RIFT - Scene 6

It´s been a while since my last post, so I guess it´s time for an update on my various projects. First off, Genesis is in its final stages of self-editing. As soon as I get through every missing description, and badly worded dialogue, I´ll send it off to my editor. She has a very full schedule, so I cannot say how that phase will take, but I´ll keep you all posted as soon as I have some new info. I also have a Super Secret Project going, which will surprise some of you, while others will say "I knew it!" Let´s just say that if you like my books you´ll definitely love this one!

And then there is RIFT. I´m trying out different writing methods, in order to become a better, faster writer, and for RIFT, I´ve begun writing short beats as a middle ground between pantsing  (writing without a specific plan, letting creativity flow freely) and outlining (planning every scene beforehand). The beats are really helpful, and keeps me on track without limiting my writing to a strict plan, and thus hampering creativity. I might use this method more, since I find it´s a very useful technique that suits me well.

Here´s another scene, where Dave finally reaches the grounds of the secretive Wardens.

RIFT, Scene 6

The train moved quietly through the landscape and the only sound was the low chatter among initiates. The further west they went, the more sparse the habitation. Finally there were nothing but untouched nature as far as the eye could see. Dave knew he should get some sleep, but he was far too nervous to even try. There weren't many Warden initiates, and most were from places he'd barely heard of. He didn't know the others from Charlestown, and even they mostly kept to themselves, so he had no idea what to expect.

One thing was that the Wardens were a mystery in themselves. Another was that no one told him anything, even though he noticed some of the initiates talked to each other as if they knew more than he did. He just sat there, by himself, staring out the window, as the train sped west, through the rolling hills and the valley beyond, of which he'd only read in school text books. Soon he was farther west than he'd ever been, further than anyone were allowed. Obviously, the Wardens were allowed out here though. 

When the train slowed down and finally halted he was dead tired and excited all at once. A man in olive fatigues and a shaggy beard ushered them out of the cart and onto a platform where several others were waiting. Most wore the same fatigues, but he noticed that although they had some resemblance to the militaristic Guardians, with uniforms and certainly a chain of command of sorts, these looked like they all had adapted their individual styles. There were bandanas and hats abound, but also uncovered heads, shades, tattoos, and even a few short sleeves. Off in a corner of the platform, a couple of young men and a woman were smoking, a sickly sweet scent that told him that this was definitely an illegal substance. He'd never actually smelled it, let alone smoked it, but he remembered learning about it once, in class. They said it was dangerous and would kill you. When they noticed him staring, they grinned at him and laughed. He quickly averted his eyes. 

"Hey! Watch where you're going." One of the other initiates, a girl, said. She smiled as he fumbled, almost lost his footing. She was lean, and looked fit, with full lips and auburn, close cropped hair. He'd noticed her boarding the train at one of the last stops, and she was one of those initiates who already seemed to know their way around. She offered her hand.

"Liz." He took her hand, and shook it.

"Dave.»

"I guess you haven't tried kissweed before, have you?" she said. He shook his head. She chuckled, but didn't say anything. A grey bearded fellow who stood out, not just because of his multi-colored shirt, but also because he was obviously an authority here, walked across the platform and stood in front of them.

"Allright, initiates, listen up." He said loud enough for everyone to hear.

"I'll give you no speech, promise. I just want you to know that you are welcome, and that I hope you will settle in here. In the next few weeks you will learn more of the Wardens, and our role in the Covenant." He paused, a knowing smile breaking through the thick beard.

"Trust me; you don't know half of it." And with that, he turned and left, leaving the initiates standing idly. 

"Well, that was brief." Liz said. Dave wondered what would happen next, and he didn't have to wait for long. A lanky fellow, around twenty-five, with sand colored hair and sunburnt skin, tattoos snaking up his neck, came up to them, carrying a note pad. He wore a name tag that said "Searles".

"Names." He said, sounding almost bored. They gave him their names, and he found them on his list.

"Wagner, you're in C- house. It's the first one on the left. Sidnell, follow that chubby fellow, and he'll take you to your house. You're in A." he said. They both nodded, and Searles walked over to another group of initiates.

"I guess we'll see each other around then." Liz said.

"Sure. Nice to meet you."

Dave watched her walk away, and turned to see who else was there. One of the initiates from Charlestown, Brian something, was lingering, and Dave walked over to him. They nodded at each other, and Dave thought he remembered where he'd seen him before.

"Did you compete in the math fair last year?" he asked. Brian nodded, and grinned.

"Yeah. No idea why I even made it to the finals; never been any good at it before or later, but my teacher thought I had a head for it. No match for you though." Dave remembered. He'd ended up second, beaten only by Chas. Brian, from a different school, had been pretty good, but nothing like Chas or himself. Smart, but poorly educated.

«So, what do you think all this is? I mean, no one ever told us what the Wardens actually do.» Brian said. Dave just shrugged.

«No idea. But it must have something to do with our location. We are pretty far out west, probably deep into forbidden territory. And from what I can tell, initiates seem smart. Usually not Student smart, perhaps, but intelligence seems to be a criteria. And independence perhaps? They don´t look very disciplined.» he said, gesturing at the kissweed smokers. Brian nodded.

«I guess we´ll know soon enough. It´s just that I hate being kept in the dark.» Dave smiled.

«Maybe that´s another criteria? Curiousity?»

It turned out Brian was also to be living in C- house, so they walked together. It was nice to have a familiar face around, with everything else new and unknown. Dave realized he´d made two new friends in just a short while. Usually, he wasn´t the social type, so this was something new for him. He figured he might fit in just fine here.

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Paperback giveaway + RIFT scene 5

Well, here we are, January 31st, which means signed paperbacks! The lucky winners will receive an email from me before the end of the weekend, and hopefully the paperbacks should be in the mail within a few days.

Speaking of paperbacks, I guess I haven't mentioned that all my paper books are enrolled in the Amazon Match Book program. The cool thing about Match Book is that when you buy a paper book enrolled in the program, you get a discount on the e-book as well (when you buy through Amazon). And although many prefer one or the other, there are many readers who like to have a paper book on the shelf, while also having all the advantages of e-books, such as bringing your entire library when travelling.

