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Author Q&A with J. B. Rockwell | The Serengeti Book Tour | Silver Dagger Tours Presents #SciFi #Adventure

Thanks for stopping by Readeropolis. Today's feature is an interview with J.B. Rockwell, author of Serengeti, a sci-fi adventure. Don...

Thanks for stopping by Readeropolis. Today's feature is an interview with J.B. Rockwell, author of Serengeti, a sci-fi adventure.

Don't forget to enter for a chance to win the tour giveaway (Fan Art Postcards - 2 winners)and follow the Silver Dagger book tour (for other dates see the link at the bottom of the post).

Questions & Answers with J.B. Rockwell

What is something unique/quirky about you?

I’m terrible on following through on anything I plan. For instance, I trained to be an archaeologist, and then promptly ruined that by marrying someone in the military, which meant moving every few years. Archaeology and moving don’t get along. I lived on Guam a while (which was awesome) and earned my SCUBA certification, but did pretty much nothing with it once I left Guam’s warm waters and brightly colored fishes. At one point I went back to school for a MBA, but then turned around and dove into IT. Then there’s the writing thing, which I sort of took up on a whim and a dare…See what I mean? I’m crap at planning. Pretty much I’m a pantser in writing, and a pantser in real life.

Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you!

At one point, Universal Studios in Florida used to have a Jaws show, complete with animatronic shark, little boat, and tons of water. My husband and I got pulled out of line to be part of the show one time. He, of course, was assigned as boat captain. I was told to sit in a chair to one side, pretend I was talking into a radio or something, and hold on tight. Oh, and most importantly, don’t even think about looking left. Turns out, the ‘don’t look left’ part was because a huge deluge of water was coming from said left that swamped me like a beach chair at high tide. I held on tight, exactly as ordered, but still got knocked sprawling and ended up drowned like a rat for my trouble.

It was a great day, apocalyptic wetting down and all.

What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?

Yeesh. That’s a tough one because there are soooo many great books out there. I try to read widely and in multiple genres, but since I’m a speculative fiction author, let me throw down a few (in no particular order) that top my list:

  • Rider at the Gate and Cloud’s Rider by C.J. Cherryh. A duology that’s sort of a sci-fi/fantasy western with telepathic horses called Nightmares. Try it, you’ll love it.
  • Hellburner also by C.J. Cherryh. Sci-fi through and through about an experimental ship and a rag-tag group of misfits chosen to crew it.
  • Everything else by C.J. Cherryh. I love this author, can you tell?! Her emphasis on characterization and portrayal of ‘broken’ protagonists has had a huge influence on my own writing.
  • The Gunslinger Series (plus Eyes of the Dragon) by Stephen King. Unlike anything else he’s written. A truly amazing series.
  • Cowl by Neal Asher. He’s written a lot of books I like, but this time travel story is my favorite. Asher’s a master of cool tech.
  • Brokedown Palace by Stephen Brust. I’m a sucker for fairy tale-esque stories and this sad little tale of a kingdom in ruins gave me all the feels. Especially the bunnies.
  • The Etched City by K.J. Bishop. Another fantasy cum western with a distinctly odd and beautiful twist.
  • Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis. Sort of Frankenstein, but with cerebrally enhanced canines. Also bears shades of Flowers for Algernon in that the smart dogs start reverting and (worse) know they’re reverting.
  • The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien. Do I really have to explain?

  • The Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell. Not spec fic but a great series of historical fiction books. Richard Sharpe is one of my all-time favorite characters.

What inspired you to write this book?

