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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Free Books for Halloween

Just because I'm a good guy, I wanted to hand out some treats for Halloween.  In this case, my pair of "scary" books.  These will be free and all I ask in return is that you rate and review them.  And maybe share them with people you think will like them.  OK?

First up, my "teen road trip zombie novel":


Three hundred years after the end of the world as we know it, young Wess Marin feels compelled to leave his insular community and strike out in hopeful desperation on his own. He aims to stop the menace that still ravages mankind, but on his way, he will encounter terror, both from the living and the dead. Wess finds a gleaming city, but will they help him realize his goal?

Join this young adult on an adventure of self discovery. Armed only with a blade and his wits, Wess must traverse many wild miles to bring about an end to the Darkness.

The persistence of hope, the triumph of will over adversity, the denial of superstition ... to achieve these things, Wess must fight the inhumanity of some, the horror of others and his own doubts.

Find it HERE and use code "SU98T" to get it for FREE.



Next, my "balls-out monster bash":



Dr. Mason Karlow is a distinguished art museum director and curator with decades of experience around the globe. He's entering his twilight years as he prepares to open his latest and greatest facility. He's also quite evil.

In a bid for eternal life, Karlow has found a Babylonian artifact and must perform an ancient ceremony in the light of a Blood Moon. He needs sacrifices, lots of sacrifices, and he gathers monsters from the world's folklore to do his bidding.

Follow Karlow's victims as they fight for their lives in one hellish night at the museum. Vampires, werewolves, mummies, and more await you in The Art of Death!

Find it HERE and use code "XY29Z" to get it for FREE.


Thanks again.


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Writing Colonies, Part V: Battlestars, Weapons, and the Military

I'm nearing the end of Book Thirteen: Caprica.  As I stated before, I consider this portion of Colonies of Kobol to be "seasons two and three" of the unfortunately short-lived series; the first half took us from season one until the outbreak of the Cylon War and the second half has been all Cylon War.

Now, that doesn't mean I'm doing a blow-by-blow account of the war.  Frak, the thing was twelve years long and I would like to finish this book before I have grandchildren of my own.  Still, I focused on the start of the war, the formation of the federal government of the Twelve Colonies, the building & launching of the battlestars, and the ramping up of violence and the technology on both sides.

Since so much of the last half of the book is about the military, I had to give real thought to its structure, the hardware they use, and how it might evolve into what we see in the 2003 series itself.  Then I had to do the same kind of thing on the Cylon side to some extent.

Colonial Fleet

Established by the Articles of Colonization, the book goes into fair detail about the early days of the organization, such as why the headquarters are located on Picon, how the promise of a battlestar for each colony was used to get signees on board, etc.  One of my concerns regarded how the Colonial Fleet would deal with the pre-existing forces on each world.  Meaning, for example, would the Caprican Army become part of the Fleet?  Without stating it plainly, I decided that the planet-bound forces of each world (army, sea-going navy, etc.) would remain separate from the Fleet, but any space force would be joined together.  We know the Colonial Fleet has Marines, analogous to the US Navy and the Marines, so I decided that each world would retain their own (mostly) ground forces sorta like how each state has their own National Guard.  I figure the president of the Colonies, or the Fleet's admiralty, could call up X-number of soldiers from a colony or two to be stationed at a particular location, for example.  Not a perfect analogy, but it was enough to make sense in my mind.

Battlestars



"Battlestar."  Such a cool and evocative name, huh?  I knew needed to have a reason for it.  Here's a brief snippet of dialogue between the first president of the Colonies and the Secretary of Defense:


Sir William leaned forward and removed the cigar from his mouth.  "Our Jupiter-class carriers."

"Yes sir."  Nerus' eyes drifted down the front of the president's desk.

"Oh, I don't like that look."

"Sorry, sir."  The admiral straightened in his chair.  "Continued Cylon attacks have hampered our ability to keep up with the schedules.  Multiple strikes on our shipyards both in orbit and planetside.  We've moved operations away from the main shipyards and spread them out.  It's harder for the Cylons to track what's being built where.  But that slows us down more, too."  He saw George's scowl and said, "Mr. President, we're building the largest ships in the history of the colonies.  Twelve of them.  At once."