I like to give my readers a good deal. In fact, I even received a review once that said something like "I got the book because it was cheap, and what a surprise!" Yeah, that. So that's why my discount is 100%. That's right - when you buy one of my paperbacks through amazon, you get the e-book for free! Some might say that's ridiculous, but I don't see it that way. After all, you just bought my book! It's not like it costs me anything to give you options! And I like to make my readers happy!

All right, so let's move on to RIFT, shall we? As the story continues, we learn more about the society of Covenant, and in this scene we learn a bit more of what it really means to be chosen for Service; how it changes everything. One of the differences between citizens and non-citizens is the euthanasia laws. Non- citizens aren't allowed to live past the age of fifty. Citizens on the other hand, are allowed to live for as long as they like (there's is an element of choice there that will be explored more in depth later). And we learn that life for citizens can be much longer than we think of as natural today, which of course has to do with technology, given that RIFT takes place hundreds of years in the future.

Well, I guess that's enough introduction for you on a Friday night. Here's scene 5 of RIFT:

RIFT - scene 5

Sue found a vacant seat by the window, and sat down. After a minute or so, Laurie came and sat down next to her.

"So, you know how far north we're going?" He asked. Sue shook her head.

"No idea. Never been north of Stonehaven." She said. Sonehaven lay inland, north west of Charlestown, and was the town everyone went to for trading goods that were hard to come by at home. She had gone there with her father once, while mother and little Georg stayed at home. Thinking of her little brother always choked her up, and she turned and stared out the window. They were going faster than she'd expected. The train hovering inches above the tracks; the smoothness of the ride was amazing. Not like riding the steam cars back home. She'd done that once too.

"It's magnetic." Laurie said. She turned back and looked at him. Curly dark hair, wide lips and nose, and originally the prankster among them, he'd changed after his sister was chosen. More serious, Sue thought.

"We have no idea what to expect, do we?" she said. He half- smiled back.

"Guess we don't." He leaned forward to see better. "We haven't heard from Liz since last Initiation Day. Not one word."

They both stared out for what seemed forever, and Sue felt herself doze off, as daylight receeded. The train suddenly slowed, and they emerged from a tunnel. In the distance they could see the capitol, Legacy, in all its splendor. Lights everywhere; no shortage of electricity there. And soon the train stopped on the platform. This was clearly separate from the civilian platforms, as there were officers everywhere, herding groups of Initiates around. Black, white and green armbands still separated the Initiates, while the officers wore the grey uniforms she was familiar with from back home.

Their cart was Guardian only, but she knew Dave, Chas, Felicia and the others from Charlestown were on the same train. Now though, their ways parted. She saw a group with green armbands boarding another train; no familiar faces though.

"There go the Wardens." Laurie said quietly. The Wardens were something of a secret society, especially since there were so few from Charlestown. Initiates from Charelstown generally went to the Guardians or the Corpus, with a few now and to the Students. Student Initiates usually never returned. They stayed on to become Scholars, those who after having served their seven years and earned their citizenship, chose to stay in the Service. While the Students were treated well enough to keep a majority even after the seven years, the Corpus spent their Initiates and spewed out what was left. Usually that wasn't much; if they even made it through their seven years, they returned with disabled bodies and broken minds, though their citizen pensions could easily feed a family for the rest of their lives.

The Guardians had a high casualty rate, but those few who chose to return to their hometown did so with fanfare; the pride of the town. Every time one did, it was cause for celebration. The rumors said the Wardens mostly stayed in the West, even further than the miner towns and wildlife preserves. But no one ever knew. So, since the Corpus was absolute horror, the Wardens were a mystery, and the few that were chosen for the Students were always from the advanced class, whenever they had discussed the prospect of Service they had implicitly discussed service with the Guardians.

Sue saw Chas and Felicia pass right outside their window, and waved at her. Felicia noticed, and waved back, while Chas seemed to be lost in thought. They would be taken to the Legacy Academy or the Covenant University, which both produced scholars. Sue didn't really know the difference between the two, and right now she didn't care. She just hoped her friends would fare well.

"I was worried for Vince there for a second." Laurie said. Sue smiled.

"We all were. I was so certain he'd be chosen. He'll be fine back home." She said.

"Yeah, better than the Corpus." Laurie said, as he sat back, ignoring the window, and staring up at the ceiling. The train started moving again. Slowly at first, but soon it was moving at top speed again.

"Still going north." Sue murmured, as sleep seemed to pull at her again.

She was almost out when the doors to their cart slid open, and a man clad in Guardian Black entered.

"Listen up." He said, loud enough to wake those who'd dozed off. Laurie sat up straighter, and Sue craned to see better. The man was lean and tall, and when Sue looked closer she saw he couldn't be more than twenty five or so, the trimmed beard that made him look older.

"In an hour you will enter Camp Sharpe, where you will begin your training. In the meantime, you are to read this information sheet." He produced a stack of paper, and started passing it out.

"You can all read - the Guardians have no need for illiterates - so I suggest you pay attention to everything this sheet tells you. On arrival we expect you to know this by heart." He let the Initiates pass the sheets along, and turned back. Just before the sliding door, he stopped and faced them again.

"Initiates, in an hour the toughest part of your lives is about to begin. For some it will be the final part. No matter how well prepared you think you are, make no mistake; the coming days and weeks will test you. Everyone has a limit, and we intend to find yours. One day, you might find these trials will save the lives of yourself and those around you." Sue found herself absorbing the advice, and although his words were disturbing, they also made her eager. She had felt that way since hearing her name being called by First Guardian Ivanov, and as the train took them north, the feeling grew stronger. The Guardian hadn't finished though.

"One more piece of advice for you. I know many of you are friends. You've gone to school together, grown up together, played together, in Holstonhead, Morrow, Fort Winter, Stonehaven, Charlestown or wherever.

I want you to forget all that. Forget your hometown and everyone there. Forget your best friend from kindergarten. Forget your boyfriend or girlfriend or whatever. It's all history, and you are about to be reborn as Guardians. And let me tell you, a Guardian is sworn to service. To the State. Not to your pals or your birth family or your town. The State.

