So I tried fourth place for a little while. It wasn’t for me.

We’re back in third! And still climbing, too. I don’t like being passed, so I’m pretty determined to snatch that second place position soon. There’s still an irritating chance that we might get knocked down to fourth again, and I’d very much like to put some distance behind me asap to keep that from happening. So please keep up the good work and share our updates, and ESPECIALLY tell your friends and families about this book. The more people we get on board, the better our chances are of really securing our place in the top three. We’ve only got ten days left. They all have to count.

I am way too stubborn to lose this contest. Much like today’s highlighted character: Captain Lucas Sicarius: the man so determined to hold onto his power, he simply refused to die.

 

Lucas Sicarius

The youngest of three brothers, Lucas spent most of his life trying to live up to the expectations set in place by his eldest brother. When Jacob joined the military at eighteen and became an all but overnight war hero, Lucas followed in his brother’s footsteps. His skills were impressive, enough to get him assigned to the elite taskforce known as the Razorbacks, alongside his brother. Upon joining the Razorbacks, Lucas was implanted with an Erymanthos combat AI named Eidolon, which further enhanced his skills. However in spite of his impressive natural talents, Lucas and Eidolon continued to be overshadowed by Jacob and Proteus throughout most of their military career.

While Jacob’s skills were focused on ground combat, Lucas’s talents were keyed more toward combat support. He was especially adept at piloting various aircraft and spacecraft. Eidolon assisted with this, adapting its primary function as a combat assessor and target finder to aid Lucas in performing complex flight maneuvers. It also adapted its battlefield memorization programming, allowing it to memorize the controls of every vehicle Lucas piloted, enabling him to feel as familiar with a new vehicle as if he’d been piloting it for years. Lucas became one of the Razorbacks’ best combat pilots, and at last it seemed that he’d begun to make a name for himself, rather than merely being “Jacob’s younger brother.”

This all changed when, during a mission on the perilous sun-blasted planet Buyan, the dropship Lucas was piloting was struck down by a surface-to-air missile. All hands were lost in the ensuing crash, save for Jacob and Lucas. Though both men were gravely injured in the crash and one of Buyan’s two deadly suns was about to rise, Jacob managed to save both their lives by burying them both in the sand until rescue could come during Buyan’s brief dusk.

Battered, bloody, and deeply discouraged, Lucas found rescue worse than death. Once again, Jacob was hailed the hero, while Lucas was merely the one who’d crashed a ship. When both men were offered the chance to retire from active duty with honors, Lucas accepted, while Jacob did not.

Lucas served for a few more years in the military in various behind the scenes functions, but found no fulfillment in it. Several years later when Jacob was offered the coveted honor of being the leader of the future colony on Bella Rosa, Lucas was invited to join the mission. Initially, he was to join Jacob and their other brother Isaac in cold stasis, the three of them being revived together upon arrival at their destination.

But Lucas knew when they arrived at Bella Rosa, it would only be the same old story again. Once again, Lucas would be living in Jacob’s shadow, forever known as “Jacob’s brother.” He saw an opportunity to choose a different fate.

Instead of joining the colonists, Lucas applied for the captaincy of the Somnambule. His service record was more than satisfactory for the job, and Lucas was declared captain. As his brothers bid him an emotional farewell, Lucas watched them submit to the deep sleep of cold stasis. He knew he would never see them awake again in his lifetime. He knew, from this point on, he was the only Sicarius people would talk about.

For decade upon decade, Lucas served as the absolute authority on The Somnambule. The entire crew answered to him. He was the master of all he surveyed. At last, he had found his own importance. For 75 years he ran The Somnambule. When his body began to fail from old age, he had his life prolonged through cybernetics.

As he continued to cling to his twilight years of power and life, eventually becoming so dependent on his cybernetics he served as more of an autopilot than a captain. His body was plugged directly into the ship; it’s systems became as much a part of his mind and body as his own. Even as death tapped its foot patiently waiting for him, he refused to relinquish the control he’d found. He refused to let go of a life he’d already prolonged too far. He had found his kingdom; a world all his own.

Then, with a freak act of sabotage in the stasis bay, Jacob Sicarius awoke once again…

 


I’m afraid I have some bad news, friends. For the first time in almost a week, Proteus is not in the top three. We had a long and trying battle with the book that had been in fourth place today, jumping back and forth between being one order ahead and one order behind. Then today, that book blasted right past us straight into the second place spot with more than a dozen orders in rapid succession. Quite an impressive feat, I must say.