"I understand, admiral, but they must be completed."  Sir William dipped his cigar into the brandy again.  "Which ones are furthest along?"

"The two battlestars at Caprica …"

"Sorry, what?"

Nerus grinned and said, "I thought you were a fan of the old battle starship groups and fleet wars?"

The president nodded and said, "Yes, I was.  As a boy.  I don't think I need say aloud how many years ago that was."

The admiral laughed, "The Leonans called their battleship-carrier hybrids at the center of their groups 'bataille-├ętoile.'"

"Sounds nice."

"It translates to 'battlestar.'"  George nodded and Tom cocked his head, "That doesn't sound familiar?"

"As a good little Virgan boy, I paid little mind to what the Leos did."  He stirred the drink with his cigar.  "'Battlestar.'  I like that.  A lot."

Nerus folded his arms over his chest.  "It's strong and hopeful at the same time."

"Yes."  After Sir William returned the soaked tip to his mouth, he said, "Let's look at resurrecting that name, shall we?"

Why Jupiter-class?  That was the designation given to the group by visual effects supervisor Gary Hutzel.  It's also been used by the video game Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock.

Now, it was stated on screen by tour guide Doral in the miniseries that each world had its own representative battlestar at the beginning of the Cylon War.  Since I would be depicting elements of the war, I knew I would need to have more than a couple of names.

Here are the four canon battlestar names:

Galactica.  Represents Caprica.  Obvs.  But why that name?  Is it a nod to "Galatia," the main continent on Kobol in Lords of Kobol?  Well, I wrote this paragraph from the commissioning ceremony:

"More than seventeen hundred years ago, Marcella Bale explored the vast virgin wilderness of Capricorn.  She traversed the continent with only a few people and came upon the North Coast Mountains.  She climbed the highest peak and looked west toward the ocean and there she spied a great land.  A fertile land by the bay.  She knew it would be a wonderful place for a settlement, one that she decided to name Capricoria because, to her, it embodied the beauty and glory of her world.  Of course, Capricoria was established a few years later and it is now Caprica City.  But that night, the night that she looked out on the land below, they camped on that mountain peak and saw the clearest sky of their journey.  They beheld the expanse of the galaxy across the heavens and they were all moved to thank the Lords of Kobol for the gift of that land and that sight.  Bale had named the mountain after her brother, but, to his likely dismay," the crowd chuckled, "she decided that night to change it and name it for the wonder they saw.  The reverence they felt.  Mount Galactica still overlooks Caprica City.  It stands guard as a shield against storms that sweep west across the plains.  And now, today, this Galactica shall stand guard over Caprica and protect this world from our foe."

One down.  Eleven to go.

Columbia.  Oof.  This one's tough because the name itself is an inescapable reference to Christopher Columbus.  Maybe there's a guy named "Columbus" who did something cool in the colonies.  Or, maybe it's a reference to the etymology of the name itself (in Latin, "columba" means "dove").  So maybe they named the ship after a bird of peace in hopes that it would bring peace.  Sure.  Let's go with that.  Which colony?  Uh.  Tauron.  Let's say Tauron.

Athena.  Saul Tigh "served" on this battlestar during the war.  We don't have on-screen verification that this was a Jupiter-class vessel, but we don't have information that contradicts that, either.  As for which colony it represents, I chose Libran because Libran selected Athena as their patron god, as she's the goddess of wisdom and they're the colony known for their courts and justice system.

Archeron.  Oof, again.  You see, this is a mistake.  In Greek mythology, Acheron was known as the river of woe and it's a real Greek river, too.  On the QMx map and in the book Beyond Caprica, the Acheron River is specifically mentioned as being on Sagittaron.  Not Archeron.  But, on screen in Blood & Chrome, as big as life, we see the error:


So ... now what?  Well, I'm obviously going to say that this ship represents Sagittaron.  But why the misspelling?  Mmm.  Since the Sagittarans are a religious people, many of whom oppose fighting, perhaps they saw the naming of a warship after a sacred river as blasphemy.  But not all Sagittarans are pacifists.  A faction in the government and among the people who support the war effort decided to submit a new name to the Colonial Fleet for their ship; a name that unmistakably is tied to Sagittaron but also conveys force, thanks to the word "archer."  It wouldn't please the pacifists, but they wouldn't get much to say about it.

