This was originally released on Patreon during the Samurai Squadron serial. It’s a little piece about what it was like to write from Minh-Chu’s perspective. For the curious ones only, enjoy!
Minh-Chu is a complex character who is much more charming than I am. That’s not really the problem with writing his character though. I can consider what he says for a lot longer than it takes to type it, hours if I have to, so I can try to be Minh-Chu charming.
The biggest problem with writing a character like Minh-Chu is that he’s been a favourite in relatively low doses for many books. I haven’t written from his perspective in about a decade. Coming back to the character means that I have to write what he thinks and how he feels between those quotable moments and weighty conversations. So far I’ve enjoyed putting him at the centre of this book, but it hasn’t been easy.
I”ve been writing him a certain way, as someone who carefully chooses when to speak and how. This is why.
There are three things that are key to this novel and don’t worry, I won’t spoil the story for you. The first is family. That is made more difficult because Ayan, Little Laura, and Minh-Chu’s sister are all absent. It’s made easier because the extended family is established and interesting. The second key is the establishments. The Rebel Captains, Haven Nation’s expansion through the Nodes and Privateering Initiative, and the Order of Eden. The third key is conflict. Minh-Chu is the character who will see all of these things. That is the point of his story in the first part of this season of the series. So, he’s watching and performing what he sees as his duty right now.
Along the way, I hope to do him justice. I have to write Minh-Chu as he is after experiencing so much since we were last in his head. He’s been a Wing Commander for a while now, and he’s settled into a relationship with Ashley who has discovered that she has a sister of a kind. How he gets along with and views Jake and his other close friends have evolved as well, so showing that takes time and has to be done right. I hope that I’ve gone some distance towards accomplishing that because most of the book is written now. Thankfully, he’ll be in the middle of the next novel.
The last important thing about Minh-Chu in this volume is simple and incredibly important. By the end of the book, he’ll have something to say about what he’s seen. I hope you’re looking forward to it. What did you think of this non-spoiler peek behind-the-scenes?
Whenever I’m about to, or am writing a book, I always do some kind fo research. You’d think that after about fifteen years I wouldn’t have to do any preparation for a book in the Spinward Fringe universe, but that’s absolutely not true. In the following piece that was first relased on Patreon some time ago, I describe and discuss what some of that research was. Strictly for the curious, enjoy!
First of all, I’m done. Every year part of prepping for most of the Spinward Fringe books has included about 10-20 hours of research on cults. Sometimes it spills over into more because I find the topic interesting, but when I was getting ready to work on Samurai Squadron I went deeper into the topic than ever. I wanted the ultimate answer to; “Why do people join?”
I had a lot of information already, but I had to find accounts from reformed members, read a few biographies and watch specific documentaries that focus on the topic of leaving organizations. Finally, a former cult member and well-known de-programmer’s interviews and book brought all the information together so I could finish constructing the anatomy of the Order of Eden as a cult. The experience that Minh-Chu had in the last section of the novel was a very shortened tour through the early introduction (indoctrination) that the Order is trying to put into play across the Rose System and beyond was meant to show a different ruthless side of the organization. It was also there to deliver a simple point so the Order might seem more personally dangerous to him and perhaps the reader: There is a cult for everyone.
Now, after over a decade, I’m finished researching the topic. I don’t know everything there is to know about it, not even close, but I have what I need to write the final structure for the Order and get on with the bigger story that the work is meant to support.
Researching Fighter Pilots
Over two years ago now, I started thinking that I’d like to write at least one book that focused more on Samurai Squadron. I started looking for biographies from modern pilots and found one from Robin Olds along with several others. That amazing bio about a pilot who flew in World War II as well as Vietnam was a great start. It started me on a reading and documentary binge that changed my preconceptions and led me back to one question. Who would my main character be for Samurai Squadron? The answer seemed obvious, Minh-Chu, but I hadn’t extensively written from his perspective for a decade and there’s a rule with including too much of a favourite character in a book. Don’t do it. Some characters are amazing in small doses, but spoiled when you get a good look at their troubles and more serious side.