The good news is that the book that was in second place that is now in third is now only three orders ahead of us, so we can retake our rightful place in the top three soon enough. But only with your help! I need a real outpouring of support, guys. The danger of not making it to the top three by the end of the contest is very real. Something like what happened today could happen at any moment, and there’s no way to see it coming.

Unless, that is, you’re the Crone of the Lower Decks, Marion Krieg: one of our story’s antagonists. She sees everything coming....

 

Marion Krieg

Marion Krieg was one of the most brilliant minds to come out of Crisium University. At the age of 18, Krieg graduated with twin PHDs in quantum computing and AI engineering, with minor focuses in cybernetic engineering and cyberneural integration.

Despite having a broad variety of career paths to choose from, young Marion Krieg opted to accept an invitation from the Expansionary Coalition to serve as head scientist aboard the newly built colony ship Somnambule. Not being a naturally social person, Krieg felt no particular qualms about spending the rest of her life aboard a starship thousands of light years from settled space. The opportunity to conduct unlimited scientific experiments with no government oversight or restriction was, to her, its own reward.

On The Somnambule, Marion spent the first several years developing technologies to assist future generations of the crew, including an exceptionally adaptive level-five AI designed as a universal tutor in any field of study on record. In spite of this invaluable educational resource, Marion also took to training her scientists personally.

Marion’s career on The Somnambule’s science staff spanned more than seven decades, and she taught and worked alongside four generations of scientists. She never considered retirement, nor did her impressive intellect dull with age. In fact, it was in the later years of her life that Krieg developed her most impressive, and most divisive, scientific breakthrough yet.

Krieg developed a quantum cortical implant so sophisticated, it could allow its user to literally see future events. Or at least, this is the claim Krieg made. The handful of initial volunteers who underwent the procedure to receive the new implant did demonstrate an uncanny ability to predict events several moments before they occurred, lending credence to her claim, incredible though it may have been.

Krieg was not satisfied with the implants’ performance, however. As impressive as they were, she believed she could enhance them to project even farther into the future. Following several waves of improved versions of the implant, she finally implanted one into herself, granting her the ability to see so far into the future that she could witness The Somnambule’s arrival on Bella Rosa.

The future she claimed to see was dire. She had witnessed a vague and terrible catastrophe at the journey’s end; some threat unknown and imperceptible, but utterly devastating to the mission and the lives of crew and colonists alike. Having witnessed this disaster, Marion insisted that the mission, already 70 years underway, must be aborted.

The captain refused to alter course for any reason, but Marion persisted. By this time she had amassed scores of followers among the scientific and civilian communities aboard The Somnambule and, after multiple fruitless attempts to convince the rest of the crew of the danger at mission’s end, Krieg declared outright mutiny.

She led her followers in an ill-fated attempt to seize control of the ship, but were ultimately repelled and temporarily subdued by The Somnambule’s loyalist security team. They managed to push Krieg and her rebels back to the lower decks of the ship. A stalemate was reached: Krieg’s forces had the advantage of precognitive enhancements, making them all but impossible to capture or kill, while the security team was far better armed for combat. Neither side would relent, and so began a long and bloody civil war for control of The Somnambule….


Greetings all! I can proudly say that we are now on day five of holding on to third place in the Nerdist contest. Our position is far from secure, however. The fourth place contender is tenacious, and second place keeps dodging our attempts to overtake them. At the moment, we are only three orders away from falling back down to fourth, and I don’t like that margin. I also don’t like not being in second place, and right now only five new orders stand in the way of seizing that coveted spot for ourselves.
We can get there, no doubt. I haven’t played all my cards yet. But we definitely need as much support as we can muster! Remember, keep sharing our content, keep telling your friends and family about it. If you’ve already ordered a copy, find one other person you know you can convince to do the same. If everyone who’s already ordered a copy got just one other person to do it too, we’d be in first place right now.
I’m planning on launching an incentive for you soon, so stay tuned. But don’t wait for it! We’re so close to taking second and securing our place on the final leaderboard, I can taste it. It tastes like victory.
I like victory.
You know who else likes victory? Our protagonist: Jacob Sicarius! He might like victory a bit too much, in fact. Let me take a moment to introduce him to you all....

Jacob Sicarius

General Jacob Sicarius stands as one of the most respected, and most decorated, soldiers in the entire Expansionary Coalition.

