This is when the book starts to feel real to me. I've already got galleys and some have been sent out to reviewers. But working through the cover (and yeah, I get to have input, amazing in this day and age) and getting the final images, with the back copy and spine, makes it all come home. I've got a book coming out!
July 1, 2011. I'll start hitting folks up for a blog tour soon. :)
See below the jump for an excerpt:
It wasn’t going to be easy achieving a meeting with Haydn Albrecht, the Salt Road Devil. Haydn was a busy man, even busier than when Alaric had known him as a child; anyone could see that. Pilots and customers had kept his inner office door sliding open since Alaric had arrived at sun-up on the hot, smoky planet called Pyrrcor, and the day was winding down to Final Meal.
Despite having sat for a long, long while, Alaric kept his back straight and his knees apart, prepared to stand at any moment. His sweaty hands rested on his knees, but well away from the weapon strapped to his thigh. Even so, Haydn’s exosentient secretary kept pointing its eyestalks in his direction. Alaric knew he looked more nervous as time went on, felt the anxiety crease his forehead and weigh on his shoulders. But the physical stress was no great hardship. He’d been trained since childhood to guard himself well, and such habits died hard when one bore a bounty exceeding a standard-year’s officer’s pay in the Junta.
Central Coalition Command, Alaric reminded himself. Loyalists to the military Coalition didn’t use derogatory language when speaking about their stratocratic government, especially when they sat in the middle of their galactic empire. After two standard-years on the run, Alaric knew better than to even think like a rebel.
He blamed his mental slip on the proximity of Haydn, though he’d barely caught a glance of the man through the door that slid soundlessly open and shut to admit Haydn’s many business appointments.
As the last visitor departed the outer chamber, Alaric leaned back and silently sighed. Haydn would no doubt slip out the side door, get away somehow, like he had during the Coalition’s attack on their homeworld. The bloody traitor. Alaric should have told the secretary he was a prospective Salt Run pilot. That might have gotten him into the inner sanctum sooner. Or he should have sussed out where Haydn lived and cornered him there…
The door to Haydn’s office slid open. All three of the secretary’s eyestalks turned that way. Alaric blinked at the figure in the doorway.
Haydn looked much the same—his greyed, clipped hair, barrel chest, and fighter’s stance all betraying his years of service in the military on Calixte. He’d changed his eye color from the heliotrope of the royal family, but he hadn’t fixed the scars on his face. It revealed nothing.
Haydn twitched his chin toward the exosentient, who tapped a question on its desk with its smallest pincer. It didn’t use the translator. Likely there was no need. Haydn had always had a knack for languages.
“Of course, let him in. Did you not hear the man? He is an old…friend.”
Another string of tapping.
“No, you’re finished.” Haydn turned back to his office and left the door open behind him. “Go home.”
“You may enter, sir,” the secretary said through its translator.
The metallic voice spoke in cadence to the secretary’s tapping, sounding almost like street faire drumming in the markets back home. Alaric had to remind himself there were no markets, no home at all any more. Calixte was a desolate landscape of bones and ruined sand, scraped free of life by the Acid Wind wielded by the Coalition.
Alaric bowed his head politely as the secretary moved from behind its desk toward the outer door on its backwards joints. Then he followed Haydn into his office. The door slid shut behind him and Alaric had to fight the urge to look back. He couldn’t shake the feeling he was stuck like a cockrat in a cage. But he’d been brought up to face his fears and his enemies with his back straight, so he removed his eyeshades and stared hard at Haydn.
Haydn leaned back against a large metal table with multiple tablet inserts, legs crossed. Face still set and hard, he gripped the edge of the table on either side of his hips with white fingers. He didn’t appear armed, but that meant nothing.
“Sir,” Alaric said, and drew his weapon.
That was all. What else did one say to one’s former armsmaster, a man who’d been a favored bastard uncle and a general in the King’s Army, but who’d disappeared into the ether when the fighting got tough? This meeting had only one of two outcomes, and Alaric certainly planned on coming out alive.
If Haydn was thinking the same thing, he didn’t reveal it. “What are you calling yourself these days instead of Aric?”
Haydn nodded and dropped into high-born Calixten, a language Alaric hadn’t heard in two standard years. “Close enough to your real one that you don’t ignore it on accident, and a good, Coalition name. Well done.”
Alaric cursed his wave of pleasure at Haydn’s approval. He was no longer a child and his uncle was a traitor. Alaric hadn’t come here to chat. He’d come for revenge.
Holy crimes, he thought. Keep on task here. “Am I to assume you’re saying all that to reveal my identity to some secreted listener, Uncle? Perhaps they’re on their way now.”
Haydn pushed himself upright. Alaric followed the motion with the nose of his weapon, keeping it trained on Haydn’s heart, if the man even still had one.
“Aye,” Haydn said. “Aye, Prince Aric. You should presume all manner of danger tracks your steps. But not from me.”
Alaric shook his head. “That’s not my name, not any more. And I will presume danger from a traitor. I’d be a fool not to.”
“You are a fool, aye, but not why you think.”
That set him off guard a bit. Alaric thought fast. “Fool or not, I’m your prince. If you were loyal, you would take a knee to me.”
“Turn you over mine, rather. I’ll take a knee to my royalty when they deserve it. You heard me say such to your father enough times. Fool, fool boy. For instance, you came all the way here to kill me, but you’re too slow by half.” Haydn spread his arms. “Do it. I’ve no armor. No guard. You stand close enough to fry my synapses to slush. I’m surprised I’m not already dead and you on your way. Indeed, I thought I taught you better.”