As I write this, I'm about half-way through Alamo #12, 'Traitor's Duty', and anticipate having the draft completed comfortably before the end of the month, though I will admit that writing this one has proven a little more of a trial than I had anticipated when I started out with this. I should have learned my lesson with two-part books from way back in the beginning, when I wrote 'Victory or Death' and 'Tip of the Spear' as a loose two-parter; the latter, while I'm happy with it, was one of the more tortuous ones to write at the time.
And yet, 'Take and Hold' and 'Traitor's Duty' have proven harder still, to the point that I'm looking forward to Alamo #13, which promises to be a nice change of pace for me, for reasons I will get to later on. I believe, whole-heartedly, that the best way to improve as a writer is quite simply to write. I am proud of 'Price of Admiralty', but I hope that I have gained experience over time since then, something like fourteen novels later. Sometimes, that means being ambitious, and with these two books I wanted to cap off a lot of the ongoing plot threads that began all the way back in that first book, and that I have added to since then.
That's meant characters coming back in, ones from earlier books – Frank Rogers from that first two-parter, the return of Commodore Tramiel, Logan Winter coming back into the main storyline (where he is to stay – on which, more later). It also meant expanding the setting once again; a lot of these two books is set on Mars, which, despite being the capital of the Confederacy, I had visited a grand total of once in the previous books – and Callisto, with Carter Station orbiting in (and while I think about it, anyone want to guess who that is named after?) not at all. This I have corrected.
All of this required a plot that would explore the Triplanetary Confederation itself. Hitherto, Alamo has been exploring strange new worlds – and it's going back, don't worry about that – but I wanted to delve a little deeper into the home of these characters, see what that looked like, what drove them. Show a few more 'civilian' types than we had seen before, that sort of thing. And, of course, with space battles, ground assaults, back-street intrigue and all the other elements that make up the typical Alamo. There's space for a post on crafting action/adventure novels, and I think that's something I probably should tackle...
No spoilers, of course, but I think I came up with a plot for this, and I started laying the seeds as far back as Not One Step Back and Triple-Cross, though it only kicked into higher gear with Ghost Ship – a book which was quite a lesson to me in itself, actually. It evolved so far from the original concept in the plotting of the book that I intend to write the original book I set out to write as Alamo #14, to be titled 'Cage of Gold'. (Alamo #15, 'Not In My Name', is another holdover from a while ago, though this one was originally planned as Spitfire #3. Hell, Ghost Ship was supposed to be Spitfire #2, in fact, the original cover was branded that way.)
So, 'Traitor's Duty' is designed to tie up all the loose ends from 'Take and Hold', as well as quite a few others as well. The Cabal is a big player in all of this, for a start, and that's been the focus of the series since 'Victory or Death'. For four novels, from 'Battle of Hercules' to 'The First Duty', Alamo cruised through Cabal space, and it really seems fair to count the two bookending novels into that as well; 'Not One Step Back' saw them setting off, and 'Ghost Ship' concluded the journey. I want a good payoff to all of that, though one which still leaves things open enough that the adventure will continue.
Something else that I think is important, is that characters must evolve. From a character that was originally meant to be a one-appearance shuttle pilot, Lieutenant Margaret Orlova has turned out to be – for me, anyway, I don't know what others think – the breakthrough character. Her scenes tend to be the easiest to write, and her journey has had, by far, the most turns in the road over the course of the books. She's gone from military-brat smuggler to a dog watch commanding a battlecruiser, and it's been a hell of a road; that's something else that needs to continue. Captain Marshall, likewise, and Ensign Cooper...and here's an interesting tale for you.
(Spoiler for 'Battle of Hercules' - highlight to read...) At the end of the book, Ensign Zabek, the Espatier platoon commander, is killed during the escape from Hades Station. That event is really what sets Cooper off on his journey, which has taken him up to filling her role...but it almost never happened. You see, Cooper was meant to die in that chapter. I even wrote the words, but I changed it to Zabek – and almost changed it again, because I had plans for that character. Hell, I spent the next few hours after writing that scene in a bit of a state of shock, and thought about changing it right up until the launch...but I resisted the temptation, and I'm glad of that, because from a story point of view, it was the right thing to do. (End Spoiler)
Now, I don't think it is much of a spoiler to tell you that the Battlecruiser Alamo series is to continue. Hell, I've commissioned the cover for Alamo #13, and it's pencilled in for a July 25th release, somewhere around there. Where am I going with the series? Well, after tidying up the loose ends back home and resolving the twelve-book arc – which seemed unimaginable when I first started writing it – it's time to start a new twelve-book arc.
Incidentally, I'm not going to pretend the what I ended up with in this book was what I originally conceived at the start; that would be a lie. I came up with a plot arc that I liked, but with the knowledge that I would change and improve it based on the evolution of the characters and, frankly, coming up with better ideas over the course of the two years this has taken to write. (And yes, it was almost two years ago – Alamo #1 was released on June 26, 2013, which seems more like a century ago to me.)
That arc is going to send the series out into space again, back onto the frontier. At least the first four are going to be stand-alone stories, though naturally, the characters will continue to evolve and develop, and the setting will continue to evolve over time. I'm not going to give anything away, but Alamo #13 will be very much like Alamo #5, in that it will introduce the basics of the changes. I'll be switching back to three-POV books, because that's where I'm most comfortable, but there will be more flexibility as to what the POV characters are – they won't necessarily stay the same from book to book, but will change depending on the story being told, and what viewpoints I need to best tell it. That's something I've been working towards for a while, and I'm very much looking forward to having that freedom.
There's plenty of precedent for this; Alamo #1 and #2 where two-POV, Marshall and Orlova; and #1 was originally plotted out as a single-POV, just Marshall, before Orlova leapt onto the keyboard and started to type. Alamo #3 and #4 were three-POV, Marshall, Orlova and Caine, and Alamo #5 was Marshall, Orlova, and Winter – a character with whom I have considerable history. Alamo #6 through #9 where Marshall, Orlova and Cooper, with occasional uses of Bradley, and Alamo #10 through #12 are Marshall, Orlova, Cooper and Winter, with another Bradley chapter turning up. Hell, I should probably try and get a Caine POV in there.
What I'm building up is a pool of POV I can choose from, and I think that will help me, a good tool for my kit. I've got, at the moment, six POV characters in mind – not all of which have yet been introduced, I'm saving something for Alamo #13 – each of which attacks a problem from a specific viewpoint. I'll go into this in a lot more detail around the start of June, once Alamo #12 is out.
Wow, this turned into quite a monologue, didn't it. I suppose the answer to the question 'Where is Alamo going?' is onwards and outwards, to seek out strange new worlds and new civilizations. After all, that was what I originally wanted to do with the series, and what I hope I have over the course of the books to date. (And yes, at some point in the near future, there are at last going to be aliens. They're in the setting, but the reason why they aren't turning up as much...will become clear in later books. Hell, there has to be some mystery left in the setting, doesn't there....)