Help Wanted

So, I published Hellhound: Siege Engine, but now I need your help.

One of the most important factors into getting a book noticed is reviews – good reviews and lots of them. I don’t have a marketing department to push my book out to potential readers or critics. I don’t have funds to market directly at places like ComicCon where I think I could connect with my target audience. What I do have, is you. So many individuals on the internet have read my original and transformative stories and been supportive, generous with constructive criticism and praise, and loyal. All of you continue to come back, time and again, to read what I write. I am asking you to do that again, and to comment where the public – and Amazon’s algorithms – can see it.

And I want to reward you for that favor.

I can only pay you in the currency that has brought you to my site: words. That is all I can offer in thanks. For every good review I receive on Amazon, I will post a chapter in the story of the reviewer’s choice, original or transformative. If you want to read more about Unlikely Singularities, or Nordic Diner, Heated Blood, or even Second Alliance, I would love to offer that in thanks for helping me get my sci-fi novel noticed. If you are interested in one of the many, many prompts that has been discussed in comments on my stories – let’s make that happen.

Post a review to Amazon, message me through my website, twitter, or whichever transformative site you use, and let me know what you want to see.

If you can’t review – if the cost of Hellhound is not in your budget right now, your local library doesn’t have a copy, and you don’t have Kindle Unlimited – that’s fine. I get it. And I still want to thank you for all of the support I have received over the years. Without readers like you, I would not have come this far. It is you who have kept me going when I have been discouraged or burnt out. Thank you.

Available Now

Today, my science fiction novel, Hellhound: Siege Engine, dropped on Amazon for the kindle. This is both incredibly exciting for me – and a bit surreal. I have been working on the Hellhound universe for over two years, and can’t believe that it is finally out there and available for purchase. Whoa. Things just got real.

Hellhound focuses primarily on two characters. Clara Maker is serving in the Sol Coalition, defending Earth and human-controlled space from the aggressive Culler species. She is a reluctant soldier, only having joined because service is mandatory. In a future where embryonic gene therapy to eradicate diseases and enhance aesthetics like height and musculature is standard, Maker’s unenhanced genes single her out as less than the ideal human.

Malak is the result of illegal military research into splicing human DNA to create perfect soldiers. Faster, bigger, stronger. More dexterous, better at strategy, and more durable. He was designed to fight in the Culler war. He was raised to defend humanity. He was programmed to obey, but his instincts are stronger than the scientists expected.

Hellhound: Siege Engine follows the path these two take as the war between humanity and the Cullers rages. They are both products of a decades-long struggle to find any means to defeat the enemy. Unknown to either of them – to anyone – there is one other person who may have found a way to ensure human victory. And both Maker and Malak are part of that plan.

Hellhound is published under the name Suzanne Brodine. Purchase Hellhound: Siege Engine on Amazon today! Or read an excerpt here.

Time to Get Real

I love writing. There is nothing like hitting that perfect turn of phrase or setting up a scene for that one action or zinger that leaves the reader with a grin or a laugh or a gasp. For me, the hardest part is the planning of a book. Plotting out the story arc and developing the pacing are excruciating when all I want to do is get to the scene that inspired the story. Because of that, I am not a particularly fast writer. I can churn out pages, certainly, but I end up spending an inordinate amount of time on editing and rewriting – cutting scenes and even whole characters to push everything to fit into a neat plot.  I’ve heard the style generously called ‘organic’.

Whatever you call it, I want my writing to be good. To make the reader want more. To make me feel excited about what I have done and eager to know what the reader felt and experienced as they read. I cringe at some things I wrote early on that were…not so good.

Having said all of that, I just finished reading the worst book I have ever read. It bears repeating.

The. Worst. Book.