Enlisting in the Coalition Marine Corps  at the age of 18, Jacob showed great promise from the very beginning of his military career. His coordination on the battlefield was exemplary, and his dedication to every mission was second to none. His tenacity in the field earned him a reputation among allies and enemies alike.
Jacob’s excellent combat effectiveness swiftly earned him placement with the Razorbacks: an elite commando unit specializing in particularly hostile combat arenas on the Coalition’s frontier worlds. As part of his initiation into this elite unit’s ranks, Jacob was implanted with a CE 1500 Erymanthos cybernetic AI implant named Proteus. Proteus enhanced Jacob’s already formidable combat abilities well beyond the range achievable by any normal human being. Though all members of the Razorbacks were implanted with an Erymanthos, none seemed to work quite as flawlessly together as Jacob and Proteus.

Shortly after Jacob’s younger brother Lucas joined the Razorbacks, the team was deployed to a contested strip of land on the perilous desert world of Buyan. Tensions between the Expansionary Coalition and the Colonial Hegemony had risen to the point of open armed conflict, creating a localized war on the frontier world’s constantly shifting habitable zone.

The conflict between Coalition and Hegemony troops lasted several months. During the latter days of the conflict, Jacob’s dropship was shot down near the trailing edge of Buyan’s habitable zone, leaving both him and his brother badly wounded and the rest of the squad dead. Acting quickly despite being crippled by the crash, Jacob managed to save himself and Lucas from Buyan’s deadly day cycle by burying them both alive, protecting themselves from the lethal heat and radiation emitted by one of Buyan’s paired suns.

When they were rescued by the rest of the Razorbacks during Buyan’s brief second night cycle, both men were on the verge of death from exposure and blood loss. Jacob’s injuries were more severe, requiring extensive cybernetic reconstruction, including both legs below the knee and his left arm at the elbow. Both men were decorated for their bravery in surviving the ordeal, and both were given the option to retire with honors. Lucas took this option, but Jacob refused.

Jacob remained with the Razorbacks for another two decades, eventually becoming their commander. Many further engagements left Jacob with injuries that required further cybernetic replacements, and he had some of his existing replacements enhanced to increase his combat effectiveness.

Despite never losing his edge in battle, Jacob’s continued promotions led to his seeing less and less time in the field. He proved to have a natural gift for strategy, which was further enhanced by Proteus. As a general, he became a master tactician, and helped the Coalition come out on top in many subsequent conflicts with the Hegemony and numerous other hostile nations.

As a reward for his service to the Coalition, Jacob was selected to be the commander in chief of the Coalition’s planned colony on the newly discovered resource-rich planet of Bella Rosa. Though reluctant to leave the field of battle for good, and more reluctant still to embark on the one-way 150 year journey away from civilization as he knew it, Jacob eventually accepted the position.

Submitting himself to a long sleep in cold stasis aboard the colony ship Somnambule, Jacob found himself dreaming…of war.


Let me paint you all a very pretty picture:

 

That’s right, Proteus is still sitting firmly in the top three, and only climbing higher. There’s plenty cause for celebration for coming as far as we have, and I owe everyone who’s supported it so far a huge debt of gratitude. But there are some significant impending challenges ahead as we gear up to enter the final two weeks of the contest. What obstacles are those, you ask? One word: syndicates.

Syndicates are groups on inkshares that collect contributions from their members and pour all of them into one book every month. You may remember that Tantalus Depths received support from many syndicates during the last campaign; in fact I’d venture to say the campaign could not have succeeded without support from the syndicates.

So why are syndicates a problem for Proteus? Well, most of them more or less make their decisions about which book they plan to back at the beginning of the month, or even earlier. Some of the bigger ones are already narrowing down their choices to one or two options, and they’ll make their final choice within the next week or so. Because I launched my campaign for Proteus as late as I did, most of the syndicates who might have considered supporting it had already turned their attention to other books in the contest. Some of these syndicates are large, and if they pick a book I’m competing against, that book will instantly jump ahead by twenty or thirty orders all at once.

Long story short, it’s unlikely any syndicate will pick Proteus, and it’s highly likely some will pick competing books. One already has, in fact. This means we can expect some of the books we’ve already passed in the leaderboard to instantly leapfrog over us if we can’t get some more traction and build up a buffer between Proteus and the rest of the leaderboard. Since we can’t count on syndicates, we have to push forward the old fashioned way: one order at a time. So even though we’re doing really well right now by making it to the top three and holding our position, it’s crucial that we keep pushing as hard as we can to increase our numbers.

Remember, please tell all your friends and family to pre-order, and keep sharing our posts to boost our visibility. Victory is in sight, but it’s not within reach yet, and it’s going to take all of us to get there!


Ladies, gentlemen, and sapient AI, I have a phenomenal announcement to make:

As of right now, Proteus is in THIRD PLACE in the Nerdist competition!

