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HELLHOLE AWAKENING, the second novel in my epic SF “Hellhole” trilogy with Brian Herbert, was just released in mass-market paperback in the US and UK. The third and final volume, HELLHOLE INFERNO, will be released this August. (I’m working on final tweaks to the manuscript today!)
In 1999, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson released their first prequel to Frank Herbert’s science fiction masterpiece DUNE, which became a runaway international bestseller and award-winner. Now, after producing other highly popular novels in the expanded DUNE universe, they have turned their imaginations to a fascinating SF epic entirely of their own creation.
The planet HELLHOLE was devastated by an asteroid impact centuries ago. Only the hardiest, most desperate humans dare to colonize it, and only the hardened General Adolphus—exiled to Hellhole after his failed rebellion to overthrow the corrupt Constellation government—can keep them alive. The Hellhole colonists struggle against storms, quakes, and planetary turmoil—until the miraculous discovery of a lost alien civilization changes everything.
General Adolphus has launched a new rebellion against the Constellation and its ruthless leader, Diadem Michella. Under his banner, the frontier worlds have declared their independence—but Diadem Michella will not let them go without a fight. She dispatches a massive military force to destroy Hellhole, commanded by the General’s greatest nemesis from the original rebellion.
Hellhole, however, has an alien force that no one in the Constellation is counting on….
The growler storm rolled over the landscape of Hellhole, a riot of static discharges and blistering wind. The electric bursts etched glassy scars along the ground, scattered pebbles and dust, and splintered a spindly tree on the edge of the spaceport landing field.
High-resolution weather satellites had observed and followed the storm as it came over the hills toward Michella Town. The colonists took shelter in their reinforced homes, protected from the planet’s persistent violence. They were accustomed to the destructive vagaries of Hellhole’s weather, the frequent quakes and everyday shifts in wind. By now, they knew how to survive here.
On the outskirts of town, Elba, the large headquarters-residence of General Tiber Adolphus, stood armored against the storm: The sealed window plates and thick doors held firm, and the wind moaned with frustration as it pressed against the structure. Grounded lightning rods dissipated the repeated blasts.
Standing at the reinforced window plate, Adolphus stared out at the wind-whipped landscape. During the first desperate years of the Hellhole colony, growler storms had taken a high toll, but now the fury was just part of daily existence. Static discharges exploded in the sky like weapon blasts. He saw the weather as a metaphor, an apt one.
The storm is coming. The members of his strategy session were safe for the moment, but soon a far more destructive hurricane would arrive when Diadem Michella Duchenet sent her Army of the Constellation against the upstart rebels.
Sophie Vence brought him a cup of hot kiafa to drink before the strategy meeting resumed. “This is recently harvested, our best crop yet. Another step toward providing civilized amenities out here.”
He sipped the hot beverage and nodded. “Further amenities can wait until I secure our freedom.”
It was here, inside the meeting room of his headquarters, that he had conspired with a select group of like-minded planetary administrators to construct their own transportation network that did not rely on the old government. And they had done it right under the Diadem’s nose. Now that the isolated frontier worlds were connected by the new stringline network, they could become self-sufficient, without paying exorbitant tribute to the Diadem Michella.
Holding his cup of kiafa, Adolphus took a seat at the planning table. “The Constellation fleet will be coming—we can be certain of that. Sonjeera received our announcement more than a month ago and killed our ambassadors two weeks ago. We know Diadem Michella will respond.”
“We’ve been preparing for this all along, quietly building up our defenses. Each day, we get more and more ready.” Bony Craig Jordan, his security chief, was proud of the hodgepodge Hellhole military. A veteran from the first rebellion, he had been protecting the General for years in his exile. Now, during the rapid military preparations, Jordan managed part of Hellhole’s defensive army.
“The Army of the Constellation is a lumbering beast, widespread, mismanaged, hobbled by its own bureaucracy. That buys us a little time.” Adolphus tapped his fingers on the table. “Their fleet is being assembled, armed, loaded, and supplied right now—a gigantic operation for which they are ill-prepared. The Diadem is impatient, but confident in her overwhelming strength. She will try to destroy everything on Hellhole, just to make an example of us.” He showed strength by maintaining a smile on his face. “I would prefer not to let that happen. Therefore, we have to outsmart them—that’s all there is to it.”
Jordan let out a boisterous laugh that carried more velocity than his frame seemed capable of delivering. “Diadem Michella has a habit of underestimating you, sir. When she exiled you to Hellhole, she didn’t expect you or our colony to survive, much less prosper.”
“We can hope she’s too old to learn any new lessons,” Sophie said, her voice laced with equal parts bitterness and sarcasm. She had been both his sounding-board and lover for years. With gray eyes and wavy dark hair, she was beautiful without relying on elaborate makeup, hairstyles, jewels, or fashions. Although she owned a house in the heart of Michella Town, she spent most of her time with him at Elba these days. Not only was it practical to have her here at his headquarters when they had war planning to do, but she also made the place feel more like a home.