Before I started work on Broadcast 17, I had an idea that led to the Bullet Chasers, and I took the opportunity to write Breaker, a new pilot who might become a main character for Samurai Squadron. I liked him, and I still do, but when it came to actually writing Broadcast 18, I knew I had to centre the book on Minh-Chu, even if it meant ruining the character and killing the series. I was hoping that all the research I’d done would pay off because after reading the biographies of three Wing Commanders, I realized that they all had a sort of swagger about them, but I could include a kind of sensitivity that suited Minh-Chu perfectly.
He is not the kind of person who includes himself in everyone’s lives unless something is going terribly wrong or he’s invited. He also enjoys challenging people and providing mentorship, even if it’s simply by being an example. Some of the best leaders I read about were very much like that, so I felt I could extend his character. There was also a long arc I could embark on with him.
I’m thankful that so many service people put the time and work into talking about and writing about their experiences. I’m grateful for their service as well.
Researching Spinward Fringe
That’s right. Spinward Fringe is over two million words long now. I was a different person in many ways when I wrote Broadcast 0, Broadcast 6.5, and Broadcast 16. I’m not saying that I’m a walking whirlwind of change, but I know a lot more about writing than I did fifteen years ago, and I’ve had a few more experiences.
As I started writing Broadcast 17: Clash I was wrapping up a complete re-read of the series. I was also listening to the audiobooks, which I’m starting again as I write Broadcast 19. In my opinion, my favourite books in the first half of the series are in the Rogue Element Trilogy: Broadcasts 5, 6, and 7. The drama of the characters fighting for the Triton, the Victory Machine, and finding a new home come together in a way that I’m pretty proud of. That got me thinking.
Minh-Chu has been on the sidelines for so long that I could almost re-introduce him as a new character, extending his arc over three books. My research showed me that turning it into a tutorial on “how to be an effective Wing Commander” would be a terrible idea. I’ve never been one. I shouldn’t even try flying a plane because I have compromised vision! The best I could do is write about what it’s like to be Minh-Chu the person and I could layer in detail about his job later. I’ve done this before with Jake and Alice, holding back detail on the inner workings of the military by focusing on what interested them, and the adventure.
So, the plan became apparent. start with light detail in the first book. I wanted to show everyone what a briefing is like in general because Minh-Chu has been a part of hundreds of them, it’s a regular part of his life. How he used the new technology in his fighter was important, but we could get to the deck crew who maintains it later. This, like the first novella in the entire series, Freeground, and like the first part of the Rogue Element Trilogy, Fracture, would be short and fast-paced.
He’s not alone, either, so I had to make room for Ashley. Their relationship has calmed down, so she’s as much a best friend as a lover. I wanted to have her presence there but since it was the first book in this new trilogy, I intended to keep it light. Later she was included in the mission to Gold Haf Station because she was actually well suited for it. I also wanted to include her as a fighter pilot one more time, even if there wasn’t a lot of detail in that battle. It was new territory for me in a way since there’s almost no real-life account of someone flying with their girlfriend in the same fighter squadron in the real world. I might explore that a little more, but I don’t know if I’ll use Minh-Chu and Ashley.
So, I’ve rambled a while, thank you for reading. I’m realizing that there are other topics of research that I’m always checking in on. Space exploration, technology, storytelling techniques, life and the universe. I could go on for another three thousand words, but I should save something for later since I like writing these little features.
Since I’m going into more detail about Minh-Chu’s life and times in this book, I’d like to end with a question: What did you think of how Minh-Chu was depicted in Broadcast 18: Samurai Squadron?
In three months I’ll be celebrating fifteen years of writing novels for a living. I was very fortunate to make my second attempt at publishing ebooks right near the beginning of the ebook boom. I had completed novels before, and sold my first ebook in 2004 but I didn’t sell another one until 2008, when I released the Spinward Fringe novel, Freeground. Back then the series was called The First Light Chronicles, but that had to change because there was another fantasy series with a little more popularity using the same name. These days that kind of road bump could completely derail a career, but it barely had an effect back then.