There.  That's why.  I just made it up so it's head canon now.

Those are the canon-canon battlestars, but there are eight other worlds.  Here are the names I went with, informed by the names of other ships in the series and Greek mythology:

Jupiter.  Since the class is named after a ship, I knew one of them would have to be named Jupiter.  I decided to have this one represent Gemenon, given their devout religious population.

Triton.  Named for a son of Poseidon, this one makes sense as the battlestar for the ocean world Picon.  Also, there was a Battlestar Triton at the time of the Fall of the Colonies, so perhaps it was named for this one.

Bellerophon.  Obviously named for the Greek hero and slayer of monsters.  I decided to have this represent Virgon since the name Bellerophon has such a grand history with the British Royal Navy (and since Virgon is a stand-in for the Brits).  I originally wanted to go with a more ostentatious name, as befitting pompous Virgans, and I thought of using a play on Brittanic ... but Virgannic or Virgannia don't look or sound right.  Then I thought of Monarch, a name to just thumb their nose at the rest of the Colonies, given their imperial history.  But Bellerophon works best.

Sphinx.  Despite our recognition of that word as "a big monument in Egypt," it actually is far older than that and is seen in art throughout the ancient Mediterranean world, including Greece.  For my purposes, it is also a name used for battleships throughout France's history and thus suits as a name for Leonis' battlestar (since the Leonans are the French analogues).

Atlantia.  Yes, there was a later battlestar with that name, but nothing precludes an earlier one.  In Greek myth, "Atlantia" was a nymph that lived in forests.  Since Scorpia is renowned for their massive forests and jungles, Scorpia it is.

Arion.  In Greek myth, Arion was a divine horse imbued with the power of speech, incredible speed, etc.  Arion was also sired by Demeter, Greek goddess of the harvest, and since Aerilon is the "Bread Basket of the Colonies" and Demeter is their patron god, it makes sense.  Plus, horses will be integral to the early years of Aerilon (which will be included in the as-yet-unbegun Volume Two of Colonies of Kobol), so that's what I went with.

Acropolis.  We all know that "acropolis" is a Greek word for "high city," usually a citadel on a hill, with the Acropolis of Athens being the most famous.  According to both the QMx map and the Beyond Caprica book, Canceron takes great pride in being the largest and oldest continuous democracy in the four systems (democracy itself dates back to ancient Greece, of course).  With that being the case, I decided that Canceron would honor their legacy by naming their battlestar after the first site of their first democratic government more than a thousand years prior.  Also, Acropolis was the name of a battlestar in the original Battlestar Galactica series.

Rycon.  Aquaria.  I don't have a good reason for this one.  Rycon is another battlestar namedropped in the original series and I like the name, so here you go.  Maybe it's the name of a prominent river on Aquaria or something.  I don't have to explain everything to you people.  Jeez.

Since you might be curious, here are the battlestars mentioned in the original series: Pegasus (I didn't use this one solely because I didn't want people to either get confused or immediately start thinking about Cain, etc.  Too much baggage.), Atlantia, Columbia, Pacifica (kinda has the same problem as Columbia for me; "Pacific" is Spanish for "peace" and there's no real Spanish analogue in the Colonies, plus having a warship named "peace" seems strange), Rycon, and Triton.

Now.  How do the battlestars behave in battle?

Thankfully, there are four seasons of a pretty good show all about that.  It's called Battlestar Galactica.

That's my wiseass way of saying that I didn't feel the need to go into crazy amounts of detail to illustrate life aboard a battlestar, war maneuvers, etc.  There are a some examples and some cool battle scenes, but nothing extensive.  I did, however, tackle one of the biggest problems in continuity that we've seen in the recent universe.