There were parts where I wanted to like the protagonists, but I just couldn’t. They changed their minds and even their personalities – what little personality that was expressed – throughout the story. I kept waiting for the conflict. There were hints of it, some tension, and I was prepared for something dramatic. When the climax finally arrived, I didn’t worry about what would happen. I wasn’t thinking about the possible ways it could be resolved. All I was thinking was, ‘this guy’s a dick’. (That would have been the protagonist I was referring to.) By the end I had changed my opinion to thinking the male lead was just a moron, and the female lead had less emotional maturity than a seventh-grader. It felt like buying theater tickets and then seeing a one-man show regarding dental hygiene. And not in a funny way.

The female lead actually said, “take me”.

It was not done ironically.

The whole time I kept thinking, ‘this could be better’. I can do better. I’ve been dragging my feet on multiple projects, and I needed to re-dedicate myself to what I really want to do, what I love to do: write. Stay tuned, because I think I am ready to get real here.

I’m going to give readers that perfect phrase and scene. They are going to grin and laugh and gasp.

Because I am a writer.


Filing for Worker’s Compensation

I know it has been a long time coming, but Chapter 5: Wags the Dog has finally posted. It would have gone up significantly sooner, but this happened:

How does a writer break her hand, you might ask? Carpal tunnel surgery? Maladjusted sentient typewriter? Anger management issues with uncooperative characters resulting in monitor damage? Nope. Drill driver. Yeah. It was about as awful as it sounds. Although, I told people there had been a ninja situation, and I think they bought it – so my street cred is way up.

In more optimistic news, I should be posting much more regularly going forward. Not only is my cast off and my hand therapy going well, but I quit my day job. So. This is it. The big reveal. I have no excuses now for not being an honest to goodness author. It’s all down to skills and determination. And you. Without readers, there really isn’t much point in this whole endeavor. Thank you, for your support, your comments, and for coming back to share in the worlds I enjoy creating so much.

(Also, Hand Therapy is going to be the name of my White Snake cover band. I call dibs.)

Hidden Agenda

Chapter 3: Descendant Contrivance has posted and it is one of my favorites so far. I have heard from readers that don’t like the chapters centering on the Prime Minister as much as those about Maker or Malak, but in Part III, Chapter 3, I think I am finally starting to see her shine.  Helen has unplumbed depths of contingencies, agendas, secrets, and plans. She is so, legitimately, twisted that her interactions with others are a delight to craft. I hope you enjoy Descendant Contrivance. Please let me know what you think!

Battle Plans

I have spent an inordinate amount of time writing Chapters 2-4, which deal with a fairly large battle sequence. There was something wrong that I couldn’t put my finger on. I kept scrolling back to reread and make sure my characters were all doing what they were supposed to do, were in the correct location, and moving through time in a linear fashion. Not that I have a beef with time-travel, I just don’t think I could handle future perfect tense.

A few weeks of that and I was completely lost, ready to scrap the whole thing and throw a massive tantrum. I ignored it for a few days, until I was doodling while in a meeting. It hit me like a wet sponge: startling, cold, and a slowly sliding opportunity to realize I should have seen it coming. I had the enemy attacking from two different places. One of which didn’t exist. Another of which was on top of a location that I had said was well defended. My lack of spacial reasoning had foiled me once again. What I needed – nay, required – was a map.

Behold, in all of it’s office-supply drawn glory: the Battle of Navi-2.

Click to see full image.

It helped me to keep everything moving along in non-space/time defying ways. And while hopefully you don’t need it to follow the action, it can’t hurt. Who says that you can’t learn marketable skills from D&D? To those skeptics I say, pshaw. I feel certain this will be marketable. Eventually.

Or maybe I’ll switch careers. Anyone know of any openings for apprentice cartographer?

Part III

The final chapter of Barghest, Part II posted last week and I’m already working on Part III. As I did between I and II, I’ll take a few weeks off while I flesh out the next installment of Barghest and get things ready for you.  I’ll also be working on fine edits for I and II, in preparation for publication through Kindle Serials. Amazon has been the right fit for me so far for e-publishing, and I am excited to see how will work for serials.  In the meantime, catch up on Barghest (recap below) – or if you already have, reread both parts to find a few hidden secrets that will continue to play out. If you see anything that makes you question the future, please let me know. I love your comments, messages, and tweets!