After wracking my brain for over a month, I came up with a new name for the series: Spinward Fringe. I also decided that it was a good time to take the series in an new direction. Advance many years and twenty or so novels in and related to the series and we arrive at Samurai Squadron: Spinward Fringe Broadcast 18.
The book has been out for about two weeks on Amazon and in my personal store. The reception so far has been more positive than I expected and I’m grateful for every rating and review, thank you so much for taking the time to write something about it. I wasn’t afraid that I wrote a bad book, in fact I was fairly confident after I was finished with the expection of one major thing. This novel is meant to lead direclty into the next.
It’s sort of like telling a story, then after you know you have enveryone’s attention and they’re fully invested, you ask them to wait three months for them to start the next one. My solution for that is to serialize the books on my Patreon site. The third chapter of Broadcast 19, the next book, will be appearing tomorrow morning. What the previous book set up is starting to pay off, and I’m so excited for people to see it. Everyone who doesn’t like reading the novel serialized will have to wait. I never liked waiting, so I can relate to any frustration you’re feeling right now.
What I’m really here to say is that I’d like to thank everyone who supported me on Patreon or picked up Samurai Squadron: Spinward Fringe Broadcast 18, no matter which retailer you found it at. The release is going well enough for me to continue doing this for a living which is nothing short of wonderful. I can’t tell you what I have planned for Broadcast 19 exactly, but I’ve rarely been this enthusiastic about writing, which is really saying something.
Thanks to the success of this book I’ll be able to write Broadcast 19 at the same pace, meaning that it’ll be released this year. I have you to thank, and if you liked the last one, you’ll love what comes next.
If you would like to read the serialized version of Spinward Fringe Broadcast 19, and have a chance to vote on its name and at least one event in the novel, you can subscribe to my Patreon Page by clicking here.
For the most recent books in the Spinward Fringe series, I’ve given my Patrons the opportunity to vote on at least one major turn in the story. Whether it’s where the main characters go next, or how they evolve, I put i to a vote.
Why? It’s an experiment. I take these novels very seriously. What happens to the characters and how the plot moves are both critical to the future of the series and my career. At the same time, when I see two or more possibilities that can be equally exciting, I consider whether or not I can let the readers decide. I learn something every time I do it, and I enjoy the resulting challenge.
How? Usually I find where the story could branch when I’m doing the rough outline of the book. When I do, I consider if each option is compelling, something I could write, and if it’s a turn in the story that my readers will probably enjoy. I also try to guess how the vote will go, but that’s not the important part.
The most important part is whether I am prepared to go with whatever the Patreon Subscribers decide So far I’ve correctly guessed how the majority would vote two times out of three. I was completely wrong about the vote for Samurai Squadron and it was exciting. The current vote ends when the first chapter of Spinward Fringe Broadcast 19 drops on April 29, 2023. You can take a peek here.
Oh, and if you’re wondering how you can vote, you have to be a Patreon Subscriber, and I hope that you’ve read the serialized book the vote is about so you know what’s at stake. Subscriptions start at $3.00 a month and really help me keep the lights on.
What will the next vote be about? You’ll have to wait until it’s posted, but it may be sometime near the middle of Broadcast 18 and it’ll be a big one.
On April 28, 2023 Spinward Fringe Broadcast 18: Samurai Squadron will be released on all the major ebook sites. This also marks the beginning of the Starfighter Trilogy, something I’ve been looking forward to and researching for three years.
Here’s some of what you can expect in Samurai Squadron:
A return to classic characters: This book follows Minh-Chu as he leads Samurai Squadron in their first real missions after their return to the Triton. For the first time in over a decade, we get a real peek at his thought process as he learns about the Shattered End, the Rebel Captains, the Order of Eden’s recruitment agenda and discovers a new secret about the war.