A somewhat random idea about a sentient being who dreamed of death but never died. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with that for a while, so I stuck it in a drawer (well, not a drawer, more like I scribbled it in a moleskin notebook) and tucked it away. Every once in a while I’d flip the notebook open and stare at the scribble and scratch my head before putting it away again, but eventually an idea occurred to me that started out as a short story about an AI warship, and later expanded to become my sci-fi novel, Serengeti. My love of sci-fi lies at the core of this book (obviously, since the entire series is science fiction) but I also really wanted to write a story with a badass female lead that was a woman’s vision of a badass female lead, not some Hollywood, hotted-up, high heels and lots of boobs incarnation. Granted, some of that was relatively easy since Serengeti is a starship and lacks both boobs and heels, but when it came to designing her AI personality, I definitely wanted her to identify as female and display outwardly feminine characteristics rather than coming across as either masculine or some mechanical sex toy. I see that happen all too often when a writer tries to make a female lead tough, and it’s always disappointing. Feminine doesn’t mean weak, but it also doesn’t mean a female character has to swagger around and piss in every corner.

What can we expect from you in the future?

Well, I just published the third book in the Serengeti series (Hecate, which is actually a prequel to the first two books and told from Serengeti’s captain’s point of view, rather than hers), but I’ve got a couple of other completed works currently being looked at by publishers. One is another space opera (a sort of dark story of revenge based loosely on Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves) and the other is an epic fantasy that plays on the maiden and the dragon trope, though this maiden isn’t sitting around waiting for some knight to save her, and the dragon…well, the dragon kind of has his hands full with the maiden. I’ve also got a novella kicking around that falls in the light horror/weird category and, strangely, a middle grade adventure book that needs some polishing before I do…something with it. Not sure what that something is yet, but it was a fun little story to write, and dipping my toe into the middle grade arena was a surprising challenge. So, as to what to expect, who knows! Something, hopefully. I’ve got my fingers crossed and my Inbox set to constantly refresh in the hopes that one of these irons I’ve got in the fire will ignite.

Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?

Yes! I wrote a prologue for Dark and Stars (the second book in the Serengeti series) that I ultimately decided to cut out before sending it off to my publisher. I liked that prequel a lot, though, and hated to just delete it or leave it forgotten on my hard drive, so I ended up posting it to Wattpad as a free read. (If you’re interested, you can find it here: Dark and Stars: Prologue ). The story is set in the Serengeti universe, and provides a lead-in to Dark and Stars but doesn’t actually include any of the characters from the books—one of the reasons I ultimately cut it. I didn’t want to confuse readers by introducing new characters that never appeared again and leave them scratching their heads. I also wrote a side story for my Breakshield fantasy series (sadly unfinished—just 2 of the 3 volumes published—and out of print now due to the publisher going under) that is available on my website (Fox and the Djinn ). I’m hoping to find a new publisher for the series one day and get all three volumes published, so I guess that’s another item to throw in the ‘potentially, maybe, what can you expect from me next?’ bucket.

Where were you born/grew up at?

Born in Connecticut (yep, I’m ‘Merican) and lived there through college. I’ve moved away from New England since then (except for a short stint living in Rhode Island), but I still miss it and consider myself a New Englander at heart. Mostly that’s because I’m stubborn. And sarcastic. And maybe a little opinionated. Maybe…

If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?

Surrounded by fuzzy little animals. Seriously. I love animals in all their fuzzy, furry, adorable iterations so I’d probably spend my last day at a shelter playing with all the puppies and kitties—giving them a special day while treating myself to one as well. Oh, and there’d be ice cream. And sledding. Maybe a unicorn if someone could pull that off…

Who is your hero and why?

Carrie Fisher, hands down. She changed the entire landscape for female actors, presenting a smart, tough woman who could actually get things done without getting naked or requiring a man to help her out. She also threw the doors wide open on mental illness, revealing her struggles to the world without the least bit of shame, and not giving a damn about what anyone thought about the trials and tribulations of her life. Most of all, she was classy, and proud, a brilliant mind possessed of a razor-sharp wit. Carrie Fisher was the real deal in a world of fakery and I love her for it. I never had the privileged of meeting her or getting to know her personally, but I will miss her forever, and the light she brought to this world.

What book do you think everyone should read?