Spoilers for Barghest below.

In Barghest, Part I, Clara Maker saw combat for the first time and faced humanity’s enemy: Cullers. The aliens have bony, armor plated bodies and lethal serrated scythes on their forearms. Their intent is nothing short of extinction for the human race – although the reason for their crusade is unknown. Maker barely lives through the experience, but the psychological toll will remain with her long after the scars heal. A brief encounter with a mysterious leader of a special operations team saves her life, but only leaves her position within the ranks of the Coalition more uncomfortable. She is left with the certain knowledge that while her government may require her to serve in the military for a short time, she is not meant to be a soldier. Larger political moves cut her planned return to Earth short, and she makes the heavy decision to re-enlist in order to preserve her family’s livelihood.

Part I also details how the Sol Coaltion, through a top secret project run by the Ministry of Science and Research, has invested in a weapon to end the Culler War. A legion of genetically engineered super soldiers – human DNA blended with that of an alien predator – psychologically programmed to protect humanity and kill the enemy. Malak is the leader of the Keres Legion, his pack. Although he excels at his mission, he is torn between what he was created to do, and what his instincts and logic tell him he should do.  For the time being, following orders keeps his people fed, clothed, armed, and doing what they do best. The moment the objectives of the Sol Coalition no longer align with his, there will be a reckoning.

Political machinations unfold slowly in the background of Maker and Malak’s action. The Prime Minister, Helen Maker and Clara’s grandmother, has been manipulating the government and it’s servants toward an end that only she seems to understand. Whatever goal she is reaching for, her calculations do not exclude even her own blood.

In Part II, Maker has come into her own as a highly qualified translator and communications officer. Unfortunately, her training and skill cannot keep her out of danger. She falls into one terrible situation after another, and only survives by the barest margin through luck and determination. Between the vindictive superior officer dogging her steps and the constant fear that she may face the enemy – and come up lacking, Maker begins to realize that there may be more to her unlikely and narrow escapes than she previously thought. The Cullers seem to have targeted her specifically, and after a far too close encounter she has to wonder if there is a serious flaw in her genetic code. She believes she may be able to communicate on a para-sensory level, and she is absolutely certain that she does not want anyone to know about it.

Across the Dark and hundreds of light-years from Maker’s Earth, Malak has grown frustrated with his position within the Coalition hierarchy – or, rather, outside it. Although he is their most effective tool, at every turn he finds himself strangled by the regulations of a human organization and their paradoxical disregard for the value of human lives. The death of one of his own only makes him question his purpose more. Fighting to save a species that is not his own will eventually get everyone he protects killed. A mission years in the planning is nearly compromised, and he is left with a decision. He has the authority and duty to eliminate any threat to the Sol Confederation – and anyone with knowledge of his mission or his team. In this instance, he would not even have to pull the trigger. Walk away, and fulfill his mission objectives. Walk away, and agree that no one human life was worth his time, his effort. A human that had no place on the battlefield – was more hindrance that help in his eyes – and yet still fought tenaciously for her comrades. Malak saves Maker’s life, but it only leaves him in turmoil.

The former Prime Minister still works behind the scenes to set pieces in place for a game that few others even know exists. She had coerced vast budget allocations for weapons, ships, and a particular research project which concerns only humans that can speak Culler. One which causes symptoms very similar to what Maker endures: headaches, nausea, and nosebleeds that worsen over time. When a new, independent and powerfully popular president is elected to lead the Sol Confederation, Helen reveals to him that not only is she aware of the location of the Culler homeworld, she may very well know why they attacked Earth and started a century-long war. Informing the President of the existence of Malak and Keres Legion is a footnote in comparison.

The Important Things

In the last two weeks, in no particular order, I:

  1. Was elected to public office. Whether or not this was a good idea is still undetermined.
  2. Nearly finished a house. Barn. Barn-house. Whatever. Despite my complete lack of carpentry skills I am so close to no longer crashing with my in-laws I can taste it. Mmmm. Tastes like sawdust.
  3. Aged.
  4. Nearly had a nervous breakdown after leaving my child under the temporary supervision of a man named Ishmael. He did not ask me to call him that. Missed opportunity.