You may at some point find yourselves torn between loyalties, in training or in actual combat. It may be hard to abandon someone you played with as a child, or the person you first kissed, to die in some godforsaken ditch up north. Or to carry out punishment on someone you knew back when you were kids for having disobeyed the tranquility laws. But if that's what it takes to fulfill your obligations- to serve - then I want you to remember something: Most of you will die in the Service. Almost everyone you knew in that place you've always called home will die within just a few decades. In fifty years even your baby sister or little cousin Vinny will be dead, while you may live on for a century, if not more, if you survive your three years of Service.

In fifty years, when your hometown doesn't feel like home anymore, you will have new friends, you will have a new family, who are not subject to the euthanasia laws, who understand what you've been through. You will be part of the Covenant, having earned your privileges and your status." He stood quiet for a moment, before leaving through the sliding doors, letting the Initiates absorb what he had told them. Sue and Laurie looked at each other, and Sue felt an urge to protest. But she didn't.

Instead she looked at the sheet of paper, and started to read. It was all basic instructions; how to salute a superior, a chart for arranging her clothes and personal items in her locker, fire instructions, the different alerts that might occur, and some basic information on what to expect on their first day at Camp Sharpe.

She didn't speak to Laurie for the rest of the ride, and wondered if it was because they were both busy studying the sheets, or if it was because of what the Guardian had said. She knew Laurie would always be her friend, and wanted to dismiss what the man had said, but something in the back of her head wondered if it wasn't a lot of truth to it as well. After all, many of the Initiates right here in this cart would die, and soon. And there was no doubt that the euthanasia laws were merciless: on your fiftieth birthday you were given the choice of how to go, most took the pill, and that was that. In a few years her neighbor, who had shown up for Initiation Day in the town square, would be gone. The baker across the street had taken the pill last year, and next year it was his wife's turn.

Sue felt the train decelerate, and as it slowed to a crawl, they entered a tunnel. Seconds turned to minutes and after what felt like an eternity, the train exited the tunnel and stopped on a platform bathed in light. It was late evening outside, and darkness had descended. Behind the platform stood two black towers, with moving flood lights, and as the lights moved around she saw parts of Camp Sharpe, where she would spend the next weeks in training. On the platform stood Guardians, a row of them a few paces apart. From what she had read on the info sheet, these were Senior Guardians, who would each take a small group to their quarters, and later act as instructors. After sticking her head out for Dave, she thought it would be best to be as anonymous as possible, and not draw attention to her. She looked up at the Covenant flag on top of the main house in front of the platform, flapping in the wind. The white circle with another white round dot just above and to the right, on a black background speckled with small dots. The Earth, the Moon and the stars. And just as Earth had turned a new chapter, centuries ago, she felt the flag signified a new chapter in her life.

Signed paperbacks, and an update

 

Here's a quick update, and a little something that you might like!

First of, to those of you who aren't following me on Twitter or Facebook, or doesn't subscribe to my mailing list (you should!), I want to wish you a happy new year!

So what am I up to these days? Well, first and foremost, I am working on Genesis (third of the Exodus Trilogy), and man, are there many threads to tie up! The main ones should already be covered, but still, there are a lot of details. But it's fun! And besides, from where I stand (completely unbiased of course...), Genesis will be the best book of the trilogy!

Hopefully, you'll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it! Currently it looks like it should be ready for my editor in a few weeks, and then I expect to spend a month or so working with her, polishing everything, to make it the best it can be. I'm wary of making too many promises though - as many of you know, I have a day job and a family, so time is always an issue. The one thing I DO promise though, is not to hit "publish" before it is ready!

Then there is Rift - this project where I blog the book, scene by scene, first draft. So far, it's been four scenes, and number five is sitting on my hard drive, with just a paragraph or so to go - I'll have it out by the end of the week. A fun project so far and a book I can't wait to really dive into. Blogging it is kinda cool actually. After all, once I'm ready to fully focus on Rift, I'll already have parts of the draft done, and I can just get straight to it, not wondering where to start, or spend too much time planning and outlining.

Now, it being a new year and all, I've got something for you guys (well, some of you anyway). I've got ten signed trade paperbacks of Aurora that I want to give away! To whom? Well, you, of course! All you have to do is make sure you're on my mailing list - being on the list has its perks! Here's the link!

So it's ten signed paperbacks. I'll randomly select ten people from the mailing list on January 31st, so whether you've been with me from the get-go, or you're a fresh face here, you all stand an equal chance - as long as you're on the list!

Hopefully, the winners will look just as happy as this guy:

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RIFT - scene 4

 

I've got another scene from RIFT for you, but first I want to make you aware that EXODUS is currently FREE on Amazon. It's just a few days, so if you haven't got it already, you should head over and grab your copy now! http://www.amazon.com/Exodus-Trilogy-Andreas-Christensen-ebook/dp/B00AI9BMHS/

So, let's move on to RIFT then. As you might already know, I'm posting every new scene of Rift, my next book to be published after Genesis, the third and final installment of the Exodus Trilogy. This is raw unedited first draft material, and though that may not be for everyone, I hope many of you enjoy following the process from first draft to the final product you'll find on Amazon. As I said, this is first draft, completely unedited. Sometimes I go back to add a scene, and I do make notes on the side as I discover things that needs to be changed. I write comments to myself in the middle of sentences. Some characters doesn't have names yet, while others may change. (when I wrote Exodus, one of the main characters even changed sex from first to final draft, which turned out to be a lot more work than I thought...) Since I'm currently also writing Genesis, that takes priority. Once Genesis is finished though, I expect these posts to be a lot more frequent.
All right, so this scene (which may turn out to be an entire chapter- looks like it anyway) ends the beginning, where Sue goes from being an anonymous orphaned young woman in some poor future town, to an Initiate, sworn to "Service to the State", and bound for great obstacles and hardships to come. Also, it shows her willingness to put her neck on the line for a friend, and the beginnings of conflict. It even gives the keen reader a hint of future plot twists. So here it is:
RIFT: Scene 4:
 