As if to express frustration, a tantrum of wind hurled itself at the house, but was unable to reach the people protected within. Adolphus turned to the other strategists in the room; they still looked windblown, although they had arrived before the storm struck in full force. None of them seemed bothered by the violent growler outside.
The exiled lordling Cristoph de Carre said, “No one disagrees with you, sir, but how do we ensure it? We should buy more time.” His face became angry as he thought of the tragedies that had driven him out here. “I suggest we blow the stringline substations, cut ourselves off from the Crown Jewels, and just be done with it. It’s the only way to be sure.”
“That remains a final option.” Adolphus frowned. “But it’s a desperate one, and very costly to reverse.”
“If we cut all the stringlines,” Sophie said, “it’ll take years to reconnect, and possibly more iperion than we have.”
“But at least we’d be safe . . .” Cristoph persisted.
“Unless it starts a civil war here in the Deep Zone,” the General pointed out. If he completely severed contact with the Crown Jewels, his fragile coalition might not survive the uproar. “We can’t afford the distraction.”
He knew that six DZ leaders had already voiced resentment over how his decisions placed their people in danger. They had never asked to become embroiled in a vast rebellion, but they had been swept up in it anyway. Though the frontier worlds overwhelmingly wanted independence, Adolphus had forced the matter. There was no turning back. When faced with retaliation from the Constellation, he worried that those surly administrators might turn against him. For security, he had stationed extra warships—ships he couldn’t spare—at those planets, ostensibly to help protect against the Diadem’s incursions.
Adolphus held up a hand before Cristoph could argue further. “We have other alternatives at the moment. Planning makes the reality.” The General had proved that time and again, achieving seemingly impossible military victories because he could see several moves ahead on the most complex of game boards. He expected to do it again.
Next to Cristoph de Carre, the Diadem’s tall, auburn-haired daughter spoke up, “And we have our telemancy. The Constellation fleet cannot be prepared for that.” Keana’s voice changed, becoming more flat and formal as her inner alien companion, Uroa, took control. “This is the Xayan homeworld, too. We will use our powers to protect it.”
As strange as it felt to allow Michella’s only child to participate in this planning meeting, Keana Duchenet was a powerful telemancer with the Xayan memories inside of her, capable of tremendous psychic powers. Worst case, she made a potentially valuable hostage.
The growler continued to cause havoc outside, moaning and scraping along the walls of the main house. A static discharge exploded in a geyser of sparks in the General’s yard. The house lights flickered, but came back on.
“No matter what, we can put up a hell of a fight—much more than the old bitch suspects.” Sophie rattled off the numbers without even consulting her data display. “We’ve had more than a month of full-bore military preparations across the Deep Zone, and plenty more already in place. Our factories are producing metals and equipment at breakneck speed. Right now, the DZ Defense Force has twenty-one military ships, and we’ve armed and refitted another seventy-five at Buktu. They’re on their way here now.”
In Michella Town, Sophie managed warehouses full of incoming goods and a set of productive greenhouses; at the distant outpost of Slickwater Springs, she also oversaw the settlement of “shadow-Xayan” converts, human volunteers who had merged their consciousnesses with ancient alien memories. She performed her work with extraordinary skill and had become one of the largest commercial brokers on the planet. Adolphus made her his chief quartermaster, whose job was to prepare everyone on Hellhole for the lean times ahead.
Now, ignoring the building storm outside, the General looked at all of his advisers, waited for silence. “I don’t expect it’ll come to an outright military confrontation. I have a plan.” He smiled. “It’s a matter of timing and strategic use of information. I still have many loyalists in the Crown Jewels, and some of them even work for the military. Very soon now, I expect to receive details of the offensive operation they plan to send against us, the exact numbers of ships and crew, as well as the precise departure date. Diadem Michella wants to make a grandiose gesture—which takes time. Enough time for us to prepare a trap.”
Craig Jordan grinned. “A trap! Now that’s what I like to hear.”
“Don’t cut it too close, sir,” Cristoph warned.
“The General can make it happen.” Sophie had no doubt in her voice.
BOOK 3, HELLHOLE INFERNO, will be released in August 2014
At WordFire Press we’ve released my own backlist as well as the works by many authors I admire. I can’t tell you how pleased and excited I am to announce that we’re releasing the works of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Allen Drury, whose classic political novel ADVISE AND CONSENT is one of the best-selling novels of all time. Drury was one of the premiere 20th Century authors of political fiction, and his works have been unavailable for many years, due to rights complications after his death in 1998.
That problem is now solved.