You know, it’s always hard to single out just one book. There are a lot of literary classics that are standard reading in middle school, high school and college (To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Alice and Wonderland, Shakespeare’s plays, the Greek tragedies, dozens of others), but the books I read as a child have had the most profound and lasting impact on me personally. Even here, there are tons of books to choose from (Peter Rabbit, the Dr. Seuss books, you name it), but when I look back at them all, the one that sticks out most in my mind is Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. The story scared me at the first time I read it. Seriously. Feet drawn up, arms wrapped around my shins, the whole deal. But even while it was scaring me, it captured my imagination. The artwork is beautiful, the story fanciful and inventive. I love everything about this book and have never, ever met anyone who doesn’t feel the same.

Tell us about a favorite character from your book.

Obviously, I love Serengeti herself and her captain, Henricksen. I think anyone who reads my books will pick up on that rather quickly. But one character that really grew on me as I wrote the first book was Finlay—a young, female crewman who’s one of the few to survive after Serengeti is wrecked and abandoned. Of all the characters in the book, Finlay is the most real and relatable to me as a person. Dropped unexpectedly into difficult circumstances, she struggles to adapt and survive—terrified at first, lost and drifting, but inwardly strong and refusing to give up. I hadn’t planned for it initially, but she and Henricksen develop a special bond as the story progresses—nothing romantic or sexual, more like a father-daughter/big brother-little sister relationship that gives me all the feels and made me love her all the more.  

Describe your writing style.

Well, typically people speak in terms of plotters and pantsers, and I definitely fall into the latter category. Total pantser. Complete, chaotic, hot mess of a pantser. I have so much respect for all those diligent plotters out there, but I've tried it and unfortunately all that structure and discipline just doesn't quite work me. I usually start a book with the beginning figured out, the ending and a few rough ideas for plot points along the way, then I just jump right in and start pounding at the keys. That might not be the smartest way to go about it or the most efficient, but it works for me and, oddly, the lunacy of it keeps me from getting stressed out. Beyond that, I’d say I’m distinctly non-flowery (another thing I’m in awe of is writers who produce truly beautiful prose), though I love to linger on visuals and paint the settings of certain scenes. Most of all, I love my characters, and they—more than the space battles, and ‘splosions, and pew-pew-pew!—are at the heart of all my stories. I grin like a big, dopey good whenever a reader drops a comment about how attached they became to my little robots, and how surprised they were that they would come to care so much about an artificial being. What a great compliment. What writer wouldn’t love that?

What makes a good story?

Wow, now there’s a subjective question. Alright *dons Professor Smart Guy cap* here’s some thoughts from J.B.

Warning: All opinions expressed herein are my own. Disagree? Fine. You’re probably right, too.

First off, a plot that actually goes somewhere. Surprisingly, I’ve read a lot of stories that don’t do this. While I love a good description, a book that’s nothing more than a series of strung together descriptions with no actual action, tension, or goal is just worldbuilding without population. Yawn.

Second thing: tension. While a happy ending is all well and good (I love an unhappy ending, too, by the way) there has to be some angst, and trouble, and gnashing of teeth to actually get to said happy ending or else what’s the point? So, kill somebody. Hurt somebody. Throw in a car crash, or an unexpected stalker, or something to put the main character in danger, or at least make it difficult for he/she/they to achieve their goal.

Third item: character development. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a girl who loves a heavy dose of bang! boom! splat! but I also want to get to know the characters executing said banging, and booming, and splatting and get invested in them to the point where I actually care what happens to them. This too doesn’t happen a lot. Oddly, some writers get so sidetracked in the action-action-action (or sexy times, or intrigue or whatever’s core to a particular genre) that they forget to flesh out their characters and actually make them feel like real people. Don’t do this, authors! Just don’t!.

Fourth (and the last thing I’ll mention, though there are plenty of others I could drone on about), don’t just copy someone else’s storyline and ideas. There’s a word for that: plagiarism. Surprisingly (and sadly), some authors have sold a ton of books and made a tidy some blatantly copying the works of others, changing up the names and a few details but essentially copycatting the entire storyline of a well-known book or series. I hate that this happens, but it does. The point is, don’t do this. Don’t be the faker that just rides someone else’s coat tails. Write your own story. Create something new and exciting and own it, be proud of it and what you’ve accomplished. But don’t steal. Don’t build up yourself at the cost of another.