The huge screens made everything appear closer, and the greatest of them all sat in the front, above the podium. Sue could almost feel the eyes of Head Servant Lunde stare straight at her. Of course, it wasn't real. Head Lunde and Counselor Novak were hundreds of miles away, in Legacy, the great sprawling capitol, where most citizens lived, and the only place in which Moon People made up the majority. As far as she knew, no Head Servant had ever set foot in Charlestown.
"I welcome you all here today, to the annual selection of candidates. To remember how our great nation once rose from the ashes, like a phoenix of ancient mythology, a feat accomplished only because of the sacrifices and service to the common good made by our forbears (check word). Long ago, these acts became an example of how one person's service can benefit all, for generations to come, and therefore, Service to the State became one of the founding pillars of our society. Only those who are willing and able to serve are worthy of citizenship. And capable of carrying the burden of responsibility that citizenship carries with it. So, with no further ado, I welcome the representatives of the Services." Sue looked down to the podium below the screen, and saw four figures rise from their chairs, while Mayor Robertson remained seated.
The first to step forward was Dr. Erle Nielsen, the Senior Scholar, an ageing woman of perhaps sixty, with long grey wisps of hair, small glasses that threatened to fall off the tip of her nose, and a smile that never seemed to break through her absentminded demeanor.
"I'll make this quick," she said, producing a crumpled piece of paper. "I welcome initiates Chas Drummond and Felicia Petit to the Students." she paused for a moment, scanning the crowd. "Yes, that was it." She finished, crumpling the paper, and put it in her pocket. Sue frowned. She would have thought Dave to be a natural Student, but she knew they were extremely selective. Two Students from Charlestown this year then. Well, she'd seen worse.
"First Guardian Ivanov," a booming voice announced, and an imposing figure of around fifty, six feet tall, athletic, short white hair, and clad in Guardian black, took a step forward. His face was set in stone.
"To the Guardians, I welcome initiates Susan Atlas, Frederick Burke Lowe, Hugh Winters, John Victor Preston, Lydia Dille Gardner, Peter Philip Howe, Lucinda Rice, Jeffrey Leighton, Stephen Balinski, Lawrence White, and David Wagner. May you reap honor." Sue noticed Laurie straightening as the First Guardian spoke his birth name, Lawrence, while Vince looked more nervous than ever. She didn't think the Wardens would pick him, although who knew what they were looking for. Now he could only hope to avoid selection altogether. But in the end it was Dave who caught her attention. She almost hadn't noticed, since he never used his birth name, but there were no other Wagners around. Dave looked more confused than anything. He was about as far from the ideal Guardian as she could imagine. Sue could only imagine the thoughts that had to be racing through his mind at this time. Did the Guardians select cannon fodder on purpose? She hadn't thought so before, but now she wasn't so sure anymore.
Next was the Wardens, but Sue didn't pay much attention. She had been chosen. She would serve with the Guardians, which was about the best she could have hoped for. Sure, it would be tough, and the next three years would be the biggest challenge she'd ever faced, but as long as she listened to her teachers and did her best, she might be a citizen by her twenty first birthday. The Master Warden, a middle aged man she couldn't remember having seen before, dark haired and olive skinned, only chose three initiates, and then it was time for the final Service to choose their Initiates. The Whipmaster stepped forward. The gaunt man was at least a head taller than the other representatives, bald, and clad in a shiny fabric that emphasized his lean figure. His face remained expressionless, and as he began to list the selection of initiates, he never once consulted a list.
"The Corpus represents the truest sacrifice, the complete giving of one's body and soul to the common good. This year's initiates for the Corpus are the following: Herbert Trent Glover, Samuel Herreira, Juliette Dale Griffith, Cindy Quellar, Jack Burke, Leland Ferris, John Henry Minden..." as the list continued Sue lost track of them all. So many! The Initiates for the Corpus numbered more than double that of the other Initiates alltogether. She had never heard of anything like it. So many of her friends and neighbors, to be swept off in chains. She was stunned.
"...and finally Christopher Jenkins. Welcome, Initiates. Serve well, until death sets you free," the Whipmaster said, and with that, the officers begun to separate the Initiates from the former Candidates. Sue was ushered along to the front of the square, to stand in front of the representatives side by side with the rest of those chosen for Service. She was given a black armband, as were the other Guardian Initiates. The Students wore white, while the Warden Initiates put on green. The Corpus took a while to gather, but once they were all there, they were given red armbands, while officers paid close attention. It wasn't unheard of that fresh Initiates tried to run, and those chosen by the Corpus had less to lose than the others.
Dr. Nielsen just waved an officer over to gather her Initiates, and Chas and Felicia looked more than ready to get moving. The Wipmastes didn't even look at the Initiates wearing their red armbands. Some were sobbing, while others seemed to let all hope die, steeling themselves for whatever might come next. First Guardian Ivanov walked around, looking each of his Initiates up and down, speaking a few words with each and every one. When he stopped in front of Dave, he seemed to wrinkle his nose at his skinny bones.
"Initate Wagner. It seems we've got quite a challenge here. Well, we'll just have to try to make a Guardian out of you, kid. Any questions?" Dave seemed to hesitate, before he answered.
"Sir, I wonder if there's been a mistake..." he said, before trailing off.
"Speak up, boy. Here's your chance." The First Guardian barked.
"Sir, I don't think I'm Guardian material. I mean, I'm the highest ranked for academic achievements. In school. I wonder if there's any chance of being transferred to the Students?" God, how can you be so stupid, Dave? Sue thought. She wanted to scream for him to stop. She almost expected the the First Guardian to slap him or something. But Ivanov just nodded, and seemed to consider what Dave had said. Dave looked hopeful (show, don't tell!!!!)
"I think you're right, son. You don't look like you have what it takes at all." A smirk crept across the face of the older man, and Sue shivered.
"Sadly, Dr. Nielsen just left, and I won't be able to reach her for a while. But I think I know someone else who would have use for your talents." He looked over at the Whipmaster, and Sue saw sweat break on Dave's forehead, as he struggled to say something. He remained silent though, his face turned pale, and eyes closed as the First Guardian moved on.
As he reached Sue, she felt herself shrink before his eyes.
"Initiate Atlas. I fear we are out of time, as the train leaves in fifteen minutes." Sue was torn between self-preservation and friendship, but in the end, friendship won (expand?). She spoke just as Ivanov moved to turn away.
"Sir. I think it would be a waste to send Initiate Wagner to the Corpus. Look at him. He'd be dead meat in a month. What kind of Service would that be, sir? Perhaps the Wardens would take him?" she had no idea what the Wardens actually did, as most of it was secret, and there were few if any Wardens from Charlestown. But as she saw it, anything would be better that the Corpus. The First Guardian fumed, and was about to lash out at her, probably ready to trade her black armband for a red one, when the Master Warden interjected.
"She's right, Ivanov. It would be a waste." He smiled. "We'll take him." The First Guardian looked furiously from Sue to the Master Warden, and then back again at Sue. Then he exhaled, and shook his head.
"All right then, enough of this nonsense." He turned toward the Master Warden. "Take the boy. Now, let's get on with this. Damn kids need to learn some respect." The last was murmured as he walked off, signaling the officers to take the Guardian Initiates to the waiting train. As the Corpus Initiates walked off to the southbound train, the others followed their representatives towards the trains that would take them north. Dave followed the Master with the three other Warden Initiates, and as he passed her, his lips moved, mouthing a silent thank you. Sue smiled briefly, although she was angry with him for opening his mouth. That head of his would get him in trouble again, she though. And the next time she wouldn't be there to save him.
Sue wondered if she had just made a huge mistake. She wasn't the most social, but as far as she knew she'd never had an enemy. As she boarded the train, she caught the eye of the First Guardian, and wondered if she'd made her first.
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RIFT - A scene in between