That's a shot from Blood & Chrome, and in that show, we see an almost absurd number of Vipers in the Galactica's flight deck.  They looked like they were stacked three and four Vipers tall in some places with the ceilings raised way up and the sets extended beyond where they were before.  Contrast that with Razor and its flashbacks and the show itself where it seems that the limit is two in each bay.  For simplicity's sake, I went with the more manageable and realistic two-per-bay.  (If you want to think they could expand the hangar deck later in the war to accommodate more Vipers, go ahead.)

In my battle scenes, we get to see both flight pods in operation with a full contingent of Vipers.  There are forty Viper launch tubes in each pod (that's eighty total) and with two Vipers per launch bay, that's one hundred sixty.  I then added another twenty per flight pod as reserves so that gives us an even two hundred Vipers on the Galactica at the start of her service.  (As a specific number was never given for how many a battlestar can carry, I felt free to wing it, so to speak.)

I also show you a battlestar group in action.  Meaning, an analogue to today's carrier group, with destroyers, cruisers, escorts, support ships, and more.

Weapons

You may notice throughout Lords of Kobol and Colonies of Kobol that I use a single, simple system when it comes to calibers of weapons.  In the real world, the number you hear around bullets are a mixture of both metric and imperial measurements.  I dispense with that and just use millimeters in my books.  A .50 caliber round is thirteen millimeters in diameter; the "Cylon-killer" bullets that the soldiers use in the book are twenty millimeters at the start of the war and go down to sixteen later on.  I don't get into the "grain" (weight/mass) of the rounds being used; I just wanted to convey the general size.

I also reference various weapons emplacements, most often derived from real World War II weapons, including one of my favorites, the Quick Firing 2-Pounder anti-aircraft naval gun.  In the book, it's just called a QF AA gun.

Vehicles ... yes, there are vehicles.


Recognize that?  It's a LandRam, a kind of Armored Personnel Carrier used in the original series and, yes, seen occasionally in the newer series, too.  I use them in the book.

But what about tanks?  Well, sure, you've got a big war, so why not tanks?  But I didn't want to call them "tanks."  Why not?  Because the reason why we call them tanks is so specific to our world that having characters in the Cyrannus System calling them "tanks" doesn't feel right.

In World War I, Great Britain was working on armored "landships," but they feared espionage.  Initially, to cover their tracks, they called their plans for these vehicles "water carriers" but that later became "tanks."  For much of the Western world, the name stuck.

So, yeah.  I didn't want to call Colonial tanks "tanks."  I decided to play off the already established "LandRam" name, so I went with "GunRam."  In descriptions, I will sometimes use "tank" just for the readers' clarity, but in dialogue, it will only be "GunRam."

I talked about other vehicles like battlestars above, but I'll make a note here about Vipers and Raptors.  Pre-war, Caprica uses Hawks (fighters) and Ravens (all-purpose recon craft).  Like our world, I envision the Colonial Fleet putting out contracts for companies to bid on and then make the new vehicles.  So, the contract for a new fighter that can handle both atmospheric and space combat goes to "General Aerodyne," and they call their plane the "Viper Mark One."  ("Vipers" as fighter planes existed on Caprica before the Cylon War, so I just imagine that General Aerodyne had that contract, too.)  The updated Raven contract goes to a different company and they call them "Raptors."

Worldbuilding is fun.

The Painting



You know that.  Seen in Adama's quarters, Baltar marvels at his exquisite taste by asking, "Is this a Monclair original?"

While we got to see four years of a battlestar at a time of war, we never got to see what it might have been like for soldiers on the ground.  So I decided to tell the story behind that painting.

It takes place during the "Second Siege of Tauron" and follows a small squad of Marines and their division as they defend this position from repeated yet sporadic Cylon attack.  There's a dread over the Colonial Warriors as they know the Cylons could wipe them out with a single missile strike ... yet they don't.  Why?  The chapter is currently twenty-five pages long and will probably double by the time it's done.  I'm enjoying writing it.


I think that's about it for this blog post.  I hope you liked reading it.

Also, coming in December, I will be giving away first drafts of Book Thirteen: Caprica ... so stay tuned for that.