Child of the Flames
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Today I thought I’d share a war story with you.
One of the things every soldier dreads hearing are two words that will kill whatever you had planned for the evening–duty roster. Yes, even on deployment, the military has duty rosters. They’re one of those things that everyone hates, but without which the military couldn’t function to march down the street. Everyone comes up on the roster, no one escapes. This is a story about one of the nights my number came up.
Picture Iraq just after the initial invasion, when the Army had just started to dig in and take up residence. There was just enough internet for you to wait in line all day to gain access to it, just to have it take forever to load your email. There were no “wet” toilets–meaning anything with plumbing. There were wet showers, and there was a brand new DFAC–dining facility for my civilian friends–but we lived in community tents. It was high summer when this happened, so needless to say it was blazing hot in the daylight, but a pleasant swelter during the night. Iraq was a place in which you truly felt you had no escape from the elements.
I had been assigned the night shift for motor pool guard, which is where the Army keeps all of the tactical vehicles. That’s right–I had to guard the trucks. The guard station consisted of a metal folding chair, a makeshift fighting position which was basically a run-down piece of concrete just sitting in the sand, and a portable toilet. You had to show up in what was lovingly referred to as “full battle rattle”, which meant armored vest, helmet, and load bearing equipment. There you sat, alone through the night with nothing else to keep you company. Falling asleep was the greatest sin on guard duty, so each soldier was expected to do whatever was necessary to stay alert and awake.
Me being me, I decided to take a book along and a headlamp with a red light filter, so I could read a little while I sat there. A few weeks before guard duty I had been part of a detail that cleaned out a tent which had been run by the MWR (morale, welfare, and recreation) and it had been full of donated books. They were being shipped off to other bases, so I nabbed a few while I was there. Incidentally it’s where I found my first copy of Game of Thrones, but that’s another story. I grabbed whatever was on top of the pile when I left my tent, and discovered when I got there that I had grabbed the infamous Skeleton Crew by Stephen King.
Now, the desert is damnably dark on most nights. You can see the stars and the moon, but the landscape is washed out in black like some insidious movie trick. I made my rounds every hour and kept an eye out for trouble, but while I sat there waiting until it was time to bust open the MRE I had grabbed for midnight chow, I dove into that book.
I’m a fast reader, and before long I was halfway through it, huddled in that fighting position with a red headlamp and my full battle gear on, sweating in the desert heat. King has way of drawing you into a story that makes you feel like the monsters are huddled nearby waiting for you to notice them. The night was mostly silent, save for when helicopters came in and out of the base, which wasn’t frequent at night during that stage of the war.
There was more than one occasion that I was deep into one of the stories when I’d hear some out of place noise that would cause me to click off my headlamp and freeze, knowing full well that if someone was out there they may have already seen my headlamp. What a feeling, let me tell you. If you’ve never frozen in terror because of some perceived or imagined threat, then I guess it might be hard to imagine. All at once I was afraid that fighters might be creeping up on my position (I don’t know why they’d want to attack the motor pool, but fear isn’t rational) but also a little nervous that a toy monkey might be nearby banging his cymbals together to herald my untimely death.
Of course, nothing happened and the night went by uneventfully. Uneventfully, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that it was smooth. By the time the sun began to peek over the horizon I was relieved to see it. There were no fighters, no toy monkeys, no mist creeping up on my position. Even in more tense situations, I never felt that creeping fear the way I did that night.
So thanks, Stephen King. I’ve heard that the measure of a song is how much emotion it pulls out of you. If the measure of a story is the same, then hats off to you, sir.
Full disclosure: The picture is from a later deployment. This story took place a few years before the picture was taken.
Yes, that is a shot from five minutes ago. That’s my nerd-cave right there, my Battlestation with a capital “B”. It’s blogging time again, and I thought I would fill you guys and gals in on some of the changes that I’ve made, and just give you a glimpse into what has been going on. Give you a peek into my world, so to speak.
