INDOMITABLE out of the stratosphere. I'm over Montana's three moons about this cover, which features Lieutenant Promise Paen of the RAW-MC in her mechsuit. The rifle depicted is the Marine Corps, 3rd Evolution, Extended-Range Pulse Rifle, or MC3-ERP (pronounced Mc-Eerp) - standard issue light weapon of the RAW-MC ( in case you were wondering).
Wow, wow, WOW!
INDOMITABLE hits shelves July 26, 2016. Let the countdown begin! Three weeks before that, Tor releases the paperback of UNBREAKABLE.
To Stephan: Brillian. Mechtastic. Makes me want to suit up and go three rounds with Iron Man.
To Tor Books and my intrepid, cosplay-wearing editor, Marco Palmieri: Thanks for the bang-up job. Truly top-drawer publishing.
Please check out my newly redesigned website, www.wcbauers.com, for more information on the book and for the latest news about Promise and the RAW-MC.
- W. C.
You're wondering, I'm sure, what these Military Science fiction novels and Neil Patrick Harris's abs have in common?
Isn't obvious? Rock-hard writing and mil-spec'd action...er, abs. Besides appearing in bleach-white skivvies for the 2015 Oscars, Harris appeared in a military SF movie years ago, which will remain nameless because it ruined one of my all-time favorite novels. Oh, okay, because you asked: Starship Troopers.
But, back to the abs...the mil-spec'd novels. Please check these out including my own, UNBREAKABLE, at B&N's SF/F blog, HERE.
Why Promise? Where'd I get that name from? Promise is an odd name for a character, don't you think? Couldn't you have come up with something else besides Promise Paen? Really?
Before I hike into the weeds you should know a bit of back-story about Promise. My kid sister is named Promise. No, I didn't set out to name my character after her. I don't see it that way at all. The name fit my character so I went with it. “Promise” just happened to be my sibling's name too. It is an unusual name, I'll give you that. But, to me it's no more unusual that Katniss or Hermione or Triss.
Someone will inevitably raise this point so I'll make it now. Sigh. My sister can be a PITA. All kid sisters are at some point. Mine is a blunt, no nonsense lady. She's a killer mom and wife. She's a fierce friend. I'd gladly take a bullet for her.
Now the weeds. I have a tragic view of life. Pain is inevitable. Maybe it's now, maybe it's later, but life is going to suck at some point. BUT, and it’s a big one, I'm an eternal optimist too. Life is ahead; it always is. Life is dualistic. It's tragic and hope filled. It's full of pain but also great promise. That duality is at the heart of my character.
Promise loves the suck. She thrives on it.
UNBREAKABLE is in some ways as much a critique of suffering as it is a romping-good military SF read. Yes, it's about the mil spec'd hardware, the Marine ethos, and peeling back the fog of war. Bullets fly and beams slay aplenty. I love mil history so you’ll get a bit of that in the book too. But, on a primal level, it's also about thriving in spite of tragedy and maybe even because of it.
What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right? For Promise, what doesn't kill her also makes her more lethal.
Three years ago, my brother-in-law (the finest pastry chef in the Centennial State) challenged me to write every day for an entire month. He was going to do it and I’d been making noises about a storyline that wouldn’t go away. So, we signed up for a once-a-month writing challenge called NaNoWriMo and off we went. Thirty days later, after many late nights at Panera and Starbucks and my kitchen table, I had 50,000 words staring back at me, a can-do space Marine named Promise, and the bones of a military space opera.
Then I did what most would-be writers do. I filed it away in a graveyard of best intentions and ill-conceived plans. December came and went. Snow accumulated in the Rockies. Late at night - before bed, when my boys were sleeping and I had that rare moment of solace - I thought of Promise and her exploits.
She kept calling my name. “William, I’m not done yet. Finish my story.”
I kept answering her with the same excuses. “Seriously, do you know how much work that entails? I have a day job, which requires me to travel…weeks out of the year. I have a wife and three boys. Ink Master, Cinemark, and Once Upon a Time will miss me. But, Promise wouldn’t shut up. So, back to the kitchen table I went.
When I passed 100,000 words I knew I was in this for good. I was hooked. I wanted Promise out there, storming the shelves of booksellers everywhere in her powered mechboots. When it got personal I made a list of next steps.