What do you do to unwind and relax?

Anything that doesn’t involve a computer or other electronic device. I work in IT, which means dealing with software problems, and computers problems, and software and computer problems all day long. I write on a computer, I do research on a computer, and that’s work too. 

Being a writer is work—don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

So, when I want to relax. The computer goes away, along with the iPad and the phone. If it’s nice, I go outside and run, or hike, or ride my bike—anything that gets me out into nature and enjoying the fresh air. If it’s not nice, I grab a book and read for a while. Or veg out and watch a movie. Or bake cookies and stuff myself because I’m an adult, dammit, and I’ll ruin my dinner if I want to!

What made you want to become an author and do you feel it was the right decision?  

Mostly, it was a challenge to myself. I’ve always been an avid reader, so trying my hand at writing a book almost felt like a natural progression. In retrospect, that was a really naïve decision  since I knew nothing about publishing or how hard it would be just to complete that book, much less find a publisher (I never did, by the way, not for that particular book). All that said, I don’t regret that naiveté for a minute. Not only am I proud of the books I’ve published (and that first one as well, if only for existing) but I’ve made a lot of new friends in the writer community and leaned a ton about how publishing works that I never would’ve known if I hadn’t tried to force my way into this crazy-crazy business.

A day in the life of the author?

Well, the majority of us don’t get to sit around writing all day, so just get that thought out of your head. There are some who achieve that nirvana, of course (although, even then, there are conventions and other engagements which suck up their time and pull them away from actually writing), but most of us writerly types hold down day jobs or are stay at home parents taking care of children full-time. I’m one of the dayjobbers, which sucks up 10-12 hours of my life every week day. That means almost no writing gets done during the week, unfortunately. Well, plenty of writing gets done during the week, but it’s all boring work stuff, not my own creative work. It also means I work feverishly on the weekends to cram in some writing time and make real progress on my current projects, market books that are already published, research submissions opportunities, and everything else. That’s the secret no one ever tells you about writing: if you want to be a successful author, you never stop hustling. For me that hustling started with trying to find an agent, which I finally accomplished after several solid years of effort. Little did I know that landing an agent didn’t mean my hustling days were at end. Oh no. Having an agent means I have to hustle in a different way, but I’m still out there hustling pretty much every darn day. Because writing one book, or three books, or five books isn’t enough to get your name out there and build a reputation and fan base, make connections that might help you land that next big publisher deal. Short stories help, especially if you can land one with a pro paying market. Novellas too. Interviews and articles for blogs sites, pretty much anything that highlights you as an author (in a positive way, of course) and generates interest in your writing.

That means even more words laid down, and not a one of them for your current project. That’s the biz, folks. Unfortunately, just writing a book isn’t enough.

What are you currently reading?

I recently finished Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty—a wonderful sci-fi murder mystery I really enjoyed. I also read Counting Wolves by Michael F. Stewart—think Breakfast Club meets Grimm's Fairy Tales story set in, of all things, an adolescent psych ward. I’m currently rereading Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card for a sort of online book club thing I’ve gotten into that’s a huge amount of fun. Next up will likely be Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear—a book that’s been waiting patiently in my TBR pile for far too long. 

Go, Bear!

How long have you been writing?