I just finished another scene for RIFT. If you haven't read the previous posts on this, please go do so now, to understand what this is all about.

You ready?

Okay. So, I'm writing this book where you can follow the progress, scene by scene, right here on the blog. Unedited, raw material, typos and all. Yeah, I know - crazy... Anyway... As long as Genesis is still my number one project progress on RIFT will most likely be slow, but once the Exodus Trilogy is complete, things will definitely speed up. So far I've posted two scenes, but even as I wrote scene 2, I knew I'd skipped one or two scenes that needed to be somewhere between scene 1 and 2. I needed more setting and the Sue character needed to be fleshed out more. Let me know what you think!

All right, here we go.

RIFT, scene 1.5.

Outside, the noises that usually greeted her had subsided. Today was a public holiday, and only the most necessary functions were still running. Sue heard the train come to a halt a few blocks down to the right, and an angry couple shouting at each other in a building nearby. Other than that, there was only the wind and the rustle of leaves. Sue didn't look back as she walked away from her house, passing between the artificial trees on the sidewalk, and crossing the street. The grocery store on the other side had a sign on the door that said "closed". She noticed someone moving inside, and smiled. There was always some business or another, even on Initiation Day; it just moved in behind closed doors.

She passed the butcher's, the bakery and the telephone office, without seeing any signs of life. The telephone service was closed on holidays anyway, and even if it wasn't the lines were all monitored. She remembered two years ago, when Charlestown got its second telephone office on the other side of town. No one could believe there was a need for more than one, but amazingly both were still in business. You would think people had better things to spend their hard earned coins for than telephoning each other, but obviously they didn't (change?).

The town square wasn't far, just a few blocks away, and then a wide circle back around, which took her right back toward the train station, located on the far side of the square. This was where everyone was gathered. She glanced up at the three story building which housed the mayor's office, and saw the Covenant flag flapping in the wind, hanging out above the sidewalk. Mayor Robertson was one of the few citizens she knew, and a woman she looked up to. She had earned her citizenship through Service with the Guardians, and although there were all kinds of stories about her, Sue didn't know which ones to believe. All she knew was that she was a fair but stern woman in her sixties, with a granddaughter a year younger than Sue, and she was from here. She was one of them. That counted for something.

The crowd let her through; some smiled and patted her on the back while others remained silent, wearing solemn looks and somber eyes (too heavy?  or appropriate?). Everyone knew that many of the kids they saw today would never return, one way or the other. Sue walked toward the officers, who were directing everyone into lines where they would wait to be registered. She noticed a couple from school being separated. Who knew if they would ever see each other again? A mother kissed a boy from her class on the forehead, tears running down her cheeks. She didn't make a sound, but her lips moved constantly, a silent prayer for her son to return. She saw Chas from the advanced class, shaking his father's hand, both with jaws set and a determined look in their eyes.

She joined Vince and Laurie at the back of the line, as the officer directing her turned and went to fetch another. Both were laughing, although she sensed their nervousness. Laurie's sister had been chosen by the Guardians last year, and he hoped to rejoin her up north, if he was chosen today. Vince on the other hand, had no desire to join his older brother. He'd been chosen for the Corpus three years ago, and no one had heard from him since. They would have known if he was dead, but if he wasn't he would be soon enough, once they had spent him. Sue remembered Vince saying once that it was better to think that he died that fateful day. Better to mourn, and move on.

"You nervous?" Laurie asked. Sue just nodded.

"Come on, man, we're all nervous here." Vince said. "All we can do now is hope. It's all decided for anyways."

"You really believe that, Vince?" Sue said, cocking her head. Vince had been talking to the priest lately, and the belief was that everything was decided by fate. There was no escaping it, and whatever you did to avoid your fate, eventually it caught up to you. Better to accept it, embrace it, and gather strength from it.

"Yeah, I do. I really do. I just hope fate has something better in store for me than my bro."  Sue watched him. A year ago, Vince had started working out, training, in order to be more attractive to the Guardians. It was the best he could hope for, as the Students were out of the question. Anything but the Corpus. A few months ago though, Vince had started slacking off, as the faith had started to sink in. There was nothing he could do; the Corpus was just as likely as the Guardians to pick a healthy, fit young man for Service. And whatever he did, fate would find him eventually.

Sue didn't know what to believe. She listened to the priests, and there was wisdom in their words, and she did accept her fate, whatever that might be. But she didn't like the fact that she didn't have a say in it. She had a hard time accepting that her life and death was at the hands of some unknown entity, and that her actions didn't mean anything.

When they reached the end of the line, an officer scanned and registered their IDs and their retinas, and they were allowed to pass.

"Hurry up and wait." Laurie said dryly. Sue looked back, and saw the lines still snailed forward. It would be a while until everyone were registered. She noticed her neighbor, Marie standing behind the officers, over by the fence, and moved to walk over to her.

"Don't bother." Vince said. "You are a candidate now. Property of the State." Sue looked around, and noticed that none of the others moved away from the area in the middle of the town square, surrounded by officers. Then she looked back to Marie, her mother's old friend. Did she come here today for her? She would never know.