All we need to do to earn the full Inkshares publishing deal for Proteus is come in third. If we can hold onto this position, it’s as good as first place. BUT we’re only ahead of the competition by one preorder right now, so there’s no time to rest yet. I want to get some space between Proteus and the competition (well, the competition behind us, anyway. The competition in front of us can get as close as it likes). In fact, I intend to keep going and seize second place just to be safe. First place too if I’m feeling frisky.

Please keep up the support! So much can happen in the next two weeks, and success can only come with your continued support. If you have a significant other or sibling or parent or child who you can convince to put in an order, please do whatever you can to make that happen. If everyone who’s ordered a copy so far gets one other person to do the same, we could tie with first place in a day.

Once more into the breach!

It’s our fourth day in the contest and Proteus is in FOURTH PLACE!!! Actually, just kidding, we’re tied for sixth, but for some reason we’re showing up on the leaderboard as being in fourth place when we technically aren’t. Still, though. We are VERY close to breaking the top three. In fact, we’re only SIX pre-orders away from tying with that coveted third place position.

We can do this, guys. This is real.

We can make this happen, and I’m confident we will. If you haven’t pre-ordered yet, now is the time! Competition is neck and neck at the moment, and just a little bit of support could tip us over the edge. 

Today’s story update gives us a look under the hood of our protagonist. This sophisticated targeting AI is designed to help turn a soldier into a literal killing machine in the field by boosting his lethality and survivability in any combat scenario. This may come with a few trade-offs, however...

Jacob Sicarius’s implant served him well on the battlefield, but his days of war should have ended a long time ago. Now on the embattled decks of The Somnambule he must take up arms once again. But can a soldier ever really retire anyway? Can you take the fire of battle out of a warrior’s blood? When that warrior has a machine in his head that automatically evaluates everyone he sees in terms of threat level, it would seem unlikely...especially when that machine develops a bloodlust of its own...

When a battle of wills between man and machine rages within a shared brain, who will triumph? Moreover...who should?

Find out when you order Proteus today!

Day three in the Nerdist Science Fiction contest, and Proteus is still climbing the ranks, sitting solidly in the top ten. The support you’ve been showing has been amazing, and I cannot thank you enough for it. As promised here comes a story-focused update. Introducing the city-sized marvel of deep space travel, The Somnambule:

 

The Somnambule is a home to thousands, many of which will live their entire lives on its vast decks. It is an ark. A refuge. A prison. A tomb.

Thousands of lightyears away from the home they left and the home that awaits them, the inhabitants of The Somnambule are well and truly on their own. When conflict erupts in the chambers of this colossal monolith, more than 50,000 lives hang in the balance. One man will take it upon himself to save them from destruction. But the question must be asked...who will save them from him?

Order Proteus, and find out!




p.s.: It’s pronounced "SAHM-nam-BYOOL" I know someone’s gonna ask. ;)

Two days into our campaign for Proteus, and we’ve already worked our way to tenth place in the contest, out of 150 entrants. The support we’ve seen already is phenomenal, and it personally warms my heart to see how much faith so many of you have in me that you’d be willing to rally for me a second time even though the first book is still in production. I promise you, I won’t let you down.

We’ve made it to the top ten in record time, but now we have to climb through them. At the time of writing, 17 pre-orders stand between Proteus and the coveted third place position, and I fully expect those numbers to rise significantly by the end of the contest. We mustn’t lose momentum!

Only 18 days remain in this contest, and after that, we’ve either won or we’re done. There will be no long pre-order campaign this time; it’s total victory or defeat. We’ll be getting Tantalus Depths no matter what, but with this contest won, we’ll have the beginning of a franchise rather than a single novel. If you can spare as little as ten dollars, please lend Proteus your support, and tell all your family and friends about it. I’m passionate about this story, and I am so eager to share it with you.

Expect to see some new story content updates in the next coming days. We’re exploring a completely different side of the galaxy that we were introduced to in Tantalus Depths so expect to see some brand new story elements with a familiar feel to them. For now, I leave you with this new promotional video for Proteus. Please feel free to share it with anyone, anywhere!

 



Today’s big announcement has almost nothing to do with Tantalus Depths, but it is still a very big announcement.

As many of you already know, Inkshares is teaming up with Nerdist right now to host a science fiction novel contest. The top three books at the end of the contest will win the full publishing treatment, the same deal we earned for Tantalus Depths last year, but without the agonizing process of having to round up 750 preorders first.