Honestly? Not all that long. I didn’t even really think about trying my hand at writing until about six or seven years ago, but that’s sort of a thing with me: I train for one thing and always seem to end up doing something completely different. Take my current day job, for instance. I work in IT now, but started out wanting to be an archaeologist. Obviously I’m not very good at picking something and sticking to it. So, blah-blah-blah, when did I start writing. Maybe...five years ago. At least, that's when I finally stopped messing around and figured out enough to actually buckle down and write something end to end. Like most writers, I'm an avid reader and have been for as long as I can remember. I’m also a maxi-big SFF fan so I naturally gravitated toward writing speculative fiction. As to why I started writing…ahem, well, it was kinda, sorta a challenge. To myself. I wanted to see if I could even do it, and after many false starts and wrong turnings—ta-da! Finished book! That said, I'll admit, I was completely naïve and had no idea at the time just how complicated the publishing industry is, much less how many great writers are out there trying to get their big break. As you can imagine, there's been a steep learning curve over the years. As you can also imagine, that first book I wrote only exists on my hard drive—it's never seen the light of day and likely never will.

What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?

Nope, nope and nope. Wait, that’s too many nopes. I’m a pantser through and through, which means I eschew anything that comes even close to outlining and actually planning. That’s terrible, I know, and I’ve tried being more diligent and doing things the nice, disciplined plotter way, but…well, it never takes. In fact, all that thought and outlining and preparation mostly just frustrates me and stresses me out. Typically when I start writing, I know how the story begins and ends, and a few major plot points in the middle, and that’s about it. I write that first chapter, and figure out the next. Write the second chapter, maybe come up with a few more ideas that I jot down or rough out, but mostly I just write the story one chapter at a time, flipping back on occasion to fill in details or fix plot holes as they appear. I’ve toyed with the idea of using Scrivener in the hopes it will force me to be a bit more diligent in my novel planning, but I honestly don’t see that happening unless I land that Big 6 publisher deal and can quit the day job to write full time.

Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Serengeti?

Well, there’s Serengeti, the title character: a kickass, sentient AI warship who’s wrecked in battle and later abandoned by her fleet, leaving her alone, trying desperately to save her cryogenically frozen crew. Though AI—a machine with a ship’s body and an enhanced brain—she is long on emotion, and cares deeply for the humans and robots who serve her. So deeply, in fact, that she puts their own lives above her own.

Serengeti’s partner in crime is her captain, Henricksen: a gruff, scarred soldier who cares just as much about Serengeti as she cares about him. Together they form a tight partnership that adds a depth of feeling to the story to counterbalance the action scenes and explosions.

Serengeti’s crew includes a rogues gallery of other characters, but my favorite by far are three little robots: Tig and Tilli who survive the catastrophe leading up to Serengeti’s abandonment, and tiny Oona, whom Tig and Tilli create using pieces of their own programming, and parts salvaged from other destroyed robots. The robots are the beating heart of the story—innocent and almost childlike in many ways, but integral to Serengeti’s survival. Tasked with fixing her as best they can during the long, long years while she drifts alone in space.

Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?

I never have them all figured out up front. In fact, I’m lucky if I’ve got more than the main character fleshed out when I sit down to write. That’s part of the pantser curse, I guess, but somehow it works. Like the rest of my writing, characters just sort of crop up as they’re needed and get fleshed out accordingly, usually in successive drafts while editing. Interestingly, Henricksen wasn’t initially meant to play all that big of a role in Serengeti. But the rough, tough captain grew on me and ended up spawning a whole ream of sub-plots and undercurrents that really added to the depth of the overall story. I love Henricksen, rough edges, scarred face and all. And, in an odd sort of way, his addition and expansion is the thing that, to me, makes Serengeti feel complete.

What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?

Obviously, it depends on the book. Given that I’m writing fiction, a lot of my ‘research’ involves novels and films with similar themes and concepts to help generate ideas and also see what’s already out there. Most of us don’t want to be copycats, after all. The challenge lies in taking something familiar and putting a new and unique twist on it to create something completely different. Given that I write a lot of sci-fi, I also end up taking side trips during the writing process to research specific scientific facts, theories, etc. to make sure I don’t either violate the laws of physics and other unalterable rules of the universe, or that I concept I’ve introduced has at least some basis in scientific fact. For the Serengeti series, the setting created some particularly unique considerations. When most everything happens in space, you have to think a lot about speed and distances and how things move, what things are made of and how they would withstand collisions and interactions with other objects—that kind of thing. Plus, there are aspects to celestial bodies that need to be considered and theories on how faster than light travel would work, and, well, I’m not saying I got it all right—the science purists will no doubt find a lot of logic flaws and science fails—but sometimes you have to tweak the science to suit the story. Luckily I have a few more science-oriented friends who picked up on some of the more…obvious fails and helped me brainstorm ways around them. Thank you, loyal beta readers!