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RIFT Scene 2

I'm writing this book where you can follow my progress right here on the blog. Whenever I have a scene ready, I will post it up here - first draft, completely unedited. Some of you may find you don't particularly enjoy reading such raw material, and if so I advise you to skip these posts. On the other hand, if you'd like to get a glimpse of my writing process, and see how this goes, you may get something out of this. Either way, I hope you understand that the book will change significantly through the editing process.

At the moment this is my secondary project, as Genesis, the final installment of the Exodus Trilogy, takes priority. So for a while these posts might turn out to be less frequent. Once Genesis is finished though, I expect things to speed up. For those of you awaiting Genesis, please be patient and let me make sure it gets the attention it deserves. And know that this little project of mine will not have a negative impact the progress of Genesis.

So here's the second scene of RIFT:

 

RIFT, scene 2.

Dave shouldn’t be afraid. After all, there was only one option as far as he was concerned; one that would give him the chance to achieve his life long dream. He knew he wasn't Guardian material, and the Corpus? No, there were too many other able bodies that would last longer in the Service than his skinny legs and crooked back. His mind was his foremost asset, and today it would give him the future so few could even hope for. Dave was top of his class in the Overall Scholarly Aptitude Test, had received merits in the District Physics Awards and an honorable mention in the Young Mathematicians Yearbook. If anyone in this town was ever a natural Student it would be him. The principal had even congratulated him on his last day at school, asking him not to forget about his home town when he left to make a name for himself.
 
So why did he feel this nagging chill down his spine as he passed the officers in front of the town square? Was it fear of rejection? The thought that even he wasn't good enough to be chosen? He looked around, and saw familiar faces everywhere. Charlestown was a small community of a few thousand, close to the Belt, separating them from the forbidden areas of the Corpus to the South. It was nothing like the crowded cities to the North, where millions were stacked on top of each other in tall skyscrapers, where you could live your entire life and never know your closest neighbors.

Dave had always liked it here, in this quiet corner of Covenant. Yes they were poor, but they cared for each other. If someone didn’t have enough to eat, or shelter over their heads, people would help out in which ever way they could. If you stumbled, a friend would help you back on your feet. And there had been no uprisings since the great one, and that was years ago. Even then, Charlestown had stayed mostly out of the fighting. Still, he knew he wouldn't have much of a future here, and although his dreams were different than many of his friends who had trained for years to be considered by the Guardians, his dreams were no less depending on the outcome of this day.
 
He glimpsed Sue and Vince and Laurie standing in line for registration, and wondered if he’d ever see them again after today. They had grown up in the same part of town, and spent their childhood years making all kinds of mischief together. He’d been placed in an advanced class three years ago, so they didn't meet as often as they used to, but he still counted them as friends.
 
An officer directed him to the back of a shorter line, and his mind drifted off while it snailed forward. When he reached the officer in the front, he started. He hadn’t noticed. He fumbled as he produced his ID, and the officer scanned it. Then his retinas were scanned, and he was ushered past, to more waiting. He saw Chas and Felicia from class standing close by, so he went to join them.
“Hey Dave.” Felicia said, while Chas just nodded to him.
“Hey guys.” There wasn’t much else to say. Everyone knew what happened next; they’ve all seen it several times before. And now it was their turn. Dave didn’t really suspect any surprises. The three of them were the smartest in class, according to the tests. They would likely all be chosen for the Students, although Dave noticed an edge to Felicia’s voice. Normally up to five Student initiates were chosen from Charlestown, but the number varied, and no one could be absolutely certain. And of the three of them, Felicia was the weakest.
 
“Let’s get on with it already.” Chas said, jaws clenched. It was no secret that Chas thought this ceremony to be a ridiculous artifact, devoid of any real function. Even though officially, the representatives of the Services would make their final decisions right here, today, everyone knew the lists were prepared in advance. If not, there would have been instances of different Services choosing the same initiates, and it never happened.
 
The square was filling up, and finally all the lines were empty. The officers formed a half circle behind them. As of this moment, they were all candidates, to be picked for any of the Services, regardless of personal preference. As soon as their name was spoken, their status would change to initiate. Initiates were taken away immediately, and would not be back for as long as their Service lasted, if ever. The remaining candidates would be asked to volunteer. Normally the only Service who would take volunteers were the Corpus, always in need of more bodies to exploit for the good of the State. Whoever volunteered for the Corpus would have to be desperate; starving or on the run from something. The Guardians might also take volunteers, if the losses on the front were exceptionally high. The Students never took volunteers though; their few initiates were chosen long before.
 
Screens flickered, and a familiar face beamed before them. Head Servant (add name later), pure Moon People blood all the way back to the Descent, and a few steps behind, his mysterious advisor Mark Novak.
“Welcome, candidates.” The rumbling voice of the Head Servant said.
“On this day of Initiation, the greatest honor of the Covenant, and the greatest sacrifice, is about to be bestowed upon a select few of the young men and women of Charlestown. Today, those with the skills and abilities needed to become our future citizens will be chosen for the highest glory of all, known as Service to the State.”

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RIFT scene 1

I'm writing this book where you can follow my progress right here on the blog. Whenever I have a scene ready, I will post it up here - first draft, completely unedited. Some of you may find you don't particularly enjoy reading such raw material, and if so I advise you to skip these posts. On the other hand, if you'd like to get a glimpse of my writing process, and see how this goes, you may get something out of this. Either way, I hope you understand that the book will change significantly through the editing process.

At the moment this is my secondary project, as Genesis, the final installment of the Exodus Trilogy, takes priority. So for a while these posts might turn out to be less frequent. Once Genesis is finished though, I expect things to speed up. For those of you awaiting Genesis, please be patient and let me make sure it gets the attention it deserves. And know that this little project of mine will not have a negative impact the progress of Genesis.

So let's get this story started, shall we?

 

RIFT, scene 1.

Initiation day. The day she had always known would come was here at last. In less than two hours she would be standing in the town square, among hundreds of young men and women, many of whom she had known since childhood. Waiting, wondering if they would be chosen. Sue stared at the picture of her family she was holding, and felt their presence around her, even though she knew they were gone forever. That one picture was all she had left. And even though she missed them every day, she felt almost relieved they wouldn't be there to experience the heart breaking ceremony. She'd seen it on the live screens year after year, mothers breaking down from having their child chosen for one of the deadlier services, a father's futile fight to protect his children, while sons and daughters were dragged off to serve. Siblings seeing their big sister or brother for the last time.