First of all, you may notice a few things above. Yes, that is a full-sized, poster quality map from The Sentient Fire. Beside it is an actual painting of Maaz given to me for Christmas by Jason Peek. It’s true–his eyes follow me around the room, and I have to admit that the painting is one my favorite things on the planet. Beneath the map you may notice a series of scribbled pages taped to the back wall. That, my friends, is the hand-written rough outline for the last third of The Awakening Storm.
That’s right; I took it to the page and attacked the problem old-school style.
It’s daunting for me to realize how much has happened in the story since I left off with TSF, and just how many spoilers I would let go if I talked about it at all. Just to show you guys, though–it is getting crazy around here. It always does, toward the end.
You may have noticed a few changes in my little corner of the interwebs. I’ve moved my main blog away from Tumblr and set up shop at WordPress, mainly for integration reasons. The Tumblr blog is still active, but it is fed from WordPress now and I no longer use Tumblr first-hand. You readers know how sporadically I use social media anyway, but now you’ll mostly find me checking my WordPress and Facebook, and maybe tooling around on Goodreads every now and then.
One thing I am excited about, though, is the new mailing list. Head on over to dwhawkins.com and sign up for The Conclave. Think of it more as a membership than a mailing list. Sure, I’ll be sending emails out once a month, but more than that I’ll also be letting exclusive content, members-only deals, and giveaways go from time to time. Every piece of correspondence you’ll receive as a member of The Conclave will be from me, personally. You’ll know everything first and get a chance at everything first. It’s completely free, by the way, and the only information required is your email. Nothing gets collected and sold to any third party. Sign up here today. Unless, you know…you don’t like free stuff.
I’m also stoked to announce that on May 25th I’ll be featured on r/Fantasy as the Writer of the Day! For all you fellow redditors out there, head over to the subreddit r/Fantasy and look for me on the 25th. I’ll be answering questions about anything and everything, and I’m excited to possibly talk to fans and strangers alike. I’ll be online during the day starting at 9am. While you’re there, browse around the subreddit, there’s plenty of interesting links and discussions to be had.
Anyway, gang, things here are looking great. TAS is coming along, and we’re finally getting close to the end of that long, long road. I’m looking forward to it just as much as you are.
Then, it’ll be time for Book Three.
So, The Awakening Storm is nearing completion. It’s been a wild ride for the past few years. My life has been characterized by many struggles over the past while that have pushed my writing to the back burner, but things are starting to come together.
I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I am really excited about this book. I’ve struggled with it, and it has been hard coming, but it is going to be awesome. In The Sentient Fire, the story got off to a good start, and I was mostly satisfied with its execution. The Awakening Storm, though…well, let’s just say that it’s a thrill ride from start to finish. The story doesn’t let up for a second—mostly because there’s so much that happens in book two. In TAS, the story gets bigger and you’ll get to see what’s happening in the world on a wider scale, and start to see how it all plays together. New characters are introduced, and Dormael and D’Jenn get tired of playing around.
Oh, and Bethany gets to kick a little ass, too.
Just to give you an idea, I speak regularly to my limited team of beta readers during the writing process. One of them, after having read an update from me said during a conversation something like…
“Dude. I loved TSF—like, loved it. But this one…just damn, dude. I can’t put it down, so hurry up.”
I’m also going to be releasing a revised version of The Sentient Fire. Don’t worry, I’m not changing any of the plot points around or anything like that, just giving it a stylistic polish. There won’t be any “Greedo shot first” moments here. There will be a new cover, and the prose will be better. If you’ve already bought the book, you won’t need to buy the revision—just re-download your purchased TSF, and you’ll have it. I’ll be releasing it as an update, not a separate book.
2015 will be a big year for the D.W. Hawkins universe, so stay tuned for the final announcement that TAS is done, TSF is revised, and if you’re so inclined, stay tuned for the first installment of Ballad of the Outrider, which will follow soon after.
Alright, so I’m once again changing my social media infrastructure. Try and bear with me through the changes and this will all settle out. I’ll be changing my official email, and moving my official blog from Tumblr to WordPress. It’s going to take some doing, but I’ll get everything straightened out soon enough. I’ll also be adding a mailing list when the dust settles, so be sure to look for it if you’re interested in joining.
Here we go…