Describe yourself in 5 words or less!

Short, snarky, nature-pestering dreamer!

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Strangely, getting to know the characters. I know that sounds odd, since I wrote them and created them in this squashed pumpkin of a brain sitting inside my skull, but when you first start writing characters they tend to be rather bare bones. Each edit adds new details and facets of their personalities (for example, I added two flashback scenes with Henricksen in the very last edit to flesh out his background a bit), and each book in a series builds on this initial information, making the characters more and more real. One reason I wrote Hecate, is I felt like I’d told Serengeti’s story, but there was still information on Henricksen missing. Things I wanted to tell the readers that hadn’t yet come through. Plus, I love Henricksen as a character and it was really fun getting inside his head after spending so much time in Serengeti’s crystal matrix brain.

Do you have any advice to give aspiring writers?

Run away!II

Just kidding. This iis always a tough question because, in many ways, I still feel like I’m an aspiring writer myself. Though I’ve published a few books, I’m still looking to move up the ladder—score a bigger deal, sell more books and expand my fan base, that kind of thing. That said, I am ‘smarter’ in the ways of publishing today than I was when I first started out, and I’m always happy to share what lessons learned I’ve gathered over the years with anyone who asks. In fact, I did a Reddit Author Spotlight a year ago and got a surprising number of new author advice questions.

So, what would I offer here? Hmm…*thinks real hard*

Well, first off, write for fun, not profit. There are so many authors out there, which means so much competition for a very limited number of big contracts. If you start out writing with the sole purpose of making money, most of you will be sadly disappointed—it’s just that hard.

Also, be patient with yourself and the industry. It took me 5 years and five manuscripts to finally find an agent but in some ways I’m glad it took that long because I’m a better, smarter and more educated writer now. Finding your voice takes time, and the first few things you write may never end up getting published. That’s normal, and okay. Everybody has to start somewhere and learn how the whole writing biz works. And that biz is sloooowwwww as ice cold molasses. Submissions to publishers often languish for months without a response—a frustrating reality, but reality just the same. Don’t try to fight it, don’t try to buck it or fix it, just sit back and go with the flow. Oh, and write something while you’re waiting.
And don’t be afraid to screw up. I have. Often. The contract for my first couple of books was not good but I learned a ton of things from that not-so-good contract that helped me be smarter about contracts I signed later on.

The last thing I’ll offer (I could offer a hundred things but I’ll offer just one more here) is to become part of the community. Find a writer’s group, get involved in pitch contests, or conferences, or forums. Whatever you choose, find a way to connect with other writers. They’re your best source of information when trying to get into the biz, and a ready source of new friends and social contacts to cheer with and commiserate with and interact with on a regular basis. Writing is a solo business most days, but it doesn’t have to be lonely with the internet at your fingertips! 

What have you learned about yourself as a writer through writing the Serengeti series?

THAT I’M A TRAINWRECK PANTSER!  Seriously, I tried outlining and being all squared away and prepared but it completely stressed me out and killed my creative flow. I don’t always write linearly and tend to jump around as ideas come to mind but I always get there in the end, and the lunacy works for me somehow. I’ve also gotten really good at queries, weirdly. I think I’ve even come to enjoy writing them *shudders* Serengeti definitely made me up my game, though—seek out more and different marketing opportunities, put myself out there and take some risks. I’m still learning and I have a long way to go but I’m a better writer today than a year ago, and that writer better than the year ago writer before that.

by J.B. Rockwell
Genre: SciFi Adventure

It was supposed to be an easy job: find the Dark Star Revolution Starships, destroy them, and go home. But a booby-trapped vessel decimates the Meridian Alliance fleet, leaving Serengeti—a Valkyrie class warship with a sentient AI brain—on her own; wrecked and abandoned in an empty expanse of space. 

