Excerpt and Dear Reader Letter from Shadow Ops: Breach Zone, by Myke Cole
As the release of Breach Zone draws nigh, I wanted to write folks a letter explaining some things. If I did my job right (and judging from some promising preliminary reviews I just might have), Breach Zone is a better book than Control Point or even Fortress Frontier. It's also a very different book.
- The book isn't chronolinear. It's a double-helix of present and past.
- The book swaps POVs to a much greater extent. You get to see five different characters' eyes.
- The book wraps up the series.
- The book is a love story.
Now, hang on a minute. Put the rocks down. Let me explain.
I know that a lot of direct to paperback series (The Dresden Files, The Lost Fleet, The Iron Druid Chronicles, The Greywalker Saga, the list goes on) feature single protagonists over many, many books. It's like a marriage, readers fall in love with the protagonist, and then you grow old together over the course of 22 books. That's awesome. Folks love it for good reason.
I can't do it. When it comes to novels, I'm afraid I'm not the marrying kind.
I lack the attention span, the focus. I am far too interested in the range of humanity to spend too much time with any one person. And yes, Breach Zone is the last Shadow Ops book in this storyline. This story arc is complete. It is closed. It is over. So this is my last chance to give the characters their final say on what happens in the world. And, being well-developed characters, they all want that say. They demand it.
Fear not. Gemini Cell, which comes out next year, is set in the Shadow Ops universe, and starts a new storyline with new characters, many years before the events in Control Point. If you want more of my brand of military fantasy, you're going to get it.
Well, you're going to get a version of it.
See, I'm trying to grow as a writer, and I'm beginning to realize that character is the single most important thing in any story. In our bones, the only thing people are truly interested in is other people. I've been trying to sharpen my edge on making characters so real, that readers will get lost, the line between fiction and reality blurring, until readers start thinking of fictional people as their friends. The best books do this. George R. R. Martin can pull it off. Or Peter V. Brett. Or Joe Abercrombie.
Last time I saw Joe, I asked him what he was reading to keep his creative stockpile up (you have to consume media to produce it. Garbage in. Garbage out. Nothing in. Nothing out). I was surprised at the answer: Westerns. Joe told me he was careful to read outside his genre, in order to keep his perspective fresh. He didn't want to wind up in a creative echo chamber. Anyone who has read his amazing fantasy-western Red Country will see that this was a very good call.
So, with that in mind, I cast around looking for the most character-oriented genre I could find. The answer might surprise you, but it shouldn't.
Romances are, by nature, practically plotless. The narrative develops almost entirely as an organic outgrowth of the interactions between interesting characters under pressure. The results are amazing. When romance is good, it's incredible. When romance is bad, it's still better than bad plot-heavy fiction with wooden characters. I've spent a lot of time reading romance, but I never tried my hand at writing one. I figured I wouldn't be any good at it. I needed more time to read and learn.
So, imagine my surprise when I did my first edit pass over the finished manuscript of Breach Zone and realized I'd written a love story.
Don't worry, there's still plenty of bullets flying and stuff blowing up. It's a Shadow Ops novel through and through. But Breach Zone's beating heart is a tale of love and loss, a tragedy of (I hope) Shakespearean proportions. Gemini Cell is absolutely a love story, with the romantic relationship taking center stage even more than Breach Zone.
It's different from what I've given my readers before, but I also think it's better. Fantasy can be a conservative genre, which is ironic when you consider that this is supposed to be the language of ideas, the place where we truly push the envelope.
With Breach Zone, I'm trying to do just that.
I hope I pulled it off.
Thanks for reading.