A squadron to rebuild: The Triton has the capacity to support three full-sized space superiority squadrons, but Minh-Chu barely has enough for one. Easy, Pixie, Maid, Breaker, and several other void warriors who Minh-Chu’s recruited will have the opportunity to learn to work together, and we’ll find out if our favourite Wing Commander has the core group that he needs.
Everyone has a plan: Citadel and the Order of Eden are trying to recover after a mountain of sensitive data has leaked and an important leader has been lost. Jake Valent is acting on parts of the leak, building a strategy with many layers of contingencies just in case the new intelligence he’s acting on isn’t genuine. Alice is looking to expand her own crew and give the Rebel Captains some direction.
The Rebel Captains are waiting: The Rebel Captains have been provided with powerful ships and trust Alice, but will they sign on as real privateers and join the war against the Order, Citadel and the Edxi? Will she be able to show the Rebel Captains that they can win against the Order of Eden? How will Samurai Squadron fit in?
I hope that gives you some idea of what to expect in Samurai Squadron. the first novel in this epic trilogy. Here’s where you can preorder or pick up the ebook and audiobook versions:
The day has finally come. Clash: Spinward Fringe Broadcast 17 is here! The release is landing early everywhere. Starting with Amazon and Google Play on 12 / 12 / 2022, Clash will be available to everyone. The other distribution network is slower, so the book will be released at the other vendors (Smashwords, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Rakuten Kobo), on 19 / 12 / 2022. I’m grateful to everyone who preordered and thank you for picking the book up after the release, it’s been a great launch so far.
The timing for this is unusual, but when I had the opportunity to release it early I took it because I didn’t want this to come out so close to the holidays. People have enough to deal with in the second half of December, so I really wanted to have this out before you started travelling and hosting family.
There’s another thing. I’ve been experimenting with Google Auto-Narration which is, simply put, audiobooks that are narrated by an artificial intelligence. The cost of producing these is extremely low and the quality has just improved quite a bit. I wouldn’t call the Auto-Narration a performance, but the reading style is acceptable now, so I’m releasing the Audo-Narrated audiobook version of Clash along with the ebook edition for a low price that reflects the fact that it isn’t read by a human who is offering a performance instead of simply clear reading with a good cadence.
If I could afford to pay a narrator to produce this book I would, but I’m still five figures in the hole from producing Broadcast 0, 1 and Psycho Electric, so I have to earn that back through audiobook sales before I produce any more with a live narrator. There’s still a small demand for Spinward Fringe in audiobook form, so the Auto-Narration version will do for now, and I’d like to thank the team at Google that is working on this. The improvements over the last year are surprising. Oh, and if you buy this version your copy will be updated every time the Auto-Narrator improves for free. You can check the Clash: Spinward Fringe Broadcast 17 Audiobook out here.
I truly hope you enjoy this book in the series. I think you’ll find that it’s a little different from the rest because it takes the time for real character development and there is a great big pivot that changes things for most of our favourite characters.
Thank you in advance for picking it up. If you have any interest in an audiobook version, I encourage you to listen to the sample.
Instead of burying the lead, I thought I’d put the release date right in the title. Spinward Fringe Broadcast 17: Clash is coming out on December 21, 2022! For the last few months, members of my Patreon site have been watching chapters come out for this novel. The first draft has gotten pretty good feedback and I’m working on a final edit with a small team that I’ve enjoyed working with before. The Patrons have also helped find typos and a few other errors. Altogether, the book is better for the work that’s gone into it. The Patrons also had the opportunity to make a significant decision that determined the ending of this novel and the beginning of the next, and they definitely made an impact.
The focus broadens a little in this novel as Jacob Valent appears a lot more than in the last few. He and several of the other original characters take a turn down a new path, and I’d tell you a lot more but I’m trying to avoid spoilers here. For a little more info, you can read the synopsis, which is pretty spoiler free:
Jacob, Alice Valent and their oldest friends come face to face with the Order of Eden in a new way as a world of innocents comes under threat. The Spinward Fringe series is carried forward as a story about reunions, reinvention and rivalries unfolds. The war with the Order of Eden heats up as allies begin to rally and a new battlefront opens. The rallying cry that brought so many people to the fight is taken up again: Deploy. Dominate. Disappear.