On the edge of total failure, Serengeti thinks only of her crew. She herds the survivors into a lifeboat, intending to sling them into space. But the escape pod sticks in her belly, locking the cryogenically frozen crew inside. 

Then a scavenger ship arrives to pick Serengeti's bones clean.

Her engines dead, her guns long silenced, Serengeti and her last two robots must find a way to fight the scavengers off and save the crew trapped inside her.

**On sale for .99 from Sept 4th- 9th**

Serengeti 2:
Dark and Stars

Fifty-three years Serengeti drifted, dreaming in the depths of space. Fifty-three years of patient waiting before her Valkyrie Sisters arrive to retrieve her from the dark. A bittersweet homecoming follows, the Fleet Serengeti once knew now in shambles, its admiral, Cerberus, gone missing, leaving Brutus in charge. Brutus who’s subsumed the Fleet, ignoring his duty to the Meridian Alliance to pursue a vendetta against the Dark Star Revolution.

The Valkyries have a plan to stop him—depose Brutus and restore the Fleet’s purpose—and that plan involves Serengeti. Depends on Serengeti turning her guns against her own.

Because the Fleet can no longer be trusted. With Brutus in charge, it’s just Serengeti and her Sisters, and whatever reinforcements they can find.

A top-to-bottom refit restores Serengeti to service, and after a rushed reunion with Henricksen and her surviving crew, she takes off for the stars. For Faraday—a prison station—to stage a jailbreak, and free the hundreds of Meridian Alliance AIs wrongfully imprisoned in its Vault. From there to the Pandoran Cloud and a rendezvous with her Valkyrie Sisters. To retrieve a fleet of rebel ships stashed away inside.

One last battle, one last showdown with Brutus and his Dreadnoughts and it all ends. A civil war—one half of the Meridian Alliance Fleet turned against the other, with the very future of the Meridian Alliance hanging in the balance.

Prequel to Serengeti

Black Ops—the intelligence arm of the Meridian Alliance Fleet came calling with an offer Henricksen couldn’t refuse: a ship—an entire squadron of ships, actually—and crew to command. A chance to get back to the stars.

Too bad he didn’t ask more questions before accepting the assignment. Too bad no one told him just how dangerous this particular skunkworks project was.

They call the ship the RV-N: Reconnaissance Vessel - Non-combat, Raven for short. A stealth ship—fast, and maneuverable, and brutal as hell. On the surface, Henricksen's assignment seems simple: train his crew, run the RV-Ns through their paces, get the ships certified for mission operations and job done. But an accident in training reveals a fatal design flaw in the Raven, and when an undercover operative steals classified information from a Black Ops facility, the Fleet Brass cancels the tests completely, rushing the faulty ships and their half-trained crew into live operations. On a mission to recover the Fleet’s lost secrets.

Out of time and out of options, Henricksen has no choice but to launch his squadron. But a ghost from his past makes him question everything—the ships, their AI, the entirety of this mission, right down to the secrets he and his crew are supposed to recover.

Audiobook available 10-17-17

J.B. Rockwell is a New Englander, which is important to note because it means she's (a) hard headed, (b) frequently stubborn, and (c) prone to fits of snarky sarcasticness. As a kid she subsisted on a steady diet of fairy tales, folklore, mythology augmented by generous helpings of science fiction and fantasy. As a quasi-adult she dreamed of being the next Indiana Jones and even pursued (and earned!) a degree in anthropology. Unfortunately, those dreams of being an archaeologist didn't quite work out. Through a series of twists and turns (involving cats, a marriage, and a SCUBA certification, amongst other things) she ended up working in IT for the U.S. Coast Guard and now writes the types of books she used to read. Not a bad ending for an Indiana Jones wannabe...

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