This is not an insurmountable number of things. Not even an interesting number for many of you who are probably all like, “Yes, but did you recycle?” (I did, in fact, recycle, but not as much as I should have. Shhh. Don’t tell the Sierra Club.) One fortnight gone by, and despite all of this other activity, in the forefront of my mind – my forebrain, if you will – was Barghest. This week I posted Chapter 18: Timing, and I spent much longer than I intended working on it. I deliberated on adding, changing, cutting and just starting over on the whole thing. It was Malak’s turn to tell the story of Barghest, and Malak can be tough to nail down. As a character, he has a backstory that is about as far from my personal experience as can be. In addition he is fiercely loyal, immensely deadly, taciturn, and currently in the grips of a fundamentally important internal struggle.

Is humanity worth saving?

We learned something about that struggle in Chapters 13 & 16. The Legion was created to save humanity by killing Cullers. And while the Coalition has no qualms about sacrificing their own to reach that objective, Malak has displayed a feral aversion to losing even a single Legionnaire to his enemies. If the opportunity presented itself – if he had to make a choice between one of his own and a human – would it be simple for him? What grey area can exist for the genetic experiment of a desperate government? Chapter 18 explores that dilemma further and brings Malak closer to a judgement that could change not just the course of a war – but the future of a species.

Enjoy Chapter 18: Timing, and excuse me while I get some water to wash out the taste of construction and missed deadlines.

I’m Back Baby

So, there’s been a bit of a break. I take full responsibility and apologize for my inaction. The first step is admitting there is a problem.

*Spoilers for Barghest, Part II*

Maker has accomplished step one. There is definitely a problem. One that seems to occur every time she goes on a mission. Namely, people die. And while that shouldn’t be too surprising given the billions of humans that have been killed as part of the Culler War, she has difficultly not feeling personally responsible. Things were looking up for her with her transfer to the Kahlid, where her friends are stationed, and a promotion to middle management. Although no one has ever, in the history of one person assigning work to another, said, “Gee middle management is where I want to be” it has its upsides. Maker won’t be ultimately responsible for soldiers on the front line, and she gets her own room. Not bad compared to the alternatives.

However, things never pan out exactly as they should where Maker is involved. In Part II, Chapter 15: Prevailing Winds, Maker’s service to the Sol Coalition takes another turn for the worst. In another star system, at about the same time and not so far away, Malak is doing his damnedest to protect Alnitak and the Coalition soldiers headed there but he has to jeopardize his own mission to do so.

But that is a story for a new chapter.

Here’s to a soldier and a brave one.

A knife and a sharp one.

An enemy and a dead one.

A quick death and an easy one.

Holiday Schedule

For those of you in the States, this Monday was Labor Day. Taking a mandatory day off from my regular gig as a grant writer was nice, but it also threw my entire week out of wack. That is no excuse for a late chapter in Barghest, Part II – I know. But, I hope you will still enjoy Chapter 12: Character Assassination.

It took me a while to work him into a scene, but Rodriguez finally makes an all too brief reappearance. There is something about an over-sexed, hair-gelled, pretty boy that I just love. Maybe it’s the potential for one liners. Maybe it’s the potential for awkward and uncomfortable silences. I like both. In any case, Chapter 12 brings Maker’s gang back together and that is always the start of something amazing. And, as we learned in Part I: Siege Engine, usually destructive. And bloody. And probably some of the worst workers’ compensation claims ever. Spines don’t regrow themselves, you know.

Aside from publishing another chapter in my sci-fi serial, I spent the greater portion of the early part of this week developing a routine for social media and making this. If you are interested in updates on posts, new chapters, and reading recommendations, you can follow me @susanamund . If you are interested in how far Keres Base is from Earth, check out the map.  Here’s hoping that next week is more on schedule.

How did you spend your holiday?

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