Some Trivia, and an Update on Book 3’s Progress

Trivia Time

I don’t want to let this blog go stale while I’m hard at work between releases, so I thought I’d explain a few background tidbits on stuff in my first two titles. It’s all trivia-level stuff, nothing I’d consider spoilers and nothing that’s too important in the final works, but perhaps interesting nonetheless. There are a lot of little details that have unusual origins or have changed in interesting ways. Sometimes those are fun to look at. Read ahead for some of this trivia, as well as a small update on my next work, The Prince’s Revenge.

Thaddeus Marcell’s Name

My main character, Thaddeus, is actually named after one of the Twelve Apostles, Judas Thaddaeus. I selected the name because I think of Thad as sort of a betrayer. He isn’t a betrayer of someone else, but a betrayer of himself, of his own ideals and morals. By the time of Rescue at Waverly, he’s become so obsessed with his search for Earth that he’s abandoned almost every moral value he’s ever held, and the entire purpose of that novel is to awaken him to that fact. But I didn’t want to outright call him Judas because that’s too obvious, so I chose Thaddeus instead, accidentally conflating Judas Thaddaeus with Judas Iscariot. Oops. Thaddeus also has the advantage of being a somewhat unusual and memorable name.

Despite my “mistake,” it worked out well for a different symbolic reason. According to Wikipedia, the Roman Catholic Church views Judas Thaddaeus as the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes. I actually did not know that when I chose the name, but it fits my character very well, especially given the thread of tragedy weaved into his story.

As for his last name of Marcell, the truth is a bit silly. If you’re looking for symbolism here, too bad. For a long time he simply had no last name. At some point I decided I needed something and I just started looking around the room. I had a Marshall electric guitar amplifier sitting nearby, so I gave Thad the surname of “Marshall”. Later on, I corrupted the name into the similar word “Marcell” just for uniqueness’ sake.

Thad’s flagship was originally called Wolverine

Rescue at Waverly mostly takes place aboard Thad’s personal flagship, a frigate called the Caracal. Long ago, I’d decided to name his Blue Fleet warships after predators. Originally, this ship was titled the Wolverine, after the vicious bear-like animal that is far more dangerous than its small size suggests. I thought it was the perfect metaphor, given how Thad and his fleet of small-but-effective warships operated.

However, I took a very long time to draft and complete this novel. So long, in fact, that a whole bunch of X-Men movies were released during this time. Before then, I vaguely knew of Wolverine as a comic book superhero, but I never even considered the X-Men when naming this starship. And thanks to the movies, the word “wolverine” quickly lost its identity as anything apart from the X-Men. During final editing, I changed it so I wouldn’t distract my readers with unintended references to other franchises. I ended up studying lists of predators and stumbled into the caracal, sort of a funny-eared wildcat. It was an odd, memorable, and unique name, and all three of those are very important qualities when writing fiction.

Thad’s Alias’s Namesake

In Rebellion at Ailon, Thad operates under an alias, Chad Messier. This is because he was partially responsible for Ailon’s enslavement and he needed to remain anonymous while he was there. As an astronomy and physics nerd, I decided to call him Charles Messier, in honor of the famous French astronomer by that name. Later on, I changed his first name to Chad for the practical reason that it was very similar to Thad, making it easier for him to adjust to the alias.

Culper’s Spy Ring

In Rebellion at Ailon, there’s a member of the Ailon Rebel Council named Culper who controls the rebels’ intelligence networks. This was a not-so-subtle reference to the Culper Ring, although you might not know this unless you’ve done some serious study on the American Revolution.

Amanda Poulsen Was Originally a Throw-Away Character

In the earliest drafts of Rescue at Waverly, the Caracal‘s chief pilot and navigator, Lieutenant Amanda Poulsen, was just a minor throw-away character who wasn’t going to survive the book. But during my first rewrite of that book (a LOT of stuff changed after the first draft), I examined her brief appearances and decided she might be too interesting to kill off. I took a meaningless filler comment about the “Hyberian Raiders” and developed it into a mythos, re-wrote her into a survivor from that group, and then gave her a much larger role in the later drafts. (Incidentally, some readers have commented that she’s a bit like Honor Harrington. This is completely coincidental; I’ve never read anything from the “Honorverse”.)

As should be fairly obvious by Rebellion at Ailon, she’s now basically the second main character for this series. I use her point of view to provide insight into the more mercenary-like sections of Thad’s organization, since Thad himself is far more concerned with finding Earth than he is with personally fulfilling merc contracts.

The Norma Empire’s Namesake

I used to play a lot of “Elite: Dangerous”. In fact, I was among the first thousand players to make the journey to the center of the galaxy and visit the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A*. That was a huge (and perhaps wasteful) time commitment, and I spent a lot of time studying the game’s fairly-plausible map of our Milky Way galaxy. One of the regions I had to cross on that journey is called the Norma Arm. While wrapping up my first novel, I still didn’t have the setting figured out so I tentatively chose this region (although the Norma Empire only gets a few minor mentions in the first book). It’s far enough from Earth to practically be a different universe, yet close enough that well-prepared starships might be able to make the journey–if they’re lucky and have an extremely-dedicated crew.

But, truth be told, the story’s exact location in the galaxy is still an unresolved issue, so don’t take this section as definitive proof of anything regarding Earth’s location in my fiction. The Norma Arm’s distance from Earth (around 12,000 light-years at the closest) is probably a bit too far for the starships available in my world, even considering a few extenuating details that are Top Secretâ„¢ for now. But the location and distances are not really relevant until Book 6, so I have plenty of time to make a decision. In the end, the name might simply end up being a coincidence.

The Prince’s Revenge Status

Finally, I wanted to give a brief update on Book 3’s status. One of the great things about being self-published is that I can do things at my own pace. No external deadlines or pressure from publishing companies. Sometimes things really drag out, but sometimes they go faster than expected.

So far, I’ve scheduled one release per year. I released my first novel on January 1, 2018. Exactly one year later, I released the first sequel. I’ve hoped that my output would increase as I become more experienced and continue developing the series, and I think that’s starting to happen. It’s now early March, just two full months into my current project, titled The Prince’s Revenge, and my current draft is sitting at 55,000 words. I estimate that the final work will be around twice that length. (For comparison, Rescue at Waverly is roughly 90,000 words and Rebellion at Ailon is around 140,000.)

So, assuming I can keep the pace up and don’t need to do any major rewrites, it’s quite possible I’ll release this one well before the end of 2019. I’d love to step up to two releases per year, because I have quite a backlog of ideas I’d like to work on!