I’m looking forward to getting the final draft into everyone’s hands on December 21st. I think there’s something for everyone in this one, and I’m happy to be launching a new phase of the series. Without any more delay, here’s where you can preorder the ebook.
It’s out! An adventure no one saw coming in the Spinward Fringe Universe starring a pilot with a mission that could cost him years, his life, or take him to a new beginning in the Rega Gain system has finally come out as an ebook short. This seven-chapter story came about because I had an irresistible idea. What if there was a crew tasked with chasing after missiles, torpedoes and worse that missed their initial target, but could destroy a world, end a civilization, or worse years later by mistake?
I got into more detail in the Foreward, but suffice it to say, I had to follow that story to its end, bringing this pilot, Cooper, also known as “Breaker” along with his repair bot named Ratter and the rest of the crew to life. Characters from this short will appear in at least two of the new Spinward Fringe books that are coming in 2022 and 2023, so if you like the crew, you’ll see them again once this stand-alone tale is over.
Here’s the synopsis:
War has gone interstellar, and the galaxy has become an even more dangerous place. Firing a weapon in the vacuum of space can cause repercussions days, years, or even centuries later when that bullet, missile, torpedo or other instrument of destruction makes an impact. That’s where heroes like Cooper come in.
Interplanetary civil war has raged on in his home solar system for decades. Every missed shot could strike an unsuspecting innocent and one side is interested in keeping the devastation of their conflict from spreading to the rest of the universe. That’s why they started the Chaser program, which enlists pilots like Cooper, callsign Breaker, to pursue wayward munitions so they can be destroyed before they end a civilization, wreck a space station, or end all life on worlds that had nothing to do with the fight that inspired the firing of a weapon.
With the civil war winding down, the government is changing, and the Chaser program is coming to an end, but not before Cooper, a faithful repair robot named Ratter and the rest of the crew of the Monte Carlo finish one last pursuit. There’s a dangerous group of missiles and torpedoes travelling at nearly the speed of light headed for the civilized Rega Gain system. There is enough antimatter aboard those munitions to crack a planet.
For reasons he’s not sharing, Cooper is determined to stop the missile group from destroying the terraformed moon of Tamber and damaging the world it orbits, even if years pass relative to the minutes it takes the Monte Carlo to finish its mission in this all-or-nothing effort.
Come and witness the end of a tradition of duty, sacrifice, and glory. Will it be the end of the crew, or lead them to a new beginning in a solar system that is largely unaware that they’re in danger, but the crew of the Monte Carlo are desperate to save?
The Last of the Bullet Chasers is available at my store in epub format (compatible with all Apple, Android devices and most Kindle readers). It will be an Amazon Kindle exclusive starting on the 24th of September. (The exclusivity will most likely end three months later).
UPDATE: Thanks to readers who contacted me since this post, The Last of the Bullet Chasers will not be exclusive to Amazon, but will be available everywhere. Watch this post for links to Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and other sites as the book comes online before the end of September.
This book starts by looking back on major events in Broadcast 11: Revenge, when Jacob Valent ordered the release of an intelligent virus called Mary. The aftershock of that is ongoing as Haven Fleet allies worry that he may resort to breaking other Galactic laws, so they’re demanding that Haven take action to make sure that this doesn’t happen. We see the results of that fear in the prologue, which takes place over three months after the end of Broadcast 16.
At this point, Alice, Ayan, Minh-Chu and the rest of the gang are near their breaking point because the fight against the Order of Eden and the Edxi hasn’t progressed. What happens next will push them over the edge.
I’d love to tell you more about this book, especially since I’ve been preparing to write it for a year now, but you’ll have to read along as the chapters come out or wait a little longer for the completed ebook. For more information and links to each chapter, check out my Patreon index page at www.patreon.com/randolphlalonde.
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