About a week ago, when I sent out the email to the Alamo mailing list regarding the development of Starfighter, I outlined a few details of the concept. Now that I am actually starting to write it – and, on the second attempt, I have an outline that I'm actually satisfied with – I can share a little more. For a start, I can confirm that you're going to have it by the end of this month. Though it's possible I might scrape it by a few hours like I did with Final Testament, Starfighter will be released in June.
This book has gone through almost as many iterations as the original Alamo. I actually dug up some of the earliest drafts a few days ago, and interestingly, I rather liked some elements of them. They needed work, but they took things in a very different way than I ended up going. Commander Marshall was the commander of a task force, for example, right from the start, and there were a lot of bits about alien races I had completely forgotten. I might post these at some point in the near future, or at least make the available in some way. (Periodically, I consider slamming together a 99-cent ebook of 'Alamos that never made it', but at this stage we're talking about a couple of hundred thousand words...)
My goal was to put together something that could lead to Alamo, and right up to the final draft, that was a key part of the story. Until I realized that it was weakening the story and had to be removed; now this stands completely alone, albeit still in the same Triplanetary Universe, with the occasional reference to characters or locations. I won't say there will never be a cross-over, but probably not until the series has finished, when I might bring over some of the characters.
Yes, this series actually has a beginning, a middle, and an end. At the moment I'm mentally picturing it as a five-book run, though I had a potential idea for a prequel today that I might end up doing as well at some point, though that's very vague in my mind. As usual, this has surprised me immensely. The ship and crew have dragged a lot closer to Firefly than I was originally intending, though I don't actually think of that as a bad thing, not at all. I loved that show.
There are two point-of-view characters in this one, and at this stage I don't think it does any harm to identify them. The first is Ensign (Reserve) Nicola Hunter, a one-tour Espatier who left the service to do a degree in anthropology, before being recalled to the colors to help with an archaeological expedition. The second, a retired Lieutenant, Jack Conway, a fighter pilot from the war (no real spoilers here, but starfighters are involved in this book) the owner-operator of a tramp freighter named the Churchill. (The name is from its origins as a military vessel; she was originally a fighter tender, back during the Interplanetary War between the Triplanetary Confederation and United Nations.)
Something I'm working hard on with this one – and it's proving quite a challenge, in all honesty – is to make sure that this book does not require any knowledge of the Battlecruiser Alamo series. I usually try and at least drop some refreshers into the first few chapters of a new release, but this time I have to re-introduce the universe in a manner that won't bore those already familiar with the setting, though also provide satisfaction to those exploring it for the first time. Without any 'As you know, Professor,' moments, preferably.
What I do know is that I'm having a lot of fun with this one, and the characters are already leaping to life. As usual, someone who was supposed to have only a line or two has decided to make himself a major character, and there are quite a few I'm looking forward to later in the book – as well as one who will only make an appearance in the next book, who I have to introduce here. (And amazingly enough, I'm going to get to use the original storyline for Forbidden Seas after all, which is a bit of a relief. The problem there was that Alamo was too powerful, the ship too obvious, for that sort of mission. When we're talking covert operations, however, it works a lot better.)
The work's going pretty well now, and I'm on a nice curve to finish my part of it by about the 24th, with luck. Unless there are any unforeseen delays, I think the 30th is quite possible, and given my usual practice, I'll likely end up speeding up as I get nearer to the end. I want to find out what happens to these characters as much as anyone else, after all!