I deliberated for weeks about whether I should enter the contest or not. The book I wanted to enter is one of my boldest endeavors and I’m incredibly proud of it, but in many ways I feel like I’m still recovering from my last campaign, and I’m definitely not excited about taking that plunge once more. But ultimately the deciding factor that made me decide to go ahead and go for it was the competition. Right now, with just 20 days to go, the pre-order numbers on the current leaderboard are unusually low for a contest like this. At the time of writing this, I could make it to the top 3 with less than 50 pre-orders. That’s a far cry from 750, and I feel I must capitalize on this opportunity.

So I’ve entered the fray: my second full novel, Proteus, is now available for pre-order. It’s a sci-fi psychological thriller set in the same universe as Tantalus Depths, but featuring completely different characters and events. It’s ambitious to the point of impertinence, as it is a direct adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Richard III that also deals with themes of wartime PTSD, transhumanism, and the duality of man.

I can’t do anything halfway, it seems.

Here is the link, please check it out. There will be a wealth of new information coming every day for the duration of this intense but very short campaign. I wouldn’t have entered this contest yet if I didn’t think we could win it. The support we raised for Tantalus Depths was simply mind-blowing, and if we can recapture just one fifteenth of that miracle again, we’ll have not one but two books entering the production process. This could make the difference between me being an author as a hobby and me being an author as a career.

 

Before you go, I want to pre-emptively answer some questions I expect will be raised by this announcement:

Q: You jerk, I already ordered a book and I still don’t have it. WHERE’S MA BOOK???

A: It’s coming! I sent the manuscript in about a month ago. It takes months for a book to go through the production process, and that timer doesn’t begin until the manuscript is submitted. Tantalus Depths will probably not be released until the end of the year at the absolute earliest, more likely early next year. BUT anyone who’s ordered it and is particularly eager to get their hands on a copy and doesn’t want to wait until then, I will happily send you the current draft upon request. If you don’t mind reading an in-process manuscript, that is.

Q: What happens if you lose the contest?

A: You get your money back. If I fail to place in the top three, I could continue to campaign the normal way until I raise enough pre-orders (that’s exactly what happened with Tantalus Depths) but there’s no way I’m putting myself through that right now. I’ve set my campaign to only run one week past the end of the contest, at which point it will expire and anyone who ordered a copy will be immediately refunded. Either I win this contest, or nothing. Not until a future date when I’m more ready for it.

Q: How will this campaign affect the production of Tantalus Depths?

A: It won’t. Tantalus Depths is top priority. The only reason I have time to campaign right now is because I’m still waiting to be assigned a production team; at the moment, there’s nothing I can do for Tantalus. During the production process, there is a lot of going back and forth between me and my editor, so there will be patches of time when I will be working on Tantalus and when I won’t be. Any time I have to choose between working on Tantalus and working on Proteus, Tantalus will always take priority.

Any other questions or concerns, feel free to message me about them.

  No particular news for Tantalus Depths itself right now. I’ve not heard anything from Inkshares about the next step in the production process, but it’s still early and I hadn’t expected to yet.
I am currently working on the promised prologue chapter, but I’m toying with the idea of making two smaller ones instead of one larger one, as I have two interesting ideas that can’t be easily combined. We’ll see how that goes.
My main purpose for this update is not for me, or even for Tantalus Depths. I wanted to take an opportunity to show my heartfelt appreciation for a good friend. 
I met Tahani Nelson through Inkshares during our mutual pre-order campaigning period. Her book, The Last Faoii, caught my attention quickly. Kaiya, her resolute protagonist, has a knack for overcoming impossible hardships without giving up even in the bleakest of circumstances, and is exactly the sort of character I strove to depict with Mary Ketch. I kind of see the two characters as cross-genre sisters.
As I’ve gotten to know Tahani better as a person, I’ve learned the true extent that the character imitates the author. She’s overcome no small number of impossible obstacles, and though they continue coming her way, she resolutely pushes through them without giving an inch of ground. She’s a real-life Kaiya, and so, in many ways, a real life Mary.
I felt a person like Tahani deserves to be immortalized in writing. The universe of Tantalus Depths is an unforgiving, dark place. Human civilization is a constantly imperiled thing; a child swimming obliviously among sharks. Yet, one of the core tenants of Tantalus Depths and any associated stories, is the notion that, in spite of these dangers, humanity endures. We may always be at the brink of destruction, but through determination and sheer force of will, we survive against the odds.
Tahani represents this to me, in life. To properly show what that means to me, I’ve named a planet for her, which I will include some capacity into the Tantalus Depths universe. If I can sneak it into Tantalus Depths somewhere during the revision phases to come, I will. If I can’t find anywhere to slip it in where it feels natural, it will be referenced at some point in the upcoming sequel. Either way, the presence of this planet in the Colonial Hegemony is now and forever canon.
Shields up, Faoii.  

 

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