For the “opening salvo” of Drury works, WordFire Press will release three of Drury’s best works, ADVISE AND CONSENT, MARK COFFIN U.S.S., and DECISION, epic novels centered around the Senate and the Supreme Court, respectively. Upon its initial release, ADVISE AND CONSENT was a major #1 bestseller, with one of the longest runs in the top spot on the New York Times ever. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1960 and became a successful Broadway play. It was made into an acclaimed 1962 film starring Henry Fonda, Peter Lawford, and Burgess Meredith. Over the course of 1962 to 1975, Drury published five sequels to ADVISE AND CONSENT in an epic story about the people and intrigue of turbulent Washington politics.
MARK COFFIN, U.S.S. is the story of a young and talented Senator’s rise and fall and partial redemption, a vivid insider’s portrait of Washington politics. DECISION is a gripping novel about the deterioration of the criminal justice system and the mysterious, powerful body at its core—the Supreme Court of the United States.
In the overall publication plan, WFP just released the first three novels and will publish the rest of the sequence throughout the 2014 election season. In addition to numerous political dramas, Drury’s works include a two-volume historical epic set in ancient Egypt, a thriller about the politics of space exploration, a multi-volume fictional memoir of his generation, non-fiction books about the Senate, the Nixon White House, and an in-depth investigation of Apartheid South Africa. Over the next several years, WordFire Press will release the complete works of this 20th Century master.
Drury was hailed as a conservative writer in his time, insightful and thought provoking, and today his works are as relevant as when they were first published, to be celebrated by readers of all political stripes. The books are available in print and on Kindle; in the next several days they will be out in all eBook formats.
A 1939 graduate of Stanford University, Allen Drury wrote for and became editor of two local California newspapers. While visiting Washington, DC, in 1943 he was hired by the United Press (UPI) and covered the Senate during the latter half of World War II. After the war he wrote for other prominent publications before joining the New York Times’ Washington Bureau, where he worked through most of the 1950s. After the success of ADVISE AND CONSENT, he left journalism to write full time. He published twenty novels and five works of non-fiction, many of them best sellers. For more information see the WordFire Press Allen Drury page.
WordFire Press was formed by award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta, primarily as a vehicle to reissue their own works, but the publishing house has expanded to more than 100 titles, featuring the works of Dune author Frank Herbert, award-winning comics writer Mike Baron, New York Times bestseller Brian Herbert, multiple award winner Brad R. Torgersen, and others.
I’ve kept quiet on my blog for a while—just to keep my head above water. I’ll try to catch up after surviving one of the most intense deadline months of my career.
Yes, there was the usual madness of the holiday season, with numerous relatives visiting, family time, the WordFire New Years Party (for those who had nothing else to do), but then January hit with full force.
First, I had to do the final manuscript polish for Dan Shamble, Zombie PI #4, SLIMY UNDERBELLY. I had all the comments from the test readers, and needed to do one more cleanup through the book before it went into production through Kensington Books (US) and WordFire Press eBook (rest of the world). Next came a final read and edit of HELLHOLE INFERNO, the 600-page grand finale of my Hellhole Trilogy with Brian Herbert; once I finished with that, I delivered it to my editor at Tor Books and my group of test readers. That book comes out this August.
Then amazon contacted me with an offer to write a psychologic SFl thriller for their Kindle Worlds program, as a spinoff to the novel BRILLIANCE by Marcus Sakey. The catch was, I had to deliver the final ms in only a little over three weeks…and I hadn’t even read the source novel yet. So that was a “drop everything and be frantic” project…but with help from WordFire Press managing editor Peter J. Wacks, I was able to deliver a complete 53,000-word novel before February 1, TWIST. It will be available for Kindle download in only a few weeks.
In the meantime, I also had to write an original Dan Shamble novelette, “Role Model,” about Dan Shamble and his Best Human Friend Officer McGoohan solving the murder of a costumed fan at a convention. That one was written and delivered, and will be out in the FANTASTIC DETECTIVES anthology from Fiction River.
And, before the end of the month, I had to write and deliver the third script for CLOCKWORK ANGELS The Graphic Novel to BOOM! Studios. This is an awesome adaptation, and in order to give our artist Nick Robles the time he needs to draw it all, I have to deliver my scripts on time! First issue comes out in March.
I thought I had a chance to catch my breath after delivering all these projects, but then Rebecca Moesta and I had to turn my attentions to the next Superstars Writing Seminar, February 6–8, about 70 attendees with all the administrative busy work of running a conference.
I’ll do a report on that wonderful conference soon, but first I need to get back to reading these 90+ short story submissions for two anthologies Rebecca and I are putting together as part of a workshop for Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch…and right now I’m sitting in a hotel room in Dallas getting ready for a weekend as writer guest of honor at ConDFW.
And I still have a lot of blogs to catch up on…