Service to the State. A concept pounded into them all ever since they were old enough to understand. The Moon People had taught them that above all, Service to the State was the greatest virtue. Indeed it was the single most important duty, which ensured unity, security, and prosperity. Sue put the family picture away, and looked up into the mirror. Sometimes she thought she looked hard; cold and emotionless. It wasn't something she wanted, but losing your family when you're too old for the orphanage and too young to shoulder such a loss would do that to you. Still, she had made herself look her best for today. Her dark blonde hair was neatly braided, and she had put on her finest gown, the grey she only wore at weddings and funerals. Her blue eyes looked back at her, steady, no more fear. She was ready. She exhaled, slowly, having long ago accepted her fate. If she died in the Service, she would honor her town and the memory of her family. And if she did survive, she would have a real chance at being chosen for citizenship.

It didn't mean so much to her personally. After all, she knew very few citizens, and they were no different than the others. Except that they didn't live here, most of them. Most citizens were rich, and chose to live off somewhere else, although a few came back to stay in their old home town. She had heard stories of how some only partied and gorged themselves on food and drink and whatnot, but she knew there were others who used their wealth on those less fortunate. She hoped to one day be that kind of citizen. She had seen what one citizen who chose to help could accomplish.

She knew that citizenship was something to be desired though, and a great honor, not just for the one receiving it, but also for the entire community. In the beginning only the Moon People and their descendents were eligible, but within decades ordinary people was given the opportunity to earn their citizenship through Service. Custom soon became law, and these days every young man or woman would be on the lists the year they passed eighteen. One in five would be chosen, the rest left to live out their lives in their home towns, usually a life of poverty. It also meant a short life, since only citizens were allowed to live past fifty. The euthanasia laws set the life limit to fifty for non- citizens, forty for the disabled. But citizens were allowed to live for as long as they chose. And with Moon People technology that could be a very long time.

She had no idea which service she would be picked for, but Sue had no doubt she would be chosen. She was fit, healthy, had done well at school and a couple of weeks ago she had even registered her preferences with the Service Bureau. She only did it to make sure they noticed her though; she didn't expect the preferences to count for much else. You could often tell, to a certain degree, where they would put someone. If you were really smart or had some special talent, you might end up a Student. The strong, agile kind, or the fighters, usually ended up as Guardians. Sometimes the Wardens would pick one of those as well, although it was sometimes difficult to know what the Wardens were really looking for. The Corpus though, would always pick from those not chosen for any of the other Services. They were usually the bottom preference of all, and the one thing Sue really dreaded. To spend the next seven years in the Corpus, where the whip ruled and backs were bent, was the one Service she didn't think she would stand a chance at surviving. Better to be a Guardian. Few made it for more than a year at the front, but those who did, always became citizens. Also, it was the only Service which only required three years, instead of the usual seven.

She looked at her watch. Time to go. She tucked the picture into her pocket, and made sure to switch off the light as she left the room. She locked her door, although she didn't expect to ever be back here. If she died, this ramshackle building her family had lived in would be taken as State property, to be re-sold. If she lived, she would likely be a citizen, her old possessions given to charity as was the custom. Of course there were the odd survivor who returned without the citizenship, but that was highly unusual. You had to screw up badly, and usually those who did ended up dead. Sue intended neither.

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RIFT - Blogging a book

I want to share an idea with you that have been on my mind for some time now. You see, I like to have more than one project going - it's a way to nourish my creativity and keep things interesting. Of course, every writer is different, and what works for me is not necessarily what works for others. But what I'm going to tell you is something I've wanted to do for a while, and it's about time I got on with it!

There's a story that's been churning around in my head for a while (yeah, I'm weird that way!). I've already begun writing it, and I want you, my readers, to be able to follow the progress, as it develops from one scene to the next. That's right; I'm going to blog the book! Now, I've done a very basic outline, I have parts of the world- building done (enough to get started), and I have a few characters. It is a story that might flow in different directions, as the outline is loose and flexible, and I feel this aspect is one of the things that make this book so special to me.

So here's what I'll do. Whenever I have a scene ready, I will post it on my blog - first draft, completely unedited. I'll admit, this scares the s*** out of me, but I'm going to do it anyway! Some of you may find you don't particularly enjoy reading such raw material, and if so I advise you to skip these posts, and wait for the book to be published. On the other hand, if you'd like to get a glimpse of my writing process, and see how this goes, you may get something out of this. Either way, I hope you understand that the book will change significantly through the editing process. I mean, a first draft will be full of errors, contradictions, typos, repetition, poor research (or sections labeled "research later"), wrong sequence, character names that change half way through, summer followed by spring, or a 25-year old suddenly turned 24, phew! As I said, if you don't like to read first draft material, please skip these posts! Still, I have a feeling many will also like this - we'll see!

I expect some of you may be concerned that I'm not spending enough time on Genesis, the final installment of the Exodus Trilogy. I want to assure you that Genesis will not suffer because of this. At the moment this is my secondary project, as Genesis takes priority. Let me repeat that; Genesis takes priority. So for a while these posts might turn out to be less frequent. Once Genesis is finished though, I expect things to speed up. For those of you awaiting Genesis, please be patient and let me make sure it gets the attention it deserves. And know that this little project of mine will not have any negative impact the progress of Genesis.

So, in a few days I will start posting the first scenes. I hope many of you will follow me as the story progresses. I'm sure if you like my writing, you will definitely like this book. You might even begin to realize this is the book that needed to be written at some point or another. I won't tell you any more at the moment; read and find out for yourselves!

And the working title is RIFT.

What do you think about this idea? Is this something you'd like to follow? Do you like the idea of making the raw material of a book available like this? Feel free to add to the conversation in the comments below!

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MY KDP SELECT EXPERIMENT, PART 3

It is time to assess the results from my KDP Select Experiment. Mind, these are the results approximately two weeks after running the promo, and I might write another post assessing the more long term effects in a few months.

So, to recap, my KDP Select Experiment consisted of two main elements. 

1- Enrolling Exodus into KDP Select, and 

2- Targeted advertising. 

If you haven't already read the first and second post on this, I strongly recommend you do that before going any further. Here are the links:

My KDP Select Experiment, part 1

My KDP Select Experiment, part 2

 

Free run.