1. Rewrite and focus upon quality verses quantity
2. Gather early readers and knowledge experts to vet my work
3. Research my knowledge gaps
4. Find a killer agent
5. Sell the book
The rewrite was an invaluable learning process. I threw whole sections out. Entire characters died on the cutting room floor. Frankly, offing them was a lot of fun. Promise changed her last name. Close family read early drafts. Their candor hurt at times but thickened my shell. And, I discovered as much about what not to do as I did about what works on the page. Promise and her Marines came to life.
Developing a focus group was no small task; actually, it’s still a work in progress and I suspect it always will be. Many well-meaning people said yes, I’ll read it, and then never did. A few people actually read it but had little to say beyond the self-imposed, obligatory “I really liked it.” I needed more than that.
Then Mark Gabriel stepped into the gap. He’s a retired Navy commander turned teacher-of-troubled-teens and part-time gunsmith. Mark became my no-holds-barred beta reader. At one point, I crashed a shuttle with a platoon of Marines aboard. There was just one glaring problem with that scene, and Mark spotted is immediately. “What? No ejection seats?”
My mother, Doctor Deborah Bauers, became my in-house editor. I’m a crappy speller and grammar is no friend of mine. Just ask my mom. In case I haven’t told her lately, thanks Mom, you’re aces.
Quality readers are like rare earth ore. There’s not enough to go around. Find one and you’ve discovered Lucky Charm’s cauldron of gold. I had to seek them out. Living in a military town certainly helped. Soon, I had a corps of retired Sailors and Marines given me feedback. Coming from a military family filled in some of the gaps in my knowledge but by no means all of them. I followed Stephen King’s advice in On Writing: write until you run into something you don’t know and then go find out about it, and then write some more. I read and interviewed and listened and asked questions. The veil fell away. I started talking in military acronyms. Stuff became “gear.” The wife became my “alpha unit.” When I left the house I ordered my boys to “look lively” and “stay on me.”
Finding an agent required a solid year of patience and stick-to-itiveness. A. Solid. Year. I queried over thirty agents and researched many more that were not good fits. Cherry Weiner was near the top of my list and the first to respond to my query. She told me to come back in six months if I still didn’t have an agent. As the months rolled by so did the rejection letters. Several agents responded with encouragements and “keep goings” but ultimately chose not to take me on, and the reasons were strikingly similar: I didn’t feel as strongly about the writing as I hoped; there were moments, William, but not enough for me to want to take this further. Stuff like that. One of the top SF agents in the country flat out told me my book wasn’t marketable. Six months later, I went back to Cherry. She read the book and asked me to revise a small list of items. This was her test and thank God I passed it. Less than two weeks after she signed me I had a book deal with Tor/Forge.
Cherry Weiner is worth her weight in gold-plated contracts.
My debut SF, Unbreakable, the first in the Chronicles of Promise Paen, is out in less than three months. January 13th, 2015 is P-day (publishing day). The sequel is scheduled for a year later. Unbreakable is releasing in hardcover, e-book, digital audio, and at least one publisher has inquired about foreign language rights. Unzerbrechlich? Maybe. Two years ago I had a manuscript and a dream. Now, I’m walking in high cotton: great agent; great editor; great publisher; and a very small but growing list of converts/fans. I even have an evangelist or two.
I owe a lot of thank-yous to a lot of people. This list is by no means exhaustive:
To Jeremy, my brother-in-law, for encouraging me to try.
To NaNoWriMo, for some much-needed structure and encouraging dailies.
To Lauren Kaplan and Ronie Kendig for their early reads and encouragement.
To Bryan DeBates at the Space Foundation Discovery Center.
To Lt. Col. Gary Foster, USAF (ret.); Col. Tim Hill, USMC (ret.); and Maj. Mike Heath, USMC (ret.).
Special thanks to Cmdr. Mark Gabriel, USN (ret.), for advice and technical assistance.
To Mom, for tolerating less-than-stellar writing and line edits.
To Cherry Weiner, for seeing something there.
To Marco Palmieri and Tor, for giving a fledging writer a shot.
To the author of life. You wrote a crazy story and I can’t wait to get to the end.