Allright. So Exodus went free on September 24th.  I had notified my mailing list one day in advance, but no other promotion was done initially. The first hours went as expected. A few downloads here and there, but nothing to speak of.

Then, a few hours into the free period, I was notified that Exodus was being featured on several reader sites. I also noticed the downloads were picking up. Still in the hundreds though.

The first boost came when Bookbub and Freebooksy sent out their daily email to their subscribers. Suddenly, hundreds became thousands. I wrote the previous blog post on the evening of the 24th (Central European Time), and when I begun writing Exodus had been downloaded about 8000 times. By the time I finished, the number of downloads had reached 10,000.

Exodus continued to be prominently placed on several of the reader sites, and on the 25th another targeted email went out. This time it was Bookblast who featured Exodus as one of their daily deals. The numbers kept rising, and Exodus reached its peak at number 1 on the free science fiction list and number 4 on the overall Kindle store list.

As Exodus remained free through the 27th it naturally lost some of its momentum. I probably could have had more sales post- promotion if I had run a shorter campaign. But even as it slipped from the main bestseller lists (where sales velocity is more important than overall sales over time), it continued being downloaded by readers all over the world. By the time it went back to paid, Exodus had been downloaded more than 27,000 times.

27,000 copies of Exodus, downloaded to Kindles, tablets, smartphones...

 

Paid sales.

In the final days of Exodus' free run and the days that followed, sales of Aurora, the second book in the Exodus Trilogy, skyrocketed. The number of sales remained in the hundreds per day for a few days, before it slowly fell again, and stabilized on around 50 sales a day, a number it still maintains.

Exodus has sold steadily afterwards as well, but nothing like the numbers of Aurora. For the last few months before the promo, around 90% of sales had been in the U.K. kindle store, and it is nice to see it selling again in the U.S. as well.

An added bonus is the borrows. Books enrolled in KDP Select can be borrowed for free by Amazon Prime members, and the author is paid royalties that in my case are about the same as a sale. My borrows now outnumbers my pre- promo sales.

 

Reviews, subscribers, readers.

Exodus has already garnered more than fifty new reviews, and I expect that number to rise as more and more readers finish reading it. As I said in a previous post, reviews are important if you want to actually sell books. Also, I love the feedback from readers.

Before the promo, I had about fifteen subscribers to my mailing list. Right now, that number has risen to around 120, and it keeps rising every day. Those are my "inner circle". They will always be the first to know about new books and special offers, and being able to approach readers directly is priceless.

Last but not least, I now have 27,000 new readers. Of course, not all will like Exodus, and in fact I don't expect all of them to actually read it. Still, 27,000 people now have my book on their e-reading device. In time, a lot of them WILL read it, and many WILL like it. I'm not going to guess numbers here, but I say it's fair to assume that of the 27,000 (see, I like repeating that number...) there are a good size number of future readers of my other books.

And that was the main goal of my KDP Select Experiment. I wanted to test this approach to gaining readers, and to get my first book out to as many as possible.

 

Did it succeed?

My answer - a loud and clear YES.

Amazon is the largest retailer on the planet, and the largest bookstore. They effectively started the e-book revolution. They facilitated the Indie revolution. They continue to develop tools and methods for Indies to reach new readers. My books sold decently before the promo, and I was happy to be able to reach an audience all over the world. The results of my KDP Select Experiment though, went far beyond anything I had imagined. 

So I guess I'll stick with Amazon...

 

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Science fiction and reading

EXODUS is currently free, and will be through Friday. If you haven't read it yet, or if you only have the first edition, you should grab your copy right now! When writing this post it has been downloaded more than 8000 times, and it's only been free for a few hours!

I have to attribute a lot of this to reader sites, and I'd especially like to mention Kindle Books and Tips at http://www.fkbooksandtips.com/ and Digital Book Today at http://digitalbooktoday.com/ and the World Literary Cafe at http://www.worldliterarycafe.com/

And of course the sites and mailing lists of Bookbub, Bookblast, Freebooksy and more (although some of their emails will be sent tomorrow). There are actually too many to mention. And of course, my awesome tweeps who have been tweeting like mad for the past few hours.

So I'd like to take a few minutes off promotion, and talk about science fiction. You might also say it's a bigger issue involved, such as reading per se.

Young people almost always love scifi. Kids dream up all kinds of stories when playing, and the many of the brand toys are clearly scifi- inspired. And looking at the bestselling movies of all time, a majority is speculative fiction, with science fiction taking up a much more prominent part than the genre's number in bestselling books should warrant. 

When it comes to books, scifi isn't such a big genre. In fact it is so small that when I decided to write a book, I immediately ruled out writing in my native language, because I wanted to be read by many. The number of potential readers were dismal. Especially with no effective means to publish a book outside of Norwegian publishers, who generally don't publish anything but literary fiction or crime fiction, and who consider sales of 2000 books a success, because of insane pricing policies and antiquated business strategy. So publishing in English speaking markets was the only sensible option.

But why do people stop reading science fiction? Or stop reading altogether? I cannot be certain of course, but I have a good hunch, and I'll share it with you now. 

Time.

Study. Work. Children. The day never seems to have enough hours... Looks familiar?


I for one have always been fascinated by the tomes, the 1000 page bricks that explained every detail of how the space ship worked or the relationship between the different species on a distant planet. But I find there is never enough time to truly immerse myself.

In my book Exodus, I tried to take best parts of science fiction, and make it a little bit more accessible to those of us who can't spend hours at a time reading.  At about 280 pages it's perfect for reading on the commute to work, or while the baby is napping. Many have told me that they enjoyed the book even though they normally don't read scifi, and I suspect it's because it's not a typical scifi, even though regular scifi readers find enough of the genre markers to enjoy it as well.

A few genuine scifi- lovers say they would have liked the book to be longer, but I fear that would make it less accessible. And of course, once the third installment of the trilogy is complete it will make for a door stopper as well, at somewhere between 700-900 pages.

So I guess there's something there for everyone. Or at least I hope so. The genre markers are there, but it's also something a non- scifi reader might enjoy. And those too busy to read actually finishes it!

And while writing this post I just gave away another 2000 copies. Hope you get